17: Preparing for the Temple

Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 63–67


Doctrinal Overview

President Howard W. Hunter invited Church members to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership” (in Jay M. Todd, “President Howard W. Hunter: Fourteenth President of the Church,” Ensign, July 1994, 5). President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that temples “represent the ultimate in our worship and the ultimate in blessings offered” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 6).

The covenants and ordinances of the temple are required for exaltation. Temple worship brings blessings that impact all aspects of our lives. President Hinckley taught: “If there were more temple work done in the Church, there would be less of selfishness, less of contention, less of demeaning others. The whole Church would increasingly be lifted to greater heights of spirituality, love for one another, and obedience to the commandments of God” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 622).

Principle

Preparation, worthiness, and being receptive to the Spirit help us understand the teachings of the temple and make them a central part of our lives.

Student Manual Readings

“The Holy Temple,” President Boyd K. Packer (318)

Selected Teachings from “Temple Preparation” (314)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Display several pictures of temples (see Gospel Art Picture Kit, nos. 501–2, 505; selected Ensign covers; pictures from your meetinghouse library; Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 35863). You may also want to display a photo of a bride and groom in front of a temple.

Next to the pictures, display the following statements. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“To every man and woman, to every boy and girl, prepare now to go to the House of the Lord. Let a resolution come into your heart that you will put your life in order and bring about such reformation as may be needed to qualify yourself to go to that beautiful House” (“Messages of Inspiration from President Hinckley,” Church News, 6 Nov. 1999, 2).

Elder Boyd K. Packer, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:

“How important are [the ordinances of the gospel] to us as members of the Church?

“Can you be happy, can you be redeemed, can you be exalted without them? Answer: They are more than advisable or desirable, or even than necessary. More even than essential or vital. They are crucial to each of us” (The Holy Temple [1980], 145–46).

Discuss why it is important to prepare ourselves for the covenants and ordinances of the temple. Read with the class the first two paragraphs of the article “The Holy Temple,” by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (student manual, 318). Invite students to read the sections entitled “These Things Are Sacred” and “Not without Opposition.” Ask:

  • Why do you think the temple is called “the house of the Lord”?

  • Why are temple ordinances important? (You may wish to read the following from the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The question is frequently asked ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances?’ I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. Jesus said, There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you. House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too” [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 331].)

  • How does a temple differ from other Church buildings?

  • How can receiving temple ordinances help us prepare to make important decisions?

Help students understand that the temple is a place where we can receive personal revelation because its ordinances and teachings help us draw closer to the Lord.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Write on the board Baptism by immersion and The sacrament bread and water. Ask:

  • What does immersion in the waters of baptism symbolize?

  • What do the sacramental bread and water symbolize?

  • What other symbols does the Lord use to instruct us?

  • How does symbolism help teach us about the three degrees of glory?

Share the following statements.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Everything that occurs in those temples is concerned with the eternities, with everlasting life” (“Messages of Inspiration from President Hinckley,” Church News, 6 Feb. 1999, 2).

President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “The temple ceremony was given by a wise Heavenly Father to help us become more Christlike. The endowment was revealed by revelation and can be understood only by revelation. The instruction is given in symbolic language” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 250–51).

Explain that we need the Holy Ghost to help us understand the symbolism of the temple. Read together the statement by Elder John A. Widtsoe, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in the subsection “Symbolism of the Temple” (in “Temple Preparation,” student manual, 314). Ask: What does it mean to see “beyond the symbol”?

Tell students that one example of symbolism in the temple is the white clothing worn by participants. Share the statement by President Hugh B. Brown, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, in “Symbolism of the Temple” (student manual, 314). Explain that there are many symbols in the architecture and decoration of the temple. Consider with students what the following elements can teach us through symbolism:

  • The temple spires.

  • The phrase “Holiness to the Lord” on the temple’s exterior.

  • The oxen supporting the temple baptismal font.

  • The mirrors on the two opposite walls of the sealing room.

  • Our temple recommend.

  • The statue of Moroni with a trumpet on the top of many temples.

Read “Taught from on High” in President Boyd K. Packer’s article “The Holy Temple” (student manual, 319–20). Invite students to share what they learned. Emphasize that just as we can continue to learn from reading the scriptures again and again, we can also continue to learn as we attend the temple throughout our lives.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Object lesson. Show students a credit card and a temple recommend. In your own words, share the following comparison by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I hold before you two credit cards. Most of you are familiar with cards such as these.

“The first is a bank credit card. It permits me to secure merchandise on credit and then pay for my purchases at one time. It is a valuable thing and something to be safeguarded. If stolen and dishonestly used, it could cause me great loss and perhaps considerable embarrassment. In accepting it from my bank, I enter into a contract and become bound by obligations and agreements. In accepting the card, I agree to meet the conditions under which it was issued.

“It is issued for one year only and must be reissued each year if I am to enjoy the privileges afforded by it. It is not really mine. The bank retains ownership. If I fail in my required performance, then the bank may shut off the credit and repossess the card.

“The other card which I have is what we call a temple recommend. It represents a credit card with the Lord, making available to me many of His greatest gifts. The bank card is concerned with things of the world, the recommend with things of God.

“To secure a temple recommend, the receiver must also have demonstrated his eligibility, and that eligibility is based on personal worthiness. Once granted, it is not in place forever but must be reissued each year. Furthermore, it is subject to forfeiture if the holder does anything which would disqualify him for its privileges.

“Eligibility for a temple recommend is not based on financial worth. That has nothing whatever to do with it. It is based on consistent personal behavior, on the goodness of one’s life. It is not concerned with money matters, but rather with things of eternity.

“The bank card opens the door to financial credit. The temple recommend opens the door to the House of the Lord. It is concerned with entry into holy precincts to do sacred and divine work” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1990, 65; or Ensign, May 1990, 49).

Read the statements by Presidents Howard W. Hunter and Gordon B. Hinckley in the subsection “Temple Worthiness” (in “Temple Preparation,” student manual, 314). Ask:

  • How does being worthy to enter the house of the Lord bring peace and joy?

  • How would knowing we are worthy of a recommend make our temple experience meaningful?

  • Why is it important not only to be worthy, but also to be prepared to enter the temple? For example, an adult who was just baptized may be worthy to enter the temple but is required to wait at least one year. Why? How can a person prepare for this sacred experience?

Invite the class to read the section entitled “Worthy to Enter” in President Boyd K. Packer’s article “The Holy Temple” (student manual, 319). Have them look for counsel about recommend interviews and personal worthiness for those who desire to enter the temple. Have students share their findings and tell what impressed them most. Discuss their insights and questions as appropriate.

Discuss the importance of being interviewed by our bishop and stake president before we attend the temple. Emphasize that these priesthood leaders are representatives of the Lord and that we must be honest and open with them regarding our worthiness. Testify of the blessings that come from entering the temple with “clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4).

Suggestions for How to Teach

Object lesson. Draw the following illustration of a sextant on the board. Ask students to identify what the drawing represents and what a sextant is used for. (A sextant is used to determine one’s position by measuring the angle between the horizon and the sun or a star.)

Sextant diagram

Write covenant on the board. Read the definition of covenant in the Bible Dictionary (see p. 651). Read the following statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“A covenant is a sacred promise, as used in the scriptures, a solemn, enduring promise between God and man” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 26; or Ensign, May 1987, 23).

Ask:

  • How is a covenant like a sextant?

  • Who sets the terms of temple covenants? Why is this important to know?

  • Why is a gospel covenant more than just a promise between two people?

Read the next part of Elder Packer’s statement:

“The mariner gets his bearing from light coming from celestial bodies—the sun by day, the stars by night. …

“The spiritual sextant, which each of us has, also functions on the principle of light from celestial sources. Set that sextant in your mind to the word covenant or the word ordinance. The light will come through. Then you can fix your position and set a true course in life.

“No matter what citizenship or race, whether male or female, no matter what occupation, no matter your education, regardless of the generation in which one lives, life is a homeward journey for all of us, back to the presence of God in his celestial kingdom” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 27; or Ensign, May 1987, 24).

Discussion. Discuss with students the sacredness of covenants and our obligation to keep the covenants we make with the Lord. You may wish to include in your discussion the statements in the subsection “Covenants and Obligations” (in “Temple Preparation,” student manual, 314). The following questions may also be helpful:

  • What does the Holy Ghost have to do with the covenants we make?

  • What happens if we violate our covenants?

  • Why is our worthiness important as we participate in ordinances?

  • According to the statement by Elder James E. Talmage, what obligations do we assume as we make temple covenants? (see p. 314).

  • How should these covenants influence our thoughts and behavior?

Share this statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer:

“Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into His presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 27; or Ensign, May 1987, 24).

Conclusion

Read the section entitled “Come to the Temple” in President Packer’s article “The Holy Temple” (student manual, 322). Share your testimony and feelings regarding the blessings the temple brings into our lives.