Most of what Latter-day Saints learn about the temple is learned in the temple itself. However, there are some things that the First Presidency feels you ought to be aware of so that you will be properly oriented and receive adequate understanding from your temple experience.
Most persons go to the temple for the first time to receive their own endowments. Some persons are then sealed for time and eternity in the holy order of matrimony. Many persons are in the temple to be sealed to their parents who were not initially married in the temple. Others are being baptized for those who are dead and who did not receive this blessing in life. Still others go to the temple to do vicarious work for the dead in sealings and endowments.
All this temple work (baptisms, ordinations, endowments, marriages, and other sealing ordinances) is necessary for the progression and exaltation of the living and of the dead.
If you are desirous of going to the temple to be married, you must first receive your own endowment. For a young man to do so, he must hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
If you have been married civilly for less than one year, or if your baptismal date into the Church is less than one year from your anticipated first visit to the temple, you can enter the temple only by special permission in the form of a letter from the First Presidency that grants permission for your sealing and/or your early endowment.
If you are being married in the temple, you will need a marriage license valid in the country, state, county, or civil jurisdiction in which the temple is located.
Before you can enter the temple, however, you must receive what is called a recommend from your bishop and stake president. It is your obligation to see your bishop. A searching interview will be conducted first by your bishop and then by your stake president to determine whether or not you—
1. Have a testimony of the gospel.
2. Support local and General Authorities.
3. Accept and follow the teachings and programs of the Church.
4. Keep the Word of Wisdom, including abstention from the use of harmful drugs.
5. Are morally clean (free from adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, etc.)
6. Are a member in good standing in the Church.
7. Are free from legal entanglements.
If you feel you are worthy, and if the bishop discerns that you are worthy and gives you a recommend, and if your attitude is one of faith, righteous desire, and trust in the Lord, then you can expect to enjoy one of the wonderful experiences of your life in the house of the Lord.
People who enter the temple to be married or to participate in other sacred ordinances change from their everyday clothes to plain, clean white clothing. Elder Hugh B. Brown of the Council of the Twelve has suggested the reason for this:
“Here we will not only lay aside the clothing of the street, but the thoughts of the street, and will try not only to clothe our bodies in clean white linen but our minds in purity of thought. May we profit by the spoken word and what is more lasting and more impressive, receive instruction from the Spirit.”
All clothing necessary for participating in the temple ordinances is available at the temple. You will wish to discuss this with your bishop or branch president before going to the temple.
One should also know that when you go to the temple for the first time, you will not be left unattended. Temple officiators, receptionists, and others assigned to labor therein will assist you to make your temple experience a beautiful and meaningful one.
Before a person can be married (or sealed as husband and wife) in the temple, he or she receives the ordinances of the endowment.
What is the temple endowment?
“Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” (Discourses of Brigham Young [Deseret Book Co., 1941], p. 416.)
As you receive your endowment, you will be given instruction relative to the purposes and plans of the Lord in creating and peopling the earth and in exalting his children in the life to come.
Elder James E. Talmage, formerly of the Council of the Twelve, has given a clear description of the endowment:
“The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements. …
“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.
“No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth, patriotism to nation, and allegiance to God.” (The House of the Lord [Deseret Book Co., 1968], pp. 83–84.)
To endow is to enrich, to give to another something long-lasting and of much worth. The endowment ordinances enrich in three ways:
1. The one receiving the ordinance is given power from God. “Recipients are endowed with power from on High.” (President Bruce R. McConkie of the First Council of the Seventy.)
2. A recipient is also endowed with information and knowledge. “They receive knowledge relative to the Lord’s purposes and plans. …” (President McConkie.)
3. When sealed at the altar, a person is the recipient of glorious blessings, powers, and honors, as part of his endowment.
The endowment is a most important and significant blessing, and the Lord desires his worthy children to receive it. You should all look forward to the day when you will receive your own endowment.
The ordinances of the temple are so sacred that they are not open to the view of the public. They are available only to those who qualify through righteous living. They are performed in places dedicated especially for this purpose. Their sacred nature is such that discussion in detail outside the temple is inappropriate.
Many blessings come to those who receive and respect these sacred ordinances, which are so necessary for exaltation. Participation in temple work provides dynamic, vivid, useful instruction in gospel principles, and the temple is a place for contemplation and prayer.
The temple is a sanctuary from the world, a bit of heaven on earth, and one should continue to live worthily so that he can go to the temple often and renew his covenants.