“What is a temple endowment? When is it recommended that Church members receive the endowment? Can a 21-year-old girl, who plans a temple marriage in the near future, receive her endowment prior to the marriage date?”
Answer/Brother John K. Edmunds
To comprehend the significance of the temple endowment, it would be well to start with a definition of the term endowment. The usual dictionary definition of the word endow is “to furnish with an income,” or “to enrich.” Funds, or other properties out of which funds may be made available to educational and eleemosynary organizations and institutions, commonly derived from gratuitous donations or contributions, are referred to as endowments. A person’s natural capacity, ability, or power is also referred to as an endowment. Webster defines an endowment in the LDS Church as “a course of instruction … concerning past and present dispensations and their associated ordinances … given in the temples only.”
The sum total of all such definitions falls far short of the eternal scope of a temple endowment. The endowment is not limited to a course of instruction concerning past and present dispensations and their associated ordinances. The principles and ordinances of the endowment are timeless; they were established before the world was; they reach into the eternity in both directions and apply more importantly to futurity than to the past, as well as providing guidance, direction, and strength to the present.
The endowment comprehends an enrichment not measured in or by money or other material treasures subject to theft and the corrosion of moth and rust. To receive the temple endowment is to receive the riches of eternity—the knowledge, the power, the keys to unlock the door to the treasures of heaven. To receive the endowment is to receive a course of instruction together with all the keys, powers, and ordinances ordained and revealed by God to prepare his children for eternal life.
The temple endowment was introduced and established in Nauvoo, Illinois, in May 1842, pursuant to an earlier revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, in which the Lord said, in part,
“… and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.
“For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.
“And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;
“For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.
“And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.” (D&C 124:27–28, 40–42.)
Pursuant to his promise, God revealed to his servant Joseph Smith the sacred principles and ordinances of the holy endowment and of eternal marriage into which the endowment leads.
So great and glorious were these principles and ordinances that the Prophet was impressed to share them with a few Saints in a poorly improvised room above a store in Nauvoo, before the Lord’s house (the Nauvoo Temple) was completed. He records in his journal, under date of May 4, 1842:
“I spent the day in the upper part of the store … ( … for want of a better place) in council with General James Adams, of Springfield, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and President Brigham Young and Elders Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the First Born, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds.” (History of the Church [Deseret Book Co., 1949], vol. 5, pp. 1–2.)
President Harold B. Lee added another dimension to our understanding of the endowment:
“The Temple ceremonies are designed by a wise Heavenly Father, who has revealed them to us in these last days as a guide and a protection throughout our lives, that you and I might not fail of an exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom where God and Christ dwell.” (Decisions for Successful Living [Deseret Book Co., 1973], p. 141.)
Having come to at least some understanding of and appreciation for the temple endowment, the second question logically follows: How soon in life should a man or woman receive this great blessing? The answer is indicated in the journal of the Prophet Joseph Smith, immediately following the account of the revealing of the endowment hereinbefore cited. He continued in his journal:
“The communications I made to this council were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritually minded: And there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them. …” (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 2. Italics added.)
The answer, then, to the question as to when Church members should receive the endowment cannot be given in terms of age but rather in terms of preparation and readiness to receive. Age, no doubt, is a consideration but not the determining factor. President Joseph F. Smith, for example, received his temple endowment at the age of 15 years. The Lord was thereby preparing him for a full-time mission to which he was shortly thereafter called. While it is not the current practice to call missionaries at such an early age, pursuant to the revelations of God our missionaries—male and female—are given their temple endowment prior to their departure to their mission fields in order that they may be endowed with power from on high and given the added strength and guidance so vital to their success.
There is wisdom in the counsel presently being given to young, unmarried Church members and, more particularly, to young women, that they do not seek the temple endowment until such time as temple marriage is imminent or a full-time mission call has been received. In a Priesthood Bulletin of the Church published in February 1973, there appears the following instruction: “Church leaders should not urge young, unmarried members to obtain their endowments unless they are to be married in the Temple or are called to serve as missionaries. Members should be authorized to obtain their endowments only when worthiness, age, and maturity justify it.” (Vol. 9, no. 1, p. 7.)
Lacking worthiness and adequate preparation of mind and heart to receive the blessings of the endowment, it is better that we enter not into the house of the Lord where the light of truth burns so brightly; for when the light shines upon us “every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.” (D&C 93:32.)
An intriguing question, packed with import, was once asked the Prophet Joseph by the Lord: “What doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?” (D&C 88:33.) There is nothing given us in the house of the Lord that does not have its price fixed. We receive the gift by paying the price, and that price is obedience to the law upon which the gift is given; for the Lord has told us that “for all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.” (D&C 132:5.)
This concept is beautifully expressed by Dr. James E. Talmage:
“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.” (The House of the Lord, [Bookcraft, 1962], p. 100.)
Can a man or woman who has an income and who fails to pay an honest tithe enter the temple and, in good faith (meaning a state of mind indicating honesty of purpose and freedom from fraud, deceit, and gross negligence), make covenants of charity and benevolence, and promise to devote (consecrate) his material means to the spread of truth and the building up of the kingdom of God? Parents, bishops, and other Church leaders should prepare those who come to the temple to receive the Lord’s blessings to do so in good faith.
I recall a conversation I had with a young Northwestern University dental student while I was serving as president of the Chicago Stake. I was interviewing him to hold an office in an elders quorum presidency and learned that he was not a full tithe payer. He assured me that he kept all the other commandments required to hold office but that his income was too small to cover the expenses of going to school and supporting a wife. After counseling him at some length and explaining that if he lacked the faith to pay an honest tithing he lacked the necessary faith to hold the priesthood office or to enter the Lord’s house and receive the Lord’s blessings, our conference ended. A few days later he called and inquired as to whether the office was still open and reported that he was a full tithe payer. He was soon set apart as a quorum officer. Some time thereafter he and his lovely wife came to my home for a temple recommend. It was a joy to sign those recommends. As they left our home I counseled them to drive their car carefully and observe the traffic laws of the various states through which they must travel, for we needed them in our stake and wanted them to go and return in safety. They assured me they would, and then the young man added with a smile, “I don’t think you have to worry about our having an accident in a car we mortgaged to pay our tithing.” I love our youth for their faith and devotion.
The third question submitted to me can be answered very briefly. Yes, a young girl who plans a temple marriage in the near future can receive her endowment prior to the date of her marriage, but I would advise her to forego this privilege until the marriage is imminent and the receiving of the endowment is reasonably near the date set for the temple marriage.
To sum it all up, we in the temple are grateful and happy to see our people—young and old—come to the house of the Lord for their endowment and eternal marriage when, and as soon as, they are worthy and possess the maturity to understand the principles involved, the faith to accept them, and the courage, strength of testimony, and integrity to conform their lives to the covenants that they must make with God.
“What do l do when I feel I can’t communicate with my bishop or my parents?”
Answer/Brother David Pierpont Gardner
Have a long conversation with yourself! Search out and understand your feelings in the matter through prayer and careful thought. “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges,” Sir Isaac Newton once said. Which have you built between you and your parents, you and your bishop? If a wall, tear it down and the eager hands of others will soon join you in the task. If a bridge, cross over and you will meet others coming your way.
The burden, of course, may not be yours alone. Men are not perfect; neither are parents or bishops. “All men have their frailties,” Cyrus reminds us, “and whoever looks for a friend without imperfections, will never find what he seeks. We love ourselves notwithstanding our faults, and we ought to love our friends in like manner.”
Were you to tell your parents and bishop that you feel unable to communicate with them, what do you think their reaction would be? The telling itself may provoke a discussion between you, long desired but long inhibited; or it may ease the restraining influence of earlier misunderstandings, irritations, and run-of-the-mill pettiness that so often throw up barriers between people; or it may relieve the tension between you, brought on because of pride or ill feelings or criticism harbored by one or the other of you.
Your efforts, of course, may accomplish little or nothing at all. What then? Seek help from others—friends, brothers and sisters, school counselors, teachers, other adults in the ward or neighborhood whom you respect and in whom you can confide. Seek help from your Heavenly Father through prayer and righteous living, for his help is assured and his guidance promised if you are but in tune. And if you are in tune with him, then surely not much time will pass before you are also in tune with others, parents and bishops included.