Whether you’ve seen the outside or the inside of a temple, in person or in pictures, or been to temples close to you or thousands of miles away, they all have one thing in common—that’s where Church members go to perform ordinances so they can one day return to our Heavenly Father’s presence, if they live worthily. That’s where Church members perform the same ordinances for those who’ve died, too. Temple ordinances are at the center of the gospel.
“When you’re in the temple being baptized for the dead, it’s like you’re in a spiritual fortress and you’re protected,” says Shaun Tueller, 17. “You feel all the good things inside the temple, and you don’t worry about anything outside.”
“At the Atlanta temple open house, we went into the celestial room, and they asked us to meditate and think about the temple. Everybody was amazed by the beauty and calm, even the nonmembers. Sometimes when I’m rushed, I close my eyes and remember when I was back in that room, and how I got rid of all the worries in my mind,” says Christy Arrowood, 16.
You know the feeling, if you’ve been to visit a temple. You can feel it as you walk on the temple grounds. It’s a feeling of peace, of closeness to the Savior. If you’re walking by the temple at night, there’s a solemn beauty that radiates as the lights gently touch the temple walls. Something deep inside you tells you it’s a sacred place.
We need the ordinances of the gospel to return to our Heavenly Father. We’re put on earth to serve out a probation, then to return to our Heavenly Father in exaltation. The only way to do that is through the ordinances of the temple.
Although going to the temple might seem like a long way into the future, preparing to go to the temple should be part of your everyday life. Interviews with several former temple presidents and matrons produced some helpful counsel to consider as you prepare for the temple.
Your first goal, of course, should be to keep the commandments so that you will always be worthy to enter the temple. That’s something you should be working on right now.
Your second goal should be to be baptized for the dead when you have the opportunity. Your third goal should be to receive your endowment and do work for the dead. And your fourth goal should be eternal marriage.
If you’ve been baptized for the dead, you’ve probably felt the joy that comes when you’ve helped open the doors for someone to accept the gospel. It’s a sweet, pure feeling of helping in Heavenly Father’s work.
You can be baptized for the dead right now it you’re worthy, are at least 12 years old, and live close enough to a temple to attend. Baptisms for the dead are done in groups as arranged by the bishop or branch president. When it’s time for you to receive your endowment, you’ll probably be going on a mission or preparing for your marriage, or you may simply have a strong desire to receive your endowment. Just as with all major decisions of your life, you may wish to talk to your parents before your temple interview. Your bishop could also offer counsel.
“Spiritual maturity is a consideration for when a person receives the endowment, and whether that person is capable of understanding and living the covenants he or she makes,” explained one former temple president. “There is no specific age limit. If a person is not going on a mission or getting married in the temple, he or she must be ready to make eternal commitments. That person should also want to strengthen himself or herself by righteous living.”
When you receive your endowment, you’ll be taught an overview of the Lord’s eternal plan for each of us. Elder James E. Talmage tells about the temple endowment in his book The House of the Lord. He says that the temple endowment teaches about the creation of the earth, Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden, the plan of redemption, the apostasy, and the restoration of the gospel. Members receiving their endowments make commitments to the Lord, too, called covenants.
A covenant is a binding and solemn promise between God and a person or group of chosen people. Elder Bruce R. McConkie tells us that, in addition to baptism and the sacrament, tithing, keeping the Sabbath holy, and the Word of Wisdom are examples of covenants. The Lord has promised us specific blessings in return for observing these laws. Elder McConkie also says that “the more faithful and devoted a person is, the more of the covenants of the Lord he is enabled to receive” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 167).
Elder Talmage tells us the covenants we make in the temple include the “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, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, p. 84).
The ordinances and procedures given in the temple are so sacred that they are not discussed outside of the temple. The Lord wants only those who are worthy to be introduced to those sacred blessings. You can prepare for those blessings by striving to live a righteous life and by obeying the commandments. As one former temple president said, “When I’m asked by a nonmember why he or she can’t enter the temple, I tell people the temple is not closed to them. It’s open to anyone who is willing to prepare and be worthy to enter, and we encourage all people to do so.”
How can you prepare for receiving your endowment? If your parents have been to the temple, one good place to start is by asking them to explain what the temple means to them.
Those who come from a family where no one attends the temple can be a great example to their families if they have a positive attitude toward the temple. A former temple matron describes hearing a young woman speak in sacrament meeting about the temple. “Her parents are divorced, and there has been a lot of sadness in their family. But this bright spirit stood at the pulpit telling how she wants to go to the temple and how to prepare for it. Her father was there to hear it, and he hadn’t been to church for years. She’s drawing their family together and has been a wonderful example to them.”
In response to specific questions about preparing for the temple, former temple presidents made the following suggestions. For those teenagers whose parents are not Church members, there are still many ways to learn about the temple. “The temple ceremonies are priesthood ordinances, and the responsibility of preparation belongs to the bishop, and then the stake president. And, of course, parents, home teachers, quorum and auxiliary leaders have an ongoing responsibility to teach about the temple.”
Preparing to go to the temple is a process, not a one-time event. “There’s no such thing as a crash course for going to the temple. A person needs to have a testimony. If he has a testimony of God’s eternal plan he won’t be satisfied with anything but having the temple be a part of his life.”
Once a person has prepared for the temple experience and received his or her endowment, there’s still more.
“Temple ordinances are only some of the things the Lord requires for the greatest blessing, that of exaltation. But there are a lot of other things in the gospel that the Lord expects of us. The temple is a beautiful part of it, but living the gospel and pleasing the Lord are essential, too.”
One of the best ways to prepare for temple experiences is through activity in the Church. “Take advantage of Church programs and the opportunity to respond to leadership callings.”
It’s important to go to the temple for the right reasons, too.
“If young people come to the temple for the wrong reasons, like family or peer pressure, they usually don’t have a desire to come back. If they go with the right spirit, they’ll be hungering and thirsting and wanting to find out all they can about what’s taught in the temple.”
One suggestion is to prepare for the temple by seriously studying the scriptures. “Find out for yourself who Jesus Christ really is. You can know him, and as you make the temple covenants with God, you are putting your hand in his, and receiving blessings from his hand all the time.”
Another way to prepare for the temple is to read about it. “Church books and magazine articles can be a great help in preparing you to receive your endowment. You might want to read Elder Boyd K. Packer’s book The Holy Temple, or Elder James E. Talmage’s The House of the Lord.”
Prayer is important, too. “Pray for clarity of mind on temple matters.”
What are some of the blessings in this life that come to someone who attends the temple regularly? “You can’t help but leave the temple feeling uplifted. You learn charity and love and compassion. You leave the cares of the day outside the doors of the temple, and when you go out, your feet are led to the paths you’ve been searching for to help you with some problem you might have.
“After you make covenants, you’re not pulled to and fro by the world so easily. It’s a strength to your life and helps you to keep righteous goals.”
“As you come to the sacredness of the temple, you take yourself out of the world. You can forget yourself in the work you’re doing.”
“You get a perspective of your life that puts it in order for you. And the experience in the temple is supportive of the LDS way of life. It gives you a backup, a reassurance that what you’re doing is righteous.”
It can bring families together in this life, too. “The endowment brings all generations together, no matter what songs your parents or grandparents sang or how they wore their hair. You have that great common bond of the temple.”
After you’ve received your endowment, you should return to the temple often to vicariously do the same for someone who has died, so that person will have the opportunity for those same blessings.
And when you do get married in the temple, you’ll understand even more the importance of eternal covenants you make with the Lord.
“And this shall be our covenant—that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord” (D&C 136:4).