It was Thursday, and like hundreds of others all over the Church, Jim and Alex anxiously waited for the mail to arrive. Their missionary recommendation papers had been turned in several weeks before and today might be the day their calls would arrive.
Jim was working at the local supermarket, and Alex was working for a home builder. Both had made their mothers promise that if a “large white envelope from Church headquarters” arrived, they would not open it. Both had trouble concentrating on their work that day. Jim nearly bagged bath soap with the fresh vegetables, and Alex cut a couple of boards too short.
The large white envelopes did arrive. And both young men rushed home from work at the end of the day. With their families around them, they opened the long-awaited calls to serve. The anticipation was replaced by joy and tears of gratitude. Both young men felt the Lord had spoken, and they were ready to respond to His call.
As the initial excitement died down, the next phase of preparation began. Both families made detailed checklists: scheduling the last day of work, buying clothes and luggage, sacrament meeting preparation, a family get-together, and—oh yes—going to the temple. Sadly, however, only one family revered the temple experience as the “main event” in the life of their son, giving it the emphasis it deserves.
If going to the temple is to be the great blessing in your mission and life that it is intended to be, then it must be more than just another item on a checklist of things to do before you enter the mission field. President Howard W. Hunter said, “Truly there is no work equal to that done in temples” (Church News, Mar. 11, 1995, 7). He also said, “Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88). And President Gordon B. Hinckley has stated: “[The temples], and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 53). Only in the temple are the crowning blessings of life given to the individual. Only in the temples can the fulness of the priesthood be realized. The essence of all we do in the Church centers on the temple.
The endowment, which is a gift from God, entitles you to be armed with “power from on high” (D&C 38:32), which is the power of Jesus Christ. The plan of happiness you will teach in the mission field is presented in the temple in a most sacred and comprehensive manner. You will covenant not to speak outside of the temple regarding sacred ordinances and the covenants you will make. But as you are obedient to those covenants made in the temple, eternal blessings will accompany you into the mission field and be with you throughout your life.
One very important preparation for the temple is to study and seek to understand those doctrines of the temple which are contained in the holy scriptures (see box).
As you contemplate the depth of these doctrines, pray for the ability to understand the significance of the eternal covenants you will make in the temple. Pray for the ability to listen spiritually. It would be appropriate, if a temple is nearby, to participate in baptisms for the deceased prior to going for your own endowment.
Remember that as you go into that sacred “mountain of the Lord” (see Isa. 2:3), your personal worthiness is of the greatest importance. Essentially, worthiness to enter the temple is worthiness to enter the mission field, and vice versa. Please do not attempt to hide personal transgression or sin. If you do, you will not feel right as you take upon yourself those sacred covenants. As a missionary you will progress or flounder based upon your worthiness.
When you are interviewed for your first temple recommend, your bishop or branch president will talk to you and ask a number of questions. You may ask him to explain the intent and meaning of those worthiness inquiries even prior to your formal interview.
Stakes or wards have temple preparation classes for those who are going to the temple for the first time. You should definitely take advantage of that opportunity.
What should you expect when going to the temple for the first time? You will find an atmosphere of peace, tranquility, and a reverence found nowhere else on the face of the earth. Friendly, helpful temple workers will greet you and guide you every step of the way. In addition, you are permitted to have with you a personal escort. This may be a relative or close friend—where possible a father for brethren or a mother for sisters.
You can add to the reverence found in the temple by being reverent yourself. Communication with others should be in a “temple voice.” You will know what that is when you enter the temple.
After your recommend has been verified and processed by temple workers, you will enter the dressing area and prepare for the washing and anointing ordinances (D&C 124:39). Following these sacred initiatory ordinances, instruction will be given by a member of the temple presidency or by the matron or one of her assistants. You can expect an atmosphere of learning (see D&C 109:8).
You will then be directed to an ordinance room where sacred instructions are given and covenants made. The eternal covenants you make will change your life forever. The deep significance of what these covenants consist of will not be a surprise to you if you have been studying the scriptures. The covenants are a continuation of what is expected of every member who has been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. However, receiving these covenants in the holy temple places upon you a greater obligation, with the greatest blessings of eternity promised in return for your faithfulness.
A commitment to wear the garment of the holy priesthood the rest of your life is a part of the process. The garment assists you in remembering the significance of the sacred covenants you make and will be a protection to you against evil.
After completing the endowment process you will enter the celestial room of the temple and enjoy its reverent sacredness. There you will meet with loved ones who accompanied you through the temple. This is a time and place for sacred conversations, quiet contemplation, pondering, and worship.
You gain strength by going to the temple for your own endowment. You will feel it immediately if you prepare yourself for this great blessing. That strength can be maintained and increased prior to your mission and throughout your life by attending the temple regularly. A deeper meaning of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness will begin to unfold as you take upon yourself significant covenants. It is as Alma describes: “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (Alma 32:34). Alma also says, “It beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).
As you begin to study, learn, and teach the six missionary discussions, you will immediately feel the harmony of sacred covenants made in the temple. This will further increase your faith and testimony. The power you can feel by regular temple attendance is manifest in a stronger testimony of the Savior and of His atoning sacrifice. All covenants you will make in the temple center on our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Obedience to those covenants will bring multiple blessings to you, not only during your mission but throughout your entire life. Enter the temple with the humble desire to grow in understanding our Heavenly Father’s will for you. This will allow you to feel the Holy Spirit, which enlarges your desire and commitment to live a righteous life. Answers to life’s challenges are available to each of us in the holy temples of the Lord.
The greatest blessings of life and eternity and a fulness of the priesthood can be found only in the Lord’s temples. When you make the temple experience more than just another checklist item, a power will flow into your life that cannot come in any other way. You will be a more effective instrument in the Lord’s hands as you do His work. And as you labor to bring others to Christ, you will find yourself on a course that will eventually lead you back into the presence of the Father and the Son.
These scriptures will be helpful as you prepare to go to the temple for the first time:
Power of godliness
Power from on high
A place of instruction
A place of holiness
Receiving every needful thing
The Savior’s appearance
Washings and anointings