I have only a faint recollection of the first time I went to the temple. I really had no idea why I was going and what it was going to do for me. I guess I should have paid better attention in temple prep class…but honestly, I can’t remember that class either. All I know is that a bunch of old guys told me I needed to go before I left on my mission…so I went.
But when I went…I didn’t understand anything. I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one. President David O. McKay shared his experience on the first time he went to the temple:
“Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and women since who had that experience. I have now found out why…”
President McKay goes on to explain that too many people are just going through the motions and focusing on the “mechanics” of the temple experience instead of searching for the deeper meanings behind the covenants and ordinances.
[I stumbled upon that David O. McKay experience while reading a great little book called “Understanding Your Endowment” by Cory Jensen where the rest of that quote can be read]
The temple endowment is still an enigma to lots of “endowed members.” I think it’s because we’re sometimes satisfied with slumbering our way through the “what” of a session instead of digging into the “why” of a session. President Uchtdorf said simply that “the what informs…but the why transforms.”
When it comes to the temple…the “what” just doesn’t cut it. It will never do justice to the “why.” When we know “why”…that is when we become transformed by the temple experience.
So how do we understand the “why” of the temple?
1. Put The Temple In Perspective
Joseph Smith was asked what the purpose was for God restoring His church and gathering His people at various times on the earth. Joseph’s answer went like this: “The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom…It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings, etc.” (HC 5:423-424)
So the ultimate purpose of the restoration was to build a temple. That seems like it’s worth exploring further…
2. Read The Right Books
If you want to know more about something, then a little research will go a long way. I’ve found that I can learn so much more at the temple by pondering the research of those that have more experience than I do.
The temple prep classes are good, but if you’re looking for a little extra temple inspiration…I’ve got a couple books I can suggest:
“The Holy Temple” by Boyd K. Packer is always a solid read. Cory Jensen’s book “Understanding Your Endowment” is easy to get through and doesn’t overwhelm you with endless pages. It’s about 150 pages and easy to understand.
There are many others but these are some that I’ve enjoyed.
3. Go and Go Often
When I’d go in for temple recommend interviews, I always landed with the same member of the stake presidency. I’ll never forget his little saying after we’d finish the interview. “Go and go often” he’d say as we got up from our chairs. “Go and go often!”
If you want to learn the mysteries of the kingdom, you have to give yourself the opportunity to be instructed. Just being in that holy house will provide those opportunities to learn. The more you’re there, the more you’ll relax. When you relax, your mind becomes inquisitive. You’re not just trying to “get through,” a session. At that point, your mind begins to dig deeper into the ordinances of the temple and that is when the magic begins. According to the Doctrine and Covenants the mysteries of God are found in the ordinances. The more ordinances that are performed with a relaxed and peaceful mind, the more those mysteries will be unfolded.
4. Ask Questions
The temple…is a great place to ask questions about the temple. For some reason, people hesitate to ask questions when they go to the temple. The temple is a university. It’s the original university. The Lord’s university. Questions…are an essential element of one’s schooling.
You should also know that the temple presidency is not off limits. In fact…they love to help and answer questions if they can. They exist to serve God through serving patrons of the temple. If they don’t know the answer to a question, then they’ll probably ask you to seek personal revelation on the matter.
Questions were foundational to the very ordinances we perform in the temple. The restoration revolves around questions. One of Joseph Smith’s best qualities was his ability to ask thoughtful and inspired questions.
5. Don’t Forget The Initiatories
Plain and simple…don’t forget the initiatories! I went about 13 years without doing an initiatory. Not sure why. It just never occurred to me that I needed to. I figured it was something that people do when they’re going through for the first time. It wasn’t until I started working in the temple that I realized what I was missing. Listening to the words of that ordinance has completely changed my perspective on the endowment recently. The initiatories truly prepare us to receive greater light and knowledge during the course of an endowment session.
The “why” of the temple has caused me to appreciate “what” I was actually doing there. I have loved learning about the centrality of Christ and the important role we play in utilizing the temple to gather all of God’s children “into one” in these last days. I hope you do too!