5 Ways To Actually Understand What’s Going On In The Temple

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…”

the temple

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.

If you’re looking to have your mind explode, then you can check out Hugh Nibley’s thoughts on the temple found in  “Temple and the Cosmos” as well as “Temples of the Ancient World”.

There are many others but these are some that I’ve enjoyed.

cory jensen

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!

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    • Prior to going to the temple my father had us read the Pearl of Great Price. That was great preparation for the endowment. I remember feeling that I had come home when I went to the temple for the first time, everything seemed so familiar to me. But I’m old enough to remember being taught in Junior Sunday School why we use our right hand to take the Sacrament and how to raise our right arm to the square when signifying in a sustaining vote. I watched my mother iron her temple robes and understood from her reverence the importance of what went on in the temple. Sometimes I think we’re too afraid to say something we shouldn’t in relation to the temple ceremonies that we make it seem too mysterious. It isn’t mysterious at all and we can share the basic doctrines taught there as they are straight out of the scriptures.

    • John Cline

      Where is the scriptural justification for the endowment? Where does it state in God’s word that we must be endowed in order to receive eternal life?

    • Crew Sayder

      I have to put in a plug for ‘The Temple’ by Ed J Pinegar since I know him. Great man.

    • Fred White

      As someone has already said, by going to the temple we gain more knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us in this life and in the eternities. The first time i went I was caught up in the experience of the event. It was a very spiritual experience. It was only after several trips to the temple that I came to know that I need to continue to go to back. It is only by repeated visits that we can receive more of a fulness of our Heavenly Father’s blessings. My only regret is that I did not go sooner.

    • brad

      So it’s ok to ask questions? Cool, why are the tolkens all from free masonry and said to come from the temple of Solomon when that was a lie by a master mason in Scotland to bring in more members into his group? Why did they remove the penalties about talking about them outside of the temple, were people uncomfortable with having to act out them slitting their own throats? Why are there lessons you can only learn in the temple when Jesus taught nothing in secret John 18:20?

      • Harry

        Nope, all the tokens are not from masonry. Are you a mason? Have you been thru a LDS-temple? If you cannot answer yes to both you do not really know!
        By your questions I conclude that you have little or no understanding of symbolism.
        So I Have questions for you:
        Why are all tokens performed with your right hand? Is there a symbolic difference between right and left? What is the symbolic mening if the four different tokens?
        Do you have any knowledge of the making of oaths, as described in the OT?
        Check Ruth 1:16-17, for exemple. What does Ruth mean, or rather, what does she do, when saying: the Lord DO SO to me, and more; THUS may the Lord do yo me…
        (Depending on translation you chose)?
        In the Old endowment there were three different ways your life could be taken. Why different? Is there any symbolism in it, and might they be connected to any other teachings in the temple?
        If you have been thru your endowment, have you pondered the parallell of symbols between the endowment and the tent tabernacle as described in Exodus?
        If you have answers to any of the above, then I will take your questions seriously; otherwise they are only critique disguised as questions, without the aim of better understanding temple teaching. Are they even yours or did you get them from the internet?

        • brad

          ok, right and left. The right was pronounced long ago to the hand of god and the left the hand of satan. Even today some people believe left handed people to be evil by nature. Ever wonder why they have you raise your hand to swear in to court the same way you sustain the prophet?

          You think that oaths have anything to do with religion? Making an oath existed all over the world with out Christianity. It is a promise, Ruth is saying I promise become one of your people.

          Ah, are you referring to the penalties of revealing the temple secrets? Slitting your throat, disemboweling yourself, and tearing out the heart. Yeah still free mason.

          I am no longer a member, I have been through the temple, yet even though I was pure and had no sins I felt a powerful evil emanating from the building. Never wanted to go again, even looking at the building I can feel the evil. I have seen the ceremony on line, and have confirmed that it is indeed accurate.
          I have prayed and got my answer that the church is a path way to evil disguised as to appear as good. The recent actions only strengthen that belief. I won’t be surprised if it goes the way of Jamestown.

    • John Cline

      What exactly is the endowment that is given in the endowment? What is the gift? What do you come away with that you didn’t have before? Is it just knowledge? A new experience to write in your journal? In the Kirtland days, the endowment of power was intended to be a direct encounter with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This endowment was going to be given at the Kirtland Temple dedication. Only a few people expressed that they experienced this. Most were kind of disappointed at how anti-climactic it all was. And after it was over Joseph Smith declared that his work was done, that all that needed to be restored had been restored. Of course, this was before the real endowment, baptisms for the dead, eternal marriage, etc, etc, etc…

    • Mase

      I really enjoyed this post because I relate to all of it! I definitely remember my first time going to the temple (for my own endowments). I had heard too many times before going how “weird” it was going to be, so I did my very best to concentrate on what I was feeling instead of trying to understand everything perfectly. And that’s what I usually try and tell someone who asks me what it will be like. I am thankful I had such a wonderful feeling my first time through, it gave me that “why” perspective. And thanks for your blog…first time I’ve left a comment but I’ve been following for awhile

    • Melanie

      If you felt evil there, it came in with you. If the symbols are similar to what the Freemasons use that doesn’t mean the Church copied them. It means Freemasons have a piece of the truth.
      Anyone going in to the temple to record the sacred ceremonies brought evil with him/her.

      • brad

        I was told specifically that evil can’t exist there. So then the church of satan has the truth too by your own claim.

        • Melanie

          The church of Satan has pieces of the truth, enough to deceive some people. They don’t have the whole truth. Some churches teach scripture, mingled with the philosophies of men. That is not Christ’s church.

    • Melanie

      Just curious, you don’t have to answer this of course. Do you still believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit? Yes or no?

      • brad

        I believe in God. I believe Jesus existed, but the stories are twisted to make him into a God when he was only a man who saw his religion being abused by men. Holy spirit is irreverent, there is positive and negative energy any electrician will tell you that. I’ve had experiences with angels, demons, and ghosts. None of them sees your church as anything, well demons love you guys sending souls to them. Found this out when I went to do baptisms for the dead. Now the church of satan just took a symbol that was used by a priest that practiced magic in the 17-1800s, I don’t remember the date. This was adopted by the freemasons, then Smith being a mason incorporated it to his.

        • Melanie

          “Jesus was only a man.” This is where our beliefs part company. Do you believe other Christian religions are just as evil? What about Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists? They teach that Jesus was the Son of God.