I have been impressed with the work Bryce Haymond is doing over at TempleStudy.com. I am particularly pleased with the sacred and reverent manner in which he treats the subject matter. His essays on the temple are thought-provoking and illuminating. I would not have thought that one could find enough material to fill an ongoing blog on Temples, but he has proved otherwise. I should not be surprised. The temple has often been referred to as the Lord’s university.
Bryce’s work has not gone unnoticed. Other bloggers I respect like S.Faux on Mormon Insights have recommended the essays and unique perspectives there. Besides temples in general, you can read about endowments, garments, prayer circles, the veil, ordinances and commentary from Hugh Nibley, one of my favorite LDS scholars. I encourage you to visit Bryce’s site to see for yourself. I could spend hours there and always come away enlightened and uplifted.
It is OK to talk about the temple
In the church we are often hesitant to talk or write about the temple. Some have concluded that since the temple is such a sacred place that it is not appropriate to mention it or discuss what goes on there. I agree that there are aspects of the temple that we do not reveal specifically because we have covenanted to not do so. However, we do ourselves a disservice by not taking time to regularly ponder what the temple means to us and how it can bless our lives.
On the other hand, there are those over the years who have broken their covenants, sharing everything in great detail. Typically those who do so write or speak in such a way that they make a mockery of something that most members of the LDS Church hold very sacred. It is unfortunate that this has occurred but we know that there must be opposition in all things. I have always found the temple to be an awesome and empowering force in my life.
We hold the temple sacred
There is a reason that new members of the church must wait at least a year before participating in the endowment ceremony. We encourage new members to go and perform baptisms for the dead as often as they can and just as soon after baptism as possible. Waiting that year helps the new member to gain an appreciation for the sacredness of the temple that they observe in long-time members. I guess you could call it seasoning and a time to prove faithful.
That’s why it is so important that we who have been endowed be very careful about what we say and how we say it when talking to new members about the temple. They will probably absorb our attitude towards the Lord’s house as they listen to us discuss it among ourselves and as they see how frequently or infrequently we make the effort to go there. First impressions can be very lasting. I hope that we are helping new converts feel that the temple is a great blessing.
Being prepared for the temple
I went to the temple as a youth to participate in baptisms for the dead. I was impressed with the twelve oxen that held up the font in the basement and learned that they represented the twelve tribes of Israel. I remember the feelings that came to me as I entered the house of the Lord for the first time as a new deacon. There was a real difference in the way we talked and the way we acted as soon as we showed our recommend and made our way to the baptistery.
I don’t think I am atypical of most LDS youth in that I probably went to the temple a least every six months during my teenage years. I have fond memories of these experiences and especially enjoyed continuing this practice in the Idaho Falls temple when I went to BYU Idaho after high school. I am convinced that regularly going to the temple in my youth helped prepare me to appreciate the sacred nature of the endowment when I was preparing to go on my mission.
The importance of being worthy
In the church we place a high emphasis on being worthy to enter the house of the Lord. The process of obtaining a temple recommend is not secret and is really quite simple. The Lord has placed the responsibility on his priesthood leaders of ensuring that those who go to the temple are prepared to understand and receive the blessings that are promised there. Those who go for the first time are asked a series of questions from their Bishop and Stake President.
The questions are not designed to intimidate or to test our knowledge of what we will learn in the temple. The interview process is an opportunity for us to express to the Lord’s servants that we believe and have faith in God, our Heavenly Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We are asked if we have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel and if we sustain the prophet and other priesthood leaders. We are also asked if we obey the commandments and if we feel worthy.
Temple preparation classes
When I went to the temple for the first time, there was really no temple preparation class like there is now. It was expected that parents would teach and prepare their children to attend the temple for the first time. That is not feasible in today’s world with so many converts who do not have the benefit of years of exposure to the concepts of the temple through example or through discussion with family. I had parents who taught me about the temple and took me there.
On my way down to the temple, I sat in the back seat and read several essays about the temple that my mother had obtained and wanted me to read. She and my father were very active in attending the temple at this time in their lives and wanted me to understand about symbols and covenants and ritual and sacred things. I had already studied much on my own so what I read that morning was not new, but it impressed me that my mother wanted me to feel prepared.
The endowment ceremony
My first experience in the temple was not a shock and I was not surprised. I had read and been taught about the washing and anointing and clothing in the garment of the Holy Priesthood. There is no doubt that I felt something special as I entered the Garden Room of the Los Angeles Temple to be instructed through the ceremony and ritual there. In those days we did not move from room to room like we do now. That is something I love about the LA Temple today.
As many times as I have sat through the endowment ceremony, I am never disappointed by what I learn there. The first time through was especially enjoyable to be sitting next to my father and to see the smile on my mother’s face as she looked over at me several times. I am always learning something new even though what transpires is the same each time. My parents asked me if I wanted to do another session right away and was pleased to be able to do so.
Married in the Temple
When Carol and I became engaged, we immediately began making plans to be married in the temple. We had both made the decision many years earlier that we would only marry there. I also got the added benefit of marrying a returned missionary so she had been previously endowed and understood the temple. Although our wedding day was a long and eventful day, I will always remember kneeling across the alter to be sealed to my sweetheart.
I was so impressed with the covenant and the promises made as we held hands and were sealed by the authority of the priesthood in the Los Angeles temple. I love that temple. Every time we go there we look in on our sealing room with fondness and discuss what transpired there that day. The room was crowded with family and friends but the thing I remember most is the feeling I had when the words were pronounced. I knew that it was being recorded in heaven.
Vicarious ordinances for others
We have returned to the temple many times over the years to perform ordinances for those living on the other side of the veil. My mother was an avid genealogist and left me the records of thousands of our ancestors for whom we officiated as proxies in the temple ordinances. I have come to appreciate the doctrine of vicarious ordinances more and more as the years have gone by. I have felt that the work I do in the temple is appreciated and pleasing to the Lord.
The Lord has made it clear that baptism and marriage are ordinances that must be performed in mortality. We believe and teach that these ordinances can be accepted by those who have died without the opportunity to receive them here. We also believe that they are necessary in order to progress in the next life. That is why we as a church and as a people invest so much time and money in building temples, in doing family research and in doing proxy ordinances in the temple.
Summary and conclusion
I love the temple. I like to go there often. I especially enjoy our stake day in the temple which we have twice a year. Last year we filled half of the assembly hall on one of the upper floors with nearly a thousand members of our stake in attendance. It was an awesome experience I’ll never forget. I am so blessed to have lived so close to the Los Angeles Temple all my life. I never tire of going there. I have sacred memories of receiving inspiration and revelation there.
I hope to continue to visit the temple on a regular basis. I have more family history work to do. As I get older I ponder more and more about the spirit world and the next life. I want to be able to meet my ancestors and report that I did my best to do my part. They helped me get to the place where I am in my life. I live at a time where the temple is close and I can easily get there. I am so grateful to the Lord for the blessings of the temple. I know they are of an eternal nature.