Sometimes in the excitement and focus of major life events like missions and marriage, the temple experience becomes secondary. However, your personal temple endowment can and should be a deeply meaningful and important life event in itself. Sadly many young men and women show up to the temple, worthy to be there, but unprepared to comprehend the meaning and significance of the temple ordinances. As a result, their initial experience is sometimes less than it might have been. President Ezra Taft Benson stated, “I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple” (“What I hope you will teach your children about the Temple”, Ensign, August 1985).
Here are three things that parents can teach their children that will help prepare them for their own temple endowment.
1 – A Tale of Two Trees – President David O. McKay once described the endowment as the “truest philosophy of life ever given to man.” Parents should help their youth understand that the temple endowment drama is not simply ‘history’ but is also their ‘story’. In part, it is God’s explanation of our life’s condition, purpose and journey using the symbols of two trees. The figures of Adam and Eve are representative of each of us.
First, we encounter the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We partake of the fruit of this tree through the use of our agency and by the consequences of our actions and those of others. We are here to learn good from evil through our mortal experience (see Moses 6:55-56). We all begin life in a state of innocence and purity. As we mature, we sin and experience the effects of the Fall. Struggling in this telestial realm, our task now is to find our way back to the second tree—the tree of life.
In his vision, Lehi saw that there are many ways to become lost in mortality. He further saw that there was only one path back to the tree of life. He came to know that the fruit of the tree of life is most “desirable above all other fruit” (1 Nephi 8:12). Nothing else life offers us can compare. The fruit of this tree is the joy of the Saints and eternal life (see Enos 1:3).
Near the end of his record, Nephi gave some further explanation about the path leading to the tree. He called the path the “Doctrine of Christ” (see 2 Nephi 31 & 32). He testified that it is the way back and that there is no other way (2 Nephi 31:21).
The temple endowment outlines this same path and further clarifies it. The final part of the Doctrine of Christ is enduring to the end. The endowment ordinances, in one sense, are ordinances associated with enduring to the end. The temple endowment and the doctrine of Christ are inseparably interconnected.
Near the beginning of the endowment ceremony, we encounter the tree of knowledge. As the ceremony concludes we are presented symbolically at the tree of life (represented by the veil) where we are taught more about its fruit. The endowment outlines the journey from one tree back to the other. It is God’s explanation of life’s purpose through the symbol of these two trees. It is, therefore, as President McKay taught, the truest philosophy of life given to man.
Once we leave the temple it is up to us to then learn to live the temple covenants in our life. By doing so, we actually follow the path outlined.
2 – To strengthen us in this journey, we receive personal blessings and promises from God in the temple. In some ways, your endowment is a little bit like coming home on a visit from college for a father’s blessing. You will leave the temple on the day you are endowed with God’s promises made directly to you. Not promises made to some ancient prophet. Not promises you read about in the scriptures, but promises made to you personally.
Many of these promised blessings are given at the beginning of your endowment in the initiatory ordinances. To understand these ordinances, consider a newborn infant. When a baby is physically born into the world, the baby is washed clean after the birth. He or she is then dressed and given a name and a blessing. All of this is part of our entry into this mortal, physical world.
Baptism, of water and of fire and the Holy Ghost, represents spiritual birth into God’s kingdom. The initiatory ordinances of the temple continue this process of being born again and mirror our physical birth. First, you are washed clean. You are then anointed (blessed), clothed and given a new name. All of this is part of your spiritual re-birth.
The ordinance of baptism is a simple, physical action with profound spiritual significance. The temple ordinances are likewise simple in their physical manifestations but carry rich spiritual meaning. The promised blessings you receive will not only bless you in the resurrection, but will also strengthen you to accomplish your life’s mission here on the earth. You desperately need those blessings, especially in today’s world.
Before you go, be assured that modesty is preserved throughout the experience. Despite anything you may have read or heard to the contrary, nothing in your temple experience should leave you uncomfortable. You will also have a guide to help you throughout the process.
3 – Finally, recognize that how much we ultimately gain from the temple depends to some extent upon the effort we put into it. Receiving all the temple offers takes some time and effort. The temple has often been called the Lord’s University. It is not all to be comprehended in a single visit. Make regular attendance a priority as your circumstances permit. Those who attend consistently find that regular temple worship changes you and makes you a better person. President Hinckley taught, “I would hope that we might go to the house of the Lord a little more frequently…I encourage you to take greater advantage of this blessed privilege. It will refine your natures. It will peel off the selfish shell in which most of us live. It will literally bring a sanctifying element into our lives and make us better men and women.” (“Closing Remarks”, General Conference, October 2004).
Your understanding and comprehension of the ordinances will grow and expand over time. The best textbook for the temple is the scriptures and the best teacher is the Spirit. Look for temple themes, covenants, and teachings and you will find them throughout the standard works. Nearly all scripture is related to the temple in some way. There are also a number of helpful books available from which to start.