Deciding to prepare to enter the temple is a big deal! The temple is a wonderful place for spiritual growth and learning. It’s where we go to make sacred covenants with God. But sometimes it can be difficult to get a straight answer about what may be the best way to prepare for the temple.
I don’t know about you, but before I went to the temple I was super nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect. Aside from reading the temple preparation pamphlet, I wasn’t really given any advice or instruction on how to prepare. Admittedly, I’m the over-preparer type so my anxiety was naturally higher than most. But with something as sacred and solemn as making covenants, I wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible! Alas, I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been.
So I’ve thought of a couple of things that I wish I had known before I entered the temple. I want to share a few of these preparation strategies and topics with you so that you don’t need to worry nearly as much as I did. I also want to share them because it’s important that you understand what you’ll be doing in the temple.
#1: Understand What a Covenant Is
And I mean really understand. In our disposable age, it’s really easy to get into the mindset that anything and everything is temporary and replaceable. When we see things as being temporary, we might take them less seriously. But covenant-making and covenant-keeping aren’t intended to be temporary.
At its core, a covenant is a promise we make with Heavenly Father. He sets the terms of the covenant and we willingly agree to those terms. Covenants are binding and we shouldn’t enter into them lightly. We ought to really intend to live up to the conditions of the covenant, otherwise, we mock God. If we don’t understand what a covenant is, then we may enter into one not being fully ready to keep the covenant we made.
The underpinning principle that makes covenant-making and keeping so important is accountability. We will be accountable to Heavenly Father for the desires of our hearts, as well as our actions. If we willingly choose to enter into a covenant with Heavenly Father then we need to understand that we’ll be held accountable for how well that promise was kept. Keep in mind that the gospel is one of mercy and forgiveness; as long as we are trying to improve then all will be well.
#2: Learn About the Plan of Salvation
The Plan of Salvation = the purpose of life. The temple is all about the Plan of Salvation; it’s all about our journey back to God. In fact, the Plan of Salvation includes saving ordinances and sacred covenants which “mark the path back to God.” In the temple, you’ll learn a little bit more about God’s plan for you. But this shouldn’t stop you from studying His plan prior to entering the temple.
My advice here is that you become familiar with the Old Testament and with what Elder McConkie called the 3 Pillars of Eternity. That is, the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Studying these three events will help you to better understand the big picture of life, as well as the purpose of temples.
#3: Understand Rituals and Ceremonies
Sometimes we get freaked out when we see the words “religious,””ceremony,” and/or “ritual” put together. Perhaps it’s because these words evoke suspicious thoughts of mysterious cult-like acts—some of which have been done with evil intentions. Or maybe it’s just because we don’t typically think that members of the Church participate in religious ceremonies. But the truth is that members of the Church do participate in many wonderful ceremonies!
These ceremonies are nothing to be suspicious or afraid of. Rather, they’re something we can rejoice in and look forward to. But I’m getting ahead of myself by assuming you already understand what a ritual is. In case you don’t, let’s learn together!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a ritual as, “an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” Certainly, there are religious and non-religious groups who perform and hold dear certain rituals. Like all things in life, rituals can be performed with holy or hateful intentions—but rituals themselves are not inherently evil.
Rituals are often rooted in symbolism and thus teach valuable lessons about a particular principle or event. These performances can include promises among group members or Deity. For these reasons, rituals are sacred to those who perform them and are not open for public viewing or participation.
Rituals Within the Church
With this understanding, let’s talk a little bit about rituals within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Outside of the temple, the preparing, passing, and partaking of the sacrament is a holy ritual. The sacrament represents the body and blood of Christ. Baptized members of the Church partake of this, His symbolic body and blood, every week as a figurative and literal showing of their recommitment to their covenants. Nothing secret, nothing scary.
Outside of the temple is all fine and dandy, but you may have come to this article wondering about what happens inside the temple. Some of what we do as part of these ceremonies is so sacred we don’t talk about them outside of the temple, but let’s talk about the basics.
Inside the temple, the sacred initiatory, endowment, and sealing ordinances are performed; these are also rituals. The initiatory, endowment, and sealing are done as part of the process of making covenants with God. Like the sacrament, these rituals have to do with the wonderful Atonement of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and the Plan of Salvation. Nothing secret, nothing scary, everything sacred.
So when you enter the temple, enter the temple with peace. Know that you will be participating in sacred ordinances and making divine covenants with God. In the true spirit of a perfect heavenly provider, these covenants, if kept, will protect you and bring you peace. They are intended to bring you back to your Heavenly Father. Praise to the Almighty!