Saturday, August 9, 2014
For the First Time: Preparing for Temple Worship
Perhaps there are 5 days that all Latter-day Saints look forward to with anxiousness and joy. They are as follows: 1) The day they are baptized and confirmed 2) For men the day they receive the Aaronic priesthood 3) The day they receive the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, or the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God 4) The day they enter the holy temple and receive their temple endowment 5) Finally, the day that they are sealed by one having authority to the person they have chosen to spend time and all eternity with in the marriage covenant.
These blessings are something that we should look forward too, but they are also things we should prepare intensely for. Before converts are baptized, they are taught the basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, extended invitations to live principles line upon line, and then eventually enter into the covenant of baptism. It is clear that the Lord’s way is the prepared way. He does not want us to do even the right thing if we do not understand why we are doing the right thing.
While I feel that for the most part we prepare our children well generally for most of the above mentioned special events, I am somewhat distressed and appalled that most (if not all) people are so ill prepared to enter the holy temple. I have observed new patrons after they have received their endowments completely baffled and had no idea what just happened. This is not good. Why is it that we prepare them well for the priesthood but not to receive the fullness of it?
Answer: Most people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that since the temple is a holy and a sacred place (and it is) that they should not really speak of what goes on in the holy edifices. While it is true that there are certain parts of the ceremony which one cannot discuss outside the temple, those who like Mormon are quick to observe (Mormon 1:2) will realize that there is more about the temple they can talk about than what they cannot. What cannot be talked about outside the temple is clearly said within the ceremony (I know, I have said it before as an officiator); all the rest can be talked about as the Spirit guides.
When talking about the temple perhaps at times we need to be general, but as the time gets closer for someone to actually go and receive their blessings, we should be somewhat specific. As stated above, I am fully aware that some things are to be kept within the walls of the temple, and these will not be discussed here. However there are a few things that I would like to discuss. They are as follows: 1) The creation drama 2) the covenants entered into in the temple 3) The importance of clothing 4) The new name.
Before going into depth on these things, perhaps a quote from one of the great theologians of our modern dispensation, the late Elder James E. Talmage, would be helpful to our discussion : “The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.” I think Elder Talmage does a beautiful job in describing so much in so few words.
Let us begin with the creation. From scriptures both ancient and modern we know that before this life we lived in the presence of our Father in Heaven. We know that a plan was presented, and that we chose to follow his plan. Sadly we know that Lucifer, now known as Satan, rebelled against our Father and he and a third of our Father’s precious offspring were banished from his presence.
What is not as generally known or talked about is the creation of the Earth. When someone is asked how the world got here often they will say “God created it”. While this is correct, it would imply that our Father alone created it. That is false. Forming a grand presidency, our Father in Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ (then known as Jehovah, as he was also known to the ancient patriarchs and Israel) and Michael (who would later be known as Adam, the father of the human race) formed the Earth. I say formed because they used existing materials to organize the Earth ; ex nihilo creation is false and devilish. As the scriptures say, it took six days to create it all, with the seventh day being hallowed as one of rest. This creation is the how the endowment narrative begins.
Following this we know that our father Adam and our mother Eve were placed in a Garden in Eden to tend and take care of it. They were given two commandments while there: 1) Multiply and replenish the Earth 2) Abstain from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While in the Garden, Adam and Eve had continual communion with the Father and the Son, something that did not happen again until the modern era when these two beings appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The scriptures do not tell us how long our first parents where in the Garden. Suffice it to say they were there long enough to be tempted by that same Lucifer who was cast out of the Eternal God’s presence, and they succumbed to that temptation. However, thanks to the Book of Mormon, we know this was part of the plan (2 Nephi 2:24).
After making covenant with the Lord to obey his commandments, our first parents were driven out of our Father’s presence into the world to prove whether or not they would keep their first estate (Abraham 3:25-26). After quite some time, Adam was visited by heavenly messengers and taught anew what he must do in order to return to the Father’s presence, and he taught his children as he was taught. These are represented in the temple ceremony according to ways that our minds and culture can understand.
Moving on to the covenants that one takes upon himself in the House of the Lord, keep in mind that these covenants were made at other times (baptism and priesthood ordination times for instance). However, when made in the temple they take on even greater meaning and greater force, and one who breaks covenants with the Lord made in his holy house will pay an even greater price than those made in prior instances.
The covenants entered into in the temple are these: the Law of Obedience, The Law of Sacrifice, The Law of the Gospel, The Law of Chastity, and the great and final law is the Law of Consecration.
These for the most part are self-explanatory, so I will not go into great detail to explain them here. But a few notes and descriptions of each may help one prepare. The Law of Obedience is that you will obey the commandments that the Lord or his servants may give you. The Law of Sacrifice is that you will sacrifice your sins and your own life o that you may have a greater abundance of the Holy Ghost and defend God’s kingdom. It also means that if called upon, you may as other great men and women have done, lay down your life for the cause of truth. That is not to say that you will literally be killed for the gospel, but that if the Gospel requires you to lay down something (especially in callings you receive) you will sacrifice it to answer the call.
The Law of the Gospel is that you will live the gospel inasmuch as you understand it, and that you live a reverent life. The Law of Chastity is that you will have no sexual relations (which by the way is much more than intercourse) until you are married, and complete fidelity within marriage. The Law of Consecration, like the Law of Sacrifice and the Gospel, is one that is done line upon line and precept upon precept. It implies that all your material possessions and yourself are given to the Lord to further his work.
Onto the subject of clothing both in coming to the temple and worn inside the temple. When coming to the temple, we should wear our very best, even if it doesn’t seem great in the eyes of the world. In the temple we are not part of the world; we are partaking of the atonement and becoming one with God.
As recorded in the Book of Alma and many other places in the scriptures “All are alike unto God” (Alma 19:36). In the temple this is very well dramatized. Whether you are the prophet or just a normal patron, all are dressed in white. White is symbolic of purity, and we must be pure to partake of the blessings of the House of the Lord. Also, since all are dressed alike, we know that we have an equal standing before God and that the way back to him is the same for all. How glorious to know that there is one place we can go on this Earth, and we can truly be equal!
Finally, in the temple we are given a new name. This is discussed in the scriptures and I would refer the reader to Section 130 to read more on this principle. It makes sense to me that when parents have a child born to them, they give him a name. Does it not seem logical that when we go into our Father’s presence in his house that he also gives us a name as we are spiritually begotten to him?
The principles talked about in this lecture are simply the basics, there is much more to learn. To do this one must learn as Joseph Smith did when Moroni came to him: Repetition. One must return often to the temple in the proper Spirit so that he can be taught more and have his knowledge deepened.
By way of testimony let me conclude. I have had the sacred privilege of serving as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple for going on two years. During this time I have never felt closer to the Lord and felt of his presence more. I know that the work done in the temple is real, that Christ manifests himself there. Do whatever you can to get there and obtain your blessings. It is worth any sacrifice you can make, especially the sacrifice of sin. I repeat the words of President Boyd K. Packer “Come to the temple. Come and claim your blessings. It is a sacred work. Of this I bear witness”.