I had been thinking lot about the temple lately, the best way to prepare and the best way to keep it a fresh experience each time I go, and at work I ran across Andrew C. Skinner's book Temple Worship: 20 Truths That Will Bless Your Life. I remembered that I owned the book, but had not finished it when I started reading it. So, I picked up again and read it cover to cover, and I am very grateful that I did.
Temple Worship is a simple, enriching book, that is just under 200 pages, so it can be read fairly quickly. There is something about the title itself that is a lesson. We often use the term "temple work" in the LDS Church, and there is a sense of course in which it is work. However, temple worship is the term we should use, because all the work that we do within the walls of the sanctuary points to our adoration, relation, and worship of out Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The book itself is a mixture of theology, history, and personal testimony. One historical vignette that struck me was his retelling of what the saints in Nauvoo went through in order to receive there temple blessings prior to departing west. The temple was open all hours of the day with the brethren administering the ordinances of exaltation to nearly 6,000 men and women . For this reason and others, I believe that these saints had the power to endure all that they went through in their trek westward. The lesson for us in this is that these saints had but one temple and had to live without temples for years. Most members of the church, according to a recent church report, live within 200 miles of a temple. For those who live in the western United States, the journey is much closer. I, for instance live within an hour of 9 temples. We who live so close should understand the blessing we have that other saints did not, and diligently be in the Lord's house on a regular basis.
It has been said by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that the ordinances of the temple are borrowed from freemasonry. While numerous books have countered these claims or shown how they have not taken everything in context (Matthew Brown's book for example), Skinner shows the connection between modern temple worship and ancient Christian rituals, which the Prophet Joseph Smith knew nothing about. This is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, not a 14 year olds imagination at work, and the evidence agrees with that.
Skinner covers, as I mentioned earlier a variety of temple related subjects, including worthiness, exaltation, and the protection offered by temple covenants and the temple garment. His closing words I think are also very relevant :
"The world is bad and getting worse. Soon it may be that the only sure refuge will be found in three holy places, and three only:in the Lord's temples, in the stakes of Zion, and in our homes. Those places are three pillars of the celestial kingdom, In each, the will of the Lord can be manifested to us". (Temple Worship, pg 205)I would go even further. The temple is a place that reminds us the Lord does not just await us in the afterlife; he has promised that he will visit us personally in mortality. The temple endowment reminds us that we may converse with him and know him here and now. To quote the Prophet Joseph Smith "When any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend to him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 150). While I have not had that experience myself, I do believe the Prophet was sincere about what he was saying there and that it is possible to see the Lord here and now.
Any person going to the temple for the first time, or even long time goers, should have Temple Worship as a part of their library. It's simple teachings will focus your mind on the temple and the blessings that await you there. 5 out of 5 stars.