Making Temple Excursions a Ward-Wide Event
by Clark L and Kathryn H. Kidd

Once the holidays are over and church members start settling down to what passes for a quietly normal life, the first thing we get to face is the dawning of a new year. Latter-day Saints are no more exempt than anyone else in the world from wanting to improve ourselves, and New Year’s resolutions are a good place to start. The most common New Year’s resolution is probably to drop those extra pounds that we added during the holidays, but we will ignore that goal and look to something a bit more spiritual.

If there’s one area where we as Saints are collectively in need of improvement, that area is temple work. Ironically, it often seems that church members who live near a temple seem to let temple work slip by them, even as church members who have to make some sacrifice to get to a temple often make the effort to do so. Temple work seems to be an activity that is more likely to be accomplished if it is done in groups, and ward activity planners are constantly on the lookout for ways to sponsor successful temple trips.

A reader, Sue Horrocks from the Redding II Ward in California, writes:

“In our ward, like many others, we often have ward temple trips.  This is a day that our ward has set to encourage our ward to attend our closest temple about three hours away.  We have always tried to encourage families to attend.  This year as primary president I thought it would be nice if we included the primary age children, who usually get to stay with a sitter when their parents go to the temple.

“With this idea in mind we planned our quarterly primary activity day to take place at the temple and the neighboring stake center.  Families were encouraged to bring all their children to the temple.  The adults would do sessions, the youth would do baptisms and the primary children would do planned activities.  These activities included physical games (remember they have been in the car for three hours). These included making giant bubbles, participating in a snack-making activity, walking the grounds of the temple, and doing a watercolor painting of the temple.  

“The ward met back as a group for ice cream sundaes when everyone had completed their tasks.  Even though I did not get to do a session inside the temple this day, I felt the spirit very strongly in the excitement of the children being a part of our ward’s temple trip.”

Include the Children

Although we are considerably closer to the temple, our ward has also had activities that involved children in the temple-going process. The most successful of these was an event where each primary-age child had an interview with the bishop to receive his own “temple recommend” before going on the temple excursion. Needless to say, this involved a huge time commitment on the part of the bishop! After the interview, each child was given a handmade recommend-size document, suitable for keeping in a scrapbook, that certified he or she was qualified to go to the temple. These “recommends” were presented to the primary leaders by the children as they left to go to the temple, and were returned afterwards, just as Mom and Dad’s own temple recommends are examined before they are admitted to do temple ordinances. Having these personal worthiness interviews with the bishop impressed upon each child the importance of keeping oneself worthy to visit the House of the Lord.

The children dressed in their Sunday best to attend this activity. When they reached the temple, they were given a tour of the grounds and also listened to a talk from the temple president. They also went to see age-appropriate exhibits at the visitor’s center, making for a spiritual feast that preceded a picnic on the grounds. Attending this activity gave the children a general idea of where their parents were going when they went to the temple, what they did there, and how important temple service is in God’s plan for us.

It’s easy to say we should attend the temple, and not as simple to make the effort to get there. The world is full of distractions, and it’s easy to pay attention to the ones that clamor loudest for attention – little Spencer’s soccer practice, for example – and forget about the things that are a lot more important to our eternal salvation. One thing that may help is to schedule temple trips on such a regular basis that you do them automatically and never have to make up your mind whether you’ll go to the temple or do something else. If every Thursday is your personal temple day, you’re going to be a lot less likely to schedule something else for that time period. The same holds true for your ward members. If the 5 P.M. session on the first Saturday of every month is set aside for a ward temple excursion, you’re going to see more ward members attending the temple than you would if temple trips were only scheduled on a sporadic basis.

Socialization Can Be Key

There’s a stereotype of Mormons as being people who have refreshments at every activity, and this stereotype exists for a reason. If the only incentive for ward members to go to the temple at a specific day and time was to sit next to one another in a session, they’re likely to rationalize that it doesn’t matter when they go. From this, it’s a quick progression to forgetting to go at all. But if you give temple-goers an opportunity to socialize before or after the session, they’ll be a lot less likely to skip the organized activity. This is human nature. The socialization with other ward members acts as a carrot on a stick to get us to go places we should be going without the carrot. Put some chili in the crock pot and invite people to your house after the session. Or encourage ward members to carpool with each other so they can visit to and from the temple – and then make arrangements to meet at a local ice cream restaurant after the session.

Getting together with ward members who are engaged with them in a good cause will help your temple-going ward members bond with one another, and your whole ward will be stronger as a result. Regular temple attendance as a ward will probably do more to encourage a feeling of ward unity than any other event. Sadly, we’ve probably all had experiences where there was contention or divisiveness within the members of a ward. But the feeling of eternal peace and oneness that you feel in the temple may be the best balm to sooth those kinds of feelings, and to start the healing process for the ward. The temple gives us a brief glimpse of how wonderful the world can (and will) be when we are all united in loving one another and living gospel precepts.

When you’re organizing temple trips, try to include everyone in the ward who may want to be included. Members without temple recommends can care for the children of people who go, or teenagers can babysit for service projects. Don’t forget to take some kind of treat to the people who do childcare, to let them know they were an important part of temple night even though they didn’t actually attend the temple.

Kathy once taught a Relief Society lesson that was geared to getting people out to attend the temple. She had assumed people needed examples that would show them how important temple work is, and how they could benefit from it. She was surprised when a comment came up that people in our ward would be glad to attend the temple, if only they could form a babysitting co-op so children would be cared for. The lesson ended up as a discussion on how such a co-op could be formed. If people aren’t attending the temple in your ward, you may want to find out why. Once those needs have been addressed, their temple participation may greatly increase. But even if you only have a few participants, those who attend the temple or help others to do so will greatly benefit from their service.

Everything associated with the temple reminds us of God and Jesus Christ and their love for us. Even though the celebration of Christ’s birth is behind us, it is not too late for us to resolve to give our Savior the gift of our participation in the activities of the temple.