Some things are not what they appear to be at first glance. And sometimes a second or even a third glance is not enough to give us a complete picture of what is right before our eyes. Early in the 1990’s, my parents were given a framed stereograph, also known as a Magic Eye image. Basically, it’s two images combined, one hidden behind the other. If you stare at the first picture in just the right way, the second one appears as a black and white 3-D image. Here’s an example:
Image one: a pattern or collage
Image two: 3-D black and white
My parents hung their stereograph on a kitchen wall where family members took turns trying to discern the hidden image. Those who were quickly able to see it refrained from telling the rest of the family what they’d seen, in order to preserve the surprise. My husband was one of those who saw the second image almost immediately, but I could not discern it–even after multiple viewings. I was surprisingly frustrated and even embarrassed that I couldn’t see what everyone else saw.
Finally, after a subsequent visit to my parents’ home and several rounds of gazing at the stereograph, I had a breakthrough and gasped as a ghostly 3-D model of the Salt Lake Temple sprang into view. After seeing it the first time, I was able to see it again each time I looked at the stereograph for more than a few seconds. How had I missed it before? The holy temple can be that way for many Latter-day Saints. For some, it seems an appreciation for the sacred ordinances and symbols of the temple come naturally. But not for everyone.
Last month Meridian Magazine published my article entitled, “What if You Don’t Love the Scriptures?” (1) One reader shared the following comment: “…there was a time when I didn’t love the scriptures. Over time as I have learned how to better study scriptures, my love for them has grown…Now what I…would love to see an article about is, ‘What if I Don’t Love the Temple?’ I do feel the spirit and a peace in the temple that is not found anywhere else, but I don’t feel as much love for the temple as I feel I should. When friends talk about how much they love going to the temple, I feel like I’m missing something that they get.”
To the reader who wrote the above comment: thank you, this article is for you, and for anyone who wants to improve their temple experience. Though you may have tried many of the following suggestions, I hope you’ll find a few new ones which prove useful in your quest to love the temple:
- Your sincere desire to understand the importance of the holy temple is the perfect place to start. Alma’s beautiful invitation concerning faith also applies here: “Even if you can no more than desire to [love the temple], let this desire work in you…” (Alma 32:27, emphasis added)
- Honestly evaluate your temple worthiness. While perfection isn’t required in order to enter the temple, it is possible to “pass” a temple recommend interview, and yet be contentious on social media, use crude humor, gossip, indulge in violent media or other behaviors that offend the Spirit and suppress your ability to receive revelation. You may benefit from a careful review of the temple recommend questions, found here: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/october-2019-general-conference-temple-recommend
WHAT WE DO OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE
- Temple prep isn’t just a one-time class you take. It’s what you do to prepare each time you attend the temple, and each day between temple visits. What you do outside of the temple has at least as much impact on our temple experience as what you do inside.
- Be open with the Lord about your struggles to appreciate the temple. Pray for the spiritual gifts needed to understand the temple better. Remember that some people have been born with specific gifts that allow them to appreciate the temple more easily than other people. But those gifts can be sought for and developed at any age.
- Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. Fasting is one way to sacrifice, but also ask yourself, “What can I give up that is holding me back from a positive temple experience?” It may not be anything bad. If we evaluate our habits or activities on the scale of “good, better, best,” perhaps we can upgrade some of them from good to better, or from better to best.
- Respect the temple garment. Ponder the meaning of the marks on the garment, which are explained fully in the endowment. Don’t look for excuses to remove the garment or to alter them to fit your clothing choices. Do you wear the garment as instructed? If you struggle with the garment, perhaps you have not fully understood the blessings associated with it. Participate in the Initiatory ordinance and listen carefully.
- The temple is one of the rare places where cell phone use is not allowed. Practice abstaining from technology use for 3-4 hours at a stretch. If you can participate in an endowment session or other temple ordinance without the urge to check our phone every few minutes, you’ll be able to focus on the sacredness of the experience.
- Display a painting or photograph of the temple in your home and at your office, or on your laptop screen or your phone’s wallpaper where you’ll see it often. This may seem insignificant, yet the visual reminder of the temple can provide a needed boost to your desire to be temple worthy and to keep your covenants.
- Mindfully keeping covenants outside of the temple is a serious key for improving your feelings about the temple and temple worship. What are the covenants you have made? Are you actively striving to keep those covenants, thus allowing God to prevail in your life?
- Do some temple-related homework: study the creation, fall, and atonement. Learn about covenants. Search for temple-related scriptures in all of the Standard Works.
- If you struggle to stay awake in the temple, take a power nap before attending an endowment session. If possible, schedule ordinances during a time you’re less likely to be sleepy.
- If you’re a high energy person, sitting still through an endowment session may be difficult. Engaging in a short workout before attending the temple may allow you to burn off some of that energy. (Don’t forget to shower before dressing for the temple!) At times, participating in the shorter ordinances of initiatories or sealings may be easier for you.
- Spend time on the temple grounds. Study the symbols on the outside of the building, and research their meaning. There are several excellent books by LDS authors which explore this subject.
- Remember that temple work and family history work are all part of gathering Israel and blessings flow from both. If being in the temple is difficult for you, or not possible, engaging in indexing or family history research will allow you to experience those blessings, and may make your temple experience richer when you are able to attend. Preparing your personal history is also part of this great work, and acting as proxy for a deceased ancestor can enhance your temple participation.
WHAT WE DO INSIDE THE TEMPLE
- There’s no substitute for paying attention. Casual temple attendance will not yield impressive results. Listen carefully to the words of each ordinance; be mindful of each covenant.
- Come to the temple prayerfully, with a question in mind. You may not always receive an answer in the temple, but if you continue to be prayerful answers may come when you’re not expecting them.
- Come to the temple as an act of faith. Come with an open, believing heart–cynicism is a barrier to revelation.
- Vary your temple experience. If you live close to one of the few temples that present a live endowment rather than a film, take the opportunity to attend a live session. Instead of always participating in endowment sessions, rotate between temple ordinances: endowments, initiatories, and sealings. (Also, baptisms, if you bring family temple names.)
- Look for representations of Jesus Christ in the temple. Ask: How is He represented or referred to in the endowment, or in connection with the temple garment? How does each symbol, token, mark, etc. point me to the Savior?
- Because the ordinances are repetitive, it may help to choose a phrase, a covenant, or symbol to focus on each time you attend the temple, and even in between visits.
- The following words of Elder Bruce C. Hafen can be helpful in understanding the endowment: “A friend once asked me, ‘If Christ is at the center of the gospel and the temple, why doesn’t the temple endowment teach the story of Christ’s life? What’s all this about Adam and Eve?’ I have come to feel that the life of Christ is the story of giving the Atonement. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of receiving the Atonement, amid the sometimes-formidable oppositions of mortality.” (2)
- Don’t try to comprehend everything at once. Allow yourself to breathe, to feel the peace of the temple. Be aware of ideas that come to you that may help you with your relationships, your job, your church calling, your schooling, or your creative endeavors. The temple is the ideal place for pure intelligence to flow into your mind.
- Search the words of modern-day prophets and leaders for promised temple blessings. Be on the watch for their fulfillment and record them. Be aware that most blessings come gradually.
While I am no expert on the temple, I have an absolute testimony of the blessings that flow from regular, mindful temple worship. For decades I attended the temple and found it “pleasant,” but it wasn’t until I needed serious blessings for my teenagers that I examined my attitude about the temple and found that I had been far too casual. The day I got serious about the temple was the day the Lord got serious about me: serious about sharing His power, increasing my understanding of covenants, increasing my spiritual gifts, and purifying my desires. No, it didn’t happen all at once, but I testify that the holy temple has changed my life. As you patiently persist in your efforts to understand and appreciate God’s holy house, your life will change too.
I have previously written several articles about the temple and temple covenants which may be helpful:
Please Don’t Give Up on the Temple:
Six Observations of a Temple Worker:
They Don’t Take VISA at the Temple:
Unleashing God’s Power in Our Lives:
Elder Bruce C. Hafen, The Temple and the Natural Order of Marriage, Ensign, September 2015