This is a third in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.
When entering the Temple for the first time or returning, it might help to be aware of some important doctrines for better understanding. There is no “different Gospel” to be found inside that hasn’t been discussed and taught in church on Sunday. Those that say the Temple teaches new doctrine kept “secret” until entering either are ignorant on the topics or more likely exaggerating for the sake of emotional manipulation. Similar to any good literature, the content is deep with allusions, metaphors, and patching together of sometimes desperate truths for greater insight.
Because the format of doctrinal presentation is far more ritualized than typical public church activity, it might at first be hard to recognize the familiar. Even the most knowledgeable Mormon might be a little overwhelmed. Those who haven’t spent much time in personal religious study could likely feel like they are drowning. The reason is the “Plan of Salvation” taught over so many years time gets condensed into a tight presentation. The small drip becomes a flood. Try to drink in too much at one time and the mind and spirit could go into system overload. As was said before, don’t expect to understand the whole or that such will ever fully happen in this life.
Regardless of the difficulties in soaking up all that is offered, there are key doctrines that can help pave the way for inspiration and enlightenment. By no means is the following a comprehensive guide for study. In fact, there really isn’t any way to compile such a list as many things learned in the Temple are personal interpretations; like any Scripture study.
Instead of writing out long commentaries as if an expert in each area, the sections will have quotes from LDS Church leaders and Scripture. There are no better words than from the servants of the Lord. This is a quoted selection of essential readings. It is a starting point for those preparing to attend and more reflection for those having already gone.
The Creation is a work of wonder.
It is difficult for mortal minds to comprehend the majesty of the Creation. It is much easier for us to think about good things to eat or fun things to do. But I would like to stretch our minds to think of things beyond our easy grasp. The creation of man and woman was wondrous and great. So was the creation of the earth as their mortal dwelling place. . .
Each phase of the Creation was well planned before it was accomplished. Scripture tells us that “the Lord God, created all things … spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”
The physical Creation itself was staged through ordered periods of time. In Genesis and Moses, those periods are called days. But in the book of Abraham, each period is referred to as a time. Whether termed a day, a time, or an age, each phase was a period between two identifiable events—a division of eternity.
Period one included the creation of atmospheric heavens and physical earth, culminating in the emergence of light from darkness.
In period two, the waters were divided between the surface of the earth and its atmospheric heavens. Provision was made for clouds and rain to give life to all that would later dwell upon the earth.
In period three, plant life began. The earth was organized to bring forth grass, herbs, trees, and vegetation—each growing from its own seed.
Period four was a time of further development. Lights in the expanse of the heaven were organized so there could be seasons and other means of measuring time. During this period, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the earth were placed in proper relationship to one another. The sun, with its vast stores of hydrogen, was to serve as a giant furnace to provide light and heat for the earth and life upon it.
In period five, fish, fowl, and “every living creature” were added. They were made fruitful and able to multiply—in the sea and on the earth—each after its own kind.
In the sixth period, creation of life continued. The beasts of the earth were made after their kind, cattle after their kind, and everything which “creepeth upon the earth”—again, after its own kind. 33 Then the Gods counseled together and said: “Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness. …
“So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.” Thus, Adam and Eve were formed. 35 And they were blessed to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” 36
The seventh period was designated as a time of rest. . .
I testify that the earth and all life upon it are of divine origin. The Creation did not happen by chance. It did not come ex nihilo (out of nothing). And human minds and hands able to build buildings or create computers are not accidental. It is God who made us and not we ourselves. We are His people! 38 The Creation itself testifies of a Creator. We cannot disregard the divine in the Creation. Without our grateful awareness of God’s hand in the Creation, we would be just as oblivious to our provider as are goldfish swimming in a bowl. With deep gratitude, we echo the words of the Psalmist, who said, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
- Elder Russell M. Nelson, May 2000 General Conference.
The Fall of Adam and Eve was essential to Salvation.
The plan of salvation, or code of laws, which is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, was adopted in the heavens, before the foundation of the world was laid. It was appointed there that Adam our father should come to this earth and stand at the head of the whole human family. It was a part of this great plan, that he should partake of the forbidden fruit and fall, thus bringing suffering and death into the world, even for the ultimate good of his children.
The Fall was an essential part of man’s mortal probation. … Had Adam and Eve not partaken, the great gift of mortality would not have come to them. Moreover, they would have had no posterity, and the great commandment given to them by the Lord would not have been fulfilled.
The fall of Adam brought to pass all of the vicissitudes of mortality. It brought pain, it brought sorrow, it brought death; but we must not lose sight of the fact that it brought blessings also. … It brought the blessing of knowledge and understanding and mortal life.
- Quotes from “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith”
The Fall was not a disaster. It wasn’t a mistake or an accident. It was a deliberate part of the plan of salvation. We are God’s spirit “offspring,” sent to earth “innocent” of Adam’s transgression. Yet our Father’s plan subjects us to temptation and misery in this fallen world as the price to comprehend authentic joy. Without tasting the bitter, we actually cannot understand the sweet. We require mortality’s discipline and refinement as the “next step in [our] development” toward becoming like our Father. But growth means growing pains. It also means learning from our mistakes in a continual process made possible by the Savior’s grace, which He extends both during and “after all we can do.”
Adam and Eve learned constantly from their often harsh experience. They knew how a troubled family feels. Think of Cain and Abel. Yet because of the Atonement, they could learn from their experience without being condemned by it. Christ’s sacrifice didn’t just erase their choices and return them to an Eden of innocence. That would be a story with no plot and no character growth. His plan is developmental—line upon line, step by step, grace for grace.
-Bruce C. Hafen, April 2004 General Conference.
The Restoration of the Priesthood is to bless everyone.
1 There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.
2 Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.
3 Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the bOrder of the Son of God.
4 But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.
5 All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.
6 But there are two divisions or grand heads—one is the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the other is the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood.
- D&C 107:1–6
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
- D&C 84:19–22
By the power of [the] Priesthood, God, our Eternal Father, has organized all worlds, and redeemed all worlds that have ever been redeemed. By that same Priesthood men have administered on the earth in the ordinances of the Gospel of Christ. . .
The Holy Priesthood is the channel through which God communicates and deals with man upon the earth; and the heavenly messengers that have visited the earth to communicate with man are men who held and honored the priesthood while in the flesh; and everything that God has caused to be done for the salvation of man, from the coming of man upon the earth to the redemption of the world, has been and will be by virtue of the everlasting priesthood. . .
The Lord never had a church on the face of the earth, from its first organization until today, unless that church was organized by revelation, with prophets and apostles, pastors, teachers, helps and governments endowed with the Holy Priesthood—that power delegated from God to man, which authorizes him to act for God; and without this Priesthood no man, from the day the world rolled into existence, has any right to administer in any of the ordinances of his holy house, neither has any man a right to that Priesthood save he be called of God as was Aaron who, we are informed, was called by revelation (see Hebrews 5:4). What is this Priesthood for? It is to administer the ordinances of the Gospel, even the Gospel of our Father in Heaven, the eternal God, the Eloheim of the Jews and the God of the Gentiles.
-Quotes from “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff”
Families of forever start in the here and now.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great amystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
- Ephesians 5:28–33
Eternal marriage is a principle which was established before the foundation of the world and was instituted on this earth before death came into it. Adam and Eve were given to each other by God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. The scripture says, “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them” (Gen. 5:1–2). . .
A covenant is a sacred promise. We promise to do some things, and God binds Himself to do others. To those who keep the covenant of marriage, God promises the fulness of His glory, eternal lives, eternal increase, exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and a fulness of joy. We all know that, but sometimes we don’t give much thought to what we have to do to receive these blessings. The scriptures seem to clearly say that at least three obligations are inherent in this covenant.
First, an eternal marriage is eternal. Eternal implies continuing growth and improvement. It means that man and wife will honestly try to perfect themselves. It means that the marriage relationship is not to be frivolously discarded at the first sign of disagreement or when times get hard. It signifies that love will grow stronger with time and that it extends beyond the grave. It means that each partner will be blessed with the company of the other partner forever and that problems and differences might as well be resolved because they are not going to go away. Eternal signifies repentance, forgiveness, long-suffering, patience, hope, charity, love, and humility. All of these things are involved in anything that is eternal, and surely we must learn and practice them if we intend to claim an eternal marriage.
Second, an eternal marriage is ordained of God. This means that the parties to the marriage covenant agree to invite God into their marriage, to pray together, to keep the commandments, to keep wants and passions within certain limits that the prophets have outlined. It means to be equal companions and to be just as true and pure outside the home as inside the home. That is part of what ordained of God means.
Third, eternal marriage is a kind of partnership with God. He promises a continuation of lives to those who are sealed together in the temple. There is a oneness with the Creator implied in the commandment given to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth. There is an obligation to teach children the gospel, for they are His children too. Thus we have family home evening and scripture study, gospel conversations, and service to others. There would seem to be an obligation to support and sustain each other in callings and roles that each is given to perform. How can we claim to be one with God if we cannot sustain one another when the wife is called to serve in the Primary or the husband in the bishopric?
- F. Burton Howard, April 2003 General Conference
The Lord organized the whole program in the beginning with a father who procreates, provides, and loves and directs, and a mother who conceives and bears and nurtures and feeds and trains. The Lord could have organized it otherwise but chose to have a unit with responsibility and purposeful associations where children train and discipline each other and come to love, honor, and appreciate each other. The family is the great plan of life as conceived and organized by our Father in heaven
- Quote from “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball”
Prayer is the conduit to Heaven.
Let every man and every woman call upon the name of the Lord, and that, too, from a pure heart, while they are at work as well as in their closet; while they are in public as well as while they are in private, asking the Father in the name of Jesus, to bless them, and to preserve and guide in, and to teach them, the way of life and salvation and to enable them so to live that they will obtain this eternal salvation that we are after.
- Quote from “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young”
17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
- Alma 34:17–28
A Covenant people know what God wants of them, and lives as asked.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has explained that in renewing our baptismal covenants by partaking of the emblems of the sacrament, “we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. [Rather], we witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the [ultimate and] most important sense” (“Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1985, 81). The baptismal covenant clearly contemplates a future event or events and looks forward to the temple.
In modern revelations the Lord refers to temples as houses “built unto my name” (D&C 105:33; see also D&C 109:2–5; 124:39). In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith petitioned the Father “that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them” (D&C 109:22). He also asked for a blessing “over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house” (v. 26). And as the Lord appeared in and accepted the Kirtland Temple as His house, He declared, “For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (D&C 110:7).
These scriptures help us understand that the process of taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ that is commenced in the waters of baptism is continued and enlarged in the house of the Lord. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. As we partake of the sacrament, we look to the temple. We pledge to always remember the Savior and to keep His commandments as preparation to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in the ordinances of the holy temple we more completely and fully take upon us the name of Jesus Christ.
- Elder David A. Bednar, April 2009 General Conference.
The most holy places on earth are the temples. In the temple, worthy members of the Church receive the greatest blessings anyone can aspire to as we make sacred covenants with God. We also help make those same blessings available to our ancestors who died without receiving the necessary ordinances of salvation. . .
The covenants we make with the associated ordinances we receive in the temple become our credentials for admission into God’s presence. These covenants elevate us beyond the limits of our own power and perspective. We make covenants to show our devotion to build up the kingdom. We become covenant people as we are placed under covenant to God. All the promised blessings are ours through our faithfulness to these covenants.
The temple is a house of learning. Much of the instruction imparted in the temple is symbolic and learned by the Spirit. This means we are taught from on high. Temple covenants and ordinances are a powerful symbol of Christ and His Atonement. We all receive the same instruction, but our understanding of the meaning of the ordinances and covenants will increase as we return to the temple often with the attitude of learning and contemplating the eternal truths taught.
- Silva H. Allred, October 2008 General Conference.
Exaltation is the end of the journey to become like God and Christ.
If you have not yet been to the temple or if you have been but currently do not qualify for a recommend, there is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple. Your sacrifice may be bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend, perhaps by forsaking long-held habits which disqualify you. It may be having the faith and the discipline to pay your tithing. Whatever it is, qualify to enter the temple of God. Secure a temple recommend and regard it as a precious possession, for such it is.
Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God.
- President Thomas S. Monson, April 2011 General Conference.
“Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, … by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. …
“… [The righteous who have died] shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more, but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.
- Quote from “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith”
“Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” (Discourses of Brigham Young [Deseret Book Co., 1941], p. 416.)
Besides the last statement by Brigham Young that I like in full, otherwise quoted in part by others, all these can be found at the LDS web site in official sources. The purpose of doing this is to show that the form of Temple instruction is different, but the doctrines are accessible. Any member, or non-member if they are so inclined, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can learn about the Temple and its blessings. This goes for those who haven’t yet gone or are consistent in attending. May our love of the temple expand so that we can more fully draw closer to God.