Have you ever found yourself distracted or bored in a temple session? Or maybe sensed that there is something more to it, but you aren’t quite getting it? If so, please know that you are not alone and that it doesn’t need to remain that way.
Coming to understand our endowment is a very personal and sacred journey that we each must make individually. Here are three things that may help you along your way.
1. Covenants are not simply two-way promises.
First, we need to better understand covenants. Ancient Israel never claimed to be the Lord’s “two-way promise” people. They were the Lord’s covenant people and understood covenants as a sacred, binding relationship. Our modern definition misses the point.
These covenant relationships could be made between two individuals or between an individual (or group) and the Lord. They were entered into through a formal ceremony that generally involved several specific steps, which are reflected in the modern temple endowment ceremony. Each of these steps was highly symbolic and held great meaning for the participants, but the central idea behind them was always that of combining or merging identities, or of two becoming one.
Our gospel ordinances are important because they permit us to enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord. The first ordinances of the gospel are intended to bring about our spiritual rebirth. We covenant with God at baptism. Later, the temple ordinances are given to further our spiritual growth and maturity and to deepen our covenant relationship with the Lord. Recognize that when you left the temple on the day you were endowed, you left with promises from the Lord directly to you. Not promises made to some ancient prophet or people, but promises made to you. We need to understand them and their significance in our lives.
Learn more about the ancient ceremonies involved in covenant making in Cory Jensen's book, Understanding Your Endowment.
2. We all need some help along the way.
Wherever you are in your journey, there is still more to learn. Sometimes we feel we understand things better than we really do. That can be a barrier to learning more. We need to come to the temple with questions and eager to learn, as little children, because the temple has more to offer. I believe the Lord wants us to gain understanding and not remain in ignorance or content with “someday I’ll understand.” But getting there requires some work and effort on our part, as well as some help establishing a foundation for ourselves from which we can further build.
At times our progress may seem slow and maybe even discouraging. There may be divine purpose in that. Adam offered sacrifices for many days (probably years or decades) before an angel was sent to explain to him what he was doing (see Moses 5:6). Though it took faith for Adam to proceed without fully understanding, ultimately the Lord did not leave him in the dark. It is the same for us. We initially receive our ordinances in faith without perfect understanding, but as we move forward, the Lord can give us comprehension.
Part of our barrier to understanding is that the endowment ceremony is highly ritualistic and symbolic. This is somewhat foreign in our modern world and not something we are readily familiar with. For this reason, we need some help, especially at the beginning. —We need to do a better job of preparing our youth and ourselves for this sacred experience.