We want those we love to have a joyful experience when they receive their endowment, but we may not know what to say to help them be prepared. Here are four discussion topics that will help any Latter-day Saint deepen their appreciation for the promises and practices of the temple.
The Lord’s house is the crowning and central aspect of everything we do in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.1 But for many who have yet to receive their temple endowment, the purposes and covenants of the endowment remain unknown or unclear. In addition, some participate in the endowment for the first time without much, if any, preparation for understanding these pinnacle points of the restored gospel.
Temples continue to dot the earth at unprecedented rates; since becoming the prophet four years ago, President Russell M. Nelson has announced 83 new temples, more than any prophet before him. As young single adults enter those holy houses, we can and must better prepare them for this central experience. As the proverb says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). So how can we help provide temple vision and prepare first-timers for the temple endowment? Here are four practical suggestions that I believe can help:
- Teach the doctrinal purposes of the endowment
- Familiarize ceremony and ritual
- Explain temple clothing and garments
- Discuss the major covenants
Teach the Doctrinal Purposes of the Endowment
I believe one foundational doctrine is not often taught among members: When we receive our endowment, we enter into a covenant order of future high priests and priestesses who are promised eternal, exalting power. In the Church we are familiar with defining the word “endowment” as a “gift,”2 but importantly the word also means to receive a capacity, power, or ability.3 Understanding this true doctrine will, as President Boyd K. Packer taught, change our attitudes and behaviors.4
It is the same power and capacity that enabled ancient high priests to come into the presence of God and receive a fullness of His exalted blessings.5 Today, the Lord, through the temple endowment, is inviting us all to become great modern high priests, entering into and following after the order of Melchizedek (who himself was a great high priest), or the order of the Son of God.6
Adam and Eve7 entered and lived this order, and so did Abraham and Sarah, and Joseph and Emma.8 This is one definition of the temple being a “house of order.”9 The Lord’s house is not only a house that creates order, it’s also a house creating an order—a new, yet ancient, order. The temple endowment initiates us into this order and then teaches us the patterns to live according to this manner of righteous saints. Let us teach those who are receiving the endowment to understand that they are entering into a sacred covenant order to become future high priests and priestesses who are promised eternal, exalting power.
Familiarize Ceremony and Ritual
One reason some are unprepared for or have a negative reaction to the endowment ceremony is not because they aren’t spiritually ready, but because they aren’t “ritually” ready.
Most of our church meetings are fairly utilitarian and pedestrian—Primary, Sunday School, seminary, men’s and women’s classes, even sacrament meeting. There’s a practical and everyday aspect to almost everything we experience in the Church. Then, suddenly, and often unexpectedly, a member enters the temple and an endowment experience that is a ritual in every sense of the word, with ceremonial clothing, dialogue, group participation, physical interaction, prayers, esoteric signs and symbols, and covenants. The new participant often doesn’t have a prior frame of reference to hang this new experience on and make sense of it.
Let’s help give them that frame of reference.
Relate the endowment ordinances to ceremonies with which they are familiar or have participated in: graduation exercises, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, Boy Scout rank advancements, national honor society inductions, weddings, funerals, and the like. Help them see that one reason we perform and participate in ceremonies is that they imbue solemnity, shift moods and mindsets, communicate a sense of the sacred, formalize an experience, and evoke emotion. Tell them the endowment is a ceremony for these reasons. Point out and prepare them for the purpose of ceremony and ritual.
Explain Temple Clothing and Garments
Prescribed ceremonial clothing is not required to participate in ordinances of the Church, other than in the holy temple. Because of this, some new temple attendees are unaware of the nature and purposes of temple clothing, including the temple garment. Help appropriately explain what we wear in the temple so they can begin to appreciate why it matters.
For example, you can teach that our priestly temple robes are symbolic of our identity and future as a high priest or priestess.10 The sacred temple garment we receive and wear under our clothing and commit to wear throughout life is a tangible, daily reminder that we are part of a priestly order and that we must live according to the holy covenants we have made. As such, it serves as a protection against temptation and evil.11
In the Old Testament, only the prophet, priests, and kings were washed and anointed, put on priestly garments and clothes, and entered the holiest room in the temple. But today every worthy Latter-day Saint can do this, male and female.
Those you teach may be nervous about the magnitude of this commitment or embracing the change of wearing the garment daily. Help them understand what a privilege this opportunity is. To help you teach the significance of temple clothing, visit the Church’s website and watch videos on both the robes of the holy priesthood (“Sacred Temple Clothing”) and the temple garment (“What Are Temple Garments?”).
Discuss the Major Covenants
An ordinance, such as baptism, confirmation, or the sacrament, is an authorized religious ceremony done under the direction and authority of the priesthood.12 Ordinances that are needed for salvation and exaltation are accompanied by a covenant, or a promise, between the participant and God.
In the ordinances of the temple, we make several covenants to help us learn how to live a holy life patterned after that of Jesus Christ. These covenants have been discussed by many past Church leaders, and recent Church leaders have done a remarkable job making these covenants better known and accessible. They’ve also provided encouragement to talk about the covenants of the temple, particularly before entering for the first time.13 Elder David A. Bednar said, “Across the generations, from the Prophet Joseph Smith to President Russell M. Nelson, the doctrinal purposes of temple ordinances and covenants have been taught extensively by Church leaders,” including covenants such as “the law of obedience, the law of sacrifice, the law of the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration.”14
The Church recently published a website with some references to the major ceremonies and covenants of the temple, which all members should read and study.15 It has also published a summary of the endowment ceremony, along with brief definitions of the five major temple covenants, in the General Handbook, accessible through the Gospel Library App.16
Review these major covenants, the prophetic teachings explaining them, and your understanding of them with those preparing to receive their endowment so they can better prepare for these further sacred commitments with God. Help them see that these covenants lay out a pattern of righteous living that, to the degree we keep them, will allow us to be endowed with God’s promises and power.
A Life Endowed with Power
As family members, friends, and teachers we can have a meaningful impact on those entering the temple for the first time. We can help them understand that the temple is a modern school of prophets and prophetesses where we learn to live like Melchizedek and enter into a covenant pattern to live like the Son of God. We can explain that when we participate in the temple endowment ceremony, we participate in a ritual ceremony. In that experience, we reenact17 a symbolic upward journey of a fallen person who is taught about the great plan of redemption and becomes empowered by knowledge and covenants, ultimately brought into the presence of God to become an heir of eternal life18 (what the celestial room represents19).
The ceremony suggests growth and progression, from room to room, or glory to glory, as we increase in light and truth and make priesthood covenants to guide us in living a holy life. These principles are presented symbolically through characters, dialogue, signs, and clothing.20
It is my belief that the more we can teach members who are preparing to enter the temple these fundamental purposes and processes of the temple endowment ceremony, the better they will comprehend and live the principles and covenants taught therein to become endowed with power in their lives.
In The Holy Covenants, religion professor Anthony Sweat helps us better understand the major covenants of the temple endowment as a pattern of divine living. He explains with clarity and perspective how the temple presentation, clothing, garment ordinances, and covenants invite us to become part of a holy order, patterned after the Son of God. As we understand and live our holy temple covenants, we can gain spiritual capacity, become endowed with heavenly power, and progress toward our divine potential as “priests and kings [and queens and priestesses], who have received of his fulness” (D&C 76:56).
1. See Russell M. Nelson, “Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, October 2010, 41.
2. See “Temples,” True to the Faith (2004),170–74.
3. “Natural capacity, power, or ability” merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endowment or “A natural gift, ability, or quality” thefreedictionary.com/endowment.
4. Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17.
5. See Doctrine and Covenants 67:10; 76:55–56; 88:68; 93:1; 107:18–19; 132:19–20.
6. See Doctrine and Covenants 107:2–3
7. See Ezra T. Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 8.
8. See Abraham 1:2–3; 2:2. The “blessings of the fathers” that Abraham refers to here is “making temple covenants and forming eternal families,” according to former General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck (“Unlocking the Door to the Blessings of Abraham,” BYU devotional, March 2, 2008).
9. See Doctrine and Covenants 88:119.
11. First Presidency Letter, “Preparing to Enter the Temple,” Oct. 6, 2019.
12. See “Ordinances,” Gospel Topics.
13. “Temple Endowment Q&A,” Liahona, March 2019.
14. David A. Bednar, “Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing,” Ensign, May 2019, 101.
15. See churchofjesuschrist.org/templesprophetic-teachings-on-temples
16. See General Handbook (2021), section 27.2.
17. See “Temple Endowment,” Church History Topics.
18. See “About the Temple Endowment.” churchofjesuschrist.org/temples/what-is-temple-
endowment; see also James E. Talmage, House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries Ancient and Modern, 99–100.
19. See “Inside the Temple,” Ensign, October 2020.
20. See Endowed from on High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual, (2003), 21.