The Temple: The Greatest House of Learning on Earth

The more I participate in ordinances for the dead in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the more I develop an ulterior motive for doing so; nowhere do important truths impress themselves more clearly upon my mind than in the temple.

Do you want to understand more about eternity, including our forgotten premortality?  You can if you perform service in LDS temples.  But do you also want to gain greater insight into physics, chemistry, geology, and botany? Attend the LDS temple.  Do you want to know more about sociology, psychology, and history? You'll find those kinds of insights in the temple as well. Certainly we learn about the creation of the earth, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ during our temple service, but there is so much more.


Preparing to Enter the Temple, a publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explains the purpose of Mormon temples:
In the temples members of the Church who make themselves eligible can participate in the most exalted of the redeeming ordinances that have been revealed to mankind. There, in a sacred ceremony, an individual may be washed and anointed and instructed and endowed and sealed. And when we have received these blessings for ourselves, we may officiate for those who have died without having had the same opportunity.

A temple endowment session lasts about one hour and 45 minutes.  The ordinance portions of the endowment ceremony, if packed together, would comprise probably 15 or 20 minutes.  The rest of the time is an opportunity for attendees to be instructed by the Holy Spirit in a wide variety of subjects--not just those that are spiritual.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepare to attend the temple, they learn that it is intended to be "a spiritual school".  Of this, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said

the temple “becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God. Here we have outlined the plan of a loving Father in behalf of His sons and daughters of all generations. Here we have sketched before us the odyssey of man’s eternal journey from premortal existence through this life to the life beyond. Great fundamental and basic truths are taught with clarity and simplicity..."


About six months ago, a friend of mine, speaking in our LDS Stake Conference, spoke of a transformation in his life. Previously, when he had attended the temple on roughly a monthly basis, he had done so primarily out of a sense of obligation. More recently, however, he had made it his goal to attend the temple weekly. Surprisingly to him, the feeling of monthly obligation had been replaced by a weekly looking forward to attending the temple.

In his later years, LDS Church President David O. McKay observed that although he had served in the temple for several decades, he felt that he was just starting to "get it"--to really understand the doctrines and principles that are taught there.  He probably felt a lot like Socrates, who came to understand that the more he knew, the more he realized how much there was yet to know. That gives me great comfort.  Sometimes when I attend the temple, I'm either too tired, or the concerns of life weigh down on me so heavily, that the only possible benefit might have been to the person on the other side of the veil who might accept the ordinance that I performed on their behalf.  But then there are those other times...

Eternal truths generally do come line upon line, precept on precept.  I remember once wishing that I had a notebook in which to record the variety of concepts that I learn when I attend the temple. Now I realize that I don't need a notebook--I just need to attend more often. Precepts that once seemed like snapshots now more often present themselves to me as more detailed and panoramic insights that are easier to remember.  As I come to the temple with a question in my mind--usually to find greater insight into something that I had learned the last time I was there--I find more often that those lines become longer and those precepts become larger.  The endowment experience even becomes occasionally, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell described, "A Wonderful Flood of Light".

I took my friend's temple service goal as my own challenge to attend the temple more regularly. And that, similar to The Road Less Traveled, has begun to make all the difference in my life.

Comments

  1. It's a shame that the Lord only accepted the Kirtland temple in this dispensation, though. All of the others have been cursed a 'la Section 124 wherein the Lord warns against not doing what He says to do. But yes, the Kirtland temple was open to the public as a great house of learning.

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  2. May I respectfully submit that, aside from the enumerated covenants and blessings, one cannot understand the meaning of temple ritual - what you see, what you wear, what is said and done, what you say and what you do - by simply attending. The context for understanding our temple ritual comes only from outside study for most of us, since we don't all receive revelation. It requires an understanding of ancient cosmology and an understanding of how that impacted temple rituals in ancient cultures. That's why Joseph Smith was so delighted to obtain the Egyptian papyri and why Nibley spent so much paper and ink explaining it to Mormons. Once you learn those things, then you can understand the true lessons of the temple. In the meantime, you can enjoy the spiritual messages along with the rest of us. But the meaning of all the rest comes only with considerable study.

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  3. Dave: I'm not sure what makes the Kirtland temple better than all the other temples just because it is public. Anyone who is mature enough and prepares themselves to attend an LDS temple (including becoming a member of the LDS Church) can attend an LDS temple.

    Anthony: Very interesting insight. I largely agree. Very much of what I understand about the temple has been unlocked by what I have learned from Hugh Nibley's writings. I think this is a good example of what is taught in Doctrine and Covenants section 88 about "learning by study and also by faith". What is probably the most interesting to me in Nibley's research is the corroboration of the temple ceremony by what is described in so many ancient writings--writings that Joseph Smith could not possibly have known about.

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