Aaron and Julie Bujnowski are the authors of Discovering Your Temple Insights. The book is available for pre-order at Amazon and will be released in April 2023. They maintain a blog where members share their temple insights. Julie is a stake Relief Society president and a former ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, and family history consultant. Aaron is an ordinance worker in the Dallas Texas Temple, a stake Sunday School presidency member, and a former bishop, stake high counselor, elders quorum president, and Seminary teacher. Aaron and Julie are the parents of two adult children and live in Frisco, Texas.
Enter Aaron and Julie…
Of all our priorities as leaders in the Church, perhaps our highest is leading saints to the temple. President Russell M. Nelson has taught,
“The temple is the object of every activity, every lesson, every progressive step in the Church. All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple.”
Unfortunately, Church leaders can face challenges as they encourage and invite members to participate more fully in the Lord’s holy house. Although many members arrive at the temple excitedly, leave edified, and return often, these positive experiences are not shared by all.
Some members feel anxiety before or aversion after their temple experience. Others appreciate the temple’s importance but are unsure about how to improve their learning. These concerns cause some to attend rarely or haphazardly.
This article offers five suggestions to help lead saints to the temple more effectively.
Leaders Inspired Help
Leaders should always seek inspiration from the Holy Ghost to guide their temple-related efforts. However, as President Nelson has taught,
“Good inspiration is based upon good information.”
We hope to offer some good information to assist leaders as they seek to resolve concerns and inspire members to greater temple faithfulness.
Suggestion 1: Center Members’ Temple Experience on Jesus Christ
First and foremost, any teaching related to the temple must be centered on Jesus Christ. The temple is His house. The Redeemer and His Atonement are the centerpieces of all temple ordinances, covenants, and instruction. We should focus on our Redeemer and His Atonement whenever we teach or speak of the temple. This approach is the Savior’s way! The recently updated Teaching in the Savior’s Way manual instructs,
“No matter what you are teaching, remember that you are really teaching about Jesus Christ and how to become like Him.”
We could consider this manual and its principles a guide for all our leadership efforts. It could be called “Leading in the Savior’s Way” or “Parenting in the Savior’s Way.” When applied to the temple, we could call it “Worshipping at the Temple in the Savior’s Way.”
Leaders should explicitly invite members to look for the Savior and His Atonement in the details of all temple ordinances. If there are portions they don’t fully understand or have questions and anxieties about, we can invite them to consider how that element teaches or symbolizes Jesus Christ. We can remind them to concentrate on their positive feelings about the Savior.
If they look for the Savior and feel His goodness in all aspects of the temple, the Holy Ghost will open their spiritual eyes and help them gain insight, understanding, and peace. Their questions and doubts will become curiosity and interest as they focus on Jesus Christ.
Suggestion 2: Openly Teach the Temple’s Purpose and Doctrine
Although we agree not to disclose certain specifics related to temple ordinances, we can speak about much more than Church leaders and members may realize. In a 2018 General Conference talk, Elder David A. Bednar gave us two basic guidelines to govern our efforts to teach the temple appropriately. He said,
“Guideline #1. We should not disclose or describe the special symbols associated with the covenants we receive in sacred temple ceremonies. Neither should we discuss the holy information that we specifically promise in the temple not to reveal. Guideline #2. The temple is the house of the Lord. Everything in the temple points us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. We may discuss the basic purposes of and the doctrine and principles associated with temple ordinances and covenants.“
For example, the five covenants we make during the endowment ordinance are published on the Church’s main website, along with other important teachings on the temple, and in the General Handbook.
Church leaders and parents could help those preparing for their first endowment experience understand these five covenants. For other ward members, leaders could design a fifth Sunday lesson that concentrates on one or more of these covenants, specifically tying that lesson to the temple to ensure that class members have a better grounding before they worship in the temple again.
Other points of temple doctrine include the creation, fall, atonement, plan of salvation, agency, mercy, and priesthood, among others. Parents, leaders, and teachers could explicitly state during Sunday or home lessons that these concepts are also found in the temple. Specific details of how a doctrine or principle is taught in the temple should be avoided, but the fact that it is taught there can be mentioned. Over time, these frequent ties will help members feel more comfortable in their temple worship because they will recognize familiar doctrine while worshiping there.
Suggestion 3: Make Temple Mechanics Manageable
The mechanics or processes of the temple are unique in our Church experience. We share two ways they are distinctive, and we provide a few ways leaders can help members find familiarity amid that distinctiveness.
First, the way that we learn temple ordinances is unique. When preparing for baptism, we learn and witness how a baptism is performed before receiving the ordinance. In the temple, we learn the ordinances; mechanics while receiving them. To reduce the natural anxiety that many feel because of unknowns related to temple mechanics—most notably during their first experience—leaders can provide a thorough overview of the information that is allowable, which is contained at the Church website and in other Church-sponsored publications.
Leaders can also have members watch the Church video entitled “Sacred Temple Clothing,” which shows the temple garment and ceremonial clothing. Those visuals will help members become more familiar with the clothing they will see and wear during the temple endowment and sealing ceremonies.
Second, temple ordinances themselves are distinctive. Temple ordinances use ceremony. A ceremony is “an act or series of acts performed according to a traditional or prescribed form.” (“Ceremony,” Oxford Dictionary of English)
Using ceremony is not completely unknown to Church members. We use ceremony in the sacrament ordinance and at baptism, where the same words and actions are used when the ordinance is performed. The temple is rich in simple, sacred ceremonies, which can be surprising for those attending endowments and sealings for the first time.
Leaders can help members attending for the first time understand that temple ordinances will be like other saving ordinances they have witnessed or received—they use specific words and actions that are repeated the same way each time they go. Leaders might remind members that they are familiar with the mechanics of the sacrament and baptismal ordinances because they have heard and participated in them so frequently.
Likewise, members can be invited to worship in the temple regularly to become familiar with the unique words and actions of temple ceremonies. In the early stages of learning, they can be encouraged to focus on the Savior and not memorize all the details at once—they should try to learn a little at a time.
By helping members become familiar with temple mechanics, leaders can help make them more manageable. Doing so will reduce the barriers to learning that unfamiliarity causes. Anxiety will be reduced, and aversion can be avoided.
Suggestion 4: Review Covenants and Covenant Making
The temple is a place of covenants. Understanding covenant-making can help members understand, accept, and live temple covenants. We often speak of covenants as two-way promises between a person and God. This description is accurate, but it is incomplete. Covenants are also a way to form a new relationship with God and with other people.
Temple covenants enable us to form new relationships with God and our neighbor. For instance, in the temple, we promise to sacrifice and consecrate to God, and we also agree to sacrifice and consecrate for our neighbor. Other temple covenants form similar relationships. As members understand these new relationships, they will grow in their love of God and love of neighbor and better keep their covenants.
Suggestion 5: Help Members Find Meaning in Symbols
With ordinances, symbols are reminders of our promises. We describe baptism’s mechanics—where the person goes beneath the water and comes back up again—as a symbol of leaving behind an old life and being re-born as a new disciple of Christ.
We also speak of the sacrament’s bread and water as “tokens” of our baptismal covenant. A token is a tangible representation of something—a physical symbol. (“Token,” Oxford Dictionary of English )
When we partake of them, we remember our covenants and think of the Savior, whose sacrifice made them possible. Members should not be surprised when they learn that temple covenants also have reminders, which help us remember our promises to God and our neighbor. It is of note, the temple garment itself is a reminder, symbol, or token of the covenants we have made.
Although we do not discuss the details of these reminders outside the temple, leaders can help members understand that covenants always come with
- Promises, and
They can be encouraged to pay attention to the processes and learn them slowly over time, live and apply their promises in their new covenant relationship with God and their neighbor, and always remember their covenants, especially when their associated symbols are used in the temple.
Leaders can encourage members to ask the following questions when they experience something symbolic in the temple:
- “What does it mean or represent?”,
- “What does it encourage me to do?”, or
- “What does it enable me to become?”
As we mentioned earlier, temple patrons should always ask, “What does it teach me about Jesus Christ and His Atonement?” They can ponder these questions and perhaps even write down their feelings in a temple journal. This approach will help patrons find meaning and application in the sacred symbols of the temple.
Conclusion: Help Members Learn How to Learn!
In the temple, the Holy Ghost is the ultimate teacher. He will teach us of Christ. He will give us revelatory experiences that will make the temple go through us instead of us just going through it.
By centering members’ temple experience on Jesus Christ and His Atonement, openly teaching the temple’s purpose and doctrine, making the mechanics manageable, reviewing covenants and covenant-making, and helping members find meaning in symbols, leaders can remove barriers to that sacred learning process.
These five suggestions will help our precious members learn how to learn from the Spirit in the temple. They will become more capable of applying that learning in their everyday discipleship. The temple will become a rich revelatory place, a sacred space of covenant-making and covenant-living, and, ultimately, a beacon of belonging and becoming.