Stuff I Learned from My First Trip to the Temple

I’ve heard many a tale of negative first experiences in the temple. They range from surprise or confusion to outright horror. I can very much sympathize with these stories, and want to emphasize that I believe attributing them to any fault of the individual is wrong. And I think it is important for us to continue to revisit the issue of first temple experiences from time to time and think about how we can ease the transition for newcomers. So I offer up my story as a data point in the discussion.

The story takes place in 2000; I was 21 years old. Evidently there had been some concern about negative experiences at the temple, and efforts were already underway, at least by individual leaders and teachers, to correct this for my generation. Which leads me to the first thing that really struck me upon my first visit to the temple:

#1 – If you’ve been paying attention over the years, you’ll notice that adults can’t help but give away everything in Sunday School classes. I was always very curious about the temple. I fancied myself a clever detective, like many of the heroes of my reading–The Great Brain, Encyclopedia Brown and Miss Marple. All this fed into an obsession to unlock the temple’s secrets. As a teen, I spent hours poring over passages of scripture that a teacher had off-handedly mentioned were related to the temple. I studied Old Testament passages about temple architecture and ritual like a textbook. I picked apart Bergman’s Magic Flute, which I’d heard contained parallels (by the way, fantastic movie in general—even my preschool age kids love it, though undoubtedly they’ve inherited some of their mother’s quirkiness). All these things did help, but most successful was just listening to Sunday School know-it-alls’ phraseology. Whenever I heard adults use an odd phrasing they all seemed to recognize, but that I hadn’t seen in any scripture, I made a mental note. Sometimes the words were accompanied by a flagrant tell like an eyebrow raise (or the give-away tag line, “those who have ears to hear” + eyebrow raise, but at that point it’s really taken all the fun out of the chase). Turns out by the time I went to the temple I had identified half of what is said, including some very key phases that, in retrospect, I’m mildly surprised were shared publicly.

Silly teenage detective hijinks aside, I do largely credit my broad self-education about the temple with the fact that I such a positive experience. Each step in the process was anticipated, and knowing how so much of it had precedent in the scripture gave it a reassuring continuity with the rest of our religious experience.

Perhaps because I was familiar with the doctrines and other aspects of the temple experience, some of the most memorable lessons I took away from my first day had more to do with the banal. For example, the second and third things that most struck me about the experience:

#2 – You are never left alone to fend for yourself. Escorts for first-timers are a good idea. But even beyond that, every turn and corner seems to house a helpful temple worker. It’s impossible to get lost.

#3 – Hyper-organization is not necessarily off-putting. I tend to strongly resist authority, and cleanliness and order have never been qualities anyone would associate with me. So sometimes the sterile corporateness of the church organization can be irritating to me. But in the temple (and maybe this was just a kindly ministration of the Spirit smoothing things over for me) the hyper-organization had a reassuring, relaxing, dare I say heavenly, quality about it. The pace imposed by the deliberate attending-to of each detail and each individual leaves space for reflection. Keeping everything orderly greatly reduces the cognitive load of the participants, and far from emptying the mind entirely, it empties the mind so that other, deeper, thoughts can enter.

The last thing that most struck me on my first visit to the temple is also rather banal, but is still the thought I most cherish on every visit:

#4 – Nobody will be prevented from entering the Celestial Kingdom on a technicality. “But wait!” you say, “like Sacrament prayers, everything in the temple is done very precisely.” Yes, but here’s the thing–I’ve managed to fumble, forget and spectacularly fail in my duties as a temple patron in dozens of ways. But I always made it all the way through in the end. On my first visit, about 3/4 of the way through the endowment, I had a moment of panic–am I going to remember all this?! I felt the truth of it all burn deep into me, but that didn’t exactly preclude the possibility of getting a couple details backwards. The nagging doubt crescendoed until I witnessed the least expected, but most sublimely familiar scene of the day–something that any Primary graduate will have seen thousands of times–a kindly helper to whisper in your ear.

Comments

  1. Little Sister says:

    As a young ‘un, I can attest that Sunday School teachers are humorously obvious even for the unendowed. Also, large portions of Hugh Nibley’s books should be blacked out like war-letters censoring. He practically wrote “wink wink, nod nod” into the text. Thanks for the article!

  2. Thanks for the insight, Cynthia. It was entertaining and interesting, although I guess I’ve been oblivious to all the winks and nods in Sunday School.

    Having taught Temple Prep for about five years now, I’m always curious how my students who finally get their recommends react to that first session (I try to prepare them: keep your mind & heart open). It’s run the gamut, just as you’ve pointed out, and it surprises me when a more “rock-solid” member– say a lifetime sister who finally got her non-member husband’s permission to go– comes back looking like they inadvertantly wandered into a screening of “Reservoir Dogs” instead of the closest thing to heaven on earth, while a fringe rocker reports that it was “friggin’ cool, man!” This past Saturday I got to witness a graduate firsthand, and watched closely for his reactions. He stared intently throughout the whole proceeding and when we finally got him “through” (wink wink, nudge nudge) he suddenly became animated and pelleted us excitedly with a zillion insightful questions– some I’ve never heard or even thought of before, a number we couldn’t answer.

    My first time was in a live session where 90-something workers played the parts, hoarsely whispering missed lines to each other. I didn’t care; I was an idealistic born-again Mormon and I was in God’s temple. Thank goodness I didn’t have that experience later in life, after I became wizened, sardonic and wary.

  3. black flag says:

    “…including some very key phases that, in retrospect, I’m mildly surprised were shared publicly.”

    Interesting thoughts. It seems to me that we actually choose not to talk about many aspects of the temple out of self-censorship, primarily. The parts of the temple ceremony that are supposed to be kept out of verbal circulation, so to speak, are clearly identified, no? I’m not sure whether this decision is prudent or just reinforcing of our sometimes cultish appearance (which seems to be a vicious cycle that we permit and perhaps encourage).

    I was quite struck at a friend’s vow ceremony a couple years ago–she and her husband had been married in an LDS temple but were also having a public ceremony–when the area authority 70 who was “performing” (?) the ceremony spoke at length about a variety of aspects of the temple ceremony in detail. Of course, it was tied to the sealing ceremony in particular, but the discussion was *by far* the most revealing discourse on the temple I’ve ever heard, inside or out (including in temple prep classes, sadly).

  4. Jennifer in GA says:

    My husband and I took out our endowments on the same day we were married. Both of us were life long members of the church and thought we were “prepared”. It was still a shock when we walked past the front desk on our way to the Temple Matron’s office, turned down the hall and saw another couple in their full temple robes. ;) To say it was a surprising sight would be an understatement! After the initial shock, I realized why my mother had been so insistent that it didn’t really matter what my wedding dress looked like- no one was really going to see it! (We didn’t have a reception because we eloped- but that’s another story.)

    I had been to several LDS funerals before, but I had never noticed the temple clothes on the deceased. I guess I’m just not very observant! :D

    What was most interesting to me, though, happened later. A few months after I got married, the DH and I got to be the witness couple for an endowment session. I called my mom to tell her about the experience, and we got talking about my own endowment and sealing. I told her the above story, and how new and interesting and kind of strange-ish everything was, and how I wish I was a bit more prepared. Her reply to me was that she had told me about what I would wear and everything that was going to happen! Uhhh, Mom? I think I would have remembered that conversation! :D

    I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and as I have gotten more familiar with the temple ceremonies, I think I will be a little more clear with my own daughters about what will happen and what they can expect.

  5. Regarding funerals- I have been instructed that the Temple clothes are added in private right before the casket is closed for the last time- they are not supposed to be present for a general viewing.

  6. Hyper-organization is not necessarily off-putting.

    Your whole #3 — not only is it an astute observation, but it reflects to a large extent the conscious motivation behind the hyper-organization of the temple experience. I started working as an ordinance worker in the Detroit temple a few months ago. Your description of how the sterile, highly managed ambiance of the temple produces a kind of minimalistic quiet, from uniformity of dress and grooming to almost robotic behavioral structuring — all the stuff that can be most infuriating about Mormon culture outside the temple (and which, I think, circulates from the temple outward to permeate the other spheres of our Mormon experience) — functions within the temple, quite self-consciously, to the precise purpose you outline here. It is about pacing and ordering the experience, with an absolute minimum of distractions and “cognitive load,” all in an effort to maximize the quiet edification of the patrons. The temple is the place where the weirdness of Mormon culture makes sense in a totally unexpected way.

  7. Tracy, of all the funerals of Mormons I’ve attended, I’ve never seen one where the deceased was not dressed in his or her temple clothes for the viewing, regardless of who was there for the viewing or how public it was. President Hinckley, for example, was viewed by thousands who were not LDS, and he was wearing his temple clothes. Adding them at the last minute would also mean they were simply laid in the casket without the person being dressed in them.

    Sometimes the cap or veil is not put on until the end, and the veil is always “up” until the last minute even if it is put on earlier. Maybe that is what your instructor was referring to.

  8. Latter-day Guy says:

    Great post! I was initially surprised that it wasn’t more weird, personally (the temple, not the post). Then I read through a copy of one of the older scripts––wow; now I’m hoping that we’ll take a page out of the Catholics’ book and start offering “legacy night” at the temple: once a month using the ordinances from the 1920s. Awesome.

    I think that we could do a much better job of preparing people to go. I went to a Temple Prep seminar at BYU (sort of a condensed version of the Sunday School materials). Waste of 2 hours. The only thing I remembered: “God loves you. He has a plan. Part of the plan is making covenants. Good luck.” No joke. It was put in those words. That was as explicit as it got.

    I have since found great resources. Most of them would not have been very helpful before going anyway (á la Nibley, lots of wink-winking and nudge-nudging, but they don’t make much sense unless you catch the references). However, there is one book that I think ought to be absolutely required reading before going: “Endowed From On High: Understanding the Symbols of the Endowment” by John D. Charles. Very clear, scarcely 100 pages, insightful, full of scripture references for further study. Read it before your first time, and frequently thereafter. If I ever teach Temple Prep, THAT will be my primary text.

  9. sister blah 2 says:

    Great post! I was initially surprised that it wasn’t more weird, personally (the temple, not the post).

    Ha, good thing you added the parenthetical clarification, because that’s exactly how I first read it. The funny thing about me is that I sort of took it as a compliment.

    -Cynthia

  10. Bro. Jones says:

    #8: Legacy night with the 1920s version of the endowment? Yipes. I’m gonna have to go with my current, shortened, wisely-edited version, thanks.

  11. Great post!

    I had an enormous amount of preparation before I went to the temple and I had a wonderful experience. I’ve noticed that the people who have the easiest time are those who know the most going in, either through espionage, through a thoughtful teacher or through a sensitive escort.

    Many uncomfortable moments can be avoided with little heads up comments like “you will never be left alone,” “don’t worry about remembering it all at first–there will be plenty of review,” “you will be modestly clothed at all times,” “you will never be touched inappropriately,” and “the temple clothing is unusual, yet beautiful in it’s own way”

    I remember a R.S. President of mine summed up her whole experience with the phrase “Well strap me down and beam me up Scotty.” I was an escort for a friend who went into an unstoppable giggling fit over the fact that she was wearing “kitchen curtains.” I had friends who flipped out during their initiatories because no one had mentioned anything about them prior to their day at the temple. Complete surprises just aren’t as much fun as people tend to think they are.

  12. Jennifer in GA says:

    I should add that I was fully informed as to what would happen during the initiatories, and nothing during the endowment or sealing weirded me out or anything. It’s just that when I heard the phrase “temple robes” I pictured something a little more robe-like, you know what I mean?

    #11- Yes! The right escort can make all the difference in the world! What helped me get over my initital shock so quickly was knowing my mother and grandmother were going to be with me the whole time, and they would never lead me to do anything “bad” or “harmful”.

  13. Anoninor says:

    Interesting that you mention doing a 1920’s legacy night. I have a group of friends who do exactly that. We teach a religion made of the notions of men and women sugared over with scripture, the pint of beer gets passed around, and the whole bit.

  14. Latter-day Guy says:

    Ahhh, but Anoninor, do you get those notions from newspapers and novels?

  15. Anoninor says:

    Indeed we do. And the newspapers and novels are much more interesting these days. Of course, we have to run everything past that nicely dressed fellow… Come to think of it, I don’t know his name, but he’s the head of all the religious denominations of the day.

    Really though, so far, we’ve only conferred early endowments in order to give the rest of the keys to those who have already received post-90 endowments so they can be qualified to participate in prayer. We haven’t really made a formal “legacy night” out of it.

  16. I recently started working as a temple worker, and I have to say that one of the things that I was completely unaware of is position of Coordinator–the two people (one man, one woman) who make sure that organization in the temple runs. Some nights, they put in a great deal of effort to make sure that everything is running smoothly and ‘hyper-organized.’ They are unheralded, generally unkown and unrecognized heroes within the church, in my mind.

  17. I went with a friend when she was first endowed. An elderly lady sitting in front of us broke wind and we giggled. I hope the person I was doing the work for wasn’t too offended. I would imagine people in the spirit world must have a sense of humor. We weren’t trying to be light minded but it was funny. Sometimes going with a friend the first time helps.

  18. TA Esplin says:

    I best advice I received was to focus on the covenants. The procedurals and symbolism can wait. One will have hundreds of opportunities to figure them out.

    I worst advice I received was to be prepare for something weird. By assuming it would be weird, I worried myself will all kinds of interpretations I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I’ve realized since that nothing in the temple is very weird.

    My (untried) advice would be to visit a denomination with a ritual liturgy on Communion Sunday. It would show the format of the endowment isn’t too unusual. Plus, one could practice worshiping in unfamiliar surroundings.

  19. There is a phrase that I have often heard, but have never fully understood what it means. What does it mean to “take out [one's] endowments”? Obviously, it’s referring to being endowed, but I guess I’ve never understood the phraseology. Could someone indulge my ignorant mind?

  20. sister blah 2 says:

    JT, I don’t know how it started, but I have heard that wording it that way is now discouraged–I think “received [one's] endownments” is preferred.

  21. I give the same advice as in #18. Much of the strangeness of the temple for LDS who have grown up in the Church is not the specifics but rather the fact that it is a highly formalized ritual. The notion persists in Mormon culture than formal religious ritual is an aspect of apostacy, and for someone imbued with that notion the elaborate “high church” ritual of the temple can be quite disconcerting. In contrast, my observation over the years is that converts with Catholic backgrounds take much more easily to the temple than those born and raised LDS. My view is that the best temple preparation is to teach something about the value of religious ritual. In addition to actually seeing it by respectfully attending a very “high church” style service (the Episcopalians and Eastern Orthodox sometimes hew to the old ways more than even the Catholics) my first recommendation for temple prep reading is always Mircea Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane.” http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Profane-Nature-Religion/dp/015679201X

  22. Cynthia,

    I love the parallel you draw between the primary child speaking and our approach at the temple veil — a “kindly helper to whisper in your ear.” One of the session’s most apt metaphors for mortal life, even though the metaphor is probably inadvertant.

  23. StillConfused says:

    My first time to the temple was horrifying. I had never been to a Mormon funeral or anything like that. I had never heard any specifics. What little that was told to me totally freaked me out (washing and annointing). I remember doing the stuff — I am not a huge fan of symoblism — just give it to me straight — and having this terrifying feeling like I was in a cult or something. But all of the other members of my ward walked around like everything was normal. The shock on my face was obvious!!

  24. Steve Evans says:

    SB2 is correct in #20 re: “receive” vs. “take out”.

  25. Thanks SB2 & Steve – That’s my understanding as well. I have just always wondered how it got started and what was the rationale behind the wording.

    Sorry about the threadjack (but apparently not sorry enough to not post this).

  26. I’ve stated before that I see the endowment as a slow dance, and imagine that in another world, all of the symbols (which I personally love) can be set to the most sublime music. I imagine a praise dance in the clouds.

  27. Mark IV says:

    Next grammar question: endowment or endowments?

    If we want to be scrupulously correct, I think we should say “I received my endowment at the temple”.

  28. Mark IV (27) – I like where you’re going. I generally use it as a verb: “I was endowed at the temple.” I haven’t used the KJV wording though, because most people would sound confused if I said “I was endued.” People might look at me funny and say, “Aren’t you still a dude?”

  29. Steve Evans says:

    Mark IV, it’s singular, like a gift or bestowal. Not a verb, not a plural noun.

  30. “Not a verb“?

  31. Verb or noun. A noun when used as Steve suggests, a verb when used as in “I endow this department with funds for a scholarship” or “I gift you this trifle.” But it seems a bit trite to reduce every eternal promise hinted at in the endowment to either noun or verb. The KJV English Bible says “In the beginning was the Word…” In Spanish, it’s “El Verbo.” The WORD Endowment is spoken only a few times in the actual ceremony. What happens, and how we receive what happens, is of upmost importance. That said, the first time through the temple throws a lot of people because it’s unexpected, unfamiliar. I do have friends who left the Church after going through the temple because they couldn’t align the experience with their everyday orientation. Darius Gray, however, refers to his first time through the temple as the most powerful experience of his life. He says he was afraid to touch anyone for a week afterwards for fear he’d electrocute them with the strength he had received. But I think Darius is unusual in his ability to receive and appreciate spiritual experiences. My first time through was sweet, but not earth-shattering. I have had times since then which have been miraculous and world-opening.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    JT, if you’re the prophet I guess you can say it any way you want.

  33. Random thoughts:

    I think the Lord endows (verb). We receive the endowment (noun).

    I sometimes compare the temple covenants to our baptismal covenant. They really aren’t all that different. Temple covenants are just more specific, deeper promises.

    I don’t really like the phrase “take out your endowments.” Dinner and movie? Take them out to get fresh air? Makes no sense to me.

    I had a friend who envisioned going to the temple, dressing in special clothes, going to her own cubby, and taking out her own endowments, a little scroll, something like a patriarchal blessing that was so sacred it could not leave the temple.

  34. I remember being pretty much unprepared for the temple. The first time for me was also the day my wife and I got married, so the perceived weirdness was overcome by all the other good vibes.

    I’ve since come to understand the “otherworldliness” of the temple, a place that, as others have indicated, is truly a place of extreme order. For a while, the regimentation seemed forced, and was exaggerated for me by what seemed to be overzealous temple workers, worried about trivial things. Two things have happened. First, I’ve grown comfortable with “losing the cognitive load”, as others have described it, and I have become comfortable with the symbolism and ritual. Second, while there is still that great sense of order, there is in my perception, less micro-management, and more helpful process.

    I have learned that the value of the temple is its sacred space, a place apart, that helps me to try and be more in tune with the spirit. It is not in trying to understand the ritual and listening to the words, but trying to tune into the atmosphere and environment that is most helpful to me.

    Also, I appreciate the closeness of the Seattle temple, I have enjoyed the uniqueness of the older temples in Utah, the art and murals, and especially the huge murals of the LA Temple. Are they still there?

  35. Anoninor says:

    I thought taking out your endowments was like getting your wisdom teeth removed?

  36. I ironed temple robes as a child. They were not permanent press. I pushed each pleat into a large pleated piece of cardstock with a card. My grandmother taught me because I was a sedentary, asthmatic child and she hated to iron.

    The funerals of endowed that I have been to have been mostly in So Dakota and Ohio and ordinance clothing has always been on at the visitation. Often the casket is half closed.

    I am a Temple Coordinator in a small Temple. Mark got this right. We are taught to say “receive one’s endowment.” It is a (singular) gift of blessings and obligations.

    We start each shift with a Prayer Meeting. Ours is conducted by the Brother Coordinator and presided over by a member of the Temple Presidency. It opens with prayer and with a spiritual thought. There is a training film from the Temple Department that explicitly tells and shows us how to do things correctly. There are several films, each is watched for a month and then the next one is shown We go over details that everyone needs to know for the shift. The President or Counselor usually has something to say. Then we sisters got to the Matron’s office and have a separate meeting. We cover the schedule, which I, as coordinator, have prepared, and anything else the Matron has given is covered. This may range from spiritual to procedural or plumbing.
    Imagine preparing the shift schedule for a group of (mostly senior) sisters. You must keep in mind who can be reverent, who cannot walk far, or kneel, who cannot memorize and who must always be monitored. Some sisters serve only parts of the shift. Often we need a Spanish speaking worker in a certain place at a certain time. When the dressing rooms are empty, we change the paper and towels and empty the trash. We do baptistery, initiatory and borrowed endowment laundry. All live ordinances are monitored to make sure they are done correctly. Office workers and recorders are supervised by the Presidency.

    I have a copy of some remarks by George Albert Smith that I read often. Here they are:

    Peace and love must prevail in the House of the Lord.
    Cross words should never be spoken in the temple by any temple worker or staff member.
    Anger of any form should never exist in the House of the Lord.
    Fault finding is out of place in the temple. One who finds fault is not worthy to serve in the temple.
    Temple patrons are guests in the House of the Lord and we are His servants.
    Temple workers are expected to keep the Sabbath day holy and live lives of holiness.
    Temple workers should strive to cultivate the following virtues: Humility, Forbearance, Patience, Love, and Spirituality; Then, love will continually abound in the temple for all who come. Only the pure in heart should be allowed to do this important work.
    Lightmindedness is out of place in the temple of the Lord and in the lives of ordinance workers.
    Talking loudly and unnecessarily is inappropriate I the temple.
    The temple is a far too sacred place for any kind of tale bearing.
    Waiting time in the temple is an opportunity to enrich one’s mind with spiritual truth.

    The workers I know are some of the finest, holiest people there are. Often there are last minute changes to deal with patrons’ needs. We try hard to make them seamless. I know in our temple the goal of the workers is to provide holy learning experiences where patrons feel the spirit.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve taught temple prep classes before; they don’t really prepare you for the temple at all. They’re basically just Gospel living classes. They need to overhaul the curriculum to make it more meaningful.

    Until that happens, don’t rely on the formal temple prep classes. Study on your own and pick the brain of one or more trusted and knowledgeable friends to give you more substantive temple prep.

  38. When I got into the last room for my endowment I burst into tears. My family was all there and thought I was overcome by the spirit. Quite the opposite actually. I was convinced I just participated in a joke. I was about to get married and I didn’t know if I believed THAT, so I was mortified.

    I went back later with JUST my fiance and it was amazing in it’s non-feeling. I didn’t get blown away by the spirit but I wasn’t miserable so I felt much better and the wedding went on. So for me it was the expectation that made it so much harder. I wish it had been just me and my fiance and maybe my brother and his wife instead of the ENTIRE family. I felt too much expectation to be blown away.

  39. Karen, a small temple in OH by chance?

  40. sister blah 2 says:

    #37–Agreed. I took a temple prep class–notice that it doesn’t warrant any sort of mention in my post.

    #38–I’m sorry to hear that. Although I had a good first experience in the temple, I think I too would have preferred to do it with just an escort or two. Then maybe go a second time a few days or a week later and have all my family there. Only because I like to process the experience inwardly, and it was a little bit distracting to have aunts, cousins and everyone there. Being greeting by a large group of family in the Celestial Room is a great experience and I realize that I’m lucky I could have it (that most of my family is active in the church and all), but maybe not on the very first time.

    -Cynthia

  41. When I went attended the temple for the first time, I prayed for days ahead of time that while I knew that I wouldn’t understand it all the first time, and some of it might be off-putting, that God would bless me with a testimony that it was right and true.

    In the end, I felt my testimony growing from the moment I stepped onto the grounds until long after the endowment ended.

    I had been worried that it might seem weird to me, but I think my love of literature helped me out a lot. From the very beginning, I could see symbolism in what was happening, even if I couldn’t interpret the symbols right away.

  42. In older English “take out” meant to secure something or to get permision from an authority to receive something. Remnants of that meaning are found in expressions such as “He took out his anger on the pillow” or to “take your money out of the bank”, or “he took out a contract on his rival.” “Take-out food” is a little more removed and may have a diferent origin, but the idea is similar. Of course we don’t speak that way anymore. Receive is more accurate today.

  43. Yet Another John says:

    #36- Karen, thanks for your insight on temple workers. Esp. Pres. Smith’s advice.

    And to those of you who wish your first session would have been with fewer family, I feel just the opposite. While I had little preparation beforehand, and was quite surprised by the whole thing, the fact that so many of my family was their was reassuring to me. It helped me “buy into it” so to speak. I had my parents, both sets of grandparents, and a bunch of aunts and uncles there. That they took time to travel to the temple to be with me meant and means a great deal to me. That is one reason why now, 36 years later, I try to return the favor for every family member that asks.

  44. um…yeah. Now I’m thinking, “who is TMD?”

  45. I’m a wednesday nighter…

  46. I didn’t like it very much the first time. I’ve been a handful of times since, and didn’t like it any better on those visits. I wonder if I should give it another try some day.

    I recently read Eat, Love, Pray. The author talks about a ritual at her ashram in India that she hated, but forced herself to attend repeatedly, and eventually grew to appreciate. When I read that, I wondered if maybe I could grow to appreciate temple worship. I’m not really sure if I can work up the energy and courage to try again. (I find the negative emotions I have associated with the temple to be really draining). But every once in a while, I have just a vague wisp of a feeling that maybe I should give it another go.

    I appreciate people willing to share their stories. Thanks, Cynthia, and others.

  47. Left Field says:

    For me, the temple turned out to be less strange than I was expecting. My parents had a copy of Temples of the Most High, and I had read this article from the book. I was expecting to go to the temple and hear a full explanation of all that business about circles and triangles and Roman numerals. I was a bit puzzled when the ceremony ended with pretty much no mention of anything in Bangerter’s article.

    Oddly enough, the most disconcerting thing I remember from my first visit is noticing that the wallpaper panels were slightly misaligned. I had always heard that the temple had nothing but the finest materials and workmanship. Nothing is too good for the Lord. I think I realized right away that my expectations in that regard were a little unrealistic, and I have since come to appreciate the human element in the temple. I loved the experience I had in a small temple of having my elder’s quorum president officiate at the veil, and then a few minutes later seeing him with a mop and a bucket, preparing to clean the temple before closing for the day. A marvelous demonstration of the interaction between the human and divine in the place where God and humanity meet on sacred ground.

    I agree that our temple preparation process needs work. Before people go to the temple, they should at least have an explanation of structure (though not the full content) of the ceremony. They should have a pretty clear idea of what they will be doing. An introduction to the importance of symbolism and ritual would be in order.

    For example, I think it might be helpful to explain that the ceremony is not intended to be a historical account of actual events and dialog. I think that not having that understanding can cause a lot of confusion in making sense of the ceremony. Also, the filmed version of the endowment largely obscures the fact that the temple patrons as well as officiators together are actors in the sacred drama. We are there in the garden as Adam and Eve’s posterity, interacting directly with the other characters. (I love the Terrestrial room in Manti where the altar is in the center of the room and all of the principals in the ritual are enclosed together in the same space.) For me, the ritual takes on greater meaning if I think of myself as a participant, not an observer. If we are prepared to think in those terms on our first visit, it might help in connecting to the meaning of the ceremony. For those who can, I would strongly recommend receiving your own endowment in Salt Lake or Manti, where you don’t have to imagine yourself interacting with characters on a projection screen.

  48. Adam Greenwood says:

    So many people told me not to freak out when I took out my endowments that the surprise for me was how churchy and normal everything was.

  49. sister blah 2 says:

    100% agreed, Adam. I was almost disappointed that the weirdness level was so low.

  50. I had just completed a class on Sigmund Freud. I knew it was symbolic in some sexual way. Sex and death. The freudian angle made it really interesting. Now I know it is really all about sex, starting off by becoming naked in the temple for the washing and anointing.

    This was when they carted off a load of missionaries all at once, without much prep, to their first endowment.

    Right now, it is all on YOUTUBE, mostly the whole thing. Mercy, mercy. No more mystery for the inquisitive.

  51. Can’t we kill “take out” as a verb describing the receiving of a gift or blessing?

  52. sister blah 2 says:

    Yes. For shame, Adam! And after we discussed upthread how “received” is the preferred language even. Tsk, tsk.

  53. ‘Take-out’ is fine!

    We can use more nuanced and traditional language, especially in a culturally rich context.

    Not long ago somewhere on the bloggernacle there was a very eloquent description comparing the Catholic ritual of mass to the temple ceremony. (Anyone have the citation?) As I recall, one of the main comparisons dealt with the unique way in which the temple is a symbolic walk of the individual TO God, instead of God (via priests) bringing the ordinances TO the masses. Taking into consideration this comparison, ‘take-out’ is a more accurate description of the choices and actions being made BY the individual to receive the blessings which are conditionally available to everyone. (I stand at the door and knock and if any man . . . )
    That’s not to be hubristic in thinking that one TAKES from God, but that one TAKES the ordinance and steps striving toward God. God ‘gives’ the endowment, but the individual is the one ‘taking’ the journey to beseech. (‘Free agency’ right? Oops! I mean choice and accountability.)

    I wonder if ‘taking out’ is an attempt to keep sacred the more intimate sanctification process and only discuss the person’s ordinance steps OR whether it is a very literal description of the unique interconnectedness of the ordinance symbolizing the sanctification.

  54. Bruce H. says:

    As I was preparing to go for the first time, the temple prep class, my bishop, and others kept telling me, “It’s all very symbolic.” What they didn’t make clear was that there would be little or no explanation of what the symbols were meant to symbolize.

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