5 Things You Should Know Before Going Through the Temple

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Wednesday, after an inspired and somewhat difficult journey getting there, I got to go through the temple for the very first time to become endowed. To be there with my family around me, particularly my grandpa, who struggles with various health issues and essentially fasted all day so his dietary problems wouldn’t keep him away, was probably the best part.

It’s funny, because before I went through, I thought I knew exactly what it would be like. I thought that since I had been told that I was prepared, I knew everything about the temple and what goes on inside. Being the little know-it-all that I sometimes can be, I thought I’d be the first person to walk in and walk out saying, “Yep. I knew it would be like that.”

Yeah, I was wrong.

The temple, to put it in simple terms, is something else. People told me it would be a new(ish) experience. They were right. People told me I might be overwhelmed. They were right. And even though I had some idea of how things would go and was given the same advice repeatedly, there was still this moment of, “Woah. This is different. How do I adjust to this?”

In spite of all of those feelings, I felt a confirming peace that the temple is a remarkable place. I also learned quite a few things in the first half hour alone. Obviously, I don’t know a whole lot yet, but I’m excited to learn. I already have so many questions and a burning desire to understand.

For my friends who are planning on going through the temple or thinking about it, I’d just say that it’s really an incredible experience. I’m not the greatest advice giver sometimes, especially since I’ve only been through the temple once thus far, but here are five things that I feel are really good to know beforehand so that your experience is beautiful and memorable and maybe a little less overwhelming than it might be.


1. If you are always striving to keep the commandments, you’re going to be okay. 
Growing up, I was always told that the best way to prepare for the temple is to live up to my standards and do my best to remain faithful and obedient. Being the ignorant kid that I was, I always used to think, “But there has to be more to it than just that!” In reality, that’s pretty accurate. If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing and cementing a firm testimony of the gospel, you’ll do just fine. You might feel a little inadequate at times during your preparation–I know I did–but when the time comes to go through, you’ll recognize moments when you were preparing without even knowing you were. Your efforts to be a disciple, obedient and steadfast, will give you great confidence and comfort in the temple.

2. You’ll want to focus on how you feel, not what you’re thinking. 
I think I may have been guilty of thinking too much when I went through. Instead of focusing on what your head is saying, like I was (and my head was basically just trying to wrap itself around everything), focus on what your heart is saying.

At one point during my experience, my heart was nearly bursting out of my chest, surrounded in a deep, comfortable warmth that could have only come from the Holy Ghost. In spite of the newness of everything, I felt a confident peace. When I visited the Sacred Grove two years ago, I felt it, and when I was in the temple, I felt it. It was the same exact feeling. The common denominator between those two places is that God had been there. I firmly believe that God is in His temples.

So feel for Him. Reach for His reaching, as one of my favorite hymns says. You’ll find Him.

3. You may not fully recognize the power and wonder of the temple until you go back again and again, and that’s pretty normal, from what I can tell. 
I’ll admit it. I was kind of overwhelmed by everything. I’ve already said that. It hit me, though, as I was leaving with my mom and dad that the temple is a lot like that new job or that new class you attend for the first time. Imagine getting the whole HR schpill and tour and outline of your responsibilities as a new employee, or getting that nine page syllabus that lists the professor’s expectations. It’s overwhelming, right? You feel like a fish out of water who will never learn everything, right?

But then what happens as you keep going to class or keep going to work? You start to get it. It becomes meaningful. You get to the point where you aren’t overwhelmed but are instead fully open to the new things you’re constantly learning.

The temple, my brain said, is just like that. And then things kind of clicked.

Maybe the best comparison I can give is between the temple and the book of Isaiah. When you first read Isaiah, it’s really different, right? It’s like a new language almost. But the Savior commands us to study the words of Isaiah, just as we’re commanded to visit the temple often. When we keep studying Isaiah, we understand the symbols and this higher, beautiful language. Well, I figure that that’s what the temple is like, too.

So if you’re really overwhelmed the first time, just keep going. That’s what I plan on doing.

4. There’s literally no reason to be scared.  
The world likes to tell us (or at least assume) that temples are like massive haunted houses where there’s an awful surprise around every turn. They like to throw it in our faces that since temple work is so “secretive” (their word, not ours), it’s got to be bad and horrible and paganistic and satanic and every istic and ic that could possibly be applied to something they don’t understand. Some of you might, for whatever reason, believe or start to believe that. Or at least be a little wary of walking into a place you’ve never been through before.

Don’t be.

The temple is not scary. There is no reason to be afraid of going through the temple. Random question (but still related): are you afraid of Isaiah? Maybe in a “holy cow, how am I going to understand this” sort of way, right? But never in a scary movie kind of way.

So don’t freak out and don’t be scared. The temple is a sacred, sacred place, and there’s nothing to worry about.

5. You don’t have to know everything. 
Finally, speaking of things you should know, you should know that you won’t know everything, and that is completely okay. Your experience is not any less amazing because you don’t exactly know about everything going on. In fact, not knowing, I’ll argue, enriches the experience.

One of the most exciting things about the temple is that you can definitely grasp why we call it a “House of Learning.” I would add that it is a House of Insight, a House of Perspective, a House of Woah, I’ve Never Thought of it that Way Before, and a House of My Mind Just Exploded (In a Good Way).

The temple will get you thinking. Like crazy. And you will be thirsty for more.

If you’re a little know-it-all (like me) who wants to be entirely ready and aware of what’s going to happen, you’re going to be humbled. Trust me. You are going to be humbled. It will be good for you, but my advice would be to eliminate all of your expectations, recognize that you don’t know what will take place, and go in with faith and trust and the willingness to be receptive.

As everyone will tell you, you can always go back. And as you’ll find out, your curiosity and desire to learn more will encourage you to go back.

Becoming endowed is remarkable. I’m still really new to it, but one day, I’m going to look back and realize that the temple has become just what my brothers and sisters always said it would become: home. I can’t wait for that day.

For more temple preparation thoughts, read this amazing blog post by Al Fox Carraway (I know it helped me out a lot).

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22 comments

  1. I went through the temple to receive my own endowments almost 22 years ago; a week before getting married. My experience was so frightening and negative, that I have refused to return over the years- except when I went back to be sealed to my husband since others assured me that ceremony would be different. People have tried to find fail with ME for my disappointing experience, but I reject that premise. It was scary, confusing, and vastly different from what members and church leaders told me to expect. So, to those who go and have positive, uplifting experiences: good, I'm happy for you. But remember that it isn't the same for everyone.

  2. I love your thoughts about FEELING and not thinking. I think we try to get a logical "handle" on what we are experiencing but it is foreign to our typical involvement in the church. We don't have a lot of symbolism in our weekly meetings, except for the sacrament, but the temple ceremony is laden with symbolism and there are infinite levels from which we can learn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the temple.

  3. In high school my mom told me of women she knew of just like you, so I know you are not alone. In my calling as a priesthood leader now, I look at the records and see people who obviously went when they got married and have not been back since, even some who are still active. Part of that may have been that they were not worthy and therefore had a bad experience. I have seen that happen, even in my own family. My dad was not living the word of wisdom but just felt like he had to go because that was what was expected. It took him more than 40 years to make it back. Others might have just been so surprised at some of the ordinances, especially the way the initiatory was done when I first went through. Honestly I still didn't understand why people had a problem with that until the past year when I came across some things written by people who didn't have a good experience. All I can say to you, or anyone like you, is that it is different now. It is sort of like getting a blessing when you are sick. The temple presidency at my local temple told us that they would be happy to meet with anyone who hasn't been back in a long time to discuss any concerns. I'm sure any temple president would; get a new recommend, then call and ask for an appointment. Do the work you feel comfortable with and work your way up. Do baptisms, or sealings, or whatever you enjoy most, and strengthen your testimony of temples through those experiences. Do some family history research and take the names of your ancestors; I have found a greater desire to go more frequently now that I do work for my own family. If you find lots of names, I am certain you will start to have the desire to return to do the temple work for your ancestors. I love going to the temple, I go there every week and encourage anyone to go back often.

  4. Ari, Thank you for an insightful article! Thank you for telling everyone that the Temple instruction has more meaning the more you go back and learn more through the Holy Spirit. The temple is surely the Lord's House and His Spirit is there. We feel it especially as we meditate in the Celestial Room.

  5. These were pretty good. Having gone through the temple myself here are 1 or 2 things that I feel should be mentioned. The first time I went through, it weirded me out a bit, especially towards the end of the endowment session. I've been a member all my life but I wasn't and could not be prepared for that. I am a very logical person and an introvert by nature. I cannot simply ignore what I'm thinking and go on what I feel, it has to sit well with me mentally too. That being said I was very glad to see you post that there is nothing to be afraid of, no one will make you do anything or try and convince you to do something you don't want to. Sorry, that sounds cryptic but there is nothing to be scared of. After the 2nd or 3rd time things made more sense, I did not have to rely solely on what I felt. I think it's a huge help to read the Pearl of great price right before you go. It will help you mentally prepare yourself.

    There won't be any tests, everyone is there to help you grow and enjoy the peace in God's house. I know a lot of people have a great experience their first time in the temple. I know a lot of people had an experience similar to me, so I want people to know that if they find things a little odd their first time through they are not alone and it gets better each time you go. The Pearl of great price helped me understand the temple a lot.

  6. I'm sorry that your experience was so negative. Having had lots of friends go through the temple for the first time and share how incredible their experience was on Facebook, I have to admit that I felt like my experience would be exactly the same. It wasn't like that. Still special, but very different.

    Please don't give up on the temple. I would add that I wrote point three just for people like you. I have a deep and firm testimony in perseverance. Going through once or twice doesn't allow you time to realize just how powerful the temple is. Just like you can't tell everything about a person on a first date or you can't really master the scriptures the first time you read them.

    I hope everything works out for you. There are resources that can help you, and I hope you seek them out.

  7. I love hearing stories like yours, because my experiences with the temple have been very different. I have found the temple to be very challenging and the men in my life (husband, priesthood leaders) cannot seem to understand or relate as to why. Best wishes to you in this new phase of your spiritual journey.

  8. We live in a world today that has lost its sense of the sacred and that has largely forgotten the joy, beauty and power of ritual and ceremony. Coming out of such a Babylon culture into the temple, can be a little overwhelming. But I find nothing in the temple that does not harmonize with the Bible, with the joy, beauty and power in those pages. — Cliff Davis

  9. Acts 7:48. The Lord doesn't dwell in temples made with hands.
    Matthew 24:26. Don't seek Christ in the secret chambers.
    Matthew 5:34. Do not swear at all. Not even by Heaven.
    John 18:20. Christ said nothing in secret.

  10. Jonah 2: 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
    Habakkuk 2: 20 But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silencebefore him.
    2 Samuel 22:7  In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.
    Psalms 24: 4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
    Psalms 18: 6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him,even into his ears.
    Matthew 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
    Luke 21:38 And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.
    Luke 19:47  And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
    John 8: 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

  11. Those are all referring to Mosaic Law temples. Even the New Testament scriptures you cite. Of course Christ was in the temple. He was a Jew! The law wasn't fulfilled until the Atonement was complete. The apostles continued to preach and pray in the temple after the Resurrection, as that was where many Jews were gathered (they didn't need recommends back then apparently). But still, it was the old Mosaic Law temple. Show me a scripture in the New Testament or Book of Mormon that indicates Christ commanded temple worship AFTER the law is fulfilled. There isn't one. Not one solitary scripture. Not even in the Book of Mormon! Read Hebrews in the New Testament.

  12. I don't have an account so I hope this publishes as anonymous but I don't wish to be. My name is Dottie. I recall some wise counsel years ago in a Relief Society meeting warning people not to tell those who are going through for the first time what to expect. If they are told how spiritual the experience will be, how uplifting and wonderful, and they don't feel that way, they'll wonder what is "wrong" with them that they didn't "get" that. The endowment has changed over the years–not in "rock your world" fashion but other ways–some things are no longer a part of it. I went for the first time in 1977 and there were things that could be considered frightening then. Even then it was different from years before. We went that first time to the temple in Bern, Switzerland and on the ride down from our military duty station in Germany, an older church member told us how it had changed since HE was young. It might be good to prepare yourself again, and try again, just as someone who has been away from church for a long time, or who didn't get a quality exposure to it growing up as a member, may benefit from receiving the discussions from the elders again.. You may be surprised. Going the first time can be SO overwhelming, and I admit it might have been for me, had it not been that under our circumstances (attending a temple week because we were some distance from the temple; there is/was a hostel across the street from the Swiss temple just to accommodate that) we had an automatic means to return. In fact, at the time, there were only 3 sessions a day and a requirement to stay in the hostel was to attend at least two of those sessions per day during the week. It's like getting thrown off a horse–get back in the saddle and ride! It really helped to go back so soon and so often–it cleared up a lot of the overwhelming feelings of that first trip through. God bless you!

  13. I went to the temple for the first time in August of 1984. I received my endowment and then was married and sealed to my husband the very next day in the Salt Lake Temple. Thirty years ago as you might know the endowment session was acted out and portrayed "live" and I can honestly say I sat there next to my escort with my eyes as wide as half dollars wondering what was going on and honestly not understanding a whole lot. I wasn't afraid or shocked. I just didn't understand what in the world was going on. I let this first experience in the temple be my example of what I thought was a temple experience was like for a lot of years and honestly did not attend the temple very often. I don't know if this was the type of experience you had, but if it is please know it is different now. The temple movie is beautiful and was just recently redone and is now even more beautiful. I look back now and know that I short changed myself by not going to the temple as often as I could have. I know when I go now I understand and remember more each time.

  14. Could you please show me where Christ said Temples were just a part of the Law of Moses and were never to be used again after his fulfillment of the Law of Moses?
    The Lord made a promise Solomon:
    “And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. . . . Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” (2 Chronicles 7:12, 15-16)
    Doesn't sound like He says there will be an end to temples to me. The fact that the disobedience of the Jewish nation brought on the destructions God had promised meant the building was destroyed, as were the temples of Zerrubabel and of Herod, but the site is still holy (forever) and many scriptures give hope of a future temple on that spot, not a proclamation that the need for temples was at an end.
    The fact that the Apostles- yes Jews- but now also Christians- continued to regard the temple as the House of God is interesting. There were many other places they could have chosen to assemble and teach, especially if they considered the temple as only an outdated symbol of the now fulfilled law.
    As to needing a “recommend” on a piece of paper, they had an even stricter code, with only certain men allowed to even enter the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. And apparently there were those assigned to see this restriction was kept
    “But let none come into the house of the Lord, save the priests, and they that minister of the Levites; they shall go in, for they are holy: but all the people shall keep the watch of the Lord.. . .And he set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in.” (2 Chronicles 23:6, 19 )

    The temple described by Ezekiel has yet to be built. The Book of Mormon describes many temples, and Christ chooses to appear as a resurrected being at the temple located in the land Bountiful. He not only taught there, he instructed to people to again return to that same spot for more teachings. And it says:
    “And it came to pass that he commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them. And it came to pass that after they were written he expounded them. And these are the words which he did tell unto them, saying: Thus said the Father unto Malachi—Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (3 Nephi 24:1)
    So he spoke of a future time when His return would again be to his temple. There is lots more that could be said- but I suspect your mind is not open to consider any of it- so I will leave it there. Have a great day tomorrow.

  15. Your Words have touched me and helped me.. I shall return and make it a better experience then the last time I was there because I am learning something new. Thank you. I will recommend my friends read this before they go.

  16. Thanks for sharing Ari, I attended our temple yesterday after having not been for sometime and I enjoyed it immensely for myself, no doubt the other brothers & sisters there were having their own experiences too, but I believe temple worship will be different for everyone, but with the overall outcome being that we are all striving to become better and more Christlike not only for ourselves, but so that we can help others become their "better" selves, whether in or outside of the church. (Eliza – New Zealand)

  17. Read Revelations 7:15, Rev 5:6. Rev, 3:12 John the beloved prophesied about temples in the last days. They are still needed! Also, after Jesus died and was resurrected, Apostle Paul still prayed in temples, and also still taught about temples (See Acts 22:17, Acts 24:18, Acts 26:21, 1 Corinthians 9:1.) Also the prophet Isaiah prophesied about temples in the last days . (See Isaiah 2: 2) By the way, study the history of the Bible and understand it's seeming contradictions, which is why having the Holy Ghost and latter day prophets make a lot of sense. The Bible was not faxed directly from God as many seem to think. Understand that it came to be nearly 300 years after Jesus Christ, as such there are variations in accounts, records, translations etc. Also, not every dealing of God with men is recorded in the Bible as we know it today. See 1 Chronicles 2: 29. The book of Nathan and others are not in today's Bible, leading us to know that there's a lot that is not recorded in today's Bible. Pray for discernment, and you'll know how best to connect with Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

  18. At the ripe of age of 65+, I totally understand but, BUT, so much has changed, there is nothing to fear, it is beautiful and very very much appreciated on my part. I had several bad experiences but when I finally decided to bite the bullet and go, I was so surprised, so overwhelmed with these amazing feelings of calmness. Yes, there are some things that we are not prepared for but if we go with the spirit, well, it makes a difference. I knew I was going to have to go back if I was to set an example for grandchildren and even some of my children and I struggled with "I can't stop them from going but I don't want them to have a bad experience with anything, I was in a quandary. So I prayed, I prayed a lot and I fasted a couple of times and bit the bullet so to speak and went. What I wouldn't give to have a temple close enough to be able to go back at least once a week, preferably every day. It is beautiful, it was such an amazing experience that I think of all the time I wasted by not going because I let Satan govern my thoughts. The first time is for sure a bit "wow" but when you get into the celestial room, have a corner to pray, look at all the amazing brother's and sister's that willing go as often as possible, all the "Do I look totally silly", "this is not comfortable right now", I don't remember what was said or what I am supposed to say"- so many things can plague our mind but I promise you, if you get worthy to go again, ask someone you trust implicitly to go with you, pray before you go in and keep an open mind and let all the worries go aside, just enjoy the beauty of the inside, if nothing else and i promise you, you will want to go again and you will want to start learning. I recommend a book written by Mark Shields, "Your Endowment". I got it first on my Kindle and then I purchased the book to keep and refer to often. It is beautifully written and explains more than you can imagine, opens a persons eyes, so comforting. Anything new is strange but this I know, this is the work of the Lord, that there is a grand purpose in this and especially, our ancestors cannot progress without their work being done for them.

  19. Revelations also talks about dragons and beasts with ten crowns and all kinds of strange things. I don't think you can take anything literally. The scriptures in Acts are Mosaic Law temples. Some early Christians continued for a period of time living the ordinances of the old law, even after Peter's vision. The weren't performing endowments in these temples. As for the Isaiah passage, the "mountain of the Lord's house" refers to God's government after the Second Coming. Isaiah was a Jew, so of course he would've been using temple terminology to describe God's abode. He was not a Christian. There was no Christianity yet.

    No, the Bible wasn't faxed. But apparently the Book of Mormon was. It was faxed over on Joseph Smith's seerstone. The same one he formerly used to defraud people, claiming he could find buried treasure in it.

    The Bible was complied 300 years after Christ, but the books were written over a period of hundreds of years. The Bible is an authentic ancient record with archaeological evidence to support it.

    Don't be so condescending by telling people to pray for discernment so they will know how best to connect with God. I know that is good "mormon missionary speak" but it is really arrogant. If you don't understand what I mean, imagine to yourself a Jehovah's Witness saying the same thing to you.