Preparation, deeper understanding and walking on sacred ground: 3 thoughts for getting more out of your LDS temple attendance in 2017
In the last year or so, I’ve had some thoughts relating to temple attendance that I’ve wanted to share. I’m finally going to do that today.
Preparing to Go, and Going Often
As you read these words, consider them in the context of the Savior talking to you about the temple experience.
3 Nephi 17:2-3: “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.”
If you want to have a more meaningful temple experience, consider the Savior’s counsel for the Nephites and prepare your mind by pondering about what goes on in the temple. President Marion G. Romney has said that pondering is a form of prayer (April 1973 general conference). These verses also instructs us to pray for understanding. When the Savior says he will come unto us again, I think he’s saying his door is open for us and we are invited to come find him as often as we would like.
The second thought stems from a story I originally heard from my mission president in the mission field, then again in the fall of 2015. As the Elders Quorum President in the late 1980s or early 1990s, he and his counselors would encourage temple attendance among a great group of elders, but the reaction was like, “Oh yeah, we know, what else?” It seemed to fall on deaf ears. The presidency discussed the problem and decided to take a different approach. They wanted to create a feeling or desire that will be “converting” rather than create a guilt complex for not going to the temple.
They decided to pick a time of year when activities were at a lull and set a goal to attend the temple as many times as possible for one month. Why not after the Christmas holidays, when people are out of money and trying to get themselves back in line? So they dedicated January to attending the temple as many times as possible, then perhaps they would try again six months later. It was called “The month of dedication.” One member said he was really going to go for it.
Several men attended the Idaho Falls Temple as many as 8 to 10 times that first month. The one brother who really wanted to go for it went 18 times, double the rest. He told the quorum that the more he went, the more he wanted to go. In response, everybody decided, well, we want to feel what he feels.
The next time around, that brother’s attendance was into the 20s to 30, and the quorum was blown away. Others went as many as 16 times or more. They attended several sessions, two at a time, some in the evening, some in the morning. But in quorum meeting, instead of talking about numbers or how many times they had gone, these brethren wanted to talk about their experiences. They even talked about meeting in the temple to discuss phenomenal questions that had come to their minds or how the answers had been revealed to them. They realized that the more they went, the more spiritual insight and strength they gained. Lingering questions were often answered by attending another session.
It got to the point where attending the temple became such an incredible experience that the brethren went earlier in the morning, or would carry their temple clothes to work and go during lunch, or just go as often as they could. They made arrangements to meet their wives, and they would attend as many as 2-3 times each day. One brother set the record by going to 36 or 37 sessions in one month. My mission president said his personal best was 32-33 times, and it was fun to report and bear testimony about your experiences in the quorum meetings, he said.
“When they exceeded and deepened the commitment required, there is a blessing there,” he said. “By exceeding expectations, they forgot about the numbers. There was an unbelievable desire to go again and again to several sessions in a row, to participate more, to be a veil worker or volunteer in the temple. The result was that all of the sudden our quorum’s attendance numbers competed or exceeded the figure of total stake attendance. But it wasn’t about the numbers or ordinances performed, except to know how many people you were helping on the other side, but it was the answers to prayers, the answers to questions, the depth of understanding and personal revelation that came. After years of going through this process, we were also amazed that we had created a strong brotherhood that had nothing to do with numbers. It was the vision, the feeling, and the conversion was personal.”
He told me THAT depth of understanding or personal revelation does not come by going to the temple once a month or even 3-4 times a year.
“All the sudden, there was personal revelation. Then there was the sacred revelation, those things you don’t speak of ever,” he said.
As this went on for two or three years, the quorum changed. Everyone was going to the temple every month without being prodded. But on top of that, they went an excessive amount of times. It was time dedicated for them personally and their wives. There were life-changing experiences. One guy who had tragically lost his wife met a special woman in the temple that he later married.
It started with a challenge. No one went out of pressure, obligation or guilt. They went because their desire became so deep. The temple became a place of nourishment, replenishment, and strength for the soul. The more they went, the more they learned. As the brethren deepened their commitment and exceeded expectations, the temple experience became exciting and the rewards became deeply personal. Questions received answers. Nobody could live without the temple. They were going all the time and their lives centered around the temple.
Now, without feeling like you have to drop everything and go to the temple 30 times, what can you learn from this story?
On Sacred Ground
Final thought. One of the sweet moments on our trip to Hawaii last year came at the Laie Temple Visitors’ Center.
I was talking with Elder Jeffrey Swinton, the Center’s director, when a bus of Chinese tourists arrived. As they entered, some stopped to talk to the sister missionaries while others went for photos with the Christus statue. Elder Swinton leaned in and said, “They don’t know who Christ is, but they come and take a picture with Him. At some point they will look at that photo and feel something.”
Elder Swinton was talking about this line from the Laie Temple dedicatory prayer, given on November 27, 1919, by President Heber J. Grant:
“May all who come upon these grounds which surround this temple in the years to come … feel the sweet and peaceful influence of this blessed and hallowed spot.”
At some point, Elder Swinton said, those who visit the temple will realize what they felt there was special and it will lead to further enlightenment. It was a thrill for us to get a glimpse of the missionary work taking place in Hawaii, and to see how it is making a difference for the LDS Church along the Pacific Rim. It was also a thrill to walk to sacred temple grounds in Laie. It is a special place.
But you don’t have to go all the way to Laie to experience the serene, sacred grounds of a dedicated temple. While each temple is unique, each temple is also dedicated by a prophet and will provide visitors with similar feelings of peace, comfort, inspiration, refuge and strength. Even if you don’t go into the temple, visitors are invited to walk around or relax on a bench and enjoy the beautiful grounds. Inspiration is more likely to come when you are standing on holy ground.