“Temple Ordinances: Preparing to Return to God’s Presence,” Liahona, July 2022.
In His infinite and eternal mercy, the Lord, through His prophets and apostles, has continually invited His sons and His daughters to prepare for His coming and become a Zion people—ready to be raised up to meet Him (see Alma 12:24; 34:32; Doctrine and Covenants 45:45; 65:5; 88:96–97). And always central to that preparation has been learning the doctrine of Jesus Christ, exercising faith in Him, repenting, and receiving sacred covenants and ordinances.
Examples in the Old Testament of God’s invitation to His children to prepare to live a higher law and to receive the covenants and ordinances of salvation are instructive for us today.
In Exodus, God encouraged Israel to become “a peculiar treasure” and to sanctify themselves in preparation to meet Him (see Exodus 19:4–6, 10–11, 17). Jehovah gave Israel “tables of stone, and a law, and commandments” (Exodus 24:12), and they covenanted with God, saying, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8; see also 24:3). The Lord promised if they were obedient to their covenants, He would dwell among them (see Exodus 29:45–46). However, when Israel witnessed “the glory of the Lord” (Exodus 24:16) upon Mount Sinai, they were afraid, stood afar off, and eventually rebelled against God (see Exodus 20:18–21; 32:1–6).
A second example in the Old Testament is of King Solomon building a house unto the Lord (see 1 Kings 6:11–13). The ark of the covenant and other sacred vessels were placed in “the most holy place” (1 Kings 8:6), and “the glory of the Lord … filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11). Solomon offered a dedicatory prayer and asked for temporal and spiritual blessings to be bestowed upon repentant and prayerful Israel. The Lord heard their prayers of supplication and promised Israel great blessings if they were obedient. Nevertheless, Israel forsook the Lord and worshipped false gods. (See 1 Kings 9–11.)
Other prophets in the Old Testament sought diligently to teach and sanctify Israel so “that they might behold the face of God; but they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:23–24).
Repeatedly, the children of Israel were unbelieving, afraid, or unwilling to change; desired an easier path; had their hearts set on worldly things; or willingly rebelled against the Lord and His prophets. Every time Israel turned away from God and forsook their covenants and ordinances, the Lord’s “anger was kindled against them” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:24), and they could not receive the fulness of His glory.
The Lord’s efforts to gather His people and bless them through temple covenants and ordinances also are recounted in the New Testament and Book of Mormon. The Savior lamented, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37; see also 3 Nephi 10:4–6).
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “What was the object of gathering the … people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation … that they might … receive revelations from heaven, and be perfected in the things of the kingdom of God—but they would not.”2
The Lord desires to gather His children in this dispensation and has revealed “things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, … all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:41–42). He encourages all of us to prepare to return to His presence—made possible through His atoning sacrifice: “Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:22).
Temples are the most holy of all places of worship. Everything that is learned and all that is done in latter-day temples emphasize Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and His role as our Savior. The covenants received and the ordinances performed in temples are essential to the sanctifying of our hearts and for the ultimate exaltation of God’s sons and daughters.
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–21).
Sacred ordinances that are received worthily and remembered continually open the heavenly channels through which the power of godliness can flow into our lives. By receiving priesthood ordinances and making and keeping sacred covenants, we are yoked to and with the Savior (see Matthew 11:28–30)3 and can be blessed with strength beyond our own to overcome the temptations and challenges of mortality as we prepare to return to God’s presence.
Two of the important blessings received from temple covenants and ordinances are increasing joy and power.
The Redeemer is the ultimate and only source of enduring joy. True joy comes from exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, worthily receiving and faithfully honoring sacred covenants and ordinances, and striving to become deeply converted to the Savior and His purposes.
Alma taught his son that greater holiness and joy in our lives is made possible as we are cleansed and sanctified through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Only by having faith in our Redeemer, repenting, and keeping covenants are we able to receive the lasting happiness we all desire to experience and retain.4
Please note the promise of joy from President Russell M. Nelson: “We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”5
In our day as the powers of darkness rage “and threaten our peace to destroy,”6 protective power is available to each of us in and through temple covenants and ordinances (see Doctrine and Covenants 38:32; 43:16; 76:39–42; 105:11–12, 33; 138:12–15). Nephi saw in vision and “beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended … upon the covenant people of the Lord, … and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Nephi 14:14).
In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith petitioned the Father “that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power” and “that no combination of wickedness shall … rise up and prevail over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house” (Doctrine and Covenants 109:22, 26).
Each of us should strive to learn about and better understand the protecting power of covenants and ordinances available in the house of the Lord—so that we as disciples may “stand in holy places, and … not be moved” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32) and “withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13).
I invite you to diligently learn about and appreciate the eternal importance of temple covenants, temple ordinances, and temple worship as you strive to come unto the Savior and receive the blessings made possible through His Atonement. And I joyfully testify that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, live and Their greatest desire is for us to return to Their presence and partake of Their glory (see Doctrine and Covenants 97:16; 101:38).