Temple Ordinances and the Covenant Path
Participating in temple ordinances is a wonderful and important part of your commitment to follow Jesus Christ. It is also an essential step toward someday returning to live with Him and our Heavenly Father. As you prepare for these sacred experiences, there is much you can do to make sure you are ready. Your preparation should include prayerfully studying the gospel of Jesus Christ and applying those teachings in your life. The foundation of your preparation for the temple will be to faithfully honor the sacred covenants you have already made.
Jesus taught, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). The “way” we follow is His gospel and the “gate” we enter is baptism. Baptism is the first ordinance of the gospel and a necessary step along your covenant path back to God.
After baptism, other essential gospel ordinances that will mark your way include receiving the Holy Ghost, being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), receiving the temple endowment, and being sealed in the temple. These sacred priesthood ordinances lead to the greatest blessings our Heavenly Father offers to His children: the opportunity to live again with Him and our families after this earthly life.
You may feel uncertain or even overwhelmed as you prepare to receive temple ordinances. Before your first visit, it is natural to wonder what the temple ceremonies will be like. And though there are some things that will be new to you, most of what happens in the temple should feel very familiar because all of it is centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You will not be required to know or remember everything when you visit the temple. There will always be temple workers to assist you all along the way. These workers are loving and kind. They are there to help you feel welcome and comfortable in the house of the Lord.
Through your own baptism, you have already learned some things about ordinances and covenants. For example, you know that your baptism included a symbolic ceremony with spiritual meanings: you dressed in white and entered the water, a priesthood holder raised his arm and spoke the words of the ordinance, and then you were “buried” in the water and arose as a “new” person—clean and pure and ready to continue your life as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. You then received the gift of the Holy Ghost as hands were laid upon your head.
When you were baptized, you entered into a covenant with God—you promised that you were willing to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end. As a member of His Church, you symbolically renew your baptismal covenant and all other covenants through the ordinance of the sacrament.
Temple ordinances are also simple, sacred, and symbolic. You will dress in white, be taught about God’s plan, and participate in sacred ceremonies in which you will be promised blessings as you commit to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.
Remember that everything in the temple points to the Savior and draws us closer to Him and our Heavenly Father. Everything is intended to be uplifting and inspiring.
Clean Hands and a Pure Heart
In the book of Psalms, we are asked, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3–4). The “hill” of the Lord is His temple, and two qualifications are mentioned for those who wish to enter it—clean hands and a pure heart.
Speaking about this passage, Elder David A. Bednar said: “Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better. All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us” (“Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 82).
As you prepare to go to the temple, you will have the opportunity to visit with your bishop (and then your stake president, if you are receiving your endowment or being sealed). They will each conduct a temple recommend interview. You will be able to share your thoughts and feelings with them, and they will offer inspired counsel. As you answer their questions, you will also affirm that you have “clean hands and a pure heart”—in other words, that you are worthy and willing to enter the temple, participate in sacred ordinances, and honor your covenants.
Sacred Covenants Are Personal and Powerful
As you continue along the covenant path to the temple, you will start to better appreciate the blessings of sacred covenants in your life. Here are some things to remember as you consider the importance of covenants:
1. Covenants deepen your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
A covenant is often defined as a sacred promise between God and His children. While this definition is accurate, it is not complete. A covenant is more than a contract; it is a personal commitment that defines and deepens our relationship with God. Covenants form a sacred bond between God and His children. They renew our spirits, change our hearts, and help us become united with Him. As you remain faithful to your covenants, your devotion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will increase. Your feelings of gratitude will swell. Your capacity to love and serve others will grow. And the blessings promised in the temple will flow into your everyday life more abundantly.
2. Covenants help you focus on things that matter most.
Throughout your life, you will face choices that require your time, your energy, and your resources—and many good choices will compete with other worthwhile ones. How do you choose?
President Dallin H. Oaks counseled: “Just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. … Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives. … Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families” (“Good, Better, Best,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 104, 107).
Through covenants, God helps us understand principles, practices, and promises that He deems are best for us. We can certainly gain a more inspired perspective on priorities and make wiser choices when we focus first on those sacred commitments we have made with God.
3. Temple ordinances and covenants bless you and others.
When you receive your endowment or are sealed to your spouse or family, you will leave the temple with promises from the Lord directly to you. Not just promises made to some ancient prophet or people, but promises made to you. You should seek to understand them and their significance in your life.
After you have received ordinances for yourself, you can return to the temple to receive ordinances on behalf of others. Your service will bless their lives and also remind you of your own promises and blessings.
Strive to Remember and Return
As you prepare to participate in temple ordinances, remember that God is your Eternal Father and Jesus Christ is your Redeemer. They know you personally. They love you completely. As you faithfully honor your covenants, the sacred temple ordinances will provide blessings in this life and the next.
Can you remember a time when you felt particularly close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? Those feelings will grow in the temple. The temple is set apart from the distractions, stresses, and negative influences of life. In this holy place, you will be reminded that you and your loved ones are here on earth for a grand and noble purpose. You will find greater peace, comfort, guidance, and hope.
You will also find that the blessings of the temple can enter your heart and lift your soul. As you continue to follow God and Jesus Christ and return to the temple as often as you’re able, you will understand more about Them and Their love for you and others. Even after you leave the temple and return to everyday life, the Holy Ghost will continue to teach you—reminding you of what you experienced, what you felt, and how you can live as God wants you to.
As you prepare to enter the temple, remember that God wants you close to Him, and He has provided His temple as a special place to draw nearer to Him. Your eternal joy is also His joy. He gave us the blessings of the temple to lead us back to Him. Ask for His help as you prepare and share your journey with Him. He will guide you. He will inspire you. And He will help you along the way.