Temple Ordinances and the Covenant Path
"The temple lies at the center of strengthening our faith and spiritual fortitude because the Savior and His doctrine are the very heart of the temple. Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ. His essential ordinances bind us to Him through sacred priesthood covenants. Then, as we keep our covenants, He endows us with His healing, strengthening power." (President Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” General Conference, October 2021)
Receiving temple ordinances and keeping covenants is a vital part of your commitment to follow Jesus Christ. It also helps you prepare to someday return and live with Him and our Heavenly Father. You can do much to make sure you are ready. Studying the gospel of Jesus Christ and applying those teachings in your life should be included. Keeping the covenants you have already made is key to your temple readiness.
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 gate we enter is baptism and the way we follow is His gospel. Baptism is the first ordinance of the gospel and a needed step along the covenant path back to God.
Other ordinances will also guide you along the way. These 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 His children—the joy of living with Him and our families after this earthly life.
You may feel unsure or even overwhelmed as you prepare for the temple. Before your first visit, it is normal to wonder what the temple ceremonies will be like. Some things will be new to you, but much of what happens in the temple should feel very familiar because it all centers on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You do not need to know or remember everything when you go to the temple. Temple workers are always there to help you. These volunteers are loving and kind. They are there to help you feel welcome and comfortable in the house of the Lord.
Because you have been baptized, you already know some things about ordinances and covenants. You know that they have symbolic and spiritual meanings. For example, you learned that baptism symbolizes a cleansing and rebirth. You dressed in white and entered the water. A priesthood holder raised his arm and spoke the words of the ordinance. You were then buried (immersed) in the water and arose as a new person. You were clean and pure and ready to live your life as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. After you were baptized, you received the gift of the Holy Ghost as hands were laid upon your head.
When you were baptized, you made 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 when you receive the sacrament.
Temple ordinances follow a similar pattern. You will dress in white, be taught about God’s plan, and participate in ceremonies that are sacred and symbolic. You will also be promised blessings as you covenant to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.
Remember that everything in the temple points us to the Savior and our Heavenly Father. Everything is meant to uplift and inspire.
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. Two qualities are mentioned to enter—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 for the temple, you will visit with your bishop. You will also meet with 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, you will state that you are worthy and willing to enter the temple, participate in sacred ordinances, and keep your covenants.
Sacred Covenants Are Personal and Powerful
As you progress along the covenant path to the temple, you will start to appreciate the blessings of sacred covenants in your life even more. Here are some things to consider about 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 are faithful to your covenants, your devotion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will increase. Your feelings of gratitude will increase. Your ability to love and serve others will grow. And the blessings promised in the temple will flow into your life.
2. Covenants help you focus on things that matter most.
During your life, you will face choices that require your time, your energy, and your resources. Many good choices will compete with other worthwhile ones. How do you choose?
President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “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 knows are best for us. We can gain more insight 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 meaning in your life.
After you have received ordinances for yourself, you can return to the temple to receive ordinances on behalf of others who have died. You have a special responsiblity to seek out your ancestors and ensure that they receive temple ordinances. Your service will bless their lives and remind you of your own promises and blessings.
Strive to Remember and Return
As you prepare to take part 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 keep your covenants, you will be blessed in this life and the next.
Can you remember a time when you felt very 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 are 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 will enter your heart and lift your soul. Return to the temple as often as you can. As you do, you will understand more about the love God and Jesus Christ have for you and all people. Even after you leave the temple, the Holy Ghost will continue to teach you. He will remind you of what you experienced, what you felt, and how you can live as God wants.
As you prepare for the temple, remember that God wants you close to Him. 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.