Ponder your divine worth
Do you realize that you are a daughter or son of a GOD? Do you realize you have a divine inheritance beyond all worth stored up for you in the hereafter? Do you realize what a treasure you are to our Heavenly Parents? As you go through the temple for the first time, you will have the opportunity to learn more about what is promised to you contingent upon your obedience in keeping your sacred covenants. And let me tell you, they are awe-inspiring. But you certainly don't have to wait to go through the temple to realize that you have such infinite worth! It is so easy for young and old alike to feel worthless, hopeless, and alone in this mortal existence. I know I have felt that way on many occasions, and those feelings often prompt me to attend the temple. Those feelings don't always go away immediately-- they are important to this mortal existence-- but I am always buoyed up with a new and resolved strength to endure.
I've written before about how I often felt like negative feelings aren't allowed in the temple. At first, I felt like I was being sinful and selfish if I didn't check my insecurities, worries, and doubts at the door. I wish I would have known that we must bring these feelings to the temple. The temple is not a place for perfect people, but a place for imperfect people to seek guidance, answers, or just a plain-old pat on the back from Heavenly Father that things are going to be okay. In receiving our own endowment, we are reminded that we are heavenly beings consigned to the worries and stress of moral life only for a short time. To me, nothing reminds me of this principle more than when I am able to put upon the robes of the holy priesthood within the temple. And let me tell you, I have truly never felt more beautiful-- never felt more queenly-- than when I am wearing my temple dress and temple clothing.
Put on your "Jewish thinking-cap"
The temple is definitely different from regular Sunday worship, that is no secret. As endowed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have the opportunity to wear sacred garments and clothing in the temple and to make glorious covenants with our Father in Heaven. Out of context, these things might be a little out of the ordinary, but with the Spirit of the Lord so powerfully present in the holy temple, they are anything but. Nevertheless, the temple can feel a little foreign at first.
The best advice I received before I entered the temple came from a trusted institute teacher and friend. He recommended that before we enter the temple-- be it our first time or hundredth time-- we "put on our Jewish thinking-caps." The temple endowment is very Old Testament-esque, and perhaps something you may not be used to. Try to put yourself if the shoes of those Jews who traveled through the desert, having to build and transport a mobile temple for 40 years, and you may gain a greater appreciation for the process of making covenants in the temple.
Confession: I was pretty underwhelmed with the rumored "weirdness" of the temple. In fact, I was almost disappointed that it wasn't more mystical. Some components may certainly feel that way at first, but honestly nothing more "ritualistic" than what I experienced attending mass and receiving my Catholic ordinances as a little girl. Sure, some things will probably feel foreign, but you, a child of a GOD, have the power to receive answers to your questions as you prayerfully and patiently seek answers.
But if you still feel weird and uncomfortable...
It is certainly not uncommon for some individuals to leave the temple after their first endowment session totally confused. And in some cases, no amount of preparation can prevent that. Heavenly Father is more than aware of this, which is why he has provided us the gift of personal revelation. Sometimes, the things that confuse us the most lead us to our greatest experiences with receiving information straight from the Spirit. If you leave the temple with unresolved questions or even feelings of uncomfortableness, think of this as an opportunity to flex your revelation-muscle.
The thing that helped me the most with my unresolved questions was attending the temple as frequently as possible ("frequently" is a relative term-- it's however often you prayerfully decide is necessary) . Note that this is not simply to numb yourself to the parts you don't understand or don't like or make you uncomfortable. REPEAT: THIS IS NOT TO NUMB YOURSELF. That approach will resolve essentially nothing. Rather, attending an endowment session or performing vicarious initiatories regularly gives you the opportunity to learn in the Lord's university in a close-to-perfect classroom. Actively engage in meditation and prayer as your ponder your questions. Go to the temple with specific questions or concerns and eventually they will be resolved, one way or another.
If nothing else, have the faith and courage to recognize that some of those questions may not be answered until the next life-- and that is okay. Notice the components that make you feel happy, hopefully, or at peace. I'm certainly not recommending you ignore your questions, but I know I got so overwhelmed with my questions at first that I forgot to notice my other prayers being answered right before my very eyes.
And, of course, the Logistics
I always feel the need to add this part for all my convert friends who, like me, were largely flying blind, but I certainly hope this is useful for everyone preparing to enter the temple!
- You and your escort (a trusted, endowed friend or family member of the same gender) should arrive at the temple about 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Depending on your temple and if you're in the thick of wedding season, plan on making your appointment 2-4 weeks in advance. Go straight to the office area of the temple right behind the check-in desk and they'll get you off to the right start.
- Your escort can be your parent, your sibling, your young men's/women's leader, a trusted older endowed friend, really anyone with whom you would like to share this special occasion.
- When you talk about "receiving your endowment," note that it is singular-- you only have one endowment, not multiple ("endowments") as it is sometimes referred to.
- Upon arrival, you should have your new, unlimited-access temple recommend and your temple bag with your temple clothes and your temple packet. If you don't have these things, you are more than welcome to rent them once inside. You should also bring with you an unopened set of garments. The bag, clothes, packet, and garments can all be purchased at your local distribution center (for more on garments, click here).
- FOR GIRLS: If you're going through the temple in preparation to be sealed, I would highly recommend asking about having your future spouse be a part of your first endowment session. It means that you cannot be endowed until the week of your sealing in most temples, but it is an experience that I have absolutely treasured in my marriage.
- Note that although we are instructed to keep the covenants we make in the temple sacred, you can always ask questions-- whether they be spiritual or temporal-- within the celestial room. Additionally, I have found the temple workers to be a wealth of knowledge!
It has been nearly two years since I first entered the Lord's Holy House. As I reflect back on the past several months, I have been absolutely floored by the power I have received to face the trials of life head-on. I bear witness that temple ordinances are divinely inspired. They give us the opportunity to better receive all the light and knowledge the restored gospel has to offer. I echo the prophets and apostles when I challenge all of you to make the temple a priority in your lives. I have truly never felt closer to my Heavenly Parents than within the doors of the temple. I testify that continual preparation before entering the temple for the first time or thousandth time prepares us to receive the answers we most desperately seek.