I’ve been given the opportunity today to speak with my fellow Primary presidency members about families and the temple. We’ve separated the topic into three parts and the portion I’ve chosen is “Teaching Your Children About the Temple.”
As I was pondering what I would share for this talk, I had a song from the album, “As Temples Fill the Earth,” running through my mind. The song is called, “Teach Me About the Temple,” written by Lynne Perry Christofferson. It’s sung by a child and these are the words:
I see the light of the temple at night
As it shines it reminds me
I must prepare if I hope to go there
But I need someone to guide me
Please teach me about the temple
Please show me how to prepare
Then all of my life I will try
To be worthy to enter there
Please teach me about the temple
I want to know so that someday I may go
I see the light of the temple at night
And its glow is a symbol
Helping me think of the safety and peace
That come from the holy temple
I believe our children feel this in their hearts. They do want to know more about the temple. It’s our responsibility to help them understand its importance and holiness so that they can enter one day and make sacred covenants themselves. They need our guidance and help to do it. I’d like to share some ideas I had in how we can teach them about the temple.
First, we need to understand for ourselves the importance of the temple and develop a testimony of its sacredness. Some of you may know that, although I grew up attending church I wasn’t baptized until I was 18, out of respect for my father who wasn’t a member. It was difficult seeing my friends plan for temple baptism trips knowing that I could not go. I remember being a young woman and taking a visit to the Los Angeles temple grounds, looking at the huge doors wondering if I’d ever be able to go inside. I set in my heart the goal of becoming worthy to enter. My testimony of the peace and the blessings of the temple have only increased as I’ve strived to make temple worship a priority in my life.
The next is simply teaching by example. We need to attend regularly and allow opportunities to take our children to visit. Let them see us planning to go, making the sacrifices in our schedules, and walking out the door in our “Sunday best” to worship in the House of the Lord. If it is practical for your situation, I highly suggest going as a family and staying the night at the temple apartments located behind the mission office. Or, if you only go down for the day, allow the chance for your children to accompany you occasionally so that they may walk the temple grounds and establish a personal connection with the temple. In a story much like my own that I just shared, President Monson told of an experience that provided a foundation for one young girl’s testimony. “He recounted the late Elder Matthew Cowley’s story about a grandfather who took his small granddaughter on a birthday visit to the Salt Lake Temple grounds. With permission of the groundskeeper, they walked to the large doors of the temple. He suggested that she place her hand on the temple wall and then on the door, saying tenderly to her, ‘Remember that this day you touched the temple. One day you will enter this door.’ His special gift to his granddaughter was an appreciation for the House of the Lord. Likewise, counseled Elder Monson, ‘As we touch the temple, the temple will touch us.’”
Also we need to help our youth keep schedules clear enough to attend temple baptisms regularly and to make goals now to receive their own endowment and plan for temple marriage.
We must make our home a place where the temple is prominent. In the April 2011 General Conference, President Monson gave a great example of how to easily do this: “To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.” I plead with you to teach your children of the temple’s importance.”
Another way is to use Family Home Evening lessons as an opportunity to teach about the purposes of the temple and the feelings we experience there. In a 1995 Ensign 1st Presidency message, President Howard W. Hunter shared some important counsel about the clear messages we should be teaching. He said, “Let us share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple. And let us teach them more earnestly and more comfortably the things we can appropriately say about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing. Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call. Let us plan for and teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and wife.”
While the idea of talking about the specifics of the temple would be inappropriate, there are things we can share that will help our children understand why we attend the temple. In a fabulous talk called, “Preparing Our Families for the Temple,” Sister Carol B. Thomas addresses that concern and suggests how we can sensitively, and respectfully, prepare our children to know about the teachings of the temple. She said, “…in a family setting, there are many precious truths that, with sensitivity and common sense, will help prepare our children for the temple.
• The sacred nature of the temple clothing. In the temples all are dressed in white. White is the symbol of purity.
• The temple is the Lord’s classroom. President Hinckley has said, “[The temple] becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God” (Teachings, 635).
• What it means to be worthy for the temple. Can we teach our children that receiving one’s endowment and the wearing of the sacred garment will not require a change of wardrobe or lifestyle if the principles of temple worthiness are understood and lived in their earlier years? A young woman who wears knee-length skirts will not have to buy a new wardrobe after she receives her endowment in the temple. A young man who anticipates going to the temple will respect the Church’s moral standards in his social behavior.
• Understanding gospel language. What do the words endowment, ordinances, sealings, and keys really mean? The story is told of a little boy who overheard his parents discussing doing temple sealings. He asked, “Are you going to do the walls next week?”
I especially love the idea of defining what it means to be worthy and how it will prepare them for temple attendance, helping children understand that it’s something they can obtain and not just for those that are “perfect.”
And though FHE is a great venue for discussing such ideas, it definitely is not the only opportunity we should take. In that same talk, sister Carol B. Thomas reminded us of this fact. She said, “Where may we teach our children? Family home evening is the formal setting, but there are so many more places where we may talk about our spiritual feelings for the temple. One of my favorite times was when my children were in bed at night. Occasionally I would lie on their bed and tell them of spiritual things. There in the peace and the quiet, the sweet Spirit can bear testimony to their heart and soul that the things you are saying are true.” I have experienced that and know that such a time can be a powerful testimony builder for both child and parent.
This suggestion made me think of another way we can teach about the temple: through music. Testimonies grow as we provide opportunities to sing and listen to the hymns regularly, especially those temple-related songs from the Children’s Songbook. I think most of us are familiar with the song “I Love to See the Temple.” It’s a valuable tool to help them understand about preparing for the temple starting now. But we don’t have to wait until we’re in Primary to sing it. For example, I’ve turned it into a lullaby, singing it to my children as they’re ending the day. I’ve also made adjustments to time spent in the car by turning off the radio and listening to two-year-old Maddie sing the song herself from the back seat and then asking me to sing it over and over again. How can I deny her request to sing both verses (seriously) 10 times in a row when I know it’s an opportunity to testify of the temple? Every time they hear the words I hope that the message sinks in a little deeper. I pray that the songs strengthen their testimonies and that they can draw on the lyrics in times of spiritual need.
Unfortunately, I can’t complete the other portion of my talk assignment: I’m not able to relate to you any of what our Primary children experienced at yesterday’s temple outing. Warren came down with the stomach flu and we had to cancel our plans to attend. Warren and Maddie had been so excited to go—Warren had been talking about it since we first started announcing the activity—and they couldn’t wait to spend the night in the temple patron apartments. When I told Warren that we wouldn’t be able to go he burst into tears. He was devastated to miss this opportunity. His disappointment was heartbreaking. But at the same time, I felt grateful. I was glad to know that our family trips to the temple were that important to him. It’s that kind of enthusiasm about the temple that I’m hoping to instill in my children, and I hope it lasts a lifetime.
I know that the temple is a sacred, holy place, even the House of the Lord. It is a source of great peace on the earth. Our children deserve to know early on about the importance of the temple. They must begin preparing from the beginning so that they can make the decisions all along that will lead them there. I have seen in my own family the joy that has come from loving and respecting the temple. I pray that as we strive to teach our children the value of temple preparation, we will become a temple-going people who serve the Lord more fully and that our families will be strengthened as a result.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.