In our continuing series on the new Virtue value program for the Young Women in the Mormon Church, we today focus on the requirement to prepare to go to the temple. Many people wonder about Mormon temples and what happens inside them. What are young girls expected to do to prepare to attend?
The third requirement in the Virtue value is for girls to prepare to attend the temple when they’re grown. As teenagers, they can enter one portion of the temple to participate in a special part of it relating to baptism, but they cannot yet go into the other portions or participate in the other ordinances. However, this is a time of preparation.
Temples are very different from the church’s regular houses of worship. Regular meetinghouses are open to the public and Sunday services are held there. Temples are not used for weekly worship services and are open only to those who have prepared themselves for the experience.
What goes on there isn’t secret, but it is sacred. Sacred things are not to be lightly discussed and are difficult to understand without the proper background. Church members must be adults to attend, with limited exceptions as mentioned above, and must have been a member of the church for at least one year. Through personal interviews, they demonstrate their ability to live the gospel at a high level.
Gordon B. Hinckley, a previous president of the church explained temples this way:
The work that goes on in these buildings sets forth God’s eternal purposes with reference to man-God’s child and creation. For the most part, temple work is concerned with the family, with each of us as members of God’s eternal family and with each of us as members of earthly families. It is concerned with the sanctity and eternal nature of the marriage covenant and family relationships.
It affirms that each man and woman born into the world is a child of God, endowed with something of His divine nature. The repetition of these basic and fundamental teachings has a salutary effect upon those who receive them, for as the doctrine is enunciated in language both beautiful and impressive, the participant comes to realize that since every man and woman is a child of Heavenly Father, then each is a member of a divine family; hence, every person is his brother or sister. (Why These Temples? by President Gordon B. Hinckley)
Another part of the temple activity is the making of high level covenants. While members of the church who have been baptized have already promised God they will do these things, which largely involve responsibility to the family, they now promise to keep them at a higher level and to accept greater penalty from God if they’re violated. Marriages are also performed there, and those married in this way are married for eternity, not until death.
Because the promises made are very serious covenants, a person must be living to a standard that makes it likely he can honor the covenants completely. This takes time and preparation. It also requires a certain level of knowledge.
A person who decides to major in physics will not begin his study in the highest level class meant for graduate students. It’s likely he will begin with a survey class which introduces the important concepts. This is comparable to taking the discussions led by the missionaries for those considering joining the church or who have recently joined. Then he will take more detailed classes, but still containing more introductory material. This is comparable to the Gospel Essentials course, a Sunday School class for new members of the church. It is only after considerable study and time spent in a lab actually doing what the student has learned that he will be admitted to the higher level classes. These classes will presume you come to them with a solid foundation in the basics and know how to carry out responsible experiments. A church member will come to the temple with a high level of gospel knowledge and considerable experience living the commandments of God. He is now ready to take on more challenging commitments and to understand more detailed instruction on the basic principles.
To help the teenagers prepare, they are asked, as part of completing the Virtue Value requirements, to read from the book of Alma, a part of the Book of Mormon. Chapter five teaches readers how to be saved. The girls are asked to note the questions Alma asked those who were listening to his sermon and to apply them to their own lives. This helps them to do a personal evaluation of their own level of obedience to God’s commandments and to set goals for increasing their love and obedience.
Alma asks the following questions:
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
The Bible teaches “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, KJV of the Bible) As the girls increase their ability to live the gospel, they demonstrate the depth of their love for God. Good works alone can’t save them; they must be done out of love for God and Jesus Christ, and are therefore a reflection of that love and their commitment to God.
Following their study, the girls are asked to set personal goals that will help them improve how they live their lives. By studying for themselves, selecting their own goals, and working out how to accomplish them, they prepare themselves for adulthood. They make a personal commitment to follow God’s teachings and this strengthens their testimonies and their faithfulness.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.