Temples are the most sacred places on earth for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unlike neighborhood meetinghouses, which are open to the public and used for a variety or purposes, temples are open only to Latter-day Saints deemed worthy to enter, where they receive instruction and make sacred covenants with God.
“Sacred, not secret” is a popular aphorism to describe what takes place in temples. Many Latter-day Saints are surprised by their experience receiving their temple endowment due to how closely we hold the information on what takes place inside temple walls.
But it doesn’t quite need to be that way. For years, we’ve seen the Church open up little by little about temples, recognizing that while there will always be components of the temple experience that we do not discuss outside of the walls of the temple, other areas can be discussed more openly so long as we do so with the appropriate respect. The Church’s public explanation of temple garments and temple clothing a few years ago is a great example of this effort.
The Church describes the endowment as “literally a gift from God whereby He bestows sacred blessings upon you.” The endowment comprises a roughly 90-minute session where participants learn more about our eternal purpose. Along the way, they make covenants with God.
Recently, the Church updated new sections in the all-inclusive General Handbook that cover some aspects of temple covenants, specifically those entered into during the temple endowment.
Although some of the symbols and particulars of temple covenants are not appropriate for discussion outside the temple, it’s wonderful that the Church is now including the actual covenants in the Handbook.
These covenants are more straightforward than you might expect if you’ve never been to the temple:
- Living the law of obedience and striving to keep Heavenly Father’s commandments
- Obeying the law of sacrifice
- Obeying the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ
- Keeping the law of chastity
- Helping the Lord in His work
A little less mysterious than you might have thought, aren’t they?
Many who attend the temple for the first time admit feeling unprepared for what happens in the endowment. Temple preparation courses—a requirement to enter the temple—are sometimes insufficient in helping Church members understand the covenants expected of them in the temple. How wonderful is it, then, that these promises to God are now available for all to understand prior to attending the temple. Now new temple patrons can receive their endowment fully understanding the covenants they will make beforehand.
This is purely anecdotal, but many Latter-day Saints can tell you stories of bishops who would not let single women of a certain age (i.e. too young) or young men who have yet to receive a mission call attend the temple. The handbook clarifies who is eligible to receive their endowment:
- They are at least 18 years of age
- They have completed or are no longer attending high school, secondary school or an equivalent
- One full year has passed since they were confirmed a member of the Church
- They “feel a desire to receive and honor sacred temple covenants throughout their lives.”