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"Understanding Your Endowment" Book Review

As the time approached for me to enter the temple before I got married, I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect and I don't like feeling clueless. I had read The Holy Temple by President Boyd K. Packer the year before, but didn't find it particularly helpful.

I took a temple prep class while engaged and learned some of the covenants I would make. I knew some other things from what people had said here and there under various circumstances. The night before my endowment, my mom showed me her ceremonial clothing so I would know what each piece was. I didn't even know they existed. (The Church has since made the clothing public, as shown in this official video.)

Despite all this and being raised in an active, gospel-study-focused family, my first time going through the temple was somewhat strange. It did not feel wrong, but it did feel unusual at times. Besides baptisms, the activities in the temple are only done there, so there is no way to prepare for them in advance. However, there are ways to prepare so that the temple ceremonies don't feel surprising, odd, or unappealing. Cory B. Jensen's book, Understanding Your Endowment, achieves that goal perfectly.

Some of you may worry that such a book might be inappropriate or breaking covenants, but Brother Jensen shows it is possible to thoroughly examine all aspects of covenants and ordinances in an enlightening way without disclosing confidential information. As he noted in the book, President Ezra Taft Benson expressed
Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren. As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into. I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple.
What the Mormons like best about their temples is the obligation of secrecy that exonerates them from ever having to speak, and hence to think, about what they have learned by the ordinances and teachings. So strict are they in observing the confidential nature of those teachings that they, for the most part, scrupulously avoid dropping so much as a hint to outsiders by putting any of them into practice.
We need to be more open and vocal about the parts of the temple we can discuss. Doing so will better prepare those who have yet to go to the temple and will help those who have gone recently to better understand what they experienced. 

This book is not just for newbies, however. Temple "veterans" also will gain a better understanding of their endowment and learn how to gain even more with every visit. Even those with vast temple experience have more to learn. Elder Boyd K. Packer revealed this in an experience he had in the Salt Lake Temple with President David O. McKay:
Not long before he died, when on infrequent occasions he would come to our meetings, he stood one day in the meeting and began to discuss the temple ceremony, the endowment. I will never forget! He stood there in that tall majesty that was typical of him. He had his big, bony hands on his chest and looked at the ceiling as he began to quote the endowment. (We were assembled there in the upper room [of the temple] and it was not inappropriate to discuss that there.) He quoted it at some great length. We were enthralled and inspired and knew we were witnessing a great moment. Then he stopped and looked again at the ceiling for a moment or two. Then he said, “I think I’m finally beginning to understand.” That was very comforting to me. After nearly sixty-four years as an Apostle, he still had things that he was learning. Then we knew we were in the presence of not only the teacher who was teaching, but of a student who was learning.
Understanding Your Endowment has reignited my fire to return to the temple and go regularly. It has made me want to delve more into the symbolism there for deeper, broader understanding and application. I'm excited to allow my temple visits to be more revelatory to me, both in general spiritual matters and in my personal journey back to Heavenly Father. I recommend all members to read this book to obtain a new perspective on the temple and the blessings it brings.

For a more standard review, visit my blog The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.


Anonymous said…
We can talk about how the temple is a place of learning, that we make covenants there, and that we are promised blessings. There we receive ordinances that will lead us to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. One of the ordinances is the endowment, where we learn about the purpose of life and how the atonement of Jesus Christ works for our benefit. We can talk about our experience of peace, comfort, and inspiration that we can receive at the temple.

We may describe the rooms (and show pictures) and explain how the celestial room represents our living in the presence of God again. Sharing how the sealing ordinance enables families to live together forever (if we keep the commandments, accept the ordinances performed there, and are faithful to all our covenants) can be so uplifting to both the sharer and the listener. And, of course explaining about the salvation of the dead is always interesting to others, because it is usually a completely new concept to them.

There is an article by President Boyd K. Packer discussing this in the October 2010 Ensign.


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