Wednesday, after an inspired and somewhat difficult journey getting there, I got to go through the temple for the very first time to become endowed. To be there with my family around me, particularly my grandpa, who struggles with various health issues and essentially fasted all day so his dietary problems wouldn't keep him away, was probably the best part.
It's funny, because before I went through, I thought I knew exactly what it would be like. I thought that since I had been told that I was prepared, I knew everything about the temple and what goes on inside. Being the little know-it-all that I sometimes can be, I thought I'd be the first person to walk in and walk out saying, "Yep. I knew it would be like that."
Yeah, I was wrong.
The temple, to put it in simple terms, is something else. People told me it would be a new(ish) experience. They were right. People told me I might be overwhelmed. They were right. And even though I had some idea of how things would go and was given the same advice repeatedly, there was still this moment of, "Woah. This is different. How do I adjust to this?"
In spite of all of those feelings, I felt a confirming peace that the temple is a remarkable place. I also learned quite a few things in the first half hour alone. Obviously, I don't know a whole lot yet, but I'm excited to learn. I already have so many questions and a burning desire to understand.
For my friends who are planning on going through the temple or thinking about it, I'd just say that it's really an incredible experience. I'm not the greatest advice giver sometimes, especially since I've only been through the temple once thus far, but here are five things that I feel are really good to know beforehand so that your experience is beautiful and memorable and maybe a little less overwhelming than it might be.
1. If you are always striving to keep the commandments, you're going to be okay.
Growing up, I was always told that the best way to prepare for the temple is to live up to my standards and do my best to remain faithful and obedient. Being the ignorant kid that I was, I always used to think, "But there has to be more to it than just that!" In reality, that's pretty accurate. If you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and cementing a firm testimony of the gospel, you'll do just fine. You might feel a little inadequate at times during your preparation--I know I did--but when the time comes to go through, you'll recognize moments when you were preparing without even knowing you were. Your efforts to be a disciple, obedient and steadfast, will give you great confidence and comfort in the temple.
2. You'll want to focus on how you feel, not what you're thinking.
I think I may have been guilty of thinking too much when I went through. Instead of focusing on what your head is saying, like I was (and my head was basically just trying to wrap itself around everything), focus on what your heart is saying.
At one point during my experience, my heart was nearly bursting out of my chest, surrounded in a deep, comfortable warmth that could have only come from the Holy Ghost. In spite of the newness of everything, I felt a confident peace. When I visited the Sacred Grove two years ago, I felt it, and when I was in the temple, I felt it. It was the same exact feeling. The common denominator between those two places is that God had been there. I firmly believe that God is in His temples.
So feel for Him. Reach for His reaching, as one of my favorite hymns says. You'll find Him.
3. You may not fully recognize the power and wonder of the temple until you go back again and again, and that's pretty normal, from what I can tell.
I'll admit it. I was kind of overwhelmed by everything. I've already said that. It hit me, though, as I was leaving with my mom and dad that the temple is a lot like that new job or that new class you attend for the first time. Imagine getting the whole HR schpill and tour and outline of your responsibilities as a new employee, or getting that nine page syllabus that lists the professor's expectations. It's overwhelming, right? You feel like a fish out of water who will never learn everything, right?
But then what happens as you keep going to class or keep going to work? You start to get it. It becomes meaningful. You get to the point where you aren't overwhelmed but are instead fully open to the new things you're constantly learning.
The temple, my brain said, is just like that. And then things kind of clicked.
Maybe the best comparison I can give is between the temple and the book of Isaiah. When you first read Isaiah, it's really different, right? It's like a new language almost. But the Savior commands us to study the words of Isaiah, just as we're commanded to visit the temple often. When we keep studying Isaiah, we understand the symbols and this higher, beautiful language. Well, I figure that that's what the temple is like, too.
So if you're really overwhelmed the first time, just keep going. That's what I plan on doing.
4. There's literally no reason to be scared.
The world likes to tell us (or at least assume) that temples are like massive haunted houses where there's an awful surprise around every turn. They like to throw it in our faces that since temple work is so "secretive" (their word, not ours), it's got to be bad and horrible and paganistic and satanic and every istic and ic that could possibly be applied to something they don't understand. Some of you might, for whatever reason, believe or start to believe that. Or at least be a little wary of walking into a place you've never been through before.
The temple is not scary. There is no reason to be afraid of going through the temple. Random question (but still related): are you afraid of Isaiah? Maybe in a "holy cow, how am I going to understand this" sort of way, right? But never
in a scary movie kind of way.
So don't freak out and don't be scared. The temple is a sacred, sacred place, and there's nothing to worry about.
5. You don't have to know everything.
Finally, speaking of things you should know, you should know that you won't know everything, and that is completely okay.
Your experience is not any less amazing because you don't exactly know about everything going on. In fact, not knowing, I'll argue, enriches the experience.
One of the most exciting things about the temple is that you can definitely grasp why we call it a "House of Learning." I would add that it is a House of Insight, a House of Perspective, a House of Woah, I've Never Thought of it that Way Before, and a House of My Mind Just Exploded (In a Good Way).
The temple will get you thinking. Like crazy. And you will be thirsty for more.
If you're a little know-it-all (like me) who wants to be entirely ready and aware of what's going to happen, you're going to be humbled. Trust me. You are going
to be humbled. It will be good for you, but my advice would be to eliminate all of your expectations, recognize that you don't know what will take place, and go in with faith and trust and the willingness to be receptive.
As everyone will tell you, you can always go back. And as you'll find out, your curiosity and desire to learn more will encourage you to go back.
Becoming endowed is remarkable. I'm still really new to it, but one day, I'm going to look back and realize that the temple has become just what my brothers and sisters always said it would become: home. I can't wait for that day.
For more temple preparation thoughts, read this amazing blog post by Al Fox Carraway (I know it helped me out a lot).