Dr. Ann Madsen, a senior lecturer in Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, gave a talk entitled “Come Ye, and Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord – Leading Our Children to the Temple” at the 2004 BYU Family Expo Conference. The following is a synopsis of her talk:
I asked our grown married children, “Why do you love the temple? How did we prepare you to do that?” Their answers could be summed up, “You would come home from the temple all aglow, and we could feel it.”
Orson Pratt gives us a wonderful vision of the light we bring home from the temple: “In the latter days there will be a people so pure in Mount Zion . . . that God will manifest himself, not only in their Temple . . . but when they retire to their [homes], behold each [home] will be lighted up by the glory of God, a pillar of flaming fire by night.”1
I heard Elder Russell M. Nelson say recently, “Children understand that they have a Heavenly Father. They need to be taught that the temple is the way to return to Him.”
In 1893, at the time of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, Elder Franklin D. Richards said: “The Temple is full of Divine telegrams. The blessings of heaven are treasured up there, and these temples are the great repositories of eternal life, glory, honor and immortality, waiting for the children of God to come up and bring their offerings of broken hearts and contrite spirits, and draw upon those treasures.”2
In Isaiah 54:13, speaking of our time the Lord explains: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (emphasis added).
In the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 23:18), we read how Alma and those he appointed taught his little band of 450. “Therefore they did watch over their people and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness” (emphasis added).
There are treasures waiting in the temple. We can prepare our children to receive them, to be “taught of the Lord” in His holy house. The method is to “nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness.”
We can’t begin when they are 18 and preparing for a mission. We can prepare them for their missions and for their temple blessings. I suggest that we prepare them from the time they are born to seek the Lord in His temple. Then they can go forth to serve and teach of Him in the mission field. I suggest that we prepare our young women for the time they will be endowed and sealed in the temple, rather than focus on the reception that celebrates that singular event. As Peter teaches us in 2 Peter 1:3–4: “. . . God hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature . . .”
We can only truly teach what we have felt and known ourselves. So our task is to find those treasures in the temple so that our enthusiasm and excitement about the experience will be a legacy we leave all future generations.
Sometimes we think of the treasures in the temple as “hidden treasures.” A dear friend said to me recently that her early preoccupation to understand each temple symbol had melted into a wonderful, lifelong process. It began one significant day when she just relaxed, not trying so hard to plumb the depths of the symbolism, but just letting the whole endowment wash over her. On that day she learned a thing she had not been looking for but which she needed to know. She discovered the Lord’s customized curriculum for her. “Now,” she says, “every time I go to the temple I learn something new. I ask questions, and they are answered.” So the “hidden treasures” may not be what we expect. Our temple time becomes a process of personal revelation.
Her experience of temple learning reminds me of what President James E. Faust told the Young Women at the General Young Women Meeting last year: “Hold your soul very still and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Follow the noble, intuitive feelings planted deep within your souls by Deity in the previous world. In this way you will be responding to the Holy Spirit of God and will be sanctified by truth.”3
Dr. Madsen went on to provide eight suggestions to “help our children begin [their] journey even when they’re tiny”:
- Teach them songs . . . Just before our daughter Mindy was married, she was taking our three-year-old granddaughter Rachel for a ride and pointed out the Provo Temple. “Rachel, what’s that?” Rachel spoke up quickly, “The temple, and I’m going there someday.” Mindy said, “Really?” Rachel went on, “A happy man is going to come, and he’s going to find me and he’s going to say, ‘Come on, Rachel, let’s go and get you married.’”
- Pray with them about their going to the temple one day just like the song says. Teach them how to pray for it in their personal prayers. Our youngest daughter confided when she was about to go on a mission that she had been praying for her eternal companion since she was in her teens. She had prayed that he would keep himself clean and worthy to take her to the house of the Lord. That prayer was answered.
- Teach your children about their family’s history. Let them teach you how to use the computer to do research. Give them the PAF program instead of video games . . . Can you see the endless possibilities for your children and grandchildren in this? Take them with you when you are searching for your family’s history.
- We want them to understand how the temple will feel. How does the temple feel? Peaceful, quiet, full of the Spirit. We come to the temple in reverence, open-souled, able to cultivate silence. We are asked to be quiet and speak only in whispers in the temple. You can sense why, can’t you? So that we can learn to be comfortable communing.
- We can teach them to be obedient . . . A mission president’s wife, one of my dearest friends, wrote this to me from her mission: “I’m feeling the desire to be perfectly obedient to the Lord. Everything that matters seems to hinge on the choice to be obedient. Obedience to the Lord unlocks the experiencing of the Lord’s love.” (See John 15.) She went on to quote Elder Henry B. Eyring whom she had heard say: “The choice to obey brings the Spirit. When I obey I feel the Spirit; when I feel the Spirit, I feel clean; when I feel clean, I know the Atonement is working in me.”
Obedience is the one gift we can give God. The giving of it can eventually result in our will being swallowed up in His. “The submission of one’s will is the only thing we can put on the altar of the Lord—it is the only thing which is uniquely our own. . . . Consecration thus constitutes the only surrender which is also a complete victory” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Oct. 1995 General Conference – “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father”.).
- We can teach them to keep sacred things in their hearts, to not tell all they know, to keep a secret. It is so important for a child to know when to speak and when to keep silent. . . . Jesus’ mother, Mary, knew so much more than she ever spoke. She kept things in her heart. We can learn to do this too and to teach our children that the temple ceremony and covenants are to be kept close to our hearts. We never speak of them outside of the temple.
- We must teach our children about purity . . . Modesty will prepare our children for the purity required of them before entering the house of the Lord and for the special clothing that will symbolize that purity. Our children must be taught that their bodies are indeed temples for their spirits. We must teach them to be pure, not to defile their bodies and then repent.
- How can you implement these ideas? Family home evenings. We prepared our family to enter the Provo Temple before its dedication with four family home evenings. We made plans to prepare them for what we anticipated as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had a series of family home evenings: one honoring our ancestors; one celebrating our wedding day, complete with photo album, ring, story of courtship, proposal, etc.; one explaining what we could of the activities that would go on in the temple (sealings and ceilings?).
In conclusion she said:
These are only a few ideas for introducing our children to the truths of the temple. We can teach them all these things and more. Pray, and you will know what and when to teach. Pray for each of your children who are on this journey to the temple. It takes a lifetime of preparation. It will involve blessings we can scarcely understand. Because of the temple, we can access the blessings of Abraham.
A Jewish legend tells that when Abraham asked, “Will I have ever have children?” the Lord said, “Look down at the sands where you stand. You will have children, numerous as the sands.” Then Abraham cried out, saying, “But what will they be like?” And the Lord answered, “Look up, Abraham, your children will be full of light, like the stars.” Our children are the stars Abraham saw. You are the stars Abraham saw. Let us lead our children to the light that can only be found in the house of the Lord. May I conclude with some lines I wrote about that holy place:
In the Temple
The quiet closes round me
God’s house reverberates
filled with echoes
from the faithful
who have followed the light
to here, like a star.
White, we come clothed in white
to this place,
of radiant light.
of this Heavenly House,
if I come,
clothed in the pure white
of a new lamb,
with my heart as new,
may I, too,
King Benjamin gave us a pattern for teaching our children. When you go home, read Mosiah 4 and study that pattern. We can know for ourselves what he calls over and over, “the glory of God.” We can teach our children of how the Atonement is a personal gift. King Benjamin tells us directly, . . . ye will teach [your children] to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15, emphasis added).
- Journal of Discourses. 16:36.
- Richards, Franklin D. Collected Discourses. 1893. Vol. 3.
- Madsen, Ann. “Come Ye, and Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord – Leading Our Children to the Temple”. April 2004. Brigham Young University. 17 Aug 2009.
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