Les pèlerins d’Emmaüs en chemin, James Tissot

This is what I would teach someone who is going to the temple for the first time to receive their own endowment.  It is also what I would teach any temple-going Latter-day Saint who desires to come unto Christ.

I recommend keeping in mind that the temple ceremony is a ritual. It is like a rehearsal for something you are supposed to do in reality.

You will encounter actors playing, angels, a deceiver, the Son, and the Father. You will be clothed in fabric clothing representing glory (intelligence) and fellowship with heaven (which fellowship is called “priesthood”).

You will be taught ritual knowledge and demonstrate that you hold it sacred and with integrity to pass through the ritual veil. You will make ritual covenants and be given ritual rewards as though you had kept them, all this as part of the narrative of the ritual. Eventually you will be presented at a fabric veil and receive ritual promises of salvation and priesthood. You will pass through that veil into a room representing the celestial kingdom, or the presence of God the Father. Beyond that veil you will receive a promise that you can be sealed to your family through your faithfulness. These things, which constitute the entire “endowment” and “sealing” you can receive from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are simply ritual.

You will then walk out of the temple to seek the real things that the temple represented in ritual:

There are real angels who you must commune with to be redeemed (Moroni 7:37-38).

There are real mysteries you must learn by revelation to be saved (JST Matthew 7:9-17; Alma 12:10).

There is actual glory that you must be clothed with to commune with heaven (D&C 84:32; DC 88:67-68; Moses 7:3).

There is an actual adversary employing an army of well-meaning priests claiming the right to lead others by priesthood authority, formulating and offering alternative systems of salvation which you must reject in favor of the system taught in the scriptures (D&C 121:34-40; D&C 112:24-26; Lectures on Faith 6:8).

There is true priesthood that you can only receive from heaven directly after you are purified and cleansed from all sin (JST Genesis 14:26-29; Alma 13:1-12; D&C 84: 38-40; Moses 8:19; D&C 50:26-30; D&C 124:95).

There is a real Son whose presence you are commanded to seek, who promises that he will come to you in this life and save you if you are true and faithful in all things (D&C 101:38; D&C 93:1; D&C 88:67-68; 2 Nephi 32:1-6).

He is the true veil we must approach and pass through to enter the presence of the Father (Hebrews 10:20).

There is a real Father in Heaven from whom you need to receive the actual covenant of eternal life personally, in his presence (D&C 84:47-48; John 14:23; D&C 130:3).

There, having been brought to heaven, the Lord God Omnipotent may seal you his, and bind you to your spouse with unconditional promises (Mosiah 5:15; D&C 132:20-25).

These blessings are a true endowment, for when you have received them you are endowed with the power that the servants of God must possess to fully do his work (JST Genesis 14:30-31; D&C 50:26-30).

Passing through a fabric veil into a temple worker’s presence in the temple doesn’t save you. Passing through the real veil into God’s presence does save you, because there is no other way to know him and learn what he has to teach you (DC 76:113-118).

These are experiences that you, as a member of the Church, a person with access to the scriptures, a person with access to instructive temple ordinances, can and should have in this life (Moses 5:9-10). Keep in mind that Adam and Eve’s ascent to the presence of God, depicted by the endowment ceremony, occurred in mortality. The ritual does not depict a post-mortal journey through the kingdoms of glory. It is a journey you are supposed to take right now. Your ability to know God in this life depends only on your own faithfulness and diligence, because God is no respecter of persons; he has authorized all men everywhere to come unto him and has taught us the law by which we can do so (Lectures on Faith 2:55; Lectures on Faith 3:23; D&C 130:20-21; D&C 93:1).  You are to think of yourself as though you were Adam or Eve.

I agree with David O. McKay, who said: “There are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal presence.”

Don’t get confused and think there is saving power in the ritual alone. That has been the mistake of religious people from the beginning of time. The Israelites made that mistake after Moses, King Noah’s people did also, and it is an epidemic among Latter-day Saints since Joseph Smith. As Abinadi said to King Noah’s priests, it is the redemption of God that saves, not the performance of rituals (Mosiah 13:32). The “redemption of God” means being brought back into his presence (Ether 3:13-14). Just because almost everyone who is offered these things (endowed members of the Church) falls short of receiving them, doesn’t mean they aren’t essential to your salvation (DC 121:34-46; D&C 132:21-24).

At the day of Christ’s coming in glory those who receive him and abide will be those who are redeemed, who have been saved by Christ’s personal appearance to them, who have come to know him in his ministry as the Second Comforter, and who have been sealed by him (D&C 133:52-53; JST Matthew 25:11-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; D&C 84:98; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg. 149).

That is the salvation that the scriptures teach. That is the salvation that the Lectures on Faith teach. That is the salvation that Joseph Smith sought earnestly to prepare the Latter-day Saints to receive, but against which we have mostly hardened our hearts (D&C 84:19-24). That is the salvation that the temple depicts ritually. See the ritual as an invitation to walk out of the temple and receive the real thing.

Until you have actually received these things from God it is vain to flatter yourself, or allow others to flatter you, that you will inherit the same blessings as those who have (Lectures on Faith 6:8).  This flattery includes imagining that you are endowed with power from on high, or that you are sealed to your spouse and children, simply because you have participated in ceremonies in the Temple.

Supplemental readings

Read and re-read these sayings of Joseph Smith, and pair them with the scriptures cited earlier:

Salvation cannot come without revelation, it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. ¶ No man is a minister of Jesus Christ, without being a Prophet. No man can be the minister of Jesus Christ, except he has the testimony of Jesus & this is the Spirit of Prophecy. Whenever Salvation has been administered it has been by Testimony. Men at the present time testify of Heaven & of hell, & have never seen either–& I will say that no man knows these things without this.  —Joseph Smith, July 1839, Willard Richards Pocket Companion

What is “the testimony of Jesus”?  Does it simply mean “having a testimony” like we bear on fast sunday, or is it something more?

There are three grand Keys to unlock the whole subject. First what is the knowledge of God, Second what is it to make our calling and election sure. Third and last is how to make our calling and election sure. Answer, it is to obtain a promise from God for myself that I shall have Eternal life. that is the more sure word of prophycy… to be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, that is the testimony of Jesus.   —Joseph Smith, May 21, 1843, James Burgess Notebook

Are these experiences really necessary?  Should we expect them, hope for them, and seek them?

Oh! I beseech you to [go] forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sureand if any man preach any other gospel with that which I have preached, he shall be cursed, and some of you who now hear me, shall see it & know that I testify the truth concerning them; —Joseph Smith, May 12, 1844, Thomas Bullock Report

What will happen to those who teach a diluted or alternative system of salvation that does not emphasize the absolute requirement for each person to receive God’s promise for themselves?

What blessings come to us only after we make our calling and election sure (which the endowment instructs us how to do)?  In other words, why is it essential?  Joseph’s May 14, 1843 sermon, recorded by Wilford Woodruff, explains:

¶ Now their is some grand secret there [in 2 Peter 1] & keys to unlock the subject.  Notwithstanding the Apostle exhorts them to Add to their faith virtue Knowledge temperance etc. yet he exhorts them to make their Calling & election Shure & though they had herd the audible voice from heaven bearing testimony that Jesus was the Son of God yet he says we have a more sure word of Prophecy where unto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light shining in a dark place.

Now wherein could they have a more sure word of prophecy than to hear the voice of God saying this is my Beloved Son?  Now for the Secret & grand Key though they might hear the voice of God & know that Jesus was the Son of God this would be no evidence that their election & Calling & election was made shure, that they had part with Christ & was a Joint heir with him.  They then would want that more sure word of Prophecy that they were sealed in the heavens & had the promise of eternal live in the Kingdom of God.

Then having this promise sealed unto them it was as an anchor to the Soul Sure & Steadfast though the thunders might roll & lightnings flash & earthquakes Bellow & war gather thick around yet this hope & knowledge would support the soul in evry hour of trail [trial] trouble & tribulation

Then Knowledge through our Lord & savior Jesus Christ is the grand Key that unlocks the glories & misteries of the Kingdom of heaven….

If you want the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, you must obtain the grand key that unlocks them.

Joseph goes on in the next sentence to describe all religious institutions and religious teachers who do not teach that we must make our calling and election sure, and commune personally with God, to be saved:

Compair this principle once with Christondom at the present day & whare are they with all their boasted religion piety & sacredness while at the same time they are Crying out against Prophets Apostles Angels Revelation, Prophesyings, & Visions &C. Why they are Just ripening for the damnation of hell…

When Joseph says they are crying out against prophets and apostles, he doesn’t mean that they are opposed to men who hold offices with those titles.  The people Joseph is describing are rejecting the idea that men must commune with God and angels personally to be saved.  Sadly this describes some Latter-day Saints.  Joseph then makes it clear why such people are so cursed, and describes what we must do even in the face of their false teachings:

they will be damned for they reject the more glorious principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ & treat with disdain & trample under foot the main key that unlocks the heavens & puts in our possession the glories of the Celestial world. Yes I say such will be damned with all their professed godliness

¶ Then I would exhort you to go on & continue to call upon God until you make your Calling & election sure for yourselves by obtaining this more sure word of Prophesey & wait patiently for the promise untill you obtain it

—Joseph Smith, May 14, 1843, Wilford Woodruff Journal

Joseph says that making your calling and election sure is “the main key that unlocks the heavens & puts in our possession the glories of the Celestial world.”  The temple endowment gives you a ritual pattern for making your calling and election sure, culminating in your obtaining “knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” which is “the Grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Do you expect to obtain the glories of the celestial world without making your calling and election sure?  Do you think you will be exempt from this requirement just because almost nobody in the history of the LDS Church has done it?

Can any religion save you, that does not require you (not merely invite you) to sacrifice all things, see the face of Christ, and make your calling and election sure?  Lectures on Faith 6 answers:

7 Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake,not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.

8 It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.

The temple offers you a ritual outline of how this sacrifice will be made, and even allows you to practice make ritual sacrifices and covenants.  But you do not make the actual sacrifice there, nor do you receive the promised knowledge that you are accepted of God.   Lecture 6 continues:

9 It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God. And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God, is obtained by offering sacrifice: and in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Psalms 50:3-5: Our God shall clime, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant unto me by sacrifice.

In the temple you make a ritual covenant TO sacrifice.  You don’t make a covenant BY sacrifice.  However, if you thereafter leave the Temple, follow the instructions of God delivered through the spirit and through heavenly messengers, you will be instructed HOW to sacrifice.  Once you have offered what is required of you personally, you can receive the knowledge that you are accepted of God, and thereby make a covenant with him BY sacrifice.   This covenant is the only way to obtain the “promises made to the fathers” (Abraham 1:1-4).  The covenant is delivered by God directly to you by an oath that he cannot break, neither can it be moved (DC 84:38-40).  Only those who have so covenanted will be gathered to safety and salvation in Zion in the last days (Psalms 50:3-5, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Joseph Smith Matthew 1:27, DC 33:6, Moses 7:62).