A Formula for Temple Worship
by S. Michael Wilcox
House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple

A powerful and practical formula for temple worship is found in the Savior's words to the Nephites when he visited them after his Resurrection. Jesus spent the day teaching them numerous beautiful truths, many of which they did not fully understand. "I perceive that ye are weak," he told them, "that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time." (3 Nephi 17:2.)

These words express how we often feel as we leave the temple. We are all weak and cannot understand all that the Father has taught us. Occasionally we feel a bit guilty for not comprehending more, but guilt is not the proper response. Occasionally we feel apathetic and attend the temple less often, or we do not pay attention when we do come. These things are even more inappropriate.

What must we do? The Savior tells us to do five things, and the first is very easy: "Therefore,
  • go ye unto your homes, and
  • ponder upon the things which I have said, and
  • ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and
  • prepare your minds for the morrow, and
  • I come unto you again."
    (3 Nephi 17:3.)
If we do not understand all we see and hear in the temple, we must not be fearful, guilty, or apathetic. We must go home, ponder, pray, prepare, and then return.

Far too often, the first step is the only one we take. We simply go home. Or we do step one and step five. We go home and we return, but we do not ponder, pray, or prepare. We must learn to do all five.


Pondering spiritual things is always an invitation to receive revelation. The scriptures give numerous examples of prophets who have reflected, pondered, meditated, or studied and received glorious spiritual experiences as the result. (See 1 Nephi 11, D&C 76, or D&C 138 as examples.) Pondering requires a deep concentration of thought and focus.

To effectively ponder the temple ordinances, we must be familiar with them. If we want to ponder the scriptures, we can read and reread them. We can do this with the temple ordinances only if they are written in our minds and in our hearts, for we cannot study them on a printed page. This occurs the more frequently we participate in them. It is next to impossible to ponder something we are not familiar with.

At times, while listening to the endowment, we may want to pause and reflect about some insight we are discovering. We wish we could stop the session from continuing so we could reflect a little deeper. Sometimes we are afraid we will forget our insight by the time the session is completed. We must learn to hold the thoughts in our minds and then, in quiet moments in and out of the temple, ponder them and let the Spirit teach us. The more we attend the temple, the more permanently the phrases and words of the endowment rest securely in our minds, where they are available for future pondering.


How often do we kneel before or after temple attendance and beseech the Lord to teach us some edifying truth from the endowment. The Lord is willing to teach if we will ask. Sometimes he will speak directly to our minds. Sometimes the answer will come in the scriptures. Insight might be presented to us by a spouse, a mother, or a father during a quiet conversation in the celestial room.


Remember, the temple is called "a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices; that they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, . . ." (D&C 97:13-14; emphasis added.)

Ideally, the Spirit, using the symbols and the atmosphere of the temple, teaches each person according to his or her needs and in response to the person's individual prayers. But the Spirit can also teach through the words and insights of others.

While we are learning to clearly receive instruction through the Holy Ghost, let us, without anxiety, "teach one another words of wisdom" inasmuch as we have wisdom to impart and the Spirit so directs.


We are told to prepare our minds to receive the Lord's words. How do we prepare our minds to receive revelation? Pondering is an excellent form of preparation. Humility, also, prepares the mind for revelation.

Hungering after righteousness prepares a mind to receive revelation. If we hunger after righteousness, we will be "filled with the Holy Ghost." (3 Nephi 12:6.)

I am a teacher by profession. In my experience, one thing is absolutely irresistible to a teacher—a hungry student. When I see a hungry student, eager to learn, giving me full attention, I want to teach him or her everything I know. I will spend hours with that student. I share things I would not ordinarily share. These are wonderful moments that every teacher desires.

Let us go to the temple hungry, with a desire to take in everything and to understand everything. If we go with this attitude, our minds will be prepared to receive whatever the Lord desires us to receive that day. We will leave the temple filled because we went there hungry. Humility is important, for the proud think they know already. They are not hungry. They come to the temple already filled. The humble know they are empty, that they need nourishment.


Avoiding entertainments, environments, or activities that offend the Spirit helps prepare the mind for revelation. It would be inconsistent, for example, on a Friday night to attend a movie that contained crude or vulgar language or suggestive or violent scenes and then on Saturday morning hope to receive insight in the temple. It would be improper to listen to worldly music whose lyrics or beat were outside the standards set by the Lord while driving to the temple and then be sensitive to the still, small voice once inside its walls.

In truth, frequent attendance at the temple protects us from becoming too caught up in the things of the world.

Arthur Henry King, a former president of the London Temple and a great educator, explained how the scriptures influence our ability to discern between those things that are offensive to the Spirit and those things that are acceptable.

The truths he explained relative to the scriptures are equally true about frequent temple worship, for the endowment is one of the purest forms of scripture we have. He said:
"When we have the scriptures in our heart and our mind and our soul, then we have a means of measuring all things; we have a means of judging everything else. . . . If we are soaked in the scriptures, we shan't want to look at bad things on our walls or listen to bad music, because they won't fit. We shall intuitively reject them, just as we shall embrace what is good, because we shall have in our minds a firm and sound sense of what is in good taste." (Abundance of the Heart, pp. 129-30.)

The last aspect of our formula is to return. We must return as often as our circumstances permit. In frequent repetition, the layers of symbolic meaning were revealed. How often we can return varies from person to person. The Lord understands our limitations of time and distance.

He will touch the memory of those who cannot come as often and increase the understanding they receive, even if they can attend only once a year. He will magnify us according to our efforts and limitations. But for those of us who have the means to go more often, where "much is given much is required." (D&C 82:3.)

This, then, is the formula. When we feel weak and cannot understand all the words of the Father, let us go home, where we will ponder, pray, and prepare our minds. Then let us return frequently to the Lord's house, where our weakness in understanding can be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, who serves as a private tutor in all sacred things.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)

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