The most important thing you will do in preparing to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is enter one of the Lord’s holy temples and make covenants of eternal significance. More on these covenants can be found in a post written earlier this week–“The next big step: Understanding the importance of the temple in mission preparation.”
Because going to the temple for the first time is a big and important experience, it can seem a little daunting or overwhelming. However, proper preparation can help immensely with the process. I was blessed enough to attend the temple for the first time on Friday, and I loved it. Thankfully, I had some wonderful leaders and advice which helped me appreciate the experience–advise which I’d like to pass on to you.
If you can, take a temple preparation class. Temple preparation classes teach and remind us about the importance of covenants, commandments, and God’s plan for us, His children–all of which are important concepts to understand as a missionary anyway. Ask your bishop if there is a temple prep class being offered, either through your ward or your stake.
Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to complete a temple preparation course prior to your attending the temple. If so, do not fear! Elder Boyd K. Packer, apostle for The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, has written a book called The Holy Temple, which offers a lot of insight into temples. And, more so, the Church has taken from this book and condensed it into a pamphlet, Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, specifically for those preparing to go the temple. This pamphlet is a short read, and will only take an hour so on a Sunday afternoon (or whenever else you may get the chance) to read through. Elder Packer’s writing is clear, concise, yet friendly, making it an easy and enjoyable read. Here, he explains more about the eternal significance of the temple and the covenants we make there, and his explanations are such that anyone–LDS or not LDS–would be able to follow what he explains. To obtain a copy of this, talk to your bishop. Chances are, he has copies on hand and will be happy to order them for you if he does not. If you don’t mind reading it online, there’s a copy of it here, on the Church website (if you aren’t a reader, the website has an audio download so you can listen to it, too!).
The next thing to do when preparing to enter the temple before your mission is to schedule a worthiness interview. Because the temple is a sacred place, those who enter must be living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the gospel. You will need to schedule two interviews: one with your bishop, another with your stake president.
For both interviews, they must be the bishop and stake president of where your records currently are (i.e. I’m away at school, but my church membership records are in the ward of my hometown, so I went home for these interviews). You need to meet with the bishop first, and then the stake president. To organize a meeting with the bishop, contact the Ward Executive Secretary for your ward. If you don’t know who that is, you can ask someone, or log into your lds.org account and use the directory to look it up under your Ward/Ward leaders/Bishopric. The online directory will also give you a phone number and e-mail contact for them.
Once you’ve met with the bishop, you’re ready to interview the stake president. To schedule this interview, contact the Stake Executive Secretary (again, if you don’t know, ask, or look it up in the directory for your lds.org account under Stake Information/Stake Leaders and Organizations/Stake Presidency).
Meeting with both the bishop and the stake president should not be scary. If you’ve been living your life in keeping with the teachings of the Church, you have nothing to worry about. If there is something that you are worried about in relation to your worthiness, know it’s always better to bring it up and ask. If it’s nothing, they’ll be able to tell you so. And if it is something that needs to be resolved, they can help you. In addition, I found that my interview with the stake president was very helpful in answering any questions or concerns I had about attending the temple. These men are called to help and guide you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification if necessary.
Okay, so now you have successfully completed both your interviews and have obtained your recommend to attend the temple. Locate the temple closest to you (or whichever temple you plan on attending), and call and let them know the date and time you would like to go to the temple. They can put you in a session. Throughout the coming days and weeks to your appointment at the temple, think about other members of the church (who have already gone to the temple) who you might like to have attend the temple with you. Because going to the temple is an important part in not only your mission preparation, but in your progression in the gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s nice to be able to share it with those who are close to you. In addition, because it is a new experience, it will be helpful to have familiar faces who know, understand, and are comfortable with the surroundings. They can help you adjust and understand the covenants you are making. Make a list of the people you would like to invite, then call and invite them to attend the temple with you–giving them the date and time of your session.
In addition, make the physical preparations necessary to attend the temple. With the help of a parent, or, if your parents are not LDS, a trusted friend, visiting teacher, or relief society president in the Church who has been to the temple, obtain a set of clothing appropriate for the temple. Your parent, friend, visiting teacher, or relief society president can help you get all of this taken care of.
A few days before you go to the temple, call the temple and let them know who else will be coming to the temple with you. In doing so, you ensure that they will have things prepared to accomodate you and your guests. Then, just look forward to attending the temple. Review the things you have read and learned about the temple, and pray that you will be able to feel the Spirit as you enter the Lord’s house.
The day of, make an extra effort to be mindful that you will be attending the temple, and continue to pray that you will be able to feel the Spirit when you enter the Lord’s house. I chose to abstain from listening to any music to keep a spirit of peace, calmness, and reverence with me throughout the day. Whatever you need to do to feel the Spirit, do it. Make sure your temple clothes and recommend are packed (if for some reason, you were unable to obtain these before, it is possible that the temple may have spare sets for you to borrow, but you’ll need to call and check first). Dressed in your Sunday best, arrive about an hour and a half earlier than your session appointment begins. The temple president will meet with you and talk with you prior to your session, and someone will be assigned to help you along and walk you through the entire process. You’ll never have to worry about where to go, or what to do.
A final note thought, coming from the book of Doctrine and Covenants, Section 38:38:
See that all things are preserved; and when men are endowed with power from on high and sent forth, all these things shall be gathered unto the bosom of the church.
When we attend the temple, we are endowed with further light and knowledge about God and His plan for His children. This understanding will better prepare us to serve a full-time mission and will make us more effective teachers when we do become missionaries and are sent forth to gather others to come unto Christ.
I was really grateful to be able to attend the temple. It was a wonderful thing to be able to covenant with my Heavenly Father, and I know that the strength I have received from going will help prepare me spiritually, mentally, and physically for the life of a missionary in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.