"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
October 21, 2010
Temples Are Places Of Learning
by Orson Scott Card
By Melanie Fenton - September 26, 2010

I was asked to speak on "How to prepare our children to receive the ordinances of the temple"

I felt it is important to review WHY going to the temple is so important before discussing how to help our children and others to get there.

In researching for this talk I read on the church's website under gospel topics about the temple and this is what it says. "Temples are literally houses of the Lord. They are holy places of worship where individuals make sacred covenants with God. Temples are places of learning.

Their principal purpose is to provide ordinances necessary for the children of God to enable them to return to dwell with Him. Temple ordinances lead to the greatest blessings available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything in the Church -- the meetings and activities, the missionary efforts, the lessons taught, and the hymns -- all lead to the work done in holy temples. "

President Brigham Young made this observation about the endowment:

"Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, . . . and gain your eternal exaltation. (in Journal of Discourses, 2:31.)

Russell M Nelson, one of the twelve apostles, said in a general conference talk in 2001,

"Temple ordinances, covenants, endowments, and sealings enable individuals to be reconciled with the Lord and families to be sealed beyond the veil of death. Obedience to temple covenants qualifies us for eternal life, the greatest gift of God to man. Eternal life is more than immortality. Eternal life is exaltation in the highest heaven -- the kind of life that God lives."

As I was preparing for this talk, I enjoyed reading many of the general conference talks from the apostles about personal preparation for temple blessings, and the importance of temples and the covenants and ordinances we make there. I learned so much more about the temple. While studying, I noticed a similar pattern, or certain themes which were consistently being talked about. Over and over, these recurrent topics were suggested as ways we can prepare or teach our children about the importance of the temple. I want to share them with you.

The first theme or topic was the need to have the spirit in their lives.

One thing that will help them want to be in the temple more than anything else is to have the Holy Ghost with them.

Two important things are necessary to have the Holy Ghost: First, we must live worthy of it, and second, we must ask for it. In D&C 18:18 it says;

"Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifested all things which are expedient unto the children of men."

If they will ask in faith, they will receive the Holy Ghost, and it will lead them to the temple.

Youth are more likely to make and keep covenants if they learn how to recognize the presence and the voice of the Spirit. We need to teach our children about things of the Spirit.

Another reason they need the Spirit, is it testifies of Christ and of Heavenly Father. It testifies of truth. When they hear the truths of the gospel, the Spirit can touch their hearts and confirm these truths in a way that is not easily forgotten, and in a way no one else can. For example, when they are taught about the importance of the temple or see the sacrifices others make to go to the temple, through the Spirit, they can know of the great importance it is and they will remember it.

As I was preparing this talk, I wanted to know if anything Rick and I did, as parents, influenced our daughter Rachel to go to the temple, so I called her up and asked her. Things which made an impression on her were not earth shattering or major, life changing events. They were things like seeing the dedication and the sacrifices others were willing to make to be in the temple. Hearing the way members of the ward spoke of the temple, in emotional and reverent ways. Seeing how others felt about the temple made her want to have that feeling as well.

She remembers babysitting for a couple in the ward who had little opportunities to go out, but when they did, it was to go to the temple. She recalls how she knew the temple was important to them because they expressed how excited they were to get to go. She noticed when they got the chance to go anywhere without their kids, they chose to go to temple. She said this made her want to go there someday too.

Rachel remembered feeling how important the temple must have been to us because we were willing to stay up all night to attend the temple. I had forgotten this until she recounted the story. We drove to Washington DC to go to the temple when she was about eight. The DC temple was open all night on Friday nights. Back then, there weren't any of the mini-temples so the larger ones had longer hours of operation. She remembers Michelle, then three, getting very sick in the hotel room with a high fever and Rick and I taking turns going to sessions in the temple. I stayed with Michelle and the kids while Rick went to do a few sessions, then when he got back, I went while he stayed and tended to Michelle. Rachel would awaken each time and notice the changing of the guard. She remembers thinking that the temple must really be important for us to stay up all night to go and leave Michelle when she was so sick. This made her want to go to this important place.

Through the spirit, our children can recall, in a powerful way, times when they were taught a meaningful lesson or a gospel truth.

When we have the Holy Ghost with us, the Spirit can be present in our homes. We can then hear the things our children need to be taught and take advantage of the "spur of the moment" teaching opportunities which arise in everyday life. We must be willing to take the time to respond to these teaching moments. When we have the Spirit, and when it is present in our homes, we can know when a child needs the reassurance that he is loved and valued and then provide it in a way that only a parent can.

Which brings me to the next topic or theme, Love

It is so important to show love to our children, to take them in our arms and hug them and kiss them. To show affection for them. To go into their rooms at bedtime and kiss them goodnight. They are never too old to be kissed goodnight.

When was the last time you took your children in your arms and told them you loved them?

When we love our children, we teach them how to love. They learn how to nurture by being nurtured. They experience what it feels like to have someone care about them enough to correct them, while encouraging them and believing in them at the same time. The home is a place where they can feel love and acceptance like no other place.

If our children know we love them, they are more likely to listen to our counsel. On the other hand, if our children live in a home where they wonder if they are loved, or where they feel no love, it won't matter what we say, they won't care what we want them to do. They will go seek love where they can find it, and it probably won't be in the temple.

Elder David A Bednar of the quorum of the twelve apostles, suggested in a conference talk last November, "We need to express our love and show it. He said, "We should remember that saying 'I love you' is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need to consistently show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.

"Feeling the security and constancy of love from a spouse, a parent, or a child is a rich blessing. Such love nurtures and sustains faith in God. Such love is a source of strength and casts out fear (see 1 John 4:18). Such love is the desire of every human soul."

I know from personal experience that this is true. When our children are afraid, our love for them casts out fear in their hearts and minds, if only long enough for them to fall asleep.

Elder Robert D Hales of the quorum of the twelve apostles gave a fantastic talk on our mission as parents and leaders to the youth this past general conference. I quote from that talk:

"Mothers and Fathers, as you drive or walk children to school or their various activities, do you use the time to talk with them about their hopes and dreams and fears and joys? Do you take the time to have them take the earplugs from their MP3 players and all the other devices, so that they can hear you and feel of your love? The more I live, the more I recognize that the teaching moments in my youth, especially those provided by my parents, have shaped my life and made me who I am."

He goes on to say, "When we have a family home evening, a family council, or a meaningful gospel conversation with our children, we have the opportunity to look into their eyes and tell them that we love them and that Heavenly Father loves them.

"In every interaction we share, we demonstrate the principles and blessings of the gospel."

We demonstrate the principles by our example, which is the next theme.

We can be examples to our children by going to the temple and making covenants and receiving those ordinances for ourselves. We can be examples by holding a current temple recommend and by attending as frequently as circumstances allow. When you get home from the temple, share with them your feelings about what you experienced. Talk to them about the blessings that come into our lives because of the temple and make sure they know why it is important for them to go there. Let them see you behave towards them and others in more loving ways. Let them see the sacrifices you're willing to make to attend the temple. Let them see you keeping the covenants you made in the temple through your church attendance and service to others and in your callings. Doing these things will create in them a desire to receive those same blessings for themselves and to resist the temptations which could prevent them from going.

M. Russell Ballard recently said in his last talk:

"Now, [parents], I understand that it sometimes appears that our children aren't paying attention to the lessons we're trying to teach them. Believe me -- I've seen that glazed-over look that comes to the eyes of teenagers, just when you're coming to what you think is the best part of your instruction. Let me assure you that even when you think your [children] are not listening to a thing you say, [they] are still learning from you as [they] watch you to see if your actions match your words."

Let us lead our children to the temple and show them the way, by their following our example.

Our next theme, the home.

Consider President Harold B. Lee's comment that "the most important . . . work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes".

Another observation from Rachel about how we helped her arrive at the temple was because of a picture which hung in our home for years. It was a beautiful painting of the Arizona temple where we were married. If you looked closely, you could just see the face of the Savior faintly painted in the clouds above it. She said she stared at it for hours and hours and it always made her wonder what it would be like to go inside and that she wanted to go there someday. I had no idea. I took it down when I repainted my walls a few years back because it was not the same color. I think I'll put it back up!

Elder Washburn hit the nail on the head when he said:

"We go to the temple to make covenants, but we go home to keep the covenants that we have made. The home is the testing ground. The home is the place where we learn to be more Christ-like. The home is the place where we learn to overcome selfishness and give ourselves in service to others. I say again that we go to the temple to make the covenants, but we go home to keep those covenants."

The Church will help wherever it can. They are there to support and sustain us as parents and as children. But the home is the most important place to prepare our children. It is in the home where we must teach the gospel by precept and by example.

The last theme or topic which resurfaced again and again was to provide opportunities for them to live the gospel. We must provide opportunities for them to live what they are being taught. Opportunities to attend the temple now. Opportunities for them to serve others and share the gospel.

The time is here when it is not enough for our youth to merely know. They must do. They need to know what the Lord expects of them and then they need to be able to do what he expects of them. We must support them and assist them to be participants not just observers.

When the Raleigh Temple was being built, the saints in North Carolina were very excited as Brother Lewis said in his talk a few weeks ago. We followed the progress of the construction and carefully watched the calendar for the estimated dates of completion. The day the angel Moroni was to be placed on the temple spire, a friend of mine went with Thomas and I to go see this exciting event. Thomas was three. The other kids were in school. It was very exciting to us to see the huge crane lifting a golden statue of the angel Moroni into place on top of this new temple. There was not a large crowd, but enough people there to draw the attention of on lookers passing by. People would stop and look at us and try to figure out what the big deal was. Even the workers wondered what we were looking at. I know they were thinking what is the big deal, why is everyone standing around looking at this crane working? But it was exciting to have this statue being placed because we knew it was almost completed. We commented to each other how we wished they knew just how exciting this day really was. That soon we would be able to attend the temple closer to our home and not have to travel and stay over-night. That we would be able to come more often. That we would be able to bring our children to see the temple more often and with much less expense. I have pictures of Thomas on the grounds that day with the angel Moroni being hoisted up in the back. He was too young to remember but he was there and he will know his mother felt it important enough to take him and let him see the memorable event. My only regret is that I didn't get the other three kids out of school and bring them too.

Another one of the things Rachel said helped her to get to the temple was the opportunities she had to see or attend or learn about the temple. She said she remembers our family going to see many different temples. If we were in a city that had one, we either would drive by it, or stop and go to the visitors center or just walk around the grounds, or to see the Christmas lights. She said I can tell you every single temple we went to and again, it made her want to go to the temple.

She also mentioned that when she was in the temple for the first time and heard the language used in the temple, it surprised her how familiar it was to her and that it was language and words she was very familiar with. Language she has been taught with about the gospel during seminary and other lessons. As she heard those words in the temple, she was immediately taken back to those teaching settings and remembered what she was being taught and as she recalled the lesson, she better understood what she was covenanting to do in the temple. She said, "Now as I look back, I realize because I had been taught over and over again during my life, that I had finally got it. It was a realization to me that I had learned it, so it wasn't new or surprising when I heard it in the temple. I realized I was living it and keeping the covenant before I ever made it in the temple."

In summary, brothers and sisters, I want to leave you with a story Elder Bednar told about whether their efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile.

"In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes -- none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.

"Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. 'Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.'" (D&C 64:33)

It is my hope that we can have to strength and the desire to do all we can to point the way to the temple so our children, our families, our friends will go to the temple and be able to make those sacred covenants and receive the ordinances necessary to return back to the presence of God.

Copyright © 2010 Melanie Fenton

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More by Orson Scott Card

About Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.

More about Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card currently serves as second counselor in the bishopric.

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