My son-in-law works in the film industry, and he knows many people involved with film making in Utah. He mentioned to me recently that a new temple film was being made. I had heard nothing previously about a new film, but, as a result of the conversation, I was pleased rather than surprised on my next temple visit. I have enjoyed watching the film several times, and I must say that I have gained new insight into a number of different aspects of the gospel.
A portion of our instruction in most temples is provided through pre-recorded media, including film, and has been since the 1970s. This is not the first time the instruction method has been updated because the Church uses the very latest technology in its teaching, but it has been a few years since a new film was made.
According to Ruth Todd, spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “The new temple film is the first update in more than 20 years. There have been no changes to the script. English-language copies of the new film are being sent to temples over the next few weeks and will subsequently be translated into other languages.”
Since the Church has 141 dedicated temples around the world, it will take some time to have the film in all temples. Even though there was no change in the instructions, the presentation has been immensely improved through newer technology and, I believe, better acting. I like the fact that the actors show more emotion in their interactions.
Temple worship differs from our weekly worship services conducted in thousands of local church buildings in many countries around the world. Our weekly services are open to people of all ages and faiths; however, temple worship is reserved for those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who hold current temple recommends. We obtain temple recommends from our local Church leaders who have determined that we are living the doctrines and teachings of the Church.
After reading an article about the new temple film at DeseretNews.com, I continued by reading the comments. I am always surprised, even amazed, by the expectations of some people. Just one example is the following comment made by “Brother Benjamin Franklin” of Orem, Utah: “I sure do appreciate this coming out. It is good to see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints putting information out about what goes on inside the temple after it has been dedicated.
“I am increasingly concerned over the selective and evasive approach the Church takes to discuss various aspects of its faith. I am concerned as to why something they say is so important to them is kept behind closed doors and hidden from public knowledge.
“If this is so helpful to making Church members better people, why not share it with the community? The public are welcome to hear from missionaries, attend Church activities, classes, and services, listen to General Conference, and go to temple open houses. Why not encourage those not of your faith to attend these wedding ceremonies, endowment proceedings, and other similar events to gain better understanding?”
“I believe the time has come to put pressure on Church officials and members to please be more forthcoming on temple matters. With the increasing focus recently on the losses of some members of the LDS faith due to inadequate doctrinal understanding, I have serious concerns about the lack of answers to legitimate concerns.”
As a member of the Church, I believe that temple worship is sacred, not secret; therefore, I will show proper reverence for the temple experience by not discussing any details of it. I will however state that I cannot think of any instruction in the temple that is not given in our weekly worship services and printed in our Church manuals. The temple ceremony brings everything together in a simple and easily understood manner, and the Holy Ghost teaches us what we are ready to learn next.
The temple experience is different because the temple environment is more conducive to being taught by the Holy Ghost. The inside of every temple is immaculate and orderly. After going to temples for almost fifty years, I can state with all honesty that I do not remember ever seeing anything out of place. I occasionally have the opportunity to do bi-weekly cleaning of our local temple. Dusting and vacuuming is completed even though not a speck of dust can be seen! When conversation is necessary, temple workers and patrons speak in whispers out of reverence for the holy building. The environment is sacred because the temple has been dedicated to the Lord and the workers and patrons in the temple have met the requirements of faithfulness to enter.
A person, whether member or non-member, to expect the temple experience without meeting the requirements can be compared to a person expecting to be admitted to graduate school without meeting the prerequisites. In our education system, we start our education at early ages. Many parents teach their toddlers to count and recite the ABCs and then enroll them in pre-school. Pre-school teachers “build” upon the foundation prepared by parents, kindergarten teachers “build” on the pre-school experience, and elementary school teachers at each level “build” on the previous level. This “building” on previous instruction continues through high school and college. In order to be accepted at a graduate school, potential students must pass some sort of exam such as the M-CAT or the L-CAT.
The Lord’s “university” is very similar. He teaches “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” (See Isaiah 28:10, 2 Nephi 28:30, Doctrine and Covenants 98:12 and Doctrine and Covenants 128:21.) Children are taught by their parents throughout their childhood and youth, but children began their formal Church learning at eighteen months of age when they are old enough to go to the nursery. There they learn to get along with other children, how to share, and lessons about how God provided this beautiful world and loving parents for them. When three years of age, children move into Primary where they learn to sit still and listen to longer lessons. Each year they move to a new class and more advanced lessons. When they are twelve years old, they move into the youth organizations, and they enroll in seminary when they began high school. After graduation from high school they are considered adults and meet with their parents and other “old” people. In order to go to the temple – the Lord’s graduate school – members young and old must be interviewed by both their bishop and stake president and receive a temple recommend. We renew our recommends on a regular basis.
In both the education system and the Lord’s university, there is great variation in the learning capabilities of the students. Some students come to class ready to learn while others come for different reasons. This is why some new converts actually know more doctrine than some people who have been members since their childhood. No matter the length of the education period, each person must become willing to learn or forever lose many blessings.
While advancing through the different levels of learning, children and youth have opportunities to participate in some of the ordinances of the gospel, which prepare them for temple worship. Children are considered ready for baptism when they reach the age of eight years and are confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following their baptism. When they reach the age of twelve years, they are considered mature enough to enter the temple to be baptized for their dead ancestors. I remember well my own baptism as well as my first trip to the Salt Lake Temple to do baptisms for the dead. I consider both experiences as sacred to me, but I distinctly remember being taught the sacredness of the temple while doing baptisms there.
President Thomas S. Monson gave counsel about the temple experience in October 2010: “To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the most sacred place on earth. It is the house of the Lord, and just as the inscription on the exterior of the temple states, the temple is `holiness to the Lord.’
“In the temple, the precious plan of God is taught. It is in the temple that eternal covenants are made. The temple lifts us, exalts us, stands as a beacon for all to see, and points us toward celestial glory. It is the house of God. All that occurs within the walls of the temple is uplifting and ennobling….
“How far is heaven? I testify that in the holy temples it is not far at all – for it is in these sacred places that heaven and earth meet and our Heavenly Father gives His children His greatest blessings.
“As we touch the temple and love the temple, our lives will reflect our faith. As we go to the holy house, as we remember the covenants we make therein, we will be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation” (“Blessings of the Temple,” Liahona, Oct. 2010).
President Thomas S. Monson spoke about the temple experience a few months later when he asked, “Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort….
“If you have not yet been to the temple or if you have been but currently do not qualify for a recommend, there is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple….
“Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God” (“The Holy Temple – a Beacon to the World,” Liahona, May 2011)
This is my answer to “Brother Benjamin Franklin” and others who think they should be invited to participate in our temple ceremonies: Our temple worship services are open to every person who prepares themselves sufficiently to obtain a temple recommend. We cannot invite the general public into our sacred services because the ceremonies would cease to be sacred if we did. We want every person in the world to receive the blessings of the temple, but we cannot share sacred experiences with people who are not prepared for them. The Lord will hold every person accountable for the knowledge he or she gains and what they do with it. The temple experience is for those who desire it enough to prepare for it.
We want everyone to have the temple experience. This is the reason we send our young men, young women, and older couples out into the world to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you really desire the temple experience, I suggest that you stop the next LDS missionary that you see and request to be taught the doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After you learn the gospel sufficiently, are baptized by an authorized priesthood holder, and are confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you will be on the path to the temple. I hope you accept this invitation because I would like very much one day to meet you in the temple. It is a glorious experience and very much worth the time and effort to get there. How far is heaven? It is as close as the temple.