“I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday” (Children’s Songbook, p. 95).It’s a beautiful song and a familiar phrase, but how do we actually help children feel that way about the temple?
In a recent general conference, President Thomas S. Monson shared the experience of a grandfather who took his small granddaughter on a birthday visit — not to the zoo or to the movies — but to the temple grounds. The two walked to the large doors of the temple. He suggested that she place her hand on the sturdy wall and then on the massive door. He said to her, “Remember that this day you touched the temple. One day you will go inside.” His gift to the little one was not candy or ice cream but an experience far more significant and everlasting — an appreciation of the house of the Lord. She had touched the temple, and the temple had touched her.
As this wise grandfather understood, it is never too early to plant in the heart of a child a love for the temple. Families can do this in many wonderful ways. As children grow, their desire to worthily enter the temple increases, as does their understanding of the importance of temples in our Heavenly Father’s plan.
For many children, the special experience of turning 12 and receiving their first temple recommend is not far away. So what can we do now to help children be worthy and ready to enter the temple?
Following are just a few ideas of the many ways parents can prepare their children for the temple.
Set a worthy example. Children most often adopt the attitudes and reverence for the temple that their parents feel. A child’s feelings for the temple will most likely follow the example they have seen.
That was true for Sister Janice Kapp Perry, author of the song, “I Love to See the Temple.”
She remembers as a young girl watching her mother painstakingly preparing her white temple clothing for a trip from their home in Oregon to the Idaho Falls temple. Even though she was young, she sensed the significance of this experience for her mother. She asked questions as her mother ironed and her mother’s answers made an indelible impression on her young heart. Sister Perry said, “I began to love the temple as she did and made promises to myself that I would someday go there too.”
Take time to teach. Brother George Durrant shared his advice about teaching children of the temple. “Take a thousand opportunities to teach these things freely to our children,“ he said. ”We can do so on camping trips, on family vacations, on those family nights when there comes a time for just a few — or perhaps many — words about things of an eternal nature. Slowly and surely we can take from our own heart the feelings we have about the temple and graft them into the hearts of our children.”
Many helpful resources for teaching children about the temple are available on the Church website at www.lds.org/children/resources/topics/temples?lang=eng.
Involve children in family history. The power and spirit of family history can draw children not only to their ancestors, but also to the temple.
James Hamilton was only 10 years old when he began doing family history work. His mother heard Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invite the youth and children to participate in family history and felt inspired to help her children get started. She wanted the blessings for her children that Elder Bednar had promised when he said, “Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives” (“Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” October 2011 general conference).
James found the names of more than 200 ancestors who needed temple ordinances. His whole family got involved in doing the temple work. Just a few days after his 12th birthday, James entered the temple for the first time to participate in the baptisms himself. It was a spiritual experience he had looked forward to as he was baptized for eight of his deceased ancestors that day.
Focusing on family history work has turned his heart to the temple in a very special way. He feels a sacred spirit in it. And it is helping him stay on the path to making and keeping his own sacred temple covenants.
Preparing children to enter the temple and participate in sacred ordinances is a vital part of the Lord’s work of salvation. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us, “The temple is the object of every activity, every lesson, every progressive step in the Church. All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. Ordinances of the temple are absolutely crucial. We cannot return to God’s glory without them” (“Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” October 2010, Ensign).
As the Primary general presidency, we know that helping children to love and enter the temple is worth every effort and sacrifice. It holds the key to one of our greatest hopes and joys — a family that is forever.