By Alexis Tanner
A couple years ago, back when cell phone batteries didn’t last longer than a day, my husband Alan and I were invited to his best friend’s wedding at the Draper temple. We stayed at my parent’s house so we could drop off our daughter, but we forgot our cell phone chargers so our phones had died the morning of the wedding, leaving us without a map to the temple. But we thought, we can see the temple, we can find it. However, that morning it was super cloudy and the temple was completely covered and we couldn’t see it. We tried our best to figure out the streets up to the Draper temple and even asked someone for directions, but we couldn’t find it and we missed the wedding. It was really disappointing.
I share this story with you not so you remember your cell phone chargers when you travel, although that is important. But it also taught me that we can’t just hope to get to the temple, we have to prepare and we need to help our youth prepare.
The first thing our youth need to get to the temple is a temple recommend. It’s important that we explain that a temple recommend is more than a piece of paper and it’s more than checking off a to-do list to be worthy to enter the temple. Having a temple recommend and being worthy to enter the temple blesses our lives every day. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “It would please the Lord if every adult member [and I would add youth] would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.”
Sometimes the youth may feel uneasy or worried that they aren’t worthy to enter the Lord’s house. I love what Elder Djarot Subiantoro said in his talk called “Always Having a Temple Recommend”, ”If we are striving to be true and faithful to the principles of the gospel, then we will always be temple worthy.” When we are trying our best and trying to live the commandments, then we can be sure that we are ready to enter the Lord’s house. I think it’s important to remember that God doesn’t ask for perfection, He just asks for you to try your best and want to follow Him.
In the October 2020 General Conference, Elder Ronald A. Rasband shared a story about his father-in-law who was nearing the end of his life. He had asked the bishop to interview him to renew his temple recommend because he wanted to die being “recommended to the Lord.” I love this way of thinking about a temple recommend as a recommendation to the Lord. Having a current temple recommend is so important.
Family history work
One of my favorite things about going to the temple is the opportunity to do the work for our ancestors. My family has a lot of family history work to do. My mom is a convert and the only member in her family. And my dad’s side is pretty new to the church. So your family might be like mine and have more work than you’ll ever have time for. If you have the opportunity, help your youth take your family names to the temple. I have had some wonderful experiences at the temple when I have the name of my ancestors in my hands.
But finding your ancestors can be really hard. Or you may be like my husband whose family work has pretty much all been done to the point of getting professional help. Or you may not know how to find your ancestors. There are still other ways the youth can connect families besides taking names to the temple. They can do indexing on familysearch.org, write their own personal history for their posterity, interview living relatives and get to know their stories, or learn about their ancestors as they explore their own family tree. Knowing our past helps our entire family. Studies have shown that people who know about their ancestors have higher self esteem and are better able to deal with the effects of stress.
As we get to know our ancestors, we feel more connected to them and connected to the world around us. As I’ve done family history work, I have felt guided by some of my ancestors to find their records and records of their family. One of my favorite experiences was when I was looking at the records of my great grandmother’s sister Margaret. She had passed away as a young mother. She had a twin sister Catherine who married Margaret’s husband after she died, raised Margaret’s older children, and then went on to have children of her own.
One afternoon, as I was doing family history work, I was looking at Margaret’s grave online. It was in Chicago which was near where I lived at the time. On the grave was listed a Baby Margaret, among a couple of other names, so I couldn’t tell who baby Margaret belonged to. After a lot of searching, I found the death certificate of a baby Margaret who died on the day she was born, the same day as her mother Margaret. When you find records of babies, there isn’t any temple work that needs to be done, but I was able to add her name to our family tree.
Later that night as I was saying my prayers and thanking Heavenly Father for helping me find baby Margaret, I had a really special experience where I could feel the joy and happiness coming from Margaret and her daughter Baby Margaret. I didn’t even do any temple work for this situation, but getting to know a bit of their story and participating in finding their records was a special experience I will always treasure.
Connecting with our ancestors outside of the temple also allows us to connect with them inside the temple and to better understand that families are eternal.
Keep the Temple on Your Mind
My third tip for preparing the youth for the temple is to help keep the temple on their minds. Something I like to do with my kids is to point to the temple whenever we see them. And in Utah that’s a lot. My kids can’t always remember the names of the temples so sometimes they’ll give them nicknames like the Provo temple was the “cupcake temple.” The Bountiful temple is called “the temple where mom and dad got married.” And to my younger kids, most of the other temples are the Salt Lake Temple. When we intentionally look for the temples around the valley and when we’re driving around, it keeps it on our mind.
In our own home, we try to have pictures of the temple in each room. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “It seems to me it would be a fine thing if every set of parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so the [child] from the time he is an infant could look at the picture every day and it becomes a part of his life. When he reaches the age that he needs to make this very important decision, it will already have been made.”
With the current COVID restrictions, getting an appointment to the temple can be hard. But when we look for the temple, have a temple picture in our room, and even spend time just on the grounds, we can begin to feel how sacred that place is and hopefully have a desire to be there as often as we can.
In the last General Conference, President Nelson said, “If you don't yet love to attend the temple, go more often — not less.” As the world becomes a harder place to be in, the temple can be a place of strength and eternal perspective. Don’t let your youth get stuck unprepared like Alan and I were when we couldn’t see the temple and missed experiencing his friend’s wedding. Prepare your teenagers in whatever ways you can to make the temple a special place for them because it is a special place where we can better connect with our Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Mother, and our families.
Alexis Tanner is a mother of five, podcaster, and writer. She loves reading, family history work, taking her kids on adventures, and podcasting with her husband at the Parenting In Real Life Podcast. You can find Alexis on Instagram @parentingIRLpodcast.