What We Can Learn from Changes to Temple Ceremonies
By Kerry Griffin Smith
I randomly picked February 8, 2023, to attend my local temple, which is in Bountiful. While seated in the endowment session, I began to wonder if my memory was slipping.
First thing, I noted the preliminary announcement about some changes. I knew it had been a few years since the last changes but didn’t think there’d be more yet.
I quickly assumed the changes were something I had already observed. But I soon suspected they weren’t. By the end of the session, I was positive the changes were new.
Once home, I checked a couple of reputable online sources and discovered I was definitely not losing my temple memory. Since changes were made to the temple endowment in 2019, the church had just added a few more.
The reason I kept second-guessing myself is because the changes are very subtle at first. The more you progress through the endowment ceremony, the more you can see that adjustments have been made without skipping vital covenants and promises.
- Covenants first. Previously, everyone was invited, at the start of the endowment, to decline the temple opportunity if they had changed their mind. But temple covenants hadn’t yet been explained in the process. Attending the entire session was the only way to learn about them. Now the covenants are explained up front in clear language that’s easy to understand. Nothing is revealed that shouldn’t be in case someone opts to decline at the start. Also, grouping the covenants together in a short explanation provides a helpful reminder for regular attendees.
- Sisters and worldwide representation. Where appropriate, visuals and instructions have been modified to more equally represent women. Various races are represented as well.
- Clear, visual instruction. In the past, some have felt a bit nervous about trying to remember everything taught in the temple when they’re new or returning after an absence. Now the main key points are presented visually, in addition to auditory instruction. There’s no question about how to do things. The instructions are concise, and the images are projected on a big screen, which eases personal worry about accidentally forgetting something.
- Less movement or touching. Also worth mentioning is there’s less participant movement throughout the endowment, and hand-touching is reserved until the end, when members pass through the veil.
Temple work has always been focused on God and Jesus Christ, but visually the temple experience is now much more representative of Christ. He’s also mentioned more in the instructions. As a visual learner, I love seeing Him in every aspect of the temple endowment. We are there to remember and keep covenants we have made with Him as we do proxy work for those who have died, allowing them the chance to accept or reject the work done on their behalf.
We’ve always known this, of course. Anyone who attends the temple is there because of Him. But the temple endowment session is now a better learning experience because He is visually the focus.
What I Learned from the Changes
Personally, I see the church is opting for more simplified approaches on most things, including our temple experience. Prophetic vision and sharp surgeon skills have led President Russell M. Nelson to streamline our processes. We can accomplish more in fewer steps without cutting out essentials. We can also be more inclusive and represent both genders, as well as various cultures.
I have a bit of a background perspective on temple films. Years ago, I was the casting coordinator for what was then the church’s Audiovisual Department. Just prior to my employment, a new temple film had been released. It was second to another, newer film; before then (and before I received my endowments), the church hadn’t made changes to temple films in a long time.
As a church employee, I knew several crew members who had worked on the recent films. The experience taught me that many members are involved in the process of such projects. The prophet is at the lead, followed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Others are also consulted as needed, including the Church’s Correlation Committee. Many temple-endowed members are involved in the process from start to finish, including final edits in a Church-owned film studio. It’s really no wonder it’s taken us a few tries to simplify the information taught in the films and explained during the endowment session.
Over years of Church membership, and with the most-recent endowment changes, I have also realized there can be flexibility and simplicity can be better. Sometimes we think things have to be done an exact, certain way, or it’s wrong. Other times, we think we have to add extra in order to magnify what we’ve been asked to do. I have learned by seeing Church leaders focus more on what’s necessary and what can be tossed. I can apply that learning to my own life as I focus on Christ more and spend less time on pursuits that are distracting and not needed.
Increased focus on Christ, especially in the temple, is such a powerful blessing. President Nelson recently taught us, “Once we make a covenant with God, we leave neutral ground forever. God will not abandon His relationship with those who have forged such a bond with Him.” He continues, “In fact, all those who have made a covenant with God have access to a special kind of love and mercy.”
What are those special kinds of blessings? They are some of the most comforting and powerful you’ll hear on earth: “Those who keep their covenants with God will become a strain of sin-resistant souls! Those who keep their covenants will have the strength to resist the constant influence of the world” (“The Everlasting Covenant,” October 2022).
Let us learn from the changes that have been made in the temple endowment. If you’re new to the temple, just go and enjoy. If you’ve been attending for a short amount of time or years and know the temple instructions well, listen again. Learn what’s been simplified or expanded. Can you mirror those changes in your own life? We can grow and adapt as we accept changes that are based on true covenants that don’t change.
Kerry Griffin Smith enjoys uplifting those around her. She was a writer and editor for the former Ensign Magazine. You can find her sharing impactful, clean books in her online book club group. Feel free to join.
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