By Hollie Ogden
Bruce C. Hafen’s September 2015 Ensign article pitches many compelling ideas about the temple. He says, “A friend once asked me, ‘If Christ is at the center of the gospel and the temple, why doesn’t the temple endowment teach the story of Christ’s life?’
He goes on to answer the question, “The life of Christ is the story of giving the Atonement. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of receiving the Atonement”
I thought about this for a long time after reading it. I thought about it more than the usual articles I read regularly for my BYU religion classes. Because of this quote, I found myself thinking intently about why the story of Adam and Eve is the center of our temple worship. Why not just teach about Jesus, His life and ministry, and the events of His atonement and resurrection? It would be easier to see Christ if He were the explicit center. But the temple is a house of learning in the Lord’s ways, higher than our ways. (Isaiah 55:9)
However, simply walking through events of Jesus’s life doesn’t teach what Jesus looks like to me. What does He do in my life? What can he do for me? How does His story relate to my story? This is why the temple— and the scriptures at large— contain more than just what the Savior says and does, but encompasses the experiences of real people, experiencing Jesus in real life.
Think about what Adam and Eve went through. They were the very first people to experience sin, the first to feel the weight of shame and guilt as a result.
Eve was the first mother to lose a child to premature death; Adam was the first father to experience children wandering off the covenant path. We often refer to Adam and Eve as “our first parents,” but we do not often associate Adam and Eve with the problems that come with parenthood and life in general. They needed the Atonement of Christ to navigate the new experience of parenthood and living in a fallen world. When we attend the temple, we are to consider ourselves symbolically as our first parents, and with that comes receiving divine help through covenants just like Adam and Eve after being driven out from the garden. My father taught me and continually reminds me that, “the Atonement of Christ is just a theory until you go through something hard.” You really can’t understand Christ until your mind, heart, body, and soul have gone through some excruciating thing mortality offers— beyond what you thought possible. We have to experience a “token” of Gethsemane and Calvert as Jeffrey R. Holland phrases it. (Missionary Work and the Atonement, Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, March 2001) And that token was experienced by Adam and Eve through their fallen life.