We go to great lengths preparing our children for many exciting “firsts” in life — starting school, introducing a new sibling into the family, getting ready to be baptized, and many more milestone events. But there is a great opportunity, even sooner now, to prepare our children for their first temple experience. With children able to focus on the blessings of the temple and the priesthood at an earlier age, there is a real feeling of excitement as they learn how temples and priesthood power bring blessings for all who walk the covenant path.
In the Old Testament, the boy prophet Samuel dedicated his life to the Lord by serving in the temple and actually living there. We also know that Jesus, as a 12-year old, loved the temple (Luke 2:40-52). His parents even found him staying behind to teach the older temple patrons. Both are great examples of children who loved the temple and recognized the importance of temple service, even at a young age.
Before boys and girls in the Valiant 10 class advance from Primary, they and their parents attend a meeting called Temple and Priesthood Preparation, which is under the direction of the Primary presidency and the bishopric. This meeting is held before the January when they move to Young Women and Young Men. It’s a time to learn about the blessings of the temple, priesthood service, and making and keeping sacred covenants.
But the preparation and learning don’t begin and end there, as we now focus on a home-centered, Church-supported approach. Families, including Primary children, have the wonderful opportunity to engage in family history work long before taking their family names to the temple.
Here are some ideas for families to better prepare a child for his or her first temple experience:
- Teach the child about the sacredness of the House of the Lord and how we show respect and reverence inside and on the temple grounds.
- After they are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost themselves, help boys and girls understand their opportunities to participate in the work of salvation, why it is important to perform baptisms for those who are waiting on the other side of the veil, and the blessings that come from temple service.
- Teach your children what they need to do and how they should live to receive a limited-use temple recommend and participate worthily in proxy baptisms, as their circumstances allow.
- Build an excitement about family history. Teach your child how to navigate FamilySearch.org and how to find and prepare to take ancestors’ names to the temple. Also read your relatives’ online “memories” and look at their photographs, so that family members who’ve gone before become much more than simply “names.” Children may especially enjoy the Family History Activities page found at familysearch.org/discovery.
- Set an example and set a date. Keep a current temple recommend and attend the temple yourself as often as possible. Help your child set that first date to attend (and regularly thereafter), so that he or she recognizes that temple work is sacred and cherished. Stress the importance of saving souls, especially deceased members of the child’s own family.
- Visit the temple grounds as often as possible with the family. Talk about temples in your home and display temple pictures.
- Watch temple videos produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as “The Mountain of the Lord,” or those posted on temples.churchofjesuschrist.org that will give children more foundational knowledge about the temple.
Continuing the story of the young Jesus teaching in the temple, we read, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
Wouldn’t we love our children to come away with those same feelings and blessings because they were prepared to serve in the temple, even at a young age? And wouldn’t it be marvelous if a young girl or boy’s very first experience in the temple was a family experience, like Samuel and Jesus?
We can start now to prepare them. Because, if they’re prepared, they will have a greater desire to keep the Lord’s commandments and progress along the covenant path, blessing the lives of their ancestors and leading them all back to Heavenly Father.