“Many and great are the blessings of the temple” (199). This one statement binds up the elevating truths found in Andrew C. Skinner’s latest book, Temple Worship.
Skinner is currently serving as executive director of Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Known for his expertise in ancient biblical writings and history, Skinner’s approach to temple worship is commendably holistic. It is scholarly yet accessible – personal yet applicable. It is full of feeling, insight, and sound doctrine – a fortifying read for the endowed.
Skinner’s book is written for temple-going members who wish to enhance their temple service. Readers will better appreciate the concepts discussed if they have a foundation of temple knowledge and covenants.
Skinner explains, “[This volume] is not comprehensive. It does not teach in detail about what happens in the temples of the Lord, but rather, discusses the doctrines and principles on which temple worship is founded and the blessings that flow from temple worship” (1).
Skinner continues, “Perhaps all of us get caught up at one time or another in the thick of thin things, but I believe that when we’re reminded of the blessings and realities of eternity as only the temple can remind us, our sights are lifted, we refocus on what matters most, and the Spirit of the Lord teaches us things known only to Deity. My hope is that this book will increase our desire to attend the temple more often so we can avail ourselves of that divine teaching” (7).
The subtitle of Skinner’s book is, “20 Truths That Will Bless Your Life.” Using scripture, the teachings of modern and ancient prophets, thoughts from temple presidents, and ancient glyphs/writings denoting the existence of temple worship since Adam and Eve, Skinner has constructed twenty inspiring chapters – each with its own truth. I mention several.
- The Temple is the ultimate expression of our worship.
- Ordinances are essential for salvation.
- Priesthood power and priesthood organization have always existed.
- Temple worship is intricately tied to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
- Temples are where the richest gifts on earth are given.
- Temple ordinances existed in earlier dispensations.
- The Lord’s purpose for gathering His saints has always been for the building of temples.
- The Temple is a place of protection.
- The Temple is the place of eternal linking, sealing our families back to our first parents.
- Those who enter must be worthy.
- The Temple is a portal to heaven.
- The Temple is a place of personal revelation and education.
- Temples are still places of sacrifice.
- Temples prepare us for eternity.
It Comes From God
At the age of 20, I studied with Brigham Young University’s program for students in Israel. Our first travel away from the Jerusalem Center was to Egypt. I remember our instructors pointing out “temple glyphs” on the walls of the Karnak temple. Unendowed at that time, I was unable to recognize the value in what I saw.
Skinner includes in his book the stone carvings of the temple complex in Karnak – panels that evidence the existence of temple ceremonies millennia ago. Examining and understanding the panels, as pictured in his book, was exciting and very meaningful for me.
Skinner skillfully shows us that “the temple endowment is the foreordained path to exaltation, to which the ancients gave witness” (65). After discussing several historical remnants of temple ceremonies, Skinner comments, “I have been overwhelmed by two thoughts. First is the continuity of the elements of the temple endowment over time. Second is the prophetic power possessed by the leaders of this present, and final, dispensation. Our temple endowment was not made up by Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young, or Gordon B. Hinckley, or any mortal. It comes from God” (65).
Because temple experiences were designed by God and God is no respecter of persons, Skinner reminds his readers that temple blessings apply to all people – especially those who walk life’s road alone. Quoting modern prophets, Skinner confirms, “Not one of our Heavenly Father’s sons or daughters will be denied any covenant, promise, or blessing if they desire it and have tried to remain worthy of it” (94).
Keeping the Atonement in Mind
Days after finishing Skinner’s book, I attended an endowment session at the DC temple. I was looking forward to attending with “new eyes and ears,” with Skinner’s thoughts and writings fresh on my mind.
It was a wonderful session for me. I saw the endowment for its transcendence over the ages of man. I went with openness, expecting and reaching for personal revelation. And as it was Easter Eve, I went with a heart turned towards my Savior. I felt a closeness to Him, as well as an increased sensitivity to the way all temple things point to Him. I recalled two of Skinner’s statements with poignancy:
The teachings found in the temple are like a funnel. They begin broadly, focusing our attention ever more narrowly on the Son of God and his atoning activities in mortality. Temple teachings also pull together principles from different dispensations in a dramatized, step-by-step ascent to godhood, always with the Atonement in mind (53).
We are never more like the Savior than when we minister to the deceased through vicarious service in the temple, doing for others that which they cannot do for themselves. This is the very essence of the Savior’s life (53).
Skinner teaches one of the main purposes of the temple is to prepare us for eternity. If we understand through the plan of salvation that we have an eternal home, temple attendance can answer those longings or feelings of displacement we experience in mortality.
“We were acquainted with temples in our premortal heavenly home, and now they serve as a point of contact with everything that was good and right before we entered this fallen world” (118).
Skinner shares with readers his pristine memory of the day he and his sister were sealed to their parents in the Salt Lake Temple. “Indelibly etched in my mind is the scene of my father, and mother, dressed in white, kneeling around an altar, my sister and I at their sides, holding hands with an older woman I did not now. As I found out, she was acting as proxy. I had forgotten (if I had known at all) that a little girl had been born to my parents between me and the sister with whom I grew up. I was not used to seeing my parents shed tears, but tears flowed freely that day. I came to realize that they were tears of happiness (still one of nature’s ironies to me)” (76).
Four years later, Skinner’s father died unexpectedly. For days, Skinner says, he was inconsolable. “I … remember how bad I felt – until the thought came into my mind one day that we had been sealed as a family. All was not lost if I would try diligently to live as I had been taught. There was still pain, but I could endure it and make sense of it. Those thoughts and feelings about the temple and the sealing power changed my life … When I returned to the temple … just before I left for full-time missionary service, I felt I had come home” (77).
Andrew C. Skinner’s personal experiences make the blessings of the temple tangible.
Temple Worship will help any endowed member glean more from their temple experience. It made me want to attend more often, with greater preparation, and with anticipation of spiritually “coming home.” Temple worship is a privilege. Indeed, it is the ultimate expression of our worship.