The House of the Lord—the temple—is a house of learning. Coffers of treasured knowledge await those who attend. It’s the ultimate university on Earth, and though it’s a private school with an admissions process, it’s available to all—even children.
I am blessed to live close to a temple. Here in Logan, Utah, our temple is on a hill and we can see it at almost any given moment if we look in the right direction. We moved here from the Seattle area, where we lived 45 minutes from the temple on a good traffic day. When we moved to Utah, I loved how excited my then 2-year-old son got each and every time we drove into town when he could see the temple up close. He’d be sucking his thumb and twisting his hair and then all of a sudden he’d come to life and point and shout, “I see it! I see the temple! Mommy, do you see it?”
Many of the most spiritual and revelatory temple experiences I’ve had have actually come outside the temple, on the grounds with my children. My husband and I are not perfect parents, but one thing I think we’ve done right is to make the temple a real part of our children’s lives. Whenever we travel, we try to make seeing the temples along the way a priority, to emphasize that temples are worth seeking out and going to, and to let the children experience the spirit that is there.
As the children grow, opportunities also grow. This past summer we arranged for our older children to do baptisms for the dead at the Nauvoo temple while we vacationed. They appreciated that unique experience.
In addition to going to the temple just for the sake of being at the temple, I’ve tried to tie the temple into all aspects of my children’s lives. Here are a few examples:
Many years ago, we belonged to a homeschool book club. When it was my turn to be in charge, I chose The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. For the activity relating to the book, I had everyone meet at a park next to the Seattle temple. There was a wooded trail area between the park and the temple. I gave the children jump ropes and we jumped and skipped our way through the woods to the temple. We looked at the flowers and fountain and the temple itself. Then we went to the “secret garden” on those temple grounds—a small, circular contemplative clearing tucked into the trees and shrubbery that you have to deliberately look for. I took the children inside and we talked about the book, and gardens, and exercise, and how knowing about temples and the Plan of Salvation might have changed characters and events of the book. Then we returned to the park to plant seeds.
For my daughter’s 5th birthday, I based her birthday party on the bookCinderella CTR by Rick Walton. I loaded a bunch of cute little girls into my van and we drove to the temple and sat under a shade tree on the hill, looking at the temple as I read the book aloud. We then walked around, took pictures, and then went to a nearby park to make princess crowns and decorate temple-shaped sugar cookies.
The temple grounds are where I’ve chosen to have the initial maturation and intimacy talk with my children when they reach that age. It’s a special date at a special place with a special spirit. Being there sets a tone that can’t be duplicated anywhere else. I feel a strength and guidance there and believe more of the right things are said and in the right way.
- Include temples in your studies of geography. Where in the world are they? If you’re talking about one particular place, find out where the nearest temple is. What does it look like? Is the architecture unique to the area? It’s also fun to check out the license plates of the cars in the parking lot when you visit and find those states on a map.
- Temple gardens are breathtaking! Visit the temple grounds when studying horticulture or landscape architecture. Talk about industry and beauty.
- Photography, painting, sketching—let the temple be your subject.
- In character education, find stories of the people who built the temples who demonstrate the qualities you’re discussing. You may be able to find the exact stones or engravings that particular person worked on if it’s outside and see it in person.
- You can even do math on the temple grounds. Look for symmetry and patterns. Discuss D&C 88:119 and the meaning of order.
- Do an entire unit study on temples. Go with the modern LDS temple history and the stories of those temples, or begin at the beginning and discuss all temples. Be sure to differentiate between pagan temples and dedicated temples.
Of course, you don’t need an academic reason to visit the temple grounds. The main reason for being there is to symbolically bring your children to the foot of the Savior, that they may feel Him close and desire to prepare for temple blessings themselves. Always remember to stress reverence and how special the temple is, and don’t let visiting the grounds become too casual. Develop familiarity and love, but not a tendency to take for granted.
My 6-year-old daughter’s favorite song is, “I Love to See the Temple,” and she means it; the lyrics aren’t empty words for her. She gets giddy with excitement when she sees me pull my white dress out of the closet and put it in a suitcase, imagining out loud how beautiful she thinks I must look in it. There’s no doubt in her mind that she will “go inside someday.”1 She’s preparing now, with our help, and she can’t wait.
I realize that not everyone reading this lives near a temple. I realize that for some of you, getting there yourself is a huge sacrifice. I still challenge you, however, to do what you need to do to take your children to a temple to walk the grounds, touch the walls, and sit and feel the spirit there. I promise they’ll remember it and it will matter to them.
You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. I also have a Yahoo! group dedicated to incorporating the gospel into all aspects of schooling. To join the group, go here