Skips to main content

The Temple: A Map for Our Lives and Learning

Nathan Lindsay Director of Planning, Research, and Communications in the Commissioner’s Office of the Church Educational System
May 23, 2023 11:15 AM

"The temple is an ensign to the nations, and it is an ensign to us individually. It marks and shows the way forward for us as we navigate the opportunities and challenges surrounding us. The temple helps us when we feel lost. The temple is a map for our lives and learning."
Good morning, brothers and sisters. It is such a joy to be with you here at Ensign College, an institution that inspires me every time I learn more about it. The purposes, the initiatives, and the outcomes of this college are innovative and ennobling. I fully endorse Ensign’s mission, written on the building, to “develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.” Truly, as your name connotes, you are a flag and banner of goodness and discipleship that is a standard to the world.

My message today begins with a question: How many of you have ever been lost? Maybe it was driving, maybe it was hiking, or maybe it was in the mall or a department store when you were young. Maybe you heard over the intercom your mother being called as you were lost. Do any of you remember by raise of hands being lost? Do you remember how you got lost? Do you remember how you felt when you were lost? Did any of you pray for help? How many of you were hungry? How many of you were scared or angry, or maybe even “hangry?”

In contrast, do you remember how you felt when you found your way? Some of you may have offered a prayer of gratitude for your deliverance.

I have been lost several times in my life, but one experience that I remember clearly occurred on a family trip to Nauvoo, Illinois. We lived in Indiana, and on our way back from Nauvoo, in the pitch dark of the evening, somewhere in the middle of Illinois, we somehow started driving in the wrong direction. After about an hour of “not travelling in a direct course” (as Nephi might say), or actually traveling in the opposite direction, our family realized the mistake. Having to double back on the correct course added about two hours to our trip and resulted in a much shorter night of sleep. This situation could have been avoided if we had been watching the road signs and following a map.

As a young boy on other road trips, I loved being “the Navigator” on our drives across the Great Plains, which were many, and telling my dad how many miles we had to travel until we reached places, and raise your hand if you have been to these places, like Ogallala, Nebraska or Lincoln, Nebraska on I-80, or Hays, Kansas or Salina, Kansas on I-70. I loved our Rand McNally map that had symbols for campgrounds, national monuments and memorials, and most importantly, rest stops, and McDonalds. They didn’t have McDonalds on the map.

Physical maps like these are now used less often. The Global Positioning System, or GPS as we know it, has nearly become ubiquitous in helping us reach our intended destinations. Now, on GPS, when we make a wrong turn, we can see on our phones the process of “Redirecting.” Wouldn’t it be helpful to had a spiritual GPS? As we are surrounded by worldly pressures, allurements, detours, and distractions, one spiritual GPS that we have is the holy temple, which can help “redirect” us on a path that will lead us back to God.

As President Nelson has taught, the temple is a place where we can find rest on our way home. [1] It actually is a home away from home, the home or “House of the Lord.” The Lord tenderly invites each of us to “come home.” The temple is a place where we can learn about our Savior, be endowed with power to overcome the world, find rest, and navigate our way back to our Heavenly Father. Indeed, the temple is a map for our lives and for our learning. That is my message for you today.

You and I might ask ourselves, “Among all of the ways to use our discretionary hours, why should we devote our time to temple worship?” From my perspective, it’s hard to overemphasize or overstate the blessings of the temple. As I’ll reference in this message, many prophets and apostles (and President Nelson in particular) have outlined life-changing and sublime benefits of temple worship. Perhaps foremost among reasons to attend the temple is that it is a selfless act in which we serve as saviors on mount Zion. [2] Through vicarious work for those who are deceased, we can help open doors for them that they cannot open for themselves. Brothers and sisters, it is beautiful, meaningful work. 

In addition to helping others, we also often receive personal blessings. In describing the blessings of what we can receive in the temple, I have sometimes highlighted what I would describe as the 3 P’s: Power, Protection, and Peace. 

The first P is for Power. I love the current wording about the temple in the Church’s General Handbook, which says in section 3.5: “God’s priesthood power flows to all members of the Church—female and male—as they keep the covenants they have made with Him. Members make these covenants as they receive priesthood ordinances. The blessings of priesthood power that members can receive include, and there are six of them: Guidance for their lives; Inspiration to know how to serve family members and others; Strength to endure and overcome challenges; Gifts of the Spirit to magnify their abilities; Revelation to know how to fulfill the work they are ordained, set apart, or assigned to do; and finally, Help and strength to become more like Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.” [3] Indeed, as it says in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 84, “In the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest.” [4]  

As we seek to progress on the covenant path, the temple gives us power and direction for our journey. It seems that this fortitude and revelation often prepares us for the trials in our lives. This was true of the Saints before they crossed the plains. Let me share with you an account from the book Saints, Volume 1 that highlights the people in Nauvoo who understood the power and meaning of temple ordinances:

“On February 2, [1846], after thousands of Saints had received temple ordinances, the apostles announced that they would halt the work in the temple and instead prepare boats to ferry wagons across the icy Mississippi River. Brigham sent messengers to the captains of wagon companies, instructing them to be ready to leave within four hours. He then continued to administer the endowment to the Saints until late in the evening, keeping the temple recorders there until every ordinance had been properly recorded.

When Brigham arose the next day, a crowd of Saints met him outside the temple, eager for their endowment. Brigham told them it was unwise to delay their departure. If they stayed to do more endowments, their way out of the city could be impeded or cut off. He promised they would build more temples and have more opportunities to receive their blessings out west. Then Brigham walked away, expecting the Saints to disperse, but instead they climbed the steps to the temple and filled its halls. Turning around, Brigham followed them inside. He saw their anxious faces, and he changed his mind. They knew they needed the endowment of power to endure the hardships ahead, overcome the sting of death, and return to the presence of God.

For the rest of that day, temple workers administered the ordinances to hundreds of Saints. The next day, February 4, 1846, an additional five hundred Saints received their endowment as the first wagons rolled out of Nauvoo. Finally, on February 8, Brigham and the apostles met on the temple’s upper floor. They knelt around the altar and prayed, asking God’s blessing upon the people heading west and upon those staying in Nauvoo to finish the temple and dedicate it to Him.” [5]   

I love this account of Saints who understood the eternal significance of the temple ordinances, and who were intent on being endowed with power before they crossed the plains.

The second P is for Protection. In his first public address as the prophet, President Russell M. Nelson addressed the Church from the Salt Lake Temple annex. He highlighted how this location was a symbol to “begin with the end in mind,” [6] in our efforts to stay on the covenant path. On that day, President Nelson further taught, “The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary.” [7]  

Living in the last days, you and I know that the attacks of the adversary are real. We can receive Divine help by attending the temple whenever we are distracted, tempted, and buffeted by trials and the whirlwinds of mortality. President Nelson counseled us that “Whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants." [8]

The third P is for Peace. When life seems overwhelming, discouraging, confusing, complicated, and overly busy, there is a sublime peace that can be found in the Lord’s house. Peace often comes as we gain an eternal perspective on the challenges we are facing. President Boyd K. Packer observed, "At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can 'see' things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known." [9] President Harold B. Lee shared a similar observation: “[The temple] is where we climb high above the smoke and the fog of these earthly things and we learn to read by God's eternal stars a course that will lead us safely back home." [10]  

For me personally, I have found the temple is a place where I can be still, and know that He is God. [11] It is a place of peace where I often receive the reassurance that things are going to work out as I trust Him. 

So, the temple is a map for our lives, providing power, protection, and peace, and it is also a map for our learning. This was true for our Savior, and it is true for us as well. President James E. Faust noted, "The temple was a place of learning for the Savior when He was on the earth; it was very much a part of His life.” [12] For you students here at Ensign College, I hope that you will supplement your learning in the classroom with the incredible learning that can occur in temples.  Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “Temples are the greatest university of learning known to man.” [13] What a powerful quote. Who here would not love to attend the greatest university in the world? Who here would love to do that? Absolutely.

Over the years, President Nelson has repeatedly taught about the opportunities we have to learn in the temple. He said: “The house of the Lord is a house of learning. There the Lord teaches us in His own way. There each ordinance teaches about the Savior. There we learn how to part the veil and communicate more clearly with heaven.” [14] President Nelson also reminded us that the Holy Ghost is key to our learning. He explained, "The temple endowment was given by revelation. Thus, it is best understood by revelation, prayerfully sought with a sincere heart." [15]

It is important to recognize and remember that so much of our temple learning focuses on the Savior. President Nelson stated, “The temple lies at the center of strengthening our faith and spiritual fortitude because the Savior and His doctrine are the very heart of the temple. Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ.” [16]

Brothers and sisters, as you know, Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. Jesus Christ is also the central focus of the Church Educational System, whose mission is to “develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their home, the Church, and their communities.” I am so deeply grateful to be a part of Church Education. I started working in the Commissioner’s Office of the Church Educational System less than a year ago. People often ask me what it’s like to live in Utah, after having lived outside of Utah for over two decades. We have loved living in many states across the country, but I typically describe to those asking my personal feelings about the benefits of living in Utah, which centers on two things: 1) For me, being closer to extended family; 2) Being closer to many temples.

While living in Montana for the last eight years, I had the blessing of conducting Ecclesiastical Endorsement interviews with prospective students for the Church Educational System. After we discussed the standards in the Honor Code, I would usually ask them if they had any questions for me about the Church schools. I would also often share my perspective that one of the primary benefits of going to school here in Salt Lake City, or Provo, or Rexburg, or in Laie, was that they would be minutes from a temple.

What an incredible opportunity we have in this area to worship in the temple regularly. I believe that we should not only go “to” the temple, but that we should go “through” the temple. As we go through the temple regularly, the temple ordinances go through us and they become a life-changing part of who we are. Regularly worshipping in the temple helps us remember and live the five covenants we make in the temple endowment related to the law of obedience, the law of sacrifice, the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration. [17]

President Nelson said, “construction of these temples may not change your life, but your time in the temple surely will. In that spirit, I bless you to identify those things you can set aside so you can spend more time in the temple." [18] Our current prophet also counseled, “If you don’t yet love to attend the temple, go more often—not less. Let the Lord, through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation.” [19]

Another question that I am often asked is “What do you like to do for fun, or what are your hobbies or interests?” Are any of you asked that question sometimes? Years ago, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone relayed that when Spencer W. Kimball was asked what his hobby was, he would respond, “I love people.” [20] What a beautiful hobby to have next time someone asks you. When others ask us about our hobbies, wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of us responded, “One of my favorite things to do is to serve in the temple.” Temple and family history work is part of the gathering of Israel. President Nelson says that it is the most important work happening in the world today. [21]

From experiences over many years, I have come to love the temple, and that love continues to grow and grow. Several years ago, my wife Shalissa and I went to the Kansas City Missouri Temple on the first day it was open for ordinances. After years of traveling one hour, two hours, or nearly three hours every month to attend the temple in other places we lived, we were overjoyed to have a temple open one mile from our house. We could see it from our front door. I remember literally skipping up the outdoor steps with joy to attend a temple so nearby that first day. After a very spiritual session on this first day, I vividly remember Shalissa greeting me in the Celestial Room with the words, “Welcome home.” With a little bit of apprehension, given that we had several young children, I shared with her the impression I’d had during the temple session that I should be a temple worker. She responded with an interesting question, “When did you receive that prompting?” I told her that I had this feeling in the second instruction room. She then said, “Well, I had that impression in the first instruction room. You’re a room behind me.” As you might guess, it’s not uncommon for me to be a room behind my wife, spiritually and in many other ways. I was so grateful that the Lord had provided this direction to both of us. Shortly thereafter, I was called as a temple ordinance worker, and served every Tuesday for two years.

As I served as a temple worker, and as I pondered and prayed about the ordinances, I felt that the ordinances were engraved upon my soul. In beautiful ways that are hard to describe, I feel like I came to know the Lord more deeply. Having served as a temple worker several times, I personally would put the blessings of this sacred opportunity on a plane similar to serving a full-time mission. Serving as a temple worker might be an opportunity that would be a great blessing in your future as well. I am always so delighted when I visit the temple and see young adults serving as temple workers. It is usually inappropriate to seek callings, but this is a calling where we have the privilege of volunteering...and they often welcome that! If you have a desire, you can talk with your bishop to explore this possibility. I truly believe it is a life-changing experience.

For many years, Shalissa and I have said that our family has two primary goals: 1) To strive to be a Celestial family; 2) To build the Kingdom of God. For me, worshiping in the temple combines both of these goals. In the temple, I know that I am doing something that truly matters, that always matters, as part of the greatest work on the earth.

As we meet today at this institution, this inspiring institution with the incredible name of Ensign College, I find it appropriate to quote Isaiah 2:2: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." 

Truly, the temple is an ensign to the nations, and it is an ensign to us individually. It marks and shows the way forward for us as we navigate the opportunities and challenges surrounding us. The temple helps us when we feel lost. The temple is a map for our lives and learning. In the temple, we can obtain the 3 P’s of Power, Protection, and Peace. The Lord invites us to come home to His home and “endowed with power from on high.” [22] He encourages us to come to His home and be endowed with power “to overcome all things.” [23] Through Christ, you and I can be overcomers. The temple is a place where we can “see him as he is,” and where we can “[become] like him.” [24] I know that the Lord, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer, and I love Him with all my heart.

Brothers and Sisters, please “come home” to the temple more often. The temple provides a map for our learning and our journey for us to make it back home to our Heavenly Father. It is my sincere testimony that the Lord will pour out his blessings upon you as you do so. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


[1] See Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” General Conference, October 2022.
[2] See Obadiah 1:21
[3] General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 3.5.
[4] Doctrine and Covenants, 84:20
[5] Saints, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815-1846, Chapter 46.
[6] Russell M. Nelson, “As We Go Forward Together”, April 2018.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” General Conference, October 2021.
[9] Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” General Conference, October 2010.
[10] The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams, 1998.
[11] Psalm 46:10
[12] James E. Faust, “The Restoration of All Things,” General Conference, April 2006.
[13] Robert D. Hales, “Temple Blessings,” Brigham Young University devotional, Nov. 15, 2005.
[14] Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” Liahona, May 2020.
[15] Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” General Conference, April 2001.
[16] Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” General Conference, October 2021.
[17] See General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 27.2.
[18] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On,” General Conference, April 2018.
[19] Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” General Conference, October 2021.
[20] See Vaughn J. Featherstone, Charity Never Faileth.
[21] Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel,” June 3, 2018.
[22] D&C 105:11
[23] D&C 76:60
[24] Moroni 7:48

About the Speaker

Nathan Lindsay

Brother Lindsay grew up in Muncie, Indiana.  He holds a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University, a M.S. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Michigan.  He is now the Director of Planning, Research, and Communications in the Commissioner’s Office of the Church Educational System.  He previously worked in administrative roles at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the University of Montana. 

He has served as an early morning seminary teacher, Institute instructor, temple worker, Stake Young Men’s president, high councilor, bishop, counselor in a Stake Presidency, and missionary in the Russia Novosibirsk Mission. His current church job is the Sunday School teacher for the 15-17 year olds. 

Brother Lindsay and his wife, Shalissa, are the parents of 10 children. 
Close Modal