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Alone in the Temple

By Jessie Christensen

Temple001
My first trip to the temple–June 1999

“Why didn’t you call me? You could have come with us!” My neighbor’s face was furrowed with concern, and mine was furrowed with confusion. It took me a moment to figure out what she was referring too—ward temple night. I had seen her, and many members of the ward, when we met together on Friday night to do a session at the temple. Flustered by her concern, I stumbled over my response: “I came straight from work; no, actually I picked up someone else and brought her but her husband took her home; um, well, I always go by myself.” She sighed and walked off down the hallway of the church, as baffled by my reaction to her concern as I was by her attempt to reach out to me. You see, I always go to the temple by myself. In fact, I prefer to attend alone and had almost not gone to ward temple night. I debated going for weeks beforehand, and I’m still not sure why I feel so uncomfortable being in the temple with people I know.

My first experiences with the temple were mostly solitary. I received my mission call in early May but did not need to report to the MTC until the end of August. My stake president counseled me to receive my endowment right away and attend the temple often before leaving on my mission. At the time my family was living in Maryland and it could take up to two hours in traffic to reach the Washington, DC temple. I still made a goal to attend once a week and managed to make it to the temple multiple times before entering the MTC. I would leave after work, fighting the traffic in my little un-airconditioned, stick-shift car—windows down to catch a bit of breeze and radio off to avoid distraction. I usually arrived at the temple a hot, sticky, stressed-out mess, but after a quick change in the lobby bathroom I felt presentable again. Two hours later I emerged from the temple into the cool evening air, at peace on the inside and outside.

After my mission I moved back to Utah and began dating a former elder from my mission. I enjoyed attending the temple with him, both before our marriage and after. Unfortunately, a short time after we got married, he stopped attending for a variety of reasons. I was back to going to the temple by myself, and for the most part I enjoy my own solitary retreat from the rest of the world. Sometimes I will go with a friend or two but I generally like the chance to be alone with my thoughts and the Spirit. When my marriage crumbled, I found strength and refuge in the individual covenants I had made in the temple. While there are some aspects of the temple ceremony that I am still pondering and making peace with, I will never deny the real power and love of God that I have felt poured out upon me while I am there.

However, I have talked to some other women who rarely attend the temple alone, or who feel like they can’t go without a friend or a spouse. Some of my friends have told me that the emphasis in the youth program on temple marriage, combined with their receiving their endowment shortly before their wedding, made it difficult for them to see the blessings of the temple for themselves as an individual. I think that one blessing of the lowered missionary age for women, and the subsequent increase in the number of sister missionaries, will be a greater emphasis on individual temple covenant making and temple attendance. I don’t say that to diminish the temple sealing ceremony in any way—marriage in the temple is still a crowning ordinance and a goal I still have for myself. But sometimes I worry that our emphasis on temple weddings means a lack of preparation for the endowment that comes prior to that wedding and that will be the focus of years of temple attendance after marriage. I am grateful that I had a solid foundation of temple attendance before my marriage because it made it easier to keep going once I no longer had a husband who shared my beliefs. I wouldn’t mind having a husband to go to the temple with again someday, but right now I really am all right with going alone.

What do you think? Do you prefer to attend the temple alone or with friends and/or family? What is the best way to teach our youth about the significance of the temple and the importance of life-long attendance?

About Jessie Christensen

Jessie served a mission in Spain and graduated from BYU with bachelor's degrees in Spanish Translation and English, as well as a master's in Spanish Literature. She currently works full-time at a university library and nurtures her three children, one cat, and a fluctuating number of fish. She relaxes by reading, baking, canning fruit, and putting together jigsaw puzzles.

23 thoughts on “Alone in the Temple”

  1. I was surprised the first time a friend was concerned that I usually went to the temple alone. It just seemed normal to me, but I slowly realized it wasn't to a lot of women. It's nice to go with someone, but I think I prefer to go alone.

    I'm inclined to think that the best way to teach children about the importance of going to the temple is to simply go often and make sure your kids know you're there. But that's not easy when you live far from the temple (also, proximity to the temple makes a huge difference whether you can go alone, in many cases. If you're far away, you're more likely to be there with someone else whether you like it or not).

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  2. I preferred to go alone. I liked having my parents there the first time, and I liked being there with family for their weddings, but on a routine trip I preferred being alone. It isn't really supposed to be a social thing, after all.

    I have not gone, though, for years, because it turned out that ultimately I don't like being there alone. I've never married, and it reached the point that no matter how wonderful most of the experience was, entering the Celestal Room alone, with never anyone there to greet me, not then and and with no anticipation for the future, made a terribly lonely mockery of all that went before. None of those promises really applied to me, because I was alone. It didn't help to have friends or ward members there, because I had made no covenants with them. I tried to ignore that and think about the service I was doing for some other woman, but still, I'd go into that room and stand or sit alone, awkwardly, for a moment, then flee to the dressing room because there was nothing for me to wait for.

    I will understand if you don't post this, and I'm sorry for its depressing view. I know many single women find solace in the temple. For me, though, I never feel lonelier than there. "Alone in the Temple," indeed.

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  3. Amira–The thought of proximity to the temple crossed my mind while writing this. You are right–those who live a far distance from the temple don't often have the choice to go alone. And, after writing this, I realized that one of the biggest reasons why I value the temple is the example of my mother, who has faithfully attended by herself for years and who has always valued the temple in her life.

    Anon–I totally understand those feelings also. The temple is an interesting place for me because I feel like there are some parts that promise real power and peace to me, no matter my gender or marital status, and other parts that appear to contradict that. I've been pondering and studying to try and make sense of how the temple fits into my life as a divorced, single sister. I have a strong testimony that God loves all his children and won't deny them blessings because of things outside their control. When I was getting divorced, my bishop told me that even the sealing ceremony is an individual covenant–that we are each covenanting with God, not each other. I haven't done sealings for a long time so I don't know if this is true or not, but it makes sense to me. At the same time, knowing all this is not always the greatest comfort in times when you just plain feel alone.

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  4. I'm so sorry, anonymous. I don't have anything else to say it won't sound trite, but I am sorry.

    Like Jessie, I enjoy attending the temple alone. I like following my own time schedule.

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  5. I like to go alone. I don't like to have to think about anyone else, just have time for my own reflection. Glad to see others can understand that; the idea of going as a group or ward seems unpleasant to me.

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  6. Thank you so much for writing this post!

    I love going to the temple with my husband because those trips remind me of our progression together, but there are many many times where I go alone and those trips are when I can focus on my personal progression and learning for myself.

    I've long felt that I've been more uplifted by those solo trips because I'm not distracted by another person. It's almost as thought I can listen more carefully.

    The least spiritual visits have been when I've gone on a ward temple trip or a stake temple trip.

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  7. @Anonymous for this –

    My heart aches for you. I hate to hear of your pain and wish that it were not so.

    It was interesting to read of another who doesn't spend time in the celestial room. I rarely stay there long – even when I'm with my husband. During our personal endowments was the only time I ever had a spiritual feeling there in the celestial room. Since then, it's just been a room.

    My most spiritual experiences have been during sealings and initiatories and I try to do one or the other in addition to attending an endowment session each time I visit the temple.

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  8. I am a single sister so I've always attended the temple alone. Sometimes I enjoy attending with my ward on temple night, but if I want to talk to God about a specific concern I prefer to go alone. That way I can reflect and pray without feeling like I need to leave by a certain time.

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  9. This is wonderful. I do agree that I would love to see the endowment de-linked from a sealing. It is problematic that bishops have total control over when someone can be endowed, and there is no policy.

    You were allowed to go to the temple many times before your mission, but some missionaries can only go once right before leaving. When I was married, I could only be endowed a few days before. Since I got pregnant (and sick) right away and then we moved far from a temple, I went years in between visits. It would have been nice to have been able to go during our engagement, when we lived two blocks from a temple.

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  10. I was divorced, then single, then remarried to a non-member who after 18 yrs of marriage joined the church. I attended all those years with a spouse, then alone for many years and now with a man who I love and truly longed to be sealed to for many years. My feelings about the temple have changed many times in the last 40 years. Luckily for me in each of my situations I found solace in my temple covenants.

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  11. I, like Jessie, entered the temple a few months before my mission. I did not get married until I was 29 and was extremely grateful for the power, insight, protection and understanding my endowment brought me during those years living alone on the opposite side of the country from my family. The majority of my female friends during this time were also in their mid to late 20s, single and endowed. I have always been very grateful to understanding bishops who allowed my fiends, mission or not, to have the blessings of the temple in their lives when we all needed something stronger to rely on.

    I generally don't enjoy doing things by myself. However, I have always felt temple attendance is a solitary thing. And while I have not had miraculous experiences in the celestial room I always try to take time to pray for things I really need. And I love being able to put names on the prayer roll. I think for someone who is struggling initiatories can be an empowering and wonderful experience.

    As for the youth – I made a point in teaching the young women that they needed to prepare to go to the temple. I did not say for temple marriage. The goal of the YW program is to get then to the temple. Period. On their own. I emphasized that and that that decision would be a foundation for whatever may come in their life – be it working, mission, marriage, etc.

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  12. Anonymous, I'm so sorry that you've felt that loneliness. This may or may not be helpful, but there are some things I've learned about my temple worship that may be helpful to you.

    I think we sometimes miss the most meaningful symbol of all when we see the endowment as an end (an ordinance to be completed) instead of a description of your lifelong spiritual journey…a journey where the symbolism mirrors that of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood…where it says that those who are faithful to the obtaining of these two priesthoods and the magnifying of their calling (or the covenants associated with them) are sanctified.

    The O&C of the P then says "They who receive this priesthood, receive me, and they that receive my servants, receive me. Those that receive me, receive the Father. Those that receive the Father receive all that the Father has."

    This pattern has more to do with what is done in the temple by men and women than it does with 12 and 18 year old boys. My witness is it applies to us all who embark on that journey of seeking blessing from God, and being instructed on how to obtain them.

    My point being…I understand the loss that can be felt and thinking there is no one to receive you because you don't have the family you want (coming from one who's been divorced). I'm suggesting that perhaps that isn't the most important "reception" that is being symbolized. The temple is symbolic of a person ever seeking for more truth, ever working on following what they've learned, and ultimately being embraced by Jesus and received of Him. Joseph taught this was why we should all seek the Second Comforter, which is the personal ministration of Christ. Having listened to the personal witness of a few individuals for whom this has become a reality (the personal ministration of the Savior)…it is that that I most look forward to, and it is the reason I return often to the temple…for it is there He teaches me how to approach Him.

    I wish you the best in your personal journey, and hope you find the healing you seek.

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  13. I think I value both going by myself and going with someone else. I like going by myself because it reminds me that ultimately the only person I can "Save" in this life is me. I am on deeply personal and individual journey and it is nice sometimes (in a life full of caring for other people) to focus just on myself.

    Yet, I LOVE going with my husband because I love chatting with him in the Celestial room about things that I have learned (or he has learned) that can only talked about there. It is nice to have other people to go with sometimes so that you can talk freely about temple things in the Celestial room.

    I went through the temple two months before my husband and I got married and it was so wonderful to be able to go often by myself and with him before we married. The temple president had encouraged us to do sealings before our wedding and I so appreciated it. IT was nice to feel like I knew what covenants I was making before the big day.

    I don't think it is a bad thing to focus on temple marriage as a goal for youth. The sealings are the crowning ordinances of the temple and it is a goal that all members of the church (no matter what their situation) are striving for. But I think you are right, youth need to understand that the purpose of the temple endowment is to prepare you as an individual. Those are blessings for YOU and nothing anyone else does or doesn't do will change that.

    Oh and anonymous. I have always felt that the only person worth "meeting" in the Celestial room is God. I always feel like they are the ones who meet me, and so I don't mind hanging around with them even if I am by myself.

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  14. The teachings of my YW leaders made it sound like the Endowment and Sealing were one and the same, and Endowment, if even mentioned, was a side note of Sealing under the heading Marriage. I don't know if things were taught that way because of how my leaders understood it, because of how they were comfortable speaking of the temple, or because of how they were told to present the material in the manual.

    A more certain flaw in my experience on the path to Endowment was a bishop actively /discouraging/ and recommending against receiving my temple blessings because I was neither preparing for a mission nor for marriage.

    I like to go alone; people introduce the pressures of time and conversation. I also like going with my husband.

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  15. oh, how I wish the majority of the temple group in my sessions where there alone. Going with someone else invited conversation and turns temple attendance into a social occasion. I go to the temple for quiet, peace and meditation. and have been very sadden by the number of times that was impossible because other members of the party are too busy being social.

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  16. I feel so much better knowing that others feel the same way about this. Before being endowed, I always understood the temple to be a place of extremely reverent personal and/or spousal communication with God. But almost every time I have gone, I have felt let down. The only times it has come close to my previous expectation have been when I go alone to a low-attendance session. It feels like very few people take the opportunity of being in the celestial room seriously. It always feels a little too casual, a little too loud, a little too social, especially at ward temple night. Even when I go with my husband I feel hindered – not like we could discuss sacred things. That has been one of the hardest things for me at the temple because I looked forward to that in my life but it doesn't seem to exist. And nobody around me seems bothered by it. So I've wondered if I was just missing something? Glad to know I'm not alone 🙂 It gives me hope enough in that higher ideal to keep striving for it, if it can be found.

    I have always been perplexed by the tradition of inviting lots of extended family or the ward to attend your own/live endowment. I had a hard time even allowing my grandparents to accompany me but I couldn't say no. It does not seem like I should have to feel on display while I make covenants; it is not a sporting event!

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  17. Great discussion. I also don't enjoy a ward temple trip. Once I went on ward temple day (we are one hour from our temple) and I had needs to pray about and I wanted to focus on understading more of the symbolism of the endowment and the girl from my ward wouldn't stop whispering in my ear!

    I love going with my husband and sharing what we learned…which often is the same thing.

    I also have certain feelings that a couple words don't sit right, but have faith that the Lord is to be found in the temple.

    Temple worship is a personal event shared in a large group. A paradox for sure.

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  18. I have been going solo for the past 4 years or so, and I see advantages for both going alone and for going with the ward. I love that even when I go by myself, I always end up having people I know in the session. I love that surprise and the feeling — the feeling of just how heaven is going to be — when we meet up with all the wonderful people we've known and loved in life that we are thrilled to find out 'made it' too. The serendipity of it. That's also the part of ward temple sessions that I like; that it feels so much like I think heaven will be. I love that feeling of being amongst friends; particularly amongst friends who are working and striving for the same things that I am. I also love the feeling of support I get when I go on a ward temple session; I don't feel alone in my journey. I know that even though my husband is not there with me, that I am not alone and that there are a lot of people pulling for my success and my family's success. I know that I am supported by many people.

    Also, as someone who doesn't go to the temple with my husband, I try to invite other women along who are in similar situations — who don't have anyone to go with. Because, while I think that a lot of people don't enjoy being in a big group there, I also know that a lot of people don't like to go totally by themselves, and it prevents them from going at all. Many women just want a friend or two to go with so that they don't feel so alone and lonely in the temple.

    I love my time in the celestial room afterward. I always pray first thing when I get in there. And then I sit and quietly observe and just feel the peace and calmness of it. It feels like home, and that's what I love most about the temple. It feels like going Home.

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  19. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. My patriarchal blessing specifically mentions blessings from attending the temple regularly with my husband. But shortly after the wedding, he became a sporadic temple goer. Pregnancies, nursing, etc. made it hard for me to go–and easy for him not to. 19 years of marriage now, and he hasn't gone for over 3 years. I used to at least be able to count on him going to do sealings during the month of our anniversary. He still keeps a recommend, and it's mostly been current, but he never goes, so I pretty much have to go alone if it's going to happen at all.

    Knowing that there are promised blessings I simply can't have because my husband won't go is really hard.

    And it's difficult for me to hear women talk about how wonderful it is to be alone, when I'd give a lot to have him there at least some of the time. At least it's easier to go alone now that the kids are all in school and don't need babysitters. I *can* go monthly now if I make the effort.

    I do try to embrace the peace and solace there, but I always get a bit choked up seeing couples, knowing I'll probably never have that, at least on any regular basis. Our son is getting ready to serve a mission, so of course Dad will be escort then–which really bugs me, because it's been so long, and in my mind he doesn't deserve that role. But after my son gets his endowments, I'm betting it'll be years and years before my husband attends another session.

    To my knowledge, he's never done initiatories since his own, which saddens me, because that's one of the most beautiful parts of the temple.

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  20. at a recent temple session, as we all sat down row by row to begin an endowment session the sister beside me asked another entering sister to not sit next to her as "she was saving" that seat for a friend. That friend actually arrived shortly and pushed by a row of sisters to sit by her friend. In a place were all should be equal one sister was told that she was not worthy to even sit down. Do we not welcome all into the house of the lord and invite them to sit down with us to worship.

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  21. Wow, thank you for writing this post. Just a few weeks ago I received my endowments. My husband isn't a member so I have the feeling I will be attending the temple alone for quite a while, and I'm okay with that. I see temple work as individual work, not something that has to be done in groups. Although I love the feeling that having those loved ones around me brings, truly the blessings and ordinances that are done in the temple (besides sealing) are individually done so I feel it's appropriate.
    But at times, it does feel lonely when I see friends and family looking at their husbands/wives and realize that I'm not able to share such a wonderful thing with the one that I love so much but all in all, I'm just grateful to go.

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  22. I don't go anymore, but regular temple attendence used to be my modus operandi. Two experiences changed that. First, my dad was sealed to my step-mother in the wake of my mother's passing. Second, the departure of my husband in his quest for a new lifestyle. I find no comfort within temple walls anymore. Rather, I find pain and humiliation. So I just don't go.

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