This is third of a series of posts on my own temple experiences, inspired by the new Temples booklet issued in place of the October Ensign. The prior posts are here and here.
Like most young men who serve missions, I received my endowment shortly before entering the MTC. In my case, it was the day before. I was endowed in the Provo Utah Temple, and accompanying me that day was my college freshman roommate, who was also receiving his endowment, and who was also entering the MTC the next day (though we didn't go to the same mission).
I suppose I would have preferred to go to the temple with my folks, but my dad was working out of the country and could not make a trip home before I left to go to the Washington DC Temple. And it did not bother me in any way that he could not.
As my friend and I walked from our motel to the temple that morning, we encountered a truck that was cleaning the sidewalk outside the Marriott Center on BYU's campus. I assumed the driver saw us and would let us pass, but my friend thought he would spray us with water, which he did! I was about to get mad when my friend laughed it off and said that sort of thing always happened on one's first trip to the temple. (Indeed I've since heard far more significant stories of hardship associated with that first trip.) By the time we arrived at the door to the temple, we were dry.
If the kind folks at the Provo Temple were concerned about our arriving without escorts, they didn't say anything about it. I did notice that they took great care not to lose us, and I suppose our big "Own Endowment" tags pinned to our shirts helped with that.
My bishop had done a pretty good job of preparing me for that first visit. Without giving too much detail, he helped me be aware of what would happen and in what order so that I was not surprised at any step of the way. I don't know if he gave me the advice or not, but somewhere along the way I decided that there was no way I was going to remember everything, so I decided just to let it wash over me and I tried to capture feelings and images rather than specific points along the way. I figured I'd be back again a few times over the next two months. That strategy worked for me, and I have recommended it to other first time attenders I have known.
The spirit of the temple was amazing to me. I was reminded repeatedly of how I had felt in the Salt Lake Temple nine years (almost to the day) earlier. I certainly came away with plenty of questions, and without an experienced escort, I had no one to ask, but that didn't trouble me, either. I do remember the kindness of two sisters who worked in the temple and seemed to keep their eyes on my friend and me throughout our day. They made sure we were on the right escalator and headed into the right room, and they whispered gentle instruction to us about where we could and could not talk and what we could or could not discuss.
Of course during my stay at the MTC, I did get to return each week, so in the course of that time I had nine visits to the temple in as many weeks. I appreciated a meeting with the temple president the first day I attended as a missionary in which we could ask any question we wanted. I was too timid to ask my questions, but some of them were asked by others, and his answers satisfied me at the time.
My impressions as a boy had been confirmed. The temple was a place of peace, a place of happiness, and now a place of learning and of service. And I still found myself wanting to return.