Someone recently asked me the following:
Perhaps you can explain how a person who finds the [temple experience] to be … troubling should express those feelings.
This was my reply, with additional edits:
I think that would depend on if they are a member of the Church or not. I also think it goes beyond how they should express the feelings, to what should they do about them.
If not a member, I’m not sure why something that we do in the sacred seclusion and confines of our temples should disturb such a person at all since they don’t participate in it, and it in no way affects their way of life or beliefs. I would submit that someone like this doesn’t really know the temple even if they think they do, since they do not have first-hand experience, and so it is difficult for them to rightly discern. The sacred things of the temple, when purloined from that holy environment, lose their godly nature and divine sanction. This is why we refrain from speaking of their details outside of that sacred space. In a profane context, the temple doesn’t make sense. If this truly disturbs someone, a careful inventory of how they react generally to external factors outside their control in their life might be in order. There are a great many things that other people do in private that have no bearing whatsoever on the way I live my life.
If they are a member of the Church, then I believe further learning of the extensive history of temples and temple worship since the beginning of time is great counsel, since similar worship practices, rituals, ceremonies and liturgies have been practiced by mankind since their creation. A reading list of books on the temple would help familiarize them with the language of symbolism, ritual, formal worship, the covenant-making process, parallels among early Christians and other ancient civilizations, religious mysticism, and the meaning behind the temple ordinances. Professor Andrew Skinner’s latest book Temple Worship is an excellent first recourse.
Even with this understanding, a member’s first experiences in the temple may still be peculiar to them in some regard. I think this is natural, and may be by design. The Lord’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9). The things of God and His temples are not even remotely aligned with the ways of the world, because they are a reflection of heaven, and are always found starkly in contrast with all mundane trivialities. This could potentially strike new temple attendees as odd or different. But such ceremonies have always stood out in distinctiveness from the rest of man’s affairs, even in one of the earliest sacred structures, Moses’ Tabernacle. How would the rest of the world have viewed that form of Israelite worship? The earliest Christian initiations were likewise extraordinary, and for a divine purpose. Edward Yarnold, a research lecturer at Oxford University, has written about the early Christian ordinances thus:
‘The awe-inspiring rites’ – the words recur several times in these pages. Without being unfaithful to the Greek, I might have called this book ‘The Spine-chilling Rites of Initiation.’ It takes the form of a collection of sermons, all preached about the second half of the fourth century, explaining the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Communion by which a Christian became a full member of the Church. The ceremonies took place at night some of them in the dark, after weeks of intense preparation; they were wrapped in secrecy, and the candidate knew little about them until just before, or even after, he had received them. Everything was calculated to inspire religious awe, to make these rites the occasion of a profound and life-long conversion. ((Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation, ix, link.))
Prayerful and scriptural introspection and study would be valuable to any temple-going Latter-day Saint to consider in order to gain personal testimony that the temple is the House of the Lord. Discussion with a bishop, teacher, friend, or family member about such feelings might also help. Generally, the more one knows the ways of the Lord, the more the temple fits perfectly into His model of the eternities and the more one recognizes the profound blessing it is to worship and serve in His temple.
I testify that the temple is the Lord’s House, His presence dwells there, His angels abide there, He has revealed the ordinances in our day, and such revelation is evidence of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The atonement of Jesus Christ is epitomized in the teachings and ritual experience of the temple, and one can grow nearer to God, our Heavenly Father, by serving and sacrificing personal will there, just as Christ did, in the House of the Lord.