Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Elder Robert D. Hales speaks to audience at BYU devotional Tuesday.

PROVO — Temple blessings should be a central focus when dating relationships grow serious between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Robert D. Hales told Brigham Young University students during a campus devotional on Tuesday.

The grounds around the church's 132 functioning temples serve as a great place for a date when couples are contemplating marriage, said Elder Hales, a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve.

"It is very important to know the heart and mind of your future eternal companion's desire to be worthy to go to the temple and always keep their temple covenants, enduring to the end," he said.

Latter-day Saints believe temple marriages, or sealings, bind couples and their children for eternity, and Elder Hales called participation in temple ceremonies and covenants some "of the most significant events we will experience in our mortal lives."

Worthy church members obtain blessings in endowment ceremonies, he said, and the temple and its ordinances are the central focus of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those ordinances are as essential as baptism and guide church members to Christ.

"Temples are the greatest university of learning known to man, giving us knowledge and wisdom about the creation of the world," Elder Hales said.

"The ordinance of the endowment means gift," he added, "consisting of a series of instructions on how we should live and covenants we make to live righteously by following our Savior."

Temples also can provide peaceful sanctuary during difficult times.

"When you are troubled and when you have crucial decisions that weigh heavily on your mind and soul, you can take your cares to the temple and receive spiritual guidance," Elder Hales said.

Sarah Rich, a church member endowed in the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois in the 1840s shortly before the Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Valley, said the temple ordinance helped the LDS pioneers endure the trek.

"If it had not been for the knowledge and blessings (she) received in the Nauvoo Temple," Elder Hales said, Rich believed "the journey west would have been such a giant leap into the dark that she would have felt she was walking into the jaws of death."

LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has said BYU is still a place where church leaders want young LDS men and women to meet, date and marry. Elder Hales returned to the topic of marriage and outlined five steps successful LDS couples have taken to maintain their temple marriages:

First, knowing they are children of God, they set heavenly goals. Second, they understand the importance of the temple. Third, they seek eternal blessings rather than worldly possessions. Fourth, they recognize that once they have been sealed to a spouse in the temple, "their courting days are over." And fifth, they think of one another before self.