What is an Endowment? (Under Revision)
There are several definitions of “endowment.” The word itself comes from the Greek verb enduō, and means several things.
2) Figuratively, “to take on characteristics,” as in “clothed with power” (Luke 24:49) or “As many of you as have been baptised have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27). ” “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12)
3) In a more modern usage, an endowment also means “a gift,” as with a university endowment, a large sum of money gifted to a university or college.
All three of these meanings can be seen in the Temple ordinances. (See this Ensign article for more on the word enduō)
On April 6, 1853, at the cornerstone-laying ceremony of the SLC Temple, President Brigham Young gave this well-known definition which has been quoted many times in the Ensign, in General Conference, and in other official Church publications. It also appears in both the official Temple Preparation manual and student guide.
Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell. (Discourses of Brigham Young, 416. Elder Packer, The Holy Temple, 153.)
Elder James E. Talmage gave this definition.
The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern Temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements. (The House of the Lord, pages 99-100. Elder Packer, The Holy Temple, p.154)
Thus, in the Temple, we are literally endowed by being clothed in garments and priestly clothing (as discussed in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on Garments and Elder Asay, who quotes the EM article in this Ensign article on garments.) In the Temple, we are figuratively endowed by taking on particular characteristics required of us by the covenants we make. We are endowed with power, perhaps by the sanctifying power of the spirit in response to the covenants we make. And we are endowed by receiving gifts of the Spirit- the Spirit itself and wisdom, knowledge, sanctification, peace, and comfort.
LDS sometimes talk about “taking out their endowments” but this isn’t entirely the best phraseology. You yourself only have one endowment because you only go to Temple once for It is perhaps more appropriate to talk about “receiving my endowment” or “being endowed.” This is a nitpick on my part, but hey, it’s my webpage☺
Normally when people “go to the Temple,” they go to do “endowments,” that is, an endowment session. A session generally takes 2-3 hours, depending on which Temple you’re attending and how many people are in the session. Besides an endowment session, you can also do baptisms/confirmations, initiatory, or sealings.
See here for further terminology references. ©