The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints builds temples which are known as the House of the Lord where faithful members of the Church go to make sacred covenants and receive special blessings from the Lord.
A covenant is a binding agreement between an individual and the Lord wherein we are asked by God to do certain things and where, in return, He promises us certain blessings. (To understand what covenants are read His Promise .) Those who are faithful to the covenants they make in the House of the Lord are promised to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection to receive eternal life and, when that happens, they will have the opportunity to become fully endowed with all the same power and glory that God possesses. Because of this it is often said that we go to the temple to be endowed with power from on high.
To help us understand this principle better we can liken it to an endowment insurance policy. With regular whole life insurance, people make a monthly premium payment each month until they die, at which time the living beneficiary is given a certain, specified lump sum of money from the insurance company. However, with an endowment insurance policy, a person can put in as much money as they want for as long as they want. Then, at a certain time, which the policy holder has determined, the policy "endows" or, in other words, begins paying the policy holder a certain amount of money for a certain length of time. In this way, it is the policy holder who is the beneficiary, or who benefits from the money they've put into their policy. However, the amount of money they get back is dependent on the amount of money and time they've put into the policy. The more money and time that has been invested, the more money the policy holder receives as an endowment.
The endowments we receive in the in the LDS temples works much the same way. Those who keep the covenants they've made in the House of the Lord are, in effect, making an investment of time and effort in building up God's kingdom here on earth and assisting Him in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. In the words of Jesus, they are storing up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20). It is at the time of the resurrection that the covenants which were made in the temple and had been faithfully kept throughout a person's life then "endows" and begins paying back the riches of heaven.
The word "endow" can mean, "to provide with income" but it can also mean "to provide with a gift, talent or a quality" (The American Dictionary). The endowment we receive in the temple can be thought of as providing us with an eternal "income" which is the greatest gift that God has to offer (see D&C 14:7). However since all God-given gifts come from "on high," any gift we receive from God that gives us power to do certain things is endowing us with power from on high and there are a number of gifts that do just that.
It has been said that knowledge is power, therefore, when we receive knowledge from God, it provides us with a certain degree of power. The Lord explained it this way when He said: "And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken" (D&C 4:16). Notice that in this instance, being "endowed with power" is associated with being "taught from on high." Therefore, when God reveals information to us, we are being empowered with divine knowledge.
Among other things, that knowledge gives us the power to see, understand, and resist the cunning designs of the devil and that kind of knowledge comes to us not only in the temple but from the counsel of living prophets and from the revelations of the Holy Ghost. Thus, when we receive knowledge from God in any of its forms, we are being endowed with power from on high.
In the LDS Church we also talk about the power of the priesthood and the Lord has revealed, "Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me… I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood" (D&C 132:59). Since there is power in the priesthood and the priesthood comes from God then those who hold the priesthood have been endowed with power from on high.
But, more than that, there are keys that come with certain priesthood positions. For example, a bishop holds the keys to be a judge over those whom he presides. With those keys comes a special power from on high to discern the hearts of men and the will of God concerning them. He is entitled to, and often receives special insight, revelation, and direction from the Holy Ghost that most others are not entitled to. And the same applies to other callings in the priesthood where keys are bestowed. Those keys unlock the power to divinely administer the affairs of the kingdom of God and to bless the lives of people.
The apostle Paul wrote, "Now there are diversities of gift, but the same Spirit. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:4, 8-10).
The ability to heal is a power that comes from God as is the performing of miracles. Being able to speak in an a foreign language or interpret one when a person has had little or no training in that language is a power beyond our natural abilities as is the power to prophecy. These are gifts of the Spirit that empower people to do things they normally couldn't do.
But Paul also lists faith as one of the gifts God bestows upon us through His Spirit. Faith is a power that helps us get through the tough times. It's faith in God that sustains us when things are going wrong in our life. It's faith in others that allows us to show love and forgive those who hurt us. It's faith in ourselves that keeps us going when everyone else tells us to give up.
The apostle Paul wrote that it was by faith that Able offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than his brother Cain. It was through faith that Noah built an ark that saved himself and his family. It was because of his faith that Abraham was able to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Even God Himself used the power of faith to create the world (see Hebrews 11:3-11). And it was by that same faith that the pioneer Saints had the power to journey by foot from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake valley, enduring hardships that most of us today will never experience Faith is a power that is so strong that even non-religious people in science, business, and medicine recognize as a force for good. And this power comes from God as one of His gifts to us.
Perhaps the most precious gift of God is the Holy Ghost. This member of the Godhead is not only a revelator, empowering us by revealing the knowledge of sacred, divine truths but He is also a comforter when our spirits are low, a guide when we have lost our way, a protector from both physical and spiritual harm, a sanctifier who cleanses us from our sins, a teacher who brings to remembrance things we already know and a motivator who prods us when necessary to do what is right. Those who have been baptized and strive to keep God's commandments are promised that the Holy Ghost will be their constant companion.
He is like a compass that gives us the power to know where to go. He is like a weathervane that gives us the power to know which way the winds of society are blowing. He is like a barometer that gives us the power to tell when a spiritual storm is coming or when the cultural weather is changing. He is like a beacon that lights up our way and helps us stay on course, even in the darkest night. He is like the wings of an airplane that gives us the power to soar above the things of the world and rise to spiritual heights. Just like all these instruments aid us in life, so too with the aid of the Holy Ghost we have the power to do things that otherwise would be humanly impossible. That is why Paul declared, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthenth me" (Philippians 4:13). That is the power of the Holy Ghost.
However, the apostle John describe the ultimate divine gift when he said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). It is the atonement of Christ alone that has the power to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. Without the atonement all the other gifts of God are powerless because the atonement is the foundation upon which they derive their power.
Through the atonement of Christ we have the power to overcome death and return, not just to live with God, but to live like God. It is the atonement of Christ that gives repentance its power because without the atonement repentance would be a meaningless act on our part. The atonement has the power to change us from being a natural man, who is an enemy to God and unable to understand heavenly things, to becoming born again as a spiritual man, capable of sitting at the right hand of God and inheriting the kingdom of heaven. It is the power that can break the chains and free the captives who have been caught in the grasp of Satan. This is why, when speaking of Christ's death on the cross, Paul exclaimed, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
But the reason why God endows us with all these powerful gifts is because we have made covenants with Him.
If that is true then it raises the question of why are covenants necessary in order for us to be endowed with power from on high?
The Lord gave us the answer when He told Moses, "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). To have eternal life is to have God's life. It isn't merely living with God in heaven alongside the angles but rather it is living the kind of life that God lives, wearing crowns, sitting on thrones, and ruling and reigning with Him (see Revelation 3:21, 5:10). But, that's not going to happen merely because we profess our belief in Christ. In order to inherit all that God has we first have to be prepared to handle such a responsibility.
To rule and reign with Christ and His God requires us to grow and learn how to be an eternal king ourselves. Therefore, to teach us how to do that God has set up His kingdom here on earth and then calls us to serve in various positions within that kingdom thereby helping us learn, through experience, how to properly govern the affairs of heaven according to the eternal laws of righteousness.
Perhaps we can illustrate this principle by comparing it to a familiar situation here on earth. We call God our Father and the scriptures refer to us as the sons of God. If God is running a business, then His desire is to put out a shingle that reads, "Under the management of Father and Sons."
But, before that can happen, He must teach his sons (and daughters) all aspects of the business. Therefore, He lets his children work in the mail room for awhile, then He has them work on the production line, then in the accounting department, then the sales department, then the marketing department, etc. until they have learned everything there is to know about the entire operation. In that way they will one day be fully prepared to help run the business alongside of their father. This is what our Father in heaven is doing every time He calls us to serve in a different position in His Church.
However, there is more to a calling than merely working at it. In the LDS Church, once a person has accepted a calling, their name is presented to the congregation who are then asked to sustain that person in their new position. The members of the congregation then signify their willingness to do that by raising their right hand. The word "sustain" means to "uphold, support, aid, help, strengthen, and keep from falling." When we lift our right hand in agreement we are making a pledge to "sustain" that person in the position to which they have been called. (For a more in-depth look at this subject read A Sure Foundation ).
In the same way, when we accept a call from God, He too then pledges to sustain us in our efforts to become like Him. If left to ourselves, all of us would fail to measure up to the stature of Christ, therefore, when we show a willingness to keep those commandments which He has given us, God then endows us with His power in an effort to help us achieve our divine aspirations. And the more we covenant with Him, the more we are committing ourselves to becoming more like Him which, in turn, causes God to commit Himself even more to our success. This is why those who have made covenants in the temple are endowed with more power from on high than those who haven't made those covenants.
Each of us are weak mortals who have a multitude of faults and shortcomings. God understands this and therefore, as long as we have a willing heart, He will give us all the support, strength and help we need to become worthy of gaining eternal life because that is His aspiration for us. And no matter how many times we might fail, He will supply us with the power necessary to become victorious in reaching our divine goal. It might take some people an eternity to get there but as long as they are willing to persevere in their efforts, God will continue to persevere in His efforts on our behalf.
The way our Father in heaven does this is by teaching, encouraging, guiding, and assisting us in developing all the skills and knowledge necessary to one day be able to be a celestial king and rule in the eternities along side of Him. When we make covenants with the Lord we are expressing our desire and willingness to become part of His training program and are pledging our commitment to do whatever is necessary to become prepared to receive eternal life. In return for that commitment, our Father endows us with the power we need now to complete that learning process.
But to make the kind of covenants that will endow us with God's full power throughout all of eternity we have to go to the House of the Lord.