The Mormon Temple Endowment
Growing up as a young child, I was (and still am) a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Which church is often mistakenly referred to as the “Mormon Church.”) My childhood best friend was of another faith. My friend was familiar with and occasionally participated with my family during some of the religious practices we held in our home. (Things like family home evening, family prayer, and scripture reading.) Similarly, I spent many hours in her home and spent many a meal time staring at an ornate statue of the Virgin Mary that sat atop their kitchen window sill. I was always fascinated when on a rare occasion my friend would pull her rosary beads out of a bedroom drawer and recite the prayer that went along with them. While more complex parts of my religion, like the Mormon temple endowment, were not part of my practice at that point, it did come up later in our relationship.
Religion was really never a topic of conversation between the two of us. It never seemed to matter to two children, or gradually teenagers, what our religious beliefs were. We accepted each other’s rituals, practices, and religious paraphernalia as normal.
Several years after moving away, I returned to visit this dear childhood friend. We were both now young adults. While riding in her car through a crowded London street, she expressed to me that she had a religious question for me. Apparently, when my friend had told some work colleagues that I was going to be visiting her from Utah, they asked if I was a “Mormon.” My friend continued to explain to me that while she had defended me (and my family) as “normal,” she couldn’t believe the things these colleagues had brought up about Mormons, specifically things that go on within an LDS (Mormon) temple, like the Mormon temple endowment.
Certainly, much of what my friend’s co-workers were convinced was true about me and my faith were nothing but rumors and misconceptions that are often thought about Mormons. It was a wonderful opportunity to help my friend understand a little more about the LDS faith, specifically about Mormon temples and the Mormon temple endowment.
Mormon temple worship is largely judged and misunderstood because only faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are permitted to enter temples. The Mormon practice of baptisms for the dead and eternal marriage (the temple sealing). Both of which are ordinances performed in LDS (Mormon) temples. The Mormon temple endowment though, is frequently misinterpreted and misunderstood.
The Mormon temple endowment teaches about our duties for this life. We make covenants (two-way promises) with the Lord in which we take on particular commitments and responsibilities, and then believe the Lord will compensate us with the blessings of eternity as well as temporal blessings.
Latter-day Saints believe the temple endowment, because of the covenants made and blessings promised therein, is crucial for us to return to the presence of God.
Of this, President Brigham Young said:
Let me give you a definition in brief. 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 (Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 416).
The Mormon rituals that take place inside Mormon temples are simple, beautiful, and sacred. It is a place of learning and growth. It is within the temple Mormons can gain an eternal perspective, despite the busyness of their day-to-day lives outside of the temple.
A few years after my religious conversation with my friend, I was again in my homeland visiting with her. On this occasion she accompanied my husband, two children, and me to the grounds of the London LDS temple. As we sat surrounded by the lush green gardens in the English countryside, we stared up at the beautiful edifice in front of us. Much of our conversation revolved around the temple and what happened inside. Though still friends of different faiths, a respect and mutual tolerance of those differences was paramount to our discussion.
My friend and I were sitting alone on a bench as we both turned to watch my husband and two children return to us, indicating our conversation was to end and our departure was imminent. In an almost reverent whisper, my non-Mormon friend, looking up at the temple quietly said, “It’s a lovely idea. It really is.”
I’m not sure a Mormon would say it any differently. From the temple gardens to the temple ordinances performed inside, indeed it is lovely.