Inside Mormon Temples
Before a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is dedicated as God’s House, prepared to engage in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, an open house is held, so that the general public may see the interior rooms and get an explanation of what goes on inside. Mormon temple ritual is not secret, but sacred, and Latter-day Saints don’t discuss it outside the temple, even with others who have made temple covenants. The temple is the House of the Lord, and everything inside is pristine and beautiful. It is a privilege for Latter-day Saints to participate in Christ’s glorious work for the salvation and exaltation of His children in His house. A member of the LDS Church who has made temple covenants lives the highest laws of behavior and seeks always to keep the commandments of God, including the Law of Chastity. Therefore, it is insulting to church members when people accuse them of doing anything immoral inside their temples. Nothing impure can enter a Mormon temple, and no impure act takes place within a Mormon temple.
Every temple has an entrance with a waiting room. Inside the entrance is a “recommend desk.” A person who wants to enter must show his or her “temple recommend,” a slip of paper signed by the patron’s bishop (leader of the congregation) and stake president (leader of a group of congregations). The patron must have been interviewed by both to determine the person’s worthiness to enter a House of God. A person who is worthy to enter the holy temple must be a faithful member of the LDS Church, serve in callings, pay an honest tithe, keep the Word of Wisdom (the Mormon health law), be honest in his/her dealings, have nothing amiss in family life, and profess a strong and unwavering belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. All who are desirous and able to be worthy to enter the temple are invited to join the Saints there.
From the recommend desk, patrons may head off in any of several directions, depending on what they desire to do at the temple. On the lower level is the baptistery. Here baptisms for the dead are performed. (Baptisms for living people take place outside the temple, at Mormon meetinghouses or any body of water large enough for baptism by immersion to be performed.)
Any body of water used for Mormon baptism must be below ground level to symbolize the burial of the old person and rebirth of a new creature in Christ. Baptism also symbolizes Christ’s deliverance from the grave, His death and resurrection. In temples, the baptismal font is very large, and is modeled after the laver in King Solomon’s temple. It sits upon the backs of twelve oxen, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Patrons as young as age 12 may perform baptisms for the dead. Patrons wear modest white clothing to perform baptisms. They change into dry clothing to perform the next ordinance, the laying on of hands in order to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. This ordinance is performed by men who hold the Melchizedek, or higher, priesthood, and those who were baptized for the dead, now receive the Holy Ghost by proxy for the dead. Some people come to the temple just to participate in these two ordinances performed for their dead ancestors. Baptism by immersion is the gate to the strait and narrow path back to the Lord’s presence. When a proxy baptism by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is performed, the ordinance is then available to the deceased ancestor, who may choose whether to accept the work or not. Proxy baptism does not automatically make the dead a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and there is no “membership record” of ancestors who have received ordinances.
The next ordinance performed in the temple is called the “initiatory. “ The initiatory is symbolic of the purification rites in ancient temples, wherein worshipers are washed and anointed in preparation to making temple covenants. Patrons are fully clothed for this ordinance (and indeed, all temple ordinances). A person who is going through the temple for the first time receives the initiatory ordinance once for him- or herself, and thereafter for the dead. Initiatory work avails the participant of the forgiveness and cleansing power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
After a person receives his or her own initiatory, he or she is qualified to wear the white garments worn under one’s clothing at all times. The temple garment hearkens to the tzitzit worn by orthodox Jews. The Jewish garment is strung with tassels knotted to represent the 613 Mosaic commandments, and these often are shown outside everyday clothing. The Mormon garment is more discrete, but serves the same purpose — to remind the wearer of covenants made in the temple. Those who mock the sanctity of temple clothing call these “Mormon underwear.” Mormon temple garments are not magical, but the reminder of covenants made with the Lord offer spiritual protection.
In each temple, there is always a chapel. Here patrons wait for the next endowment session to begin. There is always someone playing hymns on the organ there, and scriptures are available for study during the wait.
The Mormon endowment is the pivotal Mormon temple ritual performed in the temple. An “endowment” is a gift, and this is a gift of knowledge, protection, and spiritual power. The endowment takes place in an auditorium-like setting, but the decor is refined and pristine. The A movie is shown that portrays the creation, the fall of Adam and Eve and the plan of salvation, which centers upon the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. The covenants made during the endowment display increasing commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and a desire to keep His commandments, which center on love and service. For the endowment, men wear white dress suits and ties, and women wear long white dresses. The Mormon endowment ritual is always the same, except for a period of prayer for the sick and afflicted. At the end of the endowment ceremony, patrons enter the most beautiful room of the temple, the “celestial room,” which represents the highest kingdom of heaven. In the celestial room, patrons may converse in whispers, pray personally, read scriptures, or meditate. Here is a place of light and peace, separate from the world, where those seeking personal revelation for solving life’s problems might receive it.
Every temple has rooms called “sealing” rooms. This is where weddings are performed. A sealing room has a beautiful altar in the center and chairs around the periphery of the room for guest. There is always a gorgeous chandelier, and mirrors facing each other on the walls that echo images into infinity, representing the eternal nature of marriage and family. Mormon weddings are performed in sealing rooms, and even the guests (who arrive in Sunday dress) must be temple-worthy. The bride may wear a long white temple dress (and then change into a bridal gown for photographs out in the garden) or may wear a pure white and modest wedding gown during a sealing ceremony. The groom must also dress in pure white and may change later. Dressings rooms are provided for the bride and groom, and they are pampered on their special day. The bride and groom kneel across from each other and hold hands across the altar. The vows are recited by a “temple sealer,” a priesthood holder ordained to that office. The vows are eternal vows, and this covenant is just the beginning. Both bride and groom must remain faithful to God and each other for the blessings of eternal marriage to be realized. If children are later born to the couple, they are considered “born in the covenant,” which means they are sealed to the parents and the family forever.
Sometimes a husband and wife decide to be sealed in the temple after they are already married and have children. In that case, they are sealed to each other and then each child is brought forth to be sealed to his or her parents. All are dressed in white for the event.
Other rooms in the temple are offices, a family records room, sometimes a temple clothing rental area, often a cafeteria, a laundry, and mechanical rooms. Nothing takes place in a Mormon temple that isn’t pure and holy. God offers the devoted the opportunity to come to His house and serve Him there. God’s House is a place of utmost tranquility, reverence, and respect. Latter-day Saints are counseled to leave their worldly thoughts outside as they enter and concentrate on the things of the spirit. Thus, Mormon temples are true sanctuaries where patrons may feel God’s peace and God’s love.