Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mormon Temples

For an excellent discussion about what goes on in a Mormon Temple, please read Russell M. Nelson, "Prepare for Blessings of the Temple," Ensign, March 2002, 17.
See also the official website about temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Approximately four hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Malachi prophesied about the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5–6).
On April 3, 1836, this prophecy was fulfilled in Kirtland, Ohio. The Latter-day Saints, led by Joseph Smith, had just completed the first LDS Temple at great sacrifice. During a Sunday service, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery retired behind a curtain which separated them from the rest of the congregation when a vision opened to them. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared and accepted the newly-built Temple. (D&C 110:1-10; compare to 2 Chronicles Chapters 4-8). After this vision, Moses and Elias appeared. (D&C 110:11–12). Finally, Elijah appeared:
After [the visions of Moses and Elias] had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. (D&C 110:13–16).
The power, or keys, which Joseph Smith received from Elijah is the sealing power, the power to bind on earth and in heaven and to loose on earth and in heaven. It is this power which gives efficacy to the ordinances which we perform within our temples.
Now that Elijah has come, the hearts of the Latter-day Saints have been turned to our fathers and to our children. For everything we do within our temples testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and through Him our families, even our unborn decendents and our departed ancestors, can be united for eternity.
Who Can Enter a Temple?
Contrary to popular belief, we want everyone in the world to enjoy the blessings of our temples. Before a temple is dedicated, we open it up for the community, and anyone wishes can enter the temple, walk through its rooms, and enjoy the peace and Spirit which exists there. If a temple is being built in your area or has recently been completed, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to see a Mormon Temple from the inside. My favorite rooms within the temple are the "Sealing Rooms" where our marriages are performed. When you walk in, look to the walls, across from each other, you will see two mirrors with reflections on into eternity, a symbol that families are eternal. Your tour will also take you to see the baptismal font where we perform baptisms for the dead. (See below, "Vicarious Work for the Dead"). You will see the instruction rooms, and you will see the "Celestial Room" which symbolizes being in the presence of God.

But after a temple is dedicated, only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are in good standing may enter the temple. Please do not be offended that you cannot come in. Rather, take the time to enjoy the grounds surrounding the temple. There is a powerful Spirit of peace which you can feel just be being near the temple.
To enter a temple, a Mormon must have reached twelve years of age, and a boy must have been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood. Young men and women participate in baptisms for the dead but do not participate in any ordinances for themselves. If someone older than twelve joins the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, he/she can go to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead the next day! (In addition to being baptized and to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, a man must first be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood).
Before a Mormon can participate in additional temple ordinances, he/she must have been a member for at least one year or reached the age of eighteen, whichever comes later. A man must also be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood.
To enter a temple, a member must present a Temple Recommend which is a certificate signed by a Mormon’s ecclesiastical leaders and himself/herself attesting that he/she is worthy to participate in the temple ceremonies and ordinances.
Ordinances for the Living
Everything we do within the temple revolves around the Atonement, or sacrifice, of Jesus Christ. Although I cannot go into much detail of what we do within the temple, I can tell you that nothing we do or teach in the temples is contrary to what we do or teach outside of the temple. In fact, if you study the scriptures, including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Price, you will know very much of what we learn and do in the temple.

The Initiatory
The first ordinance which we receive for ourselves is the initiatory. Just as Aaron and his sons had to be prepared to officiate within the Tabernacle, (see Exodus Chapters 28–29) so do Mormon men and women. The initiatory is the means through which we are prepared to perform the work which goes on in the temple.
The Endowment
After we have received the initiatory ordinance, we then receive our endowment. This ordinance is a spiritual gift. The endowment teaches us about God’s plan for us. It is literally a gift. Brigham Young said, "your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you . . . to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, . . . and gain your eternal exaltation." (See Russell M. Nelson, "Prepare for Blessings of the Temple", Ensign, March 2002, 17).
The endowment is presented in context of the Creation of the world, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The entire presentation teaches us that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—in other words, through the grace of Jesus Christ— despite our fallen natures, we can return to the Lord’s presence after this life.
It is a symbol-rich presentation, and frankly, would mean little to those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Sealing Ordinance
We believe that families are forever. And when we are married in the temple, we receive the promise that we will be with our families throughout eternity if we are faithful to the promises and ordinances which we receive both within and outside of the temple. Children who are born to parents who have been married in the temple need not be sealed to their parents because they have been born within the covenant. But if a couple has children and are later sealed in the temple, their children also need to be sealed to their parents. These ordinances make it possible to be together with our families forever.
Without Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice, none of this would be possible.
There is great power in being "sealed" as a family. Modern prophets and apostles have taught that if parents will keep the promises they made when they were married in the temple, they will not lose their children, even if their children go astray. (See James E. Faust, "Dear Are the Sheep That Have Wandered," Ensign, May 2003, 61) That is, if our children go astray, there will come a time when they, like the prodigal, will recognize that there is food enough and to spare in their parents’ house. Literally, as parents’ hearts are turned to their children by keeping their temple promises, their children’s hearts will turn to them, and their children will seek repentance.
Vicarious Work for the Dead
Another way in which the hearts of children are turned to their fathers is through the vicarious work for the dead which we perform in our temples. You can only receive the temple ordinances once for yourself. Every other time you return to the temple, it is to perform the ordinances for those who have died without the opportunity to receive them.

Because God is just, He will give all of His children the opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After Jesus’ crucifixion but before His resurrection Jesus went to the world of the Spirits and "preached to [the spirits of those who had lived on the Earth] the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance." (D&C 138:19; See also 1 Peter 3:18–20, 4:6). Furthermore, Jesus authorized His servants in the Spirit world to teach the Gospel unto all those who had not yet heard it. (D&C 138:30–33).
But the ordinances necessary to receive the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ pertain only to this Earth. Therefore, those of us on the Earth must perform the ordinances for and in behalf of those who died without receiving them. Lest you think it strange that we stand in for those who have died, remember that Jesus stood in for us when He paid the price of our sins. And those of you familiar with the law know that agents act for and in behalf of their principals in a way which binds their principals. And under certain circumstances some may be held liable for the actions of others.

The only ordinance performed within the temple which is exclusively for the dead is baptism for the dead. Don’t worry, no bodies are exhumed. Rather, we are baptized in the place of those who were not baptized in this life.
Nevertheless, we also perform the other ordinances which I explained to you earlier for the dead.
Those for whom we perform these ordinances must also accept, or authorize (if we want to continue in legal parlance), them. We don’t believe anyone can be forced to become a Mormon either in this life or the next.

Temples Throughout the World and Texas
Currently, there are more than 120 temples throughout the world. Texas has four: Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, and San Antonio. To see pictures of other temples throughout the world, click here.


Lulucarrot said...

Craig I have to say that I LOVE your blog. I am in Primary now and have been reading your site on sundays and you always explain things so well and with such simple truth. I love it! Thanks, Erica Carruth

OsoDelSol said...

So, is there a weekly meeting practice that Mormons have? Because there are only a few temples in Texas, how often do most Mormons go to them?

Craig Pankratz said...

Oso del Sol,

We have weekly meetings every Sunday at our local chapels. The chapel in Waco is on Viking Drive, if you ever want to come. To find the exact address go to,17077,352-1-COUNTRY-UNITED+STATES,00.html

As for temple attendance, we have been counseled to attend as often as our situation permits.


Craig Pankratz said...


I'm glad you enjoy it. Let me know if there is anything that I can do better. I'm always trying to improve.


Anonymous said...

"Lest you think it strange that we stand in for those who have died, remember that Jesus stood in for us when He paid the price of our sins."

Yes, that is strange, I thought Christians received salvation by grace made while conscious human beings. In fact isn't that the reason why Christ, came to eart, took on the form of a human, humbeled himself and became obedient even to death on the cross? He took on our form so that he could relate to us, a relational experience is what I always hear people in churches talking about; I have never heard of a "your dead and someone will baptise you into a relation even though you never wanted it relation"- where is the grace in that? That is compulsory.

"And those of you familiar with the law know that agents act for and in behalf of their principals in a way which binds their principals."

Agents have to have some authority from the principal. If the principal is the dead ancestor, how are they going to give authority, and please implied authority from a dead person to be baptised on their behalf carries no weight.

"And under certain circumstances some may be held liable for the actions of others."

True, but who is being held liable for anything.

"The only ordinance performed within the temple which is exclusively for the dead is baptism for the dead. Don’t worry, no bodies are exhumed. Rather, we are baptized in the place of those who were not baptized in this life."

Whew, I am glad no bodies are exhumbed I was worrying there for a bit. I kid, but seriously man this baptism for the dead stuff is just creepy. I heard that the church had to put a cap on people getting baptised for C.S. Lewis because so many people in the church had already done it. Poor old C.S. Lewis, probably one of the strongest Christians in the world, yet since he is not in the LDS his after life must really suck, no third level of heaven for him.