Have you ever wondered what goes on inside Mormon temples? Here is a brief overview of the purposes and practices of Mormon temples.
Mormon temples are revered by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the most sacred structures on the earth: houses of the Lord. The reverence extended to Mormon temples is inscribed on a plaque on the Salt Lake City temple: “Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord.”
Mormon temples are only a curiosity in our day. The Lord’s covenant people have always built and worshipped in temples. For example, Moses built a portable temple called a sanctuary or tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).
Later, the Lord commanded Solomon to build a permanent temple in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 28:1-6). After that temple was destroyed, the covenant people rebuilt it as a place where they could worship God. Hundreds of years later, Herod, for political reasons, caused a massive expansion of the temple. This was the temple in Jesus’ day.
Mormon temples, like these former temples, are considered sacred edifices where God can dwell. Temples are places of reflection, prayer, instruction, covenant-making, receiving holy ordinances and worship.
Temple Worship lost then brought back in Our Day
After the death of Jesus Christ and His apostles, temples and temple worship were lost from the earth. However, nearly two millennia later when the Lord set His hand to bring back His Church, He instructed His prophet, Joseph Smith, to restore temples and their sacred functions.
The Purposes of Mormon Temples
Temples have always been places of worship and sacrifice to be cleansed from sin. However, today, Mormon temples are not used for animal sacrifice, which was done in ancient temples. That practice ended when Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for our sins.
In Mormon temples, Church members promise to sacrifice their hearts to God. They make promises to obey God and keep His commandments, live virtuous lives and devote themselves to His kingdom on earth.
Furthermore, in Mormon temples, Church members participate in sacred ordinances for the purpose of uniting their marriages and families together forever and to teach them eternal truths so that they might know how to live to return to God someday.
Mormon Temple Marriages
Mormons believe that marriages and families can last forever—not just for this life–if they are bound together or “sealed” by a special priesthood ordinance in the temple.
Eternal marriage is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Jesus ministered upon the earth, He gave His apostles authority to bind or seal marriages and families together forever. He said,
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
That same authority to “bind on earth” and bind “in heaven” was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Now, death is not the end of our most cherished relationships. To Joseph Smith, the Lord taught this comforting truth: “The same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there [in eternity], only it will be coupled with eternal glory” (D&C 130:2).
Mormon Temple Ordinances for the Dead
Jesus and His apostles taught that there are ordinances, such as baptism, are necessary to return to our Heavenly Father. For example Jesus explained to Nicodemus that we must be “born again” to enter the kingdom of God: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
However, not every person who has lived heard the gospel message or had the opportunity to receive an authorized baptism. In Jesus’ day, He provided a way for people who had died to receive these essential ordinances.
The Apostle Paul wrote about baptism for the dead: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29).
Baptism for the dead is performed by worthy Church members in Mormon temples. Baptism for the dead resembles the typical ordinance of baptism. The only difference between a baptism for a living person and baptism for the dead is that someone stands in for the deceased person and is baptized by immersion in behalf of that person.
Likewise, other essential ordinances, such as eternal marriage, are performed for deceased individuals in Mormon temples. Church members are instructed to only perform these ordinances only for their direct ancestors and not to submit names of people outside their immediate ancestry. The names of deceased individuals are not added to the membership records of the Church, although a record is kept to avoid duplication.
Visiting a Mormon Temple
Before temples are dedicated, the public is invited to an open house to view the various rooms and areas, including the baptistry where baptisms for the dead will be performed.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over one hundred operating temples around the world. Visitors are welcome to visit the temple grounds of all Mormon temples and attend open houses prior to dedication. However, only worthy baptized members of the Church may enter a temple after it is dedicated.
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