Inside Mormon Temples
The purpose of temples is recorded in the Old and New Testaments. The concept of worshiping in temples precedes even the actual building of temples. In ancient times, many prophets worshipped on the top of mountains. Today, one name for Mormon temples (or temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is officially known) is the Mountain of the Lord, as referenced in Isaiah 2:2, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” Temples are sacred places; houses of the Lord. Only those who are living worthily are allowed to enter. This has led to a lot of wild speculation on the part of the world. If it isn’t open to the public, then it must be a cult, dealing with bizarre things. This is categorically untrue.
The reason Mormon temples are open to only those who are living high spiritual and moral standards is the knowledge gained therein carries a great deal of responsibility and exacts an even higher standard of living. The ordinances performed in temples require deep commitments from the person receiving those ordinances to live God’s higher law. This can be compared to when Christ taught a higher law than the Law of Moses. A general law was necessary for the people to prepare to live a more important law. So those who worship in holy Mormon temples also commit to living a higher law than those who do not worship there.
To take away some of the mystery of Mormon temples, this article will discuss the ordinances which are performed inside. The first of these ordinances is baptism for the dead. This is followed by confirmation for the gift of the Holy Ghost. These two ordinances must be completed before any other ordinances can be done. All things must be done in their proper order. All baptisms done in the temple are done by proxy. This means that the person being baptized is symbolically taking the place of someone who died without the chance to get baptized. Mormon doctrine teaches that all whose work is done in the temple have the opportunity to choose whether or not to accept those ordinances. Thus, no one is being forced to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but, if they didn’t have the opportunity in their life to receive these things, they are given the chance in the next life. This is necessary because all ordinances must be performed in this life; they cannot be done in the next.
Baptisms are performed in temple baptistries. Each baptistry is located under ground. Each temple has its own font, which rests on the back of twelve oxen, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. Mormons believe that God did choose a people, Israel, to be stewards of the gospel and share it with the world. Thus, each person who is baptized into the gospel becomes adopted into Israel and into one of the twelve tribes. The significance of the font being located underground is that the act of baptism by immersion is symbolic of death, burial, and resurrection. We are buried underground, and are reborn, spiritually clean, as we come out of the water.
After the baptism and confirmation ordinances are completed, the next ordinance is the initiatory. This is a symbolic washing and anointing which is referenced in the Old Testament when Aaron was made the priest of the Tabernacle. After the initiatory comes the Mormon endowment. This is a teaching session where those receiving the ordinance are taught more about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The ordinance contains many covenants which those participating must make and keep. These are covenants to live a higher law, as spoken of before, and to draw closer to God, reaching out to those around us in love and charity.
The last ordinance is the sealing ordinance. The sealing power was held by Elijah, giving him the power to bind things on earth that would also be bound in heaven. This means that families can be sealed together for eternity. Mormon doctrine teaches that husband and wife can be bound together beyond the grave. Mothers and fathers can be bound to their children. What a wonderful blessing. When a couple is married in the temple of God, they are sealed together for time and eternity, not until death breaks their bond of marriage. When a couple is sealed, they kneel across from each other at an altar. On each side of the altar hangs a mirror, casting reflections back and forth forever, symbolizing the eternal nature of their bond. Through their faith and obedience, they can be bound to previous generations, and future generations can be sealed to them.
The celestial room is not a room where any ordinances are performed, but is where one goes after completing the endowment ordinance. Mormon temple celestial rooms are where we can be in the Lord’s presence. People can sit here and ponder and pray for hours if they wish. It is the most peaceful, enlightening place on this earth.
Every Mormon temple is open to the public during an open house period, prior to its dedication. Community members are invited and encouraged to attend to walk through the beautiful rooms and to see for themselves that there is nothing dark or mysterious about Mormon temple work. It is pure, beautiful, and peaceful.