In temples of God Mormons make higher vows of devotion to Jesus Christ. To enter, Mormons must live good clean lives, but after years of temple worship, Mormons become more Christ-like.
Why Do Mormons Build Temples?
Anyone who is paying attention can see that Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church) have stepped up the process of temple-building in recent years. This began with a revelation to then prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, that temples need to be more accessible to the growing membership of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ then began to build more, smaller temples all over the world. Dedications of the first 50 currently operating temples spanned 120 years. The next 50 dedications spanned 3 years. Today, 85% of Latter-day Saints live within three hours’ travel of a Mormon temple.
The four-fold mission of The Church of Jesus Christ is 1) to perfect the Saints (members of the Church); 2) to redeem the dead; 3) to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world; and 4) to help the poor and the needy. Mormon temples pertain to the first two goals of the Church.
Mormon temples are literally dedicated, sanctified houses of God, purified and blessed to be places where God can visit His children on earth. The first temple dedicated by the Latter-day Saints was the Kirtland Temple in Ohio. The Lord not only accepted the temple as His house, He manifested Himself to the Saints in miraculous ways to herald an era of temple-building and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. To people outside the temple edifice, it appeared as if the roof were on fire. Many saw angels and others heard the rushing of wings. Many prophesied. A day later, Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in that temple, and Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared to confer keys of the priesthood needed for the work of the last days in preparation for the Second Coming. In a sense temples are the connecting locations between heaven and earth.
Mormons do “temple work.” The work inside of Mormon temples is to make higher vows to God. Before they think of going to the temple, Mormons have already made certain vows. At baptism, they promise to take upon themselves the name of Christ, to always remember Him, to keep His commandments and to be an example of the believers. They renew this covenant every week when they partake of the sacrament (like the Eucharist, but symbolic). They must keep their baptismal covenants in order to be worthy to enter the temple.
In temples Mormons participate in higher covenants for themselves and also by proxy for their dead ancestors. Ordinances like baptism cannot be performed by spirits. They are physical ordinances. So we are baptized for our dead who never had the opportunity. They live on, we know, and still have the choice and volition to accept or reject those ordinances as they will.
In temples Mormons participate in marriages and the sealing of families together for eternity. My husband and I were married in the Los Angeles California Mormon Temple. Because of this, we have not had to take our children to the temple to be sealed to us. They are considered “born in the covenant.” Our eternal marriage covenant in the Mormon temple guaranteed they would be born into an eternal family, as long as those covenants are honored throughout our lives.
Why Can’t Just Anyone Enter a Mormon Temple?
For some reason what is readily accepted as practiced in other faiths is ridiculed in Mormonism. Have you ever attended the ritual ordination of a Buddhist monk? A Catholic cardinal? You would expect such ceremonies to be very special, very serious, and attended by only the initiated. You would not be insulted if the public were not invited. You would not expect to show up in the clothing you wore to the football game. You would not expect the content of the ceremonies to show up on Twitter.
The Church of Jesus Christ is essentially a nation of priests. Without a professional, trained clergy, we all serve in holy callings. All of us who are worthy may make higher vows in Mormon temples, and these vows both prepare us for heaven and help us to serve others of Heavenly Father’s children.
Vows made in holy temples necessitate living a higher law. Laws of chastity, modesty, and honesty must be observed. How can Mormons expect to honor such high commandments without first establishing a standard of worthiness to begin with? Some friends of other faiths wonder why Mormons must be full tithe-payers before entering the Mormon temple. But why should a person who cannot live a simple law of sacrifice (tithing equals ten percent of one’s income) expect to fully consecrate himself or herself to the service of God? Perhaps the disconnect for our friends of other faiths is that Mormons, although consecrated, live in the world. Their priestly vestments are hidden under their clothing. They are soccer moms and business executives. Their vows are private.
Gratitude for Mormon Temples
Some of the sweetest moments of my life have been spent in Mormon temples. Friends of other faiths who attend Mormon temple open houses are astonished by the light and airiness, the holy atmosphere inside. These are places separate from the world, with a purity and holiness unmatched in any church building of any religion. Here, one may meditate and receive inspiration in the quiet and reverent calm of the Lord’s house. The temple ritual never varies, but revelatory insights come over the years of temple attendance that help us to understand more fully God’s eternal plan for His children. The more one attends the holy temple, the more filled with light he or she becomes; light increases as he or she is faithful to covenants made there. The Lord wishes all of His children to make themselves worthy to enter the temple of God and make holy covenants. All are invited. All are welcome.