Mormon meetinghouses, where Sunday meetings and weekly activities are held, are open to anyone who desires to visit. All are welcome. Temples, however, are different than meetinghouses (also called chapels). Where meetinghouses are spare in their decor, temples are ornate, and made of the finest materials.
Temples are normally closed on Sundays and sometimes Mondays, but are open for long hours all other days but holidays for prayer, meditation, and especially symbolic ordinances and covenants with God. These ordinances are performed once for each individual and thereafter for one’s deceased ancestors.
Those who attend the temple must be baptized and confirmed members of the Mormon Church in good standing.
In order to enter the Mormon temple, a member must obtain a temple recommend from his or her bishop. In order to receive a recommend, a member must be approved after an interview conducted by the bishop (congregational leader). During the interview, the bishop will ask the member if he believes in God and Jesus Christ. He will ask him if he is living all of God’s laws, including the word of wisdom, the law of chastity and the law of tithing. If the member is worthy, he receives a temple recommend which allows one to enter into the temple. The recommend itself is a small slip of paper, often laminated, with the temple attendee’s information on it (name, signatures of the interviewing authorities, ward and stake information). The temple recommend is renewed every two years, as long as the recommend holder remains worthy.
Mormons can serve as proxies for dead for baptisms performed in the temple from the time they are 12 years of age. Children performing baptisms interview with their bishop and receive a “conditional” recommend, which allows them into the baptistry, but not into other areas of the temple where higher ordinances are performed.
Most Mormons attend the temple for the first time to perform higher ordinances for themselves before they are married or before they serve a mission for the Church. Only those with a temple recommend are allowed in the temple, and young men are ordained to the higher priesthood office of elder before attending. Most attendees are adults; however, children younger than 12 are allowed in the temple in order to be sealed to their parents. Any Mormon with a recommend, despite social class or church office, can attend the temple. Spouses are encouraged to attend the temple together.
At many temples, there is a visitors’ center located on the temple grounds where anyone can visit and learn more about the temple and Mormonism. People of all faiths enjoy strolling through temple gardens, where they can feel the presence of God as they meditate. Also, a few months before a new temple is dedicated, the general public is allowed to tour the temple. Otherwise, the Mormon temple is closed to those not of the Mormon faith.