Chapter 23: “The Blessings of the Holy Temple”

During 2017, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The quotes from Hinckley are in bold, with my comments following. If you would like to see the church manual online, go here. Latter-day Saints study this material on the second and third Sundays of each month (thus, chapters 1-2 are January, chapter 3-4 are February, etc.)

“The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the Church has to offer.”

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

“I believe that no member of the Church has received the ultimate which this Church has to give until he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the Lord,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in the October 1997 priesthood session of general conference. “Accordingly, we are doing all that we know how to do to expedite the construction of these sacred buildings and make the blessings received therein more generally available.” He named several temples that were in various stages of planning and construction, and then he made an announcement that would change the lives of people all over the world:

“There are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe, came bright and clear.

“We will construct small temples in some of these areas. … They [will] be built to temple standards, which are much higher than meetinghouse standards. They [will] accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings, and all other ordinances to be had in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead.”

The inspiration for this plan had begun more than 20 years earlier, when President Hinckley was serving as chairman of the Church’s Temple Committee. Concerned that many Latter-day Saints did not have easy access to temple blessings, he wrote in his journal, “The Church could build [many smaller] temples for the cost of the Washington Temple [then under construction]. It would take the temples to the people instead of having the people travel great distances to get to them.”

In 1997 a revelation from the Lord brought this idea to life. President Hinckley shared something about that revelation when he offered the dedicatory prayer for the Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Mexico Temple. “It was here in Northern Mexico,” he prayed, “that Thou didst reveal the idea and the plan of a smaller temple, complete in every necessary detail, but suited in size to the needs and circumstances of the Church membership in this area of Thy vineyard. That revelation came of a desire and a prayer to help Thy people of these colonies who have been true and loyal.”

Six months after announcing the plan to build smaller temples, President Hinckley made another significant announcement:

“We have traveled far out among the membership of the Church. I have been with many who have very little of this world’s goods. But they have in their hearts a great burning faith concerning this latter-day work. They love the Church. They love the gospel. They love the Lord and want to do His will. They are paying their tithing, modest as it is. They make tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples. They travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats. They save their money and do without to make it all possible.

“They need nearby temples—small, beautiful, serviceable temples. Accordingly, I take this opportunity to announce to the entire Church a program to construct some 30 smaller temples immediately. …

“This will be a tremendous undertaking. Nothing even approaching it has ever been tried before. … This will make a total of 47 new temples in addition to the 51 now in operation. I think we had better add 2 more to make it an even 100 by the end of this century, being 2,000 years ‘since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh’ (D&C 20:1). In this program we are moving on a scale the like of which we have never seen before.”

On October 1, 2000, President Hinckley dedicated the Boston Massachusetts Temple, the 100th temple in operation. Before the end of the year, he dedicated two temples in Brazil. And when he died on January 27, 2008, the Church had 124 temples in operation, with 13 more announced. Of the 124 operating temples, President Hinckley had participated in the planning and construction of most of them and had personally dedicated 85 of them.

Even as President Hinckley announced large numbers of new temples, and even as he marveled at their beauty, he reminded Latter-day Saints of the purpose of those sacred edifices: to bless individuals and families, one by one. Speaking of the San Diego California Temple, he said: “What a magnificently beautiful building that is. But with all the beauty of that building, that structure is only a means to an end and not an end in itself. That facility was erected and dedicated for the performance of the sacred ordinances which the Lord has revealed in this time.”

On another occasion he said: “No person has all of the gospel until he is able to receive [the ordinances of the temple]. And the responsibility rests with us to see that the facilities are available. I do not know how much longer I am good for, but I hope to end out my days building temples of the Lord, taking the temples to the people so that they can have the marvelous blessings that are to be obtained [there].”

I think there would be little debate in acknowledging President Hinckley as most responsible for the growth trend of LDS temples during his presidential administration. Let me give a little background to the temple. When it is first built or remodeled, an LDS temple is opened to the general public in an “open house” format that lasts anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks, although the average is 3. After this, the temple is then dedicated by LDS General Authorities and reopened only to worthy members. Beginning in 1993 when the San Diego temple opened, I have attended 21 different open house events, including three in 2017—the most recent was the Meridian (Idaho) temple in October. Because the public is invited to attend, I like to share my faith on the public sidewalks outside the temple grounds, as I tell whomever is willing to listen about the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. We also hand out an open house newspaper explaining Mormonism from a biblical perspective. See the newspaper here.

To see how many temples have built during the past 25 years, consider that the San Diego temple was only the 45th temple in the world when it was built in 1993. The Cedar City UT temple opened in November 2017, which is the 159th temple. Thus, in this past quarter of a century, the Mormon Church has more than tripled its number of temples! Hinckley was a genius in deciding to build additional smaller (“mini”) temples rather than putting so much money into larger and more elaborate temples, thus limiting how many could be built. Many church members have had their main excuse (“The temple is too many hours away to attend”) snatched away whenever a temple is built in their area. Those who might have been lax about getting their temple recommends—necessary for entrance into a temple—will be prodded by local leaders to get qualified. (I’ll talk more about the temple recommend later in this article.)

With additional resources dedicated to an area where a temple is built along with the lure of the beautiful building attracting attention and possibly enticing new converts, the LDS Church membership undoubtedly grows any time a temple is built in an area. It seems like a win-win for the church. And so, again, I credit Gordon Hinckley for having the vision to build temple that had positive implications for the LDS Church. This was a shrewd move.

This is not the point of this review. Rather, I’d like to answer the following question: Is the LDS temple something that is commissioned by God for those living in post-New Testament times? The rest of this review will attempt to answer this question.

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley

Temples are expressions of our testimony, and they represent the ultimate in our worship.

Each temple built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands as an expression of the testimony of this people that God our Eternal Father lives, that He has a plan for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations, that His Beloved Son, Jesus the Christ, who was born in Bethlehem of Judea and crucified on the cross of Golgotha, is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, whose atoning sacrifice makes possible the fulfillment of that plan in the eternal life of each who accepts and lives the gospel.

Everything that occurs in [the] temple is of an uplifting and ennobling kind. It speaks of life here and life beyond the grave. It speaks of the importance of the individual as a child of God. It speaks of the importance of the family as a creation of the Almighty. It speaks of the eternity of the marriage relationship. It speaks of going on to greater glory. It is a place of light, a place of peace, a place of love where we deal with the things of eternity.

Let’s stop and dissect what has been said. Unlike the chapels where Mormons regularly meet to conduct worship services, LDS temples are places where worthy Mormons—known as temple patrons—go to perform “sacred” works for both themselves and those who have already died, including deceased relatives. In fact, most temple work is done on behalf of the dead, including the rites of the endowment ceremony, baptisms for the dead, eternal marriages, and “sealings” of families for time and eternity. Temple patrons “learn more about Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We gain a better understanding of our purpose in life and our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We are taught about our premortal existence, the meaning of earth life, and life after death” (Gospel Principles, pp. 233, 235). Mormons are taught that God presides over the ceremonies in each of these temples scattered throughout the world and are accessible to most LDS members, as 85 percent live within 200 miles of a temple (Ensign, May 2014, p. 46).

Hinckley claims:

  • Temples stand as a testimony that:
    • God the Eternal Father lives
    • He has a plan to bless sons and daughters of all generations
    • Jesus was born in Bethlehem, crucified at Golgotha, and is the Savior/Redeemer of the world
    • His eternal sacrifice makes possible to have eternal life for those who both accept and then live the gospel.

He adds that the temple:

  • Describes life here and beyond the grave
  • Describes of an individual as a child of God
  • Describes family and eternal marriages
  • The ability for a person to go on to greater glory

The problem is that Mormonism teaches:

If Mormonism is wrong on the doctrines listed above, then is the Mormon temple is even needed. And my answer is, “Absolutely not!”

Every temple … has in effect stood as a monument to our belief in the immortality of the human soul, that this phase of mortal life through which we pass is part of a continuous upward climb, so to speak, and that as certain as there is life here, there will be life there. That is our firm belief. It comes about through the Atonement of the Savior, and the temple becomes, as I have indicated, the bridge from this life to the next. The temple is concerned with things of immortality.

These unique and wonderful buildings, and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship. These ordinances become the most profound expressions of our theology.

Sacred matters deserve sacred consideration. … When you leave the doors of the House of the Lord, be true to a sacred trust to speak not of that which is holy and sanctified.

Said the Lord, “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.” (D&C 63:64.) And again, “Trifle not with sacred things.” (D&C 6:12.)

Because those who have participated in the LDS temple endowment ceremonies covenant to not talk about what goes on inside LDS temples, it is often asserted that this is a “secret ceremony.” However, many Mormons become offended by this description, claiming that the ceremony is not “secret” but rather “sacred.” Apostle Boyd K. Packer wrote:

A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Lord did not tell all things to all people. There were some qualifications set that were prerequisite to receiving sacred information. Temple ceremonies fall within this category. We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. . . . The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared (Ensign, February 1995, p. 32).

While Mormons insist that the temple is sacred—and I agree they are, at least to Mormons—they are also “secret.” As Mormon scholar Richard L. Bushman explains,

While some members will claim that Mormon temples are “sacred not secret,” Bushman said that “temples are secret, plain and simple,” noting that even members “don’t speak to each other about it” (“Seek understanding, not converts, Bushman urges Mormons,” Deseret News, March 6, 2008).

Why would categorizing the ceremony in such a manner make this subject off-limits? Latter-day Saints deem many areas sacred, yet they seem to have no problem discussing them. For instance, the Book of Mormon is a sacred book, yet few Mormons or missionaries would hesitate to tell their testimony about this book and the gospel contained within its pages.

If what goes on inside the temple is supposed to be kept from public knowledge, this would certainly fit the definition of secret. Mormons are told that the endowment is representative of the ancient ceremony mentioned in the Bible, there is no evidence to suggest that Jewish worshipers in Bible times were threatened for revealing what went on inside the Jerusalem temple. For a person who wants to understand the biblical temple, a look at the Old Testament not only reveals its furnishings but also the ceremonies that took place there. Animal sacrifice by the Levite priests was the priority, which is discussed in both biblical as well as ancient outside source accounts. With what we know about biblical temple rituals and practices, there is no biblical evidence to suggest that these were similar to those enjoined by Mormons in their temples today.

What goes on in the dozens of temples located around the world? To put it plainly, there are ceremonies going on that have absolutely nothing to do with what took place in the biblical temple. For instance, Mormons are encouraged to perform ceremonies for themselves as well as on behalf of dead relatives whom they believe will be offered a chance to improve their eternal standing while awaiting the judgment in “spirit prison.” Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor in the First Presidency, explained,

There is no greater opportunity for that invitation than in the temples of the Church. There the Lord can offer the ordinances of salvation to our ancestors who could not receive them in life. They look down upon you with love and hope. The Lord has promised that they will have the opportunity to come into His kingdom (see D&C 137:7–8), and He has planted a love for them in your heart (Ensign, December 2013, p. 5).

There are six major parts to these works: washing and anointing, new names and temple garments, pre-endowment instructions, the endowment ceremony, baptism for the dead, and marriage for time and eternity. Let’s take a look at each:

Washing and Anointing

First-time patrons go through an ordinance called “washing and anointing.” They begin by entering the men’s or women’s locker room, where street clothes are replaced with poncho-like “shields.” Wearing nothing but the shield, patrons enter an area of the temple that contains the washing and anointing rooms. Here a temple worker ceremonially washes and blesses them, making reference to various parts of the body. Men are separated from the women during this ceremony. Two temple workers lay hands on the member’s head, and one of the workers prayerfully “confirms” the washing. The member is ceremonially anointed with olive oil, and then the anointing is confirmed.

Temple Garments and New Names

After the washing and anointing, the patron is taken into a small curtained room. At this point, a temple worker actually puts the temple garment on the patron. Sewn into this “garment of the holy priesthood” are markings similar to those used in Freemasonry. Over the right breast is a mark that resembles a backward L, and over the left breast is a mark that resembles a capital V. Sewn over the abdomen and over the knee area is another marking that looks like an ordinary buttonhole. After placing the garment on the patron and removing the “shield,” the patron is given a new name as part of the ceremony. This name is considered sacred and is supposed to never be revealed, except at a certain time later in the ceremony.

All men entering the temple on that particular day are given the same name, usually taken from either the Bible or the Book of Mormon; the same is true for women. Historically, Mormon leaders have taught that the husband has the ability to raise his wife on resurrection day. Every Mormon husband who has been through the temple is told his wife’s “new name,” though she is not permitted to know his.

President Spencer W. Kimball told members at a Manchester, England area conference on June 21, 1976:

Today you or I could not stand here and call to life a dead person, but the day will come when I can take my wife by the hand and raise her out of the grave in the resurrection. The day will come when you can bring each of your family who has preceded you in death back into a resurrected being to live forever (David J. Ridges, Doctrinal Details of the Plan of Salvation, p. 115).

Pre-Endowment Instructions

After returning to the locker room and putting on white temple clothing over their garments, patrons are then welcomed to the temple and reminded to be “alert, attentive, and reverent during the presentation of the endowment.” Patrons are told that if they are “true and faithful,” the day will come when they will be called up and anointed “kings and queens, priests and priestesses.” During this time, further explanations of their temple garments are given. Patrons are told:

You have had a Garment placed upon you, which you were informed represents the garment given to Adam and Eve when they were found naked in the Garden of Eden, and which is called the “Garment of the Holy Priesthood.” This you were instructed to wear throughout your life. You were informed that it will be a shield and a protection to you inasmuch as you do not defile it and if you are true and faithful to your covenants (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Evolution of the Mormon Temple Ceremony 1842-1990, p. 110).

The church administrative Handbook 2 explains:

When properly worn, it provides protection against temptation and evil. Wearing the garment is also an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior. Endowed members should wear the temple garment both day and night. They should not remove it, either entirely or partially, to work in the yard or for other activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly beneath the clothing. Nor should they remove it to lounge around the home in swimwear or immodest clothing. When they must remove the garment, such as for swimming, they should put it back on as soon as possible. Members should not adjust the garment or wear it contrary to instructions in order to accommodate different styles of clothing nor should they alter the garment from its authorized design. When two-piece garments are used, both pieces should always be worn. The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect at all times. Garments should be kept off the floor. They should also be kept clean and mended. After garments are washed, they should not be hung in public areas to dry. Nor should they be displayed or exposed to the view of people who do not understand its significance (Handbook 2: Administering the Church 2010, p. 191).

While this handbook says that those wearing the garments are protected from “temptation and evil,” President Spencer W. Kimball said that he was “convinced that there could be and undoubtedly have been many cases where there has been, through faith, an actual physical protection, so we must not minimize that possibility” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 539).

In the Old Testament, only priests from the line of Levi and not the common Jew wore the linen undergarments. Indeed, there is no biblical support for the notion that the priestly garments offered any special protection as described by various LDS authorities. In the New Testament, the Christian is told to have his “loins girt about with truth” and to put on the “breastplate of righteousness.” However, such metaphorical language never implies that we should trust in actual physical objects. It appears that the idea of protective undergarments falls into the same category as the proverbial rabbit’s foot or talisman.

The Endowment Ceremony

This ceremony is performed for both the living and the dead where “certain special, spiritual blessings [are] given [to] worthy and faithful saints in the temples . . . because in and through them the recipients are endowed with power from on high” (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 226-227). The ceremony includes a type of melodrama to explain the LDS view of the creation and fall of humanity. These dramas were originally performed by Mormon temple workers playing such parts as that of Elohim (God the Father), Jehovah (Jesus), and Lucifer. Video is utilized today in most temples.

The ceremony is made up of different sections. These include the following: the creation and fall, where the Mormon God sends “Jehovah” and “Michael” to organize unorganized matter into a world “like unto the other worlds” that have previously been formed; the law of obedience, when patrons vow to live up to the full law of God; the law of the gospel and the law of chastity, when additional vows are made; the law of consecration, when patrons consecrate themselves, their time, talents, and “everything with which the Lord has blessed them.”

As the vows are made, the patrons learn special handshakes, called “tokens,” along with secret “signs” and “words” that they are told will be needed in the afterlife for admittance into heaven. Numerous changes have been made to the ceremony over the years. For instance, in April 1990, a scene where Lucifer hired a Christian minister to preach false doctrine was eliminated. In the pre-1990 ceremony, Lucifer himself interviewed the pastor to see if he had “been to college and received training for the ministry.” If this pastor would covenant to convert people to his “orthodox religion,” Lucifer promised, “I will pay you well.” Adam and Eve were introduced to the pastor as those who “desire religion.”

The preacher then attempted to convince Adam to believe in a God surrounded by a myriad of beings who had been “saved by grace,” in a God who filled the universe but was still so small that He could dwell in a person’s heart. Adam, the “good guy” in the scenario, rejected the pastor’s teachings on God, salvation by grace alone, and the reality of hell. The entire scene was intended to make Christian pastors look like they were in the employ of Satan. All mention of this scene was entirely dropped, and Mormons who did not enter the temple before 1990 may know nothing about it.

Baptism for the Dead

I’ll talk more about this ordinance below.

Marriage for Time and Eternity

“Celestial marriages” of LDS couples for “time and eternity” take place in the temples. This is an important teaching, since “only in the temple can we be sealed together forever as families” (Gospel Principles, p. 235). At the October 2008 General Conference, Apostle Russell M. Nelson said, “To qualify for eternal life, we must make an eternal and everlasting covenant with our Heavenly Father. This means that a temple marriage is not only between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God” (Ensign, November 2008, p. 93). Marriages performed outside of the temple are considered binding only “until death.” The Gospel Principles manual states,

Only in the temple can we be sealed together forever as families. Marriage in the temple joins a man and woman as husband and wife eternally if they honor their covenants. Baptism and all other ordinances prepare us for this sacred event. When a man and woman are married in the temple, their children who are born thereafter also become part of their eternal family (Gospel Principles, p. 235).

Children born to a couple married in the temple are automatically “sealed” (known as “born in the covenant”) to their parents for eternity. Those couples not married in the temple will not only lose the right to be together after death, but they have no “claim upon their children, for they have not been born under the covenant of eternal marriage” (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 193). Those not born “under the covenant” of celestial marriage must have their families sealed in a separate temple ceremony. President Howard W. Hunter wrote:

If children are born before the wife is sealed to her husband, there is a temple sealing ordinance that can seal these children to their parents for eternity, and so it is that children can be sealed vicariously to parents who have passed away (Ensign, February 1995, p. 2).

Although continued good works are essential, Mormonism teaches that a person must be married in the temple to have a chance at exaltation. Nelson said,

On occasion, I read in a newspaper obituary of an expectation that a recent death has reunited that person with a deceased spouse, when, in fact, they did not choose the eternal option. Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father has offered them a supernatural gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift (Ensign, November 2008, p. 93).

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks agreed, saying,

Under the great plan of the living Creator, the mission of His Church is to help us achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and that can be accomplished only through an eternal marriage between a man and a woman” (Ensign, January 2011, pp. 25-26).

It is believed that there is a danger in “delaying marriage” since “all normal people should plan their lives to include a proper temple marriage in their early life and to multiply and have their families in the years of their early maturity (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 195).

Through temple ordinances, we receive the crowning blessings of the gospel. These temples, which now dot the earth, are necessary to the total fulfillment of the Savior’s Atonement. Here, under the authority of the Holy Priesthood, will be administered those ordinances which lead not only to salvation, but also to eternal exaltation.

If none of the ordinances talked about in the previous paragraphs were not a part of the original church, then where did they originate? The answer: Masonry.

Although D&C 124:41 says that the LDS temple ordinances were “kept hid from before the foundation of the earth,” they are suspiciously close to those used in Freemasonry. A person need only look closely at the outside structure of the Salt Lake City temple to see many designs peculiar to Freemasonry. These include the All-Seeing Eye, the inverted five-pointed star (known as the eastern star), and the clasped hands or grip. All of these were a part of Freemasonry long before Smith incorporated them. Markings in the priesthood garments also bear resemblance to the compass, square, and level of Freemasonry. Signs, grips, oaths, and tokens used in the ceremony are so similar that one can’t escape the suspicion that Smith “borrowed” these Masonic practices, especially since he became a Mason on March 15, 1842.

Apostle Heber C. Kimball, who was a Mason (as were the first three presidents of the LDS Church), saw a parallel between the endowment and Masonry. In 1842 he wrote: “thare is a similarity of preast Hood in masonary. Br Joseph ses masonry was taken from preasthood but has become degenerated. but menny things are perfect” (as cited in Quinn, Early Mormonism, p. 185). Mormon historian Reed C. Durham Jr. insists Joseph Smith did, in fact, use the Masonic ritual as a springboard for the Mormon ceremony. He wrote:

There is absolutely no question in my mind that the Mormon ceremony which came to be known as the Endowment, introduced by Joseph Smith to Mormon Masons initially, just a little over one month after he became a Mason, had an immediate inspiration from Masonry (Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son?)

Charles R. Harrell, a BYU professor, also notices the similarity with Masonry when he writes, “LDS teachings on temple worship, preexistence, and the cosmos during the Nauvoo era seem to resonate with ideas in contemporary Masonry and hermetic traditions which were publicized in Joseph Smith’s day” (“This is My Doctrine,” p. 22). There are other practices in Mormonism that are occultic in nature, such as contact with the dead. Wilford Woodruff reported the following:

The dead will be after you, they will seek after you as they have after us in St. George. . . . I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. . . . These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights (Journal of Discourses 19:229).

Mormon Joseph Heinerman reported matter-of-factly about numerous spirit sightings by Mormons at and around LDS temples. For instance, at the same St. George temple where the deceased signers of the Declaration of Independence allegedly appeared to President Woodruff, temple worker M. F. Farnsworth said “persons have told me of seeing their dead friends for whom they have officiated, manifesting themselves to them” (Temple Manifestations, pp. 64-66).  Horatio Pickett, another St. George temple worker, had the following vision on March 19, 1914:

Do those people for whom this work is being done, know that it is being done for them, and, if they do, do they appreciate it? While this thought was running through my mind I happened to turn my eyes toward the southeast corner of the font room and there I saw a large group of women. The whole southeast part of the room was filled; they seemed to be standing a foot or more above the floor and were all intently watching the baptizing that was being done (Ibid., p. 68).

Still another temple worker, John Mickleson Lang, said that in 1928 he “distinctly heard a voice at the east end of the font, very close to the ceiling, calling the names of the dead to witness their own baptism, allowing a moment for each spirit to present itself” (Ibid., p. 70). Meanwhile, at the Manti temple, spirits of early LDS Church leaders appeared at the 1888 dedication ceremony, including the deceased Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The apostles were said to look like they had halos of light on top of their heads (Ibid., pp. 96-97). Apostle Anthon H. Lund told a chilling story:

I remember one day in the Temple at Manti, a brother from Mount Pleasant rode down to the Temple to take part in the work, and as he passed the cemetery in Ephraim, he looked ahead (it was early in the morning), and there was a large multitude all dressed in white, and he wondered how that could be. Why should there be so many up here; it was too early for a funeral, he thought; but he drove up and several of them stepped out in front of him and they talked to him. They said, “Are you going to the Temple?” “Yes.” “Well, these that you see here are your relatives and they want you to do work for them.” “Yes,” he said, “but I am going down today to finish my work. I have no more names and I do not know the names of those who you say are related to me.” “But when you go down to the Temple today you will find there are records to give our names.” He was surprised. He looked until they all disappeared, and drove on. As he came into the Temple, Recorder Farnsworth came up to him and said, “I have just received records from England and they all belong to you.” And there were hundreds of names that had just arrived, and what was told him by these persons that he saw was fulfilled. You can imagine what joy came to his heart, and what a testimony it was to him, that the Lord wants this work done (Ibid.).

A number of other manifestations are said to have taken place in temples such as Kirtland, Nauvoo, Salt Lake, San Diego, and Hawaii. It seems curious that Mormons would find contact with the dead as a positive experience when the Old Testament adamantly warns against necromancy and having contact with “familiar spirits.” If God was not the creator of the ceremony, then could it be possible that Smith—using his imaginative creativity and pagan practices—created an atmosphere that would be a conduit for evil spirits? It appears that this has taken place, and for this reason Christians should have nothing to do with such a practice.

And, again, the question is what relationship the modern Mormon temples have with eternal exaltation.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life on Calvary’s cross as an atonement for the sins of mankind. His was a vicarious sacrifice for each of us. Through that sacrifice came the promise of the resurrection for all. This has come through the grace of God, without effort on the part of men. And beyond this, through the keys of the holy priesthood conferred upon the Twelve by the Lord when He walked among them, which keys were restored in this dispensation by those who held them anciently—through these have come great added blessings, including those unique and remarkable ordinances administered in the house of the Lord. Only in those ordinances is there realized the exercise of “the fulness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124:28.)

While the cross of Jesus is used here, it should be pointed out that Mormon leaders—both former and current—have regularly pointed to the Garden of Gethsemane as the place where the atonement took place. Modern LDS apostles seem to be stressing Gethsemane over the cross in recent talks and writings, which goes back to the beginning of Mormonism. For example, senior Apostle Russell M. Nelson explained to a General Conference audience,

The Savior began shedding His blood for all mankind not on the cross, where the agony of the Atonement was completed, but in the Garden of Gethsemane, There He took upon Himself the weight of the sins of all who would ever live (“The Mission and Ministry of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, April 2013, p. 35).

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland taught,

Few places on earth are as sacred and important as this small grove of olive trees here on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It was here in the Garden of Gethsemane, on that last night in mortality, that Jesus left His Apostles and descended alone into the depth of agony that would be His atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. …To the thoughtful follower of Christ, it is a matter of surpassing wonder that the voluntary and merciful sacrifice of a single being could satisfy the infinite and eternal demands of justice; atone for every human misdeed; bear every mortal infirmity; feel every personal heartache, sorrow, and loss. But I testify that is exactly what Christ did for every one of us. …Is it any wonder that Christ, the greatest of all, partook of the bitter cup and did not shrink here, that we might not suffer if we would repent and come unto Him? (“Mortal Ministry,” Ensign, April 2001, pp. 13-14. Ellipses mine).

Russell Ballard told another General Conference gathering,

Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. There in the quiet isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane, He knelt among the gnarled olive trees, and in some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world” (“The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2004, p. 85).

A church manual echoes the words of these men when it explains,

In Gethsemane, Jesus suffered for the sins of all mankind, as if they were His own. His suffering for all these sins were greater than any of us can understand. …On the cross, He finished suffering the penalty for Adam’s disobedience and for our own sins (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 57. Ellipsis mine).

The temple ordinances [are] the crowning blessings the Church has to offer.

The blessings of the temple for both men and women who are worthy to enter therein … include our washings and anointings that we may be clean before the Lord. They include the instruction service in which we are given an endowment of obligations and blessings that motivate us to behavior compatible with the principles of the gospel. They include the sealing ordinances by which that which is bound on earth is bound in heaven, providing for the continuity of the family.

The washings and annointings ceremony was mentioned above. I’m not sure how this makes a person “clean before the Lord.” There were no “instruction service” in the ancient temple where people were “given an endowment of obligations and blessings.” In the inner places of the temple, only the Aaronic priests were allowed. According to Hebrews 9:6-7:

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

This inner place, the Holy of Holies, was available only for the high priest. According to Hebrews chapters 8 and 9, this high priest in now Jesus! And as mentioned above, families on earth were never meant to become literal families in heaven. While it may sound quaint that there will be “continuity of the family,” it’s never taught in the Bible. In fact, Jesus makes it appear that marriages will not continue in the next life.

In Mormonism, dwelling together as a family unit presupposes that each member of the family was able to follow the whole law during their mortal probation. According to President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972), “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept” (The Way to Perfection, p. 206).

For the sake of argument, suppose that keeping the whole law is possible. Where will all the billions and billions of family members from the beginning of time physically reside? Are we to assume that the God of Mormonism continues to reside with his extended earthly family? Does he worship the God who preceded him? And since Jesus is our spirit brother from the preexistence, will He become “Uncle Jesus” to the offspring of a Mormon who becomes a god? Will the heavenly Father be known as “Heavenly Grandfather” to these offspring? What about those members of a Mormon family who do not qualify for celestial glory? Mormonism teaches that a person can’t reach the celestial kingdom on the coattails of another faithful member; each person must individually qualify. Even if this concept ended up being true, the odds are that most LDS families will be incomplete because some of their loved ones will fail to live up to the proper standards during their mortal probation.

Certainly Christians should invest heavily in their earthly families, but nowhere does the Bible teach that mom, dad, grandparents, children, or others will live together as a family unit in heaven. Jesus plainly explained the role of marriage and families in heaven in Matthew 22:23–30 and Mark 12:18–27. Answering the question posed to Him by the Sadducees, Jesus answered them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:29–30). Mormon apologist Gilbert Scharffs complains about those who use this passage to reject eternal marriage when he writes, “This verse does not say there won’t be any marriage in heaven, only that marriages will not be performed there” (The Missionary’s Little Book of Answers, p. 62). This is nothing more than reading into a passage, as Scharffs provides no evidence to support his point

I was [once] called to the hospital bedside of a mother in the terminal stages of a serious illness. She passed away a short time later, leaving her husband and four children, including a little boy of six. There was sorrow, deep and poignant and tragic. But shining through their tears was a faith beautiful and certain that as surely as there was now a sorrowful separation, there would someday be a glad reunion, for that marriage had begun with a sealing for time and eternity in the house of the Lord, under the authority of the holy priesthood. …

It’s possible to see saved believers in heaven, but sad or sentimental stories do not make a doctrine true. If there was no need for a restored Gospel, if the “priesthood” was never lost, and if Joseph Smith was not a true prophet of God, then the end result is Mormonism continues to deceive millions of people by requiring them perform needless ceremonies at the 159 temples located around the world. What a shame for the Mormon if none of the work done at the temple is efficacious or even necessary.

Many have traveled [great distances] to receive the blessings of temple marriage. I have seen a group of Latter-day Saints from Japan who—before the construction of a temple in their homeland—had denied themselves food to make possible the long journey to the Laie Hawaii Temple. Before we had a temple in Johannesburg, we met those who had gone without necessities to afford the 7,000-mile (11,000-km) flight from South Africa to the temple in Surrey, England. There was a light in their eyes and smiles on their faces and testimonies from their lips that it was worth infinitely more than all it had cost.

And I remember hearing in New Zealand many years ago the testimony of a man from the far side of Australia who, having been previously sealed by civil authority and then joined the Church with his wife and children, had traveled all the way across that wide continent, then across the Tasman Sea to Auckland, and down to the temple in the beautiful valley of the Waikato. As I remember his words, he said, “We could not afford to come. Our worldly possessions consisted of an old car, our furniture, and our dishes. I said to my family, ‘We cannot afford to go.’ Then I looked into the faces of my beautiful wife and our beautiful children, and I said, ‘We cannot afford not to go. If the Lord will give me strength, I can work and earn enough for another car and furniture and dishes, but if I should lose these my loved ones, I would be poor indeed in both life and in eternity.’”17

Again, if the temple is not needed, what a waste of the Mormon people’s time when they could be focused on other things, including spending more quality time with their earthly families.

Small wonder, my brethren and sisters, that with the opening of … temples I have seen the tears of strong men who have embraced their wives at the altars in these sacred houses. I have seen the tears of fathers and mothers as they have embraced their children at these same altars. Through the power here exercised they have come to know that neither time nor death can destroy the bonds which bind them together.

One’s strong feelings that the temple is necessary does not make Mormonism true.

The temple is a sanctuary of service where we receive saving ordinances in behalf of those who have died without receiving the gospel.

There are uncounted millions who have walked the earth and who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Shall they be denied such blessings as are offered in the temples of the Church?

Through living proxies who stand in behalf of the dead, the same ordinances are available to those who have passed from mortality. In the spirit world they then are free to accept or reject those earthly ordinances performed for them, including baptism, marriage, and the sealing of family relationships. There must be no compulsion in the work of the Lord, but there must be opportunity.

This is a sanctuary of service. Most of the work done in this sacred house is performed vicariously in behalf of those who have passed beyond the veil of death. I know of no other work to compare with it. It more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God in behalf of all mankind than any other work of which I am aware. Thanks is not expected from those who in the world beyond become the beneficiaries of this consecrated service. It is a service of the living in behalf of the dead. It is a service which is of the very essence of selflessness.

Boys and girls in large numbers have … been reminded that these temples are not only for their parents but also for them. When 12 years of age, they may enter the house of the Lord and stand as proxies in baptisms for those beyond the veil of death. What a great and unselfish service this is. What a wonderful thing for our youth to be involved in this totally selfless act in behalf of others who are powerless to help themselves.

We are responsible for the blessing, the eternal blessing, of all who have lived upon the earth, the uncounted, unnumbered generations of men and women who have lived upon the earth, all who today live upon the earth, and all who will yet live upon the earth. How great is our responsibility. We must stand a little taller and work a little harder to accomplish it.

Those on the other side, who are not dead but who are alive as to the spirit, will rejoice and be made glad as they awaken and go forward on their way to “immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39).

The most often practiced ordinance in the Mormon temple is vicarious baptism for the dead. Apostle Boyd K. Packer told a general conference audience, “One of the characteristics that sets us apart from the rest of the world and identifies us as the Lord’s Church is that we provide baptism and other ordinances for our deceased ancestors” (Ensign, October 2007, p. 22).

Since Christianity was said to be dead in apostasy from the time after the apostles until the early nineteenth century, members as young as twelve “can visit the temple to be baptized for their ancestors who have died without being baptized” (Ensign, Special Issue Temples, October 2010, p. 77). This doctrine of baptism for the dead teaches that a Mormon can “become a savior on Mount Zion” and that his or her “effort approaches the spirit of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice” because they are performing “a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves” (True to the Faith, p. 63).

These “people in the spirit world can exercise faith and accept the gospel message, but they cannot receive the ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, the endowment, and sealings, for themselves” (Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261, p. 7). These souls “do not automatically become members of the Church when someone is baptized as proxy for them. Rather, they are free to accept it or reject it” (Ridges, Mormon Beliefs and Doctrines Made Easier, p. 29). All of this work takes place in a font resembling the description of King Solomon’s “brazen sea,” even though Mormon leaders have admitted that the brazen sea was never used for baptisms for the dead. In fact, it had been destroyed by the Babylonians at the destruction of Judah in 586 B.C.

Normally located in the lower part of the temple, the font is situated on top of twelve life-size oxen, which are said to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. According to LDS Church resources, there are certain rules to how this work can be done.

You must provide at least the given name or the surname of your ancestor, the person’s gender, a locality for a qualifying event (such as birth, christening, marriage, death, or burial), and enough additional information to uniquely identify the person. Additional information may include dates, localities, and relationships of other family members. Remember that in order for temple ordinances to be performed, individuals must be deceased for at least one year, and if that individual was born within the last 95 years, permission from the closest living relative must be obtained before temple ordinances are to be performed (Introduction to Family History Student Manual, p. 30).

In addition,

Persons who are presumed dead because they are missing in action (for example, in times of war), lost at sea, declared legally dead, or who disappeared under circumstances where death is apparent but no body was ever recovered may have their temple ordinances performed after 10 years have passed since the time of presumed death. In all other cases of missing persons, the temple ordinances may not be performed until after 110 years have passed from the time of a person’s birth (an assumption that if the person was missing but alive, he or she would have died within 110 years) (Ibid., p. 62).

Despite the emphasis on this doctrine, Christianity teaches that salvation is offered to the living. The Bible is very clear in Hebrews 9:27 that judgment follows this life. Further hope of attaining favor with God is lost at death. In fact, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2 that “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Although Mormons like to reference 1 Corinthians 15:29 to support baptism for the dead, there is no evidence that Christians actually participated in a rite that is similar to that practiced by Mormons.

While biblical scholars have noted that heretical groups such as the Cerinthians and Marcionites practiced a form of baptism for the dead, Paul separated himself from such as these when he said, “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?” If baptism for the dead was, as D&C 128:17 puts it, the “most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel,” it seems odd that Paul would not include himself as a participant; Paul neither condones nor condemns the practice, referring to it as nothing more than an illustration to support his point of resurrection of the body.

Another interesting point comes from D. A. Carson, a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He wrote:

When something is mentioned only once, it cannot be given the same weight of importance as the central themes of Scripture. . . . When something is mentioned only once, there is more likelihood of misinterpreting it, whereas matters repeatedly discussed are clarified by their repetition in various contexts (“Did Paul Baptize for the Dead?” Christianity Today, August 10, 1998, p. 63).

Charles R. Harrell makes an interesting observation about this teaching:

There is no indication in the Book of Mormon that Christ introduced the doctrine of salvation for the dead during his visit to the Nephites—even though, according to LDS doctrine, he had just visited the spirits in prison and opened the door for their salvation. On the contrary, the Book of Mormon people were taught not to worry about those who die without having heard the gospel in this life since they are redeemed automatically through the Atonement. The whole notion of vicarious work for the dead seems incongruous with Book of Mormon theology (“This is My Doctrine,” p. 361).

I agree wholeheartedly.

Great blessings await us as we keep ourselves worthy and go to the temple frequently.

I make … a challenge for each of you this day to put your lives in order, to be worthy to go to the house of the Lord and there to partake of the blessings that are peculiarly yours. … Great are the requirements, but greater still are the blessings.

I urge our people everywhere, with all of the persuasiveness of which I am capable, to live worthy to hold a temple recommend, to secure one and regard it as a precious asset, and to make a greater effort to go to the house of the Lord and partake of the spirit and the blessings to be had therein.

Whether you can go [to the temple] frequently or not, qualify for a temple recommend and keep a recommend in your pocket. It will be a reminder to you of what is expected of you as a Latter-day Saint.

A member is considered worthy if he or she holds a “temple recommend.” As it has been explained in a church manual,

To enter the temple, you must be worthy. You certify your worthiness in two interviews—one with a member of your bishopric or your branch president and another with a member of your stake presidency or the mission president. Your priesthood leaders will keep these interviews private and confidential. In each of the interviews, the priesthood leader will ask you about your personal conduct and worthiness. You will be asked about your testimony of Heavenly Father and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and you will be asked whether you support the general and local leaders of the Church. You will be asked to confirm that you are morally clean and that you keep the Word of Wisdom, pay a full tithe, live in harmony with the teachings of the Church, and do not maintain any affiliation or sympathy with apostate groups. If you give acceptable answers to the questions in the interviews and if you and your priesthood leaders are satisfied that you are worthy to enter the temple, you will receive a temple recommend. You and your priesthood leaders will sign the recommend, which will allow you to enter the temple for the next two years, as long as you remain worthy (True to the Faith, p. 172).

The road to worthiness in Mormonism involves adherence to a list of lifetime requirements, ranging from regular attendance of meetings to paying a full tithe and even abstaining from coffee or tea. A temple recommend is an identification card that entitles the bearer to enter a Mormon temple, declaring that one’s ecclesiastical leaders determined someone was “worthy” to enter. By entering the building, the Latter-day Saint is effectively saying, “I’ve done everything I need to be able to enter this temple’s doors. I am righteous.” While the LDS Church demands its followers to be “worthy” in order to participate in its temples, the Bible gives a clear picture that a sense of unworthiness was much more preferred by God. For example, the Gospel of Luke tells the story of two men who went to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, the other a publican (or tax collector). The Pharisee prayed:

God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Luke 18:11,12).

The Pharisee’s attitude is not uncommon among many sincere people who erroneously think that their “good works” impress an all-holy God. The publican’s demeanor was entirely different. Knowing that he was sinful and undeserving of God’s notice, he approached God in the temple by praying, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). His attitude, not that of the Pharisee, caused our Lord to comment, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).

Tax collectors in ancient Israel were known to have unscrupulous business practices and were despised by the Jewish population. According to Dr. Donald A. Hagner of Fuller Theological Seminary:

In this system one usually became a tax collector by bidding against others to guarantee the highest amount of money to the tax-farmers (the true publicani), who were directly responsible to the Roman government. This arrangement obviously provided the opportunity at several levels for considerable personal gain through the unrestricted inflation of taxes and tolls, a portion of which conveniently went into the pockets of the middlemen” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 4:742).

Dr. Hagner points out that tax collectors were rendered ceremoniously unclean because of their regular contact with Gentiles and were commonly linked with “sinners” (see Matthew 11:19; Mark 2:15 and Luke 15:1). Certainly, if temple “recommends” were required in biblical times, this publican would not have qualified under today’s Mormon guidelines. If worthiness has always been a requirement to enter a temple, how did the publican of Luke 18 get in?

I am satisfied that every man or woman who goes to the temple in a spirit of sincerity and faith leaves the house of the Lord a better man or woman. There is need for constant improvement in all of our lives. There is need occasionally to leave the noise and the tumult of the world and step within the walls of a sacred house of God, there to feel His Spirit in an environment of holiness and peace.

This sacred edifice becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God. Here we have outlined the plan of a loving Father in behalf of His sons and daughters of all generations. Here we have sketched before us the odyssey of man’s eternal journey from premortal existence through this life to the life beyond. Great fundamental and basic truths are taught with clarity and simplicity well within the understanding of all who hear. …

The temple is also a place of personal inspiration and revelation. Legion are those who in times of stress, when difficult decisions must be made and perplexing problems must be handled, have come to the temple in a spirit of fasting and prayer to seek divine direction. Many have testified that while voices of revelation were not heard, impressions concerning a course to follow were experienced at that time or later which became answers to their prayers.

This temple is a fountain of eternal truth. “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” (John 4:14.) Here are taught those truths which are divine in their substance and eternal in their implications.

For those who enter these walls, this house becomes a house of covenants. Here we promise, solemnly and sacredly, to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its finest expression. We covenant with God our Eternal Father to live those principles which are the bedrock of all true religion.

Can the covenants (promises) made by Mormons be kept? If not, there are great penalties. Consider the stringent requirements of a covenant, as pointed out in these church manuals:

A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 44).

Within the gospel, a covenant means a sacred agreement or mutual promise between God and a person or a group of people. In making a covenant, God promises a blessing for obedience to particular commandments. He sets the terms of His covenants, and He reveals these terms to His prophets. If we choose to obey the terms of the covenant, we receive promised blessings. If we choose not to obey, He withholds the blessings, and in some instances a penalty also is given (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 81).

A covenant is a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep the conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return. When we receive these saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the greatest blessing God can give us — eternal life (see D&C 14:7). Because keeping our covenants is essential to our happiness now and to eventually receiving eternal life, it is important to understand what we have promised our Heavenly Father (“Understanding our Covenants with God,” Ensign, July 2012, p. 22).

Recently I was speaking to a 19-year-old missionary at the Meridian Temple Open House when I finished the tour. I pointed out how one of the rooms in the temple had a sign explaining how Mormons made covenants at the temple, which were promises to God to keep the commandments. I asked her and her two companions if they were keeping the commandments. “Oh yes,” she replied, as all three of their heads modded.

“Oh,” I replied, “so then I guess you no longer have to repent.”

At this, the young woman seemed startled and a concerned look fell over her face.

“That’s not true,” she said. “I repent every day.”

“Well then,” I replied, “then isn’t that an admission that you didn’t keep the promises you made in the temple and at the sacrament service the previous week?”

“Of course I still sin,” she said. “I’m only human.”

At this, I nodded and replied, “I fully understand what you are saying. But if you promised to keep the commandments and didn’t, shouldn’t that be an issue.”

I referenced 1 Nephi 3:7, which says,

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

President Spencer W. Kimball put it this way:

…the time to act is now, in this mortal life. Once cannot without impunity delay his compliance with God’s commandments (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 10).

D&C 58:43 explains, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them. D&C 84:47 says, “But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.” According to Kimball, “true repentance prods one to action. Trying is not good enough, nor is doing one’s best. Rather, “we must always do better than we can” (Ibid., p. 165). The question is, who can do this?

The young lady seemed to listen to what I said. Then I was able to explain the Christian gospel. While we cannot be perfect, there is One who is perfect who took my place and provided expiation of sins. Romans 4:1-5 explains,

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

If the Mormon could only understand that freedom does not come by attempting to keep all of the commandments, but rather through faith alone. As Galatians 2:15-16 says,

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Freedom is available only through the work of righteousness completed by Jesus on the cross, not through our own work.

Is life filled with cares for you? Do you have problems and concerns and worries? Do you want for peace in your heart and an opportunity to commune with the Lord and meditate upon His way? Go to the house of the Lord and there feel of His Spirit and commune with Him and you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.

Romans 3:28 says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” How can there be “peace” when the Mormon realizes he’s not doing everything he’s supposed to do in order to attain God’s righteousness?

In times of darkness, try to get to the house of the Lord and there shut out the world. Receive His holy ordinances, and extend these to your forebears. At the conclusion of a session in the temple, sit quietly in the celestial room and ponder the blessings you have received in your own behalf or that you have extended to those who have gone beyond. Your heart will swell with gratitude, and thoughts of the eternal verities of the Lord’s great plan of happiness will infuse your soul.

In this noisy, bustling, competitive world, what a privilege it is to have a sacred house where we may experience the sanctifying influence of the Spirit of the Lord. The element of selfishness crowds in upon us constantly. We need to overcome it, and there is no better way than to go to the house of the Lord and there serve in a vicarious relationship in behalf of those who are beyond the veil of death. …

… I encourage you to take greater advantage of this blessed privilege. It will refine your natures. It will peel off the selfish shell in which most of us live. It will literally bring a sanctifying element into our lives and make us better men and better women.

I know your lives are busy. I know that you have much to do. But I make you a promise that if you will go to the House of the Lord, you will be blessed; life will be better for you. Now, please, please, my beloved brethren and sisters, avail yourselves of the great opportunity to go to the Lord’s house and thereby partake of all of the marvelous blessings that are yours to be received there.

The temple of the Bible is so much different than the temple of Mormonism. Consider that the biblical temple was about the unrighteous who came to have animal sacrifices performed on their behalf; the Mormon temple is about the righteous coming to do work for themselves and the dead. The Old Testament temple was a place where sacrifices were made on behalf of the sins of pious Jews. The blood of the slain animal symbolized propitiation (appeasement for God’s anger) and expiation (cancellation of sin). Blood sacrifices included burnt, sin, trespass, and fellowship offerings of several kinds of animals; bloodless sacrifices involved grain offerings and libations.

Forgiveness was received through the faith of those who offered these sacrifices. The temple and its priesthood foreshadowed the coming Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, to whom Hebrews 4:16 says Christians can now go to obtain mercy. Because Jesus is alive forevermore, there is no need for a human high priest. This office has been filled. The blood that was shed in the temple ceremonies foreshadowed the work that would be performed by Christ Himself. Hebrews 9:26 says “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 10:14 vividly depicts how Christ “has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

In addition, there was only one temple in Jerusalem, whereas there are dozens of Mormon temples dotting the earth. And only those Jews from the tribe of Levi were allowed to be priests and thus enter the temple; in Mormonism, anyone who is considered “righteous” is allowed inside.

I encourage you to study this issue further and see that the temple’s function has ended. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb sent for the forgiveness of our sins. Why would Christians want to continue this work when the work has already been done?

For more on this issue, check out www.sacredorsecret.com

To read other reviews of the Gordon B. Hinckley manual, click here.