During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Lorenzo Snow
In temples we learn of the marvelous blessings God has prepared for the faithful.
The temple is centerpiece in Mormonism. Without these more than 140 edifices throughout the world, there would be no ability for the living to do the work necessary for them and the dead to attain celestial glory. While Mormons may become very excited about their temples, we must ask if the practices in these buildings are biblical. If they are, then Christians everywhere should join this religious movement so they can enter one of these edifices and do the required work. If they are not, then Mormon temple worship today is unnecessary and possibly even spiritually harmful.
The prospects that God has opened up to our view are wonderful and grand; the imagination cannot conceive of them. Come into the Temples and we will show you. Many of you, I presume, have been there, and have heard the marvelous things that God has prepared for those that love Him and continue faithful to the end… He has prepared everything for the Latter-day Saints that they could possibly wish or imagine in order to effect their complete happiness throughout the vast eternities.
The prerequisites for receiving the promises given in the temple are given: 1) For those who love God; 2) For those who are faithful to the end. In other words, a person must both love God and continually do what He commands until the end of life. We will discuss what this means later in the review.
Through temple ordinances we form sacred ties that can bind families together for time and eternity. Think of the promises that are made to you in the beautiful and glorious ceremony that is used in the marriage covenant in the Temple. When two Latter-day Saints are united together in marriage, promises are made to them concerning their offspring that reach from eternity to eternity.
We must consider the promises that Mormons make when they go to the temple and do their work. The church explained the importance of obedience in the article “Understanding our Covenants with God: An Overview of our Most Important Promises” (Ensign, July 2012, pp. 22-25). “Covenant” is described as “a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep those conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return.” It is only by keeping these covenants that “the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the greatest blessing God can give us—eternal life.” Keeping these covenants is not only crucial for happiness in this life, the article explains, but “to eventually receiving eternal life.” Not keeping these covenants forfeits the blessings.
Two important covenants take place in the temple: the endowment and the sealing. For the endowment, temple-worthy Mormons “make covenants related to our eternal exaltation. Apostle Jeffrey Holland is quoted, saying that it is the “covenant we make in the temple—our promise to obey and sacrifice, to consecrate unto the Father, and His promise to empower us with ‘a great endowment.’” The first recommended article in this section is found in the 2009 church manual Gospel Principles on pages 200-206. On page 202, it says, “By keeping God’s commandments, we prepare for eternal life and exaltation. Sometimes we do not know the reason for a particular commandment. However, we show our faith and trust in God when we obey Him without knowing why.” On page 203 under the section “No commandment is too small or too great to obey,” it says, “We too should be willing to do anything God requires. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘I made this my rule. When the Lord commands, do it” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 160). This can be our rule also.” On page 205 under the section “The Obedient Gain Eternal Life,” it reads, “The Lord counsels us, ‘If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God’ (D&C 14:7).”
Mormonism is very clear that the blessings, both temporal and eternal, are contingent on keeping the promises that were made. Latter-day Saint, how good are you at giving promises? These are easy to make. But how about keeping these promises? It seems that every Mormon realizes how difficult, no, impossible, this is. Of course, there are many excuses. For example, maybe they are “trying.” But isn’t “trying” the same as saying you didn’t do what you were asked to do? Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball was clear when he wrote, “Trying Is Not Sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 164). Others may say that they are doing their best. Have you ever kept a commandment? This is what is meant by doing your best. Failing means you could have done better. Another common excuse uses repentane, as if this is a good reason for break the sacred covenant.
Both church leaders and the LDS scriptures seem to indicate that obedience, not breaking commandments, is what is most needed. Doctrine and Covenants 58:42-42 says, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” Moroni 10:32 in the Book of Mormon says,
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
According to these passages, a person can only receive “grace” only upon successful keeping of denying oneself of all ungodliness. This standard is a much different message than what is offered by Christianity.
Mormon presidents from the beginning trhough today echo the same thought. Mormon founder Joseph Smith said, “Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God” (History of the Church 3:379. See also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 148). It means not doing the same sin again, as fourth President Wilford Woodruff taught,
“And what is repentance? The forsaking of sin. The man who repents, if he be a swearer, swears no more; or a thief, steal no more; he turns away from all former sins and commits them no more. It is not repentance to say, I repent today, and then steal tomorrow; that is the repentance of the world, which is displeasing in the sight of God” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, pp. 71-72).
Sixth President Joseph F. Smith said,
“True repentance is not only sorrow for sins, and humble penitence and contrition before God, but it involves the necessity of turning away from them, a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light. Not only so, but to make restitution, so far as it is possible, for all the wrongs we have done, to pay our debts, and restore to God and man their rights—that which is due to them from us. This is true repentance, and the exercise of the will and all the powers of body and mind is demanded, to complete this glorious work of repentance; then God will accept it” (Gospel Doctrine, 1986, pp. 100-101. See also Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 231 and 232, p. 40).
Eleventh President Harold B. Lee said, “In one sentence, repentance means turning from that which we have done wrong in the sight of the Lord and never repeating that mistake again. Then we can have the miracle of forgiveness.” (Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of Harold B. Lee, 1974, p. 321). Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball wrote,
“Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 324-325).
Who has years, even centuries? We need forgiveness now!
When it comes to marriage, the sealing for a “worthy” Mormon couple is performed in a temple and is not just meant for this life but all eternity; this is what allows Mormon couples to attain exaltation in the celestial kingdom and be, as one church manuals states, “united eternally with their righteous family members and [they] will be able to have eternal increase” (Gospel Principles, p. 277). Focusing on the meaning of “eternal increase” within the exalted state, another church manual explains, “By definition, exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 129). The idea of residing with one’s family as a reward for a job well done on earth has been a consistent theme throughout much of Mormonism’s history. A church manual clearly states that “only in and through the family unit can we obtain eternal life” (Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 430-431, p. 78).
As Snow’s quote from above puts it, marriage for time and eternity, in this lifetime, is a requirement. The Gospel Principles manual says, “Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple . . . If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us” (p. 209). President Thomas S. Monson declared, “It is the celestial glory that we seek. It is in the presence of God that we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership” (“He is Not Here, but Is Risen,” Ensign, April 2011, p. 5). “To be exalted in the highest degree and continue eternally in family relationships, we must enter into ‘the new and everlasting covenant of marriage’ and be true to that covenant. In other words, temple marriage is a requirement for obtaining the highest degree of celestial glory” (True to the Faith, p. 93).
In the previous chapter of this manual (chapter 9), several paragraphs were dedicated to talking about exceptions for those “unable” to have a temple marriage. It is interesting that Chapter 10 appears to give a strong command about how necessary marriage is. This manual also describes “promises (that) are made to them concerning their offspring that reach from eternity to eternity.” How can “eternity to eternity” be reached if it’s impossible to have an eternal past?
We have received much wisdom and knowledge of things which astonish the world when we speak of them. We have learned that, in temples, we are able to form ties which are not dissolved at death, but which reach into eternity; sacred ties which bind families together for time and eternity.
Nowhere does the Bible teach in the possibility that mom, dad, grandparents, children, and other family members 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.
As I talked about in the chapter 9 review, is it even possible for the entire family to be together for eternity? 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. Mormonism teaches that only those who are truly obedient will qualify for the benefits of the celestial kingdom. 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 Heavenly Father 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. It is a misnomer to say that Christians don’t believe in an eternal family structure since all forgiven humans are a part of God’s family. As such, all redeemed believers will live in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God will be the focus of our attention in eternity, not us. Sadly, Christians will not experience eternity with unforgiven loved ones. However, in Mormon teaching this same situation exists. Faithful Mormons will not be joined by family members who were unfaithful in mortality. On the surface, the idea of eternal family units may sound very appealing to some, but once the LDS concept is carried to its logical conclusion, it breaks down quickly.
In temples we receive the ordinances of exaltation in behalf of our kindred dead.
Every son and daughter of God will have the opportunity necessary for exaltation and glory. … There is but one way by which exaltation and glory can be secured. We have to be baptized for the remission of sins and have hands laid upon us for the reception of the Holy Ghost. These and other ordinances are absolutely necessary for exaltation and glory; and where individuals have lived when the Gospel has not been accessible, these things can be attended to by their friends. We have come into the world now in order to do these things—at least, it is one of the chief objects of our coming. We cannot lay too great stress upon the importance of this work.
Robert Millet, a professor at Brigham Young University, explained, “Latter-day Saints believe that sometime during or just following the mortal ministry of Jesus, the doctrine of salvation for the dead was revealed to the first-century Church. . . . Joseph Smith called these events ‘the fundamental principles of our religion,’ to which all other doctrines are but appendages” (A Different Jesus?, p. 129). Smith said Latter-day Saints could “become saviors on Mount Zion” by “building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them. . . . The Saints have not too much time to save and redeem their dead.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 473).
Under the heading that says Mormons “have a responsibility to be saviors on Mount Zion,” a church manual quotes third President John Taylor as saying, “Saviors? Yes. Whom shall they save? In the first place themselves, then their families, then their neighbors, friends and associations, then their forefathers, then pour blessings on their prosperity. Is that so? Yes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, p. 187). Fourth President Wilford Woodruff taught, “This is a work that rests upon the Latter-day Saints. Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the veil your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done, and inasmuch as you have been instruments in the hands of God in procuring their redemption, you will be recognized as Saviors upon Mount Zion in fulfillment of prophecy” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 189). Another manual tells church members, “Your effort approaches the spirit of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice—you perform a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves” (True to the Faith, 63).
Speaking about temple work, fifteenth President Gordon B. Hinckley said that “its primary purpose is to afford members of the Church the resources needed to identify their ancestors that they might extend to them the blessings that they themselves enjoy. They in effect say to themselves, ‘If I love my wife and children so dearly that I want them for all eternity, then should not my deceased grandfather and great-grandfather and other forbears have opportunity to receive the same eternal blessings.’” (“Why These Temples,” Ensign special edition, October 2010, 26). Henry Eyring, a member of the First Presidency, told a general conference crowd,
“Many of your deceased ancestors will have received a testimony that the message of the missionaries is true. When you received that testimony you could ask the missionaries for baptism. But those who are in the spirit world cannot. The ordinances you so cherish are offered only in this world. Someone in this world must go to a holy temple and accept the covenants on behalf of the person in the spirit world. That is why we are under obligation to find the names of our ancestors and ensure that they are offered by us what they cannot receive there without our help.”(“Hearts Bound Together,” Ensign, May 2005, 78).
The freedom to choose whether or not to accept this gospel is provided to these spirits, according to Apostle James E. Talmage, who explained,
“Let it not be assumed that this doctrine of vicarious labor for the dead implies even remotely, that the administration of ordinances in behalf of departed spirits operates in any manner to interfere with the right of choice and the exercise of free agency on their part. They are at liberty to accept or reject the ministrations in their behalf; and so they will accept or reject, in accordance with their converted or unregenerate state, even as is the case with mortals to whom the Gospel message may come” (The House of the Lord, 68).
Seventy Spencer J. Condie said,
“We believe that everyone is free to choose, both in this life and in the spirit world. This freedom is essential to the plan of our Heavenly Father. No one will be coerced into accepting ordinances performed on his or her behalf by another. Baptism for the dead offers an opportunity, but it does not override a person’s agency. . . .We simply do not know who among the dead will turn their hearts to the Lord and repent. We are not in a position to judge. We must do the work and leave the matter in the hands of the deceased person and the Lord” (“The Savior’s Visit to the Spirit World,” Ensign, July 2003, 36).
Thus, Mormons diligently do their temple work for the dead, with the hope that these spirits will choose to accept the message of salvation that will be presented to them. The Bible and the Book of Mormon are in agreement when they proclaim that there are no second chances for salvation. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Hebrews 9:27 adds, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” In the Book of Mormon, Alma 34:32–35 says,
“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”
Mormons sometimes argue that this passage in Alma refers only to those who know better. This would include apostate Mormons or even so-called “anti-Mormons” who have done a great deal of study on Mormonism. But this passage does not support this premise. In fact, verse 32 says now “is the time for men (in general) to prepare to meet God.” It does not specify that the time is now only for those who have understood the gospel fully and rejected it. If the warning here really is intended for those who know better, then it seems to be directed to every member of the LDS Church.
We did not come into this world accidentally. We came for a special purpose, and it was undoubtedly through certain arrangements in the other life where we dwelt that we came into this life. Well, in the Temples we are accomplishing a great work in reference to our kindred dead. We have from time to time important manifestations that God approved of this labor that we are performing in our Temples. Most extraordinary manifestations have been experienced by individuals that are laboring for their ancestry. It is a mighty work that we are accomplishing. Thousands of persons have been baptized for their dead during the progress of our labors in the Temples. …
In 1 Corinthians 15:29, the apostle Paul wrote, “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?” Ninth President David O. McKay (1873–1970) wrote,
“Not a few commentators have tried to explain away [this passage’s] true significance; but its context proves plainly that in the days of the apostles there existed the practice of baptism for the dead; that is, living persons were immersed in water for and in behalf of those who were dead—not who were ‘dead to sin’ but who had ‘passed to the other side.’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 129).
Brigham Young University professor Robert Millet said,
“Many non-Latter-day Saint scholars believe that in 1 Corinthians Paul was denouncing or condemning the practice of baptism for the dead as heretical. This is a strange conclusion, since Paul uses the practice to support the doctrine of the resurrection. In essence, he says, ‘Why are we performing baptism in behalf of our dead, if, as some propose, there will be no resurrection of the dead? If there is to be no resurrection, would not such baptisms be a waste of time?’” (A Different Jesus? pp. 130–31).
Millet assumes that Paul was a participant in this rite. When verse 29 is dissected, though, it can be seen that Paul purposely did not use the first person we in this verse. Thus, Christian theologian D. A. Carson explained why this assumption is wrong:
The most plausible interpretation is that some in Corinth were getting baptized vicariously for the dead. Several factors, however, put this into perspective. Although Paul does not explicitly condemn the practice, neither does he endorse it. Several writers have offered the following analogy. Imagine a Protestant writing, “Why do they then pray for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all?” Noone would take this as an endorsement of the practice of praying for the dead; it is a criticism of the inconsistency of praying for the dead while holding that the dead do not rise. To make this rhetorical question an endorsement of the practice of praying for the dead, one would expect, “Why do we then pray for the dead?” Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 15:29 Paul preserves the more distant they. After all, his primary concern in 1 Corinthians 15 is the defense of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. His rhetorical question in verse 29 may simply be pointing out the inconsistency of those who deny the final resurrection, granted their rather strange baptismal practices. And they were strange. There is no good evidence for vicarious baptism anywhere in the New Testament or among the earliest apostolic fathers. By the same token, there is no hint that this vicarious baptism (if that is what it was) was intended by the Corinthian believers to cover as many deceased people as could be named. If the practice existed at all, it may have been tied to a few people or special cases—for example, when a relative died after trusting the gospel but before being baptized. We really do not know. If it were something like that, one could understand why Paul does not make a federal case of it. In any case, Paul’s clear emphasis is that people are justified by grace through faith, which demands a personal response. Christian baptism is part of that personal response, even as it is a covenantal pledge. In contrast, baptism on behalf of someone who has not exercised such faith sounds like magic—of something far from Pauline thought (D. A. Carson, “Directions: Did Paul Baptize for the Dead?” Christianity Today, August 10, 1998).
Carson suggested that the reason the 1 Corinthians 15 passage is difficult to interpret is that this is the only passage in the Bible specifically mentioning “baptism for the dead.” He wrote,
The reason is not that God must say things more than once for them to be true or binding. The reason, rather, is that if something is said only once it is easily misunderstood or misapplied. When something is repeated on several occasions and in slightly different contexts, readers will enjoy a better grasp of what is meant and what is at stake. That is why the famous “baptism for the dead” passage (1 Cor. 15:29) is not unpacked at length and made a major plank in, say, the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Confession. Over forty interpretations of that passage have been offered in the history of the church. Mormons are quite sure what it means, of course, but the reason why they are sure is because they are reading it in the context of other books that they claim are inspired and authoritative (D. A. Carson, “Must I Learn How to Interpret the Bible?” Modern Reformation 5:3 (May/June 1996): 18–22).
The historical context also needs to be considered, and it reveals that baptism for the dead was not a regular practice of the Christian church. According to Christian theologian Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “apart from a possible reference in Tertullian (De res, 48c), there is evidence of such a practice only among heretical groups like the Cerinthians and the Marcionites,” and neither of these groups existed when 1 Corinthians was written (G. W. Bromiley, “Baptism for the Dead,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Bromiley, 1:426). If Doctrine and Covenants 128:17 is true when it says that baptism for the dead is the most “glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel,” then it should be expected that the New Testament would have spoken much more about it.
Now, in our Temples we allow persons to come in, after they have traced their ancestry, no matter how far back, and to be baptized for their dead father, grandfather, and great grandfather and so on, just as far as they can trace their line. Then we allow them to have the wives sealed to their husbands, all along the ancestry line, as far as they can trace it. Take the case of a virtuous young man who lived before the Gospel was introduced to the children of men. … He married a wife, and raised a family; but he never had the privilege of receiving the Gospel, as you and I have. However, he taught his family the principles of morality, and he was affectionate and kind to his wife and children. What more could he do? He should not be condemned because he did not receive the Gospel; for there was no Gospel to receive. He should not lose his wife because when he married her he could not go into a Temple and have her sealed to him for time and eternity. He acted according to the best knowledge that he had, and she was married to him for time, according to the custom of the country. We respect that marriage, solemnized according to the laws of his country. … We seal children to their parents and wives to their husbands, all along the line.
The Savior said on a certain occasion, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God;” and He continued and made this remarkable expression: “and they that hear shall live.” [John 5:25.] I believe there will be very few who will not receive the truth. They will hear the voice of the Son of God; they will hear the voice of the Priesthood of the Son of God, and they will receive the truth and live. These brethren and sisters that are laboring so industriously in the temples will have the honor of being, as it were, saviors to their kindred and friends in whose favor they administered these ordinances.
Apostle Mark E. Petersen claimed that the LDS ceremony actually follows an ancient model. He wrote,
“In Biblical times sacred ordinances were administered in holy edifices for the spiritual salvation of ancient Israel. The buildings thus were not synagogues, nor any other ordinary places of worship. . . . Following the pattern of Biblical days, the Lord again in our day has provided these ordinances for the salvation of all who will believe, and directs that temples be built in which to perform those sacred rites” (Why Mormons Build Temples, 2).
One church manual claims that “the Church today teaches the same principles and performs the same ordinances as were performed in the days of Jesus” (Gospel Principles, 98). However, it also quotes the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 19:19–20) to show that “sacrifice of blood was ended” after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70 and that God now “requires a different kind of offering.” So while the offering of blood sacrifices of animals was one of the main functions of biblical priests, the manual states that committed followers of God should become, as Paul said in Romans 12:1, “living sacrifices.” And it adds, “If we are to be a living sacrifice, we must be willing to give everything we have for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Gospel Principles, p. 151).
If the LDS religion is truly a restoration of biblical Christianity, it would make sense that today’s temple rites should be similar to what took place in ancient Israel. Yet there are many differences, including the following.
• The Jews recognized only one temple located in Jerusalem, while the LDS Church has dozens of temples scattered across the globe.
• The primary activity at the Jerusalem temple was the sacrifice of animals as atonement for the sins of the people. Worshippers in ancient Israel went to the temple with an attitude of unworthiness before an all-holy God. They approached His temple with humility as they looked to have their sins covered. In stark contrast, Mormons enter their temples with a positive sense of worthiness. A person cannot enter a Mormon temple (after it is dedicated) unless he or she is considered “worthy.”
• The priests officiating in the Jerusalem temple had to be from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. This was commanded in Numbers 3:6–10. The LDS Church ignores such commands and allows its “temple-worthy” members who have no such background to officiate in its temples.
• Wedding ceremonies did not take place in the Jerusalem temple, while this is a common practice in modern LDS temples.
• While there were no marriages performed in the Jerusalem temple, many Mormon families have been “sealed” for time and eternity in LDS temples
• While it was not a practice ever performed in the Jerusalem temple, proxy baptism for the dead by living members of the LDS Church is the most common activity in Mormon temples.
If these things are true, why are Mormon temples even needed?
We should strive to perform temple and family history work, even if it requires sacrifice on our part.
Now, it should be an object in every man’s and woman’s mind to come into our Temples and to perform this labor. It is a great labor, and an important one, too. When we go back into the other life and find our dead friends living there, if we have not performed the labor that is necessary for their exaltation and glory we shall not feel very happy and it will not be a very pleasant meeting.
We ought not to wait for opportunities to be pleasant and agreeable always; but we should strive, even if it takes a little sacrifice on our part, to put ourselves in a condition to perform this labor. … We desire anxiously that the brethren and sisters should not neglect this important work. Do you know what will be the main labor during the thousand years of rest [the Millennium]? It will be that which we are trying to urge the Latter-day Saints to perform at the present time. Temples will be built all over this land, and the brethren and sisters will go into them and perhaps work day and night in order to hasten the work and accomplish the labors necessary before the Son of Man can present His kingdom to His Father. This work has got to be accomplished before the Son of Man can come and receive His kingdom to present it to His Father.
When we enter the temple with a pure heart, the Lord blesses us according to what He knows is best for us.
We feel when we go into these temples that we enjoy the Spirit of the Lord more fully than in any other place. They are the Lord’s buildings, and His most important work is carried on within their walls. …
… I am satisfied that when persons go into these temples, they do not [leave] without feeling better and with a determination in their minds to do a little better than they have done. That is the feeling we want the Saints to get. …
… Be faithful, brethren and sisters, and persevering; come to the temple and do your work there, and you will enjoy yourselves, and be better prepared to resist the unpleasantnesses of the world.
Those who [enter the] Temple with a pure heart and a contrite spirit [will] not come out of it without receiving peculiar blessings, although these in some, or possibly many, instances might be different from what some might expect. … Some of the Saints might be looking for the appearance of ministering angels … or expect to behold the face of God. It might not be profitable for you to impart such manifestations. The Lord knows what is best for every individual, and will adapt His gifts for the production of the greatest good to those who receive them. It may be safely anticipated that every faithful Saint who enters that House will receive a blessing that will give much satisfaction to the recipient. Before those who would enter the Temple [leave] it, something [will] arise in their hearts and understanding which [will] be serviceable to them in their future lives. To this, as true Latter-day Saints, they [are] entitled.
If the LDS temple has no resemblance to the temple of Jerusalem, and if it is impossible to “perform a labor” (since Alma 34:34 says that “there can be no labor performed” after death), then this stress on the temple is not required and, quite honestly, a waste of time.
Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.
To read more on the LDS temple and its unique ordinances, see these articles here.