The Mormon Temple

DSC03374By Bill McKeever

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Participation in what is called the temple “endowment” ceremony is an important facet of the LDS faith since it is in this ritual where Mormons learn secret “key words,” “signs” and “tokens” that they hope will help them return to God’s presence.

Brigham Young, Mormonism’s second president, claimed,

“Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416).

Without their temples, Mormons are told that exaltation (or Godhood) in the next world is an impossibility. By completely obeying various laws and ordinances, faithful Latter-day Saints hope that they too can achieve the status of “Gods” and “Goddesses.”

Since its founding in 1830, the LDS Church has caused quite a controversy among Bible-believing Christians. While Mormons have every right to believe as they may, many leaders of the LDS Church have made some serious accusations against what millions of Christians hold dear. These statements must be challenged in light of history and the Bible.

Latter-day Saints are told that their temples restore temple worship as discussed in the Bible. Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen claimed the LDS ceremony actually follows the pattern of biblical days when he wrote:

“In Biblical times sacred ordinances were administered in holy edifices for the spiritual salvation of ancient Israel. These 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, p. 2).

To test what Mr. Petersen has said, all one needs to do is examine the temple ceremony as it was practiced during biblical times. If the LDS temple ceremonies had their precedent in the Bible, it would be logical that today’s rites would be similar to what took place in Israel until AD 70 when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed. But there are many difference, including:

  • The Mormon Church has more than 100 other temples scattered across the globe; the Jews recognized only the temple in Jerusalem.
  • The primary activity at the Jerusalem temple was the sacrifice of animals as atonement for the sins of the people. Worshipers 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. This was commanded in Numbers 3:6-10. The Mormon Church ignores such commands and allows its “temple-worthy” members who have no such background to officiate in its temples.
  • Wedding ceremonies never occurred in the Jerusalem temple, yet this is a common practice in LDS temples.
  • Baptism for the dead is the most common activity in Mormon temples. No such practice was ever performed in the Jerusalem temple.
  • While many Mormon families have been “sealed” for time and eternity in LDS temples, the Jerusalem temple provided no such ordinance.

Mormons are told that the temple ceremony came by way of revelation to Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith, Jr. According to Mormon Apostle John Widtsoe, “Joseph Smith received the temple endowment and its ritual, as all else he promulgated, by revelation from God” (Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, p. 249). Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie echoed this same thought when he said the temple ordinances were “given in modern times to the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation, many things connected with them being translated by the Prophet from the papyrus on which the Book of Abraham was recorded” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 779). This is quite a statement since the Book of Abraham (regarded by Latter-day Saints as sacred scripture) has been shown to be an inaccurate translation of an ancient Egyptian funeral text.

  • “The Church today teaches the same principles and performs the same ordinances as were performed in the days of Jesus.” (Gospel Principles, p. 98)
  • “In Biblical times sacred ordinances were administered in holy edifices for the spiritual salvation of ancient Israel. The buildings thus used were not synagogues, nor any other ordinary places of worship. They were specially constructed for this particular purpose.… Following the pattern of Biblical days, the Lord again in our day has provided these ordinances for all who will believe, and directs that temples be built in which to perform those sacred rites” (Mark E. Petersen, Why Mormons Build Temples, p. 3).

For more on temples, click here.