By Eric Johnson
In 2002, the LDS Church produced a booklet titled Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple aimed at those who have not yet gone through one of Mormonism’s dozens of temples around the world. It is long (a total of 37 pages), so allow me to quote much from this booklet (which I will underline) and then provide comments throughout from a biblical point of view.
Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple
Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, (2002), 1–37
Come to the Temple
There are many reasons why one should want to come to the temple. Even its external appearance seems to hint of its deeply spiritual purposes. Much more is this evident within its walls. Over the door to the temple appears the tribute “Holiness to the Lord.” When you enter any dedicated temple, you are in the house of the Lord.
The assumption from the very beginning is that the Mormon temple ought to be a place where faithful Latter-day Saints will want to go. Leaders in the past have said that temples are patterned after the temples of biblical times. For example, Apostle Mark E. Petersen explained:
“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” (Why Mormons Build Temples, 3. Ellipses mine).
Notice what Seventy Royden G. Derrick wrote:
“Temple ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world are for the salvation and exaltation of God’s children. It is important that the saving ordinances not be altered or changed, because all of those who will be exalted, from the first man, Adam, to the last, must be saved on the same principles” (Temples in the Last Days, 36).
Derrick said that people from Adam until today “must be saved on the same principles.” In addition, a 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). The primary activity at the Jerusalem temple was the sacrificing of animals as atonement for the sins of the people. Worshipers in ancient Israel approached this place with humility, having an attitude of unworthiness before an all-holy God. 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.”
So if the Mormon Church “teaches the same principles and performs the same ordinances as were performed in the days of Jesus,” we must ask where in LDS temples does the sacrificing of animals takes place? This same church manual answers this question by pointing to the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 19:19–20), which shows that “sacrifice of blood was ended” after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70 and that God now “requires a different kind of offering.” So while the offering of blood sacrifices of animals was the main functions of the biblical temple, the manual states that committed followers of God should become, as Paul said in Romans 12:1, “living sacrifices.” The manual 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.”(Ibid., 151) (Isn’t this analysis quite convenient?)
Is LDS temple activity patterned after the Bible? The Latter-day Saint ought to ask some important questions in confirming (or rejecting) the assumption that temple worship is important for Christians today:
1) Should the external appearance of a building be an indication of whether or not what takes places inside is rooted in biblical truth?
2) Should the phrase “Holiness to the Lord” placed above the front door be an indication that what takes place inside the temple is rooted in biblical truth?
3) Is what takes place in the LDS “house of the Lord” the same as what took place in the biblical temple of Jerusalem?
Asking these questions will help us better understand if participating in temple worship today is something that God commands for believers today.
In the Church we build buildings of many kinds. In them we worship, we teach, we find recreation, we organize. We can organize stakes and wards and missions and quorums and Relief Societies in these buildings or even in rented halls. But, when we organize families according to the order that the Lord has revealed, we organize them in the temples. Temple marriage, that sealing ordinance, is a crowning blessing that you may claim in the holy temple.
Let’s ask another question:
4) Are marriages something that were performed in temples of biblical days?
In the temples members of the Church who make themselves eligible can participate in the most exalted of the redeeming ordinances that have been revealed to mankind. There, in a sacred ceremony, an individual may be washed and anointed and instructed and endowed and sealed. And when we have received these blessings for ourselves, we may officiate for those who have died without having had the same opportunity. In the temples the sacred ordinances are performed for the living and for the dead alike. Here is the baptismal font, where vicarious baptisms for the dead are performed, with worthy members acting as proxy for those who have gone beyond the veil.
This paragraph raises even more questions:
5) Were people who went to temples in biblical times required to make themselves “eligible” before going?
6) Was ceremonial washing of anyone besides the priests (who, by the way, had to come from the tribe of Levi) ever practiced in biblical times?
7) Were “endowments” and “sealings” ever performed in biblical times?
8) Was work for the dead—such as baptisms for the dead—ever encouraged in biblical temples?
We’ll address these issues throughout the review.
These Things Are Sacred
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. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. If this opportunity is rejected, the rejection must be on the part of the individual.
According to LDS teaching, people who have never heard the Mormon gospel will get a chance in the next life. Souls in the “spirit prison” can be visited by missionaries from Paradise, provided the work for those souls has been performed in proxy by those with physical bodies.
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. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.
We must be prepared before we go to the temple. We must be worthy before we go to the temple. There are restrictions and conditions set. They were established by the Lord and not by man. And, the Lord has every right and authority to direct that matters relating to the temple be kept sacred and confidential.
All who are worthy and qualify in every way may enter the temple, there to be introduced to the sacred rites and ordinances.
Mormons like to say that the temple is “sacred” but not “secret.” Consider the following link on this very topic: Is the Temple Ceremony Sacred or Secret? On this issue, Boyd Tuttle, a cast member of the annual Palymrya pageant in New York, said,
“‘The temple is a very sacred place, and we hold it in special reverence,’ said Tuttle. ‘But we also tell everybody “anyone is welcome to come to the temple if they meet the requirements. …” So it’s not closed to Mormons, or closed to non-Mormons, but it’s closed to just people who are not prepared to enter therein’” (“Mormon Pageant Unites Hundred,” August 8, 2007)
In other words, those “people who are not prepared to enter therein” have not done everything they’re supposed to in order to qualify for a temple recommend.
The road to worthiness 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. It is issued only to Mormons who have met these and other conditions. 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?
Evidence that temple Mormonism has nothing in common with the temple worship in Jerusalem comes from the fact that the temple’s entire purpose was to meet the needs of unworthy sinners. The penitent Jew would come to the temple to offer sacrifice for his sins as well as the sins of his family. The sacrifice would be given to the priest who would stand in the gap between the sinner and God.
On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest first offered a sacrifice for himself. Christian scholar Alfred Edersheim states that this spiritual leader then laid his hands on the bullock and prayed as follows:
Ah, Jehovah! I have committed iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned – I and my house. Oh, then, Jehovah, I entreat Thee, cover over the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before Thee (The Temple, 310).
Does the prayer of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement sound like the prayer of a man who feels he is worthy?
Later, a similar prayer would be repeated by the High Priest on behalf of the people. Many Mormons fail to realize that the temple and its priesthood was a foreshadowing of the coming Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Upon His death, the temple veil was ripped in two. This symbolizes the fact that believers can now directly approach the throne of God (Luke 23:45). Apart from the righteousness of Christ, all our “righteous acts” are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Faith in His unspotted righteousness, not our personal merit, makes all believers worthy in the sight of God.
Mormon scholar Richard Bushman lays it out quite simply:
“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).
Honestly, isn’t it silly that a person cannot even explain to others about the type of clothes that are worn in the temple? I ask, Is the Mormon’s testimony “sacred” as well? Then why do Mormons always try to end spiritual conversations with non-members by giving their testimony?
So let’s get over the poppycock that the temple is sacred but not secret. Indeed, the temple is both sacred (for the faithful LDS) but there is no doubt in is also secret.
Worthy to Enter
Once you have some feeling for the value of temple blessings and for the sacredness of the ordinances performed in the temple, you would be hesitant to question the high standards set by the Lord for entrance into the holy temple.
You must possess a current recommend to be admitted to the temple. This recommend must be signed by the bishop of your ward and the president of your stake. In the mission field, of course, the branch president and the mission president have responsibility for issuing temple recommends. Only those who are worthy should go to the temple. The bishop has the responsibility of making inquiries into our personal worthiness. This interview is of great importance to you as a member of the Church, for it is an occasion to explore with an ordained servant of the Lord the pattern of your life. If anything is amiss in your life, the bishop will be able to help you resolve it. Through this procedure, as you counsel with the common judge in Israel, you can declare or can be helped to establish your worthiness to enter the temple with the Lord’s approval.
President N. Eldon Tanner, who served as First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke to the general priesthood meeting about interviews. His counsel has meaning both for the Church leaders who conduct the interview and for the members who are to be interviewed. Consider carefully this counsel:
You bishops and stake presidents might approach an interview for a temple recommend something like this:
“You have come to me for a recommend to enter the temple. I have the responsibility of representing the Lord in interviewing you. At the conclusion of the interview there is provision for me to sign your recommend; but mine is not the only important signature on your recommend. Before the recommend is valid, you must sign it yourself.
“When you sign your recommend, you make a commitment to the Lord that you are worthy of the privileges granted to those who hold such a recommend. There are several standard questions that I will ask. … You are to respond honestly to each one.” …
As we have discussed, the temple was a place where unclean people could go to sacrifice and offer up their sorrow for their sins. There is a list of 14 questions asked by the Mormon bishop, including:
- Do you believe in God, the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost; and do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?
- Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
- Do you sustain the other General Authorities and the local authorities of the Church?
To enter a temple, the LDS leaders must be accepted by the recommend candidate as being authentic appointees of God. While the recommend is supposed to be given only to qualified candidates, I must say that I have known Latter-day Saints who would not retain their temple recommends if they were honest. However, to leave Mormonism would be too hard, so they stay in the religion and go through the motions to retain their standing in their social community.
Next, question four reads:
- Do you live the law of chastity?
Most likely the vast majority of Mormons (and moral people everywhere) could say they’re not having adulterous affairs or sex outside of marriage. But what about Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:27-28:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
If Jesus is correct–and I think we will have to say He is–then who really abides by this so-called “law of chastity”?
Question 6 is a doozy:
- Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?
What does “affiliate” mean? Does it mean “hanging out” with “anti-Mormons”? Or what if a person looks at web sites such as www.mrm.org? The fear factor is included here to remind the membership that they must not listen to anyone outside the LDS leadership. Questioning the leaders is not allowed!
Question nine reads: Are you a full-tithe payer? For those who are behind in their tithes, “tithing settlement” is provided. This is what Bill McKeever has called “Tithing by Coercion.” Also consider this blog I wrote titled “Pushing the Temple (and Tithe) on the People.”
Another unique requirement come in question 10:
- Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?
Again, one must accept the LDS leadership (and Joseph Smith) as ordained by God, as no such requirement was ever imposed on the biblical believers. It all depends on how we interpret the Word of Wisdom. Should we interpret it the way it literally reads in the Doctrine and Covenants? If so, then there should be meat only in time of cold and famine, and there should be no “hot cocoa” along the ban on coffee and tea. However, Mormons have interpreted this rule in different ways over the years. For more information on this topic, see here.
Question 12 asks:
If you have received your temple endowment — (a) Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple? (b) Do you wear the authorized garments both day and night?
Choice A is a killer, for a person can’t deny these questions and still receive a recommend. Thus, it appears that the potential temple patron will be required to lie. Isn’t that enough to show that the person is not keeping the covenants? Wearing the garments is also a requirement. Is there any biblical reference that could be cited to show that those bringing their sacrifices had to wear garments with Masonic emblems stitched into the clothing in order to participate?
And, like question 12a, the final question requires more lying in order to pass:
- Do you consider yourself worthy in every way to enter the temple and participate in temple ordinances?
Now, after you have put those required questions to the applicant, you may wish to add something like this: “One who goes into the house of the Lord must be free from any unclean, unholy, impure, or unnatural practice.” …
Let’s return to the example of the Pharisee who, on the outside, looked like someone who had everything put together. However, he was criticized by Jesus and the publican was commended. If this is the case, why is the LDS Church leadership wanting its people to imitate the proud and arrogant?
Our interviews must be conducted in love, in modesty. Ofttimes things can be corrected if you ask: “Would there be a reason you may feel uncomfortable or perhaps even dishonest to the Lord if you were to sign your own temple recommend?
“Would you like a little time to get some very personal things in order before you sign it? Remember, the Lord knows all things and will not be mocked. We are trying to help you. Never lie to try to obtain a call, a recommend, or a blessing from the Lord.”
If you approach the matter as outlined above, the member has the responsibility to interview himself. The bishop or stake president has the right to the power of discernment. He will know whether or not there is something amiss that ought to be settled before a recommend is issued. (“The Blessing of Church Interviews,” Ensign [November 1978]: 42–43.)
As I read these questions, I realize how good it would be if they were added into the official questions. Certainly nobody knows a person’s foibles as well as the person him(her)self. If these questions were to be added into the interview process, perhaps nobody would even think about attending the temple!
Acceptable answers to the bishop’s questions will ordinarily establish the worthiness of an individual to receive a temple recommend. If an applicant is not keeping the commandments or there is something unsettled about his or her life that needs putting in order, it will be necessary for that individual to demonstrate true repentance before a temple recommend is issued.
Let’s be honest: “Acceptable answers” are not synonymous with “truthful” or “honest” answers.
First and Every Time
If you are going to the temple for the first time it is quite normal for you to be a little unsettled. We are naturally anxious about the unknown. We often become nervous over new experiences.
Be at peace. You are going to the temple. You will have someone to assist you at every turn. You will be carefully guided—be at peace.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m taking this verse out of its context, but 1 Thessalonians 5:3 says,
While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Beware, Latter-day Saint, when someone is telling you to have “peace.” To the contrary, the Bible talks about a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). In Matthew 7 Jesus spoke about wolves who were dressed up in sheep’s clothing, looking for those whom they could devour. The Bible commands that we are to test everything (1 Thes.5:21) because, 1 John 4:1 adds, false prophets have gone out into the world.
When we enter the temple we should be reverent. Any conversations that are necessary ought to be conducted in very subdued tones. During the periods of instruction, of course, we are completely reverent and quiet.
I just can’t imagine the biblical temples being a place of “quiet.” Animals that were being led to their sacrificial slaughter would have made a lot of noise. The picture of the temple as portrayed by Mormonism is unique and not a copy of biblical temple worship. If the leaders want to portray today’s LDS temples as unique to Mormonism and not replicating the ceremonies from biblical times, then I wouldn’t quibble. But making readers think that LDS temples are reflective of the biblical model is not only false but deceitful.
Besides the issue of sacrificing animals, let’s consider some more differences between the temple of the Bible and the temple of Mormonism:
- The Jews recognized only one temple located in Jerusalem, while the LDS Church has dozens of temples scattered across the globe.
- 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.
With all of these differences, how could anyone suggest that the Mormon temple is even similar to what took place in the Jerusalem temple?
If you will go to the temple and remember that the teaching is symbolic you will never go in the proper spirit without coming away with your vision extended, feeling a little more exalted, with your knowledge increased as to things that are spiritual. The teaching plan is superb. It is inspired. The Lord Himself, the Master Teacher, in His own teaching to His disciples taught constantly in parables, a verbal way to represent symbolically things that might otherwise be difficult to understand. He talked of the common experiences drawn from the lives of His disciples, and He told of hens and chickens, birds, flowers, foxes, trees, burglars, highwaymen, sunsets, the rich and the poor, the physician, patching clothes, pulling weeds, sweeping the house, feeding pigs, threshing grain, storing into barns, building houses, hiring help, and dozens of other things. He talked of the mustard seed, of the pearl. He wanted to teach His hearers, so He talked of simple things in a symbolic sense. None of these things is mysterious or obscure, and all of them are symbolic.
The temple itself becomes a symbol. If you have seen one of the temples at night, fully lighted, you know what an impressive sight that can be. The house of the Lord, bathed in light, standing out in the darkness, becomes symbolic of the power and the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ standing as a beacon in a world that sinks ever further into spiritual darkness.
While the idea of “symbol” is stressed here, we must ask what this is a “symbol” of? There’s much more lying behind the “symbolism.” For instance, couples who are getting sealed “for time and eternity” really believe that families are forever and that they will be together (literally) in the celestial kingdom. Those who get baptized on behalf of others already dead believe that the gospel message will be communicated (literally) through spirit missionaries. So while white walls, ascending rooms (i.e. the patron moves up a slight incline going from the telestial room to the terrestrial room and finally the celestial room), and fig-leaf aprons are all certainly symbolic, there is a literal meaning behind all of it, certainly in the mind of temple patrons.
The temple ceremony will not be fully understood at first experience. It will be only partly understood. Return again and again and again. Return to learn. Things that have troubled you or things that have been puzzling or things that have been mysterious will become known to you. Many of them will be the quiet, personal things that you really cannot explain to anyone else. But to you they are things known.
What we gain from the temple will depend to a large degree on what we take to the temple in the way of humility and reverence and a desire to learn. If we are teachable we will be taught by the Spirit, in the temple.
When you have the opportunity to attend an endowment session in the temple or to witness a sealing, ponder the deeper meaning of what you see demonstrated before you. And in the days following your visit keep these things on your mind; quietly and prayerfully review them and you will find that your knowledge will increase.
One of the great values of the temple experience is that it presents the broad, sweeping panorama of God’s purposes relating to this earth. Once we have been through the temple (and we can return and refresh our memories) the events of life fit into the scheme of things. We can see in perspective where we are, and we can quickly see when we are off course.
A person who regularly attends the temple is indoctrinated. Critical thinking skills are soon lost. Contradictions become nothing more than conundrums. For example, the impossibility of families being together for eternity, something taught both in Mormonism and stressed at the temple, is typically ignored by faithful Latter-day Saints. President Thomas S. Monson stated that it is
“the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned.”(“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, May 1988, 56)
Consider the teaching manual used in 2014, as explained by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“Those who receive the exaltation in the celestial kingdom will have the ‘continuation of the seeds forever.’ They will live in the family relationship. We are taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ that the family organization will be, so far as celestial exaltation is concerned, one that is complete, an organization linked from father and mother and children of one generation to the father and mother and children of the next generation, and thus expanding and spreading out down to the end of time” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 68).
So many other quotes can be added from official church sources, including:
“Oh, brothers and sisters, families can be forever! Do not let the lures of the moment draw you away from them! Divinity, eternity, and family—they go together, hand in hand, and so must we!” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 212).
“Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple. When people are married outside the temple, the marriage ends when one of the partners dies. When we are married in the temple by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are married for time and eternity. If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us” (Gospel Principles, 2009, 209).
“The family is the most important unit in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church exists to help families gain eternal blessings and exaltation. The organizations and programs within the Church are designed to strengthen us individually and help us live as families forever” (Gospel Principles, 2009, 211).
“As husbands, wives, and children, we need to learn what the Lord expects us to do to fulfill our purpose as a family. If we all do our part, we will be united eternally” (Gospel Principles, 2009, 213).
“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, 2009, 235).
“The sealing of husband and wife in the temple is essential to becoming an eternal family. Important covenants are associated with this ordinance. Faithfulness to these covenants will bless your family now and in eternity. You will have greater love, patience, and happiness in your home. You will have greater strength to endure the trials of life. And you and your family will receive comfort from knowing that you can be together forever” (Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual Religion 261, 7).
“Ask students to define the terms immortality and eternal life. Discuss the scriptural definition of immortality (see 1 Corinthians 15:51–54; Mormon 6:21) and of eternal life (see 1 John 5:11; Mosiah 15:22–25). President Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘Immortality is to live forever in an assigned kingdom. Eternal life is to gain exaltation in the highest heaven and live in the family unit” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1978, 109; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 72)” (The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual Religion 327, 13.).
“I have the glorious promise of the association of my loved ones throughout all eternity. In obedience to this work, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I shall gather around me my family, my children, my children’s children, until they become as numerous as the seed of Abraham, or as countless as the sands upon the seashore.For this is my right and privilege, and the right and privilege of every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who holds the Priesthood and will magnify it in the sight of God.”(Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 386)
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). 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,
“To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept.”(The Way to Perfection, 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.
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.
And think about the impossibility of living up to the second half of Lorenzo Snow’s famous couplet (“As God is, man may be.”) If humans can become gods in their own right, just as Heavenly Father, then having families together makes no sense. After all, is God’s grandfather and great-grandmother with him? How about his grandchildren?
Let’s illustrate with a man and woman who get married in the temple. When they die and attain exaltation (celestial kingdom), will they be with:
- Their grandparents, if faithful Mormons, will be together (and not with this couple)
- Their parents, if faithful Mormons, will be together (and not with this couple)
- Their children, if they marry faithful Mormon spouses, will be together (and not with this couple)
- The same with the grandchildren
In fact, living in eternity as a “family” will involve the husband and wife (with perhaps additional wives added in, as God the Father is polygamous). Although the image given by the LDS Church of grandparents, parents, and children sitting together in front of a fireplace, it is is a logical impossibility and a false bill of sales.
We have been speaking in terms of the participants in the temple experience, but there are occasions when a temple wedding is being planned and some very close members of the family are not qualified for temple recommends. It may be that the groom or the bride is a convert and his or her parents are not yet in the Church; or, that they are too new in the Church to qualify for a temple recommend. Or it may be that the parents are members of the Church but one of them is not living the gospel standards sufficiently to receive a temple recommend.
Not having a temple recommend will keep a person out of the temple. Without this all-important card, a parent or loved one will not be allowed to go inside and watch the ceremony. Only the “righteous” are permitted entrance. Those who are LDS could be disqualified for possibly drinking an occasional cup of coffee, refraining from paying the tithe from the gross income, or even telling the truth by admitting they are not “worthy” in the obedience of the covenants they promised to keep!
These limitations loom large at times of temple marriages. These are the times when families should be very close together, when they should be drawn together to share in these sacred moments of life. The withholding of a temple recommend to one who is not qualified, or the inability to invite a nonmember friend or relative to witness the sealing, can quickly present problems. This might cause unhappiness and contention at the very moment when there is a great need to have things serene, to have the greatest harmony.
Imagine you are the parents of a daughter or son getting married in the temple. If you are not LDS, you can’t see the event that you looked forward to seeing all your life. You are relegated to the temple’s chapel area while your child gets married upstairs without you. Let’s say you are LDS and you are commissioned to tell the non-temple-recommend-holding parents of the bride or groom that God doesn’t want them to see their own child’s wedding ceremony! It’s a horrible situation, so it’s no wonder there is “unhappiness and contention.”
Now let’s turn the tables. Suppose you’re a faithful Latter-day Saint whose son or daughter wanted to marry a Southern Baptist. Let’s pretend this particular denomination ordered that Mormons were not worthy to enter the church where the wedding would take place. (Thankfully, this situation is make believe.) What would be your reaction when you realized that this church was off limits to you because you didn’t live up to Baptist standards? Would you consider this to be unfair and claim this as an example of how Mormons are “persecuted” for their faith? If so, how is keeping the immediate non-LDS family from attending a child’s wedding in a temple not a hardship? Perhaps many Latter-day Saints have never put themselves in the shoes of those from other faiths who are banned from watching their loved one get married.
What do we do in cases like that? What we would not do is apply pressure upon a bishop. The bishop, by the standard he is obliged to keep as a common judge in Israel, could not in good faith issue a recommend to one not qualified. To do so could be a great disservice to the individuals involved. And it would not be fair to the bishop himself.
This is not the bishop’s fault. Instead, it’s the church’s fault.
When a temple marriage is scheduled and one of the parents or a very close relative is not able to enter the temple, careful planning may well make that an opportunity instead of a problem. Consider these suggestions. Invite the nonmember parent, or the member who is not eligible for a temple recommend, to come to the temple with the wedding party. There is a spirit and influence on the temple grounds that is not found in other places. Some of the temples have visitors’ centers. The temple grounds in every case are beautifully kept. All in all it is a place of peace and serenity.
This sounds disingenuous. Imagine, Latter-day Saint, if you (the mother or father of the bride) were told,
“I tell you what, you can’t see the ceremony of your baby getting married, but we’d love to invite you wait in a special waiting room at the Baptist church where the ceremony will take place. Come inside our foyer and make yourself comfortable on our couch. Peruse the book store in the lobby. Relax and enjoy some quiet time in solitude while your child is getting married upstairs.”
How would you feel?
For more on this topic, see
Arrange to have someone wait with that family member. Surely you would not leave the person alone. There are instances in which family members who were quite eligible to enter the temple to witness the marriage were content instead to spend the time on the temple grounds with those who could not. Here in the surroundings of the temple they have been able to explain the desire of the young couple to be sealed in the house of the Lord.
Continuing the scenario, suppose the Baptist told the Latter-day Saint, “Don’t worry, Aunt Ethel isn’t eligible to see the ceremony either. She can wait with you while your child is getting married.” Will this make the situation any better?
There can be great influence exerted at this time that may not have been possible otherwise. For instance, at some of the larger temples tours are conducted. Planning ahead may provide some special attention tailored to fit the need of a close family member who for one reason or another is not able to enter the temple. The disappointment and even resentment, sometimes bitterness, on the part of the nonmember parents or ineligible-member parents can be greatly softened in these ways.
Imagine if the Baptist said, “Our church is having an open house. Why don’t you come and visit so you can see how wonderful our building is. In fact, consider joining our church because this is the only way you would be able to see your child get married.” Is this making the situation any better than before?
In some temples a special room is provided where parents who are not eligible to enter the temple itself may meet with a qualified individual who can answer their questions.
“Oh, by the way,” the Baptist says, “we have an overseer waiting in the other room who can answer your questions. I’m sure you will be satisfied with what he has to say.” It just seems to get worse and worse.
The young couple must understand that their parents may have looked forward to the wedding day during the entire lives of the bride and groom.
Really? You don’t say.
Their desire to attend the wedding, and their resentment when they cannot, is a sign of parental attachment. It is not to be resented by the young couple. It is to be understood and planned for carefully as a part of the wedding.
So, this “parental attachment” is warranted, yet the parents are still prohibited from seeing the ceremony? Does this make any sense?
There are some cases of course in which the ineligible parent is offended and will not be placated. In those cases the young couple will just have to make the best of it.
And, of course, they’ll also have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Even though “families are (supposed to be) forever,” doesn’t this whole episode place a wedge in the relationship? While I have never been placed in this position in my life, I have known many Christian families who have. And it still hurts them to this day. How does this encourage healthy relationships? All because these parents could not embrace Mormonism.
The question may come up: Well, then, should we be married civilly so that they can witness the marriage, then we would wait for the necessary year before entering the temple? But that would not be the ideal solution. Prayerful and careful planning in most cases can make the problem transform itself into an opportunity that ultimately will bring the family closer together than it previously had been.
According to the rules set by a Mormon leader in Salt Lake City, a couple in North America that gets married civilly outside the temple must wait a year before permission is granted to have a Mormon temple wedding. Since some governments around the world require marriages to be public, this rule apparently doesn’t apply to Latter-day Saints in other countries. It may be coming to an end for everyone, according to the February 12, 2014 Salt Lake Tribune:
Mormon insiders are buzzing about chatter that the LDS Church may eliminate the one-year waiting period between a civil marriage ceremony and a temple wedding for members in the U.S. and Canada. Right now, Mormon couples in many European and South American countries can have a civil ceremony and then, as soon as they want, go to an LDS temple to be united, or “sealed,” in an eternal marriage.
The article continues:
Critics of the policy believe if LDS couples first had a civil ceremony to which everyone was invited, and then were able to go immediately to an LDS temple for a sealing, that would solve the problem of wedding day divisions.
John Dehlin, who runs the Mormon Stories website, believes there is another reason why the Utah-based faith may shift its temple wedding policy. Dehlin writes on his Facebook page that he has heard that “this change is primarily motivated out of a desire to help the church avoid discrimination-based litigation once same-sex marriage is allowed in all 50 states.” By separating “civil ceremonies from the temple ceremonies (ahead of time),” Dehlin writes, “apparently the church feels like it will avoid discrimination lawsuits down the road.”
Whatever the reason, it appears that the typical future American LDS wedding may have two locations: a civil ceremony followed by a temple ceremony. If this policy gets changed, then this LDS booklet on the temple will need to be rewritten.
Large groups of friends, ward members, and so on should not be invited to witness a marriage. Wedding groups should be small, comprising only the members of the two families and some few who are very close to the couple. On occasions a wedding has been announced in the ward with the invitation that all should try to attend to give support and encouragement to the couple being married. That is what a reception is for. A wedding reception is to provide a time for greeting the friends and the well-wishers. The temple marriage itself should be sacred and should be shared only by those who have a very special place in the lives of those being married.
The first miracle ever performed by Jesus took place at a wedding, as explained in John 2:1-3 titled “Jesus Changes Water Into Wine”:
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
The story continues in verses 6-10:
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
Imagine, serving wine (the “best” wine, at that) at a wedding! (Can you see this happening at an LDS event?) If this event took place in current times, then Jesus and His friends would have never been invited to the festivities! Believers can give glory to God while enjoying the moment provided by God. I believe the wedding as well as the reception should be enjoyed by as many friends and family as possible. There is absolutely no indication that weddings in the Bible were meant to be private affairs. Certainly no weddings ever took place at the Jerusalem temple.
We do not quote the words of the sealing ordinance outside of the temple, but we may describe the sealing room as being beautiful in its appointment, quiet and serene in spirit, and hallowed by the sacred work that is performed there.
Is there any mention of a “sealing room” in the Bible? While the temple rites were fully described in the Bible, there was no such place.
Before the couple comes to the altar for the sealing ordinance it is the privilege of the officiator to extend, and of the young couple to receive, some counsel. These are among the thoughts that a young couple might hear on this occasion.
“Today is your wedding day. You are caught up in the emotion of your marriage. Temples were built as a sanctuary for such ordinances as this. We are not in the world. The things of the world do not apply here and should have no influence upon what we do here. We have come out of the world into the temple of the Lord. This becomes the most important day of your lives.
“You were born, invited here by parents who prepared a mortal tabernacle for your spirit to inhabit. Each of you has been baptized. Baptism, a sacred ordinance, is symbolic of a cleansing, symbolic of death and resurrection, symbolic of coming forward in a newness of life. It contemplates repentance and a remission of sins. The sacrament is a renewal of the covenant of baptism, and we can, if we live for it, retain a remission of our sins.
“You, the groom, were ordained to the priesthood. You had first conferred upon you the Aaronic Priesthood and probably have progressed through all the offices thereof—deacon, teacher, and priest. Then the day came when you were found worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. That priesthood, the higher priesthood, is defined as the priesthood after the holiest order of God, or the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. (See Alma 13:18 and Helaman 8:18.) You were given an office in the priesthood. You are now an elder.
“Each of you has received your endowment. In that endowment you received an investment of eternal potential. But all of these things, in one sense, were preliminary and preparatory to your coming to the altar to be sealed as husband and wife for time and for all eternity. You now become a family, free to act in the creation of life, to have the opportunity through devotion and sacrifice to bring children into the world and to raise them and foster them safely through their mortal existence; to see them come one day, as you have come, to participate in these sacred temple ordinances.
“You come willingly and have been judged to be worthy. This union can be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.”
The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Only fools trust in their feelings, according to Proverbs 12:15 and 28:26. I think every Latter-day Saint knows he or she falls short of God’s intended best. With that said, is it even possible for anyone to be considered “worthy”?
Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom. (D&C 88:3–4.)
“To accept one another in the marriage covenant is a great responsibility, one that carries with it blessings without measure.”
There can be no “promise” of “eternal life” and “blessings without measure” without complete obedience. Most likely the Latter-day Saint couple knows, down deep, that they are not as worthy as their bishop or friends may assume. Sure, the couple was able to get all the right answers at the temple recommend interview. Yet they understand full well that their hearts are deceitful. In fact, ask either person at the altar if they “know” that eternal life is theirs and they won’t be able to confirm this statement, even though this is what 1 John 5:13 says is possible. For many other resources, go here.
A bride and groom will quite likely be so emotionally involved with the wedding that they may not listen carefully—they may not really hear the words of the sealing ordinance. While we may not repeat those words outside of the temple, we may return on occasions to witness a wedding. It is a generous Lord who has authorized us to do this.
A Biblical reference would be nice.
On these occasions, when we are not so personally involved, we may listen carefully to the words of the ordinance. Similarly, of course, by returning frequently to officiate for those who have passed on, we may refresh the mind and the spirit on the endowment experience.
If you were previously married in a civil ceremony, you may wish to now be sealed for eternity, and, if you have children, have them sealed to you in an eternal family relationship. If you qualify for this it may be your great privilege to receive this blessing.
To think that it’s possible to be married for eternity and be together with our family—even though this makes no logical sense whatsoever—is not the answer. We cannot find eternal satisfaction in a relationship with another person who is not enabled to fulfill another human being. Rather, this can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Then we can know what it means to be “saved.”
Dressed in White
When we do ordinance work in the temple we wear white clothing. This clothing is symbolic of purity and worthiness and cleanliness.
While the color white may symbolize “purity, worthiness, and cleanliness,” I believe all Mormons wearing these clothes know, down deep, how short their lives fall when compared to God’s justice and His requirements for holiness. Second Corinthians 5:21 reads, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The righteousness of God only comes upon the believer by faith, which is what the Bible calls “justification” (see Romans 3:21ff). Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is our faith, not our keeping of commandments (i.e., attending meetings, wearing special undergarments, abstaining from hot drinks, paying a tithe, etc.) that creates “purity and worthiness and cleanliness.” It is audacious for Mormons to think they “deserve” the temple based on a temple recommend signifying that their good works somehow make them “worthy.”
Upon entering the temple you exchange your street clothing for the white clothing of the temple. This change of clothing takes place in the locker room, where each individual is provided with a locker and a dressing space and is completely private. In the temple the ideal of modesty is carefully maintained. As you put your clothing in the locker you leave your cares and concerns and distractions there with them. You step out of this private little dressing area dressed in white and you feel a oneness and a sense of equality, for all around you are similarly dressed.
I always find it interested that, if the temple is a place for the worthy, there is even a need for locks on the lockers. (All temple locker rooms have them!) When I tour a temple open house and ask about this, I’m usually told that the locks prevent “temptation.” If only the worthy attend, it seems that such temptations should be overcome. If there’s any place where a lock is not needed on a locker, it would appear to be in a temple.
As with the ceremonies and ordinances of the temple, outside of the temple we say very little about the clothing worn inside. We can say that it, like the ceremonies, has great symbolic meaning. It is a mark of reverence and respect when the Church member visits the temple dressed and groomed in such a way that he or she would not be uncomfortable in the presence of the Lord.
Suppose for a moment that you are invited to be the guest in the home of a prominent and highly respected leader. You are given to understand that you will mingle with distinguished guests who have received similar invitations. The invitation is an indication that the host holds you in very high regard. You realize that many others would highly prize such an invitation, but for one reason or another they have not likewise been invited and therefore are not able to attend. Under those circumstances it is doubtful that you would arrive in old work clothes or dressed as you do for recreation. It is doubtful that a man would go unshaven, or a woman with her hair unkempt.
People of dignity and refinement, upon receiving an invitation to an important gathering, frequently make inquiry as to what dress would be in order. Would you not prepare carefully for such a special occasion? You might even purchase new clothing in the hope that your appearance would not detract from the dignified nature of the setting.
I can understand the desire to dress nicely out of respect for the leader, as explained in the above illustration. However, the clothes worn at the temple are meant to imply that the person is somehow clean and worthy to be in God’s presence. This is what would make me most uncomfortable.
Care would also be shown for the pressing and cleaning of your clothes. You would feel uncomfortable if you were not properly attired. The opportunity to visit the temple might be compared to such an invitation.
As this booklet explained earlier, your white clothes is symbolic of your personal worthiness that allows you to enter the LDS temple. However, shouldn’t our attitude more reflect that of the tax collector rather than the Pharisee as reported in Luke 18:9-14?
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
We have been puzzled and a little saddened at times, when attending the temple, to find that some have come to witness marriages or to attend a session in the temple dressed as though they were going to a picnic or an athletic event.
The privilege to enter the temple deserves more from us than that. It is pleasing to the Lord when we bathe our bodies and put on clean clothing, however inexpensive the clothing may be. We should dress in such a way that we might comfortably attend a sacrament meeting or a gathering that is proper and dignified.
On occasions there has been one to witness a wedding who obviously has paid little attention to the counsel that the Brethren have given about dress and grooming, about taking care not to emulate the world in the extremes of style in clothing, in hair length and arrangement, etc. We wonder why it is that a person who is mature enough to be admitted to the temple would not at once be sensible enough to know that the Lord could not be pleased with those who show obvious preference to follow after the ways of the world.
How could a recommended member attend the temple in clothing that is immodest or worldly? How could one wear a style of hair that is not in keeping with refinement and dignity?
While I understand the desire of the LDS leadership to have its membership wear nicer clothing, this just smacks of legalism. I find it odd that this section appears to reprimand many members who already were temple recommend holders, even though brochure is aimed at those who have never even been to the temple. (Remember the title: “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple.”) It’s like being in the room when an older brother or sister is getting lectured for something they did wrong, and though you were not involved, you feel like you’re in trouble too.
When you have the opportunity to go to the temple to participate in the temple ceremonies or to witness a sealing, remember where you are. You are a guest in the house of the Lord. You should groom yourself and clothe yourself in such a way that you would feel comfortable should your Host appear.
Those who hold and share in the blessings of the priesthood should have their bodies covered as was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith when the endowment ceremony was given to him.
Can you imagine John the Baptist at the “temple recommend desk” at Herod’s temple while wearing skins of animals and a gruffly beard? Or what about Jesus and His disciples? Did they wear temple clothes? Did they groom themselves appropriately? Finally, isn’t it odd that, except for the priests, there is no regulation of clothing anywhere in the Bible?
Members who have received their temple ordinances thereafter wear the special garment or underclothing. Garments are provided by an agency of the Church—and are generally available to members throughout the world through a distribution program operated by the Church.
The garment represents sacred covenants. It fosters modesty and becomes a shield and protection to the wearer.
The wearing of such a garment does not prevent members from dressing in the fashionable clothing generally worn in the nations of the world. Only clothing that is immodest or extreme in style would be incompatible with wearing the garment. Any member of the Church, whether he or she has been to the temple or not, would in proper spirit want to avoid extreme or revealing fashions.
There may be occasions when endowed members of the Church face questions on the garment.
On one occasion one of the brethren was invited to speak to the faculty and staff of the Navy Chaplains Training School in Newport, Rhode Island. The audience included a number of high-ranking naval chaplains from the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths.
In the question-and-answer period one of the chaplains asked, “Can you tell us something about the special underwear that some Mormon servicemen wear?” The implication was, “Why do you do that? Isn’t it strange? Doesn’t that present a problem?”
To the chaplain who made the inquiry he responded with a question: “Which church do you represent?” In response he named one of the Protestant churches.
He said, “In civilian life and also when conducting the meetings in the military service you wear clerical clothing, do you not?” The chaplain said that he did.
He continued: “I would suppose that that has some importance to you, that in a sense it sets you apart from the rest of your congregation. It is your uniform, as it were, of the ministry. Also, I suppose it may have a much more important place. It reminds you of who you are and what your obligations and covenants are. It is a continual reminder that you are a member of the clergy, that you regard yourself as a servant of the Lord, and that you are responsible to live in such a way as to be worthy of your ordination.”
He then told them: “You should be able to understand at least one of our reasons why Latter-day Saints have a deep spiritual commitment concerning the garment. A major difference between your churches and ours is that we do not have a professional clergy, as you do.
Out of nowhere, Christian pastors are criticized for being compensated to pay for their living expenses (a wage), which is called a “paid ministry.” What many Mormons never consider is how do their full-time leaders sustain themselves? For instance, how do the General Authorities survive if they are not receiving “income”? Don’t they receive “just remuneration”? Is this not the same as a “wage”? What about mission presidents whom we conservatively estimate earn six-figure compensation packages for their service, including housing, cars, insurance, trips, Christmas presents, and college for their kids? With that said, I believe there should be equal pay for bishops! And the criticism of Christian pastors ought to cease immediately or the LDS Church is nothing less than hypocritical! Also see here and here.
The congregations are all presided over by local leaders. They are men called from all walks of life. Yet they are ordained to the priesthood. They hold offices in the priesthood. They are set apart to presiding positions as presidents, counselors, and leaders in various categories. The women, too, share in that responsibility and in those obligations. The man who heads our congregation on Sunday as the bishop may go to work on Monday as a postal clerk, as an office worker, a farmer, a doctor; or he may be an air force pilot or a naval officer. By our standard he is as much an ordained minister as you are by your standard. He is recognized as such by most governments. We draw something of the same benefits from this special clothing as you would draw from your clerical vestments. The difference is that we wear ours under our clothing instead of outside, for we are employed in various occupations in addition to our service in the Church. These sacred things we do not wish to parade before the world.”
He then explained that there are some deeper spiritual meanings as well, connecting the practice of wearing this garment with covenants that are made in the temple. We wouldn’t find it necessary to discuss these—not that they are secret, he repeated, but because they are sacred.
Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s not secret, just sacred. 😉
The garment, covering the body, is a visual and tactile reminder of these covenants. For many Church members the garment has formed a barrier of protection when the wearer has been faced with temptation. Among other things it symbolizes our deep respect for the laws of God—among them the moral standard.
The garment means much more than what is revealed in this booklet. For information on this topic, see here.
The Power to Seal
If we would understand both the history and the doctrine of temple work we must understand what the sealing power is. We must envision, at least to a degree, why the keys of authority to employ the sealing power are crucial.
Nearly nine hundred years before Christ, the prophet Elijah appeared in the court of the king of Israel. He carried with him a sacred authority: the power to seal.
Elijah worked out his ministry, ordained and anointed Elisha to succeed him, and then—and this is important—he did not die. Like Moses before him, he was translated.
After that, his name appears only once in the Old Testament, in the next to the last verse of the last chapter of the Old Testament. It is here that Malachi prophesies that Elijah would return and that he would “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,” lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse. (See Malachi 4:5–6.)
See here for a refutation of this argument.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:13–19.)
When Peter, James, and John went with the Lord to the Mount of Transfiguration, there appeared with the transfigured Lord two personages. They recognized them to be Moses and Elijah, who had come to convey to that presidency the sealing power. (See Matthew 17:1–8; note that Elias is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Elijah and is often used in the New Testament to designate Elijah, the prophet of the Old Testament.)
Peter was to hold the keys. Peter was to hold the sealing power, that authority which carries the power to bind or seal on earth or to loose on earth and it would be so in the heavens.
In A.D. 34, after His crucifixion, the Lord ministered to the Nephites. He dictated to them—and this is remarkable in scriptural history—the last two chapters of Malachi (which contained the prophecy that Elijah would return), caused them to write them, and then expounded them.
When the Angel Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith to tell him of the plates, he quoted Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would return. This quotation is now section two of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Thirteen years after Moroni appeared, a temple had been built adequate for the purpose, and the Lord again appeared and Elijah came with Him and bestowed the keys of the sealing power.
Those keys belong to the President of the Church—to the prophet, seer, and revelator. That sacred sealing power is with the Church now. Nothing is regarded with more sacred contemplation by those who know the significance of this authority. Nothing is more closely held. There are relatively few men who hold this sealing power upon the earth at any given time—in each temple are brethren who have been given the sealing power. No one can get it except from the prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or from those he has delegated to give it to others.
Eisegesis must be performed on these passages to turn the meaning into “sealing power.” The passage in Matthew 16 has been translated in a variety of ways. For instance, Catholics believe that Peter received a special power as the first pope by receiving Jesus’s words. In the same way, Mormons believe this conferring to Peter eventually translates to Mormonism. Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes show that this power is not relegated to a particular man (such as the LDS president, as argued here) when they write:
That Jesus’ disciples were given the power to pronounce the forgiveness of or retaining of sins by Christ is not disputed by Protestants. What is disputed is whether this is a unique power now possessed by those with proper ordination, such as Roman Catholic priests. There is absolutely nothing in this text to indicate that it is. It is important to observe that Jesus gave the same power to all the apostles (Matt. 18:18), not just to Peter. So, whatever this power was it was not unique to Peter. In fact, everyone who proclaims the gospel has the same power, for the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Indeed, Paul defined the gospel in terms of Christ dying and rising “for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). So every preacher of the gospel—clergy or laity—has the power to say, on the basis of a person accepting Christ’s death and resurrection for them, that their sins are forgiven. (When Cultists Ask, 115)
We must remember that every believer has direct access to the High Priest par excellance, Jesus Christ Himself. First Timothy 2:5 says that “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 4:14-16 explains,
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
I do not care what office you hold in this Church, you may be an apostle, you may be a patriarch, a high priest, or anything else, and you cannot receive the fulness of the priesthood unless you go into the temple of the Lord and receive these ordinances of which the prophet speaks. No man can get the fulness of the priesthood outside of the temple of the Lord. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Elijah the Prophet and His Mission [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957], page 46.)
Mormon leaders can preach all day long about the necessity of temples, but the book of Hebrews seems to show very clearly that the temple and the work done there (animal sacrifices) was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Referring to the Old Testament practice of the temple, the writer of Hebrews explains in 9:6-10:
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
The rest of Hebrews 9 explains very clearly that there was no need for the old version of the temple, as it is fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ “once for all”:
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself,now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
If Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system, why is there even a need for temples in the post-New Testament world? David Bartosiewicz writes,
“The NT clearly teaches that we do not need physical temples of any sort to save us. In Hebrews we become completely aware that Jesus is the altar, the tabernacle, His flesh the veil, His heaven the holy of holies, the only High Priest over the house of God. He is our confession, there is no need to go to a temple to receive a sealing since the believers are promised by God that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of Promise resides in us and we become sealed by Him through our belief as an eternal companion, an eternal bride, with Him our bridegroom forever. Read Eph 1: 14. Temples in the past were only for sacrificial gifts for the redemption of sin through the unblemished blood of lambs. Jesus is our last sacrifice and paid the last drop of blood for our sins. Praise Him…It is completely finished. He fulfilled everything and nailed it to the cross. If we don’t go through Jesus as our temple, we miss out on salvation.”
We spoke earlier of the higher ordinances performed in the temple. These include the endowment. To endow is to enrich, to give to another something long lasting and of much worth. The temple endowment ordinances enrich in three ways: (a) The one receiving the ordinance is given power from God. “Recipients are endowed with power from on high.” (b) A recipient is also endowed with information and knowledge. “They receive an education relative to the Lord’s purposes and plans.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], page 227.) (c) When sealed at the altar a person is the recipient of glorious blessings, powers, and honors as part of his or her endowment.
I find it interesting that Apostle Bruce R. McConkie is quoted in an official LDS booklet. This is especially true when the book being quoted is Mormon Doctrine, which is no longer sold at Deseret bookstores. All references from the book were taken out of the 2009 edition of the popular church manual Gospel Principles. Since this booklet was produced in 2002, perhaps McConkie’s quote will become MIA if it’s ever republished. Yet should McConkie be minimized? Certainly not!
There are two published definitions or descriptions of the endowment, the first by President Brigham Young:
Let me give you a definition in brief. 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, comp. John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971], page 416.)
Elder James E. Talmage described the endowment thus:
The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962], pages 99–100; hereafter cited as The House of the Lord.)
This statement from Elder Talmage makes it clear that when you receive your endowments you will receive instruction relative to the purpose and plans of the Lord in creating and peopling the earth. You will be taught what must be done for you to gain exaltation.
The blessing of the endowment is required for full exaltation. Every Latter-day Saint should seek to be worthy of this blessing and to obtain it.
Without participating in the Endowment, the Mormon cannot hope to attain the celestial kingdom.
The ordinances of washing and anointing are referred to often in the temple as initiatory ordinances. It will be sufficient for our purposes to say only the following: Associated with the endowment are washings and anointings—mostly symbolic in nature, but promising definite, immediate blessings as well as future blessings.
The first time patrons go through the temple, they begin with an ordinance called “washing and anointing.” Temple participants enters a locker room where they change from their street clothes and put on a poncho-like “shield” (men are separated from the women). The shield is open on both sides. Wearing nothing but the shield, the patron enters an area of the temple which contains the washing and anointing rooms.
The temple participant enters one of several small booths where a temple worker ceremonially touches or “washes” various parts of the patron’s body. Men are still separated from the women at this point. Wetting his/her fingers, the temple worker places his/her hand under the shield and recites the following words:
“…I wash your head, that your brain and your intellect may be clear and active; your ears, that you may hear the word of the Lord; your eyes, that you may see clearly and discern between truth and error; your nose, that you may smell; your lips, that you may never speak guile; your neck, that it may bear up your head properly; your shoulders, that they may bear the burdens that shall be placed thereon; your back, that there may be marrow in the bones and in the spine; your breast, that it may be the receptacle of pure and virtuous principles; your vitals and bowels, that they may be healthy and strong and perform their proper functions; your arms and your hands, that they may be strong and wield the sword of justice in defense of truth and virtue; your loins, that you may be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, that you may have joy and rejoicing in your posterity; your legs and feet, that you may run and not be weary, and walk and not faint.”
The member then has hands laid upon his head by two temple workers, one of whom prayerfully “confirms” the washing. The patron is then ceremoniously anointed with olive oil. A similar invocation is recited followed again by a “confirmation.”
The patron is assisted in putting on a special piece of clothing known as the “Garment of the Holy Priesthood.” Over the garment patrons wear white clothes. The women wear white dresses and shoes. The men wear white suits, shirts and ties, pants, and shoes.
In connection with these ordinances, in the temple you will be officially clothed in the garment and promised marvelous blessings in connection with it. It is important that you listen carefully as these ordinances are administered and that you try to remember the blessings promised and the conditions upon which they will be realized.
The sealing ordinance is that ordinance which binds families eternally. Temple marriage is a sealing ordinance. When a couple is sealed in the temple following a civil marriage the children born to them previous to that time, and therefore not born in the covenant, are sealed to them in a brief and sacred ordinance.
It is the sealing ceremonies that allows Mormons to be tied together in the next life.
Please be certain that your life is in complete order. This only comes from receiving your temple blessings, your ordinances, for “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” (D&C 84:20.)
This sounds a bit scary, i.e. having “your life. . . in complete order.” If you don’t have your life in order, apparently the celestial kingdom and being together with your family forever is an impossible dream. And this is what the next section is all about.
The Lord in the revelation now known as section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants announces:
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. (D&C 132:4–5.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith defines the new and everlasting covenant in these words:
What is the new and everlasting covenant? I regret to say that there are some members of the Church who are misled and misinformed in regard to what the new and everlasting covenant really is. The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56], 1:156; hereafter cited as Doctrines of Salvation.)
This covenant includes all ordinances of the gospel—the highest of which are performed in the temple. To quote President Smith again:
Now there is a clear-cut definition in detail of the new and everlasting covenant. It is everything—the fulness of the gospel. So marriage properly performed, baptism, ordination to the priesthood, everything else—every contract, every obligation, every performance that pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise according to his law here given, is a part of the new and everlasting covenant. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:158.)
In the verse quoted previously (Doctrine and Covenants 132:4) the Lord spoke with unmistakable plainness: “… for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
Those who go to the temple have the privilege of taking upon themselves specific covenants and obligations relative to their exaltation and that of others. Elder James E. Talmage wrote:
The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions. (The House of the Lord, page 100.)
Please notice, Latter-day Saint, that all of the promises received in the temple are “contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.” Covenants are invalid unless a person keeps his or her end of the bargain. Because they cannot be fully kept, they are the unkept promises that will speak volumes at the Latter-day Saint’s judgment day.
We covenant with the Lord to devote our time, talents, and means to His kingdom.
We are a covenant people. We covenant to give of our resources in time and money and talent—all we are and all we possess—to the interest of the kingdom of God upon the earth. In simple terms, we covenant to do good. We are a covenant people, and the temple is the center of our covenants. It is the source of the covenant.
I invite you to listen to this 5-part series on covenants that were taped in 2012 on Viewpoint on Mormonism:
Come to the temple. You ought to come to the temple. Here, acting as proxy for someone who has gone beyond the veil, you will have reviewed before you the covenants that you have made. You will have reinforced in your mind the great spiritual blessings that are associated with the house of the Lord.
There is no biblical command for Christians to work for the dead. Hebrews 9:27 and 2 Corinthians 6:2 make it clear that, after death, there are no second chances of redemption. Even Alma 34:32ff in the Book of Mormon gives this appearance. If the Mormon doctrine was true and second chances are allowed, then those who are sent to hell in Matthew 7:21-23 should have been able to tell Jesus to wait a few minutes before their judgment as perhaps the good works of those left on the earth would help them qualify. Instead, their judgment is final.
Be faithful to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel. Qualify for those sacred ordinances step by step as you move through life. Honor the covenants connected with them. Do this and you will be happy.
Your lives will then be in order—all things lined up in proper sequence, in proper ranks, in proper rows. Your family will be linked in an order that can never be broken.
It sounds so simple. Just keep the promises you make and you will be together with your family forever. Unfortunately,
1) Nobody can honor their covenants continually
2) The odds are that others in your family (the “black sheep”) won’t be with you, causing broken links
3) Even if you feel pretty good about yourself and your family members right now, who is to say that you won’t make mistakes in the future?
The angst of trying to “be faithful to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel” must create a lot of stress in most faithful Mormons’ lives. It is so needless when the gospel message according to the Bible is so simple!
In the covenants and ordinances center the blessings that you may claim in the holy temple. Surely the Lord is pleased when we are worthy of the title: A keeper of the covenants.
How many Mormons are willing to plaster a “A keeper of the covenants” plaque on their wall? Those who do will probably have it ripped down by their spouses!
Not without Opposition
Temples are the very center of the spiritual strength of the Church. We should expect that the adversary will try to interfere with us as a Church and with us individually as we seek to participate in this sacred and inspired work. The interference can vary from the terrible persecutions of the earlier days
I’m not sure what the “terrible persecutions of the earlier days” refers to in the context of the LDS temple. Yes, there were unjust things done to some Latter-day Saints, just as some Latter-day Saints did unjust things to others. (See here for more information.) Honestly, I’m not sure how Mormons can claim persecution in relationship to their temples. I’m missing the point.
to apathy toward the work. The latter is perhaps the most dangerous and debilitating form of resistance to temple work.
The apathy doesn’t come because the church hasn’t talked about it. It seems to be one of the most popular topics in articles found in the monthly magazine Ensign. Apparently the people just aren’t listening.
Temple work brings so much resistance because it is the source of so much spiritual power to the Latter-day Saints, and to the entire Church.
Resistance from what/whom? Resistance from the Mormon? Resistance from Satanic forces? Resistance from others? The point being made is not clear.
Toward the Veil
We must gain some feeling for why we build temples, and why the ordinances are required of us. Thereafter we are continually instructed and enlightened on matters of spiritual importance. It comes line upon line, precept upon precept, until we gain a fullness of light and knowledge. This becomes a great protection to us—to each of us personally. It is a protection also for the Church.
No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the genealogical research which supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness.
Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and as a people.
It is in the ordinances of the temple that we are placed under covenant to Him—it is there we become the covenant people.
If we will accept the revelation concerning temple ordinance work, if we will enter into our covenants without reservation or apology, the Lord will protect us. We will receive inspiration sufficient for the challenges of life.
The work relating to the temples is true. It was revealed from beyond the veil and revelation continues.
Revelation may come to each member of the Church individually concerning temple work.
So come to the temple—come and claim your blessings. It is a sacred work.
As this review has shown, there are many troubling elements when it comes to LDS temples, which are much different than the temple of Bible times. Christians do not have need of man-made temples. The work Jesus did on the cross is enough to provide for the forgiveness of sins of those who believe, so the works done here are not only unnecessary but detrimental to the Christian ideal of sola fides (by faith alone).