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Mormonism’s Washington D.C. Temple Remains a Mystery

by Sharon Lindbloom
20 April 2022

On Easter Sunday (April 17, 2022) CBS Morning News Sunday Morning presented viewers with an exclusive look at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ newly renovated Washington D.C. Temple. As a preview to the temple’s public open house scheduled for later this month, journalist Ed O’Keefe was given a tour by two of the church’s apostles and their wives.

David and Susan Bednar, along with D. Todd and Kathy Christofferson, graciously answer Mr. O’Keefe’s questions in the nearly 5-minute video report that discusses such things as the temple’s perceived resemblance to the “Land of OZ,” the LDS practice of baptism for the dead, and the church’s doctrine of eternal marriage. And though the report begins by stating that this Washington D.C. landmark has “long been something of a mystery — until now,” the video actually does very little to move the temple from mysterious to understood.

A lot of important and relevant information about LDS temples is missing from this CBS News report. It may be due to time constraints, or due to the final editing of the story, or perhaps the reporter wasn’t provided with significant facts. Whatever the reason, I thought it might be worthwhile to consider a few things that are missing from this exclusive tour of the Washington D.C. Temple.

After pointing out some of the architectural elements of the building, Ed O’Keefe notes that it is a place that is “normally off-limits to all but members of the faith.” This is only part of the story. LDS temples are not only off-limits to non-Mormons, but to many members of the LDS church as well.

LDS temples are only open to church members who have been deemed worthy by their ecclesiastical leaders. Each would-be temple participant must undergo a temple worthiness interview in which fifteen specific questions are asked and answered regarding belief (3), behavior (11), and self-assessment (1). If a Latter-day Saint admits to drinking coffee, or cannot affirm he’s paid a full 10% of his income to the church, or is lackadaisical about attending church meetings (among other things), he does not meet the temple worthiness requirements. LDS temples are just as off-limits to him as they are to any non-Mormon.

It is Mr. O’Keefe’s “off-limits” remark in the news report that leads to this comment by LDS apostle David Bednar: “Sometimes we’re accused of ‘What are the secret things you do in the temple?’” Sounding a bit exasperated, Mr. Bednar continues, “They’re not secret, they’re sacred.” Some of these sacred things are shown to Mr. O’Keefe, and some are not.

Viewers get a look at the baptistry and are told that this is where Mormons perform baptisms for their deceased ancestors. They get to see a sealing room and are told that this is a room for sealing couples together for eternity. They learn from the Bednars that in the temple people learn about God, feel the Holy Spirit, listen, and pray. This is the extent of the news report’s attempt to unveil the mystery of the Washington D.C. Temple.

The video tour takes people through some hallways, waiting rooms, and as mentioned, into the baptistry and a sealing room. It does not show the washing and anointing area or any instruction rooms. There is no mention of the endowment ceremony, the most foundational and personal ordinance that takes place in LDS temples — a ritual that is considered absolutely necessary in order to gain the highest and best life in eternity. As explained by Brigham Young,

“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, 416)

It’s not surprising that the CBS News video doesn’t mention the specific secret/sacred “key words, the signs and tokens,” Mormonism says are necessary for spending eternity in the presence of God, but it is surprising that viewers aren’t told that Latter-day Saints make important promises to God in the temple.

Under current church president Russell M. Nelson’s leadership, the clarion call in the church is for members to “make and keep covenants,” and to “stay on the covenant path.” So the absence of information pertaining to the fact that Mormons go to the temple to make these essential covenants is a glaring omission.

As part of the background information offered by the CBS journalist, Ed O’Keefe notes,

“And while their holy scriptures are known as the Book of Mormon, today church members avoid calling themselves ‘Mormons,’ emphasizing instead what they share with other Christian faiths: a reverence for Christ.”

I find it interesting that this comment by Mr. O’Keefe includes the only mention of Christ in the nearly 5-minute video (apart from its use in the name of the church). If viewers watch closely, they may notice a few paintings on the walls inside the temple that depict Jesus, but that’s it. People on this temple tour will not see a cross. They will not hear about Christ, sacrifice, atonement, salvation, or any other symbols/doctrines/terms normally associated with Christianity and Christian places of worship. I truly hope people notice, for this is the only real clue in the entire video that points to the fact that Mormonism is very different from Christianity.

Ed O’Keefe mentions two things in the video that he suggests set Mormonism apart from “other denominations.” These are baptism for the dead and eternal marriage. It is true that these practices are not found in Christianity, yet the most fundamental disparity that sets Mormonism apart from biblical Christianity is the different God it proclaims.

Contrary to the way the one true God has revealed Himself in the Bible, Mormonism proclaims three Gods for this world and innumerable other Gods across time and space–

  • Heavenly Father (#1), a God who was once a man, who became a God through obedience to laws and ordinances
  • Jesus Christ (#2), a God who did not exist as God eternally, who is the firstborn spirit son of Heavenly Parents in the preexistence (i.e., Heavenly Father and His wife), a spirit brother to Lucifer, and a Being who had to work out His own salvation through obedience
  • Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit (#3), a spirit-being who was born to Heavenly Parents in the preexistence, now a God who can only be in one place at a time, who will comfort and help properly baptized members of the LDS church — just so long as they are successfully keeping the commandments

As an extension of the doctrines of Mormonism pertaining to the nature of its Gods, the Washington D.C. Temple, like all other LDS temples, exists to assist people as they strive for Godhood themselves. Each ordinance performed in the temple is to that end. According to Mormonism, God was once a man who became a God, and the temple helps those who are now men and women become Gods as well. In the words of Mormonism’s famous doctrinal couplet,

“As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may be.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 5)

This is the great mystery of the LDS temple. It is a place for men and women to, in the words of Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith, “learn how to be Gods yourselves…the same as all Gods have done before you” (Journal of Discourses 6:4).

The CBS News Sunday Morning exclusive temple tour sought to enlighten viewers about that mysterious “Land of Oz” landmark off the Beltway. But with so much crucial information missing from this tour (and very likely from the in-person open house tours as well), Mormonism’s Washington D.C. Temple remains a mystery.

To see Sharon’s other news articles, click here.

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