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Crash Course Mormonism: Temples

By Eric Johnson

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that work must be done by members  in more than 160 special temples located throughout the world in order to qualify for exaltation, also known as eternal life, in the celestial kingdom. Special rites are accomplished for not only the living person but also for those who are dead. This work is done Mondays through Saturdays; temples are closed on Sunday, which is considered the Sabbath Day when no work is supposed to be done. Those who are permitted inside the temple are sworn to secrecy as they promise to not divulge what they have learned as the work done in these buildings is considered “sacred.”

Qualification for Temple Entrance

In order for a Latter-day Saint to qualify for temple entrance, a recommend is required. This bar-coded card allows a member of good standing in the LDS Church access to a temple for two years at a time. It is given only after an interview with the Mormon’s bishop and possibly the stake president to determine if the applicant is worthy. Sixteenth President Gordon B. Hinckley explained,

Every individual who qualifies for a temple recommend is also qualified as a faithful Latter-day Saint. He or she will be a full tithe payer, will observe the Word of Wisdom, will have good family relationships, and will be a better citizen of the community (“Opening Remarks,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2005, p. 4).

A church manual explains the process:

Obtain a temple recommend. Be sure to carry your recommend with you to the temple, since only those with valid recommends may enter. As you live worthily, the recommend will allow you to enter any temple of the Church as often as you wish during the next two years. To renew your temple recommend, you must be interviewed by a member of your bishopric or your branch president and a member of your stake presidency or the mission president (Endowed from On High: Temple Preparation Seminary Teacher’s Manual, 2003, p. 28).

Among other requirements to qualify for the temple recommend, the Latter-day Saint must abstain from hot drinks such as coffee and tea; not drink alcohol; not smoke; be chaste (no adultery or sex outside of marriage); tithe 10% of one’s income; wear special garments under one’s clothes; and not spend time around enemies of the church.

Sealing to Families

Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said,

If you want salvation in the fullest, that is exaltation in the kingdom of God, . . . you have got to go into the temple of the Lord and receive these holy ordinances which belong to that house, which cannot be had elsewhere. No man shall receive the fullness of eternity, of exaltation alone; no woman shall receive that blessing alone; but man and wife, when they receive the sealing power in the temple of the Lord, shall pass on to exaltation, and shall continue and become like the Lord. And that is the destiny of men, that is what the Lord desires for His children (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 2013, p. 221. Ellipsis in original).

Husbands and wives marry in special “sealing rooms” that is meant to last for “eternity.” The couple will learn special “tokens,” which are handshakes based on Free Masonry. They also receive “New Names.” A church manual reports,

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, p. 235).

Couples who get married in the temple and have children automatically have their children “sealed” to them for eternity. Those who have children before their temple marriage can go through a special ceremony to have these children sealed.

Work for the Dead

Once a couple has been married in the temple, any additional work is done on behalf of deceased friends and family members. Many Mormons do genealogical research, so that these family members may have a chance to hear the LDS gospel in the next life. Thus, more than 90% of all the work performed in a temple is not done for those who are living but rather those who are dead. This work was originally intended for those who never had a legitimate chance to do their own work. Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency, wrote,

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

A church manual says,

Each of us can play a vital role in providing ordinances for the dead. We can identify those who have died and see that temple ordinances are performed in their behalf. As we serve those who wait in the spirit world, we can come to know the blessing of assisting the Savior in the great work of salvation (Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual Religion 261, 2005, p. 7).

Baptisms that are done on behalf of deceased people are performed in a font perched on the top of twelve stone or metal oxen. A manual explains the procedure,

You must provide at least the given name or the surname or your ancestor, the person’s gender, a locality for a qualifying event (such as birth, christening, marriage, death, or burial), and enough additional information to uniquely identify the person. Additional information may include dates, localities, and relationships of other family members. Remember that in order for temple ordinances to be performed, individuals must be deceased for at least one year, and if that individual was born within the last 95 years, permission from the closest living relative must be obtained before temple ordinances are to be performed (Introduction to Family History Religion 261, 2012, p. 30).

What Does Christianity Teach

The main purpose of the one biblical temple in Jerusalem was to offer sacrificed animals for the atonement of people’s sins. There were no marriages, baptisms, or secretive rites performed in this building. As far as the idea that work can be done for those already dead, Alma 34:32-35 in the Book of Mormon says such work is not efficacious. The Bible teaches that this mortal life is the time for repentance to take place because judgment follows death (2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 9:27). Therefore, Christians reject the need for temples today, thus disagreeing with their LDS friends who insist this work is crucial.

Other articles to consider

Test your Understanding

  1. What is NOT a goal for a Mormon attending the temple?

A) To qualify for exaltation

B) To do work only for those who are still living

C) Make it possible for those who are already dead to accept the gospel in the next life

D) Learn important sacred / secret rites that will help them better understand

E) All of the above

2. To qualify for the temple, what is something NOT required to gain a temple recommend?

A) Not drink hot drinks (coffee, tea)

B) Not drink soda

C) Wear special garments underneath exterior clothes

D) Tithe 10%

E) All of the above

3. What is it called when a couple goes into a temple and gets married for eternity?

A) Getting hitched      B) Getting exalted     C) Getting eternal life       D) Getting sealed

4. Which day of the week is the temple closed?

A) Mondays     B) Saturdays     C) Sundays     D) Open 7 days a week

5. Generally, who are Mormons mostly getting baptized for in the temple?

A) Presidents     B) Their relatives      C) Their neighbors     D) Their co-workers

Answers are under the video

Also see these additional videos from the ministry God Loves Mormons:

  1. Mormon Temples: Unbiblical practices
  2. Isaiah 2: Should We expect modern temples?
  3. The Problem with Secret Mormon Temple Rituals
  4. Christian Temples Exist (But it’s not what you think)
  5. The High Places: Mormonism’s Many False Temples
  6. An Altar of Remembrance: Refuting the LDS Temples

Answers to the quiz

  1. B. Most work in the temple is done for those already dead.
  2. B. While some Mormons don’t drink caffeinated soda, there is no official rule against it.
  3. D
  4. C. Temple work is considered labor and is therefore banned on the Sabbath.
  5. B. While Mormons can get baptized for others, they are supposed to emphasize doing this for their relatives.

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