If you’re familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you’ve probably at least seen pictures of Mormon temples.
How are Mormon temples different from Mormon chapels?
Mormon chapels (also called “meeting houses”) are where Sunday worship services and other meetings throughout the week are held. Mormon meetinghouses contain a chapel, a cultural hall, a kitchen, offices for local leaders, and classrooms of various sizes. Most cultural halls have basketball standards, and some have a stage for productions. Larger meetinghouses may have a baptismal font and changing rooms. All visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend Sunday worship services at chapels.
Mormon chapels are rather spartan compared with buildings of worship for some other faiths. Although artwork depicting the life of Christ is found in the hallways, there is no statuary or artwork in modern Mormon chapels.
On the other hand, Mormon temples are separate buildings, larger and more ornate, where Mormons participate in sacred ordinances, such as marriage and vicarious work for the dead.
To enter a temple, an individual must be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in good standing. Worthiness is determined through an interview with one’s bishop (congregational leader) and stake president (leader of a group of congregations, like a diocese). Essentially, a person judges himself, because his worthiness is determined by his answers to various questions, asked in love. A “temple recommend interview” would ask the following questions, in addition to others:
- Do you believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?
- Do you sustain your church leaders?
- Do you profess a belief in any other faith?
- Are you honest in your dealings?
- Are you kind to your family?
- Do you pay a full tithing?
- Do you attend sacrament meetings?
- Do you owe alimony or child support?
- Do you keep the Word of Wisdom (law of health — no drinking, smoking, coffee, tea, or drug abuse)?
- Are you chaste (abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity inside of marriage)?
Temple recommend questions are the same for men and women. A temple recommend must be presented when entering a temple.
What ordinances are performed in temples?
There are several types of ordinances in Mormon temples:
- Baptism for the dead
- Endowment ceremony
- Marriage / sealing
Baptisms for the dead may be performed by Latter-day Saints as young as 12. Youth may obtain a “conditional recommend” which allows them to enter the temple baptistry, but not the areas of the temple where higher ordinances are performed.
Mormons search out their ancestors by researching their family history. Baptism is the first ordinance they perform for their ancestors who have never been baptized. Once baptized, confirmation for the dead is performed. Confirmation is the bestowal of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
The endowment is a gift from God. It is really a learning experience in most of its aspects. It reviews the Plan of Salvation and talks about various levels of commitment to Christ, from sacrifice to consecration. Mormons participating in the endowment make covenants with God to keep His commandments (really, the basic ten) and then to be valiant in His service. The endowment takes place in an “endowment room” of the temple, and when it ends, participants move on to the Celestial Room, representing the highest kingdom of heaven. Temple patrons love to meditate there; it’s the most beautiful room of the temple.
Sealings take place in the sealing rooms. A husband and wife may be sealed together, and if there are children, the children may be sealed to them, also. This is eternal marriage and eternal family, for these covenants are validated in heaven as well as on earth if the participants remain worthy. In America, the sealing is acceptable as an earthly commitment, but in some countries, couples must be married civilly and then participate in a temple sealing. Sealings may also be performed for the dead by proxy.
Do Mormons consider temples to be secret?
No, but the ordinances performed in temples are very sacred to Mormons. Therefore, as you might expect, Mormons don’t talk lightly about these personal experiences or details. However, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invite all to prepare themselves to attend the temple by learning more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and being baptized.
How many temples are there?
There are approximately 140+ temples constructed with more being built each year. These temples are in diverse areas throughout the world to make them accessible for all Mormon members to attend. Recently, President Thomas S. Monson mentioned that 85% of Mormons now live within 200 miles of a temple. This percentage will continue to rise as temples are constructed.