Inside Mormon Temples
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called Mormons by those of other faiths) do not openly discuss what goes on inside Mormon temples. This is because the ordinances, or religious rites, which are performed in Mormon temples are considered sacred. If they were discussed openly, they would be open to the world, which would not understand them, and would be subject to mockery. The things of God should not be mocked; thus, these sacred things are discussed only in the temple, by those who are found worthy to participate in them.
In order to enter a Mormon temple, a person must hold a temple recommend. Anyone who holds a temple recommend must be a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) and must be living high moral standards. Mormon doctrine teaches that any Mormon temple is set apart as the house of the Lord; thus, all who enter therein must be worthy to enter His presence.
Before a Mormon temple is dedicated, a period of a few weeks is set aside for members of the community to go through the temple and to see what it is like. Tours take visitors through all the major rooms of the temple, where visitors can see that there is nothing secret about anything going on. Volunteers and Mormon missionaries are present to answer questions visitors may have as well. However, once a temple is dedicated, only those who hold recommends may enter.
If you were to attend a temple open house, here are some of the rooms you would see:
Each Mormon temple has a baptistry. This is where worthy members of the Mormon Church, age 12 and above, may come to do baptisms for the dead. The Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead stems from New Testament doctrine that has been lost over time. Mormons believe that all those who have ever lived upon the earth must have the opportunity to hear of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are billions of people who have died without this opportunity. Mormons do family history work to find their personal ancestors who have not had ordinances performed for them. They may then take these names to the temple to have these ordinances done by proxy. This means that a living person will stand in place of the deceased person and perform the ordinance (whether of baptism, confirmation, endowment, sealing, etc.) in their stead. Mormon doctrine teaches that those for whom this work is being done then have the choice in the Spirit World to accept or reject this work. Thus, no one is forced to become a member of the Mormon Church. However, without the work being done by proxy, they would have no opportunity at all, because all ordinances must be performed on this earth.
Each temple baptistry has a font which rests on the back of twelve oxen. These twelve oxen represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Mormons believe that when a person is baptized, he or she is adopted into one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and, through obedience, qualify for the many blessings promised to Israel.
The temple fonts are always located underground. This adds to the symbolism already inherent in the ordinance of baptism by immersion of death, burial, and resurrection, as well as a cleansing. Once a person has been baptized, the next ordinance, which goes hand in hand with baptism, is confirmation (or the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost).
The ordinance room is where a person receives his or her endowment. The first time a person goes through the temple, he or she receives the ordinance of the endowment for him- or herself. Each successive time, the ordinance is performed by proxy for a deceased person, just as baptism for the dead is.
In the endowment ordinance, participants learn more about their true relationship to God. They are taught about the creation and the Plan of Salvation, which is God’s plan for His children to return to Him and to progress eternally. In the endowment ordinance, a series of covenants is made, where the person vows to live a strict and high moral law. With the series of covenants comes a series of blessings, which are conditional upon the faithfulness of the person who made the covenants.
After completing the endowment ordinance, participants end in the celestial room. Mormons believe this like unto entering into the presence of God. While no ordinances are performed in the celestial room, it is the most beautiful room in the temple. It is a place where people can pray, ponder, read their scriptures, and visit quietly and reverently.
When a man and a woman who are both temple worthy choose to get married, they may do so in the temple. A temple marriage is called a sealing. A sealing can only take place in the temple, and may only be performed by a man who has been given the authority to bind families for eternity. This is a wonderful gift. In a sealing, a man and a woman may be married for eternity, rather than just for the time they will spend together on this earth. In addition, if they are faithful, any children born to them after their sealing will also be bound to them for eternity. If a couple chooses to go to the temple after they have been married civilly, they may have their children sealed to them as well.
Each sealing room has an altar, where those being sealed together kneel. There are two mirrors hanging parallel to each other, casting infinite reflections. This is symbolic of the nature of the relationship: it is eternally binding, having no beginning or end.
All temples are sacred places and have the spirit of the Lord dwelling in them at all times. They are place of happiness, peace, and joy. The things which happen in temples are kept sacred because the responsibility of living with the knowledge of those things is so great. The things a person learns in the temple come under the condition that, that person will use the knowledge to better their own lives, as well as the world around them. There is nothing selfish or evil about Mormon temples. They are places where the purest kind of service is done and where people exercise selflessness to make the world around them a better place.