Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church” in the media, are often strikingly beautiful buildings. Mormons consider them to be some of the most sacred places on earth. Each temple is built with the utmost care and the best possible craftsmanship. It is an offering of love and sacrifice to God. After an initial open house period, Mormon temples are dedicated to the Lord, and become places of serenity and worship. Only members of the Church who are keeping God’s commandments are allowed inside the temple, in order to keep it a holy place where God’s spirit can dwell. As a result, temples can sometimes seem a little mysterious. What happens inside these beautiful, sacred buildings?
Temple worship is different from the worship that occurs in regular Sunday meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ. The temple is kept holy and set apart from the world, so it can truly be the House of the Lord, where the spirit of Christ can dwell. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) enter temples to learn more about their Savior and about God’s plan for His children. They make covenants, or promises, in the temple that they will follow Jesus and keep all His commandments. In return, they are promised the blessings of eternal life with their families. Everything that happens in the temple is focused on their relationship with God the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
On the east side of every Mormon temple is inscribed the following:
The House of the Lord
Holiness to the Lord
Like the temples built in ancient Israel, the temple is a place where Jesus Christ can visit His people. At the dedication of the Temple of Solomon, as recorded in the Old Testament, “the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). Ancient temples were always referred to as “the House of the Lord.” During the dedication of the first modern Mormon temple, which was built in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836, many witnesses reported seeing heavenly manifestations as the glory of the Lord filled that house as well.
The Temple is a Refuge
Entrance into temples is restricted to Mormons who are keeping God’s commandments so that the temple can remain a holy place, set aside from and unsullied by the world. During the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland temple, Joseph Smith, who was the first modern-day prophet of Mormonism, asked God to sanctify the temple:
That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house;
And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness (Doctrine and Covenants 109:12-13).
In addition to offering an environment for prayer and quiet contemplation, Mormon temple ceremonies teach about the creation of the world, humankind’s purpose on earth, and the importance of Jesus’s atonement. Jesus Christ created the world as a place where the spirit children of God the Father could receive mortal bodies and learn to choose good over evil. With God the Father, Jesus Christ is the central figure in the temple ceremony. Jesus’s life and His teachings are set forth as the example of how every human being should live. And the temple teaches that it is only through the atonement of Christ that God’s children can be saved from sin and death, to return to live in God’s presence once more. Those who attend the temple are able to feel deeply their need for God’s mercy, and their complete dependence upon their Savior, Jesus Christ. The temple ceremony teaches both the sorrow of sin and the joy of redemption, awakening and strengthening a deep love for the Savior.
Temple Covenants Help Us Follow Christ
One more way that the temple helps Mormons draw closer to Jesus Christ is through the making and keeping of sacred covenants, or promises, with God. During the temple ceremony a number of promises are made to God. These promises include keeping specific commandments, following Jesus Christ, and sacrificing for Him. God, in turn, promises that if temple covenants are kept, His children will be blessed to live in His presence forever, having their families “sealed,” or bound, to them eternally.
Come to the Temple
The temple is a sacred and beautiful place, inside and out. It is the House of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and everything within the temple points our way back to dwell with Him. Within the temple walls we, as God’s children, can find refuge from the storms of the world, and comfort in the love of Jesus Christ. The temple is not a secret, but rather a sacred place. Anyone who makes him or herself worthy can enter the temple and experience God’s holy house. It is worth whatever sacrifice is necessary to experience His presence, feel His love, and receive the promise of eternal life with Him after death.