Many people are unfamiliar with what actually takes place during a worship service in a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Research also shows that there are many people who feel that they are not welcomed inside an LDS chapel to worship with Latter-day Saints to be able to observe for themselves that Mormon worship is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is often the basis for misunderstandings among communities where Latter-day Saints live and leads many to believe that the close-knit ties of the Latter-day Saint community is both clannish and secretive. Part of this misconception may be caused by the differences between worship services in LDS chapels and temple worship. All are invited to attend services in LDS chapels, but only those members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are deemed worthy and hold a valid temple recommend are permitted to enter the sacred temple – the House of the Lord.
The infographic below is an excellent comparison of worship in an LDS chapel and temple worship.
You are invited to worship with a local LDS congregation
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called Mormons by those of other faiths, believe strongly in the importance of family history and genealogy. The past few decades have seen an explosion if interest among people of all faiths across the world in their personal heritage. In the past, records have been difficult to obtain. People have had to travel to remote places to search for important family records in cemeteries and parish records. An enormous effort by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church” by the media has allowed millions of people to access these records from the Internet without having to travel extensively.
A great indexing movement is still taking place in the LDS Church. Teams have travelled the globe scanning in countless documents. Volunteer members then work to digitize the important information from these documents, providing them to any who wish to search them. Unlike certain businesses who charge a good deal for the use of their records, those records which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has digitized are available free of charge to anyone who wishes to access them. In addition, there are many family history centers across the globes, mostly located in LDS meetinghouses, which are run by volunteers. Anyone may use these facilities, free of charge, and may also obtain help from those who are trained in using the programs and equipment.
One may ask why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spent so much time and so many resources providing a service which they don’t even charge for. The answer is quite simple and is based in a basic belief of Mormonism, that families can, and should, be together forever. Latter-day Saints believe that there are certain earthly ordinances which each individual must receive in order to be exalted and live in the presence of God for eternity. These ordinances cannot be performed on the other side of the veil. On earth, most of these ordinances are received in Mormon temples. However, once a person has received these ordinances for himself, he may return to the temple and perform the same ordinances vicariously for someone who died without the chance to receive those ordinances. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to do their own family history (or genealogy) so that they can personally perform these ordinances for their own ancestors by proxy. One of these ordinances is Baptism for the Dead.
Another fundamental belief which Latter-day Saints hold is that we all have the eternal right of free agency, or free will. We each choose for ourselves good or evil. No one else can force choices upon us. When a person who is deceased has ordinances performed for him by proxy, that does not mean he has lost the right to choose whether or not he wants to accept those ordinances. When temple work is done for an individual, he still has the right to choose if he wants the blessings and commitments that come with those ordinances. It is necessary the temple work is done, though, because if it is not, the choice is not given to the individual at all. He simply cannot partake of those blessings.
There are many other blessings which come from Mormon genealogy and family history. The knowledge of the experiences of one’s ancestors brings a tremendous power. To feel the influence of others’ choices in your life can be very moving. It is important to remember that these are people, beloved sons and daughters of God, just as we each are.
Mormon temples (temples belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are sacred places of worship. Once a Mormon temple has been dedicated (set apart for the practicing of ordinances), only worthy Latter-day Saints (members of the Mormon Church) are permitted to enter. However, before a temple is dedicated, a period of a few weeks is generally set aside for members of the community to walk through the temple on short tours.
Open house tours require reservations and free tickets, simply to manage the number of people going through at any given time. Even though temples are not yet dedicated at the time people are going through, they are still special buildings which command respect and reverence. Those going through should be nicely dressed. The Mormon standard of “Sunday dress” is generally understood to mean white shirt, tie, and slacks for men and modest dresses or skirts and blouses for women. If an individual does not have this clothing available, he or she should still be nicely groomed and wearing the best that he or she has available. They should treat the building and others with respect while going through and should speak in quiet, respectful voices.
During an open house tour, guests are able to see all major rooms where Mormon ordinances are performed. These include the baptistry, the sealing room(s), the endowment room(s), etc. This allows members of the public to see that there are no suspicious, cultish rites performed. They can see that the rooms are beautiful and are made of fine materials, because temples are houses of the Lord, and He deserves the best.
The Boston Temple open house was held from August 29–September 23, 2000. It was dedicated on October 1, 2000, by then-Mormon prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. The only time an already dedicated temple would have a second open house is if it went under major renovations. Then it would have a second open house, prior to its re-dedication.
For up-to-date LDS News regarding Mormon temple construction, open houses, and groundbreakings visit the newsroom.
Mormon doctrine teaches that the family can be, and should be, forever. This gives the Mormon family a unique perspective on relationships. While one would always hope that parents would be loving to each other and to their children, and that siblings would be loving towards each other, this is sadly not always the case.
The family seems to be under attack in society as being old-fashioned and outdated. The world is telling us that parents don’t need to be married and that if things don’t work out, then it is better and easier to just give up and start over again with someone else. Mormon doctrine teaches that a marriage should be eternal when performed in the temple. When a couple is married in a Mormon temple, they are married for “time and eternity,” not just “until death do you part.” Though many people seem to believe that they will be with their spouses after they die, no other church actually teaches this doctrine, other than the Mormon Church.
Temples are so important because it is only in them that a Mormon family can be sealed together for eternity. When a couple’s marriage begins in the temple, under the sealing power of the priesthood, all children born to them are sealed to them automatically through the covenants they have already made. If a couple gets sealed after they have children, or if they adopt children later, the children can still be sealed to them, but have to be present in the temple ceremony.
With an eternal perspective, parenting and Mormon family relationships become much more important than anything else in our lives. We should nurture and strengthen each other, make sure our spiritual needs are met as well as our physical and emotional needs.
Though there are certainly Mormon families who do have problems, who do struggle with such things as abuse, abandonment, and worse, these things are always due to individuals’ choices. Mormon doctrine is very clear on how serious the sins are which tear a family apart.
Mormons believe that men and women have unique, but complementary, attributes and characteristics which are both essential for raising a family in the best possible environment (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World“). This is why mothers are encouraged to stay home with their children when possible, rather than pursue a career. Children need this love and guidance as a foundation in their lives, and mothers can give a type of love and understanding that men are incapable of. The opposite is also true, however. Men have their own contributions which no mother can give. This is why the Mormon Church is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Families are units of eternity and should be treated and protected as such. We should cherish our families and do all we can to build them up and to strengthen them.
Some people think Mormons are weird for worshipping in Mormon temples. The truth is, temples existed in ancient times, just like they exist today. Solomon’s temple was built thousands of years ago as a place for God to dwell among His people. It was a sacred, sanctified place set aside for special worship. Only those who were authorized were able to enter, and those who did were instructed to worship in a certain way. This was also true for the Tabernacle while the Jews were wandering in the wilderness, though this was a special, portable temple, since they were working their way towards the Promised Land.
In ancient temples, animal sacrifice was still practiced under the Law of Moses. The laws which the people were instructed to keep are outlined clearly in the Old Testament. The animals which were brought to the temple had to be without blemish, the first males of their flocks. They had to be certain types of animals as well. There were several different reasons for animals to be sacrificed, but the most well-known sacrifice is probably for the Day of Atonement, when the high priest would sacrifice one animal for the sins of all the people.
Mormons believe that ancient temples also existed on the American continent before the time of Christ. The Book of Mormon is a history of three different groups of Jews who were led to the American continent by the hand of God before the destruction of Jerusalem. Their history shows that they also built and worshiped in temples.
Mormon doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses when he suffered in Gethsemane and was killed on the cross. He was the ultimate sacrifice, and all the animal sacrifices which had been done up until that point had been symbols of this eternal sacrifice of our Savior’s. At the time the Law of Moses was fulfilled, Christ said that instead of continuing to offer animal sacrifices, what would be required from that time forth was a broken heart and a contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9:20). These are the sacrifices which are required in Mormon temples today. What is meant by a broken heart and a contrite spirit is that each of us must humble him- or herself and offer the only thing that is truly ours to give to God: our will; our hearts. We must choose to follow His commandments, for that is how we show we love Him (John 14:15).
Mormon temples today are places of worship and learning. It is in temples that we learn more about God’s plan for each of us and how we can continually grow closer to Him. Modern temples continue a marvelous ancient tradition of worship which was instituted by God thousands of years ago, and they are still built under His direction today.
From a very young age, Mormons are taught to look towards the temple and to have the desire to be married in a temple. This is because Mormon doctrine teaches that a Mormon wedding, or a marriage performed in a Mormon temple is for time and all eternity, not just “until death do you part.” Many people believe that when they marry, they will be with their spouse again after they die. However, no church doctrine teaches this. It is always a union which dissolves with the death of one spouse.
Mormons believe that, through the power of the priesthood, a Mormon wedding performed in the temple can last forever. There are still conditions which must be met in order for this to happen: the couple makes promises to God and to each other, and if either of them fails to keep these promises, then God’s promise to them that their marriage will last forever may not hold true. God promises blessings which are conditional upon our faithfulness (Doctrine & Covenants 130:20–21). If both parties keep their promises, however, this is one of the greatest blessings one could imagine. Mormon doctrine also teaches that any children born to a couple who have been previously sealed in the temple are “born in the covenant,” meaning they are automatically sealed to their parents and to each other, again conditional upon the faithfulness of the parents.
With these blessings available, it is hard to imagine that anyone would choose to not get married in the temple, but there can be sacrifices. If a parent, both parents, grandparents, siblings, good friends, etc., are either not members of the Mormon Church or are members but are not worthy to enter the temple, then they cannot be present at a temple wedding. This is a lot to ask, and often, if they do not understand this Mormon doctrine, they can have their feelings hurt or may even be angry. There is simply no replacement for a temple marriage, though. The blessings, protection, and peace which come with being sealed in the temple are unparalleled in the world, and it is worth any sacrifice in order to be worthy to participate in this beautiful ordinance.
Mormon temple marriages, or Mormon weddings, take place in sealing rooms. The bride and groom kneel across from each other at an altar and face parallel mirrors, which create infinite reflections. This image symbolizes the eternal nature of their union. It is stretching out forever. Here each person makes promises to each other and to God. They receive promised blessings in return for their faithfulness.
The bride does not walk down an aisle, is not “given away” by her father. The ceremony is very simple, but beautiful. The exchange of rings is in fact not a part of the temple ceremony, though in countries where it is traditional to exchange rings, this can be done quietly. Some couples, who have relatives or friends not able to enter the temple, will choose to hold a separate ring-exchange ceremony at the location where their reception is held. This allows their loved ones the opportunity to feel part of the marriage union.
In order to be worthy to have a temple marriage, individuals must remain chaste before marriage, in addition to keeping several other high standards. They must continue to keep these high standards after their marriage in order for the wonderful blessings to remain in force in their lives.
The beautiful modern, granite-faced, Mormon Boston temple was announced on September 30, 1995, and was erected to the Lord on the gently-rising Belmont, Massachusetts’ 8-acre lot, and is comprised of about 69,000 square feet of dedicated and holy ordinance rooms, baptistery, sealing rooms, administrative and waiting areas. The groundbreaking was presided over by Mormon apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott, on June 13, 1997, during a cloudburst from the heavens; Mormon Prophet and President, Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the temple as the 100th mini-temple to be built after his ambitious vision in April 1998 of dotting the land with smaller, accessible temples for the gathering and redemption of God’s people. “We are moving on a scale the likes of which we have never seen before,” President Hinckley said in his closing remarks in the April 1998 general conference. This is when his vision of accelerated temple-building was shared from the pulpit, including his remark that there might even be the 100th Mormon sanctuary before the end of the century.
Of the selected spot overlooking the town, noted by a Boston stake president, President Hutchins, President Hinckley commented:
As I stood there I had an electric feeling that this is the place…. The Lord inspired its acquisition and its retention. Very few seemed to know anything about it. I think I know why I have had such a very difficult time determining the [site]. I have prayed about it. I have come here three or four times. I have studied maps and tables of membership. With all of this I have not had a strong confirmation. I felt a confirmation as I stood in Belmont on this property this afternoon. This is the place for a House of the Lord in the New England area.
Notwithstanding some serious opposition from Northeastern neighbors, the temple construction prevailed, as did the prophetic vision, and the Boston Mormon temple steeple was erected subsequent to the temple dedication. An excerpt from the dedicatory prayer offered by President Hinckley reflects on both the opposition endured and the gratitude felt for the prevailing Hand of the Lord in establishing His house in the Boston, Belmont area:
… We are assembled to dedicate this Thy holy house. It is a special occasion. This temple becomes the 100th operating temple of Thy Church.
We have looked forward to this occasion. We have prayed for this day. We extend our gratitude to all who have labored so faithfully and diligently, often in the face of serious opposition, to bring to pass the miracle of the completion of this temple.
To us it is indeed a miracle. The ground on which it stands, the circumstances of its preservation for this use, and the decision to build it here—all are miracles unto those who have been a part of this process.
Now it is ready for the purposes for which it has been constructed. We are deeply grateful. We thank Thee for Thy marvelous and overruling actions which have made all of this possible.
And now, acting in the authority of the holy priesthood, even the fulness of the priesthood, and in the name of Thine Only Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we dedicate unto Thee and unto Him this the Boston Massachusetts Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dear Father, please accept it as the gift of our hearts and hands. We present it with love for Thee and for Thy precious Son. We pray that Thou wilt bless it with the presence of Thy Holy Spirit. May it ever be sacred unto Thy people. May even those not of our faith look upon it as a hallowed structure, and do so with respect. Save it from the hands of evil men. May neither the vandal nor the destroyer be inclined to damage it or deface it in any way.
O God, the Eternal Father, we acknowledge Thine intervening hand in holding back the adversary in his machinations to delay and stop the construction of this sacred house. Thy Church has prevailed in the courts, and we pray that it will yet prevail. We pray that those who have been bitterly opposed may experience a change of feeling. May their hearts be softened. Wilt Thou touch them by Thy Holy Spirit, that their animosity may turn to gratitude and that their fears may fade as they contemplate, according to their knowledge, the true significance of this House of the Lord.
We are grateful that so many have come to view it, and we pray that a remembrance of this experience may remain with them always, to soften their feelings and lead them in the direction of Thine eternal work for which this house has been designed.
The building has no steeple. We dedicate it as being complete, but pray that the way may be opened for the placement of a steeple with the crowning figure of Moroni, Thine ancient prophet.
The temple stands, as each does, as an ode and witness to the immortality of the soul. In the words of Mormon apostle, RIchard G. Scott,
We believe that because of ordinances that can be performed in this sacred house, a man and a woman can be united for eternity and sealed to their children, who live worthily, forever. That ending of a religious [marriage] ceremony that is so common in the world today: `until death do you part,’ need not be the final outcome of marriage.
We pray that those who find this site or who walk near any Mormon temple, might know that they stand for them, are built for each of us who would take the invitation to heart to come unto Christ through baptism into His Church and kingdom, and be sealed together forever in His house, to come forth for eternity with redeemed loved ones. We invite your sincere questions and thoughts.
Uniting Families Forever
I came across the following photo and statement of faith regarding Mormon temples by a visually-impaired Mormon educator (member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and published author on the subject of temple history,expressing so simply his gratitude for his eternal union with his family, after having been sealed in the Los Angeles Mormon Temple.
The Los Angeles Temple is the second largest Mormon temple, after the Salt Lake Temple, and was dedicated to the Lord–as each temple is through sacred prayer offered by a member of The First Presidency (the Prophet, or one of His two counselors)–in 1956.
Brother Cowan taught at BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. While there, he was especially interested in visiting the site of Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples and studying more about them from materials available only in Israel.
I don’t know when I first became interested in temples. I can remember going to the Salt Lake Temple at an early age to perform baptisms for the dead. Growing up in Los Angeles, I went on annual temple excursions to either St. George or Mesa with a group of young people from our stake. Not only did we have the opportunity to perform temple service, but these trips also allowed me to associate with other youths who shared my interests and values. We all eagerly anticipated the completion of our own temple in Southern California. It was under construction when I left for my Spanish-speaking mission to Texas and New Mexico. I returned home from that mission just in time to attend the temple’s dedication. I have enjoyed attending several recent temple dedications including those carried by satellite. Still, my feelings about the temple are strengthened most by my regular participation in the sacred ordinances in the Lord’s House. I look forward to expanding my knowledge about temples and hope to have the opportunity of actually visiting more of the temples which now are truly dotting the earth. I am grateful that I married Dawn Houghton in the Los Angeles Temple, so that our marriage is for eternity and that we can look forward to being with our six children and our 22 grandchildren forever.
To Brother Cowan’s assurance of the divinity of temple work, I add my own for you, dear friend of another faith. I know that all Mormon temples are equal in the service they provide, in the healing they extend, in the opportunity each one of us has who would prepare themselves for the richest blessings of God’s love and instruction in His holy houses upon the earth. They are what Mormons purport them to be–namely, sacred edifices built to the Lord’s specifications through revelation, and to His ends–the salvation of souls and their eternal union and reunion with Him in the eternities.
The words of the prophets and apostles bear exacting witness of the temple and its functions, with which we close this post and open up discussion for those who would ask questions or seek more knowledge concerning these things:
Surely these temples are unique among all buildings. They are houses of instruction. They are places of covenants and promises. At their altars we [and anyone who would like to become a member and so qualify to enter] kneel before God our Creator and are given promise of His everlasting blessings. In the sanctity of their appointments we commune with Him and reflect on His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who served as proxy for each of us in a vicarious sacrifice in our behalf. Here we set aside our own selfishness and serve for those who cannot serve themselves. Here, under the true priesthood power of God, we are bound together in the most sacred of all human relationships—as husbands and wives, as children and parents, as families under a sealing that time cannot destroy and death cannot disrupt.
Who, who has ever loved, has not thought about the possibility of life after life without their companion. God has provided a way for those unions to continue, and that binding occurs in Mormon temples, temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I recall my first experience in a Mormon temple. I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (became a Mormon), in 1980, after a long quest to understand my life’s purpose and mission. About a year later, on a beautiful spring day, I attended the Washington, D.C. temple — its castle-like beauty strikingly noticeable from the DC Beltway — prior to serving an 18-month mission to Germany. I’m not sure if the cherry blossoms in the area were quite in bloom, but I remember hoping they would be. While there’s much to absorb on a first visit to the Lord’s house, and much I had yet to learn, I remember and treasure the profound feelings of joy I had in being among friends dressed in white when I entered the chapel prior to entering what is known as the endowment room (place of instruction and revelation).
“In the temples all are dressed alike in white. White is the symbol of purity. … Besides, the uniform dress symbolizes that before God our Father in heaven, all men are equal. The beggar and the banker, the learned and the unlearned, the prince and the pauper sit side by side in the temple and are of equal importance if they live righteously before the Lord God, the Father of their spirits. It is spiritual fitness and understanding that one receives in the temple. All such have an equal place before the Lord” (John A. Widtsoe, “Looking toward the Temple,” Ensign, Jan. 1972, p. 58).
I remember the reverence and order I felt and observed in the Lord’s house and knew it to be His House. That testimony or witness of faith has only exponentially increased over the years.
Mormons who attend the temple for the first time receive washing and anointing ordinances — symbolic of inner cleansing and providing blessings of forgiveness and renewal — as were performed in Old Testament days and as are recorded in Exodus, followed by ordinances of instruction and covenant-making (commitments to obey God’s laws, with attendant blessings) known as the endowment. I remember sitting in the celestial room — a magnificent room in the temple full of light, arrayed with beauty and often a chandelier reflecting its glimmer in mirrored walls of the room — into which temple attenders go after completing their endowment — or instruction and covenant-making service. There one feels the love of the Lord and has time to reflect and sense things eternal in a profound way.
Since that time, I’ve gone to the House of the Lord consistently, and learned more and more about who I am, who He is, and how to best conduct my life and daily walk. Our conception of God affects our entire universe and way of navigating this life; it influences every significant decision and ultimately affects our destiny. In large measure, our culture has diluted that conception of God. I think of a young girl who told a reporter that the best image she could think of to represent God was a blurry image “because no one has a clear conception of Him.” Well, Mormons do. God has revealed Himself in our day. And I think the temple is a place where we come to see Him even more clearly, and where the doctrines revealed about Him in our day (that He has a glorified perfected body, that He is literally Our Father, the Father of our Spirits) bear on our thinking and feeling in a particularly impactful way. The temple, in this and other senses, is a sacred place, a House of the Lord, where our paradigms can shift through the Spirit of truth, where we can reframe our thinking in ways that allow us to see more of God’s perspective and purposes, and to focus with more of a laser vision on what’s really important in our lives. I’ve felt it to be a haven from the world, a place of security, a place of learning, a place of light and peace, a place of order and purity, a place of purpose. It’s a place where our conception of God is shaped and where our conception of life is molded.
I bear my own statement of faith that in the temples of the Lord Jesus Christ — Mormon temples — problems find their solutions more readily as the spirit of service and revelation is pure and profound. Things settle. Baggage seems to be dropped off outside the doors and burdens are made lighter after serving there. The to-do’s that remain on the schedule seem to get done more fluidly, or drop off the list as superfluous, as we exit the House of the Lord. Ways are hedged up that need to be hedged up; solutions are found; more people are served as we leave temple doors more empowered to do God’s will and to influence others. Truly, it’s a miracle place and a place where parts of eternity are mirrored.
We hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit a temple visitor’s center near you or in your travels, and/or a temple open house for a new Mormon temple built in your area. We’d be happy to respond to any sincere questions you may have about Mormon temples or Mormon beliefs. And do stop by again to visit us and share your thoughts.