Temples are sacred places. We all have them in various shapes and forms. For some of us, they are the corporate office. To others, a dark, slithering river in southeastern North Carolina. Temples are the places where the veil between the mundane and spiritual worlds is so thin, that when you touch the walls you can feel the very pulse within the fingertips of the divine. In this place, your prayers diffuse into the firmament like a sweet perfume.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has temples. Here, the most sacred ordinances occur. And not just anyone can enter this sacred space–not even every LDS member–only an LDS member in good standing with the church and with a “temple recommend.” In order to enter the temple, one must:
- Be at least 12 years old (that’s me!)
- Be a member of the church for at least one year (Uh, what about one really intense month?)
- Obtain a temple recommend. This is gained via interview with a bishop or branch and stake president. A member is asked questions regarding their standing in the church including: if they have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, keeping the commandments, supporting their local church and its leaders, etc (Well, I do for 31 days…)
So it looks like I’m not permitted to enter the temple (more on that issue next week). That’s a shame because they are beautiful…
These are just a few of the 134 operating temples around the world. Each one is built for two main purposes: to hold the highest sacred ordinances, and to offer a glimpse of the majesty of what awaits those who enter the Celestial Kingdom with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
LDS members claim a proud lineage of temple building that stretches back to the time of the ancient Hebrews. The emancipated Hebrews set up a holy tabernacle–a tent and mobile sanctuary–which held the sacred Law and the Holy of Holies. Once the Hebrews settled down in Jerusalem, they constructed a series of permanent temples, first under King Solomon and finally under King Herod during the time of Jesus.
Once the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed along with the apostolic authority held by Christ’s original apostles, according to LDS doctrine, the sacred and intimate presence of the Lord faded from the earth. This is why the restoration of the gospel and church through Joseph Smith is central to the LDS church, because through Joseph Smith, the church itself along with the temples was reestablished for all mankind. So, kind of a big deal.
What happens in the temple? Well, nothing I can see or take pictures of because I’m only an honorary member this month. The phrase I often hear regarding the inner workings of the temple is that they are “sacred, not secret.” Okay, fair enough.
Endowments: This is the gift the church has to offer for all its members. Here one learns about Christ, his gospel, and our purpose on this earth. We are given a chance to experience a glimpse of the peace and ambiance and of what life in the Celestial Kingdom is all about.
Sealing: The LDS church focuses on two things: Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the family. One central doctrine of the church is the permanence of families. Within the temple, your earthly family can become ritually “sealed” so that even death cannot separate you. Families sealed in the temples will enjoy eternity together in the next life (some days that might not be a good thing in my house).
Ordinances for the Dead: According to the church, Heavenly Father wants everyone to have a far shot at hearing the gospel and experiencing the blessings of his church to the fullest. In this way, living members of the church can act as proxy during special rituals, such as baptism and sealings, for deceased family members in the spirit world. This is why family histories are such an important issue in LDS life. The only catch: just because your living son undergoes baptism on your behalf, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Your free agency still exists in the spirit world, so you must accept or reject the ordinance.
There is so much more information regarding the temples of the LDS church. For these goodies and more, please visit www.lds.org. All images on this post come from that site. Of course, as a good LDS member this month, my duty is to tell you of how you might see these beautiful structures yourself. Once you join the church and take the name of Christ upon yourself, blessings are said to flow from heaven upon your life. In the temple, you are given a 360 degree template for the heavenly realms. Within we are given a wonderous spark of the divine, roaring fire that is the presence of Heavenly Father. I invite you to ask your local branch or missionaries how you can have this experience (how was that folks?).
I like what church president Boyd K. Packer had to say about the temple:
At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can ‘see’ things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known.
Well isn’t that nice? What are your thoughts on the temple–not just from the LDS perspective–but the idea of temples in all their forms? Mine is the river and swamp, but at another level, I believe the temple of the divine resides in the vibrant, glowing spaces between the atoms of creation. For me, like the home, the divine is where the heart is.
Have a great weekend and I’ll see you again on Monday.