The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a religious group that embraces concepts of Christianity and revelations made by their founder, Joseph Smith. Most who identify as ‘Latter-day Saints’ belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or ‘LDS Church,’ headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, a denomination with more than 16 million members worldwide. However, many small splinter sects consider themselves ‘Latter-day Saints’—who have broken off of the larger Utah-based Church, mainly after the death of the Church’s founding prophet.
History of Mormon Temples
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a temple is a dedicated house of God reserved for sacred ordinances unique to that tradition. A temple differs from a church meetinghouse used for weekly worship services. Temples have been a significant part of the Latter-day Saint movement since early in its inception. The Latter-day Saint movement was conceived as a restoration of practices believed to have been lost in a Great Apostasy from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Temple worship played a prominent role in the Bible’s Old Testament and the Book of
On December 27, 1832, two years after the organization of the Church of Christ, the Church’s founder, Joseph Smith, reported receiving a revelation that called Church members to restore the practice of temple worship. Latter-day Saints see temples as fulfilling a prophecy found in Malachi 3:1. As builders drew up plans to construct a temple in Kirtland, Ohio, the decision was made to start work on a second temple simultaneously at the Church’s colony in Jackson County, Missouri. Conflict in Missouri led to the expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, preventing the possibility of building a temple there. Still, work on the temple in Kirtland continued, with construction wrapping up in early 1836. On March 27, they held a lengthy dedication ceremony.
Conflict relating to the failure of the Church’s Kirtland Safety Society bank caused the church presidency to leave Kirtland and move the Church’s headquarters to the Mormon settlement of Far West, Missouri. In 1838, the Church started constructing a new, more prominent temple in the town center. The events of the 1838 Mormon war and the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri left these attempts at temple-building no further progressed than excavating foundations.
In 1839, the Mormons regrouped at a new headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois. Again, God commanded them to build a house of the Lord. New conflicts arose that led to Smith’s death and his brother Hyrum in 1844. The Nauvoo Temple stood partially finished, but eventually, members finished the temple and dedicated it.
Why Mormons Build Temples
Temples are different than the thousands of Church meetinghouses located around the world. Meetinghouses are where Sunday worship services, youth gatherings, service projects, and other community events occur. All are welcome to join in these activities.
Temples have a more specific purpose. They are places specially set apart for sacred service and ceremonies. They are designated by the Lord and dedicated to His purposes. Temples are the only places where some priesthood ordinances are authorized to be performed. These sacred ceremonies lift and inspire participants as they make commitments to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.
Receiving temple ordinances and keeping covenants unites families together for eternity. Our relationships with those we love can last forever when we honor our commitments to God. In temples, these ordinances are also performed by members of the Church on behalf of those who have died without the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such service extends the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all people. After a temple is dedicated, entrance is reserved for members of the Church who are prepared to participate in these ordinances.
Temples are also a place of learning. Their principal purpose is to provide ordinances necessary for the children of God to enable them to return to dwell with Him. Temple ordinances lead to the greatest blessings available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything in the Church, the meetings and activities, the missionary efforts, the lessons taught, and the hymns all lead to the work done in holy temples.
One ordinance received in the temple is called the endowment. The word endowment means “gift,” and the temple endowment truly is a gift from God. The ordinance consists of a series of instructions and includes covenants to live righteously and follow the requirements of the gospel. The endowment focuses on the Savior, His role in Heavenly Father’s plan, and the personal commitment of each member to follow Him.
Another temple ordinance is celestial marriage. In this ordinance, husband and wife are sealed to one another for eternity. A sealing performed in the temple continues forever if the husband and wife are faithful to the covenants they make. Children born to parents who have been sealed in the temple are born in the covenant. These children automatically become part of an eternal family. Children who are not born in the covenant can also become part of an eternal family once their natural or adoptive parents have been sealed to one another. The ordinance of sealing children to parents is performed in the temple.
People who have died without these essential gospel ordinances may receive those ordinances through the work done in temples. Acting on behalf of ancestors and others who have passed, Church members are baptized and confirmed, receive the endowment, and participate in the sealings of husband to wife and children to parents.
Those who enter the temple must be worthy, which means that they keep the commandments and are prepared to make and keep sacred temple covenants. In two interviews—one with a bishopric or a branch president and another with a member of a stake presidency or a mission president, Church members certify their worthiness to enter the temple. In these interviews, the priesthood leader asks about the individual’s conduct and worthiness. Those worthy receive a temple recommend, allowing them to enter the temple.
Temples aren’t like the standard church meetinghouses. In a typical church meetinghouse, some faiths hold Bible study, choir rehearsal, and other types of activities. However, that’s not the case with temples and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Temples are sacred places that only those deemed worthy are allowed to enter. It’s a place where Latter-day Saints participate in numerous ordinances. They are holy places of worship where individuals make sacred covenants with God. To those who are unfamiliar, the temples may seem strange. However, they hold a special place in the hearts of all Latter-day Saints.