The Mormon Temple Endowment
Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes nicknamed the “Mormon Church”) are beautiful, impressive buildings. They can also seem a bit mysterious. Since only members of the Church in good standing are allowed to enter a Mormon temple, many people have questions about what goes on inside. What rituals take place there? Who participates in them? Why isn’t the building open to the public?
Three main ceremonies take place in Mormon temples. The first is baptism for the dead, where living church members are baptized for their deceased relatives. Baptism for the dead is an ancient ritual that was practiced by early Christians during the time of the early Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). Faithful members of the Church as young as twelve years old may go to the temple to be baptized for the dead. Mormons believe that all of God’s children must be baptized in the name of Christ to be saved. By being baptized in behalf of someone who has died, Mormons provide their deceased loved ones with the opportunity to be baptized if they desire it, even after death. The baptism is not binding, of course, unless it is desired and accepted by the deceased person for whom the baptism is done. The spirits of those who have passed away without being baptized may choose to accept or reject a baptism done by proxy in their behalf.
The second ceremony that takes place in the temple is called the endowment. Mormons prepare themselves carefully to go to the temple and receive the ordinances of the endowment ceremony during young adulthood, or after their first year of church membership. After receiving their own endowments, members return often to participate in behalf of those who have died. Returning to the temple provides members with the opportunity not just to serve their loved ones who have passed on, but also to remember the covenants they have made in their own endowments.
The third temple ceremony consists of sealing husbands and wives, parents and children together in eternal families. Those who are sealed to each other in the temple will maintain their family relationships not just in this life, but beyond the grave. Just as Peter was given the power by Jesus Christ that “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (see Matthew 18:18), the Lord has given some of His servants today power, through the priesthood, to bind families together eternally. The endowment and sealings are performed in the temple both for the living and by proxy for the dead. Each individual, living or dead, can choose for themselves to accept or reject it as they wish.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make a series of covenants with God throughout their mortal lives. Each covenant is a two-way promise, where the individual promises to follow God in various ways. In return, God offers to bless that person as they keep the covenant. Like other Christians, the first covenant a Mormon makes is the covenant of baptism. At baptism, the person being baptized promises that they will follow Christ, take His name upon them, and keep His commandments. In return, God promises the gift of the Holy Ghost to comfort and guide them throughout their life.
The temple endowment ritual consists of a series of covenants between each individual and God. During the endowment, members of the Church learn more about the creation of the earth, the mission of Jesus Christ, and God’s plan for them. They are invited to make a series of promises to God. He, in turn, promises salvation and eternal life with Him if they remain faithful. Just as the Savior taught in parables, the teaching in the temple is symbolic in nature. After receiving their own endowments, members return again and again to act as proxies for the dead. This allows each individual to continue to grow in their understanding of the teachings in the temple, and the covenants they have made.
Keeping Temple Covenants
Mormons consider it their solemn duty to keep the covenants they have made in the temple. Covenants made in the temple help members understand the great importance of keeping God’s commandments. Keeping the commandments, in turn, brings the blessings of peace, joy, and eternal family life that God has promised. By keeping covenants, repenting as needed, and enduring to the end, each of God’s children can return to Him again through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
The Temple as a Sanctuary
Throughout history, God has commanded His people to build temples as sanctuaries where He could come to communicate with His people. The Tabernacle built by the Children of Israel during Moses’ time is an example of a temple. Access to the inner areas of the ancient Tabernacle of the Covenant was restricted to priests who had cleansed themselves in various ways. Similarly, the inner areas of today’s temples are open only to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have qualified to enter by keeping various commandments and repenting of their sins. Thus, the temple is kept free from sin and worldly influences. It is a place where Christ can visit and the Holy Spirit can dwell. Mormons often bring their questions and burdens to the temple, to contemplate and pray where God’s Spirit can speak more easily to their minds and hearts. Others come simply to enjoy the peace found within, and to feel the love God has for them.
Sacred, not Secret
The ceremonies and rituals of the temple are not described in detail here because of their sacred nature. Each child of God must be spiritually prepared before they are ready to participate in the ordinances of the temple. Nevertheless, it is God’s hope that each of His children can enter the temple and know for themselves what is taught there. Elder Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said the following:
We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. (Elder Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” from The Ensign, February 1995)
Our Heavenly Father loves each of His children equally with a love greater than we can comprehend. He desires each of us to come to the temple, to learn of Him and draw nearer to Him. He wants to bless us with the blessings that can only come through making and keeping temple covenants. The temple is the place we can be nearest to Him on earth. Do whatever you must to prepare yourself, and come to His Holy Temple. He is waiting for you there.