The What, Who, and Why of Temples
Q: What Is a Temple?
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a temple is a sacred building that is dedicated to be a place of reverent worship, prayer, and inspiration—The House of the Lord. The temple’s purpose is to bring those on earth closer to Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Parents.
There are temples in most U.S. states and in many countries around the world. Temples are different from regular Sunday meetinghouses; in fact, temples are closed on Sundays. Some members of the church travel long distances in order to attend the temple; and increasingly, many members have temples close enough that they can visit frequently.
Most temple exteriors are white and the interiors are calm, clean, and quiet in order to create an environment that invites prayer, reflection, and guidance. This sense of order and peace is meant to symbolize heaven.
What Happens in the Temple?
Temple patrons change out of their street clothes and into white clothing to symbolize equality, purity, and holiness. Unlike church meetinghouses, there is not a traditional chapel or large room for preaching inside a temple. Instead, there are rooms with dedicated purposes that allow those attending to participate in different kinds of worship.
In the temple, participants make sacred covenants, or promises to God; these covenants are made during ordinances. An ordinance is a physical act that accompanies a covenant, like the act of baptism. Ordinances are performed using priesthood authority, which is God’s power on earth.
In endowment rooms, participants watch a film that depicts the creation of the world by Jesus Christ, directed by God. It depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the brave choice Eve made to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
An endowment is a gift; the temple endowment ordinance is a gift to those receiving it. It is knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, our eternal journey, and that through Jesus Christ, we can live with our Heavenly Parents and our loved ones forever.
Another ordinance that takes place in the temple is the sealing ceremony. A sealing is like a wedding ceremony where husband and wife are sealed together for eternity as part of God’s family.
Additionally, baptisms are performed in the temple, but not for patrons who haven’t been baptized before. Rather, patrons are baptized on behalf of (and in the name of) someone who has passed away who wasn’t baptized in the church when they were living.
Proxy baptisms took place in the early church after the death of Jesus Christ. Other proxy ordinances are performed in the temple in order to unite all of God’s children by priesthood power.
Who Can Go to the Temple?
Members of the church who wish to attend the temple first meet with their bishops for a temple recommend interview. Bishops are ecclesiastical leaders who are in charge of a congregation. They meet privately, or with another adult in attendance if the member is more comfortable with that.
The bishop asks the member several readiness questions. Sometimes this is called a “worthiness” interview, although “worthiness” may be a misnomer because on our individual paths of discipleship, we are all just doing our best to be like Jesus Christ.
There are 15 temple recommend interview questions that ask if the member has a testimony (faith in) God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its leaders. These interview questions also ask if the member strives to keep the commandments. These questions may be adapted for younger members.
Members can first perform baptisms in the temple after they are 12 years old, or after a few months of being baptized if they are over 12 years old at that time.
Why is there an age limit? Attending the temple requires a more advanced level of reverence, respect, and understanding, for which younger children may not yet have the maturity. For members to make other covenants in the temple, they are usually over 18 and have been baptized a member for at least a year. This is so they can more fully understand and appreciate the eternal promises they are making in the temple.
Why Go to the Temple?
Latter-day Saints attend the temple to find peace by seeking perspective through a more eternal view. The temple is not just a place for introspection and reflection, it is also a place of resolve to make commitments to God that bless lives now and into eternity.
In the temple, patrons can connect with ancestors through family history and proxy ordinance work. Performing ordinances in the temple invites us to keep the two great commandments from the Bible: to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:27–29).