Inside the Mormon Temple
Because temples are sacred, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak very little about what goes on inside, people are curious about the rooms and activities inside Mormon temples. Open houses are held before temples are dedicated and sanctified as houses of the Lord. Thousands attend these open houses to tour and learn about Mormon temples. However, many people will never have that opportunity. This article will be a mini-tour of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Mormon Temple, which opened summer, 2009. We’ll begin outside the temple, at the main entrance.
On the exterior of the temple are engraved the words “Holiness to the Lord.” The gardens are meant to inspire and bless those who walk through them, and anyone is invited to do so. The Lord’s spirit can be felt in these gardens, but even more so inside the temple. Atop the temple spire is a statue of the Angel Moroni. Moroni was the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon. He visited Joseph Smith as a resurrected being and informed Joseph that the time had fully come when the words of Malachi would be fulfilled; that is, that the hearts of the children would turn to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children. This is the purpose of temples: to bind families together for eternity in the kingdom of God.
When one enters the temple, there is a spacious entry area with a waiting room, and sometimes a quiet room where families with young children can wait without disturbing others. There is usually a stairway downstairs to the baptistry from here. As one proceeds to enter the temple, there is a recommend desk, where one’s temple recommend is checked. The recommend is a small slip of paper certifying that the member has been interviewed by his or her bishop and stake president and found worthy to attend the temple. Mormons who are temple-worthy are active in their congregations and serve in their callings (or voluntary service positions) as they are asked by their leaders. They pay a full tithe (10% of one’s income) and live the “Word of Wisdom” by avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea. They are morally clean and honest in their dealings with their fellow men.
As one passes by the recommend desk, there is usually another waiting area. Past this area are dressing rooms (one for men and one for women), a “family file” office to help visitors with preparing family names for temple ordinances, and a desk with temple clothing available to those who need it. In all these areas, there are temple workers dressed in white, who volunteer their time to help the patrons (members) who come to the temple.
When a patron arrives to perform an “endowment,” he or she goes first to the dressing room to change into white clothing, and then to an endowment room, which is like a very small auditorium. There, the story of the creation is recounted and instruction is given to enable those attending to feel God’s love and empowering spirit in their lives. Those taking part make covenants to keep the commandments of God and to follow the Savior Jesus Christ.
Sometimes endowment rooms, sealing rooms and offices are upstairs, and there is a staircase (and elevators) for access to those rooms. An endowment session takes about 90 minutes, and in most temples a session begins every 30 minutes. This depends on how many patrons typically attend, and how many endowment rooms there are. Some temples open very early in the morning to accommodate patrons’ schedules, and some even stay open very late at night on occasion.
This photograph is taken from the front of an endowment room. An officiator stands behind the altar, facing the seated patrons. Behind him is a small movie screen for instructional purposes, and a curtain, through which one may enter the celestial room of the temple. Entering the celestial room is the culmination of the endowment, and is symbolic of entering the kingdom of God.
The celestial room is traditionally the most beautiful room in the temple. There, patrons can sit and pray or meditate. The spirit in the celestial room is the most peaceful, tranquil, and holy of any place on earth.
Baptism for the Dead
People who arrive prepared to do baptisms for the dead, go downstairs to the baptistry. The baptistry has its own recommend desk. Children over 12 years old can participate in this ordinance by acting as proxies for their deceased ancestors. They receive “limited-use recommends” from their bishops to gain entrance to the baptistry. A recommend to enter the baptistry therefore might not qualify a patron to enter the main parts of the temple.
The baptismal font is usually below ground, because baptism by immersion represents death and rebirth. Patrons change into white baptismal clothing in the baptistry dressing rooms. The baptismal font is designed according to ancient temple custom, upon the backs of twelve oxen, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Weddings are performed in Mormon temples, but the vows are not “’till death do us part.” Temple “sealings,” as they are called, are meant to be eternal. Temple weddings are very beautiful. The bride and groom make an appointment to have their sealing ceremony performed. Temples have more than one sealing room, and they vary in size, so it’s necessary to reserve one that will accommodate all the guests. Guests who wish to attend temple sealings must also have temple recommends to attend. Guests wear Sunday-best clothes and are ushered into a marriage waiting room prior to the ceremony.
When the bride and groom enter the temple, they are greeted and given instruction by a member of the temple presidency. Then, they are guided to special dressing rooms. The bride’s dressing room is especially lovely. There, she dons the dress she’ll wear for the sealing ceremony. Some brides choose to wear a wedding dress for the sealing, while others wear a more simple white dress. The bride can leave her street clothes and cosmetics in the dressing room.
When the bride and groom enter the sealing room, the guests will already be seated around the periphery of the room. Mirrors are mounted on opposing walls, so that the reflection repeats itself an infinite number of times, symbolizing the eternal nature of the marriage covenant. An altar is located at the center of the room, and the bride and groom kneel on either side and hold hands across the altar, while the “sealer”, or officiator, helps them with their vows and gives them counsel. Afterwards, the bride and groom may rise and exchange rings and greet their guests.After the sealing, the bride and groom return to their dressing rooms. If the bride has chosen to wear a simpler dress for the sealing, she now changes into her bridal gown for photographs. This is also the case if the bride has chosen a gown that is not pure white. She wears a white dress for the sealing and then changes into her gown for photographs and the reception. The family goes outside to wait for the bride and groom to exit the temple. The family then gathers for photographs in the temple gardens. It’s a festive occasion for everyone.
For information and Mormon news about the dedication of the San Salvador El Salvador Mormon Temple visit the official newsroom of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon Church”)