What Does it Look Like Inside a Mormon Temple?

I remember driving back home from Georgetown a few times, and as we passed through Maryland, we would see the Washington, DC Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).  Some of you may know that Mormons build temples.  You may also know that not everyone can enter a temple, as you need to go through an interview and receive a temple recommend.  Some of you may also be aware of the controversy over an episode of the HBO series Big Love, where in the last season, they re-enacted a portion of the Latter-day Saint “Endowment” ceremony.  So you’ve heard all of this, but have you wondered what it looks like inside?

The LDS Church has built temples around the world, and still does today.  Recently, the LDS Church announced that a temple would be built in Rome, Italy.  As the Catholic Church and the LDS Church have been able to work together on many social and moral issues, it seems wonderful that today we can co-exist in the city of the headquarters of the LDS Church (Salt Lake City), and the headquarters of the Catholic Church.

While this entry is not to critique the ceremonies (or in LDS-speak “ordinances”) that occur in the temple (that will occur at a later date), a brief overview is warranted.  As said before, temples are only open to those that have a “recommend” (prior to the dedication of a new temple, there will be an ‘open house’ period, where anyone can go and tour the facilities).  Mormons do not go to the temple on Sundays.  Instead, they go to “meetinghouses”, which are open to anyone.  Temples are not open on Sundays for that reason.  In the temple, Mormons participate in ceremonies, called ordinances, that they believe are necessary for exaltation, or becoming like God (some term this “becoming gods”).  Mormons also have a theology related to the dead, where certain ceremonies that are seen as necessary for exaltation can be done here on earth, by proxy (meaning that a living person stands in for the deceased person).  So, while a Latter-day Saint may go to temple for themselves, they may also go to perform the ceremonies for their ancestors.  This is why Mormons are known for their genealogy work.

Because Mormons, like Catholics, believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, they practice an ordinance called “baptism for the dead” in the temple.  In this, a living person is baptized, as they would be for themselves, except the words “for and in behalf of [name], who is dead” are added to the baptismal formula.  So, instead of saying, “OneCatholic, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”, the temple worker would say “OneCatholic, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you for and in behalf of [name], who is dead, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”.  Through this, the deceased have an opportunity to accept or reject this proxy baptism, giving them the opportunity to be saved.  The ordinances of confirmation (basically equivalent to Catholic confirmation) and ordination (LDS have a semi-universal priesthood among males, where it is seen as necessary to hold the higher priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, for exaltation) are also done for the dead.

Mormons also typically are married in the temple.  This ceremony is called a “sealing” ceremony.  In this ceremony, the couple is not married till death, but for time and all eternity.  LDS believe that marriage can be eternal, and that this occurs in the temple.  Again, this ordinance can be performed for deceased couples.  All children that are born to the couple are sealed to their parents as well.  If a family converts, all members of the family, including the children, go to the sealing room and are bound together for eternity.

The final ordinance that occurs in the temple is called the Endowment.  The Endowment is a portrayal of the LDS “plan of salvation”.  It depicts the creation of the universe, the fall of man, salvation, and gives us the knowledge that we need to be exalted, to enter the highest degree of Heaven, the Celestial Kingdom.  The Celestial Kingdom is symbolized in the LDS temple by the “celestial room”.

So, the rooms of the temple are organized around these ceremonies.  There is a waiting area, endowment rooms, sealing rooms, and the baptismal.  There are other ancillary rooms, such as where a “washing and anointing” ordinance occurs prior to the endowment, a bride’s room, lockers, etc.  The Salt Lake Temple also has rooms for the various higher priesthood offices.

Here are a few videos from Youtube that show what the inside of a temple looks like.  None of these videos depict actual temple ceremonies.

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~ by onecatholic on September 10, 2009.

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