The ceremonies performed in the Mormon temple are the highest form of worship for a Mormon and afford the greatest blessings promised by the Lord. The temple is a sacred place designated as set apart from the world. It is a sanctuary for the faithful to come out of the world and worship God and receive instruction. When a new temple is built, there is an open house where the public is invited to tour the building and admire its beauty and learn about its purpose in the Mormon religion. After the building is dedicated, only Mormons who have been found worthy by their ecclesiastical leaders may enter. Worthiness is determined by personal interviews where the person is asked about their belief in the doctrines of the Mormon Church and their diligence in obeying the laws and commandments. When a person is found worthy he or she is issued a temple recommend which the member must show at the front door to gain entrance. This exclusivity is to maintain the Mormon temple as a sacred space of devotion and worship. Those possessing a temple recommend are not without sin, but are held to a high standard in order to preserve the more sacred nature of the temple environment.
Despite a ‘members only’ policy, the worship performed in the Mormon temple is not secret. Again, to maintain the sacred nature of the worship performed there, it is not discussed outside of the temple. Reserving a special place for the temple ceremony makes it more significant. Discussing it outside the temple in casual conversation would take it away from its sacred space and allow it to be taken more lightly.
There are three ordinances performed in the Mormon temple: baptism for the dead, the endowment ceremony, and the sealing ceremony. The purpose of these ordinances is to enter into covenants with the Lord. Faithful obedience to these covenants promises the highest blessings the Lord has offered.
Worshipping in the temple is often referred to as “temple work” by Mormons. This is the work for the salvation of the dead. Mormons believe that the justice of God will allow all people who ever lived on the earth an opportunity to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who did not have a chance on earth will have the gospel preached to them in the world of spirits. The ordinances of salvation are performed for the dead by proxy in hope that the person will accept the gospel in the spirit world and the covenant made on his or her behalf will become binding. It is for this reason that Mormons are heavily invested in genealogy. The Mormon Church teaches that a family can aid in the exaltation of their ancestors by providing these covenants. The Church also performs general research, finding as many people as it can. The doctrine of the salvation of the dead teaches that everyone who has ever lived must receive these ordinances, so it is the goal of the Mormon Church to perform them for everyone.
Baptism is the first ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ and is essential for salvation. Baptism for a living person may be performed in any body of water deep enough for immersion that is below ground level (to symbolize burial and resurrection, or rebirth). A river, an ocean, even swimming pools are occasionally used, however most larger Mormon chapels are now built with a baptismal font inside for this purpose. Baptism for the dead is only performed inside the Mormon temple. Only adults are issued temple recommends, but youth ages 12 and older can get limited-use recommends to enter Mormon temples and be baptized for the dead.
The Mormon endowment ceremony is performed for oneself the first time. The person is symbolically washed and anointed, becoming clean, and then clothed. (The symbolic washing does not include immersion, and clothing is changed in the dressing room.) The clothing is the Mormon underwear that is worn for the rest of one’s life. The endowment ceremony is then attended. Rich with symbolism, the ceremony instructively sets forth the Creation, Fall, and Redemption of mankind. It is a participatory ceremony and at certain times those in attendance make covenants with God, who promises blessings to the faithful. Part of the ceremony includes dressing in special robes and remembering the covenants made which are repeated by the participant at the end. After the first time, each time one returns to the Mormon temple the endowment is performed on behalf of someone who is dead and has had baptism already performed for them. While performing the endowment as proxy a person is able to gain greater understanding of the symbols and meanings of the ceremony as well as receive personal revelation while worshipping in the holy temple. In this way temple worship is a learning experience every time.
The sealing ceremony is called such because it is performed by a priesthood-holding officiator with the authority to seal in heaven what is sealed on earth. A sealing joins a husband and wife in eternal marriage. This is the crowning ordinance of the Mormon temple and is necessary to obtain the very highest honors given by the Lord to mankind. This is also a covenant which promises blessings to the obedient. Most countries grant a civil marriage for the sealing ceremony in the Mormon temple and this is often called a temple marriage. Children born to a couple sealed by this ceremony are already sealed to their parents. If a couple has already been civilly married they are sealed together for eternity in the Mormon temple by this same ceremony. If they have living children, or have legally adopted, the children also participate in the ceremony to be sealed to their parents. The sealing ceremony may be performed by proxy for the dead by any person who has received his or her endowment.
The ordinances of baptism, the endowment, and finally a temple sealing, prepare a person to return to the presence of God and gain all the blessings that God has promised the faithful in the highest kingdom of heaven. The Mormon temple provides a place on earth to receive these sacred ordinances and perform them on behalf of those who died without receiving them. This salvation of the dead is the great work of the last days to prepare for the second coming of the Lord.
More information about Mormon Temples
Temple (Mormonism) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia