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Temple (LDS Church)

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), a temple is a building dedicated to be a House of the Lord, and they are considered by church members to be the most sacred structures on earth. Upon completion, temples are usually open to the public for a short period of time (an "Open House"). During the Open House, the church conducts tours of the temple with missionaries and members from the local area serving as tour guides, and all rooms of the temple are open to the public. The temple is then dedicated as a "House of the Lord", after which only members who are deemed worthy are permitted entrance. Thus, they are not churches (meetinghouses) but rather places of worship.[1] The church is a prolific builder of temples as temples hold a key place in LDS theology. There are 144 operating temples (which includes 3 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 14 under construction, and 12 announced (not yet under construction). At present, there are temples in many U.S. states, as well as in many countries across the world. Several temples are at sacred sites of the LDS Church, such as Nauvoo, Illinois and Palmyra, New York. The importance of temples is often emphasized in weekly meetings, and regular participation in temple work is strongly encouraged for all Latter-day Saints (LDS).

= Operating temples
= Temples under construction
= Announced temples
= Wasatch Front, Utah area temples
(i.e., SLC area: 9: Oper.; 2: Under Const.)
= Temples closed, destroyed, operated by others, or efforts suspended.

Within temples, members of the church make covenants, receive instructions, and perform sacred ceremonies and ordinances, such as: baptism for the dead, washing and anointing (or "initiatory" ordinances), the endowment, and eternal marriage sealings. Ordinances are a vital part of the theology of the church, which teaches that they were practiced by the Lord's covenant people in all dispensations. Additionally, members consider the temple a place to commune with God, seek God’s aid, understand the will of God, and receive personal revelation.


Biblical references - Old Testament

Latter Day Saints cite various Old Testament references to temple ordinances such as those found in , and . The words "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" can be found on LDS temples as referenced in .

According to the LDS Bible Dictionary a temple is defined as::

A temple is literally a house of the Lord, a holy sanctuary in which sacred ceremonies and ordinances of the gospel are performed by and for the living and also in behalf of the dead. A place where the Lord may come, it is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness. Whenever the Lord has had a people on the earth who will obey his word, they have been commanded to build temples in which the ordinances of the gospel and other spiritual manifestations that pertain to exaltation and eternal life may be administered. In cases of extreme poverty or emergency, these ordinances may sometimes be done on a mountaintop (see D&C 124:37–55). This may be the case with Mount Sinai and the Mount of Transfiguration. The tabernacle erected by Moses was a type of portable temple, since the Israelites were traveling in the wilderness. From Adam to the time of Jesus, ordinances were performed in temples for the living only. After Jesus opened the way for the gospel to be preached in the world of spirits, ceremonial work for the dead, as well as for the living, has been done in temples on the earth by faithful members of the Church. Building and properly using a temple is one of the marks of the true Church in any dispensation, and is especially so in the present day. The best known temple mentioned in the Bible is that which was built in Jerusalem in the days of Solomon. This was later partially destroyed in 600 B.C., and restored by Zerubbabel almost a hundred years later. This structure was partially burned in 37 B.C., and was subsequently partially rebuilt by Herod the Great, although the rebuilding continued until A.D. 64. It was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.[2]

Likewise the Tabernacle was considered a "portable temple" by the children of Israel in the Old Testament:

Tabernacle. The center place of Israel’s worship activities during the wanderings and until the building of the temple in Solomon’s day. The tabernacle was in fact a portable temple. It was an inner tent, the area available for sacred purposes (Ex. 26:7; 36:14). It was oblong, 30 cubits in length and 10 in breadth and height. Its north, west, and south sides were made of 46 boards (10 cubits by 1½) and 2 narrower corner ones of acacia wood (Ex. 26:15), overlaid with gold (26:29). These boards were fitted with golden rings, through which were passed bars of acacia wood overlaid with gold to fasten all firmly together. Suspended over them, and serving as an inner lining to the tent covering, was the rich covering—10 curtains (each 28 cubits by 4) made of fine twined linen, and blue and purple and scarlet, embroidered with figures of cherubim (Ex. 26:1).[3]

Post 1830 temples

LDS temple construction reached an all-time high in 2000. As of May 2013, there are 141 operating temples.[4]

The first Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies were performed in Kirtland, Ohio, but differed significantly from the endowment performed on the second floor of Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois and the Nauvoo Temple. Kirtland ordinances included washings and anointings (differing in many ways from the modern portion) and the washing of the feet ordinance. For nearly four years beginning in 1842, the prophet’s modest mercantile functioned as a de facto temple—the site of the first washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings. In contrast, the grand edifice known as the Nauvoo Temple was in operation for only two months before the Saints left Illinois for the West.

Preparations to initiate the first members of Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed,[5] or Holy Order, as it was also known, were made on May 3, 1842. The walls of the second level of the Red Brick Store were painted with garden-themed murals, the rooms fitted with carpets, potted plants, and a veil hung from the ceiling. All the while, the ground level continued to operate as Joseph Smith’s general mercantile.

After the early events of the succession crisis, Brigham Young assumed control of the church's headquarters at Nauvoo, Illinois. While he and the rest of the Quorum of the Twelve made contingency plans for abandoning the city, he may have hoped that it would not prove necessary. For example, in early 1845 he held a conference at the Norwegian colony at Norway, Illinois and announced a plan to build a Latter-day Saint town there with a temple for the use of the Norwegian Saints.

Meanwhile Young urged the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo to redouble their efforts to finish the temple. By the end of 1845, the building was sufficiently finished to allow temple ordinances to be performed. Ordinances continued to be performed in early 1846 as the Mormons were forced to abandon the city. A small crew remained in the city and continued to work on the temple until April 30, 1846, when it was privately, yet formally, dedicated by Joseph Young, the senior of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy. It was used for 3 months, then abandoned in late Summer 1846. The completed temple was eventually destroyed by fire, and the remaining structure was later demolished by a whirlwind.

Upon reaching the Logan (1884) and Manti (1888). The Salt Lake Temple took 40 years to complete because of various setbacks and delays. It was dedicated in 1893.

Latter-day Saint temple building halted until the presidency of Joseph F. Smith who announced two additional temples: Cardston, Alberta (1913) and ʻie, Hawaiʻi (1915). Cardston became the first Latter-day Saint temple dedicated outside of the United States. Smith broke with the previous tradition (established since Kirtland) of building temples with upper and lower courts. Temples previously had been ever larger, but the Laie, Hawaii temple was smaller than the Nauvoo Temple had been.

Both Cardston and Laie were dedicated under church president Idaho Falls, Idaho. David O. McKay dedicated five additional temples including one in Bern, Switzerland — which was the first temple dedicated in Europe and the first temple to use film recording of the endowment rather than live actors. Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated a temple in Ogden, Utah and Harold B. Lee dedicated its twin in Provo, Utah.

Spencer W. Kimball began a plan to build many more smaller temples according to standardized plans. Twenty-one temples were dedicated during his presidency, including the tiny Papeete Tahiti Temple — which was less than 10,000 square feet (900 m²). This trend has continued. Nine additional temples were dedicated in the presidency of Ezra Taft Benson and two in the brief presidency of Howard W. Hunter.

Under church president Gordon B. Hinckley, the church dedicated seventy-seven temples. In 1997, Hinckley introduced a standardized, smaller temple plan designed to bring temple services to smaller or remote congregations at a reduced cost. The first of this new generation of temples was completed in 1998 with the Monticello Utah Temple. The original plan called for 6,800 square feet (630 m2), later increased to 10,700 square feet (990 m2). Subsequent revisions to the standard design further increased the size and complexity of the temples. The majority of the temples dedicated under Hinckley's tenure were of the smaller design, but one particularly noteworthy achievement was the rebuilding of the temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, known as the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

Twelve temples have been dedicated under current church president Thomas S. Monson (as of December 2011). There are 144 operating temples (which includes 3 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 14 under construction, and 12 announced (not yet under construction).

The spires of the Salt Lake Temple at night


Temples have a different purpose from LDS meetinghouses.[1] Today, temples serve two main purposes: (1) Temples are locations in which worthy Latter-day Saints can perform sacred ordinances on behalf of themselves, their deceased ancestors, or unrelated deceased persons whose names are compiled from historical records through the church's Family Record Extraction Program. (2) Temples are considered to be Houses of Holiness where members can go to commune with God.

Ezra Taft Benson, a former church president, taught:

When I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. These answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways.[6]

Such personal revelation can be received as needed, but many feel that it is easier to receive such revelation when one is in a place as peaceful and apart from the world as temples are.

Symbolism in the temple

A doorknob of the Salt Lake Temple bearing an image of a beehive and carrying the inscription, "Holiness to the Lord"

Many things in the temple are considered to be symbolic, from the clothing worn (those who attend the temple dress in white, a symbol of purity), to the building and rooms, to the ceremonies themselves.

Latter-day Saint temples are constructed with several symbolic elements meant to represent their religious theology. Each temple has the words "Holiness to the Lord" inscribed on it, representing the same inscription on the Old Testament Temple of Solomon.

Most temples are built facing East, the direction from which Jesus Christ is prophesied to return. The spires and towers on the East end of multi-spired temples are elevated higher than spires and towers on the West side for this same reason, and to represent the Melchizedek, or Higher Priesthood.

Some temples, like Salt Lake, Chicago, and Washington D.C. have triple spires on each side of the temple representing the three different offices in both the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood.

Stones carved with sun, moon, and earth or star designs are placed in ascending order around the Salt Lake Temple facade to represent the Latter-day Saint belief in a Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdom, or Three Degrees of Glory in the afterlife. However, they are arranged using the description of the woman found in Revelation 12:1 which says "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."

A statue of the Angel Moroni, stands atop most temples built after the Salt Lake Temple. The statue design represents the Latter-day Saint belief that Moroni was the angel spoken of in Revelation 14.[7]

Temple ordinances

The Laie Hawaii Temple is the fifth oldest Latter-day Saint temple and the first built outside the North American continent. It is also one of three temples designed to look like Solomon's Temple in scripture and one of the few temples without spires.

LDS Church members perform rituals (termed ordinances) within temples. They are taught that temple ordinances are essential to achieving the condition of Exaltation (Mormonism) after the final judgment. They are also taught that a vast number of dead souls exist in a condition termed as spirit prison, and that a dead individual upon whom the temple ordinances are completed will have a chance to be freed of this imprisoning condition. In this framework ordinances are said to be completed on behalf of either the participant, or a dead individual the same sex as the participant ("on behalf of the dead" or "by proxy").

Ordinances performed in the temple include:

Most ordinances are performed by proxy only on participants who have already completed the ordinance. Similarly, most ordinances are completed only one time for a participant in a lifetime and all subsequent temple ordinance participation is seen as acting for a dead individual. Baptism, confirmation, and priesthood ordination are performed in temples exclusively when on behalf of the dead. The initiatory, endowment, and sealing ceremonies are today performed only within a temple.

The sealing ordinance can be performed on behalf of dead couples; and so long as the two participants are of opposite sex they need not be married. It is also performed on behalf of living couples who wish to be legally married. In this manner, the ordinance is typically performed as a celestial marriage, with the idea the marriage bond literally lasts after their death, or for "time and all eternity". A "time only" modification can be made to the ordinance, such as when the surviving widow of a celestial marriage wishes to legally remarry.[8] If children were born to the couple prior to the couple's sealing ceremony, the parents and the children may also be sealed together to form an eternal family unit. Children born to a couple after the sealing ceremony are considered to be automatically sealed to the parents, or "born in the covenant".

Entrance requirements

The Washington D.C. Temple is the 16th Latter-day Saint temple.
The Preston England Temple, located outside Chorley, Lancashire, England.

The LDS Church booklet "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple" explains that Latter-day Saints "do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples." Further, the booklet states:

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 the church urges every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience.[9]

To enter the temple, an individual must be baptized, and after one year, may seek a temple recommend. The individual is interviewed by his/her bishop, during which the candidate is asked a series of questions to determine worthiness to enter the temple. The individual is also interviewed by his or her stake president. The bishop and stake president sign the recommend, indicating their approval of that member's worthiness. The individual also signs the recommend, acknowledging the responsibility to remain worthy to hold the recommend. A recommend is valid for two years.

Worthiness interview

To qualify for a temple recommend, a member must faithfully answer a series of questions which affirm the individual's adherence to essential church doctrine. The questions address the following:[10]

  • Faith in and testimony of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost,
  • Testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • Testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.
  • Sustain the President of the Church and his authority, and other general authorities and local church leaders.
  • Living the law of chastity.
  • Relationships with family members as being in harmony with church teachings.
  • Support for or affiliation with any group or individual with teachings or practices that are not in agreement with church teachings.
  • Making a good faith effort to keep the covenants the individual has made, to attend church meetings and keep their life in harmony with the gospel.
  • Honesty in dealings with others.
  • Paying a full tithe.
  • Keeping the Word of Wisdom.
  • Payment of and keeping current on child support or alimony, if applicable.
  • If already attending the temple, does the individual keep the covenants made in the temple and wear the temple garment "night and day" according to the covenants made in the temple.
  • Making a full confession of any serious sins to church leaders.
  • Regarding oneself worthy to enter the temple and take part in the ordinances within.

History of interview questions

A list of questions were first introduced in 1857 and used to qualify whether an individual could enter the Endowment House, before the first temple in Utah was built. They reflected the context of the times, including questions about branding an animal that you did not own and using another person's irrigation water.[11] Since then, the temple recommend questions have changed significantly, though less so in recent years. In 1996, the first question about a belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was split into three questions. A second question was modified to ask if the member sustained the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators. The question about wearing the garments was qualified, added a clause about wearing them as instructed in the temple.[12] In 1999, a simplified question about financial obligations was asked of all members, not just divorced members.[13] In 2012, the question about wearing the garments was slightly modified to clarify that the garments should not be worn separately.

Types of recommends

The standard Temple Recommend authorizes a member who has been baptized at least one year prior to take part in all temple ordinances and is good for two years.[10] A Recommend for Living Ordinances is given to individuals who are receiving their endowments for the first time, being sealed to a spouse, and anyone being married in the temple for time only. It may only be used in conjunction with a standard Temple Recommend.[10] A Limited-use Recommend is available to members who have not yet received their endowment or who have not been a member for one year. These may also be issued to a group for a single visit to the temple.[10] These can be issued to youth 12 and older who will take part in specific temple ordinances, to single members age 8-20 who are preparing to be sealed to their parents, or for individuals, not endowed, who want to observe specific ordinances. The church member must meet the same worthiness standards as a standard temple recommend in an interview with the member's bishop. Unlike the temple recommend, a limited-use recommend does not require a year's membership nor an interview with a stake president. A limited-use recommend is only valid for proxy baptisms and confirmation ordinances.

Emergency access

Those without recommends occasionally need to enter temples after dedication during fires, medical emergencies, or building inspections. They are escorted by temple personnel during such visits. Temples may offer introductory tours to new local firefighters and emergency medical technicians during regularly scheduled maintenance periods.[14]

An LDS Temple in Omaha, Nebraska

Temple weddings

The LDS temple wedding is a process which culminates in the participation by the couple in a ritual called the sealing ordinance; which involves pronouncing the couple as having a permanent marriage bond which persists even beyond death. This ceremony, among others, is taught as being vital to an individual's and family's exaltation status, following the final judgment.

A temple marriage is held inside a temple, so a temple recommend is required to attend the ceremony. Couples who initially marry outside the temple must wait one year before they can be sealed in the temple; unless couples reside in situations where governments restrict the ability for a legal marriage to take place in the temple, as is the case in many European countries with strict secular marriage laws.

Receptions after the temple ceremony, or engagement parties before the temple marriage, can always be attended by anyone, since they are typically held at locations such as local LDS chapels, homes, other churches or other public venues.

See also


  1. ^ a b "News Release", Newsroom ( 
  2. ^ "",  
  3. ^ "",  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Anderson, Devery S.; Bergera, James, eds. (2005). Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845: A Documentary History. Salt Lake City:  
  6. ^  
  7. ^  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ "These Things Are Sacred", Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, LDS Church, 2002 
  10. ^ a b c d  .
  11. ^ Allred, Alma (March 22, 2007), "Mormon Temple Recommend Questions", ByteLine: Comments on Religion and Politics ( 
  12. ^ "News",  
  13. ^ "Update",  
  14. ^ Federico, Hillary (2012-05-25). "Mormon Temple, Massachusetts Neighbors Live In Peace". Hartford Courant. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 


Further reading

External links

  • Temples at, an official LDS Church website
  • Frequently Asked Questions: Temples at, an official LDS Church website
  • Topical bibliography + LDS Temple Preparation FAQ at
  • Mormon Temples at
  • Temple Geography Links at
  • History of Mormon Temples at
  • Mormon Temples at
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