I have a handful of neighbors and relatives who have asked with genuine curiosity, "What's the deal with Mormons and the temple?" Well, I'm glad y'all asked. Here's your big chance.
First, a word about the name of the church. It's not the church of Mormon. It's the church of Jesus Christ. We follow his teachings and we try to be like him. We pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus. He stands as our great Mediator and Redeemer. He is the reason we go to church.
Mormon is the name of a great Native American writer, warrior and prophet. He's the man who wrote down the history of his people. What did he write on? How did he make a record that would last hundreds of years? Papyrus? no, he used tools and etched his words into a gold alloy. The records were heavy. If you ever want to read a fascinating history with tons of war chapters, drama, and life lessons, y'all need to check out The Book of Mormon. It stands with the Bible as another testament of Jesus Christ.
Now to answer your question. More than anything, the temple is like a school or university. Last week Norm and Cade and I drove to Oklahoma City, so while this is fresh in my memory, you get all the details on why.
My temple prep began when I was a little girl. If I were to compare this preparation to school, like elementary and middle and high school, you begin to see that each grade prepares you for the next. So for Cade to go to the temple for the first time last week, it's like the equivalent of graduating from college and being admitted into grad school. Is he done learning? Not even close.
My learning took place at home with my parents, at church, at early morning seminary, at religion classes in college, and through a lot of "homework," or personal time spent praying and pondering and searching.
Elementary school - Songs from my childhood
- I am a Child of God
- I Love to See the Temple
- Families Can Be Together Forever
Middle school - Stuff I began to understand when I was 12
- Family History - the hearts of the children turn to their fathers. Malachi 4:6
- Baptism for the Dead - sounds weird at first, but go here for more details
- Priesthood - From Adam to Abraham to Simon Peter to John the Baptist to now
- House of Israel
- Old Testament (9th grade)
- New Testament (10th grade)
- Church doctrine and History (11th grade)
- Book of Mormon (12th grade)
- First half of the Old Testament
- Second half of the Old Testament
- Book of Mormon
- Teachings of Prophets
When I was getting ready to go on a mission to Paraguay, my parents took me to the temple in St. George, Utah. The Las Vegas temple was closed for a month or two that summer, so we drove north.
Temple 101: Before you even walk through the door
- Interview with your Bishop
- Interview with your Stake President
- A temple recommend = Promise to be good, not do stupid stuff, etc
- Worthy. Will you keep the commandments?
- Willing. Do agree to be an active participant and not just an idle spectator? Will you love your neighbor and serve them and not be selfish all the time?
- What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? If this is your primary goal, then great. You're in the right place.
- Fall - Adam and Eve
- Atonement - Jesus Christ
- What is a Covenant?
- Receive your own endowment. We really liked this book that we shared with Cade recently.
- Temple Garments here
- Marriage for Eternity
So for my oldest son, he'll continue learning a ton during his two years in Finland, and he'll continue learning throughout life. That's the whole point. We are consistently refined by difficult experiences and life lessons as we keep choosing to follow God.
Ultimately, Norm and I hope that each of our kids will enter adulthood, choose to receive their temple endowment, maybe go on a mission, and marry and have that marriage sealed in the Holy Temple. The whole point of the temple is to point us back to Heavenly Father.
Other fun details:
- If the temple has a golden Angel Moroni statue atop one of the spires, his trumpet will face east. (My parents always used to joke that the Las Vegas temple is built with Moroni's back to the wicked city.) see Revelation 14:6-7
- As of this current writing, there are 251 temples in existence worldwide, either under construction or in operation. see here. Every April and October, one of the exciting parts of General Conference is to listen for where any new temples will be built.
- The SLC temple has been undergoing a massive renovation project. See more here
- Utah has 27 temples
- Texas has 5 temples, listed from oldest to youngest: Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio, and McAllen
- Oklahoma City has a temple in Yukon. It was built in 2000, later closed because of mold damage, and then rededicated in 2019. The stained glass windows have a Native American theme, with cornflowers and wheat motif running throughout. It's super small, but one of the most gorgeous temples I've ever seen.
- Public open houses are a time for curious people to walk through and get a behind-the-scenes tour of operations. Tickets are free, dress is business casual.
- Anytime a temple is built in a neighborhood, property values rise substantially.
- The two most expensive temples ever built: Rome and San Antonio
- When pioneers built the Kirtland temple, they used china brought from England, ground into powder to make the walls sparkle.
- Norm and I got married in Manti, one of the oldest pioneer era temples.
I've included a LOT of links in this essay. If you want to read one more blurb, this one is well written, insightful and pretty recent. Elder David Bednar spoke to the general church membership in 2019 and you can find his remarks here. I highly recommend it.
If you ever have a chance to tour a temple for an open house, do it. If you live near a smaller temple that's already in operation, you can enter the gates and walk around outside, respectfully, without an invitation. It's not for use as a dog park or playground, but people of any faith welcome to tour the grounds. If you're ever in SLC, you can tour the conference center and the tabernacle now, even while the temple is being renovated. The sister missionaries won't try to persuade you to do anything, they'll let you walk around on your own if you want. But there's a feeling of peace and serenity that is undeniable. My main take-away from our trip to the temple last week is PEACE. I felt an overwhelming amount of love and gratitude and peace in this holy setting. Temples are a place away from the hustle and bustle and commotion of day to day life. As the world increases in chaos and calamity, I love that the temple is a refuge and shelter from the storm. Most temples have these words etched in stone: Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.