Sunday, December 04, 2011

Mormon Temples: What is a temple?

(This is the first part of a series of posts on the temple)

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “churches” are different than “temples.” A church is a building where we hold Sunday worship services (sacrament meetings), youth activities, dances, sports events, devotionals, scouting courts of honor, dinners, receptions, etc. etc. Church buildings are open to the public and anyone is invited to meetings we hold there. There are probably on the order of 10,000 LDS church buildings around the world. Typical church buildings look like this:

Temples, on the other hand, are rare and very special. There are only about 140 LDS temples in the world. They are constructed with great care out of the finest materials available and they are dedicated for special worship activity that is distinct and separate than a standard Sunday service. ( In fact, temples are closed on Sundays.)

Here are some pictures of temples:

Salt Lake City

San Diego

Hong Kong

In the temple, Mormons perform various religious rites, or “ordinances.” An example of an ordinance would be baptism. Mormons don’t talk about the specifics of these ordinances outside of the temple, not because such things are secret, but because they are sacred. Put another way, if we simply talked about temple rites any time and any place, these things would lose their air of reverence and dignity. If you know a Mormon, it is useful to understand that it is deeply upsetting to them to see the sacred things of the temple paraded in public and/or ridiculed.

When temples are first built, they are considered regular buildings until they are dedicated by the president of the church (“The Prophet”) or someone delegated by the President. Before that time, there is an “open house” period where general members of the public may enter the temple and see the inside. At a temple dedication, the temple and surrounding grounds are filled will local members of the church. This is a time greeted with joy and celebration by Mormons.

In my next post, I will talk about who may enter temples after they are dedicated. As always, please feel free to send me questions about Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I will try to put up some thoughtful answers in my blog.

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