Temple worship is not something that began with Mormons–it is a practice that has appeared in many religions and cultures for centuries. The ancient Jews worshipped in temples, as did the Greeks and Romans. Hindus, Buddhists, and many other religions also have sacred ties to temples. To Latter-day Saints, a temple is a sacred place to worship God.
With the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, God found it necessary to restore temple worship to the earth. The first Mormon temple built in recent times was constructed in Kirtland, Ohio in 1836. Because of persecution and other reasons, Mormons were forced to leave Kirtland and abandon their temple.
Mormons also built a temple in Nauvoo, Illinois but were also forced from their homes. It was from here that many Mormon pioneers trekked across the great plains and over the Rocky Mountains to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. The Nauvoo temple was later destroyed by both natural and malicious causes.
Temple worship is a major part of Mormon life. As of May 2010, there are over 130 operating LDS temples with temples in various parts of the world, from Chile, to Canada, to Germany, to Hong Kong.
What is a Temple?
Mormons believe the temple is a house of God–a place to worship and participate in sacred ordinances and to make special covenants with God. Mormon temples are not normal meeting houses. In fact, all temples are closed on Sundays when Mormons typically go to church in most parts of the world.
Who Can Go Inside Mormon Temples?
Whereas anyone is welcome to a normal meeting house for Sunday worship or other activities, the opportunity of entering temples is reserved for members of the Church you have been baptized and found worthy to enter the house of the Lord.
The one exception to this is during what is referred to as an “open house.” Once a temple is completed, the Church holds an open house for the public. Depending on the location, the open house can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. After this period of time, the temple will be dedicated and set apart as a house of God.
I like that the Church does this. It’s a great opportunity for anyone from any faith to see what it looks like inside a Mormon temple and to learn a little about what is done in temples. Many critics of the church accuse Mormons of being secretive of what happens inside temples. While it is true we do not share openly and in detail what happens inside temples, we do so out of a sense of reverence for the sacred things that take place.
What Happens Inside Mormon Temples?
There are several things that happen inside the temple. The most important event that takes place in temples is marriages. Inside temples, couples are married together for time and eternity. We refer to this as a sealing. For more what happens inside temples, click here.