Temples are a central component to the doctrine of the LDS Church. The temple serves as the place to carry out essential and sacred covenants which are paramount toward inheriting eternal life. “The principal purpose of temples is to provide the ordinances necessary for our exaltation in the celestial kingdom.” (True to the Faith, p. 170)
Mormons believe the temple is also a place of learning. They will receive instructions and revelations while making sacred covenants in conjunction with carrying out ordinances necessary for exaltation. The ordinances include receiving their endowment and having their marriage (celestial marriage) and children sealed “for time and eternity.” The most common activity performed at the temple is ordinances for the dead. For those who died and did not receive ordinances in their mortal life, faithful Mormons will carry them out in their place. This activity, also known as temple work, is a means for faithful Mormon to eternally progress toward exaltation.
Mormons will refer to the temple as a place of worship, but only in the sense of carrying out these important sacred duties and covenants associated with the LDS plan of salvation.
“All we do in the Church — our meetings and activities, our missionary efforts, the lessons we teach and the hymns we sing – should point us to the Savior and the work we do in holy temples.” (True to the Faith, p. 170-171)
The temple is so important to the life and the faith of a Mormon that it holds the same place of importance as the cross for a Christian. Faithful Mormons will often have a large portrait of an LDS temple hung in a prominent place in their homes.
Not every Mormon is eligible to enter an LDS temple. An involved process to “certify” a Mormon’s worthiness includes an interview by their bishop and the stake or mission president. In these interviews, the bishop will ask about the Mormon’s testimony, personal conduct, and support of church authorities. “You will be asked to confirm that you are morally clean and that you keep the Word of Wisdom, pay a full tithe, live in harmony with the teachings of the Church, and do not maintain any affiliation or sympathy with apostate groups.” (True to the Faith, p. 172) A temple recommend is given if a Mormon is proven to be worthy. This card, which is renewed every two years, is presented to officials at the entrance of a temple.
Inside the temple, the participants must wear temple clothing. “Dressed in white, you can feel a oneness and a sense of equality with others in the temple, for everyone around you is similarly dressed.” (True to the Faith, p. 173) Outside the temple, Mormons wear temple garments to help remind them of the instructions and the covenants made in the temple. They believe these garments also provide protection against temptation and evil.
Temples were a central component of the Old Testament Church. They served to remind the Israelite people of that sin separates them from God and thus, could not go inside the temple. To acknowledge the breaking of God’s covenant (sin), animals were sacrificed at the temple in place of the person. These rituals all pointed to the future sacrifice God provided to atone for the sin of all people. Temple buildings are no longer necessary in the New Testament church since all believers are now a holy temple (1 Cor. 3:16) where the Holy Spirit dwells.