To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons as they are often called, no building is more sacred than the temple. Temples are where essential, eternal ordinances are performed.
To people who are unfamiliar with Mormonism, it may seem odd that only certain Mormons are allowed in temples. They often think the secrecy must mean something odd is going on inside temples. However, it is because the things which happen in temples are sacred, not secret, that only those who meet the Lord’s standards are allowed to enter. To enter a Mormon temple one needs a temple recommend, which can only be obtained after a worthy member interviews with his or her bishop and then stake president. However, before a temple is dedicated as holy to the Lord, open houses are held when anyone can walk through a temple, whether a member of the Church or not. Mormon temples are beautifully made, inside and out, and there’s nothing mysterious about the rooms. People who walk through won’t find anything to startle them, but often comment on the peace and the beauty of the building.
After temples are dedicated, Mormons perform sacred ordinances that they can’t perform anywhere else. The first time someone goes through the temple, he or she performs these ordinances for him- or herself. Afterwards, they can perform these ordinances by proxy for those who have already left this life without having the opportunity to learn of the gospel and to perform these ordinances for themselves. This does not mean that once an ordinance is done by proxy that that person becomes a member of the Church against his or her will. It merely means he or she now has the opportunity to choose whether or not to accept that work.
Only one temple ordinance can be performed by proxy by the youth of the Church and that is baptism for the dead. This means that the youth can be baptized for someone who did not have the opportunity to be baptized while he or she was alive. Baptisms for the dead are only performed in temples in a special font which is set on the backs of twelve carved oxen, which represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
An endowment is given to an individual who is preparing to get married in the temple or who is preparing to go on a mission. In the endowment, members learn more about the Plan of Salvation and our purpose here on earth. After a member has been endowed, he or she starts wearing temple garments (often inaccurately called “Mormon underwear”) which are an outward reminder of the inward commitments one has made in the temple, as well as a reminder of the blessings which have been promised if one is obedient to the covenants made.
Another ordinance performed in the temple is a sealing, which is an eternal marriage. If the couple sealed keeps the promises made in the sealing, they can live together forever. This bond extends to their children. Families are the fundamental structure of eternity in Mormon belief. This doctrine is especially comforting to couples who have lost a child.
While the only ordinance youth can perform in the temple is baptisms for the dead, each youth should have the temple as his or her goal. Everything that is done in The Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints points to the temple because it is of eternal importance and significance. It is essential for our ultimate salvation in the highest degree of eternal life.