At the dedication of the Logan Temple in 1884, LDS Apostle Franklin D. Richards said, "The Temples, the houses of our God, when acceptably dedicated, become to us the gates of heaven. They are esteemed most holy unto the Lord of all places upon the earth; therein the faithful approach nearest unto God, and obtain the greatest fellowship and inspiration of His Holy Spirit."1
It is surprising for some to learn that LDS temples are not used for worship services, nor are they open to the public as one would expect a church building to be. In fact, fewer than 20 percent of adult Mormons themselves hold a valid 'temple recommend' which is required to gain entrance into a temple.2 In view of this, an astonishing 80 percent of Mormon Church members are not afforded the alleged opportunity to "approach nearest unto God, and obtain the greatest fellowship and inspiration of His Holy Spirit."
In order to acquire a 'temple recommend' a Mormon must be deemed 'worthy' through penetrating interviews with Church leaders; first with his or her bishop and then with the stake president. In these interviews the member is asked questions about Church attendance, payments of tithes and offerings, loyalty to Church leaders, moral cleanliness, overall faithfulness and worthiness, and obedience to the Word of Wisdom (Practically speaking, this is abstention from coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco).3 If one is found worthy the 'recommend' is issued and will allow the bearer access to any of the world's numerous LDS temples for the period of two years--provided the bearer remains worthy.
LDS people view the temple and all that goes on inside as being very sacred. In fact, most will not discuss any aspect of the temple with non-Mormons and, if obedient, will not even discuss it among themselves outside of temple walls. When asked about the secrecy surrounding LDS temples Mormons will insist, "It's sacred, not secret." These same people believe the Book of Mormon to be sacred, too, yet they have no problem proclaiming it to the world.
The fact of the matter is that prior to the 1990 changes in the temple Endowment Ceremony, patrons (those participating in the ritual) were admonished four times during the ceremony that the covenants they were making before God and angels put them under a sacred "obligation of secrecy" in regard to their temple experience.4 These covenants were accompanied by sworn oaths to never reveal the secrets: "Rather than do so," the patron vowed, "I would suffer my life to be taken."5 Mormons today do not promise to forfeit their lives as they did as recently as 1990, but in the temple they are instructed in regard to the things they learn, " under no condition will you ever divulge them, "6 Their obedience to this 'obligation of secrecy' is no less binding today than it has been in the past.
The LDS concept of heaven, with its many levels and stations, is a complicated one; central to LDS salvation is the eternal or celestial family. Mormonism teaches that the temple is the only place on earth whereby eternal family units may be created "by and under the authority of the priesthood."7 The ceremonies performed within the temple are essential, for they are the only way to realize the ultimate spiritual goal of Mormonism: to become Gods and Goddesses and rule self-created worlds.
Celestial Marriages and the sealing of children to parents are important temple ceremonies pertaining to this goal. These ceremonies are performed for both the living and the dead, making mortal relational bonds into eternal bonds. Baptisms are also performed within the temple, but only on behalf of deceased persons. Living people who so desire are baptized in local LDS meetinghouses.
The most detailed and 'spiritual' ritual performed in the temple is the Endowment Ceremony. This ceremony has been fully revealed by numerous eye-witness accounts and tape recordings made by "Temple Mormons" who have become alienated from the Church.
According to the ceremony itself, "Your Endowment is to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation."8 Once having received his own Endowment, the faithful Mormon will participate in the ceremony again and again as proxy for people who have died without this necessary temple ordinance.
The ceremony begins with individual initiatory ordinances of washing and anointing. The patron is then dressed in the "Garment of the Holy Priesthood," also referred to as 'temple garments.' Mormons are told that this represents the garment given to Adam when he was found naked in the Garden of Eden; they are instructed to wear it day and night. "It will be a shield and a protection to you against the power of the destroyer until you have finished your work here on earth."9
Following this, patrons are seated in a theater-like room where they are shown a film10 depicting the LDS concepts of the creation, the fall and salvation (exaltation). Periodically the film pauses while an officiator assists the people as they are taught 'gospel laws.' Patrons covenant with God to keep these laws as they swear solemn oaths. In addition, they are instructed in the "key words, the signs and tokens" required for them to pass the 'sentinels' and gain the highest place in heaven. The 'tokens' are special handshakes or grips; the 'key words' are the names of the tokens. It is no coincidence that the description of giving code words and signs resembles that of an initiation into a secret society. Many of the words, signs and tokens found in the LDS temple ceremony are also found in the practice of Freemasonry.11 Joseph Smith drew heavily from Freemason ceremonies when developing his own temple rituals.12
Upon completion of the film and instruction, patrons are "presented at the Veil." Behind the Veil a temple worker representing God asks each patron in turn to provide the tokens and names which they have learned. When completed correctly the "Lord" parts the Veil. He takes the patron by the hand and, saying, "Let him enter!" guides him through the Veil into the 'presence of God.' From there the patron moves to the "Celestial Room," a beautiful place in the temple which represents the highest degree of Mormon heaven. This completes the ceremony.
An LDS manual on temple preparation sums up the Endowment Ceremony in this way: "The endowment given to members of the Church in the temples falls into several divisions. First there is a course of instruction relative to man's eternal journey from the dim beginning towards his possible glorious destiny. Then, conditions are set up by which that endless journey may be upward in direction. Those who receive this information covenant to obey the laws of eternal progress, and thereby give life to the knowledge received. Finally, it is made clear that a man must sometime give an account of his deeds, and prove the possession of divine knowledge and religious works. It is a very beautiful, logical and inspiring series of ceremonies."13
Mormonism teaches that the Endowment is and always has been essential to exaltation. The Apostles Peter, James, and John are said to have received their Endowment at the time of Christ's transfiguration on the mountain.14 Even God the Father must have been endowed at one time for: "In these holy places [temples], our Heavenly Father reveals the laws and principles by which he obtained his throne."15
Though the ritual has been altered to remove some of the blatantly offensive elements which have been part of the ceremony in the past,16 the objective is still the same. Mormon temples operate for the sole purpose of providing people with the tools they purportedly need to make themselves into Gods and Goddesses.
Satan had this same goal: "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." But God said, "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the Lord; and there is no savior besides Me."17
Instead, the Bible says, "We are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'"18
God has made the way so simple; all we need do is open the door and invite Him to dwell in us. How complicated and unattainable is the Mormon path toward communion with God. Please pray that the Spirit would allow these people to see the futility of their beloved temples and their ineffectual rituals. Entreat the Lord to give them sight.