The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Lesson 5

Temples and Family History

The Missionaries Will Teach...

God commands his people to build temples.  Temples are sacred buildings where we perform sacred ordinances, make covenants, and are endowed with gifts from God.  These blessings give us spiritual strength and knowledge for our daily lives and for building the kingdom of God.  After at least one year of faithful Church membership, worthy adults may be eligible to receive a temple recommend and get their temple endowments.  Married couples may be sealed for eternity after receiving their endowments.

Jesus Christ loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved.  However, billions have died without hearing the message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the having the opportunity to be baptized and receive the other necessary ordinances needed for salvation.  Because of God's grace and mercy, a way is prepared for the salvation of people who never had the opportunity to hear, understand, and obey the message of God's true Church.  People who missed the opportunity to hear about the gospel in this life are preached it after they die.  They then have the opportunity to accept it or reject it.  Members of the Church go to the temple and perform ordinances by proxy in the names of deceased people.  The deceased people then have the choice to accept or reject the ordinances that were done on their behalf.  If they accept the ordinances, they are saved.

That is why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so interested in genealogical research.  Members of the Church do research to discover who their ancestors were.  They submit the results of their research to the Church.  The Church enters the information into its databases and forwards the names of people who haven't had their work done to the temples.  Members of the Church then go to the temple and do the ordinances on behalf of these names.  Members of the Church ages 12 and over may receive recommendation cards from their bishops so they can go to the temple and perform baptisms for the dead.

Some Additional Thoughts...

According to Mormon doctrine, God requires people to go through a series of ordinances (symbolic rituals performed through the priesthood authority) before they can enter the highest degree of heaven. The required ordinances are:

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Endowment
  • Temple Marriage

For people who accept the gospel while they are alive, they receive the first two ordinances outside of the temple and the last two ordinances inside of the temple. For people who didn't get a chance to accept the gospel while they were alive but subsequently accept it in the spirit world after they are dead, they can vicariously receive the ordinances through living members of the church who receive the ordinance in the temple on their behalf. This simply means that a member of the church goes to the temple and is baptized, but rather than being baptized for himself he is baptized for a specific person who is dead. He can them perform the other 3 ordinances for the dead person.

the missionaries tend to be vague when describing temple ordinances. This isn't accidental. The ordinance of the endowment is, uhhh, for lack of a better word, weird. It's like a totally different religion in there. Not necessarily better or worse, just very different.

A few particulars of the temple involve making sacred promises to keep some specific details of the ceremony secret. But the secrecy surrounding the temple goes far beyond the limits imposed by these promises.

I believe the members don't talk about what happens at the temple because the world in the temple is so different than the world outside of the temple that it feels unnatural to mix them. In addition, hearing about temple ordinances can be a turn-off for new members and converts, so perhaps they avoid talking about it to help in their efforts to retain them. If you talk to a Mormon about the secretness surrounding the temple, they will most likely say, "it isn't secret, it is sacred." There are other very sacred aspects of the gospel that they openly talk about (what is more sacred than the atonement?), so I'm not sure if that line of reasoning holds water.

If you follow the link below, I will give an overview of what the endowment is about. I will try to do so in a tactful manner and won't go into too much detail. My highest objective is to give investigators enough information so that they will know what they are getting into. To the extent possible, I want to show respect for the Mormons' desire to keep their most sacred rituals secret. At best there is only a very fine line between those two objectives, and I will try to walk it as best as I can.

In Mormonism, ordinances are associated with covenants. Receiving your endowment entails making a series of very serious promises to God. The problem is, they don't tell you beforehand what those promises are going to be and don't give you any time to think about them. In the ceremony they do give you an opportunity to leave without entering into the promises, but that opportunity comes before they tell you what the promises are. Presumably, as soon as you hear the specifics of the promises you are already committed to entering into them.

I feel that that is very unfair. So below there is a link that gives you the specific promises you will make at the temple so you can think consider them as you decide if you want to go to the temple.


Overview of the Endowment Ceremony

Temple Covenants.  These are the sacred promises you should be prepared to make when you go to the temple.

Temple Recommend Questions.  Before members can enter the temple, they must demonstrate their worthiness by answering these questions in an interview.


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If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board (here are some recommendations). If you'd like to contact me with comments or feedback, you may send an email to