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

Lesson 5

Mormon Temple Worship

This page gives an overview of the main temple ritual--the endowment.  This is information that the church doesn't want you to have until you actually receive the endowment for yourself.  In contrast, I believe that you should get this information now so you will know what you are getting yourself into. 

You must now make a choice--you can either trust the church's position that it is better that you remain in ignorance concerning the nature of the endowment, or you can trust the concept that the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to make good decisions.

Continue reading if you choose.

 


When somebody has proven that they are serious about their loyalty to the church, they are ready to receive their endowment.  For lifetime members, it typically happens right before they go on a mission or are married in the temple, whichever happens first. 

The first thing you need to do to go to the temple is acquire a temple recommend.  This entails going to a couple of interviews with your local ecclesiastical leaders who judge your worthiness.  If you and they agree that you are worthy, all three of you sign a little card called a temple recommend.  The recommend gives you access to the temple for one year, at which point you need to get the card renewed.

When you go to the temple to receive your own endowments you are accompanied by an escort.  The escort is typically a relative or a member of your congregation who has received their own endowments and will accompany you through the ceremony and make sure you don't get lost.  In addition, there may be other members of your congregation who go with you to show their support for what you are doing.

You and your escort enter the temple and present your recommends at the front desk.  After the recommend is carefully examined for authenticity, they permit you to enter.  You then proceed to a counter to rent temple clothes (if you didn't bring your own).   You then head to the male or female locker room, depending upon your gender.

The locker rooms have little private stalls for you to change in.  You enter a stall, put your clothes into a locker, and put on a "shield"--a big square sheet with a hole in the middle for your head.  Wearing nothing other than the shield, you are ready to receive the "initiatory ordinances".  You are taken to a small section of the locker room that is separated by white curtains, where you are alone with the person who will "wash" and "anoint" you.  It is someone of your same gender.  While saying a fixed prayer, he or she first dabs his or her fingertips in water and touch various parts of your body--your head, arms, hands, loins, feet, etc.  They don't touch your genitals as they do this--only the side of your hips.  Then they anoint your body.  This is just like the washing but with a slightly different prayer and olive oil on the fingertips rather than water.

Once you are washed and anointed, they "place you" into the garment (the garment is the Mormon's sacred underwear that they are required to wear "day and night".  The style of the garment evolves over time, but it is basically a white t-shirt and some long white shorts.  The garments for women usually have a little lace on them).  While saying a short prayer and promising you blessings, they hold open a garment and assist you in putting it on for the first time.

After you have the garment on, you return to your locker and put on your temple clothes--for the ladies an ankle-length white dress, white socks, and white slippers and for the gentlemen a long-sleeved white shirt, white tie, white pants, white socks, and white slippers.  Included with the temple clothes that you rented was a cloth envelope called a "packet".  The packet is about 10 inches square and contains some carefully folded material.

Dressed in white and carrying your packet, you and your escort proceed to the endowment room.  The endowment room is like a small movie theater with about 30 to 60 seats, depending upon the temple.  They usually have an isle down the middle, and the ladies sit on the left side of the room and the gentlemen sit on the right side.  The front wall of the room is covered by some large curtains.  In front of the curtains is a padded white alter.  After everyone is seated, a man with the title of "officiator" walks to the front of the room and stands behind the alter.  Rather than speaking, he touches a button on an out-of-sight control panel, and a recording begins that welcomes you to the temple and gives you some general instructions.  You are told that you are about to enter into some sacred covenants, and if you don't want to do that now is the time to leave.

Soon the lights dim, some relaxing music starts, the curtains part, and a movie begins.  It shows images of the creation, and has the voices of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael (God the Father, Jesus Christ, and Adam) who give and receive instructions to organize a world.  Over a seven day process similar to the Genesis creation story, they organize the world.  Eventually Michael becomes Adam, and Eve is created.  From time to time the movie stops and the people who are watching the movie are instructed to act out a key scene from the movie.  After they act it out, the movie resumes.

The focus of the movie shifts from being about how the world was created to how Adam and Eve were separated from the presence of God and how they worked their way back to his presence.  Adam and Eve interact with friends and foes they meet on their journey--a detail that indicates that the story is symbolic.

In the story when Adam and Eve recognize their nakedness, they covered themselves with fig leaves.  At that point the movie stops and the participants are instructed to put on their aprons.  Inside the packet is a small green apron with the shape of leaves sewn into the front.  This is tied around your waste, and the movie resumes.

Along their journey, God and angels give Adam and Eve "tokens",  each with a special accompanying "name", and "sign".  A token is nothing other than a special handshake.  A name is a keyword associated with the token, and a sign is a gesture you make with your arms and hands.  As you try to understand the symbolism of all of this, it may (or may not) be helpful to notice that you feel tokens, hear names, and see signs.   When you are given the tokens, names, and signs, you make promises that you will never reveal them (according to a literal interpretation of these promises, you will notice that the officiators of the temple are breaking the covenants they made when they took out their endowments by revealing the tokens to you).

You also make other, more pertinent covenants along the way involving things such as being chaste, promising to give everything you have to the church, and not speaking evil of the leaders of the church.

Eventually the participants are instructed to put on the priesthood robes--the rest of the things in the packet.  You remove your apron from your waste, find in your packet a robe sort of like a Greek toga which you put over your shoulder and tie it around your waste, put on an long white sash, and a hat.  The hat the ladies wear looks a lot like a bridal vale, and the hat the gentlemen wear looks like a cross between a beret and a baker's hat.  Once the robe is on, you put the green apron back on.  You make more promises, and soon have to remove the robe and put it back on over the other shoulder.

After more promises, rituals, and prayers, Adam and Eve are finally ready to return to the presence of God.  The curtains in the front of the room open, and the temple veil is revealed.  It has several openings--each about the same size and shape as a door.  Each participant goes to the veil accompanied by an officiator.  The officiator makes 3 distinct knocks on a post next to the veil, and presents the candidate to God who is on the other side.  The veil has 3 big holes in it.  The person on the other side acts as God, and with your right hand you shake his hand through the middle hole.  You put your left arm through another hole and put it on God's shoulder, and God puts his left hand on your shoulder through the third hole.  God gives you a quiz on the names, signs, and tokens (if you forget any the officiator will cue you).  After about a minute you prove yourself prepared to enter God's presence, the veil is parted, and you enter the Celestial Room.

The Celestial Room looks like a big living room, and once you enter it the ceremony is over.  You are free to stay in the Celestial Room for a few minutes looking at the decorations, contemplating the mysteries of God, feeling the spirit, whispering with others about the ceremony, and praying. 

As soon as you are ready you return to the locker room, remove the robes, return the rental clothes, change back into your street clothes, and are free to leave. 


That wasn't too bad, was it?

If you want an excruciatingly detailed exposť of the Endowment including transcripts of the ceremony, how the ceremony has evolved over time, and illustrations of the temple robes, go to the The Mormon Temple Endowment Homepage.

 

 

Up Next

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 analytics@lds4u.com.