Mormon Temples: Their History and Purpose

The first LDS temple was finished in 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio. Since early Mormons did not participate in ordinance work, the temple functioned as a place of meeting and learning. When the members of the church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, another temple was constructed, this time for ordinance work (see Ordinances).
Within days of the Mormons arriving in Salt Lake in 1847, they chose a spot for the new temple. They also constructed other temples in Utah. In the 1900’s Latter-Day Saints began building temples around the world. As of this writing, the church has 134 temples completed, and another 10 under construction.

Temples serve as a place for members to receive their Endowments and be married. In addition, it is where ordinance work for the dead takes place. Temples are constructed specifically for performing necessary ordinances. As technology has changed, the design of the temple has also changed.

Originally, the Endowment ceremony was performed using temple workers (volunteer members) who acted out various roles depicting the creation of the world. Mormons receiving their Endowment would move from room to room, with each room representing different glories of the earth and the afterlife. The ceremony would culminate with members entering the Celestial Room, which represents the highest level of heaven people can achieve. (see Heaven and the Afterlife)

With the advent of technology, much of the ceremony is viewed via a movie. The movie is stopped from time to time and a temple worker will guide members while they make covenants. Instead of moving from room to room, members stay in the same room. The movie scenes and the room lighting change to reflect the various levels of glory.
By using the movie version of the Endowment, fewer workers are needed, and more Endowment sessions can be accomplished. Newer temples are designed to make use of movie technology. Most of the older temples have been converted to use the movie version, although there are a couple that still do ‘live’ ceremonies. The Salt Lake Temple is one of the live Endowment temples.

Temples also have rooms designated as marriage rooms, or Sealing Rooms (Mormons believe that couples married in the temple are ‘sealed’ to each other for eternity). Families who join the church are sealed in these rooms.
There is a baptismal font in all of the temples, which is used for baptisms for the dead. The youth in the church frequently serve as proxies in this ordinance. Baptismal fonts are constructed so that the water level is at ground level, so when someone is baptized it is symbolic of the burial and resurrection of Christ.


Other Subjects:

‘Magic’ Underwear (Garments)
Ordinance Work for the Dead
Joseph Smith
Missionary Work
Heaven and the Afterlife
Nature of God and the Godhead
Modern Day Prophets
Local Church Leadership
Other Beliefs