Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Contemporary Mormonism : Latter-day Saints in modern America

Temples And Genealogy
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

The expansion of the Church is apparent in the placement of temples. By 1900, the Church had built temples in six cities: Kirtland (1836, now owned by the Community of Christ), Nauvoo (1846, rebuilt and dedicated in 2002), Salt Lake City (1893), and three smaller Utah temples along the line of LDS settlement in St. George (1877), Logan (1884), and Manti (1888). By 1950, the Church had expanded temple-building into Hawaii, Canada, Arizona, and Idaho. By 1975, temples had risen in Switzerland, New Zealand, and England, as well as the densely Mormon regions of Ogden and Provo, Utah. Three imposing temples dominated city views in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C. Temple worship has accelerated in the last thirty years. In 1975, the Church had sixteen temples; by 2000, when the Boston Temple was dedicated, the Church had 100. The additional seventy-four temples were constructed in medium-sized U.S. cities such as Dallas, Las Vegas, San Diego, Baton Rouge, Albuquerque, and Anchorage, and in countries such as Brazil, Japan, Chile, Australia, Taiwan, Germany, South Africa, Korea, Peru, Spain, Ecuador, and the Philippines. In the 1980s, a temple was built in Freiberg, East Germany, "behind the Iron Curtain." In 2005, 119 temples were in service. Another ten had been announced or were under construction in places such as Helsinki, Kiev, Panama City, and Sacramento. Rather than growing away from this early and unique worship, leaders have intensified the practice.

International Church growth has modified this temple culture. When plans for a temple in Switzerland were announced in 1953, President David O. McKay asked Gordon B. Hinckley to find a way the temple could serve many languages and nationalities with a small group of workers. The leaders decided to film the rituals. They turned a three-story room on top of the Salt Lake Temple into a movie studio, and after an intense year, an English-language film was completed. They then reproduced the film with translated scripts and new actors into French, German, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. Additional films have since been produced.

President Gordon B. Hinckley had another idea that changed temple culture. In 1973, he proposed smaller, less expensive temples to be built in more places. The filmed liturgy required fewer rooms. The laundry and the cafeteria could be left out. A smaller size suited conditions in diverse locations. Initially, the smaller temples were too small. Three years after its 1998 dedication, the first small temple in Monticello, Utah, was remodeled and almost doubled, the 6,800 square foot building enlarged to 11,000 feet. Most small temples now have about 12,500 square feet of floor space.

Temples are not used for Sunday worship; members meet on Sunday at thousands of chapels. The ceremonies at temples contrast dramatically to the noisy, public Sunday School and Sacrament meetings. Temple services are serene and hushed. To enter a temple, members must have been baptized and confirmed and must be privately interviewed in searching discussions by two levels of ecclesiastical authority every two years. Successful applicants receive signed, card-sized certificates, known as "recommends," which they show at the temple door.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, in a June 2001 talk to the Saints in San Antonio, Texas, described the temple interview content. Mormons should believe that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost live; that Jesus Christ is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world; and that the true gospel has been restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. They should sustain the leadership of the Church and observe the law of chastity. They should maintain a good spirit at home, keep distant from apostate groups, obey commandments, and attend meetings. They should pay honest tithes, and live the Word of Wisdom. As they may need to repent to be found "worthy" of attendance, they should resolve past sins; in the end, they themselves judge whether they are worthy of a "temple recommend." "I hope, I pray, I plead with you, every one of you," Hinckley concluded, "Resolve this very day, that you will live worthy to go to the House of the Lord." Each temple is supervised by a married couple called to be temple "president" and temple "matron," and two counselors and their wives, all unpaid. They administer temple business jointly, supervising a large staff of volunteer workers who work daily or weekly shifts. Temples are beautifully kept buildings, constructed from costly materials. Many command distant views with their gleaming whiteness and otherworldly architecture. Some resemble bastions or have central spires. Some are in the prairie style; two are round. Although they are thronged with people, there is no dust and dirt, no disorder. People move away from the outside world, alone together. Windows are frosted or draped against the busy streets outside. Daily life seems to recede.

Temples have no great cathedral halls but are divided into a number of specific ceremonial rooms for marriages, baptisms, and instructional sessions. Through these ordinances, members believe that all of Heavenly Father's children, the living and the dead, can hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and be united for eternity. The "Plan of Salvation," a long vision of the meaning of life with its symbolic rebirth, is played out before them. Although individuals are welcome, the subject of temple work is really the dynastic family and the strengthening of its links back in time and forward into the future. The first time a person enters the temple he or she "goes through the temple for his own endowment." On subsequent visits to the temple, he or she assumes the name of someone already dead, serving as a proxy for that person. Missionaries go through the temple before their departure for the field. Brides come with their families or fiances to "receive their own endowments." Couples marry "for time and all eternity." Ceremonies are attended by temple-worthy family and close friends. On other happy occasions, legally adopted children or those not "born under the covenant" are "sealed" to endowed parents. The elderly and families, often appearing in groups during reunions, attend the temple as proxies for deceased family members. Teenagers are introduced to the temple on field trips to do "baptisms for the dead," the first of the proxy ordinances. One thirteenyear- old girl described that experience. "It was neat to see the temple rise above the road and to think we were lucky enough to go into that beautiful place. . . . After we saw it, we sang 'I Love to See the Temple' over and over until we arrived. . . . We changed into white jumpsuits and watched each other be baptized for the dead. It was all quiet, and I felt kind of nervous, but happy that I could do it. It was very uplifting. I hope I will always be worthy to visit the House of Our Lord."