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In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the LDS or Mormon Church, a temple is a building dedicated to be a House of the Lord, and they are considered by Church members to be the most sacred structures on earth. Upon completion, temples are usually open to the public for a short period of time (an "Open House"). During the Open House, the church conducts tours of the temple with missionaries and members from the local area serving as tour guides, and all rooms of the temple are open to the public. The temple is then dedicated as a "House of the Lord," after which only members in good standing are permitted entrance, thus they are not churches but rather places of worship. The church is a prolific builder of temples as temples hold a key place in LDS theology. The importance of temples is often emphasized in weekly meetings, and regular participation in temple work is strongly encouraged of all Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Map of the world showing the geographic location of each LDS temple.
Within temples, members of the Church make covenants, receive instructions, and perform sacred ordinances, such as: baptism for the dead, washing and anointing (or "initiatory" ordinances), the "endowment," and eternal marriage sealings. Ordinances are a vital part of the theology of the church, which teaches that they were practiced by the Lord's covenant people in all dispensations. Additionally, members consider the temple a place to commune with God, seek God’s aid, understand the will of God, and receive


LDS Temple construction reached an all-time high in the year 2000.
There are now over 130 operating temples.
The first Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies were performed in Kirtland, Ohio, but differed significantly from the endowment performed on the second floor of Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois and the Nauvoo Temple. Kirtland ordinances included washings and anointings (differing in many ways from the modern portion) and the washing of the feet ordinance. For nearly four years beginning in 1842, the prophet’s modest mercantile functioned as a de facto temple—the site of the first washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings. In contrast, the grand edifice known as the Nauvoo Temple was in operation for only two months before the Saints left Illinois for the West.

Preparations to initiate the first members of Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, or Holy Order, as it was also known, were made on May 3, 1842. The walls of the second level of the Red Brick Store were painted with garden-themed murals, the rooms fitted with carpets, potted plants, and a veil hung from the ceiling. All the while, the ground level continued to operate as Joseph Smith’s general mercantile.

After the early events of the succession crisis, Brigham Young assumed control of the church's headquarters at Nauvoo, Illinois. While he and the rest of the Quorum of the Twelve made contingency plans for abandoning the city, he may have hoped that it would not prove necessary. For example, in early 1845 he held a conference at the Norwegian colony at Norway, Illinoismarker and announced a plan to build a Latter-day Saint town there with a temple for the use of the Norwegian Saints.

Meanwhile Young urged the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo to redouble their efforts to finish the temple. By the end of 1845, the building was sufficiently finished to allow temple ordinances to be performed. Ordinances continued to be performed in early 1846 as the Mormons were forced to abandon the city. A small crew remained in the city and continued to work on the temple until April 30, 1846, when it was privately, yet formally, dedicated by Joseph Young, the senior of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy. It was used for 3 months, then abandoned in late Summer 1846. The completed temple was eventually destroyed by fire, and the remaining structure was later demolished by a whirlwind.

Upon reaching the Great Basin, Brigham Young began to build settlements based on the City of Zion plan and designated four of these to contain temples: Salt Lake Citymarker (1847), St. Georgemarker (1871), Mantimarker (1875), and Loganmarker (1877). The St. George Temple was the first to be completed in 1877, followed by Logan (1884) and Manti (1888). The Salt Lake Temple took 40 years to complete because of various setbacks and delays. It was dedicated in 1893.

Latter-day Saint temple building halted until the presidency of Joseph F. Smith who announced two additional temples: Cardston, Alberta (1913) and Lā‘ie, Hawai‘i (1915). Cardston became the first Latter-day Saint temple dedicated outside of the United States. Smith broke with the previous tradition (established since Kirtland) of building temples with upper and lower courts. Temples previously had been ever larger, but the Laie, Hawaii temple was smaller than the Nauvoo Temple had been.

Both Cardston and Laie were dedicated under church president Heber J. Grant as was a temple in Mesa, Arizona. George Albert Smith dedicated the next temple in Idaho Falls, Idaho. David O. McKay dedicated five additional temples including one in Bern, Switzerland — which was the first temple dedicated in Europe and the first temple to use film recording of the endowment rather than live actors. Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated a temple in Ogden, Utah and Harold B. Lee dedicated its twin in Provo, Utah.

Spencer W. Kimball began a plan to build many more smaller temples according to standardized plans. Twenty-one temples were dedicated during his presidency, including the tiny Papeete Tahiti Temple — which was less than 10,000 square feet (900 m²). This trend has continued. Nine additional temples were dedicated in the presidency of Ezra Taft Benson and two in the brief presidency of Howard W. Hunter.

Under church president Gordon B. Hinckley, the church dedicated seventy-seven temples. In 1997, Hinckley introduced a standardized, smaller temple plan designed to bring temple services to smaller or remote congregations at a reduced cost. The first of this new generation of temples was completed in 1998 with the Monticello Utah Temple. The original plan called for , later increased to . Subsequent revisions to the standard design further increased the size and complexity of the temples. The majority of the temples dedicated under Hinckley's tenure were of the smaller design,but one particularly noteworthy achievement was the rebuilding of the temple in Nauvoo, Illinoismarker, known as the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

Six temples have been dedicated under current church president Thomas S. Monson (as of 23 August 2009).


Temples have a different purpose from LDS meetinghouses. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, temples serve two main purposes: (1) Temples are locations in which worthy Latter-day Saints can perform sacred ordinances on behalf of themselves, their deceased ancestors, or unrelated deceased persons whose names are compiled from historical records through the church's Family Record Extraction Program. (2) Temples are considered to be a Houses of Holiness where members can go to commune with God.

Ezra Taft Benson, a former president of the Church, taught:
"When I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. These answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways." (Ensign, August 1985, page 8).
Such personal revelation can be received as needed, but many feel that it is easier to receive such revelation when one is in a place as peaceful and apart from the world as temples are.

Nearly everything in the temple is symbolic, from the clothing worn (those who attend the temple dress in white, a symbol of purity), to the building and rooms, to the ceremonies themselves.

Symbolism in temple architecture

Latter-day Saint temples are constructed with several symbolic elements meant to represent their religious theology. Each temple has the words "Holiness to the Lord" inscribed on it, representing the same inscription on the Old Testament Temple of Solomon. Most temples are built facing East, pointing the direction from which Jesus Christ is prophesied to return. The spires and towers on the East side of the temple are elevated higher than spires and towers on the West side for this same reason, and to represent the Melchizedek, or Higher Priesthood. Some temples, like Salt Lake, Chicago, and Washington D.C. have triple spires on each side of the temple representing the three different offices in the both the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood. Stones carved with sun, moon, and earth or star designs are placed in ascending order around the temple facade to represent the Latter-day Saint belief in a Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdom, or Three Degrees of Glory in the afterlife. However, they are arranged using the description of the woman (representing the church) found in Revelation 12:1 which says "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." The statue of the Angel Moroni, placed on most temples built after the Salt Lake Temple, was designed in 1891 by Cyrus Edwin Dallin. The statue design represents the Latter-day Saint belief that Moroni was the angel spoken of in Revelations 14.

Temple ordinances

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make covenants and perform special rituals and ordinances within temples. Some of these include:

These ordinances may be performed either on behalf of the participant or by "proxy" on behalf of the dead. Some of these ordinances are normally performed outside of temples for the living, but when performed on behalf of the dead they are performed exclusively in temples. This includes baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood. The ordinances of washing and anointing, the Endowment and the ceremony of Eternal marriage are performed only within a temple.

Latter-day Saints perform these proxy ordinances because they believe a vast number of deceased souls are in a condition commonly referred to as spirit prison. They believe that Christ ministered to the righteous spirits in paradise and organized a great missionary force among them to teach the gospel to the dead in Spirit Prison who, in turn, may be baptized by proxy in a temple. It is believed that the dead may accept or reject the baptism and other ordinances done by proxy on their behalf prior to the final judgment.

Entrance requirements

An LDS Church manual called Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple explains that Latter-day Saints "do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples." Further, the manual states:
"It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort the church urges every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience."

However, to experience the temple firsthand, one needs to convert to the faith, and then (after a year's membership) obtain a temple recommend to enter. The recommend is obtained from and signed by the member's bishop after passing a one-on-one worthiness interview, in which one's commitment to the gospel is reviewed. The recommend is also signed by the member's stake president after a second one-on-one worthiness interview, and finally by the member themselves. By signing his or her own recommend, the member acknowledges their responsibility to ensure that they remain worthy to hold the recommend. Once issued a recommend remains valid for a period of two years.

A limited-use recommend can be obtained by those who just want to act as proxy in temple baptism and confirmation ceremonies. A member of the church must be twelve years of age (and hold the priesthood if male) and pass a worthiness interview with the member's bishop. Unlike the temple recommend, a limited-use recommend does not require a year's membership nor an interview with a stake president. A limited-use recommend is also not valid for participation in temple ceremonies beyond proxy baptism and confirmation.

To qualify for a temple recommend, one must faithfully affirm a series of questions examining what the church believes are the most important factors indicating one's spiritual worthiness. These questions seek to ensure that the interviewee has a basic belief in key church doctrines, and obeys the most significant church rules, such as the following:

  • a belief in God the Father, Jesus as the Savior and redeemer of mankind, and the Holy Spirit;
  • belief in the role of Jesus as the Savior;
  • belief in the Restoration;
  • support for the President of the Church and other general authorities and local church leaders;
  • obedience to the "Law of Chastity" (strict celibacy outside of a marriage that is legally recognized by the local government, and that is both monogamous and heterosexual);
  • refraining from the abuse of family members;
  • no affiliation or agreement with polygamists or other people whom the church considers apostates;
  • making a good faith effort to attend church meetings and obey other church rules;
  • honesty in dealings with others;
  • payment of tithing;
  • following the church's interpretation of the Word of Wisdom;
  • payment of child support (if applicable);
  • keeping the solemn oaths one has previously made in the temple;
  • wearing the temple garment "night and day"; and
  • confession of all serious sins to Church leaders.

Temple weddings

Temple weddings are sacred. Only members who hold a current temple recommend are allowed to enter the temple after it has been dedicated. When a new temple is built, or when an existing temple has undergone extensive renovations the temple will be open to the public during an open house period prior to the temple's dedication (or rededication). During this period the temple is open to anyone wanting to attend the open house. There is usually a four to five week period that the public is allowed to go through and see the temple prior to its dedication. The church's website, at, typically lists a schedule for temple open houses.

Once an LDS temple is dedicated and operating, no individual is allowed inside without a temple recommend, regardless of their church membership or desires for entering. The only exception to this rule is for children under the age of 8 who can only enter the temple to be sealed to their parents. These children are represented with the recommend of their parents. Children over the age of 8 have their own recommends but still can only attend a temple marriage if they are being sealed to their parents at that time.

These restrictions can cause some difficulties when a couple choose to marry in the temple. Parents, family, or friends of the couple who do not possess a temple recommend may feel resentment since they will not be able to witness the marriage ceremony. Additionally, the practice of holding a ceremony outside of the temple afterwards for the benefit of the non-LDS friends and family is contrary to established Church policy, where the temple marriage should always be the final ceremony. Receptions after the temple ceremony, or engagement parties before the temple marriage can always be attended by all, since they are held at local LDS chapels, other churches or other public venues. Receptions can commonly be quite elaborate.

For those couples who have a civil non-temple marriage ceremony first, the couple is required to wait at least one year before they can be sealed or temple married.. This rules out the idea of having a civil ceremony for non-LDS friends and family before the temple marriage or sealing. The church specifies that the sacred nature of the temple ceremony and a desire not to promote any confusion between it and a non-temple marriage as reasoning for this policy. Critics claim that this church policy exists as an intrusive and divisive way to put pressure on the non-LDS to convert.

The requirement to wait one year after a civil marriage before allowing a temple marriage is not imposed upon LDS Church members in certain European countries where the law requires a civil ceremony in a designated public place outside the temple for a marriage to be legally valid; or in the case where a home country does not recognize a marriage performed within a temple located in another country. (Note, however, that in such countries, a temple sealing must closely follow the civil ceremony, within the space of a few days at most, otherwise the one-year wait is again necessary.) When a marriage ceremony outside of the temple is required by local law, the church once again instructs that this ceremony is to be performed before the temple ceremony, to reinforce the idea of the temple marriage being the "final" ceremony, not a preamble to the one required by secular law.

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