Tag Archives: temple

An Interfaith Conversation about Mormon Temples

By Guest Blogger Austin Walters

“Firesides” in the Church are meetings where (mostly) members of the Church circle up—originally around a campfire, whence the term “fireside”—to learn from each other about topics of interest. Recently, the missionaries who are currently serving in my ward suggested holding a fireside that would be designed as a discussion about Mormon temples to which we could invite our friends. I invited a good friend of mine named Emily, who is currently studying to be ordained into the Episcopal priesthood. She came, and we’ve since had a couple of discussions about the experience. I’d like to relate some of our insights in this blog post.

First, my friend found the explicit connection between Mormon temples and elements of the ancient Hebrew religion to be very striking. Traditional Christianity has let much more of the ancient Hebrew conceptions of religion fall away from their practice than Mormons have, which indicates that Mormonism is not best conceived as a Protestant sect among many, but rather a new kind of religion that reaches deeply into the past for the ritual aspects of its practice.

Second, and related to the previous insight, is that we Mormons largely skip the Middle Ages in the ways we think about religious worship. Having arisen from the Primitivist Christianity movements of the early nineteenth century, this is understandable, but the intensity of this blind spot for us may mean that we too often miss out on more recent commonalities between Christian sacred spaces and Mormon temples. For example, my friend, being from the Anglican tradition, was quick to point out how many aspects of the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages parallel the form, purpose, and theology of Mormon temples. Cathedral architecture is filled with religiously didactic symbolism, as are Mormon temples.

Third, Mormon temples are extremely central to Mormon theology. In them we are married for time and all eternity, and families are “sealed” together for eternity, never to be broken up. In them we perform baptisms by proxy for those who have passed away, the belief being that baptism is a required ordinance for salvation according to Christ’s teachings; therefore, the ordinance is to be performed by or on behalf of every human being who has ever lived on the earth. In addition, the most sacred covenants an individual makes in this life are made in the temple as part of an “endowment” ceremony, which is comprised of a series of teachings about God’s plan of salvation, covenants relating to loyalty, consecration, and chastity, and promised blessings, all carried out in ritualized ways. These exclusively temple activities form a core part of Mormon philosophy and faith practice.

Hopefully this short blog post has been helpful to those readers who are not members of the Church in better understanding the centrality and purpose of temples in Mormonism. I also hope it’s helpful to members of the Church in understanding others’ perspectives of us, which we should be sensitive to as a proselytizing faith.

My Journey through Bereavement

Mackinac Island, MI 1984

In December 2010, I lost my 28 year-old brother to a very aggressive cancer which took his energy, health, and ultimately his life in roughly six weeks – from the time he was diagnosed to the day he passed away.  My immediate response was pretty typical – I went into survival mode taking of care of everyone but myself.  In fact, when I got the first bereavement letter from hospice six month after my brother’s death, I thought, “thanks, but I’m already passed this point.” Only recently have I realized how long the process of bereavement really is, the extent to which this loss impacts my life, and just how much I did need all the support that was given.

There are five stages of grief that most experts appear to agree on – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can experience them in any order and sometimes go back and forth between stages, culminating into something that feels very much like a roller coaster.

A few weeks ago I decided to finally track my progression through the bereavement process to better understand where I am and the decisions I’m making. I actually have a very real fear of choices being based solely on emotional motivations and needed to ensure there was some logic behind my past 10 months of decision making.

So where’s the Mormon tie-in? Bargaining.

I’ve been in this stage since day one and while I may have briefly ventured into other stages, I feel I have yet to move out of bargaining due to my faith in principles such as eternal families and temple ordinances. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. I choose for faith to be a real and significant influence in my life and in this case, it’s helped me cope with a terrible loss and the moving on process.

But at some point, I will have to accept that being an eternal family will not enable me to grow up with my brother here on earth and participate in the important chapters of each others’ lives. Temple ordinances open the door for different, not identical, opportunities. The entire experience has forced me to rethink where I stand on certain issues – and to be comfortable knowing that future experiences may change how I feel about it all over again.

Have you ever experienced something that made you hold on tighter or clarify what you really believe?

Going to the Temple

While I was in Utah a few weeks ago for my sister’s wedding  I was able to be there when she went to the temple for the first time. In Mormon culture this is a pretty big deal. My whole family was there along with her fiancé, future in-laws and a few other close loved ones. Going to the temple for the first time signifies a lot to Mormons. It usually happens before a big event like going on a full time LDS mission, getting married, or before starting a new direction in life like beginning a full time career. It also signifies a willingness to have a deeper commitment to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In preparation for going to the temple for the first time my sister (as well as myself and most other people that go) take a temple preparation class. Like I said, it’s a pretty big deal when someone goes for the first time. If you are baptized when you are older you have to be a baptized member of the church for a least a year before you go. If you are baptized when you are young you wait until you’re an adult to go to the temple. I used to think when I was younger that so much emphasis was placed on going to the temple for the first time because the person wouldn’t be able to handle it without all the family support and preparation. What happens in the temple isn’t really talked about that much, even within the church, so I didn’t really understand.

With my sister going to the temple and being able to be there for it has made me think a lot lately about going to the temple and I realized I was all wrong  about it before.  When we are baptized we make a commitment to God to follow his commandments and to live the gospel. Often when we are baptized we are young or have just recently learned about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is a real commitment and covenant with God but it is only the beginning and foundation of our commitment to God. Going to the temple is actually pretty similar to baptism in our commitments. In the temple we make commitments and covenants with God to follow his commandments and to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason for all the preparation and support and attention is because these covenants are no longer the basic covenants of baptism.

When I went to the temple for the first time, like most other people, I was an adult and I had learned the gospel for an extended amount of time and I understood it.  Because I was an adult and understood perfectly what I was doing I believe I am held 100% accountable for those commitments.  That is the reason for the preparation and attention, to make sure we are ready to take the next step in our commitment to God.

The temple has a bit of a reputation for being secretive. It’s really not. The words spoken in the temple are sacred so we don’t repeat them outside the temple but the main point of the temple is to covenant with God to keep his commandments that are found in the scriptures. After we make those covenants for ourselves we go to make them in the name of those that have passed on so if they choose to they can also have the blessings of making those covenants with God.

My personal experience with the temple has been wonderful and peaceful. When I promised to follow God’s commandments in the temple God promised to bless me, protect me and help me throughout my life. I love knowing that if I do my part to follow God’s commandments that I will not be alone and I will be helped. The temple is a beautiful place. If you live near a temple I would recommend just going to the grounds to walk around and take in the beauty of the area. It’s really a peaceful place to visit and think and come closer to God.

My Story

“You’re getting married this April?! How long have you been dating?”

I moved to Boston in September to start a new job. Two days later I met my future husband. Two days after that, he asked me out. Five months later we were engaged. Three months after that we were married. Yeah, it happened pretty quickly. Many of my coworkers and friends have been asking questions about dating, engagement, and marriage for Latter-day Saints since I’m the only Mormon they know. For example; they’ve asked how our parents feel about our short courtship and what Mormon weddings are like. So, I’ll tell you. I can’t speak for all Latter-day Saints, but I can tell you my experiences and perspectives.

The actual Mormon wedding ceremony takes place inside a temple. Above is the Boston temple, picture from lds.org.

First of all, dating. Although I was open to casually dating friends of other faiths, I was most interested in dating other Mormons. Because being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affects so many aspects of life, I wanted to be able to share the same faith and background as my future spouse. When I met my husband, I wasn’t necessarily interested right away. But as I got to know him, I could see we viewed life the same way, valued the same things, and had similar life goals because we shared the same faith. He is from Europe and I was brought up in the United States, but the commonality of our faith gave us a great foundation on which to build.

Next, short courtship. My coworkers have been surprised that it took under eight months from meeting to marriage. I think the reason it happened relativity quickly is because Mormons believe in what we call personal revelation. I pray and read scriptures daily. In prayer, I really feel that I’m talking to God and in scripture study and meditation, I really feel communication from God in response. Over time, I’ve learned how God communicates with me and with practice, I’ve gained confidence to follow that. After only a few dates with my husband, I was reflecting on our relationship on my way to work. I loved spending time with him, and already I could tell we had very compatible backgrounds, attitudes, and goals. I felt peaceful about moving forward and opening up more to him. As we continued to date, things continued to make sense in my mind and I felt peace in my heart as I prayed. After just a couple of months, I knew he was the man I wanted to marry.

Next, short engagement. We were engaged the end of January and married mid-April. Why so quickly? For a number of reasons, primarily, to help us focus more on the marriage and less on the wedding. Marriage is making a commitment to your spouse and to God. Though celebrating is appropriate, it isn’t meant to just be a big, expensive party that overshadows the significance of starting a new family. My husband and I spent more time planning our future together than on planning the color of the napkins and the type of flowers. Actually, I was lucky that my mother did almost all of the planning on the other side of the country so my focus could be elsewhere, on more important things.

What are Mormon weddings like? The reception in the evening looked similar to many other weddings–all our family and friends, food, wedding cake, white dress, suits, gifts, first dance, flowers, music, etc. But the actually wedding ceremony that took place that morning was unique. Only our immediate family members were present in a room inside the Jordan River Temple. I have never felt so close to God and so full of light and peace than I did then making sacred promises to my husband before God. “When a man and woman enter one of our holy temples to be married, they covenant (or promise) they will stay together forever—on earth and in heaven after they die, if they are faithful to each other and their promises to the Lord.” We both knew this wasn’t just until we can’t get along or until we get sick of each other, this was forever.

And how did our parents feel about all of this? Both families are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and both families were supportive and excited. Our parents knew we were making decisions based on personal revelation, and they could trust that. Even though I met my future in-laws only two days before the wedding (since they live in Europe), I immediately felt accepted and loved by them. Despite living on different continents in different cultures, we share the same faith, and that made all the difference.

A Mormon in London

I’m starting a short series of “A Mormon in..” to share with readers my experiences living around the world. And as a Mormon. Lindsey totally beat me to the punch in a previous post, but the world is large and perspectives are many! Let’s get to it.

First location: London

There's me posing in front of the Hyde Park Chapel in Central London

In some ways being a Mormon in London is like being a Mormon anywhere: changing geographical location and culture doesn’t shift my religious beliefs any more than it does change where I was born and the family I belong to. What living there did was provide me with many experiences for growth and maturity in every aspect of my life, including spiritual.

In other ways, it was different. How can I best describe what it’s like being a Mormon in London? Let’s try this simile… I really got into urban cycling in London and covered about 100 miles a week…the London I saw is much different–not better, mind you–than those who take public transportation. We are all getting around, but we see the same things from different angles.

Mormons and the UK. What a cliche, right? Many Mormons can spout out lists of ancestors who converted in Great Britain, including my great-great-grandfather‘s family. While being in the land where my ancestors walked and talked is undeniably cool for any person, that’s not why I went. (okay…one quick side story about my ancestors: While I was traveling in the Isle of Man I couldn’t find the local youth hostel. I ended up sleeping overnight in a cemetery where lots of my ancestors are buried!)

I moved to London because I have an insatiable appetite for living abroad. Not visiting abroad. Living. It’s such a good way to experience a place.

In 2009, there was this advertising campaign that covered the city. Personally, I enjoy my life and believe in God.

A few weeks later, this retort ad showed up. I enjoyed witnessing the ads, related articles and local opinions about it.

I spent 2007-2010 in London working on my Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis in Arab cinema. It’s an incredible way to view the region and its people. I speak Arabic and have studied Islam in depth. London is the best place outside of the Middle East to meet people from there. I hung out with lots of Moroccans, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, etc.

Over the three years I lived with a few incredible families (non-Mormon at that) with beautiful kids that I helped watch in exchange for cheap rent. For the last year I lived in a flat full of Mormon peeps my age–both guys and girls. It was awesome. We played video games late into the night, planted a garden, made dinner for each other, made home movies, stole each others’ food (guilty), and had barbecues on the roof overlooking London’s skyline. On Sundays, some of us would jump on our bikes and trek through Regents Park and Hyde Park to get to church while the others took the Tube.

As for weekly church, I attended a congregation for Mormon singles in London. It is the only one of its kind in Europe. It is a huge group, and no less than 30 nations were represented. There was me, the American girl who’s been a member her whole life, sitting next to George, a Bulgarian laborer who’d joined the church a few months before. There was our bishop (a ward’s main leader) who’d lived in India for years, and also a bunch of Brits who hadn’t even been across the English Channel. In many ways there was no difference between any of us. We were all there because we wanted to worship the Lord.

A bunch of us from the singles ward in London ran a half-marathon in Prague.

I thought there weren’t a lot of Mormons in west Texas, where I’m from. Think again. A drop in a bucket in Texas became a drop in a lake in London. I found that although Mormons are few in number in the UK, they are incredibly strong. Never once did–or do–the statistics deter me from my faith. The Lord created a diverse world that we can enjoy all together.

The Gospel is there for everyone, no matter where you live. Those who want it and need it will find it by praying and searching. In the meantime, I’m gonna go study my Arabic grammar book and rest my legs after cycling to and from work today.

My religious life in bullets:

Melanie 1 kicked off our blog last January with some of her “dailies.”  This week I wanted to add to her idea and give a little snapshot into what my life looks like as a Mormon…

My “dailies”:

  • Pray in the morning right when I get up
  • Study the scriptures (currently reading the Book of Mormon but some years I study the Bible, etc.)
  • Read a chapter with my husband (this year we’re reading the New Testament because that’s we’re studying in Sunday School)
  • Pray with my husband before we go to sleep

My “weeklies”:

  • Church on Sunday–3 hour block which consists of:
    • Sacrament Meeting (where we partake the Sacrament & then several members of the congregation give short talks on Christ and following Him)
    • Sunday School (the Church worldwide is on a 4-year rotation where each year we teach one of the books in our canon—The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine & Covenants) and we have class discussion on the principles taught in the lesson
    • Relief Society (the largest women’s organization in the world—at church, we have a lesson on Gospel principles and have a class discussion (this is usually my favorite part of church!)  My husband during this time is at Priesthood with the other men, the youth have a separate class, and the young children have singing time & little lessons)
  • Write one blog entry
  • Usually have some kind of responsibility I am asked to help out with for our congregation—right now it’s to prepare a little lesson for our nursery kids we teach during Sunday School

My “monthlies”:

  • Fast Sunday—the first Sunday of every month we go without food or water for at least 2 consecutive meals.  We begin and end this fast with a prayer, and usually “fast with a purpose”—pray for help or for someone else.  This day we also pay fast offerings—basic concept is that we give what money we would have spent on food that day to help the poor—but many people give generous fast offerings.  I also pay my tithing for the month on this same day–We are asked to pay 10% of our income.
  • Visit 2 women in the ward—called the Visiting Teaching program.  I am paired with another woman (my “companion”) and we are assigned to at least 2 other women to kind of watch over them and make sure they are doing okay temporally, socially, & spiritually.  We make at least one visit a month where we share a short message and chat for a bit.  We also try to make contact with them several times during the month
  • Go to the temple:  this is different from church.  Our temples are much bigger and nicer than our churches, and most are on some kind of hill—very beautiful.  My husband and I have a goal to visit once a month, and sometimes go more if we really feel like we need it.  It’s probably the most serene place I know of.  We go there to perform ordinances for our deceased ancestors and to have a more sacred, quiet, personal communion with God.  I always feel refreshed and recommitted to being just a little bit better in my life.  Just got home from going this month!

This week I wanted to give a little snapshot into what my life (and most others) looks like because I am a member of the LDS church…

My “dailies”:

  • Pray in the morning right when I get up
  • Study the scriptures (currently reading the Book of Mormon but some years I study the Bible, etc.)
  • Read a chapter with my husband (this year we’re reading the New Testament because that’s we’re studying in Sunday School)
  • Pray with my husband before we go to sleep
  • Pray by myself

My “weeklies”:

  • Church on Sunday–3 hour block which consists of:
    • Sacrament Meeting (where we partake the Sacrament & then several members of the congregation give short talks on Christ and following Him)
    • Sunday School (the Church worldwide is on a 4-year rotation where each year we teach one of the books in our canon—The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine & Covenants) and we have class discussion on the principles taught in the lesson
    • Relief Society (the largest women’s organization in the world—at church, we have a lesson on Gospel principles and have a class discussion (this is usually my favorite part of church!)  My husband during this time is at Priesthood with the other men, the youth have a separate class, and the young children have singing time & little lessons)
  • Write one blog entry
  • Usually have some kind of responsibility I am asked to help out with for our congregation—right now it’s to prepare a little lesson for our nursery kids we teach during Sunday School
  • Call/Skype our families on Sun night

My “monthlies”:

  • Fast Sunday—the first Sunday of every month we go without food or water for at least 2 consecutive meals.  We begin and end this fast with a prayer, and usually “fast with a purpose”—pray for help or for someone else.  This day we also pay fast offerings—basic concept is that we give what money we would have spent on food that day to help the poor—but many people give generous fast offerings.  I also pay my tithing for the month on this same day–We are asked to pay 10% of our income.
  • Visit 2 women in the ward—called the Visiting Teaching program.  I am paired with another woman (my “companion”) and we are assigned to at least 2 other women to kind of watch over them and make sure they are doing okay temporally, socially, & spiritually.  We make at least one visit a month where we share a short message and chat for a bit.  We also try to make contact with them several times during the month
  • Go to the temple:  this is different from church.  Our temples are much bigger and nicer, and most are on some kind of hill—very beautiful.  My husband and I have a goal to visit once a month, and sometimes go more if we really feel like we need it.  It’s probably the most serene place I know of.  We go there to perform ordinances for our deceased ancestors and to have a more sacred, quiet, personal communion with God.  I always feel refreshed and recommitted to being just a little bit better in my life

What happens in a Mormon wedding?

While I was in Utah last week I attended 3 weddings (it must be spring time) so I have weddings on my mind. All three of these weddings were different from a typical wedding in that they all took place in Mormon  templesMuch of what happens in Mormon (Latter-day Saint) temples is sacred and we believe it is inappropriate to talk about these sacred elements outside the temple but I want to share what I can.

How does a wedding in a Latter-Day Saint temple differ from a typical wedding? One of the biggest things is the production of it. There is no aisle to walk down, no music, no procession, no flowers or fan fair. It is a very simple ceremony. There are sealing rooms in the temples that are set apart for weddings (we call them sealing rooms because we are sealed together for all eternity). The room has an altar in the middle of it where the bride and groom will kneel to be married. On each side of the altar are chairs for guests to sit and watch. The bride and groom enter the room together after all the guests have arrived and the officiator normally talks to them and the guests for a few minutes about the sacred nature of marriage and then the actual ceremony begins.

All together, from the time the bride and groom enter the room to the time they leave it probably only takes 30 minutes. I personally love the simplicity of the ceremony because it leaves the focus on the marriage rather than the wedding. We believe that the covenant of marriage is the highest order of the gospel. As I mentioned earlier, the couple and their future children are sealed together for all time and eternity through the power of the priesthood. It is a sacred and real commitment to God to love and respect one’s spouse and family, one we believe we will be held accountable for.

At each wedding I attended I was in awe of the beauty of the marriage covenant. It is a powerful thing to commit yourself, your loyalty, and all that you are to another person. I believe my life is better because of this commitment. If you’ve ever seen a Latter-Day Saint temple you know that they are beautiful buildings, but what is more beautiful is what goes on inside of them. I am happy I got to share in the experience of those that I love and witness their special days.

“In the Name of Jesus Christ”

My dear grandmother died about a month ago. At age 94, she was still going strong until a series of small strokes weakened her body and mind until she died six weeks later. The doctors were amazed she lasted that long considering all the close calls she had. One day she would be bed-ridden while on the next day she would join her family for dinner at the table. It was a perfect example of her strength and determination.

At the same time period, my sister’s baby girl was due any minute. There were several false alarms and trips to the hospital. During these six weeks, we were anticipating the loss of a loved one and the addition of a sweet new baby. This was an intense time for our family, as one can imagine.

Within a few weeks of each other, my new niece was born and my grandmother peacefully died in her sleep. Members of my immediate and extended family gathered in grandmother’s home city to attend her funeral and celebrate her dedicated and righteous life. Because we were all together, my new niece was also blessed that same weekend.

The knowledge that one noble spirit was about to return to her God and her deceased family members while another was about to meet her new family is undeniable. Family is meant to be forever.

Allow me share with you another thing I realized during these few days: Mormons absolutely dedicate every facet of our lives to Jesus Christ.

My grandmother’s casket was closed with a prayer ending in “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Same with the opening and closing prayers of her funeral. Same with the dedication of her grave. “In the name of Jesus Christ.” Later, at a meal the ladies in her congregation prepared for our family, even the food was blessed in the name of Jesus Christ.

The next day, my niece was blessed by her sweet father in the name of Jesus Christ. Testimonies were born in the name of Jesus Christ. I am also proud to say that I will see my grandmother again, and this time, in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Other things we do in the name of Jesus Christ on a regular basis: personal prayer, family prayer, the blessing of the sacrament, home dedications, couple prayers, temple dedications, prayers over food, priesthood blessings to heal the sick, father’s blessings, opening and closing prayers of meetings, talks in church meetings, lessons in church meetings, etc.

Mormons are Christians. I am proud to be Mormon because I am proud to consecrate so many of my daily actions to Christ.

What the Temple Means to Me

For me, one of the great things of living in Boston is that we have a Mormon temple nearby where we can go in and worship God as well as serve others. However, a temple wouldn’t have meant more than another beautiful building sitting on the top of a hill before I came to the knowledge of its importance in the lives of those who enter it.

One of the things that caught my attention most when I was investigating the church was the plan of happiness that God has for us. I came to know and understand that because God loves us so much that He created a plan for all of us. That plan included our life with Him before we came to earth, we chose to come to this earth in order to learn and obey Him and, we will return to Him one day as we choose do follow His commandments.

Not only that- He promises us that we will have our loved ones to be with us. I was thrilled when I heard that our families can be together forever. The temple makes it possible because this is where we can be married for time and eternity and not only until death. It’s a wonderful thing for me to have been married to my husband for time and eternity because I know that we will always be together. I also hope to have the same comforting experience once I get united with my family for time and eternity.

The Lord wants all His children to enter the temple and because His house is a sacred place, we need to be prepared to enter it so that we will have a great experience in there. For me it was worth the wait. I was always eager to enter the temple right after I got baptized into the church. I wanted to learn more and more about everything.

The knowledge that I can be with my loved ones after I die gives me comfort when there is a death in the family. Losing my grandfather a few years ago made me feel very sad for several weeks. I know it could have been worst if I didn’t have the knowledge that I can be with Him again for eternity and by going to the temple. Just driving past it is a good reminder of that.