The first time I met a Mormon I was about 8 years old. One of our babysitters was one and talked a lot about her church, telling us how it was different from other churches. I remember asking my dad about it and he said that all churches were the same. Over the next 4 years I would meet others in this small farming community in Southwest Idaho but I was young and not much interested. My brother would attend Primary with some friends but I never did.
When we moved to Boise, I met others, and became more aware of some of their peculiarities. I went to church with my friends when I was about 16. I learned about their teachings of not using tobacco or drinking alcohol. I heard about their doctrines of living prophets like in the Bible and the principle of eternal marriage, families and temples. I had never heard such teachings by orthodox Christian ministers about eternal marriage. It was until death parts the couple that I had been taught.
When I was 17 I was baptized and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I studied basic LDS beliefs about God, Jesus Christ and of eternal families. It was not something done on a whim or that I took lightly. I believed then and do even more so today.
My religious experience is based on 43 years of serving in the church, a 39 year marriage in the temple to my wife, eight children going through the temple, seven married there, five have served missions and our youngest son is on a mission. I have had so many experiences that demonstrate the Lord's guidance in my life. I am familiar with the doctrines and the results of living them.
I am now a primary teacher with my wife, serving a local church service mission and a temple ordinance worker in the Mesa Arizona Temple. I have spent some time pondering back over my experience with the church, the temple and the doctrines that are associated with it.
These teachings about God and our families are essentially what Mormons believe and hold to be of greatest importance. All of the aspirations of our religious commitments come to us through the love and blessings of our Savior, Jesus Christ and his atonement. The temple is considered “The House of the Lord”, and I know that this is true and what I have learned is the temple is the Savior's invitation to follow him into eternity and receive all that he has to give. Jesus taught us that the temple is his Father's house.
When I joined the church, my dad asked me if I knew that he and others that were not members of the church would not be able to go in the temple if I was married there. When I did get married my dad and stepmother still came to be with us outside the temple after the ceremony and participate In the other activities. Why is temple attendance like this if the object is to unite families? I will explain part of this a little bit later.
Before going on a mission or getting married in the temple, Latter-Day Saints participate in a ceremony in the temple called an endowment. It is simply and profoundly an endowment of knowledge and commitment making process. It helps us increase the power of faith in our lives. It is a process of covenants and ordinances that confirm our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, his Church and the Kingdom of God on the earth. Also the foundational principles for building our family relationships for eternal success are represented in the covenants.
Two years after I joined the church I was called to serve a mission in Argentina for 24 months. This was truly an epic experience for me and played a big part in developing my faith in Jesus Christ and his church. I attended the temple for the first time to receive my endowment about two months before I left on my mission. The experience was profound for me and it changed me in many ways.
About a year after I returned home, I took a summer job in Arizona, I met my wife at a young adult dance in Mesa. We married in the temple about four months later. A little quick I know but it was right for us. Our years together has been a life altering experience, choice and blessing.
In the marriage or “sealing” ceremony, a couple is sealed, or bound together in a sacred promise and covenant, that if they keep will allow them to be together for eternity as a married couple. Their children will also be bound or associated with them forever in family bonds and affection. We make our best efforts as humans to follow these lofty pursuits but rely on the Savior to help us fulfill them. Without him, they simply will never come to pass.
What is the difference between a chapel and a temple in the Mormon Church? If you have ever attended an LDS sacrament meeting or more than one, you will know that even though our intent is to make the meeting as reverent as possible, it can be a cacophony of of sounds, children occasionally crying and so forth. We attend as families and such is the nature of teaching small children how to worship God.
The chapel is where we meet for regular Sunday worship, This is our sabbath day and we meet to renew the covenants or promises that we made at baptism and in the temple. In age group categories and separate classes as men and women we also study and learn by teaching each other. There is no paid clergy in the church and all members take turns doing the teaching and leadership functions that allow a “ward”, the local congregation, to successfully function. There are over 30,000 wards in the church and thousands of Chapels around the world where the local congregations meet.
Part of the Sacrament meeting or main worship service is dedicated to private worship by partaking of the sacrament, the bread and we use water instead of wine, represent the Savior’s sacrifice of his blood and body. As we ponder his love and the commitment that we have made to follow Jesus Christ we are renewed in spirit, body and mind. We also have midweek youth activities in the chapels and other meetings and conferences.
What takes place in the Temple is very different than the chapels. There are only 155 temples throughout the world with more being built. They are beautiful buildings designed and dedicated as a place of learning and service. They are monumental in the way they invite us to come. They are places where the Savior and his spirit are present.
What takes place in the temples is more solemn and ceremonious than in the chapels. It is very much a process of private worship and pondering as we attend on a repeated basis after receiving our own endowment. We dress in white and and wear special clothing as part of the temple ordinances. The special clothing we wear in the temple and the temple garment we wear under our clothing after we receive the endowment can be seen here.
Participation in temple ordinances and covenants takes place when our faith and commitment is prepared to move to a higher level of understanding. If the idea of a university is appropriate we can understand that there are expectations and qualifications in order to be accepted to that level of learning. Attending the temple is not intended to be restrictive nor does it depend on a person's accomplishments, yet the participants must be prepared or the process will be of little benefit. This is one reason that once a temple is dedicated only members can go in and participate. What takes place there would mean nothing to someone that is not a faithful member of the church.
Local leaders assist local members in preparing to attend the temple and the goal is that all members might prepare and attend when they are ready. This is also why missionaries go all over the world to teach people and invite them to come and learn. While much of the endowment is scriptural, there is also much in the way of learning from revelation to God’s living prophets that establishes a broader understanding of our eternal identity and the eternal nature of God’s ongoing plans for his children.
One of the stories that I had heard before I joined the church was that Mormons believed that only Mormons went to heaven and that they were a cult not a church. I am sure that others have heard such as well, along with a multitude of other inaccurate things that Mormons supposedly believe and do. These notions circulatie in sectarian church meetings and are often promoted by those that disagree with the church on other principles and teachings.
Much of what is spread about on the internet and other meetings purporting to inform others of Mormon beliefs is simply not accurate, or a dialogue with intentions to distort the truth. If you want to know you should ask a Mormon. There are many false narratives in the sectarian theological circles. People that hear these false dialogues and know a faithful Latter-Day Saint personally should know that our system of beliefs and commitments is scriptural and not strange at all once they are understood. Mormonism does not take away from the faith that people have. It adds to it and increases it.
Mormons believe that we lived with God before we came to earth. Our intelligence is eternal and our spirit is the offspring of God in a literal manner. Our life on earth is an essential part of a growth process and eternal pattern of creation that allows us to develop our eternal potential as beings capable of exaltation and living with God and our families for ever. This is the essence of the temple teachings. God the Father is the originator of these blessings as part of the great whole of eternal truth and patterns of family relationships. Jesus Christ in the implementor of the Father’s plan and directs the salvation of his children.
A part of the temple purpose that many don’t understand is the concept of vicarious ordinances. The teachings I was exposed to before joining the church about heaven were very vague and varied from preacher to preacher. Such is also the case with internet ministries and their representations of God and heaven. Most simply have no concrete understanding of eternal things since they don't believe that God communicates such knowledge to mankind. They base their knowledge on a closed canon of scripture that they still debate after thousands of years.
I believe that God wants all of us to return to live with him. It is however our choice. He will not force us. This is based on the doctrine or principle of moral agency. He will give us the information we need to return but it only happens if we chose it and follow it. That is how we demonstrate our faith. That is how we are saved as it is called.
Because he is a loving God and literally our Eternal Father, he has made available an unconditional resurrection because of the Savior’s conquest of death. All people will receive immortality with bodies perfected to the degree of their faith or lack of it. It will nevertheless be glorious. Those that offer willing commitments through their covenants to the eternal designs of our Heavenly Father receive all of the necessary grace to become exalted in the image and likeness of God. That is his ultimate endowment based on his perfect love, justice and mercy.
Billions have lived on the earth without hearing of Jesus Christ or his church or his covenants and ordinances. There could be nothing more unjust than to condemn these individuals based on a lack of opportunity. Since we are eternal spiritual beings, after we die and before the final resurrection there is yet an opportunity where individuals can accept the plan of the Father and the mercy of the Savior. There are teaching and learning opportunities on the other side of the veil of death.
When we go to the temple after our own endowment or marriage we can return as often as we want to vicariously represent individuals of our family or others that did not receive these ordinances. God is a being of perfect justice and places the same requirements on each of us. The process is very individual both on earth and in the place where the spirits reside until the resurrection. They can accept the ordinances performed on their behalf if they so choose and receive all of the associated blessings.
My parents never joined the Mormon Church while they were alive. I imagine that the Lord’s church in the eternities is called something different if it even exists. As I understand we will be organized as families. Even so they must accept and believe any and all truths that God requires of us. If they do so they will still be able to go to the highest order of heaven or the Celestial Kingdom as we call it.
I have performed these ordinances of eternal marriage and the endowment for them. I don’t know if they accept them or not. I have faith and suppose they will. They were truly good people. When i went to the temple for them, I could feel my love for them and theirs for me as their child. These affections and bonds never leave us. I have made them in this life with my wife and look to them as a source of peace and joy, both now and forever.
As Latter-Day Saints we proclaim the authority of God’s priesthood to perform the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Even so, many people, for reasons I don’t know or understand will not look to us for answers to questions about eternal truths and the nature of God. Those that do will find answers. They can confirm them through a process of personal understanding and revelation as I did and that millions have.
Our missionaries can help anyone that will listen to apply these principles. The philosophies of men prevail throughout the world and have produced a blinding effect on the general condition of the world. Eternal things are left on the side while the pursuits of the world occupy most people's time and attention.
The test of our faith is real. I attest to the fact of God’s eternal love, his true plan of salvation and that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is our Savior and Redeemer, and directs the work of salvation. I testify of living prophets that hold his authority and preside over it and the church in the earth. We can all participate in it if we desire. This is my testimony and why I like the temple and love all that it represents.