As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I get asked quite often the question, "What do you people do in those temples of yours?", along with many others. There are misconceptions and mysteries surrounding our temples because we don't speak of the specifics of what we do inside and only members of the church who hold recommends are allowed to go inside to perform the ordinances. This causes many people to believe that what we do within the walls of our temples is secret. Let me dispel that myth. What we do in our temples is not secret. What we do in our temples is sacred. There is a difference. Let me explain with an analogy.
Let me compare our temples to an operating room. Let's say I need a heart operation. I am not going to go to just any doctor or just any clinic or just any hospital. I am going to find a surgeon who has been trained in the field of heart surgery. I want to find a surgeon who has gained the necessary skills and knowledge to prepare himself to operate on my heart. I want him to be prepared. I also want his surgical team to be prepared. I want to be saved. I want to live, so I want the best.
Now the time comes for me to have my heart surgery. Are they going to let just anyone into that operating room while my surgery is being performed? No. Only those who have been trained and prepared to assist in that procedure will be allowed in. Performing heart surgery is no secret, but in order to perform that surgery, a person has to do certain things - go to college and be trained in the field of medicine and then pass certain tests to be sure the person performing those procedures is qualified to do so. The same goes for the nurses and assisting surgeons also in the operating room. Each one has been held accountable for their actions and proven they are qualified to be in that room. Anyone can be a heart surgeon, but they have to meet those qualifications in order to be so. It is much the same way for our temples.
People often ask, "Why do Mormons build temples?" To which we respond, "Throughout history, the Lord has commanded His people to build temples. Temples are literally houses of the Lord. They are holy places of worship where individuals make sacred promises with God."(1) Temples have been on the earth since the time of Adam. We read about them throughout the Old and New Testaments. Our temples are built today for the same purposes in which they were built anciently.
Our temples are beautiful places.
In Mark 16:16 Jesus spake, saying, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." and in John 3: 5: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jesus Christ himself was even baptized by immersion as an example for us to follow.
So this means that ALL of God's children, (that means everyone), needs to be baptized by the proper authority, even as Jesus was, in order to enter into the kingdom of God. But what about all of the people who have lived on the earth and died without this saving ordinance? Would our God really let all of those people perish without the hope of entering into His kingdom? NO! He is not only a just God, but a merciful God as well. So we perform baptisms in our temples for those who have died without this saving ordinance. This is not a new doctrine. It is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15: 29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" This one verse tells us baptisms for the dead were also performed in the temples in Jesus' day. Paul also uses this reference as a way to explain that because of Jesus Christ's Atonement, baptism is necessary. Without that Atonement, all of God's children would not have the blessing of resurrection, therefore not needing baptism. But since there was an Atonement, all men will be resurrected in the flesh and therefore saved physically. Baptism is our first step towards spiritual salvation.
"In the temple we are taught, we make covenants, and we are promised blessings. We receive ordinances that enable us to live in the presence of God." You can read more about these other ordinances HERE.
The first time we go to the temple and complete these ordinances and make these covenants, we are making them for ourselves. Each time after that we go through in proxy for a person who has died and complete these ordinances for them. Each individual has the free agency to accept or reject these ordinances for themselves.
So who can go into the temple and perform these ordinances? Just as the heart surgeon who has earned his right to be in that operating room performing that operation, we have requirements we have to meet in order to enter the temple. Before a temple is dedicated, anyone who would like to can go through the open house and see what it looks like inside. You don't even have to be a member of our church. So if there is a temple being built in your area, you can find out when the open house will be and go and see the inside. It is so beautiful and worth the chance to see.
But once a temple has been dedicated to the Lord as His sacred and holy house, only members of the church who hold recommends can go inside. There are questions of worthiness asked in two separate interviews with a Bishop and a member of the Stake Presidency to determine if a person is worthy to enter. We are not expected to be perfect, but there are certain requirements such as honesty, virtue, fidelity, and how we treat our spouses and children that help determine whether we are worthy to enter the Lord's house and perform those sacred ordinances. It isn't a secret, but because of the sacred nature of the covenants and ordinances performed, certain requirements are necessary. So any person meeting these requirements can go in.
There is so much more you can learn about our temples if you are interested. If you click HERE, you will be directed to a FAQ page that will give you even more information and there are pictures throughout the site, both for the insides of the temples as well as many of the temples around the globe. You are also welcome to email me at my email address in the top left corner of my blog and I would be happy to answer any more questions any might have.