The Mormon Temple Endowment
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called Mormons by those of other faiths, believe in holy temples. Mormon temples are being built all over the world to bring their blessings to members of the “Mormon Church” who may otherwise not be able to attend due to distance and expense. Those who have not heard much about Mormon temples sometimes accuse Latter-day Saints of being very secretive about them, but if you ask any Latter-day Saint about the temple, he will tell you it is not secret, but sacred. This accusation comes because Mormon temples are not open to everyone, and, in fact, not even to all Latter-day Saints. Only members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are in good standing (meaning they are obeying the commandments of Jesus Christ they have received) and who are spiritually mature are permitted to enter Mormon temples. Those who receive their endowment for the first time are typically getting married or are preparing to serve a mission for the LDS Church, though some single adults to receive their endowment on their own.
The Mormon temple endowment, sometimes referred to as the Mormon temple ritual, is one of the ordinances which is received in a Mormon temple. The endowment ordinance is preceded by the initiatory ordinance, which is referred to in the Old Testament in Exodus 40:12–13, “And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him.” This washing and anointing is done only symbolically in temples today. Wild accusations that Latter-day Saints are ever naked or perform any unclean acts in the temple are absolutely false. All temple ordinances are sacred and teach participants to be reverent and respectful.
In the Mormon temple endowment, participants learn more about their true relationship to God. Each temple ordinance requires the participant to make certain covenants with God. These covenants demand an extremely high moral standard of living, and there are severe consequences for breaking these covenants. This is why Mormon temples are not open to just anyone. It would be very unfair for a person who was unprepared to live such a high moral standard to make these covenants and then to be punished when they failed to keep them. The seeming secrecy is really to protect those who are unprepared. There is no covenant made in the temple that is not already given as a commandment in the scriptures. The difference is, the person who enters the covenant agrees to more severe consequences for breaking that commandment. Though all commandments are eternal, and anyone who breaks a commandment will suffer a consequence, those who have more knowledge are held to a higher standard (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3).
So, why would anyone take on more responsibility and more severe consequences? Because the blessings promised for obedience are equal in relation to the severity of the consequences for breaking those same commandments. The blessings promised in Mormon temples for keeping covenants made with God are eternal and incomprehensible to our finite minds. They are so vast in scope that it is overwhelming and brings great joy and peace into the lives of the faithful, no matter what other trials they are suffering through in their lives.
The Mormon temple endowment is a huge milestone in a person’s eternal progression. The Mormon temple ritual gives participants an eternal perspective and infinite hope about the love of God and our Savior. It is a beautiful lesson to learn, and another blessing is that a person can return to the temple and participate in the ordinance again and again by standing in as a proxy for a person who died without the opportunity to receive that same ordinance. Mormon family history work allows Latter-day Saints to perform the temple ordinances for their ancestors who did not have the chance to go to the temple for themselves. Doing this work by proxy allows living participants to be reminded of the covenants they have made and of the blessings promised for obedience, while the deceased people for whom the work is being done will still have the ability to choose in the spirit world whether they want to accept that work or not.