Hey guys, so in 1985 President Ezra Taft Benson said the following: “The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness, we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren. As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.”
President Benson hit the nail on the head. But many Latter-day Saints are left with the question, “Because the temple is so sacred, what is OK to say about the temple, outside the temple?” The answer may be more than you might think. Let’s talk about it.
Alright, what is OK to say about the temple, outside the temple? There’s not necessarily a one-size fits all answer to that question. What may be appropriate in one setting and circumstance may not be appropriate in another. Latter-day Saints should seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help them find that balance. But another thing we can do is sort of build a framework for ourselves by looking at what the Church is already openly saying about the temple in their official publications.
For example, here’s a 2019 quote from Elder David A. Bednar: “Because we love the Lord, we always should speak about His holy house with reverence. We should not disclose or describe the special symbols associated with the covenants we receive in sacred temple ceremonies. Neither should we discuss the holy information that we specifically promise in the temple not to reveal.”
Those things we covenant not to talk about really amount to just a very small portion of the temple experience as a whole. So, what about everything else? In the temple, members can participate in a variety of different ordinances. In a nutshell, you’ve got: Vicarious baptisms for the dead, the Washing and Anointing or Initiatory ordinance, the Endowment ordinance, and the temple sealing or marriage ordinance. In the rest of this episode, we’re just going to look at what the Church has said about the Initiatory and Endowment ordinances, as those seem to be the ones people have the most questions about.
On two occasions in the last few years, multiple apostles and their wives have conducted video tours inside two different temples. They are both excellent and go into surprising detail. In the video tour of the Washington D.C. temple, Lisa Stevenson shows us where the washing and anointing ordinance occurs (also known as the initiatory ordinance). She explains that “It is initiatory because it is the first part of the ordinance known as the endowment. This ceremony follows the pattern we find in the Bible when Aaron and his sons were anointed and blessed. In the initiatory, members learn of specific blessings that God has prepared for those who love him and keep his commandments.”
The Church’s publicly available handbook notes that “During the initiatory, the member is authorized to wear the temple garment. The garment represents his or her personal relationship with God and the commitment to obey covenants made in the temple.” And for more on what the Church has said about garments, go watch these two videos and read this gospel topics article.
Moving on to the Endowment. A lot of people go through the temple for their first time without even knowing beforehand the covenants they’ll be making in the temple. That does not need to be the case. The Church has published what those covenants are and descriptions of each of them: The Law of Obedience, the Law of Sacrifice, the Law of the Gospel, the Law of Chastity, and the Law of Consecration. If you are preparing to go through the temple one day, I would strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with those covenants before you commit to keeping them.
The Church has published countless photos of the temple rooms around the world where the endowment is presented. We read on the Church’s website that “Some of the endowment is presented through video and some by temple officiators.” On another page, we read that “[the Endowment] teaches about the Creation of the earth, the Fall of Adam and Eve, the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, and our own journey back to the presence of God.” A lot of that presentation will sound familiar to you if you’ve read Genesis or the Book of Moses.
Some ordinances, like the endowment, require the use of sacred ceremonial temple clothing. This video, published by the Church, shows what those clothes look like. The video teaches that “…temple robes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the robes of the holy priesthood, are worn only inside Latter-day Saint temples, and reserved for the most sacred ceremonies of their faith.”
In short, the Church has said quite a lot about the temple in the last decade. When it comes to talking about the temple, I do think there’s a bit of a generation gap. The older generation generally seems a bit more hesitant to talk about the temple than the younger generation, and that’s understandable. But the fact is that it’s not as taboo a subject as it was 20 years ago, and it’s important that we do reverently talk about what we can talk about. Everything quoted in this episode can be found right on the Church’s website. It’s there for everyone to see. And I think it’s really a rather conservative look at what we can talk about. If you branch out to publications like BYU Studies or the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, you’ll find even more information about the temple prayer circle, etc. Again, we covenant not to talk about very little. As for the rest, follow the Spirit, and you can’t go wrong.
I hope these guidelines help you as you talk about the temple with your friends and family. Check out the resources in the YouTube description if you want to dive deeper into today’s topic. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a great day!
- “Two Apostles Lead a Virtual Tour of the Rome Italy Temple,” video via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3Q3sBS4
- “Welcome to the Washington D.C. Temple,” video via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3CQL2Xl
- “About the Temple Endowment,” via the Church’s website (contains list of covenants made): https://bit.ly/3RqAiCU
- “‘Mormon Underwear’ is the Temple Garment and is Sacred to Latter-day Saints,” via Church Newsroom YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/SkTz_NQqKA8
- “Inside Temples,” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3RsHC10
- “Endowment,” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3wStMwT
- Here’s a link to what the Church’s handbook has to say regarding temples: https://bit.ly/3cCyqIu
- “Temple Garments,” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3TDm2ZB
- “What are Temple Garments?” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3B65iTg
- “Sacred Temple Clothing,” video via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3cI2lz5
- “Prepare to Obtain Every Needful Thing,” by Elder David A. Bednar, April 2019: https://bit.ly/3K6eYAk
- “‘Endowed With Power’” via BYU Studies: https://bit.ly/3KGVemR
- “Temple Ordinances,” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3wOjzlh
- “Prayer Circle,” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3etsSMW