One of the most common stereotypes of Mormons is that they are too secretive. I have to admit, this has me scratching my head.
First of all, there’s the whole missionary thing. I came across this recently – it’s perfect.
Kidding aside, I have a few thoughts about the temple and the charge that Mormons are too secretive. Maybe this will clear some things up.
The Temple Is Holy
We believe the temple to be a holy place. This means it has been consecrated and set aside for a very sacred use. A temple isn’t just some nice building to look at. It isn’t the same as a Chapel. It is truly a Holy place dedicated to the Lord. If we want to have the presence of God’s spirit, then the temple must be clean – physically and spiritually.
Anciently, the tabernacle (and later Solomon’s temple) was a place where sacred ordinances were performed. There were also very strict rules on who was able to enter and perform this sacred work. The Lord taught:
“For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.” – Deuteronomy 23:14
In order to have the Lord dwell with them, the Israelites needed to have a place that was clean and set apart from the world. The Lord cannot dwell in unclean places.
Likewise, in modern-day Mormon temples, there must be a standard of spiritual and physical cleanliness. Once the temple has been consecrated, it is considered Holy. We have been instructed:
“And that no unclean thing shall be permitted to come into thy house to pollute it;” – Doctrine and Covenants 109:20
Great measures are taken to make sure that the temple remains a clean, pure, and holy place.
You can enter a Mormon temple before it is dedicated.
Temples that are currently open have been dedicated. These are the temples that require a special recommend in order to enter. However, there is a time when temples are open to the general public. After a temple has been built, but before it has been dedicated to God for it’s use as a temple, there is an “open house”. Anyone can make a reservation to tour a temple during an open house. At templeopenhouse.lds.org you can find which temples are open to the public. You can also make a reservation for a tour.
Many Religions have Holy Places
With a quick google search, you can find that many religions have holy places where most people are not able to enter. There are very holy muslim places where only people who have been authorized may enter. In Japan, you cannot enter the Ise Grand Shrine unless you are both a shinto priest or priestess and you are a member of the Imperial Family. You cannot show up at the Vatican and expect to be able to poke around everywhere – just because you want to. There are many religions with “holy places”, but perhaps they aren’t as well known.
Prevalence of Temples
Follow me for a second, but I think that the prevalence of Mormon temples is proof that we aren’t trying to be overly secretive. It isn’t as if a Mormon has to make a pilgrimage to one specific place. We are building temples everywhere.
Take a look at this page to see temples around the world. There are temples from Nigeria to New Zealand. There are currently over 125 operating temples, and more under construction. We don’t have a secretive religion. We want everyone, all over the world, to be able to participate in the chance to serve at the temple.
Why the Temple has requirements for Entrance
A temple is not like a chapel. Mormons go to church weekly at a chapel. On Sundays, we hear speakers talk on various inspirational subjects. We participate in the Sacrament. We have Sunday School. Sundays at a Mormon church are relatively familiar. Additionally, anyone is welcome to worship with any Mormon congregation on a Sunday.
Mormon temples are a little different. First of all, temples aren’t open on Sundays; they are not for Sabbath-day worship. Mormon temples are a sacred place where we make and keep sacred covenants. We believe that God covenants with His people – as He did anciently. We believe that some of these covenants need to be made in a holy place dedicated for the specific purpose of covenant-making. This is why we build temples – so everyone can have the chance to make these covenants if they wish to. We don’t make these covenants on the Sabbath, but instead make time to go to the temple during the week.
The covenants made in the temple have requirements. I like to think of it like an upper-level-college-course…many of them have prerequisites. For example, when I was in college, I majored in English. I couldn’t take the Upper-Divisional Courses like Romantic and 19th Century Poetry without first taking English 101. In order to take Advanced Writing, I had to take the basic Composition course. Additionally, I had to have a good grade in my lower-level class before I could qualify for the upper-divisional course. I couldn’t just sign up for an advanced course for the heck of it. No one would accuse a college of being “secretive” because it upheld requirements for its upper-divisional classes. These classes, like the temple, are available to anyone who wants to perform the requirements in order to attend.
Like a college course, when you attend the temple, there is something expected of you. If you sign up for a course, you choose to take it seriously or fail. The temple is a serious place with serious requirements. It is a place where covenants are made, and these covenants are not a joke. Therefore, there are “prerequisites.” You have to be prepared – spiritually and mentally – before entering the temple. There are very serious responsibilities that accompany the wonderful blessings of the temple. It would be unfair to allow someone who wasn’t ready or willing to be held responsible for the covenants of the temple to receive them – just as it would be unfair for a person expected to complete and pass calculus without first taking algebra.
Because the temple is a holy place where sacred, serious covenants are made, a high standard must be upheld. It is for these reasons that One is required to “qualify” in order to attend the temple.
The thing I love most about the temple is that the qualifications are based on faith. When you go to receive a temple recommend, you have a private meeting with your bishop. You don’t have to be of a certain social standing or class to enter. The Qualifications are simpler and purer. We learn in Psalms:
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” – Psalms 24:3-4.
If you want to qualify to attend the temple, you don’t have to get a special haircut or walk a certain way. You don’t have to live on the hill or make loads of money. You simply need to have clean hands and a pure heart. And who determines this? You, the bishop, and the Lord. It is a private, personal matter. It is the ultimate Honor System, if you will.
I hope that this post has helped you to understand more about the temple, and why Mormons consider it to be so sacred. You can find out more about temples here. Additionally, If you have more questions, please, check out mormon.org where you will find more questions and answers on the temple.