Let’s Talk About Temples and Ritual

Once we are in a covenant relationship with the Lord, we are His and He is ours in a new way.

Latter-day Saint Temples play an important role in helping members focus on Christ and become more like Him. Disciples make sacred promises inside the temple, such as covenanting to live the Law of Consecration. Everything about the rituals are centered on Jesus Christ. In this interview, Jennifer C. Lane discusses her new book about temples and ritual.

This post includes an Amazon Affiliate Link for Jennifer C. Lane’s book, Let’s Talk About Temples and Ritual. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Why does the Church spend so much money on temples?

That’s an important question. Here are a couple ways to look at this. One is about what matters the most because it lasts the longest. We are all here in mortality for a limited amount of time and preparing for eternity, becoming more godly, is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and for others.

The temple is the place where we come to receive (and to share through vicarious ordinances) eternal spiritual gifts that are so precious and crucial that they are worth far more than anything we spend on the building of the temples as sacred spaces, places that literally are the House of the Lord, where He can come to dwell and where he invites us to meet him.

It is His house.

A second way to look at this focuses on mortality. The mission that we have as disciples of Jesus Christ—to care for the world and to care for our brothers and sisters in need—can only be accomplished as we are fully yoked to him through covenant.

The rebuilding and healing of the world is His work and He needs us to more fully be endowed with His name and His power in order to do that work.

The temple is where we go to become His “kingdom of priests” with a mission to accomplish his work, to relieve suffering and to help others flourish (see Exodus 19:5-6).

Is it just as easy to meet God in nature as in a temple?

I love being out in nature and certainly have felt God’s love there as well as many other places. But one of the messages of the temple is that God is inviting us to come to unto Christ, to journey back to His presence. He is inviting us to be changed through Jesus Christ and His gospel and to become as He is. He is holy and He invites us to prepare ourselves to come back into His presence.

The temple is a unique, set apart place where we ritually experience returning to the presence of God. It is his house, and it is there to orient us to who we really are and what the aim of our existence is. With that orientation towards Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we are then more fully able to experience God’s presence in all the rest of our lives, including in nature.

Latter-day Saint temples like the one in Rome, Italy, focus on Jesus Christ, as illustrated in this tour by Elders David A. Bednar and Ronald A. Rasband.

Why is a temple recommend necessary?

As we come to see life as a journey back to God, the idea of the covenant path with a temple recommend as part of that progress makes more sense. The first covenant in mortality is at baptism and that is where we start to be cleansed and to begin life as disciples, apprentices, seeking to be obedient and follow our Master, Jesus Christ.

We are offering up ourselves.

It takes time and practice in that discipleship from that point to prepare to make further covenants in the temple. We see from the commandment not to partake of the sacrament unworthily the principle of worthiness required to participate in the ordinances (see 3 Nephi 18:28-30). Of course repentance is a daily part of that process to stay worthy.

So, preparing to receive our endowment comes only after a certain amount of time and practice on the covenant path of discipleship. Once we have made the further covenants in the temple there is an even higher expectation of living a godly life. We must be living up to what we have promised to be able to continue to serve and worship in the Lord’s house.

Was the need for a temple fulfilled with the coming of Christ 2000 years ago?

It is important to see how the ordinances—the sacrifices of the Old Testament temple—pointed ahead to Christ. And those sacrifices did end with Christ’s death and resurrection. As we know from 3 Nephi 9 in the Book of Mormon, with His death we no longer offer up burnt offerings, but rather the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

So, the ordinances of the temple today are connected with Christ and his atoning sacrifice just as much as the ancient sacrifices, but we are offering up ourselves and our broken hearts and contrite spirits as part of how we receive the fullness of what he has to give us with his atoning sacrifice.

Ordinances performed in Latter-day Saint temples like this one in Salt Lake City empower disciples to draw closer to Christ.

How is a covenant more than just a “two-way promise”?

The Hebrew concept of covenant refers to a change in relationship, the creating of a family relationship. It is helpful to think of marriage or adoption as analogies, and they are often used as such in the Old Testament. Once we are in a covenant relationship with the Lord, we are His and He is ours in a new way.

How do covenants help us become the children of Christ?

Once we understand how covenants create family relationships then we are in a position to appreciate the beautiful Hebrew concept of the kinsman-redeemer, or gō’ēl. Because of the family relationship, the kinsman-redeemer would act to restore or buy back a family member who was enslaved.

The Lord Jehovah is the Spiritual Father and Redeemer of Israel, and He is our Spiritual Father and Redeemer when we become part of Israel.

As King Benjamin taught:

Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh.

Mosiah 5:7-8

How do modern and ancient temples compare?

I think that the pattern we see in the Old Testament temple is very much like the pattern we see in modern temples in the sense that we have to leave behind worldliness and enter into sacred space, growing closer and closer to God through the cleansing power of the Lamb of God.

But the difference is that in the Old Testament temples only the priests could enter into the Holy Place and only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies—and only on the Day of Atonement.

Jesus Christ is the reason we build temples.

So, the difference we see is made possible by Christ’s death in which the veil of the temple was rent and so that now we can come with “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrew 10:19-20).

In our day, the Melchizedek priesthood ordinances of the temple invite all to enter into the presence of God.

How did Freemasonry influence the revealed temple ordinances?

It’s clear that Freemasonry was part of the cultural world of Joseph Smith and many early members of the Church. We know that “the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).

There are different opinions about how ancient these practices are, but I don’t think that is really the issue. The Lord wanted to teach the early Saints how to come back to the presence of God and some of the symbols and ritual of the Masons were part of the symbolic and ritual language He used to communicate that gospel message.

How does the temple help us to have an encounter with the love of God?

The good news of the gospel is that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

The gift of Christ is embodied in the ordinances of the temple. We experience becoming holy and returning to God through making covenants and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are some of the gifts received through the temple Endowment?

To me, the language in Section 84 is extraordinary in explaining why the Lord wanted to have the Melchizedek priesthood temple ordinances restored in our day:

And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

Doctrine & Covenants 84:19-22

The priesthood power to become godly, to take on the name and nature of Christ is waiting for us. This is tied to what we read in Section 109 about the temple being given so that “they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws” (v. 15).

What does President Russell M. Nelson say about temples and priesthood power?

He has taught this principle so clearly! One beautiful President Nelson quote is:

Every woman and every man who makes covenants with God and keeps those covenants, and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances, has direct access to the power of God. Those who are endowed in the house of the Lord receive a gift of God’s priesthood power by virtue of their covenant, along with a gift of knowledge to know how to draw upon that power.

“Spiritual Treasures,” October 2019 General Conference.

What can we learn from changes in temple procedures?

Here again, the principle that “the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3) is very powerful.

The Lord speaks through His servants and to His people. He adjusts how He communicates to his audience.

I think that it also shows how the Restoration is continuing and we are receiving more and more as we become increasingly prepared to receive. The gospel does not change, but how it is communicated in the temple has been refined over time.

President Russell M. Nelson teaches that the Restoration is an ongoing process.

How would recent temple changes have impacted your book?

I feel grateful that I was able to explain the gospel doctrine taught and embodied in the temple in a way that reinforces and compliments the recent changes to the presentation of the endowment. I just wish that I had had some of the latest quotes from President Nelson to include. His teachings about the temple run through my book. His words in the closing talk of the April 2023 General Conference summarize for me the message of the temple and the message I sought to communicate in my book.

Speaking of Christ’s words in 3 Nephi, “‘Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? … Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive.’”

President Nelson said:

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ extends that same invitation to you today. I plead with you to come unto Him so that He can heal you! He will heal you from sin as you repent. He will heal you from sadness and fear. He will heal you from the wounds of this world. . . .

Jesus Christ is the reason we build temples. Each is His holy house. Making covenants and receiving essential ordinances in the temple, as well as seeking to draw closer to Him there, will bless your life in ways no other kind of worship can. For this reason, we are doing all within our power to make the blessings of the temple more accessible to our members around the world.”

President Russell M. Nelson

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Further reading

Temple and ritual resources

This section includes Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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By Jerry Winder

History geek. Seeker of truth. Believer.

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