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By Jeff Borders
My 9-year-old daughter was taken into an LDS temple, but she is not a member. How is that possible?
That is a great question, and one that is hard to answer without some context. Before I get to the answer, let me give a little background on temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is something above and beyond a customary chapel or meetinghouse. Temples, just as in Old Testament times, are special, sacred places. They are places where members of the church go to worship, learn, and receive blessings from heaven. In temples, members of the church take part in sacred ordinances and make life-long covenants (promises) with God.
It’s important to understand the difference between a chapel and a temple. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, meetinghouses, while considered sacred houses of worship, are open to anyone regardless of membership. These meetinghouses, or chapels, are where traditional Sunday services are held. During the week, youth groups hold activities, adults attend a variety of classes from addiction recovery to self-reliance, even college education classes. Congregations, also known as Wards, hold fellowshipping activities in meetinghouses as well. All of these events are open to anyone who wishes to attend.
What takes place within the walls of LDS temples, however, is unique. Members of the Church go to the temple to learn more about God and His plan for his children. They participate in holy ordinances. And they make special covenants. For those reasons, there are restrictions – or guidelines – regarding who can enter the temple. We consider the temple experience to be one of the most sacred experiences in our lives, and thus we don’t discuss certain parts of our experience. However the Church has done a great job explaining some of these ordinances and covenants. You can see that video here:
In order to enter a temple, members must be at least 11-years-old and be in good standing. For instance: they believe in Jesus Christ; do their best to keep the commandments of God; and live up to their covenants, including paying a full tithe. After an interview with their local leaders, they are given what is called a Temple Recommend – a card that says they are permitted to enter the temple, and which they must present at the front desk when they wish to attend.
You can check out this great video explaining this here:
Now to answer your question.
While everyone is invited to stroll the grounds outside of the temple, not just anyone is permitted to walk inside. Although you could theoretically sit in the temple lobby without actually entering the temple itself. For instance, I am a convert to the Church. When I was married in the temple, those of my family who weren’t members waited in the temple waiting room. There are other opportunities to catch a glimpse of what happens beyond the glass doors at the front entrance.
The church organizes an open house each time it builds a new temple or renovates an existing one. During an open house, anyone can see for themselves how temples are built and used. Anyone can gaze upon the beautiful architecture, and – more importantly – feel the Spirit that permeates the sacred edifice. Anyone can contemplate the visible symbolism that points to the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior and the grace of a loving God.
The most recent open house for a temple was in Rome, Italy. After it is dedicated on March 10, it will be open only to members with a Temple Recommend. A temple in the Congo will be open to visitors in March before its dedication in April. And another temple will be dedicated in Brazil in June. Other temple dedications are slated for later this year in Oklahoma, Tennessee, California and Haiti.
Either one of these situations, either sitting in the temple lobby or waiting room, or attending an open house may be what your daughter experienced. In any case, I would hope it was a positive experience and one that brought a sense of peace when visiting such a holy place.