Who can enter Mormon temples?
A year and a half ago, my husband and I were married in the San Diego LDS Temple. After announcing our engagement, we were a little apprehensive about telling our non-LDS family members that they would not be able to attend our wedding ceremony because it would be held in an LDS temple. In the months leading up to our wedding, we answered many questions about the temple and were ultimately very grateful for our family’s understanding and support in something they recognized as very special and important to us.
For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples are our most sacred spaces of worship. Much of our religion revolves around the ordinances that take place there and the covenants we make with God while in the temple.
In this discussion, it’s important to understand the distinction between LDS temples and LDS meetinghouses. Regular Sunday worship services do not take place in temples–in fact, temples are only open Monday through Saturday. Sunday church services, as well as various activities throughout the week, are held in meetinghouses, and the invitation is always open to any and all who would like to come.
After a new LDS temple is built, several weeks are set aside for a public open house. All are welcome to come and take a guided tour of the temple. (The next temple open house will be for the Provo City Center Temple, starting in January 2016. If you’re in the area, please come!) When the open house period is over, the temple is closed to the public, and during a special meeting, the building is dedicated to the Lord.
As stated before, temples are a more sacred space of worship for LDS members, and therefore there are guidelines for who can enter the temple. A common misconception is that all baptized members of the LDS church may enter the temple. While it is true that you must be a member of the LDS church, entrance to the temple is based on each member’s spiritual maturity and personal worthiness.
Although there are some ordinances that youth over the age of 12 can participate in, most LDS members fully participate in temple worship for the first time between the ages of 18 and 25. In order to enter the temple, each Church member must have a “Temple Recommend.” This small card is given to the Church member after a special interview with his/her bishop to determine the person’s personal worthiness to enter the temple. The questions asked in this interview determine if the member has a testimony of the Church, keeps the commandments, supports Church leaders, obeys the Word of Wisdom, pays tithing, and is honest.
Many people question the “secretive” nature of LDS temples. Details of temple worship and proceedings are not discussed outside the temple not because they are secret but because they are sacred. Boyd K. Packer, who was a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once explained, “A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Lord did not tell all things to all people. There were some qualifications set that were prerequisite to receiving sacred information. Temple ceremonies fall within this category.”
Entering the temple and participating in temple ordinances is a religious focal point for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In my own experience, I was taught the importance of the temple from a young age and spent many years preparing to enter the temple. For me, maintaining high standards of conduct and improving my personal spirituality and righteousness is a daily commitment to ensure that I am always worthy to enter the temple and partake of the peace, comfort, and inspiration that I feel when I am there.