Temple (Latter Day Saints)

Temple (Latter Day Saints)
The Salt Lake Temple, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the best-known Mormon temple. Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, it is the centerpiece of the 10 acre (40,000 m²) Temple Square.

In the Latter Day Saint movement, a temple is a building dedicated to be a house of God and is reserved for special forms of worship. A temple differs from a church meetinghouse, which is used for weekly worship services. Temples have been a significant part of the Latter Day Saint movement since early in its inception. Today, temples are operated by several Latter Day Saint denominations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has 135 operating temples worldwide to perform Endowment ceremonies, marriages, and other services for both the living and by proxy in behalf of dead ancestors.

Although the most prolific builder of temples within the Latter Day Saint movement is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, several other denominations have built or attempted to build temples. Community of Christ operates two temples in the United States, which are open to the public and are used for worship services, performances, and religious education.[1] Other denominations with temples are the Apostolic United Brethren, the Church of Christ, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.



The Kirtland Temple, owned and maintained by the Community of Christ, was the first temple of the Latter Day Saint movement and the only temple completed in the lifetime of Joseph Smith, Jr.
The Nauvoo Temple: built in 1846, destroyed soon after, and rebuilt in 2002

The Latter Day Saint movement was conceived as a restoration of practices believed to have been lost in a Great Apostasy from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Temple worship played a prominent role in the Bible's Old Testament, and in the Book of Mormon.[2]

On December 27, 1832—two years after the organization of the Church of Christ—the church's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., reported receiving a revelation that called upon church members to restore the practice of temple worship. The Latter Day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio were commanded to:

"Establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God." (Doctrine and Covenants 1835 VII:36, LDS 88:119, RLDS 85:36b)

More importantly, Latter Day Saints see temples as the fulfillment of a prophecy found in Malachi 3:1 (KJV):

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts."

This is believed to emphasize that when the Lord comes again, he will come "to his temple."

As plans were drawn up to construct a temple in Kirtland, the decision was made to simultaneously begin work on a second temple at the church's colony in Jackson County, Missouri. Surviving plans indicate that both temples would have the same dimensions and approximately the same appearance and both were to be at the "centerplaces" of cities designed according to Smith's plan for the City of Zion.

Conflict in Missouri led to the expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, preventing any possibility of building a temple there, but work on the temple in Kirtland continued. At great cost and after great sacrifice, the Latter Day Saints finished the Kirtland Temple in early 1836. On March 27, they held a lengthy dedication ceremony and numerous spiritual experiences and visitations were reported.

Conflict relating to the failure of the church's Kirtland Safety Society bank, caused the church presidency to leave Kirtland and move the church's headquarters to the Mormon settlement of Far West, Missouri. Far West was also platted along the lines of the City of Zion plan and in 1838 the church began construction of a new, larger temple in the center of the town. They may also have dedicated a temple site in the neighboring Mormon settlement of Adam-ondi-Ahman. The events of the 1838 Mormon War and the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri left these attempts at temple-building no further progressed than excavating foundations.

In 1839, the Mormons regrouped at a new headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois. They were again commanded to build a "House of the Lord" — this one even larger and greater than those that went before. Plans for the temple in Nauvoo followed the earlier models in Kirtland and Independence with lower and upper courts, but the scale was much increased.

New conflicts arose that caused Joseph Smith, the Prophet and President of the Church, to be murdered, along with his brother Hyrum the Patriarch, at Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. The Nauvoo Temple stood only half finished. Eventually, this temple was finished and dedicated. Some temple ordinances were performed before most of the saints followed Brigham Young west across the Mississippi River.

Joseph Smith's death resulted in a succession crisis which divided the movement into different sects. The concept of temple worship evolved separately in many of these sects and only the LDS Church continued to build temples until April 1990 when the Community of Christ, then known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), began to construct the Independence Temple, which was officially dedicated in 1994. The Community of Christ still owns the Kirtland Temple, which is used for worship services and special events but also open to visitors, including various Latter Day Saint denominations interested in the building's historical significance.


Temple in Salt Lake City on "Temple Square" circa 1897

Temples have held numerous purposes in the Latter Day Saint movement, both historically and their differing expressions today. These purposes include:

  • A House of the Lord — Joseph Smith, Jr. reported a revelation in 1836 explaining that the recently-dedicated Kirtland Temple was built "that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people." (Doctrine and Covenants LDS 109:5). All Latter Day Saint denominations with temples still consider temples to be special houses of the Lord.
  • A House of Learning — The Kirtland Temple housed the "School of the Prophets."
  • Center of the City of Zion — Latter Day Saints often view temples as central to the establishment of Zionic communities. Examples include: the Kirtland Temple, the original (unfinished) Independence Temple, the (unfinished) Far West Temple, the (unfinished) Adam-ondi-Ahman Temple, the original Nauvoo Temple, the Salt Lake Temple, the St. George Utah Temple, the Mesa Arizona Temple, the Lā‘ie Hawai‘i Temple, and others.
  • Headquarters of the church — the Kirtland Temple served as the headquarters of the early church from its completion in 1836 through the end of 1837.
  • Sacred spaces for special ordinances — Beginning in Nauvoo, temples were spaces in which to perform special ordinances such as the endowment and baptism for the deadsee Ordinance (Mormonism).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Columbus Ohio Temple, an example of smaller temples built under Hinckley's direction
The Preston Temple in the United Kingdom in February 2009.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) has been the most prolific builder of temples. There are 135 operating temples, 13 under construction, and 18 announced (not yet under construction). In this church, temples are not only a House of the Lord, but are also where members of the Church make covenants, receive instructions, and perform sacred ordinances, such as: baptism for the dead, washing and anointing (or "initiatory" ordinances), the "endowment," and eternal marriage sealings. Ordinances are a vital part of the theology of the church, which teaches that they were practiced by the Lord's covenant people in all dispensations. Additionally, members consider the temple a place to commune with God, seek God’s aid, understand the will of God, and receive personal revelation.

Upon completion, temples are usually open to the public for a short period of time (an "Open House"). During the Open House, the church conducts tours of the temple with missionaries and members from the local area serving as tour guides, and all rooms of the temple are open to the public. The temple is then dedicated as a "House of the Lord," after which only members in good standing are permitted entrance, thus they are not churches but rather places of worship.


In 1832, shortly after the formation of the Church, Joseph Smith, Jr. said that the Lord desired the saints build a temple;[3] and they completed the Kirtland Temple in 1836. Differing from other churches in the Latter Day Saint tradition, members feel that the first endowment ceremonies were performed in Kirtland, Ohio, although the endowment performed in Kirtland differed significantly from the endowment performed by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. The construction of the Nauvoo Temple and the teaching of the full endowment by Smith are seen as the final steps in restoring the Church founded by Jesus Christ following the great apostasy. Because it is an integral part of their worship, members, upon arriving in Salt Lake City began plans to build temples there, and built the Endowment House to allow members to receive the endowment until the temples were completed.


Initially, the Church constructed temples in areas where there were large concentrations of members: Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Hawai'i (all in the USA), and Alberta (Canada). In the mid 20th century, because of the importance of temples in the theology, the Church tried to balance density with the travel requirements that attending the temple imposed upon members. Thus, temples were built in Europe (Switzerland-1955 and England-1958); the Pacific Islands (New Zealand-1958); and Washington, D.C. (1974-first American temple East of Utah since Nauvoo in 1846) when membership alone might not have justified the effort.

Temple growth continued in the 1980s, Spencer W. Kimball directed the Church to build smaller temples with similar designs. Before this time, all but the Switzerland temple were at least 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2), and the average size of the first 20 temples was 103,000 square feet (9,570 m2). The new temples varied in size but were generally less than 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) allowing temples to be built where there were fewer members. As a result the first temples in South America (Brazil-1978); Asia (Japan-1980); and Central America (Mexico City-1983) were built and the number of temples doubled from 15 to 36. Church president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) also accelerated the construction of temples through the use of an even smaller standardized base design[4] and set a goal to have 100 operating temples before 2001.[5] Between the brief building period from 1998 to 2001, 38 of these standardized temples were constructed and dedicated, meeting Hinckley's goal and, during Hinckley's service as president, the number of temples more than doubled from 47 to 124.

Independence Temple of Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri, USA. Dedicated 1994

Community of Christ

This reference chart shows the relative sizes of various temples in the Latter Day Saint movement. (Note that the LDS Church has many more temples than are shown and a comparison of those Temples is found on the List of temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints page.)

Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) maintains two temples. Unlike those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, these temples are open to the public. Many religious functions take place including Communion and a daily prayer for peace.

The temple built in Kirtland, Ohio is owned and maintained by Community of Christ. This was the first temple actually built (rather than merely planned) by the Latter Day Saint movement and the only temple completed in the lifetime of Joseph Smith, Jr. This temple was the first temple built by Latter Day Saints.

Additionally, during its 1994 World Conference, Community of Christ dedicated a second temple in Independence, Missouri. Community of Christ describes this temple as a house of worship and education "dedicated to the pursuit of peace".[6] The church holds a Daily Prayer for Peace at 1:00 p.m. Central Time in the 1,600 seat sanctuary.

Other denominations

Six addational Latter Day Saint denomination have built a temples.

The Church of Christ built two temples, the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples.

The Church of Christ (Wightite) build a temple near Zodiac, Texas, about three miles from Fredericksburg, at a colony founded by Lyman Wight. The only remaining material infrastructure of the colony is the Morman Mill cemetery near Hamilton Creek, about fifty miles east by north of Fredericksburg.[7]

The Apostolic United Brethren has had a temple in Ozumba, Mexico by at least the 1990s, as well as an Endowment house in Utah since sometime in the 1980s. This was the first time any of the polygamous Mormon fundamentalists sects build a temple of their own.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), in 2004 constructed a temple at their new settlement near Eldorado, Texas. The foundation of the FLDS temple roughly matches that of the original Nauvoo Temple.

The Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a denomination founded in 1978, built a pyramid-shaped temple on a “sacred hill” near Modena, Utah.[8]

Construction attempts

During the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., a few years before the Kirtland temple was planned or built, Smith dedicated a location in Independence, Missouri for the building of a special temple, which was to be the center of a New Jerusalem. Several sections of the Latter Day Saint scripture Doctrine and Covenants refer to this first dedication of a temple location in Latter Day Saint history. As of 2011, the lot for this temple is owned and maintained by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). Although the church planned to build a temple on the site in the early 20th century, and even excavated a foundation, efforts were abandoned during the economic woes of the Great Depression and due to a schism which resulted in the establishment of the Church of Christ (Fettingite). Today, the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) has no plans to construct a temple of its own. Instead, the church believes it is the steward of the location until the various sects of the Latter Day Saint movement re-unite into a single organization before the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) began to construct a temple at their headquarters in Voree, Wisconsin in the mid-1840s. Another temple may have been planned for Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, prior to their expulsion. The church has made no attempt to build temples since the death of their prophet, James J. Strang.

Performing ordinances in other buildings

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints performed ordinances in the Endowment House to allow members to receive the endowment during construction of temples in Utah after leaving Nauvoo.

Although the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite) does not have any temples, it still conducts Baptisms for the Dead and a Nauvoo-style Endowment within its meetinghouse in Independence, Missouri. A second meetinghouse exists in Clitherall, Minnesota, but this is not currently in use. Eternal Marriage is rejected by the Cutlerite church. While Cutlerites believe in temples, they do not believe that either of their temple ordinances require a temple for validity. As within the LDS church, these sacred services are not open to the public, and participants are discouraged from discussing them outside the temple.

See also

Christus statue temple square salt lake city.jpg Latter-day Saints portal


  1. ^ Temple School, Community of Christ, (retrieved February 14, 2010)
  2. ^ Questions and Answers Tambuli, July 1984, 6–10, 24–26
  3. ^ Recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Smith wrote that the Lord commanded the Saints to "establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;" (see D&C 88:119-120)
  4. ^ Hinckley announced the use of smaller standardized temples in 1997 (Gordon B. Hinckley. "Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service". 167th Semiannual General Conference, October 1997. http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-32-20,00.html. Retrieved 2006-10-30. ). The base design is about 10,700 square feet (990 m2), and temples built from the design are generally between 10,000 and 18,000 square feet (930 and 1,700 m2). These temples generally do not include a large laundry facility, do not provide members with the ability to rent temple clothing, nor provide a cafeteria for members (Almanac, 2000).
  5. ^ Gordon B. Hinckley. "New Temples to Provide "Crowning Blessings" of the Gospel". 168th Annual General Conference, April 1998. http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-26-35,00.html. Retrieved 2006-10-30. 
  6. ^ Doctrine and Covenants, Section 156:5. See also Robinson, Kenneth N. (June 2006), A People of the Temple.
  7. ^ Van Wagenen, Michael. The Texas Republic and the Mormon Kingdom of God. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002. ISBN 158544184
  8. ^ Utah Attorney General’s Office and Arizona Attorney General's Office. The Primer, Helping Victims of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in Polygamous Communities. Updated June 2006. Page 23.


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