The temple is a beautiful, serene place, and it is unique among buildings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members gather in meetinghouses for weekly worship services. There, they enrich their lives by studying the gospel; they minister and serve among each other. But they attend the temple in part to bless and serve those who’ve gone before them. Every person who has lived on the earth is entitled to the opportunity to receive the blessings of eternal life and eternal family relations. Performing temple work by proxy for those who have gone on before allows God’s blessings to extend to all of His children.
Mormons worship in meetinghouses around the world, and non-Mormons are always welcome to participate. These buildings might be a neighborhood chapel or even a space in a busy city building. It’s in these meetinghouses that members of the Church gather for various meetings, including Sunday services and weekly activities. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has temples. Temples are different than meetinghouses. Even from the exterior, it’s apparent that a temple is intended to stand apart from the world. Literally a house of God, the temple is where members of the Church go to commune with Heavenly Father, feel His presence, and make covenants with Him that have eternal significance.
The temple is designated as a holy place, a site of beauty, peace, and purpose, worthy of God’s presence. As such, people who enter the temple are asked to be pure in heart and spiritually prepared for this sacred venue. That does not mean that those who attend the temple are perfect. Rather, they are striving to keep God’s commandments and the promises they made at baptism. Going to the temple is a demonstration of personal faith and a deep, ongoing commitment to God’s plan.
Meetinghouses for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are different from those used by many other religions. They include classrooms, offices, a font for baptisms, a kitchen and in many cases a cultural hall with an indoor basketball court. Cultural halls in Mormon buildings usually also have a stage, for dramatic and musical productions. And the basketball court doubles for a dance floor or dining area, among other uses.
This is all in addition to a large room that seats 200 to 300, called the chapel, used for Sunday worship services. The word “chapel” is also sometimes used by Mormons to describe the whole building or meetinghouse.
“The building was so simple,” said Sandra Yeo after visiting for the first time one of the Church’s meetinghouses in her native England.
“There were no crosses, no murals, no statues or icons of any kind as far as I could see. I had never been in a Christian church that didn’t have that sort of thing. I found the simplicity very appealing.”
For Latter-day Saints, the church meetinghouse is a hub of religious and social life. The most important part of the week, though, is the hour-long sacrament meeting. This takes place on Sunday and is similar to other Christian worship services. Men, women and younger members offer prayers and give sermons, hymns are sung, and the sacrament, similar to other traditions’ communion, is administered. Members teach the principles taught by Jesus Christ.
When Brian Sharon attended his first meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wisconsin, he was impressed with the worship service itself.
“I was used to a very formal, highly structured worship service in the church of my childhood," Sharon said. "I was intrigued by how smoothly and efficiently things were handled, without extensive ritual or ceremony. And I was touched by how friendly and open everyone was, especially to visitors like my family. It was refreshing to me.”
In addition to the sacrament meeting, there are other meetings on Sundays as part of a three-hour span from 9 a.m. until noon, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or some other variation.
These other meetings include classes for youths and adults and what Mormons call “Primary,” a time for lessons and singing for children 12 and under.
Mormons tend to have large families, so be prepared to see — and hear — a lot of children. And though Mormon parents try to teach their little ones to be reverent, children are also encouraged to be involved.
In the children’s Primary, for example, you will see 7-year-olds, or even younger children, give talks, read scripture and pray in front of their peers. The songs taught and sung in Primary focus on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, on scriptural themes and on simple ways children and others can put into practice what is preached.
Mormons are generally a friendly people, so a visitor should not be surprised when someone, seeing the new face, comes over to talk and offers to shake hands and help the visitor find the right meeting or class.
The sacrament is the formal blessing and administering of bread and water representing the body and blood of Christ to Church members, usually during a Sunday worship meeting. It is the equivalent of communion in many other Christian churches.
We sing hymns (hymnbooks are provided). Church members say opening and closing prayers. We partake of the sacrament (communion), which consists of prepared bread and water, blessed and passed to members of the congregation by priesthood holders. And we listen to two or more speakers who are usually members of the congregation. You might be surprised that we don’t have just one pastor or preacher. We do have an unpaid bishop who presides over each congregation (called a ward).
Before or after sacrament meeting there are a variety of other age-appropriate meetings you and your children can attend. If you want to attend these additional meetings, ask someone for directions. If they don’t know, they’ll find someone who does. Enter your address to find Church meetinghouse locations and the times of worship services near you.
Holy temples are as necessary today as they were anciently when they served as sacred locations to make covenants, perform holy ordinances, and to be taught by God. Today in over 160 temples worldwide, Mormons do those same things. In these temples, faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints find opportunities for peaceful reflection and for learning more about God’s plan of happiness for His children. Through the power of the priesthood, members are married for time and eternity and perform proxy baptisms for their ancestors who died without enjoying the blessings of this saving ordinance.
The Temple is designated as a holy place, a site of beauty, peace, and purpose, worthy of God’s presence. As such, people who enter the temple are asked to be pure in heart and spiritually prepared for this sacred venue. That does not mean that those who attend the temple are perfect. Rather, they are striving to keep God’s commandments and the promises they made at baptism. Going to the temple is a demonstration of personal faith and a deep, ongoing commitment to God’s plan.
The temple helps us understand God’s expectations for His children from an eternal perspective. In temples baptisms are performed for ancestors to give deceased relatives the opportunity to accept blessings of
eternity. It is also in the temple that husbands, wives, and children are sealed so that they can remain a family even after this life. It is this desire for united, enduring
relationships with loved ones and with God that draws people to the temple and its eternal, binding promises.
Regardless of the time in history, a temple of God is the most sacred place of worship on earth—a place where heaven touches the earth, a place where marvelous blessings are bestowed, and a place where we can feel closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.