I Have a Question

Are the activities that go on in the temples similar to religious services in Mormon chapels?

Edward E. Drury, Jr., President, Washington Temple: Temples are reserved for special ordinance work in contrast to the regular chapels of the Church that are used for public worship.

In the temple rooms sacred ordinances are performed, including the ceremony of eternal marriage. Here, over the altar in God’s holy house, a man and a woman pledge their love and loyalty to one another, and under the authority of the holy priesthood they are united in marriage not only for this life but for eternity as well.

Those who come to the temple following its dedication will receive an explanation of man’s eternal journey from his preexistent state through the creation of the earth, his activities in the Garden of Eden, and his banishment into the world of mortality. Here man is shown the way which, if followed, will lead him to eternal exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Father.

In the temple there is a baptismal font where the earthly ordinance of baptism by immersion is performed by living proxies acting in behalf of the dead who have passed on without a knowledge of the saving principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

All of the ordinance work done in a temple for the living is also available, through the work of proxies, to those who died without hearing the gospel. Those who have died without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ while on earth are taught the gospel in the world of spirits, and all ordinances for the dead are conditioned upon the dead receiving these ordinances (1 Pet. 3:18–20; 1 Pet. 4:6) by their own faith in the Lord and their own repentance.

Those two conditions, the eternal nature of the ordinances performed and the work done by proxies for the dead, are unique and sacred to the temple.

In contrast to the work performed in the temples, meetings held in Mormon chapels provide opportunities for both members and nonmembers to receive instruction and to worship the Lord.

What are the basic principles that make your church distinct from other Christian faiths?

Julian C. Lowe, President, Annandale Virginia Stake: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is often called the Mormon Church, does not fit into the categories of Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. It is the church that Jesus Christ himself organized on the earth in the meridian of time restored to the earth in the last days.

The restoration of the Church in these “latter days” began with Joseph Smith’s humble inquiry of the Lord in 1820. A young man not yet 15 years old, he wanted to know which of all the religious sects competing for his attention was correct. His prayer was answered with a glorious vision:

“… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:16–17.)

In this great vision young Joseph was told to join none of the churches. His experience teaches us two great truths that are unique to the Lord’s church. First, God the Father and his son Jesus Christ are separate, distinct, loving beings—two personages—not one undefined being. Second, that vision established the principle that the Church is guided by direct revelation from God. Not only can we rely on the scriptures for truth, but we can also look to his latter-day prophets for counsel received directly from Jesus Christ.

In the years following his vision, Joseph Smith was visited by a heavenly messenger who directed him to a volume of ancient scripture—the Book of Mormon—which he translated by divine assistance. Other heavenly messengers conferred upon him the priesthood—the power to act for God on earth—and instructed him to use this power to organize the Church. The authority of that priesthood remains as the directing power at every level of church operation.

While everyone is invited to visit your temples before they are dedicated, only worthy Mormons may go afterward. What constitutes a “worthy” Mormon?

Edgar Brossard, Former chairman, Federal Tariff Commission: Worthiness to enter the temple is determined at least once each year in an interview between a member of the Church and his bishop and a member of his stake presidency.

The purpose of the interview is to strengthen the member in his resolve to live the high standards the Lord requires of those who go to the temple.

These standards include moral cleanliness, payment of tithes, maintenance of strict standards of personal honesty and ethics, support of Church authorities, and obedience to the Word of Wisdom (the Church law of health).

Attendance at the temple is a great blessing for members of the Church and a matter of obedience and sacrifice. Such high standards give us goals to work toward.

Even Church members who live in an area where there is no temple, or who are physically unable to attend the temple, are likewise encouraged to live by the same high standards.

You refer often in your church to the term prophet. Does it mean the same as it did to the people of the Old Testament?

Richard Bushman, President, Boston Massachusetts Stake: The Hebrew word for prophet comes from a verb that means to announce or pour forth. The Greek base of the English word prophet is prophetes—one who speaks for another. Only after the Bible was complete did the modern sense of “one who predicts” attach itself to the word. The essential Biblical meaning of the term prophesy is to speak for God, to announce his purposes.

Prophet-seers know “of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall … secret things be made manifest. …” (Mosiah 8:17.) That is as true now as ever.

The basic message, the predominant theme occupying more prophetic pages than any other, has always been to “keep the commandments.” The prophet’s assignment is to call men back to the Lord when they wander.

The source of prophetic power was explained to John the Beloved near the end of his Patmos revelation. The guiding angel, who revealed himself as a fellow prophet, stated that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10.) Whatever the time or place, looking forward to the Messiah or back to the resurrection, prophets have always borne, with certitude, the testimony “That he lives!” (D&C 76:22.)

I have heard that Mormons are strong family people. What do you do to keep your families together, especially in this time of high divorce rates and other family problems?

Jack Anderson, Nationally syndicated columnist: Every Monday evening my wife and I and our nine children sit down together for family home evening. On the same evening, hundreds of thousands of other families are doing the same thing throughout the Church.

We are following divine counsel to spend at least this much time together each week to learn about each other and to help each other learn more about the truths of the gospel.

Family home evening is not a crisis program designed to keep Mormons out of trouble on Monday nights in a newly sinful world. The problems of family disintegration were seen by prophets more than half a century ago. From the beginning of this century, Church leaders have been encouraging us to enjoy specific, constructive family time.

In addition to family home evening, the Church has a program for every age group: Primary for the very youngest, Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women for our young people, Relief Society for women over 18, Melchizedek Priesthood MIA for single people over 18, and priesthood quorums for men and boys. All of these groups exist to help us live together as families.

The Church believes that the family is the basic unit of social organization. It is fighting as hard as it can to overcome influences that are basically anti-family.

Another factor that I think contributes to the solidarity of Mormon families is the understanding of roles—a father who understands and honors his role as head of his home and a mother who magnifies her calling to raise children who love the Lord and the gospel and to make her home a “heaven on earth.” Latter-day Saints place no purpose and no social role for women on a higher plane than that of a mother. Most Mormon mothers feel liberated to do just what they have always done—put the teaching of the children and the unity of the family above all other interests.

A recent Church president, David O. McKay, put the importance of the home in perspective for both mothers and fathers when he said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”