Last Monday night at family home evening, Dad said he wanted to take the family to visit the new temple on Saturday. It had just been built, and we could all go inside. “Is that all right with everyone?”
“I don’t want to go,” I said.
Dad put his hand on my shoulder. “Why not, Derek?”
“I’m afraid of the dead people.”
“The dead people? There aren’t any dead people at the temple. Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Yesterday Sister Bergman, my CTR teacher, told us that people do work for the dead at the temple—like baptizing them.”
I watched Dad’s eyes get big and his mouth go funny like it does when he’s trying not to laugh. “Derek, if I promise that there won’t be any dead people, will you go with us?”
“Yes,” I said, wondering how Dad was going to keep his promise.
On Saturday we drove to the temple. I looked at the sharp points on the top of it as we stood in a long line. Near the door a man shook my hand and said, “Welcome.” I was relieved that the first person we met wasn’t dead.
I asked Mom, “Can anyone come in here?”
“Now they can,” she said, “but next week the prophet will come and say a special prayer in the temple to dedicate it. After that, only members of the Church with special permission can come in.”
I went on in and walked on a thick blue carpet. It gave me a warm feeling all over.
Our family stopped to look at some pictures hanging on the walls. Mom told us a story about one of the paintings of Jesus holding little children.
I saw one room with an organ and benches. Another room had lots of mirrors on all the walls. As I stood with mirrors in front of and behind me, I saw hundreds of my reflections getting smaller and smaller, going on forever. In the middle of the room was a table with soft cushions on top of it, and a padded step all around the bottom. “What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s called an altar,” Mom said.
Dad said that people knelt at the altar when they were married. Then he said something about ceilings for the dead.
I quickly looked up. The top of the room looked ordinary to me. I asked, “Dad, why is it called a ceiling for dead people?”
Dad bent down and quietly explained that a temple sealing was a special kind of ordinance. It was spelled s-e-a-l-i-n-g, and didn’t have anything to do with the top of the room. He said that when a man and a woman are married in the temple, it is called being sealed, and when they are sealed to each other, or when their children are sealed to them, it means that if they live righteously, they can be a family forever.
I felt a lot better, but I still had to ask, “Do they bring the dead people here to seal them?”
“No, Derek,” Dad replied. “People who are alive, like your mother and me, are sealed in behalf of people who are no longer living. They died before they could be married or sealed in a temple, so we do it for them.”
“Where are they?” I asked.
“Their bodies are in their graves, and their spirits are in the spirit world.”
“How do you know they want you to do this for them?”
“We don’t. We just do the work, and if they want to, they can accept it. But they don’t have to. It’s like sending someone a package. That person gets to choose whether he or she wants to accept it. For that person the important choice is the accepting. Heavenly Father says that for us, though, it’s the sending.”
We left the room with the mirrors and walked down a hall and into other rooms. Dad said that some of these rooms were like special schoolrooms and that people who came to the temple learned important lessons and received blessings there. I learned that living people could receive the lessons and blessings for people who had died.
I saw a large room with private little places for women to dress, and another one just like it for men. Mom explained that people change into white temple clothes in these rooms. She said that everyone would wear white in the temple after it was dedicated.
Finally, we came to a room with a bare floor. It was rock-hard, and as we entered, I heard our shoes make loud sounds on it. In the middle of the room was a giant bowl of water sitting on top of twelve oxen that were standing on a floor below the level of the floor where we were.
Dad took my hand, and we walked over a small bridge and stood by the water. As I leaned over it, I could see my reflection. “This is where they do baptisms for the dead,” he said.
“How do they do that?”
“Living people are baptized in place of the dead,” Dad said. “In fact, young people are often baptized for them.”
“You mean I could be baptized for someone who has died?”
“Yes—when you’re twelve, you can come to the temple and be baptized for the dead if you’re worthy. You might even be baptized for people who have been waiting hundreds of years for it to be done for them.”
As we left the parking lot, I said, “I hope when I’m twelve I can get permission to come here and get baptized for some of Heavenly Father’s children. I’m really anxious to do it.”
“They’re anxious for you to do it, too,” Dad said.