Chapter 41: Temple Ordinances

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 298–305


As persecution increased and the need to leave Nauvoo pressed upon the Saints, President Brigham Young labored in the temple to bless the Saints with sacred ordinances before their departure. He recorded that on one day, “one hundred and forty-three persons received their endowments in the Temple. … Such has been the anxiety manifested by the saints to receive the ordinances [of the Temple], and such the anxiety on our part to administer to them, that I have given myself up entirely to the work of the Lord in the Temple night and day, not taking more than four hours sleep, upon an average, per day, and going home but once a week” (HC, 7:567). When he arrived in the west, President Young immediately selected a site for a new temple. He directed the building of four temples in Utah—in Salt Lake City, St. George, Manti, and Logan; however, only the St. George Temple was completed in his lifetime. On 1 January 1877, with legs so weak that he had to be carried into the room in a chair, he addressed the congregation that had met to dedicate the lower story of the St. George Temple, declaring: “We enjoy privileges that are enjoyed by no one else on the face of the earth. … When I think upon this subject, I want the tongue of seven thunders to wake up the people” (DNSW, 16 Jan. 1877, 1).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Temples are houses of the Lord where sacred ordinances are administered to prepare the Saints for exaltation.

It may be asked why we build temples. We build temples because there is not a house on the face of the whole earth that has been reared to God’s name which will in anywise compare with his character, and that he can consistently call his house. There are places on the earth where the Lord can come and dwell, if he pleases. They may be found on the tops of high mountains, or in some cavern or places where sinful man has never marked the soil with his polluted feet (DBY, 393–94).

He requires his servants to build him a house that he can come to and where he can make known his will (DBY, 394).

Nauvoo Temple

One of the few known photographs of the Nauvoo Temple. President Young and other members of the Twelve served day and night so that worthy Saints could receive their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple before leaving for the Salt Lake Valley.

“Does the Lord require the building of a temple at our hands?” I can say that he requires it just as much as ever he required one to be built elsewhere. If you should ask, “Brother Brigham, have you any knowledge concerning this; have you ever had a revelation from heaven upon it?” I can answer truly, it is before me all the time (DBY, 411).

We are going to build temples. This law is given to the children of men (DBY, 393).

We cannot … administer the further ordinances of God, in the fullest sense of the word, legally unto the people … until we have a temple built for that purpose (DBY, 394–95).

Some say, “I do not like to do it, for we never began to build a temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring.” I want to hear them ring again (DBY, 410).

We completed a temple in Kirtland and in Nauvoo; and did not the bells of hell toll all the time we were building them? They did, every week and every day (DBY, 410).

I have determined, by the help of the Lord and this people, to build him a house. You may ask, “Will he dwell in it?” He may do just as he pleases; it is not my prerogative to dictate to the Lord. But we will build him a house, that, if he pleases to pay us a visit, he may have a place to dwell in, or if he should send any of his servants, we may have suitable accommodations for them. I have built myself a house, and the most of you have done the same, and now, shall we not build the Lord a house? (DBY, 411).

Do we need a temple? We do, to prepare us to enter in through the gate into the city where the Saints are at rest. Ordinances necessary to this … cannot be [administered] in the absence of a suitable place. We wish a temple, not for the public congregation, but for the Priesthood, wherein to arrange and organize fully the Priesthood in its order and degrees [Aaronic and Melchizedek], to administer the ordinance of the Priesthood to the Saints for their exaltation (DBY, 394).

The temple will be for the endowments—for the organization and instruction of the Priesthood (DBY, 412).

We enjoy the privilege of entering into a temple, built to the name of God, and receiving the ordinances of his house, with all the keys and blessings preparatory to entering into the “lives” [see D&C 132:22]; we also enjoy the privilege of administering for our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, for those who have slept without the Gospel (DBY, 394).

Those only who have shared with us in the temple ordinances know for themselves the satisfaction there is in realizing that we are indeed co-workers with our Lord and Savior; that we bear a humble part in the great work of salvation; that we have the privilege of receiving and obeying the truth, and of securing to ourselves that happiness which the Gospel alone affords; and not only of performing these ordinances for ourselves, but of doing the necessary work for our parents and forefathers who have slept without the Gospel, that they may partake also of the waters of life, and be judged according to men in the flesh [see 1 Peter 4:6]. This is a privilege, a blessing, which no one can sense unless he is in possession of it. We are happy to know by our faith and feelings through the spirit of revelation within us that our labors have been accepted of the Lord. We have enjoyed ourselves exceedingly in the society of each other; the aged, the middle-aged and the youth have rejoiced and been made glad in this glorious work (DBY, 419–20).

It is for us to do those things which the Lord requires at our hands, and leave the result with him. It is for us to labor with a cheerful good will; and if we build a temple that is worth a million of money, and it requires all our time and means, we should leave it with cheerful hearts, if the Lord in his providence tells us so to do. If the Lord permits our enemies to drive us from it, why, we should abandon it with as much cheerfulness of heart as we ever enjoy a blessing. It is no matter to us what the Lord does, or how he disposes of the labor of his servants. But when he commands, it is for his people to obey. We should be as cheerful in building this temple, if we knew beforehand that we should never enter into it when it was finished, as we would though we knew we were to live here a thousand years to enjoy it (DBY, 411).

You have got to do the work, or it will not be done. We do not want any whiners about this temple. If you cannot commence cheerfully, and go through the labor of the whole building cheerfully, start for California, and the quicker the better. Make you a golden calf, and worship it. If your care for the ordinances of salvation, for yourselves, your living, and dead, is not first and foremost in your hearts, in your actions, and in everything you possess, go! Pay your debts, if you have any, and go in peace, and prove to God and all his Saints that you are what you profess to be, by your acts (DBY, 417–18).

We … are enjoying a privilege that we have no knowledge of any other people enjoying since the days of Adam, that is, to have a temple completed, wherein all the ordinances of the house of God can be bestowed upon his people. Brethren and sisters, do you understand this? (DBY, 393).

St. George Temple

The St. George Temple was the first completed and dedicated temple in Utah.

The endowment enables us to return someday to the presence of the Lord.

The preparatory ordinances … administered [in the Kirtland Temple], though accompanied by the ministrations of angels, and the presence of the Lord Jesus, were but a faint similitude of the ordinances of the house of the Lord in their fulness; yet many, through the instigation of the Devil, thought they had received all, and knew as much as God; they have apostatized, and gone to hell. But be assured, brethren, there are but few, very few of the Elders of Israel, now on earth, who know the meaning of the word endowment. To know, they must experience; and to experience, a temple must be built (DBY, 415–16).

Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels (DBY, 416).

Who has received and understands such an endowment, in this assembly? … The keys to these endowments are among you, and thousands have received them, so that the Devil, with all his aids, need not suppose he can again destroy the holy Priesthood from the earth, by killing a few, for he cannot do it. God has set his hand, for the last time, to redeem his people, the honest in heart, and Lucifer cannot hinder him (DBY, 416).

It is absolutely necessary that the Saints should receive the further ordinances of the house of God before this short existence shall come to a close, that they may be prepared and fully able to pass all the sentinels leading into the celestial kingdom and into the presence of God (DBY, 395).

The ordinances of the house of God are for the salvation of the human family. We … hold the keys of salvation committed to the children of men from the heavens by the Lord Almighty; and inasmuch as there are those who hold these keys, it is important that they should be acted upon for the salvation of the human family. The building of temples, places in which the ordinances of salvation are administered, is necessary to carry out the plan of redemption, and it is a glorious subject upon which to address the Saints (DBY, 396–97).

I feel sometimes like lecturing men and women severely who enter into covenants without realizing the nature of the covenants they make, and who use little or no effort to fulfil them (DBY, 396).

Some Elders go to the nations and preach the Gospel of life and salvation, and return without thoroughly understanding the nature of the covenant. It is written in the Bible that every man should perform his own vows, even if to his own hurt [see Ecclesiastes 5:4–5]; in this way you will show to all creation and to God that you are full of integrity (DBY, 396).

The sealing ordinances can connect Adam’s righteous posterity eternally through priesthood authority.

There are many of the ordinances of the house of God that must be performed in a temple that is erected expressly for the purpose. There are other ordinances that we can administer without a temple. You know that there are some which you have received—baptism, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, … and many blessings bestowed upon the people, we have the privilege of receiving without a temple. There are other blessings, that will not be received, and ordinances that will not be performed according to the law that the Lord has revealed, without their being done in a temple prepared for that purpose. … When we come to … sealing ordinances [for the dead], ordinances pertaining to the holy Priesthood, to connect the chain of the Priesthood from Father Adam until now, by sealing children to their parents, being sealed for our forefathers, etc, they cannot be done without a temple. When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, [children] will be sealed to their [parents], and those who have slept, clear up to Father Adam. This will have to be done, because of the chain of the Priesthood being broken upon the earth. The Priesthood has left the people, but in the first place the people left the Priesthood. They transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broke the everlasting covenant [see Isaiah 24:5], and the Priesthood left them; but not until they had left the Priesthood. This Priesthood has been restored again, and by its authority we shall be connected with our fathers, by the ordinance of sealing, until we shall form a perfect chain from Father Adam down to the closing up scene [see D&C 128:18]. This ordinance will not be performed anywhere but in a temple; neither will children be sealed to their living parents in any other place than a temple. … Then parents, after receiving their endowments and being sealed for time and eternity, and they have other children; they are begotten and born under the covenant, and they are the rightful heirs to the kingdom, they possess the keys of the kingdom. Children born unto parents, before the latter enter into the fulness of the covenants, have to be sealed to them in a temple to become legal heirs of the Priesthood. It is true they can receive the ordinances, they can receive their endowments, and be blessed in common with their parents; but still the parents cannot claim them legally and lawfully in eternity unless they are sealed to them. Yet the chain would not be complete without this sealing ordinance being performed (DBY, 399–401).

Were it not for what is revealed concerning the sealing ordinances, children born out of the covenant could not be sealed to their parents (DBY, 397).

The ordinance of sealing must be performed here … until the chain of generation is made perfect in the sealing ordinances back to Father Adam; hence, we have been commanded to gather ourselves together to come out of Babylon [see D&C 133:14], and sanctify ourselves, and build up the Zion of our God, by building cities and temples, redeeming countries from the solitude of nature, until the earth is sanctified and prepared for the residence of God and angels (DBY, 407).

Suggestions for Study

Temples are houses of the Lord where sacred ordinances are administered to prepare the Saints for exaltation.

  • Why do we build temples? Why does the building of temples cause “the bells of hell … to ring”? Why do you think President Young said, “I want to hear them ring again”?

  • In what ways does temple service make us “co-workers with our Lord and Savior”? How can we know that our “labors have been accepted of the Lord”?

  • President Young said, “We do not want any whiners about [the] temple.” Why are “a cheerful good will” and willing obedience required for the building of temples and for temple worship? What have you done that has helped you not to complain about building temples and worshiping in temples? Why must the ordinances of salvation be “first and foremost” in our hearts and actions?

The endowment enables us to return someday to the presence of the Lord.

  • What did President Young teach about the purpose of the temple endowment?

  • What are the dangers of making covenants without recognizing their sacred nature? How can we understand the nature of our covenants and make an “effort to fulfil them”? How can we help our children understand the sacred nature of covenants made in the temple?

The sealing ordinances can connect Adam’s righteous posterity eternally through priesthood authority.

  • What does it mean to form “a perfect chain from Father Adam down to the closing up scene”? What is our responsibility in forming this chain? (See also D&C 128:18.) How can making such connections bless us and our families now and in the future?

  • How does the sealing ordinance help us “come out of Babylon, and sanctify ourselves, and build up the Zion of our God”?

  • What can you do to make the sealing ordinance of the temple fully effective in your life? How do you feel when you realize that you can make eternal family ties with your ancestors, your posterity, and your immediate family? How does this knowledge influence how you feel about living the gospel each day?