Q&A: Questions and Answers

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    Answers are for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

    “Are there any books or articles I can read to acquaint me somewhat with what takes place in the temple so that I will be more prepared to receive what is given there?”

    Answer/Brother Donald T. Schmidt

    There are a number of books and articles that will give considerable information to prepare those who are planning to attend the temple. Some of the more appropriate ones that are readily available are:

    Berrett, William E. The Restored Church. Deseret Book Company, 1961, pp. 366–67.

    These comments on the temple contain statements by John A. Widtsoe on the endowment and the nature of symbols. Brother Berrett also makes reference to several principles to remember in preparation to receive the spirit of the endowment and the covenants made within the temple.

    So You’re Going to the Temple. Message [from the First Presidency] to all Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, District Presidents, Bishops, and Branch Presidents, February 12, 1971.

    This message contains three sections: “So You’re Going to the Temple,” “Important Information for the Brides and Grooms,” and “Concerning Sealings for the Living.” The materials contained in this message should be available to the members of the Church through their bishop or branch president and should serve as excellent preparation material.

    The New Era. Vol. 1, No. 6, June 1971.

    This entire issue contains information helpful to those planning a temple marriage, as well as those going to the temple for the first time. It contains statements from the presidents of the Church on temple marriage, policies and procedures dealing with a temple marriage, an article by Elder ElRay L. Christiansen entitled, “Some Things You Need to Know About the Temple,” and information regarding legal and temple requirements for the marriage.

    Smith, Joseph. History of the Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints. Deseret Book Company, 1973, 5:1–2.

    This contains comments and definitions on the endowment from the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    Talmage, James E. The House of the Lord. Deseret Book Company, 1968.

    Pages 75–101 are particularly helpful in studying about the endowment and the other ordinances performed within the temple. Other portions of the book deal with the history of temples and temple work, as well as descriptions of the interior of temples with photographs included.

    Temples and the Latter-day Saints. Special temple issue of the Improvement Era. Reprinted 1974.

    This publication contains the following articles: “The Purpose of Temples” by David O. McKay, “Why Mormons Build Temples” by Mark E. Petersen, “Looking Toward the Temple” by John A. Widtsoe (considered one of the best articles on the subject), “Some Thoughts Concerning Ancient Temples and Their Functions” by Sidney B. Sperry. Up-to-date photographs of the temples are also included.

    Church Librarian-Archivist

    “I’ve heard that before a temple marriage is eternalized, it must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Who may seal it?”

    Answer/Brother W. Lowell Castleton

    In President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book Doctrines of Salvation, he states, “I will make an explanation of the expression ‘Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.’ This does not have reference to marriage for time and eternity only, but to every ordinance and blessing of the gospel. Baptism into the Church is sealed by this Spirit, likewise confirmation, ordination, and all ordinances as well as marriage for time and all eternity.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft 1955, vol. 2, p. 94.)

    The meaning of this expression is set forth in one of the most impressive, and in some respects the most remarkable, vision ever given to man. This was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith on February 16, 1832, and is known as section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In it he says, “And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.

    “And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness.” (D&C 76:19–20.)

    Concerning those who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just, the Lord said, “They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

    “That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

    “And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.” (D&C 76:51–53.)

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine clarifies this further. He states, “The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Spirit promised the saints, or in other words the Holy Ghost. This name-title is used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost, that is, the power given him to ratify and approve the righteous acts of men so that those acts will be binding on earth and in heaven. ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations,’ must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.’ (D&C 132:7.)

    “To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done. The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive divine approbation. They are ‘sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.’ (D&C 76:53.) If they are not just and true and worthy the ratifying seal is withheld. …

    “The operation and power of the Holy Spirit of Promise is best illustrated by the ordinance and contract of baptism. An unworthy candidate for baptism might deceive the elders and get the ordinance performed, but no one can lie to the Holy Ghost and get by undetected. Accordingly, the baptism of an unworthy and unrepentant person would not be sealed by the Spirit; it would not be ratified by the Holy Ghost; the unworthy person would not be justified by the Spirit in his actions. If thereafter he became worthy through repentance and obedience, the seal would then be put in force. Similarly, if a worthy person is baptized, with the ratifying approval of the Holy Ghost attending the performance, the seal may be broken by subsequent sin.

    “These principles also apply to every other ordinance and performance in the Church. Thus if both parties are ‘just and true,’ if they are worthy, a ratifying seal is placed on their temple marriage; if they are unworthy, they are not justified by the Spirit and the ratification of the Holy Ghost is withheld. Subsequent worthiness will put the seal in force, and unrighteousness will break any seal.

    “Even if a person progresses to that state of near-perfection in which his calling and election is made sure, in which he is ‘sealed up unto eternal life’ (D&C 131:5; D&C 132:18–26), in which he receives ‘the promise … of eternal life’ (D&C 88:3–4), in which he is ‘sealed up unto the day of redemption’ (D&C 124:124; Eph. 1:13)—yet with it all, these great promises are secured only if the ‘performances’ are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.” (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1966, pp. 361–62.)

    As to the question, “Who may seal it?” the Lord also makes this clear in the revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 55:2–3, wherein the Lord tells William W. Phelps that he shall be ordained an elder unto this church, and then says, “And on whomsoever you shall lay your hands, if they are contrite before me, you shall have power to give the Holy Spirit.” (D&C 55:2–3; Italics added.) Every worthy member of the Church who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has the power to bestow these blessings when he acts under the direction of those in authority over him and is worthy. This is the key.

    Former President, Oakland Temple

    “Does a temple marriage cost money?”

    Answer/Brother Cecil E. Hart

    The only “price” of admission to the temple is the recommend itself; there is no fee received by the temple or the officiator performing the ceremony. Confining this question to these limitations, the answer would be that a temple marriage does not cost money!

    Again from this limited viewpoint, one might also ask, does it cost money to be baptized or does it cost money to receive the Holy Ghost?

    The word cost denotes an amount paid in gaining something. Here again the first impulse prompts one to say, no, it does not cost money for baptism or the right to receive the Holy Ghost or for a temple marriage.

    Broadening the view a little, there are very real costs in the careful and personal preparation necessary before coming to the temple. There are also such costs as wedding gowns, other clothing, dinners, and travel to the temple. Faith-promoting experiences abound in the Church where individuals and families convert their life holdings into cash to pay such costs.

    From another viewpoint, there are social, domestic, and religious adjustments made that some might label costs, but here again, it may be indirect in its application. Temple marriage may exact special commitments that change the course of one’s life. Self-discipline imposes changes in turning away from bad habits. It may even cost the breaking of close friendships—the breaking of intimate family ties. Yes, even the severance of life-long religious affiliations. Yet a temple marriage, in itself, does not cost money. It would appear that a voluntary covenant or promise is more lasting, more binding, and a more constant influence than if one had paid a fee for it.

    Temple marriage thus becomes a sacred covenant in a sacred ceremony between two people, a sacred gift of God, given through the power and authority delegated to the temple officiator. This is supported by a revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants:

    “Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.

    “Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion. Keep my commandments in all things.

    “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:5–7.)

    Hence, the couple through their faithful obedience, which is the real price, receive the gift of eternal life—“the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

    Former President, Idaho Falls Temple

    “How do wedding rings enter into the temple ceremony?”

    Answer/Brother Orville C. Gunther

    Temple marriage, the sealing of bride and groom for time and eternity, is a simple, sacred ceremony. Within a beautiful sealing room the couple kneels at the altar while the officiator, who holds the sealing power, performs the ordinance. Family and intimate friends are generally present.

    The wedding ring has no part in this sacred ceremony because the placing of a ring upon the finger of husband or wife is strictly a social custom. But because the wedding ring is a natural symbol of the eternal nature of the sacred marriage covenant when performed under the authority of the holy priesthood, the placing of the ring upon the finger is a meaningful tradition and is permitted within the temple.

    The prophet Joseph Smith, speaking of the eternal nature of the spirit of man, compared eternity to a ring. He said, “I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 354.)

    Following the sealing ordinance, the couple is invited to stand away from the altar, facing the officiator, while the rings are exchanged. The officiator explains briefly that the ring ceremony is not a part of the temple ordinance but is an acceptable custom because of the beauty of the symbolism involved. Reference to the statement of Joseph Smith is often made.

    Those preparing for temple marriage should understand that the ring is a material adornment, and too much emphasis should not be placed upon it. The groom should not burden himself financially for costly engagement or wedding rings.

    President of the Provo Temple

    “Can more than my immediate family attend my temple sealing?”

    Answer/Brother A. Reed Halverson

    Temples have been described or defined as holy sanctuaries wherein sacred ordinances, rites, and ceremonies are performed that pertain to salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God. They are the most sacred places of worship on earth. Each one is literally a house of the Lord, a house of the Great Creator. The inspired erection and proper use of temples is one of the great evidences of the divinity of the Lord’s work.

    Since temples are buildings dedicated to the Lord as his houses and are used solely for sacred purposes, it is reasonable that all who enter the temples do so with the recommendation of the bishops, the fathers of the wards, who personally know each ward member, and are entitled to inspiration on their behalf.

    With this firsthand knowledge and the divine inspiration to which he is entitled, the bishop is well qualified to judge the worthiness of a ward member to enter the holy temple. He also indicates the activity or ordinances in which the person may participate. Young people, teenage boys and girls, may be baptized as proxies for the dead who have not in life been baptized and who cannot perform this earthly ordinance for themselves.

    Children, from infancy, may enter the temple to be sealed to parents, with the understanding that those who have reached the age of accountability must have been baptized and must have a recommend for that ordinance.

    Although the question isn’t specific as to what temple sealing the person has in mind, it is assumed that the question refers to the sealing in connection with marriage.

    This ordinance of sealing wife to husband has been termed the culmination of all other blessings, undoubtedly one of the most sacred ordinances and greatest blessings the priesthood can confer upon people in mortality. Who, then, should be invited to witness this ordinance and hear this sacred ceremony? Occasionally, good, loving parents, through inactivity or otherwise, are not permitted to enter the house of the Lord and consequently deny themselves the pleasure of enjoying this most important event in the life of a son or daughter. Because of the sacred nature of the eternal marriage ordinance, only those individuals who have been endowed in the temple and who have a current recommend are permitted to witness the sealing. It then follows that those of the immediate family who meet these specifications may be given that opportunity. However, the privilege need not be limited to only immediate family, but other relatives and friends who have received their endowments and who hold current recommends may also attend and witness the temple sealing.

    At times, because they are the only members of their families in the Church, young couples have come alone to be married in the temple, choosing this rather than forfeiting or delaying the wonderful blessings that can come only through a temple marriage. If all young people truly understood the importance of a temple marriage, many more would put forth the effort needed to be qualified and worthy to marry and be sealed for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord, thereby opening the door to the greatest blessings man can attain.

    Former President, Ogden Temple