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Are Latter-day Saint temples really such a mystery?

Have you noticed how much more Latter-day Saint leaders are sharing about temples?

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Attendees leave the Richmond Virginia Temple dedication in Richmond on Sunday, May 7, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published in the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

Last week’s issue of this newsletter pointed out some issues with a new CNN piece called “What do Mormons believe?”

Another section of the article merits a longer look, because sometimes the church makes significant changes over time.

For example, the CNN article’s section on temple worship is outdated. It states, “Today, a lot of Mormon church life remains a mystery to outsiders, and that is by design.” That statement is followed by a scholar’s factual comment that Latter-day Saints hold sacred what happens in the temple. The section leaves the impression that temple ordinances are secretive and, therefore, church members are mysterious and isolationist.

The problem with that is, for at least a decade now, the church has been increasingly open about temple ordinances and temple clothing. The church has released multiple videos and publicly available texts. I’ll list examples in just a moment.

First, it’s important to note that the temple-building boom now underway also provides numerous opportunities for people around the world to walk inside temples themselves during public open houses. Every temple is opened to the public when first constructed or when renovated. After the public open house, each temple is open only to church members prepared to make sacred promises to God, promises that church leaders have begun to outline repeatedly in public over the past few years.

Right now, 10 temple open houses are underway or scheduled for the rest of this year in six U.S. states and three other countries. (See quick-read list below.) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for a church with more than 100 announced temples to build.

So, how has the church increased transparency about temple worship?

  • In 2014, the church released a video that displayed all temple clothing worn by members during temple ordinances as well as the temple garments members wear under their clothing every day.
  • In 2019, the church posted a video of two apostles leading an unprecedented virtual tour of the Rome Italy Temple.
  • In 2018, the church released five videos describing temple rituals, temple garments and who can enter the temple and when.
  • In 2021, the church’s full, revised General Handbook was released online and included public information about temple covenants and ordinances. For example, it listed every covenant members make during the endowment ceremony: 1) live the law of obedience, 2) obey the law of sacrifice, 3) obey the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ, 4) keep the law of chastity, and 5) keep the law of consecration. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared that list of covenants again in his April general conference talk.
  • Last year, another two apostles led a virtual video tour of the the Washington D.C. Temple. One of them led a CBS News crew through the temple. The church also released a 360-degree tour.

While templegoing church members promise not to discuss symbols or information associated with the endowment covenants outside of the temple, it is mythological to suggest there is much “mystery” left about Latter-day Saint ritual life today that hasn’t been shared by the church.

Those who want to see inside a temple over the next five months can attend public open houses for the:

  • Columbus Ohio Temple (ends Saturday).
  • Saratoga Springs Utah Temple (through July 8, except Sundays).
  • Helena Montana Temple (May 18-June 3, except for Sundays).
  • Bentonville Arkansas Temple (June 17-July 1, except Sundays).
  • Moses Lake Washington Temple (Aug. 4-19, except Sundays).
  • Brasília Brazil Temple (Aug. 5-26, except Sundays).
  • Feather River California Temple in Yuba City (Aug. 19-Sept. 9, except Sundays).
  • Bangkok Thailand Temple (Sept. 1-16, except Sundays).
  • St. George Utah Temple (Sept. 15-Nov. 11, except Sundays and Sept. 30, because of general conference).
  • Okinawa Japan Temple (Sept. 23-Oct. 7, except Sundays).

Nine more temples are nearing the open house stage in three more countries and two more states, according to the First Presidency, which has announced presidents and matrons for the McAllen Texas Temple, the Puebla Mexico Temple, the Red Cliffs Utah Temple, the Urdaneta Philippines Temple, the Layton Utah Temple, the Orem Utah Temple, the Taylorsville Utah Temple, the Casper Wyoming Temple and the Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple.

About the church

A missionary died in a Utah scooter accident.

President Dallin H. Oaks dedicated the Richmond Virginia Temple, saying “Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone.” Read the dedicatory prayer.

The church announced the open house and rededication dates for the renovated St. George temple.

Church leader says religions “add immeasurably to the quality of life.”

See the Church News coverage of the 2023 BYU Women’s Conference. Primary leaders addressed how to avoid “spiritual overwhelm.” Relief Society leaders said women “stand ready to provide relief.”

One U.S. state celebrated its 10th Religious Freedom Day with a “Fairness for All Summit.”

A BYU study shows that family history work can improve the psychological well-being of young adults. That includes reducing anxiety and improving self-esteem.

What I’m reading

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, please read this piece about Secretariat’s lost daughter. It’s a wonderfully, evocatively written story.

The Kentucky Derby was last weekend. Here’s a fascinating story on the deepening breeding problem that threatens the future of thoroughbred horse racing.

This Latter-day Saint athlete may be the most intriguing football prospect in the nation.

Why scholars, journalists and others recommend you stop using the term “cult.”

A new survey shows how many Americans pray — and what they pray for.

The relationship between religion and the coronation of King Charles III, explained.

A new profile of a Harvard professor is an extremely well-written story about human dignity and civility. It merits your time.