Hi Filioque! Good evening. I hope you are doing well today.
Many people, like you, are interested in what happens in the LDS temples. Unfortunately, there is a lot of information that is produced by many sources that are just false. In some instances the information is technically factual, but it is presented in a negative way or even in just a misunderstood way. My hope and intent of this post is to help shed some light on this for you and for anyone else who may have wondered about the same things.
The temple and the rituals performed within, for the Mormon people, are very sacred. To give you some perspective, we hold the temples to be as sacred as most Catholics and other Christians hold the Church of the Holy Sepluchre to be sacred. And the temple rituals would be comparable to the sacredness of Catholic mass, baptism, confirmation, etc. Therefore, we always try to treat this subject matter in a way that would honor the temples and the temple rituals. As I try to explain the rituals performed, understand that I am not trying to justify them, only to explain them. I’m coming from the perspective that they are true and am simply explaining that perspective to you so that you can better understand what the temple is all about.
In the temple, there are actually many rituals that are performed, but most often it is the Endowment ritual that is spoken about, particularly by those who are not Mormons. In any case, in the temple we perform the following rituals or as we call them, ordinances: Washing and Anointing, Sealing, Proxy Baptism, and the Endowment. All of these ordinances have a biblical precedent, with the possible exception being the Endowment. To me, this makes sense as it is the only ordinance where covenants are made to not speak openly about certain portions of the Endowment. However, the Endowment does have precedent in ancient Christian history.
Washing and Anointing
This ordinance comes straight out of the Old Testament and I believe is still practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church as part of their baptismal ritual. In his mystagogic lectures, The Cyril of Jerusalem speaks on this ordinance, and possibly the Endowment, in some detail. You can find his writings online if you are interested in reading more. The LDS believe that the Washing and Anointing is a preparatory ordinance to receiving your Endowment. You are washed clean of your sins and anointed with power to overcome the devil and his minions. Certain blessings are also pronounced upon the individual that are conditioned on the person remaining faithful to Jesus Christ to the end of their lives.
The LDS believe that this ordinance is really just the ordinance of marriage as God intended it to be. For time and for all eternity. This ordinance is intended to tie the human family to the family of Jesus Christ and thus they become joint-heirs with Christ. Families are sealed together forever as a unit as well.
We believe that this ordinance was performed by the ancient church as illustrated in Corinthians. In any case, the intention of this is to perform baptisms for dead relatives and others who have not had this ordinance performed. We believe that the spirits of all people go to the Spirit World to wait for final judgment. In the Spirit World, those spirits who did not have an opportunity to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, will be given that opportunity. They are free to accept or reject the proxy baptisms or other proxy ordinances that are performed on their behalf. The baptisms are done exactly as we would do any baptism on the living, except that we do it for and in behalf of someone who is deceased. Just because it is a common misunderstanding, I want to mention that these proxy baptized individuals are not counted as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Endowment is a ritual, I would say, most similar to an Eastern Orthodox liturgy. It is very liturgical in nature and is really a symbolic representation of mankind’s life. It is a way of teaching an individual how they can consecrate their lives to the Savior. It incorporates the retelling of the Creation, the Fall of man, the Atonement, and how we can be saved from the grasps of physical and spiritual death. Because it is all symbolic in nature, it really needs to be experienced before it can be truly understood or even appreciated. What you find on the internet about the Endowment really doesn’t come close to representing the feel and spirit of this sacred ordinance, even on those parts that are technically true. I am sure you can appreciate this sentiment if you consider the mass. You can see it performed and hear all about it, but someone from the outside probably will not understand or appreciate it until they have experienced it.
Hopefully, this has been a helpful post. Remember that these are the most sacred of things to us Mormons and we always take a risk in having our sacred ordinances maligned when we discuss them in a public forum. Out of respect for the temple, I, for one, will never argue and try to justify the temple and temple ordinances. But, I did want to provide you with some information in an attempt to dispel any misunderstandings.