Many people are unfamiliar with what actually takes place during a worship service in a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Research also shows that there are many people who feel that they are not welcomed inside an LDS chapel to worship with Latter-day Saints to be able to observe for themselves that Mormon worship is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is often the basis for misunderstandings among communities where Latter-day Saints live and leads many to believe that the close-knit ties of the Latter-day Saint community is both clannish and secretive. Part of this misconception may be caused by the differences between worship services in LDS chapels and temple worship. All are invited to attend services in LDS chapels, but only those members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are deemed worthy and hold a valid temple recommend are permitted to enter the sacred temple – the House of the Lord.
The infographic below is an excellent comparison of worship in an LDS chapel and temple worship.
You are invited to worship with a local LDS congregation
Fourteen year old Joseph Smith wondered what church he should join. In the spring of 1820 during a religious revival in the community of Palmyra, New York, Joseph was confused about conflicting messages from different religious leaders. He went into the woods, knelt in prayer and asked God which of the churches he should align himself with. Miraculously, God the Father appeared to Joseph along with his son, Jesus Christ, and told Joseph that he should join none of the churches, for the true church of Christ had been lost from the earth. Joseph was chosen by God to restore the true church to the world.
Throughout the course of the next ten years, Joseph gradually restored the fullness of the gospel to the earth, starting with the translation of the Book of Mormon, a record of Jesus Christ’s visit to the American continent after his resurrection. The record was written on golden plates and hidden in a hillside, which God directed Joseph to find. Joseph also restored the organization of Jesus Christ’s original church, just as Christ himself established it in Jerusalem with a prophet at the head of the church and a quorum of twelve apostles. Along with that, God restored through Joseph the true priesthood power that had been lost after Christ’s death. Joseph and his followers built temples, beautiful structures dedicated to performing saving ordinances through God’s true priesthood power.
The early Latter-day Saints experienced much persecution in their settlements in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Shortly after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Saints moved westward under the direction of their new prophet, Brigham Young. After great trials in crossing the plains in handcart companies, the Saints settled in the Salt Lake Valley. Today, Salt Lake City, Utah remains the headquarters of the church, but it now spans the world. The expansive missionary program run by the church has spread the complete gospel of Jesus Christ to people on every continent seeking for truth and light.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints builds Mormon Temples by way of commandment from God. These beautiful structures, now all over the world, are patterned after ancient temples. In them, worthy members of the Mormon Church gather to ponder, pray, seek personal revelation from God for their lives, worship and perform sacred ordinances. Temples are filled with light – literal light as well as the light of God’s teachings. Mormon temples are places of great peace.
Before each temple is dedicated, the structures are open to the public for interior tours. Many visitors feel the wonderful spirit of the temple as they walk through each special room. In addition to the ordinance rooms, which are described below, temples also house offices, laundry facilities, waiting rooms, dressing rooms (including a special dressing room for brides) and often a cafeteria.
Inside Mormon temples are baptistries. Like many other Christian denominations, Mormons participate in the ordinance of baptism, usually in a font inside one of their many church meetinghouses. Mormons are baptized at or after the age of eight, the age at which people should know fully the difference between right and wrong and become accountable for their sins. Baptism is the ordinance that begins one’s spiritual progression in the gospel of the Lord. When adults investigate and decide to join the Mormon Church, it is baptism which begins their church membership.
There are many people who have lived and died without learning the truth of Jesus Christ, His church and His commandments. Because God does not hold His children accountable for sins unless they have knowledge of this truth, many people have the opportunity to learn of Jesus Christ in the spirit world where we go after death to await the resurrection and judgment. Because baptism requires a physical body, something those in the spirit world are temporarily without, Mormons participate in baptisms for the dead, allowing the ancestors they are baptized on behalf of to accept or reject the vicarious ordinance.
Baptisms for the dead are only conducted inside temples. The baptismal fonts where these baptisms – which involve full immersion in water – are performed rest upon the backs of twelve statues of oxen. Like those in Solomon’s ancient temple, the oxen represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Near the font are dressing rooms and also confirmation rooms where individuals, again on behalf of their ancestors, are confirmed, or blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost by those with priesthood authority laying their hands on the person’s head and saying a short prayer.
Inside Mormon temples are endowment rooms. Endowment means “gift” and the endowment ceremony, which Church members go through when they feel they are spiritually prepared for it (usually in young adulthood), is a gift from God. The first time a Mormon goes through the ceremony, they do it for themselves. All subsequent times, they do it on behalf of a deceased person, much like baptism for the dead. Endowment ceremonies are opportunities for Mormons to be taught about the Plan of Salvation and to make covenants, or promises to God that they are promised blessings for fulfilling. The endowment room is a beautiful auditorium. Each temple usually has more than one. The presentation takes about 90 minutes. It begins with a film screening with instruction on the creation of the world and the fall of Adam and follows with further instruction about God’s commandments and his promised blessings. All of this is centered on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The endowment ceremony is always repeated with the same words.
Participating in the endowment ceremony gives individuals added protection from and power over evil in the world. After a church Member has been endowed, he or she wears a sacred garment underneath their clothing for the rest of their lives, symbolic of this protective power.
Inside Mormon temples are celestial rooms. The celestial room is where the endowment ceremony ends. Here, in the most beautiful room in the temple, people may sit quietly, meditate and pray as long as they like. The celestial room, representative of God’s highest kingdom of heaven, is breathtakingly light, white and peaceful.
Inside Mormon temples are sealing rooms. Marriages are performing in sealing rooms, because the special marriage ceremony performed in the temple “seals” couples together for “time” during mortal life on Earth and “all eternity” after death. Children born to couples who have been sealed together are part of that sealed covenant, making the entire family an eternal family.
Each temple has several sealing rooms large enough to accommodate various numbers of guests. All guests who attend sealings must be worthy to enter the temple. Sealing rooms have an altar in the center of the room where the bride and groom kneel opposite each other to say their vows. On opposite walls in the rooms are large mirrors, reflecting the bride and groom an infinite number of times, symbolizing the infinite togetherness they will enjoy throughout eternity.
Like other temple ordinances, sealing ceremonies can also be performed vicariously for the dead. Sealing ceremonies are also performed for couples who joined the church after marriage or who were married outside of the temple for various reasons.
The second of California’s temples, the Oakland California Mormon Temple was announced on May 26, 1962. That same day, the 18.3-acre site for the temple was dedicated by David O. McKay, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The church purchased the land for the temple in 1942 after 14 years of negotiations. The location offers a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Before the temple itself was dedicated, an open house was held during the month of October 1964, allowing members of the public to tour the interior of the Mormon temple, which housed four ordinance rooms and seven rooms designed for sealing ordinances in which families are bonded together for eternity. More than 347,000 people visited the Oakland California Mormon Temple that month, including dozens who stood in line in the rain for almost two hours on the final day.
The Oakland California Mormon Temple is 95,000 square feet and incorporates Sierra white granite from nearby Raymond, California. The only Mormon temple with five spires, the Oakland California Mormon Temple rises 170-feet into the air. The temple is an icon of the East Bay. The exterior of the Oakland California Mormon Temple features two 35-foot panels of sculpture – one on the north depicting Jesus teaching in Jerusalem and one on the south depicting Jesus appearing to the peoples of the Americas after his resurrection. The grounds are landscaped with connected fountains of trickling water and big, coastal palm trees.
On the site of the Oakland California Mormon Temple is a public visitors’ center, which houses a reproduction of Thorvaldsen’s “Christus” statue, and the East Bay Interstake Center, in which Sunday services are held, welcoming any and all visitors.
The temple was closed for almost two years for renovations and was reopened on October 30, 1990. Today, Latter-day Saints from northern California gather there to worship and to perform sacred ordinances in this breathtakingly beautiful house of God.
4770 Lincoln Ave.
“Brother MacDonald, I can almost see in vision a white temple of the Lord high upon those hills, an ensign to all the world travelers as they sail through the Golden Gate into this wonderful harbor….”
-George Albert Smith
The House of the Lord
George Albert Smith once prophesied “A great white temple of the Lord will grace those hills, a glorious ensign to the nations, to welcome our Father’s children as they visit this great city.”
Indeed, I can hardly seperate my memories of San Francisco, a city I fell in love with long ago for its beauty, from my memories of visiting the Oakland California Temple
The purpose of this site is to introduce visitors to Mormon Temples, and to the Oakland Temple specifically. Many people I have met have questions as to what goes on inside a Mormon Temple, why we build temples, and why only certain members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are allowed to enter temples. This site attempts to answer all of these questions as well as give more specific information on the Oakland Temple itself. I hope you enjoy your visit.
Truth About Temples
Some people claim that there are “secrets” within Mormon temples because of the unwillingness of some members to discuss what goes on. Let me explain why some people do not with to discuss temples the way that has been done throughout this page. Mormon temples are holy places set apart by the Lord, and are to be held as sacred. When members of the Mormon Church enter LDS temples, they make a promise that they will not openly discuss certain aspects of the temple outside of the temple doors, even with other members of the LDS church. This is not an attempt to hide anything that is being done, but rather is part of an effort to keep what is done in temples sacred and special. This site has taken great lengths to try and explain the rituals of the Mormon temple while respecting that sacred nature.
The primary purpose of this section is to help both Mormons and non-Mormons understand how to discuss the temple outside of its doors. If you are curious and have questions, how do you ask a member of the LDS church in a way that is respectful? If you are a member being asked, how do you answer questions without going too far?
Questions About Temples
To those with questions, be patient and understanding. Be considerate if those whom you are questioning don’t feel comfortable discussing the material. If they are open to discussion, though, feel free to ask why they do what they do and their own personal feelings about it.
To you who are receiving questions, be open and honest; the work done in temples is important and people are curious. There is nothing wrong with discussing the purposes of the ordinances and the ideas behind them. Since it can be difficult to explain the endowment, you may feel more comfortable showing them a copy of the applicable sections of the Pearl of Great Price. We have promised not to discuss the actual symbols and promises, but we can do our best to answer those questions presented to us. Feel free to review the sections on this site regarding the different ordinances. There are also resources available by the Church. President Boyd K. Packer’s book, “The Holy Temple” is also very useful.
The Oakland California Temple
Painting Courtesy of Steevun Lemon
The Oakland California Temple was the 15th Mormon temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (13th temple still standing). Its construction was first announced in April of 1924 in a special semi-annual conference that the Mormon Church holds. The actual funding of the temple was done by donations from the local members of the church. Then President Heber J. Grant asked if members could donate $500,000. The response from local members was both immediate and enthusiastic, contributing a total of over $750,000.
The Oakland area has been continually racked by natural disasters including one of the most devastating earthquakes to ever hit North America in 1989. Miraculously, the Oakland Temple escaped relatively undamaged. It continues to stand high over the beautiful coastal city as a testament that God is not far from any of us.
A beautiful architectural symbol, the two friezes on the North and South sides of the temple portray Jesus Christ: in one frieze He is with His apostles from times of old; on the other frieze He is appearing to the ancient people in the Book of Mormon. This could be said to symbolize how the Book of Mormon and the Bible work together to declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Why Those who have Passed On Need us
One major purpose of Mormon temples has to do with those who have died and left this world. After we die, we are not taken immediately to meet God. The day will come when all men will stand before the throne of God to be judged of their sins, but before that day, there is much to do.
To fully understand this function of temples, one must realize that it is only in and through the name of Jesus Christ that man can be saved. “There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:17). That being said, there are billions of people who have lived on this earth without ever hearing the name of Christ, or coming to understand the sacrifice he made for them. Would God be just in condemning them for not believing in someone of whom they had never heard? And yet, without faith in Christ, they cannot be saved.
To satisfy this paradox and prove God once again both infinitely just and infinitely merciful, God has created a plan to help these people. After we die we go to a place called the Spirit World. Here, those who have died faithful in Christ continue their ministry to teach those who have never heard the gospel. In fact, after Christ’s death and before his resurrection, He Himself came to these people and declared to them that he had died for them as well. (1 Peter 3:18-19, 4:6).
Necessity of Ordinances
Salvation is open to all who repent, but “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Baptism is not open to those who have passed on from this life. Without bodies, they cannot perform the essential ordinances (Link to Perfecting the Saints) the Lord requires of them. So, once again proving the infinite justice and mercy of the Lord, these ordinances are offered in Holy Temples. Baptism for those who have passed away is often called baptism for the dead.
Ordinances for the Dead
All of the ordinances offered in the temple for living members of the LDS Church are also performed by proxy for those who have passed on. This means that someone “stands in” for the person who has died. Baptisms are also performed by proxy for these people who have passed on. Because we have no way of knowing who will or will not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, these ordinances are done for everyone who has passed on (though we have been encouraged by the Church to keep this work within our own family lines. It’s this very reason that makes members of the church so active in genealogy). To have a family member who has passed on baptized by proxy does not commit them to that baptism, it merely gives them the opportunity to accept or reject the ordinance as they choose. Temple Marriage or Sealings and Endowments are also performed for those who have passed on (Link to Perfecting the Saints).
This aspect of temples truly shows us the majesty and greatness of God, and proves to us that He loves all of His children, and invites all to come unto Him.