One of the unique aspects of the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormon” church) is the importance of temples. LDS believe that temples are “houses of the Lord”, where they make sacred covenants with each other and God. Temples are distinct from meetinghouses/chapels, where LDS meet on Sundays for Sacrament Meeting (the LDS equivalent to Catholic Mass), Sunday School, and other meetings. While chapels are open to anyone, temples are only open to LDS that are living up to certain standards. Temples are open to everyone during an “open house” period after they are built, before they are dedicated.
In the temple, various rituals occur, including baptism for the dead, sealings (eternal marriage), and the endowment. LDS believe that through the power of the priesthood (and the power of “binding and loosing”-Matthew 18:18), they can offer saving ordinances to the deceased, so that they have the opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if they did not have that opportunity during mortal life. In the Endowment, the Plan of Salvation is presented, and LDS make covenants with God. Interestingly, there are various connections between the Endowment ceremony and Freemasonry, a subject of much debate (for a recent book on the subject, try “Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons” by Matthew Brown). It should also be noted that much of the Endowment ceremony is not discussed by LDS, since they agree to not speak of much of what occurs in the ordinance.
The subject of whether the LDS temple is really a restoration of ancient theology and practice is an important one, since Mormonism does claim to be a restoration of ancient Christianity. While no Latter-day Saint will claim that the Endowment in its entirety was practiced anciently, they do believe that various aspects of it do reflect ancient Judeo-Christian theology (similarly, no Catholic would say that the early Christians celebrated the Tridentine Mass or the Mass of Paul VI, however both do reflect ancient Judeo-Christian theology, and much of these Masses is found anciently).
Noting this, the authors of two blogs, David Larsen of Heavenly Ascents and David Tayman of Visions of the Kingdom, have teamed up to “present a series of videos illustrating the nature, function, doctrines, and ritual of the ancient Temple, in a manner that will be especially of interest to those desiring to understand the connection with modern Latter-day Saint Temples.” The first part, called “Sacred Space”, can be viewed here:
In addition, David Larsen has reviewed the book “Temple Themes in Christian Worship” by Margaret Barker, Old Testament scholar and former president of the Society for Old Testament Study. Margaret Barker’s many books focus on the relationship between the ancient temple and Christian theology and practice, especially in relation to worship/liturgy, and the atonement. Barker places the role of Jesus Christ in a temple context. Her scholarship has found much support among LDS, since much of her study into the Old Testament and ancient Israelite religion finds startling parallels in LDS theology, some of which can be read here. This is especially important considering the claim by critics of Mormonism that Joseph Smith invented LDS theology. Below are the videos of Larsen’s review of Temple Themes.