The Mormon Temple Ceremony: What Is the Most Helpful Thing for Members to Know Before they Go?

I’ve seen several efforts to provide basic information about Mormon temple ceremony for investigators, but I’m not sure what sites are best to recommend for active members preparing to go there for the first time. What do you recommend as the most useful sites and most useful sources of information to help proactive members?

(This post is not meant to be a springboard for all the things people don’t like about the LDS temple, or for links to anti-Mormon information. This is a serious request for some input on best resources to help members in preparing. I’ll give you opportunities for controversy some other time.)


Author: Jeff Lindsay

30 thoughts on “The Mormon Temple Ceremony: What Is the Most Helpful Thing for Members to Know Before they Go?

  1. To remember that it won’t be anything like going to church on Sunday, and will be vastly different from anything you’ve ever done in church before, and to not let it throw you.

  2. Do not make promises.
    Do not raise unreasonable expectations!
    tell the “simple” truth. they are there to make covenants etc. Very simple.

    Do not tell of “miracles” you have heard or witnessed. Give help selecting garments. MAKE SURE GARMENTS FIT AND ARE COMFORTABLE!!!!

  3. Read Genesis in the Bible and The Book of Moses and The Book of Abraham in “The Pearl of Great Price.” Then, read Isaiah and Hebrews followed by the Book of Revelations (particularly the last half). Once you have done that and gone to the Temple, go back and read them again.

  4. I would definitely agree with Papa D. I was raised Catholic and joined the Church at age 19. After getting used to the hectic, unstructured, and, sometimes, irreverent nature of our Sacrament meetings, I found great comfort and joy in the Temple ceremony. It was like a return to the ritual and order of my childhood.

    I think the reason why life-long members have such a hard time is because we don’t emphasize ritual in our week-to-week spirituality. Even our baptisms are, at best, managed chaos.

    However, as we get older and mature in the Gospel, we realize how much symbolism and ritual there is. We just save it for the higher ordinances in the Temple.

    I have never understood our LDS cultural tendency to disparage the rote nature of the mass and instead identify with the unstructured, informal nature of Protestant services when so much of the Restored Gospel involves reverence, contemplation, and ritual. No wonder life-long members and Protestant converts have such a difficult time with the Temple ceremony. You rarely see Catholic converts with the same unease and discomfort.

    So one of the best things you can do is expose your child to ritual early and often. Take him or her to a mass every once in a while. Better yet, make it a family tradition to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. It is a beautiful service. I have a tradition of bringing the missionaries in our stake and they greatly enjoy it.

  5. My biggest recommendation is for new endowees to remember the purpose of the ordinance is to make covenants.
    Everything else is designed to help us remember those covenants.

  6. Stress symbolism. Much of LDS gospel teaching focuses on literalism, but the temple is where you need to check literalism at the door.

    The ceremony is NOT a history lesson, and if it is seen as such, there will be very little personal benefit.

    The characters are meant to represent God, humanity, and the church/priesthood. The interactions between the characters and their progress through the story need to be understood in terms of personal fall and personal redemption, and how connections to Christ—covanents (represented through symbolic physical links)— are the means by which one gains access to the divine saving power and is brought into God’s presence.

    If this covenant-based Christ-centered message is not grasped on a personal level, the ceremony will be little more than a round of hokey-pokey with delusions of what’s waiting at the pearly gates.

  7. I recommend they talk to their Stake President during their recommend interview. Stake Presidents have been authorized by church leaders to discuss any, and all, aspects of the temple with complete candor – so long as the conversation takes place in the Stake President’s office.

    Books and web-sites are good, but I’d stick with the scriptures and the Lord’s authorized servant (in this case, the Stake President).

  8. Cliff, we are all the Lord’s authorized servants when it comes to offering help and suggestions. People are not going to express uncomfort or doubts about the Temple ceremony with the man who is signing off on their recommend. It is too itimidating and against human nature. Things don’t work that way.

  9. Said this on another blog, paraphrasing slightly: Let me tell you exactly what happens in the temple endowment: after being blessed, washed and annointed, you will dress yourself in sacred clothing, and hear a retelling of the creation story and of Adam and Eve. This story will have some familiar elements, and some new ones. You should understand that this story is meant to have symbolic meaning about your own journey through this life and your relationship with God. You will also make several serious covenants with your Heavenly Father; although very important, sacred, and serious, if you have ever been interviewed by a Bishop, you should not expect anything shocking in the content of these covenants.

    Before you go, you should study the scriptural and historical significance of: the temple, the priesthood, washings/annointings, sacred clothing, the creation story, symbolism as a teaching principle, your relationship with God, the nature of covenants, and the application of scriptural teachings to yourself as an individual. This will prepare you for the teachings, setting, and ritual of of the temple endowment.

  10. The best thing I did was read Temple and Cosmos by Hugh Nibley. I think reading this before I went helped me a lot.

  11. I was given a video (before the Internet) that essential reminded the viewer to bathe properly before going to the temple for the first time. In my recommend interview the only thing the stake president mentioned was that hats are worn in the temple and he did not know why.

    No one informed me of what the “covenants” were. No one informed me that in the ceremony a person would be promising to give all their wealth/income to the Mormon Church if asked to do so along with many other things. I seriously considered leaving the ceremony, but waited it out in order not be rude to other participants, and embarrass family members, realizing that in any civil court this easily constituted fraud in the execution (

    There are missionary “discussions” that clearly explain what the baptismal “covenants” are before an “investigator” is baptized. Why is there not an equivalent clearly explaining what the temple “covenants” are before a member is endowed? Without such an a priori explanation any “covenant” made is EASILY render void. One can not SOLEMNLY promise to do or not do something at the spur of the moment, without even a moment of consideration, contemplation, clarification, or minimal question and answer session.

  12. Dear Anonymous,

    If your Bishop asked you before you were first issued your temple recommend if you were willing to sacrifice your all for the Kingdom of God, what would have been your response? Yes or No?

    The Temple covenants ask no more than that. So I don’t think it would constitute fraud.

    You always have the option of not participating. Using “embarrassment” or “not wanting to be rude” as an excuse would also not hold up in an earthly court of law.

  13. There is a temple prep course that is 6 or 7 lessons in length. I believe the basic covenant concepts are discussed there, though probably not in detail. When I was bishop, I did make sure people knew they would be making covenants to follow and obey God, to consecrate our time and talents to building up his kingdom, to be morally clean, etc.

  14. I’m also puzzled about that video and the hats thing. Very different that my experience!

    I thought bathing properly was what we were supposed to do before going to Sunday services. Now you’ve got me confused.

  15. 1) What everyone else has said about symbolism.

    2) Be aware of the differences between the Endowment and its presentation. I think a lot of people get too hung up on peripheral issues (rituals, clothing and the like) of the ceremony, which are merely vehicles for conveying the core elements (covenants) of the ceremony.

  16. My experience was this…I was going to go on my mission in a month. I had a date set for the endowment on a Monday. The Wednesday before I went to the temple, I had a 20 minute meeting with my bishop…a crash course, if you will, and that Monday I was at the temple.

    It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The advice given so far in the comments is all very good and worth doing.

  17. I think a good, thorough reading of the Old Testament is really helpful. POGP, too. Almost everything from the temple ceremony is in scipture– you just don't recognize it until AFTER you've been.
    The covenants are the SAME way.
    We learn about the law of sacrifice, the law of obedience, the law of consecration, etc during Seminary, Sunday School classes, etc.
    There isn't one covenant of the temple that should come as a 'shock' to anyone who's studied and paid attention during church meetings. (I DO think though, that teachers could do a better job at relating study material subject matter to the temple experience. Help people "connect the dots" so to speak.)
    I REALLY think that a big problem is that SO MANY go completely unprepared. Being "worthy" doens't make you "prepared". And I think the two get mixed up far too often. Just because you pay your tithing, have a testimony of Christ and are chaste doens't make you prepared to go the temple.
    A good thorough search for articles about covenants and temples at the church website is a good idea.
    A good one is "Come To the Temple" by Boyd K. Packer.

  18. My first experience at the temple was pretty strange. I can understand the uncomfortable feeling of wanting to leave. I went to a temple prep class, read Genesis and PGP. I still was not expecting it to be as strange as it me. During my endowment session I had to mentally pull myself out and say a prayer. I said something like “Lord, is this where I am supposed to be?” I felt a very strong affirmation of the spirit. So I stayed. I went back again the next day. It was better, but still strange to me. After about the 6th or 7th time, I finally started to “get it”. I think I just had to get over some of my own inhibitions. I would say the best advice would be willing to let the spirit guide. Don’t be unwilling to feel it just because of feeling uncofortable. The Temple is a wonderful place.

  19. I would also advise:

    1. Choose a good sober-minded member to be your escort. I had two yay-hoos as escorts, and during the trip to/from the temple (6 hour drive each way) and an overnight stay, they detracted from the reverence.

    They also left me alone in the locker room in the temple, and a temple-worker, who didn’t know I was there waiting on them, thought I was goofing off, so he forced me (literally grabbed and walked me into the room) into the initiatory before I was told what was going to happen. If I hadn’t had a testimony, I would have walked out based on what he did.

    Afterwards, my “friends” came back and blamed me for not waiting. Well, this authority figure literally grabbed me and ordered me around, so what was I supposed to do? Punch out an old man in the Lord’s temple? He never let me get a word in edgewise. I actually thought it was an intentional set-up that was part of the deal.

    2. So NEVER ever leave your escort, and NEVER let your escort leave you. Work that out with him/her before you go. And if someone accosts you without your escort, say that you’re waiting for your escort.

    3. Always make sure the people in charge of the initiatory and endowment know that you are there for _your own_ endowments, and not proxy work. It’s slightly different.

    4. Take the temple prep classes in your ward.

    5. There should also be (at least there used to be) a temple-prep meeting inside the temple with either the temple-president or someone he designates for those who are to get their own endowments that day.

    That’s because once you are inside the temple, then things can be explained in a bit more detail.

  20. Anonymous (who ever he is) correctly pointed out that there are missionary “discussions” that clearly explain what the baptismal “covenants” are before an “investigator” is baptized.

    I think one of the common problems for people who attend the temple is that some people feel blindsided by the last minute invitations to obey the covenants even though the covenants are not new or different than the other promises made in the Church prior to entering the temple.

    I admit that it was a problem for me when I first went through the temple. Nobody likes being asked to do something without some warning or preparation.

    To avoid this problem (and since we’re talking about covenants within a legalistic framework) I think the best way for the Church and members to avoid making temple covenants a “fraud in the execution” or an “contract of adhesion” within contract law principles) is to actually study the commitments an investigator makes in the missionary discussions. Study them deeply and thoroughly. Also make them a matter of contemplation, consideration and pondering.

    I suggest studying the old “Uniform system for Teaching the Gospel” discussion commitments rather then the “Preach My Gospel” commitments. I think they’ll me more helpful in preparing to make covenants in the temple.

    The way I look at the Temple and the covenants made inside is that you’re taking the missionary discussions from Heavenly Father himself. Thus, the missionary discussions will be very complex and weighty and that the commitments or covenants are deeper, permanent and requires a lot more from you.

    Jeff Lindsay said he would discuss the things people don’t like about the LDS temple. I hope he does. I’m curious how he will deal with some of the common LDS complaints/criticisms about the Temple.

  21. Hi All,

    I think this will be a legitimate question, and perhaps helpful. As most of you know I’m not a member, and don’t have any intentions of becoming one. I have read a great deal of information on the internet regarding the temple. In so doing, I’ve seen a great deal of anti-lds, as well as pro-lds writings focused on the temple ceremony. My question is this, with all that information out there on the web, and with the strong LDS teachings against discussing what occurs in the temple, and with the prohibition of non-lds person entering the temple, how is someone supposed to find out accurate information as to what to expect in the temple.

    Consider that most of the anti-web sites are skewed and give very negative perspectives on the temple. And consider that most of the Pro-LDS websites are also skewed, and when they give information as to what happens in the temple, its tailored in this rosie, touchy, feely, cultish, propogandized manner. That isn’t meant to be offensive, so please don’t be. The point is, how is someone really supposed to be informed about what happens in there, when most of you can’t talk about it, and the sources of information one might go to are slanted one way or the other? Just asking.

    On a side note, everything I’ve read about the temple ceremony, is so unrelated to the Mass, that I don’t know that sending your folks to Mass would be overly helpful. Maybe the ritualized nature of the Mass is of benefit, but the ceremonies are nothing alike.


    Catholic Defender

  22. CD said “Pro-LDS websites are also skewed . . . tailored in this rosie, touchy, feely,
    cultish, propogandized manner. That isn’t meant to be offensive, so please don’t be.”

    I totally know what you mean – just like the pro-Catholic websites are skewed and tailored in this sick, cultish, propagandized manner. No offense meant, of course.

  23. I was a little weirded out my first time, and it took me a while to realize why.

    If you see a person with long hair, pointy ears, and a longbow, that looks very normal if you’re watching The Lord of the Rings, but it looks very weird if you’re watching down Main Street, USA. What we participate in in the temple makes perfect sence if you think about it in a context like ancient Egypt, but it can be very unnerving to see your bishop, RS predisdent, or parents involved in it. Even when we think about ancient Israel, we tend to think of them as modern Mormons with beards and bathrobes. What you have to get your head around is that we are part of a faith that is older than time, and temple ritual is the most ancient and symbolic expression of that faith. If you go in expecting anything like advanced Sunday School, you may freak out and think this is a cult. But once you get past the superficial strangeness of it, you can go back and have very profound experiences.

    And everyone is nervous about new experiences; it’s okay to freak out a little bit. Anticipate having a little culture shock – you’re taking your first step into a larger world.

  24. Hi RosieMormon,

    You seem to have been offended by my words. Perhaps I should clarify what I meant, since I truly did not mean to offend. If you go to…or other websites promoted by your church, what you find with regard to the temple, and the things that occur within, are not specific descriptions of what occurs within. Instead, what you find, are descriptions of the feelings one has, the covenants one will make, and the mindset one should have before entering the temple. You won’t find an actual description of what to expect when you walk inside, that information is deemed far too sacred to divulge to non-members and members alike.

    On the other side of the coin though, are the people who have left your church, who have been inside the temple, spilling their guts about what occurs within. These people have a bone to pick with your church, and seem to embellish the things that go on within the temple.

    Additionally, when you start looking up facts about what occurs within your temple, what you find are comparisons to the rituals of the Free Masons. Some say you stole the ceremony from the Masons, others say the Mormons have the ceremony right and JS restored the ceremony to its true form.

    The point I am making is that both sides put out so much contradictory and poor information, that someone really trying in earnest to learn how to prepare for your temple ceremony, really has no way to discern what’s accurate. That’s compounded by the fact that your church teaches its members not to discuss what goes on in the temple because its far too sacred, and the rest of us non-mormons won’t be able to understand. These are the rules your church set up, so don’t take your offense out on me.

    I spend a great deal of time inside your churches, because my wife is mormon. I hear many of your members talk about the temple, but its always discussed in terms of feelings, not in terms of what the actual ritual inside is. Such descriptions, while likely very spiritual in nature, would not provide someone who has never been with any meaningful insight as to what to expect once they get inside. So that does beg the question posed, how would someone get an idea of what to expect? As I said, I don’t think a catholic mass really can be any help, because its nothing like the temple ceremony that I’ve seen described online.


    Catholic Defender

  25. CD’s questions are valid — there’s little description in concrete terms of what happens in the temple. I’ll give it a go.

    You enter the temple through the front door, where you come to the reception desk. You are required to present your temple recommend to a greeter, who confirms the validity of the recommend.

    The interior of the temple basically has these main areas: administrative offices, changing rooms, and ordinance rooms.

    If I recall correctly, when attending the temple for the first time (“own endownment”), you will first visit the administrative offices to deal with… administrative stuff. Record keeping is important in the Church, and it plays an important role in the temples as well.

    Next it is time to change out of ‘street’ clothes into all-white clothes appropriate for ordinance work. Men wear long-sleeve white shirt, white tie, white pants, white shoes/slippers. Women wear floor-length white dresses and white shoes/slippers.

    Changing into temple clothes requires a changing room, of course. Every temple I’ve been in has a ‘locker’ room of sorts (separate for men and women), meaning cubicles/stalls for changing in privacy and lockers for storing your personal effects.

    Many temple patrons bring their temple clothing with them into the temple — you’ll see many carrying small bags or travel cases in with them. If you do not bring your own, temple clothing can also be rented in the temple for a very modest fee (I have always found that… awkward… but it is a practical reality).

    Once dressed for ordinance work, you will be directed to the appropriate rooms where the ordinances are conducted. In a few of the temples (e.g. SLC), the endowment actually involves moving from room to room, representing a progression of sorts. Other temples it is done in one room, but the content is the same.

    After you have completed the various ordinances / sessions in the temple, you return to the changing area, change back into your street clothes, and probably wait in the lobby for your spouse or other members of your party.

    Hopefully that description was helpful and appropriate.

  26. > At 6:05 AM, November 28, 2008, Michael said…

    1. Let us be clear. You just called me a liar for my (At 8:22 PM, November 27, 2008, Anonymous said…) post. According to you I new exactly what I was agreeing to, could not live up to it, and so I made up story about knowing what I was agreeing to. You are yet another proof to me that religious rites exist in order to help people such as yourself create a false sense of moral superiority.

    2. A) You would be laughed out of an earthly court if you ever tried to sue an endowed Mormon for speaking critically of its leaders under the suggestion that the member has covenanted not to do so. B) Yes, you are right. An all Mormon jury in Utah probably would not find the whole thing fraudulent. A non-Mormon jury anywhere else though ……. C) Has point B) demonstrates, earthly courts are imperfect. Let us not forget that earthly courts have convicted women of being witches.

    3. Your rebuttal immediately runs into problems. How and who defines “the Kingdom of God” Is taking a stand against California proposition 8 (Steve Young’s wife) working against the Kingdom of God?

    4. I am in luck though. As I understand it the ultimate court over the issue will be a Heavenly Court. While earthly courts attempt to take intent into consideration, their ability to do so is extremely limited, while intentions is the ultimate decider in a Heavenly Court. After all endowments by vicarious proxy are not being forced upon spirit persons, are they?

    5. "You always have the option of not participating." A) We have been hearing this same argument regarding sub-prime mortgage lending and the current financial mess. That is those people who got themselves into sub-prime mortgages always had the option of not doing so. Therefore the major players in the mortgage industry are innocent of fraud? Hardly. B) While that might be true of an adult of majority of age, it is absurd to suggest that a minor who is entering into a baptismal covenant always has the option to not participate. C) By extension it is somewhat absurd to suggest that a person born and raise Mormon (Mennonite, what have you) but nonetheless now a legal adult has a well defined set of options.

  27. This is a great question and there are many wonderful comments to this post. I was surprised however, that no one mentioned Bryce Haymond’s Temple Study site.

    From a strictly personal point of view, although I had studied much about the temple prior to this experience, it had a profound impact upon me. I remember talking to a friend about the temple when he said something to this effect – “You should read Matthew 3:11 and then ask yourself, when did the Lord accomplish that mission? And did he ever accomplish that mission during his mortal ministry?”

    Although I had already started a serious study of the temple in the scriptures, his suggestion broadened my perspective. Now, looking back on my experience, I would suggest that the scriptures and the living oracles are the best sources of information as someone has already mentioned. And I would go so far as to say that all principles of the gospel all lead to the same place and source – the Lord and his holy temple.

    In addition to those sources mentioned above, one of the best sources of information on the temple are Joseph Smith’s public teachings on this very subject as contained in The Words of Joseph Smith. I just talked to Andrew Ehat yesterday and he mentioned he was visiting with one of the Brethren about reprinting the third edition.

    In fact, Andrew’s article “‘Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?’ Sesquicentennial Reflections of a Sacred Day: 4 May 1842” is an absolute masterpiece on what it means to receive an endowment at the hand of the Lord. I highly recommend this article to anyone who is preparing to go to the temple for the first time (for an excerpt, see Temple Endowment).

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