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
Mormon scripture is an essential element of the faith, because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as “Mormons” are officially known) derive their doctrine from their scriptural canon, and also because daily individual and family scripture study is a central part of life for Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). Mormon scripture is a means whereby members of the faith can increase their religious knowledge and invite the Spirit of the Lord into their lives, bringing them peace, joy, personal inspiration, and guidance. There are five major components of the Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, scriptural canon: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and continued modern-day revelation from appointed prophets and apostles.
Latter-day Saints believe the Bible—the complete Old and New Testaments—to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. They believe the King James Version of the Bible to be the most accurate of any translation. Because the life, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ are central to the Mormon faith, the Bible is an important record. However, Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) believe that many plain and precious truths were lost from the Bible due to the transmission and translation of the text as well as the wickedness of men.
Latter-day Saints also believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a testament that Jesus is the Christ. Mormons believe that after Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem, He appeared in His resurrected body to the Nephites, a remnant group of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that traveled from Jerusalem to the American continent approximately 600 years before Christ’s birth. As He did with the Jews in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ taught these Nephite people the truths of the gospel and established a church, complete with a prophet and apostles who held the true priesthood authority to administered saving ordinances like baptism. The Book of Mormon is a record of some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, and most importantly, of Christ’s dealings with them.
The Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of revelations, given mostly to the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith as he reorganized Christ’s church on the earth after a period of apostasy. These revelations answered specific questions which Joseph Smith had about doctrines and the organization of Christ’s church. Other revelations were given to Joseph Smith for specific people. All these revelations are instructive to any seeker of truth.
The Pearl of Great Price
Another collection of important revelations, the Pearl of Great Price, was assembled after the organization of the Church. It contains the Book of Moses (an extract from the Book of Genesis in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible); the Book of Abraham (a translation of some Egyptian papyri that came into the hands of Joseph Smith in 1835); Joseph Smith—Matthew (an extract from the testimony of Matthew in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible); and Joseph Smith—History (excerpts from Joseph Smith’s official testimony and personal history). This book of scripture is invaluable in outlining the Mormon doctrine of the pre-existence (life with God before life on this earth), God’s plan for His children and His true relationship to them, and many other things.
One of the most unique and important doctrines in the Mormon faith is the idea of continuing revelation. For Latter-day Saints, the heavens are still open. Modern-day prophets and apostles and other general authorities speak to the worldwide church at semi-annual General Conferences. Their addresses are also considered to be the word of God. And although these words are not canonized scripture, they are considered to be scripture. The words of the living prophet always take precedence over the words of a dead prophet.
Danielle Tumminio, an episcopal priest, took the opportunity to attend the Kansas City Mormon temple open house. She knew something about the tumultuous history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (frequently misnamed the Mormon Church) in Missouri, and she was struck by the determination of Latter-day Saints to return and build a temple. About 175 years ago, Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) were forced out of the state of Missouri by an extermination order from the governor. In the early 1900s, Latter-day Saints began to slowly return to the area, despite the persisting misunderstandings and prejudices against them.
Now, enough Latter-day Saints have gathered again in the area, that they are erecting a Mormon temple.
Latter-day Saints consider their temples the most sacred places on the earth. Access is limited to faithful members of the Church who adhere to the faith and live a very high standard of values. However, before a new temple is dedicated, it is open to the public for viewing during an open house which generally lasts about two to three weeks.
Tumminio did not want to miss her opportunity to see a Mormon temple and gain a better understanding of what they are used for. She was motivated both by the prominent place Mormonism has held in the news lately as well as her own curiosity.
She asked herself a couple of questions before attending the open house:
What does a Mormon temple look like, and what happens inside it?
Would I feel God’s presence in this space, even though it’s not a space that’s sacred for me?
Tumminio stressed that she did not feel any pressure from the volunteers present at the open house to convert to the faith. She noticed that everyone was welcoming and kind, and dressed very nicely. The volunteers offered free guided tours, bent down to put on protective booties (which all visitors wear to protect the inside from getting dirty), and offered her a cookie at the end. She was able to see every part of the temple from the changing rooms to the Celestial Room (the most sacred room in any temple). She was impressed by the volunteers’ openness and willingness to answer every question she asked—even the controversial ones.
Tumminio accurately perceived that Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) go to the temple to be close to God, just like Jews did in Jerusalem before the temple was destroyed. While Latter-day Saints attend the temple for a variety reasons (weddings, baptisms for the dead, the sealing of families, etc.), all of them are sacred and involve covenants made with God. One of the most important of these ceremonies, or rites, is that of the Mormon temple endowment. This is a time when faithful Latter-day Saints make promises to God, are promised blessings according to their faithfulness, and learn more about their relationship to God.
On her visit, Tumminio noticed that Mormon temples, unlike cathedrals, are separated into smaller rooms which serve different purposes, as outlined above. In the final room, the Celestial Room, Tumminio had a sacred experience. She proceeded through some of the instruction rooms, ascending a step after each (a total of three rooms), before ending up in the Celestial Room, “a space designed to give those who sit in it a foretaste of heaven,” as Tumminio said.
Like Dante, who saw God face to face but had no words to describe the encounter, I have few words to describe what I felt in that moment. But I can say this: While it did not convert me, nor did it make me want to be a Mormon, the silence and peace I felt reminded me of the many other times I’ve felt close to God, whether in an Episcopal cathedral, in a clear, warm ocean or in my ratty old car. And because of that, I came to understand why temples exist and why they are so important to Mormons across the world.
It is a wonderful effect of Mormon temple open houses that people have experiences similar to Tumminio, helping to dispel long-held doubts and suspicions towards Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). When a person visits a temple, the spirit of God is there. It does not have to convert them for others to feel of the sacredness that is there, just like a Latter-day Saint can feel the spirit of God in a Catholic cathedral.
The Kansas City Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the Mormon Church) has opened its doors to citizens who wish to take a tour. Each Mormon temple has an open house before its dedication to allow members of the community to come and see what a Mormon temple is like and to ask questions.
This week, CNN reporter Brian Todd was taken on a tour by Elder William R. Walker of the Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy. Todd remarked, “It’s unmistakable, rising up like a castle from the rolling prairie, the gold-leafed statue of the Angel Moroni adorning its main spire. The new Mormon temple in Kansas City symbolizes a rare pattern at a time when many faiths see their numbers in North America shrinking.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never starts construction on a building unless it has all the funds up front to cover the cost. Mormon temples are the most sacred buildings in the religion, and no expense is spared in the construction, because Latter-day Saints believe that temples are literally houses of the Lord, and the Lord deserves the best.
There are now 137 Mormon temples in operation, with 30 more currently under construction. “The purpose of the temple is not for a big meeting,” Elder Walker said. “We have other chapels and throughout the church and throughout the world, assembly halls and meeting halls. But when we come to the temple, this is more for private and individual communion.”
Todd said, “We saw sealing rooms, where weddings take place; an instruction room with a mural depicting earth, as Mormons believe, just after creation; and the pristine ‘celestial room,’ the most sacred space inside, for reflection and meditation complete with crystal chandeliers. This is the biggest room you’ll find in the temple. There’s no large sanctuary.”
The open house is scheduled through April 28. Church President Thomas S. Monson will formally dedicate the temple on May 6.
Kansas City Star reports “137th Mormon Temple Awaits 75,000 Visitors for Public Viewing”
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is inadvertently refereed to by many in the world as the “Mormon Church”), we are taught that in addition to our regular tithing, an additional part of our giving is a generous fast offering. The purpose of fast offerings is to help those members of the Church who are in need of temporal assistance. The amount that a member gives once a month as his fast offering is generally equivalent to the cost of two meals (how many meals a person fasts for), though members are encouraged to be generous in their fast offerings if they are able to be.
In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Amulek explained that often our prayers have no power because we have turned our backs on the needy. We read his words as recorded in Alma 34:28–29:
And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.
Also in the Book of Mormon, in his powerful sermon King Benjamin asked, “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:19). Continuing in verse 21 of that same chapter he exhorts the people:
And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
When we fast, we feel hunger for a short time. It is during that short time that we literally put ourselves in a position where we can feel of some of the same deprivation that those who are hungry and needy must feel. When we give our generous fast offering, we are not only giving to bless the lives of our brothers and sisters in need, but in turn our lives are blessed as well. We are taught in the Bible, in the New Testament, in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
King Benjamin further taught in his sermon as recorded in the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah 4:26:
And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a modern-day Apostle of the Lord, in his messaged titled “The Law of the Fast” given during the April 2001 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relates this story:
How well I remember my father, the bishop of our ward, filling my small red wagon with food and clothing and then directing me—as a deacon in the Church—to pull the wagon behind me and visit the homes of the needy in our ward.
Often, when fast-offering funds were depleted, my father would take money from his own pocket to supply the needy in his flock with food that would keep them from going hungry. Those were the days of the Great Depression, and many families were suffering.
I remember visiting one family in particular: a sickly mother, an unemployed and discouraged father, and five children with pallid faces, all disheartened and hungry. I remember the gratitude that beamed in their faces when I walked up to their door with my wagon nearly spilling over with needed supplies. I remember how the children smiled. I remember how the mother wept. And I remember how the father stood, head bowed, unable to speak.
We, too, can bring a wagon filled with hope to a family in need by paying a generous fast offering. If we have the means to do so and hold back from showing compassion to those in need, we are no better than those of whom the prophet Moroni spoke of in the Book of Mormon when he said, “For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (Mormon 8:37). King Benjamin in his sermon reminded the people, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah 4:22, 24:
And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. . . . I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
Let us all be reminded of the words of the Savior Himself as recorded in Matthew 25:42–45:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Fast offerings are a way for Latter-day Saints to reach out and help those in need with no thought of recognition or earthly reward. The act of fasting is humbling and brings the faster closer to God. Fasting brings gratitude and the opportunity to share one’s blessings with others.
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