Seattle Washington LDS Temple
I wanted to briefly share some thoughts about my first experience in an LDS temple. As I mentioned in an earlier post on my blog, I went to the temple prior to leaving to serve on my LDS mission to Argentina. I took a series of classes on preparing to go to the temple from an older couple in my ward at that time. I was "interviewed" by my Bishop. Being 'interviewed' is another LDS 'term' that basically means you have a visit, or chat with your Bishop. For the temple interview, you are asked a series of questions. You are asked if you smoke or drink coffee or tea. If a person answers "yes" to these questions that person would not receive a recommend to enter the temple, because they would be considered "unworthy". Unworthy means you are not living your life according to the laws and commandments of the LDS faith/Church. You are also asked if you support your local leaders and the presiding leaders of the entire LDS Church. To "support" your leaders means you do not speak ill about them, you obey their counsel and pray for them. You are asked if you wear the temple garments ( sacred undergarments worn by faithful LDS) night and day. There are a number of other questions that are asked during this interview.
If a person answers "yes" to these questions, they are deemed 'worthy' to enter into the LDS temple. This recommend, is a slip of paper that is signed by the local leaders, and grants you permission to enter into the temple. You must show this slip of paper ( recommend) when you enter the Temple.
I was told by my Bishop to chose an 'escort' to go with me thru the temple for my first visit. My escort, Kathy was a seasoned Mormon who had grown up LDS and had been to the Temple many times.
She picked me up on a beautiful Spring morning in May of 1990. As I mentioned before, she proceeded to tell me some things about what would happen when I went thru the temple. She told me she felt she needed to prepare me so I wouldn't freak out. " Why" would I freak out? I had been told that this would be a special experience. Beautiful. Freak out? Why would I freak out?
Kathy, really had my best interest at heart. She was worried about me. I mean, I hadn't been raised LDS. She knew I was clueless about what went in inside of the Temple. I think she was trying to help me out.
As she drove, she told me about the "washings and annointings" that would take place. I had no idea what she was talking about. This was definitely *not* covered in my temple prep class! She briefly explained to me that I would be asked to remove my clothing, and that some sisters ( ladies from church) would pour / dab oil on my head and certain body parts to "anoint" me. OK, what did that mean? I didn't say this out loud. I just listened to what Kathy was telling me. She told me to not be worried about taking my clothes off.
She then told me that I would be putting on some clothes that LDS don't normally wear , outside of the temple. These would be different than I what I had ever seen. Again I just listened and really didn't get what she was saying.
We arrived at the temple and entered in thru the front doors. It was very quiet. There was some elderly men at a large desk. They asked for my recommend. I handed it to them. I was very nervous. Especially after what Kathy had just told me. The men behind the desk smiled warmly and welcomed me. Some elderly ladies escorted me to a room where I spoke with the Temple matron. The Temple matron is the wife of the Temple President, the elderly man who is in charge of running the Temple and it's activities. The Temple Matron was dressed in a lovely white dress and spoke in hushed tones. She explained to me that I was to take out my "endowments" and that this was indeed a very special day. Everyone there was very warm and friendly, all very happy to welcome me to the Temple for my first visit.
The Temple Matron explained to me that I would be "washed and anointed". There was those words again that Kathy had just told me on the car ride to the Temple. I was taken to a large woman's locker room, and I was assigned a locker where I could undress from my street clothes and put on a white draping shield/dress of sorts. Kathy remained with me thru it all. She was dressed in a white Temple dress as well. As we waited for me to be "washed and anointed" I noticed that women were going in and out of the locker room. Everyone was very quiet, hardly speaking.
When the time came for my washings and anointing I entered a small room, that was partitioned off by a curtain from another small room ( really a cubicle of sorts). There was an elderly woman there waiting for me, and she poured some oil and water on my fore head and pronounced a blessing / prayer of sorts. I then moved into the next cubicle or small room and then I was dabbed with oil again, this time on my chest ( I was not touched inappropriately in any way) and on my legs and arms and womb. Again a blessing was pronounced. This entire process took very little time. Everyone spoke in hushed tones.
It all happened so quickly, I really had little time to digest it all. Since my friend , Kathy had warned me about this part of the Temple experience, I was fortunately not caught off guard! When I completed the process of being anointed, I dressed in the temple garments. These are white undergarments that all faithful Temple endowed mormons wear under their street clothing.
The Temple Matron had told me to wear these night and day, other than for showering purposes and that they would be a shield and protection against evil. These garments can only be purchased at an LDS clothing center. They are cotton or made of polyester. The bottoms come to the knee and the tops cover the shoulder cap. Years ago, LDS wore them from their necks to their ankles! They had evolved with time, and I suspect with the change of fashions.
After I received my washings and anointing, I was told that I was ready to receive my "endowment". I then put on a white gown. I was given a "bundle" that contained ceremonial clothing I would be required to put on later. I was glad to be dressed, and headed to a small room where I was given a "new name". This name was given to me and for me to never reveal at anytime, other than a certain place in the temple ceremony. I was told that only my husband, whom at some future date would be sealed to me would know. This was the new name that my husband would call me forth on the morning of the first resurrection. The LDS believe this name is sacred and is to never be revealed. My husband loved my "new name" , and we even named a daughter after this name of Rebekah. Of course, I am aware now that I am under no such oath or such to keep things "secret". My Lord Jesus will be resurrecting me, not my husband on the morning of the first resurrection. I am sharing this with you so you can understand, that this new name is a very special name that each faithful Mormon receives upon coming to the temple for the first time.
Once I had received the "new name" I was escorted to a large room where the walls were painted with a lovely mural depicting creation. I was told to sit and wait until the ceremony began. Kathy, my escort sat by my side the entire time. I was so thankful for that, because I was getting very nervous. I was not told much about what would actually transpire in the Temple, so I was anxious.
Soon enough, a gentleman dressed in a white suit and tie ( everyone dresses completely in white in the temple, even their shoes are to be white, with white soles) came forward and welcomed everyone. A small altar covered in white lace was in the front of the room, and a large elaborate curtained area was behind the temple altar. After a brief welcome, the lights dimmed and a movie screen came down and a movie depicting the creation and fall of Adam and Eve was shown. There was so much to take in! Soon enough the movie stopped and we were told to put on certain clothing that was found in our bundles. First a green apron, then a white robe, and a bonnet with a veil. The Movie proceeded and was stopped as initiates and other temple patrons were asked to make "covenants" and oaths. I was an "initiate". It was my first time at the Temple. But in that same room , were many other LDS who had come to do the temple work for their dead ancestors ( proxy). The LDS teach that a person must receive their endowments, washings and anointing and be sealed in the LDS temple to inherit eternal life with God.
I was expected to return again to the temple, but the next time I would coming "proxy" for a person who had died already.
During the endowment ceremony, a LDS initiate is told to make the following oaths/covenants:
1. law of sacrifice
2. law of obedience
3. law of chastity
4. law of consecration
5. law of the gospel
They are told to raise their arms and swear before "god" and "holy angels" that they will keep these promises, oaths and covenants.
With each promise I made I was given a 'token' or certain handshake that I would be required to "give back" at another place in the temple. Boy, by that time I was completely overwhelmed! There was too much to remember!
It was all so new! I had been raised Catholic, so the pomp and ceremony and ritual was not completely a foreign idea to me. I was not shocked by it all, but overwhelmed. I was told I needed to recite back the name of each oath and the special handshake or "token". Oh my! I knew I would forget it all!!!
After the movie was over, and all the oaths and covenants made, I was told to go before the "veil" of the Temple. This veil was a large and ornate veil that was draped. I was told to put my hand thru a hole in the veil and I would be asked questions that I would need to answer - basically "testing" me on my knowledge of the oaths I had just made. I was very nervous about doing this. I knew I wouldn't remember a single word!! I wasn't scared, just overwhelmed!
As I approached the opening in the veil, an elderly woman ( temple worker) came up to me and helped me out. She told me everything I needed to know to recite back to the Male Temple worker who was standing behind the temple asking me a series of questions. I was relieved that she was there to help me.
After reciting back all the tokens and giving the special handshakes, I was allowed to walk thru the viel and enter into the "celestial room". This room represented what "heaven" will be like. For the LDS , the Celestial Kingdom is the highest level of heaven, where faithful LDS who have received their temple endowments and have endured faithful to the LDS gospel will reside.
The Celestial room is a large room. Bright with many windows , mostly stained glass or leaded glass. The furnishings are of the finest appointment. No money is spared whatsoever in the LDS temples. Only the finest of furnishings and workmanship. The room is quiet. Very quiet. Those that have been thru the LDS endowment ceremony can spend time in this room and quietly pray or speak in hushed tones. The colors are usually soft pastels and whites or creamy ivories.
I don't recall how long I spent in the Celestial Room on my first visit. I think I was just overwhelmed!
I did return many many times to that same temple thru the years that proceeded. It was the Seattle Temple where I was sealed to my husband , and where I went to many times to do the work in proxy for others who have died.
After receiving my endowments, I was ready to go on my mission.
It was just one short month later that I left my home and reported to the Mission Training Center in Utah.
Many LDS experience a wide range of emotions upon going to the Temple for the first time. The most common response I hear from LDS is that they were overwhelmed. I know I was. I was told that I would should go back many times and that God would reveal to me what the symbolism meant and that this was truly the House of the Lord. I was told to not speak about the Temple and what went on inside to anyone. Even LDS will only speak in "general" tones about the Temple to other fellow LDS. They call the temple and what happens in there "sacred". To outsiders, and NON LDS, it appears secretive. To the LDS this is so far from the truth. They truly believe that the Temple is God's dwelling place and that it is here, that they will learn truths and understand God.
Most LDS do go back to the Temple, mostly monthly and some more often than that, depending on where one lives. Since my husband & I lived close to the Temple (within 2o min) we visited monthly. The Temple for the LDS is not like a regular meeting house or chapel. The Temple represents the most holy of places. Thus, they feel the need to not talk about it outside the walls of the temple itself.
My first experience with the LDS temple was not so much frightening as it was overwhelming. I really did sincerely want to know God and I was told it was at the temple that I would find Him.
Meanwhile, my mission was drawing closer, and I had one hundred and one things to do to prepare to leave. "Understanding" the Temple would have to wait until some future date..........
To my non LDS readers, I can imagine that this all appears so "odd" and "strange" and mysterious. Believe me to most LDS it is rather odd and mysterious the first time too! The LDS believe deeply that the Temple ceremony existed in the time of Moses and also the time of Jesus. They believe that Joseph Smith restored those temple rituals. They believe it is necessary for eternal life with God.
I will be sharing here on my blog, why this is simply not the case. Using the Bible as guide, I will be sharing how the Jewish Temple ritual was radically different than the LDS temple experience. Using the book of Exodus and other Old Testament writings, I will be sharing how the Jewish Temple bears no similarity to the LDS temple.
To my LDS readers, I understand that for you my friends the Temple is sacred and holy to you. It is my hope, my prayer & desire that you may come to understand how the Temple was used prior to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and how very radically different it was than modern LDS temples. I also am praying that you will see that Jesus -- the Lamb of God has opened up the holy of Holies to all who believe in Him, so that we may come boldly before the throne of grace.
Simply stated, there is no reason or need for a Temple for believers.
I hope to share "why" that is the case in my next blog post.
Until then, God bless ~