A Personal Perspective
Having grown up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the ideas behind temples were never really new to me. I was never surprised by the ideas associated with temples because I had always believed that they were a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I say that to illustrate the difference between my experience and the experiences of some other members of the church who converted to the church sometime in their lives and were awed by the ideas behind temples and temple work. For me there was never any question of the correctness of temple worship. All that was required was a conversion to the power and importance of temple work.
No other Christian churches have temples set aside for sacred ordinances apart from their normal worship services. No other religion in the world had the same concept of temples as this church. The closest match would be the Jewish beliefs about temples and temple work. That makes sense because our practices of temple work are the continuation of their practices of temple work.
Over the years I have been involved in temple work as a patron visiting the temple, as a missionary teaching people about the temple, as an employee cleaning the temple and as a regular worker in the temple helping people as they came to participate in the ordinances. I will deal with my temple experience chronologically, but that will leave these various aspects of my temple experience basically categorized. I never acted in more than one capacity at a time except that I participated as a patron throughout my time as an employee. However most of what I have to say as a patron is not in the way of specific experiences so I will discuss that almost entirely before moving on to the other aspects of temple work. I will try to briefly explain the purposes of the ordinances that I have participated in as I talk about associated experiences, but I do not attempt to make a comprehensive explanation. For those who are curious about specific ordinances go to the temple page on the church’s website.
My first personal experience with the temple was after I turned 12. I lived in Woods Cross, Utah and at the time the closest temple to us was the Salt Lake Temple. The youth of our ward, ages 12 to 18, usually went to the temple about twice a year to act as proxies performing baptisms for the dead. This is the only ordinance that the youth are permitted to participate in. All the other ordinances are reserved for the adults of the church. The reason being that it is necessary to participate in the other ordinances for yourself before you are allowed to perform them in behalf of those who died without the opportunity. Baptism is the one ordinance that the 12 year olds of the church have already done for themselves. It is the only ordinance that is performed outside of the temple with the exception of the Sacrament which is not performed inside the temple. (The Sacrament is also known as the Lord’s Supper or Communion)
I remember on those occasions the peace that I felt as I entered that sacred edifice and left behind me the cares of the world if only for an hour or two. On at least one occasion we were permitted to walk around the grounds of the temple and see the building up close. It is not difficult for a person of faith to recognize the great sacrifice that went into building such a building over 100 years ago. It stands as a testimony to the faith of the pioneers. There is no reason why anybody would be not allowed to view the grounds of the temple. There are no paths around the grounds.
I will never forget those experiences of attending the temple and feeling the peace inside those walls. We could look at the dedication of craftsmen who were erecting a monument to their God. I was able to see the respect and reverence that my friends held for the temple. To see the effects that the temple had on those who entered it was another testimony of the power that resides there.
© copyright Darrel B. Chamberlain – All rights reserved
Early in 1990, when I was 13, the leaders of the church announced that they would be building a temple in Bountiful which is right next to Woods Cross. Of course it would not be build for a few more years. In the summer of 1994, when I was 17, I trained as part of my High School cross-country team. We would meet every morning and run. Frequently we would meet across the street from the temple and run across town to a golf course in North Salt Lake. Sometimes we would run from the golf course to the temple. Either way I remember watching every day as the temple was constructed. In connection with watching the temple construction I also heard the stories connected with it’s construction. One time in the night someone went and spray painted graffiti on the unfinished framing of the temple. In most construction projects that would be covered and ignored, but in the traditional standard of excellence associated with the building of the temple the church paid to have the painted materials torn out and replaced with new material. This was to be a house of God and no known blemish, hidden or otherwise, could be accepted. Later after the exterior was completed and the statue of Moroni was on top of the spire it was rumored that the church replaced the statue after someone shot at the statue from the mountains east of the temple. I cannot confirm that the statue was shot at, but I am sure that if it was the church would most definitely have replaced it – it is that same commitment to quality. In that same summer I went with other young people in my stake to plant flowers in the cement boxes on the temple parking lot. The trees in the boxes had been planted, but these boxes were square about 7 feet to a side and we went to add flowers to beautify the dirt around the trees. In the construction of the temples there is no detail ignored in making everything beautiful and pleasing.
In December of 1994 the open house for the Bountiful Temple was held for the public to tour through the temple. I had the opportunity on multiple occasions to work at the open house directing traffic at nearby churches as people parked to be bussed to the temple. That was fun to be able to help people to be able to see the temple. I also enjoyed the chance I had to go through during one of the open house days. Before that I had never been through any temple completely. In Salt Lake I had never ventured outside of the baptistery which is located in the basement. I had never seen the rooms where the other ordinances are performed. One evening after my mom and one of my brothers had worked at the last shift of the open house we joined many of the other people who had been working in going through the temple after the last of the visitors had been helped. Normally there were two routes through the temple for people to walk. Both of them showed each type of room within the temple, but there are multiple rooms for the endowments and sealings that take place in the temple and each route visited different rooms for those. That night as we went through we were free to go between the two established routs and see all of the temple. They even had the brides room open. Often that room was closed during the tours. It is used as a place for brides to dress on the day of their weddings. It tends to be one of the most beautiful rooms in the temple, but it has no ceremonial significance so it is not always included on the tours. After having the opportunity to go through the temple at my own pace and really stop and look at the Celestial Room and some of the Sealing rooms, where marriages are performed, I had a new feeling for the temple. As I left that night I knew that this was truly a house of God and that His power was to be a resident there once the temple was dedicated. It was a feeling of peace and comfort that I have never felt anywhere outside the temple. It is an experience that I wish everyone could have. I knew that nothing short of the power that is exercised in the temple could bring me the feeling of home that I had felt there. It was a place that I belonged.
© copyright Darrel B. Chamberlain – All rights reserved
On Sunday, January 8, 1995 the Bountiful Temple was dedicated by President Howard W. Hunter. There were multiple dedication sessions so that as many members as wanted to could be part of the dedication services. I went on Monday, January 9, 1995 and I remember remembering the feelings that I had felt that night of the open house and I knew that The Spirit of God really was burning like a fire in the hearts of everyone there. I knew that spirit would forever be a part of that house. I could understand better why the saints had chosen to sing The Spirit of God back in 1836 when the first temple was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio. Ever since then that song has been sung at every dedication since then. I guess that makes sense when you know that it was written specifically for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.
My school schedule in the spring of 1995 was such that I was able to go to the temple before school 2 or 3 times a week to participate in baptisms for the dead. That was an early outlet for my strong desire to make temple work a part of my life. I wanted to return as often as I could to feel the feeling of belonging that I had experienced there. I don’t remember how long that lasted, but I do remember that I felt good during my frequent visits to the temple. By the summer of 1995 I had graduated from High school and moved to Provo, Utah. My regular attendance at the temple was disrupted as I got busy with college.
In October of 1995 I received my mission call and in early November I went through the temple Endowment Ceremony for the first time in preparation for my mission. It was a great experience to go back to the Bountiful Temple with some of my family around me and to feel the spirit of the temple as I sat in the celestial room. The celestial room represents heaven. It is a place of serenity where patrons can sit at the end of an endowment session to reflect upon the things of eternity. This was my first experience sitting in the celestial room of a dedicated temple (I had visited it during the open house) and it was sublime. I was so excited that I went up to Salt Lake the next week to attend a session there. One special aspect of the Salt Lake Temple is that they do not have a video presentation for the endowment. Prior to 1950 all of the temples presented the endowment live, but as the church grew to include more languages it became more practical to record the ceremony and play the recording in whatever languages were required. Eventually every temple except the Salt Lake and Manti temples had adopted the video presentation. It is a special experience to go to the Salt Lake Temple and see an endowment session live. What was truly exciting for me was to be able to walk through the interior of that pioneer temple and see the work they had done to finish the temple. It is full of thoughtful artwork depicting the creation of the world and the Garden of Eden etc. The more I see of the Salt Lake Temple the more it stands as a testament to the faith of the builders.
One of the exciting aspects of my assignment to St. Louis was that there was a temple under construction there. I was excited to be where a new temple was coming so that I could be some part of that even if no more than I had been a part of the Bountiful Temple.
When I arrived in St. Louis in January of 1996 the temple was a concrete box just barely rising out of the ground. One of the things I did as a missionary was to answer questions about the temple that was being built. I gave presentations to groups which forced me to study more into the temple and therefore my love for the work grew even stronger. Even when I was 150 miles away from St. Louis people would ask questions about the temple. As the open house and dedication neared we spent more time explaining to people the significance of having a temple in the area and what it meant to the members. During the open house I was able to go through with people of different faiths and answer questions that they had afterwards. It was exciting to see them as they felt the spirit there and witnessed the supernal beauty of the building. I got to see the brides room at that open house as well so I had seen two brides roms, which is more than many brides ever see.
I attended the dedication of the St. Louis Temple on June 3, 1997 (the first dedication session was June 1.) It was a great experience to see so many of my close friends from my mission there to partake of that great event. It is marvelous to see friends and family who hold the values and live the standards that allow them to partake of the blessings of the temple. During the last six months of my mission (after the dedication) I was able to go through the temple twice. I was especially thankful for those opportunities because it had been a year and a half since I had been to the temple. I missed that feeling of being at home in the temple. After the temple was dedicated it was customary for missionaries to go through the temple just prior to their going home. Unfortunately I did not get that opportunity because I went home while the temple was closed for the Christmas holiday. The result was that I got to go home as if we did not have a temple there. Again I could be excited when I got home to have that opportunity whenever I should choose to take it.
Photo courtesy of Donald L. Mark
After I got home I moved back to Provo for college and set a goal to go to the temple ever week. I was pretty good about it, but after I had been home for four months I got a job cleaning the temple at night. In all the years I had gone to the temple I had never thought about the cleaning and maintenance of the buildings. I found it interesting as I learned that some people have a reaction when they learn that people are paid to clean the temple. They seemed to have this idea that a celestial building – such as the temple – stays clean without the help of a housekeeping staff. One of the things that I learned was to recognize the merging of the celestial and eternal realities with the realities of mortality. Few people realize what the temples have in the way of tools to keep things running. Essentially it amounts to everything they could need. It is interesting in my mind to merge the place of most spotless purity on the earth in the temple with the place that I have to dust the top of the shelves in the evening. The immaculate and beautiful brides room of the Provo temple has the chandeliers taken down and cleaned periodically so that they keep their beauty. The floors do have to be vacuumed, but this does not diminish the eternal, celestial beauty of the building. To me it serves as a reminder of the eternal truth that we must always work to keep ourselves clean spiritually. That is an ongoing labor whether we appear to be clean when other people view us or if there are elements of our human frailty exposed to the view of others. Some people I have talked to think that to be celestial means to leave all traces of mortality behind us, but to me it means to be in control of ourselves and to have the reins on our mortal shortcomings.
Less than a year after I left the custodial staff of the temple for a job that suited my student schedule better I had the opportunity to work in the Provo temple assisting people through the ordinances. In doing so I became more familiar with the ordinances themselves and I began to understand the true power that they hold. I understood the promises they contained and I began to understand the answers to some of the gospel questions that I had.
Many people go to the temple to receive some insight to their lives or the gospel. It truly is a house of learning. I had done that for years and had begun to ask myself specific questions in the temple to understand the gospel more. What surprised me was that I found new answers to questions that I thought I had found answers to. As I came to understand the way that our Savior works for the salvation of mankind I began to see His hand more abundantly in my life. For all of my shortcomings he had enough love for me to assist me in my trials and to answer my prayers to draw closer to Him. It was amazing and I hope that it will remain as the foundation of a lifetime of learning. I hope that I will be able to show through my actions my true conviction to the doctrines taught by the Lord and I hope that I can always be able to partake of the blessings of the temple and encourage others to seek for those blessings in their lives.
The temple is a place of understanding and as we begin to understand ourselves, our Savior, and our fellow men better there will be peace in the world fostered by that mutual understanding. Perhaps that is idealistic of me, but where is our hope if not in idealism? I hope that others can understand that above all else the temple is designed to help people to draw closer to Christ and understand Him better. That is why many Latter-day Saints hold the temple as their place of highest worship.
The views expressed on this page are the sole responsibility
of the author, David Miller. I do not represent the church in any official capacity. Please do not accept this as official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For official information regarding the doctrines and practices of the church visit Mormon.org or talk with official representatives of the church. Most members of the church would be able to direct you to an official representative in your area. If you have questions for me personally feel free to contact me.