Wednesday, March 22, 2023

What It's Like Working Inside a Latter-day Saint Temple

When I sent my youngest child to kindergarten, I found myself wondering what I should do first: enjoy an uninterrupted morning shower? eat meals comprised of more than his leftovers? have an existential crisis? In the end I settled on a little of all three, but one other thing I really wanted to do was start volunteering at the temple of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Since May, I've been working at my church's temple twice a month, and I really love what I do there. But it's unfamiliar to many people, so I wanted to write this post.

First Thing's First: What's a Temple

If you want to know what I do at the temple, it helps to know what a temple is. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian religion, and temples are buildings where our most important ordinances (i.e: ceremonies/rituals) are performed.

Right now, there are 168 Latter-day Saint temples in the world and something like 100 more that are either being planned or built. 

Latter-day Saint temple in Houston, TX.

Latter-day Saints have a great respect for the temple, so much so that we don't discuss specifics of the ceremonies when we're outside of the temple, even with other people who've been there. But it's not breaching any confidences to tell you that there are four different ordinances done in temples:
  • Baptism for the dead - like a regular baptism, but you do it on behalf of someone in your family tree who has died without being baptized
  • Initiatory - preparation to make further promises with God, symbolizing the washing and anointing done in the Bible to prepare people for priesthood service
  • Endowment - learning about God's overall plan for humanity and the central role of Jesus Christ in that plan, starting with the creation of the world; it culminates in making promises of faithfulness to God
  • Sealing - like a marriage but with two important distinctions: (1) sealing lasts for "time and eternity" and not "until death do you part," and (2) it doesn't just seal the two spouses together, but their children or future children as well
June 20, 2003: Phillip and I were sealed in the St. Paul, Minnesota temple.

After Latter-day Saints come to the temple for their own ordinances of initiatory, endowment, and sealing, they can come back to do them on behalf of ancestors who've died.

What Do You Do in the Temple When You Volunteer?

Like everybody who comes to the temple, I drive there wearing my Sunday best and when I get inside, I change into white clothes. (Because I work there, I also get to wear a snazzy name tag.) Everyone wears white inside the temple to symbolize holiness and purity, which makes for a pretty striking visual reminder that we're in a heavenly place.

Sapporo, Japan temple.
The workers attend a short prep meeting that consists of a devotional and some training on our responsibilities. There are logistics to cover, but what's emphasized most is the sacred character of what's going on in the temple. You can practically feel the heartfelt desire of everyone in the room to simply be a facilitator in God's holy work that day.

Then, for the bulk of my 6-hour shift, I'm helping in various capacities in the temple. 

I could be involved with any of the four ordinances I mentioned a few paragraphs ago: guiding youth groups around the baptistry as they get baptized for their ancestors, delivering the words and prayers of the initiatory ordinance, assisting people as they go through the endowment ceremony, or witnessing a sealing to make sure it's done correctly. My role in the ordinances is always different, but I feel the same spiritual significance every time.

I accommodate people who come to the temple with special needs, from language translation to physical disabilities, and answer questions for people who are new to the temple and might not know what to do next. 

Depending on the day, I could also be welcoming people at the front desk or lending white clothes at the clothing desk to people who didn't bring their own. Whatever I'm doing, I try to do it with a kind smile and a gentle voice so that everyone who comes to the temple can feel the presence of God in His house.

What Do You Think of Your Experience So Far?

The 98-year-old president of our church sometimes mentions spending a lot of time in the temple with other church leaders (most of them in their 70s and 80s), and halfway through my first shift I said to myself, "Ohhhh... so this is why they live so long." 

Entering the temple is like hitting the 'pause' button on everyday life, and I can't help but think the regular reset-and-refresh is good for my mind, my spirit, and possibly even my physical health.

It's powerful to go somewhere that is completely devoid of anger and loudness, where every single person is there out of a common desire to follow Jesus and help others (remember, people come to the temple to participate in saving ordinances for themselves or others). 

Temple in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It's hard to accurately explain the peace I feel in the temple, but the best I can do is say that when I'm there, there's a very palpable sense that I'm in a holy place. The temple's influence makes me a better, more patient person  even after I leave. 

I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that the long stretches of time I get to spend there as a temple worker have become the highlight of my week.

LDS temple in Madrid, Spain.

I suspect there are probably people on the Internet who are happy to breech the sacredness of the temple by sharing plenty of details both true and false, but I appreciate you respecting how special the temple is to me and other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you have more questions, shoot me an email or see the church's website

And if you want to see more pictures of temples worldwide, here's a photo gallery. Most are exterior pictures, but there are also several interior pictures from the Rome, Italy temple. Enjoy!

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1 comment:

Handsfullmom said...

What a beautiful post! I love that you are serving at the temple regularly. Friends who do the same have said what a huge difference if made in their lives