Getting to the Mormon Temple
Everything about the Mormon religion—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–is meant to lead us to Christ, to avail ourselves of His grace during mortality, and to make us co-heirs with Him in eternity. In this quest, we are meant to travel along with the people we love the most, our families. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins opens the gates of heaven; it is the first step, being born again, a new creature in Christ. When we are baptized we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. We have already developed faith in Him and have repented of our sins. Through baptism we become members of His kingdom on earth and are worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, if we continue in worthiness.
Ordinances are important. They are outward observances of holy covenants, which must be made during our mortal lives. They must be performed by those given authority from heaven, and they must continue unbroken to be efficacious. Ordinances are also milestones in our progress along the strait (tight) and narrow path. Note that the Lord did not say “straight” but “strait.” Only Christ moved through His life always in one direction — toward the Father — and never hesitated or wandered. Mormons know that repentance is a fact of life, and most actively engaged Mormons are also always actively engaged in some sort of repentance. We are counseled to actually ask God to show us our weakness, that we can become more meek, and more dependent upon His grace to make us whole.
Temple ordinances are meant to be milestones leading to eternal life, which is defined in Mormonism as an eternity in God’s presence. This is more than salvation, which means inheriting a kingdom of heaven. It is exaltation, inheriting the highest kingdom of heaven. Temple covenants lead devoted followers of Christ to the highest commitment — that of consecrating all that they have or are to the Savior, and to thus serve Him according to His will. That these covenant people may live and work around us — that they are David Archuleta or Mitt Romney or Gladys Knight — does not diminish the fact that they have partaken of the highest vows religion has to offer.
The Church of Jesus Christ is nearly (in October 2012) 15 million members strong and is an international church. More members live outside of the United States than in it, and many are poor and live far away from a Mormon temple. The LDS Church has undertaken, guided by revelation and the strength of the membership in various regions, to build more temples. Building smaller temples has made this more cost-effective. The LDS Church never goes into debt to finance anything, much less temple-building.
Still, some families strive and plan and save for years before being able to afford a trip to the Mormon temple, and many are able to make just one trip, to take higher vows for themselves, and then to be sealed eternally in marriage and parenthood. Preparing spiritually is the most important step. Some may ridicule the payment of tithing as a qualification for worthiness to enter a Mormon temple, but such sacrifice has always been required of God’s chosen people. The payment of tithing (one-tenth of one’s increase) in offerings to the Lord transforms the contributor completely and brings such spiritual blessings (in addition to temporal blessings), that this one thing can bring a person close to God and closer to desiring higher covenants. The dedication of a person to paying tithing is a huge indicator of that person’s commitment to God, and his or her spiritual maturity.
Members must also have a firm belief in God the Eternal Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost, and actively serve God in their homes and church callings (volunteer service). Things have got to be peaceful in the home, or should be rectified through counseling with proper authorities. The person must be chaste (no sexual relations outside of marriage and complete fidelity inside of marriage). The person must be honest in all his or her dealings and must have repented of anything out of line with the commandments of God. Thus purified, a person can acquire a temple recommend that will allow him or her into the temple. Mormons wish everyone would desire to make covenants with God to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and thus inherit eternal life. They wish they needed to build thousands of temples, not just hundreds.
For those who have qualified themselves spiritually to make Mormon temple covenants, but who have trouble qualifying financially, the LDS Church will help through a special fund built from the donations of other Latter-day Saints. A family meets with the bishop or branch president of their congregation some months before the temple trip. They decide together how much the family can contribute through sacrifice and extra work to paying for the trip. When the family reaches their goal, the LDS Church pays the rest to get them to the nearest temple. Especially when this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, families are greatly blessed for their sacrifice and determination to get to the House of God.