“Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?” Open Access with Preparation
Just this last week a friend of mine told me about her friend’s friend’s description of their exclusion from a Latter-day Saint Temple wedding ceremony. (How’s that for degrees of separation?) This friend of a friend of a friend said he had to wait outside the Temple because he was “unclean.” It was a joke at which both my friend and I laughed because that’s not how Latter-day Saints view it. If I had to choose one word describing those waiting outside the Temple during a wedding ceremony, it wouldn’t be “unclean,” it would be “uncovenanted.”
Latter-day Saints believe that in every “dispensation” in which God has dispensed the gospel of Jesus Christ, He has made a covenant with His people designed to instruct them of His nature. In the Old Testament, Jeremiah records the Lord’s description of the ancient covenant,
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33 ).
This covenant relationship is no longer limited to only the Jews as it was in ancient times. Now anyone can be adopted into the “House of Israel.” The covenant relationship begins at the first ordinance, which is “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins by one with authority.” Though baptisms are open to the public, later ordinances of the covenant akin to baptism are administered in sacred “Temples.” Temples are open to anyone willing to (1) be baptized by restored authority into Jesus Christ’s modern Church (2) live God’s commandments like keeping the Sabbath day holy and observing the Law of Chastity and (3) strengthen their commitment to God by making further covenants. So God’s covenant is no longer limited to the Jews only, but in order to enter the “House of the Lord” also known as a Temple, you have to willingly enter into a modern covenant relationship with Him. This often means many friends and family members do not observe Temple wedding ceremonies.:(
In a sense, every time a missionary knocks on someone’s door, it is an invitation to the Temple. However, no one is entitled to enter the “House of the Lord” without first spiritually preparing. We are guest in His home and He sets the guidelines.
(Photo of the Washington, D.C. Temple from Chance Hammock Photography)
Chapels are Different than Temples
Latter-day Saints hold weekly Sunday services and social events in chapels. These are open to the public. Here’s a video describing the logistics of a Latter-day Saint worship service. Temples are special, sacred spaces where Latter-day Saints make covenants with God and seek personal revelation. In a similar way to how the ancient covenant people did not speak the name of God to show Him respect, Latter-day Saints reverence the ordinances of the Temple by not speaking of them casually. Material posted online and else where depicting specifics of Temple ordinances is highly offensive to a Latter-day Saint.
Prerequisite Covenant to the Marriage Covenant. What Does the Covenant Include?
A covenant ceremony, called the endowment, precedes the covenant of marriage. The following is a modern prophet’s description of what the covenant includes in the endowment:
“In the Temples of our Lord we learn obedience. We learn sacrifice. We make the vows of chastity and have our lives consecreated to holy purposes” (President James E. Faust “Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.” August 2001 Ensign).
This covenant requires us to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change the desire of our hearts. A modern Apostle describes this process as:
To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin“
(Elder David A. Bednar “Clean Hands and Pure Heart, Nov 2007).
Mormon Temples Made Simple YouTube video describes well Temple practices in a respectful way.
Marriage is the Crowning Covenant in the Temple
The crowning covenant with God in the Temple is the marriage promise to care for another in a selfless, Christlike way. Latter-day Saints believe that God intended marriage to extend beyond the grave. Adam and Eve were married in their immortal state prior to the Fall and their ability to die (Genesis 2:23-24). The book of Matthew records the “power to bind on earth and in heaven” was given to Peter (16:18-19). Since God’s authority to administer ordinances was lost from the earth with the death of the Apostles, He restored this power in our time (Doc & Cov 128:9-10). If the couple is true to each other and to God, they will remain married after death.
Because of the sanctity of the Temple, photography isn’t permitted. Wedding pictures are usually taken outside. Here are a few of my friend, Brittany’s, wedding. (She met her husband, Paul, on an internship in Denmark from her D.C. area school.)
I’ve attended several wedding ceremonies in the Temple. They are incredibly beautiful. The rooms are typically small and attendance is limited to preserve its sanctity and avoid making it too much of a social event. The couple kneels at an altar, facing each other and holding hands as the “sealer” performs the ceremony. The altar represents personal sacrifice to God and the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden and were gradually learning the steps back to God’s presence, they were commanded to offer a lamb in sacrifice to look forward to Christ’s Atonement (Moses 5:5-8). Ancient Israel also offered animal sacrifice, but as they fell away from the truth they became too focused on the form, rather than pointing their minds to the Savior. Because the people in the Book of Mormon left Jerusalem about 600 B.C., they also had the Law of Moses. It is clear from this record that the animal sacrifices were drawn to point their minds to the coming of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 13:28-35).
After Christ fulfilled His Atonement, He commanded the discontinuance of animal sacrifices and instead required a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20). As a couple kneels across the altar, face to face, holding hands, they are to offer this to God as they enter into a covenant with Him and each other.
A Latter-day Saint marriage ceremony is centered in Christ.
Maybe a Ring Ceremony, Usually a Paartaaay
Latter-day Saint couples often hold a reception to celebrate their union. These are not held in the Temple. Because only covenanted people observe the Temple marriage ceremony, many Latter-day Saint couples hold a ring ceremony at their reception hall (exchanging rings is not a part of the Temple ceremony). At a ring ceremony, a couple may design a program that involves all of their well wishers.
Here are a few pics of Brittany and Paul’s reception.
I have many friends who move in together prior to marriage. Even my new favorite royals, “Wills & Kate” lived together for years before finally marrying. If my friends aren’t religious, it’s normal in my mind for them to move in with their significant other once they feel a sense of longevity. However, as mentioned previously, Latter-day Saints covenant to live God’s Law of Chastity which is only to have sexual relations with your spouse. We do this simply because God commands it, but there are obvious benefits. In doing this, we prepare ourselves to create a unifying bond with someone special that will deepen loyalty and devotion. It is beyond my ability to imagine sharing something so special with someone who had yet to decide they wanted to keep me forever. Breaking up is hard enough without creating such strong emotional bonds without the foundation to support them. (I’ve written about this topic on this blog several times, including Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity and others.) God has commanded union in marriage and sexuality is part of the process, but the union is more than physical. Emotional, spiritual, mental and physical unity is built through a lifetime of kindness, love, sacrifice, admiration, appreciation, hard work, synergy, cooperation, obedience, faith, grace, sanctification and more. A modern prophet describes the command to be united in marriage as:
“The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would be part of His Church: ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine’ (Doc & Cov 38:27). And at the creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity. . . . The Savior of the world spoke of that unity and how we will have our natures changed to make it possible. He taught it clearly in the prayer He gave in His last meeting with His Apostles before His death. That supernally beautiful prayer is recorded in the book of John. He was about to face the terrible sacrifice for all of us that would make eternal life possible. He was about to leave the Apostles whom He had ordained, whom He loved, and with whome He would leave the keys to lead His Church. And so He prayed to His Father, the perfect Son to the perfect Parent. We see in His words the way families will be made one, as will all the children of our Heavenly Father who follow the Savior and His servants: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (John 17:18-21). In those few words He made clear how the gospel of Jesus Christ can allow hearts to be made one. Those who would believe the truth He taught could accept the ordinances and the covenants offered by His authorized servants. Then, through obedience to those ordinances and covenants, their natures would be changed. The Savior’s Atonement in that way makes it possible for us to be sanctified. We can live in unity, as we must to have peace in this life and to dwell with the Father and His Son in eternity” (Elder Henry B. Eyring Ensign, May 1998, 66).
Is it too much to say that Mormons are incredibly romantic?
God designed love stories with eternal possibilities. Your love story can be eternal through the power of Jesus Christ and living His restored gospel. Latter-day Saints live in a way to write their own eternal love stories in partnership with God.
Check out Brittany’s amazing blog: The House That Lars Built
The picture of the Washington, DC Temple was taken by Chance Hammock. Check out his work.
Tags: building eternal relationships, faith in Jesus Christ, family, friends, God's law of chastity, modern prophets, mormon beliefs, Mormon Temple, Mormon Temple Ceremony, Mormons and marriage, Mormons and Sex, personal revelation, Restoration, romantic love, sealing power, Temple marriage, Temple ordinances