Do the leaders allow the public in Mormon temples?

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Answered by: Heidi, An Expert in the LDS Basics Category
Mormons have two general types of houses of worship. First are the chapels where members gather both during the week and (especially) on Sundays to socialize and worship together.

In these buildings, during the week, members often have activities for the youth, including for Boy Scouts and Young Women's program. Also, the women's organization, or The Relief Society, have meetings and socials. Additionally, men, women and youth gather in the chapels to play sports, such as basketball and volleyball. On a more sacred note, baptismal services, for adult converts and children eight-years or older, are held in these buildings with speakers and music to celebrate these happy occasions.

Then on Sundays, members gather for the weekly traditional worship, which includes the partaking of the sacrament--what you might call communion. We also listen to talks, participate in Sunday School, and sing hymns of praise, like many other Christian churches. The public are welcome to come to all of these meetings and activities held in Mormon chapels at any time. The signs as you enter these parking lots, in fact, read "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Visitors Welcome."

Mormon temples, on the other hand, have a more specific purpose. Here, members of the Church in good standing perform sacred ordinances for themselves and as proxies for those who have passed on. These ordinances are sometimes referred to as sacraments in other churches. They include baptismal services and the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who have gone before. Also, men who have passed on receive the holy Priesthood. Other ordinances include Initiatory and Endowment. In these, the Lord gives his children special gifts to help them through life's challenges. And perhaps the most celebrated of these includes marriages, which, when performed in the temples, is for time and eternity.

Given all of this, for two good reasons, we do not admit the public in Mormon temples. First and most important, the ordinances are sacred. One could compare our closed doors for this reason to people's desire to dress and even converse modestly--not opening up sacred things for all the world's scrutiny.

Along with this, the temple work is work. Even members with temple recommends are generally not admitted to rooms just to observe the work. Because we believe we have been commanded to perform all of the above-named ordinances for all those who have gone before us, you can imagine how much work there is to be done! Have you ever been in the middle of preparing a big party or activity when you receive unexpected phone calls or visitors? With so many people in the temples doing work, having the public in Mormon temples, members or not, only to observe would severely slow down the process.

(I'll add the caveat that we do respect the wills both of the living descendants of the deceased and of the deceased themselves. Rules are in place so that the work is not done for the deceased whose immediate descendants don't wish for it. Also, we believe that although we are performing ordinances for many, not all will accept the work. This is similar to giving someone a gift that he or she does not in fact want. They are free to put it aside and not use it.)

Mormons don't have any desire to alienate the public from their worship practices. In fact, many would be happy to answer any and all questions they can, and invite you to the chapels to watch and participate with us there. And if you meet with the missionaries and find the message to be true, then we would look forward to seeing you in the temple!

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