The Mormon Temple Endowment
Humans naturally feel happy when they receive gifts. God knows this perfectly, and as our Father in Heaven He always gives His children special gifts to make them happy. Life on the earth is one of the greatest of those gifts. But the greatest gift man could receive from God is the opportunity to go back to His presence and receive eternal life and exaltation (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church) believe that the principles of faith, good works, and the grace of God are all essential for the salvation of man. Salvation to a realm in heaven will be realized by most who live on this earth. However, in order for a person to receive eternal life, or life in the presence of God, or exaltation to the Celestial Kingdom, the highest realm of heaven, a person needs to receive a special gift that will entitle him to receive all the promised blessings from God. Mormons call this gift the “endowment.”
What is the Mormon Endowment?
The endowment is one of the most important ordinances performed in Mormon temples. The word “endowment” means “gift.” In the Latter-day Saints’ perspective, endowment means a gift from God, even a gift of greater light and spiritual strength that enables man to return to the presence of God.
Brigham Young, a Mormon Prophet, gave a definition of the endowment while addressing the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. He said, “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life….”
Much like baptism, the Mormon endowment is necessary for exaltation, or life in the presence of God in the highest kingdom of heaven. However, the very sacred nature of this ordinance and the associated covenants require it to be received only inside the Mormon temples. The endowment is required of every Latter-day Saint who is going to serve a mission or marry in the temple. Other members can also receive their temple endowments when they reach the right age and maturity to understand the significance of this ordinance.
Covenants and Symbols
A covenant is a sacred, binding agreement between man and God. It is a two-way agreement where a person promises to keep certain commandments and God promises to send help and blessings in return.
However, a covenant is more than just a verbal deal. It is usually accompanied by ordinances. For example, during baptism, a person enters into a covenant with God that he will follow the examples of Jesus Christ and repent of his sins. When he keeps these promises, the Lord forgives and blesses him. The ordinance of baptism entails immersion and baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ receive their temple endowment by covenant. Mormons enter the temple in Sunday dress and then change into white clothing. In fact, everyone participating in the temple, including temple workers, dresses in white. The instruction is received in a room with auditorium seating, called an endowment room. There are usually several endowment rooms in a Mormon temple, and sessions begin every half hour or so. An endowment session takes about an hour and a half and is always the same.
During an endowment session, Mormons are given instruction. The temple ceremony and ritual of the Mormon temple endowment includes a review of the plan of salvation, the creation, the fall, and the atonement.
The temple is a House of God and a place of peace, light, and meditation. When patrons come prepared to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, their understanding of the purpose of life grows. Thus, even though the presentation of the endowment is always the same, insights come as Mormons attend the temple often.
Generally, full understanding of these covenants and instructions is not possible in one temple visit. That is why members of the Church who have already received their own endowments can return to the temple and perform proxy endowments in behalf of their deceased friends and acquaintances. When they do so, they are reminded of the covenants they have made personally with God, and receive understanding, line upon line, as promised in Doctrine and Covenants 50:24:
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, reciveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
It is valuable for the public to visit a holy temple during an open house before it is dedicated to the work of the Lord. Then the public can see the beautiful structure is full of light and goodness, and can feel of the heavenly spirit that is there. Many are surprised by the spiritual warmth they feel and don’t want to leave.
Church History in the Fulness of Times, p.252.