Temple ceremonies and clothing have sometimes been depicted on mainstream TV, which may prompt questions from those who are unfamiliar with the Church. How might a member respond to such questions appropriately?
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the house of the Lord, and the ceremonies that take place inside are sacred. Members of the Church have been counseled not to share certain details of temple ordinances or display ceremonial clothing outside of the temple as a way to show reverence and respect.
At times, however, temple clothing and ceremonies have been depicted on mainstream television programs or online videos that are not associated with the Church. Many Latter-day Saints see such depictions as undesirable, inappropriate, or offensive.
In 2009, an article on Church Newsroom responded to a depiction of the temple ceremony on cable television by stating, “Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding.”
Seeing these kinds of depictions can prompt questions or misunderstandings from friends and loved ones who do not understand the importance of temple ceremonies to Latter-day Saints.
As Church members seek to have appropriate conversations about the temple, they can follow the example of official Church sources to determine how much information is appropriate to discuss with family members and friends.
Church leaders and official Church sources have addressed the topic extensively, and the Church itself has published photos and videos depicting the rooms of the temple, temple clothing, and garments. These resources can be invaluable in helping friends better understand the temple.
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Secret or Sacred?
Church leaders have asked members to be cautious about what they speak about outside the temple. In his book The Holy Temple, President Boyd K. Packer taught that “our reluctance to speak of the sacred temple ordinances is not in any way an attempt to make them seem more mysterious or to encourage improper curiosity about them.”
Sometimes, however, our caution can give the impression that members are keeping secrets.
President Packer went on to say, “Questions about the temple ceremony usually meet with the response, ‘We are not free to discuss the temple ordinances and ceremonies.’ Those who have not been to the temple sometimes ask, ‘Why is it so secret?’
“If ‘secret’ means that others are permanently prevented from knowing of them, then secret is the wrong word. These things are sacred.”
Speaking recently to a news reporter at the open house of the Washington D.C. Temple, Elder David A. Bednar said, “Sometimes we’re accused of, ‘Well, what are the secret things that you do in the temple?’ They’re not secret; they’re sacred. We don’t speak of them casually or lightly because to us they are so central, so fundamental, and so important to how we live.”
“We Are Sometimes Reluctant”
When deciding what to speak about outside the temple, it can be helpful to remember that the Church’s General Handbook points out that there is some information given in the temple that members specifically promise not to reveal, including certain symbols:
“Temple covenants and ordinances are sacred. The symbols associated with temple covenants should not be discussed outside the temple. Nor should we discuss the holy information we promise in the temple not to reveal. However, we may discuss the basic purposes and doctrine of temple covenants and ordinances and the spiritual feelings we have in the temple.”
As the handbook points out, there are things that are appropriate to discuss outside the temple. However, out of an abundance of caution members are sometimes still hesitant to speak about very much outside the temple.
President Ezra Taft Benson spoke about this hesitance in a 1984 address:
“The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness, we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren.
“As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.
“I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple … [and] will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his.”
President Boyd K. Packer echoed these sentiments in The Holy Temple:
“Without the spiritual atmosphere of the temple itself, and without the worthiness and preparation required of those who go there, the temple ceremonies would not be quickly understood and might be quite misunderstood. …
“While we cannot discuss in detail the temple ordinances and ceremonies, there is much we can discuss.”
What Can Appropriately Be Said?
Perhaps the most complete discussion of this topic came in a 2019 general conference address by Elder David A. Bednar. In his address, Elder Bednar said, “Many Church members are unsure about what appropriately can and cannot be said regarding the temple experience outside of the temple.”
He then quoted President Benson’s 1984 guidelines (quoted above) and gave this further explanation:
“Two basic guidelines can help us achieve the proper understanding emphasized by President Benson.
“Guideline #1. Because we love the Lord, we always should speak about His holy house with reverence. We should not disclose or describe the special symbols associated with the covenants we receive in sacred temple ceremonies. Neither should we discuss the holy information that we specifically promise in the temple not to reveal.
“Guideline #2. The temple is the house of the Lord. Everything in the temple points us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. We may discuss the basic purposes of and the doctrine and principles associated with temple ordinances and covenants.”
Elder Bednar then pointed out that there are many Church sources that give appropriate information about the temple:
“Across the generations, from the Prophet Joseph Smith to President Russell M. Nelson, the doctrinal purposes of temple ordinances and covenants have been taught extensively by Church leaders. A rich reservoir of resources exists in print, audio, video, and other formats to help us learn about initiatory ordinances, endowments, marriages, and other sealing ordinances. Information also is available about following the Savior by receiving and honoring covenants to keep the law of obedience, the law of sacrifice, the law of the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration. All Church members should become familiar with the excellent materials available at temples.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.”
Elder Bednar says that the things these official Church materials discuss can serve as a model for members:
“So, imagine that your son or daughter asks, ‘Someone at school told me that strange clothing is worn in the temple. Is that right?’ A short video is available on temples.ChurchofJesusChrist.org entitled ‘Sacred Temple Clothing.’ This excellent resource explains how from ancient times men and women have embraced sacred music, different forms of prayer, symbolic religious clothing, gestures, and rituals to express their innermost feelings of devotion to God. Thus, the Church supports home-centered preparation for the glorious blessings of the temple through basic instruction and remarkable resources such as this video. Much useful information is available to you.18
What Depictions of Temple Clothing or Ceremonies Has the Church Officially Published?
As taught by Elder Bednar, for many years the Church and its leaders have taught about the temple and even published photos, videos, and other information on the topic. These resources can be invaluable when having appropriate discussions with people who are curious.
For example, the Church has published many photos of temple interiors, starting in 1912, when photos of the Salt Lake Temple were included in James E. Talmage’s book The House of the Lord. Today, photos of the interiors of most temples are found on the Church’s website.
More recently, the Church for the first time published videos and photos of temple ceremonial clothing and garments, in a 2014 Church-produced video titled “Sacred Temple Clothing.” The video, posted on the Church’s website and on YouTube, depicts both garments and temple ceremonial clothing lying on a table. A Church News article introducing the video included a photo of garments.
The Church has also published at least one photo of members wearing white clothing in the temple, in an article titled “Inside Temples” on the Church’s website.
Official Statements and Depictions of Temple Clothing and Ceremonies
Here is a list of official online Church resources that speak about or depict what goes on inside temples. These may prove helpful for answering questions about the temple.
- Inside Temples. Article describing the purpose of temples and depicts temple interiors and clothing.
- Sacred Temple Clothing. Article describing the use of temple garments.
- What Happens in Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? ComeuntoChrist.org article with information and videos intended for non-Church members.
- About the Temple Endowment. Article describing the temple endowment.
- “Temples” section of Gospel Library. Section containing many resources related to the temple.
- Temple Endowment. Church History Topics article on the history of the endowment.
- What Is the Temple Endowment? Chapter in the Families and Temples manual on Gospel Library.