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In the Latter Day Saint movement, a temple is a building dedicated to be a house of God and is reserved for special forms of worship. A temple differs from a church meetinghouse, which is used for weekly worship services. Temples have been a significant part of the Latter Day Saint movement since early in its inception. Today, temples are operated by several Latter Day Saint denominations. As of April 2013, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has 141 operating temples worldwide to perform endowment ceremonies, marriages, and other services for both the living, and by proxy in behalf of dead ancestors, with another 29 being renovated, under construction or announced.
Although the most prolific builder of temples within the Latter Day Saint movement is the LDS Church, several other denominations have built or attempted to build temples. The Community of Christ operates two temples in the United States, which are open to the public and are used for worship services, performances, and religious education. Other denominations with temples are the Apostolic United Brethren, the Church of Christ, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Latter Day Saint movement was conceived as a restoration of practices believed to have been lost in a Great Apostasy from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Temple worship played a prominent role in the Bible's Old Testament, and in the Book of Mormon.
On December 27, 1832, two years after the organization of the Church of Christ, the church's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., reported receiving a revelation that called upon church members to restore the practice of temple worship. The Latter Day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio were commanded to:
More importantly, Latter Day Saints see temples as the fulfillment of a prophecy found in Malachi 3:1 (KJV):
This is believed to emphasize that when the Lord comes again, he will come "to his temple."
As plans were drawn up to construct a temple in Kirtland, the decision was made to simultaneously begin work on a second temple at the church's colony in Jackson County, Missouri. Surviving plans indicate that both temples would have the same dimensions and approximately the same appearance and both were to be at the "centerplaces" of cities designed according to Smith's plan for the City of Zion.
Conflict in Missouri led to the expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, preventing any possibility of building a temple there, but work on the temple in Kirtland continued. At great cost and after great sacrifice, the Latter Day Saints finished the Kirtland Temple in early 1836. On March 27, they held a lengthy dedication ceremony and numerous spiritual experiences and visitations were reported.
Conflict relating to the failure of the church's Kirtland Safety Society bank, caused the church presidency to leave Kirtland and move the church's headquarters to the Mormon settlement of Far West, Missouri. Far West was also platted along the lines of the City of Zion plan and in 1838 the church began construction of a new, larger temple in the center of the town. They may also have dedicated a temple site in the neighboring Mormon settlement of Adam-ondi-Ahman. The events of the 1838 Mormon War and the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri left these attempts at temple-building no further progressed than excavating foundations.
In 1839, the Mormons regrouped at a new headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois. They were again commanded to build a "House of the Lord" — this one even larger and greater than those that went before. Plans for the temple in Nauvoo followed the earlier models in Kirtland and Independence with lower and upper courts, but the scale was much increased.
New conflicts arose that caused Joseph Smith, the prophet and president of the church, to be murdered, along with his brother Hyrum the Patriarch, at Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. The Nauvoo Temple stood only half finished. Eventually, this temple was finished and dedicated. Some temple ordinances were performed before most of the saints followed Brigham Young west across the Mississippi River.
Joseph Smith's death resulted in a succession crisis which divided the movement into different sects. The concept of temple worship evolved separately in many of these sects and only the LDS Church continued to build temples until April 1990 when the Community of Christ, then known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), began to construct the Independence Temple, which was officially dedicated in 1994. The Community of Christ still owns the Kirtland Temple, which is used for worship services and special events but also open to visitors, including various Latter Day Saint denominations interested in the building's historical significance.
Temples have held numerous purposes in the Latter Day Saint movement, both historically and their differing expressions today. These purposes include:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) has been the most prolific builder of temples. There are 141 operating temples (which includes 1 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 15 under construction, and 14 announced (not yet under construction). In the LDS Church, temples are not only a House of the Lord, but are also where members of the church make covenants, receive instructions, and perform sacred ordinances, such as: baptism for the dead, washing and anointing (or "initiatory" ordinances), the "endowment," and eternal marriage sealings. Ordinances are a vital part of the theology of the church, which teaches that they were practiced by the Lord's covenant people in all dispensations. Additionally, members consider the temple a place to commune with God, seek God’s aid, understand the will of God, and receive personal revelation.
Upon completion, temples are usually open to the public for a short period of time (an "Open House"). During the Open House, the church conducts tours of the temple with missionaries and members from the local area serving as tour guides, and all rooms of the temple are open to the public. The temple is then dedicated as a "House of the Lord," after which only members in good standing are permitted entrance, thus they are not churches but rather places of worship.
In 1832, shortly after the formation of the church, Joseph Smith, Jr. said that the Lord desired the saints build a temple; and they completed the Kirtland Temple in 1836. Differing from other churches in the Latter Day Saint tradition, members feel that the first endowment ceremonies were performed in Kirtland, Ohio, although the endowment performed in Kirtland differed significantly from the endowment performed by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. The construction of the Nauvoo Temple and the teaching of the full endowment by Smith are seen as the final steps in restoring the church founded by Jesus Christ following the great apostasy. Because it is an integral part of their worship, members, upon arriving in Salt Lake City began plans to build temples there, and built the Endowment House to allow members to receive the endowment until the temples were completed.
Initially, the church constructed temples in areas where there were large concentrations of members: Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Hawai'i (all in the USA), and Alberta (Canada). In the mid 20th century, because of the importance of temples in the theology, the church tried to balance density with the travel requirements that attending the temple imposed upon members. Thus, temples were built in Europe (Switzerland-1955 and England-1958); the Pacific Islands (New Zealand-1958); and Washington, D.C. (1974-first American temple East of Utah since Nauvoo in 1846) when membership alone might not have justified the effort.
Temple growth continued in the 1980s, Spencer W. Kimball directed the church to build smaller temples with similar designs. Before this time, all but the Swiss Temple were at least 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2), and the average size of the first 20 temples was 103,000 square feet (9,570 m2). The new temples varied in size but were generally less than 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) allowing temples to be built where there were fewer members. As a result the first temples in South America (Brazil-1978); Asia (Japan-1980); and Central America (Mexico City-1983) were built and the number of temples doubled from 15 to 36. LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) also accelerated the construction of temples through the use of an even smaller standardized base design and set a goal to have 100 operating temples before 2001. Between the brief building period from 1998 to 2001, 38 of these standardized temples were constructed and dedicated, meeting Hinckley's goal and, during Hinckley's service as president, the number of temples more than doubled from 47 to 124.
Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) maintains two temples. Unlike those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, these temples are open to the public. Many religious functions take place including Communion and a daily prayer for peace.
The temple built in Kirtland, Ohio is owned and maintained by Community of Christ. This was the first temple actually built (rather than merely planned) by the Latter Day Saint movement and the only temple completed in the lifetime of Joseph Smith, Jr. This temple was the first temple built by Latter Day Saints.
Additionally, during its 1994 World Conference, Community of Christ dedicated a second temple in Independence, Missouri. Community of Christ describes this temple as a house of worship and education "dedicated to the pursuit of peace". The church holds a Daily Prayer for Peace at 1:00 p.m. Central Time in the 1,600 seat sanctuary.
The Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite) performs temple ordinances in its Independence, Missouri meetinghouse (their only chapel still in active use), though it also believes in the construction of special temple buildings such as the ones in Kirtland and Nauvoo. Cutlerites do not designate their meetinghouse as a temple, per se, but they believe that it serves precisely the same purpose, and that the ordinances performed there are just as valid as ones done in any historic (pre-1844) LDS temple. As within the LDS church, these sacred services are not open to the public, and participants are forbidden to discuss them outside the room where they are performed.
Cutlerite meetinghouses are constructed with a main-floor chapel that is always open to the public, unless baptisms for the dead are being performed; a second-floor room (closed to the public at all times) is reserved for the ordinances of the Endowment. A rectangular-shaped baptismal font is accessed through a trap door beneath the floor of the main-floor chapel, which is used for baptisms of both the living and the dead. Eternal Marriages are not performed by the Cutlerites, as they have always rejected that particular doctrine.
Five additional Latter Day Saint denominations have built temples:
During the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., a few years before the Kirtland temple was built, Smith dedicated a location in Independence, Missouri for the building of a special temple, which was to be the center of a New Jerusalem. However, hostile action by non-Mormon citizens resulted in the expulsion of all Latter Day Saints from the area in 1833, and the planned temple was never begun. As of 2011, the lot for this temple is owned and maintained by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). The Temple Lot church endeavored to construct a temple beginning in 1929, as a result of a revelation that Apostle Otto Fetting of that organization claimed to have received from John the Baptist. A hole for the proposed temple basement was excavated, and architects' drawings were done, but no further work was completed due to a chronic lack of funding and the expulsion of Fetting and his followers (about one-third of the Temple Lot organization at the time) from the mainline Temple Lot church. Eventually the City of Independence had the hole filled in, in 1946, and the lot today is mostly covered with grass, with the Church of Christ's meetinghouse and a few trees at the northeast corner. Today, the Temple Lot church has no plans to build a temple of its own, but rather sees itself as the steward of the Lot until the various Latter Day Saint factions unite around the time of Jesus Christ's Second Coming.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) endeavored to construct a temple in the mid-1840s in Voree, Wisconsin, according to a rather elaborate plan devised by their prophet James J. Strang. Poverty and factional infighting among the Strangites prevented the temple from progressing beyond the planning stage. The church has made no attempt to build temples since Strang's death.
From 1855 to 1889, the LDS Church performed ordinances in the Endowment House to allow members to receive the endowment during construction of temples in Utah after leaving Nauvoo. Before the Endowment House was built, the Council House was similarly used, between 1850 and 1855.
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