Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony
The endowment ceremony performed in Mormon temples (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is the subject of curiousity by many friends of other faiths. In reality, it is a peaceful and sacred ritual repeated many times daily in LDS Temples around the world. The endowment ceremony is partly shown on film and partly recited. It is always the same and takes about ninety minutes to complete. Most temples have several endowment rooms, which look like small auditoriums, but decorated in light and heavenly hues. Endowment sessions usually are scheduled every 20 to 30 minutes. A temple patron performs an endowment ceremony once for himself or herself. Thereafter, he or she performs the ceremony by proxy for a deceased ancestor. The ordinances and covenants performed there can be accepted or rejected by the dead. (See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 138.)
An “endowment” is a gift. The Mormon endowment is a gift of peace, power, and protection from God as a reward for making and keeping covenants. “An endowment is a gift of knowledge—a series of instructions and covenants—that enable participants to leave the House of the Lord and walk from day to day with God’s Spirit and an increase in spiritual strength and direction.” 
Instruction given during the Mormon endowment ceremony relates to God’s eternal “Plan of Salvation.” The plan of salvation centers on the atonement of Jesus Christ. The fall of Adam is seen by Mormons as an integral part of God’s plan. Yet, because of the fall of Adam, we live in a “lone and dreary world” where men are carnal and need to be lifted spiritually. Much is said about Latter-day Saints’ emphasis on works, but no one can save himself. God’s grace is necessary, not only to save us, but to help us on a daily basis. By reviewing God’s plan for us, we can see how we can progress to be more like Him.
Progression is the idea behind God’s Plan of Salvation. We continually strive to keep God’s commandments more fully, beginning with a seed of faith that helps us to be kinder, and to sacrifice material things for spiritual progress. In the temple, during the endowment ceremony, Mormons make a series of covenants and participate in ordinances meant to lead us to the point where we are centrally focused on God’s kingdom and doing God’s will.
The covenants that Mormons make during the endowment ceremony are not secret. But they are sacred, and Mormons do not discuss them outside the holy place, not even with other Mormons who have been through the temple. These covenants can only be described outside of the temple in general terms, as is done here by James E. Talmage:
- The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,-the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.
- No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth…and allegiance to God. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p. 84)
Mormons arrive at temples wearing “Sunday best” clothing. Once inside the temple, they change into white clothing, representing purity before God. All are equal in the temple. It is impossible to tell how rich or poor a person is, or what the person’s vocation might be. (The illustration at right is an example of what a female member of the Church might wear during the endowment ceremony.)
After a person has performed the endowment ceremony for himself or herself, he or she wears a “temple garment” under everyday clothing. The temple garment is very similar to the Jewish symbolic undergarment (the tzitzit). A Jewish tzitzit has tassels that are knotted to represent the 613 commandments of the Law of Moses. The Mormon garment has small symbols interwoven to represent the covenants made in the temple. These symbols remind the person that he or she has made commitments to God to live an honorable life and to keep the commandments of Christ.
The world tends to hold temple garments in derision, which is highly unfortunate. Many of the world’s religions, if not all, have special clothing for special occasions, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is no different. Many Christians wear jewelry displaying a crucifix to remind them of the sacrifice Christ made for them. Wearing a necklace with a cross shows the world that the person is a believer. The Mormon temple garment reminds the wearer that he or she has covenanted with Christ to live as He has commanded. For a Mormon to keep temple covenants is to live innocently, to be kind, to help the poor, to be chaste and honest, and to be temperate in all things.