Some critics of the Church claim that the LDS temple practices are hidden from those investigating the Church until they are already baptized and confirmed members of the Church, and only then are they introduced to the ordinances, doctrines, and practices that are found in the temple, as if the Church springs something upon new converts that they have never heard of previously. While there are sacred aspects of the temple that are only to be experienced by attending the temple, this claim largely has no basis whatsoever. Missionaries of the Church introduce investigators to the doctrines, principles, and ordinances of the temple before their baptism. The following is from the “Preach My Gospel” instruction book, lesson 5 on “Laws and Ordinances,” which missionaries are to teach investigators before their baptism:
God has commanded His people to build temples. In the temple we make sacred covenants and are endowed with, or are given, a gift of power and knowledge from on high. This power helps us in our daily lives and enables us to build God’s kingdom. In the temple we can also be married for time and eternity, thus making it possible for families to be together forever in God’s presence. After at least one year of membership, worthy adults may be eligible to receive from their bishop a recommend to receive their own endowment. After receiving their endowments, married couples may be sealed or married for eternity.
The Savior loves all people and desires their salvation. Yet millions of people have died without having any opportunity to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ or receive saving ordinances. Through His loving grace and mercy the Lord makes salvation possible for everyone who did not have the opportunity to receive, understand, and obey the gospel during their mortal lives. The gospel is preached to these deceased people in the spirit world. Members of the Church on earth perform the saving ordinances in behalf of their deceased ancestors and others. Deceased persons living in the spirit world have the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel and the ordinances performed in their behalf.
For this reason, Church members search for information about their ancestors. They complete pedigree charts and family group records and submit the names of deceased relatives who need to have saving ordinances performed on their behalf in sacred temples. This is family history work. Worthy members ages 12 and over, including new members, may receive from their bishop a recommend to perform baptisms for the dead. (Preach My Gospel)
In addition to these doctrines and practices that are presented, the missionaries also teach investigators about these temple-related doctrines:
- Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us – including God wanting us to “become like Him.”
- The Creation
- Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve
- Our Life on Earth
- The Atonement
- The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality – including “living with God forever in eternal families,” and “to experience the life they enjoy.”
- Kingdoms of Glory
- Being cleansed of sin through Jesus Christ
- Faith in Jesus Christ
- The Gift of the Holy Ghost
- Enduring to the End
- Commandments and Commitments
- Studying the Scriptures
- Following the Prophet
- The Ten Commandments
- Law of Chastity
- Word of Wisdom
- Law of Tithing
- Law of the Fast
- Tithes and Offerings
- Eternal Marriage
These principles, and more, are all part of the instruction that the Lord has prepared for those investigating the LDS Church. They are presented the main principles and ordinances in the most clear, direct, and plain way possible, for as Nephi said, this is the way of the Lord:
For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding. (2 Nephi 31:3)
The missionaries do not complicate the message or overwhelm the investigators with unnecessary details or factors that would only confuse them or distract them from the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostles of Jesus Christ followed the same pattern of missionary work in their own time, as Paul tells us:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12–14, emphasis added; see also 1 Cor. 3:1–2; 1 Pet. 2:2)
Presenting strong meat before the milk would only lead to spoiled milk. We must “grow up” gradually in the gospel. We are given “line upon line, and precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10). This is why converts to the Church must wait at least one year to receive and participate in the higher ordinances of the temple so that they might learn more about the gospel and have time to prepare themselves before making those solemn covenants with God. But the doctrines and ordinances of the temple are explained to investigators and new converts from the beginning, for the ultimate goal of missionary work is to help souls come unto Christ, and the ultimate place to do that is in the Lord’s house.