People often wonder why Mormon temples are not open to anyone who wants to enter. It helps to recognize that Mormonism is not a new, invented religion, but a continuation and restoration of ancient truth. If one hearkens back to Moses, who fulfilled the word of God by building a tabernacle in the wilderness, one can see the ancient roots of temple worship.
The tabernacle was a holy place, it was sacred. The priests had to perform ritual washing before even they were allowed to enter. Aaron, and all who were chosen to perform temple ordinances, repented and dedicated themselves to live God’s commandments. They wore special, symbolic clothing. They were careful to do all things according to the dictates of God, down to the very last detail. God’s spirit dwelt in the wilderness tabernacle and was apparent to all the Israelites; it was literally the house of God on earth.
Such is the temple in modern times a continuation of the temples of old. Animal sacrifice, which anciently was performed in the outer courts of the temple, has been done away with. Now, Christ requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit to be placed on the altar. We sacrifice our sins and worldliness to know Christ. The modern temple is the house of God, and no unclean thing can enter.
Only worthy Mormons can attend the temple. Those who attend must be clean inside and out. Who determines whether a member is worthy to attend? The member himself. There are two interviews with ecclesiastical leaders. They ask questions regarding how the member conducts his or her life and what he or she believes. Mormons worthy to enter the temple profess a belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. They believe that the Mormon Church is God’s church on earth. They pay an honest tithe on their income. They keep “the Word of Wisdom, or law of health. They are kind to their families and honest in their business dealings. However, the final question is, “Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the temple?”
Friends of other faiths also inquire, ”Can’t I go anywhere to be close to God?” The answer is, of course. Some profound spiritual experiences take place out in nature. However, there is something set apart and special about the temples that is different from just personal closeness to God, although that is a benefit often received by serving there. In the Mormon temples, we do for others what they cannot do for themselves, and we work out our own salvation too. That is something that needs to happen in a holy place set apart from the world for just such a purpose. Temple ordinances are necessary for exaltation. Mormons go to the temple for their own ordinance work and then on behalf of the deceased. The deceased live on and can make choices, just as they did on earth. For those who would choose to have temple work done, but who don’t have earthly bodies to perform that work, proxy work is done by people on earth. The dead can accept or reject those ordinances at will.
Friends of other faiths sometimes ask, “How can I go inside a Mormon temple?” Temples are open to the public for a short time before they are dedicated to the work of the Lord. Guided tours include explanations of what takes place in the Temple. Many who attend these tours are inspired to talk to the Mormon missionaries. Some missionaries serve at Mormon temple visitors’ centers. There are sister missionaries serving there who are constantly studying and ready to answer questions.