The Temple: The Endowment

As I have done once before, I extend a plea to each of you readers that you will not attempt to better understand the topic of this post by looking up the information online. I have always thought of it this way: In the endowment, each member makes very important promises with the Lord, saying they will not reveal the things which they have learned or discuss them outside the temple. Those who write about what they experience in the temple are not only promise-breakers, they have essentially lied to the Lord! They told Him they wouldn’t tell, and then they did.

If I told you a secret and made you promise not to tell and you agreed, and you believed it was true at the time, but then you stopped believing it and so you started telling everyone you knew, wouldn’t that make you a promise-breaker and a liar to me? Why would you want to go to someone like that, someone who isn’t very trustworthy, for your information?

So please ask your questions in the comments, email me, whatever you would like to do. I will work hard to help you understand in any way I can.

At the age of 9 I was baptized for myself and then each baptism done in the temple is done for someone else. The first experience I had at the temple involved baptisms by proxy, I continued to do these baptisms for about 11 years after my first trip. This past October I experienced the second ordinance of the temple, the endowment. Just like those temple baptisms each time I go to the temple I am doing work by proxy. We believe that all people who have ever lived must receive all of the ordinances of the temple to reach the celestial kingdom someday. Each time I visit (except my first time) and do an endowment session, I do it for another woman (men always do the work for deceased men, and women always do the work for deceased women). I love the connection I feel to these women that have passed on. I hope and pray that they accept the work done for them and find the same happiness that I feel deep within my soul

Usually when I begin my Sunday posts, I go straight for the topical guide on This time my search wasn’t quite as successful as it usually is. Here is what gave me as a description of the endowment:

A special spiritual blessing given to worthy and faithful members of the Church in the temple.

I’m going to go ahead and guess that this sentence is one of the least helpful you have ever read. This past summer when I was preparing to receive my own endowment, I had a difficult time understand exactly what it was as well. It wasn’t until I read a book called The Holy Temple by one of the Church leaders, that I felt I was prepared enough to go through. If you are preparing to go through the temple yourself, I encourage you to read and study this book before you go.

This post is a difficult one to write, because it is very important that I not reveal more than is appropriate. In the endowment session I make very important promises with the Lord that I will not reveal what I have learned, and there are harsh consequences for those who break that promise. I’m working hard to help you better understand the temple, without diminishing or demeaning the important, magnitude, and sacredness of it.

In the Salt Lake temple, the endowment room looks like this.

An article by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said it all so well, I’m going to leave it to him this week. I apologize for the large number of word for word quotes. I realize that most of you enjoy reading my own summaries much more than some leader of the Church you have never heard of, but again, with a sensitive topic like this I prefer to know I am not revealing too much.

Here is a brief summary of the information that is available in print with reference to the temple ordinances.

The ordinances of washing and anointing are referred to often in the temple as initiatory ordinances. It will be sufficient for our purposes to say only the following: Associated with the endowment are washings and anointings—mostly symbolic in nature, but promising definite, immediate blessings as well as future blessings. Concerning these ordinances the Lord has said, “I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?” (D&C 124:37).

In connection with these ordinances, in the temple you will be officially clothed in the garment (Ed. note: see the post I wrote about the temple garment here) and promised marvelous blessings in connection with it. It is important that you listen carefully as these ordinances are administered and that you try to remember the blessings promised and the conditions upon which they will be realized.

To endow is to enrich, to give to another something long lasting and of much worth. In the temple endowment ordinances, “recipients are endowed with power from on high,” and “they receive an education relative to the Lord’s purposes and plans.”2

President Brigham Young (1801–77) said of the endowment: “Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.”3

The blessing of the endowment is required for full exaltation. Every Latter-day Saint should seek to be worthy of this blessing and to obtain it.

After going through the temple I came up with my own definition to help myself understand better. The endowment is essentially the gift of knowledge. It’s a ceremony which teaches where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Receiving this gift helped me better understand my relationship with God. It cemented my desire to be righteous at all times, in all place, and all things because I better understand my potential.

Joseph Fielding Smith, another former Prophet made a statement that describes exactly how I feel:

“If we go into the temple we raise our hands and covenant that we will serve the Lord and observe his commandments and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. If we realize what we are doing, then the endowment will be a protection to us all our lives—a protection which a man who does not go to the temple does not have.

“I have heard my father say that in the hour of trial, in the hour of temptation, he would think of the promises, the covenants that he made in the House of the Lord, and they were a protection to him. … This protection is what these ceremonies are for, in part. They save us now and exalt us hereafter, if we will honor them. I know that this protection is given for I, too, have realized it, as have thousands of others who have remembered their obligations”

One thing I can tell you, is that the endowment is not kept so private because it is full of dangerous, crazy, scary, or lewd things. I heard many awful rumors in high school, talk of sacrifice and nudity, and they are all untrue. The Jews have an area in their temples called the Holy of Holies which can only be entered by certain people (the High Priest) at certain times (at Yom Kippur). These limitations on admittance inside are not because terrible or strange things happen inside, but because the Holy of Holies is so sacred. I would be interested to know of other religions that place limitations on certain holy sites as well.

I know it is hard for some people to understand why we don’t talk about this, but I think there is something very beautiful in proving to the Lord how much you love Him and to show your willingness to prove your obedience unto him. It is frequently said in the Church that anyone can go inside the temple, they just have to live the standard set forth by the Lord to receive that opportunity. I love the temple and I love going inside and doing service for my spirit brothers and sisters.What a marvelous blessing that holy house is in my life!

And it shall come to pass in the last days, awhen the bmountain of the Lord’s chouse shall be established in the top of the dmountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.  2 Nephi 12:2

27 thoughts on “The Temple: The Endowment

  1. This one I find a little difficult. If these promises are the way to fulfillment of life with God, why are they not being shouted from rooftops? I understand keeping a promise to God, but when has God ever given something so necessary in secret – to be withheld from his flock?

    I do admire you for courageously trying to explain something many of us don’t understand.

    Dave Reply:

    Jenna, thanks for the post.

    Britt, I think you ask a question that makes a lot of sense, “when has God ever given something so necessary in secret – to be withheld from his flock?”

    One interesting example is from Matthew 17 with the Mount of Transfiguration. After the amazing spiritual experiences that took place there, verse 9 says, “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.”

    The Lord instructed His disciples to keep those sacred experiences personal until the right time in His plan.

    Anne Reply:

    Yes, but you’re missing the point of Britt’s question.

    If making these promises are necessary for salvation and, as Brigham Young called it, “exaltation”, why are they kept secret? This is not a sacred experience that you’ve witnessed, but something that is integral to your faith and salvation.

    So why the secrecy?

    Sophia Reply:

    Hey Anne-
    I would also add that, per some previous posts, everyone will have the opportunity to accept this. I can understand how it can disconcerting that something essential to salvation is available only to temple recommend holding Mormons while here on earth, but a central tenet of the faith is that everyone who has ever lived will have a chance to accept baptism, endowments, and sealings by proxy. Jenna’s previous Sunday post on baptism for the dead explains it well. Also, so sorry if you’re a regular reader and thinking “um, I did read last Sunday’s post”. I’m just trying to help and I don’t quite know all the names of everyone who posts regularly :)

    Jenna Reply:

    It’s always so nice to have other members chime in and help me answer these questions (especially friends like Dave who served a mission and has encountered questions like this a lot more than I have).

    I would add that all of the ordinances are necessary. First Baptism, second endowment, third sealing. A person has to accept the first ordinance (baptism) to receive the blessings of the rest.

    I think if a person isn’t willing to be baptized, then they probably wouldn’t be willing to receive the endowment. We do shout from the rooftops about baptism. I have many friends (and a husband) who did nothing but shout from the rooftops for 2 years in a strange place. Those who listened to them, were baptized, and stayed faithful, were able to receive the blessing of the endowment. This process is available for all.

    TH Reply:

    I’d like to chime in on “why the secrecy” question. I think there are two main reasons, both deeply rooted in Christianity at large.

    The first is because of sacredness. Temple ordinances are sacred, and thus are not given to those who would not understand and appreciate them. Christ himself taught this principle in a vivid parable in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:6). Part of the reason Christ commanded his followers not to freely share sacred things is just because they are sacred; another part is that the unprepared will misunderstand and may persecute the believers.

    The second reason is, as strange as it sounds, grace. The apostle Paul taught about “milk before meat” (1 Cor 3:2) and the principle that something we are not ready for may actually hurt us because we are “not able to bear” it. In the LDS faith we do believe there are many things that God will reveal to us in the future, because we aren’t yet ready at this time. He withholds this knowledge not as punishment, but as an act of mercy.

    For all these reasons, although the endowment is essential for exaltation, we don’t announce it from the rooftops because to benefit from it, a person must be prepared.

    I hope this helps answer your question.

    R Reply:

    Thanks for the excellent reply! I know that faith is important, but it’s really helpful when we’re honored with explanations as well, and this really makes sense.

  2. This actually sounds a lot like early Christianity to me (I’d hope that’s not insulting! :-)). It’s something I’ve wondered about recently… my understanding is that the leaders of your church have decided to work on becoming more accepted as Christian and less thought of as a cult etc. Are you allowed to talk about whether they are also discussing long term realistic implications?

    Considering history, it seems that acceptance and openeness go hand and hand. Does your church teach that it is an exception to normal patterns of sociology, history, etc?

    I don’t know what BYU teaches about religious history, but you probably know that the early Christian Church did not allow people to observe its sacred rites. Even catechumens were only allowed to be present for the first part of the liturgy and had to leave before the consecration as they were not yet initiated into the sacred mysteries. But, once Christianity was less persecuted, it had less to hide. Now anyone can watch (and mock) Catholic religious ritual (I consider this a good thing for many reasons I won’t discuss as it might seem that I was insulting your faith for not doing the same).

    Anyway, that’s a long way of asking whether your church teaches that these things will always be entirely secret (not just sacred).

  3. This is part of your church that I try very hard to understand, but continually fail to.

    I believe that so long as we believe in Jesus Christ we will go to heaven. I cannot see God wanting us to take specific steps and have specific knowledge to get to heaven, yet keeping those things hidden behind temple walls and church member’s lips. As a member of the Christian church, my teachings and understandings make this part of the LDS faith incredibly hard to process.

    Posts like these make me wonder all the more about TH’s conversion. Has he considered further telling that story? (I hope that doesn’t sound prodding, I am simply wondering).

    Sophia Reply:

    Hey Kaitlyn, is it ok if I tell you my thoughts on it? I’ve been thinking about it a lot, how other Christian faiths (including myself at one time) are often uncomfortable with the idea that one must do something “more” in order to receive salvation. As you said, you believe that if one believes in Christ, you will go to heaven.

    The difference in LDS belief though, as I’ve pondered on it, hinges on this- most Christian faiths believe that if you believe in Christ you go to heaven. However, most of them *also* believe that if you *don’t* believe in Christ, you will go to hell.

    I look at it this way- the LDS church believes that if you accept Christ you will go to heaven. But the areas where they do “more” are because their beliefs specifically address the tricky issues of people who do not have the opportunity to embrace Christ.

    On the surface, it seems like “whoa, it’s so simple, just accept Christ, what’s with all this extra stuff?” But the extra stuff is so that everyone can have a chance to partake of the beautiful simplicity of accepting Christ.

    Does that make sense? That’s at least how I reconciled it, because at first I thought wow, why make it so unnecessarily complex.

    kaitlyn Reply:

    I can see how that would make sense to you. In theory I suppose it does make some sense to me, and it helps me to understand how so many hold the beliefs of the LDS church.

    I was extremely skeptical of becoming a Christian for 19 years, and a large part of it was my thoughts about those who would never even have the chance to know of Jesus. However, I personally believe that until we can spread the word of Christ across the globe, until we take the responsibility to take His message to the world, Jesus’ second coming will not occur. That is simply what I believe.

    Thank you for your viewpoint, it really helped me :)

    Sophia Reply:

    And thanks for yours, I love being able to share these ideas and thoughts :)

  4. “Each time I visit (except my first time) and do an endowment session, I do it for another woman (men always do the work for deceased men, and women always do the work for deceased women).”

    Do you not believe that these deceased people should make their own choice as to whether they want to join the “celestial kingdom?” I believe that God wants us to *freely* choose him as our saviour. Sure, it probably makes him sad when people don’t choose him, but I don’t think he wants us to be his by someone else’s decision. That sounds a bit like spiritual slavery to me.

    “One thing I can tell you, is that the endowment is not kept so private because it is full of dangerous, crazy, scary, or lewd things. I heard many awful rumors in high school, talk of sacrifice and nudity, and they are all untrue. The Jews have an area in their temples called the Holy of Holies which can only be entered by certain people (the High Priest) at certain times (at Yom Kippur). These limitations on admittance inside are not because terrible or strange things happen inside, but because the Holy of Holies is so sacred. I would be interested to know of other religions that place limitations on certain holy sites as well.”

    The only thing about the Jewish Holy of Holies in their temples is that when Jesus died, the curtain ripped, meaning that to be in the presence of God was not longer just for high priests. “And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” Mark 15:38. If God did not want there to be any exclusivity, why would he have torn the symbolic veil between him and world?

    kaitlyn Reply:

    I hope it’s ok if I chime in here… From what I’ve understood, the by-proxy practices of the LDS church do not intend to make the choice FOR us, rather to give us the choice to choose the LDS church after death.

    Katy Reply:

    Just as Kaitlyn said – and just as was discussed in last week’s baptism by proxy discussion – ALL people have a CHOICE to accept them. All we do is provide the opportunity for the work to be done – if it’s accepted great, if not – that’s 100% up to the individual. No spiritual slavery here whatsoever – - us LDS people believe strongly that God does not force any salvation on anyone and that is always up to us to choose come to Him. Agency is a vital principle/concept in the way we believe God rules & reigns.

  5. If only I had read your post before going to church today! You answered some of the questions I asked during my discussion with the missionaries today. As always, thank you for an insightful and thoughtful post.

  6. It is difficult to explain LDS temple work or LDS covenants. I’m not an expert, but I am LDS. No one likes to feel that someone is trying to make a decision for them, especially when it pertains to something as personal as your religious commitment. I wouldn’t want to be any other religion, but the one I pick for myself. I believe that LDS people don’t view doing “proxy work” as forcing someone else to accept religious commitments. They view it as giving the person an option to consider what they hold dear if the person didn’t have the opportunity to hear or accept on Earth. I think of it as a second chance type of thing. I don’t know of a comparable second chance at the highest form of salvation in any other religion.

    Ideally, LDS people are focusing this work on their deceased family members . . . not just the random public. After all, we’re not trying to leave our family in some sort of spiritual limbo. I don’t know how to explain these concepts simply without heavily relying on principles of faith. That’s probably not very intellectually satisfying to those of you who aren’t LDS!

    I thought R’s comment was really thoughtful. Now, I’d rather not see something I view as sacred being distributed on YouTube or publicly mocked, because it’s very important to me. It’s not that I necessarily feel that more dialogue about the temple would be a bad thing. We’ll see what happens in the future. Right now, there are temple “open houses” where anybody can tour an LDS temple and a variety of helpful books on the subject.

  7. Jenna,
    Honestly, I had a lot of trouble understanding this post. :-P Haha. What you did explain, I thank you. I understand that you can’t share much, and I appreciate that you decided to share what you could, instead of saying, “Can’t talk about it, not even going to address it.” It’s obviously a very very important part of your faith!

    Here are hopefully easier questions…
    (And if I touch on things which you can’t answer, just say that. No worries)
    You mentioned that you describe the endowment as a gift of knowledge. Is this a one time gift during the session or is it the initial gift of a life time of revelation?

    Can you reveal what you have learned to anyone? TH or others who have received all the ordinances for instance? I agree with TH that there are just some things which we should not share with nonbelievers or new believers because it would ultimately confuse and/or create a stumbling block. But I also believe that there should be complete and honest communication between a husband and wife in order to grow together spiritually.

    Somewhat in relation to Bean’s question: While I understand that you are not forcing others into the LDS faith by proxy baptism and endowment, why is it necessary that these ordinances be performed in this realm? If we all have agency, whether we be alive on this earth or deceased, why can’t those who have departed accept an endowment on their own? Why must it be received by you to be accepted by them? Does that make sense?? If I understand it properly (and forgive me if I’m somewhat simplifying this) in the end it’s all about choosing to accept the ordinances (baptism, endowment, sealing). If the choice can occur both on earth and in the spirit world, why can’t the ordinances be received in both places? (Hopefully I haven’t talked circles around you. I tend to do that.)

  8. Conceptually hard to grasp but in context of last week’s post – I understand the perspective better.

  9. When people ask me about the endowment and why the church doesn’t publish the specifics I have to answer with the “milk before meat” response also. Take for instance “baptism for the dead.” You say that to a person who has never heard of the concept and they’ll think you’re loony. I don’t blame them. But when you study the scriptures you realize that if baptism is a requirement for salvation then either God is unjust or the ordanance has to be made available to ALL. What of those who have never heard of Christ or had opportunity for baptism? Why would we perform these among the living if the gospel is preached to the dead? Can a spirit be baptized with water? Baptism for the dead is nothing new(1 Cor. 15:29).

    Proxy work for the dead also benefits the living in that we have opportunities to serve those who have gone before us. In the case of the Endowment it also gives members a chance to repeat those covenants made before and receive more knowledge as we go through the Endowment multiple times. We all learn from repetition. How many times have you read your Bible? Do you feel that reading it once you’ve gained everything it has to offer? Of course not – as we read a particular scripture over and over we learn more from it each time don’t we. As we progress and conform to Christs teachings we prepare ourselves and are prepared by Christ to learn more and gain more knowledge and understanding.

    Jenna Reply:

    Excellent point about repetition! I know I have learned so much from going back each time. After each session my husband and I do together we end up discussing the thing we learned that session. I love it :)

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  11. 1) First of all, thank you so much for this post, Jenna. After years and years of attempting to understand the endowment, it is much clearer…really. Reading that the signs/tokens/etc. are to pass through angels before the Throne makes so much more sense and falls in line with my understanding of LDS beliefs. They are not my own beliefs, but I have a greater understanding and appreciation of them, nonetheless.

    2) I feel its worth noting that if you were speaking with an orthodox Jew regarding their “temples”, most would be QUITE quick to correct you that there is/was only ONE temple. I was in Jerusalem 3 yrs. ago and our tour guide was very adamant about the ONE TEMPLE and anyone else who calls their houses or worship Temples are being most blasphemous of the one, true Temple. (Again, to each, his own…)

    3) Is there an LDS response for Bean on Mark 15:38 and how the veil seperating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was rent from top to bottom at the death of Christ, forever opening that previous division between all and the Lord? I am very interested in that.

    Jenna Reply:

    I didn’t know that about the Jewish belief system regarding temples. Very interesting!

    I think (and I couldn’t really find anything by someone smarter than me) that the LDS response to the idea of the “division of man from the Lord” is that the Holy of Holies prevented only specific people from passing through (based on their lineage and other things I think?), whereas the temple is open to ALL who are willing to meet the requirements. I guess I would compare entering the temple to the Christian idea of “getting into Heaven”. Heaven is open to all, but one must live their life in a certain way to be presented the opportunity to do so.

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