Prior to the dedication of the new Rexburg Idaho Temple, Elder David A. Bednar, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explained some of the basic purposes and uses of temples. He posed five specific questions people might have about temples in the LDS church. His hope was that the answers to these five questions would help all to understand more fully why temples are an essential part of LDS worship.
1) What is a temple? Elder Bednar noted that the LDS Church has 22,000 meetinghouses in 166 countries in which congregations gather for weekly worship services and youth gatherings, and which are open to the public. However, a temple is a building constructed for and exclusively devoted to sacred rites and ceremonies. He explained that in the vocabulary of our Church, we refer to these sacred sacraments, these rites, and these ceremonies as ordinances. For Latter-day Saints, temples are places of holiness. The word ‘temple’ derives from the Latin root, templum, and is defined as the abode of deity or simply ‘The House of the Lord’.
2) Why do we have temples in our Church today? Elder Bednar explained that temples today serve the same purposes as temples did anciently. Prior to the dedication of a temple, the public is invited to tour the sacred edifice, but that after the dedication, the temple becomes the House of the Lord, vested with a character so sacred that only members of the Church in good standing are permitted to enter. He explained that is in not a matter of secrecy, but a matter of sanctity.
3) What happens in a temple after it is dedicated? Elder Bednar explained that temples are places of learning where the basic questions concerning the purposes of life are answered. These questions include where we were before our earth life, what are we to accomplish during our life on earth, and what is our destiny following our earth life. Elder Bednar added that temple work is primarily concerned with the family.
4) Why do we perform vicarious ordinances for the dead? Through living proxies, the ordinances of the gospel are available to those who passed from mortality without the knowledge of the gospel. There is no compulsion, Elder Bednar explained, but there must be an opportunity.
5) What is the significance of having a temple in Rexburg, Idaho? Elder Bednar referred to what has been called the ‘Wagon Box Prophecy’ of President Wilford Woodruff, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and later the 4th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During a visit to the settlers around Rexburg in 1884, he climbed aboard a wagon box and said that the climate would be moderated for their good, that schools and colleges would be built, and that one day temples would dot the land. Today in that same area, farms produce vast quantities of potatoes and other crops, a Church-owned university thrives, 120 LDS meetinghouses can be found within a 55-mile radius, and there are now two temples.