Some people claim that there are “secrets” within Mormon temples because of the unwillingness of faithful Mormons to discuss what goes on inside temples. While this claim is understandable, it is grounded in a misunderstanding of the nature of temples; it does not reflect how Mormons actually view the temple. In fact, most Mormons will quickly point out that the temple is not really secret. Prior to a temple’s dedication, there are a series of public open houses where anyone can visit the temple and see everything there is to see. It is not uncommon for thousands of visitors to tour a temple during these open houses—the Las Vegas temple had over 300,000 people who attended the open house during the latter part of 1989. These visitors were not just from among the faithful, but from those of other faiths who are interested in why Mormons build temples.
If you attend an open house, you would see a building adorned with thick carpets, beautiful furniture, and ornate fixtures. You would see beautiful artwork, some commissioned exclusively for that particular temple. (The Las Vegas temple, for instance, uses the desert lily as a unique adornment that is not found in other Mormon temples.) Mormons believe that a temple, as the house of the Lord, should reflect the very best the people have to offer. Everything is designed to be inspiring, respectful, and reverent.
After the public open houses are completed, a Mormon temple is dedicated to the Lord. The Las Vegas temple was dedicated in ceremonies during December 1989, in the weeks before Christmas. During these ceremonies Church members gathered together to offer prayers to God and sing praises to the Lord. Gordon B. Hinckley, at the time a member of the Church’s First Presidency, offered the prayers in which the temple was formally dedicated to the Lord.
Once a temple is dedicated, it is designated or “set apart” as a holy place, dedicated to the Lord. Mormons believe that temples are sacred, holy places; they believe that the buildings are literally the house of the Lord. From the time it is dedicated ,the temple is open only to those faithful members who meet minimum religious criteria that are in keeping with the sacred nature of temples.
When Church members enter Mormon temples, they promise they will not openly discuss certain aspects of the temple outside of the temple doors, even with other members of the Church. This is not an attempt to hide anything that is being done, but rather an effort to keep what is done in temples sacred and special. While a detailed discussion of what goes on in temples is inappropriate, it is fine to provide general information on Mormon temple activities, as is done on this Web site.