excerpt – House of the Lord

From the back cover: "View of the innermost room of the Salt Lake Temple, inspiredFOREWORD
by Harvard S. Heath

If The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has ever produced a child prodigy, it is James Edward Talmage. Born in England on September 21, 1862, Talmage emerged from rather humble beginnings to become one of the church’s most influential writers and theologians. His life and legacy continue to this day to inform the Mormon experience.

After the Talmage family’s introduction to Mormonism in England, James was baptized in 1873 and with his family left Liverpool in the spring of 1876 for Zion. Unfortunately, his diary entries do not begin until December 1879, thus depriving us of his feelings and views on his first seventeen years. Upon their arrival, the Talmages settled in Utah County. In addition to a home the family purchased in Provo, they bought a farm in Mapleton, as well, which they farmed for a number of years.

Within months after the family’s arrival, young James enrolled at Brigham Young Academy—a decision that would forever alter his life. He came under the influence of the academy’s president, Karl G. Maeser—another fortuitous event which exerted a lasting influence upon his career. Maeser, an educated Prussian convert, personified the combined traits of scholarship and a deep, abiding faith in the restoration of the LDS gospel. Ever the stern taskmaster, he demanded superior work in secular areas and spiritual commitments in the sacred sphere. Talmage saw in Maeser all that he wished to become. Little did Talmage know that his own career would, within a few short decades, eclipse anything Maeser had accomplished.

Talmage’s rise to academic excellence was meteoric. Even before he graduated from the academy, he was asked to teach classes in a number of different disciplines. His teaching career at BYA would actually begin before his seventeenth birthday. Samples that remain of his writing and lecture notes indicate a young man possessed of extraordinary talents. The clarity of his writing, his aptitude for analytical thinking, and perhaps most importantly his indefatigable efforts to work and study himself into exhaustion would be a trademark throughout his seventy-one years.

Talmage’s skills as an orator were soon recognized. His delivery and elocution were superb. His language, organization, and the substantive content of his lectures and sermons were masterpieces. He was soon in demand almost weekly to deliver a speech or to address some audience, whether academic, civic, or religious. He was chosen to deliver the 4th of July address for the city of Provo—an invitation he had to decline after the First Presidency of the LDS church requested that he accompany Maeser on a tour of church schools to report on the status of the church’s Educational School System. Prior to undertaking this trip, he was ordained an elder two months before his nineteenth birthday.

His life was now on course to become one of the church’s leading thinkers and writers. He continued to immerse himself in things sacred and profane. Science seemed to emerge as his favorite field of study. Hours of study, laboratory experimentation, and a desire to push deeper into chemistry, geology, and related sciences produced a young man ready to pursue an advanced degree in the east. After consulting with Maeser and church president John Taylor, he embarked on a new mission—matriculation at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After meeting the graduate requirements there, he decided to move on to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, to continue his graduate studies. Later in life he would return to Lehigh to have conferred upon him an honorary doctorate.

In 1888 Talmage met and married the love his life, Merry May Booth of Alpine, Utah. He was a devoted and concerned husband throughout their forty-three years of marriage. To their union were born eight children. Despite the heavy loads of teaching, researching, writing, and traveling, Talmage devoted himself to his wife and family.

The 1890s were years filled with significant achievements. He won honors for his scientific work which took him to his native land to receive various honors. At the age of thirty-two, Talmage was appointed president of the University of Utah. But perhaps more importantly for Mormondom, these years saw the formation of a series of lectures given by Talmage which were later compiled for use in church schools. At the request of the First Presidency, he re-wrote these theological lectures for publication. The book came to be known as the Articles of Faith. It was published in 1899.

To this day Articles of Faith is one of the few books the church recognizes as reflecting Mormon theology. It is interesting to note that this book, at the behest of the First Presidency, was published under the church’s name and not by the author as an individual. The book has undergone numerous editions and remains one of the definitive works on Mormon principles and practices.

In 1900 Talmage was appointed by the First Presidency to prepare a revision of the Pearl of Great Price, one of the church’s four standard works of scripture. The revision was to place the text into paragraphs and verses to reflect the format of the other works in the Mormon canon (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants). This project required two years to complete. With the new, revised text, the Pearl of Great Price was officially presented for a vote at the church’s October 1902 general conference.

By this juncture, church leaders fully realized the faithful talent exhibited in James E. Talmage. In 1909 Talmage was again summoned to church headquarters and asked to undertake an examination of the history of the Apostasy from the primitive church. The intent was to use the text as a series of lessons for the church’s youth-oriented Mutual Improvement Association. The next year Talmage printed a small pamphlet entitled The Story of Mormonism. Compiled from his many lectures and addresses delivered to various audiences around the country, the booklet was to be distributed at Temple Square to assist in explaining the history of the church to visiting non-members.

After a half century of serving his church from behind a microscope, speaking in front of audiences, and writing exhaustively on church theology, practice, and history, another event occurred which proved to be his most challenging and most rewarding—a call to the apostleship on December 7, 1911. In his fiftieth year, he became the fiftieth apostle chosen in the church and replaced the recently deceased John Henry Smith.

His writing career continued. For some time he had prepared and delivered lectures on the life of Jesus. Church leaders had encouraged this activity with the eventual hope that these notes and lectures would appear in book form. Constant delays, other assignments, and his professional work precluded its completion. Finally in 1914 the First Presidency directed him to proceed without delay and finish this most important project.

In an amazing achievement, Apostle Talmage completed this 800-page manuscript in just over seven months. The history of the writing of this book is significant in that church leaders provided a special room in the Salt Lake temple for him to use. In his indefatigable style, he would leave home early in the morning, packing his lunch in a black satchel, and work late into each evening—arriving home many a night after midnight. His work was published in 1915 and, in the author’s eyes, was the best book he ever wrote. Jesus the Christ is one of the most important Mormon publications ever to appear and enjoys the continual cachet of church leaders.

In the 1920s Talmage served the church in England as president of the European Mission. His speaking assignments only proliferated as his church and public appearances were evermore in demand. He continued to bring the same dedication, work habits, and zealousness to all his assigned activities. With the advent of radio technology, Talmage was one of the first church leaders assigned to prepare a series of lectures for delivery over this new medium.

However, as the 1920s wore down, so did James E. Talmage. A workaholic all his life, Talmage had frequent bouts with nervous and physical exhaustion. His physical problems dated back to his college days at Brigham Young Academy. A number of ailments plagued him. He was often advised by physicians, friends, and church leaders to ease up, but he never could.

In late July 1933, Talmage came down with a sore throat after delivering one of his Sunday radio addresses. Within a few days, he was near death as the streptococcus infection enervated him. Just four days after his diagnosis, the infection so weakened his heart in an already weakened body that he passed away on July 27, 1933.

Although his life was now over, his legacy was not. His accomplishments have survived to this day. What strikes one about his life and writing is that, unlike others of his generation, for example, Orson Pratt and B. H. Roberts, Talmage’s intellectual prowess, articulate arguments, eloquent prose and style never stood in the way of his commitment to the church and its leaders. Pratt, Roberts, and other church intellectuals (the Godbeites come to mind) periodically found their thinking, their research, their writings, and their personal introspections at variance with church leadership. Such tensions and doubts could produce adversarial relations leading to unpleasant outcomes.

For some reason, Talmage never succumbed to the trying dilemmas that faced many of his intellectual counterparts. This deference to authority may be viewed positively or negatively, depending on one’s stance on issues intellectual. For Talmage, he was always able and willing to work within the system, obediently yet brilliantly. Perhaps this explains why he was so often called upon to be the church spokesman and writer on most of the sensitive issues of his era. Perhaps such traits were in the minds of church leaders when the need to write The House of the Lord became necessary.


Few, if any, LDS books have had a history as bizarre and compelling as the genesis of The House of the Lord. Although the nineteenth century saw many polemical books and pamphlets written by the church to confront or address a concern raised by anti-Mormon literature, this particular book was written to fend off an imminent blackmailing scheme that dealt with photographs surreptitiously and illegally taken of the interior of the Salt Lake temple. Mormon temples were and are the most sacred of all Mormon edifices. Since Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois, the LDS church had stressed the sacred nature of the ordinances performed and the need to treat what occurs within the walls of the temple as something sacred, not to be divulged or discussed outside those holy structures.

There were some violations of this proscription. The most sensational to date was the discussion of temple ceremonies in the U. S. Senate committee sitting in judgment of Mormon apostle-senator Reed Smoot between 1903 and 1907. A number of disaffected Mormons testified before the committee on temple ceremonies. One in particular, former Brigham Young Academy professor Walter M. Wolfe, divulged certain oaths and covenants of the ceremony verbatim. This unpleasant experience continued to haunt and offend church leaders. Now this new bombshell. The First Presidency was adamant in declining to become involved in any blackmail scheme. Damage control was the chief priority in this latest public relations crisis. Thus began the saga of the writing of The House of the Lord.

The following entry is recorded in James E. Talmage’s journal of September21, 1911: “Forty-nine years old today. Had interview with the First Presidency, and was appointed by them to special work—viz, the preparation of the manuscript for a booklet on temples and temple work. A few days ago, specifically on the 16th inst. the Salt Lake Tribune announced under sensational headlines that the pictures of the interior of the temple in this city had been secured by men who surreptitiously gained entrance to the building and that the parties having the pictures so obtained were even then in New York negotiating for the sale of same to the theaters or ‘moving picture’ houses for public exhibition. It was stated that a first offer had been made to the Church officials and that $100,000 would be considered a fair basis of sale …”

The measured calm in which Talmage recorded this entry belies the anxiety that gripped leaders at church headquarters. The Salt Lake Tribune first broke the story with a sensational headline, and church leaders found themselves forced to respond quickly. There was no hesitation in selecting James E. Talmage to undertake this task with all possible alacrity.

After giving Talmage his assignment, the church through its journalistic organ, the Deseret News, ran its own campaign, downplaying the sensational nature of this latest exposé and at the same time attempting to discredit Max Florence, perpetrator of the scheme, as a prominent member of Salt Lake City’s criminal underworld. Through both newspapers, the story unfolded as to how Florence came into possession of the photographs. He had obtained them from an individual employed at one of Florence’s many motion picture theaters in Salt Lake City.

A recent Swiss-German convert to the LDS church, Gisbert Bossard had arrived in the city some six years before and within a short time became increasingly disenchanted with Mormonism—not with the religion and doctrine per se, but with its hierarchy which he deemed as unethical in business relationships. Theodore Bossard, Gisbert’s father, explained, “he [Gisbert] thinks the administration of the business of the church is crooked … for the last three years I have seen this idea of taking pictures of the inside of the temple develop in him.”

Bossard was well aware of the security surrounding the temple and knew he needed to have an accomplice who could provide access. This he found in a fellow countryman, Gottlieb Wuthrach, who was employed by the church as an assistant gardener for the temple grounds. Bossard, over a short period of time, was able to persuade Wuthrach that Bossard’s views of the church were correct and there was no shame or illegality in entering the temple and taking a few photographs. As a clincher, he appealed to Wuthrach’s cupidity, stating there was money to be made in such an endeavor if they could obtain the photographs.

Wuthrach accepted Bossard’s proposal. With the keys entrusted to him, he unlocked the doors allowing Bossard into the building during the spring and summer months of 1911 as the temple underwent its annual cleaning and renovations. Once inside the temple, Bossard had access to almost all the rooms. Although most photographs were taken at night using a magnesium powder flashlight, he brazenly entered occasionally during the day to take additional ones. There is some uncertainty as to whether the scheme originated with Bossard or whether Florence put up some advance money to entice him to take the photographs.

Once he had photographs in hand, Florence became involved. However, the fortunes Florence and Bossard envisioned evaporated as the first option, sale to the church, collapsed, and then the attempt to exhibit their “sensational” exposé ended in abysmal failure. No one in New York seemed interested in buying tickets to the bizarre attraction. Perhaps the church’s preemptive strike of announcing the publication of a book with accompanying photographs just days after Florence’s blackmail letter dampened any interest in viewing the Florence-Bossard show.

With the collapse of the Florence-Bossard blackmail scheme, it was now left to Talmage to write a book offsetting the wild speculations and notoriety the affair had unleashed. This would be a major undertaking, and Talmage assumed his task with his usual dedication and commitment—a task that would eventuate in the first church-approved book on LDS temples.

It seems clear that Talmage initiated the suggestion for writing such a book after the story broke. Although his journal entry of September 18 does not mention a letter he wrote to the First Presidency, his official letter of notification, dated September 22, assigning him the task, begins with the following, “Your communication of the 18th inst., suggesting the publication of a booklet dealing with temples in general and with modern temples in particular, to contain interior as well as exterior views of our temples was considered at our Council meeting yesterday resulting in action favoring your suggestion, also in our action appointing you to prepare the manuscript for the suggested booklet, the same to be revised by a committee to be appointed by ourselves for that purpose.” The letter of assignment also indicated that Ralph Savage, the son of prominent pioneer Utah photographer Charles Savage, was assigned to do the photographic work on the interior with Talmage supervising.

Talmage’s journal indicates he spent the next several weeks, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of Savage, planning strategies on how to write the book. Under Talmage’s direction, Savage began immediately to photograph the areas of the temple for inclusion in the book. These were hectic months for Talmage. Although the writing of the book was his first priority, he had to keep other commitments—in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Grand Rapids, all professional engagements needing his time.

As the year’s end approached, Talmage felt compelled to spend more of his working day on the manuscript. With most of the pictures taken, it was now his task to produce the manuscript. His diary frequently recounted, “Remained all night at the office as I have done often of late.” By the first week in December 1911, he had five chapters ready for review by the reading committee. The next day he continued his work in the temple not knowing what would occur the following day, December 7.

His journal for that date records the following: “Shortly after four o’clock this afternoon, I learned of a call upon me which must mark a great change in my work. This is no less than a call to the Holy Apostleship. This action was taken at this day’s council meeting of the First Presidency and Twelve … The announcement of my having been chosen came as a wholly unheralded action. I was with President Joseph F. Smith until a late hour yesterday, but by no word or act or intimation was such action suggested to my mind …”

From this juncture, Talmage’s journal entries change substantially. First, and of least importance, they were now typed instead of handwritten. Second, and of greater importance, he seemed more reserved and reticent to write the lengthy entries one was accustomed to reading. Perhaps this can be attributed to his busier schedule or perhaps now, because of his apostolic calling, he felt the need to weigh what and how should be committed to paper. From this point, there are only eleven references made to his work on the book-in-progress—and often only tersely mentioned. The first five chapters were completed just two days prior to his call to the Quorum of the Twelve. The writing of the remaining six chapters begs for more discussion in his journal.

The next entry discussing work on the book occurred in January 1912. Talmage was on assignment in Logan, Utah, and took occasion to “repair to the Temple and spent there several hours making observations and taking notes with reference to the prospective publication on Temples.” It is to be assumed, although no journal entries discuss it, that substantial time was devoted to completing the book.

By March 29, 1912, work had apparently progressed to a point that a meeting took place in the First Presidency’s office “regarding the forth-coming book on ‘Temples.'” The church leaders “decided to issue an edition of 5000 copies and to place [an] order at once for paper and plates.” In April Talmage was again summoned to the Church Office Building to meet with the reading committee for “reading the manuscript of proposed Temple book.”

Again while on assignment at various functions in Sanpete County, he asked to be driven to Manti where “I went direct to the Temple, where I was met by President Lewis Anderson and by him conducted over the grounds and through the Temple, thus refreshing my memory, much to my advantage in writing the chapter for the forthcoming book …” There is no indication that during this period he had occasion to visit the St. George temple. Perhaps because one of the members of the reading had some current knowledge of that temple, it was not essential that Talmage journey south to St. George for additional research.

By July, Talmage was close to completing the manuscript and incorporating the changes the committee had suggested. He recorded on the July 4th holiday that “I spent the entire day at the office engaged in work on the Temple book.” This must have been a day for making final revisions. Four days later he observed, “Typesetting was commenced today on the proposed book on Temples.”

On the eve of publication, a minor scandal erupted which cast a pall over the project. A Salt Lake City business, Souvenir Novelty Company, issued a set of postcards of interior pictures of the temple. Talmage commented, “A very regrettable condition has come to light in connection with the publication of temple pictures. The city is flooded with cheap, gaudy post-cards containing pictures of the temple interior. A matter of possible violation of copyright is held for investigation pending the return of President Joseph F. Smith. In the meantime I have instructed to serve notice on the ‘Souvenir Novelty Company,’ to suppress the cards and all announcements of the same.”

This violation of copyright so incensed church leaders that at a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, the following measure was taken: “In the matter of publication of colored post cards showing temple interiors, referred to under date of 8th inst., the First Presidency has directed that the entire edition be destroyed.” It is unclear which photographs were used to replace those ordered destroyed.

By August 18, publication was close enough to completion that Talmage was not given any assignments outside the city to allow him to be by the publisher’s side in case of last-minute revisions or problems. This mention of his confinement to the city was the last entry his journal recorded until the official announcement of the book in September. The book must have gone to galley before the end of the month as Talmage’s presence at the publishing company was no longer required. His journal indicated he returned to his out-of-town assignments.

The long-awaited day occurred on September 30, 1912. Talmage proudly proclaimed, “This is the day of official publication of the long announced book on the temples entitled, ‘The House of the Lord.’ The preface is dated September 21st but the distribution has been hindered by the non-arrival of covers. As given to the public the book comprises 238 pages plus vi pages of letter press and 98 pages of plates, descriptive matter, etc., making in all a volume of 336 plus vi pages. Of the 46 plates, 31 show interior views illustrative of the great Temple at Salt Lake City. The book is published by the Church.”

The Deseret Evening News carried a lengthy review of the book in its October 2 edition, referring to the work as one “of more than usual interest has just been issued from the Deseret News establishment, and is now on the market. We refer to “The House of the Lord, by Dr. James E. Talmage, of the Council of the Twelve …” After describing in detail the book’s contents, the editorial closed with, “This is a book that should be found in every library, and especially among the literary treasures of the Latter-day Saints. The author is sufficient guarantee for the accuracy of the information given and the soundness of the doctrine it contains. And to say that it is issued from the Deseret News establishment is equivalent to stating that the mechanical work is as excellent as can be produced in this part of the country.”

Although other publications of the temple existed prior to his book, Talmage’s work remained the standard discussion of LDS temples and temple work for years. In hindsight it seems extraordinary that The House of the Lord went out of print as early as it did. When Bookcraft Publishers of Salt Lake City decided to republish it in a second edition in 1962, they gave the following reason: “During ten years of close association with the publication of Church books we have found that there are more requests for ‘The House of the Lord’ than for any other book that has been out of print as long as it has. It has probably been more frequently quoted than any other L.D.S. out-of-print book of its time.”

The publisher’s introduction to this second edition stated they resisted the impulse to correct “typographical errors in the original publication so we could bring you an exact reproduction.” They went on to comment that the company decided not to “delete or revise a few statements such as what the author said about Elijah. But even though Brother Talmage modified his views on this later on, we do not feel that we can take the liberty to change what he says.” In other areas that might have been updated, the publisher also declined to modify the text to conform with contemporary ideas on temples and their histories.

The second edition did, however, involve some changes. The publisher inserted additional “pictures and brief statements about the temples built since the book was first printed. We hope Elder Talmage would concur.” In closing, the publisher wrote, “It is an unusual procedure to have a book dedicated to the author. However, we would like to dedicate this reprinting of the ‘The House of the Lord’ to Elder James E. Talmage.”

What the publisher did not say was that they left out Plate 27 in the reprint. This plate in the first addition was a photograph of the “Holy of Holies” room in the temple. Whether this omission was requested by the church or was done on the publisher s own volition is not entirely clear. Evidence seems to fall to the former interpretation. When Deseret Book Company issued its reprint of The House of the Lord, they dropped this picture as well. They not only omitted that particular one but opted to take out most of the original photographs as well—substituting other photographs of other temples.

In Deseret Book’s 1968 reprint, unlike Bookcraft’s, they didn t offer any introduction or reasons for the changes in original format. The only attempt to explain the change in format is found in a footnote found at the bottom of the page of Appendix 1. “Since James E. Talmage prepared the original text for the House of the Lord the interior of the Salt Lake Temple has been remodeled and renovated to meet current usage. The material in this appendix, written by Wm. James Mortimer, patterned after the material written in chapter VIII, reflects the status of the Temple in 1968.” It should be observed that in this republication, color photographs replaced the former black and white ones.

The production values apparent in the present reprint of the first 1912 edition of The House of the Lord is a tribute to Talmage and the effort he expended in researching and writing this timeless classic. Although books on or about Mormon temples or temple work have proliferated beyond our ability to count, Talmage’s The House of the Lord continues to distinguish itself, for its prose is elegant, its photographs (though dated) remain visually impressive, and its treatment of the topic engaging. Although temple work has changed somewhat since 1912, and although clarifications by church leaders on doctrine and temple policies have perhaps superseded some of what Talmage penned in his first edition, his book will continue to command the respect and pre-eminence it so richly deserves.

Chapter IV

A more detailed consideration of modern temple service now claims our attention. The ceremonial work comprises:

      1. Baptism, specifically Baptism for the Dead.


      2. Ordination and associated Endowments in the Priesthood.


      3. Marriage Ceremonies.


    4. Other Sealing Ordinances.

As will be understood from what has been already written, each of these ceremonies or ordinances may be performed either for the living, present in person, or for the dead who are represented each by an individual living proxy. The living are but few compared with the dead; and it follows of necessity that the ordinance-work for the departed exceeds by a great preponderance that done for the living. The temples of today are maintained largely for the benefit and salvation of the uncounted dead.


As demonstrated in the preceding pages, the law of baptism is of universal application; in short, baptism is required of all who have lived to the age of accountability. Only those who die in infancy are exempt. Children, having no sin to expiate, and being unable to comprehend the nature of the baptismal obligation, are not to be baptized while living, nor is the ordinance to be performed for them should they die before reaching a responsible age and state. As to the child’s part in the heritage of mortality incident to the transgression of Adam, the atonement of Christ is of full effect, and the redemption of the child is assured.a Regarding the general applicability of the law prescribing baptism as essential to salvation, the scriptures make no distinction between the living and the dead. The atoning sacrifice of Christ was offered, not only for the few who lived upon the earth while He was in the flesh, nor for those alone who were born in mortality after His death, but for all inhabitants of earth then past, present, and future. He was ordained of the Father to be a judge of both quick and dead;b He is Lord alike of living and dead,c as men speak of dead and living, though all live unto Him.d

Among the pernicious dogmas taught by a perverted and mis-called Christianity, is the heinous doctrine that never-ending punishment or interminable bliss, unchanging in kind or degree, shall be the destiny of every soul,—the award being made according to the condition of that soul at the time of bodily death; a life of sin being thus nullified by a death-bed repentance, and a life of honor, if unmarked by the ceremonies of established sects, being followed by the tortures of hell without a possibility of relief. Such a dogma is to be ranked with the dread heresy which proclaims the condemnation of innocent babes who have not been sprinkled by man’s assumed authority. In the justice of God no soul shall be finally condemned under a law of which he has had no chance to learn. True, eternal punishment has been decreed as the lot of the wicked; but the real meaning of the punishment so decreed has been made known by the Lord Himself.e Eternal punishment is God’s punishment; endless punishment is His; for “Endless” and “Eternal” are among His names, and the words are descriptive of His attributes. No soul will be punished for sin beyond the time requisite to work the needed reformation and to vindicate justice, for which ends alone punishment is imposed. And no one will be eligible to enter any kingdom of glory in the abode of the blessed to which he is not entitled through obedience to law.

It follows as a plain necessity that the Gospel must be proclaimed in the spirit world; and that such ministry is provided for, the scriptures abundantly prove. Peter, defining the mission of the Redeemer, thus declares this solemn truth: “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”f As already shown, the inauguration of this work among the dead was wrought by Christ in the interval between His death and resurrection.

In his first epistle to the Saints in Corinth, Paul presents a brief yet comprehensive treatment of the doctrine of the resurrection,—a subject which at that time and among those to whom he wrote, had given rise to much contention and debate;g and, having shown that through Christ the resurrection of the dead had been made possible, and that in due course all mankind shall be redeemed from bodily death, the apostle asks, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why then are they baptized for the dead?”h As the question is put by way of finality and climax to the preceding argument, it is evident that the subject so introduced was no new or strange doctrine, but on the contrary, one with which the people addressed must have been familiar, and which to them required no argument. Baptism for the dead was, therefore, both known as a principle and practised as an ordinance in apostolic times. That the practise was continued in some form for a century or more after the apostles had passed from the earth is evidenced by numerous passages in the writings of the early Christian Fathers, and by later authorities on ecclesiastical history.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims the present as the dispensation of the fulness of times, in which shall be gathered and re-established all the saving principles and essential ordinances of earlier dispensations, and during which the great plan of universal redemption shall be fully revealed. The Church, therefore, provides for the actual work of baptism for the dead, and in the temples of today this sacred labor is in uninterrupted progress. As will be seen, each of the temples is provided with a baptismal font, with every necessary provision for the administration of this ordinance.i

The rite of water-baptism in behalf of the dead is followed by that of the laying-on of hands for the bestowal of the Holy Ghost; and in this as in the preceding, the dead person is represented by the living proxy. The imposition of hands for the conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost constitutes the higher baptism of the Spirit required alike of all, and includes the rite of confirmation by which the person becomes a member of the Church of Christ. In all essentials the ordinances of baptism and confirmation are identical, whether administered to the living for themselves or as proxy for the dead. As these ordinances are administered in existing temples it is required that, beside the recorder and the officiating elder, two witnesses be present, and that they attest the ceremony as duly performed.


Water-baptism, and the higher baptism of the Spirit by the authorized imposition of hands for the conferring of the Holy Ghost, constitute the two fundamental ordinances of the Gospel. The repentant soul who has thus entered the Church of Christ may afterward attain to position and authority in the Holy Priesthood—not as an earthly honor, not as a title of personal aggrandizement, not as a symbol of power to rule and possibly to oppress,—but as an endowment bespeaking authority and the express responsibility to use that authority in the service of his fellows and to the glory of God. In the temple service, the man who appears as proxy for his dead relative must be ordained to the Priesthood before he can pass beyond the baptismal font.

It is a precept of the Church that women of the Church share the authority of the Priesthood with their husbands, actual or prospective; and therefore women, whether taking the endowment for themselves or for the dead, are not ordained to specific rank in the Priesthood. Nevertheless there is no grade, rank, or phase of the temple endowment to which women are not eligible on an equality with men. True, there are certain of the higher ordinances to which an unmarried woman cannot be admitted, but the rule is equally in force as to a bachelor. The married state is regarded as sacred, sanctified, and holy in all temple procedure; and within the House of the Lord the woman is the equal and the help-meet of the man. In the privileges and blessings of that holy place, the utterance of Paul is regarded as a scriptural decree in full force and effect: “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”j

Faith and sincere repentance, followed first by water-baptism and then by the laying-on of hands for the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, are the prescribed means of admission into the Church of Christ and prospective salvation in the Kingdom of God. But there is a distinction between salvation and exaltation. At this point it may be well to consider this distinction, and to set forth the doctrines of the restored Church as to the graded degrees of exaltation beyond the grave.k

Salvation and Exaltation:—Some degree of salvation will come to all who have not forfeited their right to it; exaltation is given to those only who by active labors have won a claim to God’s merciful liberality by which it is bestowed. Of the saved, not all will be exalted to the higher glories; rewards will not be bestowed in violation of justice; punishments will not be meted out to the ignoring of mercy’s claims. No one can be admitted to any order of glory, in short, no soul can be saved, until justice has been satisfied for violated law. In the Kingdom of God there are numerous degrees of exaltation provided for those who are worthy of them. The old idea, that in the hereafter there will be but two places for the souls of mankind,—a heaven and a hell, with the same glory in all parts of the one, and the same terrors throughout the other,—is wholly untenable in the light of Divine revelation.

Degrees of Glory:—That the privileges and glories of heaven are graded to suit the various capacities of the blessed, is indicated in Christ’s teachings. To His apostles He said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”l This declaration is supplemented by that of Paul, who speaks of the graded glories of the resurrection as follows:

      “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.”There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”So also is the resurrection of the dead.”


A fuller knowledge of this subject has been imparted in the present dispensation. From a revelation given in 1832n we learn the following: Three great kingdoms or degrees of glory are established for the future habitation of the human race; these are known as the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial. Far below the last and least of these, is the state of eternal punishment prepared for the sons of perdition.

The Celestial Glory is provided for those who merit the highest honors of heaven; in the revelation referred to, we read of them:

“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given, that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power, and who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the Church of the First-born. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—they are they who are Priests and Kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory, and are Priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchisedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son; wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—wherefore all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. . . . These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ for ever and ever. These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven, to reign on the earth over his people. These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection. These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just. . . . These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.”o

The Terrestrial Glory:—This, the next lower degree, will be received by many whose works do not merit the highest reward. We read of them:

“These are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the Church of the First-born who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament. Behold, these are they who died without law, and also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the Gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men. These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness. These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father; wherefore they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun. These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.”p

The Telestial Glory:—The revelation continues:

“And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus. These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit. These are they who are thrust down to hell. These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil, until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb shall have finished his work.”q

We learn further that the inhabitants of this kingdom are to be graded among themselves, comprising as they do the unenlightened among the varied opposing sects and divisions of men, and sinners of many types, whose offenses are not those of utter perdition:

“For as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world; for these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; but received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.”r

The three kingdoms of widely differing glories are organized on an orderly plan of gradation. We have seen that the telestial kingdom comprises several subdivisions; this also is the case, we are told, with the celestial;s and, by analogy, we conclude that a similar condition prevails in the terrestrial. Thus the innumerable degrees of merit amongst mankind are provided for in an infinity of graded glories. The celestial kingdom is supremely honored by the personal ministrations of the Father and the Son. The terrestrial kingdom will be administered through the higher, without a fulness of glory. The telestial is governed through the ministrations of the terrestrial, by “angels who are appointed to minister for them.”t

Exaltation in the kingdom of God implies attainment to the graded orders of the Holy Priesthood, and with these the ceremonies of the endowment are directly associated.

The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.

As will be shown, the temples erected by the Latter-day Saints provide for the giving of these instructions in separate rooms, each devoted to a particular part of the course; and by this provision it is possible to have several classes under instruction at one time.

The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.

No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth, patriotism to nation, and allegiance to God. The blessings of the House of the Lord are restricted to no privileged class; every member of the Church may have admission to the temple with the right to participate in the ordinances thereof, if he comes duly accredited as of worthy life and conduct.


The Latter-day Saints regard the marriage ceremony performed exclusively within temple precincts, as the one and only perfect contract of matrimony.u They recognize the full legal validity and moral obligation of any marriage entered into under the secular law; but civil marriages and indeed all marriages made without the binding authority of the Holy Priesthood they regard as contracts for this life only, and therefore lacking the higher and superior elements of a complete and perpetual union. They hold that the family relationships of earth may be made lasting and binding beyond the veil of death. They say that under the perfect law operative in the celestial worlds, the earthly relation of husband and wife, parent and child, will endure in full force and effect, provided such relationship has been sealed on earth by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood. The ordinary rite of matrimony as established by secular law, and as prescribed by sectarian rule, unites the man and the woman for this world only; the higher law of marriage as divinely revealed joins the parties for time and eternity.

“Celestial Marriage” is a term in current use among the Latter-day Saints, though it does not occur in any revelation contained in the standard works of the Church. The Church adopts and validates the scriptures of earlier dispensations with respect to marriage. It holds that marriage is honorablev and ordained of God.w Under the teachings of the Church, marriage is the duty of all who are not debarred by physical or other effective disability from assuming the responsibilities of the wedded state. The Latter-day Saints declare that part of the birthright of every worthy man is to stand at the head of a family as husband and father; and equally strong is the right of every worthy woman to be an honored wife and mother.

The Church denounces as false and pernicious the teachings of misled and morbid men who say that the union of the sexes is but a carnal necessity inherited by man as an incident of his degraded nature; and it repudiates the thought that celibacy is a superior condition more pleasing to God. Concerning such false teachers the Lord has spoken in this day:

“Whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto Man . . . that the earth might answer the end of its creation, and that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.”x

The Latter-day Saints affirm that perfect marriage provides for the eternal relation of the sexes. With this people marriage is not merely a contract for time, effective only as long as the parties shall live on earth, but a solemn covenant of union which shall endure beyond the grave. In the complete ceremony of marriage as ordained by the Church and as administered only within the temple halls, the man and the woman are placed under covenant of mutual fidelity, not until death do them part, but for time and for all eternity.

A contract as far-reaching as this, a covenant declared to be effective not only throughout the period of mortal life, but in the realm of the hereafter, of necessity requires for its validation an authority superior to any that man may originate. It is admitted without argument that men have the right to form among themselves associations and communities, to organize sects, parties, companies, churches, clubs, or any other union they may choose to create, provided, of course, such bodies are not inimical to law and order. It is further admitted that any established association of men may enact laws and ordain rules for the government of its members, provided the rights of individual liberty are not infringed thereby. Both church and state, therefore, may enact, prescribe, and ordain, lawful regulations as to marriage or as to any other form of contract; and such regulations are acknowledged to be of full effect within the domain of actual jurisdiction. Thus, marriages may be legally and properly authorized by states and nations, and the contracts of marriage so made are effective during the life of the parties thereto.

But, can it be said that any association of men may create and establish an authority that shall be effective after death? Can any power legislate beyond its lawful jurisdiction? Can a man sitting in his own home prescribe family rules for the household of his neighbor? Can our nation ordain laws that shall be valid in a foreign realm? Can man enact laws to regulate the affairs of the Kingdom of God?

Only as God delegates authority to man, with the assurance that administration under that authority shall be acknowledged in heaven, can any contract be made on earth and be of assured effect after the death of the parties concerned. Authority to act in the name of the Lord is the distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Priesthood. As the Lord hath said:

“All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made, and entered into, and sealed, by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power, . . . are of no efficacy, virtue or force, in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end, have an end when men are dead.”y

In application of this principle to the covenants of matrimony, the revelation continues:

“Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me, nor by my word; and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world, and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.

“Therefore, when they are out of the world, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory;

“For these angels did not abide my law, therefore they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity, and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God, for ever and ever.”z

This system of holy matrimony, involving covenants for both time and eternity, is known distinctively as Celestial Marriage, and is understood to be the order of marriage that exists in the celestial worlds. This sacred ordinance is administered by the Church to those only who are adjudged to be of worthy life, fit to be admitted to the House of the Lord; for this holy rite, together with others of eternal validity, may be solemnized only within the temples reared and dedicated for such exalted service.a Children born to parents thus married under the celestial law are heirs to the Priesthood; “children of the covenant” they are called; no ordinance of adoption or sealing is required to give them place in the blessed posterity of promise.

The Church, however, sanctions and acknowledges legal marriages for time only, and indeed solemnizes such unions between parties who may not be admitted to the House of the Lord, or who voluntarily choose the lesser and temporal order of matrimony.

Within the temple and not elsewhere, are marriages solemnized for and in behalf of parties who are dead. Husbands and wives who have lived in mortality together and now are dead, may be sealed under the authority of the Priesthood, provided, of course, the preliminary temple ordinances have been administered in their behalf. In the marriage rite for the dead as in other ordinances, the parties are represented by their living descendants acting in the capacity of proxy.

The ordinance of celestial marriage, whereby the contracting parties, whether living or dead, are united under the authority of the Holy Priesthood for time and eternity, is known distinctively as the ceremony of Sealing in Marriage. Husband and wife so united are said to be sealed, whereas if united under the lesser law for time only, either by secular or ecclesiastical authority, they are only married.

Husband and wife who have been married for time only, either by secular or ecclesiastical ceremony, may afterward be sealed for time and eternity, provided they have become members of the Church, and are adjudged worthy to enter the temple for this purpose; but no such confirmation of an existing union, nor any sealing of married persons is possible unless the parties furnish proof that they have been legally and lawfully married. No marriage of living persons is performed in any of the temples except under license duly issued as required by the laws of the state. The sealing ordinance extends to other associations than those of matrimony as will be shown.

The actuality of the sealing ordinance in marriage finds an illustration in the personal teachings of the Savior. On one occasion there came unto Him certain Sadduceesb and these, be it remembered, denied the possibility of the resurrection of the dead. They sought to entrap Him by a difficult question. They thus stated their case:

“Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

“Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:

“Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.

“And last of all the woman died also.

“Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.”

Note the sequel:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”

It is evident that in the resurrected state there could be no contest among the seven brothers as to whose wife the woman was,—for after death there was to be no marrying nor giving in marriage. The question of marriage between individuals was and is to be settled before that time. The woman would and could be the wife of but one in the eternal world, and that one the man to whom she was given by the authority of the Holy Priesthood on earth, as a consort for time and eternity. In short, the woman would be the wife of the man with whom she entered into covenant for eternity under the seal of Divine authority; and no contract or agreement for time only would be effective in the resurrection.

This exposition seems to have been convincing; the multitude were astonished, and the Sadducees were silenced;c moreover some of the Scribes declared: “Master, thou hast well said.”d Our Lord added what appears to have been a supplementary question, coupled with instruction of the greatest import:

“But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,

“I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”e


Children born outside celestial marriage, yet within legally established wedlock, are the lawful and legitimate heirs of their parents in all affairs of earth. They are the offspring of an earthly union that is in every respect a legal, moral, and proper relation under the laws of man. That these children will belong to their parents in the hereafter is as uncertain as that the parents will belong to each other. The parents have been but temporally and temporarily married, and the offspring are theirs for the period of their own contract only. Even as husband and wife though legally wedded under the secular law must be sealed by the authority of the Holy Priesthood if their union is to be valid in eternity, so must children who have been born to parents married for time only be sealed to their parents after father and mother have been sealed to each other in the order of celestial marriage.

The Church affirms the eternal perpetuity of all family of the Priesthood; and declares that none other relationship will be binding after death. The offspring of parents not joined in celestial marriage are thus sealed to or adopted by their parents as members of the family organization which shall endure through eternity; thus, husbands and wives who are dead are married or sealed to each other by proxy ministration, and their children are similarly sealed to them in the family relationship.

It will be seen, therefore, that the vicarious labor of the living for the dead, as performed in the temples of the present day, comprises more than baptism and confirmation. The work is completed on earth only when the parties, in the persons of their living representatives, have been baptized, confirmed, endowed, and sealed both in the relationship of husband and wife as once existent and in the family union of parents and children.



aFor a concise treatment of Infant Baptism, see the author’s “The Articles of Faith,” Lecture VI, 13-17; and for treatment of Baptism for the Dead, see Lecture VII, 18-33.

bActs 10:42; II Tim. 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5.

cRom 14:9.

d Luke 20:36, 38.

eDoctrine and Covenants 19:10-12

fI Peter 4:6.

gl Cor. chap. 15; see specifically verse 29.

hThis passage has been the subject of much controversy. Dr. Adam Clarke, in his masterly Commentary of the Scriptures, says:

“This is certainly the most difficult verse in the New Testament; for, notwithstanding the greatest and wisest men have labored to explain it, there are to this day nearly as many different interpretations of it as there are interpreters.” Yet, notwithstanding its enigmatic meaning, this passage of scripture is part of the prescribed burial service in the Episcopal Church, and is duly spoken by the priest at every funeral. But wherein lies the difficulty of comprehension? The passage is of plain import, and only when we attempt to make it figurative do difficulties arise. It is plain that in Paul s day the ordinance of baptism for the dead was both understood and practised, and the apostle s argument in support of the doctrine of a literal resurrection is sound: If the dead rise not at all, why then are they baptized for the dead?

iRead Doctrine and Covenants 128:12, 13.

jI Cor. 11:11.

kSee the author’s “The Articles of Faith,” Lectures IV and XII, portions of which are included in the present treatment.

lJohn 14:1-3.

mI Cor. 15:40-42.

nDoctrine and Covenants, Sec. 76.

oDoctrine and Covenants 76:51-70.

pDoctrine and Covenants 76:71-79.

qDoctrine and Covenants 76:81-86.

rDoctrjne and Covenants 76:98-101.

sDoctrine and Covenants 131:1; see also II Cor. 12:1-4.

tSee Doctrine and Covenants 76:86-88.

uSee the author’s treatment of “Marriage” in “The Articles of Faith,” Lecture XXIV, pp. 455-460.

vHeb 13:4.

wGen. 2:18, 24; 1:27; 5:2; 9:1, 7; Lev. 26:9.

xDoctrine and Covenants 49:15-17.

yDoctrine and Covenants 132:7.

zDoctrine and Covenants 132:15-17.

aDoctrine and Covenants 124:30-34.

bSee Matt. 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40.

cMatt. 22:33, 34.

dLuke 20:39.

eMatt. 22:31, 32.

[Note: Footnoting system has been reproduced here exactly as in original 1912 text.]