The second largest Mormon temple in the world is being built in Chorley, near Preston, Lancs, just off junction 8 of the M61. The site of the UK’s second Mormon temple will also boast an accommodation centre, missionary training facilities, a Stake centre and two ward buildings. A reception area will include a family history centre (genealogy facilities) and temple clothing distribution centre. It is a key project that will allow Mormons from Scotland and the north of Britain easier access to Temple facilities and will provide a springboard for growth as more home grown missionaries are trained and sent out.
Britain has a long history of Mormonism dating back to 1837 when the first missionaries came ashore in Liverpool. Preston saw the first Mormon baptisms and boasts the oldest continuous branch of the church anywhere in the world. It has been estimated that between 1837 and the end of the century 100,000 converts emigrated to the US and that by 1870 nearly half of the population of Utah were British. Today, there are about 170,000 Mormons on mainland Western Europe, but the UK has the same number in nearly four hundred congregations, probably the greatest concentration of Mormons in the Northern Hemisphere outside America. All this and growth in the UK estimated at thirty-fold in the past thirty years, provides compelling reasons for the church investing in Britain.
The groundbreaking for the temple took place on 12 June 1994. In the October 1997 general conference in Salt Lake City, the Mormon Prophet announced that the dedication is set for June of 1998. It will be almost four years from start to finish, a time scale that reflects something of the enormity of the project, costs for which run into many millions of pounds. Britain’s first Mormon temple in Lingfield, Surrey was dedicated in 1958. At that time church membership here was 6,500. The ground breaking of the Preston Temple was attended by over 10,500 members.
Before a Mormon temple is dedicated, the church holds “open house”, an invitation to tour the temple before its doors are shut on all but the most faithful. The church’s British Director of Public Affairs has informed us that the Preston temple will be open to the public for two weeks in May or June 1998. This will be a high profile affair to which key local and national dignitaries will be invited for a special tour and reception. Altogether, they anticipate as many as 250,000 visitors.
To get an idea of what to expect in Preston consider what happened when the refurbished “London” temple was rededicated in 1992. From 6-8 October, the contractors were invited and special events were held for local dignitaries. Almost five hundred officials, including the mayor, local councillors, the local MP, heads of public services and media executives, along with local businessmen were invited to a special viewing of the temple. One visitor was Lord Howe. Each received a copy of specially bound church literature.
From 8-14, 55,223 members of the church and public toured the temple. All experienced a presentation on what the church believes and the purpose of Mormon temples (families are forever!). All were encouraged to take literature and investigate the Mormon gospel. We emphasise that this was simply a rededication of an existing building. The Preston temple is a much more important event. Many will be stunned by the numbers attending, by the dignitaries who will want to be seen associating with it, and the media attention it will draw.
Reachout Trust plans to be there for the two weeks, witnessing at the site and hoping to schedule a series of evening meetings to discuss further the Mormon gospel. We hope to be joined by Bill McKeever of Mormonism Researched Ministry, California who has expressed a keen interest in lending us his experience of Mormon open house events. We would like to see many people give their time to helping us in any way they can. Even giving a day here and there will be a great help.
We also hope to provide and produce literature for the event including a special edition newspaper dedicated to the Preston temple. All this costs money over and above the usual Reachout budget. This is an opportunity for everyone to give to the work and ensure that the tens of thousands of people who will visit the site will have an opportunity to hear and read the truth about Mormonism and, more importantly, to hear the truth about Jesus. Your financial support is crucial and contributions whatever the size should be sent to Reachout Head Office indicating that they are intended for the Preston Temple project. The next Quarterly will carry information regarding dates and arrangements.
Rodney Stark, a religion sociologist at the University of Washington, said of the Mormon Church,
“When was the last time we had anything appear in the world that looked like it had a shot at becoming a major world faith? It’s clearly the most interesting religious development in centuries.”
This interesting religious development poses a real threat to the spiritual health of our already spiritually sickly nation. Lets do something about it now while we can.
A Mini-temple in your town
Going to the temple is a great privilege, and it takes a lot of work to be worthy to hold a temple recommend. Traditionally Mormons sacrifice enormously to achieve this. In 1974, when we first went to the temple, there were just 13 temples in the world and only four outside the United States – Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and the UK. It has been common for Mormons to travel overseas for what might be a once-in-a-lifetime visit to one of these temples. Tales of sacrifice and suffering by saints determined to serve in the house of the Lord are part of the rich folk tradition of Mormonism. Many Mormons still do not live within easy reach of a temple, so there is less incentive to work for it and only about 20% of Mormons attend temples. The LDS Church has long had plans to change this and now boasts 50 temples worldwide with 17 more planned or under construction. Temples are found in:
28 in North America: 2 in Central America: Mexico and Guatemala: 4 in South America: Brazil, Chile, Peru and Argentina: 5 in Europe: England, Switzerland, Sweden and 2 in Germany: 1 in Africa: Johannesburg, South Africa: 5 in the Far East: Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines: 1 in Australia: 1 in New Zealand and 3 in the Pacific Islands: Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti.
Under the pretext of making temple blessings available to more members, the president of the church has announced the construction of mini temples in remote areas. The presence of a temple in their own area will act as an enormous incentive for obedience, but at the same time will demand much sacrifice from the local members and save the church a great deal of money:
“I believe that no member of the Church has received the ultimate which this Church has to give until he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the Lord. Accordingly, we are doing all that we [can] to expedite the construction of these sacred buildings and make the blessings received therein more generally available… There are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future… We will construct small temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances. They would accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings, and all other divine ordinances to be had in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead. They would be presided over, wherever possible, by local men called as temple presidents, just as stake presidents are called. They would have an indefinite period of appointment. They would live in the area, in their own homes. All [temple workers would be local people who would serve in other capacities in their wards and stakes… These structures would be open according to need, maybe only one or two days a week. Where possible, we would place such a building on the same grounds as the stake center, using the same parking lot for both facilities, thereby affecting great savings. One of these small temples can be constructed for about the same cost it takes just to maintain a large temple for a single year. It can be constructed in a relatively short time, several months… There will be no paid employees, all of the work of operation will represent faith and devotion and dedication.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley, Priesthood Session, 167th Semi-annual General Conference, October 1997.
The temple is the most mysterious aspect of the faith, with up to 80% of church members never getting to see what goes on inside. As more are brought into this elite group of temple-attending Mormons, using local mini temples, so the faith of Mormons will be strengthened. There is already a broad acceptance of Mormons as ‘Christian’ and the general perception of them is very positive. The next stage is to popularise and make acceptable the more bizarre aspects of the faith and make temples as familiar as the regular meeting houses. In this way, the roots of Mormonism will be more firmly established in our society. The ‘blessings’ of forever families, secret initiation and mystic rites will prove popular in our ‘New Age’ society.
What is a Mormon temple?
The following is taken from an official church press release
“The Temple To members of the Church, the Temple is “The House of the Lord”. It is a most sacred and reverent place – as it was to the Saviour, in New Testament times. To use a parallel, it is the spiritual equivalent of a “university”, where members go to take out their “endowment”: a course of additional, deeper instruction on the purpose of life, and what follows this life… The temple … is reserved for its special and sacred work of solemnising family ties throughout the eternities. It is open only to members of the Church who hold a “temple recommend”: a document signifying that the person is living a righteous life and is “worthy” to enter The House of the Lord. Worthiness is determined via personal interviews with both the local and regional Church leaders.”
Temples Ancient and Modern
Mormon Church leaders emphasise that modern day temples are a restoration of the tabernacle and temple worship of ancient Israel. LDS Apostle Mark E. Peterson has said:
“Following the pattern of Biblical days, the Lord again in our day has provided these ordinances for the salvation of all who will believe, and directs that temples be built in which to perform those sacred rites.” – Why Mormons build Temples p.2.
In fact, there is no resemblance between the two. There were three temples built in the Bible account. The first was the temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians and then rebuilt by Zerubabbel. This second temple fell into disrepair and was in turn rebuilt by Herod. All three follow the same accurately described pattern in scripture. A pattern ignored by Mormons whose temples bear no resemblance whatsoever to “the pattern of Biblical days.”
Anyone planning to tour the Preston temple would benefit from studying the description of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6 and 7. Interesting questions arise that you might want to put to your tour guides. For instance, where are the sanctuary and the inner sanctuary? Where is the brazen sea where the priests are ceremonially cleansed? Where are the animals and sacrificial altar? You might also wish to ask where in the comprehensive biblical account of the temple you might find mention of a celestial room, bridal chambers, sealing rooms, ordinance rooms or kitchen and laundry facilities.
The temple in Israel was for the sacrifice of animals and grain to maintain the relationship with God and atone for the sins of the people. The ceremonies in Mormon temples are for preparing members to be able to enter heaven by the use of tokens, signs, and key words, which they learn in secret ceremonies, and for the sealing of family ties for eternity. Bill McKeever comments:
“The fact is, the temple in Jerusalem was designed for sacrifice. The Bible tells us that during the two weeks following the dedication of Solomon’s temple, 22,000 bulls were slaughtered along with 120,000 sheep”(1 Kings 8:62-65).
It is interesting to note that Solomon himself, while expressing his humble attitude in building such an edifice, exclaimed, “Who am I then, that I should build Him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before Him?” The phrase, “save only to burn sacrifice” is especially revealing. If we are to accept the Mormon concept, we can easily ask why Solomon’s statement did not include marriage ceremonies, sealing ceremonies, endowment ceremonies, etc.
Another significant difference is that of attitude to worthiness.
“Of course there are people who are not worthy to go to the temple, and therefore should not go to the temple. No one should go to the temple except those who are worthy.” – Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:61.
In order to enter a Mormon temple, members have to pass two interviews, one with their local leader – the bishop or branch president and one with their area leader – the stake president. Only a recommend with these two signatures will allow them to enter. Someone who attends the temple regularly and is well known must still not be allowed admittance if they have left their recommend at home. This recommend used to be valid a year but now it has to be renewed every two years. The requirements are stiff: chastity, tithing, obedience to the commandments, support of leaders, faithfulness in attending meetings, the list goes on.
In contrast, the whole purpose of the temple in ancient Israel was to make those attending aware of their unworthiness before God. It was not their worthiness that qualified them to go, but rather their unworthiness that necessitated their attending and making the required sacrifices.
“When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin”. – Lev.5:5.
Comparing these two approaches reminds us of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple (Luke 18). The Pharisee was proud of his worthiness and was condemned by Jesus. The man who went away justified was the publican who bowed his head and said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Fall of the Book of Abraham
Much of the teaching of the endowment ceremony in the temple is taken from the Book of Abraham, in the Pearl of Great Price, one of the Mormon scriptures. In this book, Abraham tells his story of life in Ur and Egypt. He tells of the things that God revealed to him about pre-earth life, the planning of creation, and the choosing of a Redeemer, all essential aspects of the temple instruction. In 1967 this book was discredited and shown to be a fraud, yet the church has made no attempt to draw away from it or change any of the teachings based on it.
In 1835, Michael H. Chandler arrived in Kirtland, Ohio with his travelling exhibition of Egyptian mummies and papyrus scrolls. Having heard that Joseph Smith could translate ancient records, he came to see him. Joseph examined the papyri and declared
“I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.” – History of the Church vol.2, p.236.
The church purchased the mummies and papyri, and Joseph translated the Book of Abraham. This was published in 1842 in the Times and Seasons newspaper, along with three drawings from the scroll. No further work was done before Joseph died.
In Joseph Smith’s day, there was little or no knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics, so his ability as a translator could not be challenged. The Rosetta Stone, which was the key that unlocked the Egyptian writing, was only discovered in 1799, and only a limited number of scholars understood anything about it. By the time some of the printed facsimiles from the Book of Abraham were challenged, the original papyri were not available for examination.
On 27 November 1967, the Deseret News announced:
“A collection of pa[p]yrus manuscripts, long believed to have been destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871, was presented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here Monday by the Metropolitan Museum of Art… Included in the papyri is a manuscript identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith had copied the drawing, which he called ‘Facsimile No.1’ and published with the Book of Abraham.”
Since they were originally translated by the prophet of the church, one would have expected the current prophet to use his gifts as ‘Seer and Revelator’ to complete the job. The papyri were given to Dr Hugh Nibley, who is supposed to be the top Mormon authority on the Egyptian language and he called in Dee Jay Nelson, a church member who is an expert. The result of their studies was a great embarrassment to the church. Dr. Nibley’s first comments were,
“The papyri scripts given to the Church do not prove the Book of Abraham is true… LDS scholars are caught flat footed by this discovery.” – The Daily Universe, published at Brigham Young University, 1st December 1967.
No full translation of the papyri was published in 6 years of work by Dr. Nibley but eventually a book, attempting to explain away what they did contain, was published. Nelson did translate the papyri, but the church declined to publish his findings. Eventually he withdrew his membership from the church.
Book of Breathings
Egyptologists who have studied the papyri find no mention of Abraham or his religion, only the names of many pagan gods who were worshipped by the Egyptians. The text is an excerpt from the ‘Book of Breathings’,
“The ‘Book of Breathings’ is one of a number of short funeral works… it was addressed to the deceased by the chief priest conducting the funeral service… [it] represents the attempt to include all essential elements of belief in a future life in a work shorter and more simple than the Book of the Dead… To give the work an enhanced value it was declared to be the production of Thoth, the scribe of the gods.” – The Book of the Dead, Facsimiles of the Papyri of Hunefer, Anhai, Kerasher and Netchemet, by E.A. Wallis Budge, London, 1899, p.33.
The identity of the papyrus cannot be disputed because the name Book of Breathings appears clearly on the fourth line of the fragment.
Mormons work hard and make great sacrifices to be counted worthy to go to the temple and receive their endowment and other ordinances, largely unaware of the fact that the things they learn there come from a fraudulent book, which distorts and adds to the truth and leads them astray.
In a book entitled The Baby Train Jan Harold Brunvand, a Utah based professional collector of folk legends, tells an apocryphal tale concerning a Utah tour guide who is confronted by ‘a naïve visitor’ who expects Mormons to look peculiar, perhaps having horns, or dressed in dark, conservative clothes. The story relates how the tourist asks the guide to “please point out to us one of those awful Mormons”. The guide, with a smile, points to himself.
The trouble with Mormons is they look so much like everyone else. People often say to us, with a tone of astonishment, ” I spoke to some Mormons yesterday (or last week etc.) and they were SO NICE!” What did you expect? That they should go for your throat?!?
Of course, life would be so much simpler if error was obvious, sin clearly repulsive, and Satan dressed in his true colours. However, error has its own internal logic and is frequently compelling (especially as it usually appeals to our own preconceptions and pride), sin is usually very attractive and Satan can appear as an angel of light. Even so the error of Mormonism does not come dressed in rags but in rich apparel of moral rectitude, religious devotion, traditional values and a strong sense of “Christian” living.
Sadly, amongst some Christians there is a naïve expectation that when they meet a cult member they will be confronted with someone exuding evil and giving Christians every reason to hate and revile them. This is a bizarre but persistently held view and folks seem determined not to be shaken out of it. Christians often regale us with anecdotes of resisting Satan on the doorstep, ‘casting out’ indiscriminately, and generally making fools of themselves. The much misunderstood 2 John 10 is frequently trotted out as an excuse for inhospitable behaviour and, in the name of truth and justice, doors are to be heard slamming in the faces of smartly dressed young Americans all over the place.
In truth, the Mormons are looking good and we are never going to win them, or our neighbours on whom they call, with a mixture of ignorance, superstition, and highhanded behaviour. We are living in an age when tolerance is everything and truth is only relative, and it makes them look good and us look less than “Christian” whenever we “go for the man and not for the ball”. Remember that the people who bring error are themselves blinded by the god of this world, need deliverance from sin just like everyone else, and would run a million miles to avoid knowingly serving Satan. Surely, we should take our lead from Paul, who on Mars hill declared, “I see that in every way you are very religious. Now what you worship as unknown I am going to proclaim unto you” (Acts 17:22-23).
Mormons are Christians though?
Given the world’s definition of ‘Christian’, people might be forgiven for thinking so. Certainly, the Mormon Church wants people to think so, but they are not. When he began the church, Joseph Smith said that Jesus had told him that all the churches were wrong and “that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” (Joseph Smith – History 1:19). Christendom was perceived as “a perfect pack of nonsense” and Joseph was God’s instrument in restoring the pure gospel corrupted by the churches. Today, the Mormon Church is trying to become accepted as another Christian denomination.
An article in The Times, 26 May 1995 was headlined “Mormons cry foul at ban by Christian soccer league.” The Mormon football team from Gillingham, Kent was appealing to local soccer authorities against being refused entry to a church league. The organisers of the league claimed that Mormon beliefs were incompatible with Christianity, but the Mormon team claimed to be Christian. Which is interesting in the light of the comment by the team manager, “We were willing to take the chance that they might convert us.” How could they be converted if they were already Christian?
Mormonism is counterfeit Christianity. They use Christian terminology, but this disguises the fact that their beliefs are really “another gospel”, which Paul warned the Galatians about (Gal.1: 6-9).