A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What happens to a nonbeliever who sneaks into a Mormon service?

May 31, 2001

Dear Straight Dope:

I know this will probably sound terrible, but my curiosity is getting the better of me. I just want to know (so I don't actually do it) what would happen if someone stole a Mormon Temple recommend and snuck into a service? Would they be able to get in? Do they have someone standing at the door checking IDs like at a club? I just thought of it one day, and I don't know any Mormons so I can't ask them.

Well, the time or two it's happened in the past, the folks who broke into a Latter-day Saint temple (the LDS church leadership has asked the media to call them by their proper name and not "Mormon" church) just flat out got arrested. The guy who broke into the St. George Temple (named after the town, not the dragon killer) damaged the building to get in. The family in the story below got arrested and the parents got sent for a brain checkup (from the Sat., Dec. 23, 2000 Deseret News, a church-owned newspaper, at http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,245009636,00.html).

Family invades temple

By Josh Loftin

Deseret News staff writer

SOUTH JORDAN--A family of eight, including six preteen children, pushed their way past a security guard and into the LDS Jordan River Temple Friday afternoon.

No damage was done to the temple, and no injuries to the children, parents or security personnel were reported, LDS Church Director of Media Relations Mike Otterson said. The two parents were taken to the University of Utah for a psychiatric evaluation, and their six children were in state protective custody Friday.

"I can't remember anything like this happening [at a temple]," Otterson said. "The combination of events is really unusual."

The story goes on to say that the family came to the temple about three in the afternoon, after it had closed for the holiday. and knocked on the door. When a security guard answered, the family pushed past into the building. The guards notified police, who searched the premises, found the family, and arrested them. No motive was given for the incident. The story said in 1996, a man got into the St. George Temple by chopping a hole in the front door before being grabbed by guards.

Anyway, it looks like the family did this at a time when there were no ordinances being performed. Maybe that's why the security folks and the police thought they needed to have their heads shrunk: bad timing.

What would happen if you faked up a recommend? (Or obtained one on the sly--a couple years ago a recommend was yanked from the eBay auction site, apparently after someone beefed that the document belonged to the LDS church, not the holder.) In theory the folks at the Recommend Desk, where you check in and have your recommend scrutinized, will be moved by the Spirit and just know you're not the real McCoy. But I'm betting that those folks will be able to discern an impostor without the help of the Holy Ghost. You need the recommend and a few other things (garments, a semblance of knowledge of what's about to transpire, etc.) to go through the Temple.

But say you manage to pull it off: whom are you really fooling? Just the fallible humans in the Temple itself. If you assume the LDS church is right about their rites, you're not an authorized participant in the Temple ordinances and therefore God isn't impressed by what you did. So basically all you did was for naught.

But if all you want to do is profane what someone else considers to be an extremely sacred place and to heck with the consequences, or you think that you gotta be let in just because you want to and to heck with it being private property and all that, then have at it.  On the other hand, if all you're interested in is seeing what the innards of the temple looks like, you have two options:

1. Get one of the books the LDS church has out with photos of the innards, or

2. Attend one of the public viewing events the LDS church routinely holds as an "open house" before the temple's officially opened. Anyone can attend the open house.

By the way, strictly speaking, services aren't conducted in the Temples--certain ordinances are performed, including temple marriage (formally known as "Sealing for Time and Eternity"), endowments, and vicarious baptism.  The LDS church conducts its services in the chapels. Only LDS members with a temple recommend, also known as a temple card, are allowed into Temples. To get a recommend usually you must have been a faithful member of the church for a year and been interviewed by your bishop and stake president to see if you're worthy. The recommend must be renewed annually. Approximately 20-25% of Mormons have a valid temple recommend. Just so you know.

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