"Was there ever a man or woman who, in a time of quiet introspection, has not pondered the solemn mysteries of life?
"Has he or she not asked, "Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my relationship to my Maker? Will death rob me of the treasured associations of life? What of my family? Will there be another existence after this, and, if so, will we know one another there?"
"The answers to these questions are not found in the wisdom of the world. They are found only in the revealed word of God. Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sacred structures in which these and other eternal questions are answered. Each is dedicated as a house of the Lord, a place of holiness and peace shut apart from the world. There truths are taught and ordinances are performed that bring knowledge of things eternal and motivate the participants to live with an understanding of our divine inheritance as children of God and an awareness of our potential as eternal beings.
"These buildings, different from the thousands of regular Church houses of worship scattered over the earth, are unique in purpose and function from all other religious edifices. It is not the size of these buildings or their architectural beauty that makes them so. It is the work that goes on within their walls." ("Why these temples?", President Gordon B. Hinckley, Complete article at lds.org)
In the Journal History of the Church (May 4, 1844) the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "We need the temple more than anything else." The Latter-day Saints are a temple-building people. Early temples included Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Ill. Among the most recognized is the Salt Lake Temple, completed in 1893 and dedicated by President Wilford Woodruff.
The Kirtland Temple site, 25 miles east of Cleveland, was selected in 1833. The temple (no longer owned by the LDS Church) was dedicated in 1836 by President Joseph Smith. The Nauvoo Temple site was selected in 1840 by Joseph Smith and dedicated in 1846 with Orson Hyde and Joseph Young officiating. An arson fire destroyed the temple in 1848. In 1999 President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the Nauvoo Illinois Temple to be constructed on the original site. That temple was dedicated in 2002 by President Hinckley.
The Church has 152 temples either completed, under construction or announced as of March 2010.
For members of the Church, the temple is a central focus of worship where members participate in sacred ordinances and solemn covenants are made in the name of Jesus Christ. Members attending the temple are taught the organizing principles of the universe. According to LDS authors, the temple is a model, a presentation in figurative terms, of the pattern and journey of life on earth.
Within each temple, special areas are designated for specific ordinances such as baptisms for the dead, washing and anointing, receiving one's endowment, and where temple marriages and sealings are solemnized for the living and vicariously for the dead.
Once a temple is dedicated, entrance is restricted to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who present a temple recommend (issued by their local Church leaders) for entrance. Members do not discuss details about temple ceremonies outside of the temple as these ordinances are considered sacred. Temples are not open on Sunday as the Sabbath Day is reserved for worshipping the Lord in local meetinghouses or in homes.
"There are many reasons one should want to come to the temple. Even its external appearance seems to hint of its deeply spiritual purposes. This is much more evident within its walls. Over the door to the temple appears the tribute "Holiness to the Lord." When you enter any dedicated temple, you are in the house of the Lord.
"In the temples, members of the Church who make themselves eligible can participate in the most exalted of the redeeming ordinances that have been revealed to mankind. There, in a sacred ceremony, an individual may be washed and anointed and instructed and endowed and sealed. And when we have received these blessings for ourselves, we may officiate for those who have died without having had the same opportunity. In the temples sacred ordinances are performed for the living and for the dead alike." ("The Holy Temple", President Boyd K. Packer, Complete article at lds.org)