The Latter-day Saints

The Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the Mormons, were one of the fastest growing religious groups in Australia. Between 1991 and 1996 they grew by 17.8 per cent (compared with population growth of 5.4 per cent). While other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam grew at a much faster rate, through immigration, the Latter-day Saints grew faster than most groups with a Christian heritage, apart from the Oriental Orthodox, surpassing the growth of the Pentecostal denominations.

Apart from their churches, the Latter-day Saints have temples. Until recently, one temple in Sydney served the whole of Australia. However, in June 2000, the Latter-day Saints opened a second temple in Melbourne.

The temples of the Latter-day Saints are not used for weekly worship, but for special ceremonies. They contain a number of small rooms rather than a large area for corporate worship.

The Melbourne Temple contains a room that is used for baptisms. It contains a large bath or font resting on twelve oxen carved in stone and representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Members of the Latter-day Saints may be baptised on behalf of people who have died. It is believed that such baptisms give people who have already died the possibility of redemption. The Latter-day Saints base this practice on I Corinthians 15.29.

Two other rooms in the Temple are for practices in which ‘eternal families’ are created. Children are ‘sealed’ to parents, and spouses to each other. The Latter-day Saints believe that families who proceed through these ordinances are bound together for eternity. These rooms are known as ‘Sealing Rooms’.

The Endowment Room is where teaching is given about the doctrines of the Latter Day Saints. Lectures and videos are used to teach people about the Latter Day Saints’ conceptions of the purpose of life on earth and the nature of life before and after mortal existence.

A Celestial Room symbolises something of heaven. It is designed to represent the peace and harmony of living with God eternally.

All the rooms in the Melbourne Temple are small, for no more than thirty people at one time. Presumably the special ordinances conducted in the temple are performed only in the company of a small group of special Latter Day Saints friends and those who officiate. After the dedication of the temple, only those who are recommended by the a local church leader are allowed into the temple. All who enter will have to change into special white temple clothing.

The rooms in the temple are opulently furnished with light coloured furniture, elaborate chandeliers, and high quality carpets. The size and furnishings of the rooms speak of daily living, but the opulence is meant to represent the ‘eternal home in God’s kingdom, reminding us of the rewards of faithful devotion’.

Philip Hughes

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