Mormon Temples: How They Work. Part 4.

[Part 3 here.]

Temple Ordinance Worker Leadership Structure

Once an ordinance worker is set apart by a member of the temple presidency, he or she may function in any number of positions in the temple leadership framework (without any other special ceremony). In this, temple service bears a relation to missionary organization. In larger temples, internal leadership may be organized along these lines:

Shift supervisor: this person is responsible for assigning other ordinance workers (of the same gender) what are usually rotating duties in the temple as outlined below. They conduct orientation of new workers or assign that task to other staff, conduct beginning-of-shift devotional/instruction meetings and take general responsibility to see that the temple services function as planned. Those male only assignments report to the male supervisor. Liaises with the presidency (males) or matrons (females), as needed.

Assistant supervisor: essentially has the same duties as the supervisor and they operate in tandem, separating to different parts of the temple as needed. If the supervisor is absent, the assistant functions as sole director of operations and vice versa. [Titles may vary. Supervisor may be called "coordinator" for example. Temple workers wear name tags and in some temples it is customary to include an appropriate title on the tag, like "supervisor."]

Trainer(s): usually has responsibility to train new ordinance workers and help longer term workers maintain the coherence between actual sacramental performance and the Church model of same.

Endowment director (male only assignment): The endowment director sees that ordinance rooms are prepared properly, endowment instruction sessions begin in a timely way and are staffed appropriately, that any language needs are met for patrons not fluent in the temple’s primary language (determined by its geographic location) along with some administrative duties. The endowment director assists the recorder by counting the number of patrons attending the session for each endowment session during his shift.

Assistant Endowment Director: essentially the same duties as the director. While they may function in tandem, they can be in different parts of the temple as needed. The same may be true for other directors and assistants.

Initiatory Director: directs that portion of the temple endowment featuring symbolic washing and anointing. Prepares the sacred space and assigns ordinance workers in that space as needed.

Assistant Initiatory Director: essentially the same duties as the director.

Locker Room Director: The temple ceremonies involve ceremonial clothing and require the patrons to change from street clothing to basic white clothes over which ceremonial clothing is done. The locker room has (private) lockers! Surprise. Their systematic use is directed by, guess who. He also assists, or may assign others to assist, in helping patrons who are coming to the temple for the first time.[2]

Assistant Locker Room Director: essentially the same duties as director.

Baptistry Director (male): directs the functioning and use of the temple baptismal font which is used by patrons to be baptized in proxy of dead persons who are their ancestors, the ancestors of friends or for dead persons whose names are accumulated by the temple in several different ways for this purpose.

Assistant Baptistry Director (male): as usual.

There may be several other similar officers, some assisting with the endowment ceremony others working with other aspects of the system. But you get the pattern.

Ordinance Worker assignments.

Ordinance workers are assigned by the shift supervisor or assistant supervisor to work in various areas of the temple during the shift. Depending on the time of day of the shift this could involve conducting/assisting an endowment session, administering initiatory ordinances, assisting the locker room director in various ways, helping first time patrons, etc. Each ordinance worker rotates through different assignments on a given shift, the rotation pattern usually changing every month or two for variety and to maintain the skill set. Specifically, these assignments could be:

Assisting endowment patrons: this assignment involves roughly 90 minutes.
Assisting initiatory patrons: also roughly a 90 minute term.
Assisting in the baptistry: (sometimes performing baptisms[males], sometimes recording their completion[males], sometimes helping at the baptistry desk, or assisting in proxy confirmation (males), distributing baptismal clothing, etc.
Assisting at the recommend desk: at the entrance to every temple is an admissions desk (the temple recommend desk) where patrons show their temple recommend to a male ordinance worker, indicating that they are approved by their local church leaders to participate in temple functions. The recommend is valid for 2 years, when it must be renewed by interview with the patron’s bishop and stake president.
Assisting new patrons during their first temple endowment experience.
Assisting temple patrons who are occupying the meditation chapel (see the next part on temple architecture) while waiting for an endowment session to begin.

Temple Sealers

Sealing in Latter-day Saint theology means connecting one individual to another with a permanent bond, one that persists beyond death. The bond may exist between husband and wife, between parents and children, and step-wise between the individual and all discoverable ancestors. This chain of seals is a defined purpose of Mormonism. The person who performs the sealing is traditionally called a sealer. Usually, the permanence of the “seal” is said to depend on the faithfulness of the individuals involved.

Temple sealers are men who have been assigned to this duty by the Church’s First Presidency (see part 3). Sealers have their own supervisory structure and may have a differing shift structure from other temple ordinance workers. Their duties involve performing marriages “for time and all eternity” for living patrons, and also for the dead, again using proxy patrons. They also seal children to parents. Sealers are also often invited to serve additionally as ordinance workers in the other sense. They have no special status in that service since the leadership structures are separate. The sealing ordinances are typically regarded as the chief or final ordinances one can receive, the other sacerdotal experiences are often seen as leading to this one. If parents were sealed in the temple, then doctrine defines that an automatic sealing is in effect between those parents and any child born after such sealing.

[Part 5 here.]
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[1] And in some cases, at least historically, men who function essentially as extra counselors in the temple presidency.

[2] Since the large part of temple ritual does not change, when a patron returns to perform the temple sacraments for the dead, he or she repeats essentially the same performances each time.

Comments

  1. This is a valuable contemporary history, WVS. I can only dream of having something like this for the Council House, Endowment house, St. George Temple, etc.

  2. Wouldn’t it be nice!

  3. The article states: “The sealing ordinances are typically regarded as the chief or final ordinances one can receive, the other sacerdotal experiences are often seen as leading to this one.” Although lesser known, wouldn’t the final ordinance be the “second anointing?” Apparently, this ordinance is only performed by invitation only, but seems to me this would be the “final ordinance.”

  4. You’re right Tim, but that is no longer part of the normal sequence of ordinances. It’s place and probably its meaning in Mormon liturgy has changed markedly.

  5. Doug Evans says:

    The information is generally clear and correct.

    There is one additional supervisory assignment, particularly in new temples. This is the Live Ordinance Coordinators who oversee and plan support for all aspects of temple attendance and guideance for those entering the temple for their very first time to attend an endowment session or as worthy guests for marriages or family sealings.

    This is usually a husband and wife team whose role includes providing general procedural instruction for trained Ordinance workers who are assigned by the Coordinators to guide new patrons or couples coming for their first visit or for sealings. This often involves support for family and other temple worthy members who may accompany the new patrons for an endowment session or for a family enternal sealing or marriage. The Live Ordinance Coordinators often directly assist any and all new temple attendees and may serve in the temple at several times each week.

  6. Left Field says:

    Where do veil workers fit into the scheme of things?

  7. #6 that’s a part of the endowment team, but since I didn’t discuss the veil for obvious reasons, I didn’t mention them. Supervised by the veil director.

    #5 You do get various arrangements for this kind of thing, depending on the temple. The TD may or may not micromanage at that level, but I think it may still be left up to the individual temple presidents. N’est pas?

  8. I am sure the 2nd endowment is done by invitation of leaders of a level higher than stake presidents. Probably now only 70s and above. In the past it was not so restrictive. (My parents in-law received their 2nd endowment when he was made regional rep in the late 60s or early 70s. I read about it in his wife’s diary after they were both deceased.)

    Are temple presidents authorized or hold the keys to do 2nd endowments? I think not. It is probably only the first presidency or apostles by assignment.

  9. I am finally reading through this series, and I am definitely appreciating all of the information provided! A couple of questions that are of an editorial perspective:
    I just read through this a few times, but I couldn’t find where fn1 references. Can you help me out?

    “The temple ceremonies involve ceremonial clothing and require the patrons to change from street clothing to basic white clothes over which ceremonial clothing is done.”

    This sentence seems to be missing something..?

    (I bring these up because I read part 5 first and saw that you were going to make a pdf available. Could I get a copy of the pdf as well?)

  10. A typo. It references something from part 1. I thought I had removed it, but didn’t. Presidencies were sometimes expanded in some temples with men who could help them be in more than one place at the same time. :)

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