SALT LAKE CITY — Ten weeks after the First Presidency began Phase 1 of reopening Latter-day Saint temples during the pandemic, the leaders began Monday to move toward Phase 2 of reopening the church’s most sacred buildings.

© The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple is one of 12 Latter-day Saint temples moving to Phase 2 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first phase limited reopenings to a single ordinance, marriages known as sealings. Today, 115 of the church’s 168 temples have opened to perform marriage sealings in areas where local health conditions permit.

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Phase 2 will begin July 27, when 12 temples will begin to perform two additional ordinances — endowments for living persons and sealings of children to parents in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The temples launching Phase 2 next week include four in the United States — the Billings Montana Temple, Bismarck North Dakota Temple, Columbus Ohio Temple and Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple. The other eight are the Copenhagen Denmark Temple, Frankfurt Germany Temple, Freiburg Germany Temple, Helsinki Finland Temple, Seoul Korea Temple, Stockholm Sweden Temple, Taipei Taiwan Temple and The Hague Netherlands Temple.

Church President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, Presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring, also announced alterations to the endowment ceremony.

“With a concern for all and a desire to enhance the temple learning experience, recent changes have been authorized to the temple endowment ceremony,” the First Presidency said in a news release. “Given the sacredness of the temple ceremonies, we ask our members and friends not to engage in speculation or public discussions about these changes. Rather, we invite church members to continue to look forward to the day when they may return and fully participate in sacred temple work prayerfully and gratefully.”

On May 11, six weeks after temporarily closing all of the church’s temples because of the pandemic, the First Presidency reopened 10% of them for one ordinance only — temple marriages known as sealings — which is Phase 1 of reopening all temples to full operation.

A sealing is an ordinance that makes possible eternal family relationships. Phase 2 includes sealings beyond those performed to seal the marriage of a man and woman.

Once a man and woman are sealed, children are born to them within that covenant. The ordinance sealing children to parents includes families who join the church with children, children who have been adopted by sealed parents and children born before parents were sealed together.

Phase 2 also included the endowment, an ordinance in which church members receive additional knowledge and blessings and make added covenants with God.

In Phase 2, patron housing, clothing and cafeteria operations remain closed.

Phase 3 opens a temple for all ordinances, including proxy ordinances for ancestors, and opens patron housing, clothing and cafeteria operations. However, church leaders have indicated those proxy ordinances for ancestors will return in a restricted manner they have not yet outlined.

Phase 4 is a return to full operation, though church leaders have indicated full operations will be different than they were before the pandemic. In this phase, adjustments to temple schedules, seating arrangements and facilities will continue to increase safety.

The First Presidency’s full statement on Monday:

“The sacred teachings, promises and ceremonies of the temple are of ancient origin and point God’s children to him as they make further covenants and learn more about his plan, including the role of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Through inspiration, the methods of instruction in the temple experience have changed many times, even in recent history, to help members better understand and live what they learn in the temple.

“Part of the temple experience includes the making of sacred covenants, or promises, to God. Most people are familiar with symbolic actions that accompany the making of religious covenants (such as prayer, immersion of an individual at baptism or holding hands during a marriage ceremony). Similar simple, symbolic actions accompany the making of temple covenants.

“With a concern for all and a desire to enhance the temple learning experience, recent changes have been authorized to the temple endowment ceremony. Given the sacredness of the temple ceremonies, we ask our members and friends not to engage in speculation or public discussions about these changes. Rather, we invite church members to continue to look forward to the day when they may return and fully participate in sacred temple work prayerfully and gratefully.”

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