I have a wife who attends church to support me. She has a huge issue about millions of dollars being spent on the building of each new temple in light that this money could feed and care for so many. Why does the Mormon church feel the necessity to put so much money into building each temple, rather than more modest costs and facilities to accomplish the same thing?
This is a very common question both in and out of the church, and there are two answers that help explain the matter.
First of all, regarding helping the needy, the LDS Church already has a very extensive welfare system in place and operating strictly on donated funds from the membership. The money to run these facilities and to supply them comes mainly from the fast offerings that are donated once a month by the membership of the church worldwide. However there are other sources of donated funds outside the church, from individual non-members to larger organizations that wish to help keep the program running as well as possible.
The welfare system is also the main source of supplies when the church responds to emergency relief efforts nationwide and worldwide. In those cases, the financial and commercial assets that the church holds contribute to the monetary needs of these responses, as well as amazing donations of goods and supplies from people around the world.
In other words, whenever the church can donate and serve the poor and needy, the resources are in place and ready to do so as promptly as possible, whatever the need, great or small.
On a slightly different angle, the LDS Church has always taught the principle of charity in the individual. In other words, we believe in being good neighbors. We have always been encouraged to lift up the heavy hearts, to care for the needy through our own individual and family efforts. We have been glad to donate to worthy charities, homeless shelters, food banks, and so on.
In that regard we make an attempt at preventing the more widespread and large scale relief efforts by trying to do a little here and there every day.
Now about the temples.
In order to understand why we spend so much on the temples, it helps to understand what they’re for in the first place. In the Bible, the temple of Solomon was built using the finest materials and craftsmanship available at the time. Remember the temple was a structure that was to be built for one purpose alone, and that was to provide a place for men to directly approach their God in faith. As such, it was a different type of building than the synagogues of a later day, which were intended and used for regular worship and edification.
The temple stood apart as a sacred building dedicated to the glory and holiness of the LORD. As it was then, so it is today.
The church has regular meetinghouses for Sunday worship and other congregational needs. Typically they are well-built facilities, but they aren’t any different looking than many other churches you can find.
The temples we build today, however, are special buildings devoted to sacred ordinances for the exaltation of mankind. Above every entrance to every temple are the words “Holiness to the LORD”. The temples are not open to the public at large, as our meetinghouses are. Instead members must meet specific standards of obedience to be able to enter the temple and participate in the ordinances performed there.
Temples are not places we gather at weekly. In fact the temples are closed on Sundays so the volunteers who operate them can attend their weekly meetings at the meetinghouses. Going to the temple is a special event, and some members can only attend the ordinances there once in their lives. Others can do so on a monthly basis if they so choose.
The temple is the most sacred place on earth to the LDS Church. Because these buildings are so special and so sacred, we build them out of the best materials we can, just as Solomon was commanded to do in building the temple found in the Old Testament.
To be sure, not all our temples are grand and large buildings. Many of the newer ones made are about the size of our meetinghouses if not a little smaller, and they are only open on a part-time basis. In that respect we save some funds in not building a large temple where one would not necessarily be fully used.