The endowment is more than the ordinances


The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have.  The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.

You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?”  A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.

The redemptive mission of the Savior

In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.

He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.

Receive the Holy Ghost

This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”  This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.

I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it.  Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.

Promise of the Father

One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power.  The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us.  So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.

The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father.  Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created.  It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost.  This fills us with great power.

We must seek this gift

I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed.  I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.

We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer.  We must hunger and thirst after this gift.  As Paul said, we must covet this gift.  It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more.  Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.

Temple ordinances part of the process

We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed.  The temple ordinances serve two purposes.  They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom.  I believe it is analogous to being born again.  It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost.  The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.

Endowed with power

The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name.  Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.

The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high.  It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.

More than the ordinances

The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple.  The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power.  There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.

The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s.  It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.

Pattern found in Third Nephi

In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem.  Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.

Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world.  They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side.  They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.

Witnesses know for themselves

Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute.  They had seen him and they had touched him.  No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.

And yet they lacked something.  When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.

The endowment begins

It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day.  Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.

Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention.  He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.

In the midst of fire

The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.”  I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times.  This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.

This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire.  The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not.  This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.

To be continued…

The Unique Religion of Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin is widely recognized as a great American patriot and founding father of this nation.  He wielded a powerful influence in the shaping of this country because of his intelligent, reasonable, pragmatic and practical approach to life.  But the real power and vigor of his persuasive abilities came from the ideological principles that he embraced.  Because of his tremendous reach and authoritative influence upon our nation, much has been written about the religious views of Benjamin Franklin.  It is clear that he embraced different beliefs from colonial religiosity that preceded him.  By his own account he was a product of the age of enlightenment and considered himself a Deist.  He believed this world was organized by a divine creator.

Some have said that he was not a Christian and others have claimed that he was an atheist, occultist or mystic.  However, a careful reading of Franklin’s writings leads us to conclude that he simply did not believe that the organized religions of his time fully represented the omnipotent power, majesty or wisdom of the great Creator.  There is no doubt that Franklin was a religious man.  His religion just didn’t conform to the orthodox views of his day.  He did not participate in public worship services but endorsed and promoted the churches around him with his influence.  In many ways, his religion was unique to him, formulated early in his life and refined with age and experience.  His emphasis on seeking moral perfection, developing virtues and in doing good to all men constitute the heart and soul of his very practical religion.  Clearly, based on the results of his life, he had a great understanding of how religion should work for a man.

One of the best sources to help us understand the religious views of Benjamin Franklin is his own autobiography, mostly written when he was 65 and added to some 13 years later.  He wrote that he “never was without some religious principles; I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity, that he made the world, and governed it by his providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter” (McQuade et al 215).  That’s quite the creed.  Just one month before his death in 1790, he wrote to Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale University, and offered a similar creed.  “I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this” (Franklin Papers v46 p400).

It is obvious that Benjamin Franklin had a strong faith in God as the source of morality and goodness of man.  He constantly acknowledged the hand of God in the affairs of men and gave God credit for his happiness and success in life (McQuade et al 185).  He was a strong advocate of prayer to God, invoking the blessings of heaven upon his efforts to seek moral perfection.  “And conceiving God to be the Fountain of Wisdom, I thought it right and necessary to solicit his Assistance for obtaining it; to this End I form’d the following little Prayer … for daily Use (McQuade et al 219).  He then recited the prayer for us.  In addition, it is well known that Franklin requested that prayer be a part of the proceedings during a critical impasse of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. “I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” (Franklin Papers v45 p77)  However, his motion for prayer did not carry.

While it is certain that Franklin was no dogmatist, it is just as clear that a driving force in his life was the pursuit of virtue.  He wrote extensively about it in his autobiography.  In a sense, this search for moral perfection was his religion, and one that he readily admitted was elusive. He considered it a “bold and arduous Project” to develop these virtues which he first enumerated when he was still young.  He obviously still felt that it was a worthy enterprise as it wrote about it glowingly in part two of his autobiography, written at age 78.  At one time he had hoped to expand his extensive comments about the “Means and Manner of obtaining virtue” into a book.  He proposed to call it the Art of Virtue, but his intentions were never fulfilled.  However, he left enough thoughts on the subject in his autobiography that many others have used his ideas to better their own lives and some have even written their own books and formulated improvement programs based on his writing.  Almost all of Part Two of his autobiography was dedicated to the explanation of how he pursued virtue, the difficulties he encountered in attempting to dedicate these virtues to habit and his satisfaction of seeing his faults diminish.

As he wrote, “But on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the Perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell short of it, yet I was by the Endevour a better and happier Man than I otherwise should have been, if I had not attempted it …” (McQuade et al 220).  He shared his list of virtues with his son and encouraged him to also follow their pursuit.  The story he relates of how he added the thirteenth virtue of humility to his list has been endearing to readers through the years.  “I cannot boast of much Success in acquiring the Reality of this Virtue; but I had a good deal with regard to the Appearance of it …” (McQuade et al 222).  Although it has been over 200 years since he wrote these words, we get a sense that Franklin was much more humble than he led us to believe.  It was this character trait that allowed him to be so persuasive in uniting others around him to his causes.  He was not a threat to men and wanted only to unite them in the cause of doing good.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention, after the reading of his impassioned speech in which he used his persuasive powers to urge the delegates to sign the document, he watched in disappointment as some delegates still refused to sign.  While the majority was signing it, he watched and commented that it was always difficult for painters to show the difference between the rising sun and the setting sun. He said that during the convention he had often looked at the painted sun on the back of the President’s chair and wondered “…whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun” (Madison 763).  A lady, identified as a Mrs. Powel, asked Dr. Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” — ‘A republic,’ replied the Doctor, ‘if you can keep it’” (McHenry 618).  Franklin emphasized that the new republic could survive only if the people were virtuous.  He is also reported to have said on that occasion that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

The word virtue to Franklin signified so much more than we may ascribe to it today.  He worked his whole life to acquire virtue, as he defined it for us in his autobiography (McQuade et al 216).  He described his list of virtues in terms that could be applicable to an individual of any religion or no religious beliefs at all.  He did, however, in adding the thirteenth virtue, suggest the path to obtain humility was to imitate Jesus and Socrates.  Much is made in modern times of Franklin’s stated opinion of Jesus.  From this quote most people draw the conclusion that he was not a Christian: “I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity” (Franklin Papers v46 p400).  As he wrote this one month before he died, he said that he would soon find out for himself as to the validity of the claims of the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.

As noted, Franklin considered himself a Deist, although not in the same vein as Thomas Paine who openly mocked Christianity.  Franklin made it clear that he did not believe the true Church of Jesus Christ was to be found on the earth at that time.  He noted the hypocrisy that he found among some who claimed to be religionists as a major reason for his decision to not attend public worship services.  He clearly taught us that true religion means doing good to all men.  Indeed, he retired from his business pursuits at age 42 and devoted the second half of his life to that very purpose.  While he rejected much of the Puritan dogma of salvation and hell, he very much demonstrated the Puritan faith in God as the wellspring of morality and goodness in men.  He believed that part of his purpose in life was to improve himself by hard work, diligence and his own efforts.  In other words, he believed that it was up to him to make something of his own life.  By almost all accounts, he did so admirably.  Benjamin Franklin was by far one of the most admired men at the time of his death as evidenced by the 20,000 people who attended his funeral and all the ministers of the city of Philadelphia who walked arm in arm to his graveside.

By no means should we assume that Franklin perfected his moral character in his mortal life.  It is clear that he was unable to adhere to the list of virtues he espoused by his own efforts.  At one time he advised us to wary of wine, women, food and the cloth (fine clothes), and yet he was known to indulge in all of them.  He drank too much, ate too much (and had gout), flirted and dressed well.  Yet, he gave so much to the founding of this nation and was a statesman extraordinaire.  Without his efforts, this nation might have been a very different place.  He became the powerful and so very influential man that he was not so much by the practice of religious behaviors or religiosity but by the practical application of the virtues that he defined early in his life.  His religion served him well and made him the man that he was.  He was a reasonable man.  He thought things out and let his reasoning powers guide his actions, unhampered by the prevailing religious dogma.

Franklin rejected dogma and much of the religious doctrine of his day.  His was a God of ethics, morality and civic virtue.  Because of his persuasive skills in helping to craft compromise, he was on occasion known as the prophet of tolerance.  His political influence was an extension of his religion, with the intention to do good works and help others to do so.  Later in his life he returned to a belief that organized religion could help to meet those aims of doing good.  His pragmatic view was that without such organized communities, men will not be motivated to do good things on their own (Isaacson 46).  His pragmatic ways also exhibited themselves when he said that he would soon know for himself concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ as he very much believed in an afterlife.  In other words, he expected to be able to ask him directly.  For a man who was not hobbled by the hand-clasping and soul-searching anxiety of some within the Puritan community, it did not seem to me that he rejected Jesus Christ as some have claimed.  He was just waiting for someone to introduce him properly.

It is my view that Franklin’s life was well spent in the service of his fellow man, something that was appreciated during his lifetime and that ensured him a great legacy that lives on today.  He did not worry himself about religious arguments that led to fruitless bickering among those who simply did not know how to live their lives in a manner that Jesus taught – to go about doing good things for others.  I think Franklin was a wise man in his religious views.  He did not offend and encouraged all with his generous contributions to the building of their churches and helping to publish their sermons.  I suspect that Franklin was amply rewarded when he entered the afterlife.  He was certain that God wanted him to be moral and virtuous.  He pursued that life and exhibited it by his actions.  It’s too bad that some today are insistent on proclaiming that our founding fathers were not religious men.  It is obvious to anyone who studies his life that Franklin was very religious, and in a very real way.  We would do well to follow his example and live our religions that way he lived his in service.

Sources:

McQuade, Donald, et al, eds.  The Harper Single Volume American Literature. 3rd ed. New York: Longman, 1999

Franklin Papers.  The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, digital edition, Yale University.
14 April 2010  http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp

Madison, James. Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott, p. 763, 1893.  Notes at the closing of the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 17, 1787.

McHenry, Dr. James. The American Historical Review, vol. 11. New York: 1906.

Isaacson, Walter.  Benjamin Franklin – An American Life.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

A Website for the Average Mormon


I’ve been reading the arguments on MormonThink.com off and on for several years now.  I have a lot of respect for the individuals behind the site, even though most of them choose to be anonymous.  I am confident that I have been visited by several of the contributors there or at least by those who read their site and others like it such as Ex Mormon and Post Mormon.

I am by no means a scholar or intellectual.  I think I’m pretty smart and that I’m pretty good with logic.  After all, I have made a living for thirty years demystifying computers for others.  But I know there are a lot of people out there who are smarter than I am and who have the academic credentials to prove it.  I like to think that I’m just a regular, average, typical Latter-day Saint.

I like smart, thinking people and especially people who present logical conclusions well, either in writing or verbally.  Critical thinking is a skill that I am constantly striving to improve.  I confess that I am impressed when someone can speak or write with confidence, especially when it comes to doctrines and practices of the church.  That’s why I continue to take college classes each year.

Choosing to believe

But I’d like to take exception with one of the common threads I find in the essays on sites like MormonThink.com.  It has to do with choosing to believe.  The concept of voluntary or involuntary belief has been discussed by philosophers for millennia.  But it’s such a basic part of how I deal with the sort of intellectual issues on Mormon Think that I want to share it with you.

I disagree with those who contend that beliefs are not voluntary acts of will.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am a voluntarist when it comes to my beliefs about the church and our history.  This is especially true in light of, or in spite of all the fascinating historical facts that I have read over the years that are just not taught to or even known by the majority of the Latter-day Saints.

Invariably I have found that those who label themselves atheists also claim to be involuntarists.  I am coming to the conclusion that those who embrace the title of Ex Mormon, Post Mormon or Former Mormon also see their position as involuntary.  “It was inevitable,” they say, “based on what I have learned, I had no other choice but to now disbelieve what I had formally believed.”

Encouraging Faith

Well, that’s where we differ.  I have spent many years studying the same material that has been so troubling and bothersome to so many of my fellow seekers of knowledge.  I can honestly say that my faith has been strengthened and my belief deepened that Joseph was who he claimed to be – a prophet of God – and that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be – Holy Scripture.

I have no doubt that there are many in the church, who, if they studied the same material we have written about on our blogs and websites, would be absolutely freaked out and would soon leave the church.  They are either social Mormons only or are not strong in their desire to know more about the history of our church.  I don’t think these kinds of people are your typical Mormons.

What’s missing from sites like MormonThink.com, and what you’ll find in abundance on the official church web sites, is the role of faith, and especially encouraging faith.  There is way too much emphasis on the intellect and not enough focus on feelings.  The section on Testimony and Spiritual Witness relegates the role of feelings of faith as something to be dissected and derided.

Announcing new website

That’s reason why I decided to start my own website, LatterdayCommentary.com.  This blog is hosted on that domain, which I registered years ago.  It’s not much to look at today.  In fact, I almost consider it a prototype.  I’ve put together some commentary and links to my essays on some of the same subjects that you will find on MormonThink.com.  It will grow with time.

I know that I’m just one of thousands of LDS members who have a website where they share their beliefs and testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I like to think that I’m not much different from your average Mormon.  I grew up as a member of the church but I come from a convert family.  And my viewpoint is definitely that of a laid-back California boy.

I’ve been happy as a member of the LDS Church all my life.  I loved my mission and I love going to the temple.  I love General Conference and I love serving in a local Bishopric.  I hope you’ll take a look at my website and then come back here and make some suggestions as to how I can make it better and more useful in promoting the doctrines of our LDS faith to the world.

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