Posts Tagged ‘Temple endowment’
This essay contains my study notes from chapter one of Passing the Heavenly Gift, written by Denver Snuffer, a Utah attorney and published in 2011. I have read this chapter half a dozen times in the past year, shared it with my wife, looked up the quotes and spent considerable time on my knees trying to understand what Denver is trying to teach. It is controversial material.
“…no one speaks for me. … If I have something to say, I will say it. No one is authorized to speak on my behalf. And no one is entitled to interpret what I think, or how I view any given issue or subject. To the extent that I have a view, I will tell it.” – Denver Snuffer blog entry, dated 20 November 2012 (DenverSnuffer.Blogspot.com)
OK, maybe we can’t interpret what you think, but we can certainly interpret what you write. I mean, why else would you write so much and offer it for sale, unless you wanted us to read and understand it for ourselves? I share my interpretations online to solidify my own conclusions. The feedback I receive from others helps me understand and correct mistakes in my thinking.
The Right Way to Judge
“If you read this blog without having first read his books, then you assume responsibility for your own misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the writer’s intent. Please do not presume to judge Mr. Snuffer’s intentions if you have not first read his books.” – Denver’s blog header
I have read all of your books, some of them several times, as well as all of your blog. I have listened to your recorded public talks, several times. I don’t presume to judge your intentions. I accept at face value when you wrote the Lord asked you to write your books. Because you made that claim, I paid very close attention as I read your books this year. I took them very seriously.
The Perfect Witness
“The Lord does still personally appear to mankind. I am a witness to that fact. He first appeared to me February 13, 2003. I have written a book about the topic. … I know He lives. I have seen and spoken with Him.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 452
This is obviously a profound and unusual claim. I have not seen the Lord. I do not know anybody personally who has, or if they have, they haven’t told me about it. I have not seen an angel either. My testimony and witness is therefore incomplete. I am not a perfect witness. I am but a student, a follower, a disciple of Christ. Why have I not read of other men publishing such a claim today?
Although I’ve been a member of the church all my life and Denver is a convert, clearly I have not learned the lessons that Denver has apparently learned allowing him to converse with the Lord. I’ve read his book on The Second Comforter several times and still haven’t figured it out. I’ve read his latest book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, several times in the past year. Things have not become easier or clearer. I’m evidently still not getting something that he has gotten.
Church does not control Heavenly Power
“Gentiles always crave authority to preside over one another. Gentile authority in the church is not equal to power in the priesthood. … The power of heaven cannot be controlled by men. It comes from heaven or it does not come at all. There has never been an institution entrusted with the power of heaven. … The power of the priesthood comes only one way … men do not have any right to either confer it, or prevent it from being conferred.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, pages 27-28
In other words, the authority exercised by the LDS Church to teach, baptize, ordain, endow and seal does not confer any kind of heavenly power. Although I have been ordained and sealed to my wife in the temple, this did not give me any kind of heavenly power. All the ordinances and ordinations in which I have participated as either a recipient or an officiator have, in reality, done nothing as far as heaven is concerned. They were authorized but did nothing to save souls.
Is he calling the LDS Church a Gentile church, as described in the Book of Mormon? In First Nephi chapter thirteen, we read that the desires of the Gentiles included worldly power, wealth – “gold, silver, silks, scarlets, fine-twined linen, all manner of precious clothing” and “many harlots.” Surely Denver is not saying that the LDS Church falls into this category. The Gentile church is the same as the church of the devil and that he is the founder of it. No, it can’t be, at least not the church I know. I worship and serve in this church. It is filled with good people.
Priesthood Exists Independent of the Church
“Priesthood and redemption are tied together. And if Joseph Smith’s revelations are to be trusted, then the church does not and cannot control either, because God controls both. Establishing the church was distinct from restoring priesthood. And priesthood has, can and does exist independently of a church. Joseph’s revelations and ancient scripture repeatedly teach this.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 29
I wonder how many people in the LDS Church really understand and accept this idea. Priesthood power is not the same as priesthood ordination or office. We’re taught this all the time but usually in the context of, “Brethren, if you live righteously, you will have power, because you have been ordained by someone in authority,” implying that the church controls that power. In other words, any Godly power we receive must come through official church channels, right?
We are taught that the church could not exist without the priesthood. Yet we read in section twenty of the Doctrine and Covenants that church offices and officers exist to serve the members. Those called or sustained to such offices receive their authority from the voice of the members though common consent. We sustain them, we “set them apart,” we promise to uphold them in their offices and callings. All this is not dependent on priesthood? How so?
Priesthood Received only Directly from God
“Joseph Smith taught that all Old Testament prophets who obtained higher priesthood during the dispensation of Moses, did so by receiving it directly from God. In the Book of Mormon we learn there is a ‘holy order’ which is ‘without beginning of days’ which some obtained ‘from the foundation of the world’ and brought here. The higher priesthood does not come from man or men, is without father or mother, and is only given one way: by the voice of God to the individual.” Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 31
Now this is very contrary to what the church teaches today. I’ve been a member of this church all my life and never have I been told that I must go and talk to the Lord to get priesthood power. In fact, those who claim they have talked to the Lord are looked upon as crackpots in our church. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but it doesn’t seem to be part of our current curriculum. We are taught that priesthood power is conferred by the laying on of hands by one in authority.
Ordination is only an Invitation
“Priesthood power is clearly something different than an ordination. But it is clear the only thing an ordination accomplishes is to invite the one ordained to then connect to heaven. It is from heaven alone that priesthood power is obtained.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 33
When I was interviewed by my stake president at age eighteen to be ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, he was very careful to review with me the oath and covenant of the priesthood. We also reviewed several other sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. When he was satisfied I understood the seriousness of what was involved, he signed my recommend.
I was sustained in the next Stake Conference and ordained that afternoon by my father. But never did he teach me that it was now up to me to go and complete my ordination to receive power directly from Christ. In fact, in all the intervening years I have never heard this from any priesthood leader, local or general, and I have served in church leadership for most of my life.
Power of Heaven not Conferred
“Power comes from heaven alone. Therefore, no person who has priesthood conferred upon them has any power prior to having it ratified by heaven. The conferral is only an invitation for a man to go obtain power from heaven, not actual power itself. It confers an office within the church, but an office in the church is not synonymous with the power of heaven.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 33
So, even after having been ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood over thirty-seven years ago, I still have no real power, because it has never been ratified from heaven by the voice of God. I only received an invitation to go see God. How come nobody ever told me that? The office of High Priest that I hold today and have for seventeen years is only an office in the church, and does not really have any spiritual significance as far as God is concerned. How can that be?
Ordinances not the Real Thing
“Most of the ordinances of the church are not the real thing. They are types, symbols of the real thing. They are official invitations, authorized by Christ… Any person who has priesthood conferred upon him will need to go into God’s presence, and receive it through the veil for power in their priesthood.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 36
Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever read that the ordinances of the church aren’t real. I wonder what he means by “most.” Are there some ordinances that are real? It’s nice that he teaches the ordinances are authorized. That’s good to know Denver believes the church has authority. He makes direct reference to the veil ceremony of the temple. It is apparently only a type or symbol of the actual veil. I wonder where that veil is. Are we supposed to go through it before death?
Temple Endowment a Practice Run
“The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power. They invite the recipient to press forward into God’s presence and receive Him, where the actual endowment of peace, joy, promises of eternal life, and power are conferred by Him who as the right to bestow them. The keeper of that gate is the Holy One of Israel, and He employs no mortal servant there.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 36
That is an amazing proclamation, that the ordinances do not confer power, but are only symbols or invitations to go and get power. I think of the ordinances in the temple, including the sealing ordinance, and wonder if Denver meant that there is no power or efficacy in that sacred rite. In effect, he is saying that the sealers in the temple are doing nothing more than saying nice words. Until Christ speaks and ratifies them, the ordinances have no efficacy in our lives or in eternity.
So the endowment is not the “actual” endowment as he points out, only a practice run, so to speak. Where are we to participate in the actual endowment – in our homes, or also in the temple? I wonder how many people have received the “actual” endowment while mortal. I wonder if I know any of them. Are they different afterwards? Is life easier, better somehow? By “promises of eternal life” I assume he means having your calling and election made sure.
Come and Receive the Lord
“Whether or not there is any person in the church with priesthood power, every person who joins the church, and keeps its ordinances will be invited, through those ordinances, to come and receive the Lord. When they do come into His presence, they will find themselves in possession of promises, rights, privileges, power and covenants for themselves and their posterity, for all generations, and into eternity.” – Passing the Heavenly Gift, page 37
Hmmm…sounds familiar. What promises? What rights? What privileges? What power? Are we talking about the right to open the heavens at will, on demand, when desired? Doesn’t that go contrary to everything we’ve been taught that spiritual experiences can’t be forced, that they come when God wills it and not man?
Do we then have the right “To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto [us], to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant?”
Summary and Conclusion
I confess all this is beyond my current capacity to understand. I’ve always believed that all these promises in the Doctrine and Covenants are for after this life. I don’t know anybody who talks about having communed with the church of the Firstborn other than as part of a polygamous sect. As far as I have been taught, these kinds of promises are reserved for after this life and are not a part of mortality. Apparently Denver is teaching that they are for us to strive for in this life.
And apparently he is teaching that this is what Joseph taught, but that the current LDS Church has changed the doctrine and strayed from the ordinances as restored by Joseph. That’s quite a claim, but from what I’ve read in his books, it’s an accurate summary. He is saying that the LDS church, while still authorized to teach the gospel and administer the ordinances, does not have the power to save souls. That belongs only to the Lord. We receive salvation only from Christ.
An Invitation to Dialog
For anyone else who has read Denver’s book, what are your thoughts on the first chapter?
After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed. He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”
He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.
Perfection means completed
The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.
The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”
Flaws and errors removed
I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed. That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior. It is not something that I can accomplish on my own. That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior. Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets. I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all. We will all live again with immortal bodies. But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.
Requirements of Salvation
So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation. I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord. I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction. They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law. The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that. The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people. I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites. Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.
Baptism in ancient times
We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized. When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept. John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown. I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world. We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World. Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation. The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.
Temple ordinances required
I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel. The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength. Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains. No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law. But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday. That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.
Word of Wisdom for our day
Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day. Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.
Plural Marriage not required
Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement. We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131. But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation. You can read that in section 132, verse 61. It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery. It is never worded that a man must take another wife. Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.
Timing of the Second Anointing
We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we? We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine. To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article. It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years. I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught. Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet. I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing. To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.
Dormant religious practices
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant. I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship. Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet. Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever. Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.
Be Faithful to Joseph
I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph. I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing. That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe. After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith. I believe Joseph. I trust the brethren who lead this church today. I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life. I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership. Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.
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…
Last November, LDS Harvard undergrad Rachel Esplin made viral video news with her incredibly articulate and intelligent responses to some very difficult questions about the Mormon faith. She was asked whether she wears sacred undergarments, if Mormonism is a cult, how she views the role of women in her church, and what her relationship is with Jesus. For not having served a mission, this young 20-year old is an amazing missionary for the LDS faith.
The interview is twenty minutes long and something you may enjoy viewing as part of a Family Home Evening or perhaps even burning it to a DVD and sharing it in a Sunday School lesson about how to share the gospel in today’s media savvy world. Rachel was on the debate team in her high school and her mother teaches at BYU Idaho. But still, this young woman did a better job than I ever could at responding to difficult questions with poise and confidence.
You may also be interested in viewing some of the hundreds of comments that accompanied just one typical news piece covering the popularity of the video as it appeared in the Boston Globe. I think the very first comment is excellent as it helps us to see how the world perceives us as being closed and secretive. Especially note the tenor of the comments that focus on the claims of exclusivity. This continues to be a difficult point for many to deal with both within and without the church.
Carol and I went to the temple this afternoon and joined with members of our stake in a wonderful chapel session with a member of the temple presidency. I love these sacred moments where we are taught more about the endowment ceremony from one who has been set apart to teach the saints about what the temple really means.
Our visit to the temple today was emotional for me as I thought of both my parents who are now on the other side of the veil. The Los Angeles temple is where I was endowed over thirty years ago. My mother and father took me there and prepared me to understand the sacred blessings that are found there and nowhere else on earth.
In the temple we learn how to deal with the challenges of life better because we are taught the true source of some of those challenges. It is also in the temple where we are united as families through the eternal sealing power of the priesthood. I am so grateful to have been married to my sweetheart in the temple so many years ago.
I have been impressed with the work Bryce Haymond is doing over at TempleStudy.com. I am particularly pleased with the sacred and reverent manner in which he treats the subject matter. His essays on the temple are thought-provoking and illuminating. I would not have thought that one could find enough material to fill an ongoing blog on Temples, but he has proved otherwise. I should not be surprised. The temple has often been referred to as the Lord’s university.
Bryce’s work has not gone unnoticed. Other bloggers I respect like S.Faux on Mormon Insights have recommended the essays and unique perspectives there. Besides temples in general, you can read about endowments, garments, prayer circles, the veil, ordinances and commentary from Hugh Nibley, one of my favorite LDS scholars. I encourage you to visit Bryce’s site to see for yourself. I could spend hours there and always come away enlightened and uplifted.
It is OK to talk about the temple
In the church we are often hesitant to talk or write about the temple. Some have concluded that since the temple is such a sacred place that it is not appropriate to mention it or discuss what goes on there. I agree that there are aspects of the temple that we do not reveal specifically because we have covenanted to not do so. However, we do ourselves a disservice by not taking time to regularly ponder what the temple means to us and how it can bless our lives.
On the other hand, there are those over the years who have broken their covenants, sharing everything in great detail. Typically those who do so write or speak in such a way that they make a mockery of something that most members of the LDS Church hold very sacred. It is unfortunate that this has occurred but we know that there must be opposition in all things. I have always found the temple to be an awesome and empowering force in my life.
We hold the temple sacred
There is a reason that new members of the church must wait at least a year before participating in the endowment ceremony. We encourage new members to go and perform baptisms for the dead as often as they can and just as soon after baptism as possible. Waiting that year helps the new member to gain an appreciation for the sacredness of the temple that they observe in long-time members. I guess you could call it seasoning and a time to prove faithful.
That’s why it is so important that we who have been endowed be very careful about what we say and how we say it when talking to new members about the temple. They will probably absorb our attitude towards the Lord’s house as they listen to us discuss it among ourselves and as they see how frequently or infrequently we make the effort to go there. First impressions can be very lasting. I hope that we are helping new converts feel that the temple is a great blessing.
Being prepared for the temple
I went to the temple as a youth to participate in baptisms for the dead. I was impressed with the twelve oxen that held up the font in the basement and learned that they represented the twelve tribes of Israel. I remember the feelings that came to me as I entered the house of the Lord for the first time as a new deacon. There was a real difference in the way we talked and the way we acted as soon as we showed our recommend and made our way to the baptistery.
I don’t think I am atypical of most LDS youth in that I probably went to the temple a least every six months during my teenage years. I have fond memories of these experiences and especially enjoyed continuing this practice in the Idaho Falls temple when I went to BYU Idaho after high school. I am convinced that regularly going to the temple in my youth helped prepare me to appreciate the sacred nature of the endowment when I was preparing to go on my mission.
The importance of being worthy
In the church we place a high emphasis on being worthy to enter the house of the Lord. The process of obtaining a temple recommend is not secret and is really quite simple. The Lord has placed the responsibility on his priesthood leaders of ensuring that those who go to the temple are prepared to understand and receive the blessings that are promised there. Those who go for the first time are asked a series of questions from their Bishop and Stake President.
The questions are not designed to intimidate or to test our knowledge of what we will learn in the temple. The interview process is an opportunity for us to express to the Lord’s servants that we believe and have faith in God, our Heavenly Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We are asked if we have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel and if we sustain the prophet and other priesthood leaders. We are also asked if we obey the commandments and if we feel worthy.
Temple preparation classes
When I went to the temple for the first time, there was really no temple preparation class like there is now. It was expected that parents would teach and prepare their children to attend the temple for the first time. That is not feasible in today’s world with so many converts who do not have the benefit of years of exposure to the concepts of the temple through example or through discussion with family. I had parents who taught me about the temple and took me there.
On my way down to the temple, I sat in the back seat and read several essays about the temple that my mother had obtained and wanted me to read. She and my father were very active in attending the temple at this time in their lives and wanted me to understand about symbols and covenants and ritual and sacred things. I had already studied much on my own so what I read that morning was not new, but it impressed me that my mother wanted me to feel prepared.
The endowment ceremony
My first experience in the temple was not a shock and I was not surprised. I had read and been taught about the washing and anointing and clothing in the garment of the Holy Priesthood. There is no doubt that I felt something special as I entered the Garden Room of the Los Angeles Temple to be instructed through the ceremony and ritual there. In those days we did not move from room to room like we do now. That is something I love about the LA Temple today.
As many times as I have sat through the endowment ceremony, I am never disappointed by what I learn there. The first time through was especially enjoyable to be sitting next to my father and to see the smile on my mother’s face as she looked over at me several times. I am always learning something new even though what transpires is the same each time. My parents asked me if I wanted to do another session right away and was pleased to be able to do so.
Married in the Temple
When Carol and I became engaged, we immediately began making plans to be married in the temple. We had both made the decision many years earlier that we would only marry there. I also got the added benefit of marrying a returned missionary so she had been previously endowed and understood the temple. Although our wedding day was a long and eventful day, I will always remember kneeling across the alter to be sealed to my sweetheart.
I was so impressed with the covenant and the promises made as we held hands and were sealed by the authority of the priesthood in the Los Angeles temple. I love that temple. Every time we go there we look in on our sealing room with fondness and discuss what transpired there that day. The room was crowded with family and friends but the thing I remember most is the feeling I had when the words were pronounced. I knew that it was being recorded in heaven.
Vicarious ordinances for others
We have returned to the temple many times over the years to perform ordinances for those living on the other side of the veil. My mother was an avid genealogist and left me the records of thousands of our ancestors for whom we officiated as proxies in the temple ordinances. I have come to appreciate the doctrine of vicarious ordinances more and more as the years have gone by. I have felt that the work I do in the temple is appreciated and pleasing to the Lord.
The Lord has made it clear that baptism and marriage are ordinances that must be performed in mortality. We believe and teach that these ordinances can be accepted by those who have died without the opportunity to receive them here. We also believe that they are necessary in order to progress in the next life. That is why we as a church and as a people invest so much time and money in building temples, in doing family research and in doing proxy ordinances in the temple.
Summary and conclusion
I love the temple. I like to go there often. I especially enjoy our stake day in the temple which we have twice a year. Last year we filled half of the assembly hall on one of the upper floors with nearly a thousand members of our stake in attendance. It was an awesome experience I’ll never forget. I am so blessed to have lived so close to the Los Angeles Temple all my life. I never tire of going there. I have sacred memories of receiving inspiration and revelation there.
I hope to continue to visit the temple on a regular basis. I have more family history work to do. As I get older I ponder more and more about the spirit world and the next life. I want to be able to meet my ancestors and report that I did my best to do my part. They helped me get to the place where I am in my life. I live at a time where the temple is close and I can easily get there. I am so grateful to the Lord for the blessings of the temple. I know they are of an eternal nature.
I address this subject as a courtesy to Barbara, a visitor to my blog who asked me to do so. Thank you Barbara, for the suggestion. I had forgotten that this is a problem for some people. Critics claim that Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from Freemasonry for the ceremony of the temple endowment. I’m not convinced that he didn’t, but it’s not a big deal.
A fraternal organization
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization, not a religious movement.
A fraternity is a men’s club, whose members emphasize their brotherhood. Similar organizations are Elks, Oddfellows, Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary. It arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Masonry includes a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being. In other words, you can’t be an atheist and be a Mason.
Joseph Smith’s father was a Mason long before Joseph was and so was his brother Hyrum. It was common for men to join this organization as a means to improve their social standing in the community and to obtain business contacts. There are five million Masons today, and about two million in the United States. There have been and still are a lot of famous men who are Masons.
For example, many presidents of the United States were Masons including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, James Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Gerald Ford. Many kings of England were Masons. So were Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks and Jesse Jackson.
Joseph Smith and John C. Bennett
In 1840, at the start of the Nauvoo period, Joseph was encouraged to start a Masonic lodge by John C. Bennett, a recent convert and prominent physician. Bennett quickly rose to a position of power and influence in the church, becoming a Counselor in the First Presidency, mayor of the city of Nauvoo, General of the Nauvoo Legion, and the chancellor of the University of Nauvoo.
Bennett was a scoundrel, who was excommunicated from the church after it was revealed that he was teaching and practicing adultery, which he called “spiritual wifery,” claiming that it was authorized by Joseph Smith. Any seminary student who paid attention in class soon realized that he was one of the blackest characters in the early Nauvoo period of LDS Church history.
But for the two year period of time of 1840 to 1842, he was influential in introducing the young prophet to Masonry and instructing him in the rituals and symbolism of the fraternity. Joseph Smith became grand chaplain at the installation of the Nauvoo Lodge of Free Masons. Many of the LDS leaders and brethren of the church were also active Masons during this time.
The temple and Freemasonry
On May 4, 1842, the prophet instructed the priesthood “in the principles of and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments, and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so onto to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood….” (History of the Church, 5:1). This was the beginning of the temple endowment.
There are some obvious similarities between Mormon temple ritual and symbolism and the stories and symbols of Freemasonry. Mormon temple worship has similar symbols, signs, and clothing with the fraternal order. Is it a coincidence that these symbolisms were introduced and incorporated into the temple ceremony so soon after Joseph was instructed in Freemasonry?
The goals of Masonry and the LDS endowment are not the same. In the view of the LDS Church, both teach important truths, but the truths they teach are different. Masonry is not a religion. The temple endowment, on the other hand, teaches of man’s relationship to God in LDS Church belief, and Latter-day Saints consider it to be essential for exaltation in the world to come.
Endowment received by revelation
After Joseph had learned the details of the rituals and teachings of the fraternal order, he went to the Lord in prayer and received revelation in regards to the correct order and purpose of the endowment. What he presented to the Lord was what he had learned from John C. Bennett. What he received from the Lord was the restored endowment, evidence of his prophetic calling.
He then put together a makeshift temple in the upper room of his store so that it represented the interior of a temple as well as circumstances would permit. Joseph introduced the Nauvoo Endowment ceremony to nine men including his brother Hyrum, William Law, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, William Marks, Newel K. Whitney and two others.
Joseph wrote that the endowment was “to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of Saints: therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple.”
Summary and conclusion
So was the endowment borrowed from Freemasonry? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. I contend that it was received by revelation. I figured that out way back in Seminary. I felt it was right at the time I was first exposed to it and have found no reason to change my opinion over the years. This was only confirmed when I studied the subject again in Institute classes.
I am convinced that I have had a major advantage in growing up in the church in that I got to attend seminary and institute classes where church history was taught as part of our study of the Doctrine and Covenants. I love our church history. It is exciting and wonderful to review. My approach to studying our history is to look for the hand of the Lord in how it came about.
You can read the story of how we got the endowment in a sinister light if you want. You can read all kinds of things into it that simply are not there, including what some who oppose the work of the church have written about it. It is wonderful that we are given the ability to read and study these things out and then take it to the Lord in prayer for a confirming witness of the truth.
For additional information
1. Jeff Lindsay – Questions About the LDS Temple Ceremony and Masonry
2. FAIR – Similarities between Masonic and Mormon Temple Ritual
3. SHIELDS – The Relationship of “Mormonism” and Freemasonry by Pres. Anthony W. Ivins