Endowment Music

October 10, 2004 | 22 comments

I don’t know much about the live temple sessions. I’ve never been through one before. Is there live music that accompanies it?

If not, why not? The recorded sessions have recorded music. The live sessions should have live music.

I’m envisioning a seasoned composer approaching the perfection both of his work and of his understanding of the temple. He’d write the music for a string quartet.

22 Responses to Endowment Music

  1. Chris J on October 10, 2004 at 11:57 pm


  2. Ben Huff on October 11, 2004 at 12:35 am

    Adam, you gotta go! The live sessions are great.

  3. Johnna on October 11, 2004 at 12:40 am

    Music in the filmed presentation of the endowment is a recent innovation.
    I hope you soon have an opportunity to attend a live presentation.

  4. D. Fletcher on October 11, 2004 at 10:17 am

    Yes, I’ve said for years, there ought to be live music in the endowment. Perhaps even singing. Nothing enriches a spiritual course like music.

  5. a random John on October 11, 2004 at 10:20 am

    The recorded sessions also feature recorded animals. Should the live sessions feature live animals?

  6. greenfrog on October 11, 2004 at 10:25 am

    The endowment includes group recitations. Is not that the place (within the Mass) where most of western musical traditions began?

  7. Jim Richins on October 11, 2004 at 10:59 am

    IMHO, the live sessions are better than the films. I believe they better reflect the intent of the Endowment. However, I recognize that there is no way the work of the Lord could continue without the films.

    I think the films were produced very well and in an appropriate spirit of reverence. However, the addition of music and other graphics, such as live animals or sunsets or volcanos, may serve as a distraction to the core messages. Most concerning to me is the individual interpretations that the actors bring to their roles. For the most part, the actor’s performances are dead as wood, and I expect this was intentional. Nevertheless, seeing the exact same performance with subtle emphasis on one phrase or another, replayed over and over again, may serve to reinforce some messages, distort some messages, or mask others entirely. To me, the “multi-media” additions seem like a compromise to this day and age with masses who suffer from short attention spans.

    Music is nice, and I’m certain that for virtually all Temple patrons it helps set the appropriate mood for the Spirit. However, Joseph Smith could easily have specified certain hymns to be a part of the Endowment, but chose not to. Therefore, we can safely say that music is not critical to the conveyance of the endowment message. So, why should we want to change that? Why would we seek to add to that which the Lord as already given us?

    One undeniable advantage of having two film versions to supplement the original live version is that Temple patrons are exposed to multiple performances. The various differences between the films can help focus on the core messages. I’m confident that one of the reasons for producing two films in the first place was to help counter the concerns I identified in the previous paragraph

    Rather than adding music to live sessions (as suggested by Adam who admits to never having experienced a live session personally), I would suggest making live sessions more available in different Temples (which may not be a practical suggestion), and also producing more films. I think it would be wonderful to have a rotation of 4 or 6 films.

    If you’ve never been to the Salt Lake and Manti Temples (Los Angeles no longer does live sessions I understand… I could be wrong) then I think it would be worthwhile to arrange some time to go. For me, each Temple contains certain special characteristics – in Salt Lake, knowing the exact spot where the Savior visited Pres. Snow, and in Manti, being able to see the Holy of Holies.

  8. Kevin Barney on October 11, 2004 at 11:20 am

    In the Nauvoo temple originally (not now), they had fiddles and dancing.

  9. Jack M on October 11, 2004 at 11:22 am

    The endowment company used to sing a hymn together during the endowment…but that was taken out with changes in the 80s (?). If you look it up on the web, you can find more info (but probably not appropriate to link it directly here).

  10. Kim Siever on October 11, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    When I was in Wellington, UT, during my mission, we attended Manti numerous times. It was at the time one of the few places that offered live sessions. Nothing beats it.

    I remember one person who was playing the voice of someone sitting in the audio room and when some of the “actors” returned, he said out loud (without realising the microphone was still on), “I was wondering what was taking you guys so long”.

    I have to wonder if Jehovah ever said that when the others returned and reported.

    Wouldn’t get that in the film.

  11. MDS on October 11, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    My favorite part of the Manti temple is the dinosaurs in the creation room (good thing that part isn’t live!).

  12. Ivan Wolfe on October 11, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    Kevin –

    That’s right – there were fiddles and dancing. And Brigham Young said that after that happened (all of which happened after the death of Joseph Smith), the spirit told him it was inappropriate for a dedicated temple.

  13. Keith on October 11, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    Jim Richins,

    The LA Temple has returned to live sessions in the last couple of years.

  14. danithew on October 11, 2004 at 3:37 pm

    I was in a live session once where two rather august character personalities (one most exalted, the other fallen) in the religious canon got their lines switched by mistake. It was jarring and distracting to say the least. I’ve also been in a live session where one male character personality had an unusually high voice that was forcing me to strive just to purge my mind of Kingsley-esque sarcastic comments. Inevitably with live temple sessions, there are going to be errors and though I can make the intellectual jump to deal with that I still much prefer the cinematic version to the “live” temple experience. Besides the odd shakespearean style portrayal, there are simply less distractions that way. There’s an evil part of me that would like to see the “live versions” phased out but I guess there’s too much supportive architecture and tradition in place for that to really happen.

    I do confess though that I want to see the Manti temple mural dinosaurs. Never heard of ‘em until now.

  15. Beau Sorensen on October 11, 2004 at 5:22 pm

    I haven’t been to a live session, but I do notice a difference between the two films (based on the use of styrofoam vs. computer graphics, I’ll call them the old and the new); and I have to say that even though you probably shouldn’t like one version more, I find that I have a better experience with the new film. The music is much better (if they had it on CD, maybe “Temple Video: the Soundtrack” I would buy it) and I like the sense of motion and context that you don’t get with the old one. I imagine that the live sessions would probably be more like the old film.

  16. Jim F on October 11, 2004 at 7:32 pm

    I agree with Jim Richins that the live sessions are preferable. I like to see the different ways that the various persons are portrayed. The acting is not professional, but–all the better–it is sincere. I think I have learned more in live sessions than in film ones, though I certainly understand why we can’t have live sessions in every temple.

  17. David King Landrith on October 11, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    I think it would be great if more temples could have at least a few live sessions–though probably is simply impossible in many areas. (My understanding is that the films were first introduced to accommodate multiple languages at the same temple. Is this correct?)

    I’d love it if the original Nauvoo endowment were offered every now and then (of course, it would probably spark far too much controversy and others may feel that it treats the endowment as a curiosity. Just the same…)

    Also, the change in the endowment referred to above occurred in April of 1990.

  18. Jack on October 11, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    If live music were added to the endowment, chances are it would involve singing on the part of the patrons and therefore would be as mediocre as the music in sacrament meetings. Even so, it may help the patrons feel a sense of unity especially if the music is super-reverent. But then again, I cringe a little at the idea of doing anything that might lengthen the session.

  19. Jim Richins on October 12, 2004 at 9:49 am

    It’s hard to say what the original Nauvoo endowment was, which would be necessary before considering the (absolutely never-to-take-place) possiblity of it’s revival.

    The endowment ceremony itself has evolved over time. I expect some unimportant details of the Sacrament or even baby blessings have changed as well, although due to the size and complexity of the endowment, one should not be surprised that it has changed the most. The evolution of the ceremony has served to simplify and focus patrons on what is really important.

    The fact that the Temple has changed (several times, in fact) may be troubling to some people, but really should not be a concern at all. What is really important in the endowment has not changed – only the window dressing. On the one hand, reintroducing different versions of the endowment may help to underscore those elements that are really important. However, David is correct in saying that it would also cause confusion and controversy – neither of which are appropriate for the House of the Lord.

    I work in the Bountiful Temple, and as coincidence may have it, different groups of workers had special training meetings with the Temple Presidency this past Sunday. Our group gathered in the chapel at 2:30 – filling it completely, and some extra chairs even had to be brought in. The meeting started off with a hymn – “Did you think to Pray?”. It was absolutely stirring! Incredible! Amazing! Over 100 brethren together, all singing at regular volume in the Temple. The Bountiful Temple’s chapel is extraordinary (and Timpanogas probably identical). Sunlight streamed in from windows high up near the ceiling, with a giant picture of the Savior behind the rostrum. None of us had hymnbooks, so we all sang just the melody, but most of us knew the lyrics fairly well and the Assistant Matron who conducted prompted us on the words also. The hymn sung in this context was a marvelous experience.

    Nevertheless, I do not think that music (of the sort that we are discussing) is appropriate for the endowment. I’m just not seeing how it can be used effectively to help convey those things that are really important in the endowment. It would only serve as additional window dressing, possibly obscuring what is really important. Temple patrons do not go to the Temple to be entertained. It is this same reason that makes me feel that the films may also detract to some degree.

  20. danithew on October 12, 2004 at 10:20 am

    I wouldn’t want the endowment ceremony to turn into a musical but I do appreciate music in the temple when it can be added in appropriate and reverent ways. It would be a wonderful experience to be able to sing hymns in the temple. I think of Lehi’s personal “First Vision” experience in 1 Nephi Chapter 1 and how he saw numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising God. Based on that scriptural text, I suppose that music could be a crucial part of the most spiritual experiences a person could have.

  21. Chad Too on October 12, 2004 at 8:17 pm

    A piece of advice learned the hard way: I recommend NOT doing a live session for the first time one goes through the temple. I didn’t have a clue what was going on around me and was also escortless, so that didn’t help. I love the Manti Temple now, but boy was I spooked then.

    A week later I attended a session in the Jordan River Temple and I was amazed at how many times during the session I thought to myself, “so That’s that was going on. Now I get it!”

    I don’t know if it could be done, but wouldn’t it be an interesting qualitative research study to interview those who frequent live temple sessions and compare their understanding and impressions with interviews from those who frequent temples that use the film? Content analysis anyone?

    You can tell I’m nose-deep in thesis writing right now, eh? Now if I could just figure out what this “reification” my chair keeps talking about is…

  22. Camille Jensen on October 12, 2004 at 8:53 pm

    The singing was removed prior to 1970. Many attendees didn’t feel comfortable singing a hymn in the temple because they were Protestant hymns. They were sung in the telestial room as part of the preaching that Satan does to sway us to his side.

    The best part of participating in a learning temple ( live session) as compared to a working temple( movie) is how much easier it is to remember what happens where, what covenant is made in which room–which you have to keep before going in to the next room (kingdom). You can learn in working temples but it is harder.


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