The Silent Core of Mormonism

January 10, 2008 | 94 comments
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Mormon theology and practice centers ultimately on the temple, and yet the temple is a subject on which Mormons are especially secretive and reticent. Therein lies one of the central ironies and challenges facing any Mormon trying to really explain how Mormonism works to an outsider. We are both proud of the temples as the most visible aspect of Mormonism, and yet they also create difficulties in explaining the gospel to others. In a recent address at BYU, Douglas Davies, a non-LDS scholar of religious studies, said that he thought one of the biggest issues facing the explanation of Mormonism is the temple. “You need some sort of explanation of what goes on in there,” he said, “and I am not talking about ‘I go and I have a good feeling.’” Noah Feldman’s article touches on many of the same themes.

The secrecy surrounding temple worship creates a problem because it is seen as inherently suspicious and creates a vacuum that is often filled by the ill-informed or the hostile. In part, the interest of non-Mormons – especially in the media – in the temple is pure voyeurism. Everyone wants to know about the secret ceremonies. But there is more at work here that simply the hope of religious titillation. In public the temple appears as the silent core of Mormonism. We insist that it is central, and then say almost nothing about it.

It seems to me that Mormon discussions are limited by three things:

First, the explicit covenants of secrecy contained in the endowment. I would point out that these are actually quite limited.

Second, the sense that preserving the sacredness of the temple requires a reticence about discussing its ordinances with the uninitiated. This creates a somewhat ill-defined zone of secrecy that extends beyond the explicit covenants of secrecy.

Third, the sense that temple worship is so different and “strange” that it cannot be adequately explained to outsiders and therefore ought to be glossed over in the hope that their interest turns elsewhere.

I think that the first two of these reasons are valid. I think that the third reason is not. Indeed, this sense of subliminal Mormon embarrassment about the temple is picked up on by non-Mormons, making them even more suspicious of our faith. Hence, I think that coming up with some simple and appropriate ways of providing more information about the temple would do much to dispel at least some anxieties about Mormonism.

A while ago my father was interviewed by the BBC about the Salt Lake Tabernacle. (He was the curator on the Church Museum’s exhibit on the Tabernacle and has become the Church’s resident expert on its history.) The British reporters, however, wanted to talk about what went on in the temple. In talking with my father afterward, I thought about how I would have framed my answers to their questions. My goal would be to provide as much information as possible in a context that made the temple meaningful rather than simply titillating, while at the same time respecting both covenants and the legitimate demands of esoteric sacredness. Here are some ideas:

What do Mormons do in temples?
“Temples are used exclusively for sacred rituals, rather that ordinary worship services. Mormons who enter the temple generally do so in order to perform these rituals. There are essentially four sets of temple rituals.

“The first two are known as initiatory ordinances and the endowment. Taken together, these ordinances constitute a ritual assent into the presence of God, an enactment of the plan of salvation using the archetypal stories of Adam and Eve. Those who “receive” their initiatories and endowments are given instruction and make sacred covenants of obedience to God, chastity, consecration, etc.

“The crowning ordinance of the temple is the sealing ceremony, or marriage for time and all eternity. We also perform baptisms for the dead in temples.”

Note: in contrast to initiatories and endowments, I believe that we are fairly open about discussion the meaning of sealings and baptism for the dead and less effort is required in these areas.

What are garments?
“Contrary to some reports, Mormons do not regard their ‘garments’ as ‘magic underwear.’ The Bible teaches that when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, God provided them with clothing. These garments symbolized God’s promise not to leave them forsaken, to watch over them, and ultimately to redeem them. As part of the initiatory ordinances, Mormons receive garments worn next to the skin that represents the clothes given by God to Adam and Eve. Mormons wear these garments as a reminder of their temple covenants and of God’s promised blessings and protection.”

Other Issues
There are two other important issues that I think are more difficult to explain. The first of these is the secrecy itself of the temple. (And to be honest we do make covenants of secrecy in the temple; it is not simply a matter of sacredness.) The second is the exclusion of non-members, particularly from weddings.

On the issue of secrecy, I thingk that we should frankly acknowledge that the temple involves the idea of esoteric as well as exoteric knowledge. After all, there is a long esoteric tradition among the Abrahamic faiths to which temple worship might be likened. For example, The Guide to the Perplexed, the magnum opus of the great medieval Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides, is essentially a prolonged commentary on certain passages of the Torah that were assumed by the rabbis to have a secret meaning available only to the initiates. Interestingly, one of the stories upon which The Guide focuses is the experience of Moses receiving the law on Mount Sinai. I say “interestingly” because in his recorded Nauvoo discourses, Joseph Smith associated the temple endowment with this Moses story, suggesting that what were revealed on Mount Sinai were, among other things, the secrets of the endowment.

One idea for explaining the exclusion of non-members is to emphasize the centrality of rituals for the temple. I think that many do no understand that temples are not churches or places where Mormons go to simply contemplate. We go to temples to work and perform ordinances. Furthermore, these ordinances don’t generally have spectators, even Mormon ones. Hence, there is a sense in which Mormons are excluded from temples on the same basis as non-members. One can only enter the temple to perform temple ordinances. One could then link this exclusion to the idea of sacredness, noting that part of what sanctifies the temple is its sole devotion to the ritual.

The problem with this explanation is that it doesn’t work in the most poignant and visible aspect of exclusion, namely from sealing ceremonies. This, of course, is one of the few temple rituals where we do allow in mere spectators, but not non-temple-recommend-holding spectators. This stings. I think that a better explanation of the exclusion could help ameliorate this sting, although I suspect that it will always be there.

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94 Responses to The Silent Core of Mormonism

  1. SC Taysom on January 10, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Interesting questions and answers Nate. Another potential area of difficulty is that the meaning of the temple is not static. The fact that the temple is discussed so infrequently, and that there is little \”official\” explanation given for temple symbols allows for wide, and sometimes widely divergent, personal readings of the temple rites. In addition to personal variations at any given time there have been, over the course of LDS history, shifts in the general meaning of the temple from a functional and occasional experience to one with a constant and meditative presence in LDS life.

  2. Bro. Jones on January 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Your said: “First, the explicit covenants of secrecy contained in the endowment. I would point out that these are actually quite limited.”

    Thank you, it’s good to hear someone acknowledge this (again). My answer to non-Mormons’ questions about “What goes on in the temple?” is very similar to yours; I once gave this answer in front of a fellow member, who afterwards told me that I’d “said too much.” Apparently even mentioning that we symbolically recount the creation/Eden story and make covenants is too much disclosure for some members. [shrug]

    I think that our discourse about the temple is also limited by the awful, limited, sugary way in which we teach our youth about the temple. Primary makes it out to be something like Disneyland, a family destination where you can party with Heavenly Father. If we taught church youth about a college education the same way, we might show pictures of BYU’s campus and talk about how “Someday, I will go to college to find a spouse and learn what my Heavenly Father wants me to learn.” — no discussion of the preparation or sacrifice necessary before attending, and moreover, no sense that attending college (or the temple) is one step on a longer journey of growing understanding, not a final destination.

    Even you go so far as to say “The crowning ordinance of the temple is the sealing ceremony, or marriage for time and all eternity.” I’m not discounting the importance of temple marriage, but for me the ordinance itself was a little–spare. Of much greater significance is the impact that the sacred ritual has in my daily life, as my spouse and I make life decisions (and even minor ones) bearing in mind that we made powerful covenants to each other and God. It’s those decisions that demonstrate the power of the temple to me, not the 15-minutes we spent in pleasant company in a temple sealing room.

    So I think if we presented the temple as part of “growing up” in faith–a rite of passage rather than a central life event–it might be better understood both within the church and without.

  3. Adam Greenwood on January 10, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Third, the sense that temple worship is so different and “strange” that it cannot be adequately explained to outsiders and therefore ought to be glossed over in the hope that their interest turns elsewhere.

    Maybe, but that’s not nearly as illegitimate as you think. The lovely one and I were reading BYU’s alumni magazine a week ago and there was a story about Beethoven, who played a new composition for a friend, and afterwards when the friend asked him what it meant, look puzzled and sat down to play it again. The lovely one said that reminded her of the temple ceremonies: they are their own explanation, she said.

    I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

  4. Adam Greenwood on January 10, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    So I think if we presented the temple as part of “growing up” in faith–a rite of passage rather than a central life event–it might be better understood both within the church and without.

    If the sacred ritual has that kind of daily impact on you, than it is a central life event. Its a mistake to think that an event can only be central if accompanied by timpanis.

  5. Dan on January 10, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    You know, I’ve never had a problem discussing the temple with non-members. I feel like I have a good understanding of what the person asking wishes to know and can explain it in a way they would understand without getting into the sacred aspects.

  6. Brian Duffin on January 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    There are two other important issues that I think are more difficult to explain. The first of these is the secrecy itself of the temple. (And to be honest we do make covenants of secrecy in the temple; it is not simply a matter of sacredness.) The second is the exclusion of non-members, particularly from weddings.

    While it is true that we make covenants not to discuss the endowment outside of the temple, we make these covenants because of the sacred nature of the endowments and covenants associated therewith. Given the harsh treatment of the temple ceremeny by those outside our faith, I understand the need for boundaries of discussion outside the walls of the Lord’s house. Moreover, I would not discuss the specifics of the temple with those friendly to the Church, simply because they lack the doctrinal foundation/understanding and the requisite covenants for such a discussion.

  7. Brian Duffin on January 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Quick follow-up…Like Dan, I have no qualms with discussing the generalities of the temple with those not of our faith. When it comes to discussing specifics that would violate covenants that I have made, I do not engage in conversation.

  8. Kirk Reid on January 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    This may be a mundane and abstract observation, but as someone who has been non-Mormon, I think the word ‘rituals’ itself is enough to make people squirm, because it conjures up a load of nebulous and undefined but unpleasant connotations. Not sure I can immediately think of a less loaded term. And although I like the word ‘covenants’, it unfortunately, subliminally suggests ‘coven’, and I take care to use the word ‘promises’ or ‘vows’ in tandem with it to take that edge off it.

  9. Eric Boysen on January 10, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    The temple is a sacred space. Just as fabrication of optical devices requires a clean room working environment, so to do our most sacred experiences require a place set apart. As an engineer I knew why we took precautions to keep our production area clean, but that understanding was not fully understood by some of the technicians. In the temple I am not the engineer, but the technician at most. I do not know why we must put up barriers to the outside world, but I accept that we must.

    The details of what we do there are sacred, but obviously not held as such by all since they are no longer secret. When dispensed to the unworthy the result is not enlightenment, but _The Godmakers_. We, however, who choose to honor our covenants must be circumspect in what we discuss. If that creates a wall to outsiders it is an unfortunate necessity, but I would rather appear a bit standoffish than be remiss in my duty to God.

    The temple is central to my life. All that is meaningful to me in life has its center there. It is not an isolated event or even a rite of passage unless you look upon the whole of our lives as a rite of passage through mortality.

  10. Clark on January 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Kirk, I think that’s largely the problem. Our culture has a distrust of ritual (even though our culture is perfused with it). Part of this is due to the traditional divide between Protestants and other Christians (with much of Protestantism being a reaction against ritual) Part of it is just ignorance given the modern world and a tendency – especially the last couple decades – to downplay organized religion when people even are actively religious. That connection with the older world has been lost.

    Given that I think a lot of people find even Catholic rituals rather alien and perhaps a tad disturbing. But at least that is common (if only on TV and movies) whereas Mormonism because it is less common appears more alien and disturbing.

  11. Sunset Sam on January 10, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I agree that the specific covenants are quite limited, but sometimes church leaders suggest that the spirit of the law extends much further. I wonder what to make of President Hinckley\’s talk in April 1990 (the same month as the most recent big change to the temple emdowment was insituted). There he stated:
    \” I remind you of the absolute obligation to not discuss outside the temple that which occurs within the temple. Sacred matters deserve sacred consideration. We are under obligation, binding and serious, to not use temple language or speak of temple matters outside….Please, brethren, do not discuss outside of the temple that which occurs in the temple.\”

    Obviously he is not suggesting that everything that occurs is off limits in terms of outside discussion, but he does seem to go beyond the limits of the specific covenants guarding certain elements of the ritual.

  12. Bro. Jones on January 10, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    #4 said: “If the sacred ritual has that kind of daily impact on you, than it is a central life event. Its a mistake to think that an event can only be central if accompanied by timpanis.”

    My point is that nobody talks about what happens after you leave the temple. Teenagers are hyped about getting their drivers’ licenses, and it’s a big deal when they get them, but nobody pretends that it’s about the license itself: it’s about the freedom and authority to drive. While conference talks have been pretty good about emphasizing things like patience in marriage, I find that at the local level, Sunday School/Primary doesn’t seem so concerned with that post-temple bit. It seems much more to emphasize getting to the temple, not what you do after you’re endowed. Heck, even Temple Prep doesn’t discuss that at all.

  13. Eric Boysen on January 10, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    It used to be simple–You went on a mission!

  14. jrl on January 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Nate, I think that your answers are spot-on. My experience has been that many endowed members of the Church are either embarrassed about the temple ceremonies (precisely because they are “rituals” and they are “secret”) or they simply do not understand them well enough to know what is okay to discuss and what is not. At one time on my mission, my companion and I mentioned to a sister in our ward that, in the temple, we covenant to consecrate our time to the Lord. She looked horrified and told us we shouldn’t say that outside of the temple. Mind you, this was in the presence of only endowed members. Huh? I think the more we go to the Temple and study the message of the ceremonies, the better we will be in appropriately sharing with all.

  15. Kirk Reid on January 10, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Clark, I agree with you completely. Catholic ritual differs, though, in that it’s public and anyone can attend, so LDS temple ritual is not only less common, but also less accessible. I think you’re quite right that it’s mainly owing to the use of Catholic church ritual as the backdrop to demonic or criminal goings-on in cinema that gives it a ‘disturbing’ quality in popular consciousness. (Plus I think incense and smoke gives it that extra ‘sulpuric’ gloss).

    I particularly take your point about our culture being saturated with ritual. The interesting thing is that rituals in culture and politics are automatic, largely unconscious and unrecognised, whereas LDS temple ritual is deliberate, highly conscious and very goal-directed.

    In discussions of the temple I like to point out that the church welcomes everyone to see them inside before dedication. I think it’s extremely good and extremely important that the church does this. The swarms of non-Mormons who take advantage of this is impressive and it’s noticeable what a positive impression they take away with them.

  16. J. Stapley on January 10, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Nates description of the endowment is perhaps less descriptive than that used by Talmage in his Holy Temple. As to the exclusive nature of the temple, I typically frame it in terms of ritual purity. Obviously, there are faith traditions that “get” that concept better than others, but I think it is sufficiently comprehensible for most people.

  17. Josh Smith on January 10, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I’m afraid my own temple marriage alienated every extended relative I have because they could not attend. They are faithful in their own churches and people I hope to emulate; people I love and admire; people who have supported me my whole life. It still stings.

    As I’ve returned to the temple I’ve often thought about whether the exclusion is necessary. I understand that the rituals/covenants we perform are sacred, but I think that sacredness can be maintained while allowing respectful non-LDS to attend. Just a limited number of close family members with a little bit of background going into the ceremony.

  18. Nick Literski on January 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I’d suggest that many may wish to peruse Boyd K. Packer’s booklet, The Holy Temple, for a good idea of what may be appropriately discussed with “outside” audiences. Packer actually goes into a good deal more detail than one might expect, and who can really claim that he doesn’t know where to draw the line?

  19. Clark on January 10, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Kirk, I wasn’t thinking of horror movies (which doesn’t exactly give a balanced view of Catholic ritual). I think all the gangster movies like The Godfather show more Catholic ritual (especially baptism of children) and there really have been a lot of movies over the decades showing various aspects of Catholic ritual. For some odd reason when religion is shown in film most of the time it is Catholicism. If other religions are show (especially Judaism) it is rare for there to be much shown about the religious practices. (With perhaps some exception for holocaust movies)

    The point being is that Catholicism, if only on a superficial level, is seen by most Americans. Protestantism when shown typically is a bunch of singing people. (LOL) Mormonism just isn’t shown period. So people aren’t used to it.

  20. Bob on January 10, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Nate: Do you really think what goes on in the Temple is still a secret to the outside world? Why try to still keep secret, what is not, when such a high price is paid? Millions of Church members know exactly what happens in the Temple; How does that make it less ‘sacred’ in one’s life?

  21. AHLDuke on January 10, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I just had some similar thoughts on my blog last week- it is gratifying to be on the same wavelength as Bro. Oman.

    My own sense is that our insistence on the secrecy of the temple rites hurts us both among members and non-members. With other members, both those who have already received their endowment and those who have not, our inability or reticence to discuss matters of the temple outside of it contributes to what I am convinced is large numbers of participants who do not understand the ritual. I do not claim to have a total understanding of the ritual myself, so I could probably learn a lot too. But if we could discuss it in our homes, in classes, etc., we could both prepare people who have not yet gone to the temple and aid in the understanding of those who have. Of course, we would have to remain within the limits of the explicit promises of secrecy that we make in the temple, but in my temple experiences, there is plenty that falls outside those vows. When somebody like President Hinckley (#11) insists that “what happens inside the temple stays inside the temple”, I think it is simply evidence that multiple generations have grown up in the Church without a clear idea of what exactly must remain secret and what may be profitably and freely discussed outside of it without offending the Lord. Last Saturday night, I was discussing a Gospel topic with a married friend of mine and his wife. He has been to the temple but she has not. The conversation we were having could have been greatly helped if I could have added a line from the Adam/Eve narration of the endowment ceremony, but I remained quiet. Speaking of this would not have given away the proverbial farm of the endowment ceremony (it was in fact, little more than a throw-away line), but I felt like I had to keep quiet anyway. That is what got my mind on that topic.

    Among non-members, I think that our claims that “nothing weird” goes on in the temple would be far more credible if we could explain a little something of what does happen. With all of the salacious and conspiracy-minded rumors floating around about the temple, I think most people would be disappointed and utterly underwhelmed if we actually told them what went on in the endowment ceremony.

  22. Nate Oman on January 10, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Bob: I take it that the sacredness comes not from the fact that other people don’t know about it, but rather that there are limits on how we talk about it. In this sense it is rather like taking the name of God in vain. Part of what makes the name sacred is precisely that we cannot talk about it in certain ways, even though we all know that others talk differently and it is relatively easy to hear the name of God taken in vain.

  23. Kirk Reid on January 10, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Clark, yes I had The Godfather in mind too. I think you’re absolutely right in what you saying (especially how singing people seems the iconic image of Protestantism!).

    Not long ago we were invited to the Muslim wedding of children of our neighbours (I’ve had interesting discussions with the marvellous old father, who’s given me great perspectives on Islamic conceptions of the ‘sacred’). The wedding was wonderful. So much colour and vibrancy and celebration (not to mention the Egyptian food was delicious.)

    At one point I remarked to my old friend that I had never seen such a joyful, colourful wedding and he couldn’t resist – with a cheeky twinkle in his eye – saying that, “Yes, in Protestant churches it’s difficult to tell the difference between a wedding and a funeral.”

  24. Dave Kitchen on January 10, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Nate – Thank you. A great post. I find that most of the time when I am asked about the temple there simply is not enough time, or the right environment, to give as lengthly an explanation as I feel is warranted. My best “nutshell” explanation is as follows:

    “People join the LDS church by making covenants at baptism. The covenants we make in the temple are extensions of, and build upon, the covenants we make at baptism. Those covenants are to take upon us God’s name, always remember him, and keep his commandments.”

    If time permits, I may also add from Alma’s sermon, ie. “mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort.”

  25. Kirk Reid on January 10, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I think most people would be disappointed and utterly underwhelmed if we actually told them what went on in the endowment ceremony

    Good point, actually.

    Following on the Islamic theme, we attended a mosque with our Muslim friends who have also visited our LDS ward in return and enjoyed it. We convinced a friend who’s slightly derogatory about Islam to come with us. At the mosque it was interesting how we were welcome and yet the appropriate sense of etiquette and reverence was strictly observed. There was a sense of both inclusion and exclusion, but it was comfortable. With kids running about afterwards it was at the same time much more humdrum and ‘normal’ than one would expect from media tone in the current climate. The friend who came along went away with his wild-eyed view of Islam greatly underwhelmed.

  26. Keith on January 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    One of the factors to consider here is, like the other ordinances, we aren’t at liberty to do with it what we will. That’s part of the sacredness. Getting the words right in the sacrament prayers or with baptism, enacting the temple rites accurately, all go to remind us that these are performances of submission and obedience — enacting symbolically what ought to happen in our hearts and in our lives in obedience and submission to God. That means doing things his way.

    Regardless of what seems reasonable for us to discuss or not, the fact is that part of the covenant is to speak of some things only under given circumstances. I agree that there is much that might appropriately be discussed that we often don’t, but in many instances we’ll simply have to remain silent. As much as we might value the advancement of scholarly discussions or less suspicion on the part of non-Latter-day Saints, it’s more important that we honor the covenant.

  27. California Star on January 10, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Interesting commentary – I have had friends that were actually impressed that I’m allowed to go inside those mystery temples.

  28. John Mansfield on January 10, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    The Church was organized a dozen years before it was given the endowment. Discussion of the temple with people who haven’t been baptized won’t benefit them. They may as well turn their attention to kiva ceremonies. I sometimes suspect we draw attention to the temple precisely in order to not talk about anything, so that instead of articulating our thoughts about the revealed gospel, we can just point and whisper “Spiritual.”

  29. jnilsson on January 10, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Just a question:

    Are some of you laboring under the assumption that the covenants of secrecy preclude any discussion of some of the details of the temple with anyone outside of the celestial room, including an endowed spouse? If so, where does this assumption come from? If not, why do you feel free to so do?

  30. Eric Boysen on January 10, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I just had an interesting thought. In the temple everything is ritual except the prayer. Outside the Temple nothing is ritual except baptism and the sacrament. Hmm.

  31. John W. Morehead on January 10, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I was greatly blessed by the 2004 interview with Armand Mauss on this site that I only recently discovered. I appreciated his work in my Mormon culture studies at Salt Lake Theological Seminary in my M.A. program and have continued to reflect on it. As a result I recently interviewed Mauss on the subject of Mormon assimilation and retrenchment with application to several areas, including Evangelical-Mormon dialogue, the presidential race, and the New York Times article on \”soft secrecy.\” Readers might enjoy the interview and exchange between an informed evangelical scholar and a Mormon scholar, with questions asked in ways that will provide for reflection by both faith communities. The interview can be found here:

    http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2008/01/armand-mauss-on-angel-and-beehive.html

    Thanks again for a great website.

  32. william Smith on January 10, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    This was very interesting to me, and I\’ve wondered a lot about the issue of what to talk about and what not. Some years ago I used to teach the \”temple class\” in our stake. The manual seemed to be pretty good and appealed a bit to Brigham Young\’s cornerstone speech if I recall. I would sometimes quote from that, but would occasionally get some wry looks from parents attending with kids (missions, to be married). A few weeks ago, Margarent Barker (British OT scholar) was in the living room and we were talking OT/NT. Well I was mostly listening, since I\’m a renegade mathematician – so the topic of temple ordinances came up and she started commenting (with a bit of a sly look I think) about initiatory ordinances and Enoch texts. It was a bit startling and I was not sure how far to go in replying to her statements. The problem for me was her comfort level with the whole thing. She is very conversant with so much that is Mormon related in the OTP literature and even corrected me on something Nibley said. So it was fun, but at the same time uncomfortable. I mostly kept my mouth shut, but there were a lot of questions I wanted to ask but didn\’t know how.

  33. Russell Arben Fox on January 10, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Mormon theology and practice centers ultimately on the temple.

    Nate’s post, like everything he writes, is thoughtful and eloquent and wise, but I’m afraid I don’t agree with this introductory statement, or at least would want to have the qualifying phrase “ultimately” elaborated upon before I agreed with it.

  34. jrl on January 10, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Bob (#20):
    I am reminded of an interview I heard years ago on NPR with a committed Mason. He made the point that he will not reveal certain parts of the Masonic ritual to others, not because they are secret (you can get the entire ritual online if you like), but because he made a promise to not reveal them. He called it a “ceremonial secret.” I agree that the temple ceremonies may not be “secret” in that any interested person with an internet connection can now find in-depth descriptions of them, but that does not eliminate the need for us to keep sacred things sacred. Besides, I am sure that the “high cost” you refer to (which I am not sure exists) is not nearly as high as the individual spiritual cost of breaking solemn promises.

  35. Kirk Reid on January 10, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    #33 I also greatly, greatly admire Nate’s posts (and have neglected to ever thank him for them), yet I likewise wouldn’t have thought to make this statement in the same terms. Is it more exact to say that “Mormon theology and practice centers ultimately on the family” or “on eternity” and that the Temple is the central symbol of this?

  36. Nate Oman on January 10, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    “As much as we might value the advancement of scholarly discussions or less suspicion on the part of non-Latter-day Saints, it’s more important that we honor the covenant. ”

    Agreed.

    “I’m afraid I don’t agree with this introductory statement, or at least would want to have the qualifying phrase “ultimately” elaborated upon before I agreed with it.”

    What sort of qualification would you like to see?

  37. The_Monk on January 10, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I\’d echo Nate\’s answers as well.

    Nick, Elder Packer is actually the most reluctant apostle to discuss anything Temple related (though I don\’t know about the new ones), so you can view his book as the most conservative discussion. He does reference the famous Brigham Young quote, as does the Temple prep manual.

    Many members simply don\’t know how much has been said about the temple in public by GA\’s, and they\’re too squeamish. As Nibley sharply pointed out, many LDS view our covenant of silence as excusing us from having to explain and therefore to think about the temple ordinances.

    I\’ve tried to give some lengthy answers to frequently asked temple questions, within the bounds of propriety. Pulling together lots of GA sources allows me to let them touch on the areas I\’m uncomfortable with. But, for example, President Hinckly has specified the covenants we make in the temple (partway down the page.) Using Ensigns, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, etc., one can give a safe and honest answer of what exactly Mormons do in Temples. And there\’s plenty in the scriptures about covenant ritual to cover the nature of those in great detail.

    I\’m convinced that dependant on the context, we can say much more than most members think, because it\’s a) in the scriptures b) publicly discussed by GA\’s or c) not explicitly or implicitly restricted by the temple covenants themselves.

  38. Mike M on January 10, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    #30 \”I just had an interesting thought. In the temple everything is ritual except the prayer. Outside the Temple nothing is ritual except baptism and the sacrament. Hmm.\”

    There are actually other rituals you may participate outside of the temple. (1) Standing in a circle to bless infants. (2) Annointing the sick with oil. (3) Ordination of priesthood. (4) Sustaining members to calling by raising the right hand. (5) Partriachal blessings by the laying on of hands. These are all examples of ceremony and ritual outside of the temple.

  39. Adam Greenwood on January 10, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    While conference talks have been pretty good about emphasizing things like patience in marriage, I find that at the local level, Sunday School/Primary doesn’t seem so concerned with that post-temple bit.

    There’s nothing exceptional about my ward and we get plenty of talks about patience in marriage, charity, courage, and so on. Sometimes those are even explicitly tied to temple promises.

  40. Ray on January 10, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    To rephrase what a few others have said: When you look at what has been printed and published by the Church about the temple, it is apparent that it is OK to talk about far more that happens than most members realize. I can’t think of a thing that happens about which I feel I cannot talk with a non-member, especially if that person has heard about things and is asking direct questions; I simply have to talk about it in a way that does not violate the covenants I have made – which means I can talk about everything in general terms but not share specific details in many cases.

    For example, quite a few people have heard about how we prove that we have been through the endowment ceremony and accepted the covenants. If someone asks me about this part of the “ceremony” (which I use instead of “ordinance” or “ritual”), I simply say, “Yes, that is part of the ceremony. It’s pretty simple and straightforward and not complicated at all, but those are details I simply don’t feel comfortable discussing.” Given how open I am about everything else, I have never had anyone complain about that answer. If that question is the first thing someone asks, I say something like, “Let me explain about the whole process” – then I go back to the beginning and give an overview similar to Nate’s. By the time we get done, I have never had someone repeat the original question.

  41. Mark B. on January 10, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Great post, Nate.

    Part stems from the language. “Initiatories”? “Sealing” or “Sealers”? That nasty little pronoun between “baptism” and “the dead”–can’t any of the media tell the difference between “for” and “of”?

    The Doctrine and Covenants includes several references to “washings” and “anointings” and Bro. Phelps even included those words in one of the now unsung verses of “The Spirit of God.”

    We faced this language difficulty just this week when we submitted information to the newspaper of record regarding the upcoming wedding of our daughter. The Times wants the name and title of the person performing the wedding. Since “Sealer” just sounds odd, I thought of several possibilities: “former president of the _____ Stake of the Church” or “patriarch of the ____ Stake”. Both of those would be true, but neither of those positions is one that authorizes a man to perform weddings in the temple.

    I gave up and had my wife do it.

  42. Adam Greenwood on January 10, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    I would just say ‘brother.’ It works for Mormons and has a churchy ring for non-Mormons.

  43. BHodges on January 10, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Bushman talked about the reticence to discuss temple matters in the Pew forum last year. Among other things, he spoke of the sacred space we create for ourselves in part by keeping things close to us.

    On the whole, I think we could do much better at temple prep, etc. though.

  44. Jacob F on January 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    I remember hearing a Master Mason on a radio talk show a few years back. Some guy called into the show and tried to get the Mason to acknowledge certain secret parts of the Masonic ceremony, justifying that one could find it all on the Internet anyway. The Mason’s response was perfect and it’s served as a model for me ever since: He said, “You’re right, you can find everything on the Internet you want to know about the rituals. However, I personally have made a covenant not to disclose those things.”

    I’ve been less squeamish ever since about the obvious availability of the Endowment ceremony on the Internet. If other people violate their covenants and disclose those things, there’s nothing I can do; but I (emphasis) have made a covenant not to disclose them.

    That being said, there are many things in the ceremony we have NOT made a covenant not to disclose, for example the covenants themselves (as Bro. Jones pointed out).

  45. Jacob F on January 10, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Okay, I now see I nearly duplicated post #34 in my exhuberance to make a point. Sorry!

  46. C Jones on January 10, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    You quote Douglas Davies as saying, “You need some sort of explanation of what goes on in there”

    I don’t buy that. Do we go to members, for example, of the Native American Church and say, “Why do you have those mysterious rituals, and you must explain them to not only my satisfaction, but to everyone with a need to hear some new thing, and also those who just want something to put up on You-Tube.”

    Ritual seem to me to be a basic human need almost as strong as the need for food and shelter. It is one of the things that emerges first in our behavior as soon as those most basic needs are met. Whether you say secrecy or sacredness, that too is a deeply human component of ritual. Further, almost every interaction between groups of people is ritualized to a degree. If you have ever dated, you can’t say that you are uncomfortable with ritual.

    If Mormon ritual piques the curiosity of others, so what? We have as much right to our rituals, and our ways of coming to know our God as anyone else without feeling defensive, or embarrassed, or compelled to make explanations to the merely curious.

  47. jrl on January 10, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    The Monk:
    Your links are not working, and I would dearly like to follow them.

  48. Adam Greenwood on January 10, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    I’m with C. Jones.

  49. Bob on January 10, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    #46: “If Mormon ritual piques the curiosity of others, so what? We have as much right to our rituals, and our ways of coming to know our God as anyone……’
    The thing is (To me), Mormonism is about sharing the rituals, the ordinances, the revelations, the ways of coming to know God, with the world. Mormons are only stewards of these things, not the owners. It’s about bringing people to the knowledge, not withholding it from them.

  50. Kirk Reid on January 10, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    #46, #49 – I’m always about to agree with something on here wholeheartedly, was in fact just about to say to C Jones, “Yep, I think you’ve summed it right up”….when you always make me pause and rethink, Bob.

    C Jones: I think you’ve summed it up quite nicely, on one level.

  51. Ardis Parshall on January 10, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Bob, we do offer the rituals, ordinances, revelations, etc., freely and often and in every suitable way we can think of. There’s that old “cast not your pearls before swine” thing, though — people are invited, but where the temple is concerned people have to accept the temple on the temple’s terms, and not expect to muck around in it on their own terms.

  52. monk admirer on January 10, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    The monk’s website is found at http://www.mormonmonastery.com and is the most useful LDS temple website I know of. (he would never give such a shameless plug but i’m plenty willing to)

  53. Brad Kramer on January 10, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    I think the whole “it’s sacred”/”it’s secret” antinomy is a bit misplaced. Its secrecy both construes and sustains its sacredness. Nate (#22) is right that it is our own insistence upon maintaining secrecy, in deference to our covenantal obligations, even in the face of an information/gossip saturated culture, that protects the sanctity of a realm so central to our relationship with God.

    I’m with Adam and C. Jones; I do not want that compromised to any degree. I’m totally comfortable with the answers Nate has proposed here and have even ventured into greater detail in conversations with non-LDS when appropriate. But because so much in Mormonism really is vacuous without temple covenants and instruction, the unfortunate truth is that much of our faith will seem opaque if not utterly strange to the uninitiated. There’s simply no way around it.

  54. Bob on January 10, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    #46: Maybe we are just misreading people’s motives: “Ritual seem to me to be a basic human need almost as strong as the need for food and shelter.”(46). Maybe their ‘curiosity’ is a hunger to be a part of the rituals?

  55. Bob on January 11, 2008 at 12:09 am

    #53: I disagree. I don’t think “Its secrecy both construes and sustains its sacredness” Baby Blessings, Baptisms, the Laying on of hands, the Sacrament, are rituals done in the open, yet retain their sacredness. Catholic Mass is done in the open, and remain sacred. Funerals and Grave sites are public and still sacred. I would say most Human rituals are done in public, yet remain sacred.

  56. The_Monk on January 11, 2008 at 12:12 am
  57. Razorfish on January 11, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Excellent post.

    From the PBS documentary, “The Mormons” one of the panelists (Gibbons?) was quoted as saying something to the effect that for Mormons, “the Temple is a vehicle to conquor mortality.” That is a fascinating insight into the fabric that is our religious identity.

    One Mormon-Mason had an interesting perspective on the temple ceremony. He discussed understanding the temple ceremony in terms of 1) the message, and 2) the messenger. The central message will never change, but the messenger (the mode of how this ceremony is transmitted) can and does change (eg 1990).

    I wonder what future changes may occur to make the liturgical ceremonies more relevant to future generations who may not connect with the current methodology or mode of instruction. Given the nature of changes in the temple ceremony over time, it would appear that there are 1) aspects of the ceremony that will never change, 2) aspects that convey truths, but the manner of conveying those truths may change, 3) aspects that perhaps are indicative of a respective space and time, but not necessarily a comprehensive and eternal truth in isolation (the core truth could be taught in other ceremonial or symbolic fashions according to the realities of a culture, time, or generation).

  58. Jim F. on January 11, 2008 at 1:46 am

    #31 John W. Morehead: Thanks for the link. An excellent interview.

  59. Dave on January 11, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Who says Protestants have no rituals? I attended a couple of worship services at my local Episcopalian congregation. It is packed with ritual: elaborate and distinctive dress for the priest and a dozen other participants. A finely orchestrated script of events and prayers/recitations that occur around the ornate altar, as well as the congregation kneeling, then standing, then responding in unison to prompts from the pulpit. There is at least as much ritual in their Sunday service as there is in an LDS temple service. Maybe if they made their service “secret” more people would be interested in Episcopal services!

    Don’t get me wrong — a very fine sermon was delivered (puts LDS sacrament talks to shame) and the choir was stunning (ditto). But a Protestant who derides the use of ritual qua ritual in the LDS temple service is just being characteristically hypocritical or ignorant (depending on how informed/uninformed they are about their own Protestant faith tradition).

    Granted, Episcopalians are high church. But even the local Unitarian service I have attended has candles and a fine bell they ring up front for this or that during the service. And at the end they all get in a big circle and everyone holds hands while they sing a hymn. Creeped me out more than anything in an LDS temple. And the coffee and donut ritual that follows the formal meeting is really the central focus of worship for many attendees. Oh, and more impressive sermons. Mormons should worry less about temple services and more about beefing up Sunday talks.

  60. The_Monk on January 11, 2008 at 10:18 am

    rjl and anyone else. I’m reposting my comment, hopefully the links work this time. If not, email me at a dot humble dot monk at gmail dot com

    I’d echo Nate’s answers as well.

    Nick, Elder Packer is actually the most reluctant apostle to discuss anything Temple related (though I don’t know about the new ones), so you can view his book as the most conservative discussion. He does reference the famous Brigham Young quote, as does the Temple prep manual.

    Many members simply don’t know how much has been said about the temple in public by GA’s, and are too squeamish to do their own discussing. As Nibley sharply pointed out to Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner, “What the Mormons like best about their temples is the obligation of secrecy that exonerates them from ever having to speak, and hence to think, about what they have learned by the ordinances and teachings.” Hugh Nibley, A Consecrated Life, 361.

    I’ve tried to give some lengthy answers to frequently asked temple questions, within the bounds of propriety. Pulling together lots of GA sources allows me to let them touch on the areas I’m uncomfortable with. But, for example, President Hinckly has specified the covenants we make in the temple (partway down the page.) Using Ensigns, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, etc., one can give a safe, honest, and fairly complete answer of what exactly Mormons do in Temples. And there’s plenty in the scriptures about covenant ritual to cover the nature of those in great detail.

    I’m convinced that dependent on the context, we can say much more than most members think, because many elements a) are in the scriptures b) publicly discussed by GA’s or c) not explicitly or implicitly restricted by the temple covenants themselves.

  61. Clark on January 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Who says Protestants have no rituals

    I didn’t say that. However in general Protestantism reacted with distrust to the amount of Catholic ritual and how it was viewed. Of all the Protestant faiths Anglicans are closest to Catholics of course. But a lot of Protestantism – especially the more Evangelical sort – were much more skeptical about ritual.

    Of course even those that tried to abandon all ritual still ended up with ritualistic behavior. Church Worship is itself simply a minimalist ritual – even those without singing such as the Church of Christ.

  62. Terry on January 11, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    #60: Where the Brigham Young quote is concerned, it may not always have been referenced so freely as it is now. While I haven’t done any research on how much more frequently it is quoted today in articles, manuals, and talks as compared to a few decades ago, I remember reading in Boyd Peterson’s biography of Hugh Nibley that Nibley was quite concerned that he may have gone too far in referring to it in his book on the Joseph Smith papyri since the phrasing also appears in the endowment. (A bit odd considering how frequently Nibley quoted from other parts of the temple, but there you go.) Apparently when he suffered a stroke while working on the book, he worried that it might be a form of divine retribution for revealing too much about the temple in general. Of course, considering that Nibley was more or less a pioneer in discussing the temple relatively openly, one could make a case that he was still somewhat uncertain as to what was proper for public discussion and what was not.

  63. Bryce on January 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    There is a lot that we can share with others about the temple. The main doctrines that are taught in the temple are the same doctrines that are taught in the scriptures and in our Sunday School classes and manuals. The Pearl of Great Price is a perfect temple study tool; much of the endowment is in those books of scripture, and we can certainly discuss scripture in a scriptural context. The doctrines of the creation, the fall, the atonement, and our return to the presence of our Heavenly Father are all openly taught. We are also openly taught about chastity, obedience, sacrifice, and consecration. These are doctrines that every member, endowed or not, should understand. The names of the ordinances have also been made publicly known – baptism for the dead, ordination, washings and anointings, endowment, and sealing. Brigham Young has offered, “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Journal of Discourses, 2:31). Elder Packer tells us that this is a published definition or description of the endowment, and uses it himself (“The Holy Temple”, 153).

    But we should not discuss the “details” of the temple directly outside of the temple. We do not talk specifically about the “key words, the signs and tokens.” We don’t discuss the details of the garment. We don’t share details about the sacred clothing worn in the temple. We don’t share the temple ceremony wording. We don’t discuss the veil. We don’t talk about the particular procedures or methods of the ordinances. There is much more that we are to keep sacred than those explicitly stated in the ordinance. Elder Packer has said, “Our reluctance to speak of the sacred temple ordinances is not in any way an attempt to make them seem more mysterious or to encourage an improper curiosity about them… They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared… There are some blessings which can be bestowed only in the Lord’s temple, and we do not talk of them outside the temple… We are not free to discuss the temple ordinances and ceremonies… Without the spiritual atmosphere of the temple itself, and without the worthiness and preparation required of those who go there, the temple ceremonies would not be quickly understood and might be quite misunderstood… While we cannot discuss in detail the temple ordinances and ceremonies, there is much we can discuss in this book – and we will” (“The Holy Temple”, 27-39).

    As Elder Packer says, it is mostly a matter of preparation. We don’t cast our pearls before swine, and neither did the Lord and His apostles when they discussed the “higher knowledge.” It is a sacred knowledge that is not to be given to all people, only to those who are prepared to receive it, which is determined by a temple recommend. But even among endowed temple recommend holders we don’t discuss outside the temple the details of the ordinances and ceremonies. It is not the right environment. The temple has been built, prepared, and dedicated to the Lord and sanctified for the purpose of teaching the details and discussing the details. Following Elder Packer’s admonition, we should “not discuss the sacred ordinances and ceremonies of the temple further than has previously been published about them by the Church” (“The Holy Temple”, 10).

    Hugh Nibley is an ideal example and has set a precedent of how we can and should talk about the temple. As his biography points out, “Importantly, Hugh has maintained the confidence of General Authorities by writing about the temple in a highly respectful way that also preserves the sacred nature of the subject matter. Hugh’s writings about the temple provide not only new insights and knowledge but also deeper inspiration and motivation. Indeed, with both his words and his deeds, Hugh has inspired both templegoers and a whole generation of scholars to take the temple more seriously… In all of these studies, Hugh has been respectful of the covenants of secrecy safeguarding specific portions of the LDS endowment, usually describing parallels from other cultures without talking specifically about the Mormon ceremony. This approach earned him a great deal of trust from both General Authorities and from Church members… Stressing the value Church leaders placed on Hugh’s temple-related studies and their gratitude for his approach, Elder Dallin H. Oaks later wrote Hugh: ‘It also seems desirable for me to express, in behalf of my brethren, our admiration and appreciation for the sensitive way in which you have done your scholarly work and expressed your views on subjects related to the temple ceremonies.’ Oaks included with that letter ‘The Temple Ceremonies,’ a talk he had recently given to ‘an audience of General Authorities’ in which he addressed the manner and extent to which temple ordinances should be discussed outside the temple. Oaks assured Hugh that ‘nothing in this talk is intended to be a criticism or a discouragement of efforts as sensitive as yours. The talk has some targets, but you aren’t one of them” (Petersen, “Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life”, 351-356). In a footnote, Petersen mentions that in Oaks’ “The Temple Ceremonies” talk that “Oaks cited James E. Talmage and Boyd K. Packer as models of what can and cannot be discussed; however, he specifically quotes Hugh’s writings in several places throughout the talk.” If you want to know what can be freely discussed outside the temple, study these brethren. Many books have been published on the subject of temples from these and others. By reading them, we may come to understand what is appropriate to talk about and what is not.

  64. Last Lemming on January 11, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    #30 in the temple everything is ritual except the prayer

    In the temple, everything is ritual except the wording of the prayer. There is plenty of ritual associated with the prayer, even on the part of the officiator alone.

  65. John Mansfield on January 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Besides what we talk about, it also important to consider with whom. A baptized disciple preparing to receive the endowment is not the same as a curious friend. The title of Ezra Taft Benson’s temple talk comes to mind: “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children About the Temple.” Your children. Not your neighbors, co-workers, or fellow scholars.

  66. Eric Boysen on January 11, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    #64 – yup, that is what I meant. The entirity of the baptism and sacrament, including the prayers, are ritual, but in the temple it is the wording of the prayer that varies.

  67. Brad Kramer on January 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    “We have noted that the covenants of the endowment are progressively more binding, in the sense of allowing less and less latitude for personal interpretation as one advances. Thus (1) the law of God is general and mentions no specifics; (2) the law of obedience states that specific orders are to be given and observed; (3) the law of sacrifice still allows a margin of interpretation (this is as far as the old law goes—the Aaronic Priesthood carries out the law of sacrifice and no farther; and it specifies that while sacrifice is a solemn obligation on all, it is up to the individual to decide just how much he will give); (4) the law of chastity, on the other hand, is something else; here at last we have an absolute, bound by a solemn sign; (5) finally the law of consecration is equally uncompromising—everything the Lord has given one is to be consecrated. This law is bound by the firmest token of all.”
    Hugh Nibley–Approaching Zion, 441-442.

    That was a talked commissioned by the Q12 and delivered to Church employees at the CoB. Still, he walks the line awfully closely here…

  68. Bryce on January 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Hugh Nibley once was commissioned by the First Presidency to address them and the Quorum of the Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple on the topic of the endowment. Nibley also regularly addressed BYU faculty and presidents in the Provo temple. It’s clear that they considered him a real scholar on things temple.

  69. Chris Grant on January 11, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Re #63:

    In Petersen’s biography of Nibley, it also says: “Hugh worried that the stroke [that Nibley suffered at the start of a BYU Forum presentation] had smitten him as divine punishment because he was revealing too much about the Mormon temple ceremony in _The Joseph Smith Papyri_.” And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that Elder Oaks decided to err on the side of politeness in his letter to Nibley.

  70. Chris Grant on January 11, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Also, in Petersen’s biography of Nibley is the report of a letter from Elder Maxwell to Nibley that stated: “You may want to let any temple-related imagery speak for itself, as you have always done so adroitly.” Again, it seems to me that Elder Maxwell goes out of his way not to hurt Nibley’s feelings. If Nibley really always had dealt with the subject adroitly, it seems unlikely that Elder Maxwell would have bothered to counsel him to let the imagery speak for itself.

  71. Anon on January 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Chris Grant, I find it odd that you construe Maxwell’s and Oaks’ appreciation and approval of Nibley’s temple work into an implicit rebuke. In Oak’s letter (which I have had opportunity to read), it’s clear that no such rebuke or counsel, however “polite” or implicit, is intended.

  72. Costanza on January 11, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    “Hugh worried that the stroke [that Nibley suffered at the start of a BYU Forum presentation] had smitten him as divine punishment because he was revealing too much about the Mormon temple ceremony in _The Joseph Smith Papyri_.” That’s the strangest thing I have read in a while. I must have missed that when I read the Peterson book. Yikes!

  73. Bryce on January 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    For the record, I think the Lord blessed Hugh Nibley in his work and for his work much more than he ever punished him for it.

  74. Kaimi Wenger on January 11, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Re 70,

    Yes, it’s clear. When Elder Maxwell said that Nibley had dealt with temple discussions adroitly, he really meant that Nibley had not dealt with them adroitly. Because apostles are like that. They lie. Or, they have trouble grasping basic principles of English. (Or perhaps both.)

    So it’s like an airplane control that you push down to go up — yes means no, and no means yes. Is that really your argument?

  75. The_Monk on January 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Brad, 67- Those talks were edited before publication. By whom, I don’t know, but the most explicit stuff was removed and that left in, fwiw.

    In my limited research, I’ve found the following to quote BY’s statement. I’m fairly certain there are more. In any case, it shows that its been publicly cited by GA’s going back at least to 1939.

    Teachings of Brigham Young, 16. Boyd Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 153. Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1973), 140. Carlos E. Asay, Family Pecan Trees- Planting a Legacy of Faith at Home (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 221. ElRay L. Christiansen, “Some Things You Need to Know About the Temple,” Ensign January (1972): 66. LaRene Gaunt, “Finding Joy in Temple Service,” Ensign October (1994): 7. “Endowed with Covenants and Blessings,” Ensign February 1995 (1994), Carlos E. Asay, Family Pecan Trees- Planting a Legacy of Faith at Home (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 221, ElRay L. Christiansen, “Some Things You Need to Know About the Temple,” Ensign January (1972): 66, LaRene Gaunt, “Finding Joy in Temple Service,” Ensign October (1994): 7, Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1973), 140. John A. Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government (compiled under direction of the twelve, 1939), 335.

    A few of these selectively edit, but most give the full quotation.

  76. Clark on January 11, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I have to agree with Kaimi. That seems an odd argument Chris.

  77. blah 2 on January 11, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    #2–

    If we taught church youth about a college education the same way, we might show pictures of BYU’s campus and talk about how “Someday, I will go to college to find a spouse and learn what my Heavenly Father wants me to learn.” — no discussion of the preparation or sacrifice necessary before attending, and moreover, no sense that attending college (or the temple) is one step on a longer journey of growing understanding, not a final destination.

    Thank you!! In the weeks leading up to my own endowment, I became extremely annoyed that I didn’t know more about the temple. On the one hand, people were telling me that I was about to enter into covenants that were of the highest possible seriousness and irrevocableness, etc. On the other hand, nobody was telling me what these were so I could, ya know, decide if I wanted to enter into them or not! Yes, being a faithful member there was basically zero chance that whatever they were, I wouldn’t want to undertake them. Yes, there is a opportunity to leave if you don’t want to undertake them (though really, that would be SO impossibly hard to do in practice). But I still felt like there was a major contradiction there.

    And you’re quite right about the “final destination” aspect of it–especially, especially for our young women. It was a shocking revelation to me the first time I had a twinge of attraction to a co-worker, a year or so after I was married. It suddenly occurred to me on a visceral level that chastity doesn’t end with the acquisition of a photo of you and your eternal companion outside the temple. I’m no dummy, I guess I knew that on some level. But through years and years of 6-day-a-week seminary+church+EFY+etc conditioning of “stay chaste so you can get married in the temple!!” you just don’t spend much thought on the fact that your problems don’t go away once that’s achieved.

  78. Bob on January 11, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    #77: I have no problem with ‘You can’t come in if your not invited’. Or, ‘You can’t do the rituals until you have reached a certain level of understanding’. Or even, ‘We don’t discuss the rituals outside the Temple’. But your story regarding the Covenants, is repeated too often. And for too many, their first visit is their last.

  79. Kirk Reid on January 11, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Besides what we talk about, it also important to consider with whom. A baptized disciple preparing to receive the endowment is not the same as a curious friend.

    This is relative. A baptized disciple preparing to receive the endownment can at that point, during the endownment and forever after the endownment be doing what’s expected and going through the motions without ever showing any profound appreciation of what they’re doing or what bigger or historical picture its situated in. I know that’s not a pleasant thought but Nibley himself has alluded – with irritation – to this.

    On the other hand I have ‘curious friends’ who are much more versed than I am in gnostic philosophy, masonic history, biblical studies and any other number of subjects which impinge meaningfully on modern LDS Temple rites, which are not just ‘modern’ but ‘restored’, and therefore situated within history from ancient to modern times and not just our latter-day church.

  80. Kirk Reid on January 11, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    In other words there’s a point with certain not-ill-intentioned people where guarding the sacred seems downright patronising and evasive.

  81. Jack on January 12, 2008 at 10:35 am

    “In other words there’s a point with certain not-ill-intentioned people where guarding the sacred seems downright patronising and evasive.”

    Call it evasive, but I usually don’t get into the details of my sex-life with anyone–accept my wife–no matter how well “versed” they may be in the subject of sex.

    Perhaps that example has already been used in this discussion, but there it is.

  82. Bob on January 12, 2008 at 11:13 am

    NOTE on #81: For those reading this post who don’t know what goes on in the Temple, it has nothing to do with Jack;s sex life!

  83. Jack on January 12, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Yeah, I wondered if I should’ve qualified that a bit. It’s meant to be a metaphor for the sacred–that’s all. The only weirdness I’ve ever seen in the temple is in the mirrors.

  84. Jack on January 12, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I can’t help it:

    ——————————————————————————————–

    The only weirdness I’ve ever seen in the temple is in the mirrors.

    Deep Thoughts by Jack

  85. Jack on January 12, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Dang! I wanted to say “infinite mirrors” in #84.

  86. Bob on January 12, 2008 at 11:56 am

    #83: CORRECTION : Jack’s sex life is a metaphor of the sacred. (and something to do with mirrors)

  87. Jack on January 12, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Maybe it’s better the other way. Great Art can happen by accident as well as epiphany.

  88. Jack on January 12, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Talk about accidents! LoI!

  89. annegb on January 12, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Just before I went to the temple, a friend pulled out all her temple clothes and explained how you put them on during the ceremony, etc. I was totally befuddled. Now, of course, I realize that probably wasn’t proper.

    The other day, I was doing a search on something, I can’t remember exactly, it might have been for a type of camisole, completely blank on exactly what it was, but a site popped up and I really had to look at it for a moment before I realized what it was.

    A man and a woman were modeling the temple clothes and then there was a picture next to it of them both in their garments (boy, you know, even with garments, some people are just not pretty). I was stunned and really really angry. Personally angry at those people. What difference did it make to the world that they did that? None. It demeaned them and made them look small.

    When I tell people about the temple, like my daughter before she went, I say, “It’s a lot like church, only more reverent and everybody’s dressed in white and you promise sacred things.”

    Once my 13 year old son (that would be about 20 years ago) came to me and said someone at school said we had sexual orgies in the temple. I, of course, said, “absolutely not.” He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he didn’t quite trust me. So I said, “Can you honestly picture John (our bishop and neighbor) and Cathy doing anything like that?” And the light went on and he was comforted.

    I’ve also had people claim to me that we sacrifice animals in the temple.

    I’m not troubled by those sorts of things. Those are on those who perpetrate the lies. We are certainly strong enough to survive. Despite my flippancy, I keep sacred things sacred.

    Off the subject, sort of, when I was a Jack Mormon, I thought that those who had been to the temple were so far above me that I looked at them with some kind of reverence (despite my lack of obedience). I honestly thought they were sanctified, special, in some way so much better than I that I could never be good enough.

    Now I’m careful to tell other Jack Mormons “I’m no different from you. I have my struggles, we are all human. I made some promises and I’m trying to keep them. It’s entirely possible for you to achieve the status of a recommend holder.”

    And totally off topic: Nate, I was reading the Ensign the other night, I can’t recall which month, but I first skim them, then I read them, study them carefully and read every word. I was completely jazzed to see your letter to the editor praising their treatment of Mountain Meadow (I completely agree). :)

  90. Adam Greenwood on January 12, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    When I tell people about the temple, like my daughter before she went, I say, “It’s a lot like church, only more reverent and everybody’s dressed in white and you promise sacred things.”

    Not bad. Before I went a lot of people warned me that the temple ceremony was kind of weird and if I wasn’t open-minded I’d get spooked, so I was a little creeped out. My mother anxiously asked if I was OK after, and I remember saying, ‘uh, it was pretty much like Church.’

    On the other hand, I told my wife this story before she took out her endowment, and she was weirded out by how different the temple was from church.

  91. Kirk Reid on January 12, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Jack, your reply is meaningless and an inane comparison of two completely different things and issues. Your sex life isn’t already in the public domain and all its rituals and spiritual content the subject of a long and well known ancient tradition that is communal human historiographical property, however much the currently authoritative practice of it rests with our Church.

    Unless it is, in which case that’s impressive.

  92. Eric Boysen on January 12, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    In Enoch the Prophet Hugh Nibley wrote:

    . . . The Zohar states the general principle: whenever the Holy One has allowed the deep mysteries of wisdom to be brought down into the world of mankind, they have become corrupted, and men have attempted to declare war on God. The only redeeming feature of the thing was that the fallen angels who perverted the human race had not learned all of the mysteries in their heavenly condition (we’re told in a Gizeh fragment), and so were not able to give away everything. As it was, their power for evil was almost unlimited.

    That texts of the temple ordinances are available on the internet and the mockery of Holy things in the same venue is symptomatic of the same processes at work today, and a sign that the same antagonists are still out there. Our leaders have been forced to pull things back from us because we, collectively, have allowed this to be so.

    I fear that there are many things that are being lost to the church, much as they were at the time of the great apostasy. Things are slipping from us because so many in the church as live on borrowed light. When I joined the church I was given to understand that there is a lot more knowledge that we are still waiting to receive, but that we would not get it until we live what we have already received. Throughout my church experience I have heard of many things that would seem to be of great beauty that are no longer practiced. We are moving backwards, but how can it be otherwise in a world where the prophets must remind us of laws we already know and have promised to obey or when they have to speak boldly of secret sins before the innocent and enlarge their wounds rather than speak the words to heal their souls and lead them to greater light.

    The righteous will loose nothing by it in the end, because all will be restored eventually, but in my earthly state I envy those from the earlier days of this dispensation who could look to receiving more while here in the world.

  93. Bob on January 12, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    #89: Annegb, if your only answer to people is “We do what was done in the Temples of the Bible.”, you’re going to leave the impression of “we sacrifice animals….”

  94. Nate Oman on January 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I am going to close this thread now.

WELCOME

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