So you saw Big Love, then Googled to find out more about this Mormon temple weirdness, and ended up here.

March 15, 2009 | 135 comments
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Hi.

OK, so I know it seemed weird and you are now questioning the sanity of the Mormons you know.

But imagine, if you will, that you had never seen a Catholic cardinal or a Jewish rabbi or an Orthodox priest or even a Methodist priest pastor before. Mormons are not unique in wearing clothing with religious symbolism; the only difference is that you haven’t seen it before. So perhaps we could substitute “unfamiliar” for “weird”?

Now, I don’t know exactly what parts (if any) of the temple ceremony you saw. (I don’t have cable.) I don’t know if what you saw was accurate. And there have been changes in the ceremony over the years, so depending on when Big Love’s source(s) left the Church, you may have seen things that are no longer done. I don’t know. But I imagine that whatever you saw may have seemed bizarre. Again, though, please consider that what you saw was more “unfamiliar” than “bizarre.” If you had never seen the host consecrated during a Catholic mass, seen a shofar blown as part of the synagogue services, or an altar call at an evangelical megachurch, those things would seem bizarre as well.

I hope I’ve convinced you to substitute “unfamiliar” for “kooky,” but now you are perhaps thinking that Mormons have brought this on themselves for keeping their distinctive religious practices out of the public eye. (Perhaps you’ve even been offended at the suggestion that you couldn’t enter a Mormon temple because you weren’t “worthy enough.”) Let me say something about that, as I do think some Mormons are partially responsible for the problem by not explaining themselves as well as they could. So let me take a stab at it.

It isn’t that we won’t let you (or your television cameras) into our temples because you would defile them with your unwashed, evil, heathen eyes. It is because the temple ritual is always participatory: there is no observer’s section. If you are in the room, you are there to enter into covenants. These covenants are, we believe, serious business; they are promises to God that you will behave in a certain way. And if you haven’t given some indication that you intend to keep them, then you shouldn’t make them. And the way that you indicate that you intend to keep them is by living your life in such a way that you qualify for a temple recommend (=a paper issued by church leaders, after a series of interviews, that affirms that you are qualified to enter the temple). You wouldn’t let a kid who hadn’t taken algebra sign up for calculus–not because the kid would become privy to the Great, Hidden Math Secrets but rather because the child will not have a good experience without preparation. In this situation, we think the stakes are a little higher than a failed grade, however.

Let me also say that there are no “Great, Hidden Secrets” of the temple. There is a symbolic portrayal of the creation and fall. There are covenants, with ritual actions accompanying the making of the covenants. And while we take these covenants extremely seriously, the content of the covenants isn’t anything that any Christian hasn’t heard before. We don’t covenant to plot the overthrow of the US government or the genocide of people with green eyes or even the contamination of the world cheese supply. We’re talking basic Christian living here.

Let me say one more thing. Remember a few years ago when everyone was weak in the knees over Planet Earth? Sure, it was cool. But don’t think for a minute that watching it was the same thing as feeling your lungs seared by arctic cold or your eyes gritted with desert sand or the earth quiver beneath you as a million hooves pounded the savannah. It wasn’t the same as being there, not even close, because it couldn’t reproduce all of the sensations of being there. If you thought after watching it that you had experienced all that there was to experience, you would be sorely mistaken. You had only experienced a panacea.

By the same token, no TV show can reproduce all of the senses of participating in temple worship. Not physical sensations, obviously, but spiritual ones. Look, I’m not above counting the minutes until sacrament meeting (=our regular Sunday worship service) ends so I can pitch my kids in their classes . . . and then begin counting how many minutes until Sunday School ends. But the temple is categorically different. I’ve been dozens of times, and each time I feel an outpouring of the Spirit of God. You can’t do that on television, and so no matter what you saw on Big Love or read on the Internet, you haven’t experienced the temple. And because you can’t experience the temple outside of the temple, Mormons don’t want you to try, for fear that you’ll walk away thinking that you’ve experienced it when you haven’t.

Note: it should be obvious from the content of this post that I won’t be sympathetic to comments that describe the temple ceremony in detail. Expect heavy-handed comment deletion.

135 Responses to So you saw Big Love, then Googled to find out more about this Mormon temple weirdness, and ended up here.

  1. Steve Evans on March 15, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    First time I’ve seen someone try to googlebomb “mormon temple weirdness.” MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

  2. Rob Perkins on March 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you for writing the post I would have, or should have written, more eloquently than I could have done it. I like the “Planet Earth” allegory; it seems to ring true.

  3. Ken on March 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    I think the brief temple scenes were generally accurate and tasteful. What should really raise hackles among Mormons watching this episode should have been the “court of love” scene. In my opinion, that may do more damage than the relatively brief temple scenes.

  4. Daniel Peterson on March 15, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    A wonderful response. Very well done.

  5. pumpkin on March 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    great post.

    what the heck is a court of love? Nevermind, I probably don’t want to know.

  6. mmiles on March 15, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Awesome post Julie!

  7. Daniel Peterson on March 15, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Good luck deleting all the hateful and bitter posts that, if past experience holds, will inevitably come. (I’ve already seen two, and may have missed others.)

    Even after more than three decades of watching, I’m still sometimes astonished by the anger.

  8. Kaimi Wenger on March 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    I didn’t see the episode in question, but if the descriptions set out at BCC and Mormon Mentality are accurate, then there were a number of serious mistakes of fact with the episode.

    1. The most serious is that one cannot simply borrow another’s temple recommend and then take out one’s own endowment. A special own-endowment recommend is used the first time someone goes through the temple.

    1a. Also, recommends expire every year or two (depending on the date; I believe this is set in the 90s?), so using another’s old recommend would generally not work.

    2. If she was married in the temple earlier (and I believe she is, based on the BCC/MM description), then she would already be endowed. So it makes no sense that she would take out her endowment again.

    3. If she hasn’t been endowed, then why is she asked about her temple covenants? And in general, it is odd to think of someone going through the temple for the first time right before an excommunication hearing.

    Blog summaries elsewhere (pointing out these and other flaws)
    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/03/15/liveblogging-big-love
    http://www.mormonmentality.org/2009/03/15/the-controversial-big-love-episode.htm
    http://messengerandadvocate.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/big-lies-of-big-love

  9. Nate W. on March 15, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Kaimi,

    She has been endowed–that is a goof in the script.

  10. SLM on March 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    KW,

    Re 1: No, one is not allowed to borrow another’s recommend; but the show makes it clear that Barb is asking her mom and sister to break the rules for her, so her entering the temple was not done with church sanction. That doesn’t explain how both her mom and sis could be in the temple if she is borrowing the TR of one of them, though. BTW, Big Love is not set in the 90s.

    Re 2 and 3: Although she tells her mom and sis that she wanted to “take our [her] endowments”, it is twice implied later that her first temple experience was a long time ago (Once was when she was asked about keeping her temple covenants, and another is when she tells her husband, after the temple scene, that she now realizes how much she has missed the rituals of the temple for the past seven years that they have been a polygamist family). So, my husband and I theorize that the writers never meant to imply that this episode was her first trip to temple; the “taking out endowments” remark was likely just an error in wording/understanding on the part of the writers.

    My big question: I have always understood that Bill joined the LDS church some years ago after being kicked off the polygamist compound, and that he and Barb were sealed in an LDS temple. If that’s right, why was Bill not also called to court? One has the impression from his conversation with Barb that he feels bad about her being kicked out of “her” church. Can anyone clarify this? I did not see season 1, just seasons 2 and 3.

  11. Kaimi Wenger on March 15, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    I’ve moderated some comments which violate the thread rules.

    Unfortunately, that means that I’ve had to moderate the replies to those comments (which otherwise wouldn’t make much sense).

    One reply, from Nick Literski, was good enough that I’m going to re-post the substance of it here. Nick wrote:

    if you really think you covenanted to “slashing your throat and slicing your stomach open for your guts to come out,” then someone really fell down on the job in teaching you about symbolism. The best explanation for these things comes from Freemasonry (which, frankly, is also the source for those elements). A person who runs off to disclose things, after promising not to do so, does so at the risk of his own integrity and good name. In Freemasonry, those actions are depicted with the explanation that one who violates his obligation is under “no less” a condemnation than such things. In other words, it’s better to die, than to perjure yourself and lose the trust of honest people. While the LDS endowment didn’t use such precise wording, the penalties were clearly symbolic, rather than actual threats. Mind you, I say this as a publicly-known “apostate,” who left the LDS church three years ago. I just think that your hyperbole is unfair here, as well as inaccurate.

  12. Kaimi Wenger on March 15, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Good to know, SLM. I haven’t seen the episode, and was going off of Kevin’s and DKL’s descriptions. Typical of those slackers to miss key details.

  13. Ben on March 15, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Well put, Nick.

  14. mark on March 16, 2009 at 12:10 am

    The temple rituals were really beautiful!! I want to become a Mormon!

  15. Baura Kale on March 16, 2009 at 12:16 am

    This whole fiasco has underscored something. If you lie about the Mormons they laugh. If you tell the truth about the Mormons they get very angry.

    Yeah, I know gross overgeneralization but it does have a kernel of truth to it.

  16. Betty on March 16, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I thought the temple scene was gorgeous. The music really was well chosen. It was tasteful, not rude or unkind. Very lovely.

    It was the excommunication scene that made Mormons look bad.

    You wrote a nice post. (Not LDS or any other religion)

  17. Ardis E. Parshall on March 16, 2009 at 12:25 am

    When have you told the truth about us?

  18. nanoron on March 16, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I thought that worthiness *was* to avoid defiling the temple. In other words, even if you’ve been endowed, and performed many proxy endowments, but then you transgress, you are not allowed to enter because “no unclean thing can enter…” That’s what I have always been taught and have taught.

    It’s actually a terrific was to help members “hold to the rod.” Repeated, consistent temple attendance is such a great thing that we should all be scared to lose that privilege by not paying our tithing or by disobeying our leaders – the men who hold the priesthood. We should “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

  19. barndoor benji on March 16, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Yes there are people in every session who don’t participate. Temple workers. You could allow people to watch endowments just like baptisms.

  20. Cynthia L. on March 16, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Thank you, Julie. This is excellent.

  21. patriotboy on March 16, 2009 at 2:08 am

    The Church thought it could get away with joining the religious right in secular politics and still get away with it’s pr campaign to appear mainstream. Well, apparently, Church leadership was wrong and they are learning that there are consequences for their bad decision-making.

  22. Hiker on March 16, 2009 at 2:23 am

    I agree Betty. The excommunication scene was more disturbing.

    Of course I have been through the temple and I haven’t been through a court.

    I resigned from the church.

    I also was a missionary. That is the young guys in white shirts and ties. Mormons get mad at any mention of the temple outside of the temple. It’s understandable too. It’s peculiar stuff if you aren’t accustomed to it. The first time I went through I thought it was freaky. I figure my first impression was right.

    The thing is, the church sends 70,000 missionaries to almost every country in the world and they are selling a message that is very different than what the church actually is. The temple is the central part of the faith and it is nothing like what the missionaries talk about. I think most Mormons would agree that the temple is completely different than what happens in regular church and completely different than what is taught in the discussions.

    It’s a bait and switch. If you join up, you go to temple later. If you don’t like it, they will kick you out. You saw the excommunication scene. The church has no room or love for dissidents of any kind.

  23. Steve on March 16, 2009 at 2:29 am

    Big Love was very generous in the way it depicted the temple ceremony. The beautiful music resulted in a significantly more impactful experience than one would probably have in an actual temple session. Barb’s sincere reverence for the ceremony was also a very generous portrayal.

  24. Ray on March 16, 2009 at 2:29 am

    and around and around and around it goes. Where it stops, nobody knows.

    Good luck moderating this one, Alison.

  25. Ray on March 16, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Sorry, my mind said “Julie”, but my fingers typed “Alison”. It’s the M Smith thing.

  26. patriotboy on March 16, 2009 at 2:35 am

    I’d like to add that while it’s true that LDS temple rituals are no less “weird” than rituals performed by Catholics and Orthodox Jews, they are also no less “weird than the spirit possession of Voodoo believers, the Rastafarian’s ganja sacrament, or the beliefs of any other religion that many Mormons would call “strange,” and “silly.” It’s all the same from my perspective. Believe what you want, but don’t expect the rest of the world to treat what they see as “silly superstition” with respect.

  27. The Monk on March 16, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Excellent post Julie.

    On Masonic penalties, this is an interesting Mason-authored link.
    http://mastermason.com/rfire/masonry/penalties.html

    And on Israelite covenants (and similarities to Masonic penalties), there’s this.
    http://www.mormonmonastery.org/covenant/

  28. Stenar on March 16, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Julie, I’m no longer Mormon, but was raised Mormon and have been through the temple. I thought your explanation above about why the temple ceremony is sacred and not shared widely is one of the best explanations I’ve ever read, better than any General Authority ever explained it.

    I thought the Big Love scenes of the temple were really beautiful. I told my friends watching it with me, the church may gain a bunch of converts from people who want to experience the temple after seeing this episode. I sometimes miss going to the temple. There is a lot of other stuff I do NOT miss about the LDS church, though.

  29. John Mansfield on March 16, 2009 at 6:57 am

    “And there have been changes in the ceremony over the years [. . .] you may have seen things that are no longer done.”

    This sentence seems unfortunate, as if there are elements of the past we want to disown, and unnecessary, as it matters little which year the producers imitated.

  30. PV on March 16, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Re: Nick

    “The best explanation for these things comes from Freemasonry (which, frankly, is also the source for those elements). ”

    Freemasonry is neither the source nor the best explanation for the temple covenants. Freemasonry is the latest iteration of a long line of evolution of the mysteries; I would argue that the mysteries instituted by Joseph Smith, and adjusted by Church leaders over the years, are closer to the original Christian mysteries than Freemasonry, which appears to be a redaction and conflation of multiple sources.

    I would argue that distinctively Freemasonic elements may have been included to assist early Church members in understanding the covenants; over the years, such elements no longer assisted in understanding the covenants, and could be removed. I would also argue that the removal of such elements may have made the ordinances more, not less, in line with their origins; distinctively Masonic elements like the oaths are just that, Masonic, and likely do not reach into earlier versions of the mysteries as held by the Gnostics and the Egyptians.

    I would alsoe point out that the temple ordinances have been continuously adjusted for various reasons since their institution. The covenants were even changed in Brigham Young’s time; he himself complained about some of the adjustments (in one case he complained that elements that had been performed separately were being combined into a single set of ordinances), but he clearly did not oppose those adjustments to the point of blocking their implementation.

    But to return to the original point, the temple ordinances cannot be understood in light of the Masonic rites; while there are still similarities, there are fundamental differences in nature. The Scottish Rite’s objective is the induction of the individual into a secret society; the temple ordinances objective is the salvation of the individual, and that distinction results in critically different interpretations.

  31. PV on March 16, 2009 at 8:40 am

    In response to a number of posts above, the word “tasteful” is the most self-defeating word in the English language; anything which must be described as “tasteful” isn’t. It’s not a coincidence that “tasteful” is by far and away the favorite word of the pornography industry.

    And it doesn’t surprise me that the excommunication meeting was what most people found to be the most offensive; why, what better opportunity for HBO to play off the stereotype of Mormons as hypocritical, shallow and judgmental! Playing on stereotypes: it’s what HBO does for a living.

    But as someone who has been in a disciplinary meeting, I can affirmatively say this: the feeling of such a meeting cannot be portrayed in any artificial medium, and has to be experienced to be understood; although, of course, the same is true of the temple ceremony.

  32. Thomas Tallis on March 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Let me also say that there are no “Great, Hidden Secrets” of the temple.

    This claim is going to have a hard time co-existing with your pledge to delete descriptions of same, which makes your comparison to Catholicism, Judaism, etc., a specious one; you won’t find Catholic or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist sites deleting descriptions of their services. Just LDS and Scientology. I don’t think this comment is incredibly rude or disrespectful, though it does disagree with you, and request that you leave it up.

  33. Luke on March 16, 2009 at 9:46 am

    No, Actually I Googled Big Love to see if any of the people who are angry with Big Love actually watched the show to find out what they were so upset about. (Hint: No, they didn’t)

    The only thing that made the LDS church look strange in all of this was their reaction to the whole affair. If it wasn’t worth watching, why would it be worth talking about? They published a huge response on the front page of their website that was all about how they don’t respond to these things. There was even an itemized list of responses to specific pieces of negative media attention (Like South Park), each with the caveat that they don’t respond to those types of things.

    That totally perplexes me. I’m not trying to say there’s something wrong with them responding, I just seriously don’t understand what they’re trying to get at. They knew all it would do was drum up attention to these things, it even specifically said so on their website.

    I would just assume that it would be in the best interest of the Church to completely ignore these things and not justify them with any response whatsoever.

    That’s the weirdness I saw.

  34. Nate Oman on March 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Julie: I think that your description of the exclusion of non-recommend holders from temples is a good one, and I don’t think that the reference to temple workers is a good counter example, as temple workers are participating in the ordinances. Baptisms for the dead are a slightly different case, but there is a lot about those ordinances that makes them different than the rest of the temple ceremony.

    That said, I think that we also need to be clear that there is an esotericism associated with temple rites. We make covenants not to reveal certain things, and while it is possible with a couple of google searches to find the full text of the endowment, the revelation of certain things outside of the temple is in and of itself blasphemous.

    I think that in terms of explaining the temple we are best off simply aknowledging this fact. A good, readily available analogy is the Decalogue’s prohibition on taking the name of God in vain. This was originally much more than a prohibition on cussing. It was a per se rule against vocalizing the tetragrammaton (YHWH) except in the ritual context of the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Likewise with aspects of the temple ceremony.

  35. Kaimi Wenger on March 16, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Nate,

    I don’t know if that’s the best example. Or is it?

    Some modern Jews still write it out, of write “G-d” in English.

    Everyone else happily ignores their rule about what should or should not be said. In fact, we as LDS ignore it. We ignore it not just in talking about our own interactions with God, but also about Old Testament figures like Moses (who, if following Jewish rules, would be horrified at our use of names) with God / Jehovah . . .

  36. Nate Oman on March 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

    The original rule didn’t forbid writing the tetragrammaton. I think that most modern Jews if reading the Torah in Hebrew would still vocalizing YHWH as “Adonai” rather than “Yahweh.” You are right, of course, that we don’t follow this rule. The reason that I think it is a good example is that it shows how esoteric prohibitions on saying certain things outside of a temple context, far from being a bit of Mormon exotica, is right there is perhaps the most familar passage of the Old Testament. It is not a perfect analogy, of course, and I am open to using other analogies to make the same point. I just think that we need to be clear that there are cetain things that we make covenants NOT to reveal, and that their revelation constitutes a kind of blasphemy.

  37. patriotboy on March 16, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Everyone is overlooking the thing that is most devestating to the Church: the “Woodruff Letter” story line. It’s based on the Salamander Letter scandal in which the Church tried to suppress what they believed to be a historical document by hiding it. The incident suggested that Church leaders, and Gordon B. Hinkley, specifically, (He was an apostle at the time and arranged the transaction) did not truly believe in the divine origins, or reformation, of the Church.

    The Big Love producers are really nailing The church with this and have done their homework. Barb even quoted the infamous Boyd K. Packer quote justifying the suppression of Church history.

  38. PV on March 16, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Re: Luke

    “The only thing that made the LDS church look strange in all of this was their reaction to the whole affair.”

    The Church’s response was in large part to its own membership. There was quite a groundswell of anger among Church members when this was discovered; the Church tried to get ahead of it with a press release. In light of the angry e-mails circulating among Church members, the official response makes sense.

  39. Trey on March 16, 2009 at 10:51 am

    To PV.

    To claim that J.Smith did not borrow form Free Masons is at best a poor position to take, being as it is KNOWN that none of the Temple Rituals were extant until AFTER J.Smith learned them when he became a Free Mason.

    The classical argument from Mormons that the Free Masons are a debased venison of the “true” Rituals passed down from the Temple in Jerusalem is sorely mistaken one. There is no similarity between either the invented rituals of the Free masons or the copy of them used buy Mormons to the practices of the Jews in the Temple built by Solomon.

    A simple example would be that there was no Baptism in the Solomons Temple, there were no secrets even the actions of the (note singular) High Priest in the Holy of Holies was known

    As for secret teaching

    John 18:20-21 I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said

    Can the Mormon High Priests (note plural) make the same claim as that of Jesus Christ ?

    Sacred is not a synonym for Secret.

  40. jimbob on March 16, 2009 at 11:05 am

    “We don’t covenant to plot the…genocide of people with green eyes”

    I’ll admit that I have made such covenants, but not in the temple. (Well, not in an “officially sanctioned” Mormon temple, anyway.) Like most good Mormons, I believe that the only good green-eyed person is a dead green-eyed person. There’s just something so…unnatural about them.

  41. chas rivera on March 16, 2009 at 11:11 am

    “Let me also say that there are no “Great, Hidden Secrets” of the temple. … the content of the covenants isn’t anything that any Christian hasn’t heard before … We’re talking basic Christian living here….”

    So, why the “secrecy/sacredness” again? Not to mention threats to delete any detailed mention of the promises? Methinks your post, and too many mormons, protest too much. Why not just be cool about the portrayal and let the chips fall where they may? Nothing that is hidden shall not be known, etc. Btw, the temple scene was beautifully directed. turns out there wasn’t anything to be indignant over, was there?

    ‘We don’t covenant to plot the overthrow of the US government …” Well, not anymore. The temple oath of vengeance between 1845-early 1900’s says otherwise.

  42. jimbob on March 16, 2009 at 11:12 am

    “Everyone is overlooking the thing that is most devestating to the Church: the “Woodruff Letter” story line. It’s based on the Salamander Letter scandal in which the Church tried to suppress what they believed to be a historical document by hiding it. The incident suggested that Church leaders, and Gordon B. Hinkley, specifically, (He was an apostle at the time and arranged the transaction) did not truly believe in the divine origins, or reformation, of the Church.”

    Thank you, patriotboy, for your Introduction to Basic Mormon Controversies, 101. Please consider the fact that there is a distinct possibility that people who visit here here know who and what Mark Hoffman, the Salamander Letter, and President Hinckley are. And those who don’t would probably do well to find a less conclusory source than you for such information.

  43. John Mansfield on March 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    “It’s based on the Salamander Letter scandal in which the Church tried to suppress what they believed to be a historical document by hiding it.”

    That’s a common superficial incorrect notion of what happenned in 1985. My memory is of articles in the Ensign (the Church’s main monthly magazine) regarding the documents and a speech where Gordon Hinckley discussed them, all well before any bombs went off.

  44. ldsrevealtions on March 16, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Nick wrote:
    if you really think you covenanted to “slashing your throat and slicing your stomach open for your guts to come out,” then someone really fell down on the job in teaching you about symbolism. The best explanation for these things comes from Freemasonry (which, frankly, is also the source for those elements). A person who runs off to disclose things, after promising not to do so, does so at the risk of his own integrity and good name. In Freemasonry, those actions are depicted with the explanation that one who violates his obligation is under “no less” a condemnation than such things. In other words, it’s better to die, than to perjure yourself and lose the trust of honest people. While the LDS endowment didn’t use such precise wording, the penalties were clearly symbolic, rather than actual threats. Mind you, I say this as a publicly-known “apostate,” who left the LDS church three years ago. I just think that your hyperbole is unfair here, as well as inaccurate.

    **********************

    Being that I am replying to an approved post and speaking generally, I assume this post will be acceptable. Speaking of the penalties, I agree with Nick that in the pre-1990 ceremony were symbolic— talking of the things of the believer would allow to happen before revealing what he/she considers sacred. I would argue however that the penalties in the ceremony in early days of the Church — the mid to late 1800s appear to not have been symbolic and were to be a “direct” result of revealing sacred and secret information. In contrast to the Masonic penalties which use the “no less condemnation” phrase, it appears that in the early LDS ceremony participants clearly “agree” that certain things will be done. The wording of the ceremony that I can find on this is very clear with no symbolism to misread. (I am avoiding more specific verbage as I do not know what might be considered too much.)

    Just my .02 on that idea.

  45. Mark B. on March 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

    “panacea”? Julie, what did you mean?

  46. Winyan on March 16, 2009 at 11:39 am

    The scenes depicted in the temple and the bishop’s court were accurate. It is absolutely that weird and intrusive. And that’s not the half of it. You should run, not walk, away from the mormon church.

  47. Trey on March 16, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Removed temporarily. Comment left here as a placeholder.

  48. Rob Perkins on March 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Re Trey #47: Worse than Tom Hanks and a realtively-sympathetic-but-still-inappropriate depiction of the Temple rites, has to be the context-free hash which so-called “Christian” countercult ministries make of the same material.

    In comparison, the Big Love depiction was a kindness.

  49. abiogenesis on March 16, 2009 at 11:55 am

    The biggest problem is that the temple presents the signs and tokens for entering the celestial kingdom. In short the security system for the celestial kingdom has been breached. This was not the work of HBO but these “security codes” have been in the public domain for decades. If the temple is truly serving in a password role as it is purported then the celestial kingdom will be available to anyone with the desire to memorize the signs and tokens. If there are other backup systems then why have the temple ceremony at all. The promises made in the temple could be made in virtually any setting. The oaths are to not reveal the names, tokens, and signs not necessarily the covenants.

  50. david_andre on March 16, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I guess someone “fell down on the job” teaching me about the symbolism of the pre-1990 temple penalties too. As far as I recall, there is nothing in the ceremony itself that suggests it is only symbolic. At the least they could have directed me to the Freemasons, who apparently do a better job informing their members.

    I don’t know of any other religion (except maybe scientology or JW’s) who require so much explanation for so many issues.
    If it walks like a duck…….

  51. Doug Hudson on March 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    As a non-Mormon, I think this is a great post. I also think Mormons need more interesting enemies, if the ones posting in this thread are representative. : )

    For those questioning the “secrecy” of the Temple, consider that for over a thousand years, the Catholic church held its rites in a language the majority of its members couldn’t even understand! The Mormons are positively transparent by comparison.

  52. Rusty on March 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Re #44: If it wasn’t symbolic then does that mean it was literal? Does anyone know of any instance in which a sign/token/covenant revealer actually had his throat slashed? I’m dubious.

    Trey said: no Sir the belifes and practices of Mormons are NOT of a “content of the covenants isn’t anything that any Christian hasn’t heard before?

    Trey,
    Julie explicitly put the word “content” in italics to make it very clear of what she was talking about. Apparently you are reading only what you want to read on not what Julie is actually saying. If you know the content of the covenants made in the temple then you know that Julie is exactly right, that they don’t contain anything unfamiliar with other Christians.

  53. Bryan on March 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    The penalties that Nick refered to were the oaths of the Knights Templar and come from the Medeval times. I think that’s one reason they were removed.

    As a former member who went through the endowment session over 50 times, I can understand why Mormons would be upset with the last part at the veil. As a veil worker, I was trained to only speak the name of the 2nd token AT the veil.

    The way I see it now, there are many sacred things in many other religions. When I went through the temple for the first time in 1983 I was told that the ceremony was indeed secret. I just hope that Mormons can deal with more and more people watching wh at goes on in the temple.

  54. jimbob on March 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    “I don’t know of any other religion (except maybe scientology or JW’s) who require so much explanation for so many issues.
    If it walks like a duck…….”

    I agree, david. We should forbid God and his servants from doing anything which requires any level of serious explanation, because, as we all know, if it can’t be explained quickly, it’s just not true. That’s why I don’t believe in the big bang theory (too complicated), the theory of gravity (I have to read a whole book on that?), or the American Revolution (there’s just too many moving parts there).

  55. Bryan on March 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Jimbob, they have had almost 180 years to explain. Maybe another 200 years will do it.

  56. clark on March 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Bryan, there’s no evidence Masonry comes from the Templars. That was a later masonic myth. There’s some circumstantial evidence it was influenced by hermeticism and gnosticism that re-emerged in the Renaissance.

  57. Nate Oman on March 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    “If the temple is truly serving in a password role as it is purported then the celestial kingdom will be available to anyone with the desire to memorize the signs and tokens. If there are other backup systems then why have the temple ceremony at all. The promises made in the temple could be made in virtually any setting. The oaths are to not reveal the names, tokens, and signs not necessarily the covenants.”

    This is a remarkably obtuse statement. When someone is baptized, they don’t literally die and get resurrected. When we take the sacrament, we don’t literally eat flesh and blood. Etc. etc. The point of the covenants is not that you need to guard a secret, but that there are certain things you only say and do in certain places. The fact that the name of Christ is routinely used as a cuss word, doesn’t relieve me of my obligation not to blaspheme. The point of the secrecy oaths, it seems to me, is not to insure that no one discovers the signs and tokens. It is to insure that I only experience them within the temple ritual, and that any other experience of them will be blasphemous. It is part of how the sacred space of the temple is created and maintained.

  58. Bryan on March 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Clark, I got that from a Masonic historian I met online. He said that many things have been added and dropped in Masonary over time. My point was that it did not come from an ancient ritual in Solomon’s temple.

  59. Daniel Peterson on March 16, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Perhaps in counterpoint to the polemics and the negativity here, I simply want to bear my testimony or my witness, as it were:

    As a believer, I love the temple. It’s central to my faith, and was central to my gaining that faith in the first place. In my experience, the temple and even in its immediate environs are almost palpably suffused with a spirit of holiness that seldom fails to bring me closer to God.

    As someone with formal training and professional interest in ancient and medieval religious thought, the temple is fascinating to me, and it holds up exceedingly well.

    I don’t know whether anybody here has mentioned this short little video, but it seems relevant in the present context:

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=529211793451

  60. david_andre on March 16, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    On the contrary, Jimbob, you go right ahead and keep on explaining. I will stick with Occam’s Razor.

    Speaking of the penalties, whether they are symbolic or not, whether they require explanation or not, I submit that they are indeed “weird” and not just “unfamiliar.”

  61. Bryan on March 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Daniel Peterson,

    Have heard lots about you…pro and con. You seem to have taken Hugh Nibley’s place as the chief apologist for the LDS Church. You seem like a nice guy and I hope the leaders support you in that role.

    My question for you is what did you think about the April 1990 chnages?

  62. Rusty on March 16, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I submit that they are indeed “weird” and not just “unfamiliar.”

    Good point David. I mean, is there any way that Mormons can come back from that? I don’t think so.

  63. Winyan on March 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    People didn’t get to see the death oaths and signs and penalties that were taken out of the mormon temple ceremony in the 1990’s. They were gruesome. Not something Christ would have in His temple.

    In early mormon days, temple attendees were also required to swear an oath to avenge Joseph Smith’s death. That’s not something Christ would do in His temple.

    Mormons have invited satan into their temple. He is represented by an actor who tells the audience that if they’re not obedient they will be under his power. That’s not something Christ would do in His temple.

  64. The Only True and Living Nathan on March 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Winyan, that’s an awful lot of speaking for Jesus in one short comment.

  65. Rusty on March 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Jack,
    Have you actually read the content of the respondents here? Nobody’s faith is “that superficial.” Pretty much everyone is in agreement that it was distasteful, but nobody is shaken in any way or form.

    Also, we know the rest of the world doesn’t care. Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t voice our opinions on the matter? If your neighbor throws dog poo on your lawn should you not voice your opinion on the matter because the rest of the world doesn’t care?

  66. Julie M. Smith on March 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for all of the comments.

    A few responses:

    Nanoron (#18): “I thought that worthiness *was* to avoid defiling the temple. In other words, even if you’ve been endowed, and performed many proxy endowments, but then you transgress, you are not allowed to enter because “no unclean thing can enter…” That’s what I have always been taught and have taught.”

    Nanoron, I think that that is a common belief but ultimately not the best way of understanding it. It is the case that people enter the temple unworthily all the time, and I don’t think that they have any effect on the building, the efficacy of the ordinances, or the spiritual atmosphere for other people who are there. (Their own soul is another issue, of course.) We’d need to rededicate it every time we found out some college kid got a little too friendly with his girlfriend the night before his brother’s wedding, and we simply don’t do that.

    Rather, I think that we attempt to keep out the unprepared for their own sakes, not for the sake of the temple or the sake of the worthy people in the temple.

    barndoor, the temple workers have *already* made the covenants themselves.

    Hiker (#22) writes, “The temple is the central part of the faith and it is nothing like what the missionaries talk about.”

    Although it is way fun to imagine missionaries getting their investigators to dress in ritual clothing and then teaching those investigators symbolically, I think anyone who thinks about it for a minute will realize why there is a disconnect between the way the missionaries teach and the way the temple teaches. I will reiterate, however, that the *content* of the temple covenants is completely in line with what the missionaries should be teaching every single investigator, although the pedagogy is different.

    Ray #25, no worries. I do that to GUY MURRAY all the time.

    John Mansfield (#29) writes, “This sentence seems unfortunate, as if there are elements of the past we want to disown, and unnecessary, as it matters little which year the producers imitated.”

    I can see why you would have read it that way, but it wasn’t my intention. I was trying to say something like this: it is a little hard to respond to something I haven’t seen. If certain parts of the temple had been shown, I would have said, “Yeah, that seemed weird but go re-read the law of Moses and at least you’ll see the biblical precedent” or if other parts, “Yeah, that seemed weird, but [what Nick said]” or other parts, “Yeah, that seemed weird, but that was God’s revelation for a different generation, not ours, and we don’t do that any more, so that’s why it seems weird.”

    Thomas Tallis writes (#32), “This claim is going to have a hard time co-existing with your pledge to delete descriptions of same, which makes your comparison to Catholicism, Judaism, etc.,”

    No, because, as I explained in my original post, I don’t think anything from the temple is inappropriate per se but rather inappropriate out of context, and the comments on a blog post are most certainly not the appropriate context.

    “a specious one; you won’t find Catholic or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist sites deleting descriptions of their services. ”

    But I imagine some Jewish sites would delete the name of God.

    “I don’t think this comment is incredibly rude or disrespectful, though it does disagree with you, and request that you leave it up.”

    I see no reason to delete your comment.

    All: I have to go do real work for a while and I only made it to comment #32. More responses later. Please play nice.

  67. Winyan on March 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    65. Someone needs to.

  68. Adam Greenwood on March 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Great post, JMS.

    Wanted: a better class of drive-by commenter.

  69. david_andre on March 16, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Re. post #63
    Julie Smith suggested that perhaps we could substitute the word “unfamiliar” for “weird”. I am suggesting that no, we shouldn’t.
    Weirdness is in the eye of the beholder, and of course it doesn’t prove or disprove mormonism. But to say that death penalty pantomimes are just “unfamiliar” and not weird, well, this beholder sees it differently.

  70. jack on March 16, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Rusty:

    The superficiality is present in the number of posts by people claiming it was so “distasteful,” in what way was it distasteful? Seriously. I’ve been to the temple dozens of times and I thought HBO’s treatment of it was done in good form. I posit that the “distastefulness” you’re citing is actually the uncomfortable feeling of seeing a portion of the temple ceremony in an objective manner that showcases the weirdness of it. Hey, at least she didn’t look too frumpy in her temple garb, she didn’t look good, but she didn’t look bad. Let’s face it, that’s a hard look to pull off without looking goofy, and she didn’t look too goofy.

    By the way your neighbor isn’t throwing dog poo on your yard so much as you’re giving his name and address to the missionaries as a potential “golden contact.” Maybe HBO’s tired of all the BoMs and LDS literature sent to them by viewers trying convince them that Polygamy has nothing to do with mainstream mormonism.

  71. Kevin Barney on March 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I enjoyed your post, Julie.

  72. Rusty on March 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Abiogenesis,
    Your list is hilarious. Thank you. “…subjected to the identity masking practice of dressing identically in white…” “… subject to the disempowering practice of dressing in odd temple robes…” Lol! Good stuff, keep it coming. I have a question though, if people were informed beforehand what they were getting into (everything on your list, minus the conjecture and hyperbole) would you still consider the practices unethical?

  73. abiogenesis on March 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Rusty, You have no concept of informed consent. You have just underscored the problems that I outlined in that you do not understand the ethical problems even when they are listed in detail.

  74. patriotboy on March 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    JimBob, I am certain that many here know a great deal about the Salamander Letter, but, read the posts again, beginning with the title, “So you saw Big Love, then Googled to find out more about this Mormon temple weirdness, and ended up here.” It would seem that it was written for people who know very little about Mormonism.

  75. Rob Perkins on March 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Well for what it’s worth, I was shown all the Temple clothing and informed about all the covenants months before I took them myself. It helps to have open-minded parents, I suppose.

  76. SilverRain on March 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you for this post. I especially felt the power of “no TV show can reproduce all of the senses of participating in temple worship. ”

    That is true, and part of the conclusion I have come to in regards to this chaos. Nothing anyone says or does can come between me and what I hold sacred. No one can understand the temple without being prepared for it. I know of numerous people who attended and supposedly accepted the covenants, but there is no doubt in my mind that receiving one’s endowment requires a great deal more than simply attending the temple.

  77. Rusty on March 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Abiogenesis, just because you say it’s unethical doesn’t make it so. Most of your points (now removed) would not be issues if the person is reasonably informed as to what was going to happen beforehand. If you go into a meeting knowing that they will be expecting you to make promises, and you know generally what those promises entail, then that person can act like a big boy and decide whether or not to go into that meeting. As for the identity masking and disempowering nature of temple clothes being unethical…well, again, that’s just funny, funny stuff.

  78. The Only True and Living Nathan on March 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    65. Someone needs to.

    Winyan, could you have given a better set-up for a “That’s why the Lord calls prophets” line? Thanks.

  79. patriotboy on March 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    My memory is of articles in the Ensign (the Church’s main monthly magazine) regarding the documents and a speech where Gordon Hinckley discussed them, all well before any bombs went off.

    Hinckley mentions a salamander in a speech one month before the bombs went off, but mentions no letter. The mention is not unusual. The salamander story was around long before then. That’s why Hoffman forged the letter. Nothing Hinckley says in the speech would lead anyone to believe that the letter existed and that the Church had acquired it.

    Dallin Oaks wrote about the acquisition of the letters after the bombings and claimed that the Church had revealed their existence before hand, but he offers no support for his claim, and their is no evidence supporting his claim on the Church’s web site.

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=cd908949f2f6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=309b71ec9b17b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

  80. Trey on March 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Funny I got banned (msg 47) for stating several obvious things that are NOT in New Testament Christianity that are integral parts of the Mormon Faith, I guess that was seen as over the line.

    Here I will be a little less upfront.

    The Rituals of the Mormon Temple are often claimed to be restored form the true Temple Rituals of antiquity and that the Free Masons had debased or changed them from the original.

    IF that were true and the Temple Rituals were the right and correct as given to J. Smith a simple question comes to mind, Why were they changed in 1990 ?

    Two Possibilities

    1 New Revelation – but As we can easily find out the last change to the Mormon (LDS) Cannon was the change to allow Blacks to get the priesthood in 1978.

    2 Change to make the make the rituals more “up to date” or “less problematic” thus removing the various parts that made people uneasy (will not list so as not to be banned, easy to find via Google)

    Hope I was vague enough not to upset the moderator

  81. Sir Mike on March 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    A very good post. I’d like to add that no one should get facts from a TV show, especially when it comes to culture, religion, society, etc…even the History and Discovery Channel is known to have flaws due to assumptions and mere opinions…But we also rely a lot on the Internet and perhaps that’s not good enough due to the same problem of “Assumptions” and “Opinions”, not enough facts.

    When it comes to religion, I prefer reading the history, Bibles if any, and try to sort through any and all bias when it comes to books on the topics.

    After reading this post and some of the comments on Mormons, I’m interested in knowing more about the rituals and beliefs.

  82. Sam B. on March 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Trey,
    Although I have little doubt that some members claim the temple rituals are restored from antiquity, I don’t think you’ll find many people here who claim that’s the case. The changes to the endowment in ~1990 were only the most recent change, as I understand it. (Heck, as originally constituted, the endowment took hours and hours.)

    That is, what I experience today in the temple is not exactly like what Joseph Smith did in the 1840s. So the argument that the temple ceremony has changed recently carries very little weight. So it changed. My parents went to the temple pre- and post-1990, and it didn’t affect their belief or (in any substantive way) their experience. And the knowledge that it has changed doesn’t really do much for me, either.

  83. Trey on March 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Re: 48

    Please cite anywhere in the New Testament where the list of items I mentioned could be seen as being “in context” to Christianity

  84. hiker on March 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Doug Hudson. First, most of the folks you are calling enemies are not actually enemies at all. I disagree with the church and the temple is one of those points for disagreement but I am a long way from being an enemy. Your assertion that people like me are boring is noted and perhaps true.

    More important to this discussion the fact that exmormons are the only people willing to openly discuss the temple and that presents some problems for the church.

    Secrecy existed in the Catholic church for a thousand years. There are secret/sacred rituals among the Hopi tribe today. I respect that.

    However, I will want to know about the Hopi ritual the minute two well dressed Hopis show up on my door trying to convert me to their religion.

    Having returned from a mission I can say unequivably that there is zero connection between what happens in the temple and what is taught by the missionaries. Furthermore, there is little if no connection between what is taught in Sunday School and Sacrament meeting growing up and the temple.

    I think the church has the right to ask the media not to broadcast their rituals the minute they quit going door to door with an aggressive conversion program. The church wants society to mind its own business but is not willing to return the favor.

    Sending 70,000 missionaries into world is the height of not minding your own business.

    Note: I have not revealed anything about the rituals in the temple in this post because I respect the rules of this forum.

  85. Trey on March 16, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Re 82:

    You may well be correct, but as I understand it the actions in the temple are called “Ordinances ”

    “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed” Joseph Smith August 2001 Ensign (page 22)

  86. Trey on March 16, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    oops. missed a word

    Joseph Smith taught August – 2001 Ensign (page 22)

    my appologies

  87. abiogenesis on March 16, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I have a used car I am willing to sell you. You are not allowed to take it to a mechanic or to anyone else for that matter for a inspection. There is also the stipulation that you do not even get to see the car until you have signed the contract and made several payments. You will also be required to swear under penalty of death that you will never reveal the terms of the contract to anyone.

    That all seems ethical to me even if you think it is unethical. No wonder Utah is the fraud capital of the U.S.

  88. Doug Hudson on March 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Removing tongue from cheek, it does strike me that part of the problem is that the temple draws on a far older form of religion than most protestants are familiar or comfortable with.

    The so-called “mystery religions”, with secret signs, secret rituals, etc. etc., flourished in the ancient world, especially in the early Roman empire. Christianity itself was something of a mystery religion, with secret signs (fish, anyone), and secret meetings only open to specific sets of believers. People of the ancient world (including early Christians) would not have batted an eye at the existence of the “secret Mormon rites”.

    Likewise, secret branches of Christianity popped up all the time during the Middle Ages (often brutally supressed.)

    The LDS faith may or may not be “christian” (depending on one’s definition), but the secrecy of the temple ceremonies is hardly unknown to Christianity.

  89. Sam B. on March 16, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Trey,
    What you’re getting at is vaguely accurate, but not really. You’re (and I don’t mean this as an attack) conflating a couple similar concepts. That is, ordinances do happen, both in and out of the temple. And I wouldn’t disagree with the notion that ordinances (which include, BTW, baptism and other sacramental ordinances) were established prior to the foundations of the world.

    But that’s not to say that the form in which we participate in the ordinances must be unchanged, or even that everything that happens in the temple is an ordinance. (For example, it’s pretty clear that showing a temple recommend in order to enter is not an ordinance, and I’d submit that neither is grabbing a drink at the drinking fountain.)

    So, even granting that “ordinances” are unchanging and eternal, it doesn’t follow that the presentation of such ordinances must be unchanging and eternal, or, for that matter, that evidence of change in the temple ceremony (well-documented and widely-known evidence moreover) has any deeper significance.

  90. Sam B. on March 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    abiogenesis (87),
    Even granting your assumption that I know nothing about the temple when I go in (which I don’t grant, because it’s not true), so what? Caveat emptor. I buy things all the time knowing nothing more than the fact that someone’s selling it on Craigslist or eBay (okay, I hate eBay, but you get the point). I’m an adult, I’m aware that it may be a scam and that I may not be getting what I think I’m getting. But I go in with my eyes open. You want to be paternalistic? Good luck.

    And Utah as scam capital of the US? Give me a break; the Western US (including Utah, Nevada, and Colorado) had a pretty good run, but my hometown is rocking all of them. Ever hear of New York? We’re the proud ground zero of the collapse of the economy and the biggest Ponzi scheme ever.

  91. John Mansfield on March 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Patriotboy, that speech of Gordon Hinckley’s that you linked to was four months before Hofmann’s first murder, not one, and if you had bothered to read it you would have come to the part regarding “great stirrings over two old letters.”

  92. Eric Russell on March 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    No wonder Utah is the fraud capital of the U.S.

    So it’s the fraud that makes them happy!

  93. Kaimi on March 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I don’t know, Sam. If it were really true that New York were the scam capital of the U.S., then the most well-known example of a scam would be New York based.

    But it’s not. When people talk about scams, what do they talk about? Someone trying to sell you the Salt Lake Bridge, that’s what.

  94. Sam B. on March 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Kaimi,
    That’s a scam? Dammit, I put good money into that bridge!

  95. Sam B. on March 16, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    (And I ruin the joke. Substitute “?” for the first “.” :( )

  96. StormWalker on March 16, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    This is not the first time the temple ceremony was part of a public show. It is also to be found in the Congressional Record, as it was read in in full during the Reed Smoot Hearings, 1903 to 1907.

    Those hearings determined, among other things, that Polygamous Marriages were still being done by at least two apostles, which lead to the Second Manifesto in which then President Joseph F. Smith declared that Mormons would no longer practice polygamy, adding “and this time we really mean it.”

    The hearings also determined that the Temple Oaths included seeking vengance on the United States, which lead to some of the earliest changes in the sacred, revealed ceremony.

  97. jimbob on March 16, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    “Having returned from a mission I can say unequivably that there is zero connection between what happens in the temple and what is taught by the missionaries.”

    Perhaps you were doing it incorrectly.

  98. Alison Moore Smith on March 16, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Posted by: Ray Sorry, my mind said “Julie”, but my fingers typed “Alison”. It’s the M Smith thing.

    I’m happy to be confused with Julie any day.

  99. john scherer on March 16, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    “Having returned from a mission I can say unequivably that there is zero connection between what happens in the temple and what is taught by the missionaries.”

    As a fairly recent convert who has been through the temple a few dozen times, I can say unequivably that this is the biggest line of crap that I’ve read all day.

  100. StormWalker on March 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Daniel Peterson:
    As someone with formal training and professional interest in ancient and medieval religious thought, the temple is fascinating to me, and it holds up exceedingly well.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>

    Holds up well with what? Known Christian practices documented in the New Testament and early Christian writings? Islamic practices? Cult rituals from various pagan systems? Masonic rites?

    The statement of professional credentials sounds impressive, the vague phrases that follow are meaningless as they give no information or context.

  101. john scherer on March 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Sorry for the tone above, I regret it already.

  102. hedezhong on March 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    StormWalker doesn’t have its facts straight. Talk about a lot of hot air:

    http://www.signaturebooks.com/hearings.htm

  103. DavidH on March 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    “This is not the first time the temple ceremony was part of a public show. It is also to be found in the Congressional Record, as it was read in in full during the Reed Smoot Hearings, 1903 to 1907.”

    According to this site, that is a faith promoting (demoting?) rumor.
    http://www.signaturebooks.com/hearings.htm

  104. DavidH on March 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    hedezhong,

    great minds think alike.

  105. sandylandgirl on March 16, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I loved last night episode. As a former Mormon I do have some fond memories…I really use to think I was “special”, I cried during much of the show. My final feeling however is oftern my feeling about the Mormon church or any controling church/organization is that it is SO sad to see SO many give their power away and to think an man (human) has anything to do with your own relationship with God.

  106. Tom More on March 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I’m an active, temple-recommend-carrying member of the LDS Church. Here are a couple of my observations regarding Julie’s comments. First, her comparison to the show “Planet Earth” was probably the best explanation I’ve ever heard. That being said, she also states, ‘I imagine that whatever you saw may have seemed bizarre. Again, though, please consider that what you saw was more “unfamiliar” than “bizarre.”’ As I’ve talked to other active Mormons, I’ve found that most found the temple bizarre when they first went through it. We become desensitized by frequent attendance, but it is still bizarre by today’s standards. In Joseph Smith’s day, when many (maybe most) male members were also masons, the temple ceremony seemed quite normal and familiar.

    The second observation has already been commented on, but I think it’s worth repeating. Julie says, “the content of the covenants isn’t anything that any Christian hasn’t heard before. We don’t covenant to plot the overthrow of the US government”. There was an oath of vengeance (1845-early 1900s) that went something like this:

    “”You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.”

    So technically Julie is right, we don’t do this today, and when it was done, it wasn’t technically covenanting to plot the overthrow of the U.S. government. The oath was to pray and teach our children to pray that God would do that. However, doesn’t the oath of vengeance seem eerily close to what Julie threw out as something that would be bizarre?

  107. StormWalker on March 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I pulled my info from Wiki. This site claims that the ceremony was not read into the CR, but that Senators wanted to know “if temple participants promised to avenge the blood of the martyred prophet Joseph Smith and whether that vengeance was sworn upon “this generation” or upon “this nation,” the former being considered a matter of religious dogma and the latter possible treason against the United States.”

    And, the book review above says that then Mormon President Joseph F. Smith admitted under oath in his testimony to the Senate that he fathered 11 children with 5 wives AFTER the Manifesto of 1890.

    Wait. I don’t get it. If President Wilford Woodruff said to stop Polygamy in 1890, how did Joseph F. Smith have a temple recommend 15 years later after fathering 11 children with 5 polygamous wives? According to posts here, he should have been excommunicated, and instead they elevated him to Prophet.

    Why wasn’t Joseph F. Smith invited to a court of love and then excommunicated? Why did he have a temple recommend? How could a polygamist become prophet after God said polygamy had to stop?

  108. john f. on March 16, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Bernie Madoff was from Utah?

  109. Sam B. on March 16, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    StormWalker,
    Y’know, Wikipedia is a great place to start your research. If you want to answer your questions, though, may I suggest that you read books? There are some great Mormon history books out there, published by Signature Books and the University of Illinois Press, the University of Utah Press, and Utah State University Press, among other places. There, you can see talented and credentialed academics discussing and analyzing the questions you’re raising, many without polemical axes.

  110. Steve Evans on March 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    (wakes up from Rip Van Winkle nap)

    (blinks eyes)

    When did T&S sell its domain to FLAK?

  111. NoCoolName_Tom on March 16, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    StormWalker,
    Kathleen Flake’s The Politics of Religious Identity goes over the years between the 1890 Manifesto and the “Second Manifesto” issued later and talks specifically about the Smoot hearings and their impact on both American politics and the LDS Church; I’d recommend it if you are interested in these issues. You are making the assumption that the LDS Church doesn’t change and that the response the modern Church takes to polygamous marriages today would be the same in 1890 right after the manifesto was issued; it took time for the Church to get to where it is today. Also, if you are interested in such changes, Thomas Alexander’s Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 is also an informative read.

  112. Alison Moore Smith on March 16, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Posted by: hiker Having returned from a mission I can say unequivably that there is zero connection between what happens in the temple and what is taught by the missionaries. Furthermore, there is little if no connection between what is taught in Sunday School and Sacrament meeting growing up and the temple.

    Having been endowed 23 years ago, this statement more than astounds me. It can’t be because I haven’t been through the temple. Nor because I haven’t attended Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School. So it must be because I didn’t serve a mission.

    What it really makes me wonder is what in the dang fetchin’ scrud hiker was preaching on his mission?

    According to the publicly available The House of the Lord by James Talmage and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism the endowment consists of the following:

    TEMPLE ENDOWMENT. Before taking these solemn vows, new converts prepare for at least a year after baptism. Missionaries typically receive the temple blessings prior to their service. Couples receive them on, shortly before, or sometimes well in advance of the day of their temple marriage. The Endowment of “power from on high” in modern temples has four main aspects:

    (1) The preparatory ordinance, a ceremonial washing and anointing, after which the temple patron dons the sacred clothing of the temple.

    (2) A course of instruction by lectures and representations. Participants in white temple clothing assemble in ordinance rooms to participate in the unfolding drama of the Plan of Salvation. They are taught of premortal life; the spiritual and temporal creation; the advent of Adam and Eve, and their transgression and expulsion into the harsh contrasts of the mortal probation; the laws and ordinances required for reconciliation through the Atonement of Christ; and a return to the presence of God.

    (3) Making covenants. a. Observe the law of strict virtue and chastity; b. Be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; c. Devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the human race; d. Maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive…Jesus Christ” (Talmage, p. 84).

    One also promises to keep these covenants sacred and to “trifle not with sacred things” (D&C 6:12).

    (4) A sense of divine presence. Temple ordinances are seen as a means for receiving inspiration and instruction through the Holy Spirit, and for preparing to return to the presence of God.

    What is it particularly about the actual covenants made (as in #3) that has “zero connection” to what you taught and/or were taught, hunter? Or were you just a rogue “missionary” with your own agenda?

  113. StormWalker on March 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    nocoolname_tom recommended a couple of books.

    I know Flake from way back in Sunstone, when I was a temple attending FARMS reading Mormon. She wrote a wonderful article on the Alma (I think) passage of digging around the olive trees, and talked about her meetings with GAs and what she got out of it.

    Her path and mine differed, as I believe she stayed with the church despite differences and I eventually asked for my name to be removed… not due to some sin, as seems to be so often assumed, but because I simply could not reconcile the conflicts and I decided I could not accept a religion that declaredd that some truths are simply not useful.

    Have not read Alexander’s book and probably will not anytime soon. I am in school after being layed off, and am also a full-time “mom” to a neice (5) and a nephew (2) due to some family issues. Thanks for the recommendation, though, and I will note it in my planner for futre reference.

  114. StepfordWife on March 16, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    i just finished watching it and i have to say the temple ceremony was less creepy only seeing the end than it ever felt to me going through. It was almost spiritual. Perhaps for the first time i saw why some find it appealing. i never did.

    The excommunication just left me feeling numb. i found the birth control pills, infertility exams, and zoloft of the last episode much more poignant and applicable to my own life.

    The children you have to fulfill a commandment don’t go away after you leave the church. The Prozac does for the most part. At least for me i’m happy to report.

  115. scarecrowfromoz on March 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Uh….Being a Methodist, we don’t have Priests. Methodist pastors also don’t wear clothing with religious symbolism. Mostly they just wear (at most) a suit, and usually just a dress shirt (and maybe) a tie.

  116. Kaimi Wenger on March 16, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    The Manifesto is an interesting document. In it, Pres. Woodruff states his intention for the church to abide by U.S. laws. That’s the extent of it, really. Look at http://scriptures.lds.org/en/od/1 .

    “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws . . . refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”

    Most (but not all) post-Manifesto plural marriages happened outside of the U.S. It’s not clear to me that the original Manifesto meant that the church would discontinue non-U.S. polygamy.

    The Second Manifesto in 1904 nailed that one down, mostly. At least, its enforcement did.

  117. Tom More on March 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Kaimi Wenger (post 117) indicates that the Original Manifesto states an intention to follow the law of the land. I believe (I admit I may be wrong) that polygamy was illegal in Canada and Mexico. Where were these post-Manifesto plural marriages being performed legally?

    By the way, polygamy and adultery were illegal in most, if not all, the states in which polygamy had been practiced prior to the Manifesto. So our Church was not following the law of the land prior to, or after the Manifesto. (I mention adultery because those practicing polygamy where polygamy was illegal, were committing adultery too.)

  118. Tom More on March 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Sorry, Kaimi Wenger’s post was 116.

  119. jack on March 16, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I’m gonna have to admit something. I’m a former mormon. BUT the Temple was my favorite thing about the church. Honest. I went to the temple to meditate about the woman I ultimately married, I requested to be a veil worker (st. george to be exact, no better one out there) when I injured myself in the middle of my mission and had to come home for a short hiatus and enjoyed being a veil worker immensely.

    As I mentioned above to Rusty, I’ve been to the temple dozens of times and even though I no longer believe (long story, no I wasn’t offended nor am I addicted to porn, alcohol or other lasciviousness) it’s one aspect of my former life that I miss, but not that much. I thought HBO’s treatment of the temple was in good taste but I can understand why it would bother some people. I’m not gonna participate in the origin of the temple debate; I care, but not enough to get into a fight about it. Plus, I’m obviously biased.

  120. StepfordWife on March 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Why does it matter when\if it was illegal when it is so obviously and unarguably damaging to a woman’s self esteem? Practiced in this life or the next it means second class.

    Debates about history aside i didn’t want to be a baby factory when i was mormon. i don’t want to be one now and i certainly don’t want to be one for eternity.

    i’m not interested in the role of concubine or dowager empress in any form.

  121. Ray on March 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    This is such a fascinating social science study. I have to get another bag of popcorn.

  122. Kaimi Wenger on March 16, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Stepford,

    I agree, there are big social and cultural problems with polygamy. And I think it’s understandable that many women find the idea problematic.

    On the other hand, historically, women have been among the staunchest defenders of polygamy. There are some very interesting discussions of this, especially in Lola Van Wagenan’s very good dissertation, “Sister-Wives and Suffragists” (which is published).

    Utah women voted strongly in favor of polygamy, which was why Congress stripped Utah women of the right to vote (!). Yes, Utah was the second territory to grant womens’ suffrage, right after Wyoming, but the Feds took it away quickly.

    A number of the defenses of polygamy that were written during the time were written by women. These are very interesting discussions. (Look at Van Wagenan’s work on this, really, it’s fascinating.) One theme is a sort of Virginia Woolf room-of-one’s-own type of argument — that polygamy allowed greater opportunities for womens education, because childcare burdens could be shared among sister-wives.

  123. StepfordWife on March 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    i just find the idea that a group of men have the audacity to tell me, as a woman, what will fulfill me in both this life and the next. i honestly don’t know how to have a discussion of anything mormon without that one profound fact coloring my perception.

    Polygamy is so offensive to me and yet at a very early age i had to try and come to terms with it. my own uncle was sealed to both his first wife who died and his second and his second wife had an extremely hard time with it. Who wouldn’t? She knew she was going to be second wife for all eternity. That was the highest glory she would ever attain. How horribly sad to think you had to be perfect just so you could be second.

    i don’t know how the church says they don’t practice polygamy just because they don’t practice it in this life. If a religion’s interpretation of the afterlife does not have a profound impact on the psyche of its members then what exactly is the point of religion at all?

  124. StepfordWife on March 16, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    i supported it too until i found out they were lying. The deception is not okay.

    i will never get over Helen Mar Kimball. Not ever.

  125. Alison Moore Smith on March 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Kaimi #122, I’ve read at least some of those defenses. But I can’t imagine that the idea that you’d rot in hell if you didn’t participate (or the LDS equivalent) didn’t have at least some influence on those trying to find reasons to not hate it.

  126. hiker on March 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Alison, The missionary lessons start with the missionary pointing at a flip chart talking about the golden rule or how a young man named Joseph Smith received answers to his prayers. It is basic generic religion and it is taught that way by design.

    I think we can come a little closer to being on the same page if you consider the idea that the church teaches that we should teach “milk before meat.” The church uses this phrase a lot because they know their teachings are peculiar and tough to swallow for anybody that isn’t already indoctrinated. I used the phrase “bait and switch” previously but I should have used “milk before meat” because that phrase is familiar to all Mormons.

    I wasn’t a rogue missionary. I was teacher of milk like most missionaries.

    We taught contacts that Mormons attend the temple but nothing about what happens there. Missionaries don’t teach people that the church plan is to go to temple, wear peculiar clothes, learn some handshakes, get a new name, and make covenants to eventually become a God. The temple is where you get the meat and the missionaries and your Sunday School teachers teach the milk.

    Members know this too or else they wouldn’t use the phrase milk before meat. Milk is not meat, meat is not milk, and the temple is nothing like the missionary discussions.

    Alison. I am pretty sure we will never be on exactly the same page and I hope that is OK. I don’t have a problem with the temple and I am not an enemy. I do, however, think that as long as the church is in the business of sending out tens of thousands of missionaries, the public ought to know that there are tougher things to swallow coming after the missionary lessons are over.

    Folks that want to know what the church is about don’t have a source from within the church. You can find out about the temple ceremony from Big Love or from a number of websites run by exmormons. I think that puts the church in an odd situation.

  127. Kaimi Wenger on March 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I agree that, in general, discussion of church history (including polygamy) should be more frank and open.

    However, I should note that it’s hard to say that the women defending polygamy in the 1800s were lied to. These women did know about Joseph Smith plural wives; many of them *were* plural wives of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or others.

  128. Tom More on March 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    StepfordWife,

    Amen sister!

    As I see it that is one of the issues–Polygamy is horrible on the societies that practice it. Not just the women; think of the poor guys who couldn’t find a wife because of those who had more than one. (Look it up, contrary to Mormon folklore, there were more men than women at least during most of the polygamy days in Utah.

    The other issue is the fact that we lie and make silly excuses for polygamy. It’s ridiculous! Why doesn’t the Church apologize for this social experiment gone terribly bad? It was clearly a mistake. Even though it’s still in Doctrine and Covenants 132 (Mormon scripture) and is still practices in the temples for widowers remarrying in the temple, it is not doctrine. Why else would President Hinckley, speaking of polygamy to Larry King, state, “I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal”?

  129. Tracy M on March 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    No one has ever, nor will ever, make me a concubine. I am not a baby factory, nor do I ever intent to be. I find polygamy unacceptable, in this life or the next. I am an active Mormon woman and a feminist. Calling Mormon women names and assuming they have no say, direction or opinion in thier lives only reinforces bigotry and the worst stereotypes.

  130. Kaimi Wenger on March 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I found a copy of Helen Mar Kimball’s own pamphlet defending polygamy, over at Google books:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=c872EUaDPdEC

  131. StepfordWife on March 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Helen did not know she would be required to consummate the marriage and she was told by her FATHER of all people if she was sealed to the Prophet her entire family would go to the highest degree of glory. Oh and her sweetheart was conveniently sent on a mission.

    Its hard not to be offended that this kind of coercion is still being defended when it is so obviously reprehensible. What was she 14? 16?

    i honestly don’t get how anyone can defend this behavior. i guess that’s why its necessary to hide it. The whole thing is just so sad. The prozac popping women of the church now are under the same psychological yoke.

  132. Kaimi Wenger on March 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Alison,

    That sounds reasonable to me. Though, really, the defenses do seem very enthusiastic. It seems clear to me that a lot of early Mormon women really, strongly believed in polygamy.

  133. jack on March 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Kaimi

    Women are still defending polygamy. Many fundamental mormon women will defend polygamy till their blue in the face… that doesn’t mean it’s right, but you know that already. I don’t know how you can say it’s not doctrinal? Saying polygamy wasn’t doctrinal then throws into question anything that’s presented as doctrinal in the D&C. And if the “doctrinality” (I like making up words) of the D&C is questionable then everything else about the church is questionable.

    You’ll also notice that GBH said, “I THINK it’s not doctrinal” “think” being the key term here. I’m not a prophet or anything, but I do have a degree in english and “thinking” something and “knowing” something don’t just vary by small degrees, we’re talking potential world class leaps apart here. Plus the man was a prophet, right? You’d think god’s mouth piece would unequivocally be able to say, “no, Larry King, that is not doctrine. I know it.” GBH was a master PR man.

  134. Tom More on March 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Jack of post 133,

    I think you’ve actually made my point. It does throw into question the doctrine of the Church. I don’t think you’re saying that President Hinckley didn’t know about D&C 132. It does sound like you’re saying that President Hinckley used spin to respond to Larry. Words have meaning. If he didn’t believe the words he was using, he had no justification (ESPECIALLY as a prophet) to use them.

  135. Julie M. Smith on March 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I’m back.

    Picking up where I left off:

    Luke (#33), I’m not disagreeing with you.

    Nate (#34), I agree. I think two issues have become conflated in this thread: (1) why I personally won’t reveal certain things about the temple [I think you explain this issue well] and (2) why it matters if non-endowed people know what happens in the temple. I’m suggesting something other than the usual answer for (2).

    Mark B. (#45)– By panacea, I mean that if you think there is no point in traveling the world because you already saw all the good stuff on Planet Earth, you are using the show as a panacea.

    abiogenesis, I think you are actually making a very good point that we send people to the temple unprepared for what they encounter there. (We had to delete one of your comments for being too specific.) LDS should do better in preparing people–there is a lot we can say that would be helpful and not inappropriate.

    scarecrowfromoz (#115), Sorry about that. I changed ‘priest’ to ‘pastor’ in the original post and I appreciate the correction. However, I’m seeing all sorts of examples of Methodist pastors in religious clothing:

    http://www.franklinvilleumc.org/

    So I don’t understand that part of your comment.

    All: I’m going to close comments; we normally do that around #100, but are a little behind schedule (because I went to IKEA!). Also, the thread is spinning off on a million (interesting) tangents, and we’ve lost focus. If you have something crucial to say, you can email me.

    Thanks for your participation.