- On a recent day at the temple, I decided to specifically look for all the references to symbolism in the endowment, both the implicit ones and the explicit (“Hey, you! This is symbolic!”) ones. There were at least a few of each, and it’s likely that I missed some. In particular I was struck by the use of words like “represents.” This really warrants more focus in future visits.
- In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:39-41), this also applies to our relationship with God himself. When we’re asked to tithe, we should voluntarily covenant to consecrate the other 90%. When we’re assigned to serve for an hour, we should do more; we should “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will” (D&C 58:27) as we seek to “waste and wear out our lives” (D&C 123:13). When we’re called on to suffer and sacrifice, we should offer up the rest of all we have and are in life to the Father, anyway.
- Steve Reed of the excellent One Climbs blog recently posted a long analysis of Jacob 2:30, suggesting that our traditional reading of it as a hypothetical apologia for polygamy is wrong. It’s a very long post, but represents some of the most careful, detailed close reading of scripture I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if he’s correctly figured out Jacob’s intent or not, but he makes a compelling case. After his exegesis, we might read Jacob 2:30 like this: “The Lord says, In order to be spiritually converted to me, people must accept me as their leader; or else they’ll find themselves making these mistakes and be cursed.” Great stuff, Steve–consider submitting it to the Interpreter!
The threshold transition:
We open the door at the end of the hall,
after some sealings, my wife and I,
and I feel the rush of a wash.
Life is different here.
The room is empty of people now
but full of something else:
the afternoon sun splits apart
in the heavy window,
and sets soft electric rainbows
on the carpet,
an arc of full clear stars also reaches
across the floor.
Arrays of bright flowers complement the light.
It’s so quiet, all I can hear
is God’s love humming
from head to toe.
There are books here, of course.
I sit, bathed in one pool of light,
and open and read.
From the Book of Moses,
that temple text par excellence:
“The Lord spake unto Enoch…
and his heart swelled wide as eternity;
and his bowels yearned;
and all eternity shook.”
Then from Psalm 119,
a perfect poem of passionate praise:
“With my whole heart have I sought thee:
O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in my heart,
that I might not sin against thee.”
There’s only one painting
in this peaceful garden library:
The resurrected Savior
His arms open in welcome.
I sit and look and listen and feel.
I pray and the presence feels just a little closer.
This white room–
so simply elegantly simple–
floats beyond time and space,
in a galaxy of suns
until I see the shadow of a tree outside,
leaves swaying in a tiny breeze.
We leave hand in hand,
slow to go
but happy to have been here
and ready for the rest.
I’m live blogging this conference at BYU today–this post will be updated throughout the day, after each address.
TEMPLE ON MOUNT ZION CONFERENCE, sponsored by the Interpreter Foundation
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
9:30 – Jeffrey M. Bradshaw: “By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified”: The Symbolic, Salvific, Interrelated, Additive, Retrospective, and Anticipatory Nature of the Ordinances of Spiritual Rebirth in John 3 and Moses 6
Temple themes in Joseph Smith’s translation of Moses 6:59-63 and Genesis 17:4-7. Jesus and Nicodemus–a change of heart is needed to see the kingdom of God. “Marvel not” isn’t a scolding, but an invitation to greater spiritual learning. “Born again” can mean “born from above.” Double meanings–the serpents in Moses’s staff story to heal bitten people represent sin and salvation. “No man cometh to the Father but by me,” like the seraphim who guard the gate to the temple or to heaven.
Jesus was “lifted up,” and we can and should be, too, in resurrection and ascension (3 Ne. 27). “Second birth from above” is reflected in some early Jewish thought (see also Ezekiel 37 and 16–temple imagery).
“Born again” isn’t ended with baptism, just started–the goal is exaltation.
Moses 6:60–three clauses: water, spirit, blood.
WATER: baptism, sacrament blessing. “Stage 1” of temple (1st floor in SLC)= Moses 4 themes, 2= Moses 5, 3= Moses 6. Circumcision is close to baptism in JST Genesis. Genesis 17:3-7 in JST re: Abel and ordinances, clarifies doctrine, has ancient parallels. See David A. Bednar on priesthood ordinance being salvific, interrelated, additive. Truman Madsen: washing and anointing is like a patriarchal blessing on the body itself.
SPIRIT: D&C 20:37 explains that the Spirit cleanses, not baptism itself, which is symbolic. Justification and sanctification are twin blades of scissors–C.S. Lewis. Telestial room / baptism = justification, terrestrial / additional ordinances & consecration = sanctification, celestial = exaltation. D&C 20:30-31 teaches that justification and sanctification both come from the grace of Christ. Blood / anointing makes one both our and royal in ancient settings. British ceremony to initiate a new monarch has echoes of all this old temple symbolism. C.S. Lewis–become “a little Christ.”
BLOOD: Exodus 24 shows symbolism of blood needed to sanctify. Isaac is a substitute king before the ram–a symbol of a symbol. Neal A. Maxwell–we must put the animal *in us* upon the altar and burn it. Endowment depicts multiple births through the grace of Christ. C.S. Lewis- God turns tools-servants-friends-sons. Psalm 2:7 reflected in Moses 6 with Adam. Mosiah 2-5 has same symbolism–disciples are to become “little Mosiahs.” Alma 13 teaches high priest is symbolic of Christ. Moses 6, last verse also teaches of exaltation, leading to Enoch’s ascension in Moses 7. Nibley: scriptures aren’t platitudes, they’re things of eternity. Water in sacrament goes beyond beginning discipleship to a consecrated life: accepting prior blessings and continuing to exaltation; like Christ, must suffer, even unjustly, to serve others and lead to God.
1. This post at Jr. Ganymede makes some excellent observations gleaned from the temple. I especially like how the author uses his thoughts to draw spiritual lessons for appreciating the wisdom of our Heavenly Father.
2. This video about symbology in LDS architecture, particularly in temples but also in regular meetinghouses, is fascinating. It made me look at my own Sunday church building differently, and more reverently.
Three things I’ve recently come across that are worthwhile in expanding our understanding of the gospel:
1. Nathan Richardson’s “structured editions” of the scriptures. The Book of Mormon draft needs work, but it’s a great start. The Pearl of Great Price format is excellent. The other resources on his site are worth checking out, too.
2. Steven Reed’s “Through the Veil,” a list of scripture quotes designed to illuminate the temple experience. Very thoughtfully done, but plenty more citations could be added (where’s Deuteronomy 22:12?) Like Richardson’s, his site has tons of useful goodies on it, including my 15-verse summary of the Book of Mormon.
3. Interpreter’s “Temple On Mount Zion Conference.” I can’t believe this is a year old and I’m only now watching these talks. They’re amazing. The ones on Job, the ark, and Latter-day houses of the Lord are especially recommended.
Last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine, we discussed Jacob chapters 1-3 in the Book of Mormon. I noticed that Jacob says that his sermon in chapters 2-3 was given “in the temple” (1:17). I looked through the sermon to see if perhaps that setting influenced the content of his message. Jackpot.
Consider just the broadest outline of the address. Jacob begins his sermon by telling the people that he was fulfilling his duty as a servant of the Lord (the “all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth,” he takes pains to note from the start, in 2:4) by bringing them an authorized message (2:2-11, especially verse 11).
The first major doctrinal topic that Jacob broaches, in 2:12-22, is the necessity of giving up our worldly gain and selfish desires for the good of others and the work of the Church. Look at some of the Topical Guide subjects listed in those verses: almsgiving, generosity, welfare, worldliness, good works. Jacob ties these themes of sacrifice in to a general command to obey the commandments (2:21), and, being the Book of Mormon, warns against pride.
This post at Scriptorium Blogorium notes a powerful symbolic connection in the scriptures between the temple garment and the body of Christ. This was one of those things that made my jaw drop and wonder how I’d never noticed it before.
I’ve always thought of wearing the garment as analogous to the rest of the Christian world wearing crosses on a necklace–a reminder of covenants and an expression of personal consecration. This still seems apt, but there’s also a deeper level to it.
I’m reminded now of instances in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon where the resurrected Christ invited people to feel his wounds (John 20:26-28, 3 Nephi 11:13-15). Perhaps wearing the temple garment is symbolic of that tangible communion. Seeing this as such makes the garment not only a reminder of covenants, but itself a powerful expression of belief in the core Christian doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Wearing it is an act of faith in God. As this aspect of our religion continues to be ridiculed in the media, understanding its meaning will do us a lot of good.
This also gives a profound new dimension to Paul’s assertion in Galatians 6:17: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
I’ve been studying up on the Book of Abraham a bit lately, and as fascinating as all the scholarly, arcane parallels are, it’s even more exciting to see that some of Joseph Smith’s explanations of these symbols are easy to confirm in accessible pop culture.
While critics have often had to come up with convoluted theories as to how Joseph got so many plausible details into the Book of Mormon, his equally startling “guesses” in the Book of Abraham are usually ignored…maybe because they are even more shocking. How could Joseph have known what any of these old Egyptian hieroglyphics meant? He didn’t know ancient Egyptian–hardly anybody in the world did! The Rosetta Stone itself had barely been translated around the time that Joseph first started producing the Book of Abraham.
And yet, what should have been wild shots in the dark hold up remarkably well nearly two centuries later, when the basics of Egyptian are so widely available, that a major hotel here in Las Vegas, the Luxor, makes them into a cute and easily recognizable theme.
In Facsimile 1, there’s a weird creature shown near the bottom.
The text defines it as “the idolatrous god of Pharaoh.” Look closely–it’s a crocodile in the waters of the Nile. So, did the Egyptians of Abraham’s time really identify Pharoah with a crocodile-god?
There’s one big question that I haven’t heard yet about an anti-Mormon author’s twisted article on a CNN blog about the LDS Church. She says that she disbelieved in the religion at least since the time she was nine years old, yet she was married in an LDS temple, which would require a long period of prior faithfulness: was she lying about not believing in the religion throughout her childhood, or did she lie to the Church so she could get married in the temple?
It’s been my experience that people who are inactive, or no longer members, in the LDS Church, hate being asked about when they did have faith, and how that changed. They’ll often give sketchy answers, if any at all, and quickly change the subject. Fair enough—private business is private business—but if you want to be taken seriously as a public opponent of something, don’t you owe the public an explanation that establishes credibility better than this?
This author seems to base her credibility on the fact that her she was raised in a Mormon family (as if being raised by Darwin would automatically qualify you as a scientist), and the fact that she can quote distorted versions of some doctrines and out-of-context materials from the temple endowment ceremony. So she can use Google. Big whoop.
You know how sometimes a reporter will try to play “gotcha” with a politician by asking him or her an incredibly simple question, like the number of amendments to the Constitution or the name of a foreign head of state? Continue reading
This week’s gospel doctrine lesson for Sunday School is about the Sermon on the Mount. Discussing this magnificent discourse always reminds me of one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in studying the scriptures.
I once came across a video on the FARMS web site where John W. Welch discussed his research into the Sermon on the Mount as compared to the Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon’s 3 Nephi. What Welch’s work showed clearly and in a way that shed light on everything involved was simply this: this sermon is the endowment. In fact, despite the many obvious parallels throughout the standard works, this is by far the most complete and detailed reference to the endowment to be found in the scriptures.
That video doesn’t seem to be up anymore, but the text of the book it was based on is available here.
I read this at a time when I hadn’t seen anything that really opened up the scriptures to me in a while, and I actually worried that I had already come across all the really major scripture studies I’d ever see. The discovery of Welch’s temple sermon study was a huge relief, and I’ve tried never to make such a foolish assumption about the exhaustibility of scripture since.
The last few times I’ve been to the temple, I’ve noticed how the endowment addresses the nature of evil: frankly, honestly, directly, in an unflinchingly sober manner that leaves no doubt that we must face this enemy head on.
I remember seeing something anti-Mormon once that criticized the temple endowment for its references to evil, but in the overall context, I’m grateful for it. One way to interpret the message of this aspect of the temple might be this: “Yes, there is a lot of suffering and misery in life. A path of righteous discipleship will not shield you from that–in fact, it will make you more aware of it and will put you more directly in conflict with it.”
It’s ironic that active Mormons are often stereotyped and mocked for living inside some kind of super-sterile, Pollyana-ish bubble, for I can think of nothing in the world so brutally clear about the pervasive presence of evil in the world–and our imminent danger from it–as the endowment. Unlike the schlocky nihilism of Hollywood, though, the temple does not revel in bleakness on this point. Just as the temple repeatedly stresses that we must each constantly strive to resist the darkness pressing in on us from all directions, it likewise very clearly teaches us the way to be delivered from that darkness. Such a lesson may be the primary mission of the temple.
Not only does the temple address evil “in an unflinchingly sober manner that leaves no doubt that we must face this enemy head on,” it reassures us that we are not alone in this contest. In fact, we are not to engage evil on our own terms at all. In order to victoriously resist life’s varieties of vicissitude, we are to sublimate our will to Christ’s and follow Him in all things, letting His power over evil save us. That, too, is a major lesson of the temple:
“Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” Doctrine and Covenants 10:5
In a classic address, LDS apostle John A. Widstoe summarized the educational value of temple work:
Another fact has always appealed to me as a strong internal evidence for the truth of temple work. The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also Doctor Talmage’s The House of the Lord) fall clearly into four distinct parts: the preparatory ordinances, the giving of instructions by lectures and representations; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete. The candidate for the temple service is prepared, as in any earthly affair, for work to be done. Once prepared he is instructed in the things that he should know. When instructed, he covenants to use the imparted knowledge, and at once the new knowledge, which of itself is dead, leaps into living life. At last, tests are given him, whereby those who are entitled to know may determine whether the man has properly learned the lesson. The brethren and sisters who go through the temple should observe all these things and recognize the wonderful coherence and logical nature of the carefully worked out system, with a beginning and an end, fitting every known law of God and nature, which constitutes temple worship.
The wonderful pedagogy of the temple service, especially appealing to me as a professional teacher, carries with it evidence of the truth of temple work. We go to the temple to be informed and directed, to be built up and to be blessed. How is all this accomplished? First by the spoken word, through lectures and conversations, just as we do in the class room, except with more elaborate care, then by the appeal to the eye by representations by living, moving beings; and by pictorial representations in the wonderfully decorated rooms (as any one may see in Dr. Talmage’s book.) Meanwhile the recipients themselves, the candidates for blessings, engage actively in the temple service as they move from room to room, with the progress of the course of instruction. Altogether our temple worship follows a most excellent pedagogical system. I wish instruction were given so well in every school throughout the land, for we would then teach with more effect than we now do.
Indeed. As an educator myself, I’ve always been impressed with how effectively the “lesson plan” of the endowment is put together. I’ve often outlined it in my head as I’ve gone there, wondering if I could reproduce such a complex yet organically coherent structure in my own lessons. I’ve largely given up on that, though: I realize that the best means for teaching the gospel may not necessarily be the best means for teaching grammar.
Still, I think examining the pedagogy (teaching strategies and methods) of the temple, in the manner of apostles like Elder Widstoe and Elder Talmage, can assist us in our worship and discipleship. Continue reading
I went to the temple today specifically looking for references to Christ in the endowment. It yielded a rich harvest that warrants much further investigation. Not even counting every individual reference to Him, there were some pretty significant things I noticed.
The first and last words in the endowment are clear references to the Savior. Truly, He is Alpha and Omega: even in the temple, Jesus Christ is the beginning and ending of everything. Literally.
More fascinating still were the major references to the Atonement itself. I counted five. (I’d love to attend a session of work there with you sometime and discuss in more detail where I saw these five references and the insightful language the endowment uses to describe it!)
Of course, this is perfectly natural. The largest overarching theme of the endowment is the physical and spiritual reconciliation of mankind to God through Christ. In fact, viewed in that vein, the entire endowment itself could be seen as a symbol of the Atonement.
Even in the fairly brief hour and a half in typically takes, the LDS temple endowment frequently, both explicitly and implicitly, directs participants to identify themselves with–even to integrate themselves into–the narrative of the ceremony.
As the endowment takes the form of a chronological story–a fully realized dramatization of the plan of salvation–I’ve often tried to benefit from it by pondering where I am at in that story. Certainly none of us is at the very beginning, nor are we at the very end. Mortality, by its very nature, lies in the middle.
So, if the endowment tells the story of each of our individual lives and that story is in a recognizable order, then where in that story do we find ourselves in our lives today?
Trying to pinpoint a specific, exact moment for this correlation is surely impossible–and probably counterproductive, anyway–but I find that having such a mindset fosters useful self-analysis. Which aspects of the ceremony–certain covenants given, laws explained, standards taught, characteristics exemplified, degrees of light and truth attained, etc.–could we each say we’ve practiced faithfully, are working diligently on, or have yet to seriously attempt?
Ultimately, such a course of meditation would lead us to this single, crucial query: How effectively are we following Christ, serving Him and letting His atoning sacrifice be active in our lives?
The areas where I “see” myself most strongly in the endowment change almost every time I go to the temple, and I hope that means I’m making progress. It’s good to have a clear vision of the final goal, though!