This is a third in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.
When entering the Temple for the first time or returning, it might help to be aware of some important doctrines for better understanding. There is no “different Gospel” to be found inside that hasn’t been discussed and taught in church on Sunday. Those that say the Temple teaches new doctrine kept “secret” until entering either are ignorant on the topics or more likely exaggerating for the sake of emotional manipulation. Similar to any good literature, the content is deep with allusions, metaphors, and patching together of sometimes desperate truths for greater insight.
Because the format of doctrinal presentation is far more ritualized than typical public church activity, it might at first be hard to recognize the familiar. Even the most knowledgeable Mormon might be a little overwhelmed. Those who haven’t spent much time in personal religious study could likely feel like they are drowning. The reason is the “Plan of Salvation” taught over so many years time gets condensed into a tight presentation. The small drip becomes a flood. Try to drink in too much at one time and the mind and spirit could go into system overload. As was said before, don’t expect to understand the whole or that such will ever fully happen in this life.
Regardless of the difficulties in soaking up all that is offered, there are key doctrines that can help pave the way for inspiration and enlightenment. By no means is the following a comprehensive guide for study. In fact, there really isn’t any way to compile such a list as many things learned in the Temple are personal interpretations; like any Scripture study.
Instead of writing out long commentaries as if an expert in each area, the sections will have quotes from LDS Church leaders and Scripture. There are no better words than from the servants of the Lord. This is a quoted selection of essential readings. It is a starting point for those preparing to attend and more reflection for those having already gone. Continue reading
This is a second in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.
Years ago I first entered the Temple as an emerging adult about to enter the mission field. Although many memories of that experience are vague, some thoughts and feelings have not been forgotten. No matter how much information I was given, none of it prepared me for the first time. It was strange to see and participate in such a richly symbolic activity. This left me confused once finished. Despite those who express spiritual rejuvenation and enlightenment, some never return.
Lack of preparation is not the only reason for a negative reaction. Many cultures have unique and demanding rituals that bridge the gap between the child and adult world. Such initiations have mostly been wiped out in Western civilization, replaced by childish giving in to base instincts. What used to be signs of adulthood in the modern culture at least thirty years ago is quickly fading. No longer can marriage and entering the workforce be counted on as expectations. Growing up has been replaced by holding on to adolescence and immaturity for long as possible.
Is it any wonder those who have never entered the sacred walls of the Temple for the endowment can be stunned? Schools teach science, mathematics, and language arts directly. Peripherally social instructions come from peers of the same general age and maturity. For Mormons, church attendance teaches the basics of Faith and Obedience with only a hint of ritual through baptism and Sacrament. The granting of Priesthood and young women awards have some notion of social graduation. Receiving the endowment is the ultimate religious expression of reaching adulthood and spiritual maturity.
My response to discomfort for the first time could have been to never return. There are those who choose this path. Such is not my nature when confronted by things I don’t understand. The need to know inspired me with the willingness to search, pray, and ponder for meaning. Knowing what I do now, I would like to leave some suggestions how to get more out of Temple attendance. Continue reading
Gilbert Arizona LDS Temple
Every so often the public gets a chance to enter a Mormon Temple to get a peek at what goes on inside. These rare opportunities present themselves before the religious dedication of newly built buildings or on occasion renovations. In some ways these are equal parts public relations and celebrations. Local Arizona news for channel ABC 15 had a report that claims a look inside the pre-dedication constructed Gilbert Arizona Latter-day Saint Temple, although it is more a report about the background and people involved. Non-Mormons are not the only ones that have very little information about what takes place once declared a Holy Sanctuary.
The hesitancy to discuss the specific aspects of activities and rituals keeps the members of the LDS Church who haven’t gone from knowing what to expect. First time attendees often describe their initial experience as shocking or disorienting. This despite the fact that there really isn’t anything untoward that is said or happens. In fact, many who have repeatedly attended say it becomes rather boring. A few claim to have fallen asleep, with some evidence to back that up. The newness of it all strikes almost everyone as disjointed from typical chapel worship. Some don’t recover and never return.
Blame for this is often placed on a lack of preparation. There is some truth to this. Because of the sacred nature of the Temple activities, only vague references can be divulged. There is a certain feeling among Mormons that the whole topic is off limits. Such a position goes too far, considering how much information exists in a study of General Conference talks on the subject of the Temple. How much can those who would be going for the first time be prepared? That is not an easy question to answer. Continue reading
With the LDS Church releasing commentary on Race and the Priesthood, it has become fashionable to believe someday a full apology will be given that a ban was ever instituted. Most Mormons say we don’t know why or when the ban was first instituted, questioning if it was from God or man. The prophets, the arguments go, were wrong. The problem with these lines of thinking is that the record indicates the why and when does exist, even if existential questions remain.
Since the start of Mormonism, written records have been an important part of the religion. A few revelations, such as D&C 47, instruct individuals to write and collect records as a testimony. Researchers have noted the amount of history and biography available for research. Very few religious organizations have as much of a paper trail to read. Although not everything was written down to substantiate, it doesn’t matter if a person agrees with the attribution of the divine hand of God. There is a lot to sift through and examine for each facet of development.
The Priesthood ban for blacks is not without its own records. Probably the best study of the issue is from Chapter 4 of Neither white nor Black, an article written by Lester E. Bush, Jr. Despite the introduction that claims he refutes the orthodox explanations of the origin of the ban, his findings actually substantiate that a well recognized ban did exist. It it true that some of the more “folk doctrine and history” are seriously questioned. The clear line of authority for its beginnings remain intact, even with some inexplicable twists and turns.
For a complete understanding of where and when the ban developed, it must be acknowledged that it didn’t come from Joseph Smith. That seems to be the major roadblock to accepting it as a genuine authorized policy. Although still having the prejudices of the time, he was progressive in treating blacks as worthy of equal treatment. That isn’t to say he was an abolitionist in the strict sense of the word. For him masters still had claim to slaves even if ideally all men should be free. This was consistent with the New Testament “hands off” approach to the currently reviled institution. In the Church during his life blacks had no Priesthood ban or any restrictions. For those who insist that the ban was wrong and without authority, this would be the end of the argument. Yet, the Church he founded believes in a continual line of prophets and revelation. His words and teachings might be the first and most scrutinized, but not the last. Continue reading
Every now and then I will tell the story of my experience getting a marriage license. Me and my soon to be wife sit at the clerks desk filling out the paperwork and showing ID like any other perspective couple. I looked down at this piece of paper and start looking forward to attending the Temple for sealing. Like so many others before me, I am excited and nervous about the big day. I love my wife and she loves me. Then it hits me while putting signature to paper. My marriage is between me and my wife, my God, and my Church. Why do I need permission from the State? Its none of their business.
Yes, there are some tax related issues and a few other laws associated with State acceptance. Because I consider myself a law abiding citizen and it is a traditional requirement, the papers are put in order. Aside from that, my bride might have taken it the wrong way and the LDS Church would not allow the sealing to take place. From that time on my views of State and Marriage would be out of the ordinary.
If it is true as some say that traditional marriage defenders are “on the wrong side of history,” then perhaps a new approach should be considered. Most of the arguments for traditional marriage are based on religious belief that a man and a woman is the only legitimate definition of marriage. It is not simply signing papers for creating a small business transaction. It is a Holy Sacrament ordained by God. With that in mind, there really isn’t a reason religious conservative Christians should get married in the usually expected manner. Continue reading