Better Mormon Temple Preparation

Gilbert Arizona LDS Temple

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

Origin of the Priesthood Ban for Blacks

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

Case for Christians to Opt Out of State Marriage

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

Jesus in the Modern World

whosayiamIn the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was praying alone with his Disciples when he asked what people thought of him. They answered according to Matt 16:14, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets,” with Luke 9:19 adding he might be, “one of the old prophets [who] is risen again.” He then asked what they thought, and one of his chief Apostles Peter answered boldly that he was the Christ of God (Luke 9:20) with Matt 16:16 adding “the Son of the living God.” Peter essentially was claiming that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah come down to save Israel. There was no rebuke, but an acknowledgement by Jesus that is exactly who he was, and praising his spiritual insight as coming from God. Considering the violent ending of those who claimed the Messianic mantle, Jesus warned them the same fate was coming. Peter rebuked him for saying such negative expectations, and Jesus rebuked back that Satan inspired rejecting the path he was destined to walk.

Who do men say that Jesus is? Today the question is no different than when Jesus and his Disciples walked the dusty road of Jerusalem. What might be surprising is the answers. They go from the mundane of lucky preacher who gained literate followers to the traditionally religious grandiose God and Savior of the world. Like the days of his life and death, he is both mocked and praised. It could even be said that while there is a sizable world wide number of believers in his Divinity, he is slowly becoming obscure or irrelevant. This is opposite the rival religion of Islam and some other Eastern faiths. The Western views that kept Jesus “alive” have changed over the last few centuries. He is in metaphorical fragments.

It wasn’t always like this. During the first great upheaval of arguments over his identity, the questions asked exactly how divine was Jesus in relation to God. The answer more than a millenium ago, that remains the cornerstone of most modern definitions of the Christian faith, proclaimed he was God in a different form. During his life, he was likewise both fully Man and fully God. The creed of Jesus was set and a catholic church dominated, until what came to be known as the reformation sprouted Protestantism. Despite serious disagreements, for the most part Protestants shared the same creed as the church they left. Whole countries developed around particular Christian identities and churches, defending and fighting among themselves for dominance. For centuries Jesus was a driving force for both good and evil actions of history.

That began to change a century after the “enlightenment” when people started to focus more on the mind than on the spirit. For the past two centuries views of who Jesus is and was began to be questioned in ways never before taken seriously. The answers have become so mixed and branching that one method employed actually used voting over a color scheme to decide the truth about Jesus. The colors represented the probability of what Jesus did or said, ultimately to determine who he was. Most likely these new questions and the modern views they inspire came from the relatively recent Western culture of skepticism. Answers have become less important than questions about history, authority, and existence itself. Science and academics, positive as they have been, is the new religion with scientists and professors the theologians; politicians the Priesthood authority. Jesus is quickly, to the ecstasy of many, becoming sidelined. Continue reading

Thanksgiving as a Day of the Lord

thankkidsReading up on Thanksgiving in the Scriptures, I came across D&C 59 that is very fitting for the Holiday celebration. The topic is a discussion of the proper Lord’s Day observance. It could be talking just as much about the Thanksgiving season and what it can mean as a religious Holiday. Ponder the following exhortation:

13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.

15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—

16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the afulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

What goodness could be accomplished if, as a culture, such an attitude would be maintained for longer than a day or short month. Instead, we think ahead to Christmas without the glorious anticipation of piety for the birth of the Savior. Rather, we spend most of the time running around to shop, look at the bright lights, and enjoy spectacle divorced of spiritual wonder. No longer is the focus on family, friends, or charity beyond a few token acknowledgements in word and deed. Continue reading