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
As some of you may be aware, my post from January 20, 2011, entitled “Should We Expect to Find the Temple Ordinances as One Coherent Whole in the Scriptures? Revisiting the Question”, generated a lengthy and impassioned discussion in the comments. There was much debate regarding the value of efforts to compare our modern temple ordinances with ancient ones, and the methods that should be used in such an endeavor. I very much appreciated this discussion and believe that many important points were raised. It was decided, by some of the involved parties, that a debate over all of the points that I suggested in the post would be a very large and time-consuming task, and that, therefore, it would be more profitable for us to discuss specific rituals (with the associated Scriptural passages), one at a time.
Before moving on with this project, I would just like to clear up a few points — a few misconceptions, maybe, regarding my initial post. First of all, I would like to emphasize that my answer to the titular question, “Should we expect to find the temple ordinances as one coherent whole in the Scriptures?”, was negative. There is, obviously, no passage, narrative, chapter, or any other unit in the Scriptures that presents the Endowment or the entirety of the LDS ritual system as a unity or “coherent whole.” I wasn’t attempting to argue for such. I did explain where we could perhaps look for temple themes outside of the traditional locations. Towards the end of the post, I went a step further and suggested that there is a possibility that (although this is not all clearly perceptible from the Scriptural accounts) the ancient Israelites may have performed ceremonies in the precincts of their temple that may have contained many rituals that are comparable to what we do today in our temples. I acknowledged that the theories upon which this assertion are based are conjectural/speculative, but I think that they are a good place to start.
I’m going to approach this post a little differently from my last one. Here, I am not expressly arguing for any comparisons. I am merely presenting some research that has been done by a scholar whose work I enjoy reading. Feel free to come to your own conclusions. The following comes from a book by British scholar Crispin Fletcher-Louis, entitled All the Glory of Adam: Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Brill, 2002). I posted this recently on my blog Heavenly Ascents, but I thought it would be appropriate to share again here for this audience.
Fletcher-Louis had the following to say about the early Jewish belief that all of humanity was meant to be divine, a potential that could be fully realized in the elect:
Studies driven by New Testament concerns have tended to focus attention on the singular angelomorphic hero of old or the future messiah whose identity prefigures early Christian beliefs about Jesus. However, the fact that so often the angelomorphic identity is grounded in that of Adam before his exit from Eden, the existence of a continuity of angelomorphic identity through the generations of God’s elect and the focus on Israel as an angelomorphic people of God speaks for a theological perspective which should not be missed: there seems to be a claim which is usually implicit, but, as we shall see, is at other times explicit, that true humanity, as it is restored among the elect, is both angelomorphic and divine. In the rush to explain the origins of early Christian beliefs about Jesus sight can be lost of the fact that the peculiarly divine, angelic or exalted status of a particular righteous individual is fundamentally an expression of a universal theological anthropology. (Crispin Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam, 12)