I Don’t Wear White Dress Shirts

whiteshirt… that often. They just don’t appeal to or look good on me. How far back this aesthetic concern goes in my life I am not sure. Perhaps its only as recently in my life timeline as returning from my mission. Every day from dusk until dawn a missionary wears white shirts and ties, if not suits, as a servant of the Lord. Like any uniform, after the official reason for its use ends it feels good to change into something else. No reason to wear a drab color when there are so many other choices. The reason I don’t like to wear white shirts might sound shallow, and there is truth to that consideration, but tastes are not always complicated.

Part of my personality is less than white shirt and tie compatible. From an early age I have been an artistic minded person. My most distinct youthful memories include drawing or coloring on whatever piece of paper crossed my path. As an example, on Saturdays after cartoons there was a classic monster show that came on one of the channels. Giant monsters were my favorite. One of those was a giant tarantula that terrorized the American foothills of some unnamed geography. Having at the time fallen in love with the show the first viewing, I put that fandom down in art. Not just any old picture would do for my enthusiasm. No, I drew and colored (for a black and white film) the basic storyboard of the movie’s events. In the mind of that young boy sitting half the Saturday doing his creation, he was writer and director of a remake. White means fill the space up with shapes and colors. Continue reading

Doctrines of the Temple

This is a third in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.

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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

Conference: THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE: EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

Conference Schedule

The Academy for Temple Studies and the Utah State University Religious Studies program announce further details of the conference to be held on October 23, 2013, on the campus of Utah State University.  It will start at 9:15 a.m. in the Eccles Conference Center and adjourn at 4:30 p.m.  Since seating is limited, we recommend that you register now if you want to attend.

THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE:  EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

This conference will approach this topic from a temple perspective with biblical, archeological, liturgical and LDS components.  Looking at the abstracts below it is clear that this conference should promote a lively discussion and time is being allotted for panel discussion and response to questions.

8:45 Benchmark Bookstore open in the lobby.

9:15 Welcome and Introduction of the conference.

9:30 Margaret Barker, well-known for her numerous books and articles on temple theology, whose book called The Mother of the Lord:  The Lady in the Temple was published last year.  Her presentation is entitled, “The Woman Clothed With the Sun in Revelation 12.”  A female figure, apparently not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, appears in the centre spot of the Book of Revelation.  She is a royal figure, crowned with stars, and she gives birth to the king who rules from a throne in heaven.  She is attacked by a red dragon, escapes to the wilderness, and there waits for the allotted time to pass. Her other children were the Christians, but who was she, and where had she been hiding?  The implications are that the Lady is the Mother of Yahweh.

10:20 Q&A

10:40 break

11:00 William Dever, distinguished professor of Near Eastern Studies; has written 26 books and 350+ articles on Near Eastern archeology.  The writers of the Old Testament clearly present monotheism—the exclusive worship of the male deity Yahweh—as the ideal.  Yet the frequent condemnation of “idolatry” by prophets and reformers indicates that in folk religion other deities were often worshipped.  In particular, the Mother Goddess “Asherah” appears as a shadowy figure, almost forgotten in later times.  But several recent archaeological discoveries of both artifacts and texts have revealed that the cult of Asherah was widespread throughout the monarchy.  And in many circles she was regarded not simply as a patroness of mothers, but as the consort of Yahweh. Even in later Judaism, she appears as the “Shekinah”—the earthly Mother who represents the presence of a remote God.  Prof. Dever will give an illustrated lecture on Asherah, based on his recent book Did God have a Wife?  Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel.

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The Deuteronomists and the Suppression of Ancient Truths

In light of some insights I’ve gained from the Old Testament class I tutor for and comments on blog posts I’ve recently read, I’ve decided to post the following material on an important topic for our study of the Old Testament, and the Scriptures in general. This material is largely based on a previous post from my solo blog, Heavenly Ascents.
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A question that I often run into when speaking to fellow Latter-day Saints and other Christians about the Bible is the matter of why the Old Testament seems to represent such a different religious perspective from the New Testament. More specifically, why does it seem that many of the doctrines that receive such emphasis in the New Testament (and that are fundamental for Christianity) seem so obscure or even virtually absent in the Old Testament? There are many reasons that can be offered for this problem, which can be a dilemma for any Christian, but perhaps even more so for Mormons, in light of our popular belief that the fundamental doctrines and practices of the Gospel are revealed anew in largely similar form in each dispensation from the beginning of time.
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One of the main issues with the Old Testament in its final form (the form in which we have received it), and the religious views that it can be seen to represent, that is recognized by biblical scholars is the work of the so-called Deuteronomist(s) or Deuteronomic School on the text (and, as a result, the religious views) of the Hebrew Scriptures. This party (it was more likely a group than an individual), it is argued, was responsible for composing the Book of Deuteronomy (not in the time of Moses, but in the time of King Josiah, 7th century BC), and also the Deuteronomic History, comprising the biblical books of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings (the principal account that we have of Israel’s history). It is also thought that this party edited the writings of the Pentateuch to fit their view of history and theology.
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Doing their work well before the Babylonian Exile, the Deuteronomists seem to have been involved in the reforms of King Josiah (see 2 Kings 22-23) and the Book of the Law that apparently served as inspiration for the reforms (2 Kgs 22:8-13) was likely the Book of Deuteronomy that they wrote (or perhaps heavily edited). These reform movements, which are not unique in history, served to ensure that the later theology of the more “mainstream” Jewish sects as well as many of the texts that form our Old Testament canon represented, in many ways, a significantly different belief system from the more ancient Israelite religion.

Psalm 24: Temple Gates and Guardians

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.

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