(cross-posted from www.heavenlyascents.com)
On Saturday the 14th of May I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the 1st Annual Expound Symposium, which was held in Provo at the Brigham Young Academy building. For anyone who was there, I hope I had a chance to talk to you — I met so many bright and interesting people there. If you didn’t attend, I’m sorry you missed out on a great event! But no worries, they are already planning next year’s symposium, which, according to current plans, will focus on the topic of temples. If you didn’t make it this time, you should start making plans to be there next year!
The symposium was very well put together and everyone, both the speakers and attendees, were very well taken care of (we’re talking lots of free food, free drawings for awesome publications, no entrance fee — it doesn’t get much better than this as far as these types of conferences go)! LDS author Matthew Brown was largely responsible for putting the event together and he did an incredible job of making it a very enlightening and worthwhile experience for everyone involved. A big thanks to him, his wife, and also to Jeffrey Bradshaw for making this event more than worth it for me to go from Scotland to Provo to be a part of it. I also want to thank my wife and kids for letting me go and my parents virtually killing the fatted calf for their prodigal son’s return (albeit knowing it would be very short-lived).
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)
For my first substantive post here on M*, I wanted to take you back to an issue that was discussed on this blog by M* Ben, back in 2005. M* Ben raised some very relevant and interesting queries for those of us who are familiar with the LDS temple ordinances: “Should we find the Temple ordinances in the Old Testament? If so, should we see them presented as they are today?” His preliminary answers to these two questions were “yes to the first and no to the second.” I agree with M* Ben’s initial conclusions, but I would like to approach these questions from, perhaps, a different angle and present to you some different results. I believe that the temple ordinances that we know today may have been presented as more of a “coherent whole” than M* Ben assumed. (Just to forewarn you, this post may be a little on the long side)