I’ve been reading some of the interesting changes in temple ceremonies (specifically the Endowment ceremony) in the book, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship, by David John Buerger. (I talked about this in my previous post as well.) The temple is a place where we are constantly reminded that if we must communicate, we should whisper so that the Spirit of God will be there. However, it wasn’t always that way. Buerger records that following some initiatory ceremonies, and weddings, dancing was actually done in the Kirtland Temple. I wish such practices continued today.
From page 85,
The following Tuesday, 30 December, the work of the endowment finished early, and an innovation occurred which seems by Clayton’s account to have been spontaneous:
The labors of the day having been brought to a close at so early an hour viz; half past 8, it was though proper to have a little season of recreation, accordingly, Brother Hans Hanson was invited to produce his violin. He did so, and played several lively airs, among the rest some very good lively dancing tunes. This was too much for the gravity of Brother Joseph Young, who indulged a hornpipe, and was soon joined by several others, and before the dance was over several French fours were indulged in. The first was opened by President B. Young with Sister Whitney and Elder H. C. Kimball with Sister Lewis. The spirit of dancing increased until the whole floor was covered with dancers. After this had continued about an hour, several excellent songs were sung, in which several of the brethren and sisters joined. The Upper California was sung by Erastus Snow. After which Sister Whitney being invited by President Young, stood up and invoking the gift of tongues, sung one of the most beautiful songs in tongues that ever was heard. The interpretation was given by her husband, Bishop Whitney, it related to our efforts to build this House, and to the privelege we now have of meeting together in it, of our departure shortly to the country of the Lamanites, and their rejoicing when they hear the gospel, and of the ingathering of Israel. Altogether, it was one of the most touching and beautiful exhibitions of the power of the Spirit in the gift of tongues which was ever seen. (So it appeared to the writer of this.) After a little conversation of a general nature, the exercises of the evening were closed by prayer by President B. Young, and soon after most of the persons present left the Temple for their homes.
Two days later a wedding occurred in the temple. Young people attended, and again there was dancing. Wrote Clayton,
After dancing a few figures, President Young called the attention of the whole company, and then gave them a message, or this import, viz; that this temple was a Holy place, and that when we danced, we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. He said the wicked had no right to dance, that dancing and music belonged to the Saints.
After the dancing ended at about two in the morning, the “sisters retired to the side rooms, and the brethren stretched themselves on the floor, or on the sofas and all were soon in the embraces of ”tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep,’ with the exception of the Bridegroom and Bride, and a few of their friends who, being unable to close their eyes in sleep, from the abundance of their joy, passed the short hours of the morning, in agreeable conversation, in the office.” This pattern of performing endowments during the day and dancing in the temple at night continued at least during the next week. At this point Clayton’s diary for Kimball ends.
So, not only does the dancing strike me as a major departure of current temple practices, but Sister Whitney’s speaking in tongues and Bishop Whitney’s interpretation are a stark contrast to today’s temple meetings. I can’t imagine what the reaction would be if someone were to start speaking in tongues in the temple, but I don’t think it would be looked upon favorably. As I mentioned before, there are constant reminders that we should be silent, and that whispering be done only when necessary.
The only exceptions to this rule are in the waiting room for a temple sealing, or missionary endowments. Sometimes it can get a little loud as people great family members in a sort of family reunion in the sealing waiting room. Even here, temple workers are constantly saying “Shhhh–you’re in the house of the Lord.” Following the endowment ceremony when a missionary receives his/her endowments, the Celestial room can get a little noisy as everyone congratulates the prospective missionary. But such displays proclaimed by Brigham Young as “when we danced, we danced unto the Lord”, would be considered highly irreverent today.
Here are a few other notable changes over the years. Mormons are known for their strict obedience to the Word of Wisdom. Page 141 states,
For the first time dietary requirements–such as abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee–became mandatory for admission to the temple. Apparently this had ben encouraged prior to 1921, but exceptions had been made. [Thomas G. Alexander, “The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement,” Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 (Fall 1981): 82.]
Another interesting change: sealing to parents. From page 127,
However, an important change in emphasis would occur, resulting from a revelation announced by Wilford Woodruff’s in the 1894 April general conference. Woodruff’s action stopped the practice of sealing people to general authorities and other church members outside their family lineage and instead directed that they be sealed to their own parents. This change successfully accommodated a growing discomfort among Latter-day Saints with the former practice, and the number of living and dead sealings to parents surged the following year. In November 1894 the church established the Genealogical Society of Utah and ultimately awakened a heightened interest in systematic work for dead lineal ancestors.
Between pages 131 and 133 are about 8 pages of photos and drawings. One included some architectural drawings of the Salt Lake Temple, which showed that Saturn with its rings was supposed to adorn the walls of the temple. Quoting from the caption,
A rich source of cosmic symbolism, the Salt Lake Temple was to have featured Saturn-stones on each of its eighteen castellations. The decision to use granite in constructing the temple, however, meant that some details, such as the lateral views of Saturn’s rings, were lost. Stone masons compensated for this by simplifying some of the symbolism. Also featured on the temple exterior are earth-stones, moon-stones, cloud-stones, star-stones, and sun-stones.
The final change I want to mention has more to do with Mormon theology, and specifically Sidney Rigdon. From page 2,
Prior to mid-1831 Mormon theology was not predestinarian. The Book of Mormon, for example, does not employ “calling and election,” “elect,” “destined,” “predestined”, or “predestinate” when speaking of afterlife, judgment, or salvation. The sole use of the phrase “calling and election” in a June 1831 revelation published in Doctrine and Covenants 53:1, 7 (hereafter D&C) avoided eschatological implications.
Some time between June and November 1831, however, LDS salvation theology changed, tied to the 3 June 1831 conferral of High Priesthood on church elders. According to later testimony by Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer, the introduction of the High Priesthood (an event he considered to be an aberration from scriptural sources) “originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon”: “Rigdon finally persuaded Brother Joseph [Smith] to believe that the high priests which had such great power in ancient times, should be in the Church of Christ to-day. He had Brother Joseph inquire of the Lord about it, and they received an answer according to their erring desires.
Despite the controversy which surrounded this even, High Priesthood came to be regarded as the power to “seal” or perform earthly ordinances which were ratified in heaven.
This notion, when taken with key Book of Mormon passages, represented a departure from biblical precedent. In the New Testament, for example, the terms “to seal” and “to place a seal on” referred to the ancient practice of placing a wax or mud seal to close and protect a document from misappropriation. The confirmation effect of a sealing is seen in several Pauline passages in which God seals Christians by giving them the Holy Spirit or the Holy Spirit of Promise as a ratification of future blessings and promises to come. The Apocalypse of John depicts the servants of God receiving the seal or imprint of God on their forehead.
I’ll stop here. We had some interesting comments with Dale Broadhurst regarding the Spalding Manuscript theory. It was interesting to see Whitmer blame Rigdon for introduction of the sealing concept. Buerger details how the Book of Mormon context is different from the Biblical context, and he compares it to Catholic and Protestant ideas (especially the Calvinistic idea of predestination.) I found it interesting that these ideas of predestination seem more prevalent in the D&C than Book of Mormon, especially considering that the Spalding Theory claims that Sidney is the most likely author of the Book of Mormon.
So, what do you make of these changes over the years: speaking in tongues, dancing, Word of Wisdom?