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Dancing in the Temple, and Other Changes Over the Years

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.

…[page 3]

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?

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26 comments on “Dancing in the Temple, and Other Changes Over the Years

  1. It’s interesting to read stories like this because it shows just how much the Church has changed from what it was in its early days to what it is now. I remember a while back when I did that post about what JS would think of the LDS Church today, it was interesting to read how even the most fundamentalist and most liberal of Mormons today — totally opposite sides of the belief spectrum — thought that JS would be appalled by the modern Church. Personally, I’m not sure that “appalled” would be an appropriate word, but I don’t think it’s what he imagined. So much has changed, it’s barely recognizable — activities within the temple being just one example.

    There is a lot of speaking in tongues, and other (what I would describe as Pentecostal-like) behaviour in the early history of the Church. Since I’ve grown up in the modern Church, I admittedly probably wouldn’t feel all that comfortable if I went back in time. But I have wondered why all these seemingly miraculous practices have all but stopped. I’m not sure whether I should believe that the early Saints were so caught up in Mormonism that they deluded themselves into some pretty strange behaviour (polygamy being one, but these outbursts and speaking in tongues perhaps being another), or that the modern Church has become so ultraconservative (and perhaps downright boring) in its style of worship that we’ve lost the ability to receive such gifts as frequently and as dramatically as the early Mormons. I don’t know, but if someone got up in sacrament meeting and started speaking in tongues today, I don’t think it would be well-received.

    As for the WofW, I personally live it and think it’s a good thing, but I think we’ve totally lost the “not by commandment or constraint” part and have totally turned it into just that. I don’t think that people should be denied baptism if they are unable to live it completely. After all, how many of us do? If we do want it to be a commandment, then why only parts of it? (I am, of course, referring to the meat part.)

  2. I think you bring up some excellent points FD, but another question to ask, “Would Jesus recognize his church?”

    Every organization must go through changes. The miracles of the apostles are long gone too. Would Jesus be happy to see the fragmentation of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants? Catholics and Orthodox claim to have been around since the days of Peter, and have undergone many changes too in the last 2000 years. Some change is inevitable. Joseph encouraged a return to miracles, but it doesn’t seem that the age miracles is supposed to last forever. At some point, every religion must walk by faith.

  3. 1) I believe there was dancing in the Nauvoo temple as well. I don’t have the source handy, but I remember reading that the dancing got intense enough that the Celestial room floor, which had not been reinforced for that purpose, collapsed. Nobody was seriously hurt, but it probably contributed to the eventual abandonment of the temple.

    2) Hi Faithful Dissident! Good to see you! 🙂

  4. Bro Jones, I would love to hear that reference. I had never heard of such a thing, and it would be a wonderful follow up to this post.

  5. Interesting post and subsequent comments. Provoked the following thoughts…

    Dancing. I’m okay with it being practiced earlier and I agree that it would more than raise a few eyebrows today. Why not today? First thought was that perhaps they had more to dance about, given the tremendous price they paid for those temples and associated blessings. It probably fit naturally into their worship, even at the highest, most sacred level. Essentially, we don’t feel the urge to dance today, so we don’t (and it certainly wouldn’t feel natural as a group}. At some point, the same level of joy was lost and the practice stopped. I don’t know. Would be easy to say that we “take it for granted” today or “don’t appreciate” what we have. May be more to it than that.

    Of course, the bigger question is, “Why all the change?” Dancing in the temple, speaking in tongues, free/outward display of miracles, etc. are only part of it. We don’t have to go that far back. Think of the significant changes to the temple ceremony we’ve seen within our own lifetime in addition to the hundreds of others related to Church policy and general practices. Do we take our cues from our leaders? Are they responsible for it? It is all directed by the Lord or have we gone astray? I’m hesitant to think we have, but I could be wrong. I was going to say that I think the Church is always progressing, but maybe we have regressed to a large degree in some important areas. The lack of certain practices today doesn’t necessarily mean we have need to repent. One of the blessings of a living Church is that it is adaptable to the needs and capabilities of the saints at any given time. Indeed, I think that is not only strong evidence of its truthfulness, but a necessary condition of the true church as well. Another factor may be the sheer size of the Church. What works for 1,000 may not work for 10,000,000. Personally, I think that’d one of the reasons for the downfall of the ancient Church. It grew too quickly and got out of hand. What don’t change {IMO}, are the core saving doctrines and ordinances of salvation, at least not on a significant level. So all the other change doesn’t really bother me. I’m comfortable with the general practice of things and I don’t think we’re missing out on anything essential to our eternal progress. If we are collectively, I think it can be compensated for individually. Dancing a “major departure?” Maybe, but does it really matter?

    MH, are you equating “calling and election” with predestination? Not sure and I wouldn’t see the connection if you are. Enlighten me please, if necessary.

    I would say that if these lost practices were to suddenly appear and they were in order (according to and produced by the Holy Spirit), the “right” ones would have no problem with them and all the others could “kick against the pricks” as it has always been their prerogative to do so.

    This leads to the other question posed by MH and others, i.e., “Would Jesus (Joseph Smith, early prophets, etc.) recognize the Church today?” Boy, I have somewhat of a problem with that question as some enemies of the Church (Fundamentalists and opportunists who side with them when it suits their purposes) like to throw that out. If Jesus truly stands at the head of the Church as we are taught, obviously he would. Perhaps the question really is, “Would He/they be pleased with what they saw?” That would be a mixed bag. With some things, yes; others, no. Would Joseph Smith and the others? For the most part, I think so. On some level, they would have to have some sense and understanding for the changes and feel nothing more than to lead and encourage us as they did before. I think they would have a much better view of the big picture and would be pleased with much of what we have accomplished given the circumstances. Do we do enough? No. Have we forgotten some things? Certainly. But I have to remember that the Church is comprised of some of Heavenly Father’s most valiant servants in all eternity. If we have strayed, the greatest contributing factor I believe is our ease and wealth; although that has changed recently and may continue for some time.

    It’s 2:00 AM and I feel the level of intelligibility may drop (and it may not be that high to begin with} if I continue. 🙂

  6. Am I getting senile, or do I remember correctly that wine was served in the temple at that festive occasion?

  7. Every organization must go through changes. The miracles of the apostles are long gone too. Would Jesus be happy to see the fragmentation of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants? Catholics and Orthodox claim to have been around since the days of Peter, and have undergone many changes too in the last 2000 years. Some change is inevitable. Joseph encouraged a return to miracles, but it doesn’t seem that the age miracles is supposed to last forever. At some point, every religion must walk by faith.

    Agreed. It’s hard to think of any religion or organization that hasn’t changed and evolved over the years, particularly those which have been around for many years. But I think that a lot of Mormons (at least those who haven’t studied much of the history) pride themselves on the assumption that since everything was “restored,” the modern-day LDS Church is operating just like it did in Jesus’ day. Although that may be true in a few aspects, I find that the current Church barely resembles what it was in JS’ day, let alone Jesus’. Now, I suppose that would be a good thing for a church that claims continuing revelation, since that would mean we are constantly evolving and progressing, but as we’ve discussed in other threads, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of that either. At least if we compare ourselves to an organization such as the CofC and their constant additional revelations. They’re certainly evolving and changing at much faster pace than we are, so I would imagine that some of their current members would have as much discomfort — or perhaps envy of the “good ol’ days” as LDS members do.

  8. Good to see you as well, Bro. Jones! 🙂

  9. #6: Yes. Wine was served in the temple at many occasions. There are reports of wine and food being brought to the temple for people after a long day working there. In fact, wine was used by the Twelve for sacrament in the temple into the 20th century.

  10. FD:

    I’m not sure whether our evolving is in the right way in the CofChrist or not. Absence of evolution as the world changes is pretty sure to lead to extinction. However, mutations are far more common than ADVANTAGEOUS mutations.

    I’ve thought about using a “scientific parable” of lobsters living in a sea that is growing more chemically damaging to their shells. The “chemicals” correspond to the decreasing receptivity of Western society to the “traditional” culture represented by both mid-20th Century LDS/RLDS practices (despite their theological differences).

    LDS evolved largely harder shells, with those offspring that couldn’t do that retreating into “purer” cultural waters or succumbing and being lost to the Mormon population. (OK — the parable’s not perfect.) Population growth is approaching a maximum, but the species is hanging on quite well in its increasingly restricted range in the West. I have no data on your third world future.

    RLDS evolved a whole new species, the CofChrist, that is trying to learn to survive without shells. Maybe, but so far, it looks like we’re just becoming a tasty little snack for all the things going on around us — the shells that kept the bad stuff out turn out to be the same things that kept most of us IN.

    MY hope is that the CofChrist will mutate yet again into a newer species that has no shell, but is so small it doesn’t need one. I hope when we get small, we’ll be able to hide in the cracks of society and actually still do a lot of good — finding a home whereever we need one. Perhaps we’ll be the hermit crabs of the Restoration!

    Anyway, forgive the rambling. I’m looking forward to reporting over the next several months on the process of adopting new scripture for the D&C as it works in CofChrist.

  11. LDS in Texas,

    “MH, are you equating “calling and election” with predestination?”

    I’m not, but Buerger is relating how they’re similar, and I can see some similarities. I don’t claim to be a predestination expert–if someone is, please correct me. From what I understand about predestination, God predestines certain people to go to heaven. It seems to be somewhat at odds with free agency, because God has predetermined who gets into heaven, and there’s not much we can do. If we’re predestined to get into heaven, we get in. If we’re not, we can’t do anything about it.

    In the D&C, there are some similarities. “The Elect hear my voice.” Certainly this bears some resemblance to the concept of predestination, though Mormons seem to believe in more in free-agency, and our ability to influence the outcome based on our choices. In the Book of Abraham (PoGP), God tells Abraham that he was chosen before he was born, which gives some similarities to predestination. Even the Book of Mormon talks about how God called certain people to lead his church. Alma 13:3 says these leaders were “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works.”

    So, I’m not trying to equate predestination with Mormon theology, but I do agree that foreordination has some similarities with predestination. Buerger’s point that the Endowment, but more specifically the 2nd Anointment, (which either isn’t practiced anymore, or is so secret that probably only the GA’s receive it), was introduced by Sidney Rigdon. It’s an interesting proposition, and I see some problems with this line of thought for both critics and advocates of this theory.

    On the one hand, for those who think Sidney was the real source of the Book of Mormon, David Whitmer’s charge that Sidney brought some priesthood hierarchical ideas seems to be at odds with the idea that Sidney was the author of the Book of Mormon. On the other hand, those of us who discount the Spaulding Theory, we can see that early Mormon theology was being revealed rather quickly between 1829-1844. For example, the first Mormons probably believed in a more Trinitarian view of God, since Joseph never really published his widely recognized First Vision account describing God and Jesus as separate beings until 1838. Also, the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood offices were in pretty big flux in the early 1830’s. So, the idea that “calling and election” were in flux in this early period should come as no surprise. Rigdon certainly seems to have influenced Joseph regarding the Law of Consecration, so it wouldn’t be surprising to me that Sidney may have influenced Joseph on “calling and election”.

    However, even if one subscribes to this idea that Sidney influenced Joseph on predestination/election concepts, clearly Joseph expanded on them dramatically. In the 1840’s there was a bit of a falling out between Joseph and Sidney regarding polygamy and the post office (see my earlier post), and it is quite apparent that though Rigdon probably received the initiatory ordinance in Kirtland, he was excluded from the Endowment, (and definitely 2nd Anointing), and the sealing ordinances. I know that is a long answer to your question, and I agree that Mormons don’t believe in predestination, but I think there are some undeniable similarities.

  12. FD,

    You make some good points about revelation and change in the church. Even in a church that is used to revelation and change, sometimes change is not well-received. I toyed with the idea of introducing a quote from a sister who complained about a change implemented under Pres Grant. The prophet said that it was ok to make temple garments out of a more comfortable cotton materials in the 1920’s or so. This sister complained that the original design was from Joseph Smith, and paraphrasing, “Pres Grant had no right to change it.”

    I always find FireTag’s analogies interesting, and I think he has some appropriate views of the current CoC situation trying to live without shells. I think a strong case can be made that Brigham Young and later leaders’ standardization and lack of change helped strengthen the church, even though the result was less theological innovation. These shells that FireTag mentions certainly served a protective effect for the LDS. While theological innovations have slowed down considerably since the days of Jospeh Smith, there is still room for revelatory changes, as evidenced by the Manifesto and lifting of the Priesthood Ban. FireTag downplays some of the changes like women priesthood holders and the changed name of the CoC as not really having a significant effect on CoC membership, but I do think that these changes haven’t had a positive growth effect. Perhaps it is semantics, but I speculate that some of these theological changes in the CoC have not helped, and probably hindered CoC growth. The standardization under Brigham Young definitely helped strengthen and grow the church.

  13. MH:

    My wife is getting me Givens new book on preexistence in Western thought for Christmas, so I expect to have some more to say about the topic of lineage and priesthood and how people can be called from the foundation of the world (with some more about parallel universes thrown in to show how it all kind of pops out naturally).

    I agree that liberalization has not had a positive growth effect on ANY denomination in North America — including the CofChrist. Which is why I object to people pushing the CofChrist toward liberalization “because it will help the church grow”. Do it if/because you think its more faithful to the gospel, yes. But not because of a reason that has been disproven several times over.

    But statistically speaking, the effect of liberalization HAS been to change who joins the church without having any noticable effect on how many. (Shells work better than no shells.)

    However, we also don’t believe any more that being in the “one and only true church” is about getting us to heaven. God’s work among humanity us bigger than a religious movement, and so growing the church isn’t supposed to be the end-all. We used to have a slogan: evangelize the world and Zionize the church. Now it’s more of “Zionize the world and evangelism will follow”. We can’t do that from within a shell; we were too small when the waters turned toxic to tradition.

    Your church is 100 times larger than ours in the US, so maybe it will be different for you, but you are trending toward a peak in about 20 years, and the crisis comes for denominations when growth stops and internal differences in resources and priorities can no longer be smoothed over without bringing them into the open.

  14. Hmm. My wife is getting me Sorenson’s book, too. I’m like a kitten in a field of butterflies. Too many targets of opportunity, 😀

  15. Those sound like a couple of interesting books FireTag. I haven’t read Givens yet, but he is on my book club list, and I think we’ll get to him in a month or two. Sorensen can be a little dry, but I think it’s a must read for BoM geography buffs.

    If we are headed for a peak in 20 years, it will be interesting to see what changes result. Will there be a return to conservatism, or will the leaders open more to liberalism? Time will tell.

  16. The changes that have taken place with the endowment even since the 1970’s are questionable for me. Although I do not agree that a woman should be subject to her husband and her husband to God, as the endowment use to say, I’m not sure changing what was “revealed” should take place. If you believe that the endowment was revealed to Joseph then it should not have been changed without some pretty good reasons confirmed by revelation. Changing the endowment because of political climates was and is never appropriate.
    I left the LDS Church in 1983 and was excommunicated in 1984, but I have always held my receiving my endowment as a sacred experience and always will regardless of how far away the LDS Church drifts from its origins.
    Regarding dancing and speaking in tongues, I tell my friends that if someone stood and spoke in tongues and someone stood and interpreted the message they would soon find themselves outside.
    I have learned that being in the present when a message in tongues is received is an awesome experience and so full of the Spirit. Let me tell you in the denomination which I have been apart of since 1994, dancing is seen as a way of praising God just as singing or speaking can be. Maybe if the men at 50 North Temple let their hair down maybe just maybe, the Spirit would find its way back into services.

  17. Leanna:

    I am not PERSONALLY comfortable with speaking in tongues and have never seen it. (inspired dreams about directions in my life seem to be more how the Spirit works with me when It has to get my attention in a hurry!) It’s accepted among us theologically, and speaking under the influence of the Spirit is certainly often practiced. I do think we have a few “Contemporary Christian Ministry” Congregations — think of them as special “wards” — where tongues are sometimes reported.

    I presume your denomination is Pentecostal. What has been your experience?

    MH:

    Sorenson isn’t dry at all. He’s about to convince me about the “East” being the Gulf Coast. I just found a plausible volcanic candidate for Moroni’s drowning that makes sense in the plate tectonic framework. Fun to come.

  18. Leanna, thanks for the comments. I have always found speaking in tongues a very interesting concept. As missionaries, we always quoted the scripture in Corinthians (I beleive) which said that speaking in tongues needed an interpreter present. We always felt that speaking in tongues was more of a gift of the Holy Ghost in helping missionary work–especially for foreign speaking missionaries. Certainly the Day of Pentecost was a missionary moment as the apostles spoke in various languages. However, I know that not all New Testament episodes dealt only with speaking other languages, and some were very similar to the episode of Bishop and Sister Whitney.

    I think I have to agree with you that if a person spoke in tongues today, the church would frown on it. I don’t know that they would find themselves on the outside of the church, unless they persisted in telling the story. I know the general authorities say that some miracles are not meant to be shared. Perhaps this is why the church doesn’t emphasize some of these early miracles in the Kirtland Temple. I think it would be cool to have some of these experiences today, though I wonder how well they would be accepted today.

    As for dancing, I’m reminded that King David danced before the Lord. The Biblical story is interesting, because 1 of his wives thought he was immodestly dressed. Certainly there are scriptures which seem to indicate more celebratory worship services than our somber displays in the temples and churches today. I read the book Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard Arrington, and he said that early church leaders came from Puritan New England. Now that’s interesting that Puritans like Brigham Young seemed to have no problem dancing in the temple, but it sure seems like the Puritan somber form of worship seems to dominate Mormon temple and church services today. I’d really like to see us let our hair down a bit. I agree that it might bring in the spirit, though it will definitely take some getting used to for many members who are used to our somber services.

    FireTag, I’ll have to pick up Sorenson again. I had to stop to keep up with my book club books (which can be dry as well.) Maybe I’ll find him less dry now. 😉 I think we only have a few books left for the year. If we continue the club, I’ll have to suggest it for next year so I can write a post on it and we can discuss it! Are you reading “An American Setting for the Book of Mormon” or another book. I did like his “Mormon’s Map” much better (perhaps it was because it had more pictures.) 🙂

  19. Thanks for that, MH. I see your point, but I probably don’t see as much similarity between the two as you do. To me, it’s purely apples and oranges, with some loose similarities as you indicate. I know you understand the doctrine and don’t need me to explain; but for the sake of discussion and perhaps some clarification for those not as familiar with the two concepts, I’ll add my two cents.

    You reference “The Elect hear my voice” and Alma 13:3 (one of my favorite chapters in the BofM). I find it interesting that in both the key is the free exercise of agency manifested in hearing, exercising faith, and doing good works. These come about because of our choices and not because God made us that way. The BofM makes it clear that the “highly favored” of God gain that status through obedience. WE decide if we are the elect, highly favored, etc. Of course, agency was in full force in the pre(mortal)-existence and we are placed in circumstances on the earth due to our choices and progression there. God’s unhindered view of eternity gives Him the foreknowledge to place us in these circumstances and “call” us to the work. God’s foreknowledge + our agency –> “Many are called, but few are chosen.” We always have the choice to underperform or reject our callings outright, which of course affects our future circumstances.

    As far as the second anointing goes, it seems to be practiced today as often as is required (or merited). I don’t have all the details, but our prior stake president personally new nine individuals who had received it and I know three others. The three I know are regular “Joe” members. One of my greatest spiritual experiences happened in the temple during a veil worker training when the trainer put his arm around my shoulder, looked me straight in the face, and described the Savior to me from his personal visitations. As the training progressed through the shift, he told me of several personal encounters including one in which the Savior appeared to a small group of sisters during an endowment session. I treat the details as extremely personal and I’m not attempting to “wow” anyone by disclosing what I have. My point is simply that it does happen and the Lord is not constrained in this area.

    Thanks for the good material, everyone. Learning a lot from these exchanges.

  20. FireTag, I can’t say that I am very close with any RLDS/CofC. My wife and I know a lady who technically is a member, but she hasn’t been to church in years. We’re actually looking for the right opportunity to get her to one of our meetings. I’m learning more about it from your posts.

    Your earlier posts on this topic intrigue me. Not sure how much you’ll feel inclined provide in a response, but some initial questions are:

    1- Can’t tell if the CoC hangs on to the belief that it is “the one and only” as the LDS Church does. If so, I don’t understand the goal of reducing your numbers to the brink of obscurity (the “cracks”). What is the good you intend to accomplish, if not the salvation of God’s children?
    2- I get the older slogan, but given the desire for smallness, I’m not sure what you mean by “Zionize the world and the evangelism will follow.” Do you mean carving out a “world” from among the zionists (isolation) and then going forth to bring in the elect?

  21. MH:

    I think that I’ve got about 3 posts in mind for Sorenson’s “Ancient American Setting…” already. I find it really impressive when he gets the plate tectonics wrong, gets the oceanography wrong, gets the DNA evidence of the arrival timing in America wrong, but when you correct those things, his map pops out anyway, so I’ll definitely want to talk about some of those points in my blog.

    LDSinT:

    MH has a post he put up on Mormon Matters which I think he titled “Interview with the Community of Christ” in which he consolidates a number things said by John Hamer, Margie Miller, and me at various posts on this blog. If you haven’t read that, it may help clarify in general.

    To answer your specific questions, we see the evidence of the Holy Ghost working in many places in the world to establish the Kingdom. We believe that the Restoration is an essential element of that work, but not a sufficient element of that work. So it would be fair to say we believe we are “a” true, divinely inspired church, but not “the one and only” such church. Having a one and only true church — believing the right things about Jesus and having the right sacraments — is seen as different from believing in Jesus and following his leadings. The church is supposed to be a gateway to Jesus, not a gatekeeper from Jesus.

    Fifty years ago, we would have believed we were the one and only, and you folks had gone into apostasy like everyone else.

    With that orientation comes the focus (or even an overfocus) on specific mission related to building Zion, while not paying attention to the afterlife. It has become something of a cultural virtue among us (I don’t argue that it’s theologically sound in every respect, because I think the Spirual side of man can thereby get neglected) to serve without worrying about one’s eternal reward. We think the “elect”, when we don’t glitch over the term entirely, are those who are so worried about the fates of others they stop worrying about their own status. So we are trying to go ever more into the world and make it take on the characteristics of peace and justice and hope and joy — the characteristics of Zion — everywhere. It’s the exact opposite of isolationist.

    The church does not have a GOAL of getting smaller; it is consuming itself, in my opinion, on trying to maintain itself so it can Zionize the world. But it cannot. I have records of our membership from various world church sources for the CofChrist going back to 1880 that show our growth and decline in North America is absolutely independent of anything we do. More missionary effort = same result. Less missionary effort = same result. More liberalism = same result. More conservatism = same result. Etc. Our size is controlled from outside the church, in the larger society, so I PERSONALLY believe we have to pack up our tents like Lehi and head out into the “wilderness” outside our Jerusalems, because that’s where our future is being decided.

    Since your denomination is 100 times our size in the US according to Pew, you are far less in a tail-trying-to-wag-the-dog situation than we are, but the limited data I’ve seen indicate your peak membership (God not intervening externally directly in society) will peak in about 20 years at about 2% of the population. III Nephi has Jesus saying some interesting things about that situation.

  22. LDS in Texas, while I did post a shorter version on Mormon Matters, the longer version of the Interview with the Community of Christ is right here. I think you’ll learn a lot–I certainly did. We’ve talked about the growth/decline of the CoC membership quite a bit here, though I can’t place exactly where we got into the most detail. It may have been on the Interview post.

    Thanks for the info on 2nd Anointings. That is certainly not talked about in the church.

    FireTag, I look forward to your Sorenson posts.

  23. The Kirtland Temple is a vastly different structure in both purpose and design from the Nauvoo Temple and its architectural descendants, so it’s no surprise that they had weddings, dances and other gatherings in the building. I see the Kirtland Temple as the precursor to the modern meeting houses that we gather in today, and we have weddings, dances, parties, etc. in those buildings.

  24. MH, thanks for the reference.

    FireTag, thanks as well for your information. You answered a couple of my questions, but raise about 10 more. I’ll try to glean as much as I can on my own from the resources available before I circle back on this topic, if needed.

  25. I seem to remember when my mother was a practicing Mormon, that blacks were able to join the church but not have any position of rank within the church…but now am told that they are able too. I’m confused on this subject, as my God was the same, yesterday, today, & tomorrow…why all of these changes if it is truly from the LORD? The dancing, tongues, and the rights of every Gentiles, why do we need something besides the bible? Thank you for your time to answer my questions, and may God be with you in the answers.

  26. Beth, thanks for stopping by.

    The Bible took thousands of years to put together. Before Moses, there were no scriptures or 10 commandments. Before Isaiah, there was no Book of Isaiah. Before Christ, there was no New Testament. Our church believes the God wants to talk to us, just as he talked to Moses, Isaiah, Christ, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul. The Bible is a record of “changes” over the centuries. One needs only look at Baptism, the Last Supper, the Law of Circumcision, or dietary laws to see some changes in religious practices within the Bible itself.

    Yes, God is unchanging, but man is not. Christians no longer follow the Law of Moses (even though Christ did). So yes, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but he gives us new scriptures when he wants us to know more. We don’t believe God is done talking to us, and that’s why we have more scriptures. God loves us ans wants to talk to us just like he loved ancient Jews and Christians and talked to them.

    If you’d like to know more about Mormons and race, I encourage you to click on this link. I’ve talked about it quite extensively.

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