This post originally appeared at Wheat and Tares from Guy Templeton under the title Are We Properly Prepared to Enter the Temple? I thought it was worth sharing, along with some insightful comments.
I’ve been reading a book, Your Endowment by Mark A. Shields. The book claims to be from “an experienced gospel teacher, casts new light on the symbolism inherent in the temple ordinances and provides a wealth of insights that well change the way your worship.” I was intrigued by a story early in the book.
When the Los Angeles Temple building program was commenced, President McKay called a meeting of the stake presidents of the temple district. During this meeting, President McKay took occasion to express his feelings about the holy endowment. He indicated how some years before, a niece of his had received her ordinances in the house of the Lord. He had learned that shortly before that experience she had been initiated into a sorority at the local university. She had the crassness to say that she found the sorority initiation superior in effect and meaning to her than the endowment.
President McKay was open and frank with his audience about the experience of one of his own family with the endowment. He wasn’t worried about audible gasps. With characteristic aplomb, he paused and then said, “Brothers and sisters, she was disappointed in the temple. Brothers and sisters, I was disappointed in the temple. And so were you.” Then he said something incredibly important that should be engraven on all our souls. “There are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence.” Then he added, “If our young people could but glimpse it, it would be the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives!”
If the prophet of God is not ashamed to admit that his family was not properly prepared to enter the temple, none of us should be either.
What are your thoughts about temple preparation? How could we better prepare people to enter the temple and understand the symbolism?
Here are some comments that I thought were pretty awesome.
I think what is so hard about temple prep is the idea that we aren’t supposed to talk about anything outside the temple. But the temple prep manuals have sucked for years (going back to Pres McKay obviously.) So people don’t know what to say without getting into trouble. Here’s some things that I think would be extremely helpful for people who know nothing about the temple ceremony.
Temple ceremonies are radically different than a typical church service. The endowment composes of 2 parts: a ceremonial washing, and an endowment. In the ceremonial washing, you are blessed with many spiritual blessings, and are clothed with the holy garments. It typically takes less than a half hour or so (but you may talk to the temple president prior to the ceremony, so it will last longer.) You may find this ceremony as a little strange, because it is much more intimate than a typical Mormon ceremony. It is highly symbolic. Listen to the blessings, and try to contemplate these blessings in your life.
Part 2 is known as the endowment portion, and takes about 2 hours to complete. A temple film will portray many events of the creation, and deals with the fall of Adam and Eve, as well as other information from the scriptures. Men and women will be separated. During the ceremony, you will be instructed to put on some ceremonial clothing that will represent ancient ceremonies of ancient Israel. There will be other ceremonial rituals that you will participate in, and you will covenant with God to obey certain commandments. (You may find these rituals unusual, and very different from typically Mormon worship services.) You will symbolically participate in the atonement of life as well. Once again, this ceremony will be highly symbolic, and as you participate in these covenants, you will be blessed with priesthood power. Listen to these blessings and contemplate them in your life. They will serve as a wonderful blessing to you, and you should continue to ponder on the symbolic meaning of these rituals through the rest of your life.
Did I give away anything I shouldn’t? I don’t think so, but some of this basic information would have been extremely helpful to me. I remember people congratulating me in the Celestial room, and I wasn’t sure what I’d done to deserve congratulations for. I kept getting hung up on the weird ceremonial clothing that I wasn’t expecting. If there was some foreknowledge of that, it would have helped me.
The endowment is a ritual enactment of the creation, fall, and redemption of humanity. Each of Adam and Eve’s posterity is individually represented in a company of temple patrons. Each of us ritually falls from the presence of God, and yet is redeemed and brought back to His presence. In the temple drama, there is no audience; every person is an actor in the ritual. Every patron acts as one actual historical person. When you receive your own endowment, you will act as yourself in this ritual. Later, when you do endowments for the dead, you will enact the same drama, but will play the role of a deceased person. By intent, every person who ever lived or will live, is individually by name, brought through this ritual redemption.
In addition to the company of sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, each temple session includes temple workers acting as the God the Father, Jehovah, Adam, Eve, and others as messengers of God. Another temple worker acts in the role of Lucifer. In the Salt Lake and Manti temples, all characters are represented by live officiators and live temple patrons acting together on the same stage. In all other temples, some characters will be represented entirely or in part, in a video presentation. Two of the characters will be represented at times in the video, and at times by a live officiator in the endowment room. You will probably be experiencing the filmed version of the endowment. To fully understand what is happening, it is important that you not think of the film as a presentation you are watching, but as part of the same sacred drama you are acting in. The video and the endowment room should be understood as a single stage. You are not watching a film about the creation and fall. You are in the Garden with Adam and Eve. You are cast out with them into the lone and dreary world. You are redeemed and brought with them to be reintroduced to the Father at the veil.
The story of the endowment might be thought of as the story of the prodigal son. Each of us falls away from the Lord, and yet we find our way back and in the endowment we embrace the Father at the veil, wearing his best robe, and are welcomed back to his presence. The endowment begins with the company witnessing the creation and plan for redemption. When Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, we move with them into the the garden. In some temples, the company literally moves into a garden room painted with appropriate murals. In the garden, Eve and Adam make the conscious choice to partake of the fruit to continue their progression. We are cast out with them into the lone and dreary world (sometimes represented by moving into a World Room). In the World Room, we are visited by divine messengers who give us the covenants and symbolic knowledge needed for us to progress and be redeemed. This is certainly not intended to show literal historical events involving Adam and Eve. We as the posterity of Eve and Adam were not literally present with them in the garden, and were not cast out with them, as depicted in the temple. The endowment drama is best understood as a ritual play depicting our own redemption in parallel to that of our first parents.
After making the covenants required for redemption, and after being coached in the required symbolic knowledge, Adam and Eve and their posterity are presented one by one at the veil, where we literally embrace the Lord and return to his presence, entering the Celestial Room.
I wonder if we should tell prospective temple goers that Joseph Smith was a mason, and modified the masonic ceremony to reflect LDS perspectives, so in fact there are a lot of similarities. Would this form of inoculation be good or bad?
***Mormon Heretic on April 4, 2014 at 9:28 AM
Yes, I agree with KLC and Jack. Is there any reason why we can’t know what covenants we will be making prior? (no adultery, yes consecration, yes obedience and sacrifice, and the other one escapes me at the moment–or did I combine 2 already?) I know that technically they allow you to say, “I don’t want to covenant to these”, but there is tremendous peer pressure to walk out at that moment. These covenants aren’t really that unusual, and it would be nice for people to know them before they go.
Do you have any other suggestions?