Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Temple as a Place of Ascent to God: Great Article from Daniel C. Peterson

If you'd like to expand your understanding and appreciation of the truly majestic LDS temple concept, you could begin with Daniel C. Peterson's recent article, "The Temple as a Place of Ascent to God." He touches upon some of the many parallels to ancient religion that are expressed so richly in the restored LDS temple. He does this not by way of apologetics, but to remind us LDS folks of the treasures that we have been given and that we should be enjoying these blessings and living the Gospel to the fullest, not just defending it.

Here is a brief excerpt from the end of his essay:
I'll conclude with a quotation from 3 Enoch, chapters 11 through 13, which is one of the greatest ancient texts that I haven't referred to yet.
"Rabbi Ishmael said: The angel Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, said to me [Metatron is Enoch, but at this point, he's been changed into the angel Metatron, who dwells before the Throne]: The Holy One, blessed be he, revealed to me from that time onward all the mysteries of wisdom, all the depths of the perfect Torah, and all the thoughts of men's hearts. All mysteries of the world, and all the orders of nature stand revealed before me as they stand revealed before the Creator. From that time onward, I looked and beheld deep secrets and wonderful mysteries. Before a man thinks in secret, I see his thought. Before he acts, I see his act. There is nothing in heaven above or deep within the earth concealed from me." (3 Enoch 11:1-3)

"Rabbi Ishmael said: Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, said to me: Out of the love which he had for me, more than for all the denizens of the heights, the Holy One, blessed be he, fashioned for me a majestic robe, in which all kinds of luminaries were set, and he clothed me in it. He fashioned for me a glorious cloak in which brightness, brilliance, splendor, and luster of every kind were fixed, and he wrapped me in it. He fashioned for me a kingly crown in which 49 refulgent stones were placed, each like the sun's orb, and its brilliance shone into the four quarters of the heaven of Arabot, into the seven heavens, and into the four quarters of the world. He set it upon my head, and called me the lesser YHWH in the presence of his whole household in the height, as it is written, "My name is in him." (3 Enoch 12:1-5)
Now listen to that! "He called me the lesser Jehovah." That's deification. This is a Jewish text!
"Rabbi Ishmael said: the angel Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, the glory of highest heaven said to me: Out of the abundant love and great compassion wherewith the Holy One, blessed be he, loved and cherished me more than all the denizens of the heights. He wrote with his finger, as with a pen of flame upon the crown which was on my head, the letters by which heaven and earth were created; the letters by which seas and rivers were created; the letters by which mountains and hills were created; the letters by which stars and constellations, lightning and wind, thunder and thunderclaps, snow and hail, hurricane and tempest were created; the letters by which all the necessities of the world and all the orders of creation were created." (3 Enoch 13:3)
In other words, he gives him the capacity to be a creator. He deifies him, declares him to be "the lesser YHWH," and gives him the power of creation. It's a remarkable thing.

It is my firm belief that the temple represents a model, which itself represents a cosmic reality, a reality that involves access to divine mysteries, access to the waters of life, access to cleansing and ascension, access to the presence of God, a symbolic representation of admission into the presence of God, an endowment of power that goes with that, with the ultimate culmination of a blessing of exaltation in the presence of God. That's remarkable stuff, and it's remarkable that Joseph Smith restored these ancient models from the ancient world, living in 19th Century America.

But I'm not making this only as an apologetic point. I'm making it as a point to say that we, as Latter-day Saints, who aspire to defend and sustain the kingdom, should be aware of the riches we've been given. We should not forget what it is that we've been given. It's not only a matter of defending it; we should live it, and observe it ourselves, and treasure what's been given to us. It's a remarkable thing. It's far more than we deserve or merit. It's the grace of God that gives it to us.
The language around deification or theosis from ancient Jewish texts will upset or confuse some people, as do early Christian writings on that topic. Perhaps reading up on the Christian doctrine of theosis will help some of you realize that the Biblical call to "put on the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-10) is not a threat to God's divinity and status as our Father, but an expression of His infinite grace toward His children whom He calls to enter into His presence and share of the fullness of eternal life as joint heirs with His Son (Romans 8:16-17).

28 comments:

jackg said...

Jeff,

I have read some of your other material, and am impressed by your intelligence. You seem like a great guy; therefore, I will refrain from commenting on this post. I am, however, actively engaged in praying for you and your beautiful family.

Peace and Blessings...

NathanS said...

I could echo jackg's comment. Jeff, I like many of your posts. Taking this one down may contribute more to you site than leaving it up. Either way, I will be coming back to your site.

Thanks so much for what you do. And as Jack said, "Peace and Blessings"

Anonymous said...

In other words we have nothing to say worthwhile

Anonymous said...

or in other words "we can't actually point out any folly in your post, so we'll just ask you take take it down. Then we don't have to think anymore about things that might challenge our perception of biblical teachings, outside our set misguided view of them"...

Ether way your right nothing of value to add on their part.

Tirian Creed said...

How interesting and liberating ancient texts are. You just have to fight past millenia of Catholic tradition.

SeƱor Dangriga said...

If only my temple prep classes had been so succinct...

Warvet2004 said...

Well, its not fair of us to put words into others mouths, or to pretend we know with absolute certainty what someone was thinking. I believe the two first posters were just saying that for one reason or another they found something troubling about this post. While I don't at all (in fact, I loved the post Jeff, you have such a great site) I know that in the spirit of understanding we have to accept that some people wont agree with everything we say. That's all right, nobody is required to agree, in fact nobody is required to come here at all. If people who disagree with a post, or even our faith as a whole, don't feel welcome to come here they wont, and that would be a shame because Jeff's sight has so much to offer member and non member alike. Again, love this post Jeff, and to jackg and NathanS please don't stop coming or posting, all points of view should be welcome here.

jackg said...

warvet2004,

Thank you for the invitation to keep on coming by. I generally disagree with Jeff and usually cause a ruckus with my comments. I have been known to attack a lot of what Jeff says. You see, I'm a former Mormon, and truly believe JS was not a prophet of God. The reason I said what I said to Jeff is because I don't want to start a ruckus. I have by accident stumbled onto some of Jeff's other sites, and am very much impressed with him as a person. If Jeff is reading this, is there anywhere I can find your thoughts on the school's block system?

Anyway, warvet, thanks again for the invitation. I promise I will try to express myself in the future in a manner that isn't offensive--of which I have been accused.

Peace and Grace...

Anthony E. Larson said...

Excellent point. Our temple experience is a reflection of all the prophets' ascension vision and a foreshadowing of our own if we are found worthy. I know you don't see this in the same context as I do, as you have said, but obviously Bro. Peterson sees it as I do. "It is my firm belief that the temple represents a model, which itself represents a cosmic reality ..." That cosmic reality is very ancient, and it is the key to unraveling all the symbolic language of the prophets and the cultural and religious heritage of mankind.

Warvet2004 said...

Jackg

Well, I am a current member, and I do know the Church is true. I also know that people who left the church (for whatever reason) are still my brothers or sisters, and so still need to be treated with respect. Even though you and I disagree on one fairly important point, I think that is your right. Jeff's forums are a good place for all of us to sit down and discuss things, and they will only continue to be that way if we are all respectful of one another. Anyway, thanks for posting back, and I hope you continue to find Jeff's topics of interest.

Mormanity said...

JackG, thanks for the kind words! Feel free to make a ruckus - it's usually just led to some excitement and interesting perspectives.

As for the block scheduling system that is being pushed in many schools, I'm a skeptic that has provided some resources to other parents and some teachers and administrators who had concerns but weren't sure where to look. If you Google "problem with block scheduling" or "case against block scheduling", I'm usually #1. Even "block scheduling" should usually have me in the top 5. The URL for the beginning page on the page is jefflindsay.com/Block.shtml. These pages were written over 10 years ago and have only been moderately updated, but I welcome feedback and suggestions for changes as well as new data to consider. The system can work with the right training and resources, but for some topics and many students there are some inherent challenges that limit academic effectiveness.

jackg said...

Thanks, Jeff--and you're welcome. :-) I'm going to check out the site. Having problems with my 16-year-old daughter in school. I am looking for alterative approaches to education. Can you send me anywhere for info?? Thanks!

warvet,

Thanks to you, again. I'm still being transformed in my approach to these discussions. I have an inherent knee-jerk reaction to attack. Gotta get over that.

Peace and Blessings...

id said...

Hi, I'm new here.

I don't quite understand how Enoch 3 is substantive. I've searched for its history, and what I've come up with from various sources is that it's a pseudopigrapha (I may have the wrong spelling there), written at various points in time (most guesses have the final redaction in the 5th century with a few parts predating 200 AD), and not much has been otherwise said about it.

Can someone explain the history of this book to me? The writer ofthe article Jeff refers to makes no hint other than ancient Jewish literature.

NathanS said...

ig, thank you for your comment. As the second commenter on this post, my doubt of this post's value is founded on this issue along with the some peculiarities in this document that do not fit with LDS traditions but may be presumed to by the un-initiated or claimed to by vocal critics.

IMHO the valuable implications of the quote would be more cleanly delivered with disclaimers. I, too, am a long standing member of the LDS community in good standing. My short reply did not get into any of these details but you are correct that the quoted text has no bearing on LDS theology.

Mormanity said...

May have been written in 5th century, yes. Fits the ancient body of ascension texts. Is an ancient Jewish text, apparently originally in Hebrew. See Craig Evans note on 3rd Enoch.

Mormanity said...

Wikipedia on 3rd Enoch.

Anonymous said...

"Now listen to that! "He called me the lesser Jehovah." That's deification. This is a Jewish text!"

No it's not, and Daniel Peterson is clearly a good enough scholar to KNOW that it's not.

What is he even trying to prove here? There are HUNDREDS of things you could pick out that are remarkably common elements of disparate cultures & religions that Mormons would NOT agree with (human sacrifice & worship of planets, to name a couple).

All this says to me is that the Isrealites probably borrowed their Temple theology from their Pagan neighbors, rather than revelation from God. Just like they plagerized the Divine Council idea from the Caananites, the Ark from the Egyptians, and on and on.

Anonymous said...

The text was written in Hebrew and quotes a Rabbi. Sounds a tad Jewish to me.. So is it actually Wiccan or Buddhist or something?

id said...

Jeff,
thank you for the link. I wasn't able to read Evan's notes on it, Google Reader was acting weird. Unless it's a burden, could you post them here please?

Anonymous,
From what I've gathered on Wikipedia, it's basically Jewish Mysticism. Someone, please correct me if I'm wrong.
It's apocryphal in nature, so I'm inferring that 3 Enoch is to Judaism as any book in the Apocrypha is to Christianity.

I caught a snippet on Wikipedia's Jewish Mysticism topic that said the works were attributed to ancient (or more ancient) people in order to gain more authority (Integrity would be a better word here). They aren't accepted within the normal Jewish scriptures.

They sound fairly mythopoetic; trying to get a point across through literary means.

To say this is a Jewish text is true, but misleading. It would definitely be "cleaner" to present this with some disclaimers

id said...

Was looking back on my last post when I realized I wanted to edit it. Don't think that's possible. So here are some corrections:

It IS Jewish mysticism, and it's very mythopoetic in nature. Of course, the two go hand in hand (mystycism and mythopoetic writings).

Also, I had a poor analogy with the Apocrypha, but it was correct in the (Protestant) sense that it isn't canonical. The Apocrypha has definitely had some historical significance in Christianity. Enoch 3...not nearly as much.

Also, I think someone stated that Enoch 3 quotes a Rabbi. I'm hoping this quote is relevant to this statement (it makes the point that, rather than quoting a Rabbi, it was claimed to be written by one):
" Modern scholars describe this book as pseudepigraphal, as it says it is written by Rabbi Ishmael who became a 'high priest' after visions of ascension to Heaven, 90 AD - 135 AD.[1] Rabbi Ishmael is a leading figure of Merkabah literature." --wikipedia on Enoch 3.

If it was the writing of Rabbi Ishmael himself, maybe Enoch 3 would have some ground to stand on. But as I mentioned earlier, that's exactly why the author of this text (and other Jewish mystical texts) pseudepigraphed in this way--to gain integrity.

In my opinion, I don't hold pseudepigrapha to be a bad thing under certain conditions (when done by a disciple or successor of the originator while adhering to originator's views); we always must keep in mind the historical context of certain actions (for example, take a look at the slavery issue atheists like to bring up).
However, this book is unique among the Merkabah litrature it belongs to (see the Wikipedia article Jeff linked to for the info behind this). Also, this was written a few hundred years after Rabbi Ishmael's life. From what I've read, there are special requirement to participate in the writing of Merkabah literature. If the author had them, then he wouldn't need to attribute this text to someone else.

Morkon said...

So should we despise Daniel Peterson for thinking that this was a Jewish text, when in fact it was a mythopoetic pseudepigraphal Jewish text? Because I'm still very tempted to like him.

id said...

I certainly don't mind the guy, he likened Mormon deification to Jewish mysticism!

As a scholar, however, that was a little deceptive.

NathanS said...

id, thanks for your scholarship, perspective, etc.
Jeff, thanks for the forum.

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