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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How Best to Appreciate the Restoration of Ancient Temple Concepts?

I have the privilege of speaking to a large group of adult Latter-day Saints in the near future about the temple, including its symbolism and ancient roots. I'd like to help LDS people better appreciate the intellectually satisfying and spiritually delightful aspects of this important part of the restoration of ancient biblical concepts. I'm thinking of discussing how reading the works of non-LDS scholars like Mircea Eliade and Jon Levenson helped me while young and impressionable to gain a greatly strengthened respect for the Restoration and the pivotal role of the temple both anciently and now (I discuss this briefly on my Mormon Answers page about the LDS Temple and Alleged Plagiarism from Masonry). I'm thinking of summarizing some of Eliade's concepts of sacred space vs. profane space and what it means for the LDS temple in light of ancient temple paradigms. But before I move too far in any one direction while preparing, I'd appreciate your thoughts on what can help (or not help) in addressing this topic. Any favorite tidbits that have really helped you? Any favorite writings or articles? Any stories you would like to share in terms of the personal journey of coming to respect the ancient beauty of the LDS temple?

17 comments:

yamanin said...

Margaret Barker is a brilliant scholar who has been a guest lecturer several times at BYU. She typically opens her rmarks with, 'I'm not a Mormon, I'm never going to be a Mormon because I have issues with how the church is run today, but I know that Joseph Smith must have been a prophet, because he knew things about ancient Semitic theology that no person on earth could have known in 1830.' Her books Temple Theology and Temple Themes in Christian Worship might be particularly germane to your discussion.

Stan said...

"There are a number of common symbols and elements, but they are superficial and hardly account for the core content of LDS practices and teachings relative to the Temple."

I think this statement is deceptive at best. Perhaps you can justify it because many of the common elements to Masonry have been quietly and wisely removed over the years. I would hardly call what used to be a key exercise at the veil "superficial".

Hope I'm not being too negative, but I strongly believe we need to own our history... all of it. I hate it when people try to minimize what might be viewed as awkward. It's dishonest.

Also, some of the quotes and information you use on the linked page come from those who assumed that the roots of Masonry and the story of Hiram Abiff are historically accurate. I'm sure you know this is problematic.

michelle said...

Jeff,

Here are a few links that explore what has helped me understand and appreciate ancient temple connections.

"Magic Eye" Moments (published years ago and now unavailable...this is an edited version I just put up on my blog)

Lehi's tent

Answers to questions about Mormon temples

Videos about this topic

I've also found John Welch's material on the Sermon on the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount really fascinating.

(That's probably more than you wanted, but there you go.)

Anonymous said...

The reference you make "alleged plagiarism from masonry" is negative. Let's keep this positive. I have NEVER heard Mormonism discussed in less than a positive light in Masonry. It is typical of Mormons to discuss Masonry and other Churches to build themselves up. We have NEVER uttered the word plagiarism with Mormonism.

Unfortunately are not a Mason, and have not been through the three blue lodge levels as was the prophet Joseph to see the parallels and the vast vast differences.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad that in my attendance at other churches I have NEVER heard references to our church. Yet in LDS world we hear reference to others during sacrament meeting and other venues.

The worst are the nicknames with which we refer to other churches. My most unfavorite is J-Dubs for Jehovahs Witnesses. Get to know them and they are a delightful people. The Catholic Church is full of great and Christ loving people. As are the Lutherans and other Protestants. I have never met a Mason I did not like. A true brotherhood.

Most Mormons do not even know a Mason. Why bring them up. Give them a break.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Nothing negative about Masons meant - they are great people as far as I can tell, But our critics frequently allege that the LDS temple is just a copy of Masonry. Important to understand that there are vast, vast differences. Some elements were logical to borrow and are useful in the temple context--but Stan, the core of the LDS temple experience is not about the Masonic elements, whether ancient or not. The core is about making covenants to enter into a covenant relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that covenant framework and the whole paradigm behind it is truly ancient and foreign to our modern world. It's far from a simple rip-off of elements in Joseph's environment, in spite of the suitability of some modern elements for conveying teachings.

Anonymous said...

Great question, Jeff.

An intellectual testimony may be all that some individuals can cling to. So it can be important to include as much of that as possible but if you let the spiritual offerings of the temple be addressed in the most attainable terms as possible, you may speed up the spiritual value of the temple to many by 10, 20, 30 years or more.

If you let people know what to look for spiritually, they may be more likely to go there for the spiritual feasts that a few talk about but probably not all of whom enjoy.

You may recall President David O. McKay's remark that the first time he went to the temple he was dissappointed. A General or Area authority spoke to a congregation that I was in and generalized a less than ideal experience in the temple to all of us. I was a little bit taken back. If I were speaking, I might have outed myself as not always experiencing something spiritual there but I was a bit in shock that he so boldly outed us all, me included, and suddenly, without warning!

It's taken me many years to feel like I know how to approach the temple. Maybe I don't really know, even now, but at least I think I do.

Before coming to my insights, I nearly completed my 4 1/2 years of service in the temple. My service was a very important and empowering set of opportunities for me. One of those opportunities was that of feeling valued by God, as I was sometimes guided by thoughts from an unseen power to go to various areas where I would be needed.

As for understanding things in the temple, I would suggest that the greatest thing we can understand is God's nature - answers to questions concerning God.

The nature of those questions would depend on the type of issues that most separate that specific temple patron from God. The most beneficial line of questions for me included two or three among the following: How does God direct His children? How does He correct them? How does He teach? From how we dress and what we do in the temple, how much should we really want to distinguish ourselves from one another? How differently, or similarly, does God regard one person's potential from another's? What is God's attitude toward me? What is God's attitude toward my neighbor, with whom I may or may not have conflict? Where and how, and to what degree, can I follow the example of God's ways I see in His temple?

For very many people, the temple's power is less about teaching information than in giving opportunity for tapping into feelings of the very subtle implications that one can meditate on for vast benefit. For this, one must tune into a spiritual thirst. One's attention must be attuned to seeking a means for greater faith and righteousness. Only in seeking for the best that the temple has to offer can one find it.

The best that the temple offers is the power to know God.

May the Lord bless you in your preparations and bless your listeners in their hearing.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Greg Nelson said...

I have found some fantastic insights in Matthew Brown's books, most notably The Gate of Heaven and Symbols in Stone. It is a jumping off point for you to have your own thoughts and I have found that it points you in the right direction. Good luck!

Talisman said...

How can you appreciate the Temple Endowment if 1. Brigham Young removed most of the things Joseph Smith put in it. AND The endowment is different today than when my father was in it. It's all B.S. So is the "idea" that the dead appreciate your work. There never has been work done for the dead and there never needed to. Unless you actually think that you need special handshakes to get into some locked "heaven" -- Which IS NOT LITTERAL EVERYTHING in it ****WAS***** Symbolic. Plus if it where the case that actual angels are guarding the gate's of Heaven, All I would need to do is look up a religious figures name look online for the handshakes and presto!! Or simply read Chris Marc Nemelka's Sacred not Secret Book It even has Pictures!!

michelle said...

I loved Symbols in Stone as well.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Talisman, the Temple is a place but also a vehicle. I can enjoy driving even if what I'm in isn't my father's Oldsmobile, or my grandfather's Model T. It doesn't need to be static. It's a place to make covenants and contemplate God and his ways.

There never has been work done for the dead and there never needed to. Actually, number of non-LDS scholars recognize that at least some early Christians practices vicarious baptism for the dead, the practice Paul references approvingly in 1 Cor. 15:29 and that an early Christian writing, once revered by some as part of the canon, the Pastor of Hermas discusses in much greater at length in one of its sections. Details: http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_BaptDead.shtml.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Another good source, for those interesting in learning about baptism for the dead, is High W. Nibley's classic. Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Regarding the slang names used for other religions, have you heard these over the pulpit or from a Church leader? I've heard it occasionally from young elders who didn't know better.

Kristen McDermed said...

Can you picture Jesus going to the Temple? Can you picture a 12 year old Jesus discussing the Torah with the Rabbi in the Temple?

Does that Temple really look like the Temple of today?

Yes... it does matter. Mostly because the LDS church claims to be the RESTORATION of all things. Restoration to what? Sorry. I just can't swallow Jesus Christ using secret handshakes or requiring sworn oathes (on ones own life) to secrecy.

Matthew 5:33-37 (King James Version)

33Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

35Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Luke 12
2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.

3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.


Kristen

dovh49 said...

Some of the things I would have liked to hear before entering the temple is how God uses symbolism to help us learn about Him and come closer to Him. We also know that the commandments are there to help us come to Him and become like Him. If you look up to a person you want to imitate the attributes that are most desirable. So it is with Jesus. We learn to love him and want to imitate or gain the attributes that will bring us closer to Him so we can become one with him.

Having said that. The temple helps us come closer to Him and helps us understand His ways and to understand His commandments (not that none of the covenants we make are really different than those that we accept at baptism, from what I understand).

So if I were going to the temple for the first time I would want to understand how God makes covenants with his people through ordinances. For example, the rainbow was an ordinance with Noah and Enoch (and all mankind). The rainbow is referred to as the token. Joseph Smith elaborates this in "The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" by saying that the rainbow was a token and a sign. So from what I understand the token is the outward part of the ordinance and the covenant is the inward part. The token is a symbol of the ordinance and helps us understand the covenant.

Let's take baptism as an example. The performance of the baptism (the outward part) is the token. The covenant is us taking on the name of Christ (promising to keep his commandments and be a representation of Him on Earth). The sign of this covenant is the sacrament that we take every week. Just like the sign of the covenant to not flood the Earth is the rainbow showing itself every year until man must be destroyed once more because of his wickedness (mankind breaking the covenant). Likewise when we take the sacrament it's a sign that we are faithful in continuing to call upon God for repentance and continuing to take upon us the name of Christ, or showing our love towards Him.

That would have been nice to understand. If I've said to much you can delete my post.

catholic defender said...

Hi Jeff,

Some interesting things said on your post here. I have to say, the whole idea of going to the temple has often perplexed me. Perhaps its because I am Catholic, and for me, God's house goes with me whereever I go because we are God's temple, not some building. Why must you go to some special building when God's house is everywhere? In any event, from the perspective I sit at, the idea of going to the temple seems almost an unhealthy obsession.

One of the concerns I have about the validity of the temple, is the fact of the ties to the Masons. Not having been to the temple, or participated in Masonic Rituals, I'll have to take your word for it when you say the two ceremonies really are not connected; but its the fact that things are borrowed from one by the other that creates the problem. It seems to be awfully coincidental that the teachings about the temple and Joseph Smith's induction into the Free Masons are so close in timing. It just smells suspect, and its pretty hard to get past that suspicion, especially when elements of one service are borrowed and incorporated into the other. I would concede though that anything associated with the Masons is problematic for Catholics given that the two don't have a positive history to begin with.

To Anonymous of 8:34 AM, October 25, 2010, I would say that one of the troubling aspects of LDS services for me, has been hearing negative comments made from the pulpit about other non-LDS churches. You're are correct, at least as I can speak for the Catholic faith, that you do not hear references to other churches during the service or other venues. Generally you won't hear such comments made, because Catholics, while we believe ours is the true faith, are much more willing to accept others where they are at. Its part of that universal nature of the word Catholic, and its part of how Catholics are taught about their faith. In my upbringing through the Catholic School system, other faiths were never even the subject of discussion. We were just taught catechism, and no mention was made about other churches. It wasn't part of our upbringing.

Mormons on the otherhand, have teachings about other faiths incorporated right into thier scriptures. Part of why you will hear negative discussions of other faiths in the course of LDS services is because of how the D & C references other churches. For example, the LDS D & C still considers the Catholic Church as "the Great and Aboninable Church." That's right in the definition section at the back of the complete BOM that includes the Pearl of Great Price and the D & C. References like that made in what your faith considers scripture lend themselves to negative criticisms of other faiths from the pulpit.

Any time I attend my wife's LDS services, and I hear something like that, I just cringe. To me its contradictory, that your faith is so welcoming of others in one sense, and so critical of those same folks you'd welcome in another sense. Much better to just not refer to anyone else's faith, and just practise your own. Personally I think that it pushes visitors to your faith away when they hear someone criticize another church from the pulpit. I know that when I hear it, I'm tempted to just get up and leave. Anyway, I digress.

For me, I really don't see why you need to the temple to covenant with God. God is available to us all, and he will speak to us all if we just take the time to listen. The temple just seems unnecessary to me. Take care all, hopefully I've not offended anyone as that was not my intent.


Sincerely

Catholic Defender

catholic defender said...

Hi Jeff,

Some interesting things said on your post here. I have to say, the whole idea of going to the temple has often perplexed me. Perhaps its because I am Catholic, and for me, God's house goes with me whereever I go because we are God's temple, not some building. Why must you go to some special building when God's house is everywhere? In any event, from the perspective I sit at, the idea of going to the temple seems almost an unhealthy obsession.

One of the concerns I have about the validity of the temple, is the fact of the ties to the Masons. Not having been to the temple, or participated in Masonic Rituals, I'll have to take your word for it when you say the two ceremonies really are not connected; but its the fact that things are borrowed from one by the other that creates the problem. It seems to be awfully coincidental that the teachings about the temple and Joseph Smith's induction into the Free Masons are so close in timing. It just smells suspect, and its pretty hard to get past that suspicion, especially when elements of one service are borrowed and incorporated into the other. I would concede though that anything associated with the Masons is problematic for Catholics given that the two don't have a positive history to begin with.

To Anonymous of 8:34 AM, October 25, 2010, I would say that one of the troubling aspects of LDS services for me, has been hearing negative comments made from the pulpit about other non-LDS churches. You're are correct, at least as I can speak for the Catholic faith, that you do not hear references to other churches during the service or other venues. Generally you won't hear such comments made, because Catholics, while we believe ours is the true faith, are much more willing to accept others where they are at. Its part of that universal nature of the word Catholic, and its part of how Catholics are taught about their faith. In my upbringing through the Catholic School system, other faiths were never even the subject of discussion. We were just taught catechism, and no mention was made about other churches. It wasn't part of our upbringing.

Mormons on the otherhand, have teachings about other faiths incorporated right into thier scriptures. Part of why you will hear negative discussions of other faiths in the course of LDS services is because of how the D & C references other churches. For example, the LDS D & C still considers the Catholic Church as "the Great and Aboninable Church." That's right in the definition section at the back of the complete BOM that includes the Pearl of Great Price and the D & C. References like that made in what your faith considers scripture lend themselves to negative criticisms of other faiths from the pulpit.

Any time I attend my wife's LDS services, and I hear something like that, I just cringe. To me its contradictory, that your faith is so welcoming of others in one sense, and so critical of those same folks you'd welcome in another sense. Much better to just not refer to anyone else's faith, and just practise your own. Personally I think that it pushes visitors to your faith away when they hear someone criticize another church from the pulpit. I know that when I hear it, I'm tempted to just get up and leave. Anyway, I digress.

For me, I really don't see why you need to the temple to covenant with God. God is available to us all, and he will speak to us all if we just take the time to listen. The temple just seems unnecessary to me. Take care all, hopefully I've not offended anyone as that was not my intent.


Sincerely

Catholic Defender