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The Temple

October 8, 2011

Obviously, this is a very delicate subject. I will attempt to approach it in the most respectful way possible.  There is some incredibly interesting material that is easy to find online, but out of respect for the church and people close to me, I will avoid discussing matters that may be secret, sacred or personal to the readers of this blog.  I will also refrain from linking directly in this post to sites that cross over that line.

I want to be clear, though, that there are a number of extremely disturbing things regarding the temple that I will not include in this post.  This is by no means a thorough analysis of what I believe is very wrong with the temple ceremonies.

The temple ceremony appears to be copied from the Masons

Heber C. Kimball, who was a Mason himself, was quoted by multiple sources as having said:

“We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon, and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing.”

The First Presidency, October 15, 1911; Messages of First Presidency, 4: 250:

“Because of their Masonic characters the ceremonies of the temple are sacred and not for the public.”

So who are the Masons?  Wikipedia does a great job of explaining their history, but the long and short of it is that it is an esoteric society, or a society with secrets.  It is nearly entirely made up of men and is centered around charity, moral uprightness, and fraternal friendship.  The secretive, or private, nature of the Freemasons revolves around recognition of each other.  To quote Wikipedia:

“Freemasons use signs (gestures), grips or tokens (handshakes) and words to gain admission to meetings and identify legitimate visitors.”

On March 15, 1842, Joseph Smith was initiated as an apprentice Mason and seven weeks later introduced the temple ceremony.  According to historian Fawn Brodie, members who were Masons referred to the Mormon endowment as “celestial masonry” because it mimicked the Masonry symbols and rituals almost exactly.

In the 1840’s, Joseph Smith and other church leaders organized a Masonic lodge and nearly every single male member of the church joined.  After the Masons became angry about what Joseph was doing with Masonry secrets, there was a split and the church banned members from becoming Masons.  It wasn’t until 1984, over one hundred years later, that the church once again allowed members to also be Masons.

I won’t go into the specific details, but the similarities between the Mason ceremonies and the temple endowment are striking.

Joseph Smith claimed that the Masons got their rituals from the days of Solomon’s Temple.   But even the most ardent of apologists admits that is untrue.  Freemasonry dates back as early as the 1300’s, but certainly not anywhere near Solomon’s time.  FAIR is the largest and most prominent LDS apologist site.  They have this to say:

“Masonry, while claiming a root in antiquity, can only be reliably traced to mediaeval stone tradesmen.”

“It is clear that Freemasonry and its traditions played a role in the development of the endowment ritual.”

“Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence to support a continuous functioning line from Solomon’s Temple to the present.  We know what went on in Solomon’s Temple; it’s the ritualistic slaughter of animals.”

The statement attributed to Joseph Smith as he fell to his death out the window of Carthage Jail “Oh Lord, my God!” was actually a Masonic distress signal.

The temple ceremony has changed dramatically over the years

President Brigham Young, after the death of Joseph Smith, introduced into the endowment ceremony a solemn oath of vengeance against the United States for the death of Joseph.  It became public knowledge and a subject of concern during the Reed Smoot hearings.

I won’t go into details here about what has changed in the ceremony over the years.  But there were significant changes made at the very least in 1860, 1927, and 1990.  Interestingly enough, the church seemed to have been spurred by declining temple attendance in the 1980s into making changes.  They put out a survey to about 3,400 church members regarding specific aspects of the ceremony and then made changes in 1990.  Also interesting, the Masons had made almost the same identical changes to their ceremonies in 1986.

So why is it interesting that the ceremony has changed numerous times?

The August 2001 Ensign had this to say:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ‘Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.'”

“It is this principle of consistent and unalterable requirements that gives true meaning to the performance of vicarious ordinances in the temple. The Prophet wrote that baptism for the dead and the recording of such baptisms conform to the ordinance and preparation that the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel.”

“Through time and apostasy following Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, however, the divine authority of the priesthood and the sacred ordinances were changed or lost, and the associated covenants were broken. The Lord revealed His displeasure over this situation in these words: ‘For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god.’ This situation required a restoration of knowledge pertaining to the importance, significance, and appointed administration of sacred gospel ordinances, both live and vicarious, as well as the divine authority of the priesthood and priesthood keys to administer them.”

Additionally, Joseph Smith in the History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 208:

“Now the purpose in Himself in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceding dispensations…. He set the temple ordinances to be the same forever and ever and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them.”

Apostle David B. Haight, “Joseph Smith the Prophet,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 22:

“We explained briefly the Apostasy and the Restoration: that there is vast evidence and history of an apostasy from the doctrine taught by Jesus and his Apostles, that the organization of the original Church became corrupted, and sacred ordinances were changed to suit the convenience of men…”

W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, Deseret News, Church Section, January 16, 1982:

“As temple work progresses, some members wonder if the ordinances can be changed or adjusted. These ordinances have been provided by revelation, and are in the hands of the First Presidency. Thus, the temple is protected from tampering.”

The endowment ceremony treats women poorly

I don’t want to go into details here, but the subtle differences in the ceremony really put women in a completely different class than men.  For anyone curious, listen closely to how women sometimes make covenants to or through their husbands while their husbands do it directly with the Lord.  This has been reduced since the 1990 change, but is still quite evident and offensive.

So what do I think of it all?

I have always found a number of things disturbing about the temple ceremony:

  • Temple prep classes really do very little to prepare you for what happens inside.
  • A person’s first time through the temple is far more important than any other time they will go through, with the possible exception of their marriage.  Yet the experience of my first time was overwhelming.  I was scared, creeped out, and had very little understanding of what was going on.

My personal story is that not only did I walk out thinking I had just joined a cult, but I also felt extreme pressure (both peer and time-sensitive) to make promises that I did not fully comprehend.  At a certain part of the ceremony, things were presented in rapid-fire in a room while I sat with my family and friends as well as plenty of strangers.  I was unprepared to make such solemn covenants and didn’t feel I could delay or escape the situation either.

I’m not saying I would have necessarily done anything different if I had both time and no peer pressure.  But the fact that I felt that way in such a powerful manner was disturbing and still is to this day.  It was a big part of my decision to be a veil worker for a year in the Provo temple.  But going a few times a week to participate from the other side just left me feeling empty and unable to view the ceremony as sacred.

But the most disturbing thing to me is the teaching that a series of tokens, handshakes and phrases, mostly taken directly from the Masons, is required to gain entrance to the celestial kingdom.  Why in the world are they necessary?  And if they are so secret and sacred, how did the Masons come up with them long before the restoration of the church?  The argument is sometimes made by apologists that Joseph just took the basic rituals and practices from the Masons.  If you directly compare the ceremonies, words, symbols, etc. that is obviously false.  But even so, those particular tokens and signs are incredibly important in the temple ceremony.

Up next: The Greek Psalter

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