A couple things irritate me.
First of all, even when I was Mormon, I regretted we couldn’t discuss the temple ceremony. Outside the temple that is–which prevents you from talking about it with virtually anyone except people you have brought with you after you are already exhausted through sitting through a 2-hour endowment session and not really in a chatty mood, sitting in a room in which you are instructed to be silent.
Not much of an opportunity.
I remember on my mission going to an ‘overflow room’ in the Freiburg temple that was somehow part of the temple and having the temple president present information to us… “do this handshake”…we were nervous…was that ok? He seemed to think so. I think he got released shortly after.
He explained a little bit of the symbolism, which I was grateful for.
After all, aren’t we looking for ‘more light and knowledge’? And after graduating from seminary and institute, this is where it is supposed to be.
Yet, for most people, if you haven’t been put off by the naked parts nobody told you about and the promises of women to obey their husbands (good thing they got rid of the blood sacrifice parts), they still are confused and wondering just what is so important about the stories they see. What are they supposed to be learning?
Well the Mormon church comes from a long hermetic tradition. Gnosis. Kaballah. Much of it is represented there somewhere. Joseph Smith died carrying a Jupiter Talisman, claimed revelation from divine, otherworldly sources, plastered “occult” symbols all over the temples and included condemnation of Masonic practices in the Book of Mormon.
He bought mummies and translated the documents they had attached to them.
He was convicted for selling treasure-finding services using ‘magic stones’ and became a very high Mason in record time in Nauvoo.
This guy was into occult stuff.
Modern-day Mormons mostly have no clue about this early founding soil of the church.
One person that we should know a lot more about in the early Church history whom we don’t is Lumen Walters, for example.
Lumen was probably one of Joseph Smith Jr.’s occult teachers or guides. This thing was not only not done in a corner. It wasn’t done alone.
But I digress.
The other thing that gets my beak rankled is former Mormons talking about the temple like it’s some stupid, cheap, tawdry, empty ritual. “A mile wide and an inch deep,” one of them once said to me.
It ain’t that either.
So, because I have been thinking about this stuff for almost 10 years since leaving the Mormon church, I thought I would write about it to:
1) Give practicing Mormons more clarity, light and knowledge about the endowment ceremony.
2) Explain to former Mormons some of the value that is contained in the temple ceremony. If you don’t see it literally, but instead figuratively.
The story makes no sense literally. Peter, James, and John wandering around with Adam and Eve.
But they weren’t contemporaries!!
Of course not, silly. So what is all this all about?
The Bible is not to be taken 100% literally. Not even the most devout Christian (though there were a couple) starts cutting their own hands off or gouging eyes out simply because they sin with them.
And many of them are even doubting a literal story about literal people in a literal garden 6,000 years ago.
In fact, Joseph Smith himself probably considered most of the Bible to be allegorical himself.
He said a few key things that make me think that he knew–or believed–quite a bit that he never presented. A couple illustrative quotes.
“There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation,” Joseph once said. “It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand” (History of the Church, 6:184).
“Would to God, brethren, I could tell you who I am! would to God I could tell you what I know! but you would call it blasphemy, and there are men on this stand who would want to take my life.” Joseph Smith; Life of Heber C. Kimball, p.33
So you see, he couldn’t say what he knew. Because he would be murdered. So even what we have today is probably not illustrative of a lot of what Joseph thought in private.
Enter the endowment ceremony.
The endowment is an excellent way to prepare minds blinded by tradition and hardened by inflexible thinking to move to the ‘next level’
It is a way to invite people to move beyond the literal stories of literal people in a literal garden into deep symbolism that is applicable in their lives. Even if they don’t even realize it yet!
So you can tell nice (though somewhat boring) stories to the blind. And you can impart deeper truths to those with ‘ears to hear’ and ‘eyes to see’.
The second part barely ever happens because of all the duress placed around orthodoxy and not talking about this ‘most sacred’ of ceremonies that usually simply bores most Mormons. Unfortunate, too, because it could be a source of fairly great knowledge.
Obviously, the ceremony has no saving character whatsoever for dead people. Joseph Smith started letting people do ordinances for the dead because they wanted to. Convenient revelations abound.
So with that overlong introduction, let’s get down to brass tacks.
First, What is the Temple of God?
This is obvious, right?
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
Ok. Let me say this slowly. You are the temple of God.
A temple is a place ‘reserved for something’ or ‘stretched out’, according to some of the earliest roots. Same root as ‘template’, meaning pattern for something to be created.
So, in a real way, your body is the space that was created and ‘pushed out’ via cell division for god (incorporal consciousness of universe) to live.
Or, if you will, the space which god the father (creator consciousness) creates to live.
Incorporeal consciousness has a less direct experience of, connection to, and multiplicity of interactions with matter.
So, if god wants to experience matter as dense energy, it must create body.
This is where you come in.
You are a ‘chunk’ of god stuck in matter. A temple. A template.
And the Bible says so.
So god is just as much in there as it is out there. God is wherever you are.
Or, as Jesus said it:
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? John 10:34
Not little gods. Not baby gods. Gods.
Or, as Joseph Smith said,
“We say that God Himself is a self-existing being. … Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. …
“The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself. …
“I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. … The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. … There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal with our Father in heaven.” – King Follet Sermon
So, your consciousness is co-equal with god. Which I guess is Joseph Smith’s over-redundant way of saying ‘super equal’.
No wonder Joseph said that if he starting preaching this stuff too directly, he would be murdered. Goes quite against what most Christians believe (though Jesus said the same thing).
This sermon was at the end of his life. Not too long after, he was murdered.
So, it is clear now, right? Ye are gods. Ye are god. There isn’t any god ‘out there’ who is more god than you, yourself.
Which is why you are the temple where god lives.
Therefore, the teachings of the LDS/Mormon temple provide information for gods about what gods are and how gods should be. Arcane, occult information. Which is pretty common nowadays.
So how should gods be?
Theatre as Education
Brigham Young said that the first thing he would do to civilize savages is to build a theatre, not a temple. (Someone please find the exact quote for me!)
He understood that art, especially theatre, teaches.
One quote I could find:
“Upon the stage of a theater can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards, the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it.” – Brigham Young
Which either means that you can teach people how to be happy or condition them to obedience through theatre and art, depending on your take on Brigham.
So, the temple (and Masonry) exist on this principle.
You can imagine the temple ceremony as group participatory performance art. You get to be in a play that you are at, which increases the power of the teaching, whatever it is.
So the building is like a theatre for teaching purposes. It is the source of the power of all ritual.
Left and Right
Now, if the temple is you and you are god, what do some of the symbols mean.
Let’s go inside!
You enter the temple and your change appearance. You are wearing different (white) clothes.
This shows you that the rules outside the body and inside the body are slightly different.
You are told to be quiet–silence and meditation being key pathways to understanding your own divinity and receiving messages from your consciousness.
And then you are led into a room, after being given a ‘new name’, and you sit down with women on the left and men on the right.
In a room where you watch ‘the play happen’.
What could this possibly mean?
Where is there exactly a ‘left part’ and a ‘right part’ of your body that can be symbolized by feminine and masculine. Oh yeah. Your brain.
What was kinda revolutionary for that time is common knowledge now. You have two “halves” of your brain that each process tasks and information differently. The right brain is creative and emotional, etc. Left side is logical, calculating, etc.
So it’s either that or you are against people cuddling and smooching during the play and not paying attention. Depends on your take.
Ok, so this will be a work in progress with adding lots of signposts as it develops
As with lots of symbolism, this could take volumes to explain, so we will see how it goes.
A note: the endowment, according to early church sources, used to take a day or more. So I guess a lot has been lost. But there is still enough to comment on.
Warning: The entire text of the Mormon endowment is printed below. If you have a problem with that, don’t read it. It’s mainly for my easy reference as I work on this article.