The Temple – Secret or Sacred?

Disclaimer: I understand that there are many sensitivities surrounding any discussion of the temple. Please know that I avoid specifics and do my best to accord the LDS temple the respect I think it deserves. I hope others who may not be LDS or members will do the same, and I hope we as Latter-day Saints extend the same courtesy to other faiths.

It’s my understanding that the temple ceremony was changed again recently. I haven’t attended and so am unaware of many specifics. I do know that the washing and anointing ceremony is handled differently, though the wording is the same. I was also told that one change may "anger feminists" (a quote from my source).

Changes to the ceremony are not a new concept. Since its introduction in Nauvoo, the temple has undergone many revisions. Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young tried hard to reconstruct the ceremony after arriving in Utah. They reported that they got it "pretty close" to the Nauvoo original. Major changes took place around 1920, when an oath of vengeance was removed. This oath was widely publicized during the Reed Smoot hearings in 1904-06, along with other aspects of the ceremony. In 1990, the ceremony saw another major revision, removing penalties and seeming to make women less subservient to men.

Latter-day Saints covenant to carefully guard against specific information learned in the temple. In the 19th-century, members and leaders were far more open about discussing amongst themselves what went on inside. The only part of the ceremony considered off-limits were the specific signs, tokens, and penalties, along with information at the veil. Today, however, members might read those very words and cringe at my use of them, despite the fact that men like Brigham Young and others used them in public and they are available in Church publications. Orson Pratt published the entire text of the wedding ceremony in The Seer in Washington, DC.

Many Latter-day Saints are surprised to learn that temple exposes are as old as the ceremony itself. Starting with anti-Mormon newspapers around Nauvoo, one could read, with varying degrees of accuracy, what went on inside. This has continued until today; indeed, I don’t think any time period has existed when outsiders couldn’t find out what went on inside if they were willing to hunt around for a book. I’ve heard members express anger when they learn the complete ceremony is online at different websites, and more than once I’ve heard members comfort themselves by insisting that those responsible would go to hell.

Does such anger stem only from the apparent disrespect from posting the ceremony? Or is it from the betrayal of an insider, revealing the secrets of the tribe? I’ll confess, my biggest surprise my first time through the temple was how fraternal it all felt. Even then it seemed to appeal to human nature – passing on knowledge to a select group so they could, as Brigham Young said, pass by the sentinels who guard the gates. I have no doubt that temple-going members believe in the sacredness of the temple, revere and respect it, and participate because of their deeply held beliefs. But there also seems to be a kind of clubhouse aspect to it as well. It’s human nature to be exclusive and feel good when you’re on the "inside." Is that part of what’s going on?

Comments

  1. I wish temple prep were more specific. Discuss everything but the specifics of what is off-limits. Either that or a course after going through to discuss it and the meaning. There isn’t anything scandalous in the ceremony but the presentation is so different from what we are used to experiencing in our Sunday church experiences that it can be a shock.

    I also wish there was a way for faithful members to study the history of the ceremony without having to go to outside sources. Perhaps a temple library?

  2. my question is, do the oaths made in the temple by us bar us from discussing parts of the ceremony that were removed before we went through? i went through initially in the early nineties, and therefore was completely unaware of the penalties and other parts of the endowment ceremony that were previously removed. in fact, i didn’t know that there had been any changes until last year. am i still bound to not discuss these, although i took no oaths specific to them?

  3. For me, that covenant to keep things sacred means first, to discuss generalized temple points with respect and second, to not discuss the mechanics of the temple ceremony itself. Strangely, the contents of the covenants we make (consecration, sacrifice, chastity, etc.) seem not be be secret at all.

  4. How could it be secret? To take part in the temple all you have to do is join the church, wait a year while attending the usual meetings regularly, pay tithing and keep the Word of Wisdom. Then bang, you have your temple recommend, and can go any time you please, and as often as you wish. That means that no-one is excluded, once you have fulfilled the prerequisites. As far as ceremonies other than the endowment are concerned, even if you aren’t married or have no children, you can participate in husband-wife and parent-child sealings as a proxy, so that is open to you as well. If you’re a Melchizedek priesthood holder, you can easily become a minor officiator at the temple as well, since all it takes to become a veil worker is a letter from your bishop to the temple president recommending you.

    There have been a number of erstwhile Latter-day Saints who have gone to the temple and done everything up to and including smuggling miniature camera systems into temple ceremonies (difficult or impossible for initiatory, however), and then publicizing the complete temple endowment. Just do a Google search and you can find out anything you want about the temple and its ceremonies — except for what the Spirit might reveal to you upon your readiness to receive it. I have had a number of such spiritual experiences in the temple, and can testify to this.

    At least one of the reasons why we don’t freely discuss temple ceremonies outside of the temple is because of the dangers of departing from the pedagogical order. This is not some obscure doctrine, but a technical term in education referring to the order in which certain subjects should be taught. For instance, you don’t offer a class in calculus to kindergartners. And while certain precocious five year olds might think you’re keeping a secret when you refuse to teach them calculus, the real reason is, they aren’t by any stretch of the imagination ready for it.

    When Jesus taught his disciples that certain doctrines had to wait for converts to achieve maturity and understanding, he was not teaching them to keep secrets. He was in fact saving converts from getting in over their heads, and leaving the gospel. This in fact happened once on purpose in the New Testament, when Jesus taught a doctrine, concerning drinking his blood and eating his flesh, apparently in order to intentionally shed disciples who were with him for the wrong reasons.

    This is the “pearls before swine” principle. Calling someone a pig seems rather pejorative, but consider that pigs do not understand the value of pearls, and would trample them in their search for edible materials, if you were to foolishly throw a string of pearls into the pigs’ trough. Considering all the mocking websites and books that have been written about the temple, one must certainly be able to see what pigs can and will do with pearls. And who is harmed the most by getting instruction out of the pedagogical order? The student, of course.

    There’s more to write about this, but shouldn’t I be blogging instead of commenting on others’ blogs? That’s where more of my energy goes, however.

  5. I suggest a good website for temple preparation is:

    http://home.uchicago.edu/~spackman/templeprep

  6. David King Landrith says:

    mike: my question is, do the oaths made in the temple by us bar us from discussing parts of the ceremony that were removed before we went through?

    Strictly speaking, no. Prior to April 1990, the endowment covenants specifically prohibited disclosure the penalties. Those who participated in the endowment ceremony only after the April 1990 changes are not bound by the earlier covenants.

  7. Mike Clark:

    You say that “while certain precocious five year olds might think you’re keeping a secret when you refuse to teach them calculus, the real reason is, they aren’t by any stretch of the imagination ready for it.” But you also acknowledge at the beginning of your post that all it takes is to join and hang around for a year.

    I find the “people aren’t ready” argument to be pretty unpersuasive. We do very little to prepare people for the temple, as random John points out. Here’s a few other problems I see:

    1. There’s very little in the temple that is new information. As Talmage points out, most of it is available in the Pearl of Great Price or other scriptures.

    2. It’s almost entirely ceremonial, and doesn’t seem intended to provide valuable resources that someone less ready wouldn’t be prepared for. To continue the education analogy, the ceremony seems more like graduation to me. You don’t really learn anything new, but you put on the cap and gown and are ushered into adulthood.

    3. We ask people to make covenants when chances are they have no idea what they are covenanting to before hand. If someone feels overwhelmed by what they are asked to do, we don’t exactly create an environment conducive to them backing out. I doubt the 19 year-old girl getting married wants to stand up in front of her parents, siblings, and fiance and walk out when she realizes she’s not ready to make these covenants.

    Again, I’d argue temple attendance is a ceremonial acceptance as a member of the tribe.

  8. “It’s human nature to be exclusive and feel good when you’re on the “inside.” Is that part of what’s going on?”

    Though “antimormons” have elevated it to such with their terminology (referring to “regular Mormons” and “temple Mormons”) I don’t think it’s the nature or intention of the temple ordinances to be exclusive at all. Witness JS’ statement in TPJS, 237. “the communications I made to this council [of 9 men who received there ordinances May 4, 1842] were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive… even to the weakest of the Saints;”

    Random John said “I wish temple prep were more specific.” Most teachers don’t know how to teach the Temple without simply repeating it, and they are rightly uncomfortable doing so. Anything found in the scriptures is legal, and there’s a lot more there than most people think. I have just loved teaching my Temple prep. class, and the endowed couple (ie. the “plants” in the audience) have repeatedly sat there google-eyed at what is actually found in the scriptures and legal public GA quotations.

    Ben of the afore mentioned Temple prep. class and a LDS Temple resources page

  9. John Hatch:”I find the “people aren’t ready” argument to be pretty unpersuasive. We do very little to prepare people for the temple, as random John points out.

    There is one important thing that happens between baptism and an endowment a year later that uniquely qualifies one to go to the temple…and that is the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    The fact that a new member has received the gift of the Holy Ghost, has endured for a year in the path afterwards, and that during that time he or she has, hopefully, had experience with being guided and taught by the Holy Spirit, makes the member of one year significantly more prepared for the endowment than is any other individual who have not received that gift and has not cultivated such a relationship with Him.

    So to respond to your three points:

    1. With the help of the Spirit, one can learn a great deal, even without a significant amount of new information.

    2. The ceremonial/symbolic aspects of the endowment, like parables, are designed for spiritual learning. Unguided by the Spirit it is possible that you wont learn anything new, but with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, you can be richly educated.

    3. With the companionship of the Holy Ghost, one can receive a spiritual confirmation that the covenants being enter into are right and the confidence that with His help, he or she can keep them.

    2 Nephi 32:4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but
    must perish in the dark.

    2 Nephi 32:5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

  10. Eb, that’s a very important point you’ve brought up — obviously, no amount of teaching about the Temple will be complete or effective without the Spirit. Even full access to the complete script of the endowment cannot help us better understand the Temple without the Spirit.

    That said, it’s an ambiguous and difficult standard in terms of setting forth an objective pedagogical temple prep program.

    I really like the points advanced by Mike C. regarding pedagogical order, and by John H. regarding tribal belonging. It seems odd to apply the term to our own culture, but it’s clearly applicable — the endowment is a way of entering into a covenant elite along with other saints. There’s nothing really “elitist” about this elite, of course, but there’s a real sense of belonging and a new level of common shared discourse. Let’s face it — any discussion of the Creation and the Fall is never the same.

  11. David King Landrith says:

    Well put, Ebenezer.

  12. DKL,
    You are correct that the current endowment doesn’t contain penalties, but you are still under covenant to not reveal certain aspects of the ceremony.

    I agree that having the gift of the Holy Ghost is a key aspect of temple prep, and of continuing to learn from the temple as you attend throughout your life.

    I also agree with Ben’s implication that long time temple attending members could benefit from a well-taught temple prep course. I once taught an EQ lesson on the first several chapters of Mosiah (King Benjamin discourse plus the preparation for it and results), looking for elements of the temple ceremony in it. It is pretty amazing what you can find if someone tells you what to look for. I handed out a list of elements of the temple ceremonies, and then went through the first few columns of verses with class members showing how you could find stuff. I then divided the class into groups and gave them printouts of an assigned section of Mosiah. Each group worked on their section for a while then presented stuff to the class. I had a list of dozens of things I had found just in case, but people in the class found stuff that I hadn’t noticed. It was very interesting.

  13. David King Landrith says:

    a random John: You are correct that the current endowment doesn’t contain penalties, but you are still under covenant to not reveal certain aspects of the ceremony.

    One is bound by the covenants that he makes and not by the covenants that others make. Those endowed after April 1990 didn’t covenant never to reveal the penalties. Such members are no more bound by the pre-1990 covenants than they are by the Oath of Vengeance.

  14. DKL,
    You are correct, I misread your previous post. Sorry.

  15. David King Landrith says:

    I forgive you :)

  16. Apparently the initiatory has changed somewhat recently, not to the ceremony itself but in its administration. I don’t know any details.

  17. It’s a scheme to get us to all go do initiatory work to find out what is different!

  18. “We ask people to make covenants when chances are they have no idea what they are covenanting to before hand.” Technically yes. However, I think it’s irrelevant for the reasons I give here http://home.uchicago.edu/~spackman/templeprep#commit

    I would find it very inconsistant that someone who is keeping their baptismal covenants and thus could have a Temple recommend would have problems with the law of chastity, for example.

    “There’s very little in the temple that is new information. As Talmage points out, most of it is available in the Pearl of Great Price or other scriptures.” In terms of listable items, I’m mostly in agreement with you. While many things are already in the scriptures, the presentation itself, the context, teaches things. And while the text is available in the PGP, you seem to be implying that one doesn’t *learn* anything new in the Temple because nothing new is formally taught, which I couldn’t disagree with more, though the things that are learned are not easily made into bullet-points of doctrine…

    “It’s almost entirely ceremonial, and doesn’t seem intended to provide valuable resources that someone less ready wouldn’t be prepared for.” So do you think most people go to the temple overly prepared (as implied here) or underly prepared (as implied by “We do very little to prepare people for the temple”)?

    “Again, I’d argue temple attendance is a ceremonial acceptance as a member of the tribe.”

    I don’t think you’ve made a strong argument for this proposition.
    There may be a secondary social function to teh Temple, but the ordinances are neither intended to divide members into insider/outsider, nor be like a Bar Mitsvah, a ritual passage into adulthood. The covenants of the temple are intended to formally endow people with strength to make the right decisions and bring them into a closer personal relationship with God through those covenants. Try reading Jon Levenson’s “Sinai and Zion.”

  19. Ben, you’re right that a strong argument hasn’t been made in favor of the tribal perspective, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I’d agree with you that the social aspects are secondary, but they should not be underestimated. Think about how much of our time in meetings and councils is spent talking about getting people to the temple; think about the kinds of shared knowledge and experience endowed members possess.

    It’s not intended to be elitist, but it is a rite of passage (literally!). Perhaps it is not meant to represent passage from adolescence into manhood (although, given the average ages for first-time temple attendance, that argument could be made), but the temple does represent a passage into further light and knowledge, and an added spiritual maturity. In other words, it’s not only about the individual, though the ceremony is geared that way. I’m not sure why you would be reluctant to accept that idea.

    Regarding the first point of your comment, that the secrecy of the covenants is irrelevant; I think you’re right and wrong. Yes, a baptized person should have no problem being chaste, etc. But the manner of presentation and the seriousness/consequences of the covenants is entirely new. Perhaps we can do more to impress upon people the fact that there is this heightened degree of gravity.

  20. Bob Caswell says:

    Nice post, John H.! I think you’ve succeeded at opening up discussion of the temple in a respectful way. My biggest quibble with the various ceremonies within the temple is that there is no atmosphere neither inside nor outside the temple to discuss with others what goes on. Now, there is the Celestial room in which we have our five or ten minutes before we are expected to leave. But what I am referring to is the lack of a classroom environment (or equivalent) within the temple for just ordinary members (not temple workers) seeking to learn and discuss with other fellow members that which is expressed within the various ceremonies.

    Even within the Celestial room, where one can supposedly talk about these things more freely, most of us (I’m assuming here) feel uneasy about having a discussion about specifics of this phrase or that promise. As we are instructed within the endowment ceremony, for example, much of what we say is only to be repeated at very specific times (most everything at the veil falls into this category). This, to me, makes it difficult to discuss freely what certain things mean. Thus, we have an environment where nearly all learning is left to personal interpretation. This isn’t much different than other aspects of learning in the Church, I suppose. But being able to reconcile my personal interpretation with those of others is something I quite enjoy and which is sorely missed within the temple.

  21. Bob, I agree with that sentiment. Part of the problem is that there is no definitive interpretation on what the temple ceremony means – – there certainly aren’t any public books on the topic from authoritative Church sources, and so we can’t really teach more than we already do.

    Funny story for you: when I was preparing for my own endowment before my mission, I studied long and hard, including the PGP and the other temple-related scriptures. I studied deeply the Facsimiles of Abraham and wondered at the meaning of Facsimile No. 2, fig. 8: “Contains writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God.” Wow! In the temple! That must be where they tell you!! Gleefully I went for my own endowment, and was waiting for these mysteries to be unveiled. In the Celestial Room, who did I find there but my patriarch! I asked him to explain Facsimile No. 2 to me. Awkwardness ensued — he had no idea, of course — and I went away a little disillusioned. But I gained the understanding that we are all together in this search for further light and knowledge, and that it would be nice if we could get together, in the temple perhaps, and under the auspices of proper authority, and share our gleanings with each other.

  22. David King Landrith says:

    Bob Caswell: most of us (I’m assuming here) feel uneasy about having a discussion about specifics of this phrase or that promise.

    When I was much younger, I was sitting on a couch the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple practicing the veil ceremony with my father. Two older ladies (who appeared to have been there together) interrupted us and asked if this was an appropriate thing to be doing. Evidently, they intended to correct us rather than ask, because after my father re-assured them they went to the temple worker attending to the room. In any case, nothing came of it.

    But I agree with you, the atmosphere doesn’t encourage this. I suspect that many people may not even know that it’s fair game to discuss the entire ceremony in the Celestial Room.

  23. Bob Caswell says:

    Steve / David –

    I liked both of your stories. Man, Steve, your patriarch didn’t know? Growing up, I always thought patriarchs could rival apostles with their knowledge of such things.

    David, when you say, “…many people may not know that it’s fair game to discuss the entire ceremony in the Celestial Room.” I must admit that I may fall into this category, but tell me more… Is it “fair game” because your father said it was? Or because nothing came of the temple workers being alerted? Is there more to the story? What are your assumptions? (I’m not disagreeing; just hoping you can give me a stronger reason to agree with you)

  24. Bob, as a former temple worker I can tell you that while extended discussions or high noise levels were discouraged, we were taught that discussion of the temple ceremony was permitted in the celestial room. It is, as DKL said, “fair game.”

    That is, of course, subject to temple policies about spending all day in the celestial room or raising your voice. I also know that classroom-type discussions were actively discouraged. I think more than one apostate group has started by having little coffeeklatches in the celestial room.

  25. It should be fairly obvious why “temple prep” classes don’t really teach anything specific — no LDS publication really specifies exactly what one cannot teach publicly about what goes on in the temple. How could it? To carefully enumerate the things that could not be spoken of in a public document would, of course, defeat the prohibition, plus it would encourage people to speak about every topic not specifically enumerated, hardly what leadership probably wants to encourage.

    Not knowing what they can or cannot teach, temple prep teachers stay well away from the (undefined) edge of the cliff. Maybe someone who really wants to be “temple prepped” before going through an LDS temple should consider joining the Masons and experiencing their rites first? I recall that was actually how Joseph Smith proceeded.

  26. Bob Caswell says:

    Pardon my prodding, Steve, but how do we reconcile “fair game” with those parts of the ceremony that specifically say not to reveal nor talk about, etc. this or that until a certain part of the ceremony. Am I falling into the classic trap of a Mormon-taking-something-too-literally? Is it just a mystery of the gospel universe? Or is there something I’m missing to fill the gap?

    And I must admit that your line “…while extended discussions…were discouraged…” means just enough to make me wonder what it really means. (i.e. What constitutes an extended discussion? Why is my extended discussion discouraged now when five minutes ago it was a “regular” discussion and allowed? With all this talk of this or that being discouraged, I’d like to know what is or should be ENCOURAGED, etc.)

  27. Good questions Bob, but I’m afraid the answers might not satisfy you. In terms of things we’re specifically told not to repeat, I don’t repeat them, but I admit in the context of the celestial room I would see little harm in doing so. It could be that we are taking things too literally.

    As far as the encouraged/discouraged line, it’s a judgment call. Conversations and discussions are just fine; classrooms or hour-long seminars are not. There are a few concerns: first, that patron traffic flow smoothly, and second, that the celestial room preserve its tranquil and harmonious spirit. To the extent that you’re not getting in the way, and that you keep the spirit with you and don’t disturb others, celestial room conversations are just fine. DKL’s story is an interesting case-in-point: while what they were doing was permissible, once they started disturbing other patrons, they should stop out of courtesy.

  28. David King Landrith says:

    Just to clarify, we weren’t being disruptive. I’m surprised to hear you classify it as disturbing to other patrons.

  29. Fair enough, DKL — I wasn’t there.

  30. Bob Caswell says:

    Steve, actually, it’s not that your answers don’t satisfy me, it’s just that I’m one to be overly-analytical about the methods of such discussions in the temple. Obviously there are no hard and fast rules here. But I think the reasons most avoid such conversations (or are just extremely cautious) is that most can’t readily distinguish in their minds which parts can’t be repeated or can be repeated. There are so many nuances as to what constitutes what kind of material and the whole thing is generally such a blur anyway that most stick with the “better safe than sorry” routine.

    I guess my next questions would be, to what extend is this a sad, unfortunate situation that the brethren should be more actively trying to encourage a remedy and/or facilitate further appropriate discussion within the temple vs. it’s just a big deal…

  31. I was exposed to an anti-Mormon account of the Endowment before I went. This might sound weird, but it was almost a good thing – nothing surprised me about the Temple and I acually enjoyed my own Endowment. Let me be frank here: almost everyone I have even spoken to about their own Endowment did not enjoy it that much. My mission trainer thought he was being “initiated into a cult”, an EQ president of mine actually went inactive for a while, and a good friend (a member of a Bishopric) refuses to go anymore. Surely I didn’t land all the skeptic friends!

    I enjoy the Temple, perhaps because I was never shocked by it, and because with my academic background I have a sensitivity for ritual. But I am convinced (without being able to prove it Church-wide), that many, many good Mormons simply do not feel as positively about the Temple as they might openly admit.

    We need to better prepare people. It’s up to the Church how it does that, but for me, when my kids go to the Temple one day, they will be well-prepared.

    When one of the people I baptised on my mission went to the Temple, I had him read “Freemasonry and the Temple” from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. I can’t remember whether he read it before or after he went, but I know he thanked me for it. I think it helped identify, quickly, the elephant in the room. Not that the temple elephant is bad, but he’s big, and he’s a bit of a surprise.

  32. Bob Caswell says:

    Whoops! The last line of my last comment should read “…it’s just NOT a big deal…”

  33. David King Landrith says:

    Ronan, I don’t recall any lifelong member of the church that I’ve talk to who was that surprised or disturbed by the endowment. Bits and peaces of it come out here and there, and over the course of 18 or 20 years, nothing is really new. I know a guy who had been a member for 6 years before he got his endowment, during which time he’d even served as a counselor the bishopric and high priest group leader (this was in the 80s and the closest temple was 10 hours away). At any rate, when he finally went to the temple, he did several endowments over the course of 2 days and said it was a great experience. I’ve talked to several people who loved the endowment from the get-go (but then, I’m a pretty marginal Mormon—think Kip Dynamite—and perhaps people feel a need to feed me faith promoting stories). I don’t know what this says about temple prep except that maybe 1 year of membership isn’t enough to prepare someone for the temple, and perhaps it should be recommended to first timers that they go more than once in a row, or several times over a few days.

    Even so, I’m not sure that it’s so terribly important that everyone enjoys their first trip to the temple anyway. I don’t even remember the first time I took the sacrament.

  34. FYI, the text of the EOM article that Ronan referred to, “Freemasonry and the Temple,” is available online here.

  35. Bob Caswell says:

    DKL,

    “…I was sitting on a couch the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple practicing the veil ceremony with my father.”

    “Just to clarify, we weren’t being disruptive.”

    Incidently, DKL, in line with the assumptions that have already been made in this conversation (i.e. most people don’t know this is fair game) then the next logical assumption would be that most people could easily be taken back by witnessing such activities in the Celestial Room. I don’t bring this up because I necessarily have issues with it, but if you were actually practicing the veil ceremony with all the hand movements, etc. it would not be long before you would indeed be very disruptive to many people.

    This just brings us full circle to the question of what’s appropriate and what’s not. To the extent that Steve’s right and some of this hinges on the impressions of others (in other words, that which others may or may not find disruptive), then it would be safe to assume that the only way to please everyone would be to allow only quite whispering with no movements.

  36. David King Landrith says:

    I don’t know, Bob Caswell. There’s a temple worker overseeing activities in the Celestial room anyway; why would patrons feel something untoward was going on unless there were just being busybodies? On the other hand, maybe it’s just the idea of seeing two men clasping hands and whispering in each other’s ear in the Celestial Room that strikes some as disturbing.

  37. I’ve made this comment before on other threads (perhaps on That Other Blog) so apologies if it is a repeat for anyone still paying attention here. It has been my observation over a long time that people who have grown up LDS are often unsettled by their first temple visit. In contrast, it seems this is less often the case for converts, particularly the many LDS who were raised Catholic.

    The temple is clearly a heavily ritualistic “high church” form of liturgy. Regular LDS weekly worship is decidely simple and “low church,” an inheritance from the dissenting protestant backgrounds of the early LDS. Also inherited from that background is a dissenting protestant bias against ritual which is promulgated through the Utah Mormon culture even if it is not taught officially by the Church. Thus it is not surprising that lifelong LDS would be surprised by the elaborate rituals of temple worship whereas those raised in high church liturgical traditions such as Roman Catholicism find the temple much more amenable.

    I think that a lot of the hesitancy to discuss the temple, a hesitancy which is more restrictive than what is officially allowed, is due to Utah Mormon cultural discomfort with the whole practice of worship through repitition of rituals.

    A solution to this is to proactively acknowledge the value of ritual in worship. This would mean renouncing our inherited dissenting protestant biases against ritual. Part of this would be the belief that Protestantism is “truer” than Catholicism because the Reformation helped pave the way for the Restoration, and a general disrespect for religions with high church liturgies (Asian as well as Christian). Another would be my quirky favorite of using Mircea Eliade’s Sacred and Profane or concepts derived from there in temple prep classes.

  38. David King Landrith says:

    Interesting points, JWL.

    One thing that I find striking is how many different conceptions there are about the reaction different types of people have. At least three anecdotal samplings have been sited, (including my own) leading to mutually exclusive conclusions—and I don’t doubt that each of us has good objective reasons for ascribing validity to our own samplings. It would be interesting to see the data collected by the church temple surveys in the late 80s.

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