Jared Cook, who occasionally comments in the bloggernacle under his initials JKC (the K is for Kimball), was born in Ogden, Utah, raised in Rochester, New York, served a mission in Phoenix, studied English at BYU, went to law school in Minneapolis, and then returned to Rochester where he lives now and works as an employment lawyer. He’s a lifelong member of the church and a lifelong democrat. He’s a father of three, husband of one, and a lover of the outdoors, Tolkien, and history (especially obscure church history, medieval history, and Mormon history). He cannot flatter himself that he is a writer, but he does occasionally scratch out the odd poem or essay.
“How the Endowment is to the Kirtland Temple as the Eucharist is to the Last Supper (Part I).”
This is series of posts that will attempt to gather and put down some of my thoughts about the LDS temple endowment.
The basic idea is this: the temple ceremony as it exists today serves, at least in part, to help us remember the endowment of power that was poured out on the church in Kirtland, similar to the way that the Sacrament serves to help us remember the last supper. Both ordinances create a community of saints that transcends distances of time and space, and bring us symbolically, or spiritually, into God’s presence. That might sound like an unusual comparison, so this series of posts will explain how I come to see these ordinances in this way.
I’ll not refer in this discussion to the details of the ceremony, both out of respect for our tradition of not having such discussions outside the temple, as also because, as I hope will become clear, that’s not really what I’m interested in, in this discussion. You won’t find a discussion of the physical symbols used in the ceremony, and I’m not going to reveal some great key to interpret those symbols. (Sorry, no “seal of Melchizedek” here). Rather, I’ll discuss certain principles that underlie the endowment, which are discussed in the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants, and I’ll explore both how the endowment ceremony relates to the context in which those principles were revealed, and how it functions in the lives of those that receive it today, to connect us to that context.
I. An endowment in Kirtland? They didn’t do endowments until Nauvoo, right?
Because a form of the endowment liturgy that we know today was first performed in the Nauvoo temple, I for many years regarded the Kirtland temple which preceded it as a sort of incomplete forerunner to the real deal that would come later in Nauvoo, the kind of thing that could be safely dismissed. I regarded it as a quaint historical curiosity, but not a “real temple.” I thought it was “more a like a stake center” and not all that important to LDS worship today. I used to say things like this: “They did a form of washings and anointings in Kirtland, but there was no endowment in Kirtland. That only happened later, in Nauvoo.”
I was wrong. There was an endowment in Kirtland.
In fact, Jesus himself says, with no qualifications, that the saints were endowed in Kirtland. In the vision that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery experienced in the temple, where Jesus appeared and accepted the temple as his house, Jesus said: “the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.” Doctrine & Covenants 110:9.
So according to Jesus, in section 110, there absolutely was an endowment in the Kirtland temple.
So if there was an endowment in the Kirtland temple, where is it in our history? The answer is that it is there, but to see it, we may need to forget for a moment a little of what we think we know as the endowment, and begin to see the promise of an endowment through the eyes of the 19th century saints who had no concept of the temple liturgy that we have today.
Next Part: Looking for the endowment in the Kirtland-era revelations.