Saturday, July 25, 2015

Temple prep - Endowed from on High "Lesson 1"

I'm reading the Church Education System's manual for temple preparation and adding my two cents. Text found here

Objective

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). The writers of this manual are using this verse to validate the temple endowment drama in which Elohim repeatedly sends Jehovah (understood to be Jesus) and either Michael the archangel (understood to be Adam, the first man) or Peter, James and John of New Testament fame off on errands of making all of Creation and giving humans very special messages. The very special messages a Masonic hand signs, handshakes and passwords. I honestly can't see how this gives you any significant knowledge about who God and Jesus Christ are. We already know they're the Alpha and Omega tag team that will rock the universe forever. How about a little insight into what makes them laugh or maybe their favorite foods?
To help class members understand that the plan of salvation is taught in the temple. That's it? Do we have to keeping reading? I think we got the lesson down pat. I have no idea how you can be baptized and attend church meetings for an entire year and still need help with they layout of the Plan.

Preparation

  1. Before class begins, prepare a chalkboard or poster illustration of the incomplete diagram showing the plan of salvation (see page 3). Oh dear Lord! Are you teaching 7 year olds? (You may wish to make a similar incomplete diagram on a piece of paper for each class member to complete during class discussion.) They'll fill the whole thing out in 30 seconds of shear boredom. You know that, right?
  2. Make sure that each class member has access to a copy of the scriptures. Why? The scriptures don't discuss the modern Mormon temple in much detail at all. Also provide a copy of the booklet Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple for each class member. Drop the booklet, it's awful. Consider instead providing everyone with the script used for the endowment. These should have been ordered as part of the class materials. That's right, dude. You didn't order them? You fucked up.
  3. You may want to assign several class members to help you with the second section of the lesson. You could give the scripture references mentioned under each part of the plan of salvation (premortal life, the Fall, etc.) to a class member and ask him or her to come to class prepared to summarize what these scriptures teach about the plan of salvation. This will be sure to annoy most of the students you choose.
  4. If the Come unto Me videocassette is available, you may want to show “Man’s Search for Happiness,” a 13-minute segment. That's one corny-ass film. You might not want to show it.

Lesson Presentation

The Temple Is a Spiritual School

It's a school that gives the same lesson every single day all day long with no Q&A sessions, no class discussions, no homework, no quizzes or tests. It's not a very good school. 

Invite someone to give an opening prayer.
Explain that the scriptures will be used in each lesson. This way years later when their wondering where all the weird temple stuff comes from they'll vague impression that it came from scripture. Encourage class members to bring the scriptures to each class. It sucks when you have keep handing out library copies to these kids.
Distribute a copy of Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple to each class member. Explain that this is the student supplement for the course. Material from the booklet will be discussed throughout the lessons, and each class member should read the booklet during the weeks the course is taught.
Begin the lesson by explaining that the temple is a spiritual school that helps us learn more about the purpose of life and the plan of salvation. You really have to hammer this point because otherwise there's no way your students will feel like they've learned much more about the purpose of life and the plan of salvation.
Have class members read the following quotations, which explain some of what we learn in the temple:
President Gordon B. Hinckley said that the temple “becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God. Sounds great, but what is he referring to? Here we have outlined the plan of a loving Father in behalf of His sons and daughters of all generations. The same plan we learned by heart in Primary or a different one? Here we have sketched before us the odyssey of man’s eternal journey from premortal existence through this life to the life beyond. Like the sketches we've discussed countless times in Primary? Great fundamental and basic truths are taught with clarity and simplicity well within the understanding of all who hear” But not much understanding will be found by those who think a little more carefully. (“The Salt Lake Temple,” Ensign, Mar. 1993, 5–6).

President Brigham Young taught that the temple ordinance called the endowment gives us instruction necessary for eternal life: “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father” And yet Jesus never ever spoke of Freemasonry as necessary ordinances because Freemasonry wouldn't come into existence until maybe 1400 or 1500 years later. To assume that the temple endowment is an essential ordinance to Christianity is to make a gross error.(Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 416).

Have class members read John 17:3.
  • What does this scripture teach about the most important knowledge we can obtain? I've already explained one reason why using this verse in reference to the temple is fantastically out of place. See above.
Explain that in the temple, we learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and we are able to grow closer to Them. What more do we learn about Heavenly Father? That his name is Elohim and that he delegated the creation of the universe to Jehovah, Jesus' secret name. Most members probably already know this. We learn about Their plan for us, which is referred to in the scriptures by various titles, such as the plan of redemption or plan of salvation. We learn that it requires knowledge of Freemasonry for us to get to heaven.
“We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). Will humans willingly enslave themselves to our will?
  • What has helped you learn about the plan of salvation thus far in your life? Primary, Sunday School, FHE, and everything else the Church required me to do, but nothing in my real life, day to day experience.
  • How has your understanding of the plan of salvation blessed your life? It gives me a rewards system and a reason to think that I'm destined for somewhere better than everyone else in the world who isn't an active believing LDS.

In the Temple We Are Taught the Plan of Salvation

Explain that as part of the temple endowment, the plan of salvation is taught. This has already been stated more than once. The bad news about this temple teaching is that it produces more questions than it answers. This section of the lesson will help the class members prepare to understand these teachings in the temple. Let's hope!
Refer to the incomplete chalkboard illustration and review the following information, using the scriptures to help the class members understand the ideas. As the scriptures are discussed, write them on the appropriate lines on the chart. If the class members have their own copies of the chart, have them add the scripture references to their charts. Uh! Boring.
If you have assigned class members to help you, ask them to present their information on the plan of salvation. Explain that this discussion will focus on the following questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here on earth? Where are we going after this life? Ah, yes, the big questions.
plan of salvation outline

Premortal Life

  1. We are spirit children of God, our Heavenly Father, and we lived with Him before coming to earth (see Romans 8:16–17). Um, I think you mean Elohim.
  2. Heavenly Father called a great council in heaven (see Abraham 3:22–23). He presented a plan for our eternal development and happiness, which is called the plan of salvation. We chose to follow His plan. So did Satan, if you think about it.
  3. In harmony with the plan, Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of Heavenly Father, volunteered to be our Savior (see Moses 4:2; Abraham 3:27). Which means his blood, obtained through torture, magically fixes everything wrong in the universe.
  4. Lucifer, another son of God, rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan and “sought to destroy the agency of man.” He and his followers were cast out of heaven and were denied the privileges of receiving a physical body and experiencing mortality. Throughout the ages, Satan, as Lucifer is now called, has tried to make all mankind miserable like himself by tempting them to be wicked (see Moses 4:1, 3–4; 2 Nephi 2:17–18). I think it's time we be the better man and forgive Lucifer.

The Fall

  1. Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first of Heavenly Father’s children to come to earth and were placed in the Garden of Eden. At that time, their bodies were not mortal (see Moses 3:7–8, 21–23). This happened about 6000 years ago. No doubt about it.
  2. Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit that God had forbidden them to eat. Why did God tell them not to eat it if he really needed them to in order for his plan to work? Because he's a dick. As a result, they were separated from God’s presence. The more you learn about God, the less this sounds like a punishment. This separation is called spiritual death. It almost sounds as good as "death panels". God's got a good PR team. They became mortal, which means that their physical bodies would eventually die. Of everything mentioned so far, I think mortality is the only thing that makes sense. This is an observable reality confirmed by science, unlike the rest of this story. They also became able to have children. What? Were they in a perpetual state of prepubescence? Is this real doctrine? The change to the mortal condition is called the Fall More good PR work. (see 2 Nephi 2:19–25; D&C 29:40–41). So far you haven't explained anything an active Mormon of at least a year wouldn't already know.

Mortal Life

  1. All those who chose in the premortal life to follow Heavenly Father’s plan gain a physical body by being born on this earth. During our mortal life, we are tested to see whether we are willing to live by faith and obey Heavenly Father’s commandments when we are not in His physical presence (see Alma 34:32; Abraham 3:24–26). Heavenly Father has decided on an interesting set up.
  2. In mortality, each person is free to choose whether he or she will follow God or follow Satan (see 2 Nephi 2:27). His didactic methodology is also very "interesting".

Death and Resurrection

  1. When we die, our spirits enter the spirit world, and our bodies remain on earth. Isn't the spirit world just another realm of the earth? Is it somewhere else? Does this mean Mormons believe in ghosts? This period of separation continues until the time of our resurrection. The spirits of the righteous are received into a state of peace and happiness, which is called paradise. Not a perpetual state of missionary work trying to convert the nearly 100% of the earth's population that has never hear of God's plan? The spirits of the wicked are placed in a state of darkness, which is sometimes referred to as a prison (see Alma 40:9–14; see also 1 Peter 3:19). Do you want to be confined to the hole until you resurrect?
  2. The Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ provide the way for all mankind to overcome physical death by being resurrected. Demigod blood is awesome like that! Resurrection means that our spirits and perfected bodies will be reunited for eternity (see 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Nephi 9:10–13; Alma 11:42–44). Even if you're headed for Outer Darkness. You'll at least be happy suffering totally misery in a perfect resurrected body. God's a generous fellow.
    “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3). Put another way, God's plan allows for a maximum return of just about 2/3 of his spirit children! That's a pretty good investment return, isn't it?
  3. The Atonement of Jesus Christ also provides the way for us to be forgiven and cleansed from sin so we can dwell in the presence of God. Because you're a filthy dirty sinner and we all know it. The Savior suffered for the sins of all mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. As a result of His Atonement, we can repent of our sins and receive forgiveness. As we live the gospel, we can qualify to receive the gift of eternal life and become like Him (see Mosiah 3:5–12). Once again, none of this information should be new to someone who has gone through the discussion or Primary and was baptized. This lesson is terribly unnecessary and not going to be of much help to someone going through the temple.

Kingdoms of Glory

At the time of resurrection, each person will be assigned to a kingdom of glory. Those who are righteous will inherit greater joy and blessings than those who do not obey God’s commandments (see 1 Corinthians 15:35, 40–42).
  1. The telestial glory is for those who do not receive the gospel of Jesus Christ or the testimony of Jesus or the prophets of God, and who live sinful lives (see D&C 76:81–88, 98–103). I have some thoughts about the telestial kingdom! First off, it has a weird-ass name...
  2. The terrestrial glory is for the honorable people of the earth who are deceived and for those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:71–79). Quitters like me!
  3. The celestial glory is reserved for those who obey the commandments and receive the ordinances, overcome all things by faith in Jesus Christ, and become pure in heart (see D&C 76:50–70). This place must totally kick ass!
Before going on, I have to ask, is it strange to anyone else that all of this information has to be pooled from all across the scriptural canan? Would you think that one of the Nephis or Almas or Mormons would have written about this a little more clearly? I do. I think that if this is how the plan really is, someone in the New Testament would have spelled it out very clearly. If this is the plan that every prophet has learned about since Adam, I think it's safe to say the Old Testament should have a chapter or two (or ten) outlining this whole thing. Instead we get to piece it all together from a selection of verses that require a fair amount of interpretation. God really loves his puzzles. 
Ask class members to respond to the following questions: If they're still awake.
  • What did you learn about the plan of salvation that you did not know before? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! SERIOUSLY. NOTHING.
  • How do you feel when you think about Jesus Christ’s part in this great plan? Very confused. God's sense of justice is very Bronze Age and violent. It also strikes me as wholly ineffectual. I've never been able to sacrifice a living creature and have past mistakes be made right. How does that work exactly?
  • How can we show Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that we are grateful for Their plan? We don't have to show them anything because we're already completely naked before them. They can see through our hearts and minds.
To emphasize the great importance of the Savior’s Atonement in the plan of salvation, write the third article of faith below the completed chart as shown. We had to memorize this when we were 8 years old. Let's consider that the people taking this class are 18. That makes 10 years of repeating this article of faith. Don't you think they've got it by now? Doesn't this feel brainwashy at all to you?

 Conclusion

Emphasize that the temple provides us with knowledge about this plan, knowledge that brings great blessings into our lives. I would love what significant details the endowment offers. I've done it many times, read through it several more. The temple offers nothing enlightening, just a bunch of bizarre "symbolic" details. Setting kids up to think they'll learn something new about the Plan seems dishonest to me. Promising "blessings" also seems dishonest. It's an invisible carrot that will never have a name or shape. Bear your testimony about the blessings you have received because you understand the plan of salvation and live the principles of the gospel. Invent something. Anything. You can say something generic like that because of the temple your family is happier, or that because of the temple you know more about God's plan. Just say something. And cry a little bit. But whatever you do, don't make any hardline promises. We'd hate for these kids to have real expectations!
You may want to conclude by showing “Man’s Search for Happiness.” Linked above.

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