Monday, July 13, 2015

Temple prep - "Taught from on High"

The following text is taken from the pamphlet "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple" (2002) and annotated by me.

Before going to the temple for the first time, or even after many times, it may help you to realize that the teaching of the temples is done in symbolic fashion. I hope you like puzzles! The Lord, the Master Teacher, gave much of His instruction in this way. Because he didn't want to be killed as a blasphemer or an insurrectionist. At least not right away.

The temple is a great school. If you think a good school is one that shows you the same movie over and over and over again. It is a house of learning. This is more or less what my dad told me as we were pulling up to the temple. He claimed that BYU was only called the "Lord's university" but the temple was in fact where the Lord taught us. Talk about setting high expectations! In the temples the atmosphere is maintained so that it is ideal for instruction on matters that are deeply spiritual. It's quiet (essentially no talking to each other at all) but with lots of moving around from room to room or in and out of your chair and mumbling brief sentences you're told you must repeat. The late Dr. John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve was a distinguished university president and a world-renowned scholar. Your appeal to authority is showing! He had great reverence for temple work and said on one occasion:
The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation, as taught from time to time by the leaders of the Church, and elucidate matters difficult of understanding. Like what? Like why God Satan would hear God's plan for people to be tempted by evil and then voluntarily rebel and become the evil tempter? Or like how god blood pays for sin? Or why God would need to exile all of his favorite children and them blame them for being bad? Or how exactly sealings work for legally divorced couples or for people who will reject the temple work that will be done for them or for couples who have children who have killed themselves and no longer qualify for the Celestial Kingdom? Or do they ever explain what's so godly about polygamy? Those would be some difficult matters I'd love to hear addressed. There is no warping or twisting in fitting the temple teachings into the great scheme of salvation. I don't know, man, I'm still pretty baffled on why Freemasonry is so essential to the Plan... The philosophical completeness of the endowment is one of the great arguments for the veracity of the temple ordinances. I've indicated a few holes for you to fill in above. Moreover, this completeness of survey and expounding of the Gospel plan, makes temple worship one of the most effective methods of refreshing the memory concerning the whole structure of the gospel. A more effective method would be to show one of those little Plan of Salvation maps. They're very simple, can be understood in minutes rather than hours, and don't require memorizing any Masonic bullshit. The only problem is they don't answer the questions I've asked here either.
Another fact has always appealed to me as a strong internal evidence for the truth of temple work. Well if you like it!... The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith … fall clearly into four distinct parts: The preparatory ordinances; the giving of instruction by lectures and representations; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. Why would any of this have anything to do with "the truth of temple work"? How are you defining truth? And what are your criteria for discovering and recognizing it? I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete. He didn't make it all up. He was trained by the Freemasons, dude! After reaching the highest order he just ripped out chunks of their ceremonies and spliced them into a Creation drama rather than a Solomon's temple drama. No over-extension of the imagination was necessary. (John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 [April 1921]: 58.)
To quote again from Elder Widtsoe’s article:
We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing, except by symbols. We make a few marks on a sheet of paper, and we say that they form a word, which stands for love, or hate, or charity, or God or eternity. The marks may not be very beautiful to the eye. No one finds fault with the symbols on the pages of a book because they are not as mighty in their own beauty as the things which they represent. We do not quarrel with the symbol G-o-d because it is not very beautiful, yet represents the majesty of God. We are glad to have symbols, if only the meaning of the symbols is brought home to us. So saying the temple is symbolic or that in the temple we learn through symbols means nothing, because according to your logic the same could be said of everything we learn regardless of where we learn it. You've just made the temple ordinary and mundane, not special and exalting. I speak to you tonight; you have not quarreled very much with my manner of delivery, or my choice of words; in following the meaning of the thoughts I have tried to bring home to you, you have forgotten words and manner. Who's to say no one in the audience is paying any attention to your words and manner? I but someone listening was trained enough in rhetoric to question your delivery. I bet someone who heard you found a jump or two in logic. Even if you miraculously managed to sail your audience smoothly to your final conclusions, I can't see how your lesson on semiotics ties in with the temple. Maybe you should discuss the temple symbols and then compare them to written and spoken symbols. I would be very curious to see what you come up with.
We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand. No man or woman should be expected to come out of the endowment knowing what the symbols stand for without those symbols being given a proper explanation. No one expects a child to be given a book and read it without first being taught how to read. On another note, is the temple necessary for understanding the "realities" of which you speak? Let's take the Masonic symbols on the garments for example. The square, the compass, the dash over the navel and the dash over the knee refer respectively to living a righteous life, being directed toward God (or circumscribed within his realm), spiritual nourishment and finally reverence to Christ. Not only do all of these symbols need further explanation (which cannot be derived from the symbols themselves), each concept can in fact be taught perfectly well without the symbols. There is no essential knowledge to be gained by learning these symbols. None. (“Temple Worship,” page 62.)
Focus on the compass and learn to deviate not.

If you will go to the temple and remember that the teaching is symbolic you will never go in the proper spirit without coming away with your vision extended, feeling a little more exalted, with your knowledge increased as to things that are spiritual. Because you get to sit around and find things to turn into symbols. No one will discourage you, nor will they ask you what you learned because no one cares. There was nothing more to learn anyway. Once you learn to have faith in Jesus and are reborn in him, you've pretty much acquired all the symbolism you need. What's significant after baptism for a Christian, is living like Jesus, which probably means being patient and loving and doing everything you can to help those in need. The teaching plan is superb. Oh man, you need to take a course or two in pedagogy. How is it "superb" if people couldn't even understand him? It is inspired. By gerbils on a wheel. The Lord Himself, the Master Teacher, in His own teaching to His disciples taught constantly in parables, a verbal way to represent symbolically things that might otherwise be difficult to understand. Sure, little stories can be easy to remember, but the message is often lost. As I recall he sometimes taught in parables to keep people in ignorance. He talked of the common experiences drawn from the lives of His disciples, and He told of hens and chickens, birds, flowers, foxes, trees, burglars, highwaymen, sunsets, the rich and the poor, the physician, patching clothes, pulling weeds, sweeping the house, feeding pigs, threshing grain, storing into barns, building houses, hiring help, and dozens of other things. He talked of the mustard seed, of the pearl. But he never used Masonic symbols. He wanted to teach His hearers, so He talked of simple things in a symbolic sense. Except when he didn't want everyone to understand him. None of these things is mysterious or obscure, and all of them are symbolic. It's so strange that everyone doesn't understand Jesus' parables the same way if they were so clear and straight forward. Are you absolutely sure Jesus avoided being a little obscure?

The temple itself becomes a symbol. If you have seen one of the temples at night, fully lighted, you know what an impressive sight that can be. It is very clearly a phallic symbol showing wealth and power. The house of the Lord, bathed in light, standing out in the darkness, becomes symbolic of the power and the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ standing as a beacon in a world that sinks ever further into spiritual darkness. The world is sinking "ever further into spiritual darkness"? REALLY? We have more people than ever fighting against slavery, against racism, sexism, and various other forms of inequality. We have developed the science to save countless lives thanks to surgeries and effective medications. We have very large nations working to protect their citizens and working together to keep war at bay. The scriptures and the our current leaders offer none of these improvements. Please take your fear mongering and shove it up your ass.

The temple ceremony will not be fully understood at first experience. Largely because we will not teach you what you need to understand it, nor will we tell you who understands it fully, and don't even dream of finding someone to sit down with who will even try to explain it fully. Saying you understand the temple completely is a form of Mormon heresy. It will be only partly understood. So don't worry that it doesn't make much sense. Return again and again and again. And keeping inventing symbols for yourself so you feel smarter. Return to learn. Things that have troubled you or things that have been puzzling or things that have been mysterious will become known to you. Like what? Why would the temple, a place where we are discouraged from talking and where there are no lectures or classes, be a better place to answer questions than say a Sunday School lesson, where we get to bounce ideas off each other with the supposed help of the Spirit? Many of them will be the quiet, personal things that you really cannot explain to anyone else. Thanks for giving anyone who thinks they have answers an easy out. :( But to you they are things known. I smell... I smell... BULLSHIT! Brother, I think you're shittin' me!

What we gain from the temple will depend to a large degree on what we take to the temple in the way of humility and reverence and a desire to learn. So true! If you've studied Joseph Smith, early Church history, Freemasonry, ancient Jewish temple traditions, a little New Testament scholarship and things of that nature, you'll probably learn that the temple is a gigantic hoax. If we are teachable we will be taught by the Spirit, in the temple. You'll be hit by an overwhelming knowledge that you should be somewhere else, do something else, anything else. Life's too short for this nonsense.

When you have the opportunity to attend an endowment session in the temple or to witness a sealing, ponder the deeper meaning of what you see demonstrated before you. What is the deeper meaning for us to ponder? You won't say, will you? And in the days following your visit keep these things on your mind; quietly and prayerfully review them and you will find that your knowledge will increase. Does reviewing mean gently touching our spouses garment symbols over and over again? Maybe it just means staring for hours into the mirrors of eternity.

 It'll happen, sister. He'll also probably leave 
the church a few years later.

One of the great values of the temple experience is that it presents the broad, sweeping panorama of God’s purposes relating to this earth. Once we have been through the temple (and we can return and refresh our memories) the events of life fit into the scheme of things. We can see in perspective where we are, and we can quickly see when we are off course. You don't have to build multi-million dollar temples to see this. Just do a Google search for the "plan of salvation" and print of one of the images that pop up. It's very cheap and easy.

So look toward the temple. Point your children toward the temple. From the days of their infancy, direct their attention to it, and begin their preparation for the day when they may enter the holy temple. In other words pretend, pretend, pretend you understand it and love it even though you still haven't had a real explanation of what the temple entails. Pretend, pretend, pretend you have kids to brainwash. This is what God wants. :S

In the meantime, be teachable yourself, be reverent. Drink deeply from the teachings—the symbolic, deeply spiritual teachings—available only in the temple. If you don't get it, it's because you're a prideful dick, and God will strike you down eventually. We can promise you that.

It takes time to plan a temple marriage. Dammit. You couldn't put this marriage bit under a new heading? This section is getting too long. It is worthy of careful planning. Kids, please! Don't get married in your early 20s. Spend at least a few years seeing the world and finding your feet. Not infrequently young couples who fall in love determine that they are going to be married and insist, against the pleadings of parents, that they want to be married right away, in just a week or two. Or a month or two. The plea by parents for more time to prepare is sometimes interpreted by the young couple as being a disapproval of their marriage. They are afraid that if they wait something will interfere. SEX! NEED SEX! Some young couples show themselves to be very immature and unkind when they press for immediate arrangements that can be met only with great difficulty and often result in an experience that is much less memorable than it might have been under other circumstances. Amen! This is by far the best advise so far in this pamphlet.

If things are too hurried or too pressured, something seems missing from the first visit to the temple, or from the wedding day in the temple. Kids, sometimes ceremonies just feel empty. That's life. This first time through the temple or the sealing on a wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yeah, once in a lifetime, except for those women who get temple divorces or those men who don't have to get temple divorces to be sealed to another woman. It is worth preparing for. Preparing for marriage often means living together or at least sleeping together. It is so significant that we should not let the little details of preparation, the little housekeeping chores, detract from it. Temple sealings are boring as hell and only endowed temple recommend holders can attend. There's no reason for you to be more excited about that ceremony than all the other wedding events you have planned that all of your friends and family can attend. For that reason, everything should be done beforehand. You mean we should be getting married civilly first and sealed later when things have settled? I think that's a reasonable proposal. It can be a great frustration for some essential thing to be left untended until that day. Huh?

If you go to a meeting early and sit in the chapel quietly and watch the people arrive, you see that they bring something with them. Their bag of temple clothes! (Unless they're renting.) The spiritual temperature warms up and the room is changed as it is transformed from an empty room to a congregation, an audience of brothers and sisters who have come with a sense of expectancy. It's generally nice to know you're not the only stooge to show up to a party.

Now, in our busy days we cannot always do this when going to a meeting. Whatever is brought to us by this approach to a meeting is doubly important when we go to the temple. Why? You're hyping this so hard. Are you sure it won't backfire on your audience? This is especially true when we are going for the first time. We should get there early. You'll have more time to sit there nervously wondering what the hell what it is you're going to be promising and what you'll look like wearing that godawful clothing.

As you see, this early attendance is not just for protection, for making sure that the recommends and other things are in order and that we can adapt ourselves to the new experience. It's kind of like going to a big, expensive concert. You want to make sure you've peed, got your drinks, found your spot, and are in the groove before the show starts. It is more than that. It is to get into the right place in time to get calmly into the right spirit—to get ourselves prepared for what is to take place. Dude, that's what I just said.

We have been speaking in terms of the participants in the temple experience, but there are occasions when a temple wedding is being planned and some very close members of the family are not qualified for temple recommends. Sometimes? All the time. Every family has members who cannot enter or who have no interest in being LDS. Every family. It may be that the groom or the bride is a convert and his or her parents are not yet in the Church; or, that they are too new in the Church to qualify for a temple recommend. Or it may be that the parents are members of the Church but one of them is not living the gospel standards sufficiently to receive a temple recommend. Or it could be that they left the Church and don't want back in. These limitations loom large at times of temple marriages. So true, but civil marriage outside the temple followed by a sealing would help relieve a lot of that stress and tension. These are the times when families should be very close together, when they should be drawn together to share in these sacred moments of life. The withholding of a temple recommend to one who is not qualified, or the inability to invite a nonmember friend or relative to witness the sealing, can quickly present problems. This might cause unhappiness and contention at the very moment when there is a great need to have things serene, to have the greatest harmony. Indeed, so why does the Church block family members from attending a ceremony in which no secret covenants are made?

What do we do in cases like that? Nothing. You tell those who can't come in to be understanding. What we would not do is apply pressure upon a bishop. The bishop, by the standard he is obliged to keep as a common judge in Israel, could not in good faith issue a recommend to one not qualified.  To do so could be a great disservice to the individuals involved. And it would not be fair to the bishop himself. That only applies to "unworthy" members. What about new convert or non-LDS family members?

When a temple marriage is scheduled and one of the parents or a very close relative is not able to enter the temple, careful planning may well make that an opportunity instead of a problem. You're seeing a conversion opportunity here? That's not at all understanding. It's actually disgustingly manipulative. Consider these suggestions. Invite the nonmember parent, or the member who is not eligible for a temple recommend, to come to the temple with the wedding party. So they can sit outside alone or with the all the kids who are too young to enter. Not a great idea. There is a spirit and influence on the temple grounds that is not found in other places. You're wrong. Social pressure and borderline coercion are found in very many places. Some of the temples have visitors’ centers. That's right, send them off to site see and be missionary bait while their loved one gets married. What an insensitive and idiotic idea. The temple grounds in every case are beautifully kept. All in all it is a place of peace and serenity. How depressing! sending family out to roam gardens as a distraction to the main event.

Arrange to have someone wait with that family member. This is only getting worse. A babysitter? Really? Surely you would not leave the person alone. Of course not! Lord only knows what they might say to other visitors! There are instances in which family members who were quite eligible to enter the temple to witness the marriage were content instead to spend the time on the temple grounds with those who could not. Are you suggesting that if those few people preferred walking around instead of entering than any family member of any family should be too? This argument is absurd. Here in the surroundings of the temple they have been able to explain the desire of the young couple to be sealed in the house of the Lord. Ah, so they were assigned to be missionaries. How conniving.

There can be great influence exerted at this time that may not have been possible otherwise. For instance, at some of the larger temples tours are conducted. Planning ahead may provide some special attention tailored to fit the need of a close family member who for one reason or another is not able to enter the temple. You're a sick sick man using a wedding to position non-Mormons so you can proselytize. Sham on you. These people just want to be included in a wedding. The disappointment and even resentment, sometimes bitterness, on the part of the nonmember parents or ineligible-member parents can be greatly softened in these ways. No, it won't. They're resent being set up. Trust me.

In some temples a special room is provided where parents who are not eligible to enter the temple itself may meet with a qualified individual who can answer their questions. Questions like "Where in the Bible or Book of Mormon is eternal marriage discussed?" and "Why are you guys setting me up for missionaries to hassle me?"

The young couple must understand that their parents may have looked forward to the wedding day during the entire lives of the bride and groom. That's probably a safe assumption. Their desire to attend the wedding, and their resentment when they cannot, is a sign of parental attachment. It is not to be resented by the young couple. Agreed! Unfortunately the Church does a great job of pitting the couple's religious devotion against love and understanding for family. It is to be understood and planned for carefully as a part of the wedding. Your suggestions above were down right awful though.

There are some cases of course in which the ineligible parent is offended and will not be placated. If I had to guess, I would guess that the majority of cases are like this. In those cases the young couple will just have to make the best of it. Because the Church doesn't give a shit. The question may come up: Well, then, should we be married civilly so that they can witness the marriage, then we would wait for the necessary year before entering the temple? Yes! This is already the rule in some countries outside the United States. But that would not be the ideal solution. No? Why not? Prayerful and careful planning in most cases can make the problem transform itself into an opportunity that ultimately will bring the family closer together than it previously had been. Oh, because the ideal is your idea of sending them into an uncomfortable discussion with people they don't know about a church they already deeply resent. Genius. :S

Large groups of friends, ward members, and so on should not be invited to witness a marriage. Wedding groups should be small, comprising only the members of the two families and some few who are very close to the couple. Because why? Because the sealing rooms are very small. On occasions a wedding has been announced in the ward with the invitation that all should try to attend to give support and encouragement to the couple being married. That is what a reception is for. Well shit, dude, for most people that's also what the marriage is for. The fact is the sealing is not even a marriage. In the U.S. it's counts but only if a marriage license is obtained first. Marriage today is a state affair, sealings are religious. A wedding reception is to provide a time for greeting the friends and the well-wishers. You don't even realize that you're imposing your culture and your personal preferences on others, do you? The temple marriage itself should be sacred and should be shared only by those who have a very special place in the lives of those being married. And the Church inadvertently puts the limit on how many people can be "very special" by having small sealing rooms. Why should the Church be making that decision for us anyway? May I also point out that you've spent the past the LAST 9 PARAGRAPHS dancing around how sealings can hurt people's feelings on a regular basis and how you have to try to distract them from that pain? Doesn't that tell you something?

We do not quote the words of the sealing ordinance outside of the temple, but we may describe the sealing room as being beautiful in its appointment, quiet and serene in spirit, and hallowed by the sacred work that is performed there. Secret magic words of sealing? Now that sounds special! BTW, I hate to break it to you, but the Church has actually shared pictures of sealing rooms with the press. Everybody who wants knows what they look like.

Before the couple comes to the altar for the sealing ordinance it is the privilege of the officiator to extend, and of the young couple to receive, some counsel. Kids, this will be the most awkward part of your marriage, I promise. It's even more awkward than losing your virginity. These old guys say all sorts of weird unsolicited shit. These are among the thoughts that a young couple might hear on this occasion. Oh no, here it comes!

“Today is your wedding day. Obviously. You are caught up in the emotion of your marriage. And the stressful requirements of your religion. Temples were built as a sanctuary for such ordinances as this. Not true. Israelites did not marry in the tabernacle and neither did Jews. The first Mormon temple had no sealings performed in it and the first sealings (polygamous marriages) were not performed in the Nauvoo temple either. Temple marriages are a very new development in the history of Judaeo-Christian inspired marriages. We are not in the world. Well, we're just under .2% of it anyway. The things of the world do not apply here and should have no influence upon what we do here. What things of the world are you talking about? Marriage? Jesus would agree with you if you mean marriage! We have come out of the world into the temple of the Lord. How? What have we left behind exactly? This becomes the most important day of your lives. Marriage is a big commitment and it will change your life for sure, but I also like to think that we should see each day as the most important day.

“You were born, invited here by parents who prepared a mortal tabernacle for your spirit to inhabit. Except in the case of the bride. Her parents are outside fuming that they've been shoved off to chat about JC with 19 year olds. Each of you has been baptized. Duh. Baptism, a sacred ordinance, is symbolic of a cleansing, symbolic of death and resurrection, symbolic of coming forward in a newness of life. We know that. Do you know we were taught that even before we were baptized? Well we were. It contemplates repentance and a remission of sins. "Contemplates"? How about "it required" a remission of our sins? The sacrament is a renewal of the covenant of baptism, and we can, if we live for it, retain a remission of our sins. We already know this. Are you just killing time?

“You, the groom, were ordained to the priesthood. You had first conferred upon you the Aaronic Priesthood and probably have progressed through all the offices thereof—deacon, teacher, and priest. Had the officiator actually gotten to know the couple he could actually give a semi-decent account of this young man's life instead of improvising this silliness. Then the day came when you were found worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. That priesthood, the higher priesthood, is defined as the priesthood after the holiest order of God, or the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. Every member knows this. Get to the point. You were given an office in the priesthood. You are now an elder. At this point the bride is thinking about how tired she is of kneeling and how she feels obligated to look at the officiator even though from where she kneels all she sees are his nostils and little drops of spits showering down.

“Each of you has received your endowment. Uh... yep. In that endowment you received an investment of eternal potential. Yeah, to become gods. We know. Marry us so we can go consummate this shit, please! But all of these things, in one sense, were preliminary and preparatory to your coming to the altar to be sealed as husband and wife for time and for all eternity. Indeed, we are very stoked for eternal sex! You now become a family, free to act in the creation of life, to have the opportunity through devotion and sacrifice to bring children into the world and to raise them and foster them safely through their mortal existence; to see them come one day, as you have come, to participate in these sacred temple ordinances. So you're saying we're here now so our kids can be here later? Isn't that kind of deferring the significance of this ceremony to the next generation?

“You come willingly and have been judged to be worthy. Right, judged by someone who may or may not have been able to tell if you really truly qualified, so he likely tried to guilt a confession out of you. This union can be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.” "Can be" or "is"? I thought that's what we were doing right now...
Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom. (D&C 88:3–4.)
“To accept one another in the marriage covenant is a great responsibility, one that carries with it blessings without measure.” You mean unlimited power as a new god of the Celestial Kingdom? That's what I want!

A bride and groom will quite likely be so emotionally involved with the wedding that they may not listen carefully—they may not really hear the words of the sealing ordinance. If they're anything like what you've written above, that will be no shame. While we may not repeat those words outside of the temple, we may return on occasions to witness a wedding. It is a generous Lord who has authorized us to do this. Do what? Sit in on a temple sealing? Are you serious? By the way, I'm not sold on God's generosity... On these occasions, when we are not so personally involved, we may listen carefully to the words of the ordinance. And eventually learn the magic spell. Similarly, of course, by returning frequently to officiate for those who have passed on, we may refresh the mind and the spirit on the endowment experience. Does it feel better to kneel there without your family watching and waiting for you to cry?

If you were previously married in a civil ceremony, you may wish to now be sealed for eternity, and, if you have children, have them sealed to you in an eternal family relationship. Or not. If you qualify for this it may be your great privilege to receive this blessing. Or it may not!

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