“I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts” (2 Nephi 28:30). Heavenly Father is the king of mystery. He's a bit like Moriarty in Sherlock only letting us know enough to keep himself entertained.
To help class members understand and appreciate the use of symbols in the temple. Symbols like the majestically phallic spire, upon which Moroni wraps his lips around God's trumpet. Absolutely beautiful.
Bring a flag of your country or a picture of your country’s flag.
Ask a class member to summarize the story of how one of the
Brethren answered a question about temple garments. The story is found
on pages 20–21 and 23 of Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple. This is the story of some dumbfuck hypocrite Protestant chaplin assface who thought garments were "strange" even though he himself was wearing some weirdass clerical getup. It's symbolic, shithead! Duh! I can't stand people prying into my underwear drawer.
Note to teacher: Temple ordinances and covenants are sacred, and discussion about them is primarily limited to within the temple. Therefore, class discussion should be limited to the explanations given in this manual. In other words, your temple experience and insight isn't needed for this lesson. You're here just to make sure these kids hear these non-explanatory explanations because we sure as hell can't trust them to read this material on their own.
Ask class members if they have any questions. I have one! Um, why are we taking this class on temple symbolism when the instructions say we can't really discuss the symbolism of the temple? At what point do we actually talk about all the symbols in the temple? I've been through many times and can tell you that the symbols covered in the endowment are pretty unimpressive. The green apron with fig leaf designs that you wear represents the fig leaves Adam and Eve used to cover their uglies. The white clothing represents purity (dark = dirty and yucky). The handshake where you place the tip of your index on the other person's wrist represents the nails put in Jesus' wrists. Is that supposed to be deep? And what about all the symbols that aren't discussed here or in the endowment or any other ceremony? Does anyone ever check with us to see if we noticed them and interpreted them correctly? No, because they don't matter. All that matters is that you convince yourself that you're learning and growing closer to God. Take the time required to answer questions to the best of your ability and as guided by the Lord’s Spirit. On second thought, just act sweet and stick to the script below. Remember that some aspects of temple work must not be discussed outside the temple. If you, dear teacher, tell them something secret, we will stick you in nursery for at least a decade. Keep your lips sealed.
Symbols Are Important in Our Daily Lives
Explain that symbols are used constantly in our everyday lives. Draw the following or other appropriate symbols on the chalkboard. Ask the class members to describe what each symbol means.
Jew. Medical help. Something is not allowed.
Show the class your country’s flag or a picture of the flag and ask them to describe what the flag means to them. Rebellion, war, nationalism, imperialism, oppression and optimism.
Show the class your country’s flag or a picture of the flag and ask them to describe what the flag means to them. Rebellion, war, nationalism, imperialism, oppression and optimism.
- What are some other objects or some actions that show patriotism? (A song, a uniform, a piece of clothing, a holiday, or a celebration.) This is the kind of exercise that breeds "artists" like Jon McNaughton.
Point out that these are symbols that stand for or represent patriotism. Of course they are, that's exactly what you asked the students to list. They came up with whatever symbols they came up with precisely because they thought they were patriotic.
- What are some symbols for love and respect? (A gift or a ring, a kiss or an embrace, a heart shape.) A dick in a box?
- Do symbols convey the same message to all people? No. Why or why not? 'Cause we're all different and understand things differently, if at all.
- Why do we use symbols? They're wonderfully brief and often quite memorable.
Symbols can help us remember important things. Like how the cross helps some people remember that Jesus supposedly died for each of them personally.
Symbols can teach us abstract truths that might be hard to learn in other ways. Like how the Taoist yin and yang teach the cyclic nature of all things.
Symbols can represent feelings. Like emoticons!
Symbols can teach different principles according to our personal readiness to learn. What student would ever say this? Symbols don't teach on their own, instead we are taught to understand symbols. No one will understand the symbols already discussed in the lesson (Star of David, medical cross, prohibited circle, national flag) without first having had them explained to them. When teaching someone to read do we just give them a dictionary and tell them they'll sort it out with time? No. They will not learn understand the letters, words and function of the dictionary without an appropriate amount of training. SYMBOLS DON'T TEACH PEOPLE, PEOPLE TEACH SYMBOLS.
Explain that when the symbols are repeated, we learn to understand them better. Not necessarily. The more the symbols are analyzed and discussed the more we're likely to understand them. Mere repetition is nothing more than busywork.
Jesus Christ and His Prophets Used Symbols
Explain that the Savior repeatedly used symbols when He taught.
- What are some instances in which the Lord taught by using symbols? Let's just look at your examples...
The class members may mention such things as lost sheep (see Matthew 18:12–14); a mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31–32); or a pearl of great price (see Matthew 13:45–46). Christopher Hitchens shared the opinion of my grandmother that no one should be flattered by being compared to a sheep. I think the mustard seed lesson is inaccurate at best. I also think it's a little demeaning of people to refer to them as swine who can't appreciate the importance of something.
- Why do you think the Savior used symbols when He taught? His hyperbolic teachings make an impression on us and are easy to remember.
Let the class members discuss. Then review the following statement:
“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. … He talked of the mustard seed, of the pearl. But he never once threw in Masonic symbols for the simple fact that Freemasonry wouldn't exist for anther millennium and a half. He wanted to teach His hearers, so He talked of simple things in a symbolic sense. But he never used Masonic symbols. None of these things is mysterious or obscure, and all of them are symbolic” (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 8). So how is it that everyone understands Jesus' parables differently? If they were so clear and straight forward all of Christianity would interpret them the same way. Are you absolutely sure Jesus avoided being obscure?
Explain that the prophets and apostles often used symbols to teach of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Many of these "symbolic" teachings can be quite offensive (like telling a girl she's a licked cupcake, ABC chewing gum, or a wilted rose if she ever let's someone touch her) or fail to bear the weight of careful analysis (Alma's seed of faith experiment, for example, proves that faith in the Church is as much a bad seed as a good seed). The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the basis of the gospel and of all the blessings we receive. It makes salvation possible. Therefore, most of the symbols in the scriptures teach us about the Savior and His sacrifice. I'm not sold on the atonement, but stories about forgiveness are probably a good thing.
Ask the class members to read Moses 6:63. This is why we're blessed to see Jesus in toast.
- What things in the earth bear record of the Savior? Footprints? Does he have a footprint or two out there somewhere?
Ask the class members to read Alma 13:16.
- In what ways do priesthood ordinances bear record of the Savior? I think after reading the preceding verses that something about paying tithing to high priests supposedly resembles Jesus. You might want to pick a clearer scripture.
Point out that before the Savior carried out the Atonement, His covenant people sacrificed animals as a symbol of His atoning sacrifice (see Moses 5:4–8). Totally! All that animal slaughter was insane! That practice ended with the Savior’s death and Resurrection. That's right. You're not going to top killing a the son of God! But why did God create a system that requires corporal and capitol punishment? I suppose he, like the rest of us, has his preferences. Now the Lord commands us to “offer for a sacrifice unto [Him] a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20). The blood lust days are over. And priesthood ordinances continue to help us remember the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. Only if we teach explicitly why those ordinances are designed to help us remember. The sacrament prayers spell it out very nicely, but I'm not so sure about other ordinances. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught:
“Essential ordinances of the gospel symbolize the Atonement. Baptism by immersion is symbolic of the death, burial, and Resurrection of the Redeemer. Partaking of the sacrament renews baptismal covenants and also renews our memory of the Savior’s broken flesh and of the blood He shed for us. Ordinances of the temple symbolize our reconciliation with the Lord and seal families together forever” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 47; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35). Please explain what that symbolic reconciliation looks like and please stop misinterpreting Jesus' stance on marriage.
Symbols Teach Us Truth If We Are Spiritually Sensitive
Explain that when the Savior lived on earth, His disciples asked Him why He taught with parables. Parables are stories that teach important truths, often using symbolic language. Let's just say they're very short morally didactic stories. The "important truths" bit isn't really part of the definition and "symbolic language" is meaninglessly redundant. Have the class members read Matthew 13:10–12 to learn what the Savior said.
- What do you think the Savior meant when He said this? I think he was saying "suck my dick!" to everyone who didn't understand the morals of his stories.
Explain that the Lord reveals truth to those who are spiritually ready to understand it. So if you find that you're not learning anything in the temple, remember it's your fault. Those who receive truth with faith and obedience continue to receive more truth. But no one ever talks about their new found understanding of deep truths. Members who try are typically viewed as fringy and weird. Top Church leaders avoid addressing such half-cocked temple revelations among the general membership and they never share their own amazing insights. In the end we simply assume that everyone who attends the temple regularly is learning amazing stuff through the spirit even though we ourselves are not. Those who are not spiritually prepared and who fail to receive truth or receive it with a doubtful heart will gradually lose the truth they have. Put in other words, those who see through the bullshit end up distancing themselves from the charade and sticking with reality.
Stories with symbols present truth in such a way that those who are spiritually prepared understand the meaning of the symbols. Once again, symbols do not teach, they are taught. Those who are not prepared do not understand the meaning. Preparation for the use of symbols takes the form of education on what the symbol is and how it should be used. We don't see symbols and accurately interpret them without some background training in what to look for.
Either no one should be dressed like this or everyone should be tied up. I'm not sure.
Some people in the Savior’s time understood the messages of His parables, but many did not. Because they were at times intentionally unclear. The same is true today. Very true. People today still don't understand Jesus' parables. Take Mormons for example. They think the parable of the talents has to do with playing a musical instrument or playing a sport exceptionally well. Those are the wrong talents, brothers and sisters. There are many levels of spiritual understanding among righteous members of the Church. I'd go so far as to say that no two members believe the same things. Everyone has their own church and their own gospel and there's nothing correlation can do about it.
- What do these scriptures teach about how we learn truth from God? The first one teaches us that God's a stingy bastard when it comes to giving us knowledge leaking it only a tiny trickle at a time to his star students, and the second reminds us that a sucker is born every day and that we shouldn't be too gullible. It reminds me of how Joseph was given revelations about Kolob and how way too many people believed him and continue to believe in that bogus astronomy.
Explain that it is possible for all of us to develop spiritually to a level where we can understand the meaning of symbols used in the gospel, in the scriptures, and especially in the temple. This feels like you're just trying to bait your students into going to the temple. You sell the idea that there's a lot of learning to be done in the temple and imply that that learning cannot happen elsewhere. I don't think that's true, but more importantly I think you need to clarify what you mean when you talk of knowledge. How are you distinguishing "spiritual" knowledge from just plain old knowledge? What makes them different and is one better than the other somehow? Can you explain your take on epistemology for us?
The Most Sacred Symbolic Teachings Are Received in the Temple
Explain that the most sacred symbolic teachings on earth are received in the temple. Wow, that's quite a high standard your setting! In a symbolic way, the teachings and rituals of the temple take us on an upward journey toward eternal life, ending with a symbolic entrance into the presence of God. Yes, kids, you start out in the Creation Room and then, if you're in a live session (which you most likely won't be) you'll move to other rooms, eventually ending up walking through a white curtain into the Celestial Room. It's very symbolic in an over the top sort of way. The characters depicted, the physical setting, the clothing worn, the signs given, and all the events covered in the temple are symbolic. You'll be quasi-participants in a religious play. There's a lot of make believing. When they are understood, they will help each person recognize truth and grow spiritually. The "physical setting" are rooms with murals of planets and oceans and animals and stuff, the clothing is goofy as shit (God has horrible taste), the signs are pulled from Freemasonry, and the events are banal. Unless you're slow, you'll figure everything out almost instantly, then you'll get bored out of your brain in all future sessions. But, who knows why, you'll always say that you had an amazing trip to the temple.
“All things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual” (Moses 6:63). Like electric eels? How about silicon computer chips?
Some of the symbols are straightforward, and the meaning is readily apparent. Like what? The temple itself is 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” (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 10). 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 our modern prophets offer none of these improvements. Please take your fear mongering and shove it up your ass.
The temple clothing is also symbolic. It's symbolic of human idiocy, a lot like the emperor's new clothes. When we enter the temple, we change from street clothes into white temple clothing, which is a symbol of purity. White = good, dark = bad. Yes, we do like to think in black and white terms. President James E. Faust said:
“Fundamental to temple worship is the principle that ‘God is no respecter of persons.’ [Acts 10:34.] But we still thought it was a good idea to ban blacks from the priesthood and the temple anyway. We also think it's a good idea to keep women in the home. And let's be honest, we're pretty sure God want's us to make life difficult for homosexuals. Within the hallowed walls of the temples, there is no preference of position, wealth, status, race, or education. Correct. Race has been on that list since 1978 and maybe someday the Church will at sex, gender and sexuality to the list as well. All dress in white. Men get powerful baker's hats and women get TO VEIL THEIR FACES! All receive the same instruction. Mostly. Women get some modified instruction that subjects them to their husbands. All make the same covenants and promises. All men make the same covenants and all women make the same covenants, but men and women do not make the exact same covenants. All receive the same transcendent, eternal blessings if they live worthy to claim them. Kind of. Men get to become kings and priests and women queens and priestesses. Historically kings ruled over their queens and we have no idea what a priestess even does according to Mormon doctrine. All are equal before their Creator” But not so equal in the temple. (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 23; or Ensign, May 1997, 20).
Explain that members who receive temple ordinances and make covenants with God wear special garments (underclothing) throughout the rest of their lives. They look like t-shirts and long boxer briefs. Now. A hundred years ago they were more like white long johns. You'll be asked to put them on underneath a white poncho thing called a "shield" and then you'll sit in a chair while someone you've probably never met will recite some secret prayers and pretend to touch various parts of your body. Read this. Read the following statement:
“The garment represents sacred covenants. They're supposed to be like the lamb skins God made for Adam and Eve after finding them wearing fig leaves. I bet those were some pretty sweet threads! It fosters modesty and becomes a shield and protection to the wearer. It also fosters the kind of sexual repression that gets you excited about bare shoulders. The "protection" mentioned here is not guaranteed. You'll still want to have dirty sex. You'll still want to punch your sister-in-law's face in. You'll still be vulnerable to gunshots and knife wounds. Basically garments just keep you a little warmer and make shopping a little more difficult. … The garment, covering the body, is a visual and tactile reminder of [covenants made in the temple]. They're also a great reminder that God, who made you in his image, doesn't like you to be naked almost ever. For many Church members the garment has formed a barrier of protection when the wearer has been faced with temptation. Some members have reported seeing devils and even the Great Satan himself shrivel and turn to smoke after trying to touch the sacred garment. Among other things it symbolizes our deep respect for the laws of God—among them the moral standard” When you see yourself in your garments you'll understand why no one wants to have sex with you. (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 20, 23).
Ask the assigned class member to summarize how one of the Brethren described the purpose of the temple garment (see Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 20–21, 23). I gave my summary above.
Explain that almost every aspect of the temple ceremony is symbolic. Didn't we already say that? Whatever. I'd like to know what in human society is not symbolic. This means that each person should prepare to be as spiritually sensitive as possible to the symbolic nature of the temple endowment. Why? "Spiritual sensitivity" doesn't help you interpret signs and symbols. Before giving our kids keys to the car we send them to driving classes so they can learn how to read and follow traffic, but when it comes to the temple we just say "pay attention to 'signs'" and essentially never engage with them again on the topic.
- What could keep a person from being spiritually sensitive in the temple? A disbelief in spirits. Rock and roll music about fast cars. Sleeping through the session. Reading shit blogs about doubting doubts.
Class members might mention such things as the following:
A person may not be worthy. The girl who listens to her little brother masturbating on the other side of the wall will bring that one up. A person who has failed to
sincerely repent and has not prepared humbly and prayerfully for the
temple will find that the symbols will be lifeless and their meanings
will be hidden. This is an amazingly effective distraction commonly known as blaming the victim. You weren't impressed with the temple? That's because you're a dirty sinner!
A person may lack faith. The temple lacks a clean fit in Christian theology and doesn't feel like the Mormonism you've practiced your whole life, so it will take A LOT OF FAITH to accept it as legitimate worship. A person who does not have faith in
Jesus Christ and the temple ceremony may not receive the inspiration
from the Holy Ghost necessary for understanding the temple endowment. And having lots of faith is no guarantee you'll be inspired either. The temple's a bit of a crap shoot.
A person may focus so much on the outward motions of the
ceremonies that he or she may miss the powerful teachings represented by
the symbols. The only way to avoid this is to go through the motions frequently. The only way to do that is to attend the temple regularly. You can only attend the temple if you truly believe everything and give the Church your money. They never said it would be cheap they only said it would be worth it a some point after you're dead.
- How can we prepare to be spiritually sensitive in the temple? Repent and exercise non-stop faith! Oh, and watch the endowment on YouTube.
Point out that those going to the temple for the first time can expect to learn many new things and feel the power of the Lord’s Spirit. At least half the people I talk to (family and friends) say their first time made them wonder if they'd just joined a cult. Encourage class members to prepare themselves spiritually for their temple experience. Remind them that all of what is presented cannot be understood in a single visit. Keep coming back to repeat this thing you don't understand! One day you'll feel like you basically get it, but you won't be too bothered either way because you will have done it so much it feels almost second nature. They should return to the temple as often as possible so they can continue to learn and to renew their spiritual feelings. Come! Do! Like it! You're incomplete if you don't. Your spirit will starve. You won't get blessings. Your family will pay the price. Come! Do! Testify!