“For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (D&C 110:7). When was the last time someone claimed to have seen Jesus in the temple? When was the last time a sane and honest person saw JC in the temple?
To follow up on the class members’ first visits to the temple and help them prepare to enjoy the temple throughout their lives. This should be the best lesson of the series. Finally the students have some actual experience to base their knowledge off of instead of the cryptic BS they've been pretending to understand. Now we can finally talk for real about the temple.
Be prepared to make this lesson a time of sharing. Most class members will want to discuss their first visit to the temple. They'll also feel a fair amount of pressure to only say positive things and will likely be more than a little nervous to speak their minds freely.
Assign a class member to be prepared to read Doctrine and Covenants 110:1–10 and share his or her feelings about it. I know theses thoughts are meant to be shared later, but I'll go ahead and write them here. First off, holy shit! Jesus sounds both very scary and also pretty fucking cool! Secondly, I'm kind of bummed I didn't see Jesus in the temple and more bummed I didn't see anyone who seemed to be seeing him or even conversing with angels. Thirdly, I have no idea where Jesus would even be hanging out in the temple for us to see. Maybe in the Celestial Room smoking a pipe by the fireplace. I don't know. Finally, I think temples totally have made Mormons famous all over the world, unfortunately it's also made them infamous thanks to LDS practices of baptizing people for the dead that the living don't want baptized.
Assign a class member to summarize the information about Elijah presented in Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, pages 23–24. In a nutshell, Elijah the prophet keeps coming back from the dead to wave his priesthood fingers about and turn all of our hearts to our fathers. This usually happens in mid-June in the United States. Thanks, Elijah! See you next year!
Prepare to answer questions that may have arisen during the
first visit to the temple, but do not discuss questions or information
that should be reserved for discussion in the temple itself. Can we talk about what the True Order of Prayer? That shit was WEIRD! But also, if that's the true order then why the hell are we taught to kneel on the ground, fold our arms, bow our heads and close our eyes? Should we be teaching little kids to raise their hands in the air and lower them saying "Oh God, here the words of my mouth!"? Where such
questions exist, encourage individuals to plan additional visits to the
temple. Where in the temple would students be expected to talk about the taboo subjects of temple worship? The temple president's office? I really don't know the answer.
Ask class members if they have any questions. I have a question! When you went through the temple did they still have an evil Protestant minister helping Satan deceive the children of man? Is it not ironic in light of the fact that the LDS Church is very much a product of the Reformation? What? Those questions are no longer relevant because the Protestant minister has been edited out? OK, well can you explain why women are covenanting to their husbands rather than to the Lord like the men do? Can you explain why we need a new name to give at the veil? Where do these new names come from anyway? Take the time required to answer questions to the best of your ability and as guided by the Lord’s Spirit. The Lord's spirit will be the only guidance you can hope for because the Church isn't giving you anything to work from. Remember that some aspects of temple work must not be discussed outside the temple. I think the only things we promised to never reveal are our new names and the bizarre succession of Masonic signs and tokens, right? Why can't we talk about them again? Don't say it's because they're sacred. We talk about lots of sacred things like baptism, testimony moments, motherhood, the Atonement, the Plan... Don't we think everything in Mormon doctrine is sacred?
Maintaining a Love for Temple Service
- How did you feel when you were in the temple? Nervous. I knew less about what I was supposed to do than I anticipated. I felt like I was being cornered sometimes.
Explain that temple service will bring continuing blessings into the lives of those who go often to the temple. "Continued blessings"? What the hell are you talking about? Tell the class members that while their experience in the temple is still fresh in their minds, they may want to write their feelings about it in their journals. So they can laugh at their own ignorance later on in life. Remind them that although they may record their feelings, they should not write about some details of temple work, which are not to be discussed outside the temple. What are they not allowed to write exactly? Is it not strange that you're trying to censor their journals?
- What can you do to maintain a love for temple service throughout your life? If you stay in the Church long enough you'll automatically become an obsessive old temple goer. Temple "work" is one of the only entertainment options for old Mormons. It's either the temple or the megaplex. Either way you're watching a movie. You might find yourself loving it earlier if you become a parent and you start convincing yourself that your child needs to have an "eternal marriage".
Write the class members’ ideas on the chalkboard. You may also want to present the following ideas:
1. Ponder the temple experience each day. And couple that pondering with some reading material.
Explain that some people have more opportunities to visit the temple than others. But once we have been to the temple and felt the Spirit there, we should take the opportunity each day to ponder the temple ceremonies and reflect upon the covenants we have made. If you rarely or barely feel the Spirit in the temple, you should also ponder that. You're probably just a sinner, but there's also a chance that the temple isn't what it claims to be. Doing this will encourage us each day to think and act in more righteous ways. But not more ethically.
We will not be able to remember everything about the temple, but we should try to remember as much as possible after each visit. Or you can just hop online and look up whatever it is you've forgotten. We should also study the scriptures and words of the prophets about the temple. They don't say much that's substantial. Some of these have been presented in this course. And you remember how hollow those words were, don't you?
You may want to have a class member summarize the following statement, found on page 10 in Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple:
“The temple ceremony will not be fully understood at first experience. It will be only partly understood. 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. Return again and again and again. And keeping finding "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. Are you admitting that the temple can trouble people? Can you give an example of something troubling? 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? …
“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 deeper meaning? There doesn't even have to be one, you just have to make us believe there is one? 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. The best review involves gently touching your silky garment symbols over and over.
“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.
2. Remember that the center of all temple worship is the Savior, Jesus Christ. Is it? I always felt that it was our self-importance and impatience to become gods.
The scriptures teach that an important reason for building temples is so “that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people” (D&C 109:5). And yet he's just not popping in very often, is he? The symbols and rituals of the temple help to focus our attention on the Savior. To be completely honest, imagining Eve naked behind a bush distracted me a little...
Explain that the Savior did manifest Himself in the Kirtland Temple. That was the first and last time he did anyone that favor. He appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to accept the temple as His house. Uh, I have my doubts. This visit is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110:1–10. Ask the assigned class member to read and comment on this passage. I put my comments on these verses at the beginning of the post.
- What blessings did the Savior promise to those who build and attend temples? Health in the navel, marrow in the bones... no, wait! That's something else. OK, he said he show up in mercy (wouldn't it be weird for a guy who's already affectionately paid for your sins show up and punish you for being a sinner?), and that he'd pour out "blessings". Thanks for the "blessings", Lord!
In the Temple, Families Are Sealed Together for Eternity
Ask the class members to read Malachi 4:5–6.
Ask the assigned class member to summarize the information about Elijah found in Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, pages 23–24. I summarized this above.
Explain that Elijah has returned and restored the priesthood keys that allow families to be sealed together in temples for eternity. Don't ask me why Peter, the dude to whom Jesus supposedly gave the power to seal, did give Joseph those "keys" years earlier when he allegedly dropped out of heaven with his pals James and John and bestowed the Melchizedek priesthood upon him.
Have the class members review Doctrine and Covenants 110:13–16. This is the scripture where Elias shows up with his Greek name tag and then shows up again with his Hebrew name tag and is mistaken for a different person. Great story. :S Then ask a class member to read the following statement, found on page 28 in Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple:
“From that very day, April 3, 1836, the hearts of the children began to turn to their fathers. Before that, all children hated their fathers and never thought of them, especially not to help them. Thereafter ordinances were not tentative, but permanent. Baptism was tentative before 1836? Ordination to the Priesthood was tentative!! Are you serious? The sealing power was with us. Rest easy, kids, this highly suspicious story Joseph Smith told means we've got the most powerful magic of any religion. You're in the right place! No authorization transcends it in value. So never ever under any circumstance take seriously what other religions say they have to offer. That power gives substance and eternal permanence to all ordinances performed with proper authority for both the living and the dead.” You'll feel it, brothers and sisters. It will feel low key. Almost anticlimactic. Kind of like the awesomeness of it all was in what was said, not so much in what was done and what happened afterward. What I'm saying is don't expect to see the Lord or anything amazing like that. Keep your expectations to a minimum.
The Savior described the sealing power when He spoke to His Apostle Peter, as recorded in Matthew 16:19. This verse is so strange. If Peter had pronounced chocolate ice cream to be eternally in all celestial freezers, would God have respected that? Does the New Testament give us any idea if Peter actually used this special power at all? Have the class members read this verse.
Explain that these same keys are held today by the prophet and President of the Church. You should see the incredible Lego sets that Tommy Monson has bound on earth and in heaven! “That sacred sealing power is with the Church now. How it works is if you're lucky enough to be a man, you can get sealed to numerous women, and if you're a woman who divorces or is widowed and want to get sealed to a new husband, you can't. Nothing is regarded with more sacred contemplation by those who know the significance of this authority. Which doesn't exactly explain why Heber Kimball said he took no more thought about taking another wife than he did about getting another cow. Nothing is more closely held. Well, except for penises. Those get held pretty darn tightly. There are relatively few men who hold this sealing power upon the earth at any given time—in each temple are brethren who have been given the sealing power. They are among our most special and unique sorcerers. No one can get it except from the prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or from those he has delegated to give it to others” Seriously, these sealing sorcerers are pretty close to the top of the pig pile. (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 24, 26).
Explain that the sealing ordinances include the sealing of a husband and wife to each other and the sealing of parents to children. That's right, kids, sealings are no longer just about polygamy! When parents are sealed in the temple, the children born to them are born in the covenant of their parents’ sealing and do not need to be sealed to their parents. But the Lord does require paperwork from everyone else. Sorry.
- How do you think being sealed together in the temple might affect the daily thoughts and actions of a family? It definitely gives a false sense of security and contributes to some pretty smug attitudes toward those families who haven't been sealed.
- What blessings do you think would come to a family because of their temple sealing? Earthy blessings? None. I thought the deal was they'd get to be together after they die.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Was there ever a man who truly loved a woman, or a woman who truly loved a man, who did not pray that their relationship might continue beyond the grave? Yes. Has a child ever been buried by parents who did not long for the assurance that their loved one would again be theirs in a world to come? Unfortunately, yes. Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant his sons and daughters that most precious attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? Yes, easily. No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. You'll have to explain your reasoning I'm afraid. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured. What if this is just an emotionally immature desire that only mere mortals suffer from? Why would a God who knows everything, can be everywhere and is the definition of love not be entirely satisfied with his relationship to his creation (children included) at all times regardless of where their physical presence my be? The sacred ordinances of the house of the Lord provide for it” You're selling a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. (“Why These Temples?” Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 4).
Temples Give Us Opportunities to Serve Those Who Have Died
Have the class members read Obadiah 1:21. That's one trippy script, brother! I'm sure you'll make it mean whatever you want it to mean.
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained how members of the Church can become saviors on Mount Zion:
“But how are [the Saints] to become saviors on Mount Zion? By giving Joseph - ahem! the Church... a lot of money and fee labor? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (History of the Church, 6:184). Sounds like a lot of work for something that isn't even necessary.
“This vicarious work performed in our temples must be carried forth in the same spirit of selfless devotion and sacrifice that characterized the life of the Master” (President Thomas S. Monson). I'm 100% sure that Jesus never asked for this sort of "service" once in the Gospels. Jesus wanted our efforts directed 100% at worshiping the Father through service to the living.
Explain that as part of His plan of salvation, our Heavenly Father has prepared a way for those who died without receiving the saving ordinances of the gospel to receive these ordinances. It's not a very effective way, so in the end you find yourself questioning God's judgement. The people in the spirit world have the opportunity to hear the gospel. I'm amazed they'd even have to wait for an opportunity to hear the gospel. It seems like once you pass through the veil your memory of the War in Heaven would return and you'd know exactly where you are and what went wrong. They can accept it there, but they cannot receive the ordinances of the gospel for themselves. Because why? The Lord has commanded us to perform these ordinances for them in holy temples. Kind of. Joseph got people going on vicarious baptisms way before baptismal fonts were part of temples. I guess that baptisms for the dead in rivers and lakes really pissed the Lord off. We should make special efforts to do family history work so we can receive ordinances in behalf of our own ancestors. Should we though? I think our energies could be directed toward the living. Imagine if instead of spending 2.5 hours in the temple, Mormons went out and helped in nursing homes or tutored in schools and libraries or cleaned up trash or helped in community vegetable gardens.
Ordinances for the dead performed in temples include baptisms, confirmations, ordinations to the priesthood, endowments, and sealings of husband to wife and parents to children.
We should return to the temple as often as our circumstances permit so that we can serve those who have died by performing ordinances for them. The temples are recycling names these days because they have more people going through than they have new names of the dead. Many names are irretrievable. Let's focus instead on the real work that needs to be done and leave this "work" for the dead for the Millennium. We will bless the lives of those we serve and bless our own lives as well. You don't see the irony in what you said, do you? You're talking about "blessing the lives" of the dead... Information about how to do family history work and perform ordinances for our ancestors is provided in A Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. Now get busy!
President Thomas S. Monson said:
“An appreciation for the temple endowment and the sealing ordinances will bring the members of our families closer together and there will be quickened within each family member a desire to make available these same blessings to our loved ones who have gone beyond. Most people my age can't be bothered. They've got way too much to do with work and children. I think this urgency is more likely to hit once you're old and retired. …
“This vicarious work performed in our temples must be carried forth in the same spirit of selfless devotion and sacrifice that characterized the life of the Master. Just don't think too hard about how the Master focused on the living and never told people to save their dead ancestors by being baptized for them. When we remember him, it becomes easier for us to do our individual parts in this vital work. Only if you remember him in a certain way, a way that makes you believe vicarious ordinances for the dead were somehow his idea. Each time we gaze upon one of these holy houses, may we be reminded of the eternal opportunities which are found inside, not only for ourselves, but for our dead” (Pathways to Perfection , 206–7). Every time you look at a temple you should be thinking about how one day you and all your family could live together in a cloudy community of Gods on a crystal planet. How's that for motivation?
Emphasize that temple attendance allows us to serve others and to continue to gain greater spiritual knowledge. Probably the greatest service you're doing in the temple is keeping elderly people company. The second greatest service is that you're providing jobs for temple cleaners, cafeteria workers and laundry cleaners. Share the following statement:
“No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the genealogical research which supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. What? How does genealogical work protect the Church? By giving it a research organ that actually does credible work unlike the moronic apologists over at BYU and FAIR? No work we do gives us more power. Relax. Accept that you're a mortal like the rest of us. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness. … Keep fanning our self-righteous ego! It feels so good!
“If we will accept the revelation concerning temple ordinance work, if we will enter into our covenants without reservation or apology, the Lord will protect us. Protect us from what? What the hell are you talking about? What are you so afraid of? We will receive inspiration sufficient for the challenges of life. That sounds like minimal inspiration, which is definitely what I got during my years of activity. …
“So come to the temple—come and claim your blessings. They're the unspecific blessings we'll work the whole rest of our lives trying to identify. It is a sacred work” (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 37). It is what you want it to be, I guess. I actually dared to want something otherworldly and beautiful. What I got was human and mundane. I doubted my doubts, but I could only delude myself for so long before letting it go.
End the lesson by sharing testimonies. I'd like to bear my testimony that the LDS temple is not a restoration of ancient ceremony ordain and demanded by Heavenly Father. From what I see, the temple is the product of Joseph Smith trying to impress his followers with something bigger and more complicated than he had previously shown them. It's the result of a religious hack trying to outdo himself. I say this in the name of honest contemplation and historical evidence. Amen. Encourage the class members to return often to the temple so that they can be taught by the Spirit of the Lord. Isn't this what's supposed to be happening in church on Sundays? Why would regular church services be unable to reach this goal of being taught be the Spirit?
You may want to mention that the class members may be able to obtain from Church distribution centers and view at home the video presentation Mountain of the Lord. This 73-minute presentation tells the story of the building of the Salt Lake Temple. It's just more propaganda. You can skip it, like this whole lesson.