Sunday, May 16, 2004

Temple sacredness as secrecy: Am I swine? 

by Unknown
The Manhattan temple opens imminently and has brought many things to mind. I have yet to be endowed. Not because of worthiness issues, but lack of desire. I'm not married and did not serve a mission, so I was never in a position to 'have to' get endowed. Because of this post on Kim Siever's blog, Our Thoughts, about the recent online publication of the Temple preparation manual and the ensuing comments, I have the following questions. Please do not misinterpret my questions as criticisms or doubts. I accept that the temple is a divine institution that is central to my religion, which religion I hold very dear. I seek more understanding on its importance and wonder why this isn't made more explicit in church education.

1. Most mormons get endowed because they are getting married or going on a mission. This seems such a common practice that it's assumed all active adult church members will go through the temple. So, teaching temple motivation is not a priority if it's even taught at all. (I may be wrong, I spend every Sunday in primary and not adult Sunday school so please correct me if I am.)

2. Temple ordinances and covenants are considered too sacred to discuss outside of the temple, because we don't want to "cast pearls before swine". So people usually explain things with broad expressions like, "make sacred covenants to receive greater blessings" and "learn more about the plan of salvation". Don't the scriptures contain all the knowledge we need? What motivation then does one have for taking endowments?

3. Getting endowed is a commandment required for exaltation. Marriage is also a commandment required for exaltation. Since I'm not married, I won't be exalted even if I get endowed. So does it make a difference in the end if I do?

This is the point where more knowledge would be helpful. I read the temple prep manual on-line. It quoted James E. Talmadge:“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions” (The House of the Lord, rev. ed. [1976], 84).

Which leads me to ponder, how are these promises different from baptismal covenants? Don't we do the same thing when we take the name of Jesus Christ and promise to obey his laws? I take my baptismal covenants very seriously and all of the above fall under them even if not explicitly stated.

4. In the comments on Siever's blog, dp from Doctrinal:net posted this quote from Armaund L. Mauss' "Reflections on Mormon Temple Worship":
"there is no real reason that even devout Church members could not talk more about the temple ceremonies than they do, with appropriate discretion about time and place, since the oaths of secrecy attach only to the new names, signs, tokens, and penalties. Indeed, more open talk about the temple would not only facilitate understanding among both Mormons and non-Mormons in certain historical and scholarly respects, but would also infinitely improve the preparedness of initiates, almost all of whom now enter the temple with only the vaguest idea of what to expect or of the obligations they will be asked to assume."

However, the temple prep manual had this to say about the matter (I couldn't find a reference to the speaker):
“We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. …
“The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared"(Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 2).

If Mauss is correct, then why are we so silent about the temple ordinances?
What does being unprepared mean? I'm temple worthy and once had a recommend to take out endowments, but I didn't get around to it. What lacks in me as far as preparedness goes is the burning desire to be endowed and an understanding of the need for it. But that doesn't mean I'll defame them or trod them into the mud. Maybe I am a spiritually insensitive boar who has hardened my heart to the call of the temple, but how many people got endowed purely from desire or felt fully prepared? (If you did I'd like to hear how it happened for you.)

Do church members take the sacredness too far, turning it into uneccessary secrecy as Mauss suggests? And who is going to "great effort to urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience?" Is more effort and education needed to give people a greater understanding?

Jennifer J
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