Saturday, February 18, 2012

To the Mountain of the Lord's House

Much has been made in recent years of Mormon temple worship. Curiosity is beginning to build in this presidential election season, and will escalate going into November. Some wonder what goes on behind those seemingly secretive walls of Mormon temples. Rumors of grotesque practices like "baptisms for the dead" have people stirred up, even to the point recently of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel reportedly being "outraged" that he and members of his family were found in the Church's expansive database for proxy temple ordinances.

For the most part, stories like these that make their way into the press repeatedly call for a public apology from the Church. In an attempt to clarify the Church always responds with an education piece on their official website explaining the policies associated with the proxy ordinances performed there for the dead. In the Mormon view there is no intent to anger the relatives of the deceased. In fact, the policy is that only names in one's direct genealogical history may be submitted for the proxy ordinances. In the spirit world after mortality, because our eternal spirit lives on when the body is buried awaiting resurrection, and may not have had a chance for hearing the fulness of the gospel during mortality, the spirits are taught and may exercise their agency in accepting or rejecting the temple ordinances including baptisms, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations, followed by initiatory ordinances of washings and anointings, then endowments and sealings performed on earth in their behalf.

Only those who have previously obtained a current temple recommend and received the temple ordinances for themselves may perform proxy ordinances for others in their families who are deceased. Sometimes the genealogical research to find the names of their ancestors takes years and years to discover. It is a selfless and spiritual work.

President Lorenzo Snow
It was President Lorenzo Snow who opined, "I believe, strongly too, that when the Gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our Elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the Gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable. . . I believe there will be very few who will not receive the truth." (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], 3:  . Discourse delivered by President Lorenzo Snow at the Sixty-Fourth Semi-Annual Conference of the Church, held in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Friday morning, October 6, 1893, reported by Arthur Winder).

President Wilford W. Woodruff
President Wilford Woodruff said essentially the same thing: "So it will be with your fathers. There will be very few, if any, who will not accept the Gospel. . . the fathers of this people will embrace the Gospel." (Ibid., April 8, 1894).

Sometime this month our youngest daughter will complete the circle of life in her generation by going to the Oakland Temple for the first time. She is the last of our children to go to the Mountain of the Lord's House. All her eleven brothers and sisters and their spouses before her have received the ordinances of salvation. Everything we do in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints points one toward the temple and the ordinances administered there. It is always a journey of faith for each soul who comes to the temple. In recognition of her decision to receive her personal ordinances in preparation for her pending mission to Washington D.C. South Mission, I wanted to share with all of the readers of this page what I would say to Merilee if she were here with me to better prepare her for what she will experience behind the temple doors.

Oakland Temple
It is necessary to make this bold statement at the outset: There are very few things we cannot discuss about the temple, since most of what happens there is scriptural and can be obtained in the public records, books, sermons and scriptures published by the Church for all to see. Indeed, every temple before it is dedicated is open to the public for tours and explanatory inspections by anyone who is curious enough to come inside. I love what Elder Neal A. Maxwell used to say, “Through the restitution of all things, God is actually giving away the secrets of the universe!” (That Ye May Believe [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1992] 164), for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Indeed, we are reminded, "And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people." (Mosiah 3:20). That time is now.

President Henry B. Eyring
President Henry B. Eyring gave a wonderful Conference talk a few years ago, inviting all to "Come Unto Christ." He called it "the most important invitation we could offer to someone." We see the invitation throughout the scriptures, as in this reference: "Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness." (2 Nephi 9:50-51).

We are reminded, ". . .ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true." (Mosiah 4:12). And Jacob encouraged us with these words: "O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life. O be wise; what can I say more?" (Jacob 6:11-12). The "strait gate" refers to the ordinances of salvation, first at the edge of the waters of baptism, then eventually at the doors of the temple. We learn all about eternal life when we go to the temple, and our experiences there buttress and flesh out more fully everything we learn in the scriptures. I believe the textbooks for eternal life are the scriptures and the classroom is the temple.

Seat time in the classroom, however, is no substitute for hands on experience and experimentation outside the classroom with the textbooks and living among all the contradictions of mortality that go with the celestial ideals. There are no such things as "cloistered" monasteries in the Church. We live in the world every day. We are buffeted and tested, tried and judged, bruised and broken. It is all part of our mortal probation, but we are shown the road map on our homeward journey. None is excluded. All are invited to make the discoveries necessary to guide them unerringly toward reunion.

Everything we do and learn in the temple points us homeward to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The temple is all about "reunion," pointing us forward to that day when we regain our patriarchal heritage with God our Father, after being shut out of their presence for a season while we are here on earth in the "testing phase" of our eternal existence. (Abraham 3:24-26).

For reasons of propriety, I will briefly divide the temple ordinances here into three major parts written about and discussed extensively elsewhere.

Initiatory Ordinances

Following baptism, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost and priesthood ordinations for men, the initial part of the temple ordinance is initiatory in nature and pertains to preparatory symbolic washings and anointings. These preliminary ordinances are a type and shadow of events yet to come when we have fulfilled our covenant duties to preach the gospel and administer its blessings to our fellowmen. (See Ezekiel 3:18-21; Acts 18:5-6; Jacob 1:19; 2:2; Ether 12:38; D&C 88:81-82).


The second part endows God’s children with knowledge and spiritual power if we are faithful to keeping our covenants, and it pertains to the four priesthood keys in order to fulfill our covenant duties. Once admitted to the temple both men and women are freely given these keys of understanding, knowledge and wisdom we will need to regain our full fellowship with God.


In the third part God’s children enter into sealing ordinances, the first being the conditional sealing ordinance of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (see D&C 131:2, 19), that we might someday become kings and queens over our own family kingdoms in eternity IF we remain faithful to our temple covenants.

President Boyd K. Packer
President Boyd K. Packer makes it clear that both the man and the woman are involved together in all these sacred ordinances:

Those who tell you that in the kingdom of God a woman’s lot is less than that of the man know nothing of the love, akin to worship, that the worthy man has for his wife. He cannot have his priesthood, not the fulness of it, without her. “For no man,” the Prophet said, “can get the fulness of the priesthood outside the temple of the Lord” (see D&C 131:1-3). And she is there beside him in that sacred place. She is there and shares in all that he receives. Each, individually, receives the washings and anointings, each may be endowed. But he cannot ascend to the highest ordinances -- the sealing ordinances -- without her at his side. (“The Circle of Sisters,” Ensign, November 1980, 111).

Again, the fullness of the temple ordinance pertains to the second Melchizedek Priesthood key. These things are administered freely to worthy men and women and pertain to the spirit of Elijah and Messiah:

"The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the FULNESS of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth. . ." (TPJS, 337).

"The spirit of Elias is first, Elijah second, and Messiah last. Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the Temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His Temple, which is last of all." (TPJS, 340).

In summary, each of the four priesthood keys is administered to men and women through the priesthood. Faith is administered through the priesthood, the preparatory gospel is administered through the priesthood, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the First Comforter, is administered through the priesthood, and the temple ordinances pertaining to obtaining the blessings of the Second Comforter are administered through the priesthood in the temples.

With Scott Strong years ago, I wrote extensively about the priesthood keys, and have shared it here for anyone who would like a free pdf copy of the book's manuscript.

Salt Lake Temple
 As you prepare to go to the temple, Merilee, recognize that everything you will need to ensure your eternal exaltation in the presence of your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is administered to you there, subject of course, to your faithfulness. All the promised blessings are only efficacious IF we keep our covenants. If we do not, we are promised we will be in Satan's power. (Alma 34:34-35).

In my own extended family I have seen examples of each - those who were faithful and those who were not. I know the promises are true for each. I know we can remain faithful and inherit eternal life. I also know we can reject God and come under Satan's power, even to the destruction of our bodies in the flesh. The temple ordinances are designed to help us love, honor and serve God, sanctify our minds and bodies in this life and prepare ourselves for eternal life.

In the Mountain of the Lord's House (Isaiah 2:2) we receive all the promised blessings conditionally, based upon our individual faithfulness.

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