16 Comments

  1. Thank you for such a thorough answer to my question!! I enjoy your blog very much. Oh, yes, and thanks for posting the great graphic of the early temple design.

  2. Sean

    I guess I find comparasions between the ordinances of the endowment and mosiac law to be far and few. However, the is a great deal to be said about the covenants in the endowment and the meanings behind the animal sacrifices in the mosiac law. This means that while the performances may be different the principles behind them are the same. Study and compare the sin offering, burnt offering, and peace offering with sacrifice, service, and consecration and you will see what I mean.

  3. I absolutely agree. See my post on Sacrifice Continues in the Temple. There are many similarities between the principles behind the Mosaic law and the law of the fulness of the gospel. They both direct people on earth towards God. But the ordinances are different when one desires to come into the full presence of the Father, something that ancient Israel under the Mosaic law and the Aaronic Priesthood could not do. They were not allowed or privileged to have a knowledge of God the Father. They only knew of Jehovah, the pre-mortal Jesus Christ. He was the only one revealed to them. Christ came and restored and knowledge of God the Father. Christ revealed the Father to man once more. The Melchizedek Priesthood and its associated higher ordinances are required for full knowledge of the Godhead, and to be initiated into the full presence of the Father. At some point during the Millennium, the Israelites who lived under the Mosaic law will have to participate in the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood in order to gain the highest degree of Celestial glory, that is, if they are allowed that privilege after having apostatized from the higher law in the flesh. There will probably be many that would have accepted the higher law if it had been offered them. The sins of the parents will not be answered upon the heads of the children, although sometimes there are consequences on the children because of bad parenthood (Ex. 34:7). We believe that all will be accountable for their own sins (A of F 1:2; Deut. 24:16).

  4. David Larsen

    Very good post. This is always a big question. While I like your theory, some research I have been doing leads me to believe that there may have been Melchizedek Priesthood ordinances in Solomon’s Temple, but later reforms and editing to the histories lead us to believe that the Aaronic ordinances were the only ordinances performed. There is much evidence that the Aaronic priests, the Zadokites, when they came to power and rebuilt the temple after the Babylonian exile, changed the temple ordinances dramatically. They put themselves in a position of absolute religious supremacy in Israel, when they did not have such a status in pre-exilic times. The fact that they changed the temple and the ordinances is testified in the scriptures and also in the fact that many priests, including those who went to Qumran, did not approve of their reforms and considered the Second Temple corrupt. They awaited a day when God would bring back the Kingdom and the True Temple. It would seem then, that the story we get in the Bible of what went on in the Temple is biased towards the views of the Aaronic priests, who wanted to proclaim themselves as the only legitimate priesthood. The truth, however, is that there used to be a higher priesthood with different ordinances that took place in Solomon’s Temple. I wrote a paper on this idea if you’d like to see it sometime. I’m not saying that my theory is necessarily right, but I did come across some great research. One of the (non-LDS) books that I highly recommend that would help understand what went on with the corrupt Second Temple is Gabriele Boccaccini’s “Roots of Rabbinic Judaism,” published in 2002 by Eerdmans. Also, many of Margaret Barker’s books, especially her hard-to-find “The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God” (London: SPCK, 2007) talks about those parties who were upset with the new temple and priesthood and the older priesthood had in the First Temple. She calls the older priesthood the Melchizedek Priesthood (Barker is methodist, not LDS). I truly believe that the Melchizedek Priesthood was more active in Old Testament times than we think, although it was had by only a few, including the Prophets and at least some of the Kings.

  5. Very interesting insights. Thank you for your thoughts. I would like to read your paper. I like to learn as much as I can. I’ll have to see if I can pick up the books you mentioned too. I’ve heard a lot about Margaret Barker’s books lately. Her work sounds very interesting when it comes to temple subjects. FARMS even did a paper on her and the contribution she is making to the LDS.

    Like you say, the OT prophets did have the Melchizedek Priesthood, and there may have been some higher ordinances administered in the temples to select individuals, but by and large the Israelites were not ready to receive them. As the JST of Exodus 34:1 says, the higher priesthood was taken away, as were the ordinances. To what extent was it taken away? There is probably some flexibility in belief there.

  6. Sporgsmal

    You might be intersted in what will be said on this very subject at the 2008 FAIR conference and also at the 2008 Students of the Ancient Near East symposium on Temple Ritual in Antiquity (BYU, Nov. 7). The king of Israel was a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110). He was initiated in the temple area. The priests of Israel were after the order of Aaron. They were intiated in the temple area. You said, “The ordinances just aren’t the same” between the Latter-day Saint temples and the Old Testament temples but the Lord said just the opposite in D&C 124 — notice His reference to the restoration of the rites of the Tabernacle of Moses (where priests were initiated) and the temple of Solomon (where kings were initiated).

  7. Thanks for your comments, Sporgsmal. I will be attending both the conference and the symposium. I’m anxious to hear the latest scholarship on the temple. It’s going to be great!

    Are you saying that the kings of Israel were initiated into the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood, while the priests of Israel were initiated into the ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood? That sounds right. When I said that “the ordinances just aren’t the same” I was referring to those practices that dominate a reading of the first books of Moses in the Bible compared with the temple practices of today. What we read there seems mostly geared towards the priests and their work. Little is said about the high priest, or what he did in the Tabernacle, or even in Solomon’s temple. It is entirely possible that the high priest, prophet, or king was participating in the higher ordinances behind the veiled curtains of the holy of holies, but we just don’t get a lot of that reading in the Bible. And perhaps that is because, as David said, the descriptions in the Bible are biased towards the Aaronic priests. The higher ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood may have been had in the Tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple; but if they were, they were kept only for very select individuals. Israel as a whole was not ready or worthy to receive them.

    It’s interesting to note that in D&C 124 it also mentions baptisms for the dead, yet we know that this ordinance was not performed at the time of Moses or any other OT prophet because Christ had not yet thrown open the gates of spirit prison during his visit to that world during the three days of his entombment. On this point Dr. Skinner agrees: “This aspect [redemption of the dead] of the Father’s plan was not an afterthought, though it did not become operational until after Jesus’ mortal death on the cross and his redemptive sojourn in the world of spirits (see D&C 138)” (Temple Worship, 25). Elder McConkie concurs: “Baptisms for the dead were not performed in pre-meridian dispensations” (Mormon Doctrine, 72). So just because certain ordinances are mentioned in D&C 124 does not mean that those OT prophets or people necessarily practiced them. Skinner adds that “most of the ordinances administered on a daily basis in the authorized temples were Aaronic Priesthood in nature and were performed by Aaronic priests, as described in the Old Testament” (Temple Worship, 125).

  8. Sporgsmal

    You said: “we just don’t get a lot of that reading in the Bible.”
    Sporgsmal replies: You might want to buckle your seatbelt (2008 will be a fine year for those with eyes to see).

    You asked: “Are you saying that the kings of Israel were initiated into the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood, while the priests of Israel were initiated into the ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood?”
    Sporgsmal says: youbetchya

    You said: “just because certain ordinances [like baptism for the dead] are mentioned in D&C 124 does not mean that those OT prophets or people necessarily practiced them.”
    Sporgsmal replies: Actually, baptism for the dead is only one single ordinance and was not instituted until the meridian dispensation. The other things mentioned in D&C 124 have direct relevance from a OT restoration standpoint — “statutes” or laws; “memorials” for sacrifices by the Sons of Levi (priests); conversations and oracles at the “most holy” place (kings); things associated with “glory, honor, and endowment” (Gk. – to clothe; cf. the Hebrew of Ex. 28:2); “keys” to be used for certain purposes (the king is clearly associated with those keys in Old Testament texts); etc.

  9. Ferreira

    Lehi’s family gives an example: Lehi held the Melchizedek priesthood, and his people later established temples which would have been under that order. As a high priest, the rites in their fulness would have been available to Lehi in Jerusalem. (or no?) He left Jerusalem (because it was deadly for a true high priest to stay) before the Babylonian exile. But then, as was mentioned, the order of the temple descended further after the exile.

  10. Ferreira

    I came across this from Brigham Young, spoken at the dedication of the St. George Temple.

    “It is true that Solomon built a Temple for the purpose of giving endowments, but from what we can learn of the history of that time they gave very few if any endowments…. I will not say but what Enoch had Temples and officiated therein, but we have no account of it.” JD 18:303.

    He does say “from what we can learn of the history,” so I don’t see this as a definitive statement but an honest attempt to obtain the facts and make a judgment. His point at the time was to get the Saints to realize the amazing blessings available to them in the newly finished temple and to realize that most people in the world’s history had not been so blessed.

  11. Sporgsmal

    Brigham Young may have made the same mistake that many modern readers of the Bible make (Mormons, Jack-Mormons, and anti-Mormons alike) — Since the endowment ceremony is not discernable (all in one place) in the text he assumed that the Israelites (he may have been thinking of the common people) were not receiving the endowment in Solomon’s Temple. The fact is, however, that MANY Israelites (kings and priests) received the pre-Atonement endowment initiation ceremonies. And yes, they do match what Latter-day Saints experience.

  12. David Larsen over at his recent post about Judaism at Heavenly Ascents gives his review of some interesting research that may shed light as to why we might not easily find or recognize the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood in our current Old Testament, whereas they seem to show up readily in the pseudepigrapha material. Very interesting analysis.

  13. Rebekah

    Interesting article thanks for making some defining clarifications in regards to Priesthood authority. But this got me to thinking that their is one set of people found in the Book of Mormon that weren’t under the Levitical/Mosaic law and that would be the Jaredites since their leaving the old world was before Mosaic law was introduced. So this would mean that even though on one side of the world, a part of the populations was practicing Levitical Temple rites and laws and on the other side of the world in the Americas, a group of people at least during the Jaredite timeline were more than likely practicing the Melchizedek Temple rites or at least had knowledge of them. In consideration in regards to how the restoration took place in the Americas, this seems to be an interesting parallel to note.

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