The television station KREX Channel 5 from Grand Junction, Colorado, aired a news piece yesterday about the “Sacred Secrets of the LDS Church.”
I think that the news anchors, save being as objective and unaffected as anchors could possibly be, did a decent job of trying to understand what the LDS temple is all about. The members interviewed, on the other hand, I think missed a tremendous opportunity to share more and clarify our beliefs and practices of the temple. Stake President Richard Landes did a substantially better job than Elder Smith in explaining some of the reasons for the temple, but it still left the anchors with misconceptions.
At one point the anchor asks Elder Smith, “What goes on in the temple?”
Our missionary unfortunately replied, “I don’t know how to explain that. . . . I’m going to pass on that one.”
What would this missionary say to an investigator that asked that question? Perhaps it was just nerves, but this is a classic example of what I have been saying on this blog, elsewhere, and again and again. It is one of the sole reasons I started TempleStudy.com. Many of our members are ignorant about how to talk about our temple without violating sacred covenants. Our study is so slim in discussing these things in a respectful, appropriate, public relations, enlightened way, that we are uncomfortable saying anything at all. Even our missionary, as humble and great as he no doubt is, and who was almost certainly hand-picked among many for a television interview, could not give an answer to the simple question “What goes on in the temple?”
We mustn’t have zeal without knowledge, brothers and sisters. We can be so much better prepared than this. If someone asks us what the temple is about, the very pinnacle and culmination of all our worship, and what goes on there, why do we have them, why are they so sacred, why we don’t reveal the most inner details of the ordinances performed therein, is there biblical precedent for the temple, and other related questions, we have to learn to give a better answer than this. We are, unfortunately, a participating party in the promulgation of church misconceptions and misunderstandings, for lack of providing better information. We can do better!
The anchor walked away from these interviews feeling that the “sacraments seem curiously concealed,” that members are “not allowed to discuss what goes on inside once they leave,” that “surrogate” ordinances are performed to give deceased “loved ones a ‘second chance’ at eternity,” and that in our world-wide hearty determination to evangelize the gospel we seem “equally dedicated to ‘concealing’ its inner workings.” I don’t think this helped our position at all.
Could we not have mentioned some of the following?
- The names of the ordinances performed in the temple – baptisms for the dead, confirmation, ordination, washings and anointings, endowment, and sealing
- What each ordinance is meant for
- Why we perform each of these ordinances vicariously for our kindred dead (i.e. not a “second chance”)
- That ritual worship, ordinances, rites, and sacred liturgy permeate the texts of both the Old and New Testaments to such an extent that one prominent non-Mormon biblical scholar remarked, “I am both interested and delighted to see so much of ancient religious tradition, particularly Biblical tradition, taken up into the religious structures and rituals of the Mormons,” and “Someone who does not know much about temples and Mormons building temples should be directed to the Bible.” (Frank Moore Cross in “Between Heaven and Earth” film)
- That marriage and families were instituted by God in the beginning, and are meant to be eternal, not “till death do you part,” and that through the sealing ordinance of the temple, such a reality can be promised, and that we can, literally, be with our loved ones for the rest of eternity
- That the temple represents a connecting point between earth and heaven, between mortals and God, between the profane and the sacred, between sin and sainthood, between dark and light, between the Adversary and God, between our dwelling place on earth and our ultimate potential as heirs of eternal life in God’s presence, and that everything in the temple is symbolic of our journey back to Him, the ultimate at-one-ment
- That the finer details, descriptions, and language of the temple is not shared with others because of its sanctity, its holiness, which must only be given to those who prepare themselves for it, just as one must have faith in Jesus Christ and repent of all of their sins before partaking of baptism (see our discussion about Dogs and Swine and the linked article at MADB)
- That the covenant people of God have been building sanctuaries, temples, sacred structures since the world began, by commandment of God
- That the temple is a place of sacrifice, of offerings, of giving our self-will to God in obedience to his commandments
- That the ordinances performed were instituted by God for the salvation and exaltation of the human family, all children of loving Heavenly Parents
- The the garments are sacred clothing that God commands his disciples to wear as a protection, and to serve as a clear reminder of all the covenants and ordinances that we have entered into in the House of the Lord. Such holy vestments have been worn by God’s chosen people since Adam.
- That the temple is a place where men and women can make covenants with God, two-way promises based on obedience and rewarded with immeasurable blessings, that will allow them to gain perspectives of the very purposes of their earth life
Please excuse my firmness, but we can and must do better. In discussing all of this, one need not violate any covenants made in the temple. All this, and more, has been taught over the pulpit at General Conference. We clearly do not openly or directly discuss the language of the ordinances, the details of the proceedings, the articles of clothing worn, the history of the continued revelation of the rites, or the modes and methods of some of the ordinances. But we can certainly answer the question, “What is the temple all about?” Understanding the temple is one of the greatest challenges and gifts of mankind’s mortal probation. It is the very reason we are here! (D&C 2)
I feel sorry for all those who watched the news last night in Grand Junction, and still have a vague and suspicious conception of why the LDS have temples. It may have even done more harm than good. The temple is one of the very hallmarks and key evidences for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this last dispensation of the fullness of times, and we should not be shy to share, appropriately, about it.