10 Comments

  1. Bryce:

    I very much appreciate your in-depth analyses of the relevance of modern temples, which has inspired me in part to write a few of my own.

    For years, as I attend the Commencement ceremony of my own school, I cannot help but think of the analogues to the temple. I am not convinced there is a historical/evolutionary link, but the similarities make me wonder.

  2. S.Faux,

    Thanks for reading here. I’m glad to know that people appreciate following my studies.

    Most critics would probably say that Joseph pilfered the ceremonies from the Masons, and would probably say that Oxford got them from the same source. But I believe there are elements of both that are analogous to each other that don’t have any counterpart in Masonry. So the question becomes, when did Joseph visit Oxford? Br. Dan Peterson says he is tongue-in-cheek awaiting the publication of a book from our critics entitled Joseph Smith – The Cambridge Years, since Joseph must have visited the libraries there to come up with everything he did if he didn’t get it from God. Perhaps we could add a second volume, Joseph Smith – The Oxford Years. Of course, Joseph never set foot in Europe.

    I believe the Oxford ceremonies are an imitation, but even so, like the Egyptians, a very good one. It continues to beg the question of how and where Joseph came up with the temple ceremony; the clearest answer to my mind and heart is that it came from God.

  3. Here is an article from the Telegraph newspaper in the UK that reports that the “universities of Oxford and Cambridge have masonic links dating back to the 19th century…” and that “there has been a lodge at Oxford since 1819.” If this is true, then any purported masonic link could not explain the origins of the Oxford ceremonies which date back to the 12th century, many centuries earlier, in which case we must look elsewhere for their source. Nibley’s explanation is the most sound I’ve found.

  4. Bryce:

    Correct me if you think I am off…

    If one could place temple ceremonies into a larger cross-cultural and comparative perspective, one would find links across the “religious” world, not just Oxford or Cambridge or the Masons, etc. If true, then explanation by historical lineage clearly becomes inadequate.

    A Sunday School explanation might might that God inspires all peoples. This may be true, but it explains everything and therefore nothing. I do wonder, however, whether there are common environmental contingencies that shape religious ritual, producing a kind of convergent evolution. In other words, one does not need historical linkages to account for commonality, as long as there are widely common environmental contingencies guiding human behavior.

    I guess I am saying that my cross-cultural study of religious ritual sees many common themes, such as anointings, extraordinary settings, covenants, progressions, movements, challenges, etc. These themes are evident in more arenas than just Egyptian temples, the tabernacle, the Jerusalem temple, the Masonic temple, graduation ceremonies, etc. As such, Jonathan Z. Smith was correct in that there is a significant need for a broad theory of ritual behavior. Whatever such a theory is, it needs to be better than a “collective unconscious.”

  5. Yes, these patterns do appear in many many different cultural, geographic, religious, secular, political, social, familial, tribal, and other contexts. This is one of the things I’m attempting to show on TempleStudy.com. These things couldn’t have been invented by Joseph Smith, the Masons, or the Egyptians. They show up in too many places. There are commonalities in many areas of human history. I don’t personally believe that there is a “collective unconscious” or “common environmental contingencies” that lead mankind to perform almost identical ritual practices across time and space. Scholars have been trying to figure this out for years. Why do the same mythic parallels keep showing up in disparate times and places? (i.e. The Myth of the Eternal Return – by Mircea Eliade). I do believe that man has a natural instinct and need for ritual, but that doesn’t necessarily dictate the type or form.

    I believe, and I think this was Nibley’s view also, that these things have been passed down and altered slightly from the very beginnings of human life on earth, evolving, changing, and being passed around. If this is the case, there must have been one perfect source at the start before the dispersion for them to all appear in such similar forms. I believe they were first given to Adam and Eve by God, and their posterity has handled them from that time forth, whether for good or bad (Satan loves to counterfeit). Of course, there was probably several restorations (dispensations) of the perfect form since our first parents, one being during the ministry of our Savior Jesus Christ, and again with Joseph Smith the prophet. God keeps us on course.

    On one occasion Hugh Nibley was asked about the similarities between the temple ordinances and the Masons, and he replied that the Hopi Indian rites “come closest of all as far as I have been able to discover—and where did they get theirs?” (Boyd Jay Petersen. Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, 282)

  6. I am not yet convinced by the historical lineage argument, but I agree that there are too many commonalities to be coincidence. I am open-minded, however. If linguistics can legitimately search for the “Proto-Indo-European” language through the study of cognates, then I think you are justified in the search for ritual “cognates.” It will just take a lot of data to convince me of a “multi-generational” ritual genealogy.

    Regardless, you are doing important work, and I hope you can keep up the pace. I have discovered as an “older” person that regular blogging demands more energy than I can usually devote to projects. It is easy to be lazy. Too much blogging out there in the LDS world is blather. Your site, however, is a true oasis. I learn something from each visit. I appreciate your scholarly approach. (And, I am a big fan of Nibley as well).

  7. Ritual cognates. That’s a good term for it.

    Thanks S.Faux! I hope some of my comments might be insightful. Waking at 4:30am in the morning helps me not get too lazy.

  8. Cool, I just saw this. I was aware of these some of these aspects of the Oxford degree ceremony long before I attended my own so I embarked on the day with a lot of anticipation which was fully rewarded. It was a great event and I felt that my Mormon temple-perspective perhaps helped me look at things a different way than some of the other graduates who might not have had much exposure to such things. It enriched the ceremony for me far beyond the satisfaction of receiving my degree.

    Two aspects in particular were meaningful for me as a “temple Mormon” participant: presentation to the Vice-Chancellor and changing of the robes.

    With regard to the presentation, you noted that

    Following supplication, the candidates are presented before the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors by the Dean or professor at the head of the respective colleges, placing the candidate(s) on his/her right hand side, and grasping their right hand to the candidate’s right hand.

    The Dean no longer takes each candidate by the right hand and to present them individually but does it in batches. All those from my college taking the same master’s degree as I was receiving were presented together with the Dean only taking the right hand of one of the candidates as a proxy for the rest. Before the ceremony, back in our college, we discussed the process and I was selected to be the one to grip the Dean’s right hand in mine on behalf of our group. That had a familiar feeling. The bowing and nodding at the presentation also had a familiar feel to it if only by category and not by direct parallel.

    As to the changing of the robes, that was cool. After the presentation, all those who were taking the same degree exited the Sheldonian to the right and proceeded to the Divinity Schools (I didn’t know about giving a tip — just learned of that here for the first time but from my observation no one gave the porters a tip) where we indeed removed our student robes and donned the hooded graduate gowns. Then, when called for, we all proceeded back into the Sheldonian from the Bodleian/Divinity School entrance where we were greeted back to thunderous applaus and were seated behind the Vice-Chancellor and the Proctors.

    My wife video-taped most of the ceremony (at least the parts in which I was involved) to preserve the memory.

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