24 Comments

  1. Daniel

    Hi!
    This may be interesting regarding the measures of the Mishkan:

    (from http://www.aish.com/torahportion/moray/Of_Matzot_and_Mitzvot.asp)

    … the Talmudic discussion of the Holy of Holies reveals an easily-overlooked feature of the Ark:

    So said Rabbi Levi: This is transmitted to us by tradition from our fathers: The place of the Ark is not given to measurement. And Rabbanai said in the name of Shmuel: The Keruvim stood by sheer miracle. Talmud Bavli Yoma 21:1) 11

    The dimensions of the Mishkan are transmitted in the Torah with great precision, including exact measurements for the various chambers and the placement of each of the holy vessels within them. The measurements for the Holy of Holies include the exact dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant, and the precise placement of the Ark. Yet these measurements create a physical impossibility: The Ark was placed in the center of the Holy of Holies, a chamber of 20 square cubits, yet there were ten cubits of empty space between the walls of the chamber and each side of the Ark. In other words, the Ark did not consume any physical space.12 It transcended space. Much like Sinai experience, the Ark of the Covenant was neither defined nor confined by space; the essential element was the content, not the location of the Revelation. The physical construct that housed the Tablets of Stone somehow transcended space, and fit in to the Mishkan perfectly.13 Although physical, the Ark and the Tablets belong to a metaphysical reality. Similarly, Shavuot, the day of the Giving of the Torah, is about transcending space.

    11. Also see Talmud Bavli Baba Batra 99a, Megila 10b.

    12. See Rashi’s comments on Yoma 21b, and the comments of the Vilna Gaon found in the Kol Eliyahu, on Aggadot Brachot 47b.

    13. See the Comments of Rabbenu Bachya Sh’mot 25:10.

    Greetings,
    Daniel

  2. Very good summary, Bryce! You were very thorough in your preparations for this! The one comment I would make is on the problem of the loss of the Melchizedek Priesthood with Moses. The D&C and JST passages you cite seem to conflict with other scriptures and LDS tradition that there were other prophetic figures (Elijah and others) who must have had the Melchizedek Priesthood, and also the Israelite kings (Psalm 110). In light of the latter, I interpret the passages concerning the removal of the Melchizedek Priesthood from the people of Israel to refer to a restriction of the higher priesthood to certain individuals–not a complete removal from the earth. I think Matthew Brown and others would agree with this.
    There is much external evidence that under the monarchy there continued to be performed rituals (especially those surrounding the New Year Festival) that appear to have been very similar to what we would see as Melchizedek Priesthood rituals and our temple endowment.
    I believe that these traditions persisted for centuries, but became corrupted over time and were largely eliminated by the reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah. Editors of the sacred texts, such as the “Deuteronomists” (time of King Josiah) and the “priestly” redactors (during or soon after the exile) were largely successful in removing these ancient Melchizedek ordinances from the religion and scriptures of the Jewish people. The post-exilic priesthood was likely exclusively Aaronic — the priesthood of the prophets and kings had been suppressed and virtually eliminated from public awareness, except from fringe groups (Qumran, Hebrews) who careful preserved more ancient traditions.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  3. You are absolutely right, David, that the D&C and JST passages seem to say that all Melchizedek Priesthood was taken away. But I agree with you that it was taken away from the people of Israel at large, but likely stayed in very limited fashion with the prophets and kings. That makes sense to me. Indeed, the high priest could still go into the Holy of Holies, but he was the only one. In fact, I was just reading in Matt Brown’s Gate of Heaven yesterday about how several General Authorities have stated that Aaron and his sons probably held the Melchizedek priesthood. I’ll have to find the reference and post it here.

  4. Here is the quote from Matthew Brown in The Gate of Heaven. He has some good LDS references to the concept of a continuing limited Melchizedek priesthood:

    “It is a commonly held view among Latter-day Saints that the temple priests of ancient Israel were only ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, and this lesser authority was all that was had among the Israelites after the time of Moses. But this is not the view held by some LDS commentators. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has stated that Aaron and his sons ‘held the Melchizedek Priesthood and were numbered with the elders of Israel when the Lord first conferred the lesser authority [or Aaronic Priesthood] upon them. This is precisely what we do today when we take a holder of the Melchizedek Proesthood and ordain him a bishop in the Aaronic Priesthood.’ President John Taylor likewise believed that ‘Aaron and the seventy elders of Israel . . . had the Melchizedek Priesthood,’ and according to Joseph Fielding Smith ‘Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Elijah, and others of the prophets held the Melchizedek Priesthood.'” (Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 78)

  5. Thanks for that quote, Bryce! That is very helpful. I wonder, however, if Aaron and his sons held the Melchizedek Priesthood, which isn’t a problem for me, then when did Aaron’s line lose it? Was it when Moses and the higher law were taken away? Was there a decision made to exclude the priests from the higher priesthood and restrict it only to prophets and kings? Of course, the Bible gives us no insight into this transition.
    David

  6. Bryce, this is excellent information. When comparing this to Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life, it becomes so interesting. The symbols and parallels to that vision open it up just that much more.

  7. Excellent work yesterday. I had a lot of comments come to me (even though I didnt give the lesson) saying, “that was a good lesson, Im glad you guys decided to share that about the temple…”

  8. Paul Bottino

    Bryce, excellent text, but I have a question. How come you get to teach this stuff, and I have to teach the high preists. from the Joseph Smith manual. I am not complaining, because my testimony of Joseph Smith has increased several orders of magnitude since I started teaching from that manual last year. I thought everyone was using it.
    Just curious.

  9. Hi Paul,

    I’ve had a couple people question me about this, so let me explain. :) Yesterday was our Elders Quorum Presidency message. I was assigned by the quorum president to present the message on the subject of the Mosaic Tabernacle. One Sunday per month, usually the first, is reserved for a choice of subject of the Elders Quorum president. So that’s what it was. We teach from the Joseph Smith manual and the Teachings for Our Times the other Sundays of the month as prescribed.

  10. Bryce,

    I’m glad to see someone make a post about this and get most of the correspondences correctly mentioned. You have done all students of the Temple a great favor with this post. Keep up the good work. There is far more depth beyond this, of course, and anyone following this guideline should be able to find at least some of it if they study the Temple Endowment in minute detail while bearing these things in mind.

    ~Jeff

  11. Kevin Harris

    Bryce,

    Thank you so much for this. We are so blessed to live in a day when the presence of God is found on the earth in his Holy Temples. We can endure his presence because of the ordinances of the Greater Priesthood. Not just the prophet, but anyone who will prepare himself can have this experience. It is not something that God is trying to hold back from us. He wants us to “come unto Him”, and then return into the world filled with his love.

  12. Thank you for your comments everyone.

    I should note that it is not necessarily the ordinances themselves that permit us to endure God’s presence, but they prepare us to be able to do so. Hugh Nibley once put it this way:

    In the temple we are taught by symbols and examples; but that is not the fullness of the gospel. One very popular argument today says, “Look, you say the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel, but it doesn’t contain any of the temple ordinances in it, does it?” Ordinances are not the fullness of the gospel. Going to the temple is like entering into a laboratory to confirm what you have already learned in the classroom and from the text. The fullness of the gospel is the understanding of what the plan is all about—the knowledge necessary to salvation. You know the whys and wherefores; for the fullness of the gospel you go to Nephi, to Alma, to Moroni. Then you will enter into the lab, but not in total ignorance. The ordinances are mere forms. They do not exalt us; they merely prepare us to be ready in case we ever become eligible. (Nibley, “The Meaning of the Temple“)

  13. David

    Aaron and his sons did not hold the _keys_ of the Melchizedek priesthood. The Keys were not carried down. They left with Moses. Aaron, nor his sons, were authorized to ordain others to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Aaron held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood. For all intents and purposes, he was the Presiding Bishop.

  14. Thank you, commenter of my same name! Good explanation for Aaron’s relationship to the Melchizedek Priesthood — I think presiding bishop is a pretty good characterization of Aaron’s role. I am still not sure about the passing down of the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, though. Did Elijah not have the keys of the priesthood? How did Samuel anoint King David as king and Melchizedek priest if he did not have keys?
    David

  15. Thank you for this great post. I love studying the Old Testament and the temple sybolism contained therein. I was wondering why you believe that Aaron was dressed any differently than his sons. Could it be possible that the different clothing (white linen) was worn by anyone officiating as the High Priest, who changed his clothes to the white linen only one time of year, when he officiated on The Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) and entered into the Holy Place. This change of clothing as one enters into a different “level” is still symbolic today. What do you think?

    Also, thank you for posting the quote by McConkie. I love the thought that Aaron held the Melchizedek priesthood, it makes so much more sense in all that was done in the tabernacle.

    Perhaps understand the “no man shall see the face of God and live” quote… we need to understand how the Children of Israel viewed death. They viewed it as one of Satan’s lies. Think about it… it really is a lie, because we do not die we move on to the next estate. This was a great testimonial that they believed in eternal exsistence. Now, when we understand that they did not believe death was real… the word to die might have held a different meaning to them. Those who previously saw the face of God did “die” as to this world… they were translated. Perhaps they were referring to the ability they had to stay in this estate once they were being personally tutored by God??? Those who saw the face of God simply progressed further still… and ultimately were “taken” to live with him in Zion…. The Children of Israel needed to stay here so that the covenant with Abraham could be fulfilled… sort of like Noah….Does that make sense?

    Great research and information.. thanks for sharing.

  16. David

    You said, “I am still not sure about the passing down of the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, though. Did Elijah not have the keys of the priesthood? How did Samuel anoint King David as king and Melchizedek priest if he did not have keys?”

    I said they weren’t passed down through Aaron. I didn’t say they were never on the earth. Remember, Moses still held the keys, even though he was translated. And I’m sure there were other Translated being who may have been authorized to bestow priesthood as well. When there are no authorized Priesthood Key holders on the earth, authority has been known to have bestowed by heavenly messengers. This is what I believe happened.

  17. Helen Brower

    I have been following your blog/site for a few months now and have been impressed with the amount of accurate information you display. Thank you.
    I wondered if you could help me with a reference problem I’ve been having. I went to a lecture at BYU education week last fall and recall hearing about a “garment of light” which was worn by Adam and Eve before the Fall. This garment of light was taken away when they transgressed and therefore “they were found naked” and the need for a new garment to replace the one they lost was given to them – as a place holder and protection to them until they had proven themselves worthy to receive their garment of light in the next life according to the covenants they made. It is just as we make covenants in this life within the temple, those blessings promised to us cannot be fulfilled unless we prove ourselves worthy. In the next life, those blessings will be realized upon us.
    Have you heard of this and if you have, where can I find the reference to this doctrine?
    Thanks so much! If all else fails, I will wait until the next BYU education week and try to corner the lecturer to find the reference.

  18. Hi Helen,

    Thank you for the kind compliment. There are many traditions and sources which speak of the “garments of light.” For some of them you could try John Tvedtnes article “Priestly Clothing in Bible Times” in Temples of the Ancient World, or Donald W. Parry’s article “The Garment of Adam in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Tradition” in the same book. There is also Nibley’s “Sacred Vestments” in Temple and Cosmos. They all speak extensively on this subject, and it is very fascinating.

  19. Greg R

    Bryce,
    I stumbled across your site today, from what I have seen so far it is very nicely done. I share your passion on the temple and am also not a scholar but have read as much as I possible can on the subject. I was able to take Nibley, Parry and Steve Ricks though while at BYU. They were wonderful.

    Surprisingly my bishop asked me to teach a 5th sunday lesson this month on the temple. I am headed down a similar path but with a couple of twists. My twists are below…
    I believe that Israels journey to the promised land represents man’s journey back to God (Temple Journey). Most my twist on Ancient Israel is going to be based on 1Cor 10.

    I compare the following…
    a. Egypt as sin or telestial kingdom
    We also live in sin and bondage until we are born again

    b. Waters of red sea and cloud of fire as baptism and holy ghost, Lamb’s blood on the door posts as the blood of Christ.
    Passing through the water is like baptism, it covers up our sins in this case the Egyptian army. We are led by a cloud of fire or the holy ghost

    After we are born again we enter into a time of sanctification for Israel it was the desert
    c. Bread (manna) and water (from rock) as sacrament
    d. Tests and trials as fiery serpents – must look to Christ to live… also I think the serpent on the pole represents the tree of life
    e. Over come our lusts for (of) quail (flesh)
    f. Ultimately the desert of sanctification is the terrestrial kingdom
    g. Waters of Jordan river are parted like the veil of the temple
    h. Angel on other side of veil as the Lord
    i. Promised land as celestial kingdom

    I believe that one of the points about the temple is that it also represents man’s journey back to God. We pass through the telestial kingdom and the terrestrial kingdom making covenants and receiving ordinances that will move us on to the next section of our lives.

    I’m a little less bold than to talk about as you say things like “the filled hand” in such a big audience but do like to discuss such things in smaller settings. I used to be bolder when I was younger.

    Thanks again for a very nice site.

  20. Jennifer

    Just an additional idea on the mitre mentioned above. I have always preferred to think of it as the “round cap” and not the turban for one major reason. If we examine Exodus 29:6, it speaks of the crown placed upon the mitre. I can imagine a crown being placed upon a flat mitre, but not as much on a turban. It helps me fully appreciate even more the plan of salvation.

    Regardless of the specifics, though, what beautiful temple imagery to know that one day, through righteousness, we can expect a crown to be placed on our heads.

  21. Ed & Shirley

    This is just what we were looking for. I am looking for a picture of the original Tabernacle Menorah?

  22. Some authors have made a connection between the “asherah” that King Josiah removed from the temple during his reforms and the original menorah. The Hebrew word “asherah” is usually translated in our bible as “grove.” This “stylized tree” was supposed to have been in the Holy of Holies (not in the Great Hall of the temple, as the menorah was in later periods). The asherah is thought to have represented the Tree of Life, and was lit up by burning olive oil, symbolizing the idea that the Tree was fiery. Perhaps it looked much like the menorah of the Second Temple, but it may have looked even more like a tree. Representations that are available are of the menorah of the Second Temple, not that of Solomon’s Temple.

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