30 Comments

  1. There seemed to be a lot of discussion unrelated to the theme, introducing individuals, getting them back online, etc. It distracted from the overall discussion.

    I suggest you put out discussion notes for the panel beforehand, so they have an idea of the points you want to discuss.

    Also, while I recognize the names of those on the panel, I’m unsure of their experience in temple studies. It does me little good to know someone has a degree in law or business, (or in your case, BFA) if we do not know how much study/research they’ve done in the temple realm. Since the group’s degrees do not reflect experience (I do not recall anyone with history, philosophy, religion degree), then we need to know their background that fits the discussion. Otherwise, we could be spending our time listening to several amateurs that will quote Andrew Skinner, but not really add much to the material. It is one thing to pass along interesting information, it is another thing to be able to synthesize the information and present it in new ways that instruct and perhaps inspire the audience.

  2. Hi Gerald! Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them.

    To comment on some of your thoughts, yes, we had some technical difficulties. Since this was the first such discussion, we had to overcome some technological hurdles. I apologize for that. This is cutting edge stuff, and I was even confused through some of the process (which is rare!). Invitations weren’t going through, etc. I think the more we do this, the better we’ll get at it, and we’ll be able to avoid a lot of the distractions, and get right to the point. Thank you for bearing with us while we go through this learning curve.

    We actually did have “notes” for the panel. We decided on using the text from Andrew Skinner’s Temple Worship as a springboard for discussion. I’d be a little concerned about handing out more notes on top of that, and unintentionally steering the discussion more where I see interesting topics. I was interested to see what the panelists brought out of the text, and where they took it. We only made it through three paragraphs of the introduction in the hour and a half discussion, which was perhaps too slow, and may have diverted too far from the subject.

    We’ll try to do a better job at introducing the panelists, and their expertise in temple studies. We tried to give some background of the participants at the beginning, but we could do better. We won’t always have experts. We may very well have amateurs, such as myself, and proudly so; I find much value in the perspectives of amateurs. We also relate well to the typical member of the Church. :)

    Frederick Huchel, for example, and as noted in the intros, is an independent historian, and has published extensively about Mormon doctrines, scriptures, and history, who has published in FARMS, JBMS, and many books such as the recent Temple Theology and the Latter-day Saints, and even worked for a time as a researcher in the Salt Lake Temple. Gary Anderson is a long-time member of the Mormon History Association, served as a mission president in Russia, has served on the Utah State Board of History, etc. Gary and Frederick have organized an independent Academy for Temple Studies and are organizing a temple conference in Logan this coming October, which will include the likes of Margaret Barker, Daniel Peterson, and John Welch as speakers. As for this coming Sunday, we may have William Hamblin with us, who you may be more familiar with, and who’s most recent book he co-authored Solomon’s Temple: Myth & History is an excellent read on the history of temples.

    Thank you again for the great feedback!

  3. The idea of the notes, is to get basic points of discussion before hand from the panelists, so that you can keep the discussion on track, running smoothly, and not getting bogged down. Kind of like a Ward Council meeting: if the bishop has a specific agenda in front of him, he can guide the discussion and a lot can get accomplished. If he only has general notes, then discussion will often get bogged down on things that may not mean a lot. There’s a difference between busy work and accomplishing effective work. A good plan always moves you along to important points.

  4. Alece

    Actually, I enjoyed the free flow of ideas — more like an actual conversation between scholars. I learned several new things about the Temple and found new resources — like David O. McKay’s talk on the Temple given in the Salt Lake Temple annex in 1941, which was wonderful!! Another resource which was mentioned was Bancroft’s History of Utah — pages 357-358. It was also good to be reminded of President Benson’s thought about the fact that everything about the Temple that we need to know can be found in the scriptures.

    For those of us who love the Temple and serve in it as both patrons and workers, and, who also teach Temple Preparation classes in our Wards, this talk is an amazing resource which I had not seen before — and I’ve seen and read extensively about the Temple!!!

    I’m so glad, too, that the fireside was recorded. I’ll want to listen to it again to pick up more information.

    I think the most important thing I heard in the broadcast was from Brother Huchel who said that he was instructed by a General Authority while working in the Salt Lake Temple on the translations of Temple ordinances that there are only two things we can’t discuss outside the Temple — i.e., the marks on the garments and their meanings, and the signs and tokens. As one who helps prepare others to receive their Temple ordinances, THIS particular piece of information was worth listening to this fireside many times over! I can’t thank Brother Huchel enough for mentioning it. I also wonder, if there had been a “tight,” pre-determined outline — other than Brother Skinner’s book itself — if that would have been mentioned.

    The other part of the discussion which I found to be particularly valuable was the discussion about the physical nature of the Temple — it being a template of the actual, physical universe. I think that is so grounding.

  5. Hi Alece, thank you for your comments. I too enjoyed the free flowing of ideas. I see where Gerald is coming from, from a meeting point of view, but I considered the Temple Worship text itself to be the agenda.

    I think I come from a slightly different standpoint with regard to what can and can’t be discussed outside the temple, than simply not discussing those two things. To be sure, nothing official has been stated, in detail, regarding this subject, so there is a very large gray area. Some people are comfortable simply not discussing the marks, signs, and tokens, and everything else is fair game (in fact, one member audaciously went so far as to publish the entire endowment online, word-for-word, only redacting those three things). Others don’t even let the word “temple” slip their lips outside its walls. I find myself somewhere in between. I would not, for example, be comfortable explicitly or directly discussing many other details of the temple ordinances such as the clothing worn, the procedures of the ceremonies, more than a few words of specific language used in the temple (which is actually noted in the Church’s Handbook of instructions), what happens at the veil, etc. As a general guideline, I like President Packer’s counsel:

    Our reluctance to speak of the sacred temple ordinances is not in any way an attempt to make them seem more mysterious or to encourage an improper curiosity about them… They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared… There are some blessings which can be bestowed only in the Lord’s temple, and we do not talk of them outside the temple… We are not free to discuss the temple ordinances and ceremonies… Without the spiritual atmosphere of the temple itself, and without the worthiness and preparation required of those who go there, the temple ceremonies would not be quickly understood and might be quite misunderstood… While we cannot discuss in detail the temple ordinances and ceremonies, there is much we can discuss… (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, 27-39)

    I think the setting is also a consideration when talking about the temple. Are we talking in private with one of our children, or on a public stage in a Google Hangout with the world’s public? I think it makes a difference in our approach of this sacred subject.

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks once gave a talk to an audience of General Authorities in which he outlined more clearly what was appropriate to discuss about the temple, but it has not been published publicly. It is noted in Boyd Petersen’s biography of Hugh Nibley, A Consecrated Life, where he gives some details. In a footnote it says, “Oaks cited James E. Talmage and Boyd K. Packer as models of what can and cannot be discussed; however, he specifically quotes Hugh’s writings in several places throughout the talk.” Elder Oaks assured Nibley that the way he approached the sensitive subject of the temple was not to be criticized or discouraged.

    One part of the discussion that I found enlightening was the part about music in the temple, and music in general in the universe. I had pondered on this question before, that everything is in a continual state of vibration. But I think I just made the connection during this discussion between quantum mechanics String Theory, music, and the temple. It’s a fascinating idea.

  6. Alece

    As a vocalist and musician, I also thought the information about the vibrations, string theory, etc., was fascinating.

    Getting back to my comment about what should and should not be talked about outside the Temple; I was mainly talking about what could be discussed during a private, Temple Preparation class. As we teach such a class, my husband and I tend to lean in your direction and definitely rely on the spirit to tell us what we can say and what we can’t; however, as the parent of a child who found the Temple Endowment disturbing because of a lack (I think — or at least wonder about) of good preparation on the part of those who instructed her; I tend to want to give future patrons enough information to try to really prepare them for the symbolic representation, etc., that they will encounter in the Temple. (After all, the Temple ordinances really are presented in a manner different than the way anything else we encounter in the gospel is presented.) Thus, as I read David O. McKay’s talk after listening to the fireside, and found that he was comfortable sharing even more than my husband and usually share in such classes, I will be including the information he shared with them with future participants in our classes as directed by the spirit.

    Also, because that particular talk was so helpful to me and also to my husband, who is currently in the middle of teaching a group Temple Preparation Class at church, I wonder if it would be possible after future firesides to give us the specific verbal reference information mentioned during your fireside in written form on your blog.

    Just so you know, I can’t thank you enough for all your efforts on this blog and on the new Interpreter.

  7. Thank you Alece. I think many who are “disturbed” by their first temple attendance it is likely because of the ritual nature of the ceremonies. We don’t have a lot of things that we might term “ritual” in today’s world, so it is somewhat unfamiliar, and unnatural. The sacrament is a pretty mild form of ritual that we experience every week, as are priesthood blessings, etc. I think we need to do better in preparing and teaching future attendants about the nature of ritual, and the ritualistic presentation and enacting of symbols, and its pedagogical purposes. There is some very good scholarship on this topic.

    I’ll have to find that David O. McKay talk. Do you have a link for it online that you could share?

    Thank you for your kind comments.

  8. I think the temple prep manual does not prepare teacher nor student for the class. It is too vague to mean anything in regards to preparing the initiate for the experience they are going to receive. So, when a person receives his/her endowment, the things they learned have no connection, because no real connections were made in class.
    I’d like to see a discussion of the ancient temple, the symbolism therein, and the importance of the various rooms of the ancient temple. Then discuss the concept of returning into the presence of the Lord. Such an emphasis allows a person going through the endowment to see how the various pieces fit together to an end. Right now, the lesson plan gives puzzle pieces that do not fit well together, because too many pieces are still missing.

    We can discuss those things clearly stated in scripture. So why don’t the lessons talk more about the covenants of obedience, sacrifice, and consecration? In explaining those things before, the initiates will better understand the covenants made in the temple.

    Explaining that the temple represents the universe, and the initiate is going through an experience of Creation, a cycle of the eternal round. We begin in God’s presence and the divine council, we go to earth where we forget everything, we sin and fall, we are promised a Savior. The Savior atones for our sins and we move from a Telestial life to a higher Terrestrial life. There we make higher covenants with God, preparing us to return to his presence in the Celestial Kingdom/Room.

    As taught in the Old Testament, we can discuss the ancient temple and the practice of washing and anointing the priests, so they are holy enough to serve in the temple.

    By explaining things in these terms, we are not too explicit, yet we can give them some real information to prepare them for the experience.

  9. I agree that the prep manual may be lacking in truly preparing one for what they will experience in the temple. It talks in many generalities, often too vague to relate back to the temple. It is curious to me that the Church hasn’t updated it. It looks like it was originally published in 1995 (17 years ago), and may have been slightly updated in 2003. It could use some sprucing up. Of course the teachers of the course can take it somewhat further, and develop more of the framework that you propose, which is what I did when I was temple prep instructor.

  10. Yes, the instructors can spruce it up. However, there are two problems with this. First, many members are too afraid to say anything regarding the temple, because they are afraid it all is too sacred to speak about – and the manual seems to back up that reticence. Second, many members do not understand the symbolism enough to teach the things I mentioned. Because of a lack of understanding/experience, they may end up saying too much (I had a high priest group assistant of mine, who used to quote the temple stuff, and I had to ask him to not quote it anymore. He was in his 70s at the time).

    I would really like to see all the Church manuals updated, so that they teach the doctrines Pres Packer would like us to learn about. Of course, I’ve written and spoken on this many times in the past….

  11. I agree. We come back to these factors of being “too afraid to say anything regarding the temple, because they are afraid it all is too sacred to speak about,” and “members do not understand the symbolism enough.” Of course, one feeds off the other. If we don’t talk about these things, study, and learn, then how can we understand them? If we don’t understand them, then we are missing one of the most beautiful parts, and ultimately the pinnacle, of the gospel. Many of us members are not “searching deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness,” as the Prophet taught. Again, my two favorite quotes on the subject, one by Hugh Nibley:

    What the Mormons like best about their temples is the obligation of secrecy that exonerates them from ever having to speak, and hence to think, about what they have learned by the ordinances and teachings. So strict are they in observing the confidential nature of those teachings that they, for the most part, scrupulously avoid dropping so much as a hint to outsiders by putting any of them into practice. (Boyd Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, 361)

    And President Benson:

    Because of [the Temple’s] sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the Temple… As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the Temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into. (President Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, August (1985): 6-10)

    We can do much better. Hence my desire for these temple discussions.

  12. Alece

    Thaks for the above reference on President Benson’s talk. I was going to ask for it, and now I don’t have to!

  13. Concerned with questions

    I admire the dedication here to learn about the temple. I sense from many of the comments a sincere desire to learn from the Spirit as well as from each other, with a conscious effort to try and determine what is appropriate.

    That being said, two recent developments will most likely prevent me from visiting the site again.

    First, the internet isn’t a bubble. It’s not a private conversation in sacred rooms in our temples, our chapels, or our homes. Anybody can join in the discussion, and while that is good, it also seems to be drifting closer and closer to speaking of things in such as way that would present advanced doctrines to those still wrestling to achieve one of the first and last great purposes of life – and the template, namely, to receive the Holy Ghost.

    On a related note, it is worrisome to see both misunderstandings about the temple preparation correlated texts as well as thoughts on why it is insufficient. The temple preparation manual, especially when used in conjunction with study, prayer, pondering, and temple stewardship convey precisely what those who enter the temples will need so they are prepared spiritually and intellectually.

    Just because a prophet – or any man or woman speaking under the influence of the Holy Ghost – shares certain doctrines in certain settings does not mean that can then be safely applied under any setting. Many times, it is the audience itself whose preparation will catalyze greater outpourings of the Spirit. It is wise, as someone commented, to have a storehouse of knowledge that can be shared when prompted by the Spirit. Yet even in settings where there is a great deal of preparation, sacred ground should be treated with the appropriate respect or the Spirit may withdraw. The audience of the internet raises many concerns in this regard.

    Perhaps most importantly, however, is my concern there is what appears to be open agreement the correlated materials for the temple preparation course are inadequate. Our manuals may not be, and are not, perfect. But it is very concerning for me to read comments that not only highlight the supposed inadequacy of the text, but to see comments go so far as to state it needs sprucing up. In and of themselves, these comments may be relatively – thought not completely – harmless. What concerns me greatly is the possibility of what could be a natural extension, namely, offering up what that sprucing up should entail – and then beginning to teach it to (1) an unprepared, perhaps even at times hostile, audience online, and (2) a select number of people who have gathered together and created a formal or informal select group. The words of the prophets come to mind that when individual members take it upon themselves to correct errors of the church – real errors or otherwise – they are on the road down to apostasy.

    In other words, it seems as if the change in direction this blog seems to be taking has the potential to lead individuals astray. That is a serious issue, and I would hate to see extant group members, forthcoming members – especially those who may lack an independent witness of how God’s desired doctrine is properly revealed and taught – and an anonymous internet audience be harmed. Is this starting to move in the direction of looking beyond the mark, deciding what should or should not be taught and to whom, and discussing at what point a line should be drawn in the sand signalling one is approaching sacred ground.

    While it may appear innocent at present, there is the potential these comments and motivations could trend in such a way as to form a select group of individuals whose purpose is to privately (other verbiage is used in scripture, especially The Book of Mormon) interpret doctrine, determine how much should be shared, how it should be taught, and why it is appropriate for the prophets, or other authorized and imperfect representatives such as Correlation members, to be relegated to second fiddle behind those who profess to know better.

    Other deviations could follow as well, including for example, suggestions that a fundraising drive be set up or that others donate funds so that the key members or leaders of the group – not the Church, but a group of individuals on the internet whose many words are accessible by anyone – can devote themselves entirely to study of the temple. Patrons in this sense would be a blessing to any who could secure the financial support, but the concern in this regard is that a potential progression would then be for those individuals to then teach what they learn to the same group. In this hypothetical, even if motivations were pure, it would still present an appearance of priestcraft that could ultimately spiritually harm the very individuals trying to more fully understand salvation as revealed in the temples of the Divine.

    I should also add that it is exponentially easier for a wolf to appear in the clothing of sheep when the only clothing required is a username and email address.

    Due to my concern of being publicly affiliated at present with the website in its current constitution, I have entered my name as “Concerned with questions.” These comments may not be pleasant to hear, but other criticisms in this very thread have been handled with diplomacy and peacemaking. I would request you allow this comment to be posted without redaction so that readers can discuss the questions and concerns at hand, speak openly about others concerns they may have privately, and determine how best to proceed.

    It would be unfortunate to not return to this site as I have been stimulated by some of the links and perspectives shared. However, I am willing to find other sites that approach the topic in a manner more aligned with scriptural principles of sharing doctrine. I make this final comment not as a challenge or rebuke, but rather a sincere expression of regret that I may no longer be able to follow the blog.

  14. Thank you “Concerned with questions” for your comments. I feel they are sincerely given, and will do my best to sincerely answer.

    I’d like to comment on the “two recent developments” that you note, and then others may speak on the subject.

    First, it appears you are concerned about us presenting advanced doctrines to those still wrestling to receive the Holy Ghost. It is true that we cannot control who visits this website. I have no power over that. Hugh Nibley likewise could not control who read his books. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship can’t control who reads their publications. The new Interpreter journal can’t control who arrives at their articles online. That is up to the individual reader to judiciously decide. If the material presented here is not enough milk for those members still early in their gospel knowledge, then perhaps they shouldn’t visit here, but that decision must remain theirs. One of the purposes of this site is to help bridge the gap between the milk and the meat, because I feel that there is much beauty and understanding to be gleaned from the meat, such as those subjects which Nibley taught. But much of it remains “locked up,” so to speak, in the weighty tomes on dusty bookshelves, and in the elevated but sometimes foreign language of our best scholars. There is a real chasm that exists between most members and these materials, as many believe they are “inaccessible.” This is a shame, because of the tremendous amount of good these materials can do to strengthen faith and provide good reason for why our doctrines and practices are the way they are (1 Peter 3:15). The Holy Ghost is an absolutely essential companion as we sojourn through this life, and can help us discover and recognize truth, even in these materials. Similarly, as we covenant to be willing to “take upon ourselves the name of Christ” when we partake of the sacrament, understanding more fully the temple, where we so take upon ourselves His name, is equally important, if not more so.

    Another focus of this site is to sustain and defend the LDS temple from its critics and detractors. The temple is an easy target for critics of the Church because of the temple’s sacred nature and our members’ reluctance to speak about it. Of course, we do so not really for the critics themselves, but for members who may come upon critical material. It is true there are things we cannot discuss outside of the temple walls (e.g. the details of the ordinances and ceremonies), but there is much we can discuss. Hugh Nibley was praised for defending our temple worship in a way that was sensitive to not explicitly nor directly speaking of the temple, by describing parallels from other cultures of the past. We often do the same. Sometimes this caused Nibley some perplexity, because he thought he was often writing as a “one armed violinist” being able to discuss one side of the equation while remaining silent on the other. Even so, Nibley’s writings helped those both inside and outside the Church view our temple tradition and worship practices as fitting within a much greater fabric of ritual worship which had its beginnings with Adam, the Ancient of Days, which has uplifted our knowledge of the temple, and helped strengthen the faith of many.

    Secondly, you are concerned because we feel the temple preparation manual may be inadequate or insufficient to prepare members for what they will experience in the temple. This comes from those who have taught the temple preparation course ourselves, and then witnessed members attend the temple, only to find them becoming “disturbed” by what they experience, and thereafter never attending the temple again. I have had countless such people contact me through this website. This causes me quite a deal of consternation. Did we not prepare them adequately? Was what we taught not enough? Did we do something wrong? Will we have been the cause of these members never attending the temple again the rest of their lives? What do we say when they ask us why we didn’t prepare them better for what they would experience? Personally, it causes me great despair for perhaps not having adequately prepared these members for their first temple visits, and which may cause them to never go again. I have often strived my best to teach exactly what is in the temple preparation manual, and no more, only to see this as the result. On the other hand, I have also tried to use the temple preparation manual as a guide, while additionally addressing some of those topics that will better prepare members for what they will experience (such as the pedagogical nature, and ancient history of religious ritual), and those members’ first experience thereafter becomes more of a positive one.

    So does the temple preparation manual need updating? Perhaps. Perhaps for some it is adequate, and does a great job. For others it appears to be lacking. I think we can all comment on that question, in good faith, and in a positive spirit of not suggesting apostasy or leading people astray. As you noted, our manuals may not be perfect. That is all we are saying. If they are not perfect, could they be perfected? Perhaps the answer is yes. And perhaps some day they will.

    What we offer on this site is not in any way meant to supplant what is presented in the temple preparation manual or its course, presented under the authoritative direction and care of a ward bishop, branch president, stake president, or mission president. In fact, it may not be best for those who are attending the temple for the first time. But just as Nibley helped expand our view of the temple, and better understand our temple worship, so do we attempt to better understand the temple, and help others to better understand it, using trusted and official sources, such as Boyd K. Packer’s The Holy Temple, and Andrew C. Skinner’s Temple Worship. Using these materials we are adding to our knowledge of what is learned in the temple preparation manual. I do not view that as a negative approach, but as a positive one which can do much to strengthen faith and testimony in the gospel.

    As I noted in a previous comment, how we address the topics of the temple does depend on the environment and situation in which we find ourselves. I would not address things here on the internet that I would with my own child. I also noted that there is a gray area here where we must each decide where the line is drawn, since there has been no official guidelines presented. We must use the Spirit to come to that position, and it may be different for each individual. However sensitive and careful we strive to be in what we present here, if what is presented seems uncomfortable to the individual reader or listener, then perhaps it is not where that listener or reader should be, and they can seek other places which fit better within their comfortable bounds.

    May it be known that we in no way want to establish a “select group” apart from the church, nor seek to correct errors of the church, nor supercede authoritative doctrine. We are striving to do that which the prophet Joseph taught: “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” Having served recently in the bishopric, I fully understand what apostasy is, and we will not go there.

    Let me address for a moment the donations which are available to be made on this site. The purpose of these donations is several fold. These donations are meant to support the tremendous amount of time and effort put into the research and writing on the site, similar to the way royalties from book sales may go to help support the career of an author. An author who writes books for Deseret Book receives royalties from the sales of said books, which allows them to continue writing more books. If authors received no compensation from the tremendous time and work that goes into writing their books, I perceive our bookstores would be very empty as authors would have to find different careers. Additionally, it takes some funds to keep a site like this online, to pay the bills for the computer servers, domain names, maintenance, and administrative work that goes on behind the scenes. In any case, the actual donations received thus far on the site have in reality done very little in the way of the above purposes, but they do help some, for which I am supremely grateful to those individuals for their charity and generosity. Most of what is done here is a sacrifice of time and effort, apart from and additional to my professional employment, and one that I also view as a consecration in sustaining and defending the kingdom of God.

    I hope that helps assuage some of the concerns you have presented. Of course, you are welcome to continue following the site, or not. That decision remains with you.

    I invite others to comment.

  15. Alece

    Thank you so much for the above comment, Bryce. I heartily concur on everything you have said — especially about the Temple Preparation materials. My husband and I use the manual as a guide and add to it as directed by the spirit.

    We have also seen individuals come to the Temple and have problems with the ritualistic nature of the ordinances — especially the Endowment — and decide to never return or to only come infrequently. Thus, anything we can do — within the confines of the spirit — while preparing such individuals to attend the Temple is important to us to do. Sites like this and books about the Temple written by careful authors such as Brother Skinner and Brother Nibley are great resources for that.

  16. Alece

    By the way, I guess that I missed the information about making donations to your site. I would be happy to donate. Please let me know how.

    Also, did you get the information I sent you about the link for the David O. McKay talk from the Temple Annex? If you didn’t, I’ll give it to you again.

  17. For what it’s worth, Daniel C. Peterson, who once was on the very committee that helped write the manuals, just noted that “I still don’t much like the Sunday school manuals.” Yes, we can still be faithful members of the Church, and not particularly like the manuals:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2012/08/i-really-do-love-the-book-of-mormon.html

    Gone are the days, it seems, when the likes of Hugh Nibley wrote the Gospel Doctrine manual.

  18. Concerned with questions

    Are you suggesting that because a member of the church committee expressed his displeasure with the state of church manuals that it is a justification for you to take it upon yourself as a member of the church who doesn’t have stewardship for your online audience to explain why the books as currently constituted are inadequate from your perspective, even when accompanied by the interpretations of the Holy Ghost?

    The scriptures and relevant church handbooks are clear that lesson manuals serve as a guide for the doctrines to be taught. By sticking to the doctrines, we stay on safe ground. However, I think too many people approach the lesson manuals in a superficial manner. It is a noble thing to want to prepare others for the temple as much as possible. In all of my experiences teaching and overseeing temple preparation courses, rarely were students taken aback by their experiences in the temple if their instructors A) prepared for the class, B) plead for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and C) had a personal witness of the doctrines of the temple. These variables, and I’m sure there are others, are what we bring to the table and use in conjunction with the manuals to meet the needs of each unique individual of the class. This constant searching for new material is encouraged by the brethren. My concern is that there is a different feel in the tone when others take it upon themselves to solve a problem for the church that either doesn’t exist when all of the available facts can be considered, or to take it upon themselves to solve a problem that lies under the stewardship of others. In other words, it seems as if there is difference between saying, “This is a challenging manual to use. Since we desire what is best for those we teach and for those who do the teaching, perhaps we can share some of our experiences and see how we might be able to become more effective,” and “This is a challenging manual to use. Since we desire what is best for those we teach and for those who do the teachings, let’s take a look at how we can spruce up the manual, especially since we are left to nothing more than the assistance of the Holy Ghost in the absence of a great scholar such as Hugh Nibley.”

    I am also confused by your comment about how serving in a bishopric provided you with a complete understanding of what apostasy is and that you would never come close to that on this blog where you learn about the temple in part by discussing how to spruce up church manuals and debating where the line should be drawn as to what is appropriate to share in an online forum. At least as far as my own mortal weaknesses are concerned, I have recognized that if I ever reach the point where I think to myself, let alone declare to others, that I would never commit a certain sin, then I am treading on unstable ground.

    Your devotion to Hugh Nibley is admirable, and I expect Dr. Peterson would be similarly grateful for your loyalty to him. I come at the issue from another perspective. For me, the fact that Nibley is no longer around to write a church manual or that Correlation would impede similar writings moving forward isn’t as much of a concern as it appears to be to others. The Holy Ghost is responsible for teaching gospel truths. As we seek to live our lives in accordance with the principles of the gospel, including restraining ourselves from attempting to steady the ark, and seek the Spirit in our lessons, we learn that degree of doctrine for which we are prepared whether the lesson is being taught be a primary pianist who barely speaks English or one of the most reputable scholars in the church today just as Bob Millett or Richard Bushman.

    In some ways, I think our disagreement on this issue stems from not carefully considering the wording chosen in the original comment as well as a much more innocent problem of semantics. However, the adamant nature of the response confirms to me that if the study group began to go down the wrong path, there would either be no one to recognize it and point it out, or there would be justifications made in the name of Hugh Nibley or other individuals whose situations are similar, yet far from identical, to those at hand.

    I wish you the best moving forward, but unfortunately the new format of the blog combined with the response to my comments makes me feel as if it would be best for me to withdraw from the site. I will use my influence in sharing those thoughts with family and friends that would be most likely to happen upon the site, but will refrain from visiting here and posting any comments that would serve as a frustration. My purpose was not and is not to irritate, but rather to confirm the motivations and doctrinal understandings behind the new direction of the blog.

    I apologize if I misunderstood your request for donations. For some reason, based on the postings on the blog, my understanding was that you had hoped to one day receive enough donations to be able to do this work full time. The fact that this is not a goal of yours combined with your sincere desires not to create an inner circle or special group of church members eases my mind a great deal about what appeared like early stages of priestcraft. I still worry about the justifications provided in terms of those within my own stewardship, but won’t interfere with your efforts.

    Please don’t feel pressured to post this comment. I think it certainly contributes to the discussion, but it’s clear from my original posting that certain follow-up comments were based on a cursory reading. At that point, individuals begin responding to each other with miscommunications growing more pronounced each turn of the cycle.

  19. Hi “Concerned,”

    To frankly answer your first question, no member of the Church who speaks online has a stewardship for anyone who happens upon their comments or particular views. That doesn’t mean we stop speaking. Elder Ballard has encouraged us otherwise.

    I suppose I will remain confused as to your concerns. I still do not understand what our differences are, but I will reply briefly to some of your latest comments.

    I did not, nor have I ever, said I or we would spruce up the manual. That is, and has always been, the prerogative of the Church.

    I think we can all agree that the Church is not perfect, and there are areas where it can improve and be better; that is what “the work” is all about – everything and everyone in the process of perfecting. The manuals are not canonized, and are not therefore scripture. We should use them to the best of our ability, but taking such a strict viewpoint of their infallibility or self-sufficiency I think is harmful in its own right. We don’t even believe as much about scripture itself.

    I would like to think that I will never commit a sin that would lead me into apostasy. Yes, like Nephi, I am that optimistic! (2 Nephi 4:28.) Of course that is far from reality, which I also recognize. But should I be chastised because I’d like to believe so?

    I think our disagreement on this issue is that I happened to use the word “spruce” in conjunction with the word “up” which rang the alarm bells at full volume. For what it’s worth, the Church Correlation Committee is likely always saying similar things in their efforts to make the manuals better. I would hope we are not so sensitive as to be offenders for a word (Isa. 29:21).

    Just to be sure, those who have participated in these discussions have been Sunday School Presidents, Bishops, bishopric Counselors, High Councilors, and have served in a myriad of other callings. I would hope that if something were said that was inappropriate or off base that one of such individuals would be able to notice it, and comment on it. If not, what recourse do we have in any setting that something wrong might be said?

    Yes, at first I did have a hope that perhaps one day I could receive enough donations to be able to do this work full time. I’m not ashamed of that, and if it were possible, I would continue to pursue it. I have come to realize that it is not likely, and therefore not in my priority of goals, but that’s not to say it was wrong. There are many authors that make their living by studying and researching the gospel, and writing about it, receiving royalties and donations, writing more books, and whose books now line the shelves at Deseret Book. I still do not understand what is wrong with this. Countless professors and scholars work at numerous Church sponsored universities and nonprofits, and are worthy of their meat (Matthew 10:10). Note the Book of Mormon defines priestcraft as follows: “Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the Welfare of Zion… But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 ne. 26:29, 31). Do I do this work at TempleStudy.com for the money or personal aggrandizement? Honestly now. Those who know me can attest to the amount of work I have put into this and other projects without receiving as much as a nickle for most of it. Nibley once noted that our life’s work should consist of studying the gospel, praying to our Father, and doing missionary work. Unfortunately we live in a capitalistic society that usually requires us to do other things in order to live and breathe each day. It will not always be so. I look forward to the day when we can focus on the real work of eternity, instead of the passing trivialities and vapors of smoke which so concern us today, and which so abundantly fill the coffers of so many.

    As I have said since the beginning, it never was my choice who discovers, subscribes to, reads, or visits this website, or any website for that matter. That is each individual’s choice. If you choose to go elsewhere to learn about the temple, then by all means, and I wish you all the best. My site is not exclusive or unique. Keep the faith dear brother or sister.

  20. The problem with many of the manuals is they skim across the water of doctrine. We do not teach much more to the adults that we teach to the Deacons and Beehives. And if the members do not understand how to access or teach the doctrine any deeper than the manuals, then we end up with a church full of spiritually illiterate people.

    We do not have a paid professional clergy. We expect cab drivers and stone masons to suddenly know how to be a bishop or gospel doctrine teacher. In reality, while the Spirit may help, it cannot overcome the understanding gap.

  21. Warren Aston

    Bryce and anyone else reading this thread: for several years I was the Assistant Recorder and later acting Recorder in a Temple; I had the responsibility of interviewing every new patron receiving their endowment. It was disturbing to me how often people arrived with a very limited, even non-existent, understanding of what they were about to receive.
    We have come a long way since then with the Temple Preparation classes and manuals. Speakers and writers in the church have been much more open in their comments and there is a lot more information out there online about the Temple. So we have come a long way. BUT – we still have quite a way to go. While it is necessary to always remain cautious about what we say and allude to, having read your responses and comments on this thread I applaud your approach and efforts.

  22. Rebekah

    I am very grateful for this blog/website. While I agree that the Temple Prep manuals do have a good purpose and they do help. I have to say that going to the Temple my first time, I found myself overwhelmed by the experience. I have to state the previously before my going to the Temple I did have a spiritual experience that sort helped me get through the overwhelming immensity that I felt my first time going to the Temple. It didn’t give me all the answers but it was after I went that I remembered it and it gave me that sense of peace that at that time I needed. So I decided that the best way to over come that overwhelmed feeling I had was to go back to the Temple.

    Later on I found this website and I have to say between my own experiences in the Temple and being here, it has helped. I understand the concept of not revealing sacred things but the things I have seen here, make connections between what Temple going members already know and show things that are already pretty much part of our society, our culture and our background as humanity.

    If we notice a connection then that’s fine. I have my degree in English, when I was in college and wrote a lot of papers, it was my duty to try and find a connection in my studies and the the topics I was reading. I would do my best to link a connection to what I noticed and attempt to make my point noticed by my professors. Sometimes my professors acknowledge the connection, other times they found it lacking. But at any rate I noticed a connection and wanted it to be known. I basically the see the same thing here. There are things here that I notice are being linked to what goes on in the Temple but, if you wish to take that position, others may choose not to see any connection at all. So in the end I don’t believe any harm is being done at all because it’s all on how we precieve things.

  23. Daniel

    Bryce, I would like to thank you for your efforts with this website (and the newly launched Interpreter site). I have been following your blogs for a couple years now, as I appreciate greatly a respectful and appropriate discussion about the temple (and indeed, ALL truth) in an exploratory way. I don’t believe that any supplement to or exploration of materials outside “authorized church manuals” qualifies as “apostasy.” In my view, there is much truth about the things of God and light to be gained from many, many places. Although I am open to being corrected/guided by the Lord as often as he sees fit to purge me, my spiritual path includes truths from many sources — our scriptures, the teachings of the temple, the apocrypha, bits and pieces of many religions and philosophies, and many schools of thought, initiation rites, and ideas, and much else that I won’t list here. To paraphrase Brigham Young, there is truth all over the earth in many places and ALL of it belongs to God and his Kingdom. Only the tiniest (yet essential) elements are officially repeated in the “authorized” manuals, but there is SO MUCH eternal truth and light (indeed, an infinite amount) pertaining to God.

  24. Bryan HANSEN

    I just finished reading “The Lost Symbol” and “The Da Vinci Code” both by Dan Brown. I enjoyed them both and I felt like they are applicable to us as LDS. I thought they were quite interesting. Particularly where “The Lost Symbol” discusses apotheosis, both of George Washington and of Mankind in general. How do you feel about them?

  25. Coln Ramsbottom

    Bryce,

    Having been an avid reader of your blog for some time, and as a long standing member of the Church and Temple goer, I am grateful for the additional insights that can and have been presented by this and other Temple related sites.

    There is so much about the Temple, its origins, and connections, etc that can (and perhaps should) be more readily studied and discussed. I feel that too often some members are content to have a very shallow understanding of the Temple. Surely we should be striving to improve our understanding of these things. Much of our Temple understanding obviously comes through Temple attendance and through promptings of the Holy Ghost. Much also comes through concerted personal study.

    Sites like this encourage members to gain that greater depth of understanding. There are indeed sacred subjects that we don’t discuss ( in accordance with what we are instructed in the Temple.) However, I endorse your comments that it IS appropriate to present and discuss many ‘meatier’ insights. I certainly have not felt in reading any of the articles on this site, that inappropriate boundaries (in terms of what should be discussed) have been crossed.

    I’m sure the Lord would have us do all we can to increase our knowledge of the Temple. Often it takes previous Temple experience to appreciate the relevance of these insights anyway.

    I can only say that my understanding of the Temple has been much augmented by the things I have learned on this and other Temple related sites. Thank you for your dedication and efforts in sharing these Temple related insights with us. Keep up the great work!!!

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