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TempleStudy.com is a blog dedicated to sustaining and defending temple worship of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) through collaborative academic study of ancient religious history, symbolism, artifacts, and traditions, as well as through the words of modern prophets. It takes a similar apologetic approach as the late respected LDS scholar Hugh Nibley, and follows the admonition of the founding prophet Joseph Smith to “search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of godliness.” Church members will learn more about the meaning of temple worship, its Christ-centric focus, how to appropriately converse about the temple with others, and will strengthen their faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ amidst persecution. For members of other faiths, TempleStudy.com will introduce you to the LDS temple and its place within the rich historical framework of divine veneration.
Who is the author?
My name is Bryce Haymond, and I’m the owner and editor of Temple Study. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I grew up in Sandy, Utah, and served a mission for the Church in the El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission. I attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where I received a bachelor of fine arts degree that is not in any way related to temples. I’ve never taken a class in Near Eastern Studies, ancient languages, or theological investigations. In fact, my academic credentials do not qualify me to write for any scholarly journals. You might say that I consider myself an amateur in this area, a distinction that I enjoy thoroughly. Not that I decry education. On the contrary, I read all I can and study till the midnight oil runs dry, and if I had found the chance to study these subjects in college, I would have. But there is a big difference between receiving degrees, accolades, awards, and certificates (as the Sophists so ingeniously introduced), and actually possessing a knowledge and testimony of the truth1. I hunger and thirst after truth.
The credentials that I do have include a strong, abiding, and ever-intensifying testimony of the truth of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the instrumentation and work of the chosen Prophet Joseph Smith in this last dispensation of the world. I know that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, literally appeared as two distinct personages in flames of glory to Joseph Smith on that clear Spring morning in 1820, and They did in fact speak to him. I know that Joseph Smith was called by God, just as all the prophets of old, as the first and greatest prophet of these last days, to usher in a work that only God could have conceived, and to restore the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30), which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that the priesthood authority of God’s prophet, seer, and revelator has been passed down from Joseph Smith to every other prophet and apostle who has worn the mantle of the Lord’s anointed, and have spoken the word of God in these last days in preparation for the second coming of the Savior. I know that it is by continual revelation that the Lord’s church works, is managed and operated, and by which we are faithfully obedient to new revelation and direction. Jesus Christ leads this great kingdom, and I sincerely worry for those that unknowingly “kick against the pricks” in unsuccessfully attempting to thwart the work of God. I know that no unhallowed hand will stop this work from progressing, and that only the pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8). These things I know by the many witnesses I have received of the Holy Spirit of God, which has testified to my heart and to my mind of the truth in all things (D&C 8:2). And who am I to deny God? It matters not what is said or written to defame, ridicule, spite, or injure. The work of the Lord will move forward, until the Great Jehovah shall say, “the work is done!”
These are the credentials that are needed of a disciple scholar2. Not that I am that great of one. As you might have guessed, I am a student of Hugh Nibley, as are many of the current LDS scholars. I have studied a lot of what Hugh Nibley wrote and said, returning many times to the same texts, and I still haven’t scratched the surface. That man was an extraordinarily prolific writer! Nibley’s writings have had a profound influence on me over the last five or so years. As Nibley himself often said, sometimes great people or ideas are given the “deep freeze”. I haven’t done that to Nibley. President Gordon B. Hinckley has remarked:
I have respected him highly for his great scholarship and for his quiet and humble manner. He knows what he is talking about, but he does not shout it.3
In referring more generally to the work of FARMS, President Hinckley has said:
FARMS represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis. . . . I see a bright future for this effort now through the university.4
Elder Neal A. Maxwell was likewise impressed by Nibley’s scholarship:
I’m just grateful that Hugh Nibley, with his brilliance, wasn’t buried somewhere in the Middle Ages, in some monastic assignment that he would have performed with his brilliance. I’m grateful instead that he has been preserved to be here in the dispensation of the fullness of times when there could be a full flowering of his genius and his ability put at the disposal of the kingdom. And Hugh Nibley, in his field, would be the most remarkable scholar we have. He is so focused on the things that matter, and is spiritually submissive, that he is impatient with mediocrity, he is impatient with irrelevance, and a casual eye that may been seen as eccentricity, when in fact, I think, it’s a reflection of his deepened discipleship.5
Dr. Nibley was arguably the most profound scholar the LDS Church has ever had, and one of his overarching goals and determinations was to convince church members to take their religion more seriously. Most have thought that they couldn’t understand him, that he was much to far above the fray. But that is precisely even more reason to give him the time of day; we might learn something!
Hugh Nibley loved the temple. He has given the church more advanced scholarship about the LDS temple than any other, as he indeed set the precedent for such scholarship, and has put our knowledge of the temple on an entirely new plane, albeit often through the studies of ancient traditions and patterns in order to preserve the sacred nature of the temple. In his landmark work “The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment” Nibley explains:
Latter-day Saints believe that their temple ordinances are as old as the human race and represent a primordial revealed religion that has passed through alternate phases of apostasy and restoration which have left the world littered with the scattered fragments of the original structure, some more and some less recognizable, but all badly damaged and out of proper context . . . it is perfectly clear by now that the same sort of thing has been going on for a very long time and in virtually all parts of the world.6
Nibley notes that other scholars have found the same to be true, although they are confused as to the reason for the similarities:
Beginning in the twentieth century, an army of scholars, following the lead of Sir James Frazer, has been diligently at work, first collecting thousands of scattered pieces of earlier customs and folktales and then trying to put them together, like the pieces of jigsaw puzzles, to see whether they all come from a few basic systems or even go back to a single, all-embracing “pattern.”7
The Latter-day Saints are blessed with the restored and revealed knowledge of where these patterns ultimately came from. They have been on earth since Adam, for Adam was the first that could have received a knowledge of them. I have been intrigued and motivated to find and learn about these “scattered fragments” as they are discovered around the world, for they add to my witness and testimony of the restored gospel, and as Nibley wrote, “confirms the fundamental thesis of [the temple’s] antiquity and genuineness”8.
Talking about the Temple
Most members of the Church, I feel, do not have have a good understanding of the meaning, symbolism, and the singular worth of their temples. In some measure, we take the temple for granted. Why? I believe it is because we are fearful of studying the temple, of discussing it, of teaching it’s overarching doctrines, and of delving into the deeper significance of its message, this largely because of the covenants of sacred secrecy which we make in the temple. But as Nibley ironically points out, sometimes we take those vows to a point of hiding behind our own ignorance:
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.9
President Benson spoke similar sentiments:
Because of [the Temple’s] sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the Temple to our children and grandchildren. 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.10
Just because we have covenanted to not discuss the details of the temple ceremony outside the temple does not exempt us of the responsibility to learn more about it. The first and greatest prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith, once taught, “O, I beseech you, go forward and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of godliness”11. The “mysteries of godliness” are the ordinances of godliness12. To the early Christians, the word mystery usually referred to ordinances13. Thus the prophet is encouraging us, even begging us, to seek out an understanding of the temple and the things we do there. We must not be content with only going through the motions, but having the motions go through us.
Of course we do make solemn and sacred covenants to God to not reveal the details of the temple outside of its walls. Because of the sacred nature of the subject matter of this blog, all comments will be moderated. We keep sacred things sacred14. “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64). In this effort, I am still learning myself, and if I come too close to the line, I will stand corrected. But as the countless volumes of temple books that have been produced by the General Authorities and trusted scholars of the Church attest, there is much we can talk about! And we should. We cannot be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6). The temple is the greatest icon of our worship, the center of our theology, where we make the highest and most sacred covenants with God. It is an earthly reflection of the heavenly destination where we long to be. In them we receive the greatest teaching on the Atonement of Jesus Christ that can be offered on this earth, and what must be done in order to regain His and the Father’s presence. We get nowhere by ignoring the house of the Lord. Indeed, the focus of the Church since the beginning of the restoration has been the building of temples and doing temple work.
What more is there?
Some of us might feel like we know a lot about the temple already. After having attended the temple many times we might even know the ordinances by heart. But there is a much deeper meaning and significance that will open up to us as we attend and study the temple. Elder Boyd K. Packer once told of an experience in the Salt Lake Temple which he had with President David O. McKay:
Not long before he died, when on infrequent occasions he would come to our meetings, he stood one day in the meeting and began to discuss the temple ceremony, the endowment. I will never forget! He stood there in that tall majesty that was typical of him. He had his big, bony hands on his chest and looked at the ceiling as he began to quote the endowment. (We were assembled there in the upper room [of the temple] and it was not inappropriate to discuss that there.) He quoted it at some great length. We were enthralled and inspired and knew we were witnessing a great moment. Then he stopped and looked again at the ceiling for a moment or two. Then he said, “I think I’m finally beginning to understand.” That was very comforting to me. After nearly sixty-four years as an Apostle, he still had things that he was learning. Then we knew we were in the presence of not only the teacher who was teaching, but of a student who was learning.15
If a prophet of God, who had been an Apostle for sixty-four years, is just beginning to understand the temple experience, then how far do we, as members of the Church, have to go before the temple will begin to reveal its treasures to us?
I hope that the findings, research, and issues that I bring to the forefront on this blog will help bring souls to Christ. I hope it will establish deeper testimonies of the restored gospel and of the temple truths. I hope it will serve as a solid defense against those who would shrug away the temple as a simple nineteenth-century forgery. I hope it will help members of the Church who may not know how to talk about the temple to learn. I hope it will provoke us to take our religion and our temple more seriously, and to attend it as often as we can so that the mysteries of godliness can be unfolded to our view.
I know that this Church is true. Christ lives, and He will return again in power and glory to rule and reign on the earth and in His temples.
- Nibley, “The Day of the Amateur” [↩]
- Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than The Intellect” [↩]
- Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, back cover [↩]
- Invitation of FARMS to join BYU, 1997 [↩]
- Faith of an Observer [↩]
- Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, xxvii [↩]
- ibid., xxvii [↩]
- ibid., xxix [↩]
- Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, 361 [↩]
- President Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, August (1985): 6-10, emphasis added [↩]
- TPJS, 364 [↩]
- Madsen, “The Temple and the Atonement” [↩]
- Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 515 [↩]
- see my post on “Talking About The LDS Temple” [↩]
- Packer, Charge to the David O. McKay School of Education, December 1996 [↩]