The Interpreter Foundation sponsored a conference on November 9, 2013, entitled “Science & Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth & Man” in Provo, Utah. It was filmed. Videos of each of the presentations are now available for free viewing on The Interpreter Foundation’s YouTube channel, or at MormonInterpreter.com. They are also embedded below. [Read more…]
On Sunday I had the opportunity of going to the Daybreak Stake Center in South Jordan and listening to a wonderful fireside given by Dr. Daniel C. Peterson about the temple. I audio recorded the fireside, and have a digital copy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get a hold of Dr. Peterson to ask permission to post it on TempleStudy.com. But as I said previously, I also took notes as well as I could, and I hope that they might reproduce some of the excellent thoughts Dr. Peterson conveyed. [Note: Not all of the images below are the exact same as Dr. Peterson used, but I have tried to use similar ones.]
One of the first things he said was that the dedication of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple (which stands only a few blocks from the stake center) would be, in a way, a fulfillment of prophecy.
Hugh Nibley gave a lecture in 1975 on “Sacred Vestments” which was later transcribed and included in the collected works volume Temple and Cosmos (pgs. 91-132). The entire paper is fascinating, and highly recommended reading. One of the things he wrote about were certain Chinese artifacts which had been found depicting two mythological gods, Nüwa and Fuxi, and the tools they hold:
Most challenging are the veils from Taoist-Buddhist tombs at Astana, in Central Asia, originally Nestorian (Christian) country, discovered by Sir Aurel Stein in 1925… We see the king and queen embracing at their wedding, the king holding the square on high, the queen a compass. As it is explained, the instruments are taking the measurements of the universe, at the founding of a new world and a new age. Above the couple’s head is the sun surrounded by twelve disks, meaning the circle of the year or the navel of the universe. Among the stars depicted, Stein and his assistant identified the Big Dipper alone as clearly discernable. As noted above, the garment draped over the coffin and the veil hung on the wall had the same marks; they were placed on the garment as reminders of personal commitment, while on the veil they represent man’s place in the cosmos. (pg. 111-12)
Nibley included drawings of this depiction found on veils in the Astana Tombs in Xinjiang, China, with a caption that reads:
In the underground tomb of Fan Yen-Shih, d. A.D. 689, two painted silk veils show the First Ancestors of the Chinese, their entwined serpect bodies rotating around the invisible vertical axis mundi. Fu Hsi holds the set-square and plumb bob … as he rules the four-cornered earth, while his sister-wife Nü-wa holds the compass pointing up, as she rules the circling heavens. The phrase kuci chü is used by modern Chinese to signify “the way things should be, the moral standard”; it literally means the compass and the square. (pg. 115)
See the photos at the end of the post for more examples of this icon. The veil redrawn in Temple and Cosmos is shown photographed in the second row, fourth from the left. [Read more…]
In my readings on mudras I found other information on the Tian Tan, or Temple of Heaven, that I thought was interesting.
The Tian Tan is a Taoist temple in Beijing, China, and its construction dates back to the fifteenth century when it was originally named the Temple of Heaven and Earth. This temple has been used for Chinese worship in year-rites, prayer ceremonies, harvest ceremonies, and sacrifices for several centuries.
A description of some of the traditional ceremonial activities that took place here is interesting:
In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as the Son of Heaven, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly comprising prayers for good harvests.
Twice a year the Emperor and all his retinue would move from the Forbidden city through Beijing to encamp within the complex, wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat. No ordinary Chinese was allowed to view this procession or the following ceremony. In the temple complex the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good harvests. The highpoint of the ceremony at the winter solstice was performed by the Emperor on the Earthly Mount. The ceremony had to be perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year.
In these practices I see a belief in priesthood-like vicarious authority, temple prayer worship, cosmology, special ceremonial clothing, esotericy, worthiness requirements, perfect performance of rites, and even a practice which recalls the Word of Wisdom. Could this all be coincidence? Or did these things stem from something more ancient?