Professor William J. Hamblin has offered some good starting points in considering the relationship between the ancient Israelite temple ritual and the modern day LDS temple endowment. It is from this vantage point that we should approach trying to understand these ancient ritual systems and the connections they might have with the Latter-day Saints temple ritual.
“When considering the possible relationship between ancient Israelite temple system and the LDS Endowment, the first thing to note is the basic purpose of the ancient temple was to reconcile Israel with God and bring all Israel (represented by the twelve stones inscribed with the tribal names) back into the presence of God (that is recapitulating the Sinai theophany), symbolically represented by the Holy Place and Holy of Holies within the veil.
“The second thing to note is that Israel had exoteric rituals in the outer courtyard of the temple which could be witnessed by all (though only priests officiated). Esoteric rituals performed inside the temple itself could only be performed and witnessed by priests. LDS Endowment broadly corresponds to the esoteric rituals performed inside the temple, not the exoteric rituals performed outside. The ancient exoteric Israelite temple rituals correspond with the LDS weekly sacrament (the bread/wine offering of the Israelite temple).” (William Hamblin, Mormon Scripture Explorations)
Another important point to realize is that Christ was the last great blood sacrifice when He came in the meridian of time and offered the Atonement, which ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood (3 Ne. 9:19; cf. Mosiah 13:27; Alma 34:13; 3 Ne. 15:2–10). Since Christ was the last blood sacrifice (all precursors pointing to Him), from that point onward the outward nature of sacrificial ritual changed, but still pointing towards Christ, and still a sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit (3 Ne. 9:20–22; Psalms 51:16–17; Psalms 34:18).
See the gallery below for various artists’ depictions of the rituals inside the ancient Israelite temple. Click each image to enlarge. [Read more…]
There is an excellent commentary by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, who is Catholic, on the LDS (Mormon) garment. In her article she describes the garment as not dissimilar to the sacred clothing of many religious groups around the world, including Jews, Catholics (Roman and Eastern), Sikhs, Buddhists, Amish, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, and tribal religions. I too once wrote about the sacred undergarment of the Jews, the tallit katan (and its tzitzit). [Read more…]
It’s been a long time coming, since September 2008 to be exact, and I’d like to finally complete this series of posts on the seal of Melchizedek. It is probably one of the most trafficked series of posts on this website. It’s drawn a lot of attention, and may have even been part of what compelled a BYU scholar, Alonzo L. Gaskill, to publish an article about it in The Religious Educator at BYU in 2010, which article I’d like to talk about.
But first, there are a few other artifacts related to the symbol that I’d like to share. As I pointed out in Part 2, this seal is most prominently found as displayed in the mosaics and iconography in the basilicas of Ravenna, Italy. Indeed, this is very likely where Hugh Nibley saw this symbol originally, as perhaps did Michael Lyon, and where he may have coined the name the “seal of Melchizedek.” The symbol is shown on the altar cloths in these mosaics, shown next to Melchizedek, Abel, and Abraham, in making sacrificial offerings to God. The altar cloth also shows gammadia in the corners, right-angle marks like the Greek letter gamma, which is also very interesting, and worthy of a study in and of itself.
To begin, I want to note again that to date I have not found any evidence for this symbol being called the “seal of Melchizedek” by any other scholar, historian, or historical figure in recorded history before Hugh Nibley and Michael Lyon. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it is likely a conception that began with the Latter-day Saints, making a logical connection between the symbol and the Biblical figure found adjacent to it in the mosaics. [Read more…]
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
This scripture from the New Testament has often been used to describe our current estate in life, our vision and perception being a bit muddled as we go about our daily lives. We don’t understand everything, we can’t see everything, we don’t know why some things are the way they are. We don’t live by perfect light and knowledge. Indeed, it is a good scripture on the topic of faith, and how we must live by imperfect understanding, having a feeling for things but unable to grasp them fully. It also well describes what our LDS doctrine calls the veil (also spelled vail), this semi-impervious cloak and covering over God and his dominion. In a future day, the curtain will be drawn, and we will see with perfect clarity, and our understanding will become as clear as day.
Why must we live by this faith, why the separation from God by the veil? Why doesn’t God reveal himself? This is often the cry of the atheists, who seek evidence of God’s existence. I appreciated Dan Peterson’s explanation of this in his talk on “Humble Apologetics.” He said: [Read more…]