John A. Tvedtnes, senior resident scholar with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University, recently authored an article for Meridian Magazine entitled, “Secretive Mormonism.” He had some great comments about the esoteric versus exoteric nature of the LDS temple practices (emphasis is my own):
Commentators frequently refer to Mormon temple rites as the heart of secret goings-on. It is true that some elements of the temple are so sacred that we do not discuss them publicly, but most of what goes on in the temples is well-known.
One need not look far to learn that the most important such rite is the solemnization of marriage for time and all eternity and that vicarious ordinances (sacraments in Roman Catholic parlance) are performed for deceased ancestors, beginning with proxy baptism.
Even the endowment ceremony, the one most commonly held in Latter-day Saint temples, is mostly public knowledge. Most of the teachings presented during that time derive from the Book of Moses, published in the Pearl of Great Price. During an endowment session, we are reminded of our responsibility to obey the basic laws given mankind by God, such as the law of chastity (including fidelity after marriage), the law of obedience to God’s commandments, the law of sacrifice (which culminated in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross), the law of the gospel (salvation through Christ), and the law of consecration of one’s time, talents, and other divine blessings, to building up the Lord’s work on the earth.
Elements that are not discussed openly include ritual elements of temple prayer and the actual endowment or giving of signs, names, and tokens designed to enable one to pass the angels and ultimately to enter the presence of God. These may seem strange to most modern Christians, but they were common in early Christianity, as I have discussed in some of my published articles on ancient temple rites. ((See especially “Temple Prayer in Ancient Times,” in Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks, The Temple in Time and Eternity (Provo: FARMS, 1999). Also posted on the Maxwell Institute web site at http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?chapid=105; “Early Christian and Jewish Rituals Related to Temple Practices,” in First Annual Mormon Apologetics Symposium: Proceedings (Ben Lomond, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, 1999), also posted on the FAIR web site at http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/1999_Early_Christian_and_Jewish_Rituals_Related_to_Temple_Practices.html; “Priestly Clothing in Bible Times,” in Donald Parry (ed.), Temples of the Ancient World (Salt Lake City: Deseret and FARMS, 1994).))
Read the rest of this excellent article at Meridian Magazine.
[via A Soft Answer]
I am glad that I found this blog, and will be placing it among my favorite links. I love the temple, and try to go at least weekly. Yes, there is much I don’t understand about the temple ceremonies, but I do understand the Spirit that I feel there. The ceremonies are not as secret as they are sacred anymore, as I have found the complete endowment ceremony on the net – put there by apostate ex-members. Keep up the good work……I will subscribe by email.
Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like the site. I hope that this site will, in a small way, help you to understand the temple a little bit better. I think that by trying to gain a better understanding of what happens in the temple we gain a better understanding of ourselves and eternity.
It’s true that the ceremonies are not secret to those that want to ridicule and spite, as there have always been so-called “exposés” in the public domain made by apostates. Randy Bott, a religion professor at BYU, once made that clear to my mission preparation class. These things are out there. We can’t stop that easily. But the difference is that I, myself, have covenanted not to reveal them. I, myself, have chosen to keep them sacred to myself. I keep a sacred silence on those things that we should keep sacred. They are held in confidence by faithful Church members. Those that want to make them public will have to deal with the consequences alone, for those that will not obey God’s commandments will be in Satan’s control (Moses 4:4, 5:23).
But even though these things are out there does not mean that they are understood, or efficacious in any way. Just because there are some words written on a page means nothing. I believe, as did Professor Bott, when the temple ordinances are taken from their appropriate environment in the Lord’s house, and defamed to a profane level, that they are in a space where the spirit does not testify, the priesthood does not uphold, and these things become vague and powerless. They become meaningless, and do nothing for those that find them in the public sphere. These have “a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5; JS-H 1:19). From such we are instructed to “turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5).