Temple Rituals Both Ancient and Modern —
Are Symbolic of Your Ascent Back to God’s Presence
The temple endowment is a ritualistic drama, taught in a dramatic fashion. It is a story about your life, mankind’s existence, and the great plan of our salvation. Similar to how Native American’s through their song, dance, and ceremonial dress tells a story about their lives, ancestry, and relationship with the God of Heaven, the Great Spirit. The endowment also, and the temple clothing (our ceremonial dress) has representation to the things of God, the Great Spirit, to include our existence and relationship to Him, His nature and character, our lives, ancestry, and the path or “the way” to Him. (2 Nephi 31:18)
There is specific knowledge that is being conveyed and taught to the observer in the dramatic scene of the endowment. You are being taught what literally happens between you and the Lord, you learn of your relationship with Him as it is now, and the potential of your relationship with Him if you are true and faithful to Him. You learn not only about His nature and character, but also that of mankind’s current state in relationship to Him. You learn of your purpose on this earth, and what happens to us beyond this life. Everything from beginning to end is laid out before you. It is for you to apply that which is being taught into a real-world experience for yourselves.
The ordinances are an authoritative injunction for you to act, an invitation for you to receive these things for yourself from Him. Every physical ordinance has its spiritual counterpart that must be performed by heaven to have any real effect or power in your lives. You must act – this is faith, you must become as He is, this is the way. Going through the ordinances, ceremonies, and rituals of themselves do not bring you nearer to God, living and keeping the commandments, honoring your covenants does. The ceremonies, the endowment — teaches you about the great plan of your salvation. The power in the ordinances comes from the knowledge that is gained from them, for knowledge is power, unto salvation.
If you see a dramatic scene, but do not see its teachings for what they are and how they are applied. Then you have become as it were asleep and a darkness is upon your mind, and you are not yet awake (Isaiah 52:1). For in them there is great knowledge, even greater than what you now comprehend. Armed with the truth, and just as soon as you are ready it will be given to you from Him in great power from on high, forever imprinted upon your soul. You must first act in order to receive, but to act with purpose and real intent, nothing wavering then it shall be given unto you.
Joseph Smith Jr., in the Red Brick store in Nauvoo Illinois, gave certain signs, tokens, and keywords to some members of the church prior to his death, these are the “Keys of the Priesthood” as referred to by him. They were given to the church, Joseph refers to the church, as “the saints”, and also the “relief society” along with “their husbands” and they received these priesthood keys together. These have been passed down to us today and are taught as the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) endowment, though some of it has undergone changes and other parts of the endowment have been removed altogether. The present endowment is still valuable and full of symbolism, it is rich in the teachings of Christ, many things about the endowment have remained a mystery to us, only because we have not looked, or have looked beyond the mark. The significance of the endowment for the living is underplayed and how it is applied to us in our daily lives and perhaps what we could have learned from the symbolism were lost with Joseph. We had the story that had been given, that has been largely preserved and from that, we are able to learn how to walk uprightly before the Lord. The endowment, this ritualistic ceremony teaches us the way, the path, which is Christ — in other words, it teaches us that we are to follow in His footsteps.
This is perhaps one of the greatest ways to teach and also preserve knowledge. It is easy to lose information or manipulate knowledge when it is just passed down by the word of mouth or even in written texts, but when it is taught through symbolism, through song and dance or in this case the endowment taught in dramatic scene, a play, it can be preserved for generations to come if even there should be a falling away so long as the play (ordinances) are not changed. The truth because it is taught in a way that is difficult to change, through symbolism cannot be so easily manipulated, unless you change the ordinances altogether, which thing proves difficult and does not go unnoticed. The subtle changes are a loss of light as it were, but to make changes to the overall message proves very difficult and thus there is much value in learning and understanding the endowment.
You are taught that “if “ you remain true and faithful in this life to those things received in the temple, then in the life hereafter you will receive those promises and blessings. Nephi taught that we can receive those blessings and promises now, we need not wait until the day of our judgment, for then the day of repentance is gone. We can know now whether or not we are condemned or saved, we can know now and we can come out from under judgment through repentance and be redeemed by Him and this is His promise to us, even now while you are still yet in your bodies, you can have this promise and reassurance, this is also known as having your calling of election made sure (2 Nephi 31:3-21). It would not be wise to go down into the grave not knowing your standing beforehand, the scriptures teach that we should not procrastinate the day of our repentance. We should then ask, “Lord, what lack I yet” then begin with great earnest to become as He is, with God all things are possible.
The endowment has its roots anciently, starting with Adam, and passed down throughout the years and from generation to generation, from one dispensation until the next. Before his departure, Joseph left the Saints with these keys and charging them that each one of them must learn to stand for themselves, that they were depending upon the brethren too much and because of this their minds had become darkened. Knowing that he must soon depart as did Moses, knowing the ultimate failures at Nauvoo would bring about the promised cursings, the promised scattering of the Saints, he left them with the knowledge of how to seek and obtain answers for themselves, for according to Joseph “[a] man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity [now] by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on earth” (Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2011), 261–70).
Prest. J. Smith rose, read the 14th Chap. of Ezekiel— said the Lord had declar’d by the prophet that the people should each one stand for himself and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church— that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls— applied it to the present state of the church of Latter-Day Saints— said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall— that they were depending on the prophet hence were darkened in their minds from neglect of themselves— envious toward the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. [sic] (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 17 Mar. 1842–16 Mar. 1844, pg. 51)
What is neglected by most is the duty that devolves upon them personally. Every person now in this estate is to seek further light and knowledge in order to qualify themselves, this is a commandment and the purpose of coming to this earth, it is to learn how to walk in paths of righteousness as the Son of God has, whether people know it or not, or are completely oblivious to this, that is the task before us all. It is inherent in all of us to ponder our existence, to search for purpose and meaning, this is sewn in the very fabrics of our human nature from one generation to the next, this stirring and pondering in our hearts and depths of our souls comes from the light of Christ – it drives us to ask questions and then to seek answers, and finally to know who we are and the purpose of our existence. The purpose of temple rituals is to teach you these things, and answer some of those basic questions and more importantly the temple rituals teach you how to walk back to the presence of the Father. Why “walk” because the term is to convey to you the importance of an action, a specific direction, and intent or ultimate destination.
The statement “hereafter” conveys to the mind of the hearer that these things are important at some later date, but not now, but later. We sometimes are so focused on what happens after this station of life, we neglect our duty to ourselves here and now in this station.
You have come this far, you have been baptized or desire to be baptized, and or should be baptized and not delay the day of your repentance, you cannot have come this far if it were not already a desire in your heart to take upon you the name of Christ, and to seek to know Him. You have come this far, by faith in Him who is mighty to save.
You cannot remain in a state of ignorance at this point, you either must press forward and seek His face and come to know the Lord or you must give yourself over to the devil to be an angel to the father of lies. You cannot unlearn what you have learned. When the spirit has brought you thus far by the power of the Holy Ghost and you turn away from it all together, as the scriptures warn, it would have been better that you had never known the Lord.
The lack of teaching surrounding the endowment as a whole gives the person the impression these things are solely for after this life, that our only obligation is to remember the different signs, tokens, names, and words at the veil. Then continuing on, doing these things again and again for the dead whilst neglecting the further light and knowledge you came seeking at the temple (and received) in which the endowment teaches to you.
The prevailing thought that I have come across from most is that what is taught in the endowment is for afterwards, after we depart this life and this is largely because most of the endowment remains a mystery, if you but could see, and remove the scales from off your eyes and the truth of what Joseph taught and gave to us in the Red Brick store was only a precursor of what the Father intended to give in the temple at Nauvoo, had the Saints met their obligations to finish it among other things it would be a different story today. What we have today is only a token of what He intended to give us.
What was it that Joseph gave at the Red Brick store that is rehearsed today in temples?
He spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church (D&C 10:67), and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them [Keys of the Priesthood to the Church] with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; for according to his prayers, God had appointed him elsewhere. (TPJS, p.226, See also: JS, History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, pg. 39)
What Joseph restored to us, enables you to seek the “Lord” and to “receive an answer” to your prayers or in other words to receive divine instruction. Not merely an impression, or a whispering but leads you to part the veil and to commune with the Lord and or other heavenly hosts, to include the Father.
It is an invitation or an announcement to heaven to send you true messengers, remember that previously I said it was an authoritative injunction for you to act, for you to seek these things out from heaven and that is the purpose of the ordinances and why they are essential and should not be altered one jot, they are recognized by Him for He ordained them and this is how He and the Angels will recognize you by your coming unto Him in His Sons name, which is the new name you were given when baptized which name you have covenanted to take upon yourselves, this is how He recognizes you when you are at the veil petitioning to converse with the Father. Because you came to Him in the manner set forth, in His Sons name, and by His word, in His very footsteps, with exactness and obedience to the commandments — you are in His image, your vessel clean and you can pass by the angels and sentinels who guard the way for you are Christ’s.
However, because of apathy, which prevails today towards the things of God, the greater mysteries of God are withheld, the abundance of the manifestations of His spirit is also withheld, the Lord warns us to be equal in our temporal things, something the Saints have yet to accomplish, the people of Enoch had ALL things in common, no rich or poor among them, for if we would not do those things that He has commanded His spirit would be withheld. Also take note, you cannot just merely ask and expect an answer, or passively seek these things and withhold your heart and soul from Him, but by only real intent can you find them out and that by doing, even pulling down the powers of heaven upon you with up reaching hands, sacrificing all things to know God, are you then able to be proven and qualified and receive the things of God, then you are prepared and will receive them line upon line and precept upon precept, from one small degree to the next.
All that God does is for our benefit, His works are all around us in plainness and all His works are before us continually, all things testify of Him. As we draw nearer to Him and our minds become one with Him, we begin to see all the details of His craftsmanship, and that all these things not only bear witness of Him but teach us that we must know Him.
The endowment teaches us how one may walk back to the presence of God, even the Father through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The laws of God are taught throughout the endowment. The tokens and signs reveal our personal relationship with God as well as our present condition, we learn who we are and who we must become.
The endowment may also be considered a map, these rituals you learn may be regarded as way-points along a path, this path leads you back to the Father, these are set before you as a help, to be your guide as you undertake your journey to the veil. Like the stars that are set in heaven to be our guide, those ordinances men cannot change, those ordinances similarly show us the way, however, man has changed the ordinances of God on earth in temples as they have, the scriptures testify of this, not only do they testify of it but they warn us against it, not only do they warn us against it, the scriptures prophecy that the Lord’s ordinances will be changed in the last days before He returns again, for them to be changed they would have had to have been restored, Joseph Smith restored them, they have since in some form or another become corrupted and or changed, as man has changed them.
Not only have temple rituals and ordinances been changed but so also have baptismal and sacramental ordinance been changed. For God to change them – He would cease to be God, He cannot be a changing God, for He must be the same today, yesterday and forever — for if He were anything else to one degree or the other He wouldn’t be a God, but He being a changing God would become fallen and someone we couldn’t rely, but because He is the same yesterday, today and forever, what He has set from the beginning is what we can expect from Him for eternity, nothing short of being a just and Holy Being, a God of gods. If they are changed, it is because of man and not God.
A brief study of the temple rituals and history of the endowment and the ordinances therein will show the casual reader just how dramatic some of these changes have been, though this has been done, and yes knowledge has become lost, however, it is not all lost and much of what we need can still be learned in this endowment ceremony as it remains today and also by revelation we can fill in the missing parts and expound the importance and significance of the endowment as a whole. We can also learn what the tokens and signs themselves teach us besides the common knowledge of what they are, signs and tokens. These are expounded upon so that YOU may know WHO you are, who you must become, in order to obtain to salvation and whom it is you are seeking an audience with, that you may more perfectly know how to approach Him and receive.
“Now the purpose in Himself in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceding dispensations…. He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them.”[sic] (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol.4, p. 208, See also: JS, History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, pg. 16)
In the pre-1990 endowment, you were also taught of the cursings for disobedience to the laws of God for violating His covenants. This was taught ceremoniously through symbolism, through penalty tokens or signs, some wrongly refer to these as blood oaths. These were not oaths, though graphic in illustration these were to convey to the person the importance of keeping your covenants with God and the reality of violating such covenants that there are serious and grievous consequences to be born both whiles in the flesh and eternally. One such having the crown of glory removed from your head, also another, having no progeny not being able to produce seed eternally, in the scriptures this is referred to as having no root, nor branch. No familial ties, no ancestors, and no posterity. Symbolizing you are cut off. (Malachai 4:1)
As you are faithful and obedient to the commandments and to the light and knowledge you have already received, He then comes to you and He will prepare you as He leads you to the veil as it were that you may return to the Fathers presence. That you may partake of His glory and receive your final endowment the one the temple prepares you for that you may receive this a fullness of joy before the hosts of heaven. This is His work and His glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men.
Now, these things taught in the temple have a literal application in our own lives but are taught to us through symbolism, it is a play, drama, a reenactment of your lives. The knowledge received is important, the covenants and promises in the temple are all ceremonial and deeply symbolic of what takes place outside of the temple or physical building of mortar and steel.
The literal covenant takes place in you, this is what the temple prepares for you to receive inside of yourself. The temple teaches you how you may receive a covenant and it’s by obedience to His law and commandments. These covenants, blessings, promises along with the Lord’s warning all these things take place in your own physical temple, it takes place in you and moves through you. It pierces you. It is between you and God. He writes His laws upon your inward parts, you are changed, it takes place inside your body and there lies within you where you commune with God the Holy of Holies. Your body is a Holy Temple that houses your very spirit. It is a temple made without hands, where the spirit and body are enjoined together through a Holy Ordinance of pro-creation, which ye have of Him this body through His power, and ye are made a Holy temple for the spirit to dwell.
You receive the covenants and promises from God by His own voice. These have power and weight. What is received in the temple of steel and mortar, or the tent such as Moses and Levites were instructional to provoke you to thought and action, to seek out these blessings and covenants from God for yourselves! This is what Joseph left us with, this is the keys of the priesthood, given to the church, to the Saints who have proven themselves, and to the Relief Society in connection with their husbands in the Red Brick store, some of these keys can only be received by a husband and wife, and are held together.
Again, the temple rituals are an authoritative injunction for you to act, and not be acted upon. Meaning, receive the endowment. Thus the keys of the priesthood have been given to you there, for yourselves, family, and spouse that enables you to know how to seek, ask and knock at the veil. And thus receive divine administrations. True messengers from the Father.
Christ is the only gatekeeper, He employees no servants there (2 Nephi 9:41). What He has authorized to be taught in the temple is to teach you all about Him and the process that will be your life, if you will but hearken to Him first through the whisperings of the spirit, then He will come to visit His temple, you are that temple, and He will reveal Himself there to you, and if you are not ready when He shall suddenly appear your temple will be destroyed. (D&C; 93:35)
Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you,
which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify
God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Now, remember, what you receive in the temple of mortar and steel by instruction and ceremony is to commit to your mind, the reality and need of your application of what is being taught. Many come to the temple, receive instruction on how to receive further light and knowledge and they stop there. They do not know what to do thereafter, and ever after continue going to the temples without fully applying the teachings received, and stand in darkness at noonday because they have received the keys of the priesthood that show a person what they must do and how to ask and receive answers and yet they do NOT seek greater knowledge, and because of this they sit in darkness and unless they will repent and call upon God to be delivered, as both Lehi and Nephi did in the vision of the tree of life, they cried out to Him to be delivered from the darkness — if you will not seek and do this, then you must remain in darkness still.
We are taught that blessings are predicated upon obedience to the law, that it is an irrevocable decree in heaven, that when any blessing is obtained it is by obedience to the law associated with it (D&C; 130:20-21). The endowment itself does NOT give us these things, i.e. your eternal reward and exaltation, during the endowment ceremony we hear repeatedly that to the effect “if you are true and faithful you will after this life, be anointed Kings and Priests, Queens and Priestesses unto the most High God”, the word “IF” establishes a certain condition that must be kept or met, by you, in order for you to receive these things.
The endowment is only ceremonial, a song, or a dance, a dramatic scene of your lives, but through the application of what the endowment strives to teach us, we gain knowledge and this knowledge leads us to to be able to receive these things from God Himself. What man performs in His name, has to also be received from heaven or else it is only a ceremony, well wishes (D&C; 132:7). In the temple drama, ceremony, rituals, tokens, signs, ordinances, sealings — all these play out your whole life, in a theatrical way and demonstrate to you your potential and the path you must take. You are essentially Adam or Eve, cast out from the garden, fallen, cut off from God seeking to return to Him, to come back into His presence. He gives to you instruction from true messengers, that teach you who you must become to be able to come back to His presence, often called the way in scripture. You are given a gift, the comforter, even the Holy Ghost, then in time, as you hearken to the spirit the Father and the Son take up their abode with you and they comfort you. This is also known as the Second Comforter, the first being the Holy Ghost, and the second, the Father and also the Son. (John 14:23)
What Joseph was doing in Kirtland was different than what he gave the Saints in the Red Brick Store. There, in Kirtland, he instructed those present and performed specific types of washings and anointing’s that are not done today, these are different from the initiatory, and again different from the Second Anointing’s that take place between a husband and his wife.
At Kirtland they washed and anointed themselves with fragrant oils, they washed their hands, their feet, and also their faces, and in this manner did they wash and prepare themselves, which was also after the manner that Moses and the Levites washed themselves prior to offering up of sacrifices. Which for Moses and the Levites consisted of burnt offerings and this was done prior to their being able to enter the entrance of the tent of the congregation, Abraham also, as found in Genesis 18:4. But for Joseph and the others, the sacrifice and offering that was made were their hearts, in other words, their whole selves and being in the similitude of the Savior who offered Himself for us, likewise, we offer up our selves for Him.
These washing’s, and anointing were done to prepare themselves for the heavens to be open, that their hands which did works of iniquity might be made clean, that their feet, that which did cause them to walk in crooked paths might forever walk straight, that where they stand may be holy and their faces and countenance thereof darkened by their sins, that they may be made pure and be in His image and likeness, clean, and that when God should look down upon them, that He sees His Sons and Daughters clean and worthy. For they have been washed, cleaned and prepared to enter His presence. This was done in preparation to perform the ordinance of the washing of one another’s feet and in preparation of administering and partaking of the sacrament at Kirtland, this after the manner of the Savior when He washed and anointed the feet of the Apostles and His disciples. Then Joseph and others partook of the sacrament and it was a literal feast and all ate and drank until they were physically full in similitude of the last supper with Christ and His Apostles and by the keys and power of the Holy Ghost the heavens were also opened to them, the faithful in attendance saw many things and they remained therein throughout the night in the temple at Kirtland in communion with the Host of Heaven.
The rituals we have from the Red Brick store are there to teach you, to give you instructions. There is not power from reading the rituals online, or by watching a video from someone who secretly recorded the temple ceremonies uploading it to YouTube. Even by attending the temple and not acting on what is taught to you through the endowment will not do anything for you, the power of godliness is manifested in the ordinances thereof and not by the ordinances themselves. In other words, any person can learn the tokens and signs and their names today from the internet and memorize it all perfectly from attending the temple regularly, but unless you uncover the mystery and purpose behind the endowment and apply its teachings, you will not obtain the blessings and promises you seek by just going to the temple.
The steps on how to approach the Lord at the veil are taught in the ceremony, and through the true order of prayer, this is the proper way to pray.
These steps are also listed in D&C 93:1
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that
1.) every soul who forsaketh his sins
2.) and cometh unto me,
3.) and calleth on my name,
4.) and obeyeth my voice,
5.) and keepeth my commandments,
6.) shall see my face and know that I am;
or in other words:
3.) Prays (True Order of Prayer)
4.) Listens and obeys the whispering’s of His spirit
5.) Endures until the end of probation (still alive) keeps commandments
6.) Shall be redeemed from the fall, the second comforter, calling of election have a personal relationship with the Lord.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
I know that if you will search these things out, study the scriptures, do His works and call upon the Lord continually you will receive answers, line upon line until you are proven and prepared to enter His presence. These aren’t my musings, what I embark to teach are from my conversations with the Lord as He has expounded their meanings to me. I also shared my testimony of Him elsewhere in my blog post found here: Living According to your Faith.
My blog in some form or another whether it is conveyed or not is somehow and in some way my own personal journey. Now, only the Lord matters, His ways matter – my joy is in seeing others receive and come to know Him as I have. Through this labor, my soul can be full, and together we can shout praises to the Holy One of Israel, to our God and King!