Understanding the Endowment
A Return to His Presence
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 the "relief society" 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 all together. 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 and so its significance and how it is applied to us in our lives was lost with Joseph. 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. The endowment has its roots anciently, starting with Adam, and passed down throughout the years and generations, from one dispensation until the next. Before his departure, Joseph left the saints with these keys, knowing that each one of them must stand for themselves, 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.
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] Joseph Smith, Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, Section Five 1842-43, p.238
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 inherit 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 attempts to teach 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)
What Joseph gave us enables you to seek the "Lord" and to "receive an answer" or in other words to receive divine instruction and not merely an impression, or a whispering but leads you to parting the veil and to commune with the Lord and or other heavenly hosts. It is an invitation or an announcement to heaven to send you true messengers, but because of apathy then, which prevails today towards the things of God, the mysteries of God are withheld, the abundance of the manifestations of His spirit are 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. 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 only by real intent can you find them out and that by doing, even pulling down the powers of heaven upon you, sacrificing all things to know God, are you then able to be 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, as we draw nearer to Him and our minds become one with his, 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 of the plan of salvation through ceremony and symbolism. It teaches 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 the warn us against it, the scriptures prophecy that the Lords 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 in one degree or the other He wouldn't be a God, but He being a changing being would be fallen in whom 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.
A brief study of the temples 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 by revelation we can fill in the missing parts and expound the importance and significance of the endowment as a whole, and what the tokens and signs themselves teach besides the common knowledge of what it means today in the temples or found online, for example why is one of the tokens that is made is the thumb placed over a knuckle - what does this signify, why this token or this sign, what is the Lord trying to teach us by these symbols? These things will be expounded upon so that YOU may know WHO you are, who you must become, what 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 temple 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." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol.4, p. 208
In the pre-1990 endowment you were also taught of the cursings and/or punishments for disobedience to the laws of God for violating His covenants, this was taught ceremonially through symbolism, through penalty tokens, 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 while in the flesh and eternally. Some freelancing took place with the endowment in its beginnings, and so it is today, not much has changed when men meddles with the things of God.
The temple ceremony is a mock up of your whole life from pre-existence, your physical birth, coming to a knowledge of God, spiritually reborn, learning who you are and of the path back to Him or the way, and eventually through your faithfulness and obedience to Him and the knowledge received, He comes and will lead you to the veil that you may return to His presence. This is His work and His glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men.
The 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 or symbolic of what takes place outside of the temple or physical building of mortar and steel. What takes place, literally takes place inside you, and through you, it is between you and God, He writes His laws upon your inward parts, it is your body and there lies within the Holy of Holies, where you commune with God, it is a Holy Temple that houses your very spirit, 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 a Holy temple for the spirit to dwell. You receive the covenants and promises from God directly. These have power and weight. What is received in the temple of steel and mortar, or the tent such as Moses and Levites was to provoke you to thought and action, to seek these blessings and covenants from God your selves, the temple rituals are an authoritative injunction for you to act, and not be acted upon. Meaning receiving the endowment, thus the keys of the priesthood for yourselves enables you to know how to seek, ask and knock at the veil. Christ is the only gate keeper, 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 through the whisperings of the spirit, He will come to visit His temple, you are the temple, and He will reveal Himself there.
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 understand, what you receive in the temple of mortar and steel by instruction and ceremony is to commit to the person(s) 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 temple with out applying the teachings received, and stand in darkness at noon day because they have received the keys of the priesthood that show a person how to ask and receive answers and do NOT seek greater knowledge, and because of this they sit in darkness and unless the repent and call upon God to be delivered, must remain in darkness still.
We are taught that blessings are predicated upon obedience to a 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. The endowment itself does NOT give us these things, i.e. your eternal reward and exaltation, during the endowment ceremony we hear repeatedly that '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, by you, in order for you to receive. The endowment is only ceremonial, but the application of what the endowment strives to teach us does lead us to receive these things from God Himself, what man does, has to be received from heaven also or else it is only a ceremony, in the temple drama, ceremony, rituals, tokens, signs all these play out your whole life, in a theatrical way.
What Joseph was doing in Kirtland was different than what he gave in the Red Brick store, there in Kirtland, he an authorized servant 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. They washed and anointed themselves with fragrance of oils, their hands, their feet and faces, also after the manner that Moses and the Levites did prior to offering up of burnt offerings and prior to entrance of the tent of congregation, Abraham also, as found in Genesis 18:4. This was in preparation to perform the ordinance of washing one another’s feet and in preparation of administering and partaking of the sacrament, 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 super with Christ and His Apostles and by the keys and power of the Holy Ghost the heavens were opened to the faithful in attendance and they remained therein throughout the night in the temple in communion with the Host of Heaven. This was had among the entire body of the priesthood, from the Prophet down. Today, the closest we have that is similar to these ordinances are had and reserved among the First Presidency and the Twelve only, and it is not performed outside this circle as it was with the general body of the priesthood in Josephs day, nor do they eat and drink of the sacrament until they are full, additionally they do not wash their hands, feet, and faces prior to performing these other ordinances.
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 or from attending the temple regularly, but unless you uncover the mystery and purpose behind the endowment which is to apply its teachings, you will not obtain the blessings and promises you seek by going to the temple.
The steps on how to approach the Lord at the veil are taught in 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, 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 but 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 else where in my blog post here: Living According to your Faith. In fact most if not all of my blog in some form or another whether it is conveyed or not is somehow and in some way my own personal journey. 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 is full, and together we can shout praises to the Holy one of Israel, to our God and King!