This early description of the endowment was written by a former Nauvoo Mormon signing herself “Emeline.” Emeline left Mormonism apparently because she was revolted by polygamy and disillusioned by the endowment, which she did not find as spiritually meaningful as she had hoped she would.]
[I have carefully checked this electronic transcript against a photocopy of the original article; you may be confident that typographical errors appearing here reflect errors in the original. (1) Comments in square brackets are mine.]
Dear Sir:–I discover by your paper, in what you have published in regard to the Mormon endowments, given of late in the temple, that you have been wrongfully informed (2) at least, so far as actual experience has taught me in the orgies of an afternoon, in that (as I have been taught to believe) most holy building. In revealing what I am about to do, I have no lashing of conscience; notwithstanding I took upon myself, during the laughable farce, several oaths and obligations of a serious character, not to reveal the secrets of the priesthood–had they been given me by any thing other than assumed authority, and vile, corrupt, licentious libertines, taking upon themselves the livery of Heaven, and essaying to represent the characters of our God and Savior–knowing these characters as I did previously to be the most debased wretches upon earth, the whole farce appeared to me to be nothing less than fearful blasphemy.
I went into this pretended holy operation, in company with 14 others, all sisters in the Mormon church, and with most of whom I was well acquainted. They were, in the main, women of good character, and appeared sincere in their respective devotions. We were first received past the Guard into a private room on the north side of the Temple–this was the room of preparation or purification.–We were divested of all our apparel, and in a state of perfect nudity we were washed from head to foot,–a blanket was then thrown about our persons, and then commencing at the head we were anointed from head to foot with sweet oil scented (I think) with lavender. We were then clothed in white robes. All this was done by sisters in the church–none others were present–it is false to say that men and women are admitted together in an indecent manner. We were then conducted into a room called the Garden of Eden; here we found several of our brethren robed in white also, and apparently in a soporific state. We were presented before them and a voice from the Lord awoke them from sleep. After a considerable ceremony, which I do not recollect much of, we were left by the Lord and soon a very dandy-like fellow appeared with a black cap on, that had a long tail attached to it; he appeared very familiar–and by his very insinuating and friendly manner induced some of our sisters to eat of the “forbidden fruit.” Soon after the voice of the Lord appeared again in the garden; we all appeared frightened, and both men and women huddled together into the corner of the room, as if in the act of hiding. The fellow in the black cap presents himself before the Lord and engages in a controversy, boasting of what he had done. The Lord pronounces a curse upon him–he gets down upon his belly and crawls off. At this period of the holy ceremony, I could not suppress my visible passions; for this fellow acted his part well–undoubtedly his part being the part of a Devil–was the most natural. We were then presented with aprons, which we put on about this time, a sword was shook at us through the partition of the room, which was to guard the Tree of Life. After considerable ceremony, which I do not recollect, we were passed into another room, which was dark and was dreary. This was called the Terrestrial Kingdom; (3) immediately the dandy in the black cap made his appearance; at first he appeared very sly–peeping about, and when he found the Lord was not present, he became very familiar and persuasive. Said he, ‘here we are, all together, and all good fellows well met. Some Methodists, some Presbyterians, some Baptists, some Quakers, some Mormons, and some Strangites, &c. &c. Come let us drink together.’ In this way he tempted us, and we partook with him. After a considerable parade and ceremony, we passed into another room, or Celestial Kingdom. Here I saw some of the Twelve, and particularly Brigham Young, with a white crown upon his head, and as I have since been told, representing God himself. We passed this room without much ceremony into another. I have forgotten what it represented; not much of interest transpired here, & we were conducted back and put in possession of our clothing–all save sister —-; she had a very fine alpacca dress stolen during our absence, and has never been able to recover it. (4)
In the different apartments of this singular farce, we took upon ourselves oaths and obligations not to reveal the secrets of the priesthood. I do not consider them binding; as I have had ample and repeated opportunity to prove the administrators of these obligations as corrupt as the Devil in Hell. In one place I was presented with a new name, which I was not to reveal to any living creature, save the man to whom I should be sealed for eternity. By this name I am to be called in eternity, or after the resurrection. This name was —-; (5) and from all that I can gather, all the females had the same name given them, but we are not allowed to reveal it to each other, under no less penalty than [here she gives a partial list of the penalties]. I have forgotten a part of the penalties. In one place something was spoken to me which I do not recollect–[she offers a fragmentary recollection of the second token of the Mechizedek priesthood, with its name]. I have since been told by a brother, that there was a mystical meaning in this, that will hereafter be revealed to me.
Now, sir, this is the substance of the Mormon endowment–and the Mormon who says it is not true, is a liar, and the truth is not in him! I have been a member of this farce of Priestcraft for the last six years; the first four years I suspected nothing but what I was in the right of all holy things. The last two years I have been doubtful, seeing the abandoned conduct of the priests; but I toiled on, expecting something would be revealed in the endowments of the Temple that would strengthen my faith, and qualify me for heavenly purposes. For this I have toiled by night and by day; for this I have worked my fingers to the quick, to gain something from my scanty allowance, to assist in the completion of that building, the motto of which was to be “HOLINESS TO THE LORD;” and illumined by the Shekina of heaven. (6) Imagine then my disappointment in the blasphemous farce I saw acted before me, and by men who have at repeated trials, attempted to seduce me into the lowest degradation and ruin. But, thanks to my Heavenly Protector! I have been enabled to withstand the shock, and hope and trust I shall outlive the disgrace of once being associated with such a set of heartless scoundrels. I hope, sir, for the good of community, you will give my “revelation” a place in your columns, for in the presence of high heaven, I pronounce every word of it truth, and nothing but truth.
Source: Emeline, “Mormon Endowments,” Warsaw Signal, 15 April 1846.
David John Buerger reproduces this document, with some transcription errors, in The Mysteries of Godliness (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994), pp. 92-95.
The author refers here to an article published in the 18 February 1846 Warsaw Signal. That article had alleged that male and female initiates “are first taken into a room together, where they are stripped of all their clothing and are made to wash each other from head to foot.” Later, the article claimed, “the candidates are brought together, still in a state of nudity, into a room where they are allowed to remain together, alone, as long as they see proper.” Emeline writes, in part, to rebut these allegations.
In contemporary practice, this room would be called the Telestial Room (or World Room), not the Terrestrial Room. It’s possible that Emeline has misnamed this the Terrestrial Room because it represents the earthly–hence “terrestrial”–realm. (I know of at least one other temple exposé whose author appears to have been confused by the peculiar Mormon usage of the word “terrestrial.”) By this theory, the room Emeline calls the Celestial Room, where she saw Brigham Young and other members of the Twelve, would actually be the Terrestial Room; and the room after that, where she says “not much of interest transpired,” would be the Celestial Room.On the other hand, it would make sense for Brigham Young to have appeared, playing the part of God, in the Celestial Room, just as Emeline describes it here–though in that case, I have no idea what the room after the Celestial Room would be. (An exit chamber, perhaps?) It’s possible, of course, that Emeline’s memory is confused, or she may have received the endowment during a period when the ritual drama was still in the process of development.
Compare Brigham Young’s complaint, during this same period, about people stealing temple garments: “When we began we could dress a company of 30. Now we cannot dress 18. For my right arm I would not say that every body is honest, for I do not believe they are.” (From Heber C. Kimball’s diary; quoted in Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness, p. 197).
The new name is omitted in the original article. So too is the name of the sister whose alpacca dress was stolen (in the previous paragraph).
“Shekina” is a Hebrew word referring to God’s presence or glory. Emeline’s use of the word is intriguing, as it is not part of the Mormon religious vocabulary (at least not today).