Temple Prep

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Sacred Silence and the Mysteries of God

Occasionally I will hear the subject of “mysteries” brought up in a church class or in conversations with other church members like it is an off-limits subject; “Don’t go delving into those mysteries!” I often wonder if they know what mysteries are.

Then there are those not of the Latter-day Saint faith that are concerned about the so-called ‘secrecy’ aspect of Latter-day Saint temples.

In an attempt to shed some light on a subject that ironically is meant to shed light in and of itself, perhaps something can be gained by understanding and pondering the word “mystery”.

First off, although there are limits set to receive mysteries, they are not off-limits. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi had “great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me” (1 Nephi 2:16 ). In another place he also stated clearly that:

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19, emphasis added)

What does the word “mystery” mean to you? Here is a modern definition of the word pulled right off of Google:Read Full Post

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Moses and Facial Veils

Did you know that Moses had to veil his face around the Israelites? Read the account is taken from Exodus 34:29-35 CEV:

Moses came down from Mount Sinai, carrying the Ten Commandments. His face was shining brightly because the Lord had been speaking to him. But Moses did not know at first that his face was shining. When Aaron and the others looked at Moses, they saw that his face was shining, and they were afraid to go near him. Moses called out for Aaron and the leaders to come to him, and he spoke with them. Then the rest of the people of Israel gathered around Moses, and he gave them the laws that the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

The face of Moses kept shining, and after he had spoken with the people, he covered his face with a veil. Moses would always remove the veil when he went into the sacred tent to speak with the Lord. And when he came out, he would tell the people everything the Lord had told him to say. They could see that his face was still shining. So after he had spoken with them, he would put the veil back on and leave it on until the next time he went to speak with the Lord.

The apostle Paul referenced this account in a letter to the Corinthians:

The Law of Moses brought only the promise of death, even though it was carved on stones and given in a wonderful way. Still the Law made Moses’ face shine so brightly that the people of Israel could not look at it, even though it was a fading glory. So won’t the agreement that the Spirit brings to us be even more wonderful? If something that brings the death sentence is glorious, won’t something that makes us acceptable to God be even more glorious? In fact, the new agreement is so wonderful that the Law is no longer glorious at all. The Law was given with a glory that faded away. But the glory of the new agreement is much greater, because it will never fade away.

This wonderful hope makes us feel like speaking freely. We are not like Moses. His face was shining, but he covered it to keep the people of Israel from seeing the brightness fade away. The people were stubborn, and something still keeps them from seeing the truth when the Law is read. Only Christ can take away the covering that keeps them from seeing.

When the Law of Moses is read, they have their minds covered over with a covering that is removed only for those who turn to the Lord.  The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and the Lord’s Spirit sets us free. So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord. (2 Cor. 3:7-18 CEV)

Most people are familiar with a bride wearing a veil as part of the wedding ceremony. There are some deep roots to this tradition that traces back to Rebekah and Jacob in the book of Genesis. The Jewish tradition incorporates a veiling ceremony known as “Bedeken”. An article over at Chabad.org features some intriguing points behind this tradition:

There are a number of interpretations of the veil’s symbolism, all of which reflect truths that are worthy of being dramatically enacted before the wedding service.

The veil is a symbol of the married woman. It expresses a dignity, which Isaiah (3:18) calls tiferet, and which was reserved for women of station. Ezekiel (16:20) speaks of “covering with silk” the woman he loves. Interestingly, Rebecca does not wear a veil while on the journey in the company of the servant, Eliezer, but instinctively dons it when sighting Isaac. This may account for the insistence of major authorities that the groom himself veil the bride, and that it should never be done without him—it is only his presence that makes her veil significant.

The veil is symbolic of her new unapproachability to others, not only sexually, but as hekdesh, a sanctified object in the temple. The sacred objects of the tabernacle were “veiled” before being taken up to be carried by the Levites. The betrothal ceremony is likened, in a legal sense, to those sanctified objects of the temple. This is the significance of the term kiddushin: the groom, in marriage, sets the bride aside as hekdesh. The analogy strikes deeper if we compare it to the face of Moses, which radiated light after he received the commandments. Moses placed masveh (a veil) over his face as though to imply separateness, withdrawal, almost an other-worldliness. [source]

See also: White Cloth, Fire and the Glory of God

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Jellyfish and Temple Teachings

My father has worked for most of his life in residential marine construction and I used to spend a lot of time on job sites throughout my childhood. We worked down by the Gulf of Mexico and were well-acquainted with the sea life there.

There were a variety of jellyfish species that lived in the water and while I didn’t know all of their names, I knew which ones to stay away from! There was a small kind of jellyfish that would be plentiful in the waters from time to time. Whether they were babies or full-grown, I don’t know, but there was something fascinating about them that I’ll never forget.

In the water the jellyfish looked almost identical to this Ctenophora “Comb Jellyfish” pictured below:

These creatures were covered in flashing lights and in the water they were beautiful, they had form and structure and were like nothing else that you would see outside of the water. I would want a closer look so I would cup my hands and capture one; but this is what a jellyfish looks like when you remove it from the water:

It looks like a dull, amorphous blob. Interesting how something so beautiful can look so plain, unattractive and meaningless just by removing it from its element.

To see their beauty, temple teachings must remain immersed in a temple context.

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The Mountain and the Climb

The symbol of a mountain is a common archetype in religious traditions and is it any wonder? Their everlasting stability, their untouchable heights and the way the light paints them in quiet mornings and sets them afire in evenings have always inspired man.

Within the LDS faith, the mountain has a special meaning. I suppose that one of the most immediate correlations would probably be to the temples.

The same way that the Lord’s voice can be heard through scripture, he speaks to us through number, shape, color, light and movement in nature, in temples, in our dreams and visions and in many other circumstances. Everything in our perception can teach us if we have ears to hear, eyes to see, hands to touch and a heart that yearns for virtue.

The mountain; it is a striking visual symbol encompassing many ideas, sermons and truths. Perhaps the mountain peak represents the final destination of man or the ultimate height one can achieve with only God as a way to ascend higher. What I find especially fascinating isn’t the mountain itself, but the climb.

The climb teaches us, it requires strength and in turn makes us strong, it is brutal, unforgiving and perilous.

It seems safer to stay at the bottom, but is it? What if the point of life isn’t to make it safely to death? What if we spend our lives dragging our way to the top but never make it? What is at the top? Is reaching the top of the mountain really even necessary if the point is the climb?

Perhaps the climb begins with covenants. Under covenant, life and every experience of every moment are another rock, another precipice, another dreadful cliff, treacherous winds and a host of spectacular terrain.

Everything becomes the climb; what you do right after you wake up, how you treat your family, friends and enemies, what you do and think when you are alone, how you apply your talents, how you deal with fear, how you handle knowledge and what your attitude is concerning the things you encounter.

The climb; you will either discover what awaits you or you will spend eternity contemplating two words, “what if”.

Will you climb the rock
Or wait at the bottom for a free ride up
Will you look to the top
And wonder what it would be like
Or will you stand up and climb?
– (Lyrics from the song “Lemonade” by U-turn)

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Plato, The Allegory of the…Living Room

Below is an excerpt of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” with a few minor edits I’ve introduced.

[Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: – Behold! human beings living in carpeted caves of their own making, which has a front door open towards the light and reaching all down the hallway; here they have been from their childhood, and have their hands chained to remote controls, video game controllers, computers and mobile devices and can only see what is directly before them. Above and behind them are broadcasters disseminating information at a distance, and between these broadcasters and the prisoners – I mean, people – there is a screen, much like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

[Glaucon] I see.

[Socrates] And do you see, I said, men, women, animals, sports, pornography, preachers, programming, games and entertainment all appear on these screens.

[Glaucon] You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners, er, people.

[Socrates] Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only pixels, appearing on their screens as intended by the broadcasters.

[Glaucon] True, he said; how could they see anything but the pixelsRead Full Post

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Sikhism’s “Five Ks” and Other Sacred Clothing and Artifacts

I was driving down my street the other day and noticed that there was a family gathering going on at one of the homes. Seeing the turbans I figured that they must be of the Sikh faith. I realized how little I knew about their beliefs and thought I’d do a little research since I like to study other religions.

It is a very simple faith with some unique aspects that I found fascinating.

The Sikh (pronounced ‘seek’) religion that originated in southern Asia around the 15th Century. The word Sikh means ‘disciple’ or ‘student’ and the core purpose of the faith is to seek oneness with God. In order to escape the cycle of reincarnation, and become one with God, one must overcome the five obstacles which are: lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.

Seemingly corresponding with the five obstacles are symbolic emblems that are continually worn called the “Five Ks”

  1. Kesh (uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in the Sikh Turban, Dastar.)
  2. Kanga (wooden comb, usually worn under the Dastar.)
  3. Katchera (specially made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity.)
  4. Kara (iron bracelet, which is a symbol of eternity.)
  5. Kirpan (curved sword, comes in different sizes.)

Each of these symbols are a “representation of the ideals of Sikhism, such as honesty, equality, fidelity, militarism, meditating on God, and neverRead Full Post

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The Meaning of the LDS Temple and its Ordinances

In Denver Snuffer’s book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift”, he provides a great summary on the meaning of the temple and its ordinances.

The temple ordinances portray a walk back to God’s presence. Although the ceremonies are presented in symbols, they testify of, and invite the actual return to Him. The washings, intended to cleans us, are more than a physical ordinance. They testify to us about necessary individual purity and spiritual cleanliness. Anointing with olive oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Thorough the Holy Spirit we are sanctified. It is holy, and when we receive it we become holy through our association with it.

When we are clothed with a garment, it symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ, laying down His body to cover our sins with His atonement. These are powerful symbols of how intimately our individual redemption is connected to Him.

The endowment instructs us about creation, and our own journey through mortal life. We must consider ourselves as if we are respectively, Adam and Eve. When we do, we find an explanation of our mortal condition. It tells us we came from God’s presence, and now live in a fallen world. To regain God’s presence we need to obey, make sacrifices, follow Christ’s Gospel, observe the law of chastity and consecrate our lives to Him. As we do, we will receive sacred knowledge from His messengers. Such messengers are sent by Him.

Men will try and mislead us with false teachings that mingle the philosophies of men with scripture. But if we remain true and faithful to whatever light we receive from Him, He will always send more. Messengers will come from the presence of God, bringing His message. They will not offer themselves for worship, adoration or respect…

True messengers labor to have you come to know Christ. They want all to be redeemed from the fall.

The purpose of the temple is to guide you back to Him. It is not the real thing, but only a symbol pointing to the real thing. It is not enough to read what has been written in scripture or taught by true messengers. You must get an experience for yourself so you also know God.

The real thing is found when the veil parts and you gaze into heaven. (p. 466-467)

The idea that the temple “…is not the real thing, but only a symbolRead Full Post

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Parting the Veil

The veil was one of the core elements of the Hebrew temple. It was the dividing line between this world and the symbolic, or from time to time, literal presence of God. There are many meanings, doctrines, principles, types and shadows associated with the temple and what the veil may symbolize. For the purposes of this article, I will only be covering a few facets of this topic from a Latter-day Saint theological viewpoint.

Internalizing the Veil

The ancient temple and the modern temples alike share the common characteristic of being a model of both the macrocosmos and the microcosmos. The macrocosmos deals with heavenly bodies, systems and galaxies while the microcosmos deals with earthly bodies such as our own. Just as the heavenly bodies all orient themselves according to law, we as beings endowed with free will may orientRead Full Post

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Of Parables, Symbols and QR Codes

I submit that where symbolism is in use, there is an invitation to receive more knowledge via a revelatory experience.

The veil exists to ensure that we are not held accountable for that which we are not willing to receive.

When the disciples of Christ came to him and asked “Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (Matt. 13:10)” Jesus responded saying “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given… therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matt. 13:11,13)Read Full Post

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Discovering sacred teachings in LDS Chapel architecture

Just as LDS Temples bear profound doctrinal teachings in their architecture, I suspect that our meetinghouses might have some things to teach us as well.

For the past several years, I’ve been paying close attention to the architecture certain styles of chapels that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been building. I found curious repetition of certain numbers and themes and assumed that they were probably just coincidental, but then had some fun considering possible meanings in the design.

I’ve still got a lot of studying yet to do, but I’ll share what I’ve observed thus far along with some potential interpretations.Read Full Post

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Sacrament: The Witness of the Willing

The idea of ‘renewing’ a covenant seems initially kind of strange when I think about it. A covenant is a contract so if you break the terms of the contract isn’t the contract null and void? Why do we have to keep renewing a promise that we have already made? Or how about this: Why would God make a covenant with man, if he knows that every single one of us will break it?

I was thinking back to the era of the Law of Moses. God made covenants with Israel, yet they still had these sin and peace offerings that they could make from time to time as needed. So what exactly is going on here with the covenants we make today? When doctrinal issues seem a bit muddled, it’s always best to go to back to the source and break everything down into digestible parts.

Let’s examine the sacrament prayers themselves for more insight on the covenants we make.

The blessing on the bread:

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he has given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”

First, we learn that we are eating the bread in remembranceRead Full Post

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The Two Trees

by Valerie Hudson Cassler

[Author’s Note: This presentation was given with an accompanying PowerPoint that utilized visuals to illustrate the points being made…Also, as a transcript of an oral address, the speech is more colloquial than an academic would normally use; my apologies.]

I’m delighted to be here today with you at FAIR. I think I came last year with Ralph Hancock and Richard Sherlock and we talked a little bit about SquareTwo. [Slide Two, on SquareTwo, is shown.] So to repeat the refrain may I simply remind you that SquareTwo is aiming to be the best online journal of LDS thought concerning the important issues of the world today. Our articles and comments are always reviewed. When we’ve had extremely controversial issues discussed, we’ve had up to 50,000 viewers of our various articles. In fact, just in our last spring issue, the very last issue, we had one of the only articles written about polygamy by a faithful Mormon woman. So there is a female perspective on polygamy, perspective such as D&C 132 makes it absolutely plain that polygamy is an Abrahamic sacrifice. And from what we know of Abrahamic sacrifices, they are always temporally bounded and there is always a ram in the thicket, whether that be in this life or the next life. And that is why we do not baptize those who are living polygamously even in countries where that practice is legal, because outside of a commandment to perform an Abrahamic sacrifice, an Abrahamic sacrifice is always an abomination. However, monogamy is never an abomination; it is rather one of the chief blessings of God. So that’s one of the things you can lay on some of those 16 year old girls who ask you.1

All right, let’s get to the real talk here. I didn’t join the Church because I was a feminist, butRead Full Post

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The Marvelous Work of Fulfilling the Covenant: Part 4 of 4

The New and Old Jerusalem and their inhabitants

Ether 13 teaches us that in the future there will be a new heaven and a new earth and that many miraculous things will occur with these events:

9 And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.

10 And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel.

11 And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham.

There will be a new heaven and a new earth in the millennium, the New Jerusalem will come as well as the old Jerusalem AND the inhabitants, or those who have previously died. They will have been ‘washed in the blood of the Lamb’, the Lamb is Jesus Christ which means they are part of the covenant through baptism in the name of Christ. Now how can people who have passed away before Jesus Christ was on the earth be washed in his blood through baptism?Read Full Post

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The Marvelous Work of Fulfilling the Covenant: Part 3 of 4

Isaiah’s words are key

In 3 Nephi 16 Jesus Christ teaches about the other sheep and who they are and then begins to teach about the Gentiles and then in verse 17 he says:

17 And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say:

Christ begins to quote the prophecies of Isaiah, but then, in the next chapter, looks out among the people and says:

2 I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.

3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.

The people cannot understand the words of Isaiah that he is quoting, they have been through a lot of trauma and Jesus perceives that they are not spiritually prepare for what he has to say. So he gives an important clue that revelation is needed to understand the things that is was about to teach them.

Then for the next four chapters he performs a series of acts to lift the people to a level to where they CAN understand his words, he heals them, introduces the sacrament, gives his disciples the power to confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the twelve disciples are chosen by Christ, and then administers the sacrament a second time.

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The Marvelous Work of Fulfilling the Covenant: Part 2 of 4

The Title Page

Title page of the Book of Mormon was said by Joseph Smith to be taken from the last leaf of the plates of Mormon, and was written by Moroni himself. A portion of this section states that the Book of Mormon is:

…to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever

The first purpose of the Book of Mormon that is mentioned is to show the remnant of Israel great things God did for their fathers so they may KNOW the covenants of the Lord and that they are still in effect. In other words, here is a message from God saying that he is still there for us and that his covenants are still extended toward us.

In 1 Nephi 13 we learn about the significance of the Bible and that it contains the covenants of the Lord.Read Full Post

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The Marvelous Work of Fulfilling the Covenant: Part 1 of 4

I owe a great deal to my good friend, Bro. King, for the initial core pieces of the puzzle that got my mind going on the ideas presented.

The Abrahamic Covenant

First we need to identify just what this covenant is and why it is so important. The Abrahamic covenant is outlined in Genesis 12:1-3:

1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Throughout the Bible this covenant is maintained and reaffirmed and looked to as a beacon of hope to the Israelites. The different promises associated with this covenant are outlined as followed:

  • His posterity would be numerous (see Genesis 17:5–6; Abraham 2:9; 3:14).
  • His seed, or descendants, would receive the gospel and bear the priesthood (see Abraham 2:9).
  • Through the ministry of his seed, “all the families of the earth [would] be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11).

LDS.org notes that, “A person can receive all the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant—even if he or she is not a literal descendant of Abraham—by obeying the laws and ordinances of the gospel (see Galatians 3:26–29; 4:1–7; D&C 84:33–40).”

These great blessings to Abraham are unconditional, they were promises made byRead Full Post

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Cut a Covenant

The Hebrew word covenant as we read in the Old Testament is: briyth (ber-eeth)

  • to cut
  • ‘from ‘barah’ (1262) (in the sense of cutting (like ‘bara” (1254);
  • a compact (made by passing between pieces of flesh)

Let’s explore some instances from scripture where we have something being cut or divided and then a passing between the parts.

Dividing in creation

In the Creation the following things are divided:

  1. Light from the darkness.
  2. Waters from the waters.
  3. Water from the earth.
  4. Plants from the earth.
  5. Day from night.
  6. Animals from the sea and land.
  7. Woman from man.
  8. Man and woman from Eden/God.
  9. Sacrifice instituted.

The Red Sea

Exodus 14:21,22
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.Read Full Post

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Temple Worship by Elder John A. Widtsoe

My brethren and sisters, when those in charge of this work were planning the program, I urged upon them that they do not call this meeting for the Assembly Hall. I felt sure the congregation would be so small that we would all be unhappy. I am happily disappointed; and I am quite sure that neither the drawing power of Joseph Fielding Smith nor myself is the cause of this large attendance, but that the conviction in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints that all that pertains to temples and to temple work, to the salvation for the dead, is of tremendous worth.

I regret, of course, that Elder Joseph Fielding Smith is not here tonight. I am sorry for those of you who came to hear him speak, for you will have to come again, because he speaks tomorrow. He is filling an important engagement, and we simply exchanged evenings. I regret, however, for my own sake, that he is not here, because what I have to say needs as a background the splendid talk that he has for us. He will deal with the spirit and the mission of Elijah. I was asked to speak about temple worship. He was to take up the great generalization, the great body of principles upon which this work rests; and I was to take one small part of the application of the work, for my theme.

I feel just a little embarrassed to speak on temple worship without the background of Elder Smith’s discourse. I am embarrassed also because I realize how utterly impossible it is to deal with so vast and comprehensive a subject in theRead Full Post

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