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Temple Ritual Altered 2

From The Salt Lake City Messenger No. 75, July 1990
Jerald and Sandra Tanner

Revealed by God

Mormon Leaders have always proclaimed that the temple ritual-often referred to as the "temple endowment" because the recipients are supposed to be "endowed with power from on high"--was given to Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet, by revelation. The ordinances in this ritual, which are performed for both the living and the dead (by proxy), are considered to be "most sacred." A person has to go though these ceremonies before becoming a missionary and those who desire to be married in the temple for "time and eternity" must first have their "temple endowments."

Mormon theology teaches that those who are married in the temple can eventually become Gods and rule over their own creations. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie affirmed that the righteous who are married in the temple "for time and eternity" have "gained eternal life (exaltation), the greatest of all the gifts of God... Those so inheriting are the Sons and daughters of God... They are joint-heirs with Christ... becoming gods in their own right." (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, pp. 117-18) President Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th prophet of the church, made the matter very clear:

"It fills my heart with sadness when I see in the paper the name of a daughter or a son of members of this Church, and discover that she or he is going to have a ceremony and be married outside of the temple of the Lord, because I realize what it means, that they are cutting themselves off from exaltation in the kingdom of God.... These young people who seem to be so happy now, when they rise in the resurrection--and find themselves in the condition in which they will find themselves--then there will be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and bitterness of soul...

"Civil Marriage Makes Servants In Eternity.... Celestial Marriage Makes Gods In Eternity.... it is open to us; it is a free gift; it doesn't cost us anything: only righteousness, faith, obedience; and surely we can pay that price." (Doctrines of salvation, vol.2, p.60-63)

Mormons who go through the temple ceremony and are sealed in marriage for eternity believe that they will not only become Gods, but will also continue to have children throughout all eternity. They will people other worlds with their spiritual children and these children will worship and pray to the husband as God. Mormons feel that the God of the Bible was not always God and that he also had to pass through the same endowments to achieve deity. Wilford Woodruff, who became the 4th prophet of the Mormon Church, proclaimed that "the Lord had His endowments long ago; it is thousands and millions of years since He received His blessings... He is far in advance of us." (Journal of Discourses, vol.4, p. 192)

According to a revelation given by Joseph Smith, those who will not submit to Celestial Marriage are "appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory... these angels... remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not Gods, but are angels of God forever and ever." (Doctrine and Covenants 132:16-17)

Although faithful Mormons have written many articles and books on temples, they have been very careful not to tell what actually goes on in the endowment ritual. One of the most revealing and concise statements, however, comes from comments President Brigham Young made in 1877. These comments were recorded in the diary of L. John Nuttall. The 2nd prophet of the church remarked:

"When we got our washings and anointings under the hands of the Prophet Joseph at Nauvoo, we had only one room to work in, with the exception of a little side room or office where we were washed and anointed, had our garment placed upon us and received our new name; and after he had performed these ceremonies, he gave the keywords, signs, tokens, and penalties. Then after, we went into the large room... Joseph Smith divided up the room the best that he could, hung up the veil, marked it, gave us our instructions as we passed along from one department to another, giving us signs, tokens, penalties, with the key-words pertaining to those signs." (Statement of Brigham Young, recorded in the diary of L. John Nuttall, Feb. 7, 1877, as cited in God, Man, And The Universe, by Hyrum L. Andrus, 1968, p. 334)

The reader will notice that President Young mentioned washings, anointings, garments, the new name, the key-words, signs, tokens and penalties. He also stated that there was a "veil" with certain marks on it. On another occasion, Brigham Young made it clear that the endowment contains secret information that the initiated need to get into heaven: "Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord... to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 31) Those who have actually been through the ceremony affirm that secret grips, signs and key-words are learned during the ceremony which will be needed after death for a person to gain entrance into God's presence. It is at the "veil" that the Lord himself questions the candidate who desires to enter into his presence.

The fact that the temple ritual was changed by the present leaders of the church will undoubtedly cause serious problems for many devout members of the church who feel that these ceremonies cannot be tampered with. They will probably have a difficult time understanding how the General Authorities can meddle with a sacred ceremony which was supposed to have been given by revelation to Joseph Smith.

The inspired nature of the ritual has been impressed on the minds of the Mormon people since the 1840's. Even before the Nauvoo temple was built, Joseph Smith gave a revelation foretelling that God himself was about to restore the ancient mysteries that had been lost from the earth:

" a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein. For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.... And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein... For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times. And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built." (Doctrine and Covenants 124:27-28, 40-42)

After Joseph Smith received the endowment ceremony, it was accepted as a divine revelation from God. Since that time church leaders have continued to stress that the endowment came from heaven. Apostle John A. Widtsoe, for instance, wrote the following: "Joseph Smith received the temple endowment and its ritual, as all else that he promulgated, by revelation from God." (Joseph Smith--Seeker After truth, Prophet Of God, 1951, p. 249)

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote the following under the title "Temple Ordinances": "Certain gospel ordinances are of such a sacred and holy nature that the Lord authorizes their performance only in holy sanctuaries prepared and dedicated for that very purpose.... They were given in modern times to the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation, many things connected with them being translated by the Prophet from the papyrus on which the Book of Abraham was recorded." (Mormon Doctrine, p.779) The current prophet of the church, Ezra Taft Benson, does not hesitate to affirm that the endowment ritual are by revelation:

"The endowment was revealed by revelation and can be understood only by revelation....
"This temple... is a place of revelation.... The laws and ordinances which cause men and women to come out of the world and become sanctified are administered only in these holy places. They were given by revelation and are comprehended by revelation." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 1988, pp.250, 252)

In the past, Mormon leaders have not only taught that the endowment came by revelation, but also that it was not changed since the time of Joseph Smith. Just after the church passed into the 20th century, there was an attempt to remove Mormon Senator Reed Smoot from his seat. These lengthy hearings are usually referred to as the Reed Smoot Case.

Although Senator Smoot retained his seat, the hearings proved to be very embarrassing for the church because of the testimony given concerning polygamy after the Manifesto and barges of Mormon Church interference in politics. In any case, when Senator Smoot, who was also an apostle in the church, was questioned about the endowment ceremony, he responded:

"...the endowments have never changed; as I understand it; it has been so testified, aud that Joseph Smith Jr., himself was the founder of the endowments." (Reed Smoot Case, vol. 3, p. 185)

On page 140 of the same volume, the following statements by President Joseph F. Smith, the 6th prophet of the church, were entered into the record:

"It [the Nauvoo temple] was finished... and was dedicated unto the Lord. The ordinances of the house of God were administered therein as they had been taught to the leading authorities of the church by the Prophet Joseph Smith himself. The same gospel, the same ordinances, the same authority and blessings that were administered by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and taught by him to his associates, are now being enjoyed by and taught to the Latter-Day Saints in the four temples... When you hear anybody say we have changed the ordinances, that we have transgressed the laws, or broken the everlasting covenants which were entered into under the personal administration of the Prophet Joseph Smith, tell them for me... and for all those who are living today who received blessings and ordinances under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that they are in error. The same gospel prevails today, and the same ordinances are administered today, both for the living and for the dead, as were administered by the prophet himself and delivered by him to the church."

These statements by President Smith were originally printed in the church's newspaper, Deseret Evening News, Dec. 1, 1900. President Smith's son, Joseph Fielding Smith, who served as the 10th prophet of the church in the early 1970's, printed an affidavit by Bathsheba W. Smith which contained the following:

"Near the close of the year 1843, or in the beginning of the year 1844, I received the ordinance of anointing... the same day... I received my endowment... The endowments were given under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith... there has been no change, to my certain knowledge, in these ceremonies. They are the same today as they were then."(Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, p. 87)

Mormon leaders have not only taught that their church has not changed its doctrines and ordinances, but they have pointed to changes by other churches as evidence of apostasy. In an editorial published in the Church Section of the Deseret News, June 5, 1965, we find the following:

"...God is unchangeable, the same yesterday, today and forever... The great mistake made down through the ages by teachers of Christianity, is that they have supposed they could place their own private interpretation upon scriptures, allow their own personal convenience to become a controlling factor, and change the basis of [C]hristian law and practice to suit themselves. This is apostacy.

"The Gospel can not possibly be changed.... the saving principles must ever be the same. They can never change.... the Gospel must always be the same in all of its parts.... no one can change the Gospel... if they attempt to do so, they only set up a man-made system which is not the Gospel, but is merely a reflection of their own views.... if we substitute 'any other Gospel,' there is no salvation in it.... the Lord and His Gospel remain the same--always."

In 1982, W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, made it very clear that the temple ceremony could not be changed:

"As temple work progresses, some members wonder if the ordinances can he changed or adjusted. These ordinances have been provided by revelation, and are in the hands of the First Presidency. Thus, the temple is protected from tampering." (Deseret News, Church Section, January 16, 1982)

It would appear that instead of protecting the ordinances, the current First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles have themselves been "tampering" with them. It is interesting to note that the first Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, proclaimed that the ordinances could never be changed:

"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." (History of the Church, vol.4, p. 208)

The Book of Mormon itself accuses the Catholics of conspiring to alter the Bible. It bluntly states that "many plain and precious things" have been deliberately removed:

"...thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.... this they have done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.... thou seest that after the lamb hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book... because of the many plain and precious things which hive been taken out of the book... an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them." (Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:26-30)

Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., the son of the 10th prophet of the church, charged:

"The Bible alone is an insufficient guide because the 'plainness of the gospel' has been removed.... The early 'apostate fathers' did not think it was wrong to tamper with inspired scripture. If any scripture seemed to endanger their viewpoint, it was altered, transplanted or completely removed from the biblical text. All this was done that they might keep their traditions. Such mutilation was considered justifiable to preserve the so-called 'purity' of their doctrines." (Religious Truths Defined, 1959, pp. 175-76)

Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen bluntly stated:

"Many insertions were made [in the Bible], some of them 'slanted' for selfish purposes, while at times deliberate falsifications and fabrications were perpetuated." (As Translated Correctly, 1966, p. 4)

The current prophet of the church, President Ezra Taft Benson, emphatically proclaimed:

"The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ... Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 1988, page 53)

Since Mormon leaders and apologists have freely criticized other churches for making changes and have claimed that their doctrines are "the most stable on earth," the General Authorities of the church must have approached the question of changing the temple ceremony with a great deal of caution. David John Buerger informs us that when some procedural changes were suggested in the temple ceremony some years ago,

"initial opposition came from Elder Harold B. Lee due to what he perceived as 'doctrinal tampering.' (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1987, p. 63)

Harold B. Lee later became the 11th prophet of the church.

While minor changes have been made in the ceremony during the last few decades, they appear insignificant when compared with those made on April 10, 1990.

We would suspect that the Mormon leaders must have decided to make the present changes many months ago. Since "motion pictures have replaced some of the live actors in most of the temples, it follows that it would take time to make new films containing the changes."

The Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1990, reported that the

"new endowment film, the fifth since the 1950s, incorporates the most recent revisions." (The Story of the latter-day Saints, 1976, p.574)

It should also be noted that it would take time to make new translations of the changes for the foreign temples.

We may never know for certain whether George P. Lee, who was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, knew of the proposed changes in the temple ceremony before his excommunication was announced in the September 2, 1989, issue of the Salt Lake Tribune. It is interesting to note, however, that in a letter "To the First Presidency and the Twelve," Lee did mention his concern that other church leaders felt they could change the gospel:

"7. I have heard a few of you declare that you are greater than ancient apostles such as Moses, Abraham, Noah[,] Is[a]iah, Isaac, Jacob and etc. This reflects the attitude of all of you.
"8. I have heard one of [or?] more of you declare that you can change anything Jesus had said or taught. This also reflects the attitude of all of you." (Letter by George P. Lee, photographically printed in Excommunication of a Mormon Church Leader, page 54)

Less than two weeks before the changes were made in the temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, expressed concern about members of the church talking about the temple ceremony:

"I remind you of the absolute obligation to not discuss outside the temple that which occurs within the temple. Sacred matters deserve sacred consideration. We are under obligation, binding and serious, to not use temple language or speak of temple matters outside...
do not discuss outside of the temple that which occurs in the temple....
when you leave the doors of the House of the Lord, be true to a sacred trust to speak not of that which is holy and sanctified." (Ensign, May 1990, p.52)

It seems obvious that President Hinckley gave this warning in an attempt to keep members from talking about the changes which were to be made in the ceremony ten days later. It is obvious, of course, that Hinckley's admonition was not followed by many members of the church and therefore accounts of the changes in the ritual made their way to the news media. We had been told that changes would be made some time before they actually took place, and members of the church discussed them with us after they were made.

It is interesting to note that the changes in the temple ceremony were put into effect immediately after the church's general conference had ended (the conference ended April 1st and the changes were made on April 10th). The temple presidents were apparently given instructions about the changes before they returned from conference to their work in the various temples throughout the world. The general membership of the church, however, left the conference completely in the dark with regard to what was about to happen to their sacred ritual. Since it would be six months before another general conference would take place, any dissenting opinions or discussion of the changes would have to take place on a local level.

Church leader Joseph Fielding Smith declared that "One of the greatest blessings given to mankind is the gift of free agency." (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 3, p.46) As far as we can determine, faithful Latter-day Saints were given no chance to exercise their free agency with regard to the changes made in the endowment ceremony. The method of handling this whole matter, however, was in accord with a statement which appeared in the official Mormon publication, Improvement Era, June 1945 (p.354):

"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy."

Although it is often ignored, the church actually has a doctrine of "common consent" which should have applied to the alterations made in the temple ritual. In a revelation given by Joseph Smith in July 1830 we find the following: "And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen." (D&C 26:2) Section 28:13 reaffirms that "all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church..."

Joseph F. Smith, the 6th prophet of the church, testified as follows in the Reed Smoot investigation:

"Mr. Smith. I will say this, Mr. Chairman, that no revelation given through the head of the church ever becomes binding and authoritative upon the members of the church until it has been presented to the church and accepted by them." (Reed Smoot Case, vol. 1 p. 96)

Apostle John Henry Smith gave this testimony in vol. 2, p. 321:

"Mr. Smith. Yes, sir; he [the prophet] receives revelations; but the revelations must be accepted by his church by vote.
"Mr. Tayler. So that what the Almighty orders depends on whether the people who are ordered want to do it or not?
"Mr. Smith. Yes, sir; there is no force on the Mormon people."

Apostle James E. Talmage likewise testified:

"If it is a revelation it is a revelation, and amounts to just so much; but as to being a binding law upon the church--a law of practice and action--it would have to be first adopted by the church to become such." (vol.3, p. 80)

From the testimony given by the Mormon leaders, a person would certainly be led to believe that a major revision of the temple ritual (a ceremony which was supposed to have been given by revelation) would have to be approved by church members before it would be binding on the Mormon people and used in the church's 43 temples.

For the General Authorities to drop out important portions of a ceremony they claim came from God himself, seems far worse than what they have charged the Catholics with doing. After all, the Book of Mormon's accusation that the "great and abominable church" removed "many plain and precious things" from the Bible (a charge which the Mormon leaders cannot prove) relates to portions that would have been available at one time to everyone that had access to the Biblical text.

The items which were removed from the temple ceremony were supposed to have been so sacred that they were never revealed to the world. These secret ceremonies could only be found in the temples of the Lord. These rituals, in fact, purport to give the information on how men may become Gods!

Mormon leaders who have now passed away would have been shocked at what the present leaders altered or removed from the temple ceremony. Apostle James E. Talmage emphasized:

"No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth, patriotism to nation, and allegiance to God." (The House of the Lord, 1968, p. 84)

As the newspaper accounts have stated, the Mormon leaders have removed the "penalties" which were previously held to be extremely important and sacred. The reader will remember that we have quoted President Brigham Young as saying that Joseph Smith himself "gave the key-words, signs, tokens, and penalties." Before the recent changes in the ceremony, it was stressed in the ceremony itself that the penalties were sacred:

"We are required to give you the First Tokens of the Aaronic Priesthood. Before doing this, however, we desire to impress upon your minds the sacred character of the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign and penalty, together with that of all the other Tokens of the Holy Priesthood, with their accompanying names, signs and penalties, which you will receive in the temple this day. They are most sacred and are guarded by solemn covenants and obligations of secrecy to the effect that under no condition, even at the peril of your life, will you ever divulge them... The representation of the penalties indicates different ways in which life may be taken." (Mormonism Shadow or Reality? p. 468)

From this it is very clear that the penalties, which have now been removed from the temple ritual, were previously considered to be "most sacred."

Harold B. Lee, who later became the 12th prophet of the church, compared the things found in the temple ritual to the "pearls" that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 7:6:

"'But we say the ordinances are sacred as contrasted with just being secret.... the Master said, 'Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.'... in temples like this, there could be revealed that which couldn't be had otherwise.'" (Improvement Era, Feb.1965, p. 123, as cited in Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 202)

Other Mormon leaders have also identified the elements of the temple ceremony with the pearls mentioned by Christ. If this were the case, it would appear that the Mormon leaders have now thrown away some of their "most sacred" pearls!

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