In the comment section of a recent post here on LDC, a long-time reader asked some excellent questions about the sealing power, the temple and the ordinances there. His questions caused me to go to the Lord in prayer to obtain greater understanding. I share some of what I have learned here in the hopes it will help others with similar questions.
His asked three questions. This post will attempt to answer the first one. I hope to have the additional questions answered and posted in the next few weeks before the start of the conference on the temple to be held in Colorado the weekend of 19-21 April 2019.
Question: What do you feel is required to “change the ordinance”? There have been numerous changes to the endowment since its inception in the red brick store in 1842. What constitutes “the ordinance has been changed”?
One could make an argument that the ordinance was changed almost immediately after it was first administered by Joseph in the red brick store. My personal studies of the diaries and journals of that time period demonstrate to me that it was expanded after Joseph introduced it 4-5 May 1842.
On the other hand, it has been my observation that, in general, changes after the death of the prophet Joseph have taken away from the endowment. It originally required, by one account, four to five hours to administer. Today, that has been pared down to an hour and twenty minutes.
Of course, much of the time difference can be accounted for by having only one station at the veil. From personal experience, it’s obvious the size of the company and the number of veil workers available will also directly affect the time to complete each session, especially in larger temples.
Joseph assigned Brigham the task of “systematizing” the ceremonies, which he did. The ceremonies were not written down until near the end of Brigham’s lifetime (Aug 1877), reportedly in the period of January through March 1877, before the St. George temple was dedicated in April of 1877.
Unfortunately, Brigham did some freelancing by adding the Adam-God theory to the lecture at the veil. That lecture changed numerous times over the years. I remember participating in that lecture (minus the Adam-God stuff, which had long been removed) and missed that as the years went by.
It is my belief that changes to the endowment ceremony in Joseph’s lifetime (1842-1844) were authorized by him since he was the one who held the keys of a dispensation. The covenant embodied in the endowment, including the sealing, were administered under his authority.
However, the sealings of multiple wives to husbands, in my opinion and according to my limited research, were rarely performed by Joseph, but were promoted by Brigham as a requirement for exaltation. That, to me, is a clear sign that the ordinance had been changed and the covenant had been broken.
Now, let’s apply that to you and me. Was the endowment I received in 1976 and the sealing I received in 1982 valid, authorized and recognized of God? Yes. How can I say that and still argue the ordinance has been changed? Perhaps it’s all in the way it is received. Our faith really matters.
For you and me, the ordinance contains enough of the original focus of what Joseph intended that we were able to receive it in full faith and obtain from it what the Lord requires us to know in order to converse with Him through the veil and to enter into his presence. For us, then, it has not changed.
For those who received plural wives in this manner, it had been changed and was therefore void of the promised blessings, even if uttered. The Holy Spirit of Promise is not going to certify or seal up an adulterous marriage. I know this is an extremely sensitive area and raises additional concerns.
To summarize and to attempt to answer your question directly, I don’t believe you can put an exact date as to when the ordinance changed, nor can you say what constitutes a change that absolutely invalidates it. There comes a point when stuff removed negates receiving the required keys of knowledge.
For example, new initiates today will never fully understand the symbolism of the veil because they never participate in the ceremony with the veil. They can read about it or discuss it with their parents or others who experienced it, but what about personal revelation associated with the sacred symbol?
Another key that has been completely lost is an understanding of the concept of “sealing to the fathers in heaven.” I’m not sure Joseph was ever successful in getting the people to understand it let alone accept it. I’ve addressed this in the previous post but will summarize the doctrine here if I can.
We erroneously conflate the identity of “the fathers in heaven” with our kindred dead. They are not the same group of people at all. Our kindred dead are in need of our work in their behalf. They, like us, need to be sealed to the fathers. This is a critically important distinction that needs to be clear.
When Joseph was instructed by the angel who visited him in 1823, he quoted many scriptures, but perhaps the most pertinent to our discussion here is Malachi 4:6, slightly different from the version of the King James edition of the scriptures. A careful reading helps us understand the Lord’s work:
“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”
Who are the fathers? That’s the question we should really be asking ourselves. What can they do for us that our kindred dead cannot? Joseph taught that the fathers were Adam and Adam’s righteous posterity, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He also taught that they had already been exalted.
When Joseph taught about the temple in the latter days of his ministry, he focused on the family of God and being sealed to the fathers in heaven. We would do well to ponder what Joseph was trying to teach, which we identify today as the law of adoption. Joseph became for us, a father in heaven.
I tried to address this idea in the last few paragraphs of my last post. It is an extremely fascinating subject, one that I have been studying intensely over the past few months in my efforts to prepare for the upcoming conference on the temple. I so look forward to learning more about the temple there.
I hope I have answered the first of your excellent questions. In short, the ordinance is ineffective if it fails to convey what was intended in the original covenant offered. If it does not convey sufficient keys of knowledge to allow us to rise up and enter into God’s presence then it has been changed or broken.
References: History of the Church, 5:1–2. May 1842. One of many online links:
Wednesday, 4.—I spent the day in the upper part of the store, that is in my private office (so called because in that room I keep my sacred writings, translate ancient records, and receive revelations) and in my general business office, or lodge room (that is where the Masonic fraternity meet occasionally, for want of a better place) in council with General James Adams, of Springfield, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and President Brigham Young and Elders Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the First Born, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds. In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days. And the communications I made to this council were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the I spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints; therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple, and all houses which they have been, or shall hereafter be, commanded of God to build; and wait their time with patience in all meekness, faith, perseverance unto the end, knowing assuredly that all these things referred to in this council are always governed by the principle of revelation.
Thursday, 5.— … the remainder of the council of yesterday continued their meeting at the same place, and myself and Brother Hyrum received in turn from the others, the same that I had communicated to them the day previous.
The description from Brigham’s secretary of the introduction of the endowment:
Prest Young was filled with the spirit of God & revelation & said 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 were [sic] we were washed and anointed had our garments placed upon us and received our New Name, and after he had performed these ceremonies, he gave the Key Words signs, togkens [sic] and penalties, then after we went into the large room over the store in Nauvoo. Joseph 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 and after we had got through. Bro Joseph turned to me (Press B. Young) and said Bro Brigham this is not arranged right but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I. . .wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies with the signs, tokens penalties and Key words I did so and each time I got something more so that when we went through the Temple at Nauvoo I understood and Knew
Source: L. John Nuttall Diary, 7 Feb. 1877, typescript, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, as found in:
The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony by David John Buerger, Dialogue Volume 34, Spring Summer 2001
or the original:
The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony by David John Buerger Dialogue Volume 20, Winter 1987
Side note: David John Buerger is an interesting fellow. He obviously spent a lot of time researching and publishing this material but became disaffected after publication:
“By 1987, Buerger’s interest in Mormon history and theology had waned. He donated his research files to the University of Utah library and no longer follows the debate concerning the interpretation of the Mormon past and its implications for the future of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
You can read a review of the book from the BYU Studies site here:
The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994).