On Tuesday USA Todayposted an article by journalist Jill Lawrence: “Will Mormon faith hurt bid for White House?” There are some unexpected revelations in the article related to the doctrines and history of the LDS Church. They are grouped under the headings of “Theology,” “Polygamy,” “Racial History,” “Secrecy,” “Discipline,” and “Proselytizing.” This makes the USA Today article unique in that Ms. Lawrence discusses some of the real concerns Christians have with Mormonism rather than dismissing all critics as “bigots,” “ignorant,” or “misinformed.”
Another section of the USA Today article I like is this:
The ex-governor [Mormon Mitt Romney] says questions about his faith are fair to ask. Some queries he answers directly. “I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink coffee or tea. I also do a tithe,” he says, meaning he donates 10% of his income to the church. All are church requirements.Romney responds more generally when asked if he has participated in an endowment ceremony, in which men and women take vows of secrecy about temple rites and of obedience to the Lord, and begin the daily practice of wearing a sacred “temple garment” resembling abbreviated long underwear.
“I do attend the temple of my church…and people can learn about that by contacting the church,” he says, adding: “I’m sure on the Internet you can find every single aspect of what’s entailed.”
An inquirer will not learn much about the LDS endowment ceremony from the Mormon Church. In the sections about temples on two official LDS web sites (lds.org newsroom, the “official resource for news media, opinion leaders, and the public” and mormon.org, an informational site for non-members) the endowment ceremony is not even mentioned.
But Mr. Romney is correct that those who really want to know “can find every single aspect of what’s entailed” on the internet. All one need do is Google “LDS Endowment Ceremony.” There are almost 66,000 results from which to choose.
To make it a bit easier for those of you who want to learn about the endowment ceremony performed in LDS temples, here are some links to sites I believe are trustworthy.
For overviews and commentary:
- The LDS Temple Ceremony by Bill McKeever
- Temple Ritual Changed…Again by Sandra Tanner
- Mormon Temples: “The Gates of Heaven” by Sharon Lindbloom
For transcripts of the entire endowment ceremony (including past and current versions):
- The Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony, Revised in 1990 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the Mormons In Transition web site
- The Endowment Ceremony at the Concerned Christians web site
For related topics:
- Masonic Influence in the Endowment Ceremony by Bill McKeever
- LDS Endowment and Masonic Initiation by James David
- The LDS Temple Ceremony – Sacred or Secret? by Bill McKeever
- The Garments of the Holy Priesthood by Bill McKeever
- Temple “Worthiness” and the Bible by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
For everything you always wanted to know about LDS temples but were afraid to ask:
Finally, a reporter who is asking some meaningful questions about Mormonism. Mormons are well taught in the art of double entendre. This is not meant to be an insult. It is simple fact. Just ask a Mormon if he believes there is more than one God. When Mitt Romney said that one could find out about the temple by contacting the Mormon church, he was not speaking as a politician, but as a Mormon (Of course, both can be as equally skilled in ambiguous speech). Giving such a response absolved him from having to deal with some sticky issues and made him look like a simple and honest church member (i.e., “I’m a politician not a preacher. You need to ask the professionals about that one”). I am confident that Romney knew that any inquirer would run up against a brick wall if he contacted the church about temple endowments. Purposefully misleading on his part! Yet, his faux pas was in encouraging investigation into “every detail” on the “internet.” My prayer is that many will take Romney at his word and search the internet for every detail, and that through this search many will find the true Christ. I remember the first time I asked a Mormon missionary about the temple ceremony. When I ran my thumb across my throat he turned ashen white. It was uncanny. The other missionary seeing the response of of his partner quickly jumped in and blurted “We can’t talk about it because the ceremony is sacred.” I was so amazed by the horrified look of the first missionary that I didn’t pursue the conversation. I also had the unique opportunity of talking with two missionaries, one who attended the ceremony before the changes and one after. When I made the throat slitting motion, the second boldly asserted that he had made no such motion. I asked him the year he attended. I then turned to the first missionary who had attended the temple before the ceremonies had been changed. He spouted the well used mantra, “They are sacred therefore we can’t talk about them.” I reminded him that his friend told me that he made no throat slitting motions when he did his temple ceremony. Immediately, the second missionary jumped in, “No, he is right. I shouldn’t have spoken. The ceremony is sacred, therefore we shouldn’t talk about it.” Obviously, the first missionary didn’t want to say anything because he had done the motion; whereas, the second missionary hadn’t because it had been removed by the time he entered the temple. I pray that the first in subsequent years will have thought of the comments of his friend, and wondered why his experiences in the temple were different. If I understand correctly, I don’t even think that Mormons are encouraged to talk with each other about their experiences in the temple. This in itself is so far removed from historic Christianity. Nothing in our relationship with Christ is to be esoteric. Nothing in our walk with Christ outside of the confession of secret sins is so sacred that it cannot be discussed with others. Again, I pray that many will take Mitt Romney’s challenge seriously and learn every detail of the temple ceremony on the internet.
I can understand having a disagreement over theology, over doctrine, over interpretation of scripture, even disagreeing over what is or isn’t sacred. I will never understand how a Christian justifies mocking things others hold sacred, taunting them about keeping covenants they have made, and boasting about their efforts to undermine the keeping of those covenants. Disagree if you like, but while you pray for people to find the true Christ, pray also for the humility to build and lift rather than to mock and taunt. With your brand of arrogant, hurtful Christianity, is it a wonder Mormons hesitate to discuss things sacred to them? Approach a sincere, honest Latter-day Saint with honest questions, and you will find, for the most part, a real desire to share to the best of their ability. Some will be articulate, some will stumble, some will be flat out awkward. The same will be true of any Christian in any denomination when confronted with hard questions. Confront any of them in a mocking, taunting, belittling way and you will find the same kind of defensiveness. Perhaps some self-reflection is necessary to determine if YOU have some responsibility to create a more productive dialogue — or perhaps that isn’t your objective at all?
If you are really that curious about the temple, I suggest you read “The Holy Temple” by Boyd K. Packer who is a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I am disappointed that you took my comments to be “mocking, taunting,” and “belittling” and that you consider my brand of Christianity to be “boastful” and “arrogant.” Perhaps, some context will help you better understand what I was saying in my previous post. My purpose in making the “throat slitting” motion was never intended to mock or belittle. It was an honest inquiry. It is interesting that this missionary and I carried on a fruitful and congenial correspondence for nearly two years after our initial encounter. Evidently he didn’t consider my question to be taunting or mocking. Since you are concerned about a mocking, taunting attitude, consider how his missionary partner responded to me. This will demand a little background. Our letter writing was in the day when personal computers were still in the planning stages. When I wrote to this Mormon missionary, I would underline all my Bible verses with a red pencil. My purpose was merely to accentuate the Scriptures. Evidently, his partner found one of my letters and decided to respond. His letter was sarcastic and demeaning. Then he marked up the entire letter with a red pencil! I can assure you that I do not mock or taunt people of other religions. Truth stands alone! Perhaps you can be more specific as to what you thought was mocking or taunting in my post.
Please consider several things. One, nowhere are we commanded to respect false belief. Jesus had strong approbation for false teaching because it made people two-fold the sons of hell. Self-righteous people are harder to win than openly sinful people. This is why Jesus said that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Having said that, I firmly believe the Bible teaches that we should be respectful of people (compassionate and gracious would be better terms), but being respectful of a person does not demand that I respect his religious beliefs (the martyr covenant of an Islamic Jihadist is a case in point). A wise man once said, “Concerning people, be an egalitarian; concerning beliefs, an elitist.” This is a major disconnect in our postmodern world. We are taught that all peoples’ beliefs are of equal value and equal truth. This is not only illogical; it is unbiblical. Freedom of expression does not exempt one’s views from scrutiny and correction. Christians are to be elitists concerning their faith and belief. You must confess that you are elitist and exclusive about your Mormon beliefs. A Mormon missionary told my wife recently that only one church could be the true church. He went on to say that the Mormon Church was that only true church.
Secondly, we must travel in different orbs of Mormonism. My contact is almost exclusively with Mormon missionaries. In fact, I can safely say I have never talked with a Mormon outside the two-year mission context. I have never experienced the openness and honesty of which you spoke. Perhaps in your thinking, it is because I make Mormons defensive by my mocking, taunting attitude. I have found that Mormon missionaries quickly attempt to terminate conversations when they sense their beliefs are being questioned, or when they lose control of the conversation (i.e., they are no longer the instructors). Bar none, missionaries have used the “spirit of contention” mantra to deflect from honest, meaningful dialogue. Thankfully, through a gracious response I have been able many times to diffuse the “contention” allegation and proceed with the conversation. I realize that my personal experience does not encompass the entire spectrum of Mormonism, but the striking “sameness” of nearly every conversation I have had with Mormon missionaries does give me pause.
Finally, remember the opening article in this thread. It was referring to openness and honesty concerning temple ceremonies. Mitt Romney was not open and honest about temple ceremonies, nor did he “to the best of his ability” attempt to answer the question. No temple Mormon would openly discussed “to the best of his ability” the ceremonies or secret covenants of the Mormon temple. That is their choice, but do not try to imply that a Mormon will talk openly and honestly about these issues. Just because you consider them sacred and secret does not mean others are wrong for investigating and questioning those practices which have come to light. Nor does it justify accusing someone of mocking or taunting one’s beliefs. I have serious issues with the vows of throat slitting and disembowelment, as well as a reenactment where Satan claims that ministers of the Gospel are actually his hirelings and mocks a God who fills the universe, yet can dwell in a man’s heart (to name but a few). If you are truly open and honest, I encourage you to visit some of the links that Sharon placed in her article about the temple ceremony. Take note of Mormonism’s claims that the temple ceremonies came directly from God to Joseph Smith and are unchangeable, then note the changes that have taken place through the years.