Awake or Asleep, It’s All the Same

In his 2009 book, Temple Worship Simplified, author Terrance Drake devotes a chapter to the question, “Should you come to the temple if you find it difficult to stay awake and focus on the ordinance?” After assuring his readers that many LDS temple patrons (if not all at some point in time) struggle to stay awake during the first half of the endowment ceremony when the lights are low (pp. 14, 16), Mr. Drake explains,

“His [a patron’s] personal battle with sleep is not relevant to accomplishing vicarious work in the temple.  He accomplished all that was necessary to complete the ordinance. His presence alone in the temple blessed his life, blessed the [temple] session he attended, and blessed a son of God on the other side of the veil.”

In the introduction to his book Mr. Drake reminds his readers that “all aspects of temple ordinances are important” (p. ix). LDS Apostle James Talmage wrote, “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, p. 84). The endowment ceremony itself includes specific instruction from a temple worker reminding patrons to “be alert [and] attentive.”

The fact that temple patrons struggle to stay awake during the LDS endowment ceremony is understandable and no real surprise. What does surprise me is that, whether the patron is awake or asleep, it’s not at all relevant to vicarious temple work. If this is true, how are we to understand LDS temple work?

LDS Apostle Robert D. Hales taught,

“The primary purpose of the temple is to provide the ordinances necessary for our exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Temple ordinances guide us to our Savior and give us the blessings that come to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Temples are the greatest university of learning known to man, giving us knowledge and wisdom about the Creation of the world. ” (Ensign, October 2009, p. 48)

To carry Mr. Hales’ analogy forward, anyone who sleeps through their “university” classes will not pass the course, so doesn’t this suggest that one should stay awake for his or her own endowment even if it’s okay to sleep through vicarious ordinances? Except, perhaps, for this: Joseph Smith taught,

“It is not only necessary that you should be baptized for your dead, but you will have to go through all the ordinances for them, the same as you have gone through to save yourselves.” (History of the Church, 6:385)

And Wilford Woodruff said,

“It takes just as much to save a dead man as a living man.” (Journal of Discourses 19:228)

So if one needs to stay awake to learn and receive instruction necessary for their own endowment, is not the same reception of instruction necessary for a proxy endowment?

Brigham Young taught,

“We have a work to do just as important in its sphere as the Savior’s work was in its sphere. Our fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without them. They have done their work and now sleep. We are now called upon to do ours; which is to be the greatest work man ever performed on the earth.” (Journal of Discourses 18:213)

Heber J. Grant said,

“We have all that is necessary, not only for our own salvation, but that we may be in very deed ‘Saviors upon Mount Zion,’ and enter into the temples of our God and save our ancestors who have died without a knowledge of the gospel.” (Conference Report, p. 28, April 1899)

Doesn’t it seem odd that Mormons would sleep through their work as “Saviors upon Mount Zion”?

In his book Mr. Drake explains,

“It should be understood, however, that the part of temple work that relates to the performance and recording of vicarious ordinances has nothing to do with the alertness of the patron… [even in the event of a sleeping patron] The opportunity was given for a post-mortal son of God to receive an ordinance essential for exaltation. This was accomplished, and there is nothing…that suggests that the living proxy must be alert, attentive, and completely focused on each word of the ordinance for this work to stand as valid.” (pp. 12-13)

What, exactly, is a person’s function as he or she stands as proxy for a deceased person’s LDS endowment? Is it just the presence of human bodies of flesh and bone that are required to make it possible for the dead to appropriate this “essential saving ordinance” for themselves? If temple work for the dead is all about “performance and recording,” is the whole vicarious temple experience, where Mormons “taste the sweet joy of saviorhood,” merely a matter of bookkeeping?


“sweet joy of saviorhood” from John Widstoe, quoted in Church News, April 3, 1999, p. 5

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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12 Responses to Awake or Asleep, It’s All the Same

  1. jackg says:

    In preparing to go to the temple, I was taught that if I slept, then the person for whom I was doing the temple work would miss whatever I slept through. But, we have to remember that almost nothing is official doctrine or teaching in the Mormon Church.


  2. mobaby says:

    My question is how are these ordinances saving? In what way? Mormons always emphasize that they are saved by grace as the Bible says, and yet these works are saving? And in general, grace is only after “all you can do” according to Mormon “theology.” Is this part of “all you can do” – after all, these works are called “saving ordinances” and they are certainly something you can do. Then also, Mormons must be perfect to receive forgiveness, after all, Scripture says “Be ye perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” So keeping all of the 10 commandments, doing all the temple rituals, being perfect – then you will receive grace. Grace for what, I don’t know, because through their temple works and perfection they have just gained their own salvation.

    Without a proper understanding of the sacrificial system and how that is fulfilled in Jesus death and resurrection for our redemption – reconciling us to God so that just by faith through grace we go to live with God the father for eternity – without this understanding, man is lost in a maze of works righteousness, constantly seeking self-righteous justification.

    These temple works are just one of many attempts by man to find a way to reach God on their own. Rejecting God’s giving of His Son as the perfect and only payment for our sins, Mormons are left to wander through a maze of temple works, good works, and self-righteousness perfection.

    This statement by Brigham Young to me stands out as a bold pagan religious proclamation – an extreme self-exaltation:

    “We have a work to do just as important in its sphere as the Savior’s work was in its sphere. Our fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without them. They have done their work and now sleep. We are now called upon to do ours; which is to be the greatest work man ever performed on the earth.” (Journal of Discourses 18:213)

    I guess it’s not just the Beatles that thought they were bigger than Jesus.

  3. setfree says:

    I read something a while back that talked about the necessary ingredients for a “hypnosis” session, and how many of these ingredients are part of the endowment ceremony. For example, the monotone voice, the repetition of boring phrases, the low lights…

    I used to wonder if it wasn’t the sleeping-thru-it that was keeping Mormons unaware of the subtle Lucifer parts of the ceremony. But when I asked around, turns out some ex-Mormons DID realize it (perhaps that’s why they’re ex, now, come to think of it) but kept going anyway, because it was “what [they’d] always done” – hard to break from life teachings and etc.

    Andy Watson has brought up the important point (on the last thread) that “Mormo” is in the Satanic Bible, and some commonalities between Satanic worship and LDS temple stuff. Yikes, you guys, how much evidence need there be?

  4. Mike R says:

    I guess times have changed. A few years ago
    when a person went thru the endowment ritual
    having a Temple worker, a stranger, reaching
    under a loose fitting shield and touching
    various areas of the body in a “washing and
    annointing” act, and later swearing to not
    divulge certain secrets by mimicking having
    your throat slit ear to ear; considering this
    how could anyone fall asleep?

  5. Jay K says:

    Hahaha, well. Who could fall asleep after seeing someone mimicking their throat being slit?

    Oh, religious ceremonies.

    Reminds me of the Mayans.

    Glad we all agree that human sacrifice isn’t necessary.

    Unless, of course, we need to follow blood atonement for the forgiveness of those sins which Christ’s blood doesn’t cover 😉

  6. liv4jc says:

    You know what would be really cool? If Moses had recorded the purpose and manner of the Tabernacle/Temple services, sacrifices and ordinances in detail, like maybe in Exodus and Leviticus, and then someone else, the Apostle Paul for instance (just my opinion), came along and wrote about how they had been done away with by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Maybe they could call that something like, “The letter to the Hebrews.” But I guess we can only imagine……

  7. The issue of Blood Atonement has reached the BBC website in relation to the imminent execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, see here…

    The BBC website quotes journalist Peggy Fletcher Stack describing the doctrine of blood atonement as an “arcane LDS (Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) belief that a murderer must shed his own blood – literally – to be forgiven by God.”


    Want to jettison an unpopular doctrine? Maybe LDS should simply describe it as “arcane”.

    Yeah, that should do it. Never mind if those Cowboy Prophets introduced it as “New and Everlasting…”, it’s now been relegated to “arcane”.

    I wonder what else we could describe as “arcane”? Men becoming gods? Plates magically appearing and disappearing (only being seen by the “worthy”)? Pseudo Masonic rituals?

    It seems we can use this “arcane” thing as carte blanch. And why not?

  8. Mike R says:

    Ga-day mate. Your comments reminded me of how
    Mormons, in many circles, are now refering
    to the “doctrine” of denying blacks the Priest-
    hood because of being less valiant in their
    pre-mortal state, as mere “folklore” now.
    Because of their unwillingness to issue an
    offical apology for espousing this false
    teaching, Mormon leaders are now content to
    let their followers believe it is only folklore.

  9. grindael says:

    August 17, 1949

    The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. IT IS NOT THE MATTER OF A DECLARATION OF POLICY but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded THE DOCTRINE of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

    President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

    The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another DOCTRINE of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth.

  10. grindael says:

    Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

    The First Presidency

    Can’t get around those First Presidency Statements…or can they?

  11. Mike R says:


    Thanks for the documentation.

  12. Grindael noted LDS doctrine relating to Negroes

    the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality

    I’m reminded of the scorn that some LDS have poured onto Calvinism because of the way they perceive predestination to deny an individual’s free agency.

    That may, or may not be a legitimate objection.

    However, I can think of nothing that nullifies free agency more than a doctrine that says your current station in life is determined by what happened in a previous life.

    Want to become a priest? Well, you can’t because of something that you must have done in a previous existence, even though you have no recollection of it and no power to change it. How do you overcome that?

    One of the more powerful messages of the Christian Gospel, IMO, is that you can change the legacy that you were born under. You might have been born outside the family of God’s people, but you can become an heir of Abraham by faith. It does not matter if you’re black or white; in Christ you inherit a new legacy.

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    (Gal 3:28)

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