The temple: The carrot for Mormon obedience

Over the past few years I have noticed a correlation between the content given in LDS Church magazines and the assigned readings in the church manual series Teachings of Presidents of the Church. Although it is brought up regularly in church talks and publications, the topic of the temple has been made into the prevailing theme in July 2015.

220px-Madrid_templeTwo chapters each month are covered in the current “Presidents of the Church” series; in July, chapter 13 (“Priceless Blessings of the House of the Lord”) and chapter 14 (“Marriage and Family: Ordained of God”) were assigned from the Ezra Taft Benson manual. The temple was also featured in July’s official church magazines: the Ensign (several articles were used, including one discussing the preparation to enter a temple), New Era (helping “youth prepare for temple ordinances”), and Friend (helping “your children learn about and prepare for the temple” and “to go inside someday”).

Each of the above publications stressed the necessity of “being worthy” to attend the temple. For example, Seventy Kent F. Richards writes on page 18 of the Ensign article, “In order to receive the Spirit, you must enter the temple clean and pure, free from any unforgiven transgression.” By signing a temple recommend card, the patron is “witnessing [his/her] worthiness before the Lord.” In a “key point” section, it says that “in the temple you receive ordinances essential to your salvation. You must enter the temple clean and pure, free from any unforgiven transgression.”

In chapter 13 of Benson’s manual, this same theme is prevalent. (MRM provides reviews of each chapter of this manual.) The carrot to temple work? Benson is quoted on page 171 as saying, “If a couple are (sic) true to their covenants, they are entitled to the blessing of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. These covenants today can only be entered into by going to the House of the Lord.” And then “… it is in the temples that we obtain God’s greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples are really the gateways to heaven.”

On the next page, he said, “We will not be able to dwell in the company of celestial beings unless we are pure and holy… No member of the Church can be perfected without the ordinances of the temple.” The chapter concludes with this: “Let us make the temple a sacred home away from our eternal home.”

I find it interesting how many people recently have pointed to Dieter F. Utchtdorf’s talk in last April’s conference (“The Gift of Grace”) as somehow lining up with Evangelical Christianity. It does not. (Find a written review of this talk as well as links to Viewpoint on Mormonism podcasts here.) And if a Latter-day Saint doubts my view, then ask him/her why everyone saved by grace shouldn’t be allowed to enter Mormon temples!

CarrotStickThere is a list of requirements. First, baptism and confirmation are surely required before a convert can start planning a trip to a temple. Then, “as you increase your spiritual maturing, you will desire to prepare for and enter the temple. There you will receive ordinances and make covenants, which are necessary steps to draw closer to your Heavenly Father… You enter the temple and make covenants because you will exist eternally and want to be with your Heavenly Father and your family…” (Ensign, July 2015, p. 18). To be able to get into the temple, a Mormon needs to “keep standards, and…worthily carry a limited-use temple recommend. Church programs will help you, but your preparation is personal; you are developing your worthiness, your testimony, your conversion.” Notice how the word “your” was emphasized in that quote. It is based on “you” and how well “you” tithe, abstain from alcohol and hot drinks, and keep the other prerequisites.

When it comes to the LDS temple, consider what LDS leaders have emphasized. For one, they say that there was a great apostasy, which supposedly eliminated God’s authority throughout the world. Everything the church does is supposed to rest on the need for a “restoration.” If this is the case, then there should be a clear connection between the Jerusalem temple and the more than 140 LDS temples. Yet there is not.

Consider, for example, that the biblical temple was a place where the blood sacrifices of animals took place by priests commissioned by God for the temporary forgiveness of sins. (It was temporary because people would again sin.) Hebrews chapter 10 explains how Christ’s sacrifice once for all eliminated the need for a physical temple; this is the only reason why Christians throughout the past 2000 years have not tried to reinstitute a physical temple of any kind. Because of what Christ did (verse 10 reads, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”), it has always been accepted that a temple of any kind is not needed.

However, Mormonism has returned the need for temple work while setting up regulations that ancient Jews and Christians never accepted, including learning tokens and new names, performing baptisms for the dead, marrying for “time and eternity,” getting sealed to relatives, and other rites never practiced by the Levitical priests or, for that matter, anyone associated with the temple. Rather, blood sacrificial work was performed daily, the main purpose of the temple!

Richards writes on page 18, “To be worthy does not mean you are perfect yet. It means that your heart is right, that you are living the commandments, and that you desire to be better each day.” A Mormon might find consolation that he or she doesn’t have to be “perfect yet” in order to enter a temple. And perhaps the LDS believer feels as long as his/her “heart is right” and he/she “desire(s) to be better each day,” everything is fine.

Heavy LoadBut the middle requirement is the kicker: the Mormon must live the commandments. Repentance can only go so far. D&C 58:43 plainly lays it out: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” And D&C 1:32 adds, “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” As I told one Mormon recently who almost appeared to be bragging at how often he repented, “Perhaps you need to quit repenting so much and just do what you’re commanded.”

In Mormonism, exaltation can only be gained through continual obedience. It is in the temple where a Mormon regularly makes promises that can never be fulfilled. The attitude fostered in Mormonism flies in the face of Jesus’s parable in Luke 18 concerning the Publican and the Pharisee:

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

According to Christianity, nobody needs the temple. Rather, everyone needs a relationship with Jesus. This can take place in humility, realizing that forgiveness of sins is available for the asking (see Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10). Only when a person accepts the Gospel message and the Jesus described in the Bible is it even possible to receive the free gift of salvation. Our efforts will just never cut it.

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14 Responses to The temple: The carrot for Mormon obedience

  1. falcon says:

    There’s so much here. Where to begin?
    My first thought was, “Well LDS sect Mormonism certainly isn’t Christianity.” Another thought was, “This sounds like Free Masonry.”
    I can understand why Mormons think they have to earn their way to the Celestial Kingdom. They have to do a lot of stuff in addition to striving for perfection. But I can see why Mormons buy-into this program. There’s a certain kind of perverted wisdom in it all.
    This idea that the LDS sect gospel is the restoration of the first century church is pretty laughable. Can it be proven or is it all covered in the “burning in the bosom” that one is suppose to receive upon reading the BoM sincerely and with humility? Call me a skeptic, but I’d like some proof that what the LDS folks teach, preach and practice was actually what the first century Christian Church taught, preached and practiced. I would think we’d have some records of this somewhere along with archeological evidence of first century Church temples.
    The true gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are sinners saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Having become born again by the Spirit of God, we become living temples in whom the Spirit resides. As we walk in the light, we are continually cleansed from unrighteousness by the Blood of the Lamb. The Lamb of God was perfect without spot or blemish. He was the perfect sacrifice for sin.
    In the LDS sect system, it’s all about effort and striving; worrying on the one hand about being worthy on the one hand and prideful on the other thinking that said efforts actually can play a part in becoming a god; the major blasphemy.

  2. falcon says:

    I often wonder how many LDS are actively involved in the temple program? We know that two-thirds of those on the rolls of the LDS church are inactive. So for those who would be considered “active”, how many are temple Mormons? There was a big push with the past prophet to build more temples to give LDS easier active. These temples became know as McTemples because they weren’t as grandiose as the established temples.
    One of our former Mormon posters told me that while she was LDS, her husband had no interest in doing the temple program. If that is so then are these women not going to get the hoped for “forever family”? Will they get assigned to another man by the Mormon god in the Celestial Kingdom? These are deep things for the LDS women to contemplate.

  3. Brian says:

    Superb article, Eric. Thank you. As I read through it, I noticed that a major value in the LDS religion is the importance of confidence in oneself. This is fostered by LDS apostles and prophets (“we obtain … they are entitled … witnessing [his/her] worthiness … you are developing your … your … your”). This is also fostered by the culture we live in, which places such value in having great esteem for oneself. Having trust and confidence in oneself is seemingly the noblest of virtues.

    This is antithetical to Christianity. Consider Paul’s testimony, which he shares in the third chapter of Philippians, vv. 3–9:

    For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

    If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

    But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

    This is astonishing. This is a real testimony. To Paul, what is the one thing of surpassing worth? It is his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else is by comparison “garbage.” What does that make “ordinances essential to your salvation”? What does that make temple recommends? What does that make a religion’s impossible system of trying harder and harder to merit being forgiven? What does that make a religion which guarantees its followers can never know if they have eternal life?

    Finally, what is confidence in oneself compared to the Grace, Peace, and perfect Righteousness that only God can give?

  4. Vax says:

    The only place on earth Christ can dwell on earth is in a Holy Temple, a place unspotted from the world. So Mormons are judged continually as to whether or not they are worthy, and a Bishop or Stake President makes that call, even though neither have training in marital problems, abuse situations, addictions etc. If you don’t measure up and are found unworthy you can not have access to Christ.

    The temple is a way for the church to limit blessings based on performance. It is the mediator between the individual and Christ. It is not a direct relationship. Thus the member’s become dependent on the organization for access to Christ in this life and the next, for eternity.

    It keeps people focused on doing things to be found worthy or avoiding other things to be found worthy. And no one can measure up to all of it, so there is a bit of lying involved or “I think I’m doing well enough even though I am not there yet”. This leads to pervasive guilt and ever increasing efforts to do better. All of which lead to poor self esteem and submission to “authority” (church and it’s leadership). It binds you into a weird dependency. I am telling you when you are in that mindset you can not clearly see how abusive coercive and controlling it is. You just can’t. That’s what cults do, they bind you ever so slowly until you bind yourself willingly and you come to believe you are doing it of your own free will. That you want to do it. No one is forcing me. I have my agency!

    Really? No one is forcing you? What happens if you say you don’t want to. Try it out. There are consequences, even if you don’t believe Christ would block you from eternal access there will still be massive social pressures to conform. Try going to church in a purple shirt for a man or a low cut skirt or bodice for a woman. Try drinking a cup of wine at a social event. Every single part of a Mormon’s life is controlled down to finances, time, spousal relations and what you are allowed to eat, drink and wear. Mormons would deny it but outsiders would just laugh. They don’t see it. They can’t see it. After a while the chains come from yourself. You do it to yourself willingly.

  5. falcon says:

    I can’t remember if it was Lee Baker or Earl Erskine in a recently released video at the Manti celebration who said that the Christian churches need to be prepared for an influx of LDS. The point was that LDS are use to a highly structured religion that focuses on “doing”.
    These LDS folks would be totally lost in operating like I do. My witness and testimony is focused on my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s revealed Word, the Holy Bible. I attend a church but am not a member, something that past Mormon posters had trouble wrapping their heads around. They have a total focus on the “one true church” and apostolic authority. They believe that this authority was granted to Joseph Smith by an appearance of John the Baptist.
    So when they wonder where the authority for my “church” comes from, I have to explain to them what exactly “the church” is. I tell them it’s the Mystical Body of Christ peopled by all those who are born again by the Spirit of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Jesus gave that authority: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

    In some ways it’s very difficult to witness to a Mormon by showing them evidence from the Bible because they believe the Bible is corrupt. That’s a very convenient thing for the LDS church because it keeps the members from the truth of God’s revealed Word. Anything that runs contrary to LDS doctrine is corrupt.
    The LDS system is a different gospel with a different god and different Scripture. The protocol of the LDS church appears to have some wisdom as it focuses on the efforts of the individual. It also keeps the membership locked into a program that’s suppose to end with a reward but won’t.

  6. historybuff says:

    Vax –

    You noted that Mormons’ reliance on works rather than grace “ keeps people focused on doing things to be found worthy or avoiding other things to be found worthy. … This leads to pervasive guilt and ever increasing efforts to do better. … I am telling you when you are in that mindset you can not clearly see how abusive coercive and controlling it is. You just can’t.”

    Mormons may not be able to see it, but they’re starting to see the effects of it. Utah, it turn out, is the most stressed out state in the United States.

    Utah has the most use of anti-depressants in the United States.

    Utah has an extraordinarily high suicide rate.

    And you mentioned that the LDS reliance on authoritarian leadership and works rather than grace “lead to poor self esteem and submission to “authority” (church and it’s leadership). It binds you into a weird dependency.” This is reflected in the fact that Utah is known as the fraud capital of the United States because the LDS will believe anyone who is in a position of authority.

    One way or another, the truth will manifest itself to Mormons.

  7. Brian says:

    Hi Vax,

    Thanks for your eloquent post, and for sharing with us insights into the mind of Latter-day Saints. Such as the church as the source of blessings. And the church as mediator between individuals and Christ. Coercion, control, pervasive guilt. All reasons the LDS people need our compassion, understanding, and the One who saved us.

  8. falcon says:

    So are the rituals performed in the LDS temples the same (supposedly) as those performed in Christian temples in the first century? Are these the rituals that are performed in all of the temples in the various universes of other gods or do those gods get to make up their own rituals?
    Something that has always bugged me is first of all, how could Joseph Smith borrow the rituals of the Free Masons, incorporate them into his religious creation and then the LDS church changes the rituals? How did the Free Masons get the rituals from the first century church? If these rituals are so sacred, how and why did the LDS church change them?
    “In 1990 the Mormon church radically changed its secret temple ceremony by removing the motions of slashing one’s throat and stomach. Mormons would make a motion with their right hand and with the palm facing the floor to slash their own throat or to cut open their “bowels” if they were to ever reveal the secrets in the temple. It also removed in 1990 the Protestant minister who appears as a hireling of Satan. It appears now (Jan. 2005) the Mormon church has changed the eternal ordinance of the endowment by removing the naked touching. A Mormon, in the initiatory phase of the temple endowment, is wearing only a sheet (called a shield) open on the sides and an ordinance worker of the same sex touches the participant near the loins, stomach, breasts and mouth for the ceremonial washing.”

    If I were an LDS, I’d start asking some questions about all of this. But I know the average chapel Mormon isn’t going to ask any questions. Just keep your head down, plow forward and don’t ask any questions. Always trust the leaders. They’ll never lead you astray.

  9. falcon says:

    I believe a lot of what drives or attracts certain LDS to the temple is the idea that they are obtaining status and power. It comes first of all with the “authority of the priesthood”. The idea of the authority of the priesthood is the fuel that drives the concept of the “one true church”.
    As Christians we believe there is one pathway to the Father and that’s is through the Son, Christ Jesus Our Lord. We believe that Jesus is the mediator that stands between us and God. He is the qualified Savior. We can’t do any works to achieve status, beyond what Christ has done for us. In fact in this sense when we talk about our “status”, it has to do with our right standing before God based on our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the qualified Savior.
    Going off to a faux temple to do faux rituals that have no connection to God, is a man made proposal. It’s a religion that is invented by a man and has nothing to do with God. God made His plan. No man can improve upon what God has already done.
    Now think of the psychological implications of men thinking they can achieve god status by performing man-made rituals in man-made temples. It’s the height of arrogance.
    From the time of the Fall, God’s plan was that He alone would redeem mankind. He would then pay the debt through the perfect sacrifice and offer it to mankind free of anything other than accepting the Gift through faith. Our behavior doesn’t get us saved. Salvation rests on our faith in accepting what God has done for us. We respond and then, having been born again by the Spirit of God, our behavior changes.
    Rules, regulations and rituals don’t get us saved and they don’t keep us saved. The New Covenant is a promise God makes to us. We respond in faith and then walk in the Spirit as God has intended us to walk. In that, our behavior conforms to God’s expectations.

  10. Mike R says:

    falcon, you said ” Rules , regulations , and rituals don’t get us saved ….”

    Sadly but that phrase describes Mormonism’s “restored ” gospel perfectly .
    The true gospel of salvation that Jesus’ apostle preached and which is revealed in the New Testament stands in stark contrast to the latter days counterfeit of it created by Mormon leaders .
    The only “door ” a person needs to go through to gain access to God’s home in heaven is a person —Jn 10:9.
    The Mormon temple door is not a gateway to His home , but rather it’s ” another way “, a man made “way” to His home . LDS don’t need it to gain a right relationship with God , total forgiveness , and receive eternal life .

    Jesus pre warned those who desire to follow Him today to beware of latter days false prophets — Matt 24:11 . These prophets can be identified , not by how well dressed they are , nor how fancy and immaculate their buildings they worship in appear , but rather what do they teach is the “way” to receive forgiveness of sins , be reconciled to God , and receive the fullest of eternal life with Him in His home above .

    LDS : please wake up ! Take Jesus’ counsel seriously . Spiritual safety is at stake .

  11. falcon says:

    I guess I’m Johnny One Note on this topic because what I want the LDS church to do is prove that the first century Church was involved in the (LDS/Masonic) temple rituals. My not to complicated question is, “How do you know that the first century Christian Church had temples and performed these rites and rituals?” If they can’t come up with some evidence and insist they know these things via continuous and personal revelation, I’m not interested.
    I wouldn’t be interested anyway because the god that is worshiped and adored and occupies these temples, isn’t the God revealed in the Bible. This god is a former man who, like possibly millions and billions of other gods, is a man who did enough work to achieve god status.
    I know it sounds super spiritual to claim that something has been “revealed” and therefore no evidence is necessary but to me it’s just plain foolishness. You get former Mormons, who now see it all plainly, wonder how they could ever have believed any of it. In fact, most are embarrassed by it.
    But back to one of my favorite lines: The more convoluted and absurd an idea, the more those in cults embrace it. I know LDS get all offended when they are accused of being in a cult but it’s a case if something looks like, walks like and quacks like a duck………….
    This is the type of spiritual delusion that even if the LDS prophet stood in the pulpit at general conference and proclaimed it all bogus, a sizable number of LDS wouldn’t accept what he said. They are just too into it. It would mean that everything they believe in and strive for, what defines their very existence, isn’t true. Denial would have to kick-in just to rescue their emotional equilibrium and the equity they have in the system.

  12. falcon says:

    So let’s break it down.
    Mormonism, specifically the LDS brand, has nothing to do with the Bible or orthodox Christianity. It has a different god and a different plan of salvation. In order to promote his ever unfolding religion, Joseph Smith needed to convince people that the gospel message of the first century was lost with the death of the apostles, that God the Father and Jesus had appeared to him and declared the creeds of Christianity an abomination, that the Bible is corrupt and can’t be trusted, and that an angel appeared to him, led him to some gold plates that contained a story of historic proportion that ancient Jews were the ancestors of the American Indians. In addition, John the Baptist appeared to him reinstating the priesthood that was supposedly apart of the original Christian church.
    Just that much is a lot to swallow. But in keeping with the article above, Smith then built a temple and instituted rituals which he claimed needed to be taken part in, in order to get into the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom.
    Now you have to take Joseph Smith’s word for all of this because none of it can be proven. In fact it’s at the point where the Community of Christ Mormon sect, doesn’t even emphasize the BoM any more. They won’t even attempt to defend it as an actual historic document. They’ve gone their own way as have several other Mormon sects.
    The current LDS sect isn’t like the sect was in the past either. They’ve deep sixed a lot of what was considered main-line Mormonism of a couple of generations ago. I don’t know how many of the young people who are in Mormonism are much into the temple and all of the other conventions of the LDS sect. I heard Grant Palmer say that it’s estimated that fifty percent of returning missionaries are inactive within five years. That really reduces the number of people who are willing to put on sacred undergarments, aprons, baker’s type hats and get involved in all of the secret tokens and rituals demanded by the LDS sect.

  13. falcon says:

    It’s pretty obvious that if a religious group doesn’t hold to a high view of the Word of God and would prefer to depend on “prophets” who bring them “revelation”, they will end up like the LDS Mormon sect.
    If the LDS held to a high view of the Bible, there would be no Mormonism. Mormonism exists because there are people who have nothing with which to compare the utterances of their supposed prophets. Brigham Young had the arrogance to say that he never preached a sermon that wasn’t as good as scripture. So the people of his era fell on his every word and got caught up in things like Adam-god, blood atonement and the idea that the Mormon god the father had actual physical sex with the Virgin Mary.
    Today the LDS church dismisses these revelations with the twin arguments that this was all a long time ago and it was just Young’s opinion. Well tell that to the FLDS who hold fast to 19th century Mormonism. The LDS will call the FLDS apostates and the FLDS will return the charge. But here’s my point. Without the standard of the Word of God by which to test “prophets”, people will believe and accept everything they teach, preach and demand.
    Many Mormons have found their way out of the LDS sect by beginning to trust in God’s revealed Word the Bible. In it is contained the fullness of the gospel which was once and for all delivered to mankind.

  14. FreedomSurfer says:

    The temple doesn’t pass the carrot test. It’s still a creepy place. I gave it a chance, multiple times. Creep-factor still present.

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