Talk: Temple Ordinances, Ancient and Modern

QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, were originally made by the auto industry for their readability and capacity to store larger quantities of data than bar codes.  They encrypt information that can be decoded by an app on your smart phone known as a “reader”.  These are often used now by companies to offer special deals, updates, or offers on their products.  (See here for the OneClimbs post that gave the excellent analogy between QR Codes and temple worship.)

photoEncryption is “the process of transforming information… using an algorithm (called a cipher)
to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred to as a key.”

Secret v. Sacred

Temples do the same thing, guarding sacred knowledge that is not secret but only made available to those willing to seek it out and do what is required to claim its benefits.  The information is in plain sight of everyone, but the information unlocked only by special knowledge and the tools of the ordinance itself.

temple-qr-564x338(Photo Credit)

D&C 84:19 says”

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel
and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom,
even the key of the knowledge of God.”

The temple administers the gospel which both governs and redeems the people, and through which the knowledge of God is given to individuals.  He wants us to see Him, and He wants us to see ourselves clearly.  He wants us to know what He knows, and to have what He has.  He wants us to become like Him.

D&C 76:7:

“And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.”

D&C 76:114:

“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion.”

Mark 4:11:

“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.”

He wants us to know, but like any students, we must work to learn.

1 Nephi 10:19:

“For he that diligently seeketh shall find;
and the mysteries of God
shall be unfolded unto them,
by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old,
and as well in times of old as in times to come;
wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.”

“One Eternal Round” tells us that the ordinances of the temple, are unchanging in that they are now as they were for people before us and will be for those after us.  The prerequisites, requirements, and responsibilities shift, though they remain consistent in nature and purpose (i.e., food laws, modesty, chastity, etc.).  However, the presentation of these ordinances may have some changes due to language, technology, or progression (for example, compare Exodus 20 and D&C 59).  The removal of some things from the presentation of an ordinance is not the same as being released from it; all things are added upon, which means earlier blessings and consequences are still binding even when not reviewed.

1 Nephi 2:16 says:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi…,
and also having great desires
to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord;
and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart
that I did believe all the words
which had been spoken by my father…”

Looking at the same verse, translated from Hebrew to English:

And so I, Nephi,
still very young
but already large (tall) in stature (height), craved and yearned very much
to really know and truly understand
the mysteries (ordinances) of God (and His priesthood).

Defining Ordinances

We begin defining ordinances with D&C 84:19:

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel
and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom,
even the key of the knowledge of God.”

Breaking it down, and applying what we have already learned:

This greater (Melchizedek) priesthood
administers (power of bringing about salvation) and
holds (authority to do so for Heavenly Father) the key (access to) the
mysteries (ordinances) of the kingdom,
even the key (access to) the knowledge of God.

We also know, from scriptures, that ordinances are:

  • something done by specific people with specific steps in specific order (Hebrews 9:10; Alma 13:16; D&C 107:20; D&C 188:39);
  • something we do (Leviticus 18:4; 2 Kings 17:37; Ezekiel 11:20);
  • something that teaches (Exodus 18:20; Psalm 119:104; Isaiah 28:10; 2 Nephi 28:30 ; D&C 98:12, 128:21);
  • something necessary for progress (Exodus 12:14; 1 Peter 2:13; D&C 124:33);
  • something we practice (Luke 1:6; Alma 30:3; D&C 77:14);
  • something that gives power (Romans 13:2; Alma 13:8; D&C 84:20);
  • something that helps us remember (1 Corinthians 11:12; Mosiah 13:30);
  • something that establishes covenants (Hebrews 9:1; D&C 136:4); and
  • something given by God (2 Nephi 25:30; Mosiah 13:30; D&C 124:40).

This tells us that ordinances are:

  • Sacred rites and ceremonies;
  • Laws and statutes by which we are governed;
  • Means by which laws and statutes are given;
  • Means by which covenants are established; and
  • A physical act with spiritual effect.

The third article of faith emphasizes the importance of ordinances:

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

(see also Hebrews 4:16)

The fourth article of faith tell us even more specifically which things count as ordinances:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

(See also Matthew 3:16; D&C 20:72-74; D&C 20:69; 33:15)

Other ordinances specifically mentioned in the scriptures include: administration to the sick (James 5: 14-15), blessing the sacrament (D&C 20: 77, 79), blessing of children (D&C 20: 70), conferring the priesthood (D&C 84: 6-16; 107: 41-52), temple ordinances (D&C 124: 39), and marriage in the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 132: 19-20).

(Guide to the Scriptures, See also “Come to the Temple”).

In 1842, Joseph Smith said:

“The Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be, until the Temple is completed, where places will be provided for the administration of the ordinances of the Priesthood.”

In 1844, the Prophet met with the Twelve and the Nauvoo Temple committee to discuss how to allocate the Church’s meager resources. In this meeting, the Prophet said:

“We need the temple more than anything else.”

(see Teachings of Joseph Smith, 2011).

Ancient Sources

Modern revelation tells us that both:

the Tabernacle of Moses

31118_000_023_02 - Copyand the Temple of Solomon (pardon the picture of the Second Temple, or Herod’s temple, instead):

herods-temple-82609-gallerywere built so “those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid…” (D&C 124:38).

We also know that “all people of all ages have had temples in one form or another”, and that the Lord taught the fullness of the Gospel to Adam and his posterity (Widstoe, 1921, Joseph Fielding Smith, 1955, and Cowan, 1989).  Ancient “heathen” temples drew from truths and revealed ordinances, and most ancient religions understood temple worship in some form (Cowan, 1989).  Temples have always been considered to be halfway places between Heaven and Earth.  Temples were “meeting places at which men at specific times attempted to make contact with the powers above” (Nibley, 1987).  We know little of daily life from the early middle ages, but by the 9th Century, have the Oral Law written down (Lasker in Elukin, 2007).

Sidney B. Sperry said (Cowan, 1989; Sperry, 1955 & 1977):

“The Lord’s people in these Old Testament times had access to… the temple ordinances that would be restored in the latter days… and the Lord’s requirements for exaltation, and therefore the need for temples, were the same then as they are now.”

While the Old Testament describes in detail the sacrifices and other performances associated with the lesser priesthood and the Mosaic law, it says almost nothing about any higher ordinances.  Joseph Fielding Smith explained (Smith, 1955, and Cowan, 1989):

“Because such ordinances are sacred and not for the world, [there are] no detailed account of [higher ordinances]. There are, however… references to covenants and obligations under which the members of the Church in those days were placed…”

Some of these examples are Melchizedek, which tells us the church existed and the people paid their tithes (Genesis 14:20).  We also know that Abraham received his priesthood from Melchizedek, and so his promised blessings from his covenant-making includes exaltation.  Isaac renewed Abraham’s covenant for themselves as well, as did Enoch and his people, who “walked with God” (See D&C 84:14; D&C 132:29–39; D&C 132:37; and Moses 7:69).

Sperry (1955) continued:

“We do not know the extent to which ordinances pertaining to the Melchizedek Priesthood were performed in the tabernacle while in the wilderness and in Palestine up to the time of the building of Solomon’s Temple, but that such ordinances were performed seems certain in the light of such statements as this:

‘David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me,
by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power.’  (See also D&C 132:39.)

It seems more reasonable to believe that Nathan and the other prophets would seal David’s wives and concubines to him in a holy place such as the tabernacle than in any other structure.”

The scriptures do emphasize, however, that those who participated in temple worship needed to be prepared.

Specifically, the priests who officiated had to be ordained or consecrated.  This included being (see Exodus 28-29; Ricks, 1994, Tvedtnes):

  • Washed with Water
  • Anointed with Olive Oil (1st press)
  • Clothed in “Holy Garments”
    • White Linen
    • Included: cap, robe, sash, and trousers

Even in other cultures, we see temple patterns of significance.  In Chinese stories of origin, it is significant that there are “first ancestors” who are “King and Queen”, and they are pictured holding a square and compass “to build a society of heaven and earth” (Ward & Sterling, 1926):

nuwafuxiThis is the Nüwa and Fuxi panel, from tomb of Fan Yen-Shih, d. A.D. 689, and reminds us of kuci chü, which is used by modern Chinese to signify “the way things should be, the moral standard” (Nibley, 1975; Lyons, 2010).

We also gain a great deal of insight from the depth of research on Egyptian temple worship.  This also centered on receiving instructions to be able to return to the presence of God.  It included (Nibley, 1975):

  • Washing;
  • Clothing;
  • Anointing;
  • Receiving instructions on returning to the presence of God; and
  • Moving from room to room (symbolizing increasing understanding and progress).

Similarly, the Jewish temple also had a “progression” in its design (Christensen, 2004):

  • Levels of Sacredness:
    • Increasing from the Inner Court
    • Holy Place
    • Holy of Holies, or “Most Holy Place”
  • Levels representing cosmic regions or “worlds”:
    • Lower Court = “Sheol” (the abode of the dead)
    • Holy Place = Earth
    • Holy of Holies = Heaven.

We also find similar Patterns in the Book of Mormon (Christensen, 2004):

  • Lehi:
    • 1 Nephi 1:8 – Heaven
    • 1 Nephi 1:14 – Earth
    • 2 Nephi 1:14 – Realm of the Dead


  • King Benjamin
    • Mosiah 2:25 – Heaven
    • Mosiah 2:26 – Earth
    • Mosiah 2:41 – Realm of the Dead


  • 3 Nephi:
    • (1) darkness/separation (3 Nephi 8–10),
    • (2) preparation/initiation (3 Nephi 11:1–17:23; 18:1–37; 19:13; 20:1–28:12),
    • (3) apotheosis/at-one-ment (3 Nephi 17:24; 18:36–39; 19:14, 25–31; 28:10–18)


In all these, we find the following common elements (Christensen, 2004):

  • Story of Creation, Fall, Atonement;
  • Purpose is to Re-Enter God’s Presence;
  • The Ultimate Joyous State (Mosiah 2:41); and
  • Meeting point of Heaven, Earth, and the Realm of the Dead.

Applying the pattern gives us more insight.  Taking the example of Lehi’s dream, we understand what it means as interpreted to Nephi, but also find a deeper and darker layer indicating how bad things had gotten in Jerusalem before Babylonian captivity, and what Lehi had been trying to say, both in confronting and warning the people of Israel (see 1 Nephi 8:20-27).

Lehi mentions there is a “ddark and dreary wilderness” that joins a “large and spacious field, as if it had been a world”.  Butler (2013) takes the Hebrew word olam for “world”, and compares it to the “very close [and] almost identical in sound” word ulam, which refers to the first part of the temple.  Further, hekal, the “great building” word, is also the word for “temple”.  Then he writes that when we read “their manner of dress was exceedingly fine”, this “fine” is only used in the Old Testament for the clothing of priests, and never for secular clothing.  He is writing, it seems, about this “temple gone dark” concept, and warning of apostasy and priestcraft.  Those with authority and responsibility to work in the temple are not doing so, nor is the temple being used as a temple space.  This gives further insight into why Jerusalem was threatened with such destruction, and why it would have to be destroyed if the people would not repent and return to God.

We also know a lot about Nephi’s temple.  It was built after the pattern of Solomon’s temple, though it wasn’t as fancy because of lack of resources (2 Nephi 5:16).  We know temples are not built without being authorized by the Lord, so Nephi must have been authorized to do so (Sperry, 1955).  We know all ordinances within a temple are revealed, so Nephi must have received them by revelation also (Sperry, 1955).  Nephi and another later Nephi had sealing powers (2 Nephi 33:15; Helaman 10:7).  We also know that Nephi’s brother Jacob taught within that same temple (Sperry, 1955), and that King Benjamin’s sermon was delivered at another temple space (Mosiah 1:1,18).

We know that Zeniff’s people either repaired Nephi’s temple or built a new one (Mosiah 7:17), and that King Noah had no authority and probably just used it inappropriately as a meeting place (Sperry, 1955).  Amulek references it (Alma 10:2-3).  The risen Savior appeared to the Nephites at the temple in  Bountiful (3 Nephi 11:1), and it was at this appearance that the Savior authorized temple work for the dead (3 Ne. 24:1; 3 Ne. 26:1, see also Malachi 3 and 4).  Mormon was not permitted to quote these explanations, but Moroni did teach them to Joseph Smith.  Ordinance work for the dead did not begin until following the Savior’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:29, 1 Peter 3).

We know also that members in the New Testament church did not receive their sacred ordinances in Herod’s Temple.  The Temple had been defiled by money changers and others (see John 2:14–16; Matthew 21:12–13).  However, Heber C. Kimball affirmed that the early apostles received their blessings at the hands of the Savior himself (1863).  Joseph Fielding Smith believed that Peter, James, and John received the endowment on the Mount of Transfiguration (Smith, 2:165).  Jesus specifically charged the three apostles to speak to no one concerning the events on the mount (see Matthew 17:9).  We have other references, such as the fifth-century Christians at Nag Hammadi, the settlement on the Nile, who had their own temples, and Christ’s “forty-day ministry”, especially in Galilee, during which he performed sacred ordinances.  We also have the documents from Cyril of Jerusalem, which states (Cyril, 2004; Cowan, 1989, Robinson, 1989; Layton, 1987; Madsen, 1984):

“the faithful had “entered the Annex of the baptistry, . . , [and] removed [their] street clothes,”which act represented “putting off the old man and his works.” They were then washed in a “tank of holy running water,” anointed, and received a new garment.”

Temple Spaces

Don Murnan says that temples were, and still are, “celestial turf” (Murnan, 2012).  We could spend days talking about the symbols in temples and temple ceremonies, but for this talk we will focus just on a few symbols that teach us about the space itself.  Notice the circle (heaven, infinite, immeasurable, spiritual, eternity) and the square (“four corners” of the Earth, measurable, physical, time):


Picture2Exploring those patterns, of the circle and square and what they mean, we can glean further insights from other ancient art – which often depended or referred to geometry as well, which in those days related directly to philosophy and understanding of meaning (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle).  Anciently, math didn’t mean what it does to most of us, but rather was direct expression of truth.  Thoughts and ideas could be measured by what they equated with, and mathematical poetry showed up everywhere – especially in art and architecture, which usually were designed first with geometry before being created visually.  Geoffrey of Vinshauf (1200) said:

“Let the mind´s interior compass first circle the whole extent of the material. Let a definite order chart in advance at what point the pen will take up its course. As a prudent workman, construct the whole fabric within the mind´s citadel; let it exist in the mind before it is on the lips.”

Here we have the Codex Bruchsal, from the Medieval time (common domain):

Codex_Bruchsal_1_01v_cropped - CopyWe see in it the square, with small circles in each corner (bits of heaven meeting earth).  These are the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, representing the gospel being sent to every corner of the earth.  We also have the center oval, the female shape of the circle, giving us the heaven-meeting-earth symbol again but also representing Heavenly Parents in a greater way than just the historical record would tell us.  There are many other things we could learn from the piece, including noting hand shapes, his robes, etc., but we want to focus on the geometry – though also, if you notice there is a tablet, like the 10 commandments kind of tablet, but he is also holding a book: notice that the book is not bound, but a book made of plates.  Archeaological evidence continues to reveal to us more and more of these books made of plates.

But if we focus on just the basic geometry, we get this shape:

Vesica-P-Constr-Diagram upDo you see how it takes two circles to get the overlapping oval?  There is another reference to Heavenly Parents there.  But staying on topic, this symbol becomes more familiar to us if we turn it on the side by rotating it 90 degrees:

Vesica-P-Constr-DiagramNow you can see the Christian fish, yes?  The old symbol of safety and companionship.  One person would draw one half of the fish, and the other would draw the rest of the fish.  That was home base, and everything was then okay.  So we are familiar then, when we make it very simple into a shape we know, but what I want you to see also is how much is happening in the background. We would do well to practice seeing more of what is not there but right in front of us: when we see a fish, we should also see two circles and a square, knowing they are just as present as the fish in front of us.  That’s a good start on how to see through the veil, and how to live expecting revelation.

This same pattern, invisible but absolutely implied, is all over the geometry of any temple:

StrassbourgArmature - CopyThis is a church in Austria, actually, with the geometry shared by Peter Johnsson, who knows he is on to something but doesn’t realize yet what a big fish he has caught.
If that is overwhelming, let’s look at his drawings of the sword hilt, which is going to be very similar geometry to just the Moroni part of our temple (think Sword of the Spirit!):SøborgHiltGeometryThomas of Auino (1225) said:

“…When the parts are arranged in this way,
they all combine into the whole; so that out of all the parts
in the universe there emerges
of things.”

So there are lots of clues and pieces we can learn here, but let’s simplify and just pick one layer so that we can stay on topic:moroni geometryWhen we see the measurements are the same, and that the same geometry applies, we can do all kinds of things.  Let’s take just one of those triangles, and use it to follow the lines of Moroni himself, and see how the invisible lines of geometry divide things up into fifths:fifthsIf everything is both temporal and spiritual, then we must look for a teaching here.  What do we know about fifths?  Why would Moroni’s trumpet be calling out to just a fifth of the people?

one fifthThe thing that comes to mind immediately is that the Midrash states that only 1/5th of the Jews actually left Egypt with Moses (Rashi, quoting the Midrash, also see Va’yoel Moshe, Parshas Beshalach).  Later, when we read about the number of people with the Jews, the numbers don’t match up, and that’s why: some Egyptians had converted, and gone with the Jews when they left, and that may be why Pharaoh threw such a big baby fit and went after them.  It was one thing to lose all the Jews, but it was another thing to lose some of the best wisdom of his kingdom from among his own people.  This is why, I think, the people as a whole had to cross the Red Sea.  That’s why they had to endure that, like a mikvah, which we will get to, because they had to be cleansed and set apart before they would qualify to receive the Torah at Sinai.  This is not the story we know from the Biblical text, but it is the story told – even at Passover at my house each year, so you should come.

But what does this have to do with us?

This is the same percentage of people – this 1/5th – this is the same percentage of people in the Church who actually have active temple recommends (Church News, 1/16/82).

That’s significant, I think, and we could explore that and why that is and what to do about it.

But for now, we are looking at Temple spaces, and seeing how they show up everywhere, and sometimes teach us by what we can see that would at first seem invisible.  Another example is Augustine, who wrote about Noah’s ark – which, then, would include Nephi’s boat, since he used Noah’s patterns – but Augustine wanders through his pondering to almost-realize that Noah must have had a temple space on his ark, or that the ark was, in a type of a way, a temple space itself.  He doesn’t quite get there in writing, but it must have flashed for moment in his mind, even if he couldn’t quite catch it long enough to hold on to (Contra Faustum XII.14.):

“That this ark is made of beams formed in a square, for a square stands firm on any side. That the length is six times the breadth, and ten times the height, like a human body, to show that Christ appeared in human body. That the breadth reaches to fifty cubits. That it is three hundred cubits long, to make up six times fifty. That it is thirty cubits high, a tenth part of the length.”

That description gives us the Vitruvian Man (edited) by Leonardo da Vinci:

Leonardo-da-Vinci-The-Vitruvian-Man-01 - CopySo we also are temple spaces ourselves, or in preparation to become holy people.

When Moses brought Israel out of Egypt, or rather, brought a fifth of them out of Egypt, along with converted Egyptians, one of the first things that he did was to try to get the people to accept the higher priesthood and receive the ordinance wherein “the power of godliness is manifest.” (D&C 84:19– 20; Sperry, 1955).  See also D&C 84:21-23:

“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
For without this
no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
Now this Moses plainly taught
to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people
that they might behold the face of God.

This is the great dichotomy: that none of us qualify to see the face of God and survive it, and yet He has created a plan by which we may actually stand before Him and be welcomed home as the prodigal children that we are.  This discrepancy must be addressed, though, and that is why we must go to the temple, to be transformed.  He has called us by who He knows we can be, who we are as His children, and before Him we confess who we have only and merely been.  This grieves us, and would leave us hopeless, and yet to be honest about it still counts as progression and is somehow higher than not trying.  So first we acknowledge who He has called us to be, and then confess who we have only been, but then because of this great plan of happiness, we are able to plead the atonement – we claim the atonement, so that we can boldly approach the Father who is waiting from a long way off to welcome home our prodigal selves… who are then changed, literally, physically and spiritually, into the fullness of who we were created to be, prepared to reign and minister with him to all His children.  This is the pattern of the temple, in which we take upon ourselves the name of our Father, by the atoning power of Christ, and become His children of Holiness – which, my friends, is not the end, but the beginning, and so he sets us to work.

But we have to get there first, and the only way in is with a Temple recommend.

There are several temple recommend references in the scriptures.

Psalm 15:

1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?
Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
2 He that walketh uprightly,
and worketh righteousness,
and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour,
nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Psalm 24:

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof;
the world, and they that dwell  therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?
or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Isaiah 33:

14 …Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?
who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
15 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly;
he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
16 He shall dwell on high:

The devouring fire is that same shekinah that led Moses and the people through the wilderness (mortality), with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.  It’s the same shekinah that is represented by the great lights in the celestial room.  It’s the same shekinah, or presence, that will be over our covenant homes during the Millennium – if it is not already there, because remember we can’t see everything that is there – that’s what we are learning tonight.

Temple Ordinances

“Salvation” – comes from the root for “to salvage”, and and means to separate the refined and useful from the destroyed and worthless.  Nothing refines us more than our own families,
and thus our salvation cannot be complete (“made perfect”) without them.  This is why marriage is a required part of the plan of happiness.  Not only that, but we must connect ourselves, through temple sealings, to those who have gone before us (see Widstoe, 1927; D&C 128:18):

“We have been told by the Prophet Joseph Smith
that without our dead we cannot be saved; or, as he stated it, ‘Their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation.’“

We connect ourselves to our beloved ancestors through vicarious ordinances.  Because they are in the spirit world without their bodies, and so cannot perform the ordinances, we use our bodies here to do it for them. They are thing responsible for choosing to accept the ordinance in their behalf or not, but must also live according to the same covenants we make.  In this way, a vicarious ordinance is (Guide to the Scriptures; 1 Corinthians 15:29; D&C 124:29-36; D&C 138:29-34):

“A religious ordinance performed by a living person in behalf of one who is dead.  These ordinances take effect only when those for whom the ordinances were performed accept them, keep the covenants associated with them, and become sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.  Such ordinances are performed today within temples.”

Picture2mBecause not everything that is there can be seen.

And I promise, our family is there, waiting on us.

Joseph Smith said the temple would be a place for the people to conduct (D&C 124:39):

“your anointings, and your washings,
and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies,
and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi,
and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations,
and your statutes and judgments,
for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion,
and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, … by the ordinance of my holy house,
which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.”

Let’s break this down a little.  We will talk about baptisms and washings and anointings, so let’s start with “your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi”.  What is a memorial?

  1. something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc., as a monument or a holiday;
  2. a written statement of facts presented to a sovereign, a legislative body, etc., as the ground of, or expressed in the form of, a petition or remonstrance; or
  3. something designed to preserve the memory of your priestly service.

So, our memorial is a written record to be presented to the King as a petition.

Temple work for our ancestors presents a record to the King of us being sealed together as a family, as living the covenants we have made there, as a petition of entrance into our Father’s kingdom based on the plan He Himself provided.

Now, what about “your oracles in your most holy places”?  What does that mean?  An oracle is:

1. an utterance given by a priest or priestess at a shrine as the response of a god to an inquiry;
2. the agency or medium giving such responses;
3. a shrine or place at which such responses were given;
4. a person who delivers authoritative, wise, or influential pronouncements;
5. a divine communication or revelation;
6. any person or thing serving as an agency of divine communication; or
7. any utterance made or received as authoritative, extremely wise, or infallible.

So, we are talking about a holy place in the most holy place, wherein priests and priestesses receive revelatory responses from God, and testify with authority of truth and wisdom so that others also come to receive revelatory responses from God.

That’s amazing.

The next phrase talks about “statutes and judgments”, so let’s look at that:

1. Law expressed in formal documents
2. International Law applicable to all as a treaty between realms
3. A permanent rule established by an organization to govern its internal affairs

1. The ability to act, make decisions, or behave wisely, with good sense, and discretion
2. The demonstration of such ability or capacity
3. The forming of a notion from circumstances presented to the mind
4. Knowledge agreed upon
5. Law and its positive and negative consequences as given by an authority
6. Obligations for debt settlement

Temple ordinances provide the laws by which we are governed, the story of our history as His people to help us remember where we are going, and an opportunity to get there with our families.

Temple service is to aid and to help us in qualifying for this mighty work (Widstoe, 1962; Moses 1:39:

“. . . to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

Baptism, or מקווה

The mikvah is a ritual bath still practiced by observant Jews (Berkowitz, 2007).  It is a small pool of flowing water that must be below floor level, requires immersion, requires two witnesses, and is the same word for “hope” and “living waters”, which becomes a reference to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 12:3; Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:6–15, John 7:37; 1 Nephi 11:25; D&C 10:66; D&C 63:23).

1024px-Judenbad_Speyer_6_View_from_the_first_room_down - CopyWe know of the large font in Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 4:6, 10; compare 1 Kings 7:39):

“… the sea was for the priests to wash in …
and he [Solomon] set the sea on the right side of the east end,
over against the south [i.e. southeast of the temple].”

Later, Ahaz (736–721 B.C.) took down the sea from off the brazen oxen and stood it upon a stone pavement (2 Kings 16:17).  When Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem (590 B.C.), he broke the font into pieces. (2 Kings 25:13; Jeremiah 27:19–22).  Babylonian temples also included “seas”, inspired by the Jews they had conquered (Sperry, 1955).   Further, Joseph Fielding Smith clarified that Old Testament “washings” included baptisms (1955, and in Cowan, 1989):

“And that while there were no baptisms for the dead until the New Testament,
live ordinances were available
during Old Testament times.”

baptism - CopyTemple baptisms were restored on Thursday afternoon, 21 January 1836, when the First Presidency were washed “in pure water.”  That evening they met with others in the west room of the temple attic
where they anointed one another with consecrated oil and pronounced blessings and prophecies.
Then, “the heavens were opened,” the Prophet recorded, and he “beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof.” The Lord declared: “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God” (D&C 137:1–4, 7; Cowan, 1989).

The practice of vicarious baptisms for the dead was taught for the first time in the present dispensation on 15 August 1840.  Until November 1841, when a font was dedicated
in the partially completed temple, church members participated in this ordinance in the Mississippi River.  The Saints eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to make gospel ordinances and blessings available to their departed loved ones.  By 1844, the year of the Prophet’s martyrdom,
15,722 baptisms had been performed in behalf of the dead” (Cowan, 1989; History of the Church, 4:179; see also Doctrine and Covenants 124:132; History of the Church, 4:186).

Baptism was described in Acts 2:38, 8:16, and 1 Corinthians 1:13, 15, requires one to acknowledge:

1. knowing the name,
2. accepting the name, and
3. testifying of the name.

This is a blessing, a burden (message), a commission.  We declare with our baptismal covenants that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ – which is the Son of Man of Holiness:

In Moses 6:57, we learn a name for Heavenly Father is “Man of Holiness”, meaning He-who-is-holy.  Then it says that the Lord, who is the Only Begotten Son, has a title, a name like His Fathers: “the Son of Man”.  In the New Testament, all four gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) refer to the Lord – at some point – as the “Son of Man”.  But Moses 6:57 clarifies for us the full title:  if Heavenly Father is called “Man of Holiness” and his son is called “Son of Man”, then the full title for the Lord is “Son of Man of Holiness”.  From this we get mankind, kindred, kin, all meaning like-one-another, or the-same-as-the-pattern.  So we get this:

Heavenly Father = Man of Holiness
Lord = Son of (Man of Holiness)

In the same way, if we – who are “the House of Israel” by birthright – do the work to choose the covenant, then we become more than the House of Israel.

We become the House of the Lord.

The House of Israel is a genetic lineage, with promised blessings.

The House of the Lord is a chosen adoption, with claimed blessings.

How do we get from promised blessings to claimed blessings?

By being “adopted”.

How do we get adopted?

We choose.

How do we choose?

We take His name upon us.

How do we take His name upon us?

At our baptism, we declare ourselves willing to take His name upon us.  At the Temple, we actually do so.  At Sacrament, we remember that we have done so.

We are “adopted” at the Temple.

At the Temple, we become the People of Holiness.  We become the House of the Lord.

He gives to us His righteousness, and we give Him our Holiness.  This makes us The House of the Lord.

Holiness to the Lord.
The House of the Lord.

“The House of the Lord” has, like all things – ALL things, both a temporal (physical) and spiritual meaning.

It is, physically, the House of the Lord.  It is a consecrated, set apart space that is His holy house.

But it is also, spiritually, the place we go to become His people, to be adopted, to choose the covenant, to become His people: “the House of the Lord”.


We see confirmation unfold in Acts 8:14-17:

“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard
that Samaria had received the word of God,
they sent unto them Peter and John:
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them:
only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”

It also shows up in 3 Nephi 18:36-37:

“And it came to pass
that when Jesus had made an end of these sayings,
he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen,
one by one,
even until he had touched them all,
and spake unto them as he touched them.
And the multitude heard not the words which he spake,
therefore they did not bear record;
but the disciples bare record that
he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost.”

Then in Moroni 2:2:

“And he called them by name, saying:
Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer;
and after ye have done this [baptism]
ye shall have power
that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost;
and in my name shall ye give it,
for thus do mine apostles.”

girl-being-confirmed-245605-gallery - CopyD&C 35:6 and D&C 68:27:

“But now I give unto thee a commandment,
that thou shalt baptize by water,
and they shall receive the Holy Ghost
by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.”

“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins
when eight years old,
and receive the laying on of the hands.”

Confirmation, in a way, seals the baptism.  It is complementary and completes the baptism ordinance.  It is necessary, and part of that process as a whole.  The Bible Dictionary teaches:

“Confirmation includes more than conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost:
To confirm means to “make more sure.”

“The ordinance of confirmation completes
the ceremonial process
of becoming
a member of the Church,
and as such, it is complementary to water baptism.”

“Such procedure is in accord
with the revealed will of the Lord and is not a mere formality.”

“A procedure used from the earliest times in the manner of blessing,
conferring the Holy Ghost,
and ordaining to the priesthood.”

(See also: Genesis 48:14, 17; Numbers 27:18, 23; Deuteronomy 34:9; Matthew 9:18; Mark 10:13, 16; Luke 4:40; Acts 6:6; 8:14–17; 9:12, 17; 13:3; 19:1–7; 28:8; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6;
Hebrews 6:2; James 5:14–16; Alma 6:1; Moroni 2; D&C 20:41, 58, 68, 70; 36:1–2; A of F 1:5).

priesthood-blessing-37771-galleryThe laying on of hands is used at other times, too, such as giving a name blessing, blessings for the sick, and setting apart a person for their church calling.  It was also part of “the ritual sacrifice under the law of Moses”, even in laying the sins of Israel upon the scapegoat (Bible Dictionary, Exodus 29:10, 15, 19; Leviticus 1:4; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:4; 8:14).  We read in Numbers 27:18, 22-23:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;

And Moses did as the Lord commanded him:
and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest,
and before all the congregation:
And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge,
as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.”

moses-gives-aaron-priesthood-39465-galleryThe laying on of hands is also an important part of conferring the Priesthood, just as in ancient times.

There are some priests, or Kohen, who were born into the priestly line.

DYS19, DYS388, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, and DYS393 are six genetic markers with at least 56% frequency in identifying the Cohen Modal Haplotype.  That’s incredible, even within the context of the J1 Haplogroup now being identified as 70% frequency of the Jewish and Arab people sharing the same 3 paternal ancestors (Akiva, 2007).

800px-Distribution_Haplogroup_J1_Y-DNA.svg - Copy(Photo Credit)

Professor Karl Skorec said, “These results establish the common origin of the Jewish priesthood caste in the Near East, coinciding with a timeframe beginning at approximately the biblically attributed date of the exodus from Egypt and extending to the Temple period.”

Even as Latter-day Saints, we believe in this priestly line.  Joseph Smith said:

“There was a priesthood conferred upon the sons of Levi
throughout all the generations of the Jews.
They are born heirs to this priesthood.”

(Discourse of March 21st 1841, recorded by William McIntire)

“This priesthood was given to Aaron and his posterity throughout all generations.”

(Discourse of July 23rd 1843, recorded by James Burgess)

“It is forever hereditary, fixed on the head of Aaron.”

(Discourse of July 23rd 1843, recorded by Willard Richards)

In these quotes, Joseph Smith is speaking of this hereditary priesthood lineage.  However, we must remember that the priesthood itself is not inherited, just the right to it.  Qualifications are still required, including a testimony of Yeshua and righteousness.  Ordination is also still required, including the Melchizedek priesthood, being called by prophecy, and the one doing the calling having the keys to make such a calling (Hall, 2007 and Akiva, 2007).

D&C 68 clarifies that this genetic lineage also pertains specifically to the Presiding Bishopric of the Church (“Brigham H. Roberts, 1893. Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, Sec. 68, p. 350):

“But before the first-born among the literal descendants of Aaron can legally officiate in this calling, he must be:

1. designated by the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood;
2. found worthy of the position –
including his capacity to fill the office with ability honor and dignity;
3. ordained under the hands of the First Presidency.”

In modern Jewish practice, the authority exercised by the Aaronic priesthood is minimal.  They function no differently than other members, except for a few holidays and some minor rituals.  They lack a primary role due to the absence of a temple, and Akiva (2007) reminds us that not all born into the office are good at it or “ethical in its administration”.  He says:

“Thus, an entire class of ordained people,
with direct authority,
with the “laying on of hands” (Semikah),
but without priesthood arose to prominence….ultimately, the Rabbis.”

We are in no place to judge them for this struggle, however, as we have been called to righteousness and have yet to live up to it fully.  Peterson wrote (1976):

“There is a difference between priesthood authority and priesthood power.
Power and authority in the priesthood are not necessarily synonymous.
All of us who hold the priesthood have the authority to act for the Lord,
but the effectiveness of our authority—
or if you please, the power that comes through that authority—
depends on the pattern of our lives;
it depends on our righteousness.”

And Elder Packer said during General Conference (2010):

“We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood.
We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere.
We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide.
But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think,
ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood.
The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and
will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed
in the families as it should be.”

But also, President Uchtdorf also reminded us in 2012 that:

“The priesthood of Almighty God
is available to worthy men wherever they may be—
no matter their ancestry,
no matter how humble their circumstances,
in the nearest or farthest reaches of the globe.
It is available without money or any worldly price.
To paraphrase the ancient prophet Isaiah,
everyone who is thirsty can come to the waters.”

When I am in Israel, I do not much like the busy churches full of false traditions that distraction from the holy sites which they mark, though I am indebted and very grateful such special places have been protected and preserved.  However, there is one church I am fond of in particular: the Church of the Twelve Apostles.  In it, they have domes filled with paintings of prophets.  In one, they have the pre-Moses prophets: Adam, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses:

The-Twelve-Apostles-Church-3The first time I visited this place, the guide could not even pronounce “Melchizedek”, and did not know who he was. The guides know everything!  We were very eager to explain that he was the one to whom Abraham paid his tithes, though we did not get tangled in the tangent that many believe he was the very same person as Shem.  But we pointed out his name on the right (his left), and explained how to say it:

Melchizedek.5375632_stdOnce the guide heard the words, and heard us sound it out, the guide recognized the Hebrew roots:


The guide then knew, as well as we did, that the name meant “King of Righteousness”.

Melchizedek shows up in other ancient art, especially the seal that many think represents him.  Here are two pieces of art with a thousand things we could talk about, very much related to ordinances, and giving us historical evidence of ancient ordinances, but for now we just want to notice the seal on the altar cloths:

ravenna-mosaic-melchizedek-290x300This is from Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, apse, right side. 6-7th Century (Hamblin & Seely, Solomon’s Temple, 111).

Seal-of-Melchizedek-symbol-Ravanna-MosaicThis is from Basilica of St. Vitale, Ravenna, presbytery, left wall, central lunette (538-545 AD).


The higher priesthood of Melchizedek is required for the higher ordinances of the temple.  But this requires Melchizedek’s kind of righteousness, which is patterned after the Savior.  Thus we have preparatory ordinances that cleanse us spiritual far more than we could on our own, so that we can make covenants with God, and prepares us to receive greater blessings from Him as we live the way His instructs us – even by following the example of the Savior.  The church booklet, Come to the Temple, says:

“The ordinances of washing and anointing
are referred to often in the temple as initiatory ordinances.
It will be sufficient for our purposes to say only the following:
Associated with the endowment are washings and anointings —
mostly symbolic in nature,
but promising definite, immediate blessings
as well as future blessings.”

Snuffer (p. 466) adds that:

“The washings, intended to cleanse us, are more than a physical ordinance.
They testify to us about necessary individual purity and spiritual cleanliness.”

We know also, from the Come to the Temple preparation booklet, that upon entering the temple, we change into the white clothing that is worn as we do ordinance work in the temple.  This white clothing is symbolic of purity and worthiness and cleanliness.  We leave our worries and distractions behind as we change in our private locker area, and endowed members were the sacred priestly garment.  This garment represents sacred covenants, fosters modesty, becomes a shield and a protection, and covers the body as a visual and tactile reminder of the covenants we have made.


In a statement to the Church, the First Presidency said (letter, 10 October 1988):

“Church members who have been clothed with the garment in the temple have made a covenant to wear it throughout their lives. This has been interpreted to mean that it is worn as underclothing both day and night…

“The principles of modesty and keeping the body appropriately covered are implicit in the covenant…

“How it is worn is an outward expression of an inward
commitment to follow the Savior.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just released this video to the public, to better explain to them about our sacred priestly garments and the respect we ask of them just as other religions have sacred garments we respect:


There were sacred garments in ancient Judaism as well.  The Hebrew expression that is translated as “sacred” or “holy” garments also means “garments of the Temple”, and indicate that the wearer is in the Service of God (OneClimbs). The Talmud states (BT Zevachim 17:B):

“While they are clothed in the priestly garments,
they are clothed in the priesthood;
but when they are not wearing the garments,
the priesthood is not upon them.”

These garments themselves possess a certain holiness powerful enough to sanctify
all those who merely come in contact with them, as we read in the prophets (Ezekiel 44:19):

“… so as not to hallow the people with their garments.”

The very presence of the priestly garment worn by the priests during the Temple
service, serves to atone for the sins of Israel.  It is taught that just as the sacrifices facilitate an atonement for sin, so do the priestly garments (BT Zevachim 88:B).

Rabbis Rabbis established that the priestly garments must be “for honor and for beauty”, and that meant they must be new and dignified, not stained, soiled, or ripped, and taylored to fit.  Even back then the people were asked not to modify their garments to fit the fashion styles of the day!  When disqualified for use, the garments were shredded and re-used as wicks for the Menorah (tunics) and wicks for the oil lamps during Sukkot (belts and pants).  The High Priest uniform was not destroyed, only hidden and not re-used (Temple Institute).

We can see, in some art, such as this 5th century mosiac from St. Apollinare in Nuovo, the trails of apostasy evidenced even by how garments were worn:

miracle_of_the_loaves_and_fishes_saint_apollinare_nuovo - CopyMarkings on the underclothing became markings on external robes.

Marking on external robes became markings on altar cloths.

Markings on altar cloths became wine-sprinkling patterns on top of the altar.

The ceasing of altar sprinkling caused the markings to “disappear”, fading away in collective consciousness.


Many of us know what an endowment is from working with companies, agencies, or non-profits.  An endowment is defined as (

1. the act of endowing
2. the property, funds, etc., with which an institution or person is endowed
3. Usually, endowments, as an attribute of mind or body; a gift of nature.

1. to provide with a permanent fund or source of income
2. to furnish, as with some talent, faculty, or quality;
3. to equip
4. an insurance policy; to become payable; yield its conditions

This teaches us simply that the purpose of an endowment is:

• To endow is to enrich;
• To endow is to give to another something long lasting; and
• To endow is to give to another something of much worth.

Further, the temple endowment ordinances enrich in three ways:

1. The one receiving the ordinance is given power from God.

2. A recipient is also endowed with information and knowledge.

3. When sealed at the altar, a person is the recipient of glorious blessings, powers, and honors as part of his or her endowment.

The temple endowment truly is a gift from God.  It includes a series of instructions, covenants that help us live righteously, and covenants that help us fulfill the requirements of the gospel. The endowment ceremony focuses on the Savior, His role in Heavenly Father’s plan, and our personal commitment to follow His example ( – Temples).  Brigham Young said (Widstoe, 1971):

“Let me give you a definition in brief.
Your endowment is,
to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord,
which are necessary for you,
after you have departed this life,
to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father,
passing the angels who stand as sentinels,
being able 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.”

Elder James E. Talmage explained the instruction of the Temple Endowment: “This course of instruction includes (Come to the Temple, Talmage, 1962):

1. a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period,
2. the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden,
3. their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode,
4. their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat,
5. the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned,
6. the period of the great apostasy,
7. the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges,
8. the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life,
9. and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.”

We can also see the doctrine of the church in Widstoe’s Genealogical Address (1921):

• Eternal Existence of Man – Godhead, Ordinances/Covenants
• Eternal Life (Progression) of Man – Plan of Salvation
• Free Agency of Man – Plan of Salvation, Atonement
• Judgment of Man by Works / Works as Evidence – Commandments
• Love of God for Man – Atonement
• Authority of God and Plan for Man – Dispensation/Apostasy/Restoration, Prophets/Revelation, Priesthood/Priesthood Keys, Marriage/Family

And it all can be broken down into four distinct parts (Widstoe, 1921):

1. The preparatory ordinances;
2. the giving of instruction by lectures and representations;
3. covenants; and, finally,
4. tests of knowledge.

Elder Talmage said (1962):

“The ordinances of the endowment
embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as:

1. covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity,
2. to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure;
3. to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race;
4. to maintain devotion to the cause of truth;
5. and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ.

We covenant with the Lord to devote our time, talents, and means to His kingdom.”

Beatitudes_016-1000x499 - CopyI took this picture outside the Church of the Beatitudes in Israel.  It is a beautiful place in my beloved Galilee, on a hillside overlooking the sea – that’s why they could sit around listening to him, because of the natural theaters there.  But this is toward the front side walk, one of the first things you see there.  What do you see?  Two fish?  Can you spot the five loaves up on the monument in the top right corner?

I see the fish, which are the two priesthoods (Aaronic and Melchizedek), and the five loaves, which are the laws we are given.

This is a special place, this hillside.  Besides feeding a crowd, the Savior pulled aside the disciples, took them up the mountain further, and taught only them.  We see the same pattern in 3 Nephi 12 as we find in Matthew 5, and in both places the goal is exaltation, or to become perfect (whole and complete):

• Law of the Gospel: Contrition, Repentance (vv. 3-4)
• Law of Obedience: Humility, Striving for Righteousness (vv. 5-6)
• Law of the Sacrifice: daily nourishment, strength needed, laws and principles (vv. 5-7)
• Law of Chastity: purity, seeing God, not offending/mocking (v. 8-9)
• Law of Consecration: righteousness (doing/serving), persecution (enduring) (v. 10-11)

The whole thing is about becoming: “Ye are the Light of the World,” He says, so “go and do” (vv. 13-16).

If we go further back in time, we see name changes as part of covenant-making.  God changed Avram’s name (“high father”) to Avraham (“father of a multitude”) (Genesis 17:5), and Sarai (“my princess”) to Sarah (“mother of nations”) (Genesis 17:15).  Jacob’s name “supplanter” got changed to Israel, which means “having power with God” (Genesis 32:28), though he only got called that when he acted like it!  In the New Testament, Simon’s name “God has heard” was changed to Peter, the “rock” (John 1:42).

There is a fun one in the Old Testament that we often miss.  Maybe it is only urban legend, but it is a story of the Jews, so let me share it with you:

When Rebecca moves into Sarah’s tent, it is still called Sarah’s tent!  Even though she has already died, this is her power as a matriarch.  Isaac is returning from “the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi”, which means ‘the well of the Living One who sees me’.  That place was named that by Hagar, mother of Ishmael.

We know the history of Ishmael and Isaac.  They were half-brothers, and got busted for arguing one day. Jewish tradition says that Ishmael was mocking Isaac because Isaac was being proud of being the first baby circumcised, while Ishmael pointed out he had to be circumcised at age 13, and that this was much harder to endure because Isaac was only a baby and can’t even remember it.  So legend has it that this was the argument, and Sarah overhears them fussing, and tattles to Abraham, who sends Hagar and Ishmael away.  They take refuge by this well, which she then names, while Isaac finishes his growing up with Abraham and Sarah.

But then Sarah dies, years later, and Abraham sends Isaac to get himself a wife.  So when Rebecca moves into Sarah’s old tent, presumably to become the new matriarch, Sarah’s presence is still strongly felt and honored, but where Isaac is returning from is the place of Hagar.

Later, in Genesis 25, we know that Abraham remarried a woman named Keturah, and lived with her for another 37 years.  But significantly, when Abraham dies, both boys – Isaac and Ishmael – come back together to bury him, together.  And more significantly, Isaac returns to that same place, Beer-lahai-roi, to settle.

So that’s why the Talmud tells us that Keturah is actually the very same Hagar, and explains that her name was changed, covenant-style, after repentance and re-covenanting with God.

So if Isaac was living in Beer-lahai-roi before finding Rebecca, he could have very well been living with his stepmother Hagar (Keturah) and his half-brother Ishmael, to whom he returns again after Abraham dies to settle near Beer-lahai-roi.

Name changes are always significant, and worth exploring.

Names, especially divine names, we find concentrated divine power.  A person may gain access to these names and take them upon oneself through ritual processes, which are often temple related.  The names are more powerful and hold more meaning that simple labels, and so any new name should be studied and pondered.  Names often mark degrees or attributes or roles in one’s own transformation process, and symbolic of new beginnings. “Thus, an individual, while retaining his identity, may take on several names as he moves through stages toward the divine” (Nibley, 1975; Dahood, 1984; Oaks, 1985).  Nibley added (1975, see also Dahood, 1984; Oaks, 1985):

“In Egyptian initiation rites,
one puts off his former nature by discarding his name,
after which he receives a new name.
Prior to coronation,
the candidate is presented to the gods without his own personal name.
In order to pass the obstacles,
he recites the name of his god and thus is allowed to pass.
If the candidate cannot produce the name,
the gatekeepers are aggressive and unyielding.”

During the First and Second Temple periods, receiving the name was a privilege of obedience (Josephus):

• In the hands (Isaiah 56)
• On the inward parts (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
• New heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:21-28)

In Jewish practice to this day, a person who recovers from a severe illness is given a new name which, in effect, celebrates his return from near death.  The names are new to the person because it is assumed the person is himself new, having overcome or been healed from death.

Further, the name is transmitted only to the reserved— this word can also be translated as “the initiate” –
• who are not prone to anger,
• who are humble and God-fearing, and
• who carry out the commandments of their Creator.

In ancient times, this name was usually transmitted only over water (Avigad, 1980; Buber, 1947; Clifford):

“Before the master teaches it to his pupil, they must both immerse themselves and bathe in forty measures of flowing water, then put on white garments and fast on the day of instruction. Then both must stand up to their ankles in the water, and the master must say a prayer…”

We read in Isaiah 56:

4 For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths,
and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls
a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters:
I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord,
to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants,
every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer:
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar;
for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

Looking at these verses again, plugging in things we have already defined, we get this (See also 1 Samuel 15:12 and 2 Samuel 18:18):

For thus saith the Lord (unto the priests and covenant keepers) (in my Temple):
I will give to them (in the holy parts of the temple)
a hand and a name
(which is) better than sons or daughters (posterity for inheritance)
I will give them an eternal name that shall not be cut off
(posterity upon posterity, inheritance upon inheritance).

These verses have also been translated as such (Donald Parry, Victor Ludlow, and Avraham Gileadi):

I will give a handclasp and a name within the walls of my house
that is better than sons and daughters;
I will endow them with an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Remember when we talked about the genetic heritage to the priestly line, and how there were few practical roles those Kohanim still played?  One of them is the “priestly blessing” on Yom Kippur, and on a study blog post, someone posted this picture of  Leonard Nimoy, from the cover of I Am Not Spock (Cutchogue, NY: Buccaneer Books, 1997), sharing how Leonard Nimoy’s father took him to services at the synagogue and he ended up incorporating some things into the Spock character:

I Am Not Spock - CopyHe is indeed showing the sign for Shin = ׁש , which means Shaddai, or “Almighty God”.  This is a blessing in which they raise their arms as a position of prayer, and we see that in other scriptures as well.  For example, when Abraham replies to the king of Sodom:

“I have lift[ed] up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high” (Genesis 14:22).

In Hebrew it means literally, “I raised up my hand.”

Or, in other words, “I have already covenanted with my God.”

Grave - Rabbi Meschullam Kohn - CopyThat’s the posted picture on that blog of the grave of Rabbi Meschullam Kohn.

This Priestly Blessing is one of the few rituals remaining on certain holy days, and it is only said with the heads of the people covered.  The priest’s hands are held horizontally in front, at shoulder level (Rabbi Gershom, 2009).  Further, Eisenburg stated that (2004):

“…the Kohanim prepare themselves by removing their shoes and washing their hands
(as before participating in the Temple service) with the assistance of the Levites…”
Kohen could be disqualified from service for:
• Idolatry
• Forbidden sexual intercourse
• Murder
• Intoxication
• Not articulating the words properly

Sometimes the words are not said, but sung.  There are many temple songs in the Psalms, such as Psalm 132 (see also Psalm 89; Cross):

9 Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.
12 If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony
that I shall teach them,
their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.
13 For the Lord hath chosen Zion;
he hath desired it for his habitation.
14 This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism (and Eisenberg, 2004) states that these prayers are often said in a circle:

“The prayer circle is a part of Latter-day Saint temple worship, usually associated with the Endowment ceremony.
Participants, an equal number of men and women dressed in temple clothing, surround an altar in a circle formation to participate unitedly in prayer.”

Backman (1952), as well as Classen (1977) and Nibley (1978) expanded the understanding of these prayer circles and ring-dances that used to be a part of the liturgy in ancient times:

“If you are inducted into the Christian mysteries,
then you must perform a ring-dance round the altar… not only with the other novitiates
but also with the angels!
For they are present and participate in the mystery.”

Picture4Regardless of how the material was presented in ancient times, or is presented in modern times, the ordinances of the temple are both necessary and good for us if we want to continue our progress and return home to live with our Father-in-Heaven.


The final ordinance in the temple is the sealing ordinance, which confirms all the previous ordinances as really being one ordinance all together.  We often think primarily about the sealing of a husband and a wife together, but also understand that children are sealed to their parents, and that the ordinances themselves are sealed by the Spirit.

Considering this sealing of families together, Cowan states (1989; Seal also Mark 10:9, 10:6-8; 1 Corinthians 11:11; D&C 49:15-17; Family Proclamation)

“During his earthly ministry,
the Master had stressed the sanctity of the family.
‘What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.’
“The apostle Paul similarly insisted:
‘Neither is the man without the woman,
neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.’
During the present dispensation
a revelation had affirmed that “marriage is ordained of God”
as the means of providing earthly tabernacles
for the spirits that had lived before the world was made.”

In January 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio, the Prophet wrote (Teachings of Joseph Smith):

“The Lord commanded us, in Kirtland, to build a house of God; …
this is the word of the Lord to us,
and we must, yea, the Lord helping us, we will obey:
as on conditions of our obedience He has promised us great things;
yea, even a visit from the heavens to honor us with His own presence.

We greatly fear before the Lord lest we should fail of this great honor,
which our Master proposes to confer on us;
we are seeking for humility and great faith
lest we be ashamed in His presence.”

Our understanding, then, of celestial marriage, is that in this sealing ordinance a husband and wife are sealed to one another for eternity – far beyond “until death do us part”, and that spousal relationship continues in the resurrected life after this mortal one.  Without that sealing, both spouses would be resurrected, as that is a free gift for all given to us by the Savior’s resurrection, but the spouses will not be a couple, because they were only married to be parted by death itself.

Children born to parents who have been sealed, are born within the covenant, and so also sealed to their parents and part of that eternal family.

Children not born in the covenant, such as to convert parents or adopted children, can be sealed to their parents once the parents themselves are sealed to each other.

“People who have died without these essential gospel ordinances may receive those ordinances through the work done in temples. Acting in behalf of ancestors and others who have died, Church members are baptized and confirmed, receive the endowment, and participate in the sealings of husband to wife and children to parents” (; Come to the Temple).

The writer of the Gospel of Philip, one of the apocryphal documents in the Nag Hammadi library, believed that the most sacred part of the temple was what he called (Cowan, 1989; compare to D&C 132:15-18):

the “bridal chamber,”
where a “woman is united to her husband”
and “will no longer be separated.”

If a person does not receive these blessings in this world, he asserted, they cannot be received elsewhere.

President Joseph Fielding Smith defines the new and everlasting covenant in these words (Come to the Temple; Doctrines of Salvation, 1:158):

“What is the new and everlasting covenant?

“I regret to say that there are some members of the Church
who are misled and misinformed
in regard to what the
new and everlasting covenant really is.

“The new and everlasting covenant is the
sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations.”

seal-of-melchizedek-mosaic-from-a-christian-church-at-khirbet-beit-sila-near-jerusalem-300x200(Mosaic in Jerusalem, a picture of the seal of Melchizedek)


The Prophet Joseph Smith said he was frequently asked the question (Come to the Temple, Roberts, 1949):

“Can we not be saved
without going through with all those ordinances, etc.?”

“I would answer, No, not the fullness of salvation.
Jesus said, “There are many mansions in my Father’s house,
and I will go and prepare a place for you.”

House here named should have been translated kingdom;
and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion
has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too.” states:

“Temples are places of learning. Their principal purpose is to provide ordinances necessary for the children of God to enable them to return to dwell with Him. Temple ordinances lead to the greatest blessings available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything in the Church—the meetings and activities, the missionary efforts, the lessons taught and the hymns—all lead to the work done in holy temples.”

Picture1Widstoe said, way back in 1943, that:

These are trying days, in which Satan rages, at home and abroad, hard days, evil and ugly days. We stand helpless as it seems before them. We need help. We need strength. We need guidance. Perhaps if we would do our work in behalf of those of the unseen world who hunger and pray for the work we can do for them, the unseen world would in return give us help in the day of our urgent need. There are more in that other world than there are here. There is more power and strength there than we have here upon this earth. We have but a trifle, and that trifle is taken from the immeasurable power of God. We shall make no mistake in becoming collaborators in the Lord’s mighty work for human redemption.

I know that the temple is the House of the Lord, and that temples make it possible to become part of the People of Holiness.  I know temples empower us to follow the example of our Savior.  I know that temples enable us to return home to our Father-in-Heaven.  I know that because of the Savior has done, we will be resurrected again after this life, and that because we have temples we will have that new life and still be families together.  I know that the temple blessings include healing and strengthening, not just for myself, but for my whole family – on both sides of the veil.And I share these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.1533765_739886342712976_1755629278_nCLICK HERE to see the scripture verses assigned as homework prior to this talk.Additional scriptures:

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:”
1 Corinthians 2:7

“And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.”
D&C 35:18

“And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen.”
Moses 5:59

“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.”
Alma 12:10

Covenanters spoke of “seeing God” as an extension of worshipping in the temple.
(Isaiah 6:1; Psalm 24:3–6; Matthew 5:8).

“To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.”
D&C 107:19

“And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.”
D&C 6:11

“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
1 Corinthians 4:1

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”
Ephesians 6:19

“Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.”
Alma 26:22

“And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him”
D&C 43:14

“But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.”
D&C 63:23

“Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.”
Alma 37:4

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.”
Alma 12:9

“Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.”
Jacob 4:8

Additional Quotes:

Joseph Smith warned the Saints: “Let us be faithful and silent, brethren, and if God gives you a manifestation, keep it to yourselves.”

Of this remark, Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote:

“By and large, Latter-day Saints observe this direction. They do not speak publicly of their most sacred experiences. They seldom mention miracles in bearing their testimonies, and they rarely preach from the pulpit about signs that the gospel is true. They usually affirm their testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel by asserting the conclusion, not by giving details on how it was obtained.” (The Lord’s Way)

President Hunter:
“The temple is a place of instruction where profound truths pertaining to the Kingdom of God are unfolded. It is a place of peace where minds can be centered upon things of the spirit and the worries of the world can be laid aside. In the temple we make covenants to obey the laws of God, and promises are made to us, conditioned always on our faithfulness, which extend into eternity”
(The Priesthood and You [Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide, 1966],
p. 293; see also Ensign, Oct. 1994, p. 2).

“But to have the temple indeed be a symbol unto us, we must desire it to be so. We must live worthy to enter the temple. We must keep the commandments of our Lord. If we can pattern our life after the Master, and take His teaching and example as the supreme pattern for our own, we will not find it difficult to be temple worthy, to be consistent and loyal in every walk of life, for we will be committed to a single, sacred standard of conduct and belief”
(Ensign, Oct. 1994, p. 5; italics added).

President Harold B. Lee said: “The temple ceremonies are designed by a wise Heavenly Father who has revealed them to us in these last days as a guide and a protection throughout our lives, that you and I might not fail to merit exaltation in the celestial kingdom where God and Christ dwell”
(“Enter a Holy Temple,” Improvement Era, June 1967, 144).

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “These blessings insure to us, through our faithfulness, the pearl of great price the Lord has offered us, for these are the greatest blessings we can receive in this life. It is a wonderful thing to come into the Church, but you cannot receive an exaltation until you have made covenants in the house of the Lord and received the keys and authorities that are there bestowed and which cannot be given in any other place on the earth today.”
(Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:253).



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A “crown [with] sacred letters…in four vowels,” i.e., YHWH. The golden diadem (Exodus 28:36 and 39:70) contained “seal engravings.” Hebrew sources claim that the diadem had in it the words “Holiness to Yahweh.” The exact rabbinical phrase is kodesh le-Yahweh. Cf. TB Shabbat 63b. Other sources, including Philo, De Vita Mosis II, 114, 132, claim it was simply the tetragrammaton. Gregory of Nyssa, 11, 201, describes the gold letters as “ineffable,” in Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, tr. Abraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 106. See Menahem Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 169. The Holy Name may have been abbreviated (ibid., 34, n. 38) on the headplate (TB Shabbat 63b).
Rabbi Kaplan, Aryeh. Waters of Eden. ISBN 978-1-879016-08-8.

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Lyons, Michael. Temple and Cosmos. Pp. 91-132. Picture p. 115.

Madsen, Truman. “The Temple and the Atonement.” TAW, 63-80.

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Jerusalem. 2 vols. Washington: Catholic University of America Press [contains an introduction, and English translations of: Vol 1: The introductory lecture (Procatechesis). Lenten lectures (Catecheses). Vol 2: Lenten lectures (Katēchēseis). Mystagogical lectures (Katēchēseis mystagōgikai). Sermon on the paralytic (Homilia eis ton paralytikon ton epi tēn Kolymbēthran). Letter to Constantius (Epistolē pros Kōnstantion). Fragments.]

McMullin, Keith B. October 2011. “The Power of the Aaronic Priesthood”. The Church of
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380, 384.

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Mormon” JBMS 2:1 (Spring 1993): 124-138 Also in .pdf format.

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Various essays on early Christianity, the temple, and the apostasy. Excellent.

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Edited form of presentation made by Hugh Nibley to the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency in the Salt Lake City temple. Drawings.

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This article is an edited version of a talk that was written at the request of several Apostles.
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Ritual and Symbolism, ed. Donald W. Parry. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, and Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies [FARMS]. 565-566

Nibley, Hugh. 1992. Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, Collected Works of

Hugh Nibley, 19 Vols., ed. Don E. Norton, illus. Michael Lyon. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, and Provo, UT: FARMS. 12:81

Nibley, Hugh. “The Early Christian Prayer Circle.” BYU Studies 19 (Fall 1978): 41-78;
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Discusses Psalm 15, 24, and Isaiah 33 which function as an Israelite “Temple recommend” – interviews and moral requirements to enter the Israelite temple compound.

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Dr. Peterson debated once with Robert Spencer. Spencer believes Islam is inherently violent –Peterson explained that verses about jihad in the Qur’an are specifically against the “infidels” that were attacking Mohammad -this is not a declaration of war against all non-believers – Peterson believes in a peaceful Islam. Spencer actually agrees with jihadists, that moderates are not true Muslims.
There are many moderates, but they tend to be silenced–they don’t like their “dirty laundry” paraded (as we don’t)

Islam doesn’t have a “church,” so they can’t just “excommunicate” the terrorists
Capital punishment for conversion does not exist in all areas–they should be able to un-couple this punishment, since they are not an empire any more
Is there an apostasy from Mohammad’s teaching? There is no direct evidence, but some of the polemical texts of the Qur’an may have been added in afterwards when Muslims were at war with Byzantine Christians. Peterson thinks Mohammad was genuinely inspired–but did he have the testimony of Christ (which is the definition of the gift of prophecy)?

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


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