FairMormon has a service where questions can be submitted and they are answered by volunteers. If you have a question, you can submit it at http://www.fairmormon.org/contact. We will occasionally publish answers here for questions that are commonly asked, or are on topics that are receiving a lot of attention. This particular question has three answers below.
I’m not endowed, but I hear details about special clothing and secretiveness that I am unsettled by. If something is so holy, then why does it feel wrong?
ANSWER FROM FAIRMORMON VOLUNTEER RENE KRYWULT:
I am Rene Krywult from Vienna, Austria, Europe, and I am one of those at FairMormon who answer questions. I am not a spokesperson for Fairmormon, and also not for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus, I only speak for myself. What I say should not be misunderstood as being authoritative doctrine of the Church. My mother tongue is German, not English.
Dear Brother, I can certainly understand your unease. In Christianity, the way sacred ordinances and church services are done are called “liturgies.” So, sacrament meeting is a liturgy, baptism is a liturgy, anointing and blessing is a liturgy and so on.
Also, in Christianity there are two kinds of liturgies. They are called High Church and Low Church liturgies.
In Low Church, the liturgy is sparse, with much room for improvisation. Priesthood is not important to officiate, and thus functions like prayers and sermons are not necessarily done by an ordained person, but every believer in attendance can perform them. Ordination itself often is not seen as important. The liturgy is not formal, and the dress code is not very strict. Symbolism is downplayed.
High church is just the opposite. Priesthood and priesthood hierarchy is important, all functions are performed by ordained people only, everything is highly symbolic, the liturgy is learnt by heart, and there is only a very limited area, where the presiding authority and the attendance can deviate from the predefined wording and even gestures and where to go when within the ritual. Clothing, at least of the officiator, is extremely important. Prayers and other sacred texts are recited as a group or in a question and answer “game.”
So, you see, that on Sunday, we are mainly Low Church, with every baptized person having the opportunity to lead in prayer, to give a talk and so on. There is no liturgical or ritual clothing, we just dress in Sunday best, which varies for everybody. When we stand up during a meeting to sing, it has no liturgical meaning, it should just help us not fall asleep. Yes, priesthood does play a role when it comes to the sacrament itself, but that’s about it. The person who will be asked most seldom to give a talk is probably the bishop. The only interaction between officiators and audience is when the audience answer with “Amen.” The only gesture most members perform is the closing of the eyes during prayer.
Now, in ancient Israel, religious ceremonies were split between the home, the synagogue, and the temple. In the home, important liturgies took place which were not “low church,” but were far “lower church” than the others. In the synagogue, people would read scripture and listen to the officiator expound scripture, and sometimes they would discuss things. And in the temple, they had “high church” with lots of ritual clothing, ritual actions and gestures, and so on.
Likewise, as a restoration of all things, we have High Church liturgies in the temple.
For someone who is not used to high church liturgies and who has not much experience with symbols, the temple liturgies seem to be another world, so to speak. And they really are, for they represent the ascent to God, and God’s world is different from our mundane surroundings.
People who grew up devoid of liturgical and symbolic training may think that the level of detail and the High Church ritual are “cult like,” a word they use to say it is “strange and uncommon.” But for someone who understands Christianity and Christian rituals, these High Church rituals are beautiful in themselves. In my humble opinion, it does help, if you go to an Anglican, Catholic or even Orthodox Sunday service once a while and look at what they do and why.
Concerning secrecy, this is another misunderstanding. My wife and I have received our endowment on the very same day, and we have been sealed. We really know that we both are “in the know” concerning the temple liturgies. IF they were secret, I would not be breaking secrecy by discussing details with her in our home, when nobody else is around. And we would want to keep this all from as many persons as possible. However, this isn’t the case.
But both our endowment and sealing are sacred. If I want to discuss those things with my wife, I can only do so in the temple. And some things, I will not even discuss with her there. To talk about the sacred things, we need sacred persons in the sacred space, and some things even need the sacred time. I want everybody on the world to know and really understand the liturgy of the temple. But the only way to do so is to become a sacred person, to go into sacred space at the sacred time, and to receive those things for oneself.
Sacred means “to keep apart” and “to keep special.” Secret means “to not tell or show.” Different concepts.
The reason why the endowment is sacred is because it symbolizes our ascent to heaven and our being invested with God’s power unto salvation of others.
I hope this helps a little.
All the best,
ANSWER FROM FAIRMORMON VOLUNTEER JAMES STUTZ:
Thanks for your question. I don’t speak officially for FairMormon. I really like the reply that Rene gave you. I just wanted to provide you with a couple of resources to maybe help. A lot of your discomfort is probably due to the mystery and seeming secrecy of it all. That will all go away once you become more familiar with it and experience it for yourself. There is nothing to fear. Our modern culture is one where we share everything with each other in public all the time. Nothing is sacred. But that is not how the Lord works. There should be aspects of our personal lives that are sacred to us that we don’t need to share with others. Likewise in our religious lives.
The Church just released a fairly in depth video tour of the new Rome Temple, which you should check out. In the video [above], Elder Bednar and Elder Rasband stand in various parts of the temple and explain what goes on there. It might help to remove some of the mystery that is causing you to feel uncomfortable. Also, if you haven’t seen this video about the temple clothing you should check it out.
I like the very symbolic and ritualistic aspects of the Temple. I don’t get that sort of thing anywhere else in my life. The clothing, structure, and teaching style all serve to transport me mentally out of the mundane world. The temple is a touchpoint between Heaven and Earth, and the ritualistic clothing and worship style help me to remember that. I can remove myself from the cares of the world and focus on God and my covenants. Yes, our style of temple worship is unusual in modern American culture. But we are talking about an unusual kind of place, the House of the Lord! It is the very best physical location to be in the world but not of the world. I encourage you to keep asking questions as you prepare yourself for your own endowments. You will receive blessings throughout your life for faithful temple worship.
ANSWER FROM FAIRMORMON VOLUNTEER GEORGE COBABE:
Brother, others have given you some good resources for answering your question. I try to read as much as I can about the ancient origins and meanings of symbols, including those in the Temple.
I would like to suggest a different perspective that goes along with the academic approach.
We are counseled not to seek “official” meanings for the temple symbols, rather to ponder and pray and receive the meanings that have greatest significance to each of us individually. I would suggest that this takes a different approach than what is often used to seek for an answer.
May I suggest an approach that works for me? It is not an official answer for the Church or for FairMormon. Only what I have found useful.
First you must make some initial assumptions in formulating your questions so as to receive an appropriate answer.
- The Temple endowment is inspired and is organized and presented according to the will of the Father in this important matter. Everything that goes on in the temple is directed by the First Presidency through the Temple Department. They do take a very personal interest in the Temple.
- God loves us very much, far more than we can comprehend. God loves his daughters as much as He loves any of his sons. He would not have anything in the endowment or other temple ordinances that would be demeaning for any of his children. He would only have uplifting messages and symbols to present to his beloved children. This is a very important assumption to make.
- Each of us is at a different level of understanding with regard to the temple. My understanding and interpretation of Temple ordinances is very different than when I received my endowment and was first introduced to the Temple on my 19th birthday preparing to depart on a mission. If I were to share my current understanding of any aspect of the temple it might not be consistent with your needs.
- We can receive personal revelation with regard to our questions. The insight you seek will likely be a combination of the information you gain from resources suggested by others and from the sweet whispers of the spirit that will make known to you what you need to understand about these holy and necessary ordinances and covenants.
With these assumptions, and perhaps others as well, we will formulate our questions differently than if we made other assumptions.
Now, it is not appropriate to speak of my understanding in this public forum. I have my understandings that I value and am willing to share with others in the right place and the right time. But they may very well be different than the appropriate conclusions you come to. They are, in my case, a bit different than the understanding I had long ago. I believe that my understanding has evolved and become more holy to me and mine, than 25,40, or 50 years ago. I think the same will be true for you.
Having a question about the Church or the Temple is good. Formulating the proper and useful question is very important if we are to get the proper answer we seek. We always want to ask in the proper manner.
I hope that in this difficult medium of communication you will understanding my meanings.
Best to you, and feel free to write again.