Temple Prep

At Millenial Star, jettboy ponders temple preparation and issues of secrecy and the sacred:

The hesitancy to discuss the specific aspects of activities and rituals keeps the members of the LDS Church who haven’t gone from knowing what to expect. First time attendees often describe their initial experience as shocking or disorienting. This despite the fact that there really isn’t anything untoward that is said or happens. In fact, many who have repeatedly attended say it becomes rather boring. A few claim to have fallen asleep, with some evidence to back that up. The newness of it all strikes almost everyone as disjointed from typical chapel worship. Some don’t recover and never return.

Blame for this is often placed on a lack of preparation. There is some truth to this. Because of the sacred nature of the Temple activities, only vague references can be divulged. There is a certain feeling among Mormons that the whole topic is off limits. Such a position goes too far, considering how much information exists in a study of General Conference talks on the subject of the Temple. How much can those who would be going for the first time be prepared? That is not an easy question to answer.

Some ideas:Continue reading

Perhaps the lack of proper preparation doesn’t exist because of what the LDS Church provides, but those who teach. They themselves are not always sure how far to go in the presentations. Again, this has to do with a certain amount of cultural assumptions about the degree of “secrecy” involved with the Temple. An attitude of sacred respect is laudable, but sometimes turns into over protection.

…Of course, Temple preparation can only go so far. No amount of lessons and instruction can replace the actual experience. That is as it should be. To a degree the Temple is supposed to shake us loose from our comfort zones. It is a Holy House of the Lord set apart from the world and therefore everyday lives.

…What is promised by and to attendees should already be in the hearts of the members…Those who cannot agree with abiding or intentions of improving on following the moral teachings of the LDS Church will be more than shocked by mere ritual. If past stories of those offended enough never to attend again are to be believed, the biggest problem is making promises with no intention of fulfilling them. Getting past that makes it easier to try again.

Not sure this resonates with my experience. I know a number of women whose first experience with the temple is surprise and dismay at the lesser role women seem to have as they relate to God and their husbands.

His conclusion, on the other hand, I love:

Going for the first time can be scary because of unfamiliarity, but it can also be rewarding. Perhaps only those who have gone will be reading this, but just in case be advised to let yourself be surprised. Take it in like you would the first day of college. Pick out as much and as little as you can understand and leave the rest for later. For those who pay attention, new nuggets of truth and inspiration are found with each Temple visit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions while in the Temple at appropriate times and lean on those outside who you trust. Most importantly, go again.

I enjoyed this comment by Nate, a Mason:

The endowment was originally instituted primarily among Mormon masons, and they related to and understood the endowment as masons. Joseph Smith and early Mormon masons believed the Endowment was a restoration of true masonry, which was seen to be an apostate form of the priesthood.

Today, we’ve lost the knowledge of the Masonic connection, so alot of the Endowment just seems bizarre and unconnected, supposedly a restoration of something ancient long since lost. But since I became a Mason myself, the endowment makes a lot more sense. It is constructed in the language and forms of masonry, and it’s beauty also lies in the editorial work Joseph Smith did on the original masonic ceremonies themselves: what was kept, what was added, what was eliminated, how women were included, how the doctrine of the three degrees of glory and the journey of Adam and Eve were woven into the fabric of the ceremony. It’s actually quite a brilliant and beautiful sythysis.

I think preparing newcommers with an idea that the Endowment comes from the culture of Masonry will help them try to enter into a new mindset, rather than expecting it to relate to their normal church experience, which is totally different. It’s almost like a different religion, as different as going to an orthodox service, or Bhuddist ceremony, and it should be appreciated as something different, with it’s own tradition, it’s own culture, it’s own beauty.


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