Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Study of the LDS Church - 4.1 The Endowment

The Endowment is one of several temple rites of the LDS church. This serves as a passage into adulthood for the LDS member. There are two main parts…the initiatory and the Endowment ceremony itself. The ceremony is open only to those LDS members who have previously been deemed worthy and have acquired church “recommends” (aka—passes to get into temple ceremonies). These rituals are secretive and not meant for the outsider to witness. However, I feel that this is an important topic to cover, as it bears great importance in the life of an LDS member. I do not plan to cover it as an “outing” of the ceremony. Since the LDS church insists that these ceremonies are “sacred, not secret,” I plan to cover the ritual knowing that although I am not revealing anything covered by the covenants of nondisclosure, that it very well might be more information than some LDS members are comfortable with me revealing.

However, if you are an LDS member and you are reading this, know that it is being covered just to demonstrate those works that are vital in your progression to your ultimate goal of godhood. There will be no “Mormon-bashing” allowed.

The initiatory portion of the ceremony is a series of washing, anointing, and donning a temple garment. After the donning of the temple garment, the “initiate” is given a new name that they are told, “which you should always remember and which you must keep sacred and never reveal, except at a certain place that will be shown you hereafter.” Changes made in this part of the ceremony have been mainly to preserve modesty. In the original ceremony, members were washed nude. In the early 20th century, the initiates began wearing a “shield” which was like a sleeveless robe that was open on the sides to preserve modesty while allowing various body parts to be both washed and anointed. Beginning in 2005, initiates were instructed to don the garment in the dressing room before the washings, and when the donning of the garment portion of the ceremony is reached, they are told that the garment is now “authorized.” Also, the anointing is now recited while the officiator touches the head of the initiate rather than each part named in the anointing.

The endowment ceremony itself now begins with the newly washed, anointed, and garbed members entering the temple proper silently. Men sit on one side of the room while women sit on the other. There is now a dramatic enactment of the Creation by Elohim, Jesus, and Michael (who later became Adam according to the ceremony), which today is shown not as a live drama, but as a movie. Following the creation of the universe, including Adam and Eve, the fall of humankind is portrayed. Then there are covenants made (for example of chastity and obedience). Finally, they are shown the signs of the priesthood and a series of “passwords” and handshakes that they will need to get into heaven upon death.

Before February 15, 1927, an oath of vengeance “upon this nation” was required as part of the endowment ceremony.

Changes were made in 1990 following surveys taken by LDS members regarding their feelings about the endowment rituals. The following changes were made:

  • All penalties (which includes a symbolic disembowelment and throat-slashing), the five points of fellowship, and syllables purported to having meaning in the Adamic language are omitted.
  • The part of the preacher is eliminated, as well as a reference to Lucifer's "popes and priests."
  • Women no longer covenant to obey the law of their husbands.
  • Language which faults Eve for initiating the Fall is dropped.
  • Many references to Adam are replaced with references to Adam and Eve.
  • The lecture at the veil is discontinued.
  • Orders from Elohim are repeated fewer times for brevity's sake.
You can see the source of this list and the history of the endowment at this site. You can see an actual “edited” copy of the 1984 ritual here with strikethroughs denoting removed items for the 1990 version and bold typeface indicating additions for the 1990 version.

Since there are no Biblical references that I can show you supporting the LDS ceremonies in their eyes, I feel that leads to be proof enough that they are not Biblically sound. Of all of the ordinances and ceremonies in the Bible, nothing resembling the endowment ceremony exists. Therefore, I see no leading to indicate that this ceremony was ever part of the original Christian church.

In fact, here is a useful comparison of the differences as outlined by Concerned Christians:

You can even see the difference in the temple clothing worn by the LDS members versus the Hebrews priests of the Old Testament temples (as obviously modeled by a Ken doll).

You also need to know that nowhere in LDS scripture is the endowment ceremony mentioned. Only one temple ceremony is mentioned in the canon of the LDS church (baptizing for the dead is mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants, but we’ll discuss that later).

However, LDS teachers, prophets and leaders have proclaimed the holiness and sacredness of the temple ceremonies as follows:

  • “The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or change.” (Ensign, August 2001, p 22). This was printed in bold print above a portrait of Joseph Smith.
  • “Now the purpose in Himself in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceding dispensations….He set the temple ordinances to be the same forever and ever and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them.” –The Prophet Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4 p208.
  • “…the endowments have never changed and can never change; as I understand it; it has been so testified, and that Joseph Smith Jr., himself was the founder of the endowments.”—Senator Reed Smoot, Reed Smoot Case, vol 3, p. 185
  • As temple work progresses, some members wonder if the ordinances can be changed or adjusted. These ordinances have been provided by revelation, and are in the hands of the First Presidency. Thus the temple is protected from tampering.” –W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, Deseret News, Church Section, January 16, 1982.
  • “The Gospel can no possible be changed…the saving principles must ever be the same. They can never change…the Gospel must always be the same in all of its parts…no one can change the Gospel…if they attempt to do so, they only set up a man-made system which is not the Gospel, but is merely a reflection of their own views…if we substitute ‘any other Gospel,’ there is no salvation in it…the Lord and His Gospel remain the same—always.” –The Prophet’s Message, Church News, June 5, 1965.

Also to be aware of--it has been noted that many of the symbols and phraseology of both the current and prior endowment ceremonies reflect those of Masonic ritual. There are similarities in the penalty signs that were given before 1990 in the LDS church, the symbols of the veil are the same, the idea of receiving a new name, as are the handshakes that are deemed secret by both organizations. If you find a Mason that is also a Mormon, they can confirm this for you although they most likely will not. You can find comparisons only as well, but in the nature of not attacking the rituals that are deemed sacred, I will leave those up to you to find if you so desire.

No further comments


  1. Why are Mormon Temple ceremonies secret to the public when the Old Testament temple ceremonies were open to public knowledge?
  2. Why aren’t the temple ceremonies contained in the Book of Mormon, which is supposed to be the “fullness of the everlasting gospel”? It seems if it were necessary for salvation and eternal progression that it would be contained therein.
  3. How do you justify in your head the changes that have occurred to the temple ceremonies throughout the history of the ceremony when the above quotes have been made indicating that there should never be any changes?
  4. Did you know that an entire character has been removed from the endowment reenactment?
  5. Why do your temple ceremonies in no way resemble those of the Old Testament?
  6. The thick veil of the temple is Jerusalem tore in half when Jesus Christ completed His sacrifice. God opened the Holy of Holies. He exposed it to mankind. We were given access to the throne of God, the mercy seat. Why did Joseph Smith hang up a new barrier (veil) between God and man?
This could seriously be a sensitive subject since most LDS members are reluctant to speak of the ceremonies at all. This is certainly not something to bring up until you’ve established a relationship of trust with the LDS member. Otherwise, you are likely to truly turn them off to anything else you are saying. Trust me…you can try to win them over by talking about plenty of other topics covered.

However, this is a very important part of their spiritual journey and I thought you needed to know about it.

Study of the LDS Church - 4.2 The Priesthood

1 comment:

MyKidsMom said...

Wow Kaye, I've never heard of these ceremonies. I am always amazed at the steps other religions create to make it more difficult to qualify to go to heaven. I'm curious whether it's a need to feel that you've "worked" your way there, or if it's more of a way to keep followers in line. I'm sure there are those who look at the whole process very solemnly, but it saddens me to think that these steps leave so many people by the wayside. Passwords and handshakes to get into heaven? It's a little mind-boggling.