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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 18 - The Endowment of the Holy Priesthood

Probably the most talked about LDS doctrine by the world, but surely the least understood, is the Latter-day Saint Temple Endowment ceremony.  In the pioneering-era of Utah, "the ceremony of Endowment . . . occupies usually about eight hours (History of Utah, 1540-1886, [1889], p. 357-358)."  Now it lasts about two hours.

In order to proceed, we must first define the word "endowment".  I like the way defines the word: "an attribute of mind or body; a gift of nature"  Dear reader, pay careful attention to the words "attribute" and "gift".  President Brigham Young defined the LDS Endowment in these words.  Said he, "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, … and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell (JD 2:31)."

Creation Room of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple

To fully understand the nature of the Endowment, one must understand that the structure, teachings, wordings, and symbols in the Endowment did not come from the wisdom of man, but from the wisdom and revelations of God.  The first endowments given in the last dispensation were given on 4 May 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois by Joseph Smith, Junior.  Of these events the Prophet wrote,

"I spent the day in the upper part of the store . . . instructing . . . in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the First Born, and come up and abide in the presence of the Elohim in the eternal worlds (HC 5:1-2)."

Alberta Canada Temple Garden Room

What we learn in the Endowment pertains to the purpose of life.  Said President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Here we have sketched before us the odyssey of man’s eternal journey from premortal existence through this life to the life beyond. Great fundamental and basic truths are taught with clarity and simplicity well within the understanding of all who hear (Ensign, March 1993, p. 5-6)."  The fundamental truths President Hinckley speaks of are the attributes of God, whether taught by spoken words or symbols.  The definition above said, "an attribute of mind or body; a gift of nature."  Surely the Endowment speaks essentially of the attributes of the Great Mind of the Universe, and a gift of nature's Creator Himself.
World Room of the Manti Utah Temple

As mentioned before, the Endowment teaches us about the Plan of Salvation.  Elder John A. Widstoe once wrote, 

"The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation, as taught from time to time by the leaders of the Church, and elucidate matters difficult of understanding. . . . The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith … fall clearly into four distinct parts: The preparatory ordinances; the giving of instruction by lectures and representations; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete (“Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 [April 1921]: p. 58)."

 Salt Lake Tempe Terrestrial Room

Most importantly, we make covenants during the Endowment.  Elder James E. Talmage tells us of them.  He said,  

"The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; 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. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions (The House of the Lord, p. 100)."

Celestial Room in San Diego California Temple

In order to enter the temple, one must be worthy.  The qualifications begin with baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true and living church on the face of the earth.  I know the teachings of the Lord's House are simple yet profound, peaceful and yet powerful.  Jesus Christ does indeed dwell within His temples, only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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