I Love to See the Temple, Part 2


The Endowment is looked upon, by many LDS, as the pinnacle of all ordinances. Members of the church look forward to entering the temple and receiving this ordinance.

But as I’ve researched more into the Endowment I’ve realized that our modern version has been corrupted from the original version. It seems we LDS have no problem altering “Eternal” ordinances to make ourselves more comfortable and increase temple attendance. In this post I hope to illustrate many of the changes and corruptions that have found their way into our present endowment.

Now I do admit that the wording of the ceremony is not necessarily vital. I feel strongly that the early endowments were probably not given word for word, except for the covenants, signs, tokens, penalties, names, etc.

The earliest account of the endowment I have been able to find comes from Brigham Young:

When we got our washings and anointing under the hands of the Prophet Joseph at Nauvoo, we had only one room to work in, with the exception of a little side room or office where we were washed and anointed, had our garment placed upon us and received our new name; and after he had performed these ceremonies, he gave the key-words, signs, tokens, and penalties. Then after, we went into the large room over the store in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith divided up the room the best that he could, hung up the veil, marked it, gave us our instructions as we passed along from one department to another, giving us signs, tokens, penalties, with the key-words pertaining to those signs.

This account gives us a basis for what the earliest endowments contained:

1. Washing and anointings.
2. Placement of garments.
3. Receive new name.
4. Ceremony involving moving from one room/division/department to another.
5. Receive signs, tokens, penalties, and key-words.
6. A marked veil.

All other accounts of the Endowment I can find, come from the time Brigham Young was leading the Church. It is reasonable to conclude that Brigham young added some elements to the endowment that were not contained in the original endowment. However since we do not have a detailed account of the original endowment we cannot be sure just what was added or removed by Brigham. One thing that can specifically be identified is the Law of Vengeance.

You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

The prophets mentioned were Joseph Smith,Jr. and Hyrum Smith. This obviously could not have been part of the original endowment since Joseph and Hyrum had not yet been martyred.

The earliest detailed account of the endowment comes from1931. That is over eighty years since this original endowment was established.

So I guess one positive move was the elimination of the Law of Vengence in the endowment by the late 1920s. However this small victory is eclipsed by the many other changes away from the original endowment.

One big change that I mentioned briefly in Part 1 was the addition of video for the majority of instruction. One reason cited for the replacement of live ceremony by video was so that the Endowment could be done in many different languages. However while researching for this post I found a more sinister dubious reason for the change. This is from http://www.ldsendowment.org/film.html

As corporate models came to dominate Church administration in the twentieth century, it was natural that Church officials should look for ways to reduce the expenses of building new temples and to more efficiently administer temple ordinances for the living and the dead. The filmed endowment, originally developed in the 1950s for use in the Swiss and New Zealand temples, fit the bill: it required only two rooms instead of five, allowed for simpler interior decoration…

Oh, that makes sense. It seems like a great way to reduce the expenses of temples…wait…did I read that right? Reduce the expenses?! So the endowment was changed for money?!

This should stand out in sharp contrast to the Temple in Jerusalem with walled plated in gold. The temple in Jerusalem were filled with riches and precious materials. The early saint sacrificed everything they had to build temples. Yet here we are today working to reduce the cost of operating temples. Modern temples are build to be cost efficient yet ancient temples were built to be expensive and filled with precious materials. If that isn’t and indicator of something being amiss then I don’t know what is.

For the rest of this post I have summarized the modern and original endowment ceremonies. This is so you can compare the two. I haven’t gone into too much detail about what instruction is received in the endowment. I’ll start off with the Initiatory.

Initiatory/Kirtland Endowment

To start I will compare the modern Initiatory/“Washing and Anointing”/Kirtland Endowment to the original.

I believe the latest change in the Initiatory happened in 2005. I received my initiatory in 2003 so my information comes from second/third hand accounts.

Modern Initiatory

The initiate dons the garment. Another piece of clothing called a shield is worn over the garment. The initiate is only symbolically washed and anointed. The officiator places water on the head of the initiate. A blessing is pronounced. The officiator places oil on the initiate’s forehead.  A blessing is pronounced. After this the garment is authorized and a new name is given.

Original Initiatory

The initiates wears a long shirt and pants or shorts. The initiates face is washed. A statement concerning this washing is made. The initiate removes their clothes down to the white shirt and shorts. They then have an interview with an officiator. The initiate is then take to a room with a bath tub. They remove the rest of their clothes and wash in the tub. There are indications that the initiate was bathed by officiator and there are others that the initiates washed themselves. Initiates washing themselves would be consistent with the Kirtland Endowment.

After washing in the tub the initiate drys and wraps themselves in a white blanket. They are then anointed with oil from a horn with a wooden spoon. A blessing is then pronounced upon them. The initiate them dons the garment. The garment is authorized. The initiate is given a new name.

I’ve decided to include the original Kirtland endowment. So we can compare it to the Original Initiatory and the Modern Initiatory

Kirtland Endowment

Initiate washes in water and alcohol  in the name of the Lord. This is done at a location outside of the Temple. At the Temple the initiate is anointed with oil. Blessings are pronounced upon the initiate. After all have been anointed a solemn assembly is held where in the attendees partake of the sacrament and wash each others’ feet.

We can see clearly that the modern initiatory has just a vague semblance of the original initiatory. So if these changes were authorized by God then why wasn’t the Kirtland endowment revealed that way? Why reveal it one way and then slowly change it over time? Or is there another possibility? Could it be that we have perverted the Initiatory? Could it be that we have changed the ordinances the Lord has revealed.

The Kirtland Endowment were often accompanied by visions, revelations, speaking in tongues, prophesying, etc. Why do we not experience these things today in our modern initiatory? Could it be that our modern “Endowment of Power” has lost its power because of our wickedness?

Nauvoo Endowment/Endowment

I imagine most members of the church today would be uncomfortable with the original endowment ceremony if they were to go through it today. I find it extremely fascinating and much more powerful. I would love to be able to go through the original ceremony.

Modern Creation Room
Men and women remain seated on opposite sides of the room. A video is played which depicts the seven creative periods and the initial period in the Garden of Eden. After the creation of woman, the men stand as if they are Adam. The video depicts the initial interactions of Adam and Eve. In single room endowments the video continues. In multi-room endowments the video is shut off and the women are instructed to stand. Together, men and women enter the Garden Room.

Original Creation Room
Men sit in one space and women in another, they are divided by a curtain. After some initial instruction the creation story is reenacted from the Garden room. Only voices are heard by the patrons. When man is to be made the men representing Elohim, Jehovah, and Adam enter the men’s side. Jehovah then forms Adam. He pretends to form Adam from the dust of the ground. He repeats this action for each man in the room.

The men are instructed to act as if they are asleep. With the mens eyes closed woman is “formed.” At this point he curtain is opened and the women enter the men’s side. Each woman stands in front of her husband. The men open their eyes and stand. After some dialogue the men and women enter the garden room together.

Modern Garden Room
In single room endowments there is no Garden Room. In multi-room endowments men and women enter the Garden Room and sit down on chairs on their respective sides. A video is played which depicts the events of the Garden of Eden up until the casting out of the Garden. At one point the patrons are instructed to put on a piece of ceremonial clothing. Later they make certain covenants.

Original Garden Room
The Original Garden Room was filled with potted plants and trees. There are two very real trees which represent the Trees of Knowledge and the Tree fo Life. There are no chairs. When the patrons enter the Garden Room they are instructed to walk amongst the trees and eat the fruits of them(except the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). The patrons then are free to walk around the Garden Room. They can eat the fruit from the potted plants and trees. Satan then enters and tempts Adam and Eve. When Eve partakes of the fruit, all the other women in the room(each as if they were Eve) partake of te fruit too. They actually consume a real fruit. Each woman then gives the fruit to her husband and he actually eats the fruit.

The voices of Elohim and Jehovah are heard and Satan tells Adam and Eve to hide. Every patron then puts on a piece of ceremonial clothing and then hides amongst the trees and bushes. When they are put under covenants each couple goes to the altar and enters into the covenant. The men and women leave the Garden Room together.
Modern Lone and Dreary World Room
In single room endowments there is no Lone and Dreary World Room. In multi-room endowments men and women enter the Lone and Dreary World Room. They sit on their respective sides according to gender. The video continues with Adam and Eve praying to God. Satan tempts Adam. God sends messengers to Adam and Eve. After this more ceremonial clothing is donned and signs, tokens, and names are received. More instruction and covenants are received first being demonstrated by a witness couple.

Original Lone and Dreary World Room
The Lone and Dreary World Room is darkly lit. Satan enters the room and invites the patrons to eat drink and be merry with him. A preacher enter and attempts to teach the patrons religion. Messengers from God enter. They rebuke the preacher and cast out Satan. The patrons don more ceremonial clothing. They receive more instruction, covenants, signs, tokens, names, and penalties.

Modern Terrestrial Room
In single room endowments there is no Terrestrial Room. In multi-room endowments men and women enter the Garden Room and sit down on chairs on their respective sides. The men and women receive more signs, tokens, and names. The receive more instruction and covenants. A witness couple demonstrates these at the altar. They learn the True Order of Prayer. They receive instruction about the veil. Patrons are presented at the veil and receive more instruction. After this instruction they are permitted to enter the Celestial Room.

Original Terrestrial Room
The patrons enter the Terrestrial Room. They receive more instruction and covenants, signs, tokens, names, and penalties. I assume that these were received be each couple coming to the altar.  The Patrons are taught the True Order of Prayer. They receive further instruction concerning the veil. They are then presented at the veil and receive further instruction. Before being permitted to enter the Celestial Room the patron’s garments must be marked.

We can see here that the endowment is much more intact that the initiatory. However there are many changes. Not only are changes made to important elements of the ceremony, but all penalties have been removed. Also the original endowment format was based on each person entering into covenants in the first person. Today they enter covenants through a witness couple who go to the altar. The modern version seems to be more in line with getting as many people through as fast as possible. For those of you who have been endowed, can you imagine the time it would take if each couple took their covenants at the altars individually?

The part I really love about the original endowment is the Garden Room. It just seems so amazing that there were actual plants and trees in the room. Instead of sitting in theater style seats you would walk amongst the trees and eat fruit. The original endowment just seems more real and personal.

To conclude this post I am including a comparison of the Laws(not the covenants) given in the Endowment.

THE LAW OF OBEDIENCE

Today
[Women] will obey the Law of the Lord, and will hearken unto [her husband’s] counsel as [he] hearken unto [the Lord’s], and if you will covenant that from this time forth you will obey the Law of Elohim, we will give unto you the Law of Obedience and Sacrifice, and we will provide a Savior for you, whereby you may come back into our presence, and with us partake of Eternal Life and exaltation.

1931
The 1931 endowment only mentions that there is a Law of Obedience. Yet no covenant is made to obey it.

1984
[Women] will obey [her husband’s] law in the Lord, and will hearken unto [his] counsel as [he] hearken unto [the Lord’s], and if you will covenant that from this time forth you will obey the Law of Elohim, we will give unto you the Law of Obedience and Sacrifice, and we will provide a Savior for you, whereby you may come back into our presence, and with us partake of Eternal Life and exaltation.

THE LAW OF SACRIFICE

Today
To sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God.

1931
You will sacrifice your time, talents and all you may now or hereafter become possessed of to the upbuilding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(Compare this to our modern Law of Consecration.)

THE LAW OF THE GOSPEL

Today
The Law of the Gospel as contained in the Holy Scriptures; […]also a charge to avoid all light mindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice.

1931
There was no Law of the Gospel given in the 1931 endowment.

1984
The Law of the Gospel as contained in the Book of Mormon and the Bible; to give unto you also a charge to avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice

THE LAW OF CHASTITY

Today
Each of you shall have no sexual relations except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.

1931(for Men)
You will not have sexual intercourse with any of the opposite sex except your lawful wife or wives who are given you by the holy priesthood.

(Notice how this specifically includes “wives” in addition to one’s wife.)

1931(for Women)
You will not have sexual intercourse with any of the opposite sex save your lawful husband, given you by the holy priesthood.

THE LAW OF CONSECRATION

Today
You do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

1931
There is no Law of Consecration given in the 1931 endowment. However compare the wording of the 1931 Law of Sacrifice: You will sacrifice your time, talents and all you may now or hereafter become possessed of to the upbuilding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1984
You do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents and everything which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

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10 Responses to I Love to See the Temple, Part 2

  1. Dave P. says:

    One thing that really stood out to me is the inclusion of no “evil speaking against the Lord’s anointed” as part of the addition of the Law of the Gospel in 1984. Of course not only is that statement vague, but seems to fall in place at a convenient timing as correlation had just started to become the norm and the “follow the prophet” mantra was really beginning to cement into place.

    I’ve found in the past that the attempt of calling someone the “Lord’s anointed” can be used as an attempt to justify the wrongful actions of people who are obviously put in their position by men or men who steal said position. I had a great D&C professor at BYU, but the one major thing I will always disagree with him on is that the President of the United States, especially George W. Bush (who was the one at the time), was not and will never be put into that position by God.

    If someone is to be considered the Lord’s anointed, he’d certainly better be ready to testify that he saw God face-to-face, was called and anointed by him, and sent to do His will. I believe it was Joseph Smith who taught that all prophets are called personally by the Father.

  2. Justin says:

    Need I point out the year 1984?

  3. Ananas says:

    Zo:

    I generally look at the past and see a lot I agree with, but in reading some of the wording of the 1931 account (both today and in some of the comments I made about part 1) there’s much in there I personally disagree with.

    In the end, it’s still apparent that we worship the temple of the Lord, and not the Lord of the temple.

  4. zo-ma-rah says:

    True Ananas. In my research I discovered that about the 1920’s Heber J. Grant organized a group to revise and standardize the Endowment. So even though the 1931 account is the earliest complete account we have, it is still post-Heber. Not to mention Brigham Young probably revised the ceremony too after Joseph Smith’s death. So we really have no idea what the original wording of he covenants were. Something tells me we could get closer to the original endowment by look at the Masonic ceremonies that we can looking at the 20th century Endowment accounts.

    • There are still temples where all the original ordinances are performed. Where nothing of priesthood, and manifestations, and covenants is missing. They are simply hidden from the unbelieving world. If you truly desire these things I invite you to come and partake, as I have, of the fullness of these ordinances. I cannot say anything more. ask and ye shall receive. contact me anytime: GospelFullness (at) Gmail

  5. Ananas says:

    Once thing I was curious about, and hoping you could elaborate. You said:

    Now I do admit that the wording of the ceremony is not necessarily vital. I feel strongly that the early endowments were probably not given word for word, except for the covenants, signs, tokens, penalties, names, etc. … So I guess one positive move was the elimination of the Law of Vengence in the endowment by the late 1920s.

    (emphasis added.)

    My question would be this: the law of vengeance was presumably added after Joseph was killed, so it being in the ceremony was likely an addition to the original form, whatever that may have been. Then it was removed. Add to that all the other changes, wordings, eliminations, additions and we’re largely left with nothing more than a shell.

    So, does this and this apply?

    “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 changed.” (TPJS p. 308)

  6. zo-ma-rah says:

    When i say wording of teh ceremony I mean the wording of the drama. I think it is acceptable and to be expected that the wording of the Drama portion of the endowment may not be word for word. But the covenants, signs, tokens, names, penaltioes, should be word for word. I say this out of practicality because I find it hard to imagine someone having all of their lines memorized for that length of time. But then again I could be wrong.

    I think we are left with a shell of the Endowment and especially the Washing and Anointing. It is not longer and Endowment of pPwer but more like endowed with a Spiritual Feeling in the Celestial Room. I’ve been trying to recreate a script for the endowment from the accounts I can find. And even the form and phrasing of the small glimpse of the Endowment, I can get through those accounts, seems powerful.

  7. leejae says:

    This is great! Thanks for putting that all together. I was also endowed in 2003 just before the latest initiatory change, and though I’m glad I had it prior to THAT, like you I really wish I could have been through the original initiatory.

  8. Spencer says:

    My carefully considered response that I don’t expect anyone to read as it is three years late and way too long for the casual web surfer. I would hope the author of the post above would enjoy my response but either way I was grateful for the opportunity to consider my feelings on this topic.

    Right off the bat, the use of the word ‘corrupt’ sets a tone of antagonistic criticism for the rest of the post. From your other posts I have read this seems to be intentional. It is hard to tell if your purpose is to convince people that the current temple practices are wrong (read ‘un-True’)and therefore blasphemous, or if you are trying to critically point out that the growth and organizational demands of a large church have meant the adoption of more efficient performances (which many critics call ‘corporatizing’) and have lead to a certain loss of meaning and power in the practice of ordinances. If not for the use of the word “corrupt” it would have been more easy to read with an open mind that would allow me to draw my own conclusions. Instead readers now first have to form an opinion on your stance. This polarizers your audience instead of informing them so they can think about it. This is perhaps an overly academic response to a blog post, but you claim to be reporting your thoughts as the result of sincere research to I thought I would mention it.

    My reason for mentioning this is, although I do not see evidence that you purport to be an expert on all available source material, the majority of your readers will view your level of research as much more than their own and so declare it enough to build an opinion on. They will read this post and walk away quoting things like “But there is no evidence of how Joseph Smith performed these himself”. This only bugs me because it means your influence will most likely outrun your intentions and again, because of your initial description modern temple practices as ‘corrupt’, your post will easily be used as fodder to attack LDS temple practices and LDS prophets. Especially Brigham Young.

    Putting this aside I would like to respond to overall argument you make in your post.

    I read your argument as ‘Joseph Smith restored a True (you call it ‘the original’) format for temple ordinances and unauthorized alterations have diluted their meaning and power’. From an LDS perspective, this argument doesn’t follow as it is contradictory in its assumptions.

    First, this post assumes that Joseph Smith only ever performed temple ordinances in one way without changes or experimentation; as if temple ordinances were a stone statue just waiting for him to just clear away the dirt to show its one true unchanging form. Then, as I just mentioned, you assume that once uncovered, God did not intend for temple ordinances to ever change as they represent Truth with a capital ‘T’.

    First, you must have read in your research how much experimentation Joseph did while figuring out how the Lord intended these ordinances to be performed. How they were done in early attempts were far from what was done in Nauvoo before and after the temple was constructed. I submit to you that there never was an ‘Original’ form. I challenge the idea that the ordinances performed in and out of the Nauvoo temple (performed prior to and right after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom) did not alter from one to the next. I am sure the Apostles and High Council discussed and prayed about how things should go and made changes as they went.

    You desire to maintain the “original” wording of ordinances but I suggest that there is no such thing. You assume that the only changes made were by Brigham Young and then Heber J Grant. The temple ordinances have always been under review and undergo revision. As the world changes there is need to revise these practices in order that the purpose and meaning is not lost due to inflexibility of its form. The practical and culturally based changes, I believe, I done with direction from God SO THAT the purpose of the ordinance is not lost purely for the sake of maintain the illusion of “pure original form”.

    Secondly, I will refer to the concept of the temple as a performance. Performances are some of the most powerful of culturally defined practices. They use culturally defined symbols (spoken language or other) to convey and attach meanings for the participants and audience. We do not know (or remember) the ‘culture’ of God. The language, stories, songs, symbols etc. which we had in common before coming to earth. I wish we did. I bet the language left less up to interpretation and therefore less misunderstandings. However, part of God’s plan allows us to be here make our own societies from scratch. The cultural dictionary we each use to communicate and live by varys group to group, people to people. God is kind enough to speak to us in these languages; in our languages that are seated in our earth-bound culture. There is no avoiding this. Joseph Smith understood this to some extent which I why I believe he had no problem borrowing ideas, being inspired by, ordinances performed elsewhere (Stone Masonry, Old Testament, Modern Judaism etc). The format of the performance is only the vehicle for its purpose; just as English is only the vehicle I am using to write this (very) lengthy response. If I wrote it 100 years ago or 100 years in the future the English I use would be different, would it not? But that does not change my purpose, or make it less meaningful, or less powerful.

    This does not mean we are carefree in our attitude about each performance. Quite the opposite, we repeat sacrament prayers and baptism prayers when mistakes are made, right? We believe they are to be done with “exactness”. In the early days of the church it was quite easy to ensure that the temple ordinances were performed appropriately. However, as temples are built around the world, it would be more difficult to ensure that the ordinances are performed with exactness if live actors were used. So the lord directed the use of standardising the performance by using video. I know of no saving ordinances that are not under the same susceptibility to change; baptism and blessing the sacrament included. The scriptures are full of examples of these variations or evolutions. It would be interesting if a proper study could be done of how prophets directed ordinances within a single culture over the span of centuries.

    Having said all of this, like you I am very interested in knowing past formats and how they have been revised but perhaps my motive is different. I think that understanding these changes improves my understanding of our path and progress as a body of Christians. If there was a part of an ordinance that asked people to teach something to their children to the third or fourth generation, would it not be natural for this to be removed after the fourth generation? That tells us something. The temple prepares us for something more and as we develop as individuals and as a church body I would expect the training regiment to develop as well. The doctrine, the gospel, the path never changes,where we are on the path and stage at which we are living and performing it changes generation to generation. heaven is our destination, but we are not there yet. There is lots of terrain to pass through before we are there. If we had not given up the view we had earlier, we would never moving forward towards something eternally better. Thank you for getting me to think about this again.

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