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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
[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.
The 1931 endowment only mentions that there is a Law of Obedience. Yet no covenant is made to obey it.
[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
To sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God.
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
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.
There was no Law of the Gospel given in the 1931 endowment.
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
Each of you shall have no sexual relations except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.