05
Jan
09

The Temple

 

     One of the most important aspects of Mormonism is the temple.  It often refers to the temples of Bible times and implies that the modern-day LDS temples are continuations of those biblical temples.  But there is nothing similar between the two.

     Consider first who could enter the temple.  In biblical times, only the priests could enter it.  And priesthood was determined by genetics.  Only the men from the house of Aaron could be priests.  In Mormonism, both priest holders and non-priest holders can enter the temple.  And LDS priesthood is not determined by genetics. 

     Even more striking was the fact that only one man, the high priest, could enter the inner part of the temple, the Holy of Holies.  And he could only do that on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. 

     Another difference is their structure.  In the Bible, the temple consisted of only two rooms:  the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  There were no sealing rooms or celestial room as there are in LDS temples.

     Most striking is the difference in activities between the two.  Biblical temples revolved around sacrifice.  It sounded and smelled like a slaughter-house.  For example, when it was dedicated King Solomon sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats!  Each day afterward daily sacrifices both for the nation and for individuals were offered.  The book of Hebrews wonderfully explains all this as it talks about how these sacrifices and all that blood prefigured Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  The activity of biblical temples was one striking and repeating object lesson: “without shedding of blood is no remission.”  (Heb. 9:22)

     The activity within LDS temples is completely different.  In it people receive endowments for themselves and vicariously for the dead; are married for eternity and are vicariously married for the dead, and are baptized for the dead. There the emphasis is on how people can redeem the dead, one of the three main missions of the Mormon Church.  That is in striking contrast to how biblical temples pointed ahead to Jesus’ redeeming us by the shedding of his blood.

     Instead of connecting Mormonism to the Bible, LDS temples strikingly show the difference between the Bible and Mormonism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     One of the most important aspects of Mormonism is the temple.  It often refers to the temples of Bible times and implies that the modern-day LDS temples are continuations of those biblical temples.  But there is nothing similar between the two.

     Consider first who could enter the temple.  In biblical times, only the priests could enter it.  And priesthood was determined by genetics.  Only the men from the house of Aaron could be priests.  In Mormonism, both priest holders and non-priest holders can enter the temple.  And LDS priesthood is not determined by genetics. 

     Even more striking was the fact that only one man, the high priest, could enter the inner part of the temple, the Holy of Holies.  And he could only do that on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. 

     Another difference is their structure.  In the Bible, the temple consisted of only two rooms:  the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  There were no sealing rooms or celestial room as there are in LDS temples.

     Most striking is the difference in activities between the two.  Biblical temples revolved around sacrifice.  It sounded and smelled like a slaughter-house.  For example, when it was dedicated King Solomon sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats!  Each day afterward daily sacrifices both for the nation and for individuals were offered.  The book of Hebrews wonderfully explains all this as it talks about how these sacrifices and all that blood prefigured Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  The activity of biblical temples was one striking and repeating object lesson: “without shedding of blood is no remission.”  (Heb. 9:22)

     The activity within LDS temples is completely different.  In it people receive endowments for themselves and vicariously for the dead; are married for eternity and are vicariously married for the dead, and are baptized for the dead. There the emphasis is on how people can redeem the dead, one of the three main missions of the Mormon Church.  That is in striking contrast to how biblical temples pointed ahead to Jesus’ redeeming us by the shedding of his blood.

     Instead of connecting Mormonism to the Bible, LDS temples strikingly show the difference between the Bible and Mormonism.

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14 Responses to “The Temple”


  1. January 5, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    It sounds really strange hearing this argument from an Evangelical.

    I thought you guys didn’t believe in having a Priest stand between the worshiper and the presence of God. I thought you guys believed that animal sacrifice was done away with by the New Covenant.

    Was I wrong?

    Why then are you getting on our case for not incorporating that stuff in our modern temples?

    After all, we do happen to believe in the New Testament too, you know…

  2. January 5, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    And by the way, while I do believe that early Christians saw the temple as very much central to their faith, I do not really worry myself over whether we have accurately reproduced early Christian worship in the temple (if there was such a thing – considering that the Jews who had control of the temple would have excluded any Christian worship there and the early Christians would have been too poor to build their own).

    If we’re different, so what?

    Nice thing about being in a living religion rather than a stagnant one.

  3. 3 markcares
    January 5, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I’m not saying we should have temples now. You are right about animal sacrifices being done away with. We also believe the need for temples was done away with. But the point of my post was simply to say that there is no similarity between biblical temples and LDS temples even though that point is made or implied numerous times. For example, “Their more sacred place was, first, the tabernacle in the wilderness with its Holy of Holies, and then a succession of temples,where special ordinances were performed and where only those who met the required qualifications could participate in the ordinances. So it is today.” (Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 3)

  4. January 5, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    I think there are actually a lot of similarities. But that’s a pretty extensive body of LDS scholarship and I’m not really up to summing it up.

    Even if you accept that there were no similarities in particulars, I think you can very much make the case that the underlying religious “archetypes” (to use Jung’s term) underlying the Mormon temple ceremony, were very-much present in ancient Judaism.

    As for early Christian temple practice. I would not be particularly put out to discover they didn’t have any formalized body of temple worship.

    As I have mentioned, early Christianity was in a radical state of experimentation and uncertainty. They had no access to the temple in Jerusalem as Christians (Jewish leaders would have seen to that). They had no resources to build their own temple. Even if they had, it is unlikely that the heavily Jewish faction of Peter, James, and John would have approved of supplanting the temple in Jerusalem. The more innovative and radical Paul might have supported such a notion, but… You also have to take into account that the early apostles give every indication that they thought Jesus would be returning within their lifetimes or shortly thereafter. Certainly, this was the expectation of their followers. It may well be that they felt no immediate need to reclaim the temple for Christ because he would soon be doing it himself. The destruction of the temple at the hands of the Romans was a massive shock for early Christianity (not to mention Judaism). It required a complete revisioning of assumptions.

    Really, so much was lost to us in that first 200 years of Christianity. So many gaps in our knowledge. I don’t see how scholarship can rule out a very central temple in early Christian thought, if not practice.

  5. January 5, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    An extensive body of NON-LDS scholarship too, I might add.

  6. 6 Berean
    January 6, 2009 at 4:58 am

    I’d be very surprised to learn of any Bible scholar (non-LDS) who would validate what is going on in LDS temples today to what took place in the Jewish temples of the past or what can only be imagined if there had been a Christian temple after the resurrection of Christ. That wouldn’t happen we are told by the Apostle Paul that are bodies are the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19) and that is where His Spirit resides for those that know Him. Ordinance work for the dead whether it baptisms or marriages by proxy, celestial marriages for time and eternity, endowments and the sealing of children never took place in any temple in either the Old or New Testaments. Much of this has roots in paganism, freemasonry and the occult.

    In reading the writings of Charles W. Penrose, a former member of the First Presidency, it is disturbing to learn of the communication with the dead “beyond the veil”. Wilford Woodruff said on several occasions that he had communication with the deceased Joseph Smith in these venues. This is called necromancy and is condemned in the Bible (Deut 18:11).

    Ironically, the Book of Mormon speaks nothing about modern day Mormonism and what goes on in the temples. While reading through the Book of Mormon I came across these passages that to me shows that the Book of Mormon actually speaks out against what goes on in Mormon temples today in several ways:

    1. Building elaborate temples/churches instead of money going to the poor: Mormon 8:37
    2. Secret oaths: 4 Nephi 1:42
    3. Secret combinations: Mormon 8:27; Ether 11:15
    4. Nothing should be done in secret: 2 Nephi 30:17-18
    5. Satan is the author of such things: 2 Nephi 26:22; Helaman 6:21-26
    6. The Lord doesn’t dwell in unholy temples: Alma 34:36

  7. January 6, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Mormon temples really aren’t all that elaborate. Secret teachings and oaths have always been a part of organized religion – including the true one. And Satan will always counterfeit that which is good and holy. Not really connecting for me today, I’m afraid.

    As for the your comment about modern Mormon temple practices being validated by other scholars, I don’t think you really read my post. That was never my point to begin with. Try again.

  8. 8 Berean
    January 6, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    “Mormon temples really aren’t all that elaborate”. You’re kidding, right? The Mormon Church takes great pride in their temple monstrocities. One of my Mormon friends up in Utah gave me a calendar that had a featured temple for every month of the year. The LDS Church encourages its members to have pictures of the temples in their residences (according to what I’ve read in the Ensign). I keep thinking of the one I saw down in San Diego when I was driving around…unbelievable. Gordon Hinckley was the one who decided to tone it down and start doing temples “on the cheap”. Now instead the focus is on quantity.

    “Secret teachings and oaths have always been a part of organized religion.” Once again, you’re wrong. There are no secret teachings in Christianity. There is nothing done behind closed doors in Christian church services. Anybody can walk right off the street and in the front door and see what is going on. Why should anything be done in secret? You’re problem isn’t with Christianity on this one – it’s with your church in which the Book of Mormon condemns itself on its secret practices. I’ve heard from Mormons who have said that they have had communication with dead people beyond the veil in the temple. These are fallen angels/demons masquerading as dead relatives. That should make you afraid. That is necromancy and that is from Satan.

  9. January 6, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Ooooh, voodoo, scary, scary….

    Come on Berean, you’re wasting our time here.

  10. 10 markcares
    January 6, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    The bible gives detailed information about the sturcture, activities, and purpose of the Old Testament temple. I find it interesting that much of scholarship ignores that and then speculates on the temple citing less proven and less acceptad and less attested to sources.

  11. January 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Sorry about the previous response. I’m getting snotty again.

    Mark, the problem with using the Old Testament as an example of what to expect from the temple is that Christ had already ushered in a New Covenant and new way of doing things when we are talking about the target period here – 1st century Christianity.

    So obviously, we can only take Old Testament modes of temple worship so far. The temple is central to the idea of this transition from Old Covenant to New. It’s a period of flux, where we can expect early Christian notions of what to do with temple worship to be perhaps confused and yet unformed.

    The problem here is that I think you are operating from an assumption that the current Bible (as we now have it) contains everything we need and is sufficient and complete. Basically, it constitutes the complete owners manual (I doubt you would dispute this characterization of your position). This is not an assumption we share.

    For me, the idea that the Bible does not contain Mormon modes of temple worship is not disturbing in the least. Because I already view early Christianity as a work in progress rather than a finished product that we must now emulate.

    I honestly don’t think Peter, Paul, and John even had a clear idea themselves what to do with temple worship (for all the reasons I’ve already listed). The easiest thing for them to do would have been to accept the status quo for the time being and cede the temple to the Jews. They obviously weren’t in a position to be seizing the temple for Jesus anytime soon – much as they probably would have liked to. Peter also gives every indication of being a bit ambiguous as to how much this new religion was going to sever ties with its Jewish parent.

    In short, 1st Century Christianity never had a chance to incorporate the temple into their worship. So we should hardly be surprised that teachings on correct Christian temple worship are not present in the New Testament. However, the New Testament is rife with temple imagery (the Revelation of John being a notable example). It was obviously very much on the minds of early Christians. But after the destruction of the temple and the process of apostasy – that I maintain occurred long before Constantine and his bishops stepped in to clean up the existing mess – the temple largely vanished from Christian thought. The work of subsequent scholars was more one of “explaining-away” this gaping hole in the Christian identity.

    And here we are today.

    But for these reasons, I think the absence of specific Mormon practice from the New Testament, and it’s dissimilarities with Old Testament practice are utterly beside the point.

  12. 12 markcares
    January 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Seth:
    As you would expect, I diaagree that the 1st century didn’t know what to do with the temple. But again that was not the intent of my post. I feel the LDS Church is being deceptive when it makes comments like the quote I cited in comment #3 – that there were special ordinances performed in the Old Testament temple and then continues with “So also today.” That implies that the “ordinances” were the same or at least similiar. That pattern – of claiming that LDS temples are similiar to Old Testament temples – is quite prevalent in LDS writings. The only thing I see similar is the word “temple”.

  13. January 7, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I think while the outward details of the ordinances (killing a bullock) were different, the underlying themes and religious archetypes found in Mormon temple worship actually are a continuation on a theme practiced in Old Testament Judaism. There’s been extensive scholarship done on this by LDS scholars, starting with Hugh Nibley. John Tvetdness has an article on the subject on FAIR for anyone who is interested.

    I know that a lot of Evangelicals dismiss Mormon scholarship as being not-credible for the simple fact that they are Mormons and are disagreeing with the Evangelical position. But that’s not my problem. I find them credible enough. So do other Mormons.

    If we choose to accept such scholarship, that may make us mistaken from your view. But it doesn’t make us dishonest.

    One Mormon bloggers has literally dozens of posts on how the Mormon temple “prayer circle” actually was an ancient practice from early Judaism and 1st century Christianity (as well as other places). I didn’t pay too much attention to it for the simple fact of not being particularly interested at the moment. But the arguments are out there. I don’t feel particularly dishonest about any of it.

  14. 14 Royalton
    January 12, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    You are right Mark. The modern temples are different than ancient temples. That is because the atonement of Jesus Christ changed many things, including fulfilling the law of Moses. But there are many similarities and paralells between the ancient and modern temples though.

    Most evangelicals like yourself laugh at our building temples and say they are not needed anymore. How do you explain the old testiment prophecies of the latter day temple?

    “And it shall come to pass that is the last days, that the mountain of the Lords house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.

    And many people shall go and say, come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in His paths.”

    What of Daniel’s prophecy when he saw “the stone cut out of the mountain without hands that would roll forth, until it had filled the whole earth.”

    The latter day work in temples was seen by prophets of old. Obadiah saw that “saviours will come on Mount Zion.”


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