What is Temple Worship?

In high school, I came across a concept that fascinated me: the archetype. Digging into Joseph Campbell’s works led me eventually to a man named Mircea Eliade and my dad’s copy of The Sacred and the Profane. No other book prepared me better for receiving the Temple Endowment and having continually productive Temple worship sessions. Why is that? Eliade encouraged me to consider my religious life on purpose — as an intellectual pursuit and a anthropological study of sorts.

Eliade took all cultures across the world and compared the lives of those living a religious life to those leading a secular life. He found ritual worship at the center of the discrepancy between these two lifestyles and proposed that actively participating in ritual transported the believer back to actual sacred space and time. This accomplished two things: it connected the believer to the original creation myth, helping him/her understand his/her place in the universe on a very personal level; it also allowed the fundamental sacred self to remove itself from the profane world around it for a moment, to rejuvenate the spirit, and give renewed perspective to life.

The hearer of myth, regardless of his level of culture, when he is listening to a myth, forgets, as it were, his particular situation and is projected into another world, into another universe which is no longer his poor little universe of every day. . . . The myths are truebecause they are sacred, because they tell him about sacred beings and events. Consequently, in reciting or listening to a myth, one resumes contact with the sacred and with reality, and in so doing one transcends the profane condition, the “historical situation.” In other words one goes beyond the temporal condition and the dull self-sufficiency which is the lot of every human being simply because every human being is “ignorant” — in the sense that he is identifying himself, and Reality, with his own particular situation. And ignorance is, first of all, this false identification of Reality with what each one of us appears to be or to possess.

Images and Symbols (1952)

“Living” a myth, then, implies a genuinely “religious” experience, since it differs from the ordinary experience of everyday life. The “religiousness” of this experience is due to the fact that one re-enacts fabulous, exalting, significant events, one again witnesses the creative deeds of the Supernaturals; one ceases to exist in the everyday world and enters a transfigured, auroral world impregnated with the Supernaturals’ presence. What is involved is not a commemoration of mythical events but a reiteration of them. The protagonists of the myth are made present; one becomes their contemporary. This also implies that one is no longer living in chronological time, but in the primordial Time, the Time when the event first took place. This is why we can use the term the “strong time” of myth; it is the prodigious, “sacred” time when something newstrong, and significant was manifested. To re-experience that time, to re-enact it as often as possible, to witness again the spectacle of the divine works, to meet with the Supernaturals and relearn their creative lesson is the desire that runs like a pattern through all the ritual reiterations of myths. In short, myths reveal that the World, man, and life have a supernatural origin and history, and that this history is significant, precious, and exemplary.

Myth and Reality (1963)

As an Endowed Latter-day Saint this should ring true. In the Temple, we are reconnected with original Creation. We learn the Plan of Salvation, but in a symbolic and individualized style that allows this phenomenon Eliade describes to take place within each of us. Have you ever wondered why you feel so good when you come out of the Temple? Ever thought “what, exactly makes this the most sacred place on Earth?” It is — I propose — because the ritual worship performed inside, under the direction of God’s Priesthood Authority, actually connects the worshiper with ancient and original sacred space and time. We transcend the profaneness of the outside world, don white clothing, and allow our Spirit to reconnect with the world from whence it came.

I like Eliade’s above quoted statement about myth and ritual worship applying to everyone — regardless of level of culture or education, etc. This follows Jesus Christ’s own reasoning for teaching in Parables:  “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” We — each and every one of us — are spiritual beings having a mortal experience. Those experiences are all different and how we choose to react to them is hyper-individualized. While Temple worship is the same across the globe — the same words, motions, and rituals — the experiences we take with us to the Temple and the impressions we leave with are uniquely ours. Indeed, the closest anyone can come to a shared experience in the Temple is making covenants with another individual (sealing of husband and wife). Even then, as a woman and a man come from different sides of the Temple to the altar, we should expect some differing views on even that sacred act of bringing a man and a women together as one. 

This. This is where any discussion of the Priesthood has to start: with Adam and Eve. We see The Gods create the Earth and Adam. Upon completion of Adam, they counsel together and realize it’s not good for man to be alone. Eve is created as a help meet. They (and you, every time you attend a Temple Endowment session) are placed in the Garden of Eden with conflicting commandments. You have a choice before you, but you’re not operating with all the information you need to make a truly informed decision. This is why eating the fruit is classified as a transgression, not an open and flagrant sin against God. Because of how those events played out then (and play out now, in every Temple across the Earth), we arrive on Earth with a built-in set of consequences around us. Absolutely, we are punished for our own sin and not Adam/Eve’s transgression, but you have to recognize that you are still subject to ripple effects of the Fall. For instance — fruits and flowers and not just spontaneously produced, but rely on a complex pollination system and schedule in conjunction with insects and birds. Other animals do not live in utmost harmony — they get hungry or threatened and preserve or defend themselves at the cost of another animal’s life. Humans get sick, we die, we too rely on a complex system in order to reproduce that involves quite a lot of pain.

Where does that leave the Priesthood?

At only two points in scripture were Adam and Eve ever separated — before Eve was created, and while Satan tempted Eve. Everything after that we read and/or see and/or participate in, Adam and Eve are both standing before God. Both are asked about the fruit, both provide an answer. Both are given instructions and  make covenants prior to leaving the Garden. Both are given further instruction on how to return to God’s presence. Both participate in ordinances, in procreating, in teaching their children, in grieving over Cane, in passing away. They are the icon of unity and oneness in marriage.

Why, then, do men today receive ordination to a Priesthood office and women do not? Do you think if Adam had eaten the fruit first, maybe Eve would have the Priesthood and Adam bearing children? What exactly is the enmity God places between Satan and the seed of the woman? Perhaps this is Adam, holding Keys to Priesthood authority which casts out evil spirits, binds families for eternity, and generally thwarts the designs of Satan on this Earth?

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” 

Dallin H. Oaks, April 2014 General Conference

Now that we’ve reached this point, I’d like to answer the question at the top of this post for all LDS women: what is temple worship? Temple worship is your divine right as a daughter of Heavenly Parents, as the posterity of a woman who made the ultimate decision. Nothing but your faithful covenant keeping is required of you to enter the most sacred place on Earth, to transport you back to sacred space and time, to place you before God, to covenant with Him, to learn of His mysteries (including but not limited to how you access the Priesthood power He has endowed you with). In short, purposeful, informed, and inquiring temple worship is the answer you’ve been seeking to whether or not you need to be ordained to a Priesthood office outside the Temple.

As you read of Pioneer women placing their hands on others, healing and working miracles, do not sit in awe and complain about why then and not now. Realize, rather, you have this same power already within you. The only difference between those women and yourself is just this: those women communed with God, they asked questions, understood and respected the organization God gave to use of His power on earth, and they accessed it hourly as directed in the Temple. They placed no limitations on their faith nor their ability to receive revelation nor the power that comes from it. They took God at face value when James said: “He giveth to all men (read: mankind) liberally, and upbraideth not.”

So, the take away from all this? I can’t and I won’t support Ordain Women. But, ladies, it IS high time you stopped limiting yourself. Instead of marching outside the Tabernacle, I would rather have seen you all at home furiously scribbling notes on Elder Oaks’ talk about how there are keys to the Priesthood not restored in this dispensation! (What!?) My mind was thoroughly expanded after he said Amen and I realized there was so much more to learn. I rushed to the Temple, and saw The Creation in an entirely new light. It was empowering and wonderful. And I wish you’d been there in sacred space and time with me to celebrate.

V.

Stupor of Thought….? #ldsWomen

Three weeks ago I got spun up again over Ordain Women. I took over someone else’s Facebook feed with a ridiculously long and thorough opinion… that did not answer the original question posed. Ha! As is usual with hotly debated topics on Facebook. At that point, I dis-embargoed myself from relgious/political blogging and began sketching out a 10-part series on the Priesthood in relation to LDS women.

Two and a half weeks ago, I finished Sheri Dew’s book “Women and the Priesthood.” Chapter Six. Then Chapter Five. Read them.

Two weeks ago, I attended the General Women’s Meeting and was starkly reminded that “the Priesthood” has become a cultural catch-all phrase for about six widely ranging concepts, powers, and groups of people. It dawned on me the root of the recent issues in the church could be solved with a good reading from Webster.

A week and a half ago, I boarded plane to Utah for the first time in four years. I met with a friend of mine from BYU and after successfully skirting the issue all day, I finally asked her thoughts. I’m so grateful that she trusted my ability to listen enough to really open up and share with me her feelings, even though she knew they countered my own.

Last weekend, I scrapped all plans I had for blogging about the Priesthood. There was simply nothing left to say after Sheri Dew and Dallin H. Oaks. I told a reporter outside the Conference Center: “Any woman not sure of her position in the church needs to take those feelings to God. He will — through revelation and the Scriptures — show her how much He loves her and how important she is to Him. There is nothing a woman can’t do in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This week, it’s still on my mind. No matter how I try, I can’t shake the need to discuss this entire issue. However, I’ve come to a realization: this is not about me proving Ordain Women wrong. Quite the opposite — it’s about studying and discussing the doctrine. This is an aspect of our Mormon culture that has been lost over time. Women and men, as covenant-making children of God need to be always asking questions. And seeking answers. [Let’s be clear — marching around the Tabernacle  like it’s the walls of Jericho is NOT the way to ask a question nor get an answer. Lookin’ at you, Kate. ]

Today, we’ve come full circle….. and I’m back to blogging about religion. And we’re going to start at the beginning, with Adam and Eve…..

On Ordain Women

Let’s clear the air on a few things straight away:

1) I am an active, temple-recommend-carrying member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m also a Returned Missionary, a Reformed Sinner, a Seminary Teacher, and a Mission Prep Teacher. I throw myself into Singles Ward every once in a while, but mostly I try to avoid awkward situations…. so I attend my family ward.

2) I’m a Texan. I’m blunt. Recently, I was called “loud and irritating.” This is not news to me. Unfortunately, that rubs lots of people the wrong way. I’m working on it, I promise. So if I come off as prideful, abrasive, crass, or rude, don’t waste your time telling me. Throw your opinion and your research down, I promise to give everything a fair shot.

3) I make clear distinctions between The Gospel (which is true), The Church (which is imperfect), and The Culture (which is an abomination). Never confuse the three. 99% of people’s so called doctrinal squabbles are actually thinly disguised issues with The Church and it’s imperfect people or The Culture which should never have been allowed to develop (green jello…. really? I rest my case).

4) I support a healthy line of questions, doubts, concerns, even fears and anxieties about doctrine and policy. It is only by asking  questions that we receive answers. Look at Joseph Smith — we wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t gotten on his knees and asked. What I do not support are undocumented answers. If you think a prophet said it, go figure that out before you quote it at me. And, of course, I will do the same. I also promise to clearly label my opinion, speculation, or conclusion drawn from personal revelation as such.

5) That being said, I do NOT support the organization Ordain Women. I believe Margaret Toscano is at the heart of it and not to be trusted. I do believe there are many wonderful, faithful women who want, need, even long for a forum where questions about their roles in The Gospel, The Church, and The Culture can be asked, discussed, and answered without repercussion. To those women, I say, I support you. Please, please, please be careful with anything Toscano says, writes, encourages you to do. You are blessed with the gift of discernment and are an agent unto yourself. I will not tell you what to do, but I make my stance on her clear in hopes that you will be able to make well-informed decisions.

6) I don’t know everything nor will I ever profess to. These next several posts are designed as an insight into my “personal study” as I delve into The Priesthood. If you think I’ve overlooked something, please chime in! This is an open forum, where all can be Twice Fed.

Okay…. let’s get started.

V.