Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Index/Chapter 15

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    Response to claims made in "Chapter 15: The Temple"


A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101
A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Important note: Members of FairMormon take their temple covenants seriously. We consider the temple teachings to be sacred, and will not discuss their specifics in a public forum.


In the February 1995 issue of the Ensign, a magazine published by the LDS Church for its members, President Boyd K. Packer, commented on the temple ceremony as follows:

A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Lord did not tell all things to all people. There were some qualifications set that were prerequisite to receiving sacred information. Temple ceremonies fall within this category.

We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. If this opportunity is rejected, the rejection must be on the part of the individual himself.[1]

It is necessary that the reader understand that the topics of the temple and the ordinances and ceremonies which are performed inside it are sacred and special to members of the LDS Church. Faithful members of the Church do not discuss these topics publicly. This means that there are portions of Mormonism 101 which, although incorrect, cannot be corrected here. Because of the sacred nature of the temple, it would be inappropriate to disclose here exactly how the authors have misrepresented LDS practices.

Additionally, it is important to note one more issue that will be referred to several times in the course of this review. While often used interchangeably, the terms ordinance and ceremony can have different connotations. An ordinance is a covenantal act-baptism is an ordinance, ordaining to the priesthood is an ordinance, confirmation is an ordinance, etc. A ceremony is the ritual or rite that includes the ordinance. But a ceremony is often far more than the ordinance. A wedding ceremony, for example, is a lot more than the 'I do,' and yet, most of the ceremony is relatively unimportant to the actual ordinance itself. In the case of a wedding, much of the ceremony is largely irrelevant to the ordinance itself-the ring ceremony, the giving away of the bride, taking vows, etc. There is a persistent attempt within Mormonism 101 to cloud this distinction. The reasons for this will become apparent as the discussion proceeds.

Only the Worthy

208

Claim
  • The authors begin this section with the following remarks:

When they are first built, Mormon temples are opened to the general public in an "open house" format for a short time. After this, the temple is then dedicated by LDS general authorities and reopened only to worthy members. A member is considered worthy if he or she holds a "temple recommend." The recommend is an identification card, which is renewed annually by the individual's bishop. Qualifying criteria include full payment of tithes, regular attendance to ward meetings, wearing temple garments under regular clothing, and an agreement to obey the Word of Wisdom.


Response


208

Claim
  • The authors make the following remarks:

The temple has been called the faithful Mormon's "home." President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:


Response

  • An examination of the actual reference clarifies a couple of points. Below is the text penned by Joseph Fielding Smith.

If you would become a son or a daughter of God and an heir of the kingdom, then you must go to the house of the Lord and receive blessings which there can be obtained and which cannot be obtained elsewhere; and you must keep those commandments and those covenants to the end.

The Ordinances of the temple, the endowment and sealings, pertain to exaltation in the celestial kingdom, where the sons and daughters are. The sons and daughters are not outside in some other kingdom. The sons and daughters go into the house, belong to the household, have access to the home. "In my Father's house are many mansions." Sons and daughters have access to the home where he dwells, and you cannot receive that access until you go to the temple.[2]

  • What becomes clear from any reading of this text is that the temple is not called the "faithful Mormon's home" at all. Instead, to the contrary, Smith clearly intended for us to equate 'the House of God' with the Heavenly Kingdom of the Father, and that we, as His children, are capable of entering that house. The second piece of omitted text clearly indicates that we are not talking about the temple as the home that we enter, but rather the heavenly Kingdom of God. That we only become able to enter the heavenly home as we enter the temple is further indication that Smith was not calling the temple our home. Rather, as Hebrews 9:24 points out-the temple is merely a true figure of that heavenly home:

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

  • The NIV clarifies this language a little bit:

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence.

  • The LDS approach to temple worship is certainly a change from ancient Israel, who based temple participation not on true worthiness in living either the gospel or the commandments of Moses, but rather on issues of ethnicity, sex, ancestry and ritual cleanliness. All of these types of requirements no longer exist, and have been replaced with requirements that reflect the true faith and devotion of the member who desires to learn more of the mysteries of God.


The Inside Works of The LDS Temple

Note: It is in this section that we will not comment extensively on the text, but rather will limit our examination to a few very specific issues.

209

Claim
  • The authors make the following claim:

"Historically, Mormon leaders have taught that the husband has the ability to call his wife from the grave by her new name on resurrection day."


Response

  • A husband has nothing to do with the resurrection of his wife. Historically, Mormon leaders have taught that the resurrection is available to all people, regardless of their spiritual condition, their marital status, or any other consideration. As Apostle James E. Talmage wrote:

"The eventual resurrection of every soul who has lived and died on earth is a scriptural certainty."[3]

  • Applying this to the statements made by the authors, this means that a husband has no say, or part in the resurrection of his wife.
  • A second principle is that LDS do not believe in a 'resurrection day,' per se. The resurrection is not a single event, where all are raised at once. Talmage continues:

"No spirit shall remain disembodied longer than he deserves, or than is requisite to accomplish the just and merciful purposes of God. The resurrection of the just began with Christ, it has been in process and shall continue till the Lord comes in glory, and thence onward through the Millenium."Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

  • More recently, Elder Bruce C. Hafen reiterated this doctrinal position when he wrote:

"Further, no individual, woman or man, has access to the highest degree of celestial life alone: 'Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.' (1 Corinthians 11:11.) To obtain exaltation, we must receive the priesthood ordinance of eternal marriage."[4]

  • In LDS doctrine, the man and the woman are equal before the Lord, and the eternal blessings of one are not dependent unequally upon the other.
  • While there are some members of the LDS faith who entertain a romantic notion that a husband will resurrect his wife so that they can enter into the Celestial Kingdom together, this has never been a doctrinal teaching of the Church. And often, those members who believe this have misconstrued statements by leaders of the Church in the same fashion as the authors.


Temple Garments

210

Claim
  • Under the heading of Pre-endowment Instructions, the authors enter into a discussion on the nature of the 'temple garments.' In regards to this garment, the authors write: "By wearing the garments at all times, it is taught that the individual Mormon, depending on his or her faithfulness, is protected both physically and spiritually."

Response
  • It is clear from the ensuing discussion that rather than focusing on the fundamental belief in a 'spiritual protection,' that the authors, in trying to sensationalize their account, are much more interested in the 'physical protection.' From the end of the section, where they end up comparing the garment to a "proverbial rabbit's foot or talisman," we see that the authors have little interest in accurately portraying Mormon beliefs.
  • For a detailed response, see: Temples/Garments

Claim
  • The authors take a quote from a prominent LDS leader, Spencer W. Kimball, which might support such their interpretation. The quote reads:

Temple garments afford protection. I am sure one could go to extreme in worshiping the cloth of which the garment is made, but one could also go to the other extreme. Though generally I think our protection is a mental, spiritual, moral one, yet I am convinced that there could be and undoubtedly have been many cases where there has been through faith, an actual physical protection, so we must not minimize that possibility.[5]


Response

  • The authors introduce the citation with the words: "For instance, President Spencer W. Kimball said on 31 May 1948:" First Spencer W. Kimball was not the President of the Church in 1948 when these remarks were written. He was, however, an apostle, having been ordained to that calling in 1943, and would become the President of the Church in 1973.
  • While the authors suggest that this was spoken by Kimball, in fact, this is excerpted from a personal letter written by Kimball in 1948 and a copy kept by him in his personal things. So, while it is true that it was written by Kimball, this hardly seems to carry the degree of authority which is lent to it in Mormonism 101.
  • We are left with the realization that this is a personal opinion and not a doctrinal statement. We could recognize from his statement that while he sees the garment as having acted as a physical protection in many cases, he certainly never goes so far as to suggest that it does in all cases, nor, that we should expect it to function in that manner.
  • Boyd K. Packer, in his book, The Holy Temple, is explicit in what he feels this protection is:

Members who have received their temple ordinances thereafter wear the special garment or underclothing. … The garment represents sacred covenants. It fosters modesty and becomes a shield and a protection to the wearer. … The garment, covering the body, is a visual and tactile reminder of these covenants. For many Church members the garment has formed a barrier of protection when the wearer has been faced with temptation. Among other things it symbolizes our deep respect for the laws of God-among them the moral standard.[6]


212

Claim
  • The authors also make the remark: "Mormons who remain true to the faith and wear the garments believe they will be protected."

Response
  • While all LDS believe that there is a spiritual protection afforded by the garments, and some believe that there is a physical protection as well, the fact that this protection is in part dependant on the faith and worthiness of the wearer is merely another indicator that the garment cannot be compared to a 'lucky talisman.'
  • For a detailed response, see: Temples/Garments

Claim
  • The authors attack the practice of wearing the garment by trying to show how its use in the LDS Church is inconsistent with the use of similar garments in the Old Testament. They write:

There is also no Biblical support for this unusual practice. In the Old Testament, only priests from the line of Levi and not the common Jew wore the linen undergarments. Still we find no biblical support for the notion that the priestly garments offered any special protection as described by various LDS authorities. … It appears that the idea of protective undergarments falls into the same category as the proverbial rabbit's foot or talisman."


Response

  • Although the authors do not mention this fact, Latter-day Saints assert that the garments of the priesthood received in the house of the Lord are representative of several things. First and foremost, we learn that these garments are representative of the coat of skins God gave to Father Adam to cover his nakedness. Theodore M. Burton said the following in a speech given at BYU on August 8th, 1966:

Adam was given a garment of the Holy Priesthood as a sign of this endowment of power which he received from God. Eve, his wife, was given him of the Lord. She also was clothed in a garment of power. She was not to be the servant of Adam, …

Traditionally LDS have believed that the garment which Adam was given by God in the Garden was symbolically this same garment of the holy priesthood. Why was it given to Adam? To cover his nakedness. As it is recorded in Genesis:

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. … And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. … Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins and clothed them. (20 Genesis 3:7, 10, 21)

  • There is a repetitive theme in the Old Testament where nakedness and shame are associated with sin, and a covering, or a garment with righteousness. In Zechariah 3:3-4 we get a narrative describing the calling of Joshua the High Priest.

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

  • In Isaiah 47:3, speaking prophetically to wayward Israel, we read these words of the Lord: "Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man." There are many more instances, but perhaps the most significant to this discussion is the treatment of the special garments given to the Levitical priests.
  • A brief description of these special garments made for the priests is found in Exodus.[7] Especially relevant are verses 42 and 43.

And thou shalt make for them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even to the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.

  • Now I don't know how the authors would read this passage, but if we take the word here literally, then indeed there was some 'special protection' afforded by these garments. One of the points of interest here though, especially to LDS, is that this protection was only necessary when the Israelite approached God. As the authors pointed out, these garments were only required of the priests. In the LDS Church, the priesthood is offered to all worthy male members. The LDS practice is rooted in a similar theology. The D&C makes this statement (107:18-19) "The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek priesthood, is to … enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant." In other words, this symbolic imagery of pure garments now necessarily covers our sins at all times, not just when we go "to minister in the holy place."
  • In any case, it is the spiritual protection and reminder that remains at the forefront of LDS beliefs and practices regarding this garment. It is a reminder that we put on anew every day. It is a covering which sets a certain standard of modest dress. It is also a covering which would have to be removed before breaking many of the covenants of the temple. To this end, whether we believe that it serves us as a physical protection or not, its value to us is far above that of a mere protective covering. To us it is both a reminder and to the faithful, a witness of our willingness to obey our Father in Heaven. And it is from this context that LDS authorities' comments are drawn.
  • For a detailed response, see: Temples/Garments


The Endowment Ceremony

213

Claim
  • The main argument put forward by the authors in this section is that the temple ceremonies, which had supposedly been revealed directly by God, have been changed repeatedly over the 150 years since they were first revealed through Joseph Smith. They write:

Despite the fact that Joseph Smith himself said that God "set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever," the LDS Church has continuously changed the ceremony over the years. It quietly made many drastic changes in April 1990.


Response

  • It is here that we see a distinct difference in the terminology and intent between the authors and the various LDS authorities they quote. There is a distinct difference between the ordinance and the ceremony. In their text here, the authors consistently talk of changes to the ceremony, while the LDS authorities consistently refer to the ordinance. The ceremony and the ritual is the teaching mechanism that surrounds the ordinance. It is in fact only logical that this would change over time as the background and needs of the participants change. It has to appeal to as wide an audience of faithful LDS as possible, while staying true to its purpose. On the other hand, the ordinance, or the covenantal aspects of the temple ceremonies, have not changed. Here are some of the statements of the authors side by side with statements from the LDS authorities:
  • The authors:
    • "This ceremony is performed"
    • "The ceremony includes"
    • "The ordinance ceremony is made up of"
    • "The temple ceremony was supposed to have been given"
  • LDS:
    • "Temple ordinances instituted in the heavens"
    • "It is important that the saving ordinances not be altered"
    • "set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever,"
  • The authors really hit the nail on the head when they write:

Despite the fact that Joseph Smith himself said that God "set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever," the LDS Church has continuously changed the ceremony over the years.

  • Yet, that fact is, despite the ceremony having changed, the ordinances have not. It is somewhat amusing that the authors tacitly admit to the difference between the two when they use the term 'ordinance ceremony'-a term which could only be considered redundant if they were one and the same.
  • There is a second concern that arises from the authors's remarks. What do the authors make of the changes to "eternal" ordinances instituted under Moses in the Old Testament? Genesis Exodus 12:14 records of the Passover: "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." A millennia and a half later, the emerging Christian faith would cease observance of the paschal feast. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) Is this an indicator that the Christians had abandoned a commandment received from God? Does God have the power to change His ordinances? These are both legitimate questions that the authors need to answer.
  • For a detailed response, see: Temples/Endowment/Changes


Baptism for the Dead

214

Claim
  • When discussing baptism for the dead, there are a few points brought up by the authors that need to be briefly addressed. These can be summarized under the following points:
  1. Referencing Hebrews 9:27 that judgment follows this life.
  2. That this life (now) is the time for salvation in 2 Corinthians 6:2.
  3. That LDS erroneously use 1 Corinthians 15:29 in support of the doctrine of baptism for the dead.

Response
  • Each of these points needs to be addressed. Note the following from Jay Todd's article on baptism for the dead found in the February 1995 Ensign. These particular passages are only just a small portion of the entire article, and, while the authors cite the article themselves, they exclude these citations and do not address their presentation. Since the real substance of Todd's article was devoted to reciting the biblical evidence in support of this doctrine, that the authors should have at least attempted to address these issues. The rest of the article provides the biblical evidence to support the LDS doctrines. It is worth reading as a complete article, and can be found on the official Church website.[8]

Having earlier paid the price of sin for each of us, the Lord descended into death and the spirit world and then rose triumphantly again. For us to be cleansed of sin, we must each descend into water and rise again into a new, covenant life with Jesus, our Redeemer.

Another teaching fundamental to the Lord's plan of salvation is the concept that after death, one's spirit goes to a place where spirits reside, where faculties of sight and sound and mind are as vivid as they are here. God "is not a God of the dead," Jesus said, "but of the living for all of you live unto him" (Luke 20:38). Jesus himself visited that spirit world prior to his resurrection, just as he foretold: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).



If the Savior had not ascended to heaven yet, where had he been during the three days his body lay in the tomb? It is in the writings of Peter, the chief Apostle, that we receive the answer. Christ went to be with other disembodied spirits and there to minister to them. What did the Lord do there? Said Peter: "He went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:19).

Who were these people? According to Peter, they were those who "sometimes were disobedient" (1 Pet. 3:20). "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh" (1 Pet. 4:6

This essential ministry of the Lord to those who have died was prophesied by Isaiah, who, writing in behalf of the Messiah, wrote: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isa. 61:1).

  • Of course, the idea is that these persons will, like every other member of the human family, have the opportunity to fulfill the commandment given by Jesus to Nicodemus: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
  • In responding to the first point (that judgment follows this life), it seems safe to say that the authors do not express a belief in a final judgment. Such a judgment seems evident from passages like Matthew 25:31-46 or Revelations 20:12-13. In these scenes, all of humanity is judged at once-at the end. This judgment seems to occur after the resurrection of all mankind, so it is clearly arguable (and this is LDS doctrine) that this judgment, while it follows this life, does not need to occur immediately upon death.
  • The second point (that "now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation") clearly relates to the same thing. The 'now'-where is it limited to the end of the mortal life? One could suggest that day of salvation would extend all the way to the point of judgment perhaps. The idea that this life-meaning before the death of the mortal body-is the limit of our time to prove ourselves before God seems to be directly contradicted by the passage in 1 Peter, which suggests that events that happen after this mortal life do affect our eternal destination. Again, note the verse:

For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

  • For the third point, the authors focus narrowly on Paul's use of 'they' as opposed to 'we.' Even a more neutral term produces a very narrow reading, which, if it were to be applied universally across the board to Paul's teachings, would cause problems. Certainly such a hermeneutic is later criticized in this same chapter of Mormonism 101 in relation to remarks by Bruce R. McConkie. Using this same interpretive practice, we might conclude for example that Paul was referring to himself personally, when he announces that he would not die, but would still be living at the resurrection: "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed … for the trump shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
  • The challenge is, though, that in relying on a term like "they" to base an argument, the authors are dealing with a translation of an original text and not the text itself. Nor are the authors the first to bring such an argument forward. Luke P. Wilson, in an article entitled Did Jesus Establish Baptism for the Dead? published in 1997, deals almost exclusively with this subject.[9] This was responded to by John A. Tvedtnes as follows:

However, the Greek original of 1 Corinthians 15:29 does not use the pronoun they. It says, "Otherwise, what will do the ones being baptized for the dead?" The text uses a passive participle form, "the being baptized [ones]," as a substantive (where it is usually accompanied by the definite article). Participles reflect gender, number, and case, but not person. Hence, there is no third-person plural (they) in the Greek original. Stressing the pronoun supplied by the English Bible translators for flow in English distorts Paul's meaning. Being devoid of reference to person, the passage, does not restrict the practice to "false teachers" as Wilson contends. So Wilson is patently wrong when he says that "if we ask who the 'they' in verse 29 refers to, the context clearly points us back to verse 12. It is those within the Corinthian congregation who are denying the resurrection, and whom the entire passage is written to refute" (II.3). Wilson's case is made of thin air, nothing more. But since most of his readers rely on the English passage, I suspect that they will be taken in by his arguments.[10]

  • Additionally, the Greek oi baptizomenoi is a present passive participle. It can only refer to Christian baptism, unless otherwise defined (which Paul does not do here). Following this argument, other non-LDS scholars have agreed with the LDS. Even Carson, in the article quoted in Mormonism 101, agrees that "The most plausible interpretation is that some in Corinth were getting baptized vicariously for the dead."28 The following are a few non-LDS interpretations of the passage:

In following up ver. 29 with the words of ver.[11] (ti kai hmeiz kinduneuomen) P[aul] associates himself with the action of "those baptised for the dead," indicating that they and he are engaged on the same behalf.[12]

The objection that the apostle could not have meant anything like a baptism for the benefit of others is exegetically out of place. . . . If Paul had disapproved of it he probably would have written more about it than what this one reference contains. In any case the apostle could hardly derive an argument for the resurrection of the body from a practice of which he did not approve.30

Paul turns to an interesting item of Church practice in Corinth and probably elsewhere too. . . . At its best, the vicarious ceremony was a tribute to the spirit of fellowship, of unity, and of solidarity in the community, and as such it would be sure to commend itself to Paul. There are still some survivals of this ancient Christian practice. . . . In a sense, it might be compared with prayers offered for the dead. . . . Perhaps it is as well to leave the matter there. Paul is content to do so, merely pointing to this ancient rite, and incidentally giving us another glimpse into the customary procedures of the early Christian fellowship as they illustrated the truth of the Resurrection.[13]

  • Finally, it needs to be pointed out that Joseph Smith asked God about this passage, and it was then that the doctrines of baptism for the dead was revealed to him. Ultimately, it is not Paul's brief reference in the New Testament on which the LDS faith bases this doctrine, rather it is the revealed will of God through modern prophets.
  • For a detailed response, see: Temples/Baptism for the dead


Marriage for Time and Eternity

218-219

Claim
  • In discussing the nature of marriage for time and eternity, the authors ask the following:

Although continued good works are essential, Mormonism teaches that a person must be married in the temple to have a chance at exaltation. But what happens if a person does not get married, for whatever reason, and dies single? Apparently this person is not destined to become a god.


Response

  • In his article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, James T. Duke explains the LDS doctrine on this subject:

People who live a worthy life but do not marry in the temples, for various reasons beyond their control, which might include not marrying, not having heard the gospel, or not having a temple available so that the marriage could be sealed for eternity, will at some time be given this opportunity. Latter-day Saints believe it is their privilege and duty to perform these sacred ordinances vicariously for deceased progenitors, and for others insofar as possible.[14]

  • This is not a new teaching. In 1957 Joseph Fielding Smith said to the single sisters of the Church:

You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under nay obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel the gospel is true and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord, and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now, the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed, for no blessing shall be withheld.[15]

  • Likewise Harold B. Lee counseled the single women of the Church:

You young women advancing in years who have not yet accepted a proposal of marriage, if you make yourselves worthy and ready to go to the House of the Lord and have faith in this sacred principle, even though the privilege of marriage dies not come to you now, the Lord will reward you in due time and no blessing will be denied you. You are not under obligation to accept a proposal from some one unworthy of you for fear you will fail of your blessings.[16]

  • Bruce R. McConkie also taught this principle when he wrote:

I am perfectly aware that there are people who did not have the opportunity [of celestial marriage] but who would have lived the law had the opportunity been afforded. Those individuals will be judged in the providences and mercy of a gracious God according to the intents and desires of their hearts. That is the principle of salvation and exaltation for the dead.[17]

  • While LDS doctrine states that Celestial marriage is necessary for exaltation with God, the doctrine also states that worthiness is more important than an ordinance, and that the worthy will be provided with all the opportunities necessary so that they do not lose their chance at any blessings. This is one of the great purposes of the LDS temple work for the dead.
  • For a detailed response, see: Marriage/As a requirement for exaltation


Jesus and the Sadducees

220-221

Claim
  • The authors introduce a narrative from the synoptic gospels as follows:

In an account given in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus was approached by members of the Sadducees, the Jewish religious party that did not believe in a bodily resurrection from the dead (Matt. 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-28). Trying to trick Him, these leaders presented what appears to be a hypothetical situation involving seven brothers. When the oldest brother died, he left a wife and no children. As was the custom in those days, the next oldest unmarried brother took the woman for his wife. However, the second brother died, as did the third through seventh brothers. Before they died, each of them had married the oldest brother's wife, making her a widow seven times over.

In Mark 12:23 they asked, "In the resurrection therefore, when they shall arise, whose wife shall she be of them? For the seven had her to wife." Jesus chastised His inquisitors in verse 24, saying they did not know the scriptures. "For when they shall arise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven" (v.25).


Response

  • First, we need to correct some historical inaccuracies that have a direct impact on the explanation provided by the authors. The practice of a widow marrying her brother-in-law is called levirate marriage. Second, this was not just a custom; this arrangement was a requirement of Mosaic law. The details of this practice are outlined in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, which the Sadducees quote in asking the question to Jesus. The practice of levirate marriage did not make any conditions on whether or not the brother-in-law was married. There was a way for the brother-in-law to avoid this marriage, through a ceremony called halitza, which was a mark of shame on the brother-in-law for refusing to continue his brother's name, thus declaring that his brother was irrevocably dead. This secondary option however, has become much more relevant to the modern practice of Judaism than it was to ancient Israel. Additionally, the practice makes no distinction to whether or not the brother was already married. It is the only instance in the Old Testament where polygamy was mandated under certain circumstances. Finally, the widow with no children, upon the death of her husband, was automatically considered to be betrothed, or engaged, to the next brother in the family of her now-deceased husband.
  • This practice was changed somewhat in Talmudic law where we find more than a hundred clarifications and expansions on the practice. Among these was a shift towards the practice of halitza being preferable to levirate marriage. This became a ban that was established by religious law in modern Israel in 1957. Because of this, there was an interesting case reported in 1998 in the Spring Newsletter of the International Council of Jewish Women. It describes the unusual case of a married woman, living in Israel, who had a single daughter. In 1991, the family was involved in a serious automobile accident, and the daughter died immediately. The husband died hours later. According to Jewish law, the woman (who was childless at the time of her husband's death) was immediately placed in the role of the childless widow. Before she could remarry, she needed to go through the halitza ceremony with the only living brother of her late husband, who lived in Paris. This case was of significance because the brother-in-law refused to perform the ceremony. At first the Jewish courts simply ordered the brother-in-law to either perform the ceremony, or to pay the woman a thousand dollars a month for maintenance. He refused to do either. It took the woman six years to get the brother-in-law to perform the ceremony, and he also ended up paying her thousands of dollars as ordered by the religious courts.
  • Why do I bring this up? Is it really relevant to the issue at hand? I feel it is necessary to stress that this practice was not just a custom, but an integral part of the religious law at the time of Jesus. While the above story happened only recently, ancient Israel was just as fervent in their keeping the Law of Moses, even in cases such as this. While a hypothetical situation was proposed to Jesus, it was a hypothetical situation that could actually happen, and the statements provided by the authors do not represent correctly this practice.


221

Claim
  • After citing a number of interpretations of the verses in Mark by LDS authorities, the authors continue:

While these explanations may sound good to a Mormon audience that cherishes the institution of marriage, the ability to read between the lines of Jesus' teaching does not make a doctrine true.

It is essential to review the Mormon sources that the authors simply dismiss without giving any reason for doing so. Are they 'reading between the lines?' Or do they have legitimate points to make? The first is by LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie:

What then is the Master Teacher affirming by saying, "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven"? He is not denying but limiting the prevailing concept that there will be marrying and giving in marriage in heaven. He is saying that as far as "they" (the Sadducees) are concerned, that as far as "they" (the children of this world) are concerned, the family unit does not and will not continue in the resurrection. Because he does not choose to cast his pearls before swine, and because the point at issue is not marriage but the resurrection anyway, Jesus does not here amplify his teaching to explain that there is marrying and giving in marriage in heaven only for those who live the fullness of gospel law-a requirement which excludes worldly people.[18]


Response

  • The authors are rejecting this interpretation-an interpretation that uses the same hermeneutics (or interpretational principles) as the authors' interpretation of Paul on the baptism for the dead. There, they clearly made a distinction based on the use of the word "they"-they wrote:

Paul separated himself from such as these when he said, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they baptized for the dead?" (emphasis added). (Mormonism 101, p. 216)

  • This appears virtually identical to McConkie's argument when he suggests that the use of the word 'they' separates the Savior from the Sadducees. To frame it as the authors did, it could easily be argued that Jesus separated himself from such as these when he said, "in the resurrection they neither marry." The authors merely dismiss the argument without even giving it a cursory response. Perhaps this is because any response would do significant damage to their own prior arguments on the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29.
  • For a detailed response, see: Marriage/Jews and early Christians on marriage after death


222-223

Claim
  • The authors follow the McConkie quote with a statement by BYU professor David H. Yarn, Jr.:

The Lord did not say there would be no people in the married state in the resurrection but that there would be no marriages made in the resurrection."


Response

  • Again, this isn't so much speculation as actual fact. The words in the Greek are verbs, not nouns-and the implication is that in the resurrection there will be no one making marriages, not that marriages made before the resurrection would not remain in full force.


222

Claim
  • The authors summarize their position as follows:

How many people would, on reading this Synoptic Gospel account alone in conjunction with the teachings of the Bible, exclaim, "This proves the biblical principle of eternal marriage"? Rather than supporting the view of eternal marriage, Jesus explained that the institution of marriage was for this life only and not the life to come. To assume anything more is biblically and exegetically unsound.


Response

  • It is also incorrect to assume that these were Jesus' only words on the subject in the New Testament. If they had been, then we would need to fall back on the advice provided by the authors in their section on baptism for the dead:

When something is mentioned only once, there is more likelihood of misinterpreting it, whereas matters repeatedly discussed are clarified by their repetition in various contexts.[19]

  • It was Charles Kinglsey, English novelist and clergyman who said: "All I can say is, if I do not love my wife, body and soul, as well there as I do here, then there is no resurrection of my body nor of my soul."[20]This I agree with; it is a principle of the resurrection of the dead.
  • For a detailed response, see: Marriage/Jews and early Christians on marriage after death


The Masonic and Occultic Background of the Ceremony

223

Claim
  • The authors try to redefine 'sacred' to mean 'secret.' They write:

It seems odd that categorizing the ceremony in such a manner would make this subject off-limits. Latter-day Saints deem many areas sacred, yet Mormons seem to have no problem discussing them. For instance, the Book of Mormon is a sacred book, yet few Mormons or missionaries would hesitate to tell their testimony about this book and the gospel contained within its pages.


Response

  • In this section the authors play little games with definitions. Let's start with sacred. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines sacred as follows:

Sacred:

1a: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity

1b: devoted exclusively to one service or use

2a: worthy of religious veneration

2b: entitled to reverence and respect

3: of or relating to religion: not secular or profane

4: accursed (archaic)

5a: unassailable inviolate

5b: highly valued and important

  • Clearly, the term 'sacred' can mean a number of different things. Do the LDS deem that the Book of Mormon is 'sacred' in the same way that the temple and the ceremonies and ordinances performed inside are 'sacred?' Not at all. They can both be sacred in different ways. Yet, to try and portray our treatment of the temple as being 'secret' and not 'sacred,' they want you to believe that everything that is 'sacred' should be treated exactly the same.


223

Claim
  • The authors continue:

If what goes on inside the temple is supposed to be kept from public knowledge, this would certainly fit the definition of secret. Although Mormons are told the endowment is representative of the ancient ceremony mentioned in the Bible, there is no evidence to suggest that Jewish worshippers in Bible times were threatened for revealing what went on inside the Jerusalem temple.


Response

  • On the other hand, the authors carefully neglected to include the part of Boyd K. Packer's remarks that dealt specifically with this subject when he said:

It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. If this opportunity is rejected, the rejection must be on the part of the individual himself.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

  • One could argue that the ancient temple's contents were secret as well. We could impress that only the priests were allowed into the most sacred places of the temple, and what they did there was never made common knowledge. At any rate, the argument used by the authors is inadequate.


Claim
  • Having decided that the temple ceremonies are secret instead of sacred, the authors take the short step to pointing out to us why they are secret. The suggestion is that the temple ordinances are rooted in freemasonry and the occult. In doing so, they begin by suggesting that the outside symbolism of the temple-so similar to masonry, is a good place to begin. These symbols include

"the All-Seeing Eye, the inverted five-pointed star (known as the eastern star), and the clasped hand or grip. All of these were a part of Freemasonry long before Smith incorporated them. … one can't escape the suspicion that Smith 'borrowed' these Masonic practices, especially since he became a Mason on 15 March 1842."


Response

  • There are a couple of minor things that should be brought to McKeever and Johnson's attention. First, while it is true that symbols like the "all-seeing eye" are used in freemasonry, there is no question that they are not unique to freemasonry. The "all-seeing eye" is also called "the Eye of Providence" and was made a part of the National Seal by Congress on June 20, 1782. If you want to see it, take a look at the U.S. dollar bill. There it is. The question then becomes this-did Joseph Smith and later LDS authorities borrow these symbols from freemasonry? Or did they instead use symbols that were in use popularly at that time? McKeever and Johnson make no attempt to explain why it is that symbols which are not unique to masonry must have come from the freemasons.
  • It is true that Joseph Smith became a mason on March 15, 1842. However, as Cecil E. McGavin reports, he only attended a handful of lodge meetings before his death:

… yet [Joseph Smith] never attended more than six meetings of the lodge after receiving the third degree of Masonry on March 16th, 1842. He never took an active part in the fraternity and never received a higher degree than that conferred upon him by Grand master Jonas at the time the Nauvoo lodge was installed.[21]

  • Of equal interest is the fact that in Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants, revealed on January 19 1841, we find mention of certain ordinances and ceremonies of the temple, indicating that the practice and understanding of these ordinances began long before Joseph's induction into freemasonry. Specifically we read of baptisms for the dead, and washings and anointings, as well as other ordinances, memorials, sacrifices, and oracles. This was not the first mention of these ordinances either, but one of the more formal declarations.
  • With all of these things in mind, and recognizing that there are in fact parallels between certain elements of the LDS temple ceremonies and some of the ceremonies in freemasonry, the parallels largely occur within the form of the ceremony, and not in the content of the ceremony or in the ordinances themselves. It would seem to me that Joseph saw in his brief experience with the rites of freemasonry something new-teaching using ritual and ceremony-and adopted some of this form to help teach the Saints. What did he teach them? Certainly nothing that resembles freemasonry. As Kenneth W. Godfrey writes in his article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

"Resemblance between the two rituals are limited to a small proportion of actions and words; … Even where the two rituals share symbolism, the fabric of meanings is different."[22]


225

Claim
  • The authors postulate an occultic connection. Their premise, that individual LDS members report having visions from time to time, implies that the LDS as a whole look forward to these experiences, and that such an occurrence smacks of necromancy. They write: "There are other practices in Mormonism that are occultic in nature, such as contact with the dead." This leads to their conclusion:

It seems curious that Mormons would desire to have contact with the dead when the Old Testament clearly warns against necromancy and conjuring up "familiar spirits." Playing around with spirits is dangerous, something that certainly would not be recommended for Christians. If God was not the creator of the ceremony, then could it be possible that Smith-using his imaginative creativity and pagan practices-created an atmosphere that would be a conduit for evil spirits? It certainly appears that this has taken place, and for this reason Christians should have nothing to do with such a practice.


Response

  • There are a couple of things that need to be addressed here as well. Necromancy is a well defined term. Again, from Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

Necromancy: Conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events

  • Nowhere, in any of the accounts presented by the authors, is this demonstrated. There is no "conjuring" up of spirits. No desire displayed to alter the course of the future, or to know the future. These accounts do not seem to reflect any kind of occultic behavior at all. In fact, were we to label these experiences occultic, we would have to wonder at the behavior of Jesus Christ himself, for we read in Luke 9:29 "And , behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias." Now, according to Deuteronomy at least, Moses had been dead for many years: "So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab." (Deuteronomy 34:5-6) Is there any difference? Perhaps. But there is no justification to call the experiences of LDS people who are actively participating in temple work for the dead "necromancy."


Notes

  1. Boyd K. Packer, "The Holy Temple," Ensign (February 1995), 32, (emphasis added). It is worth noting that this entire issue of the Ensign was devoted to the temple worship of members of the LDS Church, and that McKeever and Johnson also quote from this and later articles.
  2. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 40.
  3. James E. Talmage, The Vitality of Mormonism, (Deseret News Press, 1919), 292.
  4. Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, The Belonging Heart: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1994), 18.
  5. This citation is referenced in Mormonism 101 as "Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 539." This is actually a composite work edited by Edward L. Kimball after President Kimball's death. The original text came from a personal letter dated May 31, 1948.
  6. Packer, Holy Temple, 74ff.
  7. D.A. Carson, "Did Paul Baptize for the Dead?," 63.
  8. Jay Todd, "Salvation for the Dead," Ensign, 47ff.
  9. Luke P. Wilson, "Did Jesus Establish Baptism for the Dead," Heart and Mind (January-March, 1997): 1-4.
  10. John A. Tvedtnes, "The Dead Shall Hear the Voice (Review of Does the Bible Teach Salvation for the Dead? A Survey of the Evidence, Part I)," FARMS Review of Books 10/2 (1998): 184–199. off-site
  11. Frederik W. Grosheide, "Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians," The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 372.
  12. G.G. Findlay, "St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians," The Expositor's Greek Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1897-1919), 2:930.
  13. Interpreter's Bible, 1 Corinthians (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1951-1957), 240.
  14. James T. Duke, "Marriage: Eternal Marriage," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:859.
  15. Joseph Fielding Smith, Elijah the Prophet and His Mission (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1957), 51.
  16. Harold B. Lee, Youth and the Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1955), 132.
  17. Bruce R. McConkie, "Celestial Marriage," New Era (June 1978), 17.
  18. Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 Vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1965–1973), 1:605-606.
  19. D.A. Carson, "Did Paul Baptize for the Dead?," Christianity Today (10 August 1998): 63.
  20. Charles Kingsley, Charles Kingsley: Letters and Memories of His Life (Brooklyn, New York: AMS Press , 1980), 267.
  21. E. Cecil McGavin, Mormonism and Masonry (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1949), 135.
  22. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "Freemasonry and the Temple," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:529, see also note 2.


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