Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Secret versus sacred

The kerfuffle brought about with the recent airing of a depiction of a small part of the mormon temple ceremony on HBO’s “Big Love” is sweeping the blogosphere, at least the portion of it dealing with mormonism from both the mormon view and the Christian view. Many mormons refuse to discuss the temple in any sort of detail at all, and they find such discussions distasteful and offensive. Few topics get mormons wound up like talking about the temple. In mormon life, the temple is built up as the ultimate experience on this earth. Many mormon homes have a three pictures on the wall, one of the current prophet or the current First Presidency, one of a stylized image that is supposed to be Jesus and a picture of a temple. We even got a very nice, suitable for framing, picture of the Washington, D.C. temple when we went through and still have it. It is front and center all of the time, it is spoken of in general terms constantly (but never in detail). Even when we were going through our prep classes before we went to the temple, none of the details were given. It was all very vague and designed to build up your expectations that this would be just a wonderful, uplifting experience. Even in private homes among mormons or in church buildings, the details of the mormon temple ceremony are not spoken of.

That brings us back to the sacred, not secret claim and the episode of HBO’s “Big Love”. Mormons claim that the temple ceremony is sacred, not secret. The fact that it is hidden from view and that not only are mormons forbidden to speak of it to outsider, but really are not supposed to discuss the details with one another, strikes many people as very odd and secretive, especially given the lack of precedence for that sort of activity in the Bible. I suppose one could make the argument that the ceremony was SO secret in the early church that it was not even mentioned in the writings of Paul and the other apostles. But there is just no reference to mormon style temple ceremonies at all. There is not a hint of it anywhere, not the unique theological underpinnings of the mormon temple, or the ceremony itself or anything like that. If the temple is supposedly such a vital ordinance, it strikes me as odd that during the earthly ministry of Christ and the teachings of His apostles, it gets no mention at all and in fact the teaching we do get runs contrary to mormon temple teaching. It would be like the Bible making no mention of baptism or the Lord’s Supper but expecting us to observe them.

Well, some may say, what about the temple in ancient Israel, that was very sacred and reserved to certain men? True, but not really analogous. The ceremonies that went on in the old temple are not only available to review, they are laid out in excruciating detail as anyone who has read through the Old Testament knows. What they wore, what color their temple garb was, the animals they sacrificed, how they were sacrificed. It was incredibly sacred, but it was also very open. When the High Priest went into the inner sanctum, everyone knew what he was doing. The mormon temple relies on a general ignorance of the Old Testament, which is all too common among mormons and Christians alike. If I recall correctly, the Visitors Center of the Los Angeles temple has lots of information about the ancient Israelite temples to further increase the illusion that they are somehow related. Because of that, it is possible to build up the temple experience in the mind of mormons to offset the general weirdness that goes inside. Compare the specific details of the Old Testament temple practices with the vague warm and fuzzy depictions of the temple experience disseminated for public consumption. Compare also what actually went on in the tabernacle/temple of the Jews and the quirky ceremonies in a mormon temple.

Frankly, the shroud of secrecy that hides the mormon temple ceremony from public consumption has nothing to do with it being sacred in nature. Having been through the temple and reflecting back on it, I can assure you that if the particulars of the mormon ceremony were made public it would cripple mormon proselytizing. The temple ceremony is an embarrassing relic of a bygone age, when Joseph Smith could indulge his every whim and turn every notion that crossed his mind into an official doctrine.

By contrast, I am more than happy to discuss openly every aspect of Christian teaching and church practice. Some of it is hard to explain and might even make people uncomfortable, but it is not secret. Secrecy is not a hallmark of the Gospel. When you read what the disciples preached you don’t see any references to the mormon temple worship, nor is there a hint that something more is needed. It is the Good News, accompanied by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit that makes disciples, not mystic secret rituals in a temple. Christ died publicly, on a cross reserved for criminals, and when He rose again He appeared in public to many people. His teachings were spread far and wide, and none of those teachings had anything to do with secret temple rituals. The Gospel is the plain news that sinners, justly condemned by their sins, can receive forgiveness through the shed blood of Christ by faith in Him alone. That’s it. Nothing more complicated or secretive than that.

There is plenty that is secret going on within the white walls of the mormon temples around the world, and it may be sacred to mormons, but it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

14 comments:

Bryce Haymond said...

Have you checked out TempleStudy.com recently?

Bot said...

To understand why Jesus Christ considered the Temple Ceremonies sacred, and why Mormons still do, read:

http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com

Arthur Sido said...

Bot and Bryce,

I haven’t heard of either of those pages. What I do know is this: I have read the Bible and I have been through the mormon temple, and the two portray a radically different God.

The Gospel is God’s working to justify sinners through the cross of Christ, the regenerating of the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith. The completed work of Christ happened on the cross, and the Gospel that was preached by His disciples in the first century is the same Gospel Christians preach today: Repent of your sins, bow to Jesus as Lord and be justified by faith alone. It was preached and is preached in the streets, in the open, where the sinners are. They were not preaching the Gospel in secret, they were preaching it to everyone. The Gospel has never been lost and it has never changed, and it certainly didn’t need to be restored by a farm boy in New York with a vivid imagination and a taste for women. The Gospel that was preached by Paul, Peter and John is a far cry from ritualistic, secretive ceremonies being held in ornate and enormously lavish “temples”.

If you would care to interact with any of the points that I have written in this post or others, I would welcome your comments and the conversation.

gloria said...

Jesus did not teach secretly... He openly taught.. nothing was hid ....

As a former LDS who was deeply involved with temple worship I can assure the readers of your blog that there is nothing biblical about the LDS temple ritual.

In fact the Bible clearly lays out details about Jewish temple ritual, there is no comparison to the LDS ritual. If the LDS really wanted to be 'authentic' and replicate the ancient ceremony, then where is the shew bread? Where is the incense? Where is the blood offerings? Only Levites were allowed to work in the temple.... are LDS men levites? No.

Ultimately the Jewish temple ritual pointed to the coming of the final sin offering... Jesus himself.

I pray daily for my LDS friends, lost in the mirage and in bondage to something that simply can not give them what they seek: eternal life. This gift is only thru our Lord Jesus and His blood.

In Christ from a former mormon now sold out for Jesus,

Bot said...

The Esoteric Ordinances were certainly in the Biblical writings, until the Roman Church excised any writiings which included:

Temple ritual

Jesus' activites during the 40 days betweeen his Crucification and Ascension (teaching temple ordinances)

Deification

Need for works and grace

Please re-read

http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com

carefully, and you will see what I mean.

Arthur Sido said...

That is always convenient, well they were in there until some unnamed monk took it out. The fact that it doesn’t appear in any of the manuscripts would require you to believe in a conspiracy that is breathtaking in its scope and is about as believable as the DaVinci Code.

How can I reread something I didn’t read in the first place? I hope it is better than your “mormonism is true because our teens are nicer people” argument.

Not only is the temple ceremony as adapted from Masonry by Joseph Smith not seen or even mentioned in the Bible, but the doctrines are contrary to what IS in the Bible.

It is a two-part whammy. First, there is no Biblical evidence for the temple ceremony. Second, what is taught in the temple and mormonism in general is the precise opposite of what is in the Bible. The temple is nothing like the temple in the Bible. The mormon priesthood rejects the High Priesthood of Christ. No command or example + teaching a different gospel = false teaching.

So you really have an either or proposition. Either you accept the Biblical record and reject mormonism or you reject the Biblical record completely and accept mormonism. The two are incompatible. You can have the Bible or you can have mormonism, but you can’t have both.

Arthur Sido said...

Gloria,

“Ultimately the Jewish temple ritual pointed to the coming of the final sin offering... Jesus himself.”

That is magnificent. The whole system of mormonism misunderstands virtually every aspect of the Gospel: man, sin, justification, God, Christ. Everything. The temple served one real purpose in the grand drama of redemption: to point people to Christ, for His perfect sacrifice to redeem His people. Rebuilding temples? Why? That puts the cross of Christ to shame. It is not a stretch to say that Joseph Smith and his successors are about as wrong as it is possible to be.

Arthur Sido said...

Bot, I rejected your comment because:

a) I actually did go to the link and read it.
b) I don’t normally allow huge cut and paste comments
c) None of your footnotes showed up

If someone wants to read your arguments, I would encourage them to go to your page so they can read your references in addition to your assertions: http://newtestamenttempleritual.blogspot.com/

In essence, you refer to all manner of conjecture and out of context apocryphal writings to make your point. But you are unable to deal with what I said, that the Bible has no reference at all to the temple and teaches doctrines that are in direct contrast with mormon teachings, especially in the temple. Which brings us full circle to a previous comment I made:

So you really have an either or proposition. Either you accept the Biblical record and reject mormonism or you reject the Biblical record completely and accept mormonism. The two are incompatible. You can have the Bible or you can have mormonism, but you can’t have both.

Appealing to snippets of references of allegedly aberrant teachings at best proves that even in the earliest days of the church, some people propagated false teachings. But we already knew that, Paul spent a great deal of his writing efforts combating false teachers like the Judaizers and Gnostics, two groups which have eerily similar false beliefs with mormonism. If you want to claim that Jospeh Smith restored a sub-sect of Judaism or restored Gnosticism, that is fine. But to claim that he restored the Gospel when he preached “another gospel” is false. A lie is not a restoration of the truth.

gloria said...

In response to "bot's " comment... he posted Jesus spent the 40 days between His death and ascention teaching about temple ritual??? Where does it say that in the Bible?

Hmmm........

Gloria

Bot said...

Gloria,

Don't you find it odd that there is scant information in the Canonical Bible about Jesuw Christ's 40 days betweeen his Resurrection and Ascension. Could it be that the Roman church wanted to expunge any information on Esoteric ordinances, Deification, or a clear understanding of the corporal nature of Jesus and our Father in Heaven? For example, here's one account of the 40 days:

In Sophia Jesu Christi: “After He had risen from the dead, when they came, the twelve disciples and seven women who had followed him as disciples, into Galilee. .. where they were now at a loss in regard to the true nature of the universe, the Plan of Salvation, the Holy Providence, the excellency of the Powers, about all that the Redeemer did with them, the secrets of the Holy Plan of Salvation, then there appeared to them the Redeemer. “

Arthur Sido said...

Why is that odd? We know very little about the vast majority of Christ’s life. That doesn’t give us license to make stuff up to fill in the blanks. What we do know is what we need to know about who Christ is and what He has done. As it says in John 20: 30-31

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus said and did many things in His thirty plus years of earthly ministry. They are not all recorded. What is recorded is recorded for a reason, because it contains all we need to know that we may believe and have life in His name. What sinners need to know, God has revealed completely and sufficiently in His Word. Other teachings and events are not recorded because they are not needed for us to believe and have life in His name. What we certainly do not need are non-authoritative teachings that teach false and contradictory doctrines. The Bible is sufficient for salvation and for a lifetime of learning. You don’t need some guy in Salt Lake City claiming to be a prophet telling you something new, what is recorded in the Bible is all you really need.

Bot said...

The Books of Philip, Thomas, and the Sofia Jesu Cristi are accounts from the First Century. Do you think that Apostles Philip and Thomas were "making things up"? The things you complain about reagrding my post were not "Some Guy in Salt Lake City telling us something new"; they were actual accounts of contemporaries of Jesus Chrish explaining Esoteric Teachings and Ordinances, which have subsequently been expunged by the Roman Church.

Based on your comments, it is clear you have not read my original post:

http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com

It doesn't contain source material from Mormons, or in fact from anyone after the Fourth Century.

The Bible is correct and God's word as long as it was translated correctly. But there were many more books written than the 66 which are in the Canonical (Catholic) Bible.

Arthur Sido said...

bot, those works were never considered part of the canon of Scripture and never considered authoritative. Just because they are old doesn't make them authoritative. Lots of stuff was written in the first couple of centuries, are all of them equally valid? What you cannot show are Biblical validations for mormon theories, thus your string of snippets from non-canonical, non-authoritative books that were never part of the canon of Scripture.

BTW, I did read your article, I just don't agree or find your arguments to be very compelling.

Leonard said...

Arthur, thanks for posting this its a well laid out read and found it very informative. thanks again...
Best
Leonard