I received a wonderful surprise in the mail a few weeks ago. I received an advance copy of The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History from Signature Books. It will be released on March 24, and I just added it to my Books and Movies page. If you pre-order, Amazon is offering it for 34% off. I haven’t been through the whole book yet, but I wanted to offer some initial impressions.
It’s always hard for active Mormons to talk about the temple except in very general terms. For example, when I reviewed The Mysteries of Godliness, it made me very uncomfortable, because I felt that David John Buerger went too far in discussing temple ceremonies. From what I’ve read so far, this book seems to have avoided crossing any lines of confidentiality, and so far has been very interesting to read.
This is a very different book than I am used to reading because it is organized strictly chronologically. I would say that it’s a book primarily designed for researchers, though it has some fascinating nuggets about temple practices, procedures, and information that discusses ancillary issues to the temple. Rather than giving a narration linking similar topics together, the book is a collection of diary entries, meeting notes, official or semi-official pronouncements from various leaders, given in a strictly chronological order. As such, each entry may have nothing to do with a previous entry. It took me a little while to get used to that. It doesn’t seem to be the type of book that one would normally read from cover to cover. I found myself flipping pages until I found something that looked interesting, and there are plenty of interesting things to be found. For example, there were very specific instructions on how to handle burial for deceased members. Pages 415-417 give the minutes from a Temple Clothing Program meeting from Oct 3, 1975 in the form of a question and answer. Here is an example:
8. Question: May individuals be buried in their regular temple clothing that has been worn to the temple?
Answer: Yes, with the exception of the shoes. A special moccasin is used in place of the regular temple-wear shoe.
There are lots in interesting tidbits. When I was single, I remember dating a widow. She had been sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. After 7 years of marriage, her husband had been killed in an avalanche. I remember that she was bothered by the fact that the church would not allow her to be sealed to another man, and had even spoken to an apostle about the problem. While the church still forbids a living woman from being sealed to more than one man, President Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson sent a circular letter from Dec 8, 1988 (found on page 456) stating,
- A deceased woman sealed in life to one husband may also be sealed to another man with whom she lived as a wife.
Prior to that sentence, the letter states
In considering ordinances for the deceased, we need not attempt to determine individual worthiness, whether an ordinance will be accepted, or the probable feelings of other deceased individuals affected by the proposed ordinance. In order to be binding in eternity, any ordinance in behalf of the dead must be accepted by the individuals involved, merited by individual worthiness, and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. These determinations must, of necessity, be made beyond the veil.
While I know this policy didn’t satisfy this particular widow, I think it is an interesting policy nonetheless that women can be sealed to more than one man.
Going further back in time, there was a very interesting suggestion about a Temple Ship. Greg Prince had mentioned this in his David O. McKay biography, and it was nice to see something official from David O McKay’s diary dated Oct 11, 1968. From page 375,
For nearly one hour the brethren from the Building Committee made a presentation suggesting the purchase of an ocean-going vessel which vessel was to be equipped for Temple Ordinance work and then sail to the various points strategically located throughout the earth where Latter-day Saints, principally in remote places, would have access to the Temple Endowment. It was reported that this project would cost approximately two million dollars and could be maintained throughout the year at a cost of about $500,000 per year[,] that crews could be recruited by simply calling various members of the Church to a 12 or 18-month mission, and that the members of the crew on the boat would not be the same as those that would be called to officiate in these Temple Ordinances for people throughout the earth.
It is obvious that this would satisfy a need for the far away, remote places where members of the Church would not have access to the Temple Endowment, but in order for it to be successful it would have to also reach the heavier populated ares in America as well as in South America. Otherwise it would be unfeasible as to cost. The proposition thus submitted is without question worthy of consideration and this is precisely the status that it was left in. There were no decisions made. However a great many comments were made which consisted of the following:
1. President Smith raised the question that Temples were to be constructed according to the revelation in Stakes of Zion.
2. I raised the question as to the cursing that has been place upon the waters in the last days, as to whether it would be proper in the light of that statement by the Prophet to construct a Temple to sail on the waters.
3. I also raised the question as to the worthiness of the members in far away places or as to whether their association in the church was sufficiently experienced to have the Temple work performed for them at this time. The building committee stated that there were 50,000 men who held the Melchizedek Priesthood in these far away places who would have access to the Temple. I pointed out that even here in Zion only 40% of them were worthy of going to the Temple and it would be probably much less in these far away places. Then if they were permitted to go[,] with the ship being anchored in a nearby harbor, that it would offend them.
6. Finally, while this project appears to have great merit on first thought, the more it is thought about the more problems would seem to arise. However, the matter was left for further consideration by President McKay and the First Presidency. [The footnote states, ‘Two weeks later, McKay wrote to an inquiring individual that “as far as I am concerned[,] we are not considering this proposition,” and further discussion of the matter apparently ceased. See Prince and Wright, David O. McKay, 275]
Since I’m curious about the time period relating to the Manifesto, I had to look for information around 1890. Some of these quotes are hard to understand without the footnotes. For example, here is the quote from a letter from President Wilford Woodruff to William H. Seegmiller, Sept 26, 1890 that left me scratching my head until I read the footnote.
Elder H. S. Palmer of Freemont [Utah] writes to us that you have refused to give him a recommend to the House of the Lord because at his late trial he promised to obey the law.
The footnote states,
Apparently Seegmiller thought LDS people should stand firm in violating the law against polygamy. Notice that President Woodruff doesn’t support Palmer’s decision to obey the law; rather he finds the sin of obedience in this case to be venial rather than fatal.
Continuing with the quote from the letter,
If this is the only reason you have for withholding his recommend, and if he is otherwise in good standing in the Church, and were it not for this action of his you could freely recommend him, we do not think it advisable for that reason alone to withhold from him the privileges of the temple.
Official Declaration 1 was released just 2 days before this letter. Wilford Woodruff had a vision on Sept 23, 1891. The following day, the press release was drafted and printed in our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
President Lorenzo Snow offered the following:
“I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.”
The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous.
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 6, 1890.
These are just a few of the tidbits in this book–it’s really fascinating. As you can see, it addresses a wide range of topics. Is there anything you’d like to know more about?
MH, sounds like a fascinating book. Does it include information about when the temple ceremony was standardized, and, following that, information about changes in the ordinances?
While I know this policy didn’t satisfy this particular widow, I think it is an interesting policy nonetheless that women can be sealed to more than one man.
It is an especially interesting policy given that eventually all marriages will be sealed in the temple during the Millennium.
The current practice of the church is to allow a man to be sealed to multiple wives, just not at the same time or while all of them are living. If his first wife dies, then he can be sealed to a second wife, etc.
With women, they are sealed to all of their dead husbands when they die. So, if a woman is married in life to 7 husbands [a serial monogamist], and then she dies — she is vicariously sealed to all 7 of her husbands.
Everybody eventually will be sealed to every peron they ever married, regardless of how they married, for all marriages that are entered into “until death do they part” will be sealed and turned into celestial marriages.
We already practice polygyny and polyandry, just not with all spouses living.
I would just like to see the church accept what they are already doing in our sealing ceremonies, and stop forbidding tribes from applying it to living people [instead of to just dead people].
BiV, someone else asked me about changes in the endowment. I did a quick scan from 1985-1996 and didn’t see anything obvious. It could be that there are subtle clues. I did see something that seemed to imply that Russell M Nelson referred to a Second Anointing. All Elder Nelson said was that he and his wife participated in a particularly spiritual experience that he couldn’t describe. I remember reading that and wondering if it referred to a Second Anointing, and the footnote said the author believed this was a Second Anointing, but it was certainly no smoking gun. There could be similar references to endowment changes–I’ll have to read more slowly.
Justin, while I agree with your comment in general, the whole concept of polyandry (and polygyny) is a hot potato. I completely understand why the church is a bit skittish about publicly proclaiming anything like you’re suggesting. I am sure none of the Brethren would publicly confirm what you’re suggesting, and I suspect that most do not believe it privately. I think your comment makes a lot of sense, though I have to say I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of polygyny or polyandrous sealings. If they were evenly applied, it would solve some of my discomfort, but not all of my discomfort.
MH: This is similar to BIV’s comment, but I’m especially interested in 1800s standardization. Does it go through the progression of how the ceremony became “the ceremony”, etc?
If a person wants to learn about the development of the 19th century Temple they should add to this book the two earlier books by Devery, “Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed” and “The Nauvoo Endowment Companies.” If you are looking for the 1877 meetings then this new book is the ticket. If you are looking for the changes that happened from 1921 to 1925 then this book is the ticket. If you want to understand our history of the temple, then this book is the ticket. I think this book should be required reading.
Though I have to say I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of polygyny or polyandrous sealings. If they were evenly applied, it would solve some of my discomfort, but not all of my discomfort.
The only “uneven” aspect of the Church’s current policy on polygynous and polyandrous sealings is who needs to be alive and who needs to be dead.
The current policy does do a lot of unfairness to female widows [e.g. making her choose to remove her first sealing or choose to have all of her second set of children be sealed de facto to her first husband].
However, as I noted, when all parties are deceased — the current approved practice is to evenly apply polygynous and polyandrous sealings across-the-board.
Which is why I agreed with your sentence, “I think it is an interesting policy” — though I was not attempted to detract from or downplay the discomfort you experienced with the uneven policy as it applies to living people.
Re: the OP — It’s been my experience that there isn’t much hard evidence available to track changes in the temple ceremony. I attribute this to the largely “oral-cannon” structure of the endowment. Unlike canonized scripture — changes can be made much more stealth-like, with most people forgetting what it used to be like as generations pass.
Thanks for the note Joe. I haven’t read the other books, but they sound very interesting. I do like the careful treatment Anderson gives in this book, and I think few active members would be bothered by any of this book’s contents. Shorty, I’ll have to skim through some of these quotes to answer your question–I’ll try to do that tonight, but it sounds like Joe says the other books are better for answering your question.
yes, justin i agree with you. if we are willing to lay aside judgments of women sealed to multiple spouses after death, it doesn’t make sense to prevent a woman from being sealed in life if these issues are to be sorted out in the hereafter anyway.
in this widow’s case, she felt like it didn’t matter who she married because no ‘good’ lds man would marry her without a sealing. she ended up marrying outside the church, and I have questioned whether she married a good man. in her mind, it didn’t matter. obviously emma smith married outside the faith after joseph died.
I should have also commented that I think you did a good job in your post.
It is very difficult to describe this book. There is nothing like this book. What is contained in the pages is the official record of the Mormon temple. Most of the letters have the caveat, “do not allow others to see these.” This book is hot.
If Shorty wants to learn about the 19th century temple ceremonies, I highly suggest Mike Quinn’s ground breaking article in BYU Studies called “Early Mormon Prayer Circles”. It is on their website in pdf. The next work I would suggest in Buerger’s “Mysteries of Godliness”. Then take it to the next level and get serious, and get Devery’s three volumes. If a person is serious about learning the history of the temple, these three volumes are a must.
I’ve been thinking about what you wrote about the book Mysteries of Godliness and I’m wondering if it’s been some time since you read the book. Sensibilities change. I’m wondering if you read it with some new eye’s that you might not thing it was that inappropriate now. The book was well reviewed, respectful, and was an early important chronology of the developments of temple worship.
Now with Devery’s three books, much of what Buerger introduced to us some twenty years ago has so much more relevance.
I look forward to hearing from you if you take my challenge and revisit Buerger’s book. Maybe we could do so over lunch. My treat!
Tom, we need to go to lunch again–that would be great! I read Buerger’s book just over a year ago, and did 2 posts on it: The Mysteries of Godliness, and Dancing in the Temple. Yes there were some really cool things in that book as well, such as bathing in whiskey and dancing in the temple. Maybe I would feel differently about it now–who knows? I wouldn’t be opposed to re-reading it, but I have so many other books on my list!
“when all parties are deceased — the current approved practice is to evenly apply polygynous and polyandrous sealings across-the-board”
do you think the ‘current approved practice’ for deceased parties is doctrinal or administrative? There is obviously paternalism in the way cancellation of sealings are granted for the living. In the optimistic sense, the paternalism is a means of ‘discipline’ (using discipline in the sense of teaching) for those who have divorced. In speaking to a sister who got a letter from the first presidency that gave her permission to be sealed to a new husband, it was clear that there was the sense that the FP wanted time to make sure that her marriage was going to ‘stick’ before their permission was granted. Some will react to this with contentment to wait according to the time of the brethren, as she did, and others will react differently.
As pertaining to polygynous and polyandrous sealings across the board when all parties are deceased, there is no need for paternalism for the deceased. Is the practice, however, simply to appease the living descendants so all descendants can look to their ordinance work as being interlinked ‘one way or the other’? That way all are covered ‘afterlife-wise’ until God makes the ultimate decision. Looking at it, however, from the true sealing power of the priesthood, however, all of those in heaven are forever ‘bound’ by what was sealed on earth. Your perspective of looking forward to polygynous and polyandrous sealings may approach the means by which God desires His family to be sealed to Him–it’s an interesting way of considering the sealing ordinance. But, if we are looking at the administrative practice of ‘sealing deceased parties to cover all possible celestial outcomes for the number of marital partners they had in life’ as the “doctrine” on which afterlife polygynous and polyandrous sealings are postulated, I’m not sure I find that flow of logic very inspirational!
It has been my experience that most people are contently comfortable with monogamy — and therefore explain the post-humous polygynous/polyamorous sealings in terms of a “seal ’em all, let God sort it out” type of administrative policy.
Sure — there are those who may not be all that inspired by a flow of logic that concludes that God desires His family to be sealed to Him in such a way that all Gods have all things common, and are equal in the bonds of all things [which include marital bonds] — but it is the conclusion…
…unless you still like the “seal ’em all and let God sort it out“.
Well, I’m sure you have gathered that I am a ‘contently comfortable with monogamy’ kind of guy. I guess that question that I was getting at is whether you believe that the powers that be have established the policy for sealings of all deceased parties because they interpret the doctrine of sealing the way that you do in your link, or whether they are following the ‘seal em all and let God sort it out’ approach.
If one is looking at how sealings for the dead are practiced as a model to the afterlife, AND the practice is to seal am all because we don’t know how else to do it, that is the flow of logic that I was saying would seem less than inspirational.
“whether you believe that the powers that be have established the policy for sealings of all deceased parties because they interpret the doctrine of sealing the way that you do in your link, or whether they are following the ‘seal em all and let God sort it out’ approach.”
I think that if you ask them [assuming, as I do, that they are also contently comfortable with monogamy] they would explain in the “seal ’em all” terms.
In my estimation — the policy on sealings represents a relic from a time past where such doctrine wasn’t troublesome to members and leaders. The policy remains, so leaders will attempt to explain it in different terms now-a-days.
Following the logic that we “seal ’em all“, knowing full-well that only one will stick — leads me to a rather uninspiring conclusion that we don’t know what we’re doing and are just using sacred ordinances as a way to cover all the bases [for whatever heaven may be like].
“because we don’t know how else to do it.”
If only we belonged to a church to professed to receive modern revelation directly from God — then perhaps we might know.
“It is an especially interesting policy given that eventually all marriages will be sealed in the temple during the Millennium.”
So having read your link, and this comment above, I’m curious how you reconcile ‘cancellation of sealings’ as a relevant function of Priesthood power. If a woman who divorces a man in this life will eventually be sealed to all of the husbands she ever had after death, one would wonder why a cancellation of sealings would be considered necessary. It would, perhaps, minimize the appearance of polyandry during this life. It can give a woman peace of mind that she is not still sealed to someone who broke a covenant, but the covenant-breaker is ‘out’ anyway by the ‘amen to the priesthood’ clause. It can allow a woman to give birth to further children that are born in covenant to a second husband, but the covenant status of those children who were born in covenant to the covenant-breaking first husband from whom she was de-sealed gets harder to explain.
Nevertheless, the power to ‘bind AND loose’ on earth with corresponding power in heaven is scriptural. Currently the power to bind is conferred on others under the direction of the FP, but the power to loose is something that the FP has maintained unto themselves.
In the post you linked, it would appear that nobody would be ‘loosed’ by the Priesthood in the heavenly state. Everybody would be bound. Couples who split up and are re-sealed to other individuals and have been loosed by the Priesthood will be rebound multiply as husband and wife if all merit exaltation. Thinking of loosening as a priesthood power gives me pause when thinking of the eternities in the way your post postulated their arrangement. I’ve got a hunch that you have an explanation for this. 🙂
Rigel said: “Thinking of loosening as a priesthood power gives me pause when thinking of the eternities in the way your post postulated their arrangement. I’ve got a hunch that you have an explanation for this.”
I apologize in advance for the length of this comment — but your question got my mind working.
There are justified reasons for a married couple to cease coming together for sexual intercourse and cease to cohabitate permanently — and there are non-justified reasons. The cancellation of sealings should essentially follow the justified reasons that are given in the scriptures.
You referred to the “Amen to the priesthood” clause from D&C 121 — this is essentially correct. It is God’s desire that all humanity will become Gods, sealed into His family — having all things common, including marital bonds, etc. However, God only has power to work among humans insomuch as they have faith — and we have faith only insofar as we are justified.
Sealings are for justified believers in Christ [thus the interview to ascertain your current state of justification before a sealing ordinance] — the Lord has an associated Loosings in cases of justification being lost.
Referring specifically to the current LDS policy [quoted from the 2010 CHI]:
Those who hold active keys can use them to impede the work of the Lord by making it more difficult for people to come to the Lord, receiving his ordinances, covenants and sealings.
This can be done by adding additional [extra-scriptural] requirements to the commandments of God, known as the commandments of men. These traditions are usually kept within an “oral law” — meaning that they are in some form other than the scriptures that the saints have consented to be bound to, and will also not be available for the general membership to have access to, etc.
Using the active sealing keys to narrow down opportunities for which marriages may be performed [or out-right forbidding them, which is not ordained of God] — the one who holds the active keys to that ordinance creates an artificial hoop that one must jump thru.
If one wishes to receive an ordinance contrary to this “oral law” and the active key holder refuses to permit it — then this creates an artificial conflict in which the person must bow to the active key holder’s wishes or be labeled a rebel [a sinner or apostate], and thus now be considered unworthy of the ordinance [i.e. labeled as “unjustified” when he/she is in fact “justified”]. The artificial requirement, then, in this example, has impeded the work of the Lord.
The keys of the priesthood are flexible enough to be used in this tyrannical manner so that the active key holder’s character can be properly proved.
Essentially — the CHI’s stated sealing policy is based in a world-view where:
Monogamy is the God-ordained standard,
Polygyny is acceptable in theory — allowed in certain circumstances,
and Polyandry is out-right wicked — an affront to God, etc.
However, unless there is a justified cause for separation, a cancellation [or loosing] should not be granted — and unless there is a justified cause for forbidding a marriage, a cancellation [or loosing] of a previous sealing should not be required.
Rigel — I hope that makes sense b/c I’m afraid if I took up more of MH’s comment space here with more of an explanation, I may wear out my welcome here.
Justin, like Rigel, I am intrigued by your explanations. This is obviously not a heated discussion, so don’t worry about wearing out a welcome. Explain away.
Re: I hope that makes sense
Justin, I was going to ask for clarification, but after reading your reply a few more times, I think I understand your answer. Thanks for the explanation.
Just one more point:
“Those who hold active keys can use them to impede the work of the Lord by making it more difficult for people to come to the Lord, receiving his ordinances, covenants and sealings. ”
“God only has power to work among humans insomuch as they have faith”
I mentioned in #12 the practice of those holding keys delaying the granting of ordinances for the purpose of teaching. Is your criticism of this practice only regarding those who wish to have a polygamous sealing or does it extend to those wanting to get endowed and those wanting to get baptized? Having seen the negative consequences of those rushing in without receiving adequate preparation, it seems to me that there is wisdom for those who have keys to expect to discern when adequate faith is present. If we accept that those who hold keys have the spirit of discernment, then it would follow that acting on that spirit would not impede the work of the Lord.
Yes, some blanket statements on eligibility seem arbitrary, i.e. when single sisters can get endowed. Is your criticism of those who impede primarily aimed at the writers of the handbook of instructions? Or does it include the delegation down to the local Bishop who may not authorize you to use priesthood keys to baptize and ordain individuals who you desire to bring into the fold/quorum?
“Having seen the negative consequences of those rushing in without receiving adequate preparation, it seems to me that there is wisdom for those who have keys to expect to discern when adequate faith is present.”
Inasmuch as the gift of discernment is what is used to judge who has adequate preparation for ordinances and who does not — then I believe the practice would be justifiable:
However, currently we seem to have a system based on the commandments of men that discerns based on outward appearances and physical metrics and timetables satisfied.
“Is your criticism of those who impede primarily aimed at the writers of the handbook of instructions?”
I believe that the CHI is behind much of the red tape and general ridiculousness that rubs many people the wrong way — causing them to cease activity in their congregation.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily say that my criticism is primarily aimed at its authors — I think the church would be better off if every copy of that book was tossed in a recycling bin.
“Or does it include the delegation down to the local Bishop who may not authorize you to use priesthood keys to baptize and ordain individuals who you desire to bring into the fold/quorum?”
I think here is most of where the rubber hits the road in terms of the CHI being a impediment to the work of the Lord. Unrighteous priesthood leaders will take pride in having access to new positions of power — and the CHI “oral law” facilitates ecclesiastical abuses of power.
In re: to the local authorities authorizing the use of keys, etc. — I’d suggest reading about An alternate view of the keys and Tribal worship services.
The short version is:
* It is the voice of the people [meaning a majority of a congregational vote] that authorizes the priesthood keys or makes their actions valid/justified.
* Priesthood keys are given to men to see how they will use them — e.g. will they be stingy with them, act with control over the concerns of their stewardship, etc.
* The keys of the church [consent] are given to members [in most congregations, the majority being women] to see how they will use them — e.g. will they rubber stamp the priesthood, etc.
* The priesthood presides over the church and the family [or tribe]. These are two separate organizations — neither has jurisdiction over the other.
* For matters pertaining to the church — so long as the keys of consent [which the members hold] uphold the current leaders — they are authorized to act however they choose [rather we would judge it as righteousness or not].
* For matters pertaining to the family [or tribe] — so long as the keys of consent [which the wives hold] uphold the husband’s actions — he is authorized to act with the priesthood within his tribe however he chooses. This would include administering the sacrament, baptisms and confirmations, multiple husband/wife marriages, initiations into the family [or tribe], etc. The family is a valid institution before the Lord that the priesthood is authorized to act in.
But check out the links too — if you have interest.
Not sure if people have noticed, but Amazon has completely sold out of all their copies of the book. Yesterday it was the number one selling Mormon book. It has now dropped in its ranking because it is sold out. If you want a copy, I would suggest you order quickly from Benchmark Books or Confetti Antiques. They may be the only dealers left with copies.