I’ve had a fun week discussing the evolution of temple worship with BYU Church History professor Dr. Richard Bennett. He’s given some really interesting insights about the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples. Were you aware that the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples not only didn’t require a recommend to enter, but were open to the public? In part 1 of our discussion about the evolution of temples,
Dr. Bennett: Yes in some ways it definitely was a meetinghouse. There was no chapel in Kirtland. There was no chapel in Nauvoo. We were building temples long before we built chapels…
GT: So I understand when the mummies were brought to Kirtland and then Joseph Smith and the church purchased them that they actually displayed those in the temple and I believe charged admission.
Dick: Yes they obtained those mummies in 1835…So yeah, they were shown. The Smith family took possession of them, or at least shall we say they were owned by the Church, but the Smith family kind of took care of them and would invite people to come and see them not just at the temple but at the Smith home for maybe 25 cents, 20 cents or something like that.
Bennett did mention that not all meetings were open to the public.
yes it was an assembly place but it wasn’t always just open for anybody. There were very selective meetings particularly for priesthood brethren that weren’t open for everybody. Usually for those who were about to serve on missions or had special commissions of one kind or another for special meetings. They weren’t like every Sunday we’re all going to meet there. They would have some of those general meetings from time to time but it was really very selective in who was able to attend some of those meetings.
In part 2, I discovered that Brigham Young tried to sell the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples!!! Were you aware of that?
We wanted to sell it. Brigham Young made the order to sell it, just like he did with the Nauvoo Temple. We needed the money to move west. The Church was in a very, very difficult financial situation in 1845, and as it became very clear they we were going to have to leave Nauvoo, and to fund the exodus of 20,000 people, or however thousands of people it was going to be, it was going to take a lot of money. We had some properties including the temples, and so Brigham Young and the Quorum of Twelve made the conscious decision, not publicized to too many people that we needed to sell off the temples, and so we did, or at least we tried to do so; not just the temples, but other properties in Far West, [Nebraska] and wherever we could to fund the cost of building those wagons to go west.
In part 3 of our discussion, we talked about how the saints spoke in tongues at the Kirtland Temple dedication. I asked why that no longer happens.
Dick: Well it’s still a key in the piano. We’ve never denied the possibility of speaking in tongues. I think it goes back to Joseph Smith’s caution on abuse of speaking in tongues which he gave in Nauvoo actually. There were a lot of manifestations of speaking in tongues in Kirtland. We know that. There were several in Nauvoo as well.
But there were many joining the church who were kind of excessive in it, and Joseph felt that was of all the gifts that one was the most easily abused, and I think that imprinted on Brigham Young’s mind as well. Brigham Young spoke in tongues many times. When they got here out in the [Salt Lake] valley they spoke in tongues. But it’s just gradually been, not replaced, but that other gifts have been emphasized more than the gift of tongues.
Gifts which seem to reflect more our temple worship and our reverence of certain gifts that gift of tongues is really not associated so much with temple worship. We have certain gifts in the temple, especially discernment and recognition of the spirit that aren’t easily duplicated and so I think that the rise in temple work kind of moved some of these other gifts to the sideline.
We also discussed how Masonic elements of today’s temple ceremonies, as well as the differences.
The signs and symbols that you sometimes see in the temple, whether they are the all-seeing eye, or the geometric symbols have some similarity to Masonry. There’s no question about that. Maybe even some of the clothing has some parallels. But Joseph Smith explained that he did it, he may have borrowed some of it, but for and entirely different reason, something that they were somewhat familiar with but for an entirely different reason. To the best of my knowledge, the differences are very, very stark when it comes to scripture and prophetic and Christian. Masonry is a benevolent and wonderful society, but it’s not necessarily for just the Christians. It’s not a religion.
These were some fun conversations! I think many of us view temple worship as having very little change over the years, but I think there is plenty of evidence that the Nauvoo and Kirtland Temples served very different purposes than our temples today. What are your thoughts about the evolution to temple worship? I’ll bet speaking in tongues at the temple hasn’t happened in a century. Do you agree with Dr. Bennett’s point that speaking in tongues is “still a key in the piano”? Do you long for a time when the temples were open to the public?