Posts Tagged temple

Temple Casting part 2 – what I should not have missed

Today I went to the temple to do some of the work for my grandfather who passed away last year. And, during the presentation of the Endowment, it came to me that I missed some things I really should have put into that last post. So here they are, in no order of importance.

Lucifer: France.

It could be from my belief that he is completely unnecessary in the beginnings of a world, but I managed to all together forget this character existed in the presentation when I wrote the last post. We’ve had all kinds, from almost operatic to smarmy to truly icky. The method of acting doesn’t bother me too much (though the icky one just seems wrong), but this was a really difficult decision on how to cast from a nationality. How to you pick one without feeding into stereotypical views on how “evil” a particular nationality can be? This would matter less as more versions are made, but for the first, this is my choice.

Heavenly Mother: Ukraine

Yes, I know this is not a part in the current endowment presentation. The Church has recently affirmed Her as part of our doctrine, and in making use of the word Elohim (meaning Gods, not necessarily a single person) I think we should add this role, giving her half of the lines given for Heavenly Father. Which lines would not matter as they would all be coming from God. There could even be given different lines from presentation to presentation. It would be important in teaching that the Two are truly One, as we believe out Heavenly Parents to be.

Music: China, Kenya, and Ireland

People rarely think of the music used as background in these films. Part of it I think has to do with the rut we’ve gotten ourselves into with regards to music that conveys “spirituality”. It really hasn’t changed much since the media used in the 1980’s. A lot of chords in high strings with some keening solo by an oboe or french horn. A lot of suspensions resolving into major chords. It’s become practically Pavlovian, giving the signal that what is being shown is something spiritual. Surely we can add to the presentation without overwhelming it using music from other traditions.

The Temple is such an important part of our religion. We have heard many time about how we should learn something every time we go. I think one of the best ways to do this is to increase the diversity in the presentation made. Let’s wake up those who can go through it just marking time and give better opportunities for the Spirit to teach what they need to know.

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Casting my own version of the Temple Endowment

For those who do not know, “The Endowment” is one of the rituals LDS have in the Temple where we make covenants with God. It involves ritual clothing (which the Church has make a handy video about) and a depiction of the creation of the world (which I’ve written about before). In some Temples, this depiction is done by live performers who are rarely trained actors and not “cast” in their parts as actors would be. These are simply volunteer workers in the Temple who have been assigned to this particular task, with no regard to age or physical appearance.

In most temples a film is used. There have been five versions of this film made thus far, each using the actors and film technologies of their time, the creators of it bringing their best to the Temple. In every version, the actors (and single actress) have been Americans of distinctly Northern European descent. I think that we, being a worldwide Church, should have films distributed that show the wide variety of people in the world. This would help us imagine themselves in those positions (as we are instructed to), but would also help us to see that these varieties aren’t an aberration but part of the wondrous palette used by God in His creation.

We do not have a standard belief of how everyone will look in the afterlife. We do, however, have a lot of folk doctrine floating around that everyone will automatically be Anglo, insinuating that other forms are lesser or undesirable. This would be a way to help abolish that folk doctrine. There are, of course, many iterations that can be used, but this is one I’d like to see:

God, the Father: Mexico
Jesus, the Christ: India
Adam: Japan
Eve: The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Peter: Peru
James: Samoa
John: United States

There is so much variety to choose from, and so few parts. Even in these particular Countries, there is so much variety. Why not take advantage of that variety and look beyond what we’ve limited ourselves to in the expediency of using films rather than live actors? Technologies and talents have come such a long way from the days of the first films, where talent and locations were limited to what was local to Salt Lake City.

Why not go even further than this and let some actors use their own language, which would have to be dubbed into English?

The possibilities are just amazing.

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The fig tree and cleansing the Temple

This is going to be one of my more speculative thoughts. I am by no means a scriptorian, nor am I even conversant in Old Testament sacrificial practices. This is just something that connected in my mind.

In Mark chapter 11, verses 12-26 (and Matthew 21), Jesus and his disciples walk by a fig tree, which He condemns for producing no fruit and curses it. When they return by it, the tree has withered.

12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
. . .
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

. . . then goes on to talk about the power that can do seemingly impossible things.

In the middle of this, verses 15-19, Jesus clears the moneychangers and those who sell animals to be sacrificed out of the Temple grounds:

15 ¶And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.

17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

It seems to me that the miracle of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple must be related, one surrounding the other, so it got me to thinking. What do fig trees have to do with the commanded practice of animal sacrifice?

One of the most remarkable uses of fig leaves in the Scriptures is in the Garden of Eden. In trying to cover their mistakes, Eve and Adam fashion aprons out of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). They did not yet know that there would be a Savior who would cover us all, that they didn’t need to try to cover themselves but only needed to repent of what they had done.

What does this have to do with animal sacrifice? The details of what animals should be sacrificed for what sins is well detailed in Leviticus 1-7. It’s been law for many hundreds of years. This, I believe, results in two problems by the time of Christ.

The business of selling animals for sacrifice and changing money to money that is acceptable for use in the Temple has become a lucrative trade. This oppressive trade was at least tolerated by the Priests whose job it was to perform the sacrifices and keep the Temple grounds free of commercial traffic.

More importantly, the commandments for animal sacrifice (well beyond the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb foreshadowing the sacrifice of The Lamb of God exampled by Adam and Abel) were an attempt by the Israelites to cover their own sins. Like Adam and Eve, this was an attempt to cover their own sins rather than look forward to Christ. Animal sacrifice had become the Israelites’ fig leaves.

But weren’t these details given by God? Why would He give them something wrong? I believe this is another instance where the Israelites didn’t want to live the higher laws and asked for something more specific. A single sacrifice for everything doesn’t seem like enough? Fine, here’s something more complicated to help you feel better.

To me, this is the importance of the withering of the fig tree. No more trying to cover yourselves with your fig leaves of animal sacrifice. Get back to the basic, higher laws. Look to Christ and live.

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Work for the dead done by the living

In LDS theology, there are certain ordinances that are required to progress; Baptism, Confirmation, The Initiatory (washing and anointing), The Endowment (covenants and instruction on how to enter God’s presence), and Sealing of family relationships to be not only for time but for eternity. Temples have been built, as a house for God, specifically to perform these ordinances for the living and dead. (Chapels, which are more common, are where we go for our weekly worship and learning.)

This is one of the reasons Mormons are heavily invested in genealogy and family history work. We believe that “. . . we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” (D&C 128:18). We believe this to be in accordance with Malachi 4:6 – “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” and 1 Corinthians 15:29 – “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”. So we work to find our dead, that we can serve them by being proxy for them in obtaining these ordinances. This does not obligate them to accept these ordinances, but gives them the opportunity that they might have the choice available to them.

There have been a few arguments against the push for getting more work done. The best one I know of is wondering how we can assume our ancestors would desire these things, believing that we are dishonoring their memory and the lives they have lived or even died for their religion. This concern has brought about a policy that ask we only do work for those we are directly related to. We’ve also been asked that we take extra care in doing work for those who died in the Holocaust, being sure we are a direct descendant. I know of some people who had personal experience with some very bad, even evil behavior from a close relative, and have purposely left them out of their work, only to have it done my some other well meaning person. We do not know how the Atonement will be applied for anyone, but we can still show compassion for others by respecting these wishes.

The other common argument I see is wondering why spend so much time and effort to do this at all, since we will have the entire Millennial Age, when Christ comes again and personally reigns upon the Earth, to do it all. This one has given me much more to think about.

On one side of the complex where I live is a strip of land, about 3-4 feet wide and about 4-500 feet long. When we moved in, there were some awful overgrown bushes on it. These have since been removed and for the past two tears has been left a bit of a lumpy, somewhat weedy, mess. The Home Owners Association hasn’t had the funds to do anything with it, though there have been ideas on what they would like to do with it, such as cover it with gravel or some other cover. The problem is that before anything can be done, the ground has to be cleared and prepared for this.

So, I’ve started digging at it. I’m terribly out of shape, so I can only manage a few feet at a time. It’s going to take weeks if not months to get it done. It could be that someone will come in with some large power digger and do it easily in a day, but that doesn’t matter. As much as I’m doing this work to eventually benefit the community, I’m also doing this for my own benefit.

Temple Ordinance work for the dead is much the same. We gain a closeness to our ancestors by learning about their lives, sitting as proxy for something they cannot do themselves. We can be in symbiosis with our dead, both benefitting from this time we are essentially working together. Doing the work now, even if incomplete and potentially incorrect, also helps make these people more real to us. Is there anyone you can look in the eye now and say, “we’ll get to you eventually”? How would it feel to you to be passed off as one of the less important masses?

Why not wait ’til these people are resurrected and let them do their own work? Aside from strengthening the bond I mentioned before, I think that there is something about these mortal bodies, as opposed to the bodies these people will have when they are resurrected, that is needed for this work to be in effect. For some reason, whatever meta-physical reaction that happens that makes these Ordinances required cannot be done by those resurrected, but can be done, by proxy, by those living and have effect on those once dead. I’ve no idea why or how this is (we can’t even measure spirit and no resurrected person has submitted themselves for testing), but this makes sense to me.

So, in the Millennial Age, there is going to be a lot more demand for the living to do proxy work for the dead. We will have more than 12 Billion people to do the work for, with only the barest fraction done beforehand. The time to get started on this, even if we can only manage a tiny percentage, is now. They need us, and we, even with our modern sensibilities, blessings, and trials, certainly need them.

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Bringing our best to the Temple

There have been two new versions of the presentation they show in the temple recently, taking advantage of new technologies. When I saw the first one, I had a real hard time. I’d been feeling especially resentful of the inequality of some parts of the ceremony (which I’d blogged about before), and felt that some of the interpretations just made things worse. Afterward, I was just in bad spirits, nearly getting into a heated argument with my wife over the interpretation.

The next time I went, I decided to go in with a different spirit, trying to concentrate on the good things I saw in the presentation and the experience of doing work for one of my kin. I went with specific questions of my own in mind, and actively worked to leave behind feelings of resentment of how things weren’t how I would have done it. At some point during the presentation, it hit me.

The people who had created these presentations, all of them, actors, directors, visual effects people, musicians, were simply bringing their best to the Temple.

It’s not how I would have done it, but I wasn’t asked and that’s okay.

Some people complain about the costs and work that goes into building and maintaining a Temple. I’ve talked to people who have worked building Temples and some who help provide materials (like stone), and I’ve come to one solid conclusion. It’s not about the cost, which can be expensive. Providing the best is going to be expensive, but the best is also not the most expensive. It’s about bringing the best to the Temple. From the time we have recorded of the first Temple, the Temple of Solomon, we have been asked to build the Temple with only the finest materials. Could the money to do this be put to a better use? I don’t think it can, actually. Yes, we should be working hard to help those in need, but it’s also important that we both honor God (as He has commanded) and honor our ancestors by helping them share the joy we’ve found in being connected eternally.

So, since I’m not likely to be asked to do construction work or help create a new presentation for the Temple, what can I do to bring my own best to the Temple? This is what I’ve come up with, some obvious and some not:

– Do my best to be spiritually clean. No one is required to be perfect to go into the Temple, but we do need to be trying. We all go before God as imperfect children, but we can go knowing that we are covered by the Atonement, and are still His daughters and sons, who will be welcomed in no matter how meager our best may seem.
– Find work for someone that needs to be done. This does not mean you need to have something of your own, as you may not have the resources, time, or inspiration to do so, but I can assure you that there are hundreds of names being held by the members of your Ward that need work done. Find your Ward Family History Consultants and use this as another way to serve not only someone’s ancestors, but someone in your own Ward as well.
– Bring the best in our own Temples, our physical bodies. This is not only being washed and clean, it is adorning yourself with clothing that is simple, clean, and well cared for. This especially includes the robes that are used in the Endowment and Sealing ceremonies. Learn how to wear them properly with the help of someone who can see how it looks and provide suggestions and adjustments that need to be made. I’ve seen too many men with the robe barely hanging on them, askew and in constant need of shifting to remain on. You are not restricted to wearing your robe only in the ceremonies that use them. You should try it in the privacy of your own bedroom, keeping in mind the sacred things they represent.

For men especially (since I’ve only experience with the men’s clothing), two things. First, it’s a sash, not a belt. It’s not supposed to bunch up around your waist like a piece of rope. Second, learn how to sit, stand, move, and kneel in a robe. You likely don’t have experience wearing a dress, but the mechanics are much the same. If you can, get tips from someone who has worn skirts on how to sit properly, so you don’t end up with a wrinkled mess every time you sit down.

I look forward to when I can go to the Temple again, to do work for and honor the dead as well as my God. I will do my best to not only bring my best to the Temple, but to better appreciate the best that others have brought. Are there still issues? Sure, but I can take heart in knowing that God will compensate for and heal all hurts, will make us and our offerings perfect, and will be waiting with open arms for when we return to His physical presence.

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Proposing a new way to take names to the Temple

For those who don’t know, the LDS Church has a genealogical system, called FamilySearch, that is an attempt to have one centralized genealogical tree for the entire world, we people can coordinate and share information about their forebears.  Part of this system is also used to track the work we do in our Temples in behalf of the dead (baptism, sealing families together, etc).  When I was last in the Temple (Saturday, thanks to the encouragement of my lovely wife), I had some ideas on what the Church FamilySearch and Temple programs could do to improve the process of taking names of family members to the Temple to do their work.  I’ve no idea how I could get the idea to the people who would need to hear it, but I thought I’d put it down here at least.

Right now, each member can log onto the FamilySearch system, find relatives whose work has not yet been completed, reserve them, and take the list of names they have reserved to the Temple to have them printed before taking each name to the respective proxy work.  Some people have worked to have large stacks of names, which will often take years to complete, while others who do not have their own names will get names from the general “pool” of all names the Church has that need work.

What if, instead of having cards you carry around and occasionally lose, you could go to the desk for the proxy work, scan your Temple Recommend (these had become bar coded a few years ago) and have printed out right then one of the names of family you had reserved?  If you don’t have any family names ready for work, you could instead be given the name of an ancestor of someone in your ward who has not had the time to get their large amount of work done.  Failing the ward level, this could even be expanded to the stake before having to go to the general Church lists.

In the FamilySearch system, this would be as simple as having some process to release the names you had reserved for yourself to the Ward level.  You would get a monthly email showing the names you have reserved, asking of those you’ve reserved more than a month ago if you wish to allow the Ward to do the work, and giving you a list of the names and work of your relatives done in the past month.

I see two big advantages in this.  First, it would help lessen the amount of temple work done for unrelated persons, opting instead for more work for people being currently researched by our members.  Second, it would increase the interaction and closeness of the members of each Ward and Stake.  It would be service not only for the people for whom the work is being done, but for their descendants who did not have the time to do it themselves.

This could work for all ordinances in the Temple, and save the difficulties in finding, keeping, filing, etc, the current papers held by so many LDS genealogists.

Now, just two problems.  How to write it up properly, and how to get it to someone who is in a position to make such changes . . .

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