Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sacredness, Secrecy, and Mormon Temples

      For some reason, Mormon temples have always inspired public curiosity. Perhaps it is because ancient temples were the centers of civilization, and their absence is still felt throughout the Western world. Or perhaps it is simply because they are not open to the general public. People who have never had the slightest interest in attending Sunday worship services at a regular Mormon church wonder why they are denied access to the temples. Secrecy inspires curiosity.

      Critics argue that such secrecy is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. “I ever taught in the synagogue,” Jesus told the high priest Caiaphas, “and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort: and in secret have I said nothing” (John 18:20). In Luke 8:17 we read, “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” Therefore, the critics say, true Christianity is completely open. It hides nothing from the public eye and allows everyone to participate in all its worship.
      When Jesus said, “in secret I have said nothing,” he testified that he was not teaching a secret gospel of political sedition. He preached the same teachings in public and private. But the Savior frequently instructed people to keep secrets. When Jesus healed a leper, he told the man, “See that thou tell no man [about the healing miracle], but go thy way” (Matthew 8:4). When Peter famously declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus commanded his disciples to keep it a secret (Matthew 16:20). On another occasion, the Savior explained that sacred things must be treated with reverence and not shared with those who would mock: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). The Savior frequently taught in parables because some were spiritually unprepared for his teachings (Mark 4:33-34).
      Nor is it accurate to claim that Jesus wanted all worship to be open to the public. He forbade those who do not meet a basic standard of worthiness from partaking of the Holy Communion or Sacrament (1 Corinthians 11:27). Some worship ceremonies were entirely closed to the public. Jesus only permitted Peter, James, and John to accompany him to the Mount of Transfiguration, and for a long time they did not tell anyone of the sacred things that happened there (Luke 9:28-36).
      Jesus Christ does not want to be secretive. He does not seek to exclude anyone from the fullness of his Gospel. But he teaches his followers “precept upon precept, line upon line” (Isaiah 28:13). He begins with the fundamentals, reserving those sacred things for those who have shown they are sincere (1 Corinthians 3:2). Mormon temples admit all who wish to participate in the sacred ordinances, provided that they first adequately prepare themselves through faith, repentance, baptism, and meeting a basic standard of worthy living. “The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple,” wrote LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer. “They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential, lest they be given to the spiritually unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation.”
      It may also be helpful to explain that a temple does not function in a way conducive to public worship. There is typically no large hall, sanctuary, or chapel, and there is no way to accommodate tourists or visitors without disruption. While we invite all to worship with us in our chapels and churches on Sundays, temples are sacred sanctuaries, separated from the outside world as “The House of the Lord.”

In summary
Argument: The secrecy of Mormon temples is inconsistent with the openness of the Gospel.
Response: Jesus Christ taught that sacred things should not be shared with the unprepared. He taught in parables and sometimes in secret to avoid exposing holy things to the public. Mormons show that same reverence and respect for their temples by only allowing those who are sincerely prepared to participate.

Packer, Boyd K. 2002. Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Samuel said...

For all of this, is jesus just a grand advice? and if he is not then my final question, why are there never any corsses on Wards or Temples alike?

Samuel said...

I meant to write, is jesus just a grand advice giver...

Travis Brinton said...

That's a good question with several good answers, but unrelated to this topic. Short answer: Jesus Christ is not just a teacher or advice giver; he is the Savior, and through his Atonement we can be saved. I'll try to answer the question of the cross and other symbolism as best I can; stay tuned.

Samuel said...

Would you define the terms that you are using? As in Savior, Atonement. And I will wait to see how you can justify thinking the cross as symbol.

Travis Brinton said...

I hope my most recent post answers your questions about what we believe about Jesus Christ. I hope to have a post up soon explaining why we don't use the cross as the symbol of our faith as other denominations do. When I referred to the cross as a symbol, I meant that it is a symbol of Christianity. I did not mean that Christ's crucifixion was merely symbolic, or that it was not an efficacious atonement for sin. Quite the contrary!