Friday, July 31, 2015

Mormonism-Shadow or Reality? History or Propaganda? Joseph Smith as a Case Study

Introduction: In 2000, I wrote a paper analyzing a single eight-page chapter in one of the most famous anti-Mormon books of the Twentieth Century. The paper was delivered at a FAIR conference in Salt Lake City on my behalf by my friend Alma Allred. Since that time a copy has been available on the FAIR website. I include it here with the intent of giving it a bit more audience. Your comments are welcome.

Mormonism–Shadow or Reality?
History or Propaganda?
Joseph Smith as a Case Study© 

Mormonism–Shadow or Reality?, the magnum opus of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, has periodically received uncritical acclaim. In the May 1973 issue of their newsletter The Salt Lake City Messenger, the Tanners promoted their then newly revised and enlarged edition of Shadow or Reality? with the praise of Dr. Jennings G. Olson, then on the faculty of the Department of Philosophy at Weber State College in Ogden. Olson observed “it is tightly packed with serious, responsible research which no one can deny is the most comprehensive and thorough analysis and evaluation of Mormonism ever produced in the history of the Church.”(1) A decade ago John Ankerberg and John Weldon noted, “In the last two decades [the Tanners] have produced a small library of careful historical research which casts grave doubt upon almost all the major claims of the Mormon Church.”(2)They go on to say that fellow anti-Mormon, Dr. Gordon Fraser, accurately describes Shadow or Reality? as “an encyclopedia of Mormonism’s lack of credibility.”(3) More recently in the Messenger a person named William challenged “anyone to dispute the book Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? When I was a Mormon I tried my best to prove it wrong and to show that it was bunk… So,” he continues, “I looked up each and every one of their quotes and found that they are NOT taken out of context.”(4) The statements of all these advocates converge in praising the quality of the research and accuracy in Shadow or Reality? If one interacts with critics frequently, these statements are oft repeated.

This paper will test these assertions by examining Chapter 19 of Shadow or Reality?, which is devoted to the subject of Joseph Smith. It is brief–only eight pages in length–but it contains 102 quotations, thus providing ample opportunity and evidence with which to assess the claims of the Tanners and their supporters. Here we may see how they handle historical documents relative to Joseph Smith insofar as context, accuracy, comprehensiveness and thoroughness are concerned.

Over the past year I have spent many, many hours finding the original sources for these quotations. Many more hours were spent typing them in parallel columns with the Tanner version. Once I located, typed and proofread the quotations to determine the basic accuracy of both versions, it then required a great deal of additional time to study the context from which the quotations were taken and how the Tanners used or misused them, as the case may be. That process continues to this day; I have not, even now, finished checking a few of the 102 quotations.(5)

Though the project is incomplete, enough data has been collected to arrive at a considerably different conclusion than those giving testimonials of Shadow or Reality? The longer this process continues the more I doubt that William really looked up “each and every one” of the over 7,000 quotations in the book(6) in order to make the boast that they were not taken out of context, or that Jennings Olsen knows what constitutes “responsible research” and a “thorough analysis and evaluation” of Mormonism. And judging from the writings of Ankerberg and Weldon,(7) as well as their praise of the Tanners, it is doubtful they have a very exalted view of “careful historical research.” The remainder of this report is based on my findings thus far.

My negative results are consistent with earlier brief studies of the works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner by Matt Roper, Robert and Rosemary Brown and, the earliest of the lot, an anonymous writer thought to be Michael Quinn.(8) Numerous illustrations show that Chapter 19 is not written by seasoned historians, biographers or even polemicists. Although it resembles the latter, in actuality it is propaganda. The Tanners make no pretensions of objectivity, balance or fairness. They do not state a clear thesis in Chapter 19; it simply begins with an assertion that Joseph Smith’s importance “in Mormon theology cannot be overemphasized.” But one is not left in doubt about how they really feel about the man. By observing the Tanners’ careful selection of information combined with a propagandistic style and technique, their objective becomes clear.

Shadow or Reality? leaves much to be desired as a study of Mormonism and its founder. It abounds with problems. Amateurish overuse of polemical editorial techniques abounds in the work. Extensive use of underlining, all capitals and bold–all for emphasis–are frequently noticed hallmarks of their work.(9) In this brief chapter I found 193 instances of underlining.(10) At least 365 words are in all capitals. These are not only matters of style and tone, nor are they simply devices which betray a distrust of their ability to make themselves understood and their doubt about the comprehension level of their readers. Rather they are tools intended to guide their students to certain conclusions that were either previously stated or, more frequently, purposely left unstated, but implied by the emphasis. One critic of the Tanners suggests more sinister reasons why they may have employed these devices:
This extensive use of emphasis in the closely spaced text of 587-page Shadow-Reality actually discourages reading each word or even every sentence and paragraph, but instead encourages the reader’s eye to skip from emphasized words to emphasized words that are in close proximity, and to pay little attention to the tightly spaced words in between. This editorial practice enables the Tanners to quote lengthy documents ‘in context’ with the assurance that the reader will assimilate only the sensationalistic headlines and emphasis.(11)
I seriously question whether the Tanners were sophisticated enough at the time they produced Shadow or Reality? to have done this intentionally. Nevertheless, it may indeed be one of the results of these editorial devices and the format of the book. Whatever else one may say about this practice, it does not reflect the work or seriousness of professional historians or biographers. But in this sense I am speaking historically, particularly about Shadow or Reality? because the Tanners have learned as they have gone along and are trying to do better. A survey of their newsletter shows that over the years they have gradually reduced their reliance on these devices. At present they do not use all capitals or underlining and have curtailed but not eliminated using bold for emphasis.(12) It is interesting against this background that the fifth edition of Shadow or Reality?, which came out in 1987, retains a heavy use of all forms of emphasis. I suspect the time, effort and cost required to reset the plates for this edition may have played a large role in the decision to leave it as it was.(13)

The Tanners use other less frequently discussed rhetorical devices in Chapter 19. One tool generally relied upon by LDS critics (including the Tanners), is the frequent use of variants of highly loaded words.(14) For example, Mormons of one variety or another are frequently described as “claiming,” “admitting,” “confessing,” or “alleging” something. Other people, however, “affirm,” “acknowledge,” “say,” and “testify.” A word search on the text of The Changing World Of Mormonism, the 1981 Moody publication of Shadow or Reality?, found the word “admit” used 153 times, almost exclusively in reference to Mormons. An example from Chapter 19 is mentioned later in this paper.

In about a dozen cases when the Tanners cite authors, whether an active, inactive, marginal or in some cases former Latter-day Saint, they make it a point to identify them as a Mormon in language such as: “Brigham Young, the second President of the Mormon Church,” or “The Mormon historian B.H. Roberts,” or “The Mormon writer Hyrum L. Andrus.”(15) On the other hand, at least sixteen authors that may be considered anywhere on the spectrum from critical to hostile are introduced without any similar identification. The list includes John D. Lee, Calvin Stoddard, Fawn Brodie, Charlotte Haven, Edward Bonney, Sarah Scott, Harold Schindler and several newspapers. Only two hostile sources were identified as such when introduced: “The anti-Mormon paper, The Warsaw Signal,” and “Charles A. Foster, one of the publishers of the Expositor.”(16) Thus, there is an obvious and concerted effort by the Tanners to downplay the position of critics whom they quote.

Of course their most important grammatical device is the ellipses; the 102 quotations found in the eight pages of Chapter 19 employ 111 sets of ellipses. Our critics are well aware of the power of the ellipses, but they also realize that inappropriate use of them leaves the critic himself open to criticism. In one of the most recent anti-Mormon publications, Mormonism 101, authors Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson remark, “there is always a danger of taking quotes out of context, especially when ellipses appear.”(17) Like the Tanners and their supporters, McKeever and Johnson, apparently hoping to ameliorate potential criticism, say: “we have purposely made an effort to not alter the meaning of any quote. We invite readers who would like to study further the issues in this book to look up the quotes in their complete context.” Later in this paper I will have more detail on how the Tanners use ellipses.

Other problems in Chapter 19 include, 1) a few errors in reproducing the quotations themselves; 2) use of irrelevant material in some subsections; 3) technically incorrect use of ellipses; 4) inadequate updating and editing of the fifth edition; 5) bias against Mormons without giving them credit where credit is due; 6) citing quotations primarily for their negative rather than substantive value; 7) contrasting quotations by authors, usually LDS, for critical rather than substantive reasons; 8) linking together strings of negative quotations without context or balance in order to produce a negative impact; 9) leaving out significant context, often by the use of ellipses, thereby changing the meaning or intent of the quotation; and finally 10) suppressing potentially case-damaging, contrary or exculpatory evidence, often by the use of ellipses. Space and time limitations force me to illustrate the Tanners’ mishandling of documentary evidence with only a few obvious and egregious examples. In all instances the examples could be multiplied.


Stringing Together Negative Quotations

A standard operating procedure in Shadow or Reality?, not unique to Chapter 19, is to string together a series of quotations that are either by themselves largely negative or are presented in a manner to create a negative impact. Chapter 19, however, is a good case study in how the Tanners typically use this technique. Although this eight-page chapter is in a double-column, singled-space, small-font format, it is difficult to imagine that they could cram more quotations into it. Squeezing in 102 of them left little space for introduction or commentary. The Tanners are generally content to let the strings of quotations speak for them, to set the tone, incite questions, generate doubt and in general cast Joseph Smith and Mormonism in the most unfavorable light possible. In introducing the chapter, for example, after being told of the importance of Joseph Smith in Mormon theology, a series of thirteen quotations appear in succession: seven from Brigham Young, one each from Heber C. Kimball, B.H. Roberts, Levi Edgar Young, John J. Stewart and Joseph Smith, followed by Joel Tiffany’s charge that there are two Josephs–one with a public image and a more unsavory private person.

They lead out with Brigham speaking of Joseph’s incomparable character, saying that no better man lived on the earth. This is followed with Brigham’s acknowledging his submission to Joseph as his “head,” and an explanation that we would need Joseph’s permission to get into the Celestial Kingdom and that Joseph “was a God to us,” and finally that he (Brigham) was an apostle of Joseph Smith and all who rejected his testimony would go to hell. Heber then predicts that one day all would look upon Joseph as a god. Next the Tanners contrast Brigham’s last words, “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph,” with those of Stephen, who when stoned, died with the name of Jesus on his lips. Following Levi Edgar Young’s statement that the grandeur of Joseph’s life must be known, the Tanners interject a bit of commentary: “Mormons tend to elevate Joseph Smith almost to the same level as Jesus Christ.” John Stewart is next pressed into service saying that Joseph was “perhaps the most Christ-like man to live upon the earth since Jesus.” This is juxtaposed against Joseph’s declaration: “I am not so much a ‘Christian’ as many suppose I am.” Finally, Joel Tiffany speaks for the Tanners and sets the agenda for the rest of the chapter with the following:
People sometimes wonder that the Mormon can revere Joseph Smith. That they can by any means make a Saint of him. But they must remember, that the Joseph Smith preached in England, and the one shot at Carthage, Ill., are not the same person. To one, ignorant of his character, he may be idealized and be made the impersonation of every virtue. He may be associated in the mind with all that is pure, true, lovely and divine. Art may make him, indeed, an object of religious veneration. But remember, the Joseph Smith thus venerated, is not the real, actual Joseph Smith…but one that art has created.(18)
And of course, the previous quotations from LDS leaders show just such veneration and image-making. Here the Tanners are propagandists in contrast to the best historians or biographers who would assess Tiffany’s qualifications to make such a judgment. Had Tiffany ever met Joseph, let alone know him personally or intimately? Once that is settled they would then turn to his biases and motives. Is Tiffany hostile to Joseph Smith? Does Tiffany’s Monthly have an editorial bias in reference to Mormons as exhibited in other articles? Nor do the Tanners inquire as to whether it was likely that Brigham and Heber were in a better position than Tiffany to comment on Joseph’s character. But such questions appear unimportant to Jerald and Sandra Tanner.

In fact, Tiffany was hostile to Mormonism. After several pages explaining the origin of Mormonism, he ended with this judgment. 
The conclusion to which we have arrived are [sic.], that the Book of Mormon is to a very great extent, a spiritual romance, originating in the spirit world. That Joseph Smith, junr., was the medium, or the principal one, through whom it was given. That there was a mixture of sincerity and fraud, both with the spirits and their agents here, in bringing it forth. That morally and religiously it had a very low origin, and that its influence can only tend to evil.(19)
It will be no surprise, then, that the eight pages devoted to Joseph Smith in Shadow or Reality? strive to expose his hypocritical nature and the false foundations of Mormonism. The six chapter subheadings–“A Fighting Prophet,” “General Smith,” “‘The Great Egotist,'” “Mixing Politics And Revelation,” “Destruction Of Expositor,” and “Like A Lamb?”–fall neatly into this schema.

B.H. Roberts left us a marvelous analogy about this approach to truth. Speaking of an anti-Mormon of his day, Roberts said:
Mr. Wilson is as one who walks through some splendid orchard and gathers here and there the worm-eaten, frost-bitten, wind-blasted, growth-stunted and rotten fruit, which in spite of the best of care is to be found in every orchard; bringing this to us he says: “This is the fruit of yonder orchard; you see how worthless it is; an orchard growing such fruit is ready for the burning.” Whereas, the fact may be that there are tons and tons of beautiful, luscious fruit, as pleasing to the eye as it would be agreeable to the palate, remaining in the orchard to which he does not call our attention at all. Would not such a representation of the orchard be an untruth, notwithstanding his blighted specimens were gathered from its trees? If he presents to us the blighted specimens of fruit from the orchard, is he not in truth and in honor bound also to call our attention to the rich harvest of splendid fruit that still remains ungathered before he asks us to pass judgment on the orchard? I am not so blind in my admiration of the Mormon people, or so bigoted in my devotion to the Mormon faith as to think that there are no individuals in that Church chargeable with fanaticism, folly, intemperate speech and wickedness; nor am I blind to the fact that some in their over-zeal have lacked judgment; and that in times of excitement, under stress of special provocation, even Mormon leaders have given utterance to ideas that are indefensible. But I have yet to learn that it is just in a writer of history or of ‘purpose fiction,’ that ‘must speak truly,’ to make a collection of these things and represent them as of the essence of that faith against which said writer draws an indictment.(20)

Leaving out significant context, thereby changing the meaning or intent of the quotation

In the previous section I mentioned the string of quotations the Tanners gave from Brigham Young about Joseph Smith. The fourth one is particularly interesting. It is a statement of less than forty-five words from an 1861 sermon and is punctuated by one set of ellipses that leave out seventeen words–a fourth of the statement. The Tanners report Brigham as saying, “He [Joseph Smith] is the man through whom God has spoken…yet I would not like to call him a saviour, though in a certain capacity HE WAS A GOD TO US, and is to the nations of the earth, and will continue to be.”(21)

The excerpt has been taken out of its context in Brigham’s speech. To begin with he is talking about Joseph’s role as prophet in foreseeing the Civil War and offering to save the nation from it. The sentence immediately following the Tanner excerpt shows that Brigham did not view Joseph Smith as a savior or God in the sense that Christ was, for he said, “He [Joseph Smith] was not the only-Begotten of the Father, who died for the sins of the world; but he was the Prophet of the Lord, through whom God spoke to the nations.” Brigham is here speaking in exactly the same sense as found in Exodus 4:16 where the Lord tells Moses that Aaron would be Moses’ spokesman to the people and Moses would be to Aaron “instead of God.” The readers of Shadow or Reality? know nothing of this. By divorcing these statements from their context, the meaning is changed subtly to suggest something that Brigham did not intend and which he specifically tried to interdict in his remarks.

The next quotation from Brigham concerns the importance of his testimony of Joseph Smith. “What an uproar it would make in the Christian world to say, I am an Apostle of Joseph,” the Tanners quote. “Write it down, and write it back to your friends in the east, that I am an Apostle of Joseph Smith.” Then a set of ellipses eliminates 155 words, before Brigham says, “all who reject my testimony will go to hell, so sure as there is one, no matter whether it be hot or cold.” The 155 missing words are crucial to understand Brigham’s point, but the reader of Shadow or Reality? has no idea how many words were left out or what their relevance might be to what Brigham is saying.(22) In the space represented by the ellipses, Brigham bears a simple but direct testimony of Joseph Smith. He said,
He was a man of God and had the revelations of Jesus Christ, and the words of Jesus Christ to the people. He did build and establish the kingdom of God on earth, and through him the Lord Almighty again restored the Priesthood to the children of men
Brethren, I am a witness of that; not by my laying hands on the sick and they being healed, nor by the revelations which are given of him in the Bible, but by receiving the same Spirit and witness which the ancients received; by the visions of the heavens being opened to my mind; by my understanding that which is revealed in the Book of Mormon, and that which Joseph revealed as comprised in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
I am a witness that those are the revelations of the Lord through Joseph Smith, in this the last dispensation for the gathering of the people…(23)
One can see why the Tanners didn’t want to reproduce this for their readers. But it puts Brigham’s final statement about the perils of rejecting his testimony in a context that significantly reduces the “in-your-face” brashness and the judgmental harshness that the Tanners’ version produces. The omission subtly changes the meaning of the words, but with it we know what Brigham meant when he said he was an Apostle of Joseph Smith–his testimony was to be understood as authoritative and binding upon the people.(24)

One more example illustrates how the lack of context changes the meaning of a passage; in this case it turns out to be almost directly opposite the one intended by the speaker. Here the Tanners cite Joseph as saying (with underlining and all caps), I am NOT so much a ‘Christian’ as many suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick up and throw him off, and ride him.”

This quotation is not given its proper context, either of the paragraph from which it is extracted or from the portion of the sermon in which it appears. Moreover, its new context in Shadow or Reality? adds mischief to the injury. In the remaining sentences of the paragraph Joseph Smith justified his feelings on the basis of the conduct of David and Joshua. The implication is that he was not a great deal different from those great prophets who also sometimes felt misused.

But there are some very interesting things in this portion of Joseph’s speech that should be factored into an evaluation of how the Tanners deal with Joseph’s statement. Prior to this remark Joseph described how J.G. Remick swindled about $1,100 in cash and goods from him and why he was successful in doing so:
I did not like the looks of the man; but thought I, he is a stranger. I then reflected upon the situation that I had been frequently placed in, and that I had often been a stranger in a strange land, and whenever I had asked for assistance I had obtained it; and it may be that he is an honest man; and if I turn him away, I shall be guilty of the sin of ingratitude. I therefore concluded to loan him $200 in good faith sooner than be guilty of ingratitude. He gave me his note for the same, and said, ‘whenever you call on me, you shall have the money.’ Soon after, when I was taken with Carlin’s writ, I asked him for the money; but he answered, ‘I have not got it from St. Louis, but shall have it in a few days.’(25)
In other words, it was precisely because Joseph Smith struggled against the natural inclination toward selfishness and suspicion and tried to act like a Christian that he gave Remick the money in the first place. Later he discovered that Remick did not intend to repay him, but swindled him further. He was also concerned that Remick would swindle the Saints in Keokuk. This is the context of the quotation that the Tanners cite above. They not only violated the context of the quotation, but by altering its meaning in the new context they thereby gravely misrepresent Joseph’s character. In so doing, the Tanners show themselves to be better propagandists than historians.


Suppression of contrary or exculpatory evidence, through the use of selectivity and ellipses

Despite the claims of their defenders, as we have just seen, the Tanners frequently take quotations out of context. But, these examples also show that they engage in the equally serious matter of suppressing evidence that is contrary to their particular point or which may be exculpatory in nature. This is an exceedingly interesting phenomenon because for thirty-five years the Tanners have continually and persistently accused the Church, its leaders, its missionaries and its people of suppressing, withholding and concealing anything considered inimical to Mormonism. One example of the scores that could be cited, comes from the March 1982 Messenger wherein the Tanners promote the 1982 edition of Shadow or Reality?:
In the new edition…we deal with the serious problems Mormon historians are having with the leaders of the Church. We show that some of the top Mormon leaders are trying desperately to hide the truth about the origin of the church from their own people. Since many of the Mormon historians want to ‘tell it like it is,’ this has caused a real rift between the Apostles and the historians.(26)
Indeed, this type of accusation has largely been the basis upon which their publishing business has been built. And in part because of the high reputation their work holds among critics of the Church, the charges of deception, fraud and suppression of evidence are one of the standard allegations in the anti-Mormon arsenal. It is so pervasive among anti-Mormons and in anti-Mormon literature that it has become an unexamined axiom for critics. On this basis Mormonism is frequently compared to contemporary political cover-ups such as Watergate and Mr. Clinton’s hijinks.(27) So, as I say, this is all very ironic, because a growing body of evidence suggests that the Tanners themselves frequently and egregiously withhold vital information from their readers.

A particularly serious illustration of this phenomenon is found under the subheading “A Fighting Prophet.” The Tanners write: “Joseph Smith sometimes lost his temper and resorted to physical violence.” Several examples are then presented by way of quotations, one of which is from Calvin Stoddard, a brother-in-law of Joseph Smith. Max Parkin introduced this incident in his Master’s thesis with the following background:
In April, 1835, the [Painesville] Telegraph announced that the Prophet had been summoned to the Court of Common Pleas in Painesville for an assault and battery charge committed against his brother-in-law, Calvin Stoddard. Stoddard earlier had a falling out in the Church and lost his license to preach in December, 1832. The Telegraph failed to record the disposition of the case, so the Mormon Prophet desiring to set the public mind straight on the matter, wrote to the editor to inform him that he had been properly acquitted from the charge, and requested it to be so stated. The editor of the paper responded to Smith’s request by recounting the lurid details of the court record of the trial. The apparent reason for doing so was to publicly embarrass the Mormon Prophet with its recital. Although it was true that Smith was released on the grounds of self-defense, the grim fact that he knocked Stoddard down with a blow to the forehead would tend to further prejudice the public against him.(28)
The Tanners oblige Parkin by fulfilling his prediction that the incident would be used to prejudice the public against the prophet. To illustrate Joseph’s temper and unchristian violence the Tanners quote Stoddard’s testimony from the 26 June 1835 Painesville Telegraph as cited in Parkin’s thesis. Stoddard testified: “Smith then came up and knocked him in the forehead with his flat hand–the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard–made him blind–that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness.”(29)For comparative purposes I have set the Tanner excerpt side-by-side with the Telegraph’s story as reproduced in Parkin.

Tanner Version                      
Smith then came up and knocked him in the forehead with his flat hand-the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard-made him blind-that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness… [Parkin, Conflict at Kirtland, p. 132.]

Original Quotation
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
Saturday, June 20, [1835] 
Joseph Smith, Jr., was put upon his trial on a charge of Assault and Battery commited [sic] upon the person of a Mr. [Calvin] Stoddard. By consent of the parties, the case was submitted to the Court without Jury.
Stoddard examined–States that Smith had irritated him in a controversy about water–he had affirmed that there was water in a certain lot, which Smith denied–as Smith passed towards his house, he [Stoddard] followed him, and said, “[I] don’t fear you, or no other man”–Smith then came up and struck him in the forehead with his flat hand–the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard–made him blind–that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness–was satisfied–had forgiven him–would forgive any man who would injure him and ask his forgiveness.
Cross ex.–Had a cane–did not attempt to strike him, or threaten.
William Smith examined–Saw Stoddard come along cursing and swearing–Joseph went out–Stoddard said he would whip him, and drew his cane upon Joseph–Joseph struck him once or twice.
Cross ex.–Joseph stopped in the yard–they were close together when he saw them–cautioned Joseph to stop, that he had done enough.
Mr. [sic] Smith, the Prophet’s mother–Saw some of the affrey [sic] –was upstairs–heard Stoddard talking loud–calling Joseph ‘a d–d false prophet, and a d–d one thing another’–saw Joseph slap him–did not hear Stoddard say he would flog him–did not see Stoddard attempt to strike him.
Burgess–Says Stoddard struck at Smith first, and raised his cane in a threatening attitude when down.
The Court, after summing up the testimony, said that as the injured party was satisfied, there would be no cause for further prosecution; that the assault might perhaps be justified on the principle of self-defense. The accused was then acquitted.  [Painesville Telegraph, New Series, I, No. 25 (June 26, 1835), n. p., cited in Max H. Parkin, Conflict At Kirtland, pp. 132-133.]
Immediately one notices the Tanners’ typical tactic: highlight the negative that heightens the tone of the original and obscure contradictory evidence. This quotation is not only taken out of context; the Tanners give it no context at all. They say nothing about the background details which Parkin provides, such as that Stoddard had a falling out with the Church in December of 1832, that there was a civil trial held, or that the newspaper did not report the result of the trial until Joseph requested that they do so because he was acquitted.

There are even more important omissions from the Telegraph’s story. First, the Tanners do not tell their readers that they are quoting a newspaper summary of Stoddard’s testimony at a court hearing about the incident or that the account includes contradictory testimony from other witnesses. Second, some testimony contradicts Stoddard’s denial that he struck first, saying that he followed Joseph down the street, cursing, harassing and threatening him with a cane. Burgess even says he struck first. Third, Joseph was acquitted because Stoddard was satisfied with his apology and apparently because there was some basis for an argument of self-defense by Joseph. Finally, though the Tanners quote the part about Joseph apologizing and asking for forgiveness, they make no effort to point out that Joseph did what a Christian is supposed to do when he has trespassed against his brother. In that regard the story is more a vindication of his commitment to Christianity than that he is unworthy to be a prophet. But the readers of Shadow or Reality? are told none of this.

These items are certainly necessary to give this story perspective and balance, something the Tanners show little interest in doing in assessing the character of Joseph Smith. While they are technically correct in saying that “Joseph Smith sometimes lost his temper and resorted to physical violence,” in this instance at least, they have not been forthright in their portrayal of the incident they used to demonstrate their point. By passing over information that may vindicate the Prophet, they have demonstrated an unprofessional lack of thoroughness and fairness.

In another example under the subsection “The Greatest Egotist,” the Tanners say, “Toward the end of his life Joseph seems to have become obsessed with the desire for power and fame. As we will later show, Joseph Smith ran as a candidate for President of the United States and was secretly ordained A KING. Joseph Smith’s own History of the Church contains some statements which show that he felt he was almost equal with God.”(30)Then follows this excerpt from a letter Joseph Smith wrote to James Arlington Bennett in November of 1843: “I combat the errors of the ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth-diamond truth; and God is my “right hand man.”(31)

It is interesting that the Tanners use this particular quotation to demonstrate that Joseph “felt he was almost equal with God.” B.H. Roberts, who edited the History of the Church, placed a note at this point in the text and pointed out that Woodbridge Riley used this same argument early in the Twentieth century in his biography, Founder of Mormonism. Roberts went on to say that God was Joseph’s right-hand man, “Not in the blasphemous sense attributed to him by some anti-Mormon writers…but in the sense of the passage near the close of his address to ‘The Green Mountain Boys,'” where he said reverently, “And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my Great Counselor.”(32) It is in this same sense that many Evangelical Christians today sport bumper stickers on their cars that say “God is my copilot,” yet few would consider the driver as making himself (or herself) equal with God.(33)

This example shows the Tanners’ argument to be derivative. Indeed, they are dependent on previous anti-Mormon literature in much the same way as are those whose arguments emanate from them. There is little that is new under the sun as far as anti-Mormon arguments are concerned. Where the Tanners excel is as propagandists who have diligently and eclectically gathered the arguments of the past. What is disconcerting here is not the lack of imagination or creative polemic, but their mendacious use of the statement. They neither acknowledge Roberts’ interdiction nor answer it; they simply act as if it did not exist. Again, we see them promoting an agenda inimical to Joseph Smith with whatever they can press into service, even by wresting it if necessary.

Later, in the section on “Mixing Politics and Revelation,” the Tanners write, “Joseph Smith admitted that the Mormons were united in their politics, but claimed,” and here they quote Joseph Smith, “they were driven to union in their elections by persecution.” They go on to say, “Although it is true that the Mormons were persecuted, evidence shows that much of this persecution was the result of Joseph Smith’s intemperate speech and actions. Mormon historians have attempted to cover up this fact.”(34)

As mentioned earlier, the use of the word “admitted” in the introduction to this quotation is one of the Tanners’ standard rhetorical tools, used to suggest an inadvertent exposure of something he otherwise tried to conceal. But, did Joseph really admit anything? Was he correct when he said the Saints were unified by persecution? Do the Tanners have no sympathy for this position? When Joseph says something they agree with, he is then “admitting” or “confessing,” but when he contradicts their thesis or says that which they dislike, he is lying, dissembling, being deceitful or hypocritical in some way. With them it is black and white. He is not a mixture of strength and weakness, good and bad, as with all mortals. There is no middle ground, no gray area, no ambiguity, no complexity of personality. Inconsistency is only attributable to his evil motives and machinations. Joseph is not a three-dimensional personality to the Tanners. To them he is only evil. Joseph is a base fraud and that is that.

Their rationale is that the persecution was self-induced, a fact which they assert that Mormons historians hide. It is typical for Jerald and Sandra to make such sweeping indictments of groups such as “Mormon historians” because they see the Church engaged in a vast conspiracy to hide the truth from its members and the world. Mormon academics are somehow enlisted in this conspiracy and have compromised, indeed, forsaken any sense of intellectual or personal integrity. Proving this allegation is another matter altogether and in this instance, as with so many others, the Tanners use the slimmest of evidence as proof. Thus changing the subject to a Mormon cover-up, we are left with the implication that if self-induced, persecution does not justify Mormon block voting. This is superficial thinking and argument by assertion, not by evidence. It certainly has little to do with Joseph Smith mixing politics and revelation.

But the quotation is also torn from the context in which Joseph Smith explicitly says that Mormon union in elections did not come about by his influence. Here is the paragraph from which the Tanners take their excerpt:
I took the certified copies of the doings of the court, and waited on Governor Ford for his certificate thereto, after which he offered me a little advice, which was, that I “should refrain from all political electioneering.” I told him that I had always acted upon that principle, and proved it by General Law and Dr. Richards: and that the “Mormons” were driven to union in their elections by persecution, and not by my influence: and that the “Mormons” acted on the most perfect principle of liberty in all their movements.(35)
By ignoring this statement, in effect, the Tanners make Joseph Smith “admit” to Mormon unity in elections. It is interesting, however, that they do not have him “confessing” he did not encourage it. It is ironical, under these circumstances that the Tanners can with a straight face accuse Mormon historians of covering things up. The glaring double standard here is noteworthy.

To give the account balance the Tanners could have, but did not, quote any one of nearly a dozen statements in which Joseph made it clear the Latter-day Saints were not only free to exercise their own conscience in political matters, but were encouraged to do so. Indeed, the concept is part of Mormon canonical doctrine. Furthermore, Joseph made his own revulsion to politics clear. In an 1840 General Conference he said, “That he did not wish to have any political influence, but wished the Saints to use their political franchise to the best of their knowledge.”(36) Further, the minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society record: “President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolve upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.”(37) In January 1843 he wrote the following note to the editor of the Mormon-owned newspaper The Wasp:
“DEAR SIR:–I have of late had repeated solicitations to have something to do in relation to the political farce about dividing the country; but as my feelings revolt at the idea of having anything to do with politics, I have declined, in every instance, having anything to do with on the subject. I think it would be well for politicians to regulate their own affairs. I wish to be let alone, that I may attend strictly to the spiritual welfare of the Church.”(38)
The next month he said, “In relation to politics, I will speak as a man; but in relation to religion I will speak in authority.”(39)That August he returned again to the theme and declared, “I am not come to tell you to vote this way, that way or the other. In relation to national matters, I want it to go abroad unto the whole world that every man should stand on his own merits. The Lord has not given me a revelation concerning politics. I have not asked Him for one.”(40)

Far from mixing politics and revelation, Joseph himself said he was not speaking by revelation, indeed had not asked for one on the subject, but do the Tanners tell their readers this? At this point it is fair to ask which historians are keeping what from whom?


Conclusion

These are just a few of the propagandistic techniques and instances of egregious misuse of documentary evidence that I found in reviewing Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s chapter on Joseph Smith. If we were to do an exhaustive study of the thousands of quotations in Shadow or Reality? we would find hundreds if not thousands of similar misuses of the documents.

I have demonstrated that “William,” a would-be-promoter of Shadow or Reality?, is in error when he says the Tanners do not take their quotations out of context. He simply did not do the work he claimed he did or if he did he made a poor job of it. Professor Jennings Olson, boldly challenged “But if Dr. Nibley or anyone else decides to ‘answer’ the Tanner’s [sic] book point for point I certainly promise to study that book carefully and review it in public.” I invite Professor Olson or anyone else who has placed their confidence and trust in the work of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, especially Mormonism–Shadow or Reality?, to come and take a new look. It cannot withstand the rigorous scrutiny its authors and supporters demand it be given. To paraphrase others who have looked closely at their work, the Tanner opus turns out to be more “shadow” than “reality” in that it is more propaganda than history or biography

Let's think together again, soon.

Notes:

1.  Jennings G. Olson, “The Uniqueness of Mormonism: An Evaluation,” 22-23, as cited in The Salt Lake City Messenger, 35 (May 1973): 6.

2.  John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the Mormon Church: A Handy Guide to Understanding the Claims of Mormonism (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1991), 35-36. The authors spend quite a bit of time praising the work of the Tanners and criticizing the Church for failing to answer their charges.

3.  Ibid.

4.  Salt Lake City Messenger 94 (August 1998): 15.

5.  Though I have an extensive library on Mormonism and have access to a very good library at the LDS Institute in Logan and the even more extensive special collection at the Merrill Library at Utah State University, there are a number of quotations I have yet to track down.

6.  This figure is derived from taking my chapter as typical. There are 102 quotations in eight pages of text. Shadow or Reality? has 576 pages, which when the math is done yields over 7,000 quotations in the entire book.

7.  Daniel C. Peterson his written two devastating reviews of Ankerberg and Weldon’s book Everything You ever wanted to know about Mormonism, and its reprint under the title Behind The Mask of Mormonism. See Daniel C. Peterson, “Chattanooga Cheapshot, Or The Gall of Bitterness,” Review of Books on The Book of Mormon 5 (1993): 1-86; and Daniel C. Peterson “Constancy Amid Change,” FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 60-89.

8.  Anonymous, Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Distorted View of Mormonism: A Response to Mormonism-Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, 1977); Matthew Roper, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 4 (1992): 169-215; “Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response To Jerald and Sandra Tanner,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 2/2 (Fall 1993): 164-193; Robert L. and Rosemary Brown, They Lie In Wait to Deceive, Volume IV (Mesa, Arizona: Brownsworth Publishing, 1995), 149-166. Several other Tanner publications have received similarly negative reviews in recent years.

9.  Moody had them remove most of this when Shadow or Reality? was published by the Chicago firm under the title of The Changing World of Mormonism.

10.  I included as separate instances where underlining was used immediately before and after an ellipses. When it bridged the ellipses it further diluted the importance of what was left out while inordinately strengthening the relationship of the disparate parts of the quotation.

11.  Anonymous, Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Distorted View of Mormonism: A Response to Mormonism-Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, 1977), 28.

12.  The following are the results of a review of my collection of The Salt Lake City Messenger. In May 1974 the Tanners greatly curtailed the use of all capitals and reduced the amount of underlining. In December 1979 they began using bold with occasional capitals and in March 1983 with a change in typeface they cut back the use of bold. In November 1983 they returned to selective use of capitals. In March of the following year bold was primarily used in place of italics for publication titles. Two years later they switched to italics for publication titles and in March of 1987 began using bold italics for emphasis though on a much smaller scale than in the earlier years. Since January 1988 they have been pretty consistent in using italics for publication titles and bold italics for emphasis. The frequency of the latter has remained somewhat constant, and I would describe it as light to medium compared to their earlier writings, but heavy compared to seasoned historians and biographers.

13.  This is reinforced by the fact that most of the changes in the fifth edition were in the form of additions at the end of the chapters. I do not believe alterations were woven into the text, though I have not checked this specifically.

14.  For similar observations about the use of the word “confess” in anti-Mormon rhetoric see, Daniel C. Peterson, “Chattanooga Cheapshot, or The Gall of Bitterness,” FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5 (1993): 15, n. 25.

15.  This phrase is also used to introduce Gary Dean Guthrie, Kenneth W. Godfrey and William E. Berrett.

16.  Another case in point concerns Professor Olson’s praise of the Tanners’ book. The Tanners identify him as positively as possible. Readers were told he was a Ph.D. in the Philosophy Department of Weber State College. They didn’t tell their readers that he had left the Church and become a Unitarian minister, was part of a group of ultra-liberal marginal Mormons known as the “swearing elders” and a consistent critic of Mormonism.

17.  Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints, (Minneapolis: Bethany Publishing House, 2000), 12, emphasis added.

18.  Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism-Shadow or Reality? 5th ed., (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987), 252.

19.  Joel Tiffany, “Mormonism-No. II,” Tiffany’s Monthly (1859): 121.

20.  B.H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1907), 75-76.

21.  Shadow or Reality?, 252.

22.  Those 155 words constitute the remainder of the first paragraph-about 40 percent of it-the next full paragraph and about half of the final paragraph.

23.  Brigham Young, “Eternal Increase of Knowledge, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 17 February 1856, Vol. 3 (London: Latter-Day Saint’s Book Depot, 1856), 212.

24.  Brigham here speaks, knowing the importance of testimony both in the development of faith and in its binding effect upon the hearer. See Romans 10:13-17; Acts 10:34-43; Moroni 7:30-33, 2 Nephi 33:1; D&C 100:7-8; Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 148; Hebrews 9:16-17; and D&C 135:5.

25.  Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 5 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 334-335.

26.  “MORMONISM-Shadow or Reality? 37,000 Copies Sold and now a New Enlarged Edition,” The Salt Lake City Messenger 47 (March 1982): 1.

27.  One need only read any of the more “popular” anti-Mormon works that come from publishers such as Harvest House Publishers or visit one of the numerous anti-Mormon Web sites, or engage in extended discussion or correspondence with the many critics and/or enemies of the Church to encounter this bromide.

28.  Max H. Parkin, Conflict at Kirtland (Salt Lake City: Max H. Parkin, 1966), 131-132. This is a privately published version of his Master’s thesis.

29.  Shadow or Reality?, 253.

30.  Ibid., 255.

31.  History of the Church, 6:79.

32.  Ibid., footnote on page 78. The statement to the Green Mountain Boys is on page 93.

33.  I’m grateful to Allen Wyatt for this modern example of such phrasing.

34.  Shadow or Reality?, 256. One wonders if these are the same Mormon historians mentioned in the quotation at footnote 22 who wanted to “tell it like it is,” or some other set. One gets the impression that when it is convenient to do so, the Tanners group LDS historians into whichever camp best serves their purpose.

35.  Ibid., 5:232.

36.  Ibid., 4:109.

37.  Ibid., 5:19, emphasis added.

38.  Ibid., 5:259.

39.  Ibid., 5:286.

40.  Ibid., 5:526. For yet more statements of this type also see 6:73, 77-78, 210-211, and 243.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Principles, the use of Power, and Hillary Clinton©

In March of 1821, at the commencement of the twilight of Thomas Jefferson’s illustrious career he was reflective in a letter to Spencer Roane. He observed that change between one generation and the next was natural. “Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them.” My lifetime (since WW II) has mirrored and testified to the accuracy of Jefferson’s assessment. The 1960s inaugurated the “sexual revolution” which was recently given a big boost by the Supreme Court. Manners, especially in political discourse, seem to have retrogressed and are closer now to the heat, vitrol and partisanship I observed between the Whigs and Democrats when I was studying Joseph Smith in Illinois in the early 1840s and to the strife at the time of the Civil War.  In many ways we are also returning to the “tribalism” depicted in The Book of Mormon rather than toward e pluribus unum. All of these examples seem to me to be a descent; a decline from a higher more noble approach to life to a lower one. From my vantage it appears to be a movement toward the lowest common denominator. As manners, customs and “notions” (ideas, tastes, preferences?) changed, Jefferson said, institutions change with them. He had his eye particularly on the institutions of government. But that change, he warned was not necessarily good. He worried that a change in principles may accompany changes in manners and notions and institutions. He wrote:
But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible.(1)
There is considerable political wisdom and prophetic prescience in his observation that principles may become corrupted over time. Many in Jefferson’s day used an interesting phrase that is not found in our present political discourse or culture–they spoke of “fixed principles.” Principles, distillations of fundamental truths, that are foundational. Our generation not only seldom speaks of “fixed” principles, we seldom speak of principles at all. And this is the rub. Political expediency has won the day over fundamental principles relative to freedom, rights, and government.

Hillary Clinton is a stellar example in this respect. Even her most ardent supporters have great difficulty making any kind of a convincing case that she is a woman of principle, and especially of any fundamental fixed principles coming from the Founders. Almost daily we are barraged, even bludgeoned from some sectors, with new allegations, new examples, new details, new revelations of her dishonesty, her near total lack of integrity, her inveterate secrecy, her self-serving manipulation of people, things, and even events. “Flip-flop” is heard more often in reference to Hillary by 10,000 to 1 than any reference to her principles. Her principles are as few and as evident as freckles on a flea.

Mrs. Clinton is hungry for one thing–power.  And here’s the thing about that. When President Bush I was inaugurated the first thing he did in his speech was offer a prayer! How many of the x-y-z or millennial generation know that? How many who know that, care?  What did he pray about?  Power! Here is what he said:
My first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads:
Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: “Use power to help people.”  For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. Amen.(2)
What President Bush taught in that prayer expressed an ideal very close to a “fixed principle.” God revealed such a principle to Joseph Smith:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.(3)
In subsequent verses the Lord went on to describe how priesthood authority should be exercised, which is commonly discussed in Mormonism. They are fixed principles of leadership and use of authority and power in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their essence is that the authority and power which accompany leadership are in fact to be used to serve and bless people. That is a fixed principle both in our religion and in American politics.

Can anyone imagine Hillary Clinton offering such a prayer in her inaugural, let alone practicing that principle in her presidency? One of the mysteries to me of this day is why the majority of Democrats, knowing her principlelessness, are willing to place the government of the most powerful nation on the planet in her hands! The only explanations I have of this incredible phenomenon are, first, that the generations since WW II do not know and understand what the founding principles are, nor their critical importance. Moreover, those principles have become so corrupted during the last 200 years that many in this generation do not recognize them as foundational.  Little is being done in our nation to recover them or to learn and understand them. Apathy in this respect is pandemic especially among the young.

Second, the contemporary liberal preference for some very unimportant political priorities. The country is on the verge of making the same adolescent mistake in its infatuation to elect the first woman president as they did in electing the first black president. Color and gender are not the important issues–character, leadership, principles, and use of power are. In each of the latter Mrs. Clinton has had a succession of failing report cards since her college days and before.  Why should anything different be expected from her in the future?  A pretty bright fellow named Einstein said the definition of insanity was to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.  Electing far left establishment candidate Clinton would be the worst sort of Einsteinian insanity.

Let’s think together again, soon.

Notes:

1.  Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821, in John P. Kaminski, ed., The Quotable Jefferson, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 216.

2.  George H. W. Bush, cited in William J. Bennett, America The Last Best Hope. Volume III: From the Collapse of Communism to the Rise of Radical Islam 1988-2008 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp. 18-19, emphasis added.

3.  D&C 121:39. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Self-Appointed Expounders of the LDS Temple Endowment©

Updated 12 April 2017

[Note:  There is an Appendix of statements regarding temple confidentiality at the conclusion of this article.]

Hugh Nibley was a blessing to the Church. He was a fresh and creative and deep thinker about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He developed a unique way to discuss the Mormon Temple Endowment and that was by studying similar rituals, ceremonies, and liturgies in other cultures.  He was almost never explicit about the Mormon Endowment; rather he would expound the ideas and meanings found in other ancient religious rituals and leave the comparisons up to the Saints. That legacy has positive and negative effects. As a result of the freedom with which he wrote, many others have taken up the pen to discuss in the Mormon community the Temple and its ordinances. The bibliography of such published works has burgeoned in the last 25 years. As may be expected the quality of this genre varies. Since the coming of the Internet, Mormons writing about the Temple have become fairly prevalent in the new medium–everyone is not only a newscaster because of the Internet, but every Mormon it seems, becomes a theologian, a number of them writing about the Endowment. I call them “Self-appointed Expounders of the Endowment.” Here too the quality varies.  
There are basically three types of Endowment Expounders on the Internet. The first need not concern us here; they are the opponents of Mormonism who use the Internet to expose “secret” Mormon rituals, to make fun of, warn about, and deride the Endowment. Two categories come from within Mormonism. They may be divided up into those who are responsible and those who are irresponsible in their treatment of the Endowment. The latter group is the subject of this blog.  

At the outset let me offer this  caveat.  I do not profess to be the custodian of the Temple ordinances; I know well that is the purview of the presiding authorities of the Church. Second, though I may speak in somewhat general terms to avoid becoming unnecessarily personal, I do not wish to be understood as stereotyping all who write about the Endowment on the Internet.  

Why am I writing at all? I have been studying the temple intensely for about eight or nine years, since I was called as an ordinance worker in the Logan Temple in early 2006.  This has led me to do some research on the Internet and I have discovered several things while doing so. 1) Many in the Church are not aware of some of the important issues to be raised in this blog, especially the counsel the brethren have given the Church about confidentiality relative to the temple. There are many rumors and misconceptions on this issue, all of which have been exacerbated by a number of self-appointed expounders of the Endowment.  From my experience and study I believe I have something to add to the conversation on these matters. 2) Some of these authors engage in very spiritually unhealthy rationalization about the counsel of the brethren when it is brought to their attention. This is dangerous for them personally and the ill-informed among their followers who agree with their rejection of the counsel of Church leaders. 3) The example of open discussion of matters many understand to be out of bounds is leading others who are ill-informed yet zealous to follow suit.  That is, the number of self-appointed expounders is growing. This is potentially very harmful to them and the Church. I am taking a stand against such zeal without knowledge. 4) Many young people and perhaps converts find these sites particularly titillating. Misguided though both writer and reader may be, the readers often thank the authors and gush about how wonderful it is to be so open about something they thought was verboten, and for the illumination they claim to be finding on such sites. This is particularly worrisome. 5) The brethren have urged us to engage in Internet conversations about the Church and Gospel and they have also urged us to take a stand about important matters. Because these matters are so potentially harmful, I have decided to speak out.

Without being too explicit let me characterize the nature of some of the Mormon writings about the Endowment I am finding on the Internet. 

1. Almost all have some pet idea(s), theory or theories, or insights which they feel need to be passed on to everyone. This is, of course, done with well-intentioned motives to educate the Church, since in their view the Church itself is apparently not doing enough to prepare people for and educate them about the Endowment.

2.  Many are caught up with the meaning of the symbols they find in the Endowment, its doctrines and practices, in the clothing worn in the ceremony, and in the architecture on the outside and inside of the buildings. Accompanying this obsession is a compulsion to explain these things to others. However, often the meaning of the symbols does not come from what the scriptures (there is remarkably little scriptural explanation about the meaning of many symbols found in scripture) or the brethren teach, or from genuine research into the ancient meaning of such symbols as Hugh Nibley might engage in. Rather, many of these expounders simply declare their own interpretation of the symbolism. As an example, one website contains a discussion of the symbolism of the four compartments of the initiatory booths!

3.  Latter-day Saints understand that the Temple ceremonies are often referred to as the “mysteries” of God. This stimulates some expounders to look for the truly mysterious and even mystical. I believe this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the word mystery. Some mysteries nobody knows because God has not revealed them.  Others only you or I do not know because of our personal ignorance, but others may know them. Baptism and marriage to the world are mysteries, but to the Saints they are plain to understand.  In other words, a mystery does not inherently need to be either mysterious or complicated or difficult to apprehend. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
The word mystery, as used in scriptures, may refer to certain truths and doctrines.  Instead of being complex or profound, though, as the word might sometimes connote, such truths are usually very simple. In fact they are so simple as to be rejected and scorned by some, which may be a reason for divine restraint in imparting them.(1)
Elder Maxwell goes on to quote President Brigham Young about the simple nature of the mysteries of the kingdom.
If you could see things as they are, you would know that the whole plan of salvation, and all the revelations ever given to man on the earth are as plain as would be the remarks of an Elder, were he to stand here and talk about our every day business....  You may now be inclined to say, “O, this is too simple and child-like, we wish to hear the mysteries of the kingdoms of the Gods who have existed from eternity, and of all the kingdoms in which they will dwell; we desire to have these things portrayed to our understandings.” Allow me to inform you that you are in the midst of it all now.”(2)
Though the symbolism involved with the ordinances has much to teach us, our self-appointed expounders seem bent on finding the truly mysterious and mystical in them, much like the ancient Gnostics did with many things in Christianity in general. In this respect they often cite Hugh Nibley’s writings and then proceed to take them far beyond what the man himself was willing to do.

4.  This most often yields personal interpretations of the Endowment, many of which the most charitable thing which can be said of them is that they are wildly speculative and bizarre.  The doctrine taught is frequently dubious at best and at worst completely false. In these cases the authors are irresponsible with the sacred temple Endowment and Church doctrine.

5.  The most foolish among them publicly claim they are teaching what has been revealed to them by the Spirit while attending and/or studying the Temple. I hasten to add that it is not foolish to claim to receive revelation about the temple; it is wrongheaded to teach those things on the Internet.
A Tendency To Reject Counsel

Another phenomenon which I have encountered several times on the Internet is particularly troubling. Once in a while when I come across such a site I leave a comment to the effect that we have been given some direct and explicit counsel to be careful about confidentiality. I usually leave a copy of the following quotation by President Hinckley, given in the priesthood session of the April 1990 General Conference. 
I remind you of the absolute obligation to not discuss outside the temple that which occurs within the temple.  Sacred matters deserve sacred consideration. We are under obligation, binding and serious, to not use temple language or speak of temple matters outside. I first went to the temple fifty-seven years ago. It was different from any other experience I had had in the Church. A young man of my association went about the same time. Thereafter, he was wont to use phrases from the language of the temple in a frivolous way. It was offensive. It was a betrayal of a sacred trust. I have watched him through the years. Once faithful, he had drifted from all Church activity and forsaken the faith of his fathers. I think that much of what has happened to him began with that small irreverential thing that he did in trivializing language which is not trivial.
Please, brethren, do not discuss outside of the temple that which occurs in the temple. While there, you are at liberty to do so. If you have questions, you may speak with the temple president or one of his counselors. But when you leave the doors of the house of the Lord, be true to a sacred trust to speak not of that which is holy and sanctified.
Said the Lord, “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64). And again, “Trifle not with sacred things” (D&C 6:12).(3)
The interesting phenomenon which I mentioned above is that I have yet to have one of those writing about the Endowment whom I have given this quotation say to me, “Hey, Brother Bachman, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I was not aware of it, but I will be more careful in the future. In fact, I think I will remove some of the things I have up.” Never heard this! What do I hear? Here is one example which I received just this week:
I am well aware of the tradition and culture of the LDS church which leads and teaches individuals that they are not to discuss the matters of the temple outside its doors. I am also aware that these sentiments are shared and given by many of the general authorities of the church. However, it is my view that this is tradition and culture speaking and not doctrine or inspiration. Granted, there are very specific things that should not be discussed openly and those things are specifically mentioned in the covenants an individual makes during the ceremony of the endowment. 
With that said, covenants are between and individual and God.They are sacred and should be honored by those involved. It is not honorable or realistic for a third party to add upon meaning or rules to a covenant an individual has already made. For instance, I did not make a covenant to not speak of the ceremonies that occur in the temple. I did make a covenant to not divulge very specific things.I think even with a very careful and thorough reading of what I have written a person would not find evidence of me divulging those things.I have written with respect for my covenants as well as the covenants of those who choose to read this “article”. (My emphasis.)
This writer uses or alludes to the rationale most of these authors resort to when challenged about the appropriateness of their writings. The most common reasons they give for violating President Hinckley’s counsel are:
1.  “I heard [some authority like a seminary or institute teacher or local leader] say there are a lot more things we can talk about the temple than most people realize.” Some, like my source above, do not bother attributing the idea to some unnamed authority, they just declare it as their own opinion.
2.  There are only a few specific things I have promised not to reveal, every thing else is fair game.
I have yet to have one of these bloggers, when asked, provide a statement from a General Authority giving validity to either of these positions. The scary thing to me is how easily our author above and others like him dismisses President Hinckley’s counsel as “this is tradition and culture speaking and not doctrine or inspiration.” You would be surprised how often I have heard this, largely from the younger generation. It is an attitude of many which think their view of culture–which they seem to forget they learned from that culture, is the correct way to think. As George Q. Cannon cautioned, “We are apt to entertain views which are not very correct, and which may be the result of our traditions and preconceived ideas....”(4)


Who is Authorized to Expound the Meaning of the Endowment?

To begin with, Elder Maxwell reminds us that the Apostle Paul spoke of the early leaders of Christ’s Church as “stewards of the mysteries of God.”(5) That became very evident to me when I served as a counselor in the Logan Temple presidency. We held a training meeting each day for every shift of workers, which means three times a day. We used two Temple related handbooks, the General Handbooks of Instruction, and official policies for temple operation sent to us by the Temple Department as our training materials. I am a witness that the brethren are stewards over the Temple and they require Temple presidencies to be their representatives in each Temple in the Church, to see that workers are properly trained so the ordinances are administered properly and exactly. There is great concern to avoid what was euphemistically termed “temple drift.” This is a phenomenon where unauthorized practices and procedures may be introduced, or where other approved practices may not be properly followed. When you think about it, it is a huge undertaking to assure that the Saints have the same experience in all 147 temples throughout the Church. I learned the brethren are the “stewards of the mysteries of God” and they take that responsibility very seriously and they expected Temple presidencies to do so as well.

One of the points we consistently made in those training sessions, from the appropriate handbooks, was that workers were not to answer patron’s questions. They were not authorized to give private interpretations of the Endowment, the ordinances, the symbolism, or the doctrine. They were to send patrons with questions to the Temple Presidency. Guess what? We were cautioned and taught that we should teach people to seek answers to questions for themselves by study, prayer, fasting, and frequent temple attendance. We were not authorized to give private interpretations of the meaning of the Endowment. As a new sealer I learned this lesson the hard way. My trainer explained that in proxy sealing sessions it was okay to share some insights and stories as we did the work. One evening the Temple President sat in on my session and heard me say something. After the session and the patrons left he asked me where I learned to do that.  I told him, “President, I am a teacher, and it comes naturally to me.”  He brought me up short with a rather direct remark. “Brother Bachman, you are not a teacher in the temple.  You were called to be a sealer, not a teacher!” He went on to explain that we were not authorized to teach about the meaning of the temple ordinances.(6)  In other words, I was ill-informed myself about who is authorized to teach about the temple. I came to a better understanding while serving in the Temple. So, the issue here is a common one. President Harold B. Lee  recalled, “One sister went about giving lectures on the temple. Why? She said that this was her calling but it wasn't.”(7)

So, who is authorized to explain the Endowment? Of course the brethren are authorized to do so, and on occasion they have, but the observant and well-read member also notices that collectively the General Authorities are very careful what they say and teach about the Temple.(8)  In the temple, we taught the workers there are two teachers: the ordinances themselves, and the Spirit. The attitude of the presiding brethren seemed to be that the Endowment is so important that God reserves to himself the right and responsibility to explain its meaning to the people. Ordinance workers and the Temple Presidency should not interfere. If that is the case in the Temple proper, how much more important is it to observe this principle outside of the Temple. Self-appointed Endowment expounders are mis-informed and misguided in a most serious way. Interestingly, the scripture has been telling us this all along.  In January of 1841, before the Endowment was first administered to the Saints in Nauvoo, the Lord told Joseph Smith:
40) And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; 41) For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.(9)
Moreover, the revelations given through and in the temple are different from those in the Standard Works. Here is President Harold B. Lee’s explanation of the important distinction between “open” and “safeguarded” revelations.
There is a caution that I want to make about these ordinances in the temple. There is a difference between the revelations that the Lord has given to us-what we might call "open" revelations that might be discussed in the world, and private or "safeguarded" revelations. The teachings which are contained in the four standard Church works which are taught as a part of the temple endowment anyone is free to talk about-section 76, section 88, section 110, other things that pertain to priesthood-all of that which is in open revelations may be taught. But there are certain things that are reserved solely for teaching inside of the temple walls, not to be discussed outside.(10)
Why is this the case; what is wrong with teaching people about the Endowment? The Lord knows things about each individual that we do not. He knows what we need, what we are prepared for, and when to give it to us. The Endowment is intended to be individual instruction by the Spirit for these very reasons. Well meaning but misguided and self-appointed teachers may well interfere with this individualized instruction. It may well be that the Lord delays giving us the insights and understanding we desire until we demonstrate that we are willing to do some personal study and searching along with some effort to improve our personal worthiness and spiritual maturity. My conviction is, when the Lord sees that these efforts are genuine and sustained he will enlighten us regarding the meaning of the Endowment. In the perspective of the Lord, to teach someone something they are unprepared for may be spiritually dangerous, especially regarding the Temple. The self-appointed expounders are assuming prerogatives to themselves which they do not have. The prophet Alma taught:
It is given to many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.(11)
The leadership of the Church, “the stewards of the mysteries,” have been consistent in teaching that we should not discuss the Temple in public and that we are not to teach our private interpretations about the Temple to others.

A corollary principle that is often overlooked by the self-appointed Endowment expounders is that the Endowment given by revelation is so constructed that it can only be understood by revelation. Elder John A. Widtsoe gave us probably the most memorable and quotable statement on this subject. It is widely known, but apparently not well understood by the self-appointed expounders.
The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities that reside in the temple service. The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.(12)
He said something else along these lines that is far less well known, but worth reproducing here for the principles it teaches.
...One man may explain or show a symbol to another, and this is a common, everyday practice, but no man can reveal to another the sublime, deep inner meaning of those symbols presented in the House of the Lord, for it is an individual matter, and every man must seek and obtain it for himself, and that alone, with God’s help only. Nor can one acquire this knowledge outside the House of the Lord, for there we must go to commune with him about these vital things. Going there once or twice can be of little value to us, comparatively, for what can we know about those things with so little thought and contact.... All must pay the same price–the brilliant mind the same as the simplest. No man, however intellectual, can know these things, but by the revelations of God, and that in temples only.(13)
Joseph Smith explained that receiving that revelation and guidance depended upon one’s personal worthiness:
The endowment you are so anxious about, you cannot comprehend now, nor could Gabriel explain it to the understanding of your dark minds; but strive to be prepared in your hearts, be faithful in all things, that when we meet in the solemn assembly, that is, when such as God shall name out of all the official members shall meet, we must be clean every whit. Let us be faithful and silent, brethren, and if God gives you a manifestation, keep it to yourselves; be watchful and prayerful, and you shall have a prelude of those joys that God will pour out on that day.(14)
Another companion principle overlooked by the self-appointed expounders is that just as in ordinary daily life we learn spiritual truths “line upon line” and “precept upon precept,”(15) the same is true in the temple.(16)This of course is an ongoing effort which requires patience, diligence, and consistency in applying the process of learning spiritual things, i.e., study, pondering, fasting, prayer, and obedience. The Expounders may well short-circuit that process and in so doing deprive many of the blessings and growth which come from personal effort, as well as produce confusion and bring considerable harm to some who are not yet intellectually or spiritually prepared. These problems are compounded if the doctrine they are teaching is misguided or erroneous.


The Inappropriateness of Sharing Personal Revelation

Another factor to be considered in this inquiry is to become informed about the appropriateness and inappropriateness of sharing personal revelation. Joseph Smith set the doctrine of the Church on this matter when he said:
I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.(17)  
President Joseph F. Smith had some interesting things to say about this subject. Among other things he taught that some are “easily deceived by seductive spirits” and “are led to believe that something is wrong, and the next thing that transpires, they find themselves believing that they are chosen specially to set things right.” He continued to teach that when God has something to communicate for the entire Church he will do so “through the legally appointed channel of the priesthood.” Individuals have the right to seek revelation but such manifestations are “for their personal guidance to strengthen their faith, and to encourage them in works of righteousness, in being faithful and observing and keeping the commandments which God has given unto them.”(18)

My generation often heard cautions about sharing spiritual experiences from President David O. McKay, Marion G. Romney, Boyd K. Packer and others. Elder Packer said, “I heard President Romney once counsel mission presidents and their wives in Geneva. ‘I do not tell all I know. I have never told my wife all I know, for I found out that if I talked to lightly of sacred things, thereafter the Lord would not trust me.’”(19) Student that he was, I would not doubt that President Romney got the idea from the Prophet Joseph who said, “The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them....”(20)

Below is some counsel from Elder John A. Widtsoe, which I suspect is unknown by the vast majority of the Church. It comes from an article which he wrote entitled “What Shall Be Done With Personal Spiritual Manifestations?” It was published in the Improvement Era. After explaining the order of the Church regarding revelation similar to what Joseph Smith said above, Elder Widtsoe turned his attention to what should be done with personal spiritual manifestations before sharing them.
If a person who has received such manifestations by dream, vison, or otherwise, feels impressed to relate it beyond his immediate family circle, he should present it to his bishop, but not beyond. The bishop, then, may decide upon its further use, if any, or may submit it to those of higher authority for action. The gift was a personal one, not for the Church as a whole, and the recipient is under obligation, in harmony with the established order, not to broadcast it over the Church.(21)

Sacredness of the Temple

One additional matter needs consideration. That is, that the self-appointed frequently seem to be almost totally insensitive to the absolute sacredness of the Temple Endowment. Irrespective of the logic of the arguments they may bring to rationalize their public discussion of the Endowment, there is one overarching reason for maintaining confidentiality about it and that is its sacred and holy nature. In my view the sacredness of the Temple trumps all other rationale in reference to discussing the Endowment publically. This is something the brethren, who are the “stewards of the mysteries” never lose sight of. 

From a personal perspective, my work in the Logan Temple as an ordinance worker, sealer, and counselor in the Temple Presidency, has over the past ten years sensitized me more than ever before to the sacredness and holiness of the Temple. This is due to the combined impact of the Temple itself and my greater understanding gained through training in the Temple and from personal study. I have learned for myself how the presiding brethren of the Church view the sacredness of the Temple.  The scriptural watchword on the subject is, “Remember that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.” And, “Trifle not with sacred things.”(22) 

The patron saint of the self-appointed expounders, Hugh Nibley, had some interesting things to say about keeping sacred things secret. Here are three examples:
The scriptural injunction to secrecy (see Psalm 25:14; Amos 3:7; Proverbs 3:32) follows from the stringent necessity of keeping a discrete distance from the world.  “Pearls before swine” is not an expression of contempt, but a commentary on the uselessness of giving things to people who place no value on them, have no use for them, and could only spoil them.(23)  
To reveal sacred things is to hold their true value in contempt, to despise and throw away the endowment, the only plan ever offered mankind for eternal happiness.(24) 
Actually, in revealing sacred things one gives away nothing but one’s own integrity, though that is everything.(25)
On another occasion, Nibley explicitly argued that it was a matter of keeping the temple ordinances sacred to me personally, regardless of what others do.  I commend a close reading of his remarks:
Why are these temple ordinances guarded with such secrecy when anyone who really wants to can find out what goes on? Even though everyone may discover what goes on in the temple, and many have already revealed it, the important thing is that I do not reveal these things; they must remain sacred to me. I must preserve a zone of sanctity which cannot be violated whether or not anyone else in the room has the remotest idea what the situation really is. For my covenants are all between me and my Heavenly Father, all others being present only as witnesses. ... On the other hand I can never share my understanding of them completely with anyone but the Lord.  No matter what happens, it will, then, always remain secret:only I know exactly the weight and force of the covenants I have made–I and the Lord with whom I have made them–unless I choose to reveal them.  If I do not, then they are secret and sacred no matter what others may say or do. Anyone who would reveal these things has not understood them, and therefore that person has not given them away.  You cannot reveal what you do not know! The constant concern is to keep Israel out of contact with the profane things of the world; the reason given is not absolute secrecy, but to keep these sacred things from becoming halal, that is, vulgar, popular, the subject of everyday discussion, in a word, trivia.  This is what is meant by blasphemy, which signifies not some awful and horrible commitment to evil but simply taking holy things lightly. And what is wrong with being halal? What is evil in innocent everyday conversation about the temple? Even at its most innocuous, the bringing up of such matters in public can only lead to their cheapening, but, worst of all, to all manner of misunderstanding, misrepresentation, disputation, contention, contamination, and corruption. This is exactly what has happened throughout history–the possession of God’s secrets was a cause for vanity and self-congratulation.(26)
President Harold B. Lee simply declared, “Members of the Church who have been admitted to the temple do not discuss even among themselves outside the temple these temple ceremonies because of their sacred character.”(27)

Perhaps one of the best expositions about the need to understand the sacred and holy and how we should treat sacred things comes from Elder D. Todd Christofferson who addressed the subject "A Sense of the Sacred" in a CES satellite broadcast to the youth of the Church, 7 November 2004. Among many things he taught the following:
I hope to help you refine your ability to discern what is sacred and to respond with reverence for all that is holy.The importance of having a sense of the sacred is simply this—if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself. On the other hand, with a sense of the sacred, one grows in understanding and truth. The Holy Spirit becomes his frequent and then constant companion. More and more he will stand in holy places and be entrusted with holy things.  
... 
Always remember, however, as holiness grows within and you are entrusted with greater knowledge and understanding that you must treat these things with care. We read earlier the scripture affirming that that which comes from above is sacred and must be spoken with care and by constraint of the Spirit. The Lord also commanded, rather bluntly, that we must not cast pearls before swine or give that which is holy to dogs (see 3 Nephi 14:6; D&C 41:6), meaning sacred things should not be disclosed or discussed with those who are not prepared to appreciate their value and who may even attack rather than appreciate them. 
Be wise with what the Lord gives you.  It is a trust.(28)
It is my firm conviction that these matters need to be given more serious thought and my sincere hope is that this essay will heighten awareness of how Church members treat the Endowment in their public discourse.

Let’s think together again, soon.
Notes:  

1.   Neal A. Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine,” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), p. 129, emphasis in original.  This is from chapter eight entitled “The Mysteries of the Kingdom” (pp. 129-144), nearly all of which is devoted to the idea of “mysteries” in reference to the Temple and is highly recommended reading.  Elder Maxwell’s notions are consistent with remarks made by Elder Dallin H. Oaks to the new temple presidents in a seminar 12 October  1999.  A copy of these remarks is in my possession, but I do not have permission to quote directly from it in this publication. 

2.  Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:336, discourse of 15 June 1856, in Maxwell, “Not My Will,” p. 139; and Heber C. Kimball, who said “If this people will do right there is nothing that will be a mystery to them; but those things which appeared the most mysterious will prove to be the most simple things in the world.”  JD, 3:112, discourse of 19 March 1854, also in Maxwell, p. 139.  See also, Hugh Nibley, cited in Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Book of Moses, (Salt Lake City: Eborn Publishing, 2010), p. 10.

3.  Gordon B. Hinckley, “Keeping The Temple Holy,” Ensign, (May 1990), p. 52;  CR, April 1990, p. 69, address in priesthood session, emphasis added.

4.  George Q. Cannon, JD 21:264, emphasis added.

5.  Neal A. Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine,” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), p. 130, citing 1 Corinthians 4:1.

6.  This direction pertained to teaching patrons during proxy sealing sessions. Sealers are, of course, authorized to teach briefly during their remarks to living couples to be married or sealed. Here the caution is to be very careful and responsible in what one teaches in those settings.  Truman Madsen had some interesting things to say about learning in the temple:
We all wish to drink more deeply of the fountain.  We are counseled over and over that this depends upon us, upon our own spiritual preparation, our own probing and pondering and praying. No one presumes to be our teacher. We are taught to seek divine teaching.  Joseph Smith said, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it form books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.” [Truman G. Madsen, The Temple Where Heaven Meets Earth, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2008), p. 90, citing TPJS, 191.] 
7.  Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 577.

8.  In a recent book about the temple, sister Wendy Ulrich referred to the reticence of the brethren to teach about the Temple.
Church leaders tend not to explain much, leaving us the privilege of coming to our own conclusions.  We are not always happy about this “privilege.” How often do we say to our leaders, as Israel said to Moses at Mt. Sinai, “You go talk to God and find out what he says, then teach us and we will listen. But don’t ask us to go up to that smoking mountain, lest we die” (paraphrasing Exodus 20:18-19; see Doctrine and Covenants 84:20-24). God invites each of us to the mountain of his house to claim for ourselves its healing and transforming potential and to find him for ourselves at its summit. He gives us the right to learn from him what the temple “means,” how its language works, and how we might embody its teachings.  But we must climb the mountain. 
As we make this private pilgrimage, God expects us to ask questions and search for answers in order to find our way. [Wendy Ulrich, The Temple Experience: Passage to Healing and Holiness (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2012), p. 21.]
David S. King, former President of the Washington, D.C. temple has also written about this subject.  His comments are consistent with my understanding:
The reason for the Church’s refusal to go beyond the scriptures and the few statements of the General Authorities in interpreting the temple ceremony for us is that each of us is entitled to a personal revelation from God, bringing as much of its meaning to us as God intends for us to receive. What knowledge we do receive, therefore, must result from our own spiritual exertion. The Church will not interfere with that sacred process. In other words, the Church does not wish to stand between the participant and his Heavenly Father who he has supplicated for knowledge.  If it does, it would be doing for him what he must do for himself (see 2 Ne. 25:23).
Each individual can do a great deal through is own efforts to enlarge his understanding through prayer, meditation, and studying the materials that are available to him, scriptural and otherwise. Non-interference by the Church in this sacred process is based on a wise policy and is consistent with its overall view that each child of God is entitled to his own revelation on matters which concern him personally (see D&C 6:5-7, 15; 9:8; 46:28; Matt. 7:7-8). [David S. King, Come to the House of the Lord, (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2000), pp. 16-17.]
9.  D&C 124:40-41, emphasis added.  Respecting the Holy Ghost as the teacher in the temple, Elder Lionel Kendrick said: 
The Spirit of the Holy Ghost is the teacher in the temple. He teaches principles of eternal significance. It is during these instructions that we see the relationship between the earthly and the eternal. We must remember that the Spirit teaches only those who are teachable. If we enter the temple seeking added light and knowledge, we can learn and understand something new during the temple experience.  The Savior promised: “That which is of God is light; and he that ...continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). [L. Lionel Kendrick, “Enhancing Our Temple Experience,” Ensign, (May 2001), p. 79.]
10.  Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), pp. 575-576, emphasis added.  Originally in Harold B. Lee, “Correlation and Priesthood Genealogy,” address of 16 August 1968, in Third Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar: Genealogical Devotional  Addresses-1968 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1969), p. 67.  On another occasion he used different terminology, with the same emphasis.  He spoke of “open” and “closed” revelation.  See Teachings, p. 577.

11.  Alma 12:9.  On more than one occasion it is evident that Joseph Smith was “constrained” or even commanded not to divulge everything he was given by the Lord, generally because the Saints were not yet prepared for the information.  Examples of this may be found in D&C 76:114-118; also relative to the Vision he said,  “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” [Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp.,Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), pp. 304-305, 21 May 1843; also in History of the Church, 5:402.] Elder Packer also said, “They [temple ordinances] are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.” [Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1980), p. 26.] 

12.  John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, (April 1921), pp. 63-64, emphasis added.  See similar sentiments in Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1988), pp. 250-252; and Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, (May 2001), p. 33.

13.  John A. Widtsoe, Power From on High, (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society, 1937), pp. 48-49.

14.  Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp.,Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 91, emphasis added.  Joseph Smith had both a natural inclination to keep spiritual things private and the direction of the Lord to be careful with sacred things.  He was consistent in this his whole life.  For an interesting review of this idea see, Ronald O. Barney, "Joseph Smith's Visions: His Style and His Record," address at the 2013 FAIR conference.  It is available online here:  http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2013-fair-conference/2013-joseph-smiths-visions-his-style-and-his-record

15.  See, Isa. 28:9-10; 2 Ne. 28:30, D&C 98:12; 128:21 and compare with the principle taught in D&C 50:24.   In this respect Joseph Smith said:   
We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same.”  [Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 51.]
16.  In context of a sermon about the temple ordinances at the April 1845 General Conference held in Nauvoo, Brigham Young stated: “He who gives that law is perfect, and reduces it to the capacity of finite beings [mortals] in order that they may understand it and then receive more: thus the infinite being [God] gives line upon line, reveals principle after principle, as the mind of the finite being  expands, and when he has learned all his life he will then begin to see, that he has not yet entered upon the threshold of eternal things.”[Brigham Young, “Speech,” 6 April 1845, in Brigham Young, Times and Seasons, 6, no. 12, (1 July 1845): 954.] More recently, former member of the Presiding Bishopric, J. Richard Clarke taught, “While the temple is a house of prayer, fasting, and glory, it is also a house of learning. But we must learn how to learn in the temple. Our tutor is the Holy Ghost. The sacred truths of the endowment can be learned only in the temple–line upon line, principle by principle. It is a lifetime pursuit.You can’t take a college course or major in the endowment and other ordinances of the temple. They are carefully reserved for those who ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ and they who do are ‘filled.’” [J. Richard Clarke, “Celestial Pursuit,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, 23 September 2003, as cited in Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, Look To The Temple: Finding Joy In Your Temple Worship, (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, Inc., 2007), p. 107.]

By the way, it is not as if there is nothing to study if we do not have the self-appointed expounders on the Internet.  I have compiled a bibliography of over 9,000 items about ancient and modern temples. There is plenty to read and study.  I have been at it since 2005 and I have read about 10%.  The bibliography is available online here:
http://www.templestudies.org/home/introduction-to-a-temple-studies-bibliography/

17.  Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 21.

18.  Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, 13th edition (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963), p. 41.

19.  Boyd K. Packer, “That All May Be Edified”: Talks, Sermons & Commentary by Boyd K. Packer” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), p. 337.

20.  Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 195.

21.  John A. Widtsoe, “What Shall Be Done with Personal Spiritual Manifestations?” In Evidences and Reconciliations, Volumes 1-2-3 (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), p. 99, emphasis added.

22.  D&C 63:64 and 6:12.  Elder McConkie has written, “So sacred and holy are the administrations performed that in every age when they have been revealed, the Lord has withheld them from the knowledge of the world and disclosed them only to the faithful saints in houses and places dedicated and selected for that purpose. (D. & C. 95:8-9; 124:25-41; Luke 24:59.)” [Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1966), p. 227.] Elder Richard G. Scott also gave this interesting insight into how the Twelve view sacred things.  “As one of 15 holding all the keys of the Holy Apostleship: I do not know how the Savior communicates with the other special witnesses, because it is so sacred, we do not discuss it even among ourselves.” [Richard G. Scott, Devotional, Logan Tabernacle, 10 April 2011, devotional for Logan Temple workers.  Notes of Ward and Lynette Taylor, Alice Ward.]

23.  Hugh W. Nibley, “On the Sacred and the Symbolic,” in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, edited by Donald W. Parry.  (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), p. 553.  On the issue of sacredness, the view of David S. King is insightful: “The second reason for confidentiality is that knowledge of sacred things carries with it a heavy responsibility–perhaps heaver than most people are prepared to bear.  In 2 Peter 2:20-21 we learn that if a person receives the truth and then forsakes it, it would have been better for him had he not received it at all.  This same theme runs throughout the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3).  The Lord is doing many people a favor, rather than a disfavor, by withholding from them his sacred knowledge.” [David S. King, Come to the House of the Lord, (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2000), pp. 17-18.]

24.  Nibley, “On the Sacred...,” p. 569.

25.  Ibid., p. 572.

26. Hugh W. Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, Beyond This Ignorant Present, TCWHN 12, (Salt Lake City and Provo,UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), pp. 64-65. 

27. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 575, emphasis added. Richard G. Scott echoed this idea when he said, “Outside of the temple, we do not speak of the specific, sacred matters that unfold there.” [Richard G. Scott, “Receive The Temple Blessings,” Ensign, (May 1999), p. 26.] And again, this from President Lee: “ We should not be guilty of too much freedom in speaking of these things, perhaps to excite attention, when we have been told repeatedly these things are to be held sacred in the temple.” [Harold B. Lee, “Correlation and Priesthood Genealogy,” address of 16 August 1968 in, Third Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar: Genealogical Devotional Addresses-1968 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1969), p. 68.] In 2003 Elder David E. Sorensen, President of the Seventy taught in the October conference, “When it comes to sacred things, there is ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak’ (Eccl. 3:7). We have the responsibility to maintain the sacredness of the temple endowment. We ought not use temple language when outside the temple.” [Sorensen, David E.  “The Doctrine of Temple Work.”  Ensign 33 (October 2003): 56-63.  This quotation is from the Internet version.]

28. D. Todd Christofferson, “A Sense of the Sacred,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, 7 November 2004, pp. 1, 7.  Available online at :
https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/archive/ces-devotionals/2004/01?lang=eng 

APPENDIX: 

Statements about Confidentiality Regarding Sacred Things

 Compiled by
Danel W. Bachman
Updated 12 April 2017

General Note: One thing often absent in these conversations about what is appropriate to discuss about the temple outside of the temple is this question: "What do the brethren teach about confidentiality regarding the temple?"  For some years I have been collecting statements by General Authorities on the subject.  I have yet to find one who opens the door for more discussion for either of the reasons cited in the text above. Their statements always tend toward being more conservative about what can be discussed rather than more liberal.  In the spirit of following and sustaining the brethren, effectively keeping our own covenants, and giving some authoritative guidance, I share this collection.  If you know of other statements on this subject not included in this collection please share them with me.

QUOTATIONS FROM SCRIPTURE AND GENERAL AUTHORITIES
Trifle Not with Sacred Things

Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith.  Trifle not with sacred things.

D&C 6:12.


The Things Thou Shalt See Hereafter

But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

1 Ne. 14:25.


Things Not Lawful to Utter

[The following quotations are relative to the visions Joseph and Sidney saw during the revelation of the kingdoms of glory–D&C 76.  It is clear that they were not permitted to discuss some things.  This seems relevant to confidentiality regarding sacred things.]


We Should Not Write

113) This is the end of the vision which we say, which we were commanded to write while we were yet in the Spirit.  114) But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; 115) Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; 116) Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; 117) To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; 118) That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.

D&C 76:113-118.


Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder–the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdom, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter.  I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.

Joseph Fielding Smith ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), pp. 304-305.


I know a man that has been caught up to the third heavens, and can say, with Paul, that we have seen and heard things that are not lawful to utter.

Joseph Fielding Smith ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 323; HC 5:556, 27 August 1843.


Paul’s Statement

2) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  3)  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

2 Corinthians 12:2-4


Spoken with Care

Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.

D&C 63:64


The Reasons We Do Not Have the Secrets of the Lord

The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them....

Joseph Fielding Smith ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 195.


Absolute Obligation Not to Discuss Outside the Temple

I remind you of the absolute obligation to not discuss outside the temple that which occurs within the temple.  Sacred matters deserve sacred consideration.  We are under obligation, binding and serious, to not use temple language or speak of temple matters outside.  I first went to the temple fifty-seven years ago.  It was different from any other experience I had had in the Church.  A young man of my association went about the same time.  Thereafter, he was wont to use phrases from the language of the temple in a frivolous way.  It was offensive.  It was a betrayal of a sacred trust.  I have watched him through the years.  Once faithful, he had drifted from all Church activity and forsaken the faith of his fathers.  I think that much of what has happened to him began with that small irreverential thing that he did in trivializing language which is not trivial.

Please, brethren, do not discuss outside of the temple that which occurs in the temple.  While there, you are at liberty to do so.  If you have questions, you may speak with the temple president or one of his counselors.  But when you leave the doors of the house of the Lord, be true to a sacred trust to speak not of that which is holy and sanctified.

Said the Lord, “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64).  And again, “Trifle not with sacred things” (D&C 6:12).

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Keeping the Temple Holy,” Ensign, (May 1990): 52; CR, April 1990, p. 69, address in priesthood session.


Endowment to Be Understood by Revelation; No Human Words Can Explain or Make Clear

To the man or woman who goes through the temple, with open eyes, heeding the symbols and the covenants, and making a steady, continuous effort to understand the full meaning, God speaks his word, and revelations come.  The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities that reside in the temple service.  The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.

John A. Widtsoe, "Temple Worship," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, (April 1921): 60, 62-63; John A. Widtsoe, “Symbolism in the Temples,” in Archibald F. Bennett, Saviors on Mount Zion, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1955), pp. 167-168.


Unsympathetic Tourists Would Defile the Temple

Some young persons do not like temple work “because the things done in it are secret, and we do not believe in secret things, we want to stand in the sunshine.” In fact, there is nothing secret about the temple. I have found nothing secret in or about our temples; I have found many things that are sacred. There is a vast difference between things secret and things sacred the thing hidden away from the light, and the thing sacred, which plays in the light and is protected from darkness and impurity and all unworthy conditions.

God has declared that he will not enter a defiled temple, whether that temple be the body of a man or a dedicated grove or a mountain top, or a house, like the temple on these grounds. The Holy Spirit will withdraw from a defiled place. People who have no faith in temple worship, who desire simply as tourists to inspect unsympathetically our holy house, in spite of themselves defile it. We desire to present our temple ordinances to those who are believers. Moreover, visitors in temples would interfere with the procedure of the work. Of itself there is no reason why at proper times the temple may not be inspected.

John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 (April 1921): 60-61.


No Man Can Explain the Deep Inner Meaning of the Symbols, must Be Obtained Individually by Revelation

...One man may explain or show a symbol to another, and this is a common, everyday practice, but no man can reveal to another the sublime, deep inner meaning of those symbols presented in the House of the Lord, for it is an individual manner, and every man must seek and obtain it for himself, and that alone, with God’s help only.  Nor can one acquire this knowledge outside the House of the Lord, for there we must go to commune with him about these vital things.  Going there once or twice can be of little value to us, comparatively, for what can we know about those things with so little thought and contact....  All must pay the same price–the brilliant mind the same as the simplest.  No man, however intellectual, can know these things, but by the revelations of God, and that in temples only.

John A. Widtsoe, Power From on High, (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society, 1937), pp. 48-49.


Never Betray a Thing That God Tells You

You often hear people desiring more of the knowledge of God, more of the wisdom of God, more of the power of God. They want more revelation, to know more about the kingdom of heaven, in heaven and on the earth, and they wish to learn and increase. 
There is one principle that I wish the people would understand and lay to heart. Just as fast as you will prove before your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to call them so, of the kingdom of heaven—that you are full of confidence in God—that you will never betray a thing that God tells you—that you will never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, as quick as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity of them to bestow upon you. Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves, to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak, what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord. And just as fast as you prove to Him that you will preserve everything secret that ought to be—that you will deal out to your neighbors all which you ought, and no more, and learn how to dispense your knowledge to your families, friends, neighbors, and brethren, the Lord will bestow upon you, and give to you, and bestow upon you, until finally he will say to you, “You shall never fall; your salvation is sealed unto you; you are sealed up unto eternal life and salvation, through your integrity.” 
Let every person be the friend of God, that whatever He reveals to you, you can wisely handle without asking Him whether you shall tell your wife of it or not.

Brigham Young, JD 4:371-372, discourse of 28 June 1857.


High Priest Murdered Because He Wouldn’t Reveal Temple Ordinances

It is true that Solomon built a temple for the purpose of giving endowments, but from what we can learn of the history of that time they gave very few if any endowments, and one of the high priests was murdered by wicked and corrupt men, who had already begun to apostatize, because he would not reveal those things appertaining to the Priesthood that were forbidden him to reveal until he came to the proper place.

John A. Widtsoe, ed., Discourses of Brigham Young, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969), p. 393; JD 18:303.


Confidentiality and Your First Visit to the Temple

Outside of the temple, we do not speak of the specific, sacred matters that unfold there. However, while within the temple, there will be authorized individuals to help answer your questions. On your first visit you will receive carefully prepared, specific instructions by authorized individuals regarding those matters which are not discussed outside of the temple walls. May your first experience in the temple be as moving and inspiring as was mine. It will be, as you carefully prepare.

Richard G. Scott, “Receive the Temple Blessings,” Ensign, (May 1999): 26.


Kept Confidential Lest They Be Given to the Unprepared

Our reluctance to speak of the sacred temple ordinances is not in any way an attempt to make them seem more mysterious or to encourage an improper curiosity about them. The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.

Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), p. 26.


Lord Has Withheld Them from the World

So sacred and holy are the administrations performed that in every age when they have been revealed, the Lord has withheld them from the knowledge of the world and disclosed them only to the faithful saints in houses and places dedicated and selected for that purpose. (D. & C. 95:8-9; 124:25-41; Luke 24:59.)  

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1966), p. 227.


Treat Sacred Things with Care

Always remember, as holiness grows within and you are entrusted with greater knowledge and understanding, you must treat these things with care. The Lord said, “That which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64). He also commanded that we must not cast pearls before swine or give that which is holy to dogs (see 3 Ne. 14:6; D&C 41:6), meaning sacred things should not be discussed with those who are not prepared to appreciate their value.
Be wise with what the Lord gives you. It is a trust. You would not, for example, share the content of your patriarchal blessing with just anyone.

D. Todd Christofferson, “A Sense of the Sacred,” New Era, (June 2006): 28–31, from a Church Educational System satellite broadcast address given on November 7, 2004, internet edition.


Under Solemn Obligation

In addition to physical preparation, we prepare spiritually. Because the ordinances and covenants of the temple are sacred, we are under solemn obligation not to speak outside the temple of that which occurs in the temple. There are, however, some principles we can discuss.

Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, (May 2001): 33.


Reasons the Temple Is Not Open to Public Gaze

The ordinances, rites, and ceremonies of the house of the Lord are sacred to faithful members of the Church, and to permit the gaze of the unholy would be to encourage the mockery of the scoffer and to invite the jeers of the enemies of righteousness.     
There are many instances when, for reasons best known to Himself, the Lord has revealed "his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7) with a command that they keep such revelation from the world. The Apostle Paul tells of one such who "was caught up to the third heaven and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). The brother of Jared was commanded to write the words of a revelation in a strange language and seal them up, and the Lord would show them in His own due time to the children of men (see Ether 3:27). The Apostle Paul spoke of a day "when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to [the] gospel" (Romans 2:16). Members of the Church who have been admitted to the temple do not discuss even among themselves outside the temple these temple ceremonies because of their sacred character.

Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 575.


Members Do Not Discuss the Temple Outside Because of Their Sacred Character

Members of the Church who have been admitted to the temple do not discuss even among themselves outside the temple these temple ceremonies because of their sacred character.

Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 575.


The Difference Between “Open” and “Private” Revelations; Temples to Keep the Ordinances from the Outside World

There is a caution that I want to make about these ordinances in the temple. There is a difference between the revelations that the Lord has given to us-what we might call "open" revelations that might be discussed in the world, and private or "safeguarded" revelations. The teachings which are contained in the four standard Church works which are taught as a part of the temple endowment anyone is free to talk about-section 76, section 88, section 110, other things that pertain to priesthood-all of that which is in open revelations may be taught. But there are certain things that are reserved solely for teaching inside of the temple walls, not to be discussed outside. 
Let me read you something that the Master said. Some wonder why all this so-called secrecy, and we always answer by saying it is not "secret" but "sacred." Even to the disciples of the Master He made some comment about this. He said: "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). He was speaking of our enemies, of those who were not prepared, or of [those] not ready to receive these things. It would be like casting pearls before swine, or giving that which is holy unto dogs; they might come up and smite us and use it against us-so there were things that were reserved. As I said to you, Moses was commanded to have a sacred place in the tabernacle, and one of the first buildings they built in the Holy Land was a temple, that the ordinances might be kept from the outside world (see D&C 124:38).     
We must remember this. Sometimes we hear stories of those-I am sure well intentioned and perhaps not intended to be vicious-but, in order to try and impress somebody, people speak of things in public meetings that ought never to be discussed outside of the temple walls. We are talking about intimate things that we have been told repeatedly and we have covenanted that they are not to be spoken of outside the temple.

Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), pp. 575-576, emphasis added. Originally in Harold B. Lee, “Correlation and Priesthood Genealogy,” address of 16 August 1968, in Third Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar: Genealogical Devotional Addresses-1968 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1969), p. 67.


People Speak of Things in Public Meetings That Ought Not Be Discussed Outside the Temple

We must remember this. Sometimes we hear stories of those-I am sure well intentioned and perhaps not intended to be vicious-but, in order to try and impress somebody, people speak of things in public meetings that ought never to be discussed outside of the temple walls. We are talking about intimate things that we have been told repeatedly and we have covenanted that they are not to be spoken of outside the temple.

Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), pp. 575-576.


Careful We Don’t Slip and Talk Outside the Temple; Caution to Temple Workers; Open and Closed Revelation

I was touring California with Oscar McConkie once, and he said, "There is no reference of sealing of exaltation on you, or us in the Church." I said, "There is; don't you remember in the marriage ceremony it says" Suddenly my mind went blank; I couldn't remember. I realized that I was about to put into words things that I had said hundreds of times, but that I had no right to say at this time and place. Temple workers are invited to talk, and sometimes they say things that they have no right to say outside the temple. Often they do repeat many sacred things feeling that they have authority or will be thought of as important. One sister went about giving lectures on the temple. Why? She said that this was her calling but it wasn't.     
What things may we repeat? Anything in open revelation, Doctrine and Covenants sections, the Pearl of Great Price, etc. Otherwise it is closed revelation, and we do not repeat it.

Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 577.


Two Classes of Revelation, Open and Closed

We have two classes of revelation: There are revelations which might be said to be open revelations, like those written in the Doctrine and Covenants and elsewhere, which may be given to the world. And then we have what we might speak of as closed revelations. These are to be divulged and given only in sacred places which are prepared for the revealing of the highest ordinances which belong to the Aaronic and to the Melchizedek Priesthoods, and those ordinance are in the house of the Lord.

Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 577.


We Do Not Speak of the Specific, Sacred Matters

Outside of the temple, we do not speak of the specific, sacred matters that unfold there. However, while within the temple, there will be authorized individuals to help answer your questions. On your first visit you will receive carefully prepared, specific instructions by authorized individuals regarding those matters which are not discussed outside of the temple walls.  May your first experience in the temple be as moving and inspiring as was mine.  It will be, as you carefully prepare.

Richard G. Scott, “Receive the Temple Blessings,” Ensign, (May 1999): 26.

The Tendency to Share with Friends

This matter of imparting confidential information to others with the understanding that the knowledge so given is not to be carried further is a prevalent practice that calls for comment. What right have I to suppose that my friend will keep a secret that I could not keep? How can I know but that my friend has another friend to whom he will tell my secret and whom he will also swear to secrecy? And so the news travels from friend to and every-widening circle of friends–always in confidence! That secret which I cannot keep I have no right to expect another to keep. And if I betray a confidence, I may certainly expect to hear that my friend and my friend’s friend have also betrayed that confidence. It is well not to speak that which should not be spoken, else the world will soon hear of it–because so many people have so many confidential friends!

Richard L. Evans, Unto the Hills, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940), p. 27.


Mysteries Revealed Inside the Temple.  What Are They?

Inside the temple are revealed what are referred to as the mysteries of godliness, as you recall.  What is a mystery?  Mysteries are spoken of in revelation to the Prophet: [quotes D&C 28:7 and 76:7]
We might define a mystery, then, as “a truth which cannot be known except a revelation through proper channels,” and some of these revelations are only to be revealed to the faithful in the  temple.  
Therefore, we should not be confused by the method of presentation, as I have already said, but should think of the message and confine ourselves to the center and core of the lessons to be learned.  
We should not be guilty of two much freedom in speaking of these things, perhaps to excite attention, when we have been told repeatedly these things are to be held sacred in the temple.

Harold B. Lee, “Correlation and Priesthood Genealogy,” address of 16 August 1968, in Third Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar: Genealogical Devotional  Addresses-1968 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1969), p. 68.


Though Confidential They Are Available to All Who Qualify

We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. If this opportunity is rejected, the rejection must be on the part of the individual himself.
The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.
All who are worthy and qualify in every way may enter the temple, there to be introduced to the sacred rites and ordinances.

Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple.” Ensign 25 (February 1995): 32.


Answer Questions about the Temple with Scripture

One of the anxieties I have about our people today arises out of an experience I have had with every company of missionaries.  Before they leave for their missions I am assigned to go over to the temple and in the Upper Room of the temple after they have gone through the first session for their endowments, they are permitted for an hour or so to ask questions about the temple ordinances and matters they might not have understood.  For this period–a very soul-searching experiences–we discuss very intimately, in a place where we can discuss without betraying the sacredness of what we have been taught in the temple that day.  We always say to them repeatedly as we have finished, “I want you to notice that all the answers I have given have been given from out of the scriptures.  I wouldn’t dare attempt to make an answer to your questions anywhere else but from the scriptures or from the statements of a president of the Church; which, to us as they give inspired utterances, are scripture.”  I would wish that you folks who deal with these very deep significant things have that in mind.  Always there is a temptation to go beyond what the Lord has revealed and attempt to use imagination in some cases or to speculate as to these things.  I wish you would remember that.  Don’t dare to go beyond what the Lord has revealed.  If you don’t know, say you don’t know; but don’t say you don’t know when you ought to know because you ought to be students of the scriptures. Inquiries about the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ should be answered, whenever possible, from the scriptures.

Harold B. Lee, Address. In Genealogical Devotional Addresses–1970. Fifth Annual Priesthood Genealogical Seminar, Brigham Young University, August 3-7, 1970. (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1970), p. 27.


Elder Packer Not to Write Beyond What the Church Has Published

The work of the temples is transcendent in nature, its prospects so supernal that the mind of man could not have conceived it.  Men could not have devised it, for it is above mortal kind.  This work and the ordinances central to it came from Deity.
Therefore, as we together approach this sacred subject we will do so reverently.  I will not describe the sacred ordinances and ceremonies of the temple in more detail than has previously been published by the Church.

Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), “Introduction.”


As I say in the introduction, I will not discuss the sacred ordinances and ceremonies of the temple further than has previously been published about them by the Church.  But the things that are included in this book will, I hope, deepen your reverence for and appreciation of the holy temple.

Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), p. 8.

As mentioned previously, the ordinances of the temple include baptism, ordinations, endowments, marriages, and other sealing ordinances.  I said earlier that in this book we would not discuss the ceremonies and ordinances of the temple beyond that which has previously been published by the Church.  I include here a brief summary of the information that is available in print with reference to the temple ordinances.

Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), p. 153.


Did Nephi Have an Endowment Experience

According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the crucial holy endowment was administered to Moses "on the mountaintop." President Joseph Fielding Smith expressed the belief that Peter, James, and John also received the holy endowment on a mountain, the Mount of Transfiguration. Nephi, too, was caught up to an exceedingly high mountain (see 1 Nephi 11:1) and was instructed not to write or speak of some of the things he experienced there (see 1 Nephi 14:25). Did something similar occur to him at that time? 

Neal A. Maxwell, Lord Increase Our Faith, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994), p. 78.


Not to Be Imparted to the World

Sometimes, however, the use of the term [mystery] involves the holy temples.  The Lord said, “Therefore, I will unfold unto them this great mystery” (D&C 10:64), and in the succeeding verse, the hen gathering her chickens, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, refers to the desire of the Lord to gather his people in his holy temples. ...
Such special teachings and ordinances given in the Lord’s temples were not and are not to be imparted to the world.
Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, ‘It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (the unbelieving multitude) it is not given’ (Matthew 13:11; Luke 8:3).  Jesus was able to teach his Apostles things that were kept from the world, including information about sacred ordinances.  It is noteworthy that Paul saw Church leaders as ‘stewards of the mysteries of God’ (1 Corinthians 4:1).

Neal A. Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine,” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), p. 130.


Do Not Be Too Anxious to Manage and Manipulate and Put Things Right

I have men come to me sometimes with some great complaints to make about their Bishop. I hear them, but I either send them back to their Bishop or to their President as circumstances dictate. Then I have Bishops come to me finding fault with their Presidents. I send them back to their Presidents, and write to those whose business it is to attend to it. I acknowledge every man in his place and office, whether President, Bishop, Priest, Teacher or Deacon; and then they should acknowledge everybody over them, or God will destroy them. I tell you that in the name of the Lord. I know what I am saying. I tell you it is the word and the will of the Lord. Do not be wise above what is written. Do not be too anxious to be to smart, to manage and manipulate and to put things right; but pray for those that God has placed in the different offices of this Church that they may be enable to perform their several duties. The Lord will sustain His servants and give them His Holy Spirit and the light of revelation, if they seek Him in the way that he has appointed, and He will lead them and lead you in the right path. This is the order of the kingdom of God, as I understand it, and not the other. And it is for us to learn that order and be obedient to it.

G. Homer Durham, ed., The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), pp. 166-167; JD 23:220-221.


We Ought Not to Use Temple Language Outside the Temple

When it comes to sacred things, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:7). We have the responsibility to maintain the sacredness of the temple endowment. We ought not use temple language when outside the temple. We should also be cautious about using common or worldly language within the sacred confines of the temple. Vulgarity should not be a part of our communication outside of the temple, and it certainly has no place in the Lord’s house. But even excessive joking and laughing may prevent us from feeling the reverence and respect that we should.

Sorensen, David E.  “The Doctrine of Temple Work.” Ensign 33 (October 2003): 56-63.  This quotation is from the Internet version.


A Sense of the Sacred and Confidentiality

I hope to help you refine your ability to discern what is sacred and to respond with reverence for all that is holy. The importance of having a sense of the sacred is simply this—if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself. On the other hand, with a sense of the sacred, one grows in understanding and truth. The Holy Spirit
becomes his frequent and then constant companion. More and more he will stand in holy places and be entrusted with holy things.
...
Always remember, however, as holiness grows within and you are entrusted with greater knowledge and understanding that you must treat these things with care. We read earlier the scripture affirming that that which comes from above is sacred and must be spoken with care and by constraint of the Spirit. The Lord also commanded, rather bluntly, that we must not cast pearls before swine or give that which is holy to dogs (see 3 Nephi 14:6; D&C 41:6), meaning sacred things should not be disclosed or discussed with those who are not prepared to appreciate their value and who may even attack rather than appreciate them.

Be wise with what the Lord gives you.  It is a trust.

D. Todd Christofferson, “A Sense of the Sacred,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, 7 November 2004, pp. 1, 7.  Available online at :
https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/archive/ces-devotionals/2004/01?lang=eng


ADDITIONAL QUOTATIONS FROM NON-GENERAL AUTHORITIES

Ordinances Not Described in the Old Testament Because They Were Confidential

The nature and extent of these ancient ordinances and the exact location in the temple buildings where they were performed have been the subjects of much fruitless speculation.  The Old Testament describes in detail the sacrifices and other performances associated with the lesser priesthood and the Mosaic law but says almost nothing about any higher ordinances.  “Because such ordinances are sacred and not for the world,” Joseph Fielding Smith explained, no detailed account of them has been made available.  “There are, however, in the Old Testament references to covenants and obligations under which the members of the Church in those days were placed, although the meaning is generally obscure.”

Richard O. Cowan, “Sacred Temples Ancient and Modern,” in Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., The Temple in Time and Eternity, (Provo: F.A.R.M.S., 1999), pp. 105-106.


We must Show the Lord How Far He Can Trust us

We must show the Lord how far He can trust us.  He surrounds our temple covenants with sobering requirements that we keep in our hearts that which is sacred.

Truman G. Madsen, The Temple Where Heaven Meets Earth, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2008), p. 53.


Entrance Requirements for the Lord’s University

The temple is the Lord’s university.  For entrance you do not need to have a 3.8 grade-point average. To qualify, the Lord asks only that you bring a broken heart and a contrite spirit to His altar. You must be willing to consecrate yourself, with the integrity to keep sacred things in your heart and with a tremendous desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ann Madsen, in Truman G. Madsen, The Temple Where Heaven Meets Earth, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2008), p. 58.


Confidentiality among Church Fathers

The apostolic fathers are full of oblique references to the ordinances; they understand their extreme importance but are not in a position to talk freely about them. The situation is painfully apparent in Ignatius’s explanation to the Trallians: “Couldn’t I write about the higher things (ta epourania)?  Yes, but I am afraid I would only do you harm, since you are still but babes. I must ask you to excuse me in this–you would simply strangle on what you are not yet able to digest. And that goes even for me, quite apart from my bieng a prisoner just now, though I do have some knowledge (or mastery dynamenos) of the high things, and the degrees (or dwellings, topothesias) and the council in the heavens (lit. assemblies or natures of the rulers, archontikas), things seen and unseen.  In this and more (or because of this, para touto) I have long since been instructed (lit.  a disciple).”
The long version of this passage reads: “Wouldn’t I like to write to you more about the mysteries?....  And I, even though a prisoner, am able to know the higher things (ta eporrania), the degrees (taxeis) of the angels, the interrelationships (or the fall, exallagas) of the angels and the hosts, the distinctions of the powers and dominions, the changes among thrones and authorities (or the distances between seats and powers), the vastness of the eternities (aionon te megalotetas), the high offices of cherubim and seraphim, the exalted nature of the Spirit, and the rule and dominion of the Lord, and above all, the incomparable nature of the Most High God.
...
Here it is plain that Ignatius had lot of knowledge about the mysteries, which, in his fixed determination to be martyred as quickly as possible, he had no intention of handing on to the churches, yet he is much concerned about the trend in the church of filling up the gaps by fakes and substitutes, which can only have calamitous results.  All he can do, however, is warn against the rising tide.

Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, ed., John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes, 2nd ed., The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 16, (Salt Lake City/Provo: Deseret Book/FARMS, 2005), pp. 522-523.


Must Remain Sacred to Us Personally; Open Discussion Leads to Misunderstanding, Misrepresentation, Disputation, Contention and Contamination

Why are these temple ordinances guarded with such secrecy when anyone who really wants to can find out what goes on? Even though everyone may discover what goes on in the temple, and many have already revealed it, the important thing is that I do not reveal these things; they must remain sacred to me. I must preserve a zone of sanctity which cannot be violated whether or not anyone else in the room has the remotest idea what the situation really is. For my covenants are all between me and my Heavenly Father, all others being present only as witnesses. ... On the other hand I can never share my understanding of them completely with anyone by the Lord.  No matter what happens, it will, then, always remain secret:only I know exactly the weight and force of the covenants I have made–I and the Lord with whom I have made them–unless I choose to reveal them.  If I do not, then they are secret and sacred no matter what others may say or do. Anyone who would reveal these things has not understood them, and therefore that person has not given them away.  You cannot reveal what you do not know! The constant concern is to keep Israel out of contact with the profane things of the world; the reason given is not absolute secrecy, but to keep these sacred things from becoming halal, that is, vulgar, popular, the subject of everyday discussion, in a word, trivia.  This is what is meant by blasphemy, which signifies not some awful and horrible commitment to evil but simply taking holy things lightly. And what is wrong with being halal? What is evil in innocent everyday conversation about the temple? Even at its most innocuous, the bringing up of such matters in public can only lead to their cheapening, but, worst of all, to all manner of misunderstanding, misrepresentation, disputation, contention, contamination, and corruption. This is exactly what has happened throughout history–the possession of God’s secrets was a cause for vanity and self-congratulation.

Hugh W. Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, Beyond This Ignorant Present, TCWHN 12, (Salt Lake City and Provo,UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), pp. 64-65.


Kept Secret to Frustrate the Malicious

[84] 23-25: The veil concealed in the beginning how God carried out the creation.

25-26: But if the veil is parted (rend)

27-29: and the things behind the veil become known, the house is destroyed and left desolate or rather destroyed,
29-31: and the Godhead utterly desert that place, the holy of holies.
31-32: which can no longer be related to the unconstrained light and the immensity of undefiled pleroma.
33-34: Instead, it will come under the wing of the cross and under its arms.
84:34–85:1: This ark [of the covenant, the original holy of holies,] will become for us a wall (jaei; barrier, veil) when the flood overwhelms them.
85:1-5: If some are of the order (phyle) of the priesthood they will be allowed to enter within the veil along with the high priest,
5-13: [but the rending (parting, opening) of the veil from top to bottom means that higher things are now made accessible to us below,] permitting us also to enter into the secret of the truth.
14-15: But we enter by means of despised symbols (types) and in our weakness(es).
...
20-24: [These things are kept secret to frustrate the malicious, but they are not withheld from the company of the seed of the Holy Ghost.]

Gospel of Philip, cited in Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, ed., John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes, 2nd ed., The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 16, (Salt Lake City/Provo: Deseret Book/FARMS, 2005), p. 531.


Not to Reveal Hidden Truths In A Battle Of Words

The mystery of God was the secret of the Kingdom, which Jesus gave to his disciples through the parables.  Outsiders heard simply stories, lest they should repent and be forgiven (Mark 4.11-12). Another version of this saying was known, an agraphon, that is, not recorded in the New Testament. In a book attributed to Clement of Rome, Peter, in discussion with Simon Magus, says: ‘We remember that our Lord and Teacher, commanding us, said: “Keep the mysteries/secrets for me and the sons of my house.”  Wherefore also he explained to his disciples privately the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’ (Clementine Homilies 19.20).  It was, said Peter, impious to reveal hidden truths in a mere battle of words.  Clement of Alexandria also knew this: ‘The Lord commanded in a certain gospel, “My mystery/secret is for me and the sons of my house”’ (Miscellanies 5.10).

Margaret Barker, The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God, (London: SPCK, 2007), p. 79.


Confidentiality about the Mysteries in Ancient Texts

The Apocryphon of John ends with a solemn curse on anyone who betrays or reveals the mysteries which have been revealed: ‘Cursed by everyone who will exchange these things for a gift or for food or for clothing or for any other such thing.’ A similar curse appears at the end of the Gnostic Books of Jeu: ‘These mysteries which I give you, preserve, and give them to no man except he be worthy of them.... Preserve them and given them to no one whatsoever for the sake of the good of this whole world.’  (Jeu 2.43) These must have been intended as secret texts for a chosen circle of initiates only, and yet they apparently record revelations in the manner of an Old Testament theophany.

Margaret Barker, The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, (London / New York: T & T Clark International, 2004), p. 24.


Nibley on Confidentiality

In discussing temple matters, I have always tried to follow the model of Hugh W. Nibley, who was, according to his biographer Boyd J. Petersen, “respectful of the covenants of secrecy safeguarding specific portions of the LDS endowment, usually describing parallels from other cultures without talking specifically about the Mormon ceremony. This approach earned him a great deal of trust from both General Authorities and from Church members” (B. J. Petersen, Nibley, p. 354).  Petersen cites a letter of gratitude sent from Elder Dallin H. Oaks to Nibley for his approach to temple scholarship. Along with the letter was a copy of a talk Elder Oaks had given “in which he addressed the manner and extent to which temple ordinances should be discussed outside the temple. Oaks assured Hugh that ‘nothing in this talk is intended to be a criticism of a discouragement of efforts as sensitive as yours. The talk has some targets, but you aren’t one of them’” (ibid., p. 356).  For examples of Nibley’s discussions of the temple covenants, see, e.g., H. W. Nibley, But What Kind; H. W. Nibley, Sacred; H. W. Nibley, Drama, pp. 41-42; H. W. Nibley, Consecration, pp. 424-425, 441-442.  For Nibley’s views on confidentiality as it relates to temple ordinances, see, e.g., H. W. Nibley, Sacred, pp. 553-554, 569-572.

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Book of Moses, (Salt Lake City: Eborn Publishing, 2010), pp. 277-278, n. 45.


Items of Great Importance Derived from Unwritten Teachings

70 “Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us ‘in a mystery’ by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force.... For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching....  Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? ... Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence.  What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents”(Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Basil, Letters and Select Works [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994], 40-42.

Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple, (American Fork, UT.: Covenant Communications, 1999), p. 200, n. 70.


Looking at the Temple from Outside the Divine Relationship

On the other hand, looked at from inside the relationship, my intimacies are the most self-affirming experiences I know.  They are both sacred and beautiful. The relationship provides the most soul-satisfying fulfillment that I am capable of grasping.  I truly find my meaning and value as a person confirmed in such intimacies. ... You can fully understand what I am saying only by experiencing it for yourself. It would therefore not only be morally wrong, but foolish of me to try to explain the nature of the acts involved, for in so doing we necessarily lose the value and miss the point.
The sacred ordinances of salvation are sacred in this same sense. Looked at from outside of the divine relationship, the ordinances make little sense and may even look foolish. Exposes of such ordinances have the same moral status as pornography. To speak of them outside the context of the divine relationship in which they were designed to effectuate, profanes them.  It is only when viewed from within the divine I-Thou relationship that the ritual acts have sacred meaning, then, and only then, can the sacred discourse of ritual occur.

Blake T. Ostler, Fire on the Horizon, (Salt Lake City: Kofford, 2013), pp. 10-11.


Simplistic Explanation Fail Because the Temple Wisdom Is Too Large

Simplistic explanations of temple meaning will also fail because temple wisdom is simply too large a pearl for anyone to circumscribe. Elder John A. Widtsoe explains: [quotes part of the above quotation]
Like the parables of Jesus, temple ordinances house both broad, universal truths and the potential for private discovery.  We rightly search for both.  While the temple’s “meaning” resides in a private relationship between us and the Lord, that meaning must be engaged and cultivated if it is to bear fruit in our lives, and others’ perspectives can be useful as we clarify our own.  There is no need for concern if the sweetest fruits are on branches “way over our head.”  As we continue to grow, our reach will be extended.  Meanwhile, patience is called for, along with gratitude for blessings and understanding we already grasp.

Wendy Ulrich, The Temple Experience: Passage to Healing and Holiness, (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2012), p. 13.


Some Things Can Be Told and Some Cannot

Latter-day Saints are not the only ones to expect reverence and a certain silence to surround the sacred.  As Malidoma Patrice Some, an African of the Dagara tribe, says of his native rites of initiation,
Every initiation has its esoteric and exoteric parts.  As years have passed, I have realized that some things can be told and others not.  Telling diminishes what is told.  Only what has been integrated by the human aspect of ourselves can be shared with others.  I have also come to believe that things stay alive proportionally to how much silence there is around them.  Meaning does not need words to exist.4 
Temple ordinances also have their esoteric and exoteric parts–things that can be told and things that cannot be told outside of their sacred context without diminishing them, or rather, us. For this reason, one dimensional explanations of temple meaning will not help us much. Words and ideals without soul-level understanding are not only inadequate but also potentially dangerous, since people do not keep searching for something they think they have already found. Nor can words alone communicate the meanings of temple ordinances to those unprepared by desire, experience, and righteousness to receive them. Temple ceremonies ultimately claim their meaning withing the sacred confines of the spiritually prepared human heart.

4 Malidoma Patrice Some, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994), 258.

Wendy Ulrich, The Temple Experience: Passage to Healing and Holiness, (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2012), pp. 12-13.