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.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks, President. It was a great read with some informative insights!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So if an individual were writing about or giving a presentation on ancient parallels to the modern temple, what do you feel would be appropriate, or not appropriate, to talk about?

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  3. David,

    Thanks for reading this. As I said in the text I do not consider myself the custodian of the Temple ordinances. Each person has to apply the counsel of the brethren based on their own understanding. I have been concerned that many young people have not had this information available to them and were acting out of ignorance. I have been pleased with the number of people already, who have thanked me for it and found it “very informative.” It appears to me that most of the Mormon scholars I have listened to and read understand these issues and are careful how they write and present.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the response, Dan. The article is, indeed, very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to put it all together.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting and well sourced post.

    In discussing the temple with members, I explain more than others, but within the confines of what is allowed. It is a fine line. We are placed under covenant not to share certain things. What we are not put under covenant to not disclose are the four commitments.

    I think this is an important omission. When a seminary student asks about what we do in the temple, I say "Do you remember the promises people make at baptism? To take upon them the name of Christ, live the law of Chastity, and be willing to be a fellow saint and help others, even if it requires sacrifice?"

    "Yeah..."

    "Basically we make the same covenants, but this time we are not initiates into the gospel, we go in with experience and an understanding of what that actually means in practice. It's a higher level of commitment."

    I then might share the Brigham Young quote about signs, symbols, etc to walk past the angels, but I tend to avoid that. It requires more background info, and keeping it focused on covenants seems appropriate in most cases.

    Finally, in rare circumstances, I will say that the endowment is like a participatory story where we take on symbolic roles. If they ask more, the most I will say is it's a variation of the Garden of Eden. Anything beyond that, such as how, what, etc I simply say "I think you will get much more by going through it yourself, with the Spirit. "

    Helps youth and new investigators feel more comfortable, stays in the confines of the covenants I made, and it doesn't reveal "too much" as I see it.

    I have of course had one or two listening members rebuke me, but that is the sum of it over many years of using this method.


    P.S.: I might mention garments now and the LDS video, and sometimes point them to temple related videos the church has put out.

    P.P.S.: I have been guilty of occasionally using language from the temple narrative in daily life. Never intentionally, but I tend to chuckle to myself when I catch what I did, especially if a member heard it and looks at me before I figure out what I did. ;-)

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    1. Matthew, I want to be sure I understand you clearly. You mention we are not under covenant to mention four commitments and the next paragraph begins with "I think this is an important omission." Are you referring to my article in this respect?

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    2. The omission is in the temple ceremony itself, not your article per say. It warns about revealing key symbols and tokens and specific words. It doesn't for instance say you can't note it is set in the Garden of Eden, or they you are covenanting to live the law of chastity.

      It's not exactly a blanket freedom of course. The ceremony ad the scriptures are also clear about not mocking God, avoiding loud laughter (ie, laughing at sacred things), etc. There's times and places and methods all of which express or fail to express the sacredness of the entirety of the endowment.

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  6. Interesting sources. I've been struck by how much of the temple is verbatim from scripture. All of the actual covenants, almost all of the ceremony, are already published in scripture. I've also listened carefully to exactly what I've covenanted in the temple to not reveal, and it's actually a very small portion of the ceremony.

    I still have followed the example of the church leaders on this, and not shared much of anything. Still--I worry that in this day where the entire ceremony is already easily available online--and one sourced by an anonymous member who feels they are still honoring their covenants--that declining to talk in at least some more scriptural generalities may harm our cause of sacredness more than it hurts. I'm concerned that at least not telling people in general what promises they'll be expected to make until after they're already in there making them can feel manipulative. "Come make important promises, but we won't tell you what those promises are until it's too late and you're stuck making them."

    The above quotes mostly just say we don't talk because it's too sacred--but we've already published this sacred information in scripture. Can you share more of your thoughts of why we can't even talk about these basic, generalities?

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    1. The system limits the length of responses, so I will do this in two or three parts. When you say you have covenanted to not discuss a very small portion of the ceremony, that is perhaps the most often used argument for discussing the Temple more freely. The blogger I cited in this piece actually argued that it was not honorable for President Hinckley or anyone else to expand the meaning of those covenants beyond that. There is much he does not understand in this respect. My argument is that the stewards of the mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1) are teachings us what those covenants mean–that is their job–just like much modern scripture and the Temple helps expand our understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant which was revealed piecemeal and expanded upon throughout Genesis and other parts of the Old Testament.

      As I said near the end of this peace, the technicalities of the language become legalistic hairsplitting that is unseemly relative to the sacred nature of the ordinances and the intended spirit of the endowment. You correctly noted that most of the quotations stress the sacredness of the Temple. That is the one thing most self-appointed expounders overlook, or simply do not understand. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that coming to understand the sacredness of it all is one of the major lessons of the endowment, and one of the surest signs of spiritual maturity that we have and I sense the brethren are pleading with us to observe out of obedience until we do understand.

      Many share your concern about not teaching people what will be required of them is a danger, yet the brethren, and apparently the Lord, have been content with the process since 1844. That fact has caused me to come at the question by asking why the Lord wants it this way. The best answer I have is that if we really know and understand the character of God, his righteousness, his fairness, etc., etc., we should and can trust him, and that he will not ask us to do anything that is not for our best good. So, it really shouldn’t matter if we understand all that will be expected of us. Before Joseph Smith recieved the law of plural marriage the Lord told him to prepare his heart to receive and obey what he was about to be told. (D&C 132:3) I believe that is the spirit of the Endowment. After all, we know those laws are the foundation of a truly Christian life and designed to prepare us for exaltation. If one doesn’t know at least this much about God and the Gospel, I suggest he isn’t prepared for the Endowment. Converts must wait at least a year before receiving them, and isn’t spiritual understanding, growth, and maturity the reason for this? It shouldn’t be just automatic when that year passes. I would argue that we need to do a better job of teaching the youth to come to understand the nature of God and to have faith and trust in him before they go on their missions.

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    2. I would also add that we teach obedience, sacrifice, the law, chastity, consecration, self-control, prayer, revelation, the order of the priesthood, the roles of men and women, honoring the name of God, not speaking evil of our leaders, keeping our passions in proper bounds, avoiding every form of sin, and keeping covenants with exactness, every day in the Church. My surprise was how familiar and simple the endowment really was in terms of the laws I was put under covenant to obey. I was thrilled to learn from President Ezra Taft Benson that the simple laws we are taught regularly in the Church become celestial laws in the Temple, precisely because of the covenants. Covenants raise those laws to a higher level, thus bring greater blessings when obeyed with exactness.

      Finally, I would stress once again, that our individual concerns about what appears to be an inadequate preparation system for the temple does not justify us in taking it upon ourselves to correct the problem. At least if we do so, we should do it in the way they direct. The brethren are doing three things we should take note of: 1) They are stressing better teaching in the church, more focus on doctrine and on Christ, learning well and applying the fundamentals, and 2) the family’s responsibility to prepare family members, and 3) our personal responsibility to prepare ourselves mentally, intellectually, and spiritually. While we have a long way to go in this regard my sense is that the constant stress on these issues is gradually paying off.

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    3. On your last question I also suggest rereading President Lee's discussion about the difference between the "open" revelation of scripture, and the "closed" or private revelation of the Temple.

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  7. Thanks Dan, this was very informative and a good call to repentance for me. Although I haven't revealed anything I shouldn't have, I still have spoken too freely at times or tried to teach my own interpretations to people too often. I will repent and follow the counsel of the brethren from now on.

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  8. I know this is an older post, but it was suggested reading at the bottom of one of your new posts.

    You certainly have a lot of quotes backing you up, and I can't argue that they show the church agrees with your premises. However, I'm wondering why the church doesn't add something to the ceremony itself to clarify that it's not OK to talk about these things? If that is truly their position, I would think that surely they would state it *during* the endowment.

    Because of people who feel free to discuss these things online, I know they had exactly such a statement in the endowment before 1990. I believe that changes to the temple are made with extreme care and deliberation. Surely if they took it out, there is a reason.

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    1. Katie, I do not know why there is no statement in the current endowment. I've wondered the same myself. There are, however, plenty in Church literature, many from General Conference. I do not know what is in the current handbook, but when I was in the temple presidency I know there were items of counsel about the temple, such as use of white dresses rather than off-white or beige, etc, and the use of electronic media inside the temple, that were not addressed in the temple. These things are sometimes discussed in church literature, so I'm wondering if the brethren expect us to learn many things about temple conduct from their outside-the-temple teachings.

      You say in the second paragraph:"Because of people who feel free to discuss these things online, I know they had exactly such a statement in the endowment before 1990."

      I am not certain what you mean by this. Are you saying you learned from things online about the statement to which you refer? I don't have that good of recall about that time, so I would have to look into it. I know there was an official statement after changes were made in 1990 that we were not to discuss them. Is that the statement to which you refer? If so, I think that was to address the specific issue of not discussing the 1990 changes outside the temple, rather than the more broad, but definitely related to, the issue being addressed here.

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    2. I'm saying that I learned about the statement in the pre-1990 endowment because someone wrote about it on the internet.

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