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Gutting Pioneer Temple History (Part 7 of 8)

Recently the LDS Church announced the seismic improvements and removal of the beautiful murals in the Salt Lake Temple.  Steve Pynakker is the evangelical host of Mormon Book Reviews and he asked me what I thought about the announcement.  To say I’m disappointed in the removal of these pioneer-era murals in an understatement.

Steve:  It was interesting, too, one of the things that I witnessed was this massive reconstructing of the temple where they’re doing all this refurbishing, and I’m looking and it just seems like, as an outsider, based on what I’m seeing, and some of the photographs people are taking, they’re actually taking off some of the symbols that were on there. It seems like it’s kind of a whitewashing.

GT:  On the outside?

Steve:  Yeah.

GT:  Oh, maybe you’ve been paying more attention than I have? I hope not.

Steve:  Yeah, somebody pointed out that one of the symbols that was originally carved in there was taken out, they took a picture of that.  It just seems like they’re really radically changing the Salt Lake temple.  What are they trying to do, modernize it for the 21st century?

GT:  I know, to some degree, they were trying to make it more earthquake proof. I have no problem with that. But I’m appalled that we’re getting rid of the beautiful murals that are inside.  They have a model, you can see, hopefully.  They’re redoing the whole Temple Square. But there used to be a model of the Salt Lake temple where you could see scale versions of those murals and to have those removed is a travesty, in my opinion.  President Nelson wants to make it efficient. There’s more of this world than everything needs to be efficient and to lose the history and the symbols for the sake of efficiency, I think is bad, terrible.

Steve:  I just remember when we were on that very first phone call, the news flashed right when it happened, and you were not a happy camper.

GT:  No.  I’ve tried to be pretty low key about it. But yeah, I’m extremely bothered by it.

Steve:  Well, and just as the historian…

GT:  The one thing that I will say, Manti, they wanted to they want to do the same thing to the Manti temple, because Manti is a pioneer temple as well. The thing that bothers me about Salt Lake, they did this without any input from the people and then when they said “We’re going to do the same thing to Manti,” the people in Manti were like, “No.”  They’ve already done this to the Logan Temple, and they’ve done it at the St. George Temple. It’s like, no, those were pioneer era temples. They need to be pioneer era temples. I’m so grateful for President Hinckley for rebuilding the Nauvoo Temple, but in my mind, I wish that they would they would have [restored it like it was originally built.] The exterior looks the same, but the interior is completely different. In the original Nauvoo Temple, they had two ballrooms, essentially.  They danced.  They literally held dances in the temple, and now they’ve replaced it with endowments stuff and that’s great, that’s fine. But, the original Nauvoo Temple also had a weathervane on top of it, and instead of an upright Moroni, it was a flying angel with a trumpet, like in [the Book of] Revelation.  It would turn with the wind. I wish we had the flying angel on the Nauvoo Temple. President Hinckley said, “Well, I like the standing one better.” And he’s paying the money. So he [gets] to do his choice, but I wish that we had restored the Nauvoo Temple, the way it was originally built.

Check out our conversation….

The Salt Lake Temple is undergoing major renovations.



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Temple Endowment in Lost Pages (Part 6 of 12)

It has been generally accepted that the LDS endowment ceremonies are based on Masonic ceremonies Joseph learned in the 1840s.  However, historian Don Bradley says there are clues to masonry in the Book of Mormon’s lost pages that are also related to the LDS temple endowment ceremonies.

Don:  This [non-Mormon] Fayette Lapham guy, he’s not just confabulating. He’s remembering what Joseph, Sr. told him and the narrative that he gives has everything to do with temples.  It’s Nauvoo endowment stuff. The thing is, Lapham was never a Mormon, was never a Latter-day Saint.  He wouldn’t come through the temple. At this time, neither would Joseph, Sr.  Joseph, Sr. never goes through the Nauvoo Temple.  He dies before the endowment is instituted. So why is there Nauvoo endowment material in the lost pages of the Book of Mormon narrative translated in 1828? Joseph Smith doesn’t become a Freemason until 1842. That’s 14 years later. I had been absolutely convinced that Joseph didn’t know anything about the Nauvoo endowment until he becomes a Freemason in March 1842.

GT:  Yeah, that’s the traditional story.

Don:  I thought, “[Joseph became] Freemason in mid-March 1842. In early May like five weeks later, [we have the] endowment.”  You sort of connect the dots. Sure, that’s causation. This is what I was thinking. I’m not saying they’re unrelated, but Joseph has much of the structure and content of the Nauvoo endowment in his mind, as he’s bringing forth the Book of Mormon in 1828, because so much of it’s already there.  In my mind, this was interweaving with the different narratives about the First Vision that I had, different pieces of evidence about what was in it. I was looking at parallel narratives in Latter-day Saints scripture.  Abraham, Enoch, Moses, how did they become seers? The brother of Jared is the big one. So the brother of Jared, I’d never read this narrative this way. We don’t read it this way. But think about this.  I just told the narrative from Joseph Smith, Sr. of how the Nephites got the interpreters.  How did the Jaredites get the interpreters? Ether 3 says, “The Brother of Jared,” whose name, by the way is withheld from us, right? It’s secret. It’s esoteric. There’s sort of like an idea of secret, sacred names.

GT:  Mahonri Moriancumer.

Don:  Later that’s revealed, but it’s deliberately withheld. So we call this guy “the brother of Jared” in the narrative. The brother of Jared goes up on a mountaintop while he’s on an exodus, kind of like Sinai, right? Joseph Smith in Nauvoo says anciently mountaintops were temples.  When God’s people didn’t have the means to build the temple, like in the days of Moses and the Exodus, he says, God accepted mountaintops as the place to give people keys, to give the endowment.  Joseph says this explicitly in a Nauvoo sermon and I quote the exact sermon in my book, in chapter 14 about Mosiah the First.  So the brother of Jared is on a mountaintop. That should cue temple. He talks with the Lord through the veil. It doesn’t mean a cloth veil, of course, like in the temple, it means the veil that that cloth veil represents. But he hasn’t dialogue with the Lord through what it calls the veil.  I don’t know that sounds kind of familiar to me.

Check out our conversation….

Historian Don Bradley believes that there are parallels to the LDS Temple endowment ceremony that were in the Lost 116 Pages of Book of Mormon.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Don!

358: Laban Killed During Passover

357: More than 116 Pages Lost?

356: How Much of BoM is Missing?

355: Re-Writing Oliver’s Words: Dirty, Nasty, Filthy Scrape?

354: Dating Fanny Alger

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Women, Healers in LDS Temples

In the 19th and early 20th century, there are many examples Mormon women healers.  These women used to lay hands on the sick.  By what power did they do this?

GT: I remember as a priest growing up and having the lesson over and over:  priesthood is the power to act in the name of God.

Jonathan:  Okay.

GT: Okay.

Jonathan: That is a common definition.

GT:  A common definition. So, what I heard you say was that women in the 1800s especially, but even into the 20th century, healed both men and women, probably more women than men, but it happened with both genders. They healed by the power of God. But it’s a mistake to call that priesthood.  Is that correct?

Jonathan:  Yeah. So, using today’s definitions to describe historical practice doesn’t work.

GT: Okay.

Jonathan:  It just doesn’t work.

GT: So,  it’s hard to talk about then.

Jonathan: So it’s consequently challenging. Right? So, well then how do we talk about it?

Honestly, this was a fun and challenging conversation.  Stapley says that the term “priesthood” used today, while a definition is “the power of God”, priesthood also implies ecclesiastical authority.  Women can freely utilize “the power of God,” but since they don’t have ecclesiastical authority, it is a mistake to call the healing blessings they did “priesthood.”  For me, the terms “power of God” and “priesthood” were so synonymous, that I didn’t understand the distinction Stapley was making.  Check out how Jonathan clears up my misunderstanding.

He also gives us more information on baptisms for health, and temple healers.  I was not familiar with temple healers.  It turns out that women often fulfilled this (now defunct) practice of a temple healer.

Jonathan:  There are examples of people being baptized in the Kirtland era and being healed upon their baptism, but an actual healing ritual, a designated ritual, baptism for health occurs in Nauvoo. It’s designed to be, I think it envisioned as part of the temple. So, the temple is a place for healing, specifically Joseph Smith envisions it as a place where the sick would come and not only receive an endowment of power and create heaven, but also be physically healed. Baptism for health was an integral piece of that healing liturgy, but it is immediately and ubiquitously performed outside of the temple.

So in the rivers and wherever the Latter-day Saints go from that point forward, baptisms for health are common. As soon as the temples are built, there are regular days for baptisms for health. So, if you’re feeling unwell, you could make a pilgrimage to the temple. One of the temple healers could baptize you for your health.

GT: In the temple?

Jonathan: In the temple, and they kept records. In fact, the single most common temple ritual for many years in the 1880s was baptism for health. So there was more baptisms for health for the living. I should qualify that. The most common ritual for the living in the temples was baptism for health.

Early Mormon women anointed with oil and laid hands on the sick to heal.
Early Mormon women anointed with oil and laid hands on the sick to heal.

You should also check out our previous conversation where we talk about “cosmological priesthood.”  Check out our conversation…..