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A Lesson on Signs, Tokens, and Symbols

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 23, 2009

An occasional subject for blog discussion is the apparent* difficulties some have with their first attendance at the temple. The highly symbolic/allegorical/representational method of presentation is unfamiliar to those unused to considering symbols, and the limited ritual of our usual weekly worship is so familiar and so often repeated that many don’t even notice its formalism anymore. These discussions sometimes include complaints that the church does little or nothing to prepare first-time temple-goers to understand the presentation.

With that complaint fresh in mind after another such blog discussion, I was interested to discover this lesson taught in 1935 as one of the Book of Mormon Sunday School lessons for high school-age classes. This lesson introduces the ideas of symbols as carriers of thought, emphasizes the need to become familiar with a symbolic system in order to understand its message, and dissects several familiar LDS ordinances to illustrate the functioning of signs and symbols.

I don’t quite understand this lesson’s presence in that particular course of study. It appears to be an isolated lesson (preceded by one on unity within the church; followed by one on faith, “the most powerful thing in the world”). I’m a little surprised at seeing it taught to that age group rather than the next older group, where boys were preparing for missions and girls were preparing for marriage and both were likely candidates for prompt temple attendance. Nevertheless, it is there, scheduled to be taught on Sunday, June 9, 1935. (The opening discussion is barely comprehensible without the preceding lesson, but it really is applicable to the main lesson; don’t skip it.)

* [I say “apparent” because I had no such difficulties, but I have to take at their word that others do]

Lesson 18. Signs, Tokens, and Symbols.

1.

In the reading circle, of which we spoke in the last lesson, you were compelled to do some very interesting things, as you can see when you consider the matter closely.

For one thing, you had to talk to your friend about the proposed reading club. This you might have done in writing, if you had chosen to do so. Perhaps, too, when you talked, you made some gestures with your hands, to emphasize what you were saying; and certainly you expressed your enthusiasm for the project by the look in your eyes, by the pleased look on your face, and by the fluctuations in the tone of your voice. Your other friends, when they asked to join you, had to do so in about the same way. The result was that ten or twelve young people got together, mostly at your solicitation, in a reading circle. Then, too, after you had got together, your election of officers had to be done either orally or in writing, and your constitution and by laws had to be set down on paper, after they had been discussed among the members of the club.

Now, suppose, after you had conceived the idea of having such a circle, you were not allowed to speak, or write, or even make gestures. For these are, as you know, a means of communication. That is, they enable you to get over to another person’s mind an idea that is in your own. As a matter of fact, this “getting across” of ideas from one mind to another is very difficult without words, either spoken or written, and only the simplest can be got over this way. You can see, however, that, without any means whatever of communication with your friends, it would be utterly impossible for you ever to organize a club, or even to get together in your thought.

2.

The simple truth is, as any one can see at a glance when he puts his mind on it, signs, tokens, and symbols inhere in life as we know it. That is, no signs, no life; certainly no social life.

The simple amoebean life would doubtless come to an end if it couldn’t move its finger-like extensions to move its single cell. Dogs have a social life, but they would not have were it not for the fact that they can make signals with their tail, their ears, their eyes, and other parts of their body. Watch two dogs playing on the lawn, and you will see the various ways in which they communicate their simple ideas and feelings. In man there is a higher language – words, written and spoken; and this in addition to the gestures used by the lower animals.

Consider the ways we have of expressing ourselves without the use of words. a man meets a woman on the street; he raises his hat and smiles; that means he is acquainted with her. or he stops and shakes hands with her – by which token we gather that he knows her very well. But if, in addition to these signs, he also kisses her (the street, of course, is not a good place to do that), we take it for granted that there is something stronger than mere friendship between them. Deaf and dumb people can communicate with one another only by means of signs and symbols.

But language itself is a system of signs, tokens, and symbols. The little marks on the paper before you – what are they but representatives of ideas? In order to understand them, however, you must have become acquainted with what they stand for. If the marks before you were, let us say, Greek or Sanskrit, you would get no thought from them – unless of course you had studied these languages. The various positions of the hands and fingers of the deaf and dumb mean nothing to those who have not used this means of communication.

Without signs, tokens, symbols, therefore, what we know as social life would be impossible. No two persons, to say nothing of a hundred, a thousand, a million, could get together in their thought. Indeed, the race would die, not socially alone, but intellectually and physically! This is because, as we said at the beginning of this section, they inhere in life.

That incident in the Book of Ether, about the appearance of Jesus in spirit form to the Brother of Jared, makes this fact clear, if we dig into it a little. Jesus was in the spirit, you remember. But he was to take upon himself a body of flesh and blood. This means that even Jesus would be limited in his expression by what he could teach his body to do, as well as by the language in which he expressed himself. For languages differ, we are told, in their power to say what we who use them have in mind. “Great are the words of Isaiah!” exclaimed the Master to the Nephites; from which we gather that even prophets are not equal in their power of utterance. A more flexible language, perhaps, would enable us to express ourselves better – provided we had something to express.

3.

In religion, too, we have signs, tokens, and symbols; but we call them ordinances. For this is all that an ordinance is. Ordinances correspond with the representations which we find elsewhere in social life.

Signs, symbols, tokens, representations, rites, ceremonies, ordinances, what not – these all express something that we do, not merely something we think. This is a vital distinction, and it holds in every phase of our life here below. When you join a sorority, a fraternity, a lodge, or a church, you are required to do something, as well as to say something. If you refuse, you cannot become a member. How else could you have a sorority, a fraternity, a lodge, or a church? To say, as some persons do, that rites and ceremonies, signs and symbols, are necessary in secular organizations and not in a church, or a spiritual organization, is to fly in the face of facts and conditions that actually exist all around us.

One of the ordinances of the Church of Christ is what we call baptism. The word is Greek, and means “to dip, to plunge, or to immerse.” In Book of Mormons times, as indeed in every age of the world when the true Church has been in existence, it was performed by burying the entire body in the water. Its purpose is two-fold: To initiate one into the Church and to forgive sin. Perhaps it would be more exact to say “to admit one into the Church by forgiving one’s sins.” Nothing could be more beautifully symbolical than baptism by immersion for the remission of sin. First, in it the element of water is used; secondly, the whole body is immersed in the water, signifying the completeness of remission; thirdly, the burial in water typifies the burial of Christ; and, fourthly, the raising of the body out of the water represents the rising of Christ from the dead. Suppose you try to think of a more beautifully symbolical rite than baptism. You know, every new order, especially a secret order, is required to get up a new and, if possible, original initiatory ceremony for its members. And this is not so easy as it would seem.

A second ordinance in the Church is the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. Said Jesus to the Nephites: “Whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” There is a meaning, too, in the fact that a man who has already been given the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands is the means by which this baptism of fire comes – the means, mind you, not the source.

Another ordinance in the Church is the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After bread and wine had been distributed among the multitude and they had partaken of it, Jesus said: “This shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. It shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me, ye shall have my spirit to be with you.” In the Church today we use water instead of wine, because it is not to be “purchased from enemies” – that is, those not of the faith. The purpose of this ordinance is to bring together those who believe in Christ and who are willing to take upon them the name of Christ and promise to keep his commandments. There is an appropriateness, when you stop to think of it, in the act of eating together; it brings a greater social spirit into this ordinance, as well as to preserve the idea of the sacrifice of Jesus for mankind.

Other ceremonies, or ordinances, are the ordination of men to the priesthood, the marriage ceremony, and the setting apart of men and women for special missions. In the Church of Christ there is not now, and there never has been, what some one has called “mummeries”; that is, ceremonies which have for their obvious purpose the making of an impression on the mind. In this organization there are no unnecessary rites; the fewest, consistently with the requirement of the human needs of church members – that is the ideal of the true Church. Moreover, they are simple. Thus the mind is not confused with a multiplicity of forms, so that it mistakes forms for substance. For always it is the meaning back of the form, not the form itself, that counts.

Forms, then, are necessary, up to a certain point, in the Church, as they are necessary in life generally – in the government of a nation, in courts of law, in social organizations, and in all our associations with one another. They inhere in life, and therefore in religion.

Something to Think About

1. What purpose does lifting the hand, in the United States, and kissing the Bible, in England, serve in the courts of law? What difference does it make whether one who “swears” performs an act or not, such as these? Consider the point in the light of what is said in the lesson.

2. Why do you suppose there is a marriage ceremony? Would it not be as well for a couple to live together without a ceremony? Consider this question, too, in the light of the lesson.

3. Does the partaking of the Sacrament mean anything to you, as you take the bread and the water? What?

4. Has any ordinance any efficacy in itself? What is it that gives it efficacy? Suppose one takes part in an ordinance thoughtlessly?

***

Note that I tend toward the conservative in what is appropriate for a public discussion of temple service. Please be circumspect in your allusions or illustrations as you discuss your reactions to this lesson. Would it help young people prepare for the temple experience? Does it go far enough? What might you like to see added or changed? Have you had a church class even remotely like this one?



28 Comments »

  1. I am a little puzzled as to the difficulties that some people initially have with the temple experience. Before I went for my first time, my father basically had me freaked out because of hints that it’s “really weird” at first, but to give it further chances after my first encounter. During the whole endowment ordinance I was waiting for the weirdness, but only found similar symbolism to the scriptures. In fact, I found it less weird than some of the fun stuff in Revelations. After the endowment, one relation (elderly lady), made the assuption that I was overwhelmed. She told me that she had vowed to never come back to the temple, but that she was fine after a couple times. Amusing but kind of irritating at the same time.
    I don’t know how to get our youth more prepared than by encouraging serious study of the scriptures, which I think is already going on.

    Comment by Carmen — June 23, 2009 @ 7:39 am

  2. I think the concept of symbolism in communication is a good thing. The real meat in this lesson is in the questions at the end, getting the students to examine the meanings of the symbolism in daily life. This we need more of!

    Interesting too is the neutral tone in which common law marriage is presented for consideration. I am sure the students would know the “right” answer would condemn the practice, but the way the question is posed would make them think about what they believe as opposed to framing it “Why is it a sin for a man and a woman to live together without a marriage ceremony?” This lesson asks meaningful questions in a way that will elicit thinking. We need more of that.

    Lastly, I learned that despite my deep feelings of appreciation for all you have written, that it would not be appropriate for me to greet you with more than a tip of the hat if I met you walking down North Temple. Since I never wear a hat I guess I won’t be able to greet you at all. Darn!

    Comment by Eric Boysen — June 23, 2009 @ 7:41 am

  3. BTW-The temple never freaked me out either.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — June 23, 2009 @ 7:43 am

  4. First, I’m not really impressed by the lesson. It seems to be along the same lines as the current temple preparation curriculum lesson on symbolism, which may be summed up as “Symbols are symbolic of things.” The discussion of baptism and its symbolic significance isn’t bad, but the rest just seems to feed into the same purposeful vagueness that we surround the temple with.

    Second, I wasn’t freaked out by the temple because I’d done so much research before going in. I suspect that people who go into marriage without any prior research or discussion on sex are similarly upset.

    Comment by Bro. Jones — June 23, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  5. I don’t see a problem with this class being taught to high school age students. They would have the opportunity to learn about the symbols, signs, and tokens in the Church and in life that they were familiar with. It could then be followed up with a class for the age group preparing for marriage and/or missions. However, you don’t show one as such.

    It would be good to have a class like this today for the youth. Sometimes, it seems that people (adults and youth) are more interested in the programs of the Church than in the history of how those programs came about, or in understanding why we do certain things in our Church. Maybe if more youth understood the symbolism in baptism, confirmation, the Sacrament, etc, they would be more prepared to receive the symbolism and signs and tokens shown in the temple.

    Comment by Maurine — June 23, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  6. I’m confused by “In the Church of Christ there is not now, and there never has been, what some one has called “mummeries”; that is, ceremonies which have for their obvious purpose the making of an impression on the mind.” Can someone please explain how the endowment ceremony isn’t a mummery by this definition? Thanks!

    Comment by Seeking clarification — June 23, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

  7. Our modern society ridicules the practice of teaching by ritual and ceremony. And at first glance at our weekly services you might think Mormons do too. But our most sacred ordinance are rich in ritual and ceremony. The stark difference between the two really got me when I first went to the temple. I’m not sure I’d call it “freaked out” though. It’s sort of like finding out your parents were secret agents (not in my case). It was a paradigm shift.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 23, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  8. You’re right, Seeking; that’s not a very good definition of “mummery.” By that definition, any symbolic behavior from waving to a friend across the street to offering a last meal to a condemned prisoner would be a mummery.

    I will take it for granted that you have a better understanding of the word’s definition, and that having conceded the the lesson’s inadequacy on that point, a fuller answer to your question is unnecessary.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 23, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  9. Seeking can speak for him or herself, but I didn’t interpret the issue as being one of conforming to dictionary definitions. I think the point is that certain aspects of the temple ceremony (but by no means all) seem to exist for the sole purpose of making an impression on the mind, whether you call that a “mummery” or something else.

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 23, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  10. But dictionary definitions *do* matter, Last Lemming. Any believing Latter-day Saint who does know the definition will reject the word “mummery” regardless of any ritual purpose or any affect on the mind. It can’t be a matter of “whether you call that a ‘mummery’ or something else” — calling it that is deeply offensive, and false.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 23, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  11. Just to add my two cents worth; I, too, was not “freaked out” the first time I wen to the temple. I think the reason was that everyone told me before I went how strange it was. They didn’t tell me what was “strange” about it. I ended up with all these misguided ideas before I went. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend a temple prep class. When I got there, I realized that the presentation was actually quite normal.

    I have taught a temple prep class and I agree with Bro. Jones’ comment in that the approach to the temple symbolism is too vague. I think we actually could explain more in a temple prep class than we currently do and still not compromise the sacred nature of the temple ceremony.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 23, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  12. I think that the “mummery” issue is meant for our enlightenment. Certainly, when first presented with the endowment ceremony, some of it seemed superfluous, mere theater. However, I have come to realize (and realized more forcefully with this lesson) that every part of the temple ceremony symbolically teaches us how to behave as witnesses of Christ, our proper relationship to our Father and the Savior, or deepens our understanding of our heavenly Father’s plan.

    For those questioning, an interview with the Temple President (where these things may be spoken of openly) could be profitable.

    Comment by Tony Nineteen — June 23, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  13. If the above lesson was ‘temple prep,’ I’d give it a B-. It covers the basics, no more. I believe explaining what temple symbols mean prior to first attendance would make a huge difference. My experience with temple learning is that the authorities prefer a “see how little we can tell you and still have you figure it out” approach.

    That said, the endowment didn’t seem too weirdthe first time through; it was the initiatory experience that caught me completely off guard. I don’t think my temple prep class even touched on that aspect.

    Comment by Clark — June 23, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  14. Clark: My experience with temple learning is that the authorities prefer a “see how little we can tell you and still have you figure it out” approach.

    That made me laugh so hard, my wife thought I had the Simpsons on. Exactly the experience I had. Some of it seemed wonderfully Mormon to me and very cool, some it nearly made me laugh (singing protestant hymns sent me for a loop — and everyone seemed to know it! – showing my age). By and large I liked it, but preparation–any kind–would have helped immensely. But for me it was a mystery to be investigated.

    -WVS

    Comment by W. Smith — June 23, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  15. Thanks for an interesting discussion. Some clarifications on my own comments:

    I don’t know for certain that this lesson was intended as temple prep, although it certainly could be used that way, and the wording of the title instantly called the temple to mind. There may well have been other lessons in the same manual that could have supplemented the temple prep aspect, but I wouldn’t have noticed them if their titles were more common. I’ll try to remember to pull that manual in the next few days and report back if I do see something else.

    Eric, we definitely need to initiate you into the use of signs and tokens such as introductions, smiles, and handshakes, should you and I ever meet on the street!

    I apologize to the one commenter whose remarks I put into moderation, not because anything was a violation of privacy but because the description used — while technically accurate, I suppose — was put so crudely that I found it too disrespectful to post. There are ways to say something, and then there are other ways.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 23, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

  16. I was totally lost. I thought that somehow I had missed the message and that some key had passed me by. I asked the temple workers etc and they all looked blank at my question of, WHY?

    I was told of showing signs etc to angels on the way to heaven – which plainly seemed a first-grade reader type non-answer.

    While I tried to prepare my bride at her going there 2 years later, she cried with confusion at it all.

    Everything had made sense to me up to that point, but that seemed meaningless. The Holy Spirit had to teach me about it later.

    Comment by DougT — June 23, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  17. The Oxford English Dictionary (UK Version)online defines ‘mummery’ as ‘ridiculous ceremony’.

    Comment by Velikiye Kniaz — June 23, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  18. I like this lesson- and find it more useful that the current temple-prep class. My husband went through for the first time last Tuesday, and he was more than a little overwhelmed. A class like this might at least turn heads in the right direction. The current class is basically just a review of the GD class- and barely touches on any reality of the temple.

    While I wasn’t freaked out by my first experience, I think I was also probably the most prepared convert ever, due to my friends and writing buddies and my own reading (and ironically, my anti-mother). But I did see my husband look ready to panic for a moment or two, and we’re dropping the ball if we allow that to happen to anyone.

    Comment by Tracy M — June 23, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

  19. Perhaps I’m just too precocious for my own good, but the hardest part of preparing to receive the ordinances of the temple is the wait. In that respect, I’m grateful that I’m a convert and I’ve only had to feel this way for a few years so far, as opposed to much, much longer.

    I’ve received much of the same warnings of “weirdness,” that “you won’t get everything the first time,” but they could honestly tell me to stand on my head and it wouldn’t make a difference to me. I just want to be there, in the temple, in that intimate presence of the Lord.

    The greatest favor you can do anyone in the youth is help them to cultivate that desire, to truly love the Lord with all their hearts, might, mind, and strength. I think it’s safe to say that He can take care of the rest.

    Comment by paradox — June 23, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  20. I got distracted by the use of the verb “inhere.” That was awesome.

    I agree with Steve C. that more open discussion of symbols is allowable. In truth, what I have covenanted to not disclose is a very small fraction of the endowment ceremony. I believe temple preparation should include discussion of the five particular laws/principles that participants covenant to obey, a primer on the place of ritual in Mormon worship, and something like the OP above on symbols.

    That said, I do believe it worthwhile to consider whether the particular symbols in the temple rituals can teach the prepared participant more directly than any classroom discussion of those symbols. Symbols are powerful.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 23, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  21. Well said, Paradox.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 23, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  22. I agree with Ben about the general permissibility of open discussion of symbols and covenants. I do think, though, that such discussion is generally best done in a church or home setting, where the right atmosphere and respect can be maintained and where people are known to be participating for the right reasons. My reluctance about a more frank discussion on the internet is that none of us know who is reading over our shoulders with the intent to mock, or what comments might be added by someone who wanted to offend.

    Paradox, the other hard part of waiting for me was all the whispering and know-it-all superiority some people display. I remember when, as a teenager, I went to the St. George open house just before that temple was rededicated. The couple behind me kept saying in loud whispers, “Oh, this is where they — oh, shh! Better not say anything more.” I found that SO annoying. Still do.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 23, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  23. I think this lesson is very appropriate for the audience intended: high-school aged classes. Therefore, this is not an immediately preliminary preparation for the Temple Endowment, but an earlier attempt to acquaint the young with the common use of symbology. I actually find it refreshing for the time.

    I agree with the author that we do not have mummery in the Church, but I also disagree with the definition given for mummery, since mummery per the Merriam Webster Dictionary means the following:

    -A ridiculous, hypocritical, or pretentious ceremony or performance-

    Perhaps what the author meant with “an impression of the mind” is that our ceremonies are not intended for the vanal purpose of causing mere “shock,” but for genuine and distinct purposes with spiritual implications and solemn contexts. Symbols do intend to leave an impression on the mind, and the lesson reiterates repeatedly that the communication of a message is a basic component of the symbol itself.

    I believe all of our rites/ceremonies/ordinances do intend to leave an impression on the mind. Beyond that, they intend to leave and impression on the heart, on the soul. And they are accompanied by spiritual implications, blessings, etc.

    I wasn’t “weirded out” by the Temple Endowment, but I am also a convert and had the Masonic experience prior…

    I actually felt relieved and thrived in the experience of the temple, since I am the type that craves for spiritual ritualism and I found our sunday church meetings a bit devoid of it.

    Coming from a Catholic background, where communion (the sacrament of the Lord’s supper) takes place as the pinnacle of the highly ceremonial mass; I always felt weird how sacrament in the LDS tradition takes place in a small table in a side corner of the reunion hall and as quickly and efficiently as possible as if the goal was to “get it over with in the least amount of time possible.” In the beginning of my LDS experience, the sacrament itself just didn’t seem to be the central purpose of the meeting.

    The endowment on the other hand was a huge ritual experience, with preparatory stages that increased gradually and a highly anticipated culmination. I am the type of person that thrives and enjoys these type of things, so I was full of gratitude.

    Furthermore, it was very special and peculiar ritual. It was a ritual in which I could experience a personal ascention to the prescence of God and the crowning of my own potential. I thought it was amazing. It provided me with vision, hope and determination of hoped for future and actual event. I love the nourishing feelings of hope, peace and humility when with the help of solemn prayer I trully internalize myself in that very context, a personal ascention. I cannot express the gratitude I feel for the opportunity to have such experience.

    I also remember a sister in the MTC saying she wasn’t sure she was in the same church when in the temple. I do think we are dropping the ball with the temple preparation of many members, although I hope these are the exception and not the rule.

    I have also come across those in the Church that seem to enjoy the creation of morbidity by making a big deal of “keeping the secrets safe from the non-initiated,” which is destructive. I believe we can provide a much richer preparation than we do today without risking at all the misuse of any sacred information provided inside temple walls.

    Comment by Manuel — June 24, 2009 @ 3:05 am

  24. Awesome post, Ardis. As usual.

    I’ve heard many other commenters say they would recommend attending another church’s mass who has a high liturgy.

    I wonder how most high school seniors would take it if they attended a catholic mass, and observed sincere catholics place a cross of holy water on their own forheads, and genuflect as they enter the sanctuary and before they’re seated in the pew. They would also observe the standing, kneeling, sitting, and the rest of the high liturgy. That could be one Sunday “outing”. Another outing could be to an orthodox church baptism and chrismation, where they could observe the annointing with oil of the person being baptized. We could call these outings “Understanding of world religions.” We could also use this opportunity to teach our youth how to be respectful of other religions. My 0.02$.

    Comment by psychochemiker — June 24, 2009 @ 7:58 am

  25. Ardis (22), that is what I had in mind. Thanks for qualifying the setting.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 24, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  26. I am just now reading this post and comments a few days late. Judging by the title, the content of the lesson was a bit different than what I had expected. I think the author makes a valiant – but obvious – attempt at familiarizing the student with the concept of symbolic worship. Fine. But I agree with the commenter who said that it doesn’t really say much more than “symbols are symbolic.”

    One of the substantive things in the lesson that I thought was worth commenting on is its treatment of the concept of “initiation.” I was one of those who wasn’t freaked out by my first temple experiences. (Over time, I think I’ve realized that for me the “live” endowment session conveys better the symbolic nature of it all than does the film version.) In any case, though, I thought of those I know were were freaked out when I read this sentence:

    When you join a sorority, a fraternity, a lodge, or a church, you are required to do something, as well as to say something.

    My thought is, in 2009 North America, how many people are joining sororities, fraternities, or even the once-ubiquitous lodge? Not nearly as many as a generation or two ago. The idea of having any sort of an “initiation” is a little foreign to most folks, I think. And so, perhaps that’s one reason some get bothered by the temple ordinances. Separate from the concept of symbolic worship, this idea of initiation doesn’t seem to be played up much in the standard temple prep lessons, and so I was glad to see it mentioned here.

    Made me go “huh.”

    Comment by Hunter — June 25, 2009 @ 12:55 am

  27. I don’t know how to get our youth more prepared than by encouraging serious study of the scriptures, which I think is already going on.

    I think a lesson in temple prep classes going over the near eastern culture would be helpful. Perhaps with liberal quotations from some of Eliadi’s works? (Yes, they are somewhat dated, but really are a great introduction to the culture relevant to the temple and that way of thinking)

    Comment by Clark — June 26, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  28. Over time, I think I’ve realized that for me the “live” endowment session conveys better the symbolic nature of it all than does the film version

    Yes, I think we’ve really lost something by moving to film. I understand why it is done (and I’m glad SLC Temple does it the old way) but it really affects the effect of the endowment.

    I always felt weird how sacrament in the LDS tradition takes place in a small table in a side corner of the reunion hall and as quickly and efficiently as possible as if the goal was to “get it over with in the least amount of time possible.” In the beginning of my LDS experience, the sacrament itself just didn’t seem to be the central purpose of the meeting.

    I always enjoyed the sacrament. To me it’s always been the highlight of the meeting. I think that Mormonism is interesting in that it combines “high church” and “low church” aspects. There is that less symbolic much more personal aspect of ritual which we find on Sundays. The sacrament is style obviously symbolic, but it’s much more personal in my mind. The temple is highly ritualized and symbolic but also much more participatory and communal.

    Being the sort that normally dislikes ritual of any kind (I skipped my graduation) I’m constantly surprised at how the temple touches me. But in a sense I also really, really like the sacrament. (And look forward to the day my kids are old enough that I can spend the time with my eyes closed meditating rather than vainly trying to keep my toddlers reverent)

    Comment by Clark — June 26, 2009 @ 11:29 am

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