Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Development of LDS Temple Worship

The temple and its associated ordinances stand at the center of Latter-day Saint worship and theology. Yet an understanding of its origins and development are not well understood. Devery Anderson's The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History goes a long way to fill that void.

With 478 pages of documents, plus 52 pages of introductory and explanatory text, Anderson's book is packed with an array of fascinating information, tracing through more than 150 years of developments related to the temple.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pledge not to reveal some aspects of the temple endowment. Anderson notes that he is careful to respect these promises, and says that by in large, the authors of the documents included in his book were also sensitive to this pledge. In the rare instance where this was not the case, Anderson has edited out the sensitive information.

The introductory overview gives a useful summary of content, addressing major themes related to the temple including:
  • A history of temples and temple ordinances
  • Temporary places where temple work was performed when no temple was available
  • Varying requirements for temple admission
  • Rules for burial in temple clothes
  • Adjustments to the temple ceremony
  • World wide expansion of temples
  • Temple film origins and development
  • Consideration of a temple ship
  • Changes and rules regarding temple garments
  • The second anointing
  • Blacks and the temple
  • Women and the temple
This book is the third volume in a series documenting the history of Mormon temple worship. The first covers the history of the from the introduction of the endowment in 1842 up through the aftermath of Joseph Smith's murder in Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845: A Documentary History. The second volume covers the period including the frantic completion of the Nauvoo Temple and endowment of church members before they crossed the plains in The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846: A Documentary History.

Now, the third volume (to be released in early spring, 2011) will cover a period spanning over 150 years, up through and including modern times. The documents represent a wealth of interesting and useful information covering the topics listed above, and much more. Many of the individual documents, in and of themselves, represent amazing historical revelations. But the sheer number of fascinating items packed into this large volume, represents a wealth of information about that which is most central to Latter-day Saints. Anderson's thorough and carefully produced work is a solid contribution to Mormon history.

Rather than giving examples from the text that touch on major themes, I've included a section from the book, picked at random (pages 108-109, June 1898 to May, 1901) so as to give a sense of the variety and type of information in the volume. The topics from this selection discuss:
  • reconciling the minimum age for endowments of deceased children
  • the number of leaves that should be on temple aprons
  • whether a particular clothing company was selling authorized garments
  • a recollection of Brigham being "carried" through the temple, instructing and reproving those in attendance
  • a recollection of the ground breaking of the St. George Temple, and the "setting apart" of each part of the building
  • overturning a rule that allowed a women to be anointed [second anointing] only to a man she had lived with as his wife
  • instructions on how to obtain a recommend for the "full blessings" of the temple [second anointing]
At the regular meeting of the First Presidency and apostles on Thursday last, it was learned that a rule existed in the Logan temple, established by President John Taylor at the opening of that temple, permitting endowments to be given on behalf on the deceased children who had attained the age of eight years before their death. At the opening of the St. George temple[,] this age was fixed by President Brigham Young at fifteen, and is still in force there, and the same rule was adopted by and is in force at the Salt Lake temple.

That uniformity may obtain in all the temples, [and] I give it as my opinion that the age fixed by President Young should be adhered to, and this because the sense of the council by formal action. -- Wilford Woodruff to Temple Presidents, June 7, 1898

Some questions now arose as to temple aprons, the shape and number of the leaves, and so on. Answer. Joseph [Smith] said [that] when they could be, they should be made of lambskin with three, nine, five or seven leaves on ]them] -- an odd number anyway. -- minutes, Temple Sisters Meeting, Salt Lake City, June 16, 1899, typed excerpt in Buerger Papers

Yours of the 24th enclosing a circular issued by the Cache Knitting Works, advertising their knitted garments, and informing the public that the garment had been approved by the First Presidency of the Church, is received. You now desire to know if it be true that the approval of the First Presidency has been given as stated. In answer I will say that I understand that the pattern of the garment referred to did receive the approval of the First Presidency in the lifetime of President [Wilford] Woodruff. -- Lorenzo Snow to John D. T. McAllister, June 26, 1899

Elder James G. Bleak dwelt upon the opening scenes of this [St. George] Temple when our beloved President [Brigham] Young was carried by his brethren through this holy house, going from room to room speaking words of comfort and at times reproof to the people and then of the organization of this work for the dead -- the Endowments which were for the first time imparted to the people in this dispensation for the dead on the 11 day of January, 1877. After speaking a short time, [Brigham Young] called for those to arise to their feet who had received their blessings in the Kirtland Temple. None arose. Now all those who had received their blessings in the Nauvoo Temple. Five males and four females arose. Then all who had received endowments in the Salt Lake Endowment House or other places where endowments were given [prior to completion of the St. George temple]. Twenty-two males and thirty-two females arose. Now all who have received their endowments in this temple. Thirteen males and eighteen females arose to their feet. -- Temple Minute Book, St. George, Jan 11, 1900

President [David H.] Cannon said it was gratifying to receive these kind acknowledgments. Felt glad to be here in this Temple. It is a God-blessed place to be. President Brigham Young and Geo[rge] A. Smith took the first shovelful of earth out of the foundation for this Temple to be built upon. After this Temple was completed and Pres[iden]t Young was organizing the Endowments, he could see anxiety on the countenance of President Young that everything should be done properly. Every part of this building was set apart and made holy. -- Temple Minute Book, St. George, Jan 25 1900.

During the lifetime of the late President Wilford Woodruff a rule was established by him not to permit a woman to be anointed to a man unless she had lived with him as a wife. This was a restriction of the rule in such cases which obtained during the lifetime of Presidents Brigham Young and John Taylor. After considering the matter we have concluded to restore the practice as expressed in the following, and which will govern in such cases in the future:

Any woman who has been sealed to a man in life or by proxy, whether she has lived with him or not, shall have the privilege of being anointed to him inasmuch as he shall have had his seconds blessings [second anointing]. -- Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith to David H. Cannon, Apr. 14, 1900, in [Messages of the First Presidency], 3:325-26

Now with regard to your full blessings[,] you will have to see Bro. [Anthony W.] Ivins [president of the Colonia Juarez Stake] and get your recommends to the blessings of the House of the Lord for your full blessings. They will have to be endorsed by Pres[iden]t [Lorenzo] Snow, which I shall be pleased to get for you[,] and that will all be O.K. for you all to get your blessings. Anything I can do for you at any time I shall be happy to do. -- George Teasdale to Joseph C. Bently, May 11, 1900 in Joseph T. Bentley, Life and Letters of Joseph C. Bentley: A Biography (Provo: By the Author, 1977), 108

More information is available at the publisher's website (Signature Books).

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