045: The Temple; Doctrine & Covenants and Church History 18

“Establish … a House of God”

Is there any aspect of Mormonism more simultaneously distinctive to outsiders, emphasized to insiders, yet misunderstood by pretty much everyone as the temple? These majestic edifices represent the pinnacle of Mormon worship and represent great sacrifice. Service at the temple involves high ritual and embodied worship to a degree unknown elsewhere in the faith. Yet far too often, members don’t feel empowered and illuminated in this House of God. The goal of this episode is to help listeners improve their relationship with the temple.

In this episode we will discuss:

  • The role of the temple in the contemporary Church
  • What it means to us
  • How we talk about it
  • Temples in church history
  • Temples in the ancient world
  • Temples in the Bible
  • Thoughts on how we can make our relationship with the temple more meaningful and valuable

Recurring Donation:

$5   $10   $25   $50

One Time Donation:

$10   $25   $50   $100

Student ReadingDoctrine and Covenants 95; 109; 110; Our Heritage, pages 33–36; D&C 88:119; D&C 97:15–16; D&C 101:22; D&C 124:39

Additional Teacher Reading2 Nephi 5:16; Mosiah 1:10; 2:1; 3 Nephi 11:1; Malachi 4:5–6; D&C 97:15–17  Acts 2:1–4 Abraham 2:9–11; D&C 138:53–56


Look forward to coverage of points such as temple clothing, Adam and Eve, and the symbolism of the Plan of Salvation in the temple, as well as a discussion of how the experience may differ for men and women.

Please post your comments and questions here, in the facebook group, or email them to me at MormonSundaySchool at gmail.

You can access my Lesson Notes here

You can access my Reading Notes here

Suggested Resources


Many thanks to Devin Roth for the beautiful bumper music. Check out his arrangement of hymns and other work at DevinRothMusic!

Thanks to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for his amazingly quick post production. If he gets any faster, he will be editing before I record!

Latest Comments

  1. Bob Sonntag says:

    Jessica and Bonnie, I had wondered about the language in the Temple ceremony, but as a man I hadn’t felt the need to dig deeper. Your eloquence and vulnerability made your experiences very present for me, and sent me into study and reflection all week. The study has been very fruitful for me, and for that I thank you! As you and the other panelists shared your experiences I felt great love for you. I respect your experiences. I believe they are valid and that you pose wonderful questions. Jessica I believe you were sharing the mind of God when you proposed the following prelude to the endowment: “God loves everybody and if you’re interpreting these symbols in a non-egalitarian way, try again.”

    In the interest of “trying again,” I want to offer the results of my studying and pondering about this. I’ll offer context first, then I’ll respond more specifically to your comments. If you read, take from it only what the Spirit confirms.

    Part 1: First, I want to explain the context of temple belief from which I write. I’ll be open in writing about Temple things, but not break any covenants:

    The Endowment is explicitly intended to illustrate the path back to the presence of God. Many interpret this path as a “postmortal” experience that happens only after you leave this life. I suppose this had been my interpretation for most of my temple life. My view has changed in the last 6 months. I now recognize that Joseph Smith taught consistently, through his whole ministry, that this journey and communion can and should happen in this life. The Endowment ceremony is not the ‘real thing,’ then, but a ritual rehearsal of the real experience. Thus we are washed and anointed ritually to become priests and priestesses, and only through faithfulness can we be called up and actually become such. For Adam and Eve in the Temple, it isn’t a journey they are taking after death, but a heavenly ascent made in mortality to seek light, knowledge, and the promise of eternal life. This would require more discussion to elaborate, but it would be impossible to suggest Joseph Smith didn’t teach this (DC 93:1, DC 130:3, DC 88:68, DC 84:19-23, DC 84:47-48, Moses 7:2-4 and numerous other sources).

    That we should all seek such experiences, and that we can obtain them as soon as we are ready, is the central message of the Book of Mormon (1 Ne ch. 1-10, 2Ne 32, Enos, Alma 12-13, 3Ne 16, Ether 3, Moroni 7 and 10, etc.etc). It is the fullness of the Gospel, and the endowment ceremony given by Joseph was his attempt to teach it through ritual (thank you, Devery Anderson, for documenting its unfolding!).

    Listen to how the Lord speaks of the Endowment in 1841, over a year before Joseph first administered it: He commands Joseph to show Hyrum “the keys whereby he may ask and receive” so that Hyrum “may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him” (DC 124:95-96). We are left to ourselves to determine what the Endowment ceremony means, but Joseph made it clear that he believed our communing with God was no metaphor, and can happen now. I believe Joseph.

    No one should get the idea that these experiences are only open to men. The first people to receive an audience with the risen Christ were women (Mary Magdalene, etc). Surely about half of the 2500 Nephites who received the ministry of the Second Comforter in 3 Nephi 11 were women. Don’t we all approach and pass through the same veil? Doesn’t DC 93:1 specifically say “every soul” can receive that blessing? May we never let our daughters forget that we believe this.


  2. Bob Sonntag says:

    Part 2: Given that context, I want to offer a brief response to the comments from Jessica and Bonnie about their experiences.
    The plan of salvation is usually taught with the familiar diagram with a linear path from point A to point B. I prefer to think of it as a chiasmus. God sends us out, and brings us back in: Fall and Atonement, separation and reunion. The creation accounts are all processes of division and differentiation. He divided light from darkness, waters from land, hills from valleys, etc etc, and finally divided humanity from himself, and then woman from man, and children from parents. We have furthered this division through war, economic inequality, etc. The process of at-one-ment is the reverse of every one of these processes. Obedience to all the covenants of the temple heals and unites society, the husband and wife cleave back together, they together reunite with God, valleys are exalted and mountains made low, heaven and earth come together, etc, etc. Creation, fall, and atonement are a great exhalation and inhalation: out and back in.

    In the Temple and in the scriptures, Eve leads mankind out of the presence of God, and Adam followed her. This was, as Eve points out, a good thing to do. She officiated in humanity’s fall. On the second half of this chiastic journey, the reunion of God and humanity by covenant and obedience, Adam officiates. Both fall and atonement are necessary. Neither is better than the other, because neither makes sense without the other. On the journey away, Adam follows Eve. On the return, she follows him. In neither case is there an excuse for unrighteous patriarchal or matriarchal dominion, or any notion that either is more loved or favored by God, or any limitation on anyone’s access to God’s power or presence aside from her own choices.

    Whether one takes this story literally is less important than understanding that Adam and Eve represent us. Womankind continues to officiate in the ordinances by which humanity leaves the presence of God (birth). Mankind continues to officiate in the ordinances by which humanity reunites with God. The covenant to hearken to your husband’s words should be seen in the specific covenant-making context of gospel ordinances. This is dramatized by Adam and Eve’s interaction after they leave the Garden. Seen in this light, the language used in the Temple makes sense to me. It isn’t demeaning, it’s just trying to reflect the symmetry of eternity.

    Your heart has told you these truths: in the home, men and women lead side by side in full, consecrated cooperation. Neither can claim precedence for their role over the other. Together they have full claim on the power of God through the gifts of the Spirit. Single women have the same claim on God’s power that single men have. I don’t believe the Temple teaches otherwise on any of these points.

    We suffer when we try to limit the scope of priesthood to male institutional authority within the LDS church or even “the power of God given to men”, as we may do without thinking. It’s much more encompassing than that, and includes both men and women as indispensible complementary partners in salvation. The family is the model for eternity, not the institutional LDS church. The temple is the model for how to obtain an eternal, family-based priesthood and priestesshood. It was not meant to lead us to a temporary institutional priesthood. The temporary institution is only valuable as far as it aids the eternal work.

    We (men mostly, but also women) will have to answer for our part in creating, internalizing, and perpetuating a system that, at least sometimes,
    -infantilizes women and devalues their opinions
    -concentrates decision-making in men’s hands
    -confuses institutional authority with divine power, thus limiting women’s AND men’s ability to see the full scope of their personal ministry
    -and values manhood/boyhood more than womanhood/girlhood.

    This is far from a complete answer to the questions posed by your remarks in the podcast. That is the pursuit of a lifetime. But if the Endowment ceremony is of God, then it’s core message is that you can ask him about its meaning and receive an answer. If it is not, then there is no sense in asking.


  3. anon says:

    First of all I gotta mention that I listen to a lot more podcasts than I have time to comment on- but I am so grateful for the discussions and open lesson format, thank you!
    This podcast was fun to listen to and very informative. But it wasn’t until about 2hrs and 20min when Bonnie and Jessica were speaking that the info really began to hit home and became very personal. My current experience/relationship with the temple ceremony is difficult. But I am so grateful to others who are willing to share their experiences (both positive and negative) and share compassion towards one another’s stories. I love what Jared says at the end that sometimes we do things in this church that cause our our Heavenly Parents and Christ to grieve and as part of our eternal progression we need to make room for improvement.


  4. Bonnie Flint says:

    Thank you to the commenters who listened to our podcast with an open heart and with a heart towards understanding and compassion. As Jessica and I both explained, our pain from the temple ritual and wording is not coming from a point of ignorance or lack of faith. I know that there are many who are also walking in pain but have no opportunity to voice these tender feelings. Of course there are many explanations that can be devised to explain away women’s subordination to men in the world, in ourchurch and in the temple. None of these explanations, no matter how lovingly delivered, ring true to me. I know from 51 years of communing with God that men’s domination of “half the sky” is not His way. My understanding of a loving God and a parallel understanding that there are many important truths to yet be revealed that keep me hopeful and faithful. Punishing all women due to the courageous, fore-ordained actions of Eve–real or allegorical–is nonsensicle to me.

    I know that God hears and answers prayers, and the last time I was in the temple this knowledge came to me very clearly as did repeated promptings to pray that the church and temple experience will become more like heaven on earth for ALL of God’s children. God does not like it when his daughters are in pain. This I know.


    • Bob Sonntag says:

      Beautifully and passionately expressed, and I agree fully. I hope my comments didn’t come off as an apologetic defense or explanation of the status quo (the subordination of women in any sphere). I wrote my last four paragraphs to attempt to avoid that. I also hope it didn’t seem as though, in attempting to share what little I have learned, I presumed any ignorance or lack of faith in anyone. I take full responsibility if I gave the wrong impression on either of those points. I only intended to offer one framework for understanding the existing language productively, not to justify the mischief of cultural and institutional patriarchy.


    • Bob Sonntag says:

      And a BIG amen to your last paragraph especially!


  5. Michael Gonda says:

    I have to thank Jared and company for this excellent episode. I have at times been guilty of griping about the length of some of these Mormon podcasts, but this one was worth every minute. I was inspired by the historical perspective, as well as by the honest sharing by each member of the class.

    For quite awhile, I felt unworthy to be in the temple. I didn’t think there was much weird about the experience, I just thought maybe I wasn’t “good enough” to belong. Only recently have I been able to stop feeling “unworthy,” and I have had some experiences in the temple that I would never trade.

    We still have not had this lesson in Sunday School – it will be covered this coming Sunday. I am excited to see if I can somehow express my feelings about the deep hunger members have to be able to safely talk about the temple, as well as some plea for those who struggle with certain aspects of the temple to not feel like the are lesser people because of those concerns. I feel confident that in ever ward or branch there are more than a handful of members who attend the temple, and who struggle with feeling negatively about their attendance, and many more who don’t attend for similar reasons/feelings.

    As a side note, I got invited to teach GD lessons 19 and 20, so I will be curious to see how much material from the podcast I can “sneak” into the lesson. This temple podcast was probably my favorite so far. If only Sunday School were 3 hours long! 🙂


  6. Bonnie Flint says:

    Bob, I truly loved your words, especially:

    We (men mostly, but also women) will have to answer for our part in creating, internalizing, and perpetuating a system that, at least sometimes,
    -infantilizes women and devalues their opinions
    -concentrates decision-making in men’s hands
    -confuses institutional authority with divine power, thus limiting women’s AND men’s ability to see the full scope of their personal ministry
    -and values manhood/boyhood more than womanhood/girlhood.

    Thanks for sharing and participating in this important dialogue. ~Bonnie


  7. Matt Harmer says:

    Jared, you consistently do amazing work. Thanks so much for these podcasts.

    I have a question for Devery, if anyone is still monitoring these comments. Devery, I loved the story you related from George Boyd regarding the Quorum of the Twelve almost approving a “only wear garments in the temple” policy. I would love for that policy to be implemented today 🙂

    However, the story as you related it doesn’t seem that it could be possible, since Joseph F. Smith passed away in November 1918 and Melvin Ballard wasn’t called as an apostle until January 1919. Could you track the statement down and post it here? In the meantime I guess I will have to buy your book. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.


    • Jared Anderson says:

      Wasn’t it Joseph Fielding? I will ask Devery to clarify.


      • Devery Anderson says:

        I will get the statement for you. I believe I meant to say Joseph Fielding Smith was the one who got upset about the proposed change. I hope I said that! If not–I meant to.


      • Matt Harmer says:

        Still would love to see this statement, if it’s available.


    • Gail says:

      Hi, Don’t know if this is on-target, but the only place I’ve ever seen this alluded to was in the comments section of a ByCommonConsent post titled, “I Do So Wear Underpants” by Margaret Blair Young. (sometime summer 2012, I think) Meldrum the Less leaves a comment about movement to require garments in the temple only during David O. McKay’s administration.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s