Friday, June 6, 2008

Pondering the Temple

I really wanted to take a systematic approach to LDS doctrines - going through the Book of Mormon (woot woot working through 1 Nephi for like the zillioneth time), going through the Articles of Faith, sitting down with the missionaries and getting a more even balanced approached to LDS teachings - especially those I might just sincerely misunderstand. I've been planning on packing myself up and go doing some studying on the temple grounds and of course some praying. I'm back on track for my daily Bible reading - let me say, I am SO thankful to be through the book of Joshua and Judges. Whoa! What challenging books! Josab, "Let's get up and go," to his unconscious gang raped concubine. :P On a random side note - I was pretty surprised to hear the word, "Lehi" in the book of Judges (where Samson was taken to be delivered to the Philistines).

Anyways, today I began thinking about the temple - an ultimate goal for all LDS. I loved the temple - even after leaving was very close mouthed about the ceremonies within because of the covenants I made. I began thinking of the temple recommend interview, about the ceremonies inside, and of course the Holy Garment of the Priesthood. Would the temple be something I could support? Would it be something that I didn't feel clashed with the Bible?
First, the temple recommend interview questions:

1. Do you believe in God, the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost; and do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?

2. Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
3. Do you sustain the other General Authorities and the local authorities of the Church?

4. Do you live the law of chastity?
5. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
6. Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?

7. Do you earnestly strive to do your duty in the Church; to attend your sacrament, priesthood, and other meetings; and to obey the rules, laws, and commandments of the gospel?

8. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?

9. Are you a full-tithe payer?

10. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?

11. Have you ever been divorced or are you now separated from your spouse under order of a civil court? If yes, (a) - Are you current in your support payments and other financial obligations for family members, as specified by court order or in other written, binding commitments? (b) Were there any circumstances of transgression in connection with your divorce or separation that have not been previously resolved with your bishop?

12. If you have received your temple endowment -- (a) Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple? (b) Do you wear the authorized garments both day and night?

13. Has there been any sin or misdeed in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but has not?

14. Do you consider yourself worthy in every way to enter the temple and participate in temple ordinances?

Answers to possibly challenging questions:

1. Hmmm - for sure something I would have trouble with. I certainly believe in the three members of the Trinity/Godhead. But a firm testimony of the Restored Gospel? Not right now. I certainly believe it's totally possible (even likely) that there was a global apostacy - which means, that there was a loss of authority on the Earth to act in God's binding name, not that Christians were not actually present on the Earth. I do certainly believe it is possible that Joseph Smith was a prophet - he is no better or worse than any of the other men in the Bible, from Jonah, Solomn, David, even Abraham. So while I believe the Restoration is POSSIBLE, I certainly do not associate myself as a believer of it.

2 & 3. I think if I come to the conclusion that the LDS church is authoritative that this would certainly follow. Currently, right now - that's not my personal stance. Although, I do believe that God WOULD have an authority on the Earth since He is always the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. ;)

7. I think this one freaks a lot of "grace alone" adherents out. Personally, while I don't believe I can "earn" my salvation, I do believe what the Bible says, "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling". I've always favored legalism - so this would be quite the challenge for me. To do things, to be obediant because I desire to be sanctified by God, because I love God, and because I am thankful for His forgiveness and not because I believe I am earning favor.
Philip 2:12
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13. I wonder what the policy is on apostates... I guess I should add that to my list of questions for the missionaries.

14. I have ALWAYS struggled with this question. Since the temple is in many ways, is a holy and sacred place - where God "can show up" so to speak, then this is a question I always want to say, "no". Of course I'm not worthy to enter. What is considered worthy? Obeying a few basic laws of the Gospel?

At this point, I begin reflecting on the temple - it's purpose for example. It's not just a place to meet with God (which again can be anywhere) but also a place where holy and sacred ordinances are performed by those with the "proper authority". The dead are baptized (1 Cor 15:12-15), people make covenants with God. With proper authority - just like with Joshua, Moses, Abraham, etc. All these people INITIATED covenants with God. For example, Joshua initiated a covenant with Israel that she would not serve any other gods except their Lord and God (Elohim). Couples are sealed together for time and eternity (Matt 16:19, Matt 18:18) and of course there is the Celestial Room. It's where Spencer W. Kimball wrote "The Miracle of Forgiveness", where Lorenzo Snow received his confirmation of the eternal progression doctrine that Joseph Smith, Jr introduced in the King Follett Sermon.

One of (but not the most) powerfully intimate moments I've ever experienced with God was in the Endowment Ceremony. A ceremony I've learned, a few LDS tend to nap through (usually men :P ) but was very powerful for me. I don't know why, but at the end I felt so overwhelmed by God's Spirit that I was crying as I waited to be called. The temple was always a place of peace for me, I have no huge issues with the questions in the recommend interview, but what about garments? And silly Protestant protests that they are ungodly and masonic?

I've thought about this as well. I recall from LDS apologetics that the cross wasn't always a Christian symbol. In fact, it was used (and still is) by Neo-Pagans for example. It is also easily argued that the cross was a symbol of cruel death. So the question becomes, what power is really in a symbol? Is it tainted by a use of it, or does the "power" come from the person using it? When a Christian wears a cross, are they thinking Neo-Pagan or are they thinking of their Savior? Using this same logic, technically, when LDS are wearing the Holy Garment of the Priesthood, are they thinking, "masons" or are they thinking of temple covenants that they made, their Heavenly Father, and holding tight to the Iron Rod? It would of course be the latter. They're not thinking of masons or trying to get ahead in the mason ladder - they're (hopefully since ANYTHING in ANY religion can be legalistic) thinking of the temple, of God, and of Jesus.

So I have no problems with garments either. They are a daily, physical reminder for me of my faith just as a cross is. And I personally wouldn't have a problem wearing my cross and the HGoP together. :)

When pondering the temple - I do have to say I am not looking forward to wearing garment modest clothes in the summer here. That always was my greatest challenge. I'm feel hot and uncomfortable sometimes in the middle of winter (I swear I'm in eternal menopause) so wearing garments and modest clothes is not something I'm looking forward to. Although, that of course would be a long ways off since I'd be starting from scratch, at the bottom again. ;) Whew! Dodging that bullet for a little longer. 120 degrees sucks in a tank top and modest shorts... :P

I've also been thinking about the ceremonies themselves - which involve a few possibly challenging things. Accepting the authority of the LDS church to act, speak, and seal in God's name. The doctrines of pre-existence - of course I don't seem any Biblical clashing with this doctrine and really have no problem with it. The idea, practice, or doctrine (not sure what it would be) that we can make covenants with God today, which again, I see nowhere in the Bible that says we can't, so no issue there. Overall, thinking the ceremonies from the ground up, as that is how the temple is organized. I see no issues theologically with the temple.

I do want to take a moment to add. That in the last two weeks, as I've allowed myself to really think about possibly returning to the LDS church and then blogging openly about my thoughts on the matter, I find myself so much at ease and excited and happy. I sort of wish I could just go straight back - but don't want to be impulsive or a flake. I am also really grateful for this journey - there are so many things I've been really learning - not just reading or hearing in a sermon, and totally appreciating from Grace Point. I'm learning that no amount of head knowledge will make me obediant or mature. I'm learning that God isn't confined to the box so many of us put Him in. I'm learning that there are Protestant churches out there that know how to serve just to serve, and not with a track, agenda, or Bible in their other hand. And I'm learning a true appreciation for the passionate love people have for Jesus. I'm thankful for all these things but most of all I am learning that I am a Mormon through and through. I don't know how I would describe myself to others who don't read my blogs - Christian, Mormon, both? But I'm okay with that. I don't need other people to define me and really, even I don't need to define me. I just need to know how God sees me and live day by day in that blessing.


Bryce Haymond said...

Thank you for this honest appraisal of the Church and your sincere desire to unite again with the Saints. We will always extend the hand of fellowship and help you in any way we can. If you'd like to learn more about the temple, feel free to visit my blog.

Maggie said...

I love the temple and will most certainly check it out. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Maggie, remember me? Earlier in the year while I struggled with getting back to the Church, you were there to offer encouragement. I wanted to update you and this post seemed like the place to do it.

Last night, I returned to the temple.

I have to admitt, when this blog post began, I was worried that something you told me long ago was about to be broken. You said you loved your temple covenants and you viewed them as sacred. As I reasd through the post, I pleaded with Heavenly Father that you hadn't changed your views.

I'm glad to see you still hold your covenants sacred, and I want to thank you for your part in helping me go back to keeping mine.

I know you're struggling lately, as I read you blog frequently, and I want to offer my hand of friendship always, as you once did for me.