Tag Archives: covenants

An Interfaith Conversation about Mormon Temples

By Guest Blogger Austin Walters

“Firesides” in the Church are meetings where (mostly) members of the Church circle up—originally around a campfire, whence the term “fireside”—to learn from each other about topics of interest. Recently, the missionaries who are currently serving in my ward suggested holding a fireside that would be designed as a discussion about Mormon temples to which we could invite our friends. I invited a good friend of mine named Emily, who is currently studying to be ordained into the Episcopal priesthood. She came, and we’ve since had a couple of discussions about the experience. I’d like to relate some of our insights in this blog post.

First, my friend found the explicit connection between Mormon temples and elements of the ancient Hebrew religion to be very striking. Traditional Christianity has let much more of the ancient Hebrew conceptions of religion fall away from their practice than Mormons have, which indicates that Mormonism is not best conceived as a Protestant sect among many, but rather a new kind of religion that reaches deeply into the past for the ritual aspects of its practice.

Second, and related to the previous insight, is that we Mormons largely skip the Middle Ages in the ways we think about religious worship. Having arisen from the Primitivist Christianity movements of the early nineteenth century, this is understandable, but the intensity of this blind spot for us may mean that we too often miss out on more recent commonalities between Christian sacred spaces and Mormon temples. For example, my friend, being from the Anglican tradition, was quick to point out how many aspects of the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages parallel the form, purpose, and theology of Mormon temples. Cathedral architecture is filled with religiously didactic symbolism, as are Mormon temples.

Third, Mormon temples are extremely central to Mormon theology. In them we are married for time and all eternity, and families are “sealed” together for eternity, never to be broken up. In them we perform baptisms by proxy for those who have passed away, the belief being that baptism is a required ordinance for salvation according to Christ’s teachings; therefore, the ordinance is to be performed by or on behalf of every human being who has ever lived on the earth. In addition, the most sacred covenants an individual makes in this life are made in the temple as part of an “endowment” ceremony, which is comprised of a series of teachings about God’s plan of salvation, covenants relating to loyalty, consecration, and chastity, and promised blessings, all carried out in ritualized ways. These exclusively temple activities form a core part of Mormon philosophy and faith practice.

Hopefully this short blog post has been helpful to those readers who are not members of the Church in better understanding the centrality and purpose of temples in Mormonism. I also hope it’s helpful to members of the Church in understanding others’ perspectives of us, which we should be sensitive to as a proselytizing faith.

So… You’re pretty religious(?)

By Britta Hanson

It’s more a statement of fact than a question.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard this particular statement, well, I could at least buy myself a really nice dinner.  However, I never tire of the opportunity these moments afford me to pause and reflect on the life I have chosen as a disciple of Christ and as a Mormon.

As a grad student, time is an especially precious resource.  Given my tight schedule, the amount of time I dedicate each week to “religious” activities may appear to be borderline insane.  Allow me to illustrate:  In addition to weekly Sunday worship services, which last three hours, I generally attend at least one meeting per week for my church assignment.  Sometimes this assignment requires more time during the week, ranging from a few minutes to a few hours.  There are also activities every Monday evening and the occasional additional activity during the week.  Every Wednesday night there are classes which teach the scriptures, and I try to set aside time each day to study the Word of God.  It is also my privilege and responsibility to visit two of the women in my congregation each month to see to their spiritual and emotional needs.  Upon hearing this, most people, myself included, ask an important question: Why?

Each week is a complex balancing act between the religious, the social, and the scholarly.  At times, I feel the pieces of my life are spinning out of control and falling down around me.  Usually when I am brought to the brink of disaster, I realize that I have been neglecting some aspect of my “religious” life.  Maybe it’s been a day or two since I opened the scriptures.  Perhaps I haven’t been fulfilling my church assignment as fully as I could.  In these moments of clarity, the why is always answered.

While some draw a line between spirituality and religiosity, I have found in my life there is a cyclical relationship between the two.  As I attend to the various “religious” activities each week, they serve to constantly remind me of the things which matter most: Christ, my relationship with Him, and the people He has put in my life.  Being vitally involved in my church feeds my soul, it provides a quiet strength in me as I go about my various activities.  As I am consistently reminded of Christ and His love, my faith becomes the anchor of my life.  The dozens of moving parts I scramble for each week begin to revolve around Him, and there is order.

The ultimate answer to the why is that by striving to do all of these things, I find an assurance and a joy in my life that I have not found by doing anything else.  So yeah… I am pretty religious.

Squeaky Clean Language

I have a very vivid memory of being on the school bus when I was in 4th or 5th grade and having some boys my age offer me candy if I would say a swear word. When I declined they tried to get a little more persuasive and try to convince me that it didn’t count if I said a swear word because I could just quote them saying it so it wasn’t  actually my own words. To their great disappointment, I didn’t end up saying a swear word that day.  I don’t mean to paint this picture in a persecuting light. The boys were my friends, they were having fun  teasing me and I was having just as much fun being stubborn back to them. I was somewhat of an anomaly to them. I was the only Mormon in my elementary school besides my little sister so they were curious to see what my limits actually were and if I could be bought over by candy.

Avoiding profane and vulgar language is something that most Mormons strive to do. My brother-in-law requested that I do a blog post on this subject to try and help explain why that is. Sometimes it’s not so obvious why it matters so much. In the situation on the school bus I didn’t really know why I wasn’t supposed to say swear words, I just knew I wasn’t supposed to. My reasoning, as it often was when I was younger, was that it was against my religion. At that time that was a good enough reason for me. As an adult though I desire a little more insight as to why our church leaders have asked us to avoid profane and vulgar language.

Now let’s get something straight before I go any further. If you haven’t heard a Mormon use a swear word you probably don’t know very many Mormons. This is something that is difficult for a lot of people to master. Sometimes the tongue is a little faster than the mind but as a general rule we do try to keep our language clean.

What somebody says, or how they say it, reflects who they are. All kinds of assumptions are made about someone based on their speech. If I spoke with really bad grammar people would assume I was uneducated or if I spoke with my best Boston accent people would assume I either had a speech impediment where I couldn’t say my “R’s” or know that I was from Boston. As I have explained before, when we are baptized we take the name of Jesus Christ upon us and agree to be his representatives throughout our lives. That means our language not only reflects who we are but also the Savior. It doesn’t really matter if people are watching and assuming or not, I covenanted to represent Jesus Christ at all times;  when I’m alone, when I’m angry, when I’m with friends, when I just got cut off driving, etc. so my language should also reflect that at all times.

We also don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. We do not use the Savior’s name as an expletive or that of our Heavenly Father. Those names are to be used with only the utmost respect and reverence. In the bible James explains about why language matters. He says that if we can control our speech then we can control our whole bodies but if we allow our speech to be vulgar our lives will follow. He also explains that the same mouth that teaches God’s word has no room for profane and vulgar words, it’s hypocritical.

Mormons don’t avoid profane and vulgar language to be self-righteous  or to prove a point, we do it because we are trying to represent Jesus Christ and want to lead clean lives. But, we’re just normal people and we say things we regret in the heat of the moment or perhaps sometimes the candy being offered just looks too enticing. When you avoid profane language do you notice a change in your behavior as well?

Going to the Temple

While I was in Utah a few weeks ago for my sister’s wedding  I was able to be there when she went to the temple for the first time. In Mormon culture this is a pretty big deal. My whole family was there along with her fiancé, future in-laws and a few other close loved ones. Going to the temple for the first time signifies a lot to Mormons. It usually happens before a big event like going on a full time LDS mission, getting married, or before starting a new direction in life like beginning a full time career. It also signifies a willingness to have a deeper commitment to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In preparation for going to the temple for the first time my sister (as well as myself and most other people that go) take a temple preparation class. Like I said, it’s a pretty big deal when someone goes for the first time. If you are baptized when you are older you have to be a baptized member of the church for a least a year before you go. If you are baptized when you are young you wait until you’re an adult to go to the temple. I used to think when I was younger that so much emphasis was placed on going to the temple for the first time because the person wouldn’t be able to handle it without all the family support and preparation. What happens in the temple isn’t really talked about that much, even within the church, so I didn’t really understand.

With my sister going to the temple and being able to be there for it has made me think a lot lately about going to the temple and I realized I was all wrong  about it before.  When we are baptized we make a commitment to God to follow his commandments and to live the gospel. Often when we are baptized we are young or have just recently learned about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is a real commitment and covenant with God but it is only the beginning and foundation of our commitment to God. Going to the temple is actually pretty similar to baptism in our commitments. In the temple we make commitments and covenants with God to follow his commandments and to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason for all the preparation and support and attention is because these covenants are no longer the basic covenants of baptism.

When I went to the temple for the first time, like most other people, I was an adult and I had learned the gospel for an extended amount of time and I understood it.  Because I was an adult and understood perfectly what I was doing I believe I am held 100% accountable for those commitments.  That is the reason for the preparation and attention, to make sure we are ready to take the next step in our commitment to God.

The temple has a bit of a reputation for being secretive. It’s really not. The words spoken in the temple are sacred so we don’t repeat them outside the temple but the main point of the temple is to covenant with God to keep his commandments that are found in the scriptures. After we make those covenants for ourselves we go to make them in the name of those that have passed on so if they choose to they can also have the blessings of making those covenants with God.

My personal experience with the temple has been wonderful and peaceful. When I promised to follow God’s commandments in the temple God promised to bless me, protect me and help me throughout my life. I love knowing that if I do my part to follow God’s commandments that I will not be alone and I will be helped. The temple is a beautiful place. If you live near a temple I would recommend just going to the grounds to walk around and take in the beauty of the area. It’s really a peaceful place to visit and think and come closer to God.