The Sacred Embrace as Five Points of Fellowship

By: Bored in Vernal
April 4, 2012

I often lament that modern Mormonism has lost portions of its early history. While some of these forms and concepts are best consigned to the trash-bin, others are sorely missed. I believe that there are traditions from our nineteenth-century past which have lost their significance because there has been a lack of understanding about their religious symbolism.

Many older members of the Church and students of LDS history will recall the “Five Points of Fellowship,” which was a part of Mormon liturgy up until the last two decades. This was an important emblematic ritual — a sacred embrace which preceded entering into the presence of the Lord. Because this symbolic rite had its origins in Nauvoo-era Freemasonry, there is much we can learn about the meaning behind the symbol from Masonic writings. But I don’t believe these understandings were ever carried over into LDS discourse.

In the now-obsolete Mormon ceremony, the petitioner was not allowed into the symbolic presence of the Lord until he or she had conversed with Him upon the Five Points of Fellowship “through the veil.” Since one cannot enter into the Celestial sphere without first having died and then been raised, this typology is an important part of the ritual. This aspect of being called up out of the grave is not apparent in the LDS version of the ceremony, but it has important connotations in Freemasonry. Mormons will easily recognize the associations which signify oneness with God and the whisperings of the Spirit within each of us, but other aspects of the rite are not as evident.

Masonic ritual describes the Five Points of Fellowship as: 1.) inside of right foot by the side of right foot, 2.) knee to knee, 3.) breast to breast, 4.) hand to back, and 5.) mouth to ear.


As explained by the Master of a Masonic lodge in the third degree ritual, the Five Points of Fellowship serve a double purpose in instructing in fraternal duties, as well as forming a mode of recognition.  They are a method of explaining and emphasizing the need for brotherly love, co-operation and unity. The points may vary slightly among different Masonic lodges at different locations and time periods (for example: “cheek to cheek” instead of “mouth to ear”), but they are all very similar. A poem written by the “Masonic poet laureate”, Robert Morris, gives the signification. In the first stanza, he summarizes the meaning of the points. In the second through sixth stanzas, he expounds on the symbolism for each point: 1.) foot to foot, 2.) knee to knee, 3.) breast to breast, 4.) hand to back, and 5.) cheek to cheek.

The Five Points of Fellowship
By Robert Morris

Joyful task it is, dear brothers
Thus to take upon the lip
With full heart, and fitting gesture,
All our points of fellowship.
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek
Each a measured part shall speak:
Speak of answering mercy’s call;
Speak of prayer for Mason’s all;
Speak of keeping secrets duly;
Speak of stretching strong hand truly;
Speak of whispering the unruly.

Foot to foot: ’tis Mercy’s mandate,
When is heard the plaintive sigh,
Hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked,
On the wings of aid to fly;
Hasten, mitigate the grief –
Hasten, bear him quick relief!
Quick with bread to feed the hungry;
Quick with raiment for the naked;
Quick with shelter for the homeless;
Quick with heart’s deep sympathy.

Knee to knee: in silence praying,
Lord, give listening ear that day!
Every earthly stain confessing,
For all tempted Masons pray!
Perish envy, perish hate,
For all Masons supplicate.
Bless them, Lord upon the ocean;
Bless them perishing in the desert;
Bless them falling ‘neath temptation;
Bless them when about to die!

Breast to breast: in holy casket
At life’s center strongly held,
Every sacred thing entrusted,
Sealed by faith’s unbroken seal;
What you promised God to shield
Suffer, die, but never yield.
Never yield whate’er the trial;
Never yield whate’er the number;
Never yield though foully threatened,
Even at the stroke of death.

Hand to back: A brother falling –
His misfortune is too great,
Stretch the generous hand, sustain him,
Quick, before it is too late.
Like a strong, unfaltering prop,
Hold the faltering brother up.
Hold him up; stand like a column;
Hold him up; there’s good stuff in him;
Hold him with his head toward heaven;
Hold him with the lion’s grip.

Cheek to cheek: O, when the tempter
Comes, a brother’s soul to win,
With a timely whisper warn him
Of the dark and deadly sin.
Extricate him from the snare,
Save him with fraternal care
Save him — heavenly powers invoke you –
Save him — man is worth the saving
Save him — breathe your spirit in him
As you’d have your God save you.

This completes the obligation;
Brothers, lest you let it slip,
Fasten on tenacious memory
All our points of Fellowship;
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek,
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek.

Thus, a Mason is taught the following (see William Morgan, Illustrations of Masonry):

  • Foot to foot. He should go out of his way, and not permit his steps to halt in extending mercy and benevolence.
  • Knee to knee. The knee should be bent in intercessory prayer for others, and in pleading for forgiveness for his own sins.
  • Breast to breast. The man of honor should guard all just and lawful secrets inviolate within his breast.
  • Hand to back. It is a Mason’s duty to support his Brother, to lift him up, and to speak well of him before the world. This may also hold some symbolism of being “raised up” in other ways.
  • Mouth to Ear. He should whisper good counsel into the ear of a Brother, instruct him, and warn him of coming danger.
Another poem written by Freemason N. A. McAulay expounds on the symbolism of these five points and concludes that these five points lead the Mason to the revelation of “that Mystic Word,” i.e. the Lost Master’s Word. In Mormonism, that Word is given as a blessing.

The Five Points Symbolism
By Brother N. A. McAulay

Foot to foot, that we may go,
Where our help we can bestow;
Pointing out the better way,
Lest our brothers go astray.
Thus our steps should always lead
To the souls that are in need.

Knee to knee, that we may share
Every brother’s needs in prayer:
Giving all his wants a place,
When we seek the throne of grace.
In our thoughts from day to day
For each other we should pray.

Breast to breast, to there conceal,
What our lips must not reveal;
When a brother does confide,
We must by his will abide.
Mason’s secrets to us known,
We must cherish as our own.

Hand to back, our love to show
To the brother, bending low:
Underneath a load of care,
Which we may and ought to share.
That the weak may always stand,
Let us lend a helping hand.

Cheek to cheek, or mouth to ear,
That our lips may whisper cheer,
To our brother in distress:
Whom our words can aid and bless.
Warn him if he fails to see,
Dangers that are known to thee

Foot to foot, and knee to knee,
Breast to breast, as brothers we:
Hand to back and mouth to ear,
Then that mystic word we hear
Which we otherwise conceal,
But on these five points reveal.

Gerald B. Gardner, a freemason, was responsible for much of the modern revival of Wicca. He brought some of his personal idiosyncracities as well as some borrowings from freemasonry into this occultist group. Thus, in Wicca we see the ritual of the “Fivefold Kiss,” a form of the Five Points of Fellowship. The Fivefold Kiss is a ceremony involving kissing five parts of the body. Each kiss given is accompanied by a blessing. These actions are reminiscent of the early LDS initiatory work, which has also changed a great deal in form.

Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways
Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar
Blessed be thy [womb/phallus], without which we would not be
Blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty/ breast formed in strength
Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names.

I think it’s intriguing that the Wiccan ceremony preserves the symbolic nature of the elements, while the Mormon ritual did not. This, in my opinion, is the reason that the ritual did not survive in the LDS church. As we lose the significance, symbolism, and historical background of our rituals and indeed many of the concepts and teachings in the Church, they are no longer vital in our worship.

How many other vital parts of our religion have we lost or are we in danger of losing because we do not recognize their spiritual or symbological meanings?

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126 Responses to The Sacred Embrace as Five Points of Fellowship

  1. Heber13 on April 4, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    Maybe symbolism itself is being lost to religion. Society wants things to be literally true, historically accurate, scientifically proven so that we can “trust” the source and meaning.

    Myths and symbolic meanings are viewed as less valuable than proof, it seems, which is sad, IMO.

    Maybe we should embrace, not distance, the masonic influences to our sacred mormon rituals… acknowledge them, celebrate them, understand them better…so these myths are not further lost from our religion.

    But, nice post on this stuff. Very interesting.

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  2. Bonnie on April 4, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    I’ve often felt that sense of loss you describe. I have wondered about more of the Adamic tongue that we might have once had. I loved the simplicity of what I knew. It’s true, we are not a symbol-appreciating people, as crazy as that sounds. Our own brazen serpents having to be smashed, our own statues of Asherah having to be removed because they tripped people up. What a loss. Can you imagine if we had to stop partaking of the sacrament because the ritual eclipsed the truth? I’m inspired to go describe a metaphor to someone.

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  3. Brian Johnston on April 4, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Symbol and metaphor are the tools of creativity, of the imagination, and in stretching beyond what we can circumscribe with our rational and limited minds. They allows us a fragile grasp upon that which our explicit language can not encode for us.

    The loss of this is a loss of a key tool for human progress.

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  4. Justin on April 4, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    I’d read a quote from the Pope some time back that said:

    A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites.

    This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

    I think — like you wrote BiV — the vocabulary of symbolic language, ritual gestures, etc. are quite clearly endangered. These symbol-languages, probably because they are unwritten and are passed as oral canon simply aren’t “doing it” for people anymore [they're finding no satisfaction in them anymore].

    Mormons [following the lead of pretty much all of modern Western thought] are uncomfortable with much ritual — seeing it as a slippery slope towards vain repetition.

    Our temple canon has historically been an exception to that — but the general confusion over [or often dislike of] the temple rituals is evidence that those rites are, at best, considered a relic of a foregone time when “more simple” LDS folk found fulfillment in the gestures and the rituals.

    And I’d attribute that to the fact that no one sees the rituals coming to life these days. By that I mean — seeing the Lord and ministering angels face-to-face is the foremost purpose of the temple ritual. Such an eye-to-eye experience was key to what Joseph formulated as “the endowment”. It’s why temple-goers are taught the order of prayer and prepared in all things to receive further instructions at the veil. It was all given with the assumption that a real experience would follow the image [or enactment] of one.

    But no one’s having the experience any more — they just receive the empty forms from people who also have no idea what any of it actually means.

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  5. GBSmith on April 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Symbols like the five points enabled masons to travel to different guild halls in the middle ages and be recognized as able to do their craft. In modern masonry it lets men feel special and set apart as did all the fraternal organizations that grew up through mainly the 1800′s. In my opinion that’s the reason that JS adopted it into mormonism, as a way to make his followers feel called out as different by “God”. My understanding is that the five points was done away with because of women’s discomfort with the physical closeness. For whatever reason it was included, I’m glad it’s gone along with the other things that have been discarded. They only reminded me of the things about the temple that have made it suspect in my mind.

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  6. Justin on April 4, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    My understanding is that the five points was done away with because of women’s discomfort with the physical closeness.

    Perhaps this could have been improved if they had allowed women to minister the veil as priestesses to the female initiates — instead of making it be male priests administering to both genders?

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  7. Heber13 on April 4, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    Why not do away with magnetic card readers and bar codes on temple recommends, and computerized databases of names of the endowed, and just have the 5 point greeting at the temple door?

    Isn’t it sending a conflicting message for the church to be so computerized and modern, and then ask members to flip on the “symbolic” mindset to attend the sessions?

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  8. Bored in Vernal on April 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites.

    This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

    Wonderful quote, Justin. Is this from our current Pope?

    I think it is dreadful that the Latter-day Saints are losing this wonderful ability to use symbols to represent religious truth. In the process, they seem to be replacing things that should be taken as metaphoric (Heber: once, we were told at the beginning of the temple ceremony itself that the man Adam and the woman Eve were “simply figurative,” a clue to switch on our symbolic sensibilities) and seeing them only as literal beings. This is problematic. But the funny thing is, as you correctly point out, is that they are also missing the part that is supposed to be literal– that is, the ultimate purpose of the ritual, communion with the Lord.

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  9. Justin on April 4, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Is this from our current Pope?

    I don’t know that he’s our Pope [I guess according to their theology, I'm not ever unable to not be Catholic] — but yes it is from the current Holy See.

    Here is the source, if you are interested.

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  10. Cowboy on April 4, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    “And I’d attribute that to the fact that no one sees the rituals coming to life these days.”

    That’s pretty much it I think. The ritual can be fascinating when we are first introduced to it because it was supposed to be connected to something real and tangible. Over time, as it becomes apparent that the symbol has no grounding in reality, it loses it’s utility value, which for me at least, also eliminated it’s symbolic/spiritual value.

    So, for this reason I’m puzzled over Heber13′s comment. Is there something wrong with literal religious theology? Or perhaps better yet, why is symbolic theology preferable to literal theology? I seriously don’t get it.

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  11. Heber13 on April 4, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    #10 Cowboy:

    Actually, Brian said it better than I could:
    “Symbol and metaphor are the tools of creativity, of the imagination, and in stretching beyond what we can circumscribe with our rational and limited minds.”

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  12. Cowboy on April 4, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    ““Symbol and metaphor are the tools of creativity, of the imagination, and in stretching beyond what we can circumscribe with our rational and limited minds.””

    Hi Heber13:

    I hope you understand that no disrespect is intended in my disagreement here. As I read the above quote I can’t help wondering why we need creativity and imagination to internalize a “real” religion. If on the other hand religion is a contrived thing, then it wholly belongs to the creative faculty’s of our minds imagination. However, that then makes me wonder why entering the Temple and making promises to consecrate my real possessions to imagined reality makes sense? While Temple worship may be symbolic, it also entails literal obligations with the expectation of literal returns. All of this talk of “creativity” and “imagination”, seems to weaken that expectation, and I would think, our desire to participate literally. It could only work if Mormonism were relegated to religious philosophy devoid of prescribed practice and demanding culture.

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  13. @UtahMormonDemoGuy on April 4, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Like BIV, I miss some of the historical and cultural ties to earl(ier) Mormonism. I also fully agree the use of symbolism is in decline because we do not really talk about the symbols or facilitate their meaning/understanding. I was told that I just needed to think and pray about the signs and tokens in the temple, for example, and their meaning would come to be understood. I never really bought that, in part because the symbolism uses as referents objects, gestures, or ideas that are not really relevant to my modern American life and culture (cultural relevance – - another challenge with symbolism, especially in a worlwide church). In contrast, the explanation of symbols associated with the temple garment make those symbols (wherever I encounter them) far more meaningful. In my view, explaining the origin and meaning of the symbols (a la this post) would make the symbols more meaningful and therefore, more likely to be preserved.

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  14. Rockhound on April 4, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    I must agree with Cowboy on this. Why must the Church of Christ rely on symbolism and creative imagination to come unto God. If one needs symbols and imagination I do not believe they are then ready to accept a literal relationship with a loving Heavenly Father, only the impersonal symbol of Him. I think of Enoch, Jacob, Enos, Nephi, Jared and his brother, Jacob (Nephi’s brother), Alma and a host of others who I believe would encourage us to forego symbolism and seek the Living God.

    I have my own issues with Masonic Lore and symbolism as I believe they are Satanic and included within the secret combinations of man. They are a type and a shadow of what we are looking and striving for and they point to the gaining of knowledge of men over wisdom in Christ. Ultimately, the end result is simply more power and gain. Regardless of the beauty of symbolism and the tools of creativity, I believe they will eventually become a crutch to truly understanding and communicating with God. I desire to be taught by angels and by the spirit without the need to create symbols of understanding. I choose the literal theology.

    Cheers to all, good comments!

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  15. cornponebread on April 4, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    W. Grant Bangerter said in the April 1982 General Conference “Nothing is said or done in the temple which does not have its foundation in the scriptures.” I was on my mission when he made that statement and had only been to the temple a handful of times, but I remember wondering where the five points of fellowship (and other symbolism in the temple) had scriptural origin. I was able, through study, to account for many of the symbols, but that one, and a few others, always escaped me. I haven’t given this much thought since it was dropped from the ceremony.

    Any thoughts?

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  16. Bob on April 4, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    Symbol and ritual can exist in the Modern Western World. I was not only trained in ‘Mormon’ ritual life, but also the Marine Crops. Believe me, the Marines use rituals 100 times more than Mormons. EVERTHING was done the ‘RIGHT WAY’. How you talked, how you dressed__ when, how and where you put on your hat (cover) and took it off. How you stood, where you stood. How you told time. ALL these thing had to be “carried out” RIGHT_ if you were going to be a true Marine.

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  17. Heber13 on April 4, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Cowboy, its all good. Your questions and the point you make is valid. And I appreciate being able to think about it and challenge my thoughts.

    I guess where I’m coming from is that the “real” religion I believe contains things that are not of this world. They are spiritual. They are celestial. They are eternal. I think many concepts are beyond our mortal capacity to comprehend, but our scriptures, and rituals, try to teach us these things using symbolism and metaphor so our thoughts can be higher and heavenly, even if we don’t fully comprehend.

    BIVs post has some interesting rituals, some have changed over time. But the meaning behind them is most important to me, and those meanings aren’t lost with any small changes in wording of the ceremony, or removal of some parts of the rituals.

    The point of your post I like, is that it needs to have real application to my life. The concepts and meanings are what drive my thoughts, which lead to actions, which is where they reveal real life significance. We can’t just have theoretical ideas…but faith is real application of these ideals. That, I agree with.

    There are always 2 creations. First spiritually, then physically. Spiritually, the plan and teachings and concepts are taught to our intelligence. Then we take these concepts and create physical actions, words, or things. The physical form is limited and imperfect, but is a reflection of the spiritual creation. (The blueprint of a house is not a literal house, but a spiritual creation of that house. The real house is then built off those plans, and may not be perfect, but have slight variations to it from the blueprint. The more variation, the less perfect).

    Maybe more to my meaning and the rituals we have, is the symbolism of Heavenly Father. Is He literally my father? I have faith He is literally the father of my spirit, but my literal father is of this world. Literally, He is only the literal Father of Jesus, the Only Begotten of the Father. I can’t hug my Spiritual Father (yet). I haven’t seen Him (yet). I speak to him, and hope He gives me feelings that show He is listening, but they aren’t literal words back to me. There is a symbolism of a Father that helps me picture Him in my mind, and who He is to me, and what my relationship to Him is, and how I should think of Him … and that symbolism helps me take a Celestial, Eternal, Perfect Being, and conceptualize Him in my mortal brain. But I can’t prove any of that until after this life. Therefore, in this life, it is all symbolic and spiritual, and calling Him my Heavenly Father helps me walk by faith in concepts that are spiritual, not literal, and hope that one day literal truth will be known to me.

    Does that make sense?

    We agree there needs to be real life application. But the spiritual and symbolic and metaphorical was often used by the Savior to teach in a more powerful way, for things that are not of this world.

    Temple rituals can fit into that, since salvation, and resurrection, and entering into God’s presence is all symbolized in the temple, even though it doesn’t literally happen in the temple. And I find I learn new meanings of those symbols each time I attend the temple, because I apply the same literal words differently based on different needs in my life, because the spiritual meaning behind them is really what the rituals are about.

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  18. Frank Bruno on April 4, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Years ago as I would assist patrons I remember the five points of fellowship as being a literal and symbolic connection. Literally you combined two life sources to form a pentalpha portal with a joining connection moving from world to cosmic presence of god. When I pressed myself against supplicant striving to enter celestial realm there was a power physical of warmth or energy that allowed the person to person from one side to the other. I think like Widtsoe said there is both an inward and outward connotation. Both mentally and physical you cross the veil. The five points according to Nibley form a pentagram representing a phi curve which goes throughout universe forever helping you literally travel to the presence of god. The symbolic allows the psychic power of our mind to cosmically fuel the journey.

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  19. Nate on April 4, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Dear Bored in Vernal, I know you mean well with this posting, and I also have a fondness for some of the lost elements of Mormonism.

    But I have to say, I feel it is inappropriate to contribute to the dissemination of this sacred material online.

    I am a mason and a Mormon. I never went through the old temple ceremony, but I can tell you that even as a Mason, I have strong feelings about the sacred character of the Masonic rituals and have made solemn pledges never to reveal them. I take those covenants as seriously as I take my LDS temple covenants.

    Those who went through the old LDS endowment made covenants not to reveal those things either, and even though those parts have been removed, I think most of the older generation would feel uncomfortable seeing things they made covenants not to reveal on a popular LDS blog.

    I don’t believe that just because something has been removed from the temple endowment means that it is now free to air and discuss with the whole world.

    I know that this maybe sounds a bit uptight, as we live in the internet age, where all this stuff is available in 2 seconds from anywhere.

    But secrecy and sanctity is part of what makes the temple endowment and the Masonic ritual so special, and protecting this secrecy is part of the rituals themselves. That was the whole point of some of the rituals: to keep a secret.

    One may feel a sense of loss that some beautiful parts of the endowment has been removed, but one risks loosing even more of it’s beauty if one looses the sense of sacred secrecy surrounding the rituals.

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  20. Rigel Hawthorne on April 4, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    I remember my dear mother commenting after the deletion of the 5 points that she was pleasantly relieved because she never felt comfortable being that close to another man. I was post-mission young and had never thought about how that might be uncomfortable for a woman. But with the ‘honor your mother’ philosophy, I mentally accepted the change. Reading the description of #18 of the power that created a cross-vail personal experience, I can relate to that with memories. Holy touch can create a very real emotional connection to spiritual power as we still can see when we have priesthood blessings with oil. As the initiatory rite has been modified and Holy touch is de-emphasized, I personally felt a more distinct loss compared to that of the 5 points.

    I have reflected on what it means to lose the rite of holy touch because there are enough temple patrons that are bringing the natural man into the temple with them that there must be added protection from abuse. That reflection causes sadness.

    I worry that with increased media focus on the church due to the presidential race that we may face other eventual changes–for instance, to symbolic clothing in order to ‘protect’ LDS political and community leaders from ridicule.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on April 4, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    When I first went through, it was very clear that the entire thing was meant to be symbolic, not literal. We have lost a lot of symbolism. I feel for those women who didn’t like all the physical contact in the intiatory and endowment, but I agree we’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

    As to the 5 points of fellowship, I think it’s similar to the idea of being “caught up” when we die (or at the second coming). That we are embraced by the divine in that moment, welcomed home. That was always how I took the symbolism. I also liked the idea that we were in fellowship with God, like companions, not just subordinates. And it did give more meaning to garment symbolism.

    Symbols provide us room to ponder whereas literal belief really shuts down the vulnerability and wonder of that pondering. How can we search, ponder and pray if everything is just literal and at face value? Moral action requires thought and understanding of moral principles. The saviour taught in parables so people could ponder. He didn’t hand them a CHI and tell them to follow each step.

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  22. Roger on April 4, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    Fascinating. I haven’t been to the temple In 37 years — sounds like I wouldn’t recognize the rituals in their currentfilem. The five points were intriguing, but the oaths were positively blood-curdling. Do y’all miss those as well?

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  23. [...] BiVs post at Wheat & Tares, The Sacred Embrace as Five Points of Fellowship, she describes how [before this aspect of the ceremony was removed] the initiates were not allowed [...]

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  24. hawkgrrrl on April 4, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    Roger – no. But I did take them as symbolic also, not literal. Until someone told me about weird fundies and early church people who took things like that literally.

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  25. Bored in Vernal on April 4, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    Nate #19:
    You will notice that I did not reveal anything from freemasonry except some poems which have been published publicly. Also, in LDS temple ritual there are some very specific things which you covenant not to reveal. The five points have never been included in that.

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  26. Frank Bruno on April 4, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    It would have served me better to have used term physical representation rather than literal.

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  27. Chris on April 4, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Could anyone please help me understand why Masonic symbols were and are such a significant part of temple symbology? As a faithful member, I am frustrated that Joseph Smith drew so heavily on the secretive Masonic society to create a temple ceremony. It seem counterintuitive that God would select a men’s frateral group’s rituals to create sacred temple rites.

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  28. Frank Bruno on April 4, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    Chris The best source of the subject is samuel morris brown’s In Heaven As It Is On Earth. In Chapter Seven ” Negotiating death and afterlife in Nauvoo” Brown traces the influences of free mason on joseph smith and his development of doctrine and temple rituals.

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  29. Frank Bruno on April 4, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    Brown writes”the Nauvoo temple endowment represents an expression of smith’s sacred world view framed as form of masonry. Just as the king james version came to hide the plain and precious truths of antiquity so too had 19th century masonry”. Smith adapted masonry through his prophetic seership to his view of temple ritual. (p. 185)

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  30. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Hello, Nate. You say:

    “I am a mason and a Mormon. I never went through the old temple ceremony, but I can tell you that even as a Mason, I have strong feelings about the sacred character of the Masonic rituals and have made solemn pledges never to reveal them. I take those covenants as seriously as I take my LDS temple covenants. . . I think most of the older generation [Latter-day Saints] would feel uncomfortable seeing things they made covenants not to reveal on a popular LDS blog.”

    Brother Nate, I am an Endowed Freemason, having served as Past Master of my Lodge. I take my obligations very seriously. However, I do not recall anywhere obligating myself not to recite Bros. Morris’ or McAulay’s Masonic poems, which have been in print and publicly available for years. I don’t believe that BiV has taken any Masonic obligation whatsoever, and is at complete liberty to quote Masonic poetry and comment thereon.

    Furthermore, I don’t suppose any Latter-day Saint has ever “covenanted not to reveal” anything aside from certain tokens, or the associated names, signs and penalties of the same. Strictly speaking, the Sacred Embrace described by BiV is not covered by any express promise to not discuss it. Finally, I think BiV’s remarks were sensitive and respectful of both traditions.

    It would seem prudent to not complain when others haven’t followed our own personally made-up rules about what others can and cannot discuss. That seems kind of silly.

    You also say: “One may feel a sense of loss that some beautiful parts of the endowment has been removed, but one risks loosing even more of it’s beauty if one looses the sense of sacred secrecy surrounding the rituals.”

    As a Masonic writer, I often mention early forms of Masonic ritual. These may be things that are no longer part of the modern Masonic tradition, although formerly guarded by promises of secrecy. I don’t suppose that this is somehow a violation of any Masonic obligation. In fact, in writing about such things, I often feel that I am preserving the beauty of such ritual for future generations, to whom these gems might otherwise be lost.

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  31. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Hello, Chris. You ask: “Could anyone please help me understand why Masonic symbols were and are such a significant part of temple symbology?”

    I suspect that Joseph Smith believed that he was restoring Masonic ritual to its true and perfect form.

    You then say, “It seems counterintuitive that God would select a men’s frateral group’s rituals to create sacred temple rites.”

    “If a Mason’s Lodge be built on holy ground, and supported by wisdom, strength and beauty; if it be of that immeasurable extent, which has no bound but the four quarters of the compass, and covered with a cloudy canopy which can only be penetrated by ascending the theological ladder; if we commemorate the three grand offerings of ancient religion, and have in perpetual recurrence the wonders of God in creation, redemption and deliverance . . . it will surely be admitted that our rites have a reference beyond mere conviviality” (George Oliver, Antiquities of Freemasonry, 1823, page 204).

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  32. Frank Bruno on April 5, 2012 at 6:30 AM

    I probably know BiV better than most people having lived with her for thirty years. I would like to share my insights in to her choice of topic and what I think she is expected in this discussion. She will be surprised by my defense of her. But in this particular discussion I understand why she chose the five points of fellowship and her motivations for looking at this topic. I thinks she handled it in a scholarly and thoughtful way.

    BiV made a decision that scholars with integrity have to when they published sensitive topics. She felt it was important to understand the practice and the meaning the five points have for Latter-day Saints. She truly wants to know what people think about this important LDS practice that used to exist in the temple ceremony.

    At her roots BiV is a faithful member of the church who will always remain true to it as she has to her family despite challenges and differences of opinions. She can take such differences and look at them rationally and religiously.

    I commend BiV in her treatment for much different reasons than Brother Swick who defended her but went a little too far in calling it Nate’s opinion silly.

    That is not how BiV operates she truly wants to know what readers believe and why. She is compassionate to their observations, feelings and desire to know God much the way she does.

    BiV is a rare person she is in to discussing things in order to fully understand them better. In fact she is willing to change many things in her life if something resonates with her.

    She is on a journey to find God and holds fast to her bedrock beliefs in the Church but she has an intellectual desire to look at different practices that impact her and other members. She knows that she doesn’t always have all the answers nor that she can’t improve intellectually and spiritually.

    She has always enjoyed diversity of opinions such as Nate’s which is see the topic as sacred. In fact when I first began to blog she taught me to consider differing comments to promote discussion.

    In defending her BiV made an intellectual choice that many scholar’s make including faithful defenders like Hugh Nibley or Samuel Morris Brown. Nibley explored the five points of fellowship when he discussed the phi curve in his writings. BiV won’t like me to say this but she is much like Nibley. She has a superior intellect and yet is humble in her desire to share and learn eternal knowledge.

    When I was younger I spent two months at BYU shadowing Nibley. I had done his daughter Martha Beck a favor one day consoling a crying girl outside the Eyring Science Center over a speech event where she did not do well. Nibley took a liking to me for my efforts that she told about me. I happened to be in one of his classes. Nibley spent most of his life as a Sunday School teacher and he did not shy away from discussing many aspects of the church that were of importance. He handled them much like BiV in respectful ways.

    In this case Joseph Smith truly did use elements of the masonic ritual to conceptualize our temple practice. That of course makes many people including me a bit uncomfortable but I have to say I admire BiV for her careful handling of this topic. I have much to learn from her.

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  33. Bob on April 5, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    All Cultures use rituals, myths, symbols to tell their stories/beliefs. This is good__it works.
    But when they begin to feel these things contain powers within themselves, then you start to have “magical underwear”, Golden Calfs that become gods.

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  34. Jeff Spector on April 5, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    I found this to be a very respectful post and handles the topic well.

    What has always amazed me is that some folks, mainly non-members hostile to the Church, who have had access to the entire Temple ceremony, wither written or secretly recorded, really do not understand it. And while we are taught not to reveal certainly things, because of this lack of understanding, the sacred part still remains so.

    What also surprises me is that the ceremony has always been about 99% symbolic so why would anyone think that certain elements, past and present are/were literal, and not also symbolic?

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  35. Bob on April 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    #34: Jeff,
    I don’t know__the State of CA takes my Temple Marriage literal.
    IMO__when something is done (Baptism, sealings) here (The Temple), that causes something to happen at another place or time__I call that literal(??)

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  36. GBSmith on April 5, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Just a few more things on the subject. Unions have always adopted things that now might seem religious. Union halls used to be called “labor temples”, members used to refer to themselves as brother and sister, my father was a member of a railway brotherhood, signs and tokens were part of membership. I friend of mine back in the 60s joined the teamsters and in the process learned the secret handclasp to use to recognize other teamsters.

    I went to the temple for the first time in 1964 without the benefit of temple prep and didn’t know what garments were or what any of it was about. But in that first session recognized the five points since I’d seen in in a TV show 5 years earlier. I wasn’t shocked but it did stick in my mind.

    My point is that you can attach all sorts of meaning and importance to these symbols but they’re just tools. Making something more than that out of the five points or garments, or whatever is just “magical thinking” as was so well pointed out above.

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  37. Bored in Vernal on April 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    GBSmith #36, just wondering.. do you think that Joseph Campbell’s writings on the power of myth constitute what you dismiss as “magical thinking?”

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  38. Cowboy on April 5, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Heber13:

    That makes sense, I suppose I may have read too much into the words “creativity” and “imagination”. Part of where this comes from, for me is Joseph Fielding Smith. Many biblical scholars accept that the book of Job was not a literal story, but rather a Hebrew poem and allegory. Joseph Fielding Smith however disputes that. His argument was that while Joseph Smith was incarcerated in Liberty Jail, and recieved the revelation we know as section 121, God offers a polite rebuke. Joseph Smith was essentially pleading with God to finally intervene, and God responds by saying “thou are not yet as Job”. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, it would have been very inconsistent for God to compare the literal suffering of the Saints to the experiences of Job, if Job was not a real person who suffered those things.

    He also says a similar thing about Jonah. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, not only does the Old Testament tell us of Jonah, but Jesus Christ in the New Testament speaks of Jonah to allude to his own death and resurrection. According to Smith, it would be odd to compare a literal resurrection to a symbolic tall-tale.

    I guess I see it in the same way. In the Temple, part and parcel to the unmentionables in the ritual is a symbol about crossing over the veil and entering the presence of God. While I have always accepted that this was symbolic, I have never sensed much of an abstraction on that symbolism, like the kinds of things we witness in Jesus’s parables. I have also never sensed that the intent was not to convey a literal point. In other words, we teach of a literal second coming and a literal separating of the wheat from the tares, goats from sheep, etc. I get hung up on “creativity” in this context, probably because of my experience with what that word means to me in the context of improvised music. In it’s purest sense, in Jazz music for example, you have some chords, perhaps a melodic theme, a rhythm and tempo, and from there the improviser can play whatever they want working within some loose constraints related to harmony and the symmetry of time. There is no exclusive “reality”. The symbolism of temple ritual is of course intended to convey an exclusive reality, along with prescriptions and proscriptions for optimizing our position in that reality. In which case, I don’t think the word “creativity” suits as well as “discovery”. The purpose is to not extrapolate on the Eternities, but rather to discover the alleged truth of all things.

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  39. Cowboy on April 5, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Jeff:

    “What also surprises me is that the ceremony has always been about 99% symbolic so why would anyone think that certain elements, past and present are/were literal, and not also symbolic?”

    I suppose the question then is, what is the distinction between symbolic gestures and literal expectations. Am I not to cut my head off for revealing secrets, only wish I had?

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  40. Frank Bruno on April 5, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    When I said up I felt a bit uncomfortable I was not referring to BiV’s treatment I was referring to my own response. She actually handle her response in a generalizable way.

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  41. Justin on April 5, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    There is no exclusive “reality”.

    I think the division of “Oh, it’s just symbolic, therefore it’s not real…, etc.” is a spurious division.

    Whereas — the objective, time-and-space, material world [the "real"] is the same thing, the same space — as the experiential, subjective, mental world [the “symbols”.

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  42. Bored in Vernal on April 5, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Cowboy #38:
    Far be it from me to scoff at JFS. But in the past, I have compared my situation and feelings to those of Persephone. This does not mean I think she is a real person. I think God could certainly comfort Joseph by referring to Job, Jonah, or even Harry Potter if he wanted, without necessarily confirming their physical tangible existence.

    While I believe the symbolic elements in the temple point to “real” things, I do not, for example, believe that the “veil” is a tangible white curtain through which we must pass. Rather, it could represent some separation between us and God. If we do not contemplate the symbolic meaning of this (or the five points, or any other aspect of temple ritual), our temple experience will be much more impoverished.

    #39: The penalties are also best understood symbolically. Rather than reveal something we promised not to, we are willing to forfeit our lives, perhaps not our physical lives, but our spiritual connection with Deity. Thinking of it this way gives it a great power that the literal understanding does not.

    I liked your use of the word “discover” for the exploration of these elements.

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  43. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    Rockhound (#14) said: “If one needs symbols and imagination I do not believe they are then ready to accept a literal relationship with a loving Heavenly Father, only the impersonal symbol of Him.”

    RESPONSE: I’m not certain I understand, Rockhound. After all, Jesus taught using parables, which rely on symbolisim and creative imagination. He is called by names (Lamb of God, Living Water, the Good Shepherd, the Chief Corner Stone and so forth) which are symbolic. The Standard Works are full of accounts which rely on symbolism and creative imagination when inviting us to come unto God.

    More importantly, LDS ordinances (such as baptism, the sacrament or the endowment) rely heavily on symbols as tokens or vehicles, through which divine grace may flow to “all” who “receive” them. That is to say, through the symbol (or Signifier), we reach out to touch and understand the symbolized (i.e., the Signified); when there is this kind of stirring below (on our part), it is my experience that there is also a stirring above (on the part of the Divine). It has ever and always been the case that God responds to such small acts of faith on our part, providing grace through a symbolic token:

    O strange and paradoxical thing! We did not die in reality . . . after having been actually crucified. Rather it was an imitation by a token. . . . O love of men overflowing! Christ really received the nails in his blameless hands and feet and suffered pain; while I, without any pain or struggle, by his sharing of suffering the pain enjoy the fruits of salvation! (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis XX, Mystagogica II, de Baptismi Caeremoniis (Catechetical Lecture on the Rites of Baptism), in PG 33:1081; as quoted, Hugh W. Nibley. The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976, 282, and “The Early Christian Prayer Circle” at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=59)

    As this is a fundamental aspect of the Gospel in both instruction and in ordinance (Alma 13:16), I suppose I fail to appreciate what you say. It is certainly true that the reverence for the signifier in the stead of the signified can be idolatry if one is not careful. Perhaps this is what you mean to suggest?

    Rockhound (#14) said: “Enoch, Jacob, Enos, Nephi, Jared and his brother, Jacob (Nephi’s brother), Alma and a host of others … would encourage us to forego symbolism and seek the Living God.”

    Each one of the prophetic figures you mention have used symbolism and creative imagination to teach us precisely how to “seek the Living God.” Consider: Alma compares our faith to the planting and nurturing of a seed (Alma 32), and suggests that the Liahona was a type (Alma 37:45); Jacob gives the allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees (Jacob 5); Jared’s shining stones symbolize the light of God which provides us with interior illumination as we cross this sea of death (see Jared 2,3, 4:12).

    Rockhound (#14) said: “I have my own issues with Masonic Lore and symbolism as I believe they are Satanic and included within the secret combinations of man.”

    RESPONSE: I appreciate that you may have issues. But apparently, Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints saw this thing differently: “We have the true Masonry. . . we have the real thing” (Heber C. Kimball, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 13 November, 1858, 1085, LDS archives). “There is method in Mormonism — method infinite. Mormonism is Masonic [for] the crown of the covenant is the temple” (Eliza R. Snow, as quoted, Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, New York, 1877, 75), and “There is a glorious Masonic scheme among the Gods. The everlasting orders come down to us with their mystic and official names. The heavens and the earths have a grand leveling; not by pulling down celestial spheres, but by the lifting up of mortal spheres” (Ibid, 192).

    Rockhound (#14) said: “They are a type and a shadow . . .”

    RESPONSE: You mean, they are symbolic?

    Rockhound (#14) said: “[Secret Combinations such as Freemasonry] point to the gaining of knowledge of men over wisdom in Christ. Ultimately, the end result is simply more power and gain.

    RESPONSE: I don’t suppose this opinion is informed by any real facts. Rather, I believe that noted Masonic writer W. L. Wilmshurst tells it true:

    “The Master Mason’s Degree might be said to be represented in terms of Christian theology by the formula ‘He suffered and was buried and rose again,’ whilst the equivalent of the exaltation ceremony is ‘He ascended into heaven,’”; the first ‘indicates the necessity of mystical death and dramatizes the process of such death and revival therefrom into newness of life. The Royal Arch carries this process a stage further, by showing its fulfillment in the ‘exaltation’ or apotheosis of him who has undergone it” (Wilmshurst, Meaning of Masonry, London: Rider, 1927, 140).

    Rockhound (#14) said: “I desire to be taught by angels and by the spirit without the need to create symbols of understanding. I choose the literal theology.”

    RESPONSE: No need for “symbols of understanding” like the letters of the alphabet? Hmm. I wonder.

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  44. Jeff Spector on April 5, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Cowboy,

    “I suppose the question then is, what is the distinction between symbolic gestures and literal expectations. Am I not to cut my head off for revealing secrets, only wish I had?”

    I don’t think that the question at all. The question is:

    Why don’t you understand it that way given the nature of the ceremony itself?

    The same question applies to Justin….

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  45. Bob on April 5, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    #42:Bored in Vernal,
    Unless thoats were really cut.

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  46. Jeff Spector on April 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    BIV,

    “The penalties are also best understood symbolically. Rather than reveal something we promised not to, we are willing to forfeit our lives, perhaps not our physical lives, but our spiritual connection with Deity. Thinking of it this way gives it a great power that the literal understanding does not.”

    My point exactly given where these symbols point to.

    Also, this is why I am not sure why some need it to be physically violent.

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  47. Cowboy on April 5, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    In Response to Jeff and BIV:

    “Why don’t you understand it that way given the nature of the ceremony itself?”

    Perhaps we are splitting hairs here, but to say that these things are “symbolic” seems to only license a degree of ambiguity and private interpretation. Music and art can certainly be subject to varying interpretations, but I don’t think that was the intent of the Temple rituals. To BIV’s point, I don’t know that the ritual implies that there will be a literal veil ceremony, however even in the Temple we are told that the keys recieved there will enable us to walk pass the “angels standing as sentinels…”. I never had the impression that Brigham Young was employing symbolism, but rather literalism in that declaration.

    So, if I were to accept Jeff’s revision to my question, and agree to see the ritual as symbolic, what does that mean? That is the whole point to Temple symbolism, ie, it is intended to have specific literal meaning. So, drawing a distinction between the symbol and the literal, does in fact seem to be the question. For example, am I really supposed to kill myself for revealing Temple secrets, or just feel really bad about it? It would be good to know what the literal intent there is.

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  48. Justin on April 5, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Cowboy answered:

    That is the whole point to Temple symbolism, ie, it is intended to have specific literal meaning.

    Ditto.

    Saying something is “symbolic” or “metaphoric” does not equate to just saying it’s “not real” or even that it’s not “physical” [not having a physical component or counterpart].

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  49. Justin on April 5, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    If anything — in my personal life, I’ve been accused of taking things too literally, expecting all of the gospel and the word of God to have a physical/real component to them, and refusing to be satisfied with a “spiritualized” meaning of the gospel.

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  50. Jeff Spector on April 5, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Cowboy,

    “So, drawing a distinction between the symbol and the literal, does in fact seem to be the question.”

    So, yes, I would agree with you and Justin that any symbology equals to something literal, but that is really up to us as individuals to determine to some degree. Because as we all know, there is no detailed explanation of every aspect of the temple ceremony.

    “For example, am I really supposed to kill myself for revealing Temple secrets, or just feel really bad about it?

    It would be safe to say that it never was meant for anyone to lose their mortal life.

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  51. Bored in Vernal on April 5, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    All right–I see what you are saying. In this post I am trying to show the difference between a signifier (symbol) and the signified (literal meaning). There is an important reason for using signifiers. There are transcendent truths which extend beyond the ability to be communicated by common speech. So we use symbolic language to help us understand. Symbols share a transcendent quality which include nuances which literal telling may miss.

    It is intended that different people can see these things differently. Two people have different needs when they attend the temple and may benefit from the ability to approach these transcendent truths in different ways. This is why symbols do not have a single meaning. They point to the same truth, but how you arrive at that truth can be very different.

    Let’s look at the water in the sacrament. It has a signified: the blood of Christ. However this symbol can call to the mind many different things: the waters of baptism, by which we come to Christ; drinking of the water of life freely; a reminder of the water that came forth from Christ’s side at death; the crossing over of the waters of Jordan; water in the desert gives life and revivication; water is a symbol of purification so it represents cleansing from sin. There are a whole range of meanings here which expand the mind of he who contemplates the symbol. It helps us to more fully comprehend the signified. Meditating on the numerous meanings can open our minds to personal revelation.

    Latter-day Saints have a difficuly with symbols. I see a reluctance to go beyond one-to-one correlation. Without the use of creativity in interpretation, all the nuances go away.

    My conclusion here is that symbols are very useful in communicating truth. They are the language of the Spirit. In the instance of the five points, there has been a hesitation or inability to assign meaning to symbolic gestures used in ritual work. Because of this, the symbol became meaningless and is no longer included in the ceremony. What a pity.

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  52. Frank Bruno on April 5, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    this is shaping up to be an excellent discussion. Both sides have made really cogent remarks. I appreciate the divergent thoughts.

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  53. Jeff Spector on April 5, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    “Latter-day Saints have a difficuly with symbols. I see a reluctance to go beyond one-to-one correlation. Without the use of creativity in interpretation, all the nuances go away.”

    Man, is this ever true! that’s why we try to turn the Old Testament into the New Testament…. And yet the NT has symbols of its own.

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  54. Bored in Vernal on April 5, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Cowboy #47:

    am I really supposed to kill myself for revealing Temple secrets, or just feel really bad about it? It would be good to know what the literal intent there is.

    This illustrates the problem with taking symbols too literally. Members became uncomfortable with the violent nature of the actions performed, perhaps contributing to their removal from the ritual. Rather, pondering what they could signify will open your mind to greater spiritual truths and revelation. Some possibilities might be that failure to keep sacred obligations

      #cuts one off from the body of Christ
      #causes one to suffer spiritual death
      #stops the tongue from being able to express truth
      #subjects one to torture and agony of conscience

    and many other meanings in this vein. Creativity in interpretation can open your mind to revelation upon this point. It is a spiritual truth which is difficult and perhaps disturbing to articulate in words, but more aptly communicated symbolically.

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  55. Cowboy on April 5, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I know the intention was not to specifically address the sacrament, but I think there’s a point there geared towards what I’m getting at. In your illustration of the water used in the sacrament, you begin creatively alluding to all of these symbolic views of water. The use of water in the Sacrament is a relatively new thing, and was introduced as a logistical solution to a problem, rather than something that was to take on new symbolic meaning. The water was to take the place of wine, only because it became routinely more practical for the (Missouri??) Saints. It was still to be carry the symbolism of Wine, which may hold some parallel, but which also provides it’s own unique significance. The literalness is explained in the New Testament, in that Christ literally reconciles us with his blood. While water doesn’t necessarilly contradict the symbolism of wine in this example, I think it shows how creative interpretation that loses sight of literal implications can veer off into unintended territory.

    I am also uncertain that symbolism allows us to understand truths that are typically beyond our grasp, because symbolism can rarely be condensed into meaningful bits of information. Rather it allows us to be moved by forms and gestures, “art” if you will, the lend to a feeling of enlightenment that we call transcendence. I am of course admitting a bias here, in that I am suspicious of “knowledge” that can’t be articulated in clear language.

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  56. Heber13 on April 5, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Whether the Mormons have the “Celestial Masonry” as BY called it, the true masonry restoring what Masons have back to its pure form, or whether Joseph Smith was influenced to the Masonry all around him in NY, Missouri and eventually all over in Nauvoo…to me, it makes little difference.

    The rituals bring my mind to think of the heavens and to my God and how there is hope to return to live with God again. Wherever it came from, it is godly.

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  57. Cowboy on April 5, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    “Creativity in interpretation can open your mind to revelation upon this point. It is a spiritual truth which is difficult and perhaps disturbing to articulate in words, but more aptly communicated symbolically.”

    Or it can just simply lead to “creative interpretation”. I would not be surprised if there aren’t some Art History courses that go by that title. The problem is we can call it a revelation without having to be accountable for it. It can also serve as a rationalization to justify sinister behavior. The water get’s even muddier with something like the penalties in the Temple because they have changed, or been removed. There we have an unintended symbol, ie, something that must be interpreted, creatively in fact.

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  58. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    Jeff (#46) said: “I am not sure why some need [the penalties] to be physically violent.”

    RESPONSE: Following the lead of certain Masonic authors, modern LDS apologists have sometimes claimed that the particular kind of violence depicted refers to the Hebrew practice of “Cutting a Covenant” (karet brit) noted in certain passages of the Bible (http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/gospel-jesus-christ-old-testament/7-cutting-covenants). However, since the changes in the LDS Temple ritual in 1990, the significance seems much more academic and much less immediate.

    Freemasons have discussed the relationship between Masonic penalties and “cutting a covenant” at least since the days of Joseph Smith. In his influential work “Historical Landmarks,” Reverend Brother George Oliver notes: Brother Goodacre, of the Witham Lodge, Lincoln, suggests that the various penalties which have been introduced into Freemasonry appear to have reference to a particular kind of covenant which was common among the Hebrews, but which, he adds, “I can find only twice particularly described. Godwyn says: ‘Making a covenant was a solemn binding of each other to the performance of a mutual promise, by outward ceremonies of cutting a beast in twain, and passing between the parts thereof’ (Jer. xxxiv.18); as if they would say–Thus let it be done to him, and thus let his body be cut in two, who shall break this covenant. . . . But we must look a little closer into the manner of making a covenant, in order to discover the connection of the different penalties as references to one entire ceremony. After an animal had been selected, his throat was cut across with one single blow, so as to divide the windpipe, arteries, and veins, without touching any bone. The next ceremony was to tear the breast open and pluck out the heart, and if there were the least imperfection, the body would be considered unclean. The animal was then divided into two parts, and placed north and south, that the parties to the covenant may pass between them from east to west, and the carcase was then left as a prey to voracious animals. The other example of such a covenant is in Genesis xv” (Oliver, Historical Landmarks, New York: J.W. Leonard & Company, 1855 Vol 1, 123).

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  59. GBSmith on April 5, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    “GBSmith #36, just wondering.. do you think that Joseph Campbell’s writings on the power of myth constitute what you dismiss as “magical thinking?” ”

    I don’t know Campbell’s work well enough to comment. By magical thinking I mean believing that something you think or have or do will produce a result, i.e. garments protecting from physical harm, paying tithing keeping you financially solvent, going to the temple guaranteeing a happy marriage, knowing signs and tokens to get past angels, etc. and into God’s presence.

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  60. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    BiV (#54) said: “Creativity in interpretation can open your mind to revelation upon this point. It is a spiritual truth which is difficult and perhaps disturbing to articulate in words, but more aptly communicated symbolically.”

    Cowboy (#57) said: “Or it can just simply lead to ‘creative interpretation.’”

    RESPONSE: I’m not sure that this is at all a bad thing, Cowboy. I mean, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. BiV is advocating an established process used by Latter-day Saints to prepare the mind to receive revelation. For this reason, fear of making interpretive errors should not dissuade us from meditating upon symbols and thinking about them creatively, as preparation for further light and knowledge. Hugh B. Brown once famously enjoined us to “preserve . . . the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In this age of speed there seems to be little time for meditation”(http://president.byu.edu/documents/brown.htm).

    Brown understood that what both saint and scientist aspire towards is “insight” (Hugh B. Brown, LDS Conference Report, Apr. 1967, pg. 49). But fear can block insight and dam up the soul. Fear of the results of thinking creatively about the symbols we encounter in the Endowment can lead to a kind of spiritual hardness of heart. Such hardness may separate one from the very spiritual and revelatory streams the Lord has prepared as a reward for the fervently seeking (Alma 12: 9-11). I believe the answer to the fear of “sinister intent” or “lack of accountability” is to cultivate personal humility, and to trust in the Lord. I don’t believe the answer is to abandon out of fear the creative faculty with which God has so graciously blessed us. Such anti-intellectualism can end up becoming a path to stagnation and spiritual mediocrity.

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  61. Frank Bruno on April 5, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    There seems to be something missing in this whole discussion of symbolic versus literal meaning of this practice. What is the end result in the person participating.

    BiV says in the symbolic you can have myriad symbols that lead you to receive multiple experiences of personal revelation. You can also be motivated to keep sacred obligations like fidelity to spouse or following the counsel of God which is to walk up to every commandment or revelation that an individual receives.

    Whether we cast our minds on a symbol or perform a physical representation there are manifestations in the lives of those involved. It enlivens us to walk up to the things we learn, we receive power through remembrance of the principles taught in the temple and it renews our covenants with God so that we can have a sanctifying power that will lead us in to the presence of Christ and Heavenly Father. I agree with BiV that we need to see the symbolic meanings in myriad ways to transform us in to a spiritual being capable of entering the presence of God.

    One of my former teachers at BYU John M. Lundquist, “What Is a Temple? A Preliminary Typology,” taught us that that the these things are a physical demonstration of eternal truths. Holy rituals and practices prepare us to overcome the things of this world so we can enter in the cosmic presence of God.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the power of godliness must be manifested to “men in the flesh”: It is “in the ordinances . . . [that] the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; for without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C 84:20–22).

    As it is through ordinances that God’s power is manifest, not just spiritually but physically. God’s ordinances must involve the physical body for his power to be manifested. We become changed as we transform ourselves whether through symbols, ordinances, rituals, and actions we learn in the temple.

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  62. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Heber13 (#56) said: “The [LDS Temple] rituals bring my mind to think of the heavens and to my God and how there is hope to return to live with God again. Wherever it came from, it is godly.”

    RESPONSE: And that’s the point. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, but it’s all true.” Through the sacralizing power of the Priesthood, a common or profane bath can become the powerful, transforming and sacred ordinance of baptism. The touch of God transforms base lead into spiritual gold. It changes water into wine. It transforms our common, base and imperfect human natures into something uncommon, noble, holy, perfect — and divine.

    Everything God touches becomes holy by his association with it… “wherever it came from.”

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  63. Jeff Spector on April 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    If David O MacKay can still be learning about the Temple in his 90′s, it tellsm e that there is still much to be gleened from the symbolic nature of the ceremony.

    As I like to revert to my onion example, as BIV has stated, the symbols can have a number of meanings applied to them.

    To Joe Steve, the connection between Old Testament sacrifical procedures and the symbolic nature of the Temple should be in alignment as they point to the same thing, Christ.

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  64. GBSmith on April 5, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    “Heber13 on April 5, 2012 at 1:40 PM
    Whether the Mormons have the “Celestial Masonry” as BY called it, the true masonry restoring what Masons have back to its pure form, or whether Joseph Smith was influenced to the Masonry all around him in NY, Missouri and eventually all over in Nauvoo…to me, it makes little difference.”

    Sorry, but you’ve lost me on the “pure form” of masonry. It was a trade guild and now it’s a fraternal organization. It may be that JS decided to use it to teach as Greg Kearney said on a Mormon Stories a long time ago but considering it something that’s pure, holy and eternal is a bit of a stretch.

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  65. Bob on April 5, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    I am not disagreeing with any of this.
    But * caution *, this Post has been a little light on symbols and rituals. I feel people need to understand there is also a very dark side to these undertakings. After all, the King of this is the occult.
    I met several times with Carlos Castaneda in 1969 ( I was an Anthropology student) as he was bringing out with his Best Selling book “The Teachings of Don Juan”. The book was Castaneda’s study with Don Juan,a Shaman and Don Juan’s use of symbols, rituals, and drugs.
    “Cuttings” and “Blood” are found all through Religious rituals, not just the OT or Jews.

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  66. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 5, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    Frank — thank you.

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  67. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    GBSmith (#64) said: “Sorry, but you’ve lost me on the “pure form” of masonry. It was a trade guild and now it’s a fraternal organization.”

    The actual origins of Freemasonry are a matter of continued scholarly debate. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both seemed to believe — as did many Freemasons — that Speculative (as opposed to spurious) Masonry was given to Man by God.

    SGBSmith (#64) said: “It may be that JS decided to use it to teach as Greg Kearney said on a Mormon Stories a long time ago”

    And it may be that Greg Kearney’s understanding of precisely what Joseph Smith was doing with Freemasonry is demonstrably and significantly lacking. While I’m quite sure that Brother Kearney is very understanding of the modern Fraternity, I’m not so certain he has familiarized himself with the shape (i.e., the literature or ritual) of Masonry from the 1720′s through the 1860′s.

    SGBSmith (#64) said: “Considering [Masonry] something that’s pure, holy and eternal is a bit of a stretch.”

    It may be a stretch for you, but it certainly was not a stretch for Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and many others, who were persuaded by George Oliver, Will Hutchinson, and Salem Town that:

    “ancient Masonry was, in a very important sense, ancient Christianity. In whatever extent in shall be found, that those principles, which are now comprised in our system, were, in ancient times, understood in a spiritual sense, as to the ark of Noah, the tabernacle of Moses, and the temple of Solomon, in the same extent, we must be allowed to infer, that ancient Masonry was of a sacred and religious nature” (Town, Salem. A System of Speculative Masonry, New York: Salem, 1818, 90).

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  68. Stephen Marsh on April 5, 2012 at 7:26 PM

    Joe Steve Swick III — just because a review of the Ramses the Great exhibit that toured the United States reflects the Egyptian Gods using the same grips and signs as the Masons used does not mean that the modern criticisms of the Masons and Carbonari are not correct …

    Or does it?

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  69. Bob on April 5, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    #68:Stephen Marsh,
    Or, maybe the Masons took the same tour?

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  70. hawkgrrrl on April 5, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    BiV’s already done a great job articulating the variance of symbolic meaning that makes it more useful for pondering. I’ll add to her list:
    - separates the mind from the body (perhaps creating mental confusion or reducing us to animals with no conscience)
    - stops our ability to communicate with others (not just God)
    - we have to become our own sacrifice rather than relying on the atonement, having rejected Jesus’ sacrifice

    “I am suspicious of “knowledge” that can’t be articulated in clear language.” Well, that’s the nature of spiritual ‘truth.’ There comes a point when what Jesus is saying can’t be written or comprehended because of the limits of language.

    As to the Masons, it’s true that at JS’s time it was very commonly believed by Masons that their roots went back to Solomon’s temple. It’s nearly impossible to trace roots of masonry earlier than 1717 when modern Masonry was organized. My uncles were masons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Freemasonry

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  71. Frank Bruno on April 5, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    The thing I don’t understand about all the quotes from those who are dominating the discussion is there not more synthesis.
    and analysis. Most of what I’m seeing comes from secondary sources not actual participation in the
    sacred ordinances inside of the temple. It is intellectualizing rather than living of the gospel. I have been disappointed that full potential of this topic has been hindered by silencing faithful voices.

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  72. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    Stephen Marsh (#68) said: “a review of the Ramses the Great exhibit that toured the United States reflects the Egyptian Gods using the same grips and signs as the Masons used.”

    RESPONSE: Please cite your source.

    Stephen Marsh (#68) said: “[This] does not mean that the modern criticisms of the Masons and Carbonari are not correct … Or does it?”

    RESPONSE: I fail to see: 1) any evidence in favor of your Egyptian hypothesis; 2) any discussion of what particular “modern criticisms” of Freemasonry or the Carbonari you might have in mind; and 3) how any of these ideas are connected.

    I am therefore careful to ask for clarification from you before responding further.

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  73. Frank Bruno on April 5, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Hawkgrlll that really is impressive that you added such perceptive additions to the list that BiV started. My last comment needs clarification my intentions as a librarian is that all voices be heard and have a seat at the table. There was lots of interesting analyses by participants but some people did not get full expression. I want to thank BiV she did a great job and had she had greater latitude maybe there would have been a richer tapestry including TBMs. I have been enriched by the comments I have read here. It taxed my intellectual pygamyship.

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  74. Chris on April 5, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    Whether or not Joseph Smith believed that that he was restoring Freemasonry to its original form, the fact is that this organization does not go back to the building of Solomon’s Temple, as some have supposed, but is a secret society that is traced to Scotland in the 16th century.

    I have a son-in-law and a brother-in-law who are devout Masons and with all due respect to those of you who are faithful Mormons and Masons, (and I know some of those as well), the fruits of Freemasonry which I have closely observed in my loved ones have not been good.

    As a faithful member, I have studied the disturbing relationship between the temple ceremony and Masonic rite ceremonies, I can find nothing of good report or praiseworthy in the similarities. I am grateful the five points of fellowship has been eliminated from the ceremony because this ritual fostered improper intimacy between strangers, something that the Church discourages in its doctrine. I am also relieved that the death descriptions have been eliminated. I respect BiV’s great intellect, but I believe that these past Masonic symbols in the temple ceremony did not edify. In Freemasony, these rituals were a way to keep tradesmen from sharing their secret oaths with others. If perfect love casts out fear, then the temple ceremony should not create fear in the hearts of those who participated.

    Until all aspects of Masonry are eliminated from the temple ceremony, we will not have a pure ceremony that centers on Christ. Symbology of death, torture, and destruction in any ritual context do not edify or uplift the participants.

    When we meet the Savior again, we will not do so upon five points of fellowship. We will bow before Him, overcome with gratitude for His infinite love and for the great suffering He endured for us because of His unconditional love for us.

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  75. Joe Steve Swick III on April 5, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    Chris (#74) said: “When we meet the Savior again, we will not do so upon five points of fellowship. We will bow before Him, overcome with gratitude for His infinite love and for the great suffering He endured for us because of His unconditional love for us.”

    I see it differently: when we finally come to Christ, we shall be lifted up by Him, perfected in Him (Moroni 10:32), and shall be like him (1 Jn 3:2), a perfect man (Eph 4:3). We shall stand face to face, knee to knee, and foot to foot: “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” — and certainly hand to back as we are “encircled in the arms of his love” (2 Ne 1:15) as *He holds us up.* Our Master shall “make us stand” (Rom 14:4).

    The Five Points of Fellowship have deep Christian significance. Together with the five-pointed star, they signify the very tokens of Christ’s love for us: “Paul taught we can only attain to the Master’s resurrection by ‘being made conformable unto his death,’ and we ‘must die with Him if we are to be raised like Him’: and it is in virtue of that conformity, in virtue of being individually made to imitate the Grand Master in His death, that we are made worthy of certain ‘points of fellowship’ with Him: for the ‘five points of fellowship’ of the third degree are the five wounds of Christ” (Wilmshurst, Meaning of Masonry, 44-5).

    For the Christian Mason, there is even more. Three knocks represent our death, reminding us that in Christ “I die daily.” But far from “death, torture and destruction,” five points represent our raising, bringing to the mind of the Freemason that “Blazing Star” or herald of our salvation: that day star that rises in our hearts (2 Pet 1:19).

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  76. LDS Anarchist on April 6, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    BiV,

    In the OP you stated

    Because this symbolic rite had its origins in Nauvoo-era Freemasonry, there is much we can learn about the meaning behind the symbol from Masonic writings.

    Please know before hand that I love you dearly, BiV, so hopefully you don’t get too upset with me for saying that I disagree with that statement. I’m really too tired tonight to fully explain this mystery to you, but I will try to give the principle in a few short sentences:

    1) The Lord borrows pagan (“man-made,” extant) symbols to represent real (literal) gospel truths.

    2) One symbol for one literal truth/fact/thing. (He is a God of order, not of confusion.)

    3) Symbols are used to develop, obtain and maintain faith, but only work to grow faith when the literal truth represented by the symbol is known.

    4) All temple symbols represent celestial objects/manifestations (plasma cosmology.)

    5) There are two ways of knowing. God does not reveal the truths associated with temple symbolism through more symbols (language descriptions), but through visions, such as how He did with Abraham (see the Book of Abraham.)

    If the above is true, Masonic writings will tell you nothing of the truths behind temple symbolism. In fact, they can only serve to obscure the real meanings.

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  77. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    LDS Anarchist (#76):

    I suppose I disagree with a few of your points, and with your conclusion — certainly a mystery to me! :-) As the hour is early, I’ll limit my own remarks to two points you mention. I apologize in advance if my language is tedious.

    LDS Anarchist (#76) said: “One symbol for one literal truth/fact/thing. (He is a God of order, not of confusion.”

    Actually, symbols don’t have “one true meaning,” and one signifier can point to multiple signifieds, just as multiple signifiers can sometimes point to a single signified: “the symbol … unites a signifier to several signifieds. In the symbolism of fire, for example, the ideas of ‘youthful ardor’, of ‘the fires of love’, of ‘destructive’, ‘purifying’ and ‘sacrificial’ fires, etc. are associated with a representation of flames. The symbol does not have a dual structure (one signifier-one signified); its structure is multiple (one signifier-several signifieds) . . . the simple ‘signifier-signified’ relationship is thus enriched …. The mind simultaneously perceives several processes of signification — from the signifier to each signified — and at the same time, correspondences among signifieds: relationships which are ‘motivated’ to the extent that each signified seems to contain attributes found in the others. These correspondences are not fixed . . . [but] they do depend on [the] sensitivity [of the subject]… The mind is relatively free to accept or reject these correspondences” (see Balakian, Anna ed. The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1984, 95-96).

    This isn’t to say that “anything can mean anything,” but that a symbol can be invested by a community or an individual with a meaning or multiple meanings, which rely on the complex web of correspondences which the symbol naturally brings to mind (depending upon context, culture and so forth). With a “message” going from a sender and to a reciever, there is obviously a purpose or intention. Symbolism is a MEANS of delivering that message; that it may have the kind of complexity mentioned above does not suggest that there is not a specific result or purpose in the mind of the Sender (God in this case), but perhaps no single utterance can capture the transcendent reality behind the symbol.

    The Five Points can suggest many things to us: Divine Acceptance; Spiritual Maturity; Support; Love; “Mirroring”; Raising; Resurrection — to name a few. All of these signifieds may come into play for us as the mind works with the symbol. And, depending upon our spiritual sensitivity (i.e., the “sensitivity of the subject”), we may come to understandings that defy easy description in words. This ability to move the mind closer to apprehending the transcendant is one of the values of symbolism, especially in a religious context.

    When it comes to the sacramental emblems of bread and wine, Jesus says “this is my body: eat,” and “this is my blood: drink.” Those who only look for the one-to-one correspondence (bread-body, wine-blood) may miss the rich and intended “other-signifieds” inherent in the symbol (Bread: Bread of Heaven, Mystical Body of the Church, Nourishment, Eating the God, Covenanting; Commandment-Keeping, Life; Wine: Holy Spirit, Mystical Intoxication, Purification, Sanctification, Love, Life). The sacramental prayers themselves encourage us to consider multiple signifieds. This is for the purpose of reinforcing the intended message, having to do with remembering Him.

    Similarly, the Five Points:

    This completes the obligation;
    Brothers, lest you let it slip,
    Fasten on tenacious memory
    All our Points of Fellowship.

    Again, historically this was intended to suggest Fellowship with God through Imitatio Christi — through loving charity towards our earthly fellows.

    LDS Anarchist (#76) said: “Masonic writings will tell you nothing of the truths behind temple symbolism. In fact, they can only serve to obscure the real meanings.”

    I dont’ suppose this is true in the least, any more than understanding meaning of the Jewish practice of washing in the mikveh as part of conversion would “tell you nothing” about the Christian practice of baptism, or even “obscure the real meanings.” On the contrary, meditating on the meaning of the mikveh can deepen our understanding and appreciation of baptism, and can prepare our minds for personal revelation — for further light and knowledge.

    I would also mention that I first heard one of the poems BiV cites in an Elder’s Quorum meeting. While the Temple ritual was never explicitly mentioned, I believe that everyone in the room felt those words had told them something about the significance of the Five Points, and their relationship to “fellowship.” I never heard anyone suggest that it had obscured the real meanings.

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  78. Exequiel Medina on April 6, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    What a beautiful words! It is important people could be aware of their beliefs origins and keep their faith if some findings are different of their current ones.

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  79. Bonnie on April 6, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Why does the existence of a symbol in pagan belief systems indicate that it did not originate with God? I think he can do whatever he wants with symbols he may well have created.

    Symbols exist in our language and are according to our understanding and they are poor carriers for divine truth, but that’s because WE are limited, not because God is. You can’t push a metaphor upward to explain God, but he can reduce truth into a symbol to give us a taste of greater things. We do not gain all truth from symbols; they are merely an invitation to greater revelation. It’s not God’s fault our communication is lacking.

    You are right, LDS Anarchist, that symbols only work as far as the original (I’m not sure I’m ready to call that “literal”) truth is well understood, but they are like gold lying in the ground – when they are rediscovered they invite further questioning and revelation. Certainly they can be perverted; God has not chosen to limit our stupidity here on earth. We have time to work those things out. That confusion exists is mortal and God is certainly not its author. Our job is to continually work to wash away the confusion that grows like mold down here.

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  80. Nick Literski on April 6, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    #74:
    Until all aspects of Masonry are eliminated from the temple ceremony, we will not have a pure ceremony that centers on Christ.

    I’ve been holding back from participating in this thread, but the above comment (and the claims leading up to it) is just amusing beyond my ability to remain silent.

    If I were truly inconsiderate of the feelings of many friends in this forum, it would be entertaining to go through the entire Endowment ceremony, identifying “all aspects of Masonry” for your desired excision, just to point out what would be left. The advantage of such Bowdlerism, of course, would be shortening the Endowment ceremony to approximately 10 minutes (15 minutes, including the Initiatory), which would allow patrons to do several more sessions for their deceased ancestors during a typical temple visit.

    That said, Chris, I can’t resist giving you a bit of counsel, in order to help you eliminate “all aspects of Masonry” from your temple/worship experience and “center on Christ”:

    (1) Please remove your “Garment of the Holy Priesthood” right away, and never wear it again. Clothing the candidate in a new garment, said to be provided by deity, is an aspect of Masonry. The marks on your Garment, of course, are also well-known aspects of Masonry.

    (2) You will wish to repudiate, perhaps even purge from your mind, the “New Name” you received in the temple, as well as all other “Names” given to you therein. Symbolic names, particularly when used in association with certain hand grips and signs, are aspects of Masonry.

    (3) If you own a set of temple robes, see to it that you destroy your apron and refuse to don one when instructed to do so in the temple. The apron is one of the most meaningful “aspects of Masonry,” fully explained to every new candidate. This “aspect of Masonry” also plays a beautiful, prominent part in the funerary rites associated with Masonry, so you’ll want to be sure that you aren’t buried witn an apron, since that tradition is most certainly an “aspect of Masonry.”

    (4) When participating in the Endowment, see that you refrain from participation in any prayer circles therein, as the precise nature of the temple prayer circle mirrors that associated with certain Masonic degrees and is thus an “aspect of Masonry.”

    (5) When participating in the Endowment ceremony, please refrain from speaking to any entity behind a symbolic or literal “veil,” as this practice is also an “aspect of Masonry” found quite beautifully represented in a certain degree.

    (6) Take care not to enter into the “Celestial Room” of any LDS temple, since ascending into the presence of deity and entering the “celestial lodge on high” is an “aspect of Masonry.”

    (7) Just to make things a bit easier, I’ll give you one handy way to avoid all the above, together with all other “aspects of Masonry” found in Mormon temple worship. You see, Chris, Joseph Smith was rather explicit in explaining how the building of the Nauvoo Temple would “wrap up” Masonic legend, by seeing that the elders who labored thereon would be given certain “signs, tokens and key words” pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, enabling them to enter into the presence of deity. He made it abundantly clear that this was the entire purpose of building the Nauvoo Temple, just as Masonic legend said it was the purpose (and intended reward) for building Solomon’s Temple. In fact, the two were so closely linked, that if you look at artists’ depictions of Solomon’s Temple from the time of Joseph Smith (quite different from those drawn these days), you’ll see exactly where Joseph got his inspiration for the Nauvoo Temple architecture. In other words, Chris, you really need to just stay out of LDS temples entirely, as history demonstrates quite clearly that their design, construction, and purpose are all “aspects of Masonry.”

    Again, I’ve avoided a full list of “aspects of Masonry” in order to respect the religious sensibilities of my friends. I hope, however, that you’ve found these preliminary suggestions helpful in your desire to “center on Christ.”

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  81. Frank Bruno on April 6, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    I have to agree that this is getting tedious. Symbols are not the only way to know God. A symbol opens your mind to focus on God. It allows you to receive revelation for a single symbol which corresponds to one truth. We process information in our finite minds one by one and inspiration will only flow when it corresponds a particular celestial truth/fact/thing. LDS Anarchist wrote:

    There are two ways of knowing. God does not reveal the truths associated with temple symbolism through more symbols (language descriptions), but through visions, such as how He did with Abraham (see the Book of Abraham.)

    The second way of knowing is more powerful than any symbol. Through visions we come to transcend this world and enter into the presence of God. A friend of my recently lost a close mentor or confident she struggled with understanding whether or not she would associate with her beloved friend ever again like she did in this world. She had been studying topics like the one we are discussing and questioned whether the banners or tokens of Mormonism had the power for her to associate with him in a similar way as she had on this earth.

    I assured her that she could and that the celestial kingdom would be much like outlined by Joseph Smith in our plan of salvation and through her temple covenants. That if she and her friend lived a life in harmony with the covenants she and he would again share joyous moments. She seemed doubtful that the afterlife would be like it was here. She told me she had received no revelation on the matter. I know she understood symbols and her construct was driven by her spiritual experience to that point and her intellectual capacities.

    She questioned why I believed the way I did and I shared with her a few revelatory moments that I had. My first was at sixteen when I was saved in the Baptist Church and saw Christ crucified on the cross. My second was as a missionary struggling with the language and driven to my knees in prayer saw the Savior come in his glory at the Second Coming. But the most significant one that answered the question at least for me was a revelatory dream where I met the Savior in a couple of earthly settings and we talked as one man talks to another. I could testify to her that I not only believed but knew that she and her beloved friend would talk with each other again and feel the joy of their friendship for eternity.

    This may seem weird but throughout my life I have communed with the Church of the First Born despite being a flawed and weak person. One time my friend even asked me when we were researching a particular historical bit of information to find out the answer which came that very night in a dream when I was presenting a paper at the Mormon Pacific Historical Association.

    LDS Anarchist is correct there are greater ways of knowing. I know my friend will some day come to the answers she seeks and come to see the face of God and know that he is if she but have faith and walk up to covenants she has made faithfully.

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  82. Exequiel Medina on April 6, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Hi Nick, I love your comments.

    I would like to add that people do not have to be afraid of this kind of information or discoveries as appear in their life. What kind of testimony or belief cannot stand before the light? The very Joseph Smith was a Freemason, a Master Mason and a lot of old and new Mormon Temples are full of symbols found before in Freemasonry (I mean symbols engraved into temples external walls).

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  83. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    Cowboy (#55) said: ” I am also uncertain that symbolism allows us to understand truths that are typically beyond our grasp, because symbolism can rarely be condensed into meaningful bits of information.”

    RESPONSE: Joseph Smith’s work with the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham illustrate how that process can work. One can work with symbols to discover truths typically beyond one’s grasp. For me, this is what the symbol of “Prophet translating unknown symbols” means to me.

    Cowboy (#55) said: “[Symbols] allow us to be moved by forms and gestures, “art” if you will, they lend to a feeling of enlightenment that we call transcendence.”

    RESPONSE: I think that symbols and symbolism can do much more than engender vague feelings. They can provide layers of signification that can deepen our understanding of a message. Like Cowboy, LDS Anarchist suggests that many Saints are uncomfortable with the idea that a single symbol can have multiple significations, when in fact they frequently play with symbols in precisely this way.

    For instance, what does the white clothing of the Endowment suggest to you? Perhaps it suggests purity, or “meeting upon the level” (our equality before God). This is good, especially if you are viewing the Endowment merely as a current event. But what if you view the symbols of the Endowment informed by the idea (assuming God has been talking to you) that the Endowment represents an Eternal Round, in which the signifiers simultaneously represent past (“I am viewing events occuring in the past/ in the days of Adam and Eve”) present (“I am receiving my Endowment today as an Adam/Eve”) and future (“I am viewing events that will occur when I myself am resurrected and acting in the role of a world-initiating Adam/Eve”) sacred events? It is likely that each of these interpretive contexts may modify the way one experiences the Endowment. The signifiers INTENTIONALLY have multiple significations, and the MESSAGE of the Endowment deepens for us when we move away from the strict dualism of “signifier-signified.” The white clothing can then represent our premortal spirit bodies, as we view the sacred time in which our own world is being formed; it can then represent our glorified and perfected bodies, as we become Adams and Eves for other worlds.

    This same kind of deepening and enriching, of expanding possible meanings can happen if we use this kind of approach to more complex symbols — such as the sacred embrace as the five points of fellowship.

    When we use the full set of symbols in this expanded way, very specific doctrines and instruction suggest themselves to us, which we are free to confirm or reject through personal revelation.

    Cowboy (#55) said: “I am of course admitting a bias here, in that I am suspicious of ‘knowledge’ that can’t be articulated in clear language.”

    RESPONSE: That is a bias that many Latter-day Saints share. They are often uncomfortable with the transcendant aspects of the Divine, preferring the immanent, for just this reason. They are often encouraged in this by General Authorities who suggest that transcendant visions and experiences are very sacred, and should not be shared; while immanent spiritual experiences are frequently shared and preferred. Yet, in the LDS tradition, what makes a man or woman a divine oracle –what qualifies one as a ‘prophet, seer, and revelator– is transcendant spiritual experience. There is some irony in this, I think.

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  84. LDS Anarchist on April 6, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Joe Steve Swick III #76,

    Let me explain what I wrote in #76:

    2) One symbol for one literal truth/fact/thing. (He is a God of order, not of confusion.)

    First, let’s take the sacrament as an example. The wine is a symbol. In this case, it is a literal thing which is representative of another literal thing, a gospel truth, namely, “the blood of Christ, which was shed for the sins of the world.” Wine can represent many things, for example, the blood of others, etc., nevertheless, in this rite, one symbol (wine) represents one literal or real gospel truth (the blood of Christ.) Now, we no longer use wine as the symbol (well, some of us still do…), instead choosing to use water. (And that’s okay, as long as the new symbol still points to the same gospel truth.) So, the symbol of the rite has changed, according to the conditions found among men, but the associated gospel truth assigned to it remains the same: atoning blood of Christ. In the case of the bread, we still get one symbol found among men, bread, representing one gospel truth: the body of Christ which was laid down for us.

    Now, you can use whatever you want for the symbols, wine, water, juice, soda, whatever, or bread, tortillas, etc. God merely borrows whatever symbol is common among men at that time and adapts them for His use, assigning the gospel truth associated with that particular symbol for that particular rite.

    We are free to take any symbol, including symbols that God has borrowed and used in His divinely revealed rites, and assign any other additional meanings we want to it, but for whatever gospel rite in question, there is always only one symbol representing only one gospel truth. (I will give you a further example of this in a moment, but first I want to write about the danger of assigning additional meanings to gospel rite symbols.)

    Taking the sacrament again as an example, if the people start assigning additional meanings to the symbol for that particular rite, there is a danger that over time substitution will occur and the original meaning will be lost. This is especially true for symbols that have been changed, so that they do not easily point the mind to the gospel truth associated with it. I’ll use BiV’s words as an example:

    Let’s look at the water in the sacrament. It has a signified: the blood of Christ. However this symbol can call to the mind many different things: the waters of baptism, by which we come to Christ; drinking of the water of life freely; a reminder of the water that came forth from Christ’s side at death; the crossing over of the waters of Jordan; water in the desert gives life and revivication; water is a symbol of purification so it represents cleansing from sin. There are a whole range of meanings here which expand the mind of he who contemplates the symbol. It helps us to more fully comprehend the signified. Meditating on the numerous meanings can open our minds to personal revelation.

    As BiV stated, the new symbol of water for the sacrament can call to mind associations with water: waters of baptism, waters of Jordan, etc. The original symbol of red wine does not call any such associations to mind. No one who thinks of red wine thinks of water, but of blood. So, these additional assignations we give to gospel rite symbolism can be exacerbated when we change or replace the original symbols with new ones that don’t correspond as well with the gospel truth associated with it. (New, red wine is a better symbolic fit for Christ’s atoning blood than water. But using water is okay, so long as our mind remains fixed on the associated gospel truth.)

    If left unchecked, such additional meanings can circumvent the original meaning, so that it is lost. Taking the sacrament without associating it with Christ’s atoning blood and body, instead associating it with something else, defeats the whole, divine purpose of the sacrament. Etc.

    Okay, so here is another example, which I said I would give, concerning one symbol for one truth. D&C 86 gives some of the meaning of the parable of the wheat and tares. Each symbol that is given means one, specific thing. The field symbol signifies the world. The sowers of the seed symbol signify the apostles. The reapers are angels. Etc.

    One last thing, which is directed to BiV. You stated:

    While I believe the symbolic elements in the temple point to “real” things, I do not, for example, believe that the “veil” is a tangible white curtain through which we must pass. Rather, it could represent some separation between us and God.

    Gospel symbols are given because they are easily associated with the real gospel truths that are assigned to them. So, new, red wine is an easy association with the atoning blood of Christ because it looks like blood and tastes bitter. The veil at the temple is used as a gospel symbol because it looks like the real gospel thing associated with it. We will all pass through plasma double layers, which look like tangibe, white veils.

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  85. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    LDS Anarchist (#76) said: “There are two ways of knowing.”

    Anarchist: thank you for the link to your own excellent discussion of right-brain/left brain knowing. Complementing this idea, I remember reading a very nice piece by Lowell Bennion, in which he identifies three approaches to truth: rational, empirical, and intuitive (https://byustudies.byu.edu/PDFLibrary/14.1BennionUses-0acea001-d6d7-4fa2-9973-ec9cbd2d7e81.pdf). Revelation is an intuitive method of knowing truth, and it often involves highly symbolic language and imagery. I think we get the most “bang for our buck” at the point where the result of our rational, empirical and intuitive searchings overlap.

    LDS Anarchist (#76) said: “God does not reveal the truths associated with temple symbolism through more symbols (language descriptions), but through visions, such as how He did with Abraham (see the Book of Abraham.)”

    Actually, God does in fact reveal truths associated with symbols through more symbols — often through highly symbolic and sometimes shocking images, associated with dreams or other visionary experiences. As BiV has noted, symbolism is the language of the Spirit. A brief surfeit of the Standard Works suggests this. For instance, interpretation of Jesus’ parables often involve a resort to a second set of symbols, deepening our understanding and appreciation of the first.

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  86. Cowboy on April 6, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Joe:

    My perception of things is that the revelatory process, and all alleged instances of it, are merely our own wishful thinking. I don’t say this to be a jerk, but to perhaps give you some context as to how I approach this discussion. So, while your response to my points are interesting, the only thing I could do to further my point is invite you to prove your claims. It is all very interesting as I said, but how do you validate your “revelations”?

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  87. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    LDS Anarchist (#84) said: “We are free to take any symbol, including symbols that God has borrowed and used in His divinely revealed rites, and assign any other additional meanings we want to it, but for whatever gospel rite in question, there is always only one symbol representing only one gospel truth.”

    We are talking at cross-purposes. The fact is, signifiers can have multiple sigfnifieds (a symbol generally has multiple significations). Symbol(s) are often selected for an intended message, precisely for this reason; that is, it is intended from the outset that we will see the range of possible meanings associated with the symbol. The symbol is not the message itself, but works on the mind to reveal the message, and its nuances of meaning.

    Jewish interpretations of the scriptures operate from this premise. There is a pshat, or literal signification of the text, but also a remez, or hint of deeper significance, a drosh or homiletic significance, and a sod, or concealed, spiritual significance. This fourfold nature of symbols is built in from the very start. It is so well known, that it is referred to by the acronym PaRDeS in Hebrew (or perhaps PaRaDiSe in English). I would point out that no one signification excludes the others, and that the symbol or its signifieds are not of themselves the message. To confuse signifier and signified can lead to idolatry. Further, the issue of the corruption or loss of a message is separate from the issue of the signifiers and signifieds used to express that meaning/message.

    The idea of one symbol – one truth seems to be counter-indicated by the very examples you use. For instance, when we ask ourselves why in the Parable of the Sower, tares in particular are used as a signifier, we see that there are multiple signifieds: poisonous, uncultivated and wild, unintended, impersonator (looks like wheat). This is true even though we know that the intended meaning is “children of the wicked one,” per Jesus’ own interpretation. Understanding the signifieds of the signifier deepens our appreciation of the intended meaning, and may reveal additional details we had not considered. For instance, what does it mean to be a “child of the wicked one”? Just look at the other signifieds associated with this symbol, and possibilities immediately present themselves to you. This is as it was intended, I think.

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  88. Bored in Vernal on April 6, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    LDSA #84
    Point taken, esp. on the sacrament water. But I still don’t agree that there is a one-to-one correspondence between signifier and signified. We can see this often in Isaiah. Take the symbol of a mountain. This often takes on the meaning of nations, governments, or political systems. But at other times the height of a mountain can call to mind a high place to commune with God. Thus it would not be inappropriate to associate mountains with temples as well. Each verse which contains the word carries a wealth of meaning and association which opens the mind to greater revelation. It is a way to open the heart for communication of God’s message.

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  89. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    Cowboy (# 86) said: “So, while your response to my points are interesting, the only thing I could do to further my point is invite you to prove your claims.”

    What specific claim have I made that you believe require proof?

    Cowboy (# 86) said: “It is all very interesting as I said, but how do you validate your ‘revelations’?”

    That is like asking how you know the Church is true. :-) In this case, though, we are speaking of revelations pertaining to the Holy Temple and its message. The Endowment itself provides participants with Keys of Asking and Receiving, and associated Keys of Detection, that they might know the true from the spurious.

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  90. Nick Literski on April 6, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    The Endowment itself provides participants with Keys of Asking and Receiving, and associated Keys of Detection, that they might know the true from the spurious.

    The actual use of which, should it become known to your local LDS leaders, will result in threats to remove your temple recommend, disfellowship you, or excommunicate you for “apostacy.” Funny how following Mormonism (i.e., the actual teachings of Joseph Smith) can get one in trouble within LDS-ism.

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  91. Stephen Marsh on April 6, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Nick, “Clothing the candidate in a new garment” was a part of joining the Church in the time of Christ as well. Also part of many classic mystery religions. Are you saying the Cult of Herakles stole it from the Masons?

    Stephen Marsh (#68) said: “a review of the Ramses the Great exhibit that toured the United States reflects the Egyptian Gods using the same grips and signs as the Masons used.”

    RESPONSE: Please cite your source.

    Stephen Marsh (#68) said: “[This] does not mean that the modern criticisms of the Masons and Carbonari are not correct … Or does it?”

    RESPONSE: I fail to see: 1) any evidence in favor of your Egyptian hypothesis; 2) any discussion of what particular “modern criticisms” of Freemasonry or the Carbonari you might have in mind; and 3) how any of these ideas are connected.

    The Carbonari also claimed ancient origins. They overlap the Masons a great deal in places. But so do the Chinese mystery religions, complete with temple veils.

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/12/09/chinese-symbolism-and-temples/ is the link I have time for.

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  92. Sherry on April 6, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    I muddled thru the replies to the OP. All are interesting and thoughtful. BUT – until the temple endowment acknowledges and empowers women in has little meaning to me. Took out my endowments in 1974 and remember all the penalties, five points, etc. I believed they were literal and was petrified of making a mistake. Now, almost forty years later, still LDS, temple divorced, sealing cancelled, temple recommend, married to NOMO,feminist mormon woman, I feel little spirit in the temple and cringe at the way Eve is portrayed. Had a lengthy conversation with my temple pres. last time I went,last fall, about changes in ceremonies (he had the nerve to tell me they didn’t change and we were both old enough to know better) and the lack of role models, empowerment for women. He initially called me to repentance but I persevered and hope he had his cage rattled a little as these were new ideas to him. We parted as friends and agreed to disagree. I did return to the temple earlier this year to do initiatories and was surpried to find the words had changed too. My initial thought was – why is this about Aaron when he didn’t even hold the Mel. priesthood? Did NOT make sense and no one knew why it was added.I care little for the “five points” or anything else that has changed OR that the temple ceremony is Masonic in many ways. One post stated that maybe women would feel better with a women on the other side of the veil – hell yes!!!!! Did anyone really catch that? Women should have equal representation, acknowledgement, and opportunties in the temple. I now believe the covenants I made as a 20 yr. old are not binding. I do still waer my garments, am TR worthy, but deeply question the whole temple experience, teachings, covenants. Is this really of God, and more importantly, is this really of Goddess, our mother. SHe is NOT in the LDS temple…

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  93. Exequiel Medina on April 6, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Nick Literski #90 said:

    “The actual use of which, should it become known to your local LDS leaders, will result in threats to remove your temple recommend, disfellowship you, or excommunicate you for “apostacy.” Funny how following Mormonism (i.e., the actual teachings of Joseph Smith) can get one in trouble within LDS-ism.”

    This was my answer to the missioners when asked me why I am not attending the Church. Once I was in trouble for reading about AG.

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  94. Cowboy on April 6, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Hi Joe:

    It’s not “like” asking how do you know the Church is true, but in fact reduces specifically to that. I’m not putting up a challenge to you, just pointing out that we have probably hit the ideological wall between us.

    To give you an example, you state:

    Joe: Joseph Smith’s work with the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham illustrate how that process can work.

    Cowboy’s response: Joseph Smith’s work with the Book of Abraham is particularly suspect, and fails to illustrate anything. It is only when we assume that he actually did translate the Book of Abraham from divine means, that we are able make the connections you are referring to. The same can more or less be applied to The Book of Mormon. Yet, therein is the problem, we defend the principle of revelation with examples yet unverified. To respond some will say that they have recieved a revelation that they are “true” books, yet use more of this ambiguous “it can’t be described in simple language” argument, further compounding the uncertainty.

    Joe: “I think that symbols and symbolism can do much more than engender vague feelings. They can provide layers of signification that can deepen our understanding of a message. Like Cowboy, LDS Anarchist suggests that many Saints are uncomfortable with the idea that a single symbol can have multiple significations, when in fact they frequently play with symbols in precisely this way.”

    Cowboy’s Response: While we are all entitled to our beliefs, we arguing over something that is engulfed in uncertainty. I admittedly like LDSAnarchists 1:1 rational, but who know? The better question is, “how could we verify this?”.

    Joe: “That is a bias that many Latter-day Saints share. They are often uncomfortable with the transcendant aspects of the Divine, preferring the immanent, for just this reason.”

    Cowboy’s Response: Perhaps, but then again I can concieve a number of explanations for why “many Latter-day Saints” aren’t comfortable embracing “transcendence”. Perhaps it is an odd cultural practice of discouraging such things…or perhaps it’s because many people aren’t comfortable assigning too much gravity to their spiritual experiences out of a desire to be honest. I can’t for example speak for the experiences of others. However, I have been in the Church a long time, and suspect strongly that I actually have had the “spiritual” experiences that others claim. The distinction is that if I am right, then I am not at all convinced that these experiences warrant the conclusion that I was somehow transcending anything. Or that such a thing even occurs anywhere.

    So, yes, I’ve brought the conversation back to this point, sorry.

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  95. Frank Bruno on April 6, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Cowboy these are interesting points since many comments are being made by former members who left the church and are intellectualizing rather than participating in temple rituals.

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  96. Exequiel Medina on April 6, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Stephen Marsh #91 said: Nick, “Clothing the candidate in a new garment” was a part of joining the Church in the time of Christ as well. Also part of many classic mystery religions. Are you saying the Cult of Herakles stole it from the Masons?

    Response: I think the order of Joseph Smith influence is: classic mystery religions and early Christians -> Freemasons -> JS -> Mormons. Joseph Smith was aware of that tradition because he was a Freemason. The marks on the garment gives emphasis on Masonry influence and Nick post.

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  97. GBSmith on April 6, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    The more I’ve attended the temple over the yeats the less I’ve felt the actual endowment ceremony affecting me spiritually. I think just being in the place and sitting quietly in the celestial room does as much in helping a person sort through concerns or questions they have.

    This does bother me a bit though:

    “The Endowment itself provides participants with Keys of Asking and Receiving, and associated Keys of Detection, that they might know the true from the spurious.”

    Is this written down somewhere or is is just being made up as we go along? Plus I’ve not see endowed folks any more skilled at knowing the “true from the spurious” than anybody else. (think Mark Hoffman)

    This whole discussion is getting a bit ethereal so I think I’ll back out for now.

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  98. Cowboy on April 6, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    “Is this written down somewhere or is is just being made up as we go along?”

    Oouuch! And yet, while I don’t want to insult anybody, this simple question gets to the whole point I’ve trying to get at. I should probably back out too.

    Frank:

    I know there has been something of a concern here at WheatandTares lately that there’s too much of “that” voice. It’s the only one have I’m afraid. However, while I acknowledge a tendency to debate, I generally try and do so in a way that is friendly enough to all the participants. I have noticed that most of the “exmormon” commenters on this site also tend to be fairly courteous to the “other” viewpoint as well. While I’d certainly be open to more diversity in opinion, we have to acknowledge that to some degree the “TBM’s”, as you called them, also have to be willing to participate in a forum where their views will not be unanimously embraced in the same way they would at Church. Mormonism fancy’s itself as a Missionary Church, so I would think that you would find more of them here as well. However, I wonder what I could do to be less “hostile” to that other crowd (that I haven’t already done), to make them feel more comfortable, without sacrificing my own sense of value in participating here. I don’t try and dominate the conversations here, and I don’t even comment on every post that interests me. There are of course posts where I tend to be a little more assertive, but I notice that most of the commenters behave that way. In short, if I am somehow harming the atmosphere at WheatandTares, somebody please shoot me an email and I’ll either reduce my participation or altogether withdraw from here.

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  99. Frank Bruno on April 6, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Cowboy point well taken. I was not trying to be uncivil. I was actually edified and learned much here by all voices.

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  100. Frank Bruno on April 6, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Cowboy your voice stood out to me and I considered things I had not before. I fact I greatly respected your opinion. Nick Literski actually made me laugh out loud. Joe Steve Swick had some great material and thoughts on signifiers and symbols. I can’t think of anyone that I didn’t learn from you. I will temper my exuberance and comment more sparingly. I am new this is the first time I have ever commented here so I hope I contributed to the thread. BiV really should be proud of how long her post lasted. It was a learning experience for me. Thanks for the instruction.

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  101. Bored in Vernal on April 6, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    Sherry #92
    I am so glad you chimed in! Your concern is shared by many, many LDS women, and this is a place where symbolism can really be meaningful. When you and I first went through the temple there was a phrase that stated that the ritual was simply figurative as far as the man and the woman are concerned. What if “Adam” in the temple represents selfconsciousness, and “Eve” represents subconsciousness? The self conscious mind leads and directs. Subconsciousness takes direction from the self conscious mind, and brings into manifestation every form (mother of all living). Thus, Adam and Eve both apply to men; and equally, they both apply to women. Why does Lucifer go to Eve first? Why is she silenced at times? Why is there a veiling of the face? If we see these as interior principles and symbols there is much that is instructive here. I would love to go into more detail on this in a future post.

    I did catch Justin’s suggestion about having a woman on the other side of the veil. I think that would be beautiful.

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  102. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    Cowboy (# 98) said: “If I am somehow harming the atmosphere at WheatandTares, somebody please shoot me an email and I’ll either reduce my participation or altogether withdraw from here.”

    I’m surprised to hear you say this! Online fora such as Wheat&Tares are not always about agreement — they are about exploration, and testing out new ideas; your remarks have been grist for the mill of intelligent discourse here, and would be sorely missed should you choose to participate less.

    While I state my case in the strongest terms I know how, I’m a sucker for a well-reasoned and cogent argument. I crave that position that is stated clearly and powerfully. Again, agreement is not the point; I can respect opinions that differ from my own. It is like “iron sharpening iron” as the scripture says, and at the end of the day we are all the better for it.

    Temple symbolism is a topic near and dear to my heart, and so I thank you for helping facilitate the great discourse on this particular thread.

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  103. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    Exequiel (#96) said: “I think the order of Joseph Smith influence is: classic mystery religions and early Christians -> Freemasons -> JS -> Mormons. Joseph Smith was aware of that tradition because he was a Freemason. The marks on the garment gives emphasis on Masonry influence.”

    I believe that this is precisely right, Exequiel. We cannot jump over Freemasonry in our rush to link LDS ordinances to the ancient past.

    Joseph Smith was aware of this tradition because he was a Freemason, and the clothing in a garment furnished by the lodge (together with the reception of a New Name) was an important aspect of contemporaneous Masonic ritual.

    Similarly, he was familiar with the tradition of the Sacred Embrace through his exposure to Freemasonry.

    This need not suggest outright plagiarism, but rather skillful adaptation. Faithful Latter-day Saints are still perfectly able to say that the Prophet’s selective borrowing and thoughtful adaptation was “intuitive” — i.e., the product of revelation.

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  104. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    GBSmith (#97) said: “This does bother me a bit though: ‘The Endowment itself provides participants with Keys of Asking and Receiving, and associated Keys of Detection, that they might know the true from the spurious.’ Is this written down somewhere or is is just being made up as we go along?”

    RESPONSE: It is written down somewhere. :-) Perhaps most notably for you, in D&C 124. Holzapfel comments on this as follows:

    “And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph; that he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him THE KEYS WHEREBY HE MAY ASK AND RECIEVE” (124:94–95; emphasis added). The keys spoken of here are the priesthood keys associated with temple worship. The keys of presidency had already been restored, but in Nauvoo the Lord introduced priesthood keys that allowed the Saints to ask and receive, and now the Lord commanded Joseph to show them unto Hyrum. This the Prophet did on May 4, 1842, when Joseph Smith revealed the endowment for the first time. (http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/joseph-smith-prophet-and-seer/nauvoo-temple-1841).

    Early LDS Apostles involved with the creation of the Endowment ceremony spoke expressly of how Endowed Latter-day Saints were to use these keys, in Temple instruction. If this is a subject of interest to you, I’d be happy to provide a source list, but we have moved somewhat far afield of the OP, which was specifically on the loss of the symbolism of the FPoF and its various meanings.

    GBSmith (#97) said: “Plus I’ve not see endowed folks any more skilled at knowing the “true from the spurious” than anybody else. (think Mark Hoffman)”

    RESPONSE: :-) Perhaps so. But I was a bit surprised that you seemed to accuse me of making things up as I went along, eh. You could have simply asked me to cite my sources or expand upon my remarks, and I would have done so.

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  105. LDS Anarchist on April 6, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    BiV #88,

    LDSA #84
    Point taken, esp. on the sacrament water. But I still don’t agree that there is a one-to-one correspondence between signifier and signified.

    I’ll give this one more try.

    I’m not saying that there is only one signifier for every signified, nor am I saying that there is only one signified for every signifier. What I am saying is that, in a gospel context, meaning whenever a signifier is given by the power of the Holy Ghost, it will only have one signified attached to it, for that particular pronouncement or rite.

    Now, perhaps two prophets will come forth, speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost, and each one will give his own prophecy, using the same signifier, yet each one is prophesying of different things. So, prophet #1 uses signifier #1 with signified #2 attached to it, while prophet #2 uses signifier #1 with signified #3 attached to it.

    Each prophet is following the scriptural pattern. They use 1 signifier with only 1 signified attached to it.

    Now, a person who doesn’t understand this pattern comes along and hears both prophecies and erroneously thinks that signifier #1 can mean either signified #2 or signified #3. So, when this person then hears prophet #3 give a prophecy, using signifier #1 with signified #7, he erroneously believes that the prophecy and signifier of prophet #3 may mean either signified #1, #2, or #7. And he applies this mess of confusion to the prophecies of prophets #1 and #2, as well.

    What is the result? He doesn’t understand any of these prophecies and ends up missing or misinterpreting their fulfillment, because prophet #1 meant only signified #2, prophet #2 meant only signified #3 and prophet #3 meant only signified #7.

    An uninspired man or woman is free to assign as many signifieds as they want to the symbols they use in their lives or speeches. But a man or woman speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost does not produce such confusion, for they must speak plainly, meaning, one signified given for each signifier given.

    This is why Jacob said “he that prophesieth let him prophesy to the understanding of men.” Isaiah is hard for the Gentiles to understand, but to the Jews, he spoke plainly, as do all prophets.

    Symbols (used in prophecy, parables and rites) are not to be guessed at. Guessing is what Laman and Lemuel did (in 1 Nephi 15.) Guessing is what the Jews did with Jesus’ parables. When a symbol is used in a gospel context it has only one signified attached to it. And there is only one way to “figure out” that symbol, and that is to ask God what it signifies.

    When Jesus gave the parable of the sower, the apostles afterward came to Him and asked Him about it. In other words, they inquired of God and He revealed to them the meaning. See Matthew 13. When Jesus explained the signifiers and their signifieds, it was always a 1:1 correspondance. In other words, it is always given as “this means this,” not “this may mean this, and it also may mean that, etc.”

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  106. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    Cowboy (#86, 94).”My perception of things is that the revelatory process, and all alleged instances of it, are merely our own wishful thinking. I don’t say this to be a jerk, but to perhaps give you some context as to how I approach this discussion.”

    I’ve no argument with such a perspective. As a rational mystic, I believe that the starting-place for all real spiritual progress is strict honesty about what we truly know, what we think or hope may be true, and what we really don’t know at all.

    When are honest with ourselves in this way, our tolerance for those who differ in their conceptions is generally much greater — because we come to realize how little any of us truly know.

    I have no expectation that my own spiritual experiences, whether immanent or transcendent in quality, are for anyone besides myself. I understand at the outset that I’m intentionally applying non-rational techniques with a specific aim or goal in mind. I therefore seldom worry about “validating” my experiences, in the sense of worrying if others find them true or useful. Their principal value is in the transformations they bring about in my own consciousness — in their usefulness to me, individually.

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  107. Exequiel Medina on April 6, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    Hi LDS Anarchist (#105), I disagree a little bit with you. The prophets quote the teachings and prophecies of the others and sometimes find new interpretations to them. Ancient prophets had a master or teacher who gave them the oral tradition, therefore, there is some continuity of the symbols in one way and room for new interpretations in the other. Also, God teaches us by paradoxes.

    In such 1:1 relationship between signifier and signified we could conclude, for example, in the case of temple handshakes:

    1. Joseph Smith was a Freemason and the Prophet.
    2. Masters Freemasons handshake is the same used by Peter, James and John to teach Adam.
    3. True Lord’s messengers are the Freemasons.

    So, I think:

    1. We must to be careful when limiting the meaning of a symbol.
    2. There is no need to avoid the creative chaos or mess of interpretations. Thanks to this, your comment is number 105. All the beliefs in general and our comments here in particular exercise/exercised our minds and souls seeking the truth like God’s paradoxes in life.
    3. The very symbols are designed for more than one interpretation, why that needs to be wrong? Are Jesus explanations of the parables to his disciples the only interpretation? Was Jesus apostles level of understanding, knowledge and spirituality ended, therefore, Jesus explanation was the last one?

    Let’s allow the symbols teach us.

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  108. Joe Steve Swick III on April 6, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    LDSA (105) said: “When Jesus gave the parable of the sower, the apostles afterward came to Him and asked Him about it. In other words, they inquired of God and He revealed to them the meaning. See Matthew 13. When Jesus explained the signifiers and their signifieds, it was always a 1:1 correspondance. In other words, it is always given as “this means this,” not ‘this may mean this, and it also may mean that, etc.’”

    RESPONSE: Actually, 1) that isn’t quite right; and 2) we are still talking past each other. The symbol may have a myriad of significations in a gospel context — even in the Parable of the Sower. However, the intended message of Jesus may be quite direct: “the tares are the children of the evil one.” That this symbol may have a number of signifieds even in the gospel context becomes clear when you ask the question, “WHY is this symbol equated with the children of the evil one?”

    And while I mean this in the kindest way, there is a bit of irony for me that someone with the nick “LDS Anarchist” takes such a non-anarchistic view of semiotics as they apply to the gospel. :-)

    Cheers!

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  109. Ken Larsen on April 6, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    Without reading what has been said, may I suggest that the 5 points of fellowship represent the union of self with god at the four levels, mind, heart, body and spirit. In the penalties we surrendered our own mind heart and body. Then our “naked” spirits commune through the veil mouth to ear = mind. Breast to breast with hand to back = heart. Hands in the lion’s grip = body. Finally knees propped for a quick upward strike showing trust of sex, which is often the symbol of the spirit.

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  110. Cowboy on April 6, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    “I have no expectation that my own spiritual experiences, whether immanent or transcendent in quality, are for anyone besides myself. I understand at the outset that I’m intentionally applying non-rational techniques with a specific aim or goal in mind.”

    Joe:

    I think we understand where we’re both coming from. I respect your point of view, particularly in how you described it in your comment above.

    Frank:

    I didn’t sense any uncivility. Sorry if I came off a bit strong. I am as open as anyone to diverse opinions, I hope we see more participation from every kind of Mormon.

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  111. LDS Anarchist on April 6, 2012 at 11:22 PM

    Joe Steve Swick III #108,

    However, the intended message of Jesus may be quite direct: “the tares are the children of the evil one.” That this symbol may have a number of signifieds even in the gospel context becomes clear when you ask the question, “WHY is this symbol equated with the children of the evil one?”

    A tare is “a weed of grainfields, supposed to be the darnel.” So, a tare is a physical thing (Lolium temulentum, a weed or unwanted plant) that is used as a symbol for a literal or real gospel truth because it resembles the truth it represents, which are also known as the chains of hell. This evil, spiritual “plant” (the real gospel truth the symbol signifies,) “grows” out of the hearts (heart-soil) of the children of men, turning them into children of the evil one.

    This symbol in this context (in the context of this parable) has only one signified. Once someone has the key to understanding, in other words, once one understands the specific signified associated with the signifier, seeing a tare will always remind one of the chains of hell. And this is the reason why symbols are used in gospel contexts, to keep us reminded of gospel truths. Without the specific gospel truth given or revealed to the one who hears the parable, seeing a tare in real life might bring up any number of guessed at signifieds, without ever bringing to memory the one intended, namely, the chains of hell.

    And while I mean this in the kindest way, there is a bit of irony for me that someone with the nick “LDS Anarchist” takes such a non-anarchistic view of semiotics as they apply to the gospel.

    Well, as they say, anarchy is order.

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  112. LDS Anarchist on April 6, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    Exequiel Medina #107,

    Hi LDS Anarchist (#105), I disagree a little bit with you. The prophets quote the teachings and prophecies of the others and sometimes find new interpretations to them. Ancient prophets had a master or teacher who gave them the oral tradition, therefore, there is some continuity of the symbols in one way and room for new interpretations in the other.

    Sure. One prophet can launch his own prophecy by quoting another prophet’s prophecy and using the words and symbols of the first prophet with an entirely new signified. A friend of mine who studies Hebrew and the Jewish teachings always tells me that “prophecy is a pattern.” Doing this (quoting another prophet and assigning a different signified) does not break the prophetic pattern of only one signified for each of the symbols employed in a prophet’s prophecy.

    But we should keep in mind that expounding and prophecy are two different things. Expounding a prophecy is opening up what the prophet had in view (the signifieds) when he first pronounced his prophecy. Prophecy is taking new or old signifiers, including quoting some other prophet, and launching an entirely new prophecy, with perhaps new signifieds attached.

    In such 1:1 relationship between signifier and signified we could conclude, for example, in the case of temple handshakes:

    1. Joseph Smith was a Freemason and the Prophet.
    2. Masters Freemasons handshake is the same used by Peter, James and John to teach Adam.
    3. True Lord’s messengers are the Freemasons.

    This is why I wrote in #76:

    ) The Lord borrows pagan (“man-made,” extant) symbols to represent real (literal) gospel truths.

    The symbols we use are those in use by man. The symbols may be literal things (wine, water) that are used symbolically to represent something else (a gospel truth.) The symbols themselves are not the real gospel truths. Freemasonry has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the gospel. The Lord has simply borrowed Freemasonry symbols to represent something divine, because they resemble they gospel truths they are trying to convey. Everything in the temple is symbolic, even the characters of Peter, James and John. Everything represents something else. Your scenario tries to make the symbols to be literal things, which they aren’t.

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  113. Joe Steve Swick III on April 7, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    LDSA (#111) “A tare is “a weed of grainfields, supposed to be the darnel.” So, a tare is a physical thing (Lolium temulentum, a weed or unwanted plant) that is used as a symbol for a literal or real gospel truth because it resembles the truth it represents.”

    The physicality of the tare is irrelevant to its use as a symbol/signifier, although many symbols are indeed “physical things.” When we share concepts, we do this via signifiers, which are more stable than signifieds, which are created within us, and whose meanings therefore may vary depending upon the person receiving it and the context. This is why the Five Points of Fellowship can go away: because signifiers without signifieds have no meaning.

    Again, contrary to what you suggest, gospel signifiers need not have a single signified. When Jesus says that he is the bright and morning star, this does not mean “bright and morning star”=signifier -> “Jesus”=”signified.” Such symbolism is relatively pointless. Jesus might as well have said, “I’m Jesus.”

    Rather, “bright and morning star” (signifier) points to a number of concepts (signifieds) which suggest to us the intended MEANING of Jesus’ self-identification with the symbol of the morning star. As we meditate on those concepts, the meaning develops for us: the morning star is also the evening star = Jesus is the alpha and omega, beginning and the ending.

    In a parable, a group of symbols and their various signifieds together comprise the intended meaning-message. For instance, “children of the evil one” or “chains of hell” is NOT a gospel truth, and it is NOT the intended message of the Parable of the Sower. They are merely signs — components of that message.

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  114. Brian on April 7, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    I think this is the best discussion on this site in a long time. Love the diversity of opinions and civility on a controversial topic.

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  115. Descent on April 7, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    BiV (#101) I would really like to see that post about Adam as the self-conscious and Eve and the subconscious!

    Have you heard the Mormon Stories interview with Chelsea Robarge Fife where she offers an exegesis similar to that idea? I believe that you might have stated it more clearly than she was able to describe, though the two of you maybe offering different propositions. Regardless, I think many women experiencing the primal wound would appreciate seeing the temple ceremony is a non-gendered light so I really hope you get to that post soon enough.

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  116. hawkgrrrl on April 7, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    Sherry: “My initial thought was – why is this about Aaron when he didn’t even hold the Mel. priesthood? Did NOT make sense and no one knew why it was added.” My mom was a FT temple worker when this was added, and she said it was false doctrine and that she didn’t feel right saying it because she felt like a liar. She’s slightly older than Pres. Monson, so I don’t think this is just an older / younger generation thing for a change. I’m not sure why they made this change. The best analogy for initiatories I heard was from a discussion on Mormon Mentality IIRC where initiatories were compared to the ceremonial anointing of European royalty.

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  117. Sherry on April 7, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    to BIV and Hawkgirl, thanks for acknowledging my comments. There are numerous parts of the temple ceremonies that hurt my heart, and I used to be a faithful temple-goer. I often feel as if “my eyes have been opened” and I see things more clearly now. I wish the temple comforted me as is once did, but I need women to be there, in all the ceremonies, and they’re not. It’s male dominated, the same as at church, the same as the GA chart, the same as everywhere in the LDS church. I keep my recommend so I can go with my youngest daughter when the youth do baptisms. Each time I gather up my courage and attend an initiatory or endowment or sealing, I see, hear, feel evidences of women being marginalized. My heart is so sad when I go to the temple.

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  118. Joe Steve Swick III on April 7, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Sherry (#92) said: “return[ed] to the temple earlier this year to do initiatories and was surpried to find the words had changed too. My initial thought was – why is this about Aaron when he didn’t even hold the Mel. priesthood? Did NOT make sense and no one knew why it was added.”

    RESPONSE: it makes sense Masonically, although I don’t suspect that was really a consideration when adding it to the wording accompanying initiatory work.

    During the Masonic initiation, one hears a recitation of Psalm 133:

    “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!It is like the PRECIOUS OINTMENT UPON THE HEAD, that ran down upon the beard, EVEN AARON’S BEARD: that WENT DOWN TO THE SKIRTS OF HIS GARMENTS; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

    The idea of Aaron, anointing (especially the head), and holy garments are implicit here, and occur in the context of one’s initiation into Freemasonry, where one traditionally has received a garment furnished by the Master of the Lodge, and has obtained a New Name.

    While there is no quoting of Psalm 133 in the LDS Temple liturgy, the ritual itself exemplifies the associations which Masons make upon first entering the door of a Lodge.

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  119. georgemillerpm on April 7, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    I wanted to thank BiV for this wonderful and insightful post. I am an endowed member of the church who was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason many years ago, and this year, like Hyrum Smith, I am serving as the master of my local lodge. I wanted to personally thank Joe Steve Swick III and Nick Literski for their insightful and intelligent comments. FWIW the Masonic elements, which as Nick Literski has noted are plentiful and envelop much of the content the endowment, are richly symbolic and have provided me personally with endless hours of joyful contemplation. Meditation on Joseph Smith’s particular usage of these Masonic elements have given me a deep respect for Joseph Smith. Like BiV I am saddened when any of these elements are edited out of the endowment. Their loss causes me deep regret in that those who ascend the Jacob’s Ladder of the endowment behind me will not have a chance to rest their mind upon these Masonic rungs.

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  120. georgemillerpm on April 7, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    JSW (#118) said: “During the Masonic initiation, one hears a recitation of Psalm 133: … The idea of Aaron, anointing (especially the head), and holy garments are implicit here, and occur in the context of one’s initiation into Freemasonry, where one traditionally has received a garment furnished by the Master of the Lodge, and has obtained a New Name.”

    RESPONSE: When I was initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason the recitation of Psalm 133 sunk deeply into my soul. The allusion here to Aaron’s anointing drew my thoughts, as with you, to my earlier initiation when I was washed and anointed preparatory to my becoming a priest and king. In Joseph Smith’s day, however, certain parts of the temple ritual expanded on this to make reference to the Masonic offices of prophet, priest and king. In this Joseph Smith followed the Masonic model which insisted the “In the early ages of the world, every head of family united in his own person the threefold office of priest, prophet, and king; and it was not until the Mosaic dispensation was revealed that the concerns of religion were conducted by three distinct officers, or orders of men.” (Oliver, 1823 p. 274) Thus Joseph Smith, through the temple ordinances, was restoring Masonry to its pristine Adamic purity.

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  121. georgemillerpm on April 7, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    S March (#91) “‘Clothing the candidate in a new garment’ was a part of joining the Church in the time of Christ as well. Also part of many classic mystery religions.”

    RESPONSE: Of course this fact was commonly discussed amongst Masons in Joseph Smith day. For example the popular Masonic author George Oliver would note the following in his book Signs and Symbols Illustrated in 1826.

    “[T]he early followers of Jesus Christ, invested the catechumens with a White Robe … accompanied by this solemn charge; ‘Receive the White and undefiled Garment, and produce it without spot before the tribunal or our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may obtain eternal life.’” (Oliver, 1826 p. 195)

    In discussing the symbolism of this white garment Oliver would have the following to say:

    “The Apron is made of a Lamb’s Skin; its color White. These are understood amongst us as joint emblems of Innocence; by which war are properly and constantly reminded, that while in that distinguished badge, our conduct should be uniformly marked by the corresponding duties of innocence and integrity. This was always esteemed an emblem of the purest innocence; and hence the Redeemer of mankind received the significant appellation of ‘the Lamb of God,’ because he was immaculate, and without spot or blemish. And the color White, as an unequivocal symbol of Light and Purity, has bee honored and venerated in all ages, by every nation and every people since the creation of light out of darkness. EVEN THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS adopted a custom so universally prevalent, so consonant with reason, sanctioned by the usage of all antiquity, and authorized by the solemn ordinances of a religion which had been INSTRUCTED BY DEITY HIMSELF; for not only did the Jewish Prophets symbolize purity and impeccability by this color; but the spotless Author of our religion is said to have been clad in raiment White as Light at his transfiguration, and White as snow after his resurrection. And the Angelic messengers who appeared to the holy women at the sepulcher, was invested with a garment of the same color. Many years after this, the divinity condescended to promise that ever christian who would overcome the temptations of the world, should be rewarded with a WHITE STONE, as an undeniable passport into the paradise of God. In a region blessed with everlasting perfections, this color receives its final and most exalted mark of distinction. The glorified inheritors of those heavenly mansions, after being washed and purified in the blood of the LAMB, shall be clothed in White Raiment, ride of White horses, and be seated on White thrones for ever and ever.” (Oliver, 1826 p. 193-194)

    Oliver also discuss how the white garment was part of initiatory rites of the cultures across the world, but he would lay the origin of this practice back to the first investiture of the Apron to Adam.

    “We are certain, from undeniable authority, that the Apron was the first species of clothing with which mankind were acquainted, and was adopted before the expulsion of our great progenitors from the garden of Eden. ” (Oliver, 1826 p. 196)

    Thus the conferral of white garments as part of the ancient mystery traditions and amongst the early Christians was likely well known to Joseph Smith from Masonic sources. Note that George Oliver’s publications were printed for the general public, and Freemasons (like Joseph Smith’s father, brother and uncles) were encouraged to share these books and information contained therein with cowens (non-Masons).

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  122. Joe Steve Swick III on April 8, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    cornponebread (#15) said:

    “I remember wondering where the five points of fellowship . . . had scriptural origin. I was able, through study, to account for many of the symbols, but that one, and a few others, always escaped me. . . . Any thoughts?”

    RESPONSE: The Five Points of Fellowship as found in the Endowment are derived from Freemasonry. However, the Masonic practice does seem to have its origin in the Bible. Yo may recall the story of Elijah, who raised the Son of the Widow of Zarephath (see 1 Kings 17:17-24). Closely note the language:

    “[Elijah] cried out to the Lord and said, “O LORD MY GOD, have You also brought tragedy on the WIDOW with whom I lodge, by killing her SON?” 21 And HE STRETCHED HIMSELF OUT ON THE CHILD THREE TIMES, . . . Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.”

    And precisely HOW did Elijah “stretch himself out on the child”? We may gain insight by the similar example of Elisha, when he raises the son of the Shunammite woman (see 2 Kings 4:34):

    “He went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm.”

    While the text does not state so explicitly, it is one of my own small conceits that when Jacob wrestles with an angel at the Ford of Jabbok to obtain a Word (see Gen 32:22-32), that he takes the angel upon the Five Points and in this way receives the blessing.

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  123. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 11, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    George, I confess that I am late in the game as to paying attention to masons. Mystery religions from before Christ, the Chinese rituals and such, got my attention early on.

    The sign of fire dates to BCE, the Masonic version seems newer.

    Now some of the very old mysteries, the agricultural ones, diverge as well. But there are ones just as old, such as some of the Egyptian ones that do not.

    Which brings us full circle to the Book of Abraham, complete with sub narratives that belong in it, as a temple and initiation text. Which now that I have seen some Masonic documents used as memory guides and cheat sheets fits right in.

    My grandfather and great grandfather were masons, too bad the chain broke.

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  124. [...] in having secret temple rituals. So I read last week’s post by Bored in Vernal, on the “Sacred Embrace As Five Points of Fellowship” with the curiosity of one who has never even been inside an LDS [...]

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  125. The Sea Of Death….. l %blogpost% on April 17, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    [...] So come join the scary fun..This promises to be the first of many SAW Movie cruises. The CreepsterSummer's coming! Time to enjoy two of the season's fun activities…Cruising and summer movies. Well…content/uploads/2012/04/Saw-300×198.jpg" alt="" title="RAYBIN MANAGEMENT, LLC SAW PUPPET" [...]

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  126. JPV on May 16, 2012 at 11:15 PM

    “Symbology of death, torture, and destruction in any ritual context do not edify or uplift the participants.”–Chris #74

    Umm, ever heard of the Lord’s Supper ritual and its associated hymns?

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