Temple Worship and Exodus

By: Guy Templeton
December 27, 2012

Exodus 40:12-13 says

12  And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation and wash them with water.

13  And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him and sanctify him;

Do you think these verses refer to ancient temple practices, similar to LDS temple practices today?

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Do you think that these verses might be proof-texted to support current LDS beliefs about the temple?

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16 Responses to Temple Worship and Exodus

  1. ji on December 27, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    The Old Testament tabernacle and temple (of Solomon, Zerubabbel, and Herod) were Aaronic Priesthood temples, not Melchizedek Priesthood temples. If anything related to today’s temple ordinances were performed for saints in in Old Testament times, they would have been performed on the mountaintop by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder — not in the tabernacle (or temple) by an Aaronic Priesthood holder.

    We use the same word — temple — in both settings (Old Testament and today) (and even in Book of Mormon, where temple seems to mean a place of teaching), but the Old Testament temple was VERY different from today’s temple. The Old Testament temple is beautiful, and its ordinances meaningful, and all its symbolism points to Jesus Christ, and it can be appreciated as such. Indeed, it should be understood by all Latter-day Saints for what it was.

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  2. Sherry on December 27, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    I wish someone would answer this for me. The wording of the LDS washing and annointing ordinacne changed in the last few years to include something about the sons of Aaron, which makes no sense to me because the temple ordinances are of the Melchizedik Prisethood, yet the ordinances of Aaron are of the lesser priestood. I’ve read the wording in the OT and tried hard to figure out what the context is in the temple and can find no connection. I would like to have someone wiser than I am explain the connection because I’m not a temple fan anymore – no strong realistic female role model and now something unrelated about Aaron as far as I can tell. Thanks…

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  3. Guy T on December 27, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    Sherry, I think you bring up some good points. I’m not totally clear on the whole priesthood aspect. For example, men need to be set apart to the Melchizedek priesthood before participating in either the initiatory ordinance or the endowment, but women don’t need the priesthood at all to participate. Then during the endowment, both men and women are clothed in the robes of the Aaronic priesthood first, and then the Melchizedek priesthood, and are prepared to “administer” in the ordinances thereof, but of course women never administer any LDS ordinances, though the temple seems to signify that both men and women are “prepared” to administer, whatever that means. I believe Mormon Heretic wrote about this when he talked about Michael Quinn and Jonathan Stapley’s disagreement as to whether the endowment grants women the Melchizedek Priesthood. (See http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/03/28/women-and-priesthood-the-folly-of-conflating-spiritual-gifts/) I can see both sides of the argument, but can’t tell who has the better interpretation.

    I think Joseph Smith tried to tie the Old Testament and New Testament together. The Old Testament had temples and Smith believed (incorrectly) that his restored masonic rites dated back to the temple of Solomon. From the blood sacrifices mentioned in the Bible, it seems that current LDS temple practices are a far cry from the temple practices in the days of Solomon, though I think the LDS leaders are trying to tie the Old Testament washing and anointing to current washing and anointing. There does appear to be a surface connection, and I think current LDS practices try to imitate these ancient anointings as best as possible, but other temple ceremonies seem to be strikingly different from the Mosaic temple ceremonies. If LDS were performing blood sacrifices as Solomon did, personally I would find that a huge turn off, so I prefer the bloodless LDS rites to the ancient ones. But the washing and anointing can be one of the cooler Old Testament temple practices that I like better.

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  4. GBSmith on December 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    “There does appear to be a surface connection, and I think current LDS practices try to imitate these ancient anointings as best as possible,…”

    If the church were trying to imitate the practice why was the ritual changed such that participants are clothed rather than naked and not touched with either water or oil? If anything the washing and anointing is less like what it may have been. Forty eight years ago I was naked covered only with a poncho like sheet called a shield and water and oil applied to all the body parts repeated in the ritual.

    I think it’s best to take it as what it’s morphed into and stop pretending it had anything to do with something ancient.

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  5. hawkgrrrl on December 28, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    This seems like a clear proof text to me, and it was only added within the last few years. I think a more compelling case can be made for washing and anointing being linked to coronation ceremonies – anointing kings and queens when they ascend into their power. Early church leaders had a lot of dynastic beliefs about families. Essentially, each generation (that is worthy) ascends in due time to inherit their father’s (and mother’s) heavenly crown and kingship.

    But this Aaron business doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and is a very recent addition without a clear connection.

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  6. Mormon Heretic on December 28, 2012 at 10:59 AM


    I’m pretty sure the new wording says something about the current practice being washed and anointed symbolically. My guess is that the ordinance was streamlined to assist the elderly temple workers and patrons that found the extra bending physically taxing. The new streamlined ordinance makes it easier to administer for the elderly workers. Do you like the old way of doing the ordinance better?

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  7. GBSmith on December 28, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    The story I had heard was that women were complaining about having to undress and be touched by elderly strangers. I have no preference for how the ordinance is done. I just find it interesting that the ritual has been repeatedly changed over the years for reasons that have never been explained and that people are still trying to link it some ancient ceremonies in what appears to be an attempt to legitimize it. My personal opinion is that JS thought up the ceremony as a way to add charisma and to make members feel special and apart. That added to the sacrifice of temple building has the effect of binding people more tightly to the cause.

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  8. Sherry on December 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Interesting comments with no one knowing why the words about Aaron were added. The initiatory is the ONLY part of the temple ceremonies I like, simply because of the blessings that are given, I like the words, they comfort me and yes they do make me feel special, not better than, but intimate, especially being administered by a woman. I did like the un-symbolic touching and annointing tho. What does bother me is that no one can provide a reason for the changes. Even my Temple Pres. called to to task for even asking why. THAT is what bothers me the most.

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  9. Douglas on December 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    #8 – you have a right to ASK a temple worker about any part of the ordinances; that’s part of their calling. Of course, not EVERYTHING there has a deep secret, sometimes it’s more of the “that’s how we roll” nature.
    Whatever ordinances were performed in the tabernacle would have been administered under the Aaronic Priesthood. AFAIK, only Moses held the Melchizedek Priesthood, and I don’t recall anywhere that he personally administered ordinances therein that would resemble what we do in the temple today.
    Finally, we should remember that the ordinances are for our instruction and benefit, and the Lord can change them as He sees fit.

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  10. Guy T on December 28, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Douglas, I have been told that temple workers are not to answer any questions by patrons. They are supposed to refer all questions to the temple president.

    Moses was high priest, but that was an Aaronic Priesthood office. See my previous post: http://www.wheatandtares.org/2012/12/06/leviticalaaronic-priesthood/

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  11. ji on December 28, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Moses was not a high priest in the way that term is ever used in the Old Testament. Aaron was the high priest in Moses’s day, and EVERY high priest in the Old Testament held only the Aaronic Priesthood.

    When we think of Moses or Abraham or anyone else in the Old Testament as holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, we should think of them holding the priesthood without any subdivision into offices — Abraham and Moses held the Melchizedek Priesthood, and were priests of the higher order and holders of the entire Melchizedek Priesthood (and hence properly called high priests according to the modern understanding (but not the Old Testament understanding)), but they were not high priests in the sense of modern subdivisions into offices within an established church organization.

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  12. Anon on December 28, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    I have been a temple worker for more than 10 years and will attest that we are NOT allowed to answer patrons questions, not even if we say we are giving our own thoughts or opinions. Also, we are never given any sort of “inside” information, and our training meetings focus on rules and mechanics, and very seldom on anything doctrinal. At least that’s been my experience serving under 6 Temple Presidents.

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  13. Hedgehog on December 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    #7, I suppose the ordinance workers may have complained about the lack of modesty/decorum in the younger patrons… I tended to get in trouble for flashing too much leg or something. I never did get the hang of how to hold it all together – some way of folding they edges which seemed to require more than two hands because of holding one side whilst folding the other (and really, they’d have seen more of me at a swimming pool).

    So, insofar as the change means I can concentrate on the ordinance as opposed to trying to avoid upsetting the worker, that has to be a plus. So much so, I hadn’t noticed the change in the words from before… Seems odd to add that bit in though.

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  14. GBSmith on December 29, 2012 at 12:03 AM


    “Do you like the old way of doing the ordinance better?”

    Very funny. It took me awhile.

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  15. Douglas on December 30, 2012 at 3:16 AM

    Thanks for the correction about asking. I haven’t made any inquiries myself after the first few times some three decades ago. I did have the blessing of some face time in the Provo Temple with the late Theodore Tuttle (he was that temple’s President when I went through the MTC) and he was not only very genial and patient, but had a straightforward way of answering questions which was refreshing – including admitting that there were things he “knew” but was either not comfortable discussing them OR had been directed to decline to answer, or, he simply didn’t know and as far as he knew, hadn’t been revealed.
    To me, going to the Lord’s house, rather than delving into the “mysteries”, is the utter peace that you can know there. My erstwhile sister-in-law, during a period in her life of personal difficulty, after getting her four older children off to school and her developmentally-disabled youngest child off to his special nursery program, would go to either the Bountiful or Ogden temple EVERY day and do a session. Never mind the Priesthood power and spiritual blessings of that temple attendance. IF my sis-in-law’s “therapy” through temple attendance amounted to little more than the proverbial “magic feather” that was used on Dumbo, then the temples would still be, IMHO, worth every nickel for their construction and upkeep.

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  16. Wyoming on January 3, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    A few weeks ago I was working with the Northern Cheyenne. In one of the offices, there is a poster that describes ‘smudging’ – a purifying ritual used by Native Americans utilizing herbs such as sage, cedar and sweetgrass. I thought the analogy to the temple anointing to be interesting:

    The elders say that all ceremonies, tribal or private, must be entered into with a good heart so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm. Native people throughout the world use herbs to accomplish this. One common ceremony is to burn certain herbs, take the smoke in one’s hands and rub or brush it over the body. Today this is commonly called “smudging.” In Western North America the three plants most frequently used in smudging are sage, cedar, and sweetgrass.

    We smudge to clear the air around us.
    We smudge to clean our minds so that we will have good thoughts.
    We smudge our eyes that we will only see good things.
    We smudge our ears so that we will only hear good things.
    We smudge our mouths so we will only speak of good things.
    We smudge our whole being so that we will only feel good things.

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