NOTE: On May 3, 1990, the New York Times made the startling announcement that the Mormon Church had changed some of its secret temple ceremony. The penalties, which played such a prominent part in the ritual, have now been completely removed and other important changes have been made. In our book, Evolution of the Mormon Temple Ceremony: 1842-1990, we give the complete text of the 1990 revised "endowment ceremony." Also see #75 Messenger, Temple Ritual Altered and #104 Messenger, Temple Ritual Changed...Again.
In order really to understand present-day Mormonism and the hold it has upon its people it is necessary to know about the work that goes on in Mormon temples. The ceremonies performed in these temples are secret, and only "worthy" members of the Mormon church may participate in them.
Baptism for the Dead
The Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead was first practiced in Nauvoo, Illinois. Wilford Woodruff reported that "Joseph Smith himself ... went into the Mississippi River one Sunday night after meeting, and baptized a hundred. I baptized another hundred. The next man, a few rods from me, baptized another hundred. We were strung up and down the Mississippi, baptizing for our dead. But there was no recorder,... the Lord told Joseph that he must have recorders present ... Of course, we had to do the work over again. Nevertheless, that does not say the work was not of God" (The Deseret Weekly, vol. 42:554, as quoted in Temples of the Most High, by N. B. Lundwall, 1962, p. 69).
On May 2, 1843, Charlotte Haven wrote a letter in which she told of watching the Mormon elders baptizing for the dead in the river which was "icy cold" at that time: "We drew a little nearer and heard several names repeated by the elders as the victims were douched, and you can imagine our surprise when the name George Washington was called. So after these fifty years he is out of purgatory and on his way to the 'celestial' heaven!" (Overland Monthly, December 1890).
The early Mormon leaders seem to have been very confused concerning baptism for the dead. Brigham Young once stated: "Hundreds and thousands, I suppose, were baptized before any record was kept at all, and they were baptized over, and a record kept ... the Lord did not reveal everything at once; but I need not dwell on this any longer" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 18, p. 241).
The Mormon leaders teach that the spirits of people who have died cannot enter the celestial kingdom of heaven until a Mormon is baptized for them by proxy—i.e., a living person is immersed on behalf of the dead person. This information about baptism for the dead is found in Joseph Smith's history:
Chrysostum says that the Marchionites practiced baptism for their dead. "After a catechumen was dead, they had a living man under the bed of the deceased; then coming to the dead man, they asked him whether he would receive baptism, and he making no answer, the other answered for him, and said that he would be baptized in his stead; and so they baptized the living for the dead." The church of course at that time was degenerate, and the particular form might be incorrect, but the thing is sufficiently plain in the Scriptures, hence Paul, in speaking of the doctrine, says, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?" (I Cor. xv:29) (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 599).
Bible scholars are divided as to the meaning of the verse which is cited above. Mormons, of course, believe that it applies to temple work, where a living person is baptized in behalf of someone that has died. Even if this verse did apply to a living person being baptized for someone else, as the Mormons maintain, this would not prove that faithful Christians were practicing it. Paul does not say that "we" are baptized for the dead, but rather that "they" are baptized for the dead. The use of the word "they" instead of the word "we" could make a great deal of difference in the meaning of the statement. If a Protestant made the statement, "Why do they then pray for the dead, if the dead rise not at all," it would not mean that he was endorsing the Catholic doctrine of prayers for the dead. If, however, a person made the statement, "Why do we then pray for the dead, if the dead rise not at all," we would assume that he believed in prayers for the dead.
A good discussion of 1 Corinthians 15:29 is found in the pamphlet Baptism for the Dead, by Charles R. Hield and Russell F. Ralston:
A careful reading of this epistle shows that the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian Saints using the words "I," "we," "ye," "You," when referring to them and/or himself all the way through his message; but when he mentions baptism for the dead, he changes to "they." "What shall they do?" "Why are they then baptized for the dead?" In the verses following, he returns to the use of "we" and "you." Thus he seems to disassociate himself and the righteous Saints from the methods used
by those groups who at that time were practicing baptism for the dead.
The Apostle Paul did not urge his hearers to practice the principle, nor did he command it. He merely used the case as an illustration. Paul did not worship the "unknown God" of the pagans because he found an altar to the pagan unknown god (Acts 17:23).... There is no mention of baptism for the dead in the Bible up until Paul—and no mention afterward. Paul, as well as the other apostles, rather than endorsing baptism for the dead as then practiced, seems to have exercised a counteracting influence upon this ordinance, for it was perpetuated only among heretics.
The Bible contains no specific authorization of this doctrine. Christ does not mention it, nor do any of the apostles, save Paul; who makes only an indirect reference to it (Independence, Mo: Herald Publishing House, 1951, pp. 23-24).
The fact that Christ never mentioned baptism for the dead is strong evidence that no such doctrine existed in the early Christian Church.
Orson Pratt admitted that the Bible does not contain any information as to how baptism for the dead should be performed. His excuse for the Bible not containing this information was that it was probably lost or taken out of the Bible. He claimed:
This doctrine of baptism for the dead must have been well understood by them.... Now when, and in what manner was this doctrine communicated to them? It may have been fully developed to them in the epistle which he says that he had previously written to them. This doctrine may have been as important as baptism to the living. Does the written or unwritten word of God with which Christendom are acquainted, inform them anything about how this ceremony is to be performed? Does it inform them who is to officiate? Who is the candidate in behalf of the dead? What classes of the dead are to be benefitted by it? Does scripture or tradition inform us in what particular baptism for the dead will affect them in the resurrection? Does it inform us whether baptism for the dead can be administered in all places, or only in a baptismal font, in a temple consecrated for that purpose? All these important questions remain unanswered by scripture and tradition (Orson Pratt's Works, 1891, p. 205).
Although Joseph Smith performed baptism for the dead in the Mississippi River, it is now performed only in temples. The Mormon people are very zealous about this work for the dead, for they believe they are saving their ancestors. President John Taylor stated: "... we are the only people that know how to save
our progenitors.... we in fact are the saviours of the world, if they ever are saved ..." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 163). President Wilford Woodruff felt that he had saved John Wesley, Columbus, and all of the presidents of the United States except three:
... two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them.... These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights.... I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them (Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, p. 229).
The Mormons are spending millions of dollars doing genealogical research in order to find the names of those who have died so that they can do proxy baptism for them. Bruce R. McConkie wrote concerning this matter:
Before vicarious ordinances of salvation and exaltation may be performed for those who have died ... they must be accurately and properly identified. Hence, genealogical research is required.... the Church maintains in Salt Lake City one of the world's greatest genealogical societies. Much of the genealogical source material of various nations of the earth has been or is being microfilmed by this society; millions of dollars is being spent; and a reservior of hundreds of millions of names and other data about people who lived in past generations is available for study (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 308-9).
Heber J. Grant, the seventh president of the church, told of employing "a sister who devotes all her time to the preparation of genealogical records.... pertaining to the families to which I belong in direct descent and through marriage." The Church Section of the Deseret News for April 23, 1966, tells of a woman who "searched 15 years" before she found the "names of four new ancestors" for whom she had been looking. Wallace Turner informs us:
This microfilming of records is a tremendous work, growing in scope continually, operated entirely for the benefit of the ancestor tracing that leads to the vicarious Temple ceremonies. As of July 1, 1965, the microfilm division had a total of 406,682 rolls of microfilm of 100 feet each.... The total microfilm load included 579,679,800 pages of documents. There were more than 5 billion names in the files....
The church puts about $4 million a year into the Genealogical Society. It has 575 employees and is run by a board which includes two apostles. The microfilm unit sends crews all over the world to locate and photograph records.... The negative microfilms are stored in a great vault system dug out of the rocks of Cottonwood Canyon ... southeast of Salt Lake City. This underground storage system was produced by the church at a cost of $2.5 million. It has six vaults, which each hold a million rolls of film.... During 1964, the microfilming units worked in fourteen countries (The Mormon Establishment, pp. 81-82).
Apostle LeGrand Richards predicted that "in the not too far distant future, the Church Genealogical Library will not only be the best in the world but will also be a repository of most all other genealogical libraries" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 192).
Many people wonder why the Mormon church spends so much time and money searching for the names of the dead when there are so many people starving to death. It would seem far better to spend this money and time on the living and let the Lord take care of the dead. The Mormon leaders admit that in spite of all they can do they will never be able to find all of the names until the Lord gives them during the millennium. Since the Mormons believe that the Lord will have to provide most of the names anyway, would it not be better to spend this time and money helping the living instead of searching for the names of the dead? Because of this emphasis on work for the dead, one Mormon has compared the church to the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians, of course, spent a fantastic amount of time and money building pyramids and doing other work for their dead.
The Book of Mormon says that the false churches "rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries" (2 Nephi 28:13), yet the Mormon church is spending millions of dollars building beautiful temples. The Salt Lake Temple, for instance, cost millions of dollars and took almost forty years to build. The Salt Lake Tribune for August 31, 1974, gave this information about the temple that the Mormons built in Washington, D.C.: "... it is indeed marble, 288 feet high, $15 million worth, and that makes the new Washington Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only one of the most architecturally amazing but also one of the most expensive church edifices to rise in recent years.... It is the 16th temple to be built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...."
The Mormon leaders are planning to build temples in a number of other countries in the near future. Most of the "endowments" performed in Mormon temples are for the dead;
therefore, when we add the millions of dollars spent for temples and their upkeep to the millions spent on genealogical research, we find that the Mormons are similar to the ancient Egyptians in their attitudes toward the dead. This obsession with the dead approaches very close to ancestral worship. Adney Y. Komatsu, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy in the Mormon church, stated in the 146th General Conference of the Church:
May I share with you this afternoon an experience that happened to a young couple who were members of the Church in Japan.... the couple joined with others in seeking out their ancestors and in planning to have the temple work done for them. The girl searched diligently through shrines, cemeteries, and government record offices, and was able to gather seventy-seven names.... As this young couple joined their family members ... they displayed their book of remembrance.... They discussed with those relatives assembled their ancestral lines and the importance of completing the genealogical research. It was difficult for their nonmember families to understand the reasons for a Christian church teaching principles such as "ancestral worship," for this was a Buddhist teaching and tradition.... Through genealogical research and through doing temple work for their progenitors, and especially with a temple now becoming available in Tokyo, members can so live that the gospel will yet be embraced by many more in the Orient (The Ensign, May 1976, p. 102).
Joseph Fielding Smith proclaimed that the "greatest commandment given us, and made obligatory, is the temple work in our own behalf and in behalf of our dead" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 149).
On page 146 of the same book, we read: "The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, 'The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.' "
Jesus certainly never taught anything about baptism for the dead or seeking after our dead. In fact, he said that "the first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31).
The Bible says nothing about doing extensive genealogical research to save the dead. On the contrary, Apostle Paul makes two statements which are often used against the practice: "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which
minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do" (1 Tim. 1:4). "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain" (Titus 3:9).
Perhaps the most embarrassing thing to the Mormon church concerning the doctrine of baptism for the dead is the Book of Mormon itself. The Book of Mormon is supposed to contain "the fullness of the everlasting Gospel" (see Pearl of Great Price, p. 51, v. 34). In the Doctrine and Covenants 42:12 we read: "And again, the elders, priests, and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel."
Even though the Book of Mormon is supposed to contain the "fulness of the gospel," it never mentions the doctrine of baptism for the dead, not even once! The word "baptism" appears twenty-five times in the Book of Mormon. The word "baptize" appears twenty-eight times. The word "baptized" appears eighty-five times, and the word "baptizing" appears six times, but the doctrine of baptism for the dead is not mentioned at all!
The excuse that the doctrine of baptism for the dead was removed from the Bible certainly would not prove true in the case of the Book of Mormon. The Catholics never had the Book of Mormon and therefore they could not be charged with removing it.
Actually, the Book of Mormon condemns the very ideas that led to the practice of baptism for the dead. It plainly indicates that there is no chance for a person to repent after death if he has known the gospel and has rejected it (see our previous chapter on "The Hereafter").
The Mormon church teaches that it is necessary for a person to be married or sealed in the Temple so that he can obtain the highest exaltation in the hereafter. This work is done for both the living and the dead. The doctrine of Temple Marriage comes from Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a revelation given to Joseph Smith on July 12, 1843. Joseph Fielding Smith explains the need for Temple Marriage:
If you want salvation in the fullest, that is exaltation in the kingdom of God, so that you may become his sons and his daughters, you have got to go into the temple of the Lord and receive these holy ordinances which belong to that house, which cannot be had elsewhere (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 44).
It fills my heart with sadness when I see in the paper the name of a daughter or a son of members of this Church, and discover that she or he is going to have a ceremony and be married outside of the temple of the Lord, because I realize what it means, that they are cutting themselves off from exaltation in the kingdom of God.
SORROW IN RESURRECTION IF NO ETERNAL MARRIAGE. These young people who seem to be so happy now, when they rise in the resurrection—and find themselves in the condition in which they will find themselves—then there will be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and bitterness of soul ... (Ibid., p. 60).
On page 61 of the same book, the following statement appears: "CIVIL MARRIAGE MAKES SERVANTS IN ETERNITY," and on page 62 we read: "CELESTIAL MARRIAGE MAKES GODS IN ETERNITY."
The Mormon leaders teach that those who marry in the temple will have the power to continually beget children in heaven. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains:
Those who gain eternal life (exaltation) also gain eternal lives, meaning that in the resurrection they have eternal "increase," "a continuation of the seeds," a "continuation of the lives." Their spirit progeny will "continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them." (D.&C. 131:1-4; 132:19-25, 30, 55).
"Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the holy priesthood," The Prophet says, "They will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection" (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 238).
Joseph Fielding Smith warned:
Restrictions will be placed upon those who enter the terrestial and telestial kingdoms, and even those in the celestial kingdom who do not get the exaltation; changes will be made in their bodies to suit their condition; and there will be no marrying or giving in marriage, nor living together of men and women, because of these restrictions (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 73).
Mormon theology teaches that even God Himself has a wife and that in the pre-existence we were spiritually born and lived as His sons and daughters. Milton R. Hunter claimed: "Jesus is man's spiritual brother. We dwelt with Him in the spirit world as members of that large society of eternal intelligences, which included our Heavenly Parents ..." (The Gospel Through the Ages, 1958, p. 21).
Mormon authorities teach that it is absolutely impossible for a person to receive the highest exaltation without temple marriage. Milton R. Hunter remarked: "Marriage is not only a righteous institution, but obedience to this law is absolutely necessary in order to obtain the highest exaltation in the Kingdom of God" (Ibid., p. 119).
If the Mormon doctrine of "sealing" were true we would expect to find evidence that Jesus was married in the temple. No such evidence has been found. The Bible never mentions the doctrine of eternal marriage. In fact, Jesus seems to have taught just the opposite: "And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:34-36).
Apostle LeGrand Richards frankly admits that the "principle of eternal marriage did not come to the Prophet Joseph Smith by reading the Bible, but through the revelations of the Lord to him" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p.195).
While Mormon apologists have a hard time explaining the fact that the Bible does not support the doctrine of temple marriage, they are faced with an even greater problem when they turn to the Book of Mormon. It is supposed to contain the "fulness of the gospel," yet it does not contain even one passage to support the doctrine of temple marriage!
Temple marriage or sealing, like many other doctrines, was not part of the original Mormon faith. The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1835, page 251, said that "all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast.... All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled." This section on marriage was so diametrically opposed to the later teachings of the church, that it finally had to be completely removed from the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Fielding Smith frankly admitted that this section was removed because it contained "false teachings" (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 456).
Connected with Polygamy
The revelation which contains the information concerning temple marriage is also the revelation which contains the teaching of polygamy—i.e., section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Therefore, polygamy and temple marriage stand or
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 21, page 296. Apostle Orson Pratt maintains that if polygamy is not true, then marriage for eternity is also false.
fall together. Charles Penrose, who was later sustained as first councilor in the First Presidency, made this perfectly clear at a conference in Centerville, Utah: "Elder Charles W. Penrose ... showed that the revelation ... was [the] only one published on Celestial Marriage, and if the doctrine of plural marriage was repudiated so must the glorious principle of marriage for eternity, the two being indissolubly interwoven with each other" (Millennial Star, vol. 45, p. 454).
Apostle Orson Pratt argued that "if plurality of marriage is not true or in other words, if a man has no divine right to marry two wives or more in this world, then marriage for eternity is not true, and your faith is all vain, and all the sealing ordinances and powers, pertaining to marriages for eternity are vain, worthless, good for nothing; for as sure as one is true the other also must be true" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 21, p. 296).
While the Mormon people are no longer allowed to practice polygamy, they have not repudiated the doctrine. They still teach that polygamy is practiced in heaven. Mormon writer John J. Stewart explains:
The Church has never, and certainly will never, renounce this doctrine. The revelation on plural marriage is still an integral part of LDS scripture, and always will be. If a woman, sealed to her husband for time and eternity, precedes her husband in death, it is his privilege to marry another also for time and eternity, providing that he is worthy of doing so. Consider, for instance, the case of President Joseph Fielding Smith of the Council of the Twelve, one of the greatest men upon the earth.... After the death of his first wife President Joseph Fielding Smith married another, and each of these good women are sealed to him for time and all eternity (Brigham Young and His Wives, 1961, p. 14).
Joseph Fielding Smith confirmed Mr. Stewart's point when he said that if he was "faithful and worthy of an exaltation.... my wives will be mine in eternity." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 67).
Harold B. Lee, the eleventh president of the church, also remarried and was planning on living plural marriage in heaven. President Lee wrote a poem in which he reflected:
My lovely Joan was sent to me;
So Joan joins Fern
That three might be, more fitted for eternity.
"O Heavenly Father, my thanks to thee"
(Deseret News 1974 Church Almanac, p. 17).
While Mormon men are allowed more than one wife in
heaven, a woman can have but one husband. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
When a man and a woman are married in the temple for time and all eternity, and then the man dies and the woman marries another man, she can be married to him for time only.
When a man marries a woman who was married previously to her husband in the temple but who has now died, he does so, or should, with his eyes open. If the children are born to this woman and her "time" husband, he has no claim upon those children. They go with the mother. This is the law. Certainly a man cannot in reason expect to take another man's wife, after that man is dead, and rear a family by her and then claim the children.
If he wants a family of his own, then he should marry a wife that he can have in eternity (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, pp. 78-79).
Because the Mormons believe that a woman can have only one husband in heaven a problem has arisen for those doing work for the dead. In a newsletter published by Sandy First Ward we find the following:
... Brother Christiansen talked about new rulings concerning sealings for the dead. It is now possible for a woman that was married more than once to be sealed to ALL her husbands, providing that in life she had not been sealed to any of her husbands.
The First Presidency of the Church has ruled that rather than try to decide which husband a deceased woman should be sealed to, she can be sealed to all of them. However, only one sealing will be valid and accepted before God. God and the woman will decide which one of the sealings will be accepted on Judgment Day (Tele-Ward, Sandy First Ward, January 25, 1976, vol. V, no. 2, p. 5).
However this may be, at one time Brigham Young became so zealous to establish polygamy that he declared that a man who would not enter into polygamy would have his wife taken from him in the resurrection and given to another:
Now, where a man in this church says, "I don't want but one wife, I will live my religion with one," he will perhaps be saved in the Celestial kingdom; but when he gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has hid up. He will come forward and say, "Here is that which thou gavest me, I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent," and he will not enjoy it but it will be taken and given to those who have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself without any wife, and he will remain single forever and ever (Deseret News, September 17, 1873).
A Secret Ceremony
While the revelation commanding temple marriage is printed in the Doctrine and Covenants, the ritual itself is supposed to be kept secret. Nevertheless, throughout the years numerous Mormons who became alienated from the church exposed the ceremony. Over two dozen of these accounts have been printed. Because the ritual is kept secret many false impressions and charges of gross immorality have been circulated. On February 18, 1846, the Warsaw Signal charged that those who participated in the ritual were "in a state of nudity" throughout the ceremony. In response to this article a woman who had been through the endowment wrote a letter to the editor in which she stated that the ceremony had been misrepresented:
Mr. Sharp:—Dear Sir:—I discover by your paper, in what you have published in regard to the Mormon endowments.... that you have been wrongly informed....
I went into this pretended holy operation ... We were first received past the Guard into a private room ... this was the room of preparation or purification—We were divested of all our apparel, and in a state of perfect nudity we were washed from head to foot,—a blanket was then thrown about our persons, and then commencing at the head we were anointed from head to foot with sweet oil scented (I think) with lavender. We were then clothed in white robes. All this was done by sisters in the church —none others were present—it is false to say that men and women are admitted together in an indecent manner. We were then conducted into a room called the Garden of Eden ... After a considerable ceremony,... a very dandy-like fellow appeared with a black cap[e] on, that had a long tail attached to it; he ... induced some of our sisters to eat of the 'forbidden fruit.'... The Lord pronounces a curse upon him—he gets down upon his belly and crawls off.... We were then presented with aprons,...we passed into another room ... This was called the Terrestrial Kingdom ... After a considerable parade and ceremony, we passed into another room, or Celestial Kingdom. Here I saw ... Brigham Young, with a white crown upon his head, and as I have since been told, representing God himself. We passed this room without much ceremony into another... we took upon ourselves oaths and obligations not to reveal the secrets of the priesthood.... In one place I was presented with a new name, which I was not to reveal to any living creature, save the man to whom I should be sealed for eternity,... and from all that I can gather, all the females had the same name given them, but we are not allowed to reveal it to each other,... I have forgotten a part of the penalties (Warsaw Signal, April 15, 1846, p. 2).
Increase McGee Van Dusen and his wife exposed the temple ritual in 1847. Their account was reprinted many times. On
February 12, 1906, the Salt Lake Tribune published the temple ceremony. In 1931 W. M. Paden published a pamphlet entitled, "Temple Mormonism—Its Evolution, Ritual and Meaning." While this was supposed to be one of the most accurate accounts of the ritual, Mormon leaders have made a number of important changes in the ceremony. Because of this fact we published an account in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? (pp. 462-73) which we felt was very accurate and up to date as of 1969.
Actually, we can get some idea of what goes on in the temple simply be searching through Mormon publications and journals. One of the most revealing statements by Brigham Young about the temple endowment was recorded in the diary of L. John Nuttall:
When we got our washings and anointing under the hands of the Prophet Joseph at Nauvoo, we had only one room to work in, with the exception of a little side room or office where we were washed and anointed, had our garment placed upon us and received our new name; and after he had performed these ceremonies, he gave the key-words, signs, tokens, and penalties. Then after, we went into the large room over the store in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith divided up the room the best that he could, hung up the veil, marked it, gave us our instructions as we passed along from one department to another, giving us signs, tokens, penalties, with the key-words pertaining to those signs (Statement by Brigham Young, recorded in the "Diary of L. John Nuttall," February 7,1877, as quoted in God, Man, and the Universe, p. 334).
It should be noted that Brigham Young mentioned washings, anointings, garments, the new name, key-words, signs, tokens and penalties. He also stated that there was a "veil" with certain marks on it.
According to a "Price List Issued by The General Board of Relief Society" on June 1, 1968, men who desired to go through the temple must have the following "Articles for Temple Wear": robe, cap, apron, shield, garments (old style), shoes or heavy moccasins, trousers, shirt, tie, hose, and belt.
Those who have been through the temple are required to wear "garments" for the rest of their lives. William J. Whalen says:
The devout Mormon who has received his "endowments" in the temple will wear sacred temple undergarments at all times. Resembling a union suit, now abbreviated at the knees, the undergarments are worn by both men and women, awake and sleeping. It is said that older Mormons refuse to take off these garments
completely even while taking a bath; they will hang one leg out of the tub so that they will never lose contact with the garments. Mystic signs are embroidered on them to remind the wearers of their temple obligations (The Latter-day Saints in the Modern Day World, 1964, pp. 18-19).
On page 168 of the same book, Mr. Whalen says that "the garment was a long union suit of muslin or linen with the specified cabalistic marks. It has been abbreviated in recent years especially in the interests of feminine fashions."
The fact that the garments have been abbreviated is very interesting, for the early Mormon leaders taught that they could not be changed. President Joseph F. Smith declared before the changes were made:
The Lord has given unto us garments of the holy priesthood, and you know what that means. And yet there are those of us who mutilate them, in order that we may follow the foolish, vain and (permit me to say) indecent practices of the world. In order that such people may imitate the fashions, they will not hesitate to mutilate that which should be held by them the most sacred of all things in the world, next to their own virtue, next to their own purity of life. They should hold these things that God has given unto them sacred, unchanged and unaltered from the very pattern in which God gave them. Let us have the moral courage to stand against the opinions of fashion, and especially where fashion compels us to break a covenant and so commit a grievous sin (The Improvement Era, vol. 9:813, as quoted in Temples of the Most High, p. 276).
In 1918 the First Presidency of the church sent a message to the bishops in which the following appears:
FIRST: The garments worn by those who receive endowments must be white, and of the approved pattern; they must not be altered or mutilated, and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles, and around the neck.
Please inform all to whom you issue recommends that these requirements are imperative ... The Saints should know that the pattern of endowment garments was revealed from heaven, and that the blessings promised in connection with wearing them will not be realized if any unauthorized change is made in their form, or in the manner of wearing them (Messages of the First Presidency, by J. R. Clark, 1971, vol. 5, p. 110).
Although the Mormon leaders vigorously maintained that the "garments" must be "worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles, and around the neck," and that they could not be altered from "the very pattern in which God gave them," women's
fashions caused the arms and legs to be shortened and the neck line to be lowered. Until 1975, however, the Mormon leaders still required that members of the church wear the "old style" garments when they were taking part in the temple ritual. After the temple ceremony was over, members of the church would replace these garments, which came down to the wrists and ankles, with the abbreviated type. In our book Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 463, we have included a photograph of the "old style" garments.
The major change in the length of the garments was made in 1923. On June 14 of that year the First Presidency of the church sent out a message to various church leaders which contained the following:
For some time past the First Presidency and Council of Twelve have had under consideration the propriety of permitting certain modifications in the temple garment, with the following result
After careful and prayerful consideration it was unanimously decided that the following modifications may be permitted, and a garment of the following style be worn by those Church members who wish to adopt it, namely:
(1) Sleve to elbow.
(2) Leg just below knee.
(3) Buttons instead of strings.
(4) Collar eliminated.
(5) Crotch closed.
... It is the mind of the First Presidency and Council of Twelve that this modified garment may be used by those who desire to adopt it, without violating any covenant they make in the House of the Lord, and with a clear conscience....
It should be clearly understood that this modified garment does not supercede the approved garment now in use,... those using either will not be out of harmony with the order of the Church....
Will you kindly advise the Bishops of your Stake of these changes, being careful to give the matter no unnecessary publicity.
This letter is not to pass from your hands, nor are copies to be furnished to any other person (Letter by the First Presidency of the Mormon church, dated June 14, 1923).
Such a change could not be made without the gentiles noticing it. The Salt Lake Tribune reported:
Coming not as an order, nor as a rule to be rigidly enforced, but rather permissive in character, is a recent outgiving of the first presidency... It concerns the garments....
While minor modifications of the temple garment, it is said, have been made at various times during past years, the latest order in permission is regarded by younger members of the church as most liberal and acceptable.... Some of the pioneer stock look upon any deviation from the old order as a departure from what they had always regarded as an inviolable rule....
In the old days the temple garment was made of plain, unbleached cotton cloth.... No buttons were used on the garment. ... But despite these imperfections, the old-style garment is faithfully adhered to by many of the older and sincerely devout members of the church. These regard the garment as a safeguard against disease and bodily harm, and they believe that to alter either the texture of cloth or style, or to abandon the garment altogether would bring evil upon them.
One good woman ... hearing of the change that has recently come about, went to the church offices and uttered fervid objection. "I shall not alter my garments, even if President Grant has ordered me to do so.... The pattern was revealed to the Prophet Joseph and Brother Grant has no right to change it," she said.
Explanation was made that the first presidency had merely issued permission to those who so desired to make the modifying change ... The change in style is permitted for various good reasons, chief among which are promotion of freedom of movement in the body and cleanliness. Formerly the sleeves were long, reaching to the wrists. While doing housework the women would roll up the sleeves. If sleeves were to be rolled up they might as well be made short in the first place for convenience, it was argued. Permission to abbreviate is now given, but it is not an order...
Encasing the lower limbs the old-style garment reaches to the ankles and is looked upon by young members as baggy, uncomfortable and ungainly. The young of the gentler sex complained that to wear the old style with the new and finer hosiery gave the limbs a knotty appearance. It was embarrassing in view of the generally accepted sanitary shorter skirt. Permission is therefore granted by the first presidency to shorten the lower garment. Also buttons are permitted to take the place of the tie-strings (The Salt Lake Tribune, June 4, 1923).
Since 1923 the temple garment has been abbreviated even more. The sleeves no longer came down to the elbow, nor do the legs hang down over the knee. The Mormon leaders now seem to put more emphasis on the importance of the marks in the garment rather than the garment itself. On August 31,1964, the First Presidency of the Mormon church sent a letter to presidents of stakes and bishops of wards in which the following appeared:
The calling of men into military training renders it desirable to reaffirm certain observations heretofore made in the matter of wearing the temple garment.
1. The covenants taken in the temple and attached to the wearing of garments contemplate that they will be worn at all times....
3. Where the military regulations are of a character that "hinders," that is, makes impossible the wearing of the regulation garments,... effort should be made to wear underclothing that will approach as near as may be the normal garment.
Where military regulations require the wearing of two-piece underwear, such underwear should be properly marked, as if the articles were of the normal pattern. If circumstances are such that different underwear may be turned back to the wearer from that which he sends to the laundry, then the marks should be placed on small pieces of cloth and sewed upon the underwear while being worn, then removed when the underwear is sent to the laundry, and resewed upon the underwear returned.
As we indicated earlier, until 1975 Mormon leaders required members of the church to wear the "old style" garments when they went through the endowment ceremony. On November 10 of that year a change was made that permitted members to wear the abbreviated garments in the temple. In a letter to "All Temple Presidents" the First Presidency of the church instructed:
In the future, while involved in temple ordinances, patrons will have the option of wearing either the "approved style" garment (short sleeve and knee length) or the garment with the long sleeve and long leg.
Patrons receiving their initiatory ordinances may be clothed in their own "approved style" garment.
It is suggested that temple presidents not purchase any more of the long-sleeve, long-leg garments for rental purposes.
This may be announced to all temple workers and posted on the bulletin boards in the locker rooms. Notice is going forward to Stake, Mission, and District Presidents suggesting that they notify Bishops, Branch Presidents and other priesthood leaders. No other announcement or publicity is desired.
The suggestion that "temple presidents not purchase any more of the long-sleeve, long-leg garments for rental purposes" leads to the conclusion that Mormon leaders are embarrassed by the "old style" garments and want to gradually phase them out.