This video discusses how the temple practices found in the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints have significant parallels to religious ancient history.
I’m super excited to do this Evidences video. I feel like I’m going to explode. I love this topic. I love the temple and I love symbolism. The last video I did was on the restoration of temples themselves, physically. Now I want to talk about temple worship, temple rites and their ancient ties. I’m going to save eternal marriage and sealing for a separate video, but also I’m going to say there’s a lot of visuals in this video, so I’m hoping that you can watch and not just listen.
Let’s start with President Nelson, a quote, a couple of quotes, “The antiquity and modernity of temple activity blend and bridge the gulf of time. Even the newest temples closely relate to ancient times.” He also said, “Temple patterns are as old as human life on earth. There, we are taught the Master’s way. His way is ancient and rich with symbolism. We can learn much by pondering the reality for which each symbol stands. Ancient scripture is even more enlightening after one is familiar with the temple endowment. Those books underscore the antiquity of temple work.” I want to play a quick 20-second snippet from the October 2018 General Conference, and you can hear it in his own words, the antiquity of temples.
Consider the great mercy and fairness of God, who before the foundation of the world provided a way to give temple blessings to those who died without a knowledge of the gospel. These sacred temple rites are ancient. To me, that antiquity is thrilling and another evidence of their authenticity.
I love that. Elder Bednar talked in April 2019 about how we should be talking about the temple a lot more than we do. He reminded us about the sacred nature of things we’re not to disclose, but there’s much that we can talk about and we should be talking a lot more about. First of all, I want to share Richard Draper and Donald Parry talked about how the Garden of Eden was the first temple in Genesis two and three, “is composed of several powerful symbols directly connected to Israelite sanctuaries, including the Mosaic Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple, such as the tree of life, cherubim, sacred water, sacred vestments, Eden’s eastward orientation and divine revelation.”
The Pyramid Texts, which are from 2600 to about 2200 B.C., is the oldest large body of religious writing. If we take all the topic headings assigned to the text by Raymond Faulkner in 1969, we find they fall into six major categories: One, primordial written documents in which the rites are based; two, purification, including anointing; three, creation; four, garden; five, travel; six, ascension texts, victory, coronation, admission to the heavenly company. Very interesting. I’m going to link to a program that you can watch. It’s about an hour long and fantastic. There’s just a few segments I’ll identify of the Latter-Day Saint Near Eastern scholar Bruce Porter, who does a fantastic job in showing correlations on the ancient Egyptian temples that will sound very familiar. If you remember, Hugh Nibley wrote a great book on the Egyptian endowment.
Now, dozens of books on my shelf on temples, but my top two that I’m going to be talking about here, Alonzo Gaskill I love. He’s the symbol master. If you ever go to Education Week, he’s a standing room only speaker there, and then Robert Line, Endowed With Power. He also spoke at Education Week the last couple of years on this topic. I’m going to be sharing that towards the end, which is fascinating stuff, but along with Gaskill, I do want to share this, The Creation and The Fall, “From antiquity, certain stories have been retold. Creation and The Fall, specifically the Creation drama, was acted out as a teaching device. Temple scholar and symbologist Margaret Barker suggested that the story of the Fall was commonly enacted in ancient temple rites. Though it is hard to say what role the Fall played in Solomon’s Temple, she notes, ‘the walls of both the inner and outer rooms were decorated with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees, representing the Garden of Eden.'”
Ann Madsen in BYU Religious Studies compared the Solomon’s Temple to the Salt Lake Temple. She talked about the Holy Place symbolic to the garden rooms in our modern temples; the celestial room, the Holy of Holies compared in the ancient temples where it symbolized God’s presence. “The lack of a one-to-one correlation of rooms in the temple of Solomon when compared to the Salt Lake Temple shows the distinctly different function of the two buildings. Most strikingly, perhaps, there is no killing of animals to be sacrificed on an altar outside the Salt Lake Temple.” We’re told to sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
D&C 128:18, the last dispensation, there would be things revealed that had been kept hid from the beginning. D&C 124 talks about the Nauvoo Temple that would specifically relate to that and the building of the Nauvoo Temple itself. Also, if you look at the Aaronic … the priesthood functioning, in the top, Solomon’s Temple was the Aaronic priesthood, the temples today, the Melchizedek priesthood. Ann Madsen did a fantastic job kind of comparing the two. It’s really quite fascinating. I do want to really point out proxy work, specifically that may be a big part of this saving for the last days. That’s the big work of our time that is happening.
Okay. Now, this is in the second century B.C. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, part of the biblical Apocrypha. “Seven men in white clothing put on the vestments of the priesthood, the crown of righteousness, the robe of truth, the miter for the head, the apron, anointing me with holy oil, washed me.” Cyril of Jerusalem, in 350 A.D., “As soon then as you entered, you put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds. Having stripped yourselves, you were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, for truly ye bore the likeness of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden, and was not ashamed.”
Then he went on to say, this is fascinating, “Then you were anointed with exercised oil from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive tree, Jesus Christ, and you were first anointed on the forehead, that you might be delivered from the shame; then on your ears, quick to hear; then in your nostrils; afterwards on your breasts, breastplate of righteousness, stand against the wiles of the devil.” Very fascinating. Okay. Praying with uplifted hands. It was common in ancient times for those who were petitioning to God to do so with their hands raised high above their head. 1 Kings 8:2, “Solomon stood before the altar, spread forth his hands towards heaven.”
Lots of other examples they list there. On numerous occasions, the early Christian father Tertullian spoke of the Christian practice of praying with upraised hands. Even a couple of crazy ones here. The extracanonical text, The Book of Adam and Eve from the sixth century A.D. suggests that Adam and Eve often prayed with upraised hands. The pseudepigraphical text, Second Book of Enoch, talked about Methuselah praying with hands stretched to heaven while standing at an altar of temple, clothed in designated garments of the priesthood.
Okay, take a look at this visual here. “In Christian art, the garment and robe were marked with signs at right angles, the gamma or square. The marks had some …” This was scholar Erwin Goodenough said that “…these marks had some religious significance or symbolic force.” You can see it there in the picture. Actually, it’s on Christ’s robe too. You can’t see it, I think, quite clearly on the picture, but there.
Okay, compass and the square. Look at these ancient paintings here. First rulers of China holding the tools of creation, the compass and the square. Look on the right. One of the earliest images of squares, a carpenter from the tomb of Rekhmire in Egypt, a New Kingdom official from the 18th dynasty. Okay. Now Alonzo Gaskill in the book, The Sacred Symbols, the book that I showed, he goes through clothing rituals and ties them back to ancient parallels, fascinating. These are the subtopics he goes through: changing clothing, vestments, aprons, head coverings, robes, sashes, footwear, undergarments.
He goes on to say, “To change clothes is to change identity, status and nature. Among most religious peoples, there was something very sacred about the symbolism behind articles of ritual attire. One who changed into such clothing was making a covenant to be different. The very act of disrobing from one’s street clothes and robing in priestly apparel suggested transition and empowerment. One was symbolically putting on robes of righteousness. The more completely clothed the initiate was, meaning the more priestly articles donned, the more priesthood power was ceremoniously being received until the initiate was in possession of a fullness of priesthood power.”
There was a fascinating discovery several decades back. BYU has been involved in the excavation study of ancient ruins in the Faiyum region of Egypt, particularly in this … It’s called the Fag el-Gamous cemetery. Some of the remains there have been noted as early Christian. They’ve actually found even robes on some of these with complex knots which were believed to be sacred knots or bows common in Egypt, indicating priestly power of some kind. Eight were on the right shoulder, two were on the left shoulder, but even more fascinating, look at this picture here. “Clothing closest to the body is not usually well preserved due to the destructive influence of fluids and chemicals remaining in the body. In this specific burial they found, however, the woolen garment next to the skin is sufficiently well preserved for us to observe. The small rosettes have been woven into the material in particular locations. There is one rosette over each breast and one on the right leg near the knee, but there is no corresponding rosette on the left leg. Across the lower abdomen, the material also has a hem slit about six inches long.” Very interesting.
Okay. Donald and Jay Parry shared this in their book, Symbols and Shadows, “The making of ritual gestures or signs during the covenant making process was common to most ancient and many modern religions. Religious rituals or ties are sacred actions or ceremonial movements. Some scholars refer to these rites or transition as gestures of approach because they are religious gestures or acts or movements that worshipers make as they approach God during sacred worship. The ancient temple especially included sacred gestures that enabled and empowered worshipers to move through the outer gate inward to the most holy place of all, the holy of holies. The gestures of approach are vital to a temple society because they symbolically cleanse and repair worshipers for entry into and movement through sacred space as they transition from the profane world into the sacred temple.”
Now take a look at this, ancient temples of Egypt. This picture here, “The Egyptian has one hand in cupping shape, demonstrating he is giving an offering, while the other hand is raised, demonstrating that the Egyptian is also swearing an oath.” Take a look at this one of the Buddha, “Big Buddha located in Hong Kong. Tiantan means temple of heaven. The Buddha is making a ritual gesture, often referred to as a mudra. These gestures can help one to make contact with the gods, while dispelling the influence of the evil. This particular mudra is said to mean the cessation of affliction comes through generosity.” It’s also interesting to note that the Hebrew word for ordain is literally to fill the hand.
Tokens. Gaskill goes through and talks about, “The early Christians had what some have referred to as tokens of recognition. These were hand clasps utilized for a number of reasons and which carried a number of symbolic meanings. Hand clasps for covenant making or reconciliation were common in ancient cultures and religions. A solemn and ceremonial hand clasps, known by the Greeks as dexiosis, which means joining the right hands, commonly used when taking an oath or when receiving the mysteries.” That was also symbolic for the word ordinance, for receiving the ordinances. “One dictionary of symbols from 1962 suggests that in esoteric doctrine, the position of the hand in relation to the body and the arrangement of the fingers convey certain, precise, symbolic notions.”
Passwords. Gaskill says, “Frequently accompanying the signs and tokens anciently were certain secret words or phrases. They are found in specific Catholic rites, in some rare rites associated with Judaism, and even in certain branches of Islam. These secret words or passwords symbolize fidelity to covenants if they were kept secret. They represented an endowment or gift, thus to receive them implied both that God had endowed you, but also that God had entrusted you. In some cases they functioned as keywords or passwords and thus enabled the one in possession of them to know friend from foe; demons from the divine.”
Okay, fascinating, knocking three times on the Holy Door. “On Jubilee, every 25 years, the Pope performs a rite, knocking 3 times with a golden hammer on the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. A commemorative medal shows people on one side of the door and the Lord on the other. The ceremony represents entry into God’s temple.” Matthew Brown said, “The tradition of the Holy Door is also found in the Russian Orthodox church. These Christians view this door as the entrance into the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary.” Then Hugh Nibley, actually … Look at this Egyptian hieroglyphic there. He says, “When the Egyptian king enters the sanctuary at the temple’s completion, he performs an act exactly resembling what’s done at Easter in the Eastern Orthodox rites. He knocks three times on the door with his white mace and then enters.” That is fascinating.
All right, a mural of the extended hand of God, you can see on the right, from the 12th century, Sant Climent de Taull church in Catalonia, Spain. “God’s hand reaching out from behind a cloud or veil was a common symbol in the Medieval Period. Among other things, it represented fellowship, acceptance, God’s willingness to reveal, and God’s omnipotent power to save. In the intertestamental period, God’s extended hand was sometimes a symbol of testing and examination.”
Okay, about to share a couple of crazy things here. These are gnostic things and I almost hesitate doing this. There’s a lot of craziness in gnosticism. They were declared as heretics by the early Church. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a little like the Apocrypha. Do you remember how the Lord told Joseph that there’s much truth in it, but also much for man? Study with the Spirit to benefit there, but I will share this because I just think it’s so fascinating, some of these nuggets that have come out of some of these things. This was a paper written by David Wiley. I’ll link to it in the show description, The 40 Day Teachings of Christ in the Books of Jeu and the Pistis Sophia: A Gnostic Endowment.
Now the books of Jeu were found in 1769 and translated to English in 1848. The Pistis Sophia found in 1773, translated in English in 1869. Both of these after Joseph Smith died, after the endowment was established. First of all, the respected early Church Father and scholar Clement of Alexandria said this, “To James the Just and to John and Peter after the resurrection of the Lord conveyed the gnosis, these handed it on to the rest of the Apostles, and in turn, to the Seventy.” Hugh Nibley responds, “So we have a true gnosis, a certain knowledge entrusted to the general authorities of the Church after the Resurrection, and as far as we know, to no one else. This was precisely the knowledge which the so-called gnostics later claimed to have. From the titles and contents of recently found gnostic writings, it is plain that their special boast was to possess what Christ taught to the Apostles after the Resurrection.” Remember, He spent 40 days with the apostles and we have really basically no idea of what was said, but this was the foundation of gnostics. They believed they had the special knowledge there.
Here are the things that he shares. “To summarize this process, outlined in the first section of the teaching includes: number one, being stopped by angels, tested for certain knowledge, identifying ourselves using a special sign, verifying ourselves by a token in the hand, giving a name as kind of password, coming to a veil, learning new information from the Father, passing through the veil into the presence of the Father, God is an exalted man.” A lot of fascinating things there. He goes on to talk about prayer circles. If you look at the art on here, these are ancient, very old paintings showing prayer circles. It was practiced in the early Christian church.
He says, “A special manner in which Christ teaches the disciples and women to pray, gathering up all the bits and details from these varying accounts makes for an interesting picture. One, all are robed in linen garments. They are standing in a circle. Jesus receives the special sign from the disciples and women. He has those in the circle, have in their hands one of the special tokens. Jesus is before an altar. He opens his prayer with coded words or phrase, which he repeats three times. The opening of Jesus’ prayer translated is, ‘Hear me, my Father,’ and those in the circle repeat the words of the prayer.”
Those are just too many fascinating things to just disregard and say … This is fascinating to consider some of that. Matt Brown presented at the FairMormon Conference in 2008. I will put this also in the link. He talked about “a large collection of really Christian initiation texts that was updated in 2003 by Dr. Maxwell Johnson of Notre Dame. It’s called the Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy. Throughout these texts are references to temple terms such as labor, altar, sacrifice, incense, priest, Levite and high priest. There are even statements in these documents that initiates are going to enter into the temple of God to receive certain ordinances and also enter into the Holy of Holies.
He also said in his presentation, “There’s a distinct pattern in the book of Revelation which suggests that the offices of king and priest were not simply bestowed upon the first century Christians by verbal decree. This pattern is found among 12 statements made by Deity regarding those mortals who overcome the world. Let us briefly examine each of these 12 statements in the order they appear in John’s apocalypse in Revelation, and make comparisons between them and the initiation rites of ancient Israel’s kings and priests.”
I’m not putting that in here. I’ll suggest that you can watch it on YouTube. It’s fascinating. They were promised by the Lord Himself, after the Atonement had taken place, that the faithful could receive the same temple-related blessings that were experienced by the kings and priests of Israel. Liturgical practices of the Israelite temple found expression in some of the rites of the early Christians and some of those practices are echoed among the orthodox followers of the Master even today.”
Okay. Now, Endowed With Power. This is going to get really fascinating, in my opinion. I loved this, the ancient coronation ceremonies of monarchs. “The temple uses sacred symbols. These symbols not only reveal God’s doctrine, they conceal it as well. John the Revelator once spoke somewhat cryptically of our eternal potential as follows, ‘To him that overcome will I grant to sit with me in my throne.'” This is from Revelations three, “Even as I overcome and sat down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith.”
D&C 93:53, “And to obtain a knowledge of history and of countries and a knowledge of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion.” “Perhaps the Lord wants us to study these earthly kingdoms and systems, not just so we will avoid the mistakes of history, but perhaps to enlighten and instruct us as well. Perhaps He wants us to unlock the symbols of our sacred theology through the preserved, albeit tainted, allegories of antiquity. Although we cannot discuss specific details of certain aspects of the temple endowment ceremony due to their sacred nature, when you draw parallels between the endowment and the coronation ceremony of monarchs, by so doing, we will hopefully better understand and appreciate the beauty, purpose, and symbolic meaning of this sacred ordinance.”
He says, “Various countries have established coronation ceremonies to proclaim the reign of earthly kings and queens. Interestingly, many of these ceremonies claim precedents from the holy scriptures. The following is a basic summary of the most common elements of the coronation of kings and queens. As you can acknowledge also of countries and of kingdoms herein, it is hoped that you will be able to relate to the statement made by Joseph Smith as it applies to the holy temples and their associated system of gospel instruction.” In Joseph Smith History 1:74, “Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner in which we never could attain to previously, nor ever had before thought of.”
It starts with procession of guests into sacred rooms or edifices as procession. There’s British coronation here. Psalms 121 verse 1 said, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” Receiving a new name. “Kings, queens, popes and other sovereigns commonly receive a new name when they ascend to the throne or are elected to office. Often this new name is referred to as their reign name. In ancient Egypt, pharaohs received the throne name as opposed to the temple name, as it’s often referred to in East Asia. And remind the monarchs and those they served of their change in title, status and function.
Washing and anointing. These “are often performed in the beginning of the coronation ceremony. This part of the coronation or enthronement rite claims ancient roots dating back to the biblical times. Exodus 29, ‘ And Aaron and his sons, thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle, and shalt wash them with water … anointing oil poured upon his head, anoint him.’ While the British coronation ceremony involves anointing three places, the French coronation has five places of anointing. The French monarch removes all clothing except for a long shirt and stands barefoot to receive the anointing. Alonzo Gaskill surmised that ‘the washing with water cleanses the initiate and prepared him or her to receive the Holy Spirit, which was typically symbolized among the ancients by the act of anointing with oil from a horn which represented power.'”
Okay, preliminary clothing and plain white garments. “After the washing and anointing portion of the enthronement or coronation ceremony, the monarch receives and is clothed in a simple white linen undergarment called the colobium sindonis. This unadorned garment symbolized divesting oneself of vanity, eschewing all things worldly, and standing bare before God.” Then kneeling before the altar, taking of oaths and promises. “At this point, the monarch is brought before the altar where upon is placed a Bible or other holy text and often are other various items of familial significance. Solemn oaths are taken and entered into, often prefaced with the following phrase as the charge is given to the royal initiate, ‘Will you solemnly promise and swear to, and will you to the utmost of your power, maintain the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?’ The charges and oaths administered and entered into are numerous and sacred, often involving commitment to God’s laws, service to one’s fellow beings, and one’s own self comportment.”
Then clothing and royal robes. “The monarch receives royal robes, which depending on the point in the ceremony, are often placed on a particular shoulder, sometimes being switched later in the ceremony to the other shoulder. During the coronation of Elizabeth II, the words of instruction were given by the archbishop, ‘Receive this imperial robe and the Lord God endow you with knowledge and wisdom, with majesty and power from on high. The Lord clothe you with the robe of righteousness and with the garments of salvation, amen.'” Parsing on the words of Isaiah.
Okay. Holding various items of regalia, this is fascinating. “During a coordination, various items of regalia are given to and received by the monarch. Typical items include an orb, the sword of state, the royal ring, the scepter, and a crown. The sword of state, also known as the sword of justice and mercy, is one of the first items received, and is sometimes lifted and held forward in the right hand with the right arm to the square. The orb, usually surmounted, but with a cross, typifies Christ’s reign over the earth, thus symbolizing the bestowal and reception of celestial reward. The orb is received by the monarch by placing a cupped hand underneath the orb. At the beginning of the coronation ceremony, the orb is delivered into the monarch’s right hand. The orb is then placed on the altar where it remains until the end of the ceremony.
At the conclusion, the monarch holds the orb in the left hand while holding the scepter in the right hand. The ring is a symbol of the authority and power of the monarch and is received by placing the right hand forward with the palm turned down. The archbishop places the ring on the fourth finger of the monarch’s right hand.” Then the culmination, the crowning of the monarch. “The culminating act is the reception of the crown. In the British coronation, the archbishop holds the crown with both hands high above the head of the monarch, then places the crown on the monarch while the congregation exalts in a united voice three times, ‘God save the king.’ The congregation immediately follows the crowning of the monarch by placing coronets and caps on their heads. In some enthronement ceremonies, the monarch receives the crown with both hands outstretched high above their head, lowering the crown three times on their head.
Often in the coronation and enthronement ceremonies, the scripture in Psalms is recited as follows, ‘Let my prayer come up into thy presence as the incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be as an evening sacrifice.'” Fascinating stuff. Robert Line concludes this then, “Most, if not all the symbols of the temple deal with one of two things: Christ and His Atonement or the outcome of His Atonement, even eternal life and exaltation. Every place we sit, every action we make, everything we see and say, all of it combined in one way or another, symbolically points us to one of these two realities. The coronation ceremony can help us better understand our belief to one day become kings and queens, priests and priestesses for our Lord through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
I just love this closing thing from President Nelson, October 2018 Conference, “My dear brothers and sisters, the assaults of the adversary are increasing exponentially in intensity and in variety. Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater. I plead with you to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time. Invest time in your future and in that of your family.” I hope you felt the spirit testifying of the truths shared during this video. I’ll see you next time.
Endowed with Power – How Temple Symbols Guide Us to Christ’s Atonement by C. Robert Line
Understanding the Symbols, Covenants, and Ordinances of the Temple by Amy Hardison
Sacred Symbols – Finding Meaning in Rites, Rituals & Ordinances by Alonzo Gaskill
The Truth About Eden by Alonzo Gaskill
The Savior & The Serpent by Alonzo Gaskill
The Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo Gaskill
Matt Brown – Ancient Temple Patterns in D&C 124 https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/pu…
Early Christian and Jewish Rituals Related to Temple Practices – John Tvedtnes https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
FairMormon – The Temple as a Place of Ascent to God – Dan Peterson https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
FairMormon – A Case for Ancient Temple Ordinances – Oliver Mullins https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2016/…
TempleStudy.com – The Relationship Between the Ancient Israelite Temple and the Endowment https://www.templestudy.com/2013/04/0…
Avoiding Temple Blindness: Tips for Latter-day Saints on Appreciating the Ancient Aspects of the LDS Temple – Jeff Lindsay https://www.jefflindsay.com/lds/templ…
The Temple Roots of the Liturgy – Margaret Barker https://www.marquette.edu/maqom/Roots…
What similarities are there between Egyptian and Israelite Temples? The Interpreter Foundation KnoWhy OTL14A https://interpreterfoundation.org/kno…
Solomon’s Temple Compared to the Salt Lake Temple – Ann Madsen; BYU Studies https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/eye-fait…
BYU Archeology dig in Egypt – BYU Studies Quarterly https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6bc7…
The Forty Day Teachings of Christ in the Books of Jeu and Pistis Sophia: A Gnostic Endowment – David Wiley https://davidwiley.org/papers/40_days…
Why Symbols? – Feb 2007 Ensign https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.