Love the Revised Initiatory System in the Temple

The updated initiatory ordinances (related to the Biblical “washings and anointings”) in the Temple are old news, but it wasn’t until last week that I got to participate in those ordinances since the change. Very nice! Much better, not just for newcomers to the Temple, but for oldtimers as well. The core concepts remain unchanged, but the updated details of administering the ordinance are much better suited for our era and will make the overall Temple experience even better.

While critics guffaw at any change we make (“The Changing World of Mormonism” is one series I’ve heard on the radio), they often fail to recognize how dramatically their religion and texts have changed over the centuries. Given their rejection of continuing revelation since the last page of the New Testament was written, changes in doctrine and ordinances raise many questions. But I respect the flexibility that is possible within the Church, based on an understanding of what is policy or practice versus doctrine and core covenants, and based on the concept of continuing revelation and inspired, authorized leaders.

Inspired adjustments made by properly authorized leaders is something we need not fear, especially changes in policy and practice. The real problem is when there has been loss of truth and loss of covenants from unauthorized changes, such as the changes that resulted in the lost understanding of the nature of God and Christ, or the introduction of infant baptism, and the many other examples of loss and improper change that have occurred over the centuries.

Yes, there are plenty of arguments to make against the LDS version of the Temple. Is it needed? Why do we do this or that? How do you separate ancient elements from modern influences? Can we really trace allegedly ancient aspects to ancient times? Did early Christians really have the same ordinances?

I won’t go into those issues here. For me, as one who has experienced the Temple and has dabbled in some aspects of the ancient world, I’m impressed with what we have and can respect it as an inspired institution with ancient roots and divine covenants to bring us more fully to Christ and to help complete the work of His Church on the earth. Indeed, I can rejoice at what a jewel the Temple is, the House of the Lord, a prophesied institution that would play a role in the gathering of Israel in the last days. It is the powerhouse of the Restored Church, as High Nibley put it. And it just got a little better with an inspired tweak in the format of its initial ordinances.

(I don’t want comments that get into details of the Temple here, and do not consider this to be the place for the usual assaults on this institution. For this post, keep comments short and respectful, please.)


Author: Jeff Lindsay

11 thoughts on “Love the Revised Initiatory System in the Temple

  1. For me, thus far, the most important part of the temple has been qualifying myself, and not just in the recommend interview to go. I’m still a priest, but, as I understand, there are certain things said to the effect of, “If anyone in here has a conflict with another person here, let him be excused at this time.” I see this (as in many other examples) as an implementation of the principle the Savior taught in Matthew 5:23-24.

    Now, I used to be highly critical of the church notwithstanding, and I did (regrettably) read portions of the endowment online at one point in that period. But I’ve never understood the notion of false rigidity in ordinances (compare how ordinations were done in the 30’s, for example) I find it wonderful that there is this flexibility. The changes add vitality for a new generation of recipients who speak a shifting form of the English language. Additionally, it becomes harder for them to become dead works held to a higher regard than the principle that’s being taught, because faithful members of the church will see what changes and what doesn’t at some point. We see what we need to learn and abstract it in our own minds from how it’s being represented.

    Insightful post. Thank you.

  2. I don’t mean this comment to denigrate the new initiatory ordinance–nor change and continuing revelation in the Church.

    But I mourn the passing of the old initiatories. They were so beautiful, and all the symbolism is gone. How sad.

  3. I agree with Bored in Vernal. This is my favorite temple ritual precisely because of its’ symbolic value. Oh well.

  4. To me, essentially of all the symbolism is still there, it’s just that it is conveyed more in words.

  5. I have partaken a lot more of the new form than of the old, and I must say I am more comfortable with the new. I feel I can pay greater attention, and therefore reap greater benefits from my own involvement. I can see why some might miss the physical elements that are different, but I can see why more would be more comfortable with how it is done now. I really love doing initiatories personally, and when I’ve done a baptismal session for my own family names I prefer to do as many initiatories as possible and then share the endowments with my in-laws who are so helpful in getting those done. I love doing endowments, too, but I like to do every part as often as I can find time to (living four hours from two temples). Great post.

  6. Very nice! Much better, not just for newcomers to the Temple, but for oldtimers as well. The core concepts remain unchanged, but the updated details of administering the ordinance are much better suited for our era and will make the overall Temple experience even better.

    Couldn’t disagree more.

    -Adam Greenwood

  7. Adam, you couldn’t disagree more, but I couldn’t agree more. There.

    Isn’t logic great?

  8. If you think the old one was full of symbolism and warnings and blessing you should glad you were not part of Joshua’s blessings.
    Deuteronomy 27-33

  9. If you think about it, it would seem that through the ages the Lord has gradually been increasing his trust in our spiritual maturity, line upon line, precept upon precept.

    In the beginning Adam and Eve were commanded not to partake of the forbidden fruit, and later to offer sacrifices. In neither case did they know why, only that it was a commandment; they simply did as they were told. Later, when they showed more spiritual maturity, they received further light and knowledge from an angel.

    On account of their blatant spiritual immaturity (despite the many miracles they had witnessed) the Israelites were subjected to the Law of Moses, which spelled out every little thing they were to do and not to do, and even how and when to do it. In their state of spiritual immaturity they were only able to accept an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

    By the time the Savior fulfilled the Law of Moses, apparently God’s children had spiritually matured sufficiently to be ready to start accepting the higher law of loving not only their neighbor but even their enemies.

    Then after the apostasy and during the consequent dark ages, most of God’s children apparently lacked sufficient spiritual maturity, but meanwhile the Lord directed a select few spiritual giants to pave the way for the Restoration.

    During the early days of the Restored Church only the spiritually mature were strong enough to withstand the often incomprehensible and grueling trials of their faith. Those who were

    Over the years the Church Handbook of Instructions has also undergone a number of revisions. Although none of the doctrine has changed, much of the predefined and spelled-out directions have made way for general guidelines that are to be implemented “as the Spirit directs”. Similarly, some of our temple ordinances have also been simplified to some extent.

    Although some of the changes in and out of the temple clearly reflect practicality, I believe we are simply being weaned off of the very physical and visual symbolisms and directions that were apparently needed in the past, because we are ready to start accepting a higher more spiritual symbolism.

    The way I see it is that as the spiritual maturity of God’s children grows through the ages, he is slowly entrusting us with more and more personal spiritual responsibility. Apparently the nearer we come to the time of his Second Coming, the less he feels we need to be commanded in all things.

    To me, these modifications are simply a sign of our increasing spiritual maturity.

    Daniel B.

  10. I was disappointed by the change. Sure, I recognise the reasons for doing it, and I guess it is a good thing. The symbolism and function is preserved, but it’s been moved to the big category of ordinances that involve mostly sitting and listening.

    Initatories were always my favorite ordinance because I felt something very mythically fulfilling – being set apart for sacred duty. It’s still there, just…muffled.

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