Secret Rites in Christianity? Barry Bickmore on the LDS Temple

In Chapter 6 of Restoring the Ancient Church, Barry Bickmore discusses the existence of esoteric doctrines and secret rites in early Christianity. Many people have objected to the LDS notion of having Temple rites that aren’t open to everybody, saying such a notion is unchristian. The first few pages of Bickmore’s chapter on the Temple and early Christianity might dissuade you from that incorrect notion. The LDS Temple concept finds many parallels with early Christianity, with several core concepts apparently on solid ground. Read through Bickmore’s chapter and let me know what you think. It goes on to explore some interesting details such as sacred vestments, the prayer circle, anointings, etc.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

15 thoughts on “Secret Rites in Christianity? Barry Bickmore on the LDS Temple

  1. It sure doesn’t surprise me that one would find parallels between the LDS temple ceremonies/policy of ‘secrecy’ and those of ancient times. Of course, it’s not man who has initiated these policies, but rather the eternal God who handed them TO man in different dispensations of time.

    It kind of reminds me of the ‘accusation’ by some that Joseph Smith ‘stole’ the idea for the temple ceremony from the Masons. Where did they get their ideas from? Solomon’s temple. Where do the LDS temple ceremonies come from – they were had in Solomon’s temple.

    God revealed truths of the fullness of the Gospel to those in years past, and He STILL reveals those truths to His chosen prophets in 2009.

    “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

    For that I am grateful!

  2. You sound a bit rough on the Masons. Yes—-some of the more sacred parts of the temple ceremony come directly from the Masons—–which come from the Temple of Solomon.

    Where did joseph Smith learn the signs and tokens?

  3. There is some debate about whether or not the mason’s actually got anything from Solomon’s temple, but I am no expert in the field. Let’s just suffice it to say that I believe that the covenants we receive in the temple are inspired from God, but some of the things we do to get them may not nesissarily have come directly from that direct source.

    Anyway, I read Temple and Cosmos by Hugh Nibley, and it has some of the rituals and stuff by the early church. This book looks like it would be pretty interesting.

  4. This is the first time I’ve posted on your blog, but I’ve been enjoying it for quite some time. I read through the first third of the chapter and scanned through the rest of it and find it extremely interesting. I am far from being a scriptoral scholar (but I’m working on it, line upon line!), but I really enjoyed the information. I had no idea that there was so much outside-the-scriptures information available on the subject of early-church temple worship.

    You know what? I’ve been LDS since age 8 and I felt the fire of conviction when I was 14 when I really studied the Book of Mormon by myself. Since then, I’ve made some excellent choices, some monumental mistakes, felt an inkling of the agonies that our Savior must have felt for us on the cross, and felt the absolute pure joy that comes with repentance and the blessing of the Atonement. In and out of all those years, not one thing within LDS doctrine has been out of place to me or required me to compromise my faith to accept. Not one thing, even if I didn’t or don’t understand it completely or at all. I don’t expect to know all of the mysteries (“ordinances,” as the chapter says, which again, makes perfect sense) as a mere mortal woman; these “evidences” are absolutely fascinating but my faith isn’t built on them, as I know Mr. Lindsay isn’t trying to do. Still, the more I learn, the more as a grain of dust I feel, and a grateful grain of dust at that.

  5. I think few scholars would agree with the idea that the Masons got their symbols from Solomon’s temple. I would argue that the things symbolized in the temple are more important than the symbols themselves. In trying to compare modern temple worship to that of the earliest Christians, perhaps we should be focusing more on the content of the ceremonies than the details of the symbols themselves…

  6. It is very evident that certain things were used from the Masonic ceremony in the LDS Temple Ceremony. Or the LDS Temple Ceremony was delivered completely by an Angel.

    Of great interest many of the things deleted from the LDS ceremony in the last 20 years are directly from the Masonic ceremony.

  7. Halibut,

    There is no debate about whether or not the Temple ceremony has much of it’s ritual from the Masonic temple. What is in debate as to whether or not any of the Rites from Solomon’s temple made it to the Masonic temple.

    If you want to look this up yourself, a good source is just do a search using mason and Solomon as terms and you should find quite a few LDS scholors who say that the temple of Solomon and the Masonic temple have no connection.

    There is no point in debating this though. What is important is what Allaboutmormons said, focus on the content rather than the details of the symbols and where exactly they came from.

  8. John Dehlin’s “Mormon Stories” podcast had a very informative discussion on Mormonism and Masonry with Greg Kearney, a LDS Mason. A copy of the podcast can be found here:

    For the record, Bro. Kearney’s very skeptical about links between Masonry and ancient temple rites.

    Some of the academic work on ancient ritual put out scholars, both LDS and non-LDS, certainly adds depth to our understanding of the temple ceremony and enlarges some of the symbolic meaning behind much of it.

  9. Completely unscholarly and speculative but if the temple ceremonies were to have any connection, it would be with the early Church and not at Solomon’s time. It would have been the Mason’s who built the churches where any remnant of the ceremonies would have been performed. Also, the Church back in Solomon’s time did not have an established Melchizedek priesthood body which would have been necessary for the temple rites.

    Again, just my opinion and sometimes you can get as much as 2 cents for it 😀

  10. Meaningful to me is that lots of Mormons are Masons and it doesn’t affect their testimony.

    One Mason/Mormon told me something like: “God isn’t required to use something completely new and unique in order to teach principles.”

  11. Jennifer spoke of “the absolute pure joy that comes with repentance and the blessing of the Atonement.” Yes, wonderfully said. That’s the most important thing. It’s actually what is at the heart of the LDS Temple experience. The outer trappings, including symbols and some things apparently borrowed from Masonry, are less important that the real message and core of the Temple, which is all about entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ to experience the joy that comes through His Atonement and grace. What wonderful news!

  12. Something that has been recently very impressive to me about the Prophet Joseph Smith’s revelations is the down-to-earth roots of them and their nature that I can relate to. Most of his revelations came from questions that he asked – whether it was “which church?” or “there new converts in Kirtland that had been living some New Testament utopian order – what about that?” or “Emma is sick of cleaning up tobacco spit and there are some health movements around – is there something we should know here?” or “why did the ancient prophets have multiple wives?” or “is there something to this Masonic thing?” or “what does this Bible passage mean”. So he asked – and got an answer. And often the answer was just the beginning. He had to figure out what to do with it and his and the church’s faith had to be tried before they would receive more. Sometimes he even went down the wrong path trying to do something with the new knowledge and had to receive some course corrections. The Lord is not only restoring the fulness, but He is building us and our faith as we do our best with the current knowledge we have – which helps us figure out the next question.

    My understanding is that Joseph knew the temple ceremony wasn’t complete when he handed it off to Brigham Young and told him such. It wasn’t until Wilford Woodruff that the church understood the sealing of children to parents as we do now and some interesting sealings were performed before that. The Lord continues to give us line upon line and the restoration is ongoing as we ask the right questions instead of being one complete and tidy transmittal (as did happen with the Book of Mormon – at least the part we have).

  13. To paraphrase Brigham Young, the endowment is to receive all things that are necessary to pass the angel sentinels into the presence of the Father giving them the key words, signs and tokens… That would seem to indicate that those things are important and not just “outer trappings”. I do not especially like or understand the temple ceremony. When I first went, many years ago, I felt like I was on a factory assembly line and that impression has never completely left me. But I still go and I do Family History and am a Temple Worker. I just hope that someday it will be as beautiful to me as everyone says it should be and that I will graduate from believing on the words of others to understanding for myself.

  14. @the 9:20 5/06

    While Brigham did say that I’d just like to point out two things about it.

    First off is the question of what signs and tokens he is referring to. While he was most likely referencing the actual physical acts and very words of the endowment, he could also very likely be referencing the hidden and personal symbols and tokens that one receives when approaching the ceremony with a prayerful and ready heart and mind.

    Secondly Brigham is teaching here according to his understanding of it. Temple worship while it has it’s roots in the ancient practice thereof,is still in our day new and little is still understood in general about what we are supposed learn and understand through it.

    Brigham while he was a prophet, had even less information available to him, yet did the best he could with it.

    The one thing I have found personally is that while we can glean certain truths about the eternities from the printed word and physical acts performed, is that what is more important are the things revealed to us in that most sacred place performing what many would see as nonsensical, and finding the meaning of it.

    I don’t want anyone who reads this to feel any way attacked so I want to clarify what I mean by a ready and willing heart. When I was preparing to go and receive my endowment at least 3 of my friends were as well. All three were going before me though so I had the benefit of their experience to prepare. All 3 of them had very different experiences and none of them could describe them as good, the one thing they all had in common was that they felt they weren’t ready for it. So with that in mind the only option I had was to plead with the lord that I would be ready in heart and mind to receive and understand the ordinances which I was about to partake.

    When the time came for me to receive them the lord answered my prayers and opened up my heart and mind to the eternal nature of what I was performing. As I was there I even saw what you mean with the assembly line comment, only I was outside the line and watching like I was a far way off from those who were just repeating and going through the motions. It felt like I was alone with the Lord and though I was saying the very same things, and doing the very same acts as those around me I was personally on a very deep level learning and understanding things from them that went beyond a mortal understanding of them. Not once during this experience did I feel any doubts or any discomfort as all my friends and even family had felt their first few times going.

    I too like my friends wasn’t ready if I had gone without praying constantly for the understanding which I received I would have had a bittersweet experience like all that I knew had themselves.

    The temple is truly a holy place and while it is sacred to the point where we do not reference anything specific about it outside its walls, there is much we can and should say to prepare ourselves and others for it. When a younger friend of mine who just returned from his mission went I was able to help him to have a similar experience to mine.

    I have a very deep and powerful testimony of temple worship, my friends who weren’t prepared now have just as deep and powerful testimonies of it. We have been able to share those experiences as brothers sitting in the Celestial room and reverently discussing the things we had learned that day. It is The House of the Lord. I say these thing in our Lords name, amen.

    I do not mean to judge in any way shape or form. I truly believe that had I gone trough first out of my friends, of which I am the oldest of, but felt strongly to wait to go on my mission. I would not be or have this testimony of the temple. I may have had one by this point but it would not be as powerful to me as it is now. I hope all who go there will be taught and prepared by those around them who have a understanding and testimony, then perhaps so many won’t feel the way most do going their first time.

  15. Zera, I so appreciate your testimony not only about the temple ordinances, but also about the power of prayer.

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