[Editor: This is the first in a series of excerpts from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s new book, entitled “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.”The bookis available on Amazon.com and at selected LDS Bookstores (including Eborn Books, BYU Bookstore, the FAIR LDS Bookstore). An iBooks version is can be purchased from the Apple iBookstore, and a pdf version is available at www.templethemes.net]
Why Do We Participate in Temple Ordinances?
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has expressed the concern that sometimes “Church members focus on what the Lord wants them to do and how to do it, but forget the why.” Further explaining his feelings, he said:
While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the Gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the Gospel springs from the “why.” When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the Gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet.
Why do we participate in temple ordinances? Three main reasons come to mind:
The [elements of the] endowment… fall clearly into four distinct parts: the preparatory ordinances; the giving of instructions by lectures and representations; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete. The candidate for the temple service is prepared, as in any earthly affair, for work to be done. Once prepared, he is instructed in the things that he should know. When instructed, he covenants to use the imparted knowledge, and at once the new knowledge, which of itself is dead, leaps into living life. At last, tests are given him, whereby those who are entitled to know may determine whether the man has properly learned the lesson…
Altogether our temple worship follows a most excellent pedagogical system. I wish instruction were given so well in every schoolroom throughout the land, for we would then teach with more effect than we now do.
The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities that reside in the temple service. The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.…
In temple worship, as in all else, we probably gain understanding according to our different knowledge and capacity; but I believe that we can increase in knowledge and enlarge our capacity, and in that way receive greater gifts from God. I would therefore urge upon you that we teach those who go into the temples to do so with a strong desire to have God’s will revealed to them… not for publication, or for conversation, but for our own good, for the satisfying of our hearts.
The two parts of scripture that have had the most influence on my understanding and appreciation of temple worship are the book of Moses and section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Having been strengthened and enlightened in recent years by a close examination of the book of Moses, it has been a joy to feel ready at last, if still somewhat unprepared, to enter into a more serious study of section 84.
My desire to learn more about the relationship between the priesthood and the ordinances of the temple grew in studying a document from the First Presidency and the Twelve called the “Leadership Training Emphasis.” Among other things, it instructs local leaders to emphasize the role of the Melchizedek priesthood in preparing members for exaltation. Then, a passage of scripture is cited—the only verses specifically mentioned in the entire document—Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-22:
And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.