Wednesday, December 30, 2015

SAVING ORDINANCES – "the letter [of the law] killeth, but the spirit giveth life!" (2 Cor 3:6)

I’ve grown up cultivating a belief in a checklist of salvation. Roughly, the checklist goes as follows:
1. Get baptized at age eight
2. Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands
3. For males: Receive the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthood
4. Receive your endowment/Go through the temple
5. Serve a full time mission
6. Get married in the temple
7. Get some kids
8. Endure to the end
9. Enter into your exaltation
This is fine and all, and centers around, what we call ‘saving ordinances’ that convey deep spiritual truths. The problem is, I don’t believe it, meaning the checklist, anymore. And I believe that it’s a false tradition. Therefore, I will try to shed some new light on the false concept of saving ordinances.

The most commonly known ordinances are: baptism, confirmation (the laying on of the hands for the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost), baptism of fire and of the Spirit, washing/anointing, endowment, sealing and second anointing. (Have I forgotten any?)

The ordinances of baptism in water and the subsequent baptism of fire and the Spirit are, in my book, fundamental to the Gospel (we have a record of Adam getting baptized by water and by the Spirit, but we don’t know if he was endowed in a temple the way we are today (at the end of this post, I believe we will understand that Adam indeed was endowed in a temple, just not in the way we are taught to believe); see Moses 6:51-68). The ordinances performed in the temple are of a different caliber. Therefore, I will focus on these in this post.

Some background (to my line of thinking)

Note the name of the Church!
The Church of Christ was organized in 1830 (D&C 20). By May 3rd of 1834, the name of the Church was changed to the Church of the Latter-day Saints (History of the Church 2:62-63). Why was the name of Christ taken out of the name of the Church? Hadn’t they read that “ye shall call the church in my name […] And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.” (3 Ne. 27:7-8; see also v. 3-12)

One way to understand this unexpected change, is the most obvious one: the Church had rejected what the Lord had offered and wasn’t His “only true and living church” anymore (D&C 1:30).

Note the name of the Church!
In February of 1831, the Lord gave his law to the Church and said that ” Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church; And he that doeth according to these things shall be saved, and he that doeth them not shall be damned if he so continue.” (D&C 42:59-60) One part of this law was the law of consecration. Obedience to this law is necessary for the establishment of Zion. The early Saints tried to live it, but failed. The reason? ”[J]arrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them[, they] were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God[,] they esteemed lightly my counsel[.]” (D&C 101:6-8)

The Saints were chastened, ”because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave unto them” (D&C 103:4) and they didn’t keep the commandment and they eventually broke ”the covenant through covetousness, and with feigned words” (D&C 104:4). This was in April of 1834. By December 5th the same year, the Lord said, ”Verily, condemnation resteth upon you, who are appointed to lead my Church, and to be saviors of men; and also upon the Church; and there must needs be a repentance and a reformation among you, in all things” (History of the Church 2:177). I guess that this condemnation might have been a continuation of the one pronounced upon the Church in September 1832 (see D&C 84:54-58).

The Lord offered the fulness of his Gospel, and the fulness of his priesthood. Unfortunately, the former was rejected (see 3 Ne. 16:10) and the latter was taken away (D&C 124:28). In 1841, the Saints were commanded to ”build a house to [the name of the Lord], for the Most High to dwell therein. For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124:25-28, 31)

The Saints, had lost the fulness of the priesthood. In His mercy, the Lord extended one last chance to get it back. “And again, verily I say unto you, I command you again to build a house to my name, even in this place, that you may prove yourselves unto me that ye are faithful in all things whatsoever I command you, that I may bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life” (D&C 124:55)

If they would build a temple in Nauvoo, they would receive the following blessings:
  • “I will reveal mine ordinances therein” (v. 40)
  • “I will consecrate [the place where you build the temple] that it shall be made holy” (v. 44)
  • “you […] shall not be moved out of [your] place” (v. 45) 
The flipside to these promises (that is, the cursings for disobedience) were the following:
  • “your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me” (v. 32, 33, 35)
  • “ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead” (v. 32)
  • “[you] shall not be blest” (v. 46)
  • “I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands” (v. 47)
  • “For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations” (v. 48) 
The Nauvoo temple was never completed by the early Saints. By 1848, it lay in ruins and the Saints had been driven from their place by the Mississippi river. The pioneers surely experienced the wrath of God and the cursings they brought upon their own head. I believe that this experience also facilitated a chance for individuals to repent and reform and come nearer unto God.

(It should be noted that 161 years after the Saints were commanded to build a temple in Nauvoo, one was built. According to my knowledge, this hasn't brought back the fulness of the priesthood.)

I believe that Joseph knew this was going to happen. Therefore, he gave the temple ordinances that we know have to the Church, hoping that the ordinances “might keep [the Church] in remembrance of God and their duty towards him” (see Mosiah 13:30; quoted in context below) and help anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see to wake up to the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

An ancient parallel

Read this excerpt from D&C 84 and ask yourself the question: Why are these verses relevant to the topic at hand?
 19 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.
 20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. 21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; 22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. 23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; 24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. 25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; 26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; 27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel
Read also the following and ask yourself the same question.
 25 And it came to pass that after Abinadi had made an end [rehearsing the ten commandments) that he said unto [wicked king Noah and his priests]: Have ye taught this people that they should observe to do all these things for to keep these commandments? 26 I say unto you, Nay; for if ye had, the Lord would not have caused me to come forth and to prophesy evil concerning this people. 27 And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses. 28 And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses. 29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God; 30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him. 31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come. 32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God. (Mosiah 13:25-32)
Can you see it? The story of the early Saints has its parallel in ancient Israel! They were also taught how to come before the face of the Lord, but they declined (see Exodus 19, 20; compare with 3 Ne. 16:10-15). They charged Moses to talk to God instead of approaching Him directly. They hardened their hearts and “it was expedient that there should be a law given to [them], yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God; Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.” (Mosiah 13:29-30)

When speaking about the law of performances and ordinances and the law of carnal commandments, we’re speaking of “the Law of Moses”. This is what is meant by “the letter of the law”. God gave His (spiritual) law, but it was rejected and the people asked Moses to be their advocate with the Lord. Therefore, through Moses they received a carnal law, a “schoolmaster to bring [them] unto Christ” and His spiritual law (Gal. 3:24-25).

“Types of things to come” and the endowment of Adam

Abinadi understood what the Israelites, soon after receiving the carnal law, forgot – the ordinances and performances are “types of things to come”. They are designed to be physical reminders of spiritual truths. The sacrificing of animals doesn’t forgive sins, but the redemption of God does. The Israelites started believing that the ordinances themselves had saving power. And that’s also true of latter-day Israel! Joseph gave the ordinances to bring us unto Christ. Instead of doing that, we’ve created checklists!

Let’s look a bit closer at the endowment. Are you endowed after you’ve passed through the veil and entered the celestial room? No! The endowment session is a physical symbol teaching a spiritual truth. In the words of Robert Sonntag: “Ritual ordinances offered by the Church are symbolic of actual saving interactions with heaven. Those saving interactions are the “ordinances” which we must all seek.” (What is a prophet, p. 47)

The fulness of the Gospel is contained in the endowment, and it’s inviting us to have faith, repent and come unto Christ. Doing this will save us in a way that no physical ordinance ever could!

We are to strive to receive our endowment, but we must understand that the temple where it’s supposed to happen isn’t one built with hands. Paul stated, standing on Mars’ Hill: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” (Acts 17:24) To the Corinthians, he asked rhetorically: ”Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 6:19)

This brings us back to where we started – the baptism of Adam and the question of whether he was endowed in a temple. My answer to this question is–yes! Although Adam never sat through an endowment session in a temple, he was endowed. He was true and faithful in all things, and received further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil.

I believe the Lord wants us all to converse with Him through the veil. For this to happen, no physical ordinance is necessary, but it might be helpful for those with ears to hear and eyes to see.


Through a prophet (Moses and Joseph), the Lord gave a law of performances and ordinances, a law of carnal commandments, to a people that rejected the opportunity to come to Christ directly through the fulness of His Gospel.

These ordinances doesn’t save, but they have the ability to point our minds to Him, who is mighty to save. Putting our trust in the ordinances of the Gospel is a false tradition. We can’t put our trust in dead works (see Moroni 8:23) which “availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of [the blood of Christ]” (Mosiah 3:15) and expect to be saved. For this, we need real faith and real repentance, and, in the words of Joseph “put away all [our] false traditions.” (TPJS p. 321)

An overemphasis on the temple, the physical edifice and the physical and symbolical ordinances, can keep us blind to the fact that we are perpetuating the ”curse” of the material version of the spiritual reality God offers us. It can become and end in itself, and we will temple worship our way into spiritual darkness. Or, we can see the temple for what it is, and worship God in "spirit and in truth"! (John 4:24)

1 comment:

  1. Well put. Enjoyed your wealth of convincing scripture. Especially enjoyed how you laid out the history succinctly. From any angle we approach it, the LDS church has been struggling under a curse, a condemnation, and a loss of the higher priesthood for the past 3 generations.