30 May 2012

Passing the Angels Who Stand As Sentinels

Giving his own summary of temple ordinances, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that they concerned:
…washings, anointings, endowments, and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which anyone is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the Firstborn, and come up and abide in the presence of the Elohim in the eternal worlds.
Specific aspects of instruction in the endowment “pertaining to the Holy Priesthood” were described by Brigham Young in his description of the endowment:
Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.
Although this statement is frequently quoted in official Church publications, the reference to “key words, the signs and tokens” is not explained. The sacred nature of these things prohibits any discussion of specific symbolism. However, it may be helpful for the modern reader to understand the general meaning of these terms in related contexts, which would have been much more familiar to those in Joseph Smith’s time than they are in our day. Before continuing, we observe that what matters in such tests for knowledge is not merely the requirement to remember the details of the instructions one has received, but, in addition, the expectation that one be sincerely engaged in the process of mastering the life lessons associated with them. Elder Dallin H. Oaks reminds us that, in the day of final judgment, it will not be enough to merely have gone through the outward motions of keeping the commandments and receiving the ordinances—the essential question will be what we have ourselves become during our period of probation.

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