30 June 2012

What is the Endowment? Becoming "the Sons of Moses and of Aaron"

The primary sense of the word "endowment" has to do with the giving of a gift. The word "endowment" fits perfectly as a description of the ordinance whereby God bestows great gifts of knowledge and power to mankind. Elder Boyd K. Packer further explains:
To endow is to enrich, to give to another something long lasting and of much worth. The temple endowment ordinances enrich in three ways: (a) the one receiving the ordinance is given power from God. "Recipients are endowed with power from on high." (b) A recipient is also endowed with information and knowledge. "They receive an education relative to the Lord's purposes and plans." (c) When sealed at the altar a person is the recipient of glorious blessings, powers, and honors as part of his endowment.
The word "endowment" is also closely related to the idea of putting on clothing. While they were in the Garden of Eden, the nakedness of Adam and Eve signified innocence. However, in mortality, nakedness symbolizes the fallen and sinful condition of those who have not yet accepted the blessings of the Atonement. While the coats of skins "covered" the direct effects of Adam and Eve's transgression (corresponding to the idea of justification), additional clothing worn over the first garment represented their being endowed with glory, holiness, and godliness (i.e., sanctification). Nibley further explains that "the white undergarment is the proper preexistent glory of the wearer, while the [outer garment of the high priest] is the priesthood later added to it."

While the authority of the priesthood "comes by way of ordination; power in the priesthood comes through faithful and obedient living in honoring covenants." Similarly, it is one thing to wear white clothing as a symbol of priesthood power, and yet another to be in actuality endowed or clothed "with power from on high." Connecting the endowment of power with the idea of putting on glorious clothing is Elder James E. Talmage's discussion of what he calls the Parable of the Royal Marriage Feast in Matthew 22. Referring to the wedding garment required of all legitimate guests at the feast, he observes:
The Greek original in the mention of the wedding garment is enduma...The noun is related to the Greek verb enduein, "to put on, as a garment."

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27 June 2012

The Church and Kingdom: Becoming Priests and Kings

In previous articles, we have examined the significance of each of the phrases of D&C 84:34, a key verse in the passage describing the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood:
They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
The ordinance of the endowment portrays the process of the Saints becoming “the sons of Moses and of Aaron,” and the sealing ordinance of celestial marriage symbolizes their becoming “the seed of Abraham.” Continuing with this description of the required sequence of temple blessings, the phrase “the church and kingdom” refers to the blessings of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, belonging to one who is made a “king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.” Correspondingly, worthy women may receive the blessings of becoming queens and priestesses.

It is fitting for these blessings to be associated with the name of Melchizedek, because he was the great “king of Salem” and “the priest of the most high God,” who gave the priesthood to Abraham. Later kings of Israel, as well as Jesus Christ Himself, were declared to be part of the “order of Melchizedek,” which was originally called “the Order of the Son of God.”

Because of the sacred nature of the ordinance that confers the fulness of the priesthood, very little detail about it has been given in official church publications. For example, Elder McConkie described this ordinance, along with those ordinances leading up to it, only in very general terms:
In setting forth as much as can, with propriety, be spoken outside of the temple, the Lord says that “the fulness of the priesthood” is received only in the temple itself. This fulness is received through washings, anointings, solemn assemblies, oracles in holy places, conversations, ordinances, endowments, and sealings…

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23 June 2012

Becoming “the Seed of Abraham”: The Sealing and Healing Power of Elijah

In D&C 132, we read the promise that those who accept the covenants of celestial marriage will enjoy “a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” This idea relates to the next set of promised blessings described in D&C 84:34:
They become… the seed of Abraham…
The reference to becoming the “seed of Abraham” includes the blessings of the celestial marriage ordinance and the sealing of parents to children in the temple. In D&C 132:30-31, we read:
Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins... [that] both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars... This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham...
Of course, being a literal descendant of Abraham does not guarantee the fulfillment of these promises, as they are conditioned upon personal faithfulness to the covenants received: “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are all children of Abraham, are they the seed.... But the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

The blessings of Abraham received through the sealing ordinances are, of course, intended for men and women alike: “Elder McConkie noted that ‘what we say for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we say also for Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, the wives... who with them were true and faithful in all things,’ for, as President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, ‘the Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons.’”

The sealing power exercised in the temple is essential for the redemption of families. By this means, both our posterity and our ancestors and can be linked to us eternally in a restoration of the perfect order that God designed for the happiness of His children before the earth was created. Without these “welding links,” as the Prophet Joseph called them, neither we nor they can be made perfect. Explaining the priority of this work on both sides of the veil, Elder Melvin J. Ballard asked:
Why is it that sometimes only one of a city or household receives the Gospel? It was made known to me that it is because of the righteous dead who had received the Gospel in the spirit world exercising themselves and, in answer to their prayers, elders of the Church were sent to the homes of their posterity that the Gospel might be taught to them, and [that] through their righteousness they might be privileged to have a descendant in the flesh do the work for their dead kindred. I want to say to you that it is with greater intensity that the hearts of the fathers and mothers in the spirit world are turned to their children than that our hearts are turned to them.

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02 June 2012

The Meaning of the Atonement

Moses 5:4 tells us that Adam and Eve offered prayer after they left the Garden of Eden:
And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.
In answer to their petitions, Adam and Eve heard the Lord’s voice calling them back from their place of exile on the fallen earth. Later, He gave them additional instruction and commandments in order to set their feet back on the way toward the Garden of Eden—which is, of course, the path that terminates in “the way of the Tree of Life.” In a passage from the Midrash Tehillim, the Hebrew term teshuvah, which denotes “return” but scripturally means “repentance” or “conversion,” is used to describe the way back to the Garden, signifying “the movement that brings every thing and every being back to its supernal origin,” the “return to the celestial abode.” The spiritual movement of turning away from the sinful world and back toward mankind’s heavenly origins is mirrored in the layout of ordinance rooms in some modern temples.

A return to the presence of the Father is predicated on our oneness with Him—which presumes, in turn, oneness with our brothers and sisters: “be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” Simply put, this kind of oneness is the ultimate meaning of, and the eventual result of, the Atonement of Christ.

After a brief discussion about the meaning of the Atonement, this article explores two forms of imagery for the Atonement that can be found in scripture. The first kind of imagery has to do with prayer. John Tvedtnes has written that “prayer opens the veil to allow one to enjoy the presence of God.” Similarly, prayer might be understood as a preparation for the enjoyment of eternal companionship between a glorified man and woman. The second form of imagery for the Atonement has to do with the symbolism of homecoming—for example, the welcome given by the father of the prodigal son.


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