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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