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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Could Recent Changes In the Temple Be Hinting At Changes In LDS Priesthood Ordinations?

by RB Mac

Changes to the temple ordinances were announced a little over two weeks ago, and we really wanted to pop up a post right away, but then we saw that the Church had asked for people not to post the changes. So, we waited for a few weeks to go by so we could all find out what the changes are without us being the ones to tell you. Now that we all know what changes have been made, we can talk about all of this and there is a lot to talk about.  Is this the first time that ceremonies have been changed in the temple? What is the history of the temple ceremony? What are the doctrinal implications of the recent changes? Are there more changes to come?
Changes pertaining to the temple ceremony are more common than you might think. Significant changes were made in 1843, 1845, 1855, 1856, 1857, 1877 Jan-15, 1877 Feb-1,  1884, 1893, 1894, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1915, 1916, 1919, 1922 May-1, 1922 Sept, 1923, 1924, 1927, 1930, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1945, 1955 Nov-4, 1955 Dec-5, 1959 Mar-16, 1959 Jul-15, 1962, 1963, 1965 Jan-1, 1965 May-4, 1965 May-14, 1966 Jul-6, 1966 Aug-30, 1969 Mar-18, 1969 Oct-23, 1972, 1975, 1978 May-3, 1978 Jun-8, 1979 Jun-1, 1979 Dec-1, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2008, 2019. That’s a total of fifty-four, and I don’t consider this a complete list, I left several minor things off.  

The point being change is a governing principle of our church. Click here to read an article about the role change plays in the church. I also think it’s healthy to point this out as too often “Mormon urban legends” attempt to dictate something to be a fact when it's not a fact at all. One of those urban legends is that the temple ceremony is revealed and can’t be changed… at all. On that topic, there is only one official statement we can find: 1982, Jan 16: "As temple work progresses, some members wonder if the ordinances can be changed or adjusted. These ordinances have been provided by revelation, and are in the hands of the First Presidency. Thus, the temple is protected from tampering." -W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. So there you have I, it’s both revealed, and it can change.  Think of it this way we believe in the 9th article of faith, which to summarize says we believe what God says when he says it. You can change it, and it does change with the obvious caveat that it comes from the First Presidency.  Now some might say that certain small inconsequential things might change, but important items like covenants, oaths, etc. never change. Absolutely not true, just in this last change we saw changes in oaths/covenants and this recent change is much more subdued than many in the past.

Things can get interesting when examining the fact that changes in the temple are often precursors to significant changes in the church, especially as it pertains to the Priesthood. For example, there were several restrictions to the priesthood and who could go into the temple in old testament times, that changed/evolved several times until even the high priests just had to be members of the Jewish faith under Herod. Then with Christ that changed and the priesthood was available to all men, gentile or Jewish.  In modern times we saw changes in the temple ceremony in regards to people of African descent. Then a few years later Blacks were given the Priesthood.  Note there that when the temple was opened to them, no changes in the temple ceremony were needed, those changes had already been done. And it was done a few years beforehand. If we look at the changes that were made a few weeks ago as it pertains to women and the oath they take, that change very well could signify an upcoming change in the Priesthood for women. As both men and women now have the same oath, and by extension receive the same guidance from the father that changes the link to priesthood guidance in the home as before it went through the father, now it seems to be set up to go through mother and father.  I am aware this is conjecture. And I am not saying we that in April we are going to see women ordained in the Priesthood. But I would not be surprised.  What is happening does seem to follow the established pattern set by the Lord in the past for these kinds of changes, especially as it relates to the priesthood.

Some may say I am overreaching because that would be the Lord “giving in” to political or social pressure.  And the lord would certainly would never do that in regards to the temple or the priesthood. He may not give into it, but he surely seems to listen to it and take it under advisement.  There are at least three times that views from the members did exhort pressure to change things in the temple:

Example #1: change in garments in 1923.
There were major changes to the garments in 1923.  When the church released a statement in regards to that announcement it said: "Encasing the lower limbs the old-style garment reaches to the ankles and is looked upon by young members as baggy, uncomfortable and ungainly. The young of the gentler sex complained that to wear the old style with the new and finer hoisery gave the limbs a knotty appearance. It was embarrassing in the view of the generally accepte sanitary shorter skirt. Permission is therefore granted by the first presidency to shorten the lower garment. Also, buttons are permitted to take the place of the tie-strings.....Instead of the old-style course, unbleached, irritating material of which temple garments were once made, the finer knitted goods, and even silks, are now used. These materials and modified styles are officially approved, but such alterations are optional with each individual, and by no means compulsory, church officials desire it understood."   That clearly states that this was a change made for the comfort and by the complaints of the church members. 

Example #2: The 1990 changes.
In 1987, David John Buerger published an article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought where he suggested that changes in the temple might reverse the trend of declining temple attendance. That seems to of caught the attention of someone in the church because in 1988 a survey, of over seventy questions, based on the points in the Buerger article, was to administered by the church to active church members.  Based on input from that survey the First Presidency made sweeping changes to the temple ceremony in 1990. The 1990 changes were some of the largest changes ever.  

Example #3: Blacks in the priesthood and temple ordinances in 1978.  
We all know the story here, but I would like to point out that the Lord did not just send a random revelation on the subject. The revelation was the result of the prayers, supplication, and request of the Brethren to the Lord asking him to make the change. To make this point clearer. Changes to Blacks in the priesthood and their eligibility for temple covenants was granted at the request of the church’s members (leaders are members too) to the Lord.

The Lord has a goal/purpose to the temples, there is work that needs to be done there, and important knowledge/doctrine is taught in them. There are things that the Lord wants us to learn from attending the temple. In my opinion, he is more focused on making sure the structure of the temple ceremonies are such that one can easily learn the desired principles found in them than he is about adhering to the structure of the ceremonies themselves.

Where we are at now. Change is a governing principle of the church, mostly because its change that facilitates growth. That growth is the point of the church.  As we grow and change so does the church. It grew and changed between Abraham and Moses, Moses and Christ, and it changed when it was restored to Joseph. Why would we think that with all of the growth of changes in the church and Human society, that the Lord would not continue to make changes? Especially with all of the changes to the church this last year?  What is less clear is what all of those changes will be.  That said I would not be shocked if I am ordaining my wife an elder shortly, in fact, I would be excited to do it. And I hope all of us would view and sustain such a change in the same way, providing it is the will of the Lord.  And if that change does not come, so be it, we continue to forge the path serving and loving the Lord and each other.  Either way, the Church is and remains true.  

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