Mormon Temple Endowment
Mormon Temple Endowment
In general terms, an endowment is a gift. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church), however, frequently use the word in connection with their temples, which they consider to be literal Houses of the Lord. In this context an Endowment is a course of teaching, ordinances (sacred rituals), and covenants (mutual promises between the individual and God) received in a Mormon temple by worthy and prepared adult members.
In the New Testament, the word "endow" means "to clothe" or "to instill qualities in." For instance, the resurrected Christ told His apostles that they should remain in Jerusalem until "endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Acts 2 reports the day of Pentecost as a fulfillment of that prophesy, when the Holy Ghost manifested Himself in great glory, giving strength and revelatory power to Jesus' disciples.
The presence and influence of the Holy Ghost can again be felt in great measure by faithful followers of Jesus because of the restoration of Christ's true Church, the priesthood (or authority of God vested in chosen men), and the practice of worshiping the Lord in holy temples. Mormons will be ever grateful to Joseph Smith, the humble boy who implored his Heavenly Father for personal guidance and subsequently received a divine commission as prophet and revelator. In 1842, upon introducing ordinances which should be performed in the temple which the Mormons had built in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph taught that such ordinances were "of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded." He also taught that the Endowment illustrates the whole of the human condition and man's actual connection with God; it gives preparation to Mormon missionaries; it provides a completeness of blessings; and it grants added power for the faithful to combat temptation.
The Mormon Endowment includes four basic aspects. One is a preparatory ordinance of ceremonial washing and anointing, and dressing in sacred temple garments or so-called "Mormon underwear," plus temple robes, always white as a symbol of purity and equality between everyone in attendance. Another aspect is a course of instruction that features the creation of the world, some of the experiences of Adam and Eve, and the plan of salvation or redemption available to every human thanks to the sacrifice of Christ. Covenants constitute yet another aspect of the Endowment: Mormons solemnly promise the Lord to be obedient, giving of self, chaste, and loyal to the restored Church of Christ and its cause; in return, God is enabled to fulfill promised blessings of joy, protection, progress, and eventual return to His glorious presence. Finally, temple visitors can actually feel a degree of divine presence even now, for Mormon temples are specially dedicated as places of holiness, of light, of peace and revelation and understanding. The Lord's hand can be felt in the Mormon Church's practice of temple building, and it can be felt in the hearts and lives of those who worthily and reverently enter the temple.
Information is conveyed in a highly symbolic manner during the Endowment in Mormon temples. Members of the Mormon Church have the experience of noticing and understanding different things each time they read the scriptures, and in a similar way, the Endowment provides understanding at various levels and encourages a person to return more and more so as to develop that understanding and to draw ever closer to the Lord. The meaning that someone derives from a symbol today is often different than the meaning previously derived. Both meanings are valuable in filling out the cumulative comprehension of the individual.
Symbols used in the Endowment and the meanings of those symbols are sacred to Mormons. They view the meaning of the symbols as knowledge (an endowment) from God. For this reason, the only acceptable place for Mormons to discuss the symbols or their meaning is within the walls of a temple. Faithful Mormons do not divulge specific details of what goes on in the temple, not because they are secret, but because they are sacred.
The first time a Mormon goes through an Endowment session, it is for his or her own benefit. This usually occurs before a Mormon male leaves on a two-year mission at age 19 to preach about the restored Church of Jesus Christ; Mormon women usually receive their Endowment before marriage, or if and when they leave on an 18-month mission at the age of 21.
During all subsequent sessions, which hopefully are frequent, Mormons receive the Endowment not for themselves but on behalf of deceased individuals, enabling the dead to accept or reject the ordinances and covenants according to their own free will. The living Mormon feels it an honor and a duty to thus act as proxy for others, and besides gaining a cumulative understanding through repeated visits, the Mormon also gets a vivid reminder of the grand scheme of things, remembering anew what this world and this life are really all about.
Article authored by the More Good Foundation.