What is an Endowment?

What is an endowment? is an important question to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Simply put, an endowment is “A special spiritual blessing given to worthy and faithful members of the Church in the temple.”1 James E. Faust, a former counselor in the First Presidency taught:

Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple Each temple building is an inspiration, magnificent and beautiful in every way, but the temple building alone does not bless. The endowed blessings and divine functions—involving much that is not of this world, such as priesthood keys—come through obedience and faithfulness to priesthood authority and covenants made. As we feel and see the awesome beauty of each temple, we see in vision and hold in our remembrance the endless blessings that will come to so many through its being.2

The Endowment – A Gift

Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles taught the following concerning the endowment:

In the temple we receive an endowment, which is, literally speaking, a gift. We need to understand the spiritual significance of it and the importance of keeping the sacred covenants and obligations we make in receiving this gift. Each “temple ordinance is not just a ritual to go through, it is an act of solemn promising.”3 The temple endowment was given by revelation. Thus, it is best understood by revelation, vigorously sought with a pure heart.4

Elder Nelson went on to teach the importance of preparation in attending to the sacred ordinances of the temple:

Parents should teach the importance of the temple from a child’s earliest days. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught members of the Church to display a picture of a temple in their homes where children could see it and plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that privilege. Under President Gordon B. Hinckley’s inspired direction, temples have become more readily accessible. Now that temples have been prepared for the people, the people need to prepare themselves for the temple.5

What is an Endowment?

Echoing President Faust and Elder Nelson’s teachings, Andrew F. Ehat addressed the question What is an endowment? in “’Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?’ Sesquicentennial Reflections of a Sacred Day: 4 May 1842”:

The Prophet Joseph Smith did many things publicly to prepare the Saints for the promised blessing of the endowment. Just the record of his public sermons would serve us well in the quest for preparation.6 Let us look at only one of these public sermons in which the Prophet Joseph refers to an ancient example of the sacred endowment.

Three days before first administering the endowment, the Prophet Joseph spoke to the assembled thousands in the grove on temple hill near the emerging Nauvoo Temple. There, in his Sunday sermon on 1 May 1842, he spoke of the endowment blessings to be poured out when the temple was completed. In this public sermon, he told them that the endowment would confer on them “the keys of the kingdom. . . . The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed. The rich can only get [the endowment keys] in the Temple, the poor may get them on the mountain top as did Moses.”7

Moses and the Burning Bush by Arnold Friberg The one obvious question is, “Where is recorded and when did Moses receive his endowment?” Certainly, his experience recorded in Exodus 3, when he by foot ascended the mount and saw the fiery, burning bush, was a portion of an endowment. In fact, sacred experiences in the Spirit have an infinite spectrum of manifestations, all constituting a true endowment. Any true outpouring of the Spirit becomes a sacred trust, regardless of comparative intensity. But what we speak of here as Moses’ endowment was the profound spiritual experience that occurred many years later. The record of this endowment begins in Moses 1 in our Pearl of Great Price.

This chapter—a restored chapter not found in the traditional scriptures—gives us far greater insight into Genesis. From Moses 1 we learn that Genesis is not merely a general history written by Moses or a pseudepigraphic story of the Hebrews allegedly written in Moses’ name. Instead Moses 1 sets Genesis up as a highly personal revelation to Moses—an essential endowment of knowledge and power given prior to his mission to Egypt to reclaim lost Israel (see verses 25-26). He did not compile history as Elder Richards did: he was shown the history. Moses 1 begins as each endowment begins, with heaven and earth joining. This time, Moses ascended, not by foot but by the transporting power of the Spirit.8 He was caught up into a mountain the name of which is not now known to us (see verse 42). There he spoke with God face to face. Once this outpouring of the abundance of the Spirit subsided, Moses found himself on his back for many hours. When he came to his strength again, he exclaimed, “Now . . . I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (verse 10). Think of him, reflect on the fact that for the first forty years of his life, he had been primped, pampered, and prepared as a prince, even to become a king in Egypt. For all he had known, he was a member of the royal family, even a god. He had access to the greatest knowledge and library in the world. And now, at age eighty, forty years after his experience at the burning bush, having received the fulness of the endowment for the first time, he realized that he had not been fully prepared for this endowment.9

Preparing for the Endowment

Tonight as I attended the temple, I reflected on the following words:

Throughout the ages, the endowment has been a difficult experience for which to prepare. No specific length of time assures proper preparation . . . From the scriptural history of the endowment of this and past dispensations, may I conclude by suggesting seven prerequisite, continuous preparations required for those who seek these sacred blessings: (1) Experience, especially experience with the Spirit of the Lord; (2) service, as shown by a willingness to serve as a witness of the Savior, not simply by the sacrifice of worldly, but also of other worthy yet less-important enjoyments; (3) purity, in body, in mind, in spirit; (4) prayer and study, particularly about the promises and previous outpourings of such blessings in this as well as in prior dispensations; (5) obedience and repentance, specifically in forsaking your own sins and in forgiving others’; (6) humility, meekness, integrity through fasting, expressed foremost in a willingness to receive and remain true to God’s covenants and promises during succeeding trials of faith; and (7) faith in coming unto Christ for new birth, by prayer, by a broken heart, by boldly petitioning only from him the power revealed through his ordinances. As the Psalmist succinctly asked and answered the great questions of preparation, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? [Only] he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face” (Psalm 24:3-6).10

Sources:

  1. Endowment”. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 7 February 2009.
  2. Faust, James E. “Who Shall Ascend Into the Hill of the Lord”. August 2001. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 7 February 2009.
  3. Hinckley, Gordon B. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997. 638.
  4. Nelson, Russell M. “Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple”. March 2002. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 7 February 2009. Ed. – See also Temple Endowment Understood by Revelation.
  5. Ibid.
  6. See 2 April, 16 April, 17 May, 11 June, 16, 23 July, 13, 27 August, 9 October 1843; 21 January, 10 March, 7 April, 16 June 1844 sermons as recorded in The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph – hereafter WJS, 168-73, 194-99, 202-4, 209-16, 232-36, 238-42, 243-47, 252-55, 317-19, 327-36, 340-62, 378-83.
  7. See the “Law of the Lord” account of the 1 May 1842 sermon in WJS, 119-20 (cf. Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:379).
  8. The temporary transporting of an individual into the presence of the Lord is a fundamental characteristic of the endowment (see D&C 76:5-10, 114-19). For examples, see, in chronological order, Ether 3:13-20; Genesis 28:10-22; 35:6-15; Isaiah 6:1 (1-8); Ezekiel 37:1; 1 Nephi 1:8 (8-14); 11:1 (chapters 11-14), 2 Nephi 4:25; Helaman 5:44-50; Matthew 17:1-9 (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-18); 3 Nephi 28:13-16, 36-40 (cf. D&C 84:33); Acts 7:55-56; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4; Revelation 1:10, 4:1-2; D&C 88:63-69, 45-75); 93:1.
  9. Parry, Donald W. ed. Temples of the Ancient World. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1980. 48-62. Direct quotations from Mr. Ehat’s article was reduced to these four or five paragraphs on 30 May 2010. The comments to this post up until this date reflect that change.
  10. Ibid.

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  1. IntheDoghouse’s avatar

    Such a wonderful post.

    Just some food for thought: When Moses brought the children of Israel to the Mount to bring them into the presence of the Lord or receive an endowment from on high, they heard the voice and desired to progress no further. This baffled me a bit and I have pondered it at length.
    While studying Deuteronomy 5 I was struck with some understanding. Deuteronomy 5 is a recounting of that experience in Exodus.

    At this point in time the only body of people who had enjoyed the actual presence of the Lord had been translated as a body. Moses had one goal in mind, and that was to bring the children of Israel back to the presence of the Father, in fact he was given the keys to the gathering of Israel (mind you they are not even scattered at this point) in order to do so. This other body of people who were willing to progress further were those who were led by Enoch. Because of their willingness to obey the celestial law of consecration, they were of one heart and one mind and were taken (dead to this world might even be a description the Children of Israel might have used for lack of better terms) to be in the presence of the Lord.

    I believe when the Children of Israel did not want to progress any further it was because they had been taught what their place in the plan was by Moses himself. (Remember he was shown everything from the beginning to the end) The Lord refers to their choice to stay where they were and not ascend higher in this way, “28 And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. (The Lord was pleased with their decision!)
    29 O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! ( like the decision that they made right then…a correct one that was the will of the Lord)
    30 Go say to them, Get you into your tents again. (Stay in the temple but remain here on this earth)

    If you heard the voice of the Lord calling you out of the Mountain would you not want to go towards the voice…IMHO it took strength to remain.

    Moses loved these people, his only desire was to bring them “home” to the Father. He worked at it his whole existence. I believe he was even rebuked for not remembering the plan that he was shown, where in the Children of Israel were required to remain on the earth for the salvation of all mankind.

    Enough for now, but perhaps this is an avenue you too would wish to ponder…

    Thanks for you post, you have shown me that others do desire further light and knowledge.

  2. Chris Cromar’s avatar

    A most wonderful and beautiful expounding. Thank you for the time you devote to providing it.

    I read this and it brings to mind that life of Moses who spent those first forty years as a Prince in the Pharoahs perfumed palaces; the next forty years experiencing the stench of stables as he learned the life of a Shepherd; then finally forty years serving as Israel’s Prophet, “Savior”, and Judge.

    The Lord Jesus Christ entered mortality surrounded not by the perfumes of palaces, but by that stench of the stable. He was first visited by humble shepherds who testified of his divinity, a lifestyle prominantly revered in his teachings. When he was brought past the gates and into palaces it was to be judged of men, and to their everlasting regret, his judges found him wanting.

    Moses was given a staff to use in the presence both of Pharoah and the children of Israel, used as a convincing of the power of God over Pharoah’s Gods and to deliver the children of Israel from utter destruction in the wilderness, even with power to stike the desert rocks, that living water might spring forth and save them.

    It was not given to Moses to be used blindly, but he was instructed before hand what powers could be shown and how this gift was to be used, that he might have confidence in the power of the Lord to deliver him and the Children of Israel from not only the power of Pharoah, but to administer salvation to them while in the wilderness; wherin the world can easily combine elements to destry both individuals and whole nations.

    We receive a gift from the Lord by his hand in his Holy Temple. We are not given the gift to be used blindly, but are instructed before hand how it is to be used that we might have cofidence in the power of the Lord to deliver and protect us. It is through the wise use of the Lord’s gift that we can preserve our own life and administer salvation to the Children of Israel.

    There is so much to be learned and to be tutored in the Lord’s house by his authorized servants is indeed a blessing unto salvation. Thanks again for the things you present. It stimulates my heart and soul and reminds me of the work that I need to be about doing.

  3. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you IntheDoughouse. Deuteronomy 5 contains some wonderful insights into the endowment. I remember the first time I read Exodus 19 and 20. At the time, there seemed to be something missing in these two chapters. It was only much later that I better understood the account from reading Deuteronomy 5.

    I appreciate your comments about Enoch’s people and think I understand the gist of your comments about the children of Israel. I believe there is much truth to both statements. But perhaps there were many before and after Enoch who also received these great blessings of which the scriptures give us just glimpses (e.g. Numbers 11; see also Brother of Jared at the Veil and Hebrews – To Ascend the Holy Mount).

  4. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you Chris for your kind and insightful comments. They remind me of Elder David B. Haight’s teaching that the temple endowment is understood by revelation. Perhaps this is one reason the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the communications . . . [received in] this Council were of things spiritual, and [are] to be received only by the spiritual minded” (see Temple Endowment).

  5. Bryan Tanner’s avatar

    Greg! Did you write this? What a terrific compilation of explanatory material. I’ll have to read this post again in greater detail.

    The thing that astounded me most is that you pop out posts like this one every couple of days. It takes me at least a week to finish something like this! Great work. (The other commentors were very insightful too–far above par for a normal open blog. Was this for a school assignment?)

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Hardly, but thank you Bryan. I am glad you enjoyed it. This post contains quotes from Andrew F. Ehat’s article about the endowment that appeared in Temples of the Ancient World. The entire article is like a “pearl of great price” that a merchant man bought after selling all that he had (Matthew 13:46).

  7. Jenna’s avatar

    Having attempted to write a post on the endowment, I must say, this is fantastically well done. You really did your research and found quotes from trusted sources to explain a very difficult subject to write about. I wish I had known about this when I wrote my post! Thank you for visiting, and for commenting. I feel like I am prepared to do a better job of talking about the endowment in the future.

  8. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Jenna. I hope you enjoyed it. The article about the endowment quoted in the post above is a great treasure. And thanks for visiting.

  9. Brian Namba’s avatar

    Do think that Ezekiels wheels, Jacob’s Ladder and Joseph smith’s long visit with Moroni were not endowments?

  10. Greg’s avatar

    You may want to review the sources found in footnote 9 above for additional information.

    Also, I love the following statement Mr. Ehat wrote concerning the endowment:

    In fact, sacred experiences in the Spirit have an infinite spectrum of manifestations, all constituting a true endowment. Any true outpouring of the Spirit becomes a sacred trust, regardless of comparative intensity.

  11. The Monk’s avatar

    Nice. Ehat does good stuff. I wrote my own take on this here.

  12. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for the link The Monk.

  13. sharonanne’s avatar

    I agree with so many of your comments and learned so much in the meantime.

    A simply outstanding post, accompanied by all your other outstanding pages of your blog! Thank you for your time and diligence.

  14. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you sharonanne.

  15. Tevya’s avatar

    Thanks for the great post Greg!

    Doghouse,

    You’re on the right track. Some amazing things happened in connection with Moses’ temple experience on Mt. Sinai. However, you’ve missed the additional guidance to understanding this story that the Lord gives in D&C 84:19-40, wherein he explains what is was the Israelites were offered, rejected, and were then punished to live only with a lesser law. I say punished, but the Nephites lived as if under the higher law, while still observing the Law of Moses. So it didn’t have to be a punishment of hindrance, but it definitely wasn’t the fullness of Melchizedek priesthood blessings they had been offered.

    For more on this see a post I did a while back: http://sacredsymbolic.com/the-most-important-chapters-in-scripture-part-2/

  16. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you for the reference Tevya. I enjoyed reading your post. You may be interested in reviewing Hebrews – To Ascend the Holy Mount.

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