Andrew F. Ehat

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Part 7 of 8 in the series Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple Dedication

In 1902, the First Presidency responded to a question about the Holy Ghost, specifically, when did the apostles in the New Testament receive this sacred gift? The following is their reply:

The following inquiry has been received from an elder residing in Tooele County, with the request for a reply:

“There is a dispute here among the brethren as to when the Holy Ghost was received; was it at, or before the day of Pentecost?”

Pentecost by Jean II Restout The answer to this question depends on what is meant by “receiving” the Holy Ghost. If reference is made to the promise of Jesus to His apostles about the endowment or gift of the Holy Ghost by the presence and ministration of the “personage of spirit,” called the Holy Ghost by revelation in Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 130, verse 22, then the answer is, it was not until the day of Pentecost that the promise was fulfilled. But the Divine essence, called the Spirit of God, or Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost by which God created or organized all things, and by which the prophets wrote and spoke, was bestowed in former ages and inspired the apostles in their ministry long before the days of Pentecost. The words “Ghost and Spirit” are often used synonymously, and this causes some confusion, when the difference between the “personage of spirit” and the spirit “poured out from on high” is not taken into consideration. There is a universally diffused essence which is the light and life of the world, which proceedeth forth from the presence of God throughout the immensity of space, the light and power of which God bestows in different degrees to “them that ask him,” according to their faith and obedience, but the Holy Ghost, which Christ said He would send to His apostles from the Father (John 14:26) was and is a “personage of spirit,” and was not to come until Christ went away (John 16:7). Also the endowment from that divine being, the third person in the Holy Trinity, called “the gift of the Holy Ghost,” is a special blessing sealed upon baptized repentant believers in Jesus Christ, and is “an abiding witness.” The spirit of God may be enjoyed as a temporary influence by which divine light and power come to mankind for special purposes and occasions. But the gift of the Holy Ghost, which was received by the apostles on the day of Pentecost, and is bestowed in confirmation, is a permanent witness and higher endowment than the ordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

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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.

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  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.

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Last year, J. Stapley wrote a short post mentioning that the succession in the LDS First Presidency has not always been a smooth transition. This was written shortly after President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away on January 27th, 2008.

As I reviewed the abbreviated post, the articles cited, and the comments in response to his post, I came across the following comment and felt it deserved attention, if only to post it here on our blog. This comment was written by “Me” in response to the original article.

As Me points out, the question of succession in the LDS First Presidency is related to “keys”:

Joseph Smith, Junior The question is simply one of keys: those of the Aaronic priesthood – keys of the ministering of angels, of repentance, and of water baptism – and those of the Melchizedek priesthood – keys of bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost; keys of the endowment (Moses), and of eternal marriage (Elias), and of the sealing power (Elijah); and the keys of the Kingdom of God (Peter, James & John). Who had the keys the moment Joseph and Hyrum were killed?

Ehat’s use of the label “general authorities” is not anachronistic: “The latter [the traveling high council composed of the Twelve Apostles] can only be called in question by the general authorities of the church in case of transgression” (D&C 102:32). But even if it were, it could be taken merely as a label that modern-day readers of his thesis could readily understand. The fact remains that whatever appellations one uses and whatever groups one thinks should be added to the Venn diagram, there was only one governing body of the Church in which a quorum of its members had received all of the keys restored through Joseph Smith: the Quorum of the Twelve. No other body at the moment of Joseph’s death – not the First Presidency, nor the Nauvoo Stake Presidency, nor the Nauvoo High Council, nor even the Kingdom of God (Council of Fifty) – had a quorum of members who held all priesthood keys, and only 9 of the Twelve had them all.

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Hebrews – To Ascend the Holy Mount is an extract of a chapter from Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism.1 This past weekend, Carrie and I had the opportunity to meet with a small group of people to renew friendships and remind us of the ties that bind people together. As I reflected upon that experience, I was reminded of this testimony:

Mount Sinai Hebrews is, to use Paul’s2 words, “strong meat” (Hebrews 5:14). Paul wants to preach strong meat, but he addresses members who will not digest it (see Hebrews 5:12). Nevertheless, he broaches doctrines that deal with the upper reaches of spiritual experience and Melchizedek Priesthood temple ordinances. My purpose will be to identify several passages that have relevance to temple ordinances. Paul’s letter might be divided into two main ideas: the promise of the temple and the price exacted to obtain the promise. At several points I will add the Prophet Joseph Smith’s commentary, without which much of the temple significance of the apostle’s remarks in Hebrews would elude us.

The Promise

Paul urges the Hebrews, “Let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance…and of faith” (Hebrews 6:1–2; italics added). They had tarried too long in the foothills of spiritual experience. Having “tasted of the heavenly gift, …the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:4–6), they could no longer delay resuming the climb lest they lose the promise. Paul warns, “Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit [or, are inheriting] the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).

The promise that Paul refers to repeatedly is that same promise explained in Doctrine and Covenants 88:68–69: “Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. Remember the great and last promise which I have made unto you” (italics added). Paul uses several different terms in Hebrews for the experiences associated with this promise: for example, obtaining a good report (11:39), entering into the Lord’s rest (4:3, 10), going on to perfection (6:1), entering into the holiest (10:19), being made a high priest forever (7:17), knowing the Lord (8:11; D&C 84:98), pleasing God (Hebrews 11:5), obtaining a witness of being righteous (11:4), and having the law written in the heart (8:10; 10:16; Jeremiah 31:31–34). He speaks of boldly pursuing the fulfillment of the promise: Grasp, he says, the hope that is set before you, which enters behind the veil, where Jesus, as a forerunner, has already entered (see Hebrews 6:18–20, NIV).

Paul compares these Israelites to their ancestors of twelve hundred years earlier. He refers to the early Israelites’ rejection of God’s invitation to enter into his rest as the “provocation”; that is, Israel provoked God by refusing to enter his presence. Paul quotes from Psalm 95:8–11: “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said…they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:8–11; italics added).

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  1. Thomas, M. Catherine. Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994. Please be aware I have omitted one or two footnotes and have inserted links where appropriate – Ed.
  2. The basic premise in this paper is that the apostle Paul is the author of Hebrews, a fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith acknowledged on several occasions.

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The Brother of Jared at the Veil is an extract of a chapter from the Selected Writings of M. Catherine Thomas. The story of the brother of Jared is found in the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Dr. Thomas begins the story this way:

The Brother of Jared Sees the Lord's Finger Pierce the Veil and Touch the Molten Stones The temple is the narrow channel through which one must pass to reenter the Lord’s presence. A mighty power pulls us through that channel, and it is the sealing power of the at-one-ment of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior’s at-one-ment is another word for the sealing power. By the power of the at-one-ment, the Lord draws and seals his children to himself in the holy temples.

In scripture we can study how the ancient great ones were drawn through that narrow channel to find their heart’s desire: we find, for example, Adam, cast out, bereft of his Lord’s presence, searching relentlessly in the lonely world until he finds the keys to that passage to the Lord. Abraham searches for his priesthood privileges (see Abraham 1:1) and after a diligent quest exclaims, “Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee” (Abraham 2:12). Moses on Horeb, Lehi at the tree, Nephi on the mountain top—all these men conducted that search which is outlined and empowered in the temple endowment, gradually increasing the hold, the seal, between themselves and their Lord.

This was the very search for which they were put on earth: to rend the veil of unbelief, to yield to the pull of the Savior’s sealing power, to stand in the Lord’s presence, encircled about in the arms of his love (see D&C 6:20; 2 Nephi 1:15). This then is the temple endowment: having been cast out, to search diligently according to the revealed path, and at last to be clasped in the arms of Jesus (see Mormon 5:11).

In particular, I wish to focus briefly on some of the temple elements in the experience of the brother of Jared: (1) the tower of Babel, (2) his period of probation, (3) his experience at the cloud-veil, and (4) some observations on faith and knowledge as revealed in the brother of Jared’s search for the heavenly gift. One can see that these four elements follow a temple pattern: a false religion is offered; a period of probation or trial of faith is provided; and upon obedience, light and knowledge are granted.1

Following “the brother of Jared’s rejection of the spiritual chaos at the tower of Babel” and the “successful navigation of . . . tests”, these experiences “brought the brother of Jared to the need for more light and thus to the mount Shelem” (see Ether 2 & 3). She continues:

The word shelem has three main Hebrew consonants forming a root word that spans a wide spectrum of meanings: peace, tranquility, contentment, safety, completeness, being sound, finished, full, or perfect. Shelem (and shalom) signify peace with God, especially in the covenant relationship. It also connotes submission to God, which we see in the Arabic words muslim and islam. In particular, shelem has reference to the peace offering of the law of sacrifice, which corresponds to the seeking of fellowship with God,2 and thereby has a relationship to the meanings of the at-one-ment; that is, shelem, fellowship, sealing, and at-one-ment have an obvious relationship. When the brother of Jared carried the stones in his hands to the top of the mount, whether or not a temple peace offering is implied, he sought a closer fellowship or at-one-ment with the Lord. Therefore, the mount is called shelem because of its exceeding height (see Ether 3:1), not because shelem means great height, but rather that it suggests a place that is suitably high for temple activity.

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  1. Thomas, M. Catherine. Selected Writings of M. Catherine Thomas. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000. 388-397.
  2. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs. The New Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1907. 1022-24; also LDS Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Sacrifices,” 767.

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