Posts Tagged ‘Temple ordinances’

The singer Cher stirred controversy for her anti-Romney tweet.  The Supreme Court’s healthcare decision mobilized a large number of voters to rally around the not-Obama candidate, Mitt Romney, for his promise to lead the repeal of nationalized healthcare if elected. In just the four hour period following the Supreme Court’s announcement, Mitt Romney’s campaign raised $1 million.  

Cher’s concern led her to Twitter to warn her fans.

About Obama she wrote: “I Feel if he doesn’t get all his DUCKS IN A ROW we’ll b forced 2 listen 2Uncaring Richy Rich! The whitest man in MAGIC UNDERWEAR in the WH.” 

I’m glad to see that Cher is a concerned citizen. My first reactions:

  1. Is anyone forced to listen to the US president?
  2. Isn’t Cher white? Is a white man in the White House a problem?
  3. Isn’t Cher rich? Isn’t the American dream defined as the opportunity to rise from modest means to wealth as Mitt and Ann Romney have done?
  4. “Magic underwear” got all caps? Wow, she must be really worried about this possibility.

Two points

The first is related to Romney’s wealth and his Mormonism. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) congregations are determined by geographical boundaries called wards. Wards usually cover a large enough area that congregants span the economic spectrum. These wards have a strong sense of community since the Mormon baptismal covenant includes a promise to like Christ “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort”  (Mosiah 18:8-9).  This means that by virtue of their Church involvement wealthy Mormons become personally involved with the lives of the economically poor members of their faith community. Further, the LDS Church has a lay ministry. I’m currently one of the lay ministers for my congregation. In addition to my full time job and my evening grad school, I serve in the Church about 15 hrs a week. This responsibility leads me to be intimately involved in counseling with members of the congregation who need help. Challenges span from economic challenges, spiritual discouragement, past abuse, depression and much more. Mitt Romney has had similar experiences through his Church service. His responsibilities as a stake president (a leader for several wards) led him to be even more involved in these kinds of issues than I am currently. Unlike typical wealthy Americans from which many politicians spring, Mitt Romney has been personally involved with and cared for people outside of his economic bracket. It’s unfortunate that he can’t talk about his faith publicly because this aspect of his faith community provides him with experience that others vying for public office never live.

I don’t know much about Cher. But, I doubt she spends much time with others who cannot enjoy her same lifestyle.

Next, “magic underwear” is a mocking term generated by the atheist community. Or was it the secular humanists? Or the nontheists? I’m not sure. It’s one of those. I was familiar with the phrase years ago by word of mouth. Then the night I wrote about wearing “the garment” when Michael Shermer and I had an exchange about it at Sixth and I, I found a Youtube video with the “magic underwear” term. You can see it in the comments on that post.

I’ve written about wearing the garment on this blog.

Mormon Underwear: A Constant Personal Reminder to Always Remember Jesus Christ and Keep His Commandments

Magic Mormon Underwear Gets a Mention at the Believing Brain Discussion

MacGyver Groupie and Lengthy Leggings

My Easter Dress, “Mormon underwear” mentioned…again and Mormon Defense

Sleeves on the Midnight Blue Dress? Sold

I write about it so much because Cher joins a large group of people who disparage this practice.

You can go to these posts linked above to find out about the doctrine of why Mormons wear an underclothing as a reminder of their covenants to “always remember Jesus Christ and keep His commandments.”

To what I’ve written before, I’ll add this.

This last week I accompanied a friend in my ward to receive her endowment in the Temple. This means that she promised to wear the garment as a reminder of the promises she was making with God. As I sat next to her in a beautiful room with mirrors and chandeliers in the Washington, DC Temple, the assistant to the Temple matron (kind of like the first lady of the Temple) told her that in addition to other purposes the garment  symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ.  Like the garment covers the body, Christ’s Atonement covers our sins, she told my friend. It added another layer to why I appreciate this reminder God has provided for me. With the many demands on my time, it’s sometimes easy to forget God. The garment keeps the reminder close. Wearing it requires some creativity in my wardrobe, but I don’t mind.

For example:

This week when Derechosaurus Wrecks  knocked out my power in 100 degree heat, I went to Marshalls  to cool off. I didn’t intend to buy anything, but I found this dress for $20 on clearance.

It was a little wrinkled on the hanger and I didn’t have electricity to iron it, but I wore it to Church the next day just the same because I liked it so much.

I rarely wear the Downeast Basics undershirt I paired with it to cover my garment because the neckline is so high, but it was meant to be with this dress. I’m glad I could help them find each other.:)

Wearing the garment has deep spiritual meaning. If someone understands it carries this depth and then mocks it, I accept that. My issue comes when people don’t know anything about the meaning of the practice and the only thing they know about it is Cher’s label.

It’s extra annoying because Cher doesn’t really get the over all underwear concept anyway, but whatev.

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“Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?” Open Access with Preparation

Just this last week a friend of mine told me about her friend’s friend’s description of their exclusion from a Latter-day Saint Temple wedding ceremony. (How’s that for degrees of separation?) This friend of a friend of a friend said he had to wait outside the Temple because he was “unclean.” It was a joke at which both my friend and I laughed because that’s not  how Latter-day Saints view it. If I had to choose one word describing those waiting outside the Temple during a wedding ceremony, it wouldn’t be “unclean,” it would be “uncovenanted.”

Latter-day Saints believe that in every “dispensation” in which God has dispensed the gospel of Jesus Christ, He has made a covenant with His people designed to instruct them of His nature.  In the Old Testament, Jeremiah records the Lord’s description of the ancient covenant,

“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33 ).

This covenant relationship is no longer limited to only the Jews as it was in ancient times.  Now anyone can be adopted into the “House of Israel.” The covenant relationship begins at the first ordinance, which is “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins by one with authority.”  Though baptisms are open to the public, later ordinances of the covenant akin to baptism are administered in sacred “Temples.”  Temples are open to anyone willing to (1) be baptized by restored authority into Jesus Christ’s modern Church (2) live God’s commandments like keeping the Sabbath day holy and observing the Law of Chastity and (3) strengthen their commitment to God by making further covenants. So God’s covenant is no longer limited to the Jews only, but in order to enter the “House of the Lord” also known as a  Temple, you have to willingly enter into a modern covenant relationship with Him. This often means many friends and family members do not observe Temple wedding ceremonies.:(

In a sense, every time a missionary knocks on someone’s door, it is an invitation to the Temple. However, no one is entitled to enter the “House of the Lord” without first spiritually preparing. We are guest in His home and He sets the guidelines.

(Photo of the Washington, D.C. Temple  from Chance Hammock Photography)

Chapels are Different than Temples

Latter-day Saints hold weekly Sunday services and social events in chapels. These are open to the public. Here’s a video describing the logistics of a Latter-day Saint worship service. Temples are special, sacred spaces where Latter-day Saints make covenants with God and seek personal revelation. In a similar way to how the ancient covenant people did not speak the name of God to show Him respect, Latter-day Saints reverence the ordinances of the Temple by not speaking of them casually. Material posted online and else where depicting specifics of Temple ordinances is highly offensive to a Latter-day Saint.

Prerequisite Covenant to the Marriage Covenant. What Does the Covenant Include?

A covenant ceremony, called the endowment, precedes the covenant of marriage. The following is a modern prophet’s description of what the covenant includes in the endowment:

“In the Temples of our Lord we learn obedience.  We learn sacrifice. We make the vows of chastity and have our lives consecreated to holy purposes” (President James E. Faust “Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.” August 2001 Ensign).

This covenant requires us to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change the desire of our hearts.  A modern Apostle describes this process as:

To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin

(Elder David A. Bednar “Clean Hands and Pure Heart, Nov 2007).

Mormon Temples Made Simple YouTube video describes well Temple practices in a respectful way.

Marriage is the Crowning Covenant in the Temple

The crowning covenant with God in the Temple is the marriage promise to care for another in a selfless, Christlike way. Latter-day Saints believe that God intended marriage to extend beyond the grave. Adam and Eve were married in their immortal state prior to the Fall and their ability to die (Genesis 2:23-24). The book of Matthew records the “power to bind on earth and in heaven” was given to Peter (16:18-19). Since God’s authority to administer ordinances was lost from the earth with the death of the Apostles, He restored this power in our time (Doc & Cov 128:9-10). If the couple is true to each other and to God, they will remain married after death.

Because of the sanctity of the Temple, photography isn’t permitted.  Wedding pictures are usually taken outside. Here are a few of my friend, Brittany’s, wedding. (She met her husband, Paul, on an internship in Denmark from her D.C. area school.)

Centered in Christ at the Altar of Sacrifice

I’ve attended several wedding ceremonies in the Temple.  They are incredibly beautiful.  The rooms are typically small and attendance is limited to preserve its sanctity and avoid making it too much of a social event. The couple kneels at an altar, facing each other and holding hands as the “sealer” performs the ceremony. The altar represents personal sacrifice to God and the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden and were gradually learning the steps back to God’s presence, they were commanded to offer a lamb in sacrifice to look forward to Christ’s Atonement (Moses 5:5-8). Ancient Israel also offered animal sacrifice, but as they fell away from the truth they became too focused on the form, rather than pointing their minds to the Savior. Because the people in the Book of Mormon left Jerusalem about 600 B.C., they also had the Law of Moses. It is clear from this record that the animal sacrifices were drawn to point their minds to the coming of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 13:28-35).

After Christ fulfilled His Atonement, He commanded the discontinuance of animal sacrifices and instead required a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20). As a couple kneels across the altar, face to face, holding hands, they are to offer this to God as they enter into a covenant with Him and each other.

A Latter-day Saint marriage ceremony is centered in Christ.

Maybe a Ring Ceremony, Usually a Paartaaay

Latter-day Saint couples often hold a reception to celebrate their union. These are not held in the Temple. Because only covenanted people observe the Temple marriage ceremony, many Latter-day Saint couples hold a ring ceremony at their reception hall (exchanging rings is not a part of the Temple ceremony). At a ring ceremony, a couple may design a program that involves all of their well wishers.

Here are a few pics of Brittany and Paul’s reception.

Unity in Marriage

I have many friends who move in together prior to marriage.  Even my new favorite royals, “Wills & Kate” lived together for years before finally marrying. If my friends aren’t religious, it’s normal in my mind for them to move in with their significant other once they feel a sense of longevity. However, as mentioned previously, Latter-day Saints covenant to live God’s Law of Chastity which is only to have sexual relations with your spouse. We do this simply because God commands it, but there are obvious benefits. In doing this, we prepare ourselves to create a unifying bond with someone special that will deepen loyalty and devotion. It is beyond my ability to imagine sharing something so special with someone who had yet to decide they wanted to keep me forever. Breaking up is hard enough without creating such strong emotional bonds without the foundation to support them. (I’ve written about this topic on this blog several times, including Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity and others.) God has commanded union in marriage and sexuality is part of the process, but the union is more than physical. Emotional, spiritual, mental and physical unity is built through a lifetime of kindness, love, sacrifice, admiration, appreciation, hard work, synergy, cooperation, obedience, faith, grace, sanctification and more. A modern prophet describes the command to be united in marriage as:

“The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would be part of His Church: ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine’ (Doc & Cov 38:27). And at the creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity. . . . The Savior of the world spoke of that unity and how we will have our natures changed to make it possible. He taught it clearly in the prayer He gave in His last meeting with His Apostles before His death. That supernally beautiful prayer is recorded in the book of John. He was about to face the terrible sacrifice for all of us that would make eternal life possible. He was about to leave the Apostles whom He had ordained, whom He loved, and with whome He would leave the keys to lead His Church. And so He prayed to His Father, the perfect Son to the perfect Parent. We see in His words the way families will be made one, as will all the children of our Heavenly Father who follow the Savior and His servants: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (John 17:18-21). In those few words He made clear how the gospel of Jesus Christ can allow hearts to be made one. Those who would believe the truth He taught could accept the ordinances and the covenants offered by His authorized servants. Then, through obedience to those ordinances and covenants, their natures would be changed. The Savior’s Atonement in that way makes it possible for us to be sanctified. We can live in unity, as we must to have peace in this life and to dwell with the Father and His Son in eternity” (Elder Henry B. Eyring Ensign, May 1998, 66).

 

Is it too much to say that Mormons are incredibly romantic?

God designed love stories with eternal possibilities. Your love story can be eternal through the power of Jesus Christ and living His restored gospel. Latter-day Saints live in a way to write their own eternal love stories in partnership with God.

 

 

 

“Why We Build Temples”

Frequently Asked Questions about Temple Marriage Ceremonies written for Latter-day Saints

Frequently Asked Questions about Temple Marriage Ceremonies written for people unfamiliar with Latter-day Saint belief

“The Blessings of the Temple” YouTube video

Check out Brittany’s amazing blog: The House That Lars Built 

The picture of the Washington, DC Temple was taken by Chance Hammock. Check out his work.

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This has turned out to be a lengthy and weighty post, so I’ve stopped at phase I and will continue phases II and III in forthcoming posts.  I’ve called the phases the following:

  1. What happens after we die? Phase I: The Spirit World
  2. What happens after we die?  Phase II Universal Resurrection for All: The crowning Act of Christ’s Atonement was Victory Over Physical Death for All Mankind.  Paul’s Description of Resurrected Bodies
  3. What happens after we die? Phase III Final Judgment and the Eternal Thereafter.   There are Many Mansions in Heaven with Four Different Real Estate Location Options

For skimmers,  I’ve packed the headings with info.

I recently read an online newspaper article having something to do with Mormons. I can’t remember the topic though it was a fair treatment. In the comments someone posted a snide note about Mormons and their “post mortem second chances and magic underwear.” This was very curious to me.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a vindictive disposition or maybe it’s because my field of civic education heavily emphasizes teaching youth mutual respect in a pluralistic society, but I just don’t get the practice of deriding things that others hold sacred. You could believe Muhammad was the last prophet, reject modern energy, look forward to the first coming of the Messiah, believe salvation comes through a one-time confession of Jesus, worship rocks, meticulously protect the life of bugs, the list goes on and I’ll respect it as your belief. The eleventh Article of Faith for Latter-day Saints (Mormons) says, “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience; and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.” Inherent in that is respect for others’ belief, not just “toleration” (a word I see to describe your attitude toward a fly on the wall).

You’ve already read my post about how Latter-day Saints (Mormons) wear underclothing as a reminder of their covenant with God made in the holy Temple to always remember Jesus Christ and keep His commandments. This post addresses the “post mortem second chances” part of the sneer.

“[Jesus] is the way the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by [Him].” Many people never have the opportunity to accept Jesus and live His gospel. Is it just to consign them to burning in hell when they never had the opportunity to choose? No, it’s not and that’s not how God operates.

What’s the big deal about Jesus? If you’re a good person, why does Jesus matter?

Jesus matters for many reasons, one being because of the tension between mercy and justice. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He loves us in the best way a Father could love a child, only exponentially compounded by His infinite capacity to love. He wants all of His children to both live with Him and reach their eternal potential. He is anxious to look past our weaknesses and give us the power to grow, provided through His Son’s Atonement.  However, justice requires payment for every sin and on our own we don’t have the capital to pay off our debt of sin to live in God’s presence.

Not sure if you’ve sinned?  Sin is falling short of living God’s commandments.  Christ taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and the next greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

Have you ever fallen short of these two commandments?  Then you have sinned and because of justice’s demands you have to provide some kind of payment for sin in order to be free from punishment. (As a side note that could be a whole post, not all sins are equal as it seems mainstream Christianity teaches.  Sex outside of marriage and murder are not equivalent to failing to fully live the first two commandments.) However, you do not have the power to pay for sin enough to cleanse you and enter the presence of God who “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:31).

So Heavenly Father sent Someone who was able and willing to make payment for sin, Jesus Christ. And unique to Latter-day Saint (Mormon) doctrine, He also took upon Himself the pains and sicknesses of the world in addition to sin, so He would know how to comfort us in our dark places (Alma 7:11-12). Jesus took upon Himself all that came into the world because of the Fall of Adam including sin, sickness, fear, sorrow and more. It is through Jesus Christ that God is fair, though life rarely seems fair. It is through Jesus Christ that Heavenly Father can meet the demands of justice while still extending mercy because Jesus paid the price for sin.

How do we gain access to Jesus’ payment and receive mercy? It is by accepting and living His gospel. After His resurrection, Jesus visited people in America and defined what exactly the good news of the gospel is (maybe He clearly defined it to people in and around Jerusalem and it didn’t survive the record):

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…” (3 Nephi 27:19-21).

In short, without Jesus, we are exposed to the demands of justice or in other words we have to pay for our own sins, which is where the burning in hell comes in. If we choose this method of payment instead of utilizing the payment Christ has completed, we cannot eventually overcome and live in God’s presence. We have not the ability to pay for sin enough to cleanse us for God’s kingdom.  We can only gain entrance through the merits of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 2:6-9).

You can be a good person, but even the best people fall short of the two greatest commandments and possess sin.  Though many things exist in our lives by the grace of God, we activate Christ’s protection from justice’s demands (grace) by accepting Christ’s payment for our personal sins and by accepting His terms as our new Creditor. His terms are to live His gospel (outlined by Him previously).

Once I accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and began living it fervently, it opened a whole new world of spiritual development for me.  Instead of worrying about what will happen after this life, I’m more concerned with spiritually understanding and growing to acquire more of God’s attributes, such as faith, patience, virtue, love, kindness, knowledge, long-suffering and more. Nothing that I left behind is worth more than a close relationship with Someone willing to pay for my sins and experience my pains and grief so I can have peace in this life and hope for the next, nothing.

Is it strange to you that God requires acceptance of Jesus to escape exposure to the demands of justice (burning in hell) when Christianity reaches only a small portion of the world’s population? Even a smaller portion accesses baptism by His authority as claimed by the Latter-day Saints (Mormons), which is a requirement to live the gospel. That means only a sliver of His children even get the chance to reject or accept Jesus Christ and His gospel. This Wikipedia article doesn’t have statistics, but it shows a listing of world religions.   Christianity is a small part of a long list.

It would not be just of God to condemn His children to be exposed to the demands of justice (burn in hell) when they had no opportunity to escape by accepting Christ and living His gospel.  God judges people according to how they lived with the knowledge they had in mortality. Then after death and before final judgment, if they never had the opportunity to hear about the Way the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ, and His gospel, they have their first chance to accept it, including baptism.

How? Well, stay with me…

 

What happens when we die?  Phase I The Spirit World, a temporary place before final judgment where change is still possible. How God makes the strait gate available to all of His children. How you choose to live in mortality matters.

Latter-day Saints (Mormons) accept that God has followed in our time His pattern of calling prophets, just like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Peter. The Old Testament that we have now is the existing record of what God revealed to ancient prophets.  Revelation to modern prophets in part is contained in a book of scripture called the Doctrine & Covenants. New revelation usually happens when prophets are seeking answers to questions through prayer or pondering the scriptures. For example, Peter was praying on the housetop when the revelation came that the new Christians no longer would follow the previously required dietary code and the gospel could then be taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-18).

Similarly, a Prophet in 1918, Joseph F. Smith, was pondering scriptures because of his young daughter’s death, specifically “reflecting upon the great and atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world; And the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 138:1-3).

While he was pondering, his mind reverted to the writings of Peter…

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Faithful Latter-day Saints (Mormons) frequently think differently than the current public. The public often views living God’s guidelines, which are called commandments, as someone telling them they can’t do something or they have to do it. Faithful Latter-day Saints live these guidelines because by faith they see the opportunity to be schooled by God in how to draw closer to Him. As a result, when faithful Latter-day Saints properly wear the sacred underclothing associated with the endowment ceremony in the Temple, it draws them closer to God.

The public also often views “Mormon Temples” as secret and exclusive places because a person must be a baptized member of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints and currently be living the commandments to enter. Plus, members do not talk about the specifics of Temple ordinances outside of the Temple. However, Temples are not secret, but sacred and God wants all of His children to prepare themselves by baptism and commandment keeping to be able to worship there. It is literally the House of the Lord.

“So, what is done in a Mormon Temple ceremony? What is this Mormon underwear all about?”

In an endowment ceremony Church members strengthen their commitment made at baptism to keep the commandments. At baptism, Mormons promise to “mourn with those that mourn” and to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places” (Mosiah 18:8-10).

The practice of baptism as an ordinance was given to Adam and Eve as part of the process to overcome their fallen state. They first were instructed to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and they would receive the Holy Ghost” (Moses 6:57-61).  God is consistent with His formula of overcoming the Fall, therefore in our time we too exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as the first steps to overcoming our fallen state.

As the Lord prepared Adam and Eve to exit the comfort of the Garden of Eden and enter the challenges of the world, He made “coats of skins” as a covering for them (Genesis 3:21). Where did the coats come from? They likely came from a lamb that was offered as a sacrifice that Adam would later learn symbolized the Savior (Moses 5:4-8).  Any time that God has had His gospel in its fullness on the earth, He has introduced wearing the garment among His people.

In the endowment ceremony held only in the Temple, members strengthen their promises made at baptism and are symbolically clothed in the garment as a constant reminder to them to keep their promises or covenants.

Then, during the weekly Church Sunday services held in chapels, members renew their promises made with God by taking the Sacrament or “Lord’s Supper.” By doing so members “witness” unto God “that they are willing to take upon them the name of [Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:7).

What!?! Always remember Him? How is that done in the daily grind? God is a Master teacher. He designed the garment as a very personal reminder to help His children remember, remember, remember the two way covenants they have made with Him. God is perfect and faithful in keeping His end of a covenant (Alma 37:17).  His children need help keeping their end. He designed the garment to be a help.

Specs and Guidelines for Faithful Members in Wearing the Garment

Guidelines for wearing the garment are best explained in “The Temple Garment: An Outward Expression of An Inward commitment”

  • The garment is a sacred reminder of Jesus Christ and the covenant to live His commandments. Treat them as such.
    • Pictures of the garment on the Internet (or other mistreatment) are extremely offensive to members who understand and honor  its sacred purpose.
  • Avoid placing it in a position where it can be mocked. It is sacred.
  • Keep it covered.
  • Wearing it properly fosters modesty.
  • The tops have short sleeves and the bottoms fall a little above the knee.
  • It should not be cut or altered to follow the fashions of the world.
  • When worn faithfully and properly, it will be a shield and a protection.
  • It should be worn night and day.  In activities where the garment cannot be worn, like in swimming or athletics, it should be restored quickly instead of lounging around without wearing them. We should look for occasions to wear it, not to take it off.
  • It is associated with the endowment ceremony (“Mormon Temple Ceremony”), which members receive when going on missions, getting married or when they consider themselves spiritually prepared to strengthen their commitment to the Lord they made at baptism.

My personal practice

Preparing since my youth. The standards of modesty in dress for the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints stem from the coverage established by the garment. As a teenager, my shirts always had sleeves and the hem of my shorts fell closer to my knees than my hip sockets. I even designed my own prom dresses and had them made because it was practically impossible at the time to find modest prom dresses that were not the epitome of frumpiness. As a teenager, my early commitment to modesty taught me to put the Lord first before the changing trends of the world. It probably benefited my heart more than it benefited anyone’s eyes. I didn’t have to change how I dressed when I received my endowment (which was at 21 years old) and started wearing the garment. I was looking forward to making the covenant and having to change my modesty standard would have distracted me from the significance of the promise I was making. I’m glad I took the time to prepare.

Rockin’ the modest fashions Modesty excludes lots of fashion trends, but Latter-day Saints don’t dress like the Amish, thank heavens. A lot can be accomplished by layering. Whoever came up with the business model for Downeast and Shade are now making bank. These companies began with shirts that can be worn under spaghetti strap shirts and the like. I especially like wearing these kinds of shirts even if you can not see them because I like to smooth over the line between my low-rise jeans and the waistline of the garment bottoms, which falls a little above. I also like to rock the midcalf bottoms when I wear leggings or certain kinds of jeans so I don’t have a line at my thigh.

A faithful Latter-day Saint would choose wearing the garment properly even one day over not wearing it (though not wearing it during swimming or athletics is appropriate). For example, a friend of my sister’s asked her to be a bride’s maid, but the chosen dresses were strapless. If the bride was set on having all her bride’s maids wear exactly the same strapless thing my sister would have declined the invitation. Gratefully, my sister and the bride were friends and the bride knew how important it was to my sister, so she had a little jacket to go with the strapless dress and if you ask me, she was the most beautiful of all the bride’s maids, but I’m incredibly bias in this department.

Shield and Protection I’ve heard stories about how the garment has been a shield and protection to faithful members when they needed it. I usually accept them as folklore, such as burn victims who received no damage where the garment covered them. Though I do not count these as impossible, I don’t wear the garment properly because of these rumors. However, I have heard from a more credible source, my Dad, that before he was a member and knew anything about the garment, he was logging with a man who faithfully wore it. This man got his chainsaw stuck in a tree and when he pulled it out, it kicked back and sawed through his chaps, but the fabric from his garment got caught in the chain and it cut the chainsaw’s engine. My Dad, characteristically aware of his safety tells the story as he thought, “I have to get me some of those.” J Now my Dad understands the much deeper significance of wearing the garment than viewing it as chainsaw protection.

While at Brigham Young University for college, I frequently went canyoneering in Zion National Park, which I consider the closest place to God on the earth apart from the Temple. My roommate, who at the time was not endowed, asked me if I was going to wear the garment on the trip. Pine Creek at that time of year was expected to have several swims and some people were wearing bathing suits under their hiking attire. Since, I was looking for an occasion to wear it, rather than not to, I told her jokingly (but it was one of those jokes that she knew I actually meant) that if I got into trouble in a canyon, I hoped I could cash in on some of my blessings I was storing up from wearing it properly.:) Later trips progressed us to bigger and better canyons including wetsuits where I continued my same attitude and practice.

More than a physical shield and protection,  it is a spiritual one. As I previously discussed the Lord views breaking the Law of Chastity as next to murder on His list of serious sins.  I think of how one would first have to discard the garment, which is a sacred reminder of their promise to keep God’s commandments, including the Law of Chastity, in order to break it.

The locker room

My first two years of college I played on a women’s volleyball team for my school in Florida. I’ve often wondered what I would have done in the locker room if I had been endowed then (I had yet to serve a mission, so I had not yet received my endowment). As a team, we practically spent all of our time together either in the classroom, the weight room or on the court, so we all became friends. In hindsight, if I had been endowed then, I would have talked to each teammate individually about the significance of the garment and if there was a complete consensus of respect from everyone and I didn’t feel like I would be putting it in a position to be mocked, I would have been fine with changing with the group. However, the locker room at the gym I attend now is a different story. I only see those people in the locker room. Sometimes they are the same people, but since I’m quite modest, I try to give others as much privacy as possible and try not to even look in their direction. It doesn’t exactly foster friendship. Since we’re not close and since I have no inclination to break the ice with a first hand lesson in religious diversity, I just change in the stall.

“So like that’s kind of weird.”

American cultural ideas of what underwear should look like (and how we should look in it) mostly comes from Victoria Secret marketing and similar sources. Covenanted and faithful Mormons wear underwear day and night that acts as a special reminder to always remember Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments and well, that’s not ordinary. It’s quite extraordinary, actually. God began instituting the wearing of the garment with Adam and Eve and He has reintroduced it in every time period the gospel has been on the earth in full, including the present. I sincerely love what wearing the garment does for me. It changes my heart every time, which is all the time, I remember its significance and it draws me closer to the Lord. I consider it a privilege.

Why Mormons Build Temples

 

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2
Mar

Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity

Posted by: benjamin    in sexuality

Preface and Purpose

About a year ago a friend of mine who knew I was Mormon asked me about the final book of  Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. She pointed out that Meyer was Mormon and that (spoiler alert) Bella has a daughter with Edward.  “They’re married,” was my response.  I found the question curious and was slightly frustrated when an interruption prevented us from talking further. I suspected that my friend wasn’t sure if Mormons believed in or practiced sexuality.

Sometimes people say outrageous things for the shock factor and I’m not going for that with addressing this topic.  However, I do frequently purposefully push myself to exercise courage.  If I think something is right or I should do something, I weigh it and once I make the decision, I then jump in with both feet. My purpose with this blog is to discuss topics that would be very difficult to ask someone in person.  Sexuality, especially when someone feels it is a sacred topic as Mormons do, isn’t exactly broached easily or if it is easily addressed, it probably is done disrespectfully.  However, I know the Lord feels strongly about His “Law of Chastity.”   I know that because when I was a full time missionary and authorized by Jesus Christ to call God’s children to repentance, I felt the Spirit of God move through me the most powerfully when we were teaching this law. I no longer have that authorization to call others to repentance as full time missionaries do, but I can share the doctrine and my personal practice of it. With that as an introduction, let’s jump in with both feet, shall we?

The Doctrine

The best I’ve ever read the “Law of Chastity” taught was by the then president of Brigham Young University. I recommend his talk which is addressing those in the Church, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments.”

Mormons live the “Law of Chastity” which is to only have sexual relations with a legally and lawfully married spouse.  That translates to complete abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity in marriage.  This doctrine’s roots predate the creation of the Earth.  Mormons believe that each person who has lived, lives or ever will live on this Earth first received life as God’s spirit child before coming to Earth (Abraham 3:22-28). Life’s purpose is to gain a body, which will be resurrected regardless of merit (John 5:28-29) because Christ was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:21-23) and to “prove” ourselves or in other words of our own free will, choose to love God and accept the power offered by His Son, receive His grace by a lifetime of obedience and be changed into a holy creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17). (I plan on blogging about the Mormon belief of grace and works. In a nutshell we exist by the grace of God and we receive a greater portion of His grace as we use our free will to obey God’s commandments.) We show God we love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). He then blesses us with His grace or His Spirit and we come to know Him and become like Him (John 17:3) (Matthew 5:48).

For some reason, God designed sexuality to be what brings His spirit children out of their “first estate” (see Abraham 3:22-28) into the mortal world. What a beautiful gift! It brings spouses closer together and also brings children into the world. Mormons tend to have large families because they want to provide loving homes of faith for Heavenly Father’s spirit children waiting in the Pre-Mortal Existence for their turn in mortality.  Church counsel with regards to birth control is it is between the husband, the wife and the Lord and couples should honestly evaluate their motivations when choosing to postpone having children.

Breaking the Law of Chastity An ancient American prophet who lived about 73 B.C. learned that his son lusted after a “harlot” and broke this law.  With grief, he asked his son, “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood and denying the Holy Ghost? (Alma 39:5) What!?! Sex outside of marriage on God’s list of serious sins is right next to murder?  Absolutely. Why? He’s most concerned with how His spirit children come into the world and how they must leave the world.

How far can Mormons Go Before Marriage? Mormons can do whatever they choose.  God designed mortality to be an environment where opposites exist and His children can “choose liberty” through Christ or “choose captivity” through the devil (2 Nephi 2:27). How far should Mormons go before Marriage?  Mormons believe in modern day Apostles and Prophets. Mormons view these leaders just like Moses or Paul are giving them counsel.  The explicit direction for unmarried Mormons and the law of chastity is the following:

“The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.

When you obey God’s commandments to be sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the Temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of a loving family. You protect yourself from emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage.

Do not have sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. Satan may tempt you to rationalize that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable when two people are in love.  That is not true…Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”

Living the Law of Chastity while not married for Mormons can be viewed like fasting.  They avoid the temptation as much as possible until the time is appropriate to break the fast, which would be at marriage. (This should not be indented, but the technology isn’t working with me.)

Let’s Get Personal: Keeping My Thoughts Clean

When it comes to my own personal practice of the Law of Chastity, I believe it begins in my thoughts.  It is not a sin to be tempted. It’s a natural product of my mortality, but it is a sin for me to invite the thoughts to stay and relish in their message. In a revelation to given to a modern Prophet, Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded to “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” and the promise He offers for doing this is “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God…” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45). I want to remain transparent before the Lord so I can remain in His confidence.  I know He can read my thoughts and the only way I can wipe them away so He forgets  them is by my repentance (Doctrine & Covenants 58:42).  For the past 12 years, I have been training my brain and now I’m pleased that I act out of reflex that when I receive a thought of a sexual nature, I immediately dismiss it and ask the Lord to forgive me and give me the strength to keep my thoughts clean.  Sometimes it is harder than others depending on my environment, but I have felt the strengthening power that comes from the Source of all goodness when I have petitioned Him for it. He is quick to answer prayers when we are quick to be obedient.  I have been blessed for it.  I prefer to be more like Joseph of Egypt than David of Israel.  When Potiphar’s wife desired Joseph, he quickly fled (Genesis 39:7-14).  When David happened upon Bathsheba bathing, he chose to linger.  This led to acting upon his thoughts, committing adultery, which then led him to commit murder (2 Samuel 11).

Since We’re Getting Personal: Chastity While Dating

I should preface this section saying I am not a hopeless romantic.  I believe that my ideas of love have been tainted by Hollywood and Disney, so perhaps I overcompensate to a “realistic” view to fault. That’s why this man was so out of the ordinary.  I met him once upon a time and the more I learned about his character, the more I trusted him and felt safe on multiple levels.  When we were in a room full of people and he would wink at me, I felt like we had a secret that nobody  else knew and if we tried to explain it, no one could understand.  Being fiercely independent, I was fascinated with feeling the motivation to take care of someone else before myself. The anticipation to see him again was like when I was a kid waiting for December the 25th and finally seeing his face was like Christmas morning. When he reached out for my hand, it was like he was reaching for my heart and when he held me like he didn’t want to let me go, it felt like coming home. Long doorstep scenes could possibly be what makes the emotional roller coaster of dating worth it.  After almost a year or so, depending on how you count, this man told me that I was not the girl for him.  That’s the way the dating game goes.  Once that is decided and clearly communicated you shake hands, appreciate the good plays, try to analyze when and how you dropped the ball and then move on to other worthy opponents. (And when your stats are the inverse of batting 1000, you’re quite prepared for the disappointment.)

But now that I’m putting this in context of living the law of chastity, what if neither of us were committed to living it?  What if we followed the commonly accepted customs of sexuality in our present society? When I found him delicious, what if I didn’t put on the brakes? What if we didn’t have long doorstep scenes, but rushed and inattentive farewells as we both went to work the next morning, he to serve ”the man,” who was “a jealous mistress” and unable (or unwilling actually) to give me another thought?  I was moved to give of myself and it ended up that he didn’t want any part of me, let alone all I had to give.  How devastating that would have been.  It would have destroyed all that is good about me and left me bitter and broken. Self gratification outside the bonds of marriage is inherently selfish.  It would not have been about giving, but of getting and would have carved a deficit in my soul that only the Savior with His infinite bank could replenish.

Love: The Ultimate Deterrent for Sin

Why do I live the Law of Chastity?  I see that God in His wisdom wants His children coming in and out of the world in the best circumstances possible and that I’m avoiding emotional demolition and the risk of disease, but I live the Law of Chastity because I love Jesus Christ.  I know that during His Atonement, He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind including my own.  The very thought of Him in His purity taking up the guilt for my sins, especially the idea of my potential selfish sexual gratification, makes me cringe. I wish I had words to communicate how the thought makes me taste imaginary bile. Like Joseph, I want to preemptively flee from anything that may have caused Christ to be defiled.  I love Him with a deeper love that I can express and that is why I, as a Mormon, live the Law of Chastity.

 

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