Joseph and the Endowment: To See the Face of God

Note: This entry (part of an e-mail to my parents) came last fall as I read Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.

…while I encountered this new question this morning, I also came upon a wonderful new insight. I have always wondered about the Endowment ceremony. Parts of the Temple have always seemed familiar to me, but parts of them have made little sense. Indeed, I suppose my question has often been: how does the Temple ceremony, holistically, fit into our theology. I understand, to some limites extent, anyway, baptism for the dead and sealings–both are necessary to bind us together as families and to seal us to God for eternity. But, why the endowment? I had previously read about the “endowment of power” serving to empower (by definition) the pioneers for their journey westward. Similarly, I had often felt that a worthily-received endowment prepared a missionary for his own furnace of affliction–steeling him against the flames to come. Still, all of this was limited to a rather visceral knowledge–something I believed and felt but could not explain or cognitively place.

As I have read RSR, however, the image has begun to coalesce into focus and I feel I am closer to understanding. I believe my comprehension will only deepen when I read about the King Follet discourse, but even now I have new insights. Joseph’s great revelation, his stunning declaration, was that God is close, even at hand. Joseph taught much about cosmology and theology, but everything else finally collapses into that idea: God is waiting for man to knock, seek, and search–He wants to reveal Himself to us. Joseph’s life was the embodiment of that principle–here was a man who spoke in the Lord’s voice and who talked of angels as if they lived next door.

Furthermore, Joseph’s great desire was to bring the Saints to where he was. He wanted desperately for the saints to know God like he knew Him. Indeed, beginning at least in the Kirtland period Joseph had been straining to prepare the Saints to become acquainted with God. Usually, however, something got in the way. Sometitimes it was Joseph’s own foibles; sometimes it was the saints’ lack of faith; and, sometimes, it was the pressing in of the mobs. At other times, however, the people drew tantalizingly close, such as on the day of Pentecost at Kirtland.

In time, however, such days of Pentecost would not suffice. As the Church was driven from place to place, and as stakes sprang up in distant lands, a way would have to be conceived to bring members–wherever they were–into God’s presence, even if Joseph (or Brigham or Gordon) was not there to do the introductions. The Temple ritual, then, serves this purpose. It allows man to remember his genesis, his exodus, his renaissance, and then it allows man to return home; indeed, the voyage of discovery finally consists in returning where we began and seeing the place with new eyes–the endowment is a fixing of that voyage, a synthesis and representation of our mortal voyage, punctuated by our ultimate hope.

Published in: on September 13, 2006 at 10:36 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for reading.

  3. I find this insight especially powerful, particularly when coupled with the idea that God is so close others might, in some small way, replicate Joseph’s experience in approaching God and having their prayers answered.

  4. The only things that can prevent us from seeing through the veil are our lack of faith, our lack of humility, and our lack of righteousness. Those three keys, faith, humility, and righteousness, are also what Spencer Kimball said, in Faith Preceeds the Miracle, that open the doors to miracles.

  5. I think I agree with youl. The particular list you articulate (those three traits as opposed to meekness, charity, or others we might mention) deserves deep pondering. In principle though, because the Savior as paid the “enormous, enabling price” for our salvation, only our all is lacking–if we give that, the Lord is, as you point out, eagerly awaiting our arrival at home.

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