I’ve kept this blog and page pseudonymous for several years, but I’ve decided there’s no longer a point to doing so. If you’d like to unmask The Monk, I have a new Old Testament blog here.
Welcome to the Monastery
I have obviously not given this site the attention I’d intended, for which I offer the usual excuses and self-incriminations. Time has come for me to renew the domain names, plural since I acquired both the .com and .org.
Money’s a bit tight lately, so I’d thought I’d just let it go.
Then I checked the stats. It still gets about 35 hits/day, and if you google “lds temple preparation,” it’s #2, only behind lds.org Given that ranking and the amount of misinformation out there, I’m probably going to spend the money to renew, and let those stats remotivate me to finish some things here.
Any thoughts or encouragement for me, readers? Convince me it’s worth saving
I’ve written up a post about a passage from Ugaritic literature and the LDS temple over at FaithPromotingRumor. Check it out.
As time goes by, older and venerated prophets and apostles are inevitably succeeded by new ones. I have a post to put up about President Hinckley and the temple, but I was thinking about changes. We lose much experience and wisdom when someone like President Hinckley passes, but we also gain a new set of skills, thoughts, talents, spirituality etc. from new Apostles called. Is this God’s way of “updating” and adapting the Quorum of the Twelve to current events, zeitgeist, and so on?
We know from the teachings of Joseph, Brigham, and others that in some respects, God is adaptive. For example, He speaks to us in language we can understand (according to D&C 1:24). Certainly times, cultures, circumstances, laws, understandings, and needs change.
The presentation and arrangement and other aspects of temple ordinances have been adapted in the past to the needs and circumstances of the Saints. Perhaps we should expect them to continue to do so in the future as well, given God’s concern for his children.
According to this talk by Elder Ballard, many non-LDS confuse LDS temples, tabernacles, and churches. They know that non-LDS aren’t allowed to enter, uh, churches? Wait, temples? I know this…
Lots of people are confused. So, I will clarify.
Local congregations or “wards” (you can find out about what meetings are like and locate the nearest ward to you here) of the LDS Church meet weekly in churches, often referred to as “the church,” like ” Hey, I’ll see you at the church for the meeting.” Anyone can attend, visit, walk in, etc. Smaller units are called “branches” but still meet in a church, if they have one. Otherwise, they may meet in someone’s house or a rented building.
A collection of wards branches is known as a Stake (drawn from Isaiah and the book of Doctrine and Covenants). One of the church buildings in the geographical stake is designed to accommodate larger meetings of multiple wards and branches at the same time, at a twice-yearly meeting called Stake Conference. This larger building (which most often resembles a normal church except in size) is known as a Stake Center. There are church buildings and stake centers throughout the world.
Tabernacles are rare, and haven’t been built for a long time. In the Bible, the tabernacle was the temporary and portable temple, but also the “tent of meeting” for the Israelites. Tabernacles in early LDS history served the same purposes as Stake Centers today, in allowing larger numbers of LDS to congregate together. The Salt Lake Tabernacle used to be where the world-wide twice-yearly General Conference was held and broadcast from, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang. (A new building has recently replaced the Tabernacle to accommodate larger numbers of people, the Conference Center.) Tabernacles are open to anyone.
Temples, by contrast, are not used for regular weekly meetings, but are reserved for special ordinances for active LDS who meet certain standards of belief, practice, and ethics. Prior to the dedication of a temple, anyone can tour it, but after the dedication of the Temple, it is reserved for those who meet the standards we believe God has established. Pictures of some interiors have been published. (See here for pictures of the Salt Lake Temple interior, for example.)
So, to sum up- Churches and tabernacles are open to anyone, and there are far more of the former than the latter. Temples are open to anyone prior to being dedicated, but are afterwards limited to LDS who live the standards we believe God sets in order to enter his house.
For those of us studying the Bible or Ancient Near East, acquisition of German reading skills is a must. (It’s often said that German is the most important Semitic language, an insider joke of sorts, since German isn’t Semitic.)
This new blog, http://ergebung.wordpress.com offers daily practice in what it calls Theological German. I’ll be looking at it frequently.
I notice it’s been over a year since my last post. During that time, I’ve made some minor improvements behind the scenes, but I’ve been largely unavailable to devote as much time as I want to here.
Our Spanish translation has completely stalled.
However, there are some positive developments. FARMS, BYU Studies, and some others have made many of their materials more freely available than before, so I’ll be going through and adding or correcting all my links.
I have some other essays to be added, such as what the creation account is doing in the temple, what its purpose is there.
Finally, I’m proud to report that MormonMonastery ranks very highly for certain searches about LDS TEmples and ordinances. Often, it is the only positive or pro-Mormon link on the first page of searches, the rest being anti-cultist or exMormon pages. Some of them still outrank the Monastery, but that can be helped by other bloggers or site creators linking to the Monastery. This is good work, and it’s helping people. If you have a page or blog, consider linking here, so that those searching for good information find it.
I must admit, I left Gospel Doctrine frustrated almost to the point of anger. Amos is one of my favorite books, and has some really great stuff for discussion, even surface KJV-English stuff anyone should be able to pick up on without a PhD in Hebrew Bible.
Instead we talked about… nothing. Fluff. One of the comments after reading the two verses was to point out the JST in Amos 3:6- “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not
done known it?” Because, you know, God doesn’t commit evil. At least, in English.
The JST here seems to negate the idea that God commits evil. Let’s look at the broader context, before and after, as well as other relevant passages.
Amos 3:1-7 contains a series of rhetorical questions of cause-and-effect in a context of judgment and covenantal curses.
Israel is God’s chosen people. He redeemed them from Egypt and gave them his Torah. They are therefore held to a higher standard, and are therefore punished.
v. 2- “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Then our cause-and-effect questions.
3 Can two walk together (effect), unless they [first] meet (cause)? No.
4 Will a lion roar in the forest (effect), when he hath no prey(cause) ? will a young lion cry out of his den (effect), if he have taken nothing (cause)? No.
5 Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth (effect), when there is no trap for it (cause)? Does a snare spring up from the ground (effect), if it has taken nothing (cause)? No.
This brings us to v. 6, which has some reversals.
6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city (cause), and the people not be afraid (effect)? shall there be ra’ah in a city (effect), and the LORD hath not done it?
Trumpets were roughly the equivalent of emergency sirens, and generally indicate bad things happening.
7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.
8 The lion has roared (cause); who will not fear (effect)? The Lord GOD has spoken(cause); who can but prophesy? (effect)
Cause and effect have brought the prophets down to prophesy against them. The cause is their wickedness. The effects are, first, prophetic declarations that they need to repent. Second, if they do not, the Lord will do “evil” or ra’ah in their city.
What is ra’ah? It can be moral evil, yes, and God doesn’t do that. But God clearly commits the other kind of ra’ah, “disaster, calamity, difficulty” and this happens to be the promised curse of the Mosaic covenant for breaking faith with God.
As the Word Biblical Commentary points out, “People who hoped that Yahweh would bring only help and never harm were forgetting that his covenant provided for curses as well as blessings. In effect Amos’ seventh question could be paraphrased: “Do you really think that Yahweh would never punish you even if you deserve it?” Or, “When I prophesy disaster from Yahweh, am I not doing exactly what I ought?””
At least two other passages teach that God does commit this kind of ra’ah in response to unrepentant transgression of covenant.
Lamentations 3:37-42 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities (KJV “evil,” Heb. ra’ah) and good things come? 39 Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? 40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: 42 “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.
Jeremiah 18:8 if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil (ra’ah), I will change my mind about the disaster (ra’ah) that I intended to bring on it.
Joseph Smith modified this passage in the JST (not included in the quad) to read, “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will
repent of withhold the evil that I thought to do unto them.” Though he modified the verb (Heb. nicham means “to change one’s mind” or “to feel bad,” routinely translated as “repent” in the KJV), Joseph left the phrase that God was going to bring evil upon that nation if they did not repent.
Does God commit moral evil? No. But he does bring a kind of evil -disaster, calamity, and difficulty – on nations that transgress their covenant, as promised in the Mosiac covenant at Sinai (as in Deu. 28, which spells out the promised blessings and cursings) and as demonstrated in various scriptures and the disasters of 3 Nephi. This is just the kind of “evil” Amos is leading up to in chapter 3.
Perhaps someone else has already pointed this out, but the Spanish scriptures are now available on the official LDS Website. From scriptures.lds.org, clicking on the language name in the upper-right hand corner of the browser will open a small box that allows you to flip languages. At the moment, only English and Spanish are available.
A church email to me said that this wouldn’t happen until sometime early next year. This early release is very good news, as it was one of the last remaining stumbling blocks in translating these pages into Spanish. That and I still need a translator. (No one responded to my email about it.)
Since I lack the time to post frequently, I’m going to begin calling attention to good papers that I think deserve wider circulation.
The first is Ed Kimball’s “History of LDS Temple Admission Standards” in The Journal of Mormon History, Spring (1998): 135-175. It has recently been made available both on the JMH DVD as well as on-line, from the University of Utah library, where you read it one page at a time from the menu on the left.
Kimball traces the requirements to enter the temple from Brigham Young’s day through today,the history of the Temple Recommend, and Temple Recommend interview questions.
In 1856, the Temple Recommend interview and questions had not yet been standardized to the semi-formal procedure it is today. The First Presidency sent a letter stating that those recommended by local leaders should
be those who pray, who pay their tithing from year to year; who live the lives of saints from day to day; setting good examples before their neighbors. Men and women, boys and girls over 16 years of age who are living the lives of saints, believer in the plurality [plural marriage], and do not speak evil of the authorities of the Church, and possess true integrity towards their friends.
Though the Word of Wisdom would not become a formal requirement to enter the Temple until the late 1920’s, in 1886 the First Presidency instructed, among other things, that it is”inconsistent to carry the smell of whiskey and tobacco into the sacred precincts of the Lord’s House.”
As the church grew, the interviews and requirements were standardized and refined, eventually giving us what we have today. While the specifics have varied, the primary requirements have changed little.
A fascinating and useful article for understanding the history behind Temple recommend interviews, listed in several places on the pages here at the Monastery. 4 thumbs up.
We Norte Americano saints often forget that the vast majority of LDS literature is simply inaccessible to most of the Saints, since they don’t speak English. Whether the literature is good or bad, from FARMS to Sunstone, from Jack Weyland to Elder McConkie, Eugene England to Orson Pratt, it just has no effect on those who can’t read it.
But there is a need.
As you may notice, I have above thist post an non-linked icon for the Spanish translation of the Temple Preparation FAQ. And now I have lost my translator. The poor guy got called as Bishop. Between that, his PhD program, and two small children, he doesn’t have a lot of time.
And so, I am taking informal applications to replace him. I can’t offer you anything but the satisfaction of helping prepare people for the Temple who otherwise have little in the way of preparatory resources.
Now, ideally, your Spanish skills would be close to those of my last translator. He was a native English speaker, but spent ten years of his youth in Mexico city. He served a Spanish speaking mission, received a MA in Spanish, and is working on a PhD in both Computational and Spanish linguistics.
For anyone with a little Hebrew under their belt (it’s not hard, really!), Daily Hebrew offers a short reading each day with lexical and grammatical help. Seems like a good way to practice. Having formally studied 10 languages, I can tell you that you lose what you don’t use. Daily practice helps things stick much more than cramming.
This goes for other things as well- studying for tests, reading scriptures, exercising. 30 minutes a day for 12 days has a much stronger effect than 6 hours for one day.
If you’d like to get a little Hebrew, Hebrew for Christians is a useful place to start, even if you’re not Christian. It has the alphabet (the most intimidating part), grammar, audio files, etc. Even if you can only learn the alphabet and perhaps the verbal stems (different semantics, as illustrated on p.2 of this chart), you can make use of the standard lexica (ie. dictionaries), a strong beginning.
Welcome to the Monastery! As you click around, you’ll notice that not everything is up and running yet, or complete. In spite of that, I’ve gone public because of some pressure to open this up and close the old ones down.
Clicking on the “Temple Information” picture will take to what was the LDS (Mormon) Temple Resources page, the Temple Prep. picture will take you to the former LDS Temple Preparation FAQ, etc. You can also use the links on the left side. Note also the search box, which (surprise!) will search the site content for whatever you wish.
You’ll notice that I have a Spanish link that doesn’t go anywhere. Yet. In the near future, a Spanish translation of the Temple Preparation FAQ will appear. I hope to expand into the occasional podcast as well, on topics of scripture and history. For the time being, though, you’ll have to be content with what I’ve been able to transfer.
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my pages. Generally, people find them helpful and uplifting. In a few cases, they’ve been answers to prayers. As those temple pages grew in popularity, they also rose up the rankings of google, making them easier to find. I’ve recently had hits from Saudia Arabia, New Zealand, Malasia, and Japan, to name a few. In order to keep up that kind of visibility, I ask you to create links to these pages. If you linked to the old one, please change it. Make the text something about Temples, with LDS or Mormon in the title.
Check back in a day or two for updated content, links, features, etc.
To any who may stumble over this site, I am in process of transferring in all the content. I’m working on the two temple pages first, and then the BoM page. Other content may appear over time. If you do discover an embedded link that doesn’t go anywhere, please drop me a line.
Thanks for your patience!