Tuesday, May 30, 2017

History of LDS temple worship includes second anointings and floating temples trial balloon

Ask an active Mormon if she or he knows what a "second anointing" is, and I'd wager most of the time you’ll receive a blank stare.

However, second anointings, or second blessings, are still performed today in temples, albeit rarely. A century ago, second anointings were far more common.

A second anointing was an extension of the temple endowment. My best definition of it is as a guarantee of exaltation, but others may disagree with that.

Through the first third of the 20th century, about 21,000 couples had received second anointments. One could not apply for one; stake presidents determined who received one. It was usually reserved for longtime Saints with a lifetime of church fidelity; preference was also given to pioneers. Eventually, church officials took the selection process away from stake presidents and gave it to apostles. At that point, second anointings slowed to a trickle, despite the pleadings of apostle and Salt Lake Temple President George F. Richards to resume its regular practice. Richards, by the way, is responsible for many, many changes in temple ceremonies and customs adopted by the LDS Church Presidency in the early 20th century.

This information, and much more, is contained in a book from Signature, "The Development of LDS Temple Worship 1846-2000: A Documentary History." Edited by historian Devery S. Anderson, the book is comprised of memos, instructions, personal opinions, debates, decisions and declarations shared among LDS Church officials and leaders. It is a fascinating historical look at the evolution of LDS temple worship. (I digress to assure readers that nothing of a sacred or secret temple worship nature is in this documentary history).

But what readers discover in this book underscores the lack of enthusiasm LDS authorities sometimes have to reveal more about the church’s unique, interesting history. How many Latter-day Saints today know that the 19th century Mormon garment had a collar; went from the neck, to ankles and wrists, was crotchless, and used strings instead of buttons? 

Placed within this column is an old advertisement of a “modern” ladies garment that was compared to a union suit. Showing this garment is not disrespectful because of another fact that is learned in the book: For a long time, garments were sold without the sacred marks on them. The stitching of those marks were the responsibility of the owner and was done by someone worthy of a recommend. Over time, church leaders discontinued advertising and the outside selling of garments. One reason: many stores were selling them in fashions that were not church-approved at the time, such as straps instead of sleeves on ladies garments.

The importance of members wearing the LDS garment is a focus of many of the book’s correspondence. Indeed, LDS leader Brigham Young told church officials that Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith died in Carthage, Ill. because they had taken their garments off. Young said that Willard Richards survived the Carthage attack because he was wearing his. Wounded in that same attack was a future LDS leader, John Taylor.

LDS Church leaders pondered and debated the temple-worthy status of divorced women, of those who married out of the LDS Church, whether black children could be sealed to white parents, the age of eligibility for endowments, how many leaves should be sewn on a temple apron, etc. The endowment ceremony, originally an oral tradition, was finessed with a script and audio and motion pictures became a necessity as the church grew in the world. For years, the LDS temple ceremony included a short scene – with permission – from the Disney film, “Fantasia.”
More issues discussed include the gradual insistence on following the Word of Wisdom to enter a temple, the small payments allowed persons who stood in proxy for endowments, and so on. But I want to focus on two more events, one sober and shameful, and another that tickled my funny bone.

The book recounts church leaders receiving a request from Joseph Smith’s black servant, Jane Manning James, who came to Utah and remained a faithful Latter-day Saint. As her life drew to a close late in the 19th century, she asked to be sealed to the church’s first prophet. Such sealings were not unusual at the time, but “Aunt Jane,” as she was called, was of course considered to have the “curse of Cain.” In a then-compassionate gesture that would be considered grotesque today, church leaders rejected her request for a family sealing, but as a compromise, sealed Jane to Smith as Celestial servant. One hopes that this sealing was changed after blacks received the priesthood scores of years later.


The second event involved a suggestion in the late 1960s that the LDS Church construct a “floating temple” that would sail the seven seas and provide, via docking, temple rooms and ceremonies on board for Latter-day Saints who lived outside the U.S., and far away from a temple could receive endowments, etc. This idea, suggested by a church building coordinator, gained some traction until LDS Apostle Elder Alan R. Dyer, in a leadership meeting, pointed to the LDS scriptural book, Doctrine & Covenants, Section 61, verses 14 to 16, which reads:

14 “Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the water; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters.

15 “Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.

16 ”And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart.”

That early-church revelation effectively ended talk of a floating temple. I recall, in 1983, as a missionary in Peru, being warned about entering lakes and oceans, with the same scriptures being cited.

-- Doug Gibson
This post was originally published at StandardBlogs.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mormonism and the cross -- book provides an overview

The Mormon Church has an ambivalent history with Christianity’s most iconic symbol, the cross. For about 70 years, the cross was generally tolerated within the church’s cultural fabric. However, the first decades of the 20th century initiated a slow but steady expression of disapproval of the cross; a criticism influenced by LDS leaders’ willingness to publicly declare the Roman Catholic Church as the “church of the devil” described in LDS scripture.

Banishing the Cross:The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo,” (John Whitmer Books, 2012) by Michael G. Reed, is a slim but valuable volume on the history of the Mormons’ relationship with the cross. As Reed notes, the Mormon Church was founded during an era of widespread Protestant hostility to the cross, a hostility that was due to that era’s wariness of Catholicism.

As Reed notes, Mormons were generally no fans of Catholicism, but they were more responsive to the cross as a religious symbol. There are two reasons for this. The first was that Mormonism was founded during a time of spiritual awakening in the early United States. While “organized religion” was criticized, individualistic spirituality flourished. Within these “rebel theologies,” spiritual manifestations were not uncommon. The symbol of the cross often played a role. Another reason the cross was tolerated by early Mormons, according to Reed, was due to founder Joseph Smith’s interest in Freemasonry. In fact, Nauvoo in the early 1840s was a hotbed of Freemasonry interest.
That interest is a key reason that the symbol of the cross traveled with the saints to Utah. Reed presents many photographs, both central to Mormonism and 19th century Utah, in which the cross is prominent.

However, as Reed notes, criticism of the cross started to creep more into the Mormon culture as the 20th century began. Reed cites statements from leading Mormons, including then-apostle Moses Thatcher, that connected the cross to anti-Catholicism. Around 1915, a proposal in the Salt Lake area to put a cross on Ensign Peak received significant opposition, one that initially surprised LDS supporters. The eventual failure to place a memorial cross at Ensign Peak is cast — correctly by Reed — as a dispute between church leaders. The author writes that younger church leaders, such as David O. McKay and Joseph Fielding Smith, had not grown up in the early era of the LDS Church and therefore had not been influenced by the more liberal, anti institutional, even anti-government thought of the 1840s to 1860s LDS leadership. Also, they had not been influenced by Freemasonry.

In my opinion, it’s important to note that in the first 30 years of the 20th century the LDS Church leadership had what might best be referred to as a “second Mormon reformation.” Leaders such as McKay, Fielding Smith, and later J. Reuben Clark, Mark E. Peterson and Bruce R. McConkie, successfully moved the church to more conservative ideology, including a renewal of harsh rhetoric against Catholicism.

That has changed.

-- Doug Gibson

Originally published at StandardBlogs

Sunday, May 14, 2017

‘Grizzly Bear’ Truth versus ‘Teddy Bear’ Truth trips up Mormonism

My friend and former co-worker, Cal Grondahl, says there’s “Grizzly Bear” Truth and “Teddy Bear” Truth in Mormon history.
Whether it’s the prophet Joseph Smith, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Brigham Young, temple ceremonies, etc., one can either grab a teddy bear or a grizzly bear when wanting answers.
For a long time, teddy bear truth, which is designed to comfort people, was more prevalent than grizzly bear truth. But that has changed in the past several years.
The biggest reason is probably Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency; another is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ efforts to make its appeal more diverse, with pages on its websites on particularly thorny issues that were not addressed for much of the church’s history.
The church also has made inroads with gays and lesbians, although that effort has cooled. Nevertheless, the past few years have proven that teddy bear answers to tough questions won’t cut it anymore.
The remarks several years ago by a Brigham Young University professor that blacks not receiving the LDS priesthood was in reality a “blessing,” or that the Lord was waiting to provide the priesthood, is an example of the teddy bear truth — the lighter, happier version.
The grizzly bear truth is that trouble with violence in Missouri way back in the 1830s, coupled with the prevalent racism of the period, was the genesis of the Mormon policy discriminating against blacks. The old canard that Ham’s race was cursed was piggybacked on by many to justify the ban, and so on.
Baptism for the dead is another doctrine that, while not discriminatory or objectionable, in my opinion, suffers from the teddy bear truth syndrome. It’s easy to say to the world that we baptize the dead, your non-Mormon ancestors, because we want them to have a chance to accept the Gospel. There’s no pressure, they can say no.
The grizzly bear truth, though, is that faithful Mormons believe these dead spirits are eagerly waiting for faithful Mormons to do proxy baptisms for them.
We believe these people will confront us after death if we’re not valiantly helping them while on Earth.
The past several years, the church apologized and backed away from doing post-life ordinances for victims of the Holocaust, whose relatives are understandably disconcerted after being told their loved ones are being helped via baptisms for the dead.
And after they’re baptized, there are more ordinances to be done in proxy. We could even mention so-called “second sealing” in the temples, but that’s a grizzly bear topic for another column.
Another grizzly bear truth is that the practice of baptism for the dead was preceded by the mostly forgotten LDS practice of “adoption,” which involved sealing multiple families and people on Earth into an eternal family headed by a prominent priesthood holder.
There was competition to get people into your family because of this idea: that the larger one’s “adopted family,” the greater one’s glory eternally.
Do you ever wonder why John D. Lee, scapegoated and executed for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, was called an “adopted son” of Brigham Young? Now you know.
The Summer 2011 issue of the Journal of Mormon History devotes more than 115 pages on early Mormon adoption theology in fascinating articles by Samuel M. Brown and Jonathan A. Stapley. It’s at http://​tinyurl.com/​zyksbcj.
A version of this column was previously published at StandardBlogs.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

LDS Church, pols failed to enforce cigarette prohibition in 1920s Utah

One of the more amusing episodes in Utah history is the LDS Church-directed effort to ban cigarette smoking in the state. Passed by a compliant Legislature after a rapid, few-months campaign, the refusal of law enforcement authorities to enforce the law frustrated church leaders. However, once the law was finally enforced — with a high-profile arrest of four prominent Utah businessmen — Utah’s cigarette ban made the state a national laughingstock and the LDS Church, through editorials in its organ The Deseret News, paved the way for lawmakers to repeal the ban. The two-year-comedy is recounted by historian John H.S. Smith in the Fall 1973 issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly. As Smith writes, morality-based progressive movements across the USA, after achieving prohibition, reformers set looked toward tobacco.

“Thundered Billy Sunday in his most exuberant mood: ‘Prohibition is won; now for tobacco,’” writes Smith. In Utah, the move toward a law banning cigarettes online was signaled in late 1920 by articles and editorials against tobacco in church media, such as the D-News and The Improvement Era. As early as 1919, the LDS Church hierarchy assigned Apostle Stephen L. Richards to chair an anti-tobacco campaign. The Improvement Era “editorialized, ‘We believe that the abolition of the entire tobacco business would be beneficial to the higher interests of the human race,” writes Smith. Soon after, the Mutual Improvement Association, announced its slogan for 1920-21 “would be ‘We stand for the non-use and non-sale of tobacco.”

The committee chaired by Richards, then issued a newsletter that called for “‘coercive and persuasive’ measures to be carried out by special stake committees which were to work to interest the church membership in a greater awareness of the cigarette evil and the possibilities of prohibitory legislation.” All subtlety was cast aside after a church subcommittee issued recommendations that LDS stake presidents interview legislators to find out their attitudes on laws that would ban tobacco and/or cigarettes. Further measures, recounted by Smith, included a New Years anti-tobacco message from LDS Church President Heber J. Grant, and an article in the Young Women’s Journal “which outlined how each church organization was to cover some aspect of the antitobacco crusade,” writes Smith. While it’s not unusual for religious organizations to combat what it perceives as vice, the 1920-21 efforts assigned by the LDS leadership were specific designed to achieve a political goal — the abolition of cigarettes in Utah. On Jan. 19, 1921 following an anti-tobacco campaign in the D-News, state Sen. Edward Southwick introduced Senate Bill 12, which banned cigarettes and cigarette paper. The bill was muscled through the Legislature and signed by Utah Gov. Charles Mabey.

Its supporters were the LDS Church and other religious-based organizations. Opponents, as Smith recounts, were non-Mormon business interests and libertarian-minded citizens, including a few Mormons. The ban’s limitation to cigarettes reflected the times, when cigarettes were criticized for their cheapness and “unmanly” reputation compared to pipes. In fact, much of the anti-tobacco campaigns focused on the adverse effects of cigarettes on femininity. The National No-Tobacco Journal, in an editorial reprinted in The Improvement Era, had written, “How would you like to have women and girls, not only smoking the poisonous, stinking stuff, but chewing, slubbering and spitting the stuff around while they are baking the pies and the cookies?” (Smith UHQ footnote) So the bill was passed, and nothing changed.

Law enforcement organizations, clearly not thrilled about hunting down cigarette smokers and manufacturers, argued with each other over who should enforce Senate Bill 12. For 18 months the law was ignored. A frustrated Heber J. Grant, responding to increased suggestions that the law be repealed, “demanded that in the upcoming elections of 1922 the Latter-day Saints should vote for no candidate who will not declare his willingness to retain the anti-cigarette law on the statutes,” writes Smith. The comedy entered its climax stage when a bill to amend the law to focus on juveniles was proposed by state Sen. Henry N. Standish. It was quickly rebuffed in committee. Meanwhile, anti-tobacco advocates had found a public servant willing to arrest tobacco users. The new Salt Lake County sheriff, Benjamin R. Harries, orchestrated highly publicized arrest of four leading Utah businessmen for having an after-dinner smoke at a Utah diner.

The arrested were Ernest Bamberger, prominent Republican, Edgar L. Newhouse, director of the American Smelting and Refining Co., John C. Lynch, manager of the Salt Lake Ice Co., and A.N. McKay, the Salt Lake Tribune’s manager. According to Smith’s article, the four “were marched down Main Street to the county jail building on South Second East Street to be booked.” It must have been quite a sight. The clumsy, ham-handed gesture by Harries, no doubt approved by LDS Church leaders, attracted equal parts of media attention and censure. Smith notes, “Newspapers as far afield as Boston and San Francisco had an opportunity to wax indignant …” The Carrie Nation-ish Sheriff Harries did not stop his crusade. His deputies haunted hotels, restaurants and the state capitol arresting cigarette smokers, the more prominent the better. Outrage over Utah’s anti-tobacco law was soon accompanied by scorn and laughter by national critics. Local newspapers such as The Salt Lake Tribune were quick to point out Utah’s new, embarrassing national notoriety.

With a silly law, and a zealot to enforce it, backers of the ban, Smith notes, had gained a type of public indignation. Church leaders, very eager not to resurrect the kind of national animus against the Mormons that had only recently started to ebb, suddenly changed their tune about the recently defeated Standish amendment. On March 2, 1923, the Deseret News editorialized in favor of the Standish amendment as an alternative to the original SB 12 cigarette ban, which the editorial board lamented, would have succeeded had it been "vigorously enforced." (There is no small irony in those words, given that the law's demise was assured after it was "vigorously enforced.")

From that point, it didn't take long to repeal Utah's cigarette ban. By March 8, the Standish repeal bill had been signed into law by Gov. Mabey. 

As Standish points out, the flaw in the LDS Church's anti-tobacco campaign between 1921 to 1923 was its emphasis on prohibition, which clashed with the values of freedom and personal responsibility. 

He's correct in his assessment that had the church focused its efforts on education and propaganda, it would have likely been lauded for its tobacco eradication campaign of that era, which today is consigned to footnote status in Utah history.