Saturday, March 8, 2008

Are Temples Secret?

Richard Bushman spoke at Weber University last Wednesday. Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the well-received biography of Joseph Smith. He is an active Mormon who, because of his testimony and scholarly credentials, is able to be fairly candid about the Church without running afoul of the powers that be.

I haven’t seen the text of his speech but it was covered in the Deseret News’ just-rolled-out online portal – The Mormon Times. Reporter Holly Farmer writes:

While some members will claim that Mormon temples are ‘sacred not secret,’ Bushman said that ‘temples are secret, plain and simple,’ noting that even members ‘don't speak to each other about it.' "

I was surprised to see Bushman put the smackdown on the widely held belief, but I applaud his pluck and common sense. I have heard it said many times that what goes on in the temple is not secret, it’s sacred. While I don’t agree with that statement, my sense is that most Mormons do. Bushman’s assertion was not well received by some Deseret News readers. One person, called Utah Valley Resident, said

Just a comment on Dr Bushman's purported speech item, where he says, that what goes on in LDS temples is secret, is simply untrue, and he knows it. What goes on in LDS temples is sacred and the specifics of what transpires in them is not to be openly discussed by the qualified members who are admitted to these holy edifices outside of these precincts. They can be spoken of freely inside of these buildings in appropriate conversations. If what he meant by his comments that these matters cannot be spoken of freely outside of the temple, then he is correct. Any member who is unqualified to be granted admittance, or members of other faiths, who are also unqualified to enter dedicated temples are not privy to the ceremonies that occur inside of these sacred edifices. What occurs there in the sacred ceremonies inside temples are pure and simply sacred and are not to be discussed any other place in specific terms? (sic)”

I have two questions 1) is Bushman right – are temples secret and 2) why do many or perhaps most Mormons blanch when temples are described as secret?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fast and testimony meeting

Today was fast and testimony meeting. The first few testimonies were about our new prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Then in succession, two girls around the age of 6 got up to bear their testimonies. The first testified that she knew that Gordon B. Hinckley was a true and living prophet of God. The second young girl testified that she knew that Heavenly Father had died on the cross for us. I don't quite know what to think about this. The girls were sincere and spoke to the best of their knowledge, but both the statements were incorrect. I wonder if bearing testimony is more about what we think rather than what actually is. I don't know.