Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Jason Harris
I was Taught about the Temple from Childhood
As a boy, one of my favorite songs was “I love to see the Temple.” I sang and hummed it regularly to help fall asleep, internalizing its soothing melody (and what I later recognized as an indoctrinating message. Bonus!).
I love to see the temple
I’m going there someday
To feel the holy spirit
To listen and to pray
For the temple is a house of God
A place of love and beauty
I’ll prepare myself while I am young
This is my sacred duty
I love to see the temple
I’ll go inside someday
I’ll covenant with my Father
I’ll promise to obey
For the temple is a holy placeI Love To See The Temple, Janice Kapp Perry
Where we are sealed together
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth
A family is forever
I lived in Montpelier, Idaho for most of my life until I was about 15 years old. Once a month my parents drove to Logan, Utah, about 1.5 hours away to worship in the temple there. Temple worship was important because families could only be “together forever” in the next life through Mormon temple ordinances. Our parents would usually be gone all day until later into the evening.
These Saturdays were days that will always be remembered! They were usually filled with fighting at home between myself and my sister just younger than me as we would argue about the best ways to babysit the even younger children at home. Looking back, this was a responsibility we probably weren’t very well-equipped to handle (I was probably 10 or 11 at the time, and am the oldest of 10 siblings).
After the day’s fighting was completed and the younger siblings were in bed, we would usually frantically clean the house. We knew the consequences would be harsh if the house wasn’t cleaned by the time Dad and Mom got home later that evening from their temple date. Our parents despised baby sitters who just sat around doing nothing after the children were in bed.
Family Marriages in the Temple
I had aunts and uncles married in LDS temples “for time and all eternity” when I was younger. Like my cousins and siblings, I sat outside these wedding ceremonies. Only adults who were “temple endowed and worthy” were allowed to witness these marriage or “sealing” ceremonies.
Later in the day we all attended the wedding receptions where there would be dancing and snacks on indoor LDS basketball courts. (Nearly all LDS Churches have indoor basketball courts). Apparently one of the perks of consistently paying a tenth of one’s income to the Mormon Church is the free use of basketball courts for wedding receptions.
Years later when Shandra and I were married in the Washington DC Temple, our younger siblings, cousins and friends and other relatives who were not “worthy endowed LDS members” also sat outside the wedding ceremony. They later attended our reception. But it wasn’t on a basketball court. (A real Mormon anomaly as I thought my in-laws were full-tithe payers.)
Baptisms for the Dead
From the time I was 12 until I was 19, I was baptized for a lot of dead people in the Logan as well as the Los Angeles temples (We moved to Ventura, California when I was 15, though my family moved back to Montpelier, Idaho a few years later).
Mormons believe everyone eight years of age and older must be baptized to return to heaven again. Those who have died without being baptized as a Mormon are baptized “by proxy” if their names can be found via genealogical research. This gives them the chance to accept the baptism if they choose to in the next life, even though they weren’t baptized while alive.
It’s a grace-filled way to try to give everyone who has ever lived the opportunity for the necessary requirement of baptism to get into heaven. It works great as long as you know the name and date of birth or death of the person you are being baptized for. Striving to get all of these names and save humanity is why the LDS church is the world’s largest genealogical powerhouse.
I’m not quite sure how this works for people who died hundreds of thousands of years ago before there were written records and before Adam and Eve existed. But I was always told growing up these things would somehow be worked out in a coming millennial reign of glory.
These trips to baptize the dead were meaningful experiences for me. Everyone was dressed in white and very quiet and peaceful. I had heard stories of people seeing dead loved ones or those waiting to be baptized inside of the temples. I always tried my hardest to see any spirits that had passed on who I was there to serve (and help save), but never saw any. No matter how hard I squinted.
Despite the peace and comfort I felt as a boy, I now understand for many women and girls especially, performing baptisms for the dead is not such an uplifting experience… Going into a large baptismal font to be baptized by immersion repeatedly in front of many people, often by a man they don’t know… and then walking up the stairs out of the baptismal font in wet, clingy white clothes… backsides facing an army of onlookers outside of the baptismal font in the observatory areas. At least a loving female temple patron was usually waiting at the top of the stairs to lovingly wrap them in a towel.
I’m sure all of this is probably nothing more than an innocent oversight though. I suspect Mormon women are not typically consulted much regarding the construction of LDS temples. I say this because Mormon women are not really consulted on most things that happen in the Mormon Church. Temples are God’s houses. As such, my understanding is God reveals how these will be built to Mormon males who have the authority to speak and act for God.
Apparently, God also speaks to and directs Mormon men regarding how Mormon women’s (usually poorly fitting) holy underwear should to be designed and worn as well. But more on this later.
The San Diego Temple and My High School Crush
When I was still 16 my family attended the San Diego Temple “Open House” with another family we were dear friends with. I was a short, skinny, socially (and physically) awkward kid with poorly controlled acne and poofy brown hair perfectly manicured and cut two decades behind the current style. It was just like my mother insisted, despite my objections… (My parents constantly reminded me of the importance of obedience to “Honor one’s father and mother.” I wanted to be good so I tried to obey.)
I had a crush on the daughter of the family we were with. She was my same age (Well, not quite. I was two months older!). With her gentle laughter and fun personality, refined facial features, perfect skin, long curly dirty blond hair and her slender athletic figure, she was every male teenager’s dream!
Her mother was one of the most spiritual and loving women I knew. I still have many fond memories of her mother’s laughter and kindness to all around her. She also was a woman who had many spiritual experiences in her life. She had seen and talked with dead loved ones, etc. She lived very close to the Spirit of God.
My crush’s Mom LOVED ME! I was the type of boy every Mormon Mom wanted their daughter to date! (But also the type of boy every Mormon girl DIDN’T want to date… at least not seriously). Mormon Mom’s knew their daughters would be safe with me! Very safe.
In addition to my awkward physique and social skills, I was Mr. Spiritual. (Cue Mister Mellow sound track, my brown bush that was my head gently rebounding after a slow-motion head turn, smile sparkling in the sun, eyes just the right Robert Redford squint!) I was always talking and thinking about Church-related topics. That’s how we got acceptance and status in my own family. (And probably one of the reasons at 45 I feel like a family reject now having left the Church.)
Anyway, we went to the San Diego open-house with my crush’s family. Before a temple’s dedication, all of the public are allowed to tour inside the temple and see the beauty within. Even those who are not worthy!! It is a time when all are allowed to see what actually happens inside Mormon temples, (except what actually happens inside Mormon temples).
In essence these tours consist of seeing a baptismal font, seeing many life-size murals and paintings, seeing walls of stained glass windows, and walking under vaulted ceilings and gorgeous chandeliers.
The San Diego temple, with its beautiful chandelier and suspended spiral stair case in the white and gold Celestial Room, bathed with sunlight streaming through beautifully cut stained-glass windows ascending inner temple spires, is one of the most opulent, stunning and awe-inspiring Mormon temples in the world. Absolutely breath-taking!!
While inside this still non-dedicated edifice, I felt an amazing peace. I also felt funny sensations in my stomach I hadn’t felt before as I walked up the magnificent spiral stair case next to my high school crush. While in the Celestial Room, I saw her Mom (who had a crush by proxy on me) staring intently at her daughter and me from the foot of the stairs. An expression of awe, surprise, anxious anticipation and gratitude on her face. The blood was drained from her usually rosy cheeks.
After we left the temple grounds, in all solemnity but with a sense of rushed and hushed excitement she told my Mom (with my crush and I standing within ear shot) that she had seen many spirits surrounding my crush and I as we were standing next to each other in the Celestial Room on the stairs! Pre-mortal spirits! Our future children!!! (Cue Celestial sunlight streaming upon us through the clouds accompanied with a Hallelujah Chorus). YES!! My crush’s mother beamed! My mother weeped! I rejoiced! The heavens sang! My crush looked crushed!
I was very confused less than two years later when she married another guy, literally just a few months after our high school graduation. He was her prince charming whom she had fallen in love with at a ball at BYU. He was tall(er than me), had a chiseled jaw, a rock-hard athletic physique, perfect skin, was at ease in social situations with a great smile and an easy sense of humor, AND his angular blonde hair cut was placed squarely in the current decade.
But most importantly, he was a “Returned Missionary” (RM).
I WAS happy for her… but also somewhat disappointed and confused. After all, what was going to happen to all of our spirit babies?!?… Despite my disappointment (which I felt ashamed to admit I had… this was a happy occasion!!), I had faith my own princess was in fact dreaming of and waiting for me somewhere… out there. I just needed to serve a mission first to be worthy!! With a coveted RM punch card I knew I would someday attract the gazes of both dames AND damsels alike! I would be unstoppable! Truly Mr. Spiritual! (Cue Mister Mellow).
My Own Endowment
In addition to baptism, after the age of eight, for Mormons “an endowment” must be received in the temple. This “endowment” includes washings and anointings as well as learning signs and passwords necessary to return to heaven, passing angels who stand as sentinels guarding the gates of heaven.
Though many Mormons, to include Brigham Young appear to believe/have believed all of these passwords, signs and tokens will be literally asked for someday, later in my time as an active Mormon, I came to view these as more likely symbolic in nature. I think many other Mormons probably view these “passwords” similarly.
Currently, only active and worthy Mormon adults are allowed to do these ordinances.
I received my own endowment in the Los Angeles Temple in 1995 when I was 19, shortly before going on a mission to the Philippines. I attended a temple preparation class a few weeks before this experience at our local church. There were a total of about three lessons. The gist was that everything in the temple is very “symbolic” and “sacred.” However, the course was very low on specifics.
As I entered the temple the day I was endowed, I felt the same familiar peace I had felt during baptisms for the dead when younger. I have since felt this same peace inside Buddhist temples, Catholic chapels, in the mountains, watching Broadway plays, and taking long walks on the beach.
Any type of structure (or any type of music) specifically designed to invoke contemplation and peace with beautiful architecture, etc. can help invoke such feelings.
In the LDS faith, temples are built FAR more opulently and beautifully than chapels. They are in fact very awe-inspiring. I still think so!! LDS members often feel far more peace, and experience the Spirit far more inside LDS temples than they do inside Mormon chapels. Chapels where the walls are decorated with carpet, where the cries of hungry infants and fighting children punctuate the gentle lull of volunteers speaking during sacrament meeting. Chapels where the pitter patter of little running feet across hard gym floors frequently accompanies squeals of laughter that can be heard in adjacent sacrament meetings.
Never mind biblical injunctions that the “Most High” does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48 and Acts 17:24). Anybody who has spent their life in LDS chapels and subsequently entered LDS temples knows better. I have many fond memories of Mormon chapels. And of Mormon temples.
Back to My Own Endowment
I knew that the first part of the endowment was to be “washings and anointings” followed later by learning passwords, tokens and signs and receiving a “new name” that I must never disclose.
My Washings and Anointings and the Holy Garment
I was asked to completely undress and put a white “shield” (a sheet) over my body. The need to completely undress surprised me, but I complied. My Dad was there as my “escort” and was reassuring which added some comfort.
I then went through a room resembling a white locker room partitioned into different sections with white curtains. Different parts of my body (my genitalia were not touched) were washed and anointed with water and oil by elderly male temple workers preparatory to me “becoming a priest and king to God.”
After this, I dressed in a “holy garment” for the first time in my life. This is essentially a white t-shirt and boxer underwear with special symbols sewn in. Women’s garments look very similar to men’s and often are poorly fitting (I’m told).
I was instructed I must always wear the holy garment the remainder of my life except for specific circumstances (such as swimming, etc.). I was informed these garments would protect me from the Destroyer during my life on earth as long as I kept temple promises and wore them.
I then placed white clothing over the top of these garments and went into a booth where another elderly temple worker (male) gave me a “new name.” (I thought as talked about in Revelation 2:17. But I didn’t receive a white stone.)
At the time I thought this new-name was something unique that only I knew (and the temple worker who gave me the name). Perhaps even my pre-mortal name from Heaven! Turns out, every other Mormon man in temples around the world received the same new name that day (of the month each and every month). So it wasn’t that unique or unknown after all.
At least I wasn’t named Nimrod!
The Remainder of My Endowment
After that, I went with my father into a “creation room” representing the pre-mortal existence and creation of the world.
In the beginning of this part of the temple ceremony, I was told I was about to receive the rest of my endowment, which consisted of the names (passwords), tokens and signs I would need to walk back to the presence of God and there obtain my “exaltation” (become a god).
I was told I was about to make many sacred promises and obligations “of my own free will and choice” as part of receiving this endowment. I was told to raise my hand if I wanted to leave the ceremony before making these promises because “God would not be mocked.” This was the only time in the ceremony the opportunity to leave was explicitly mentioned. In the company of those I loved and trusted, who seemed OK with everything going on, I decided to stay.
I had no idea before the ceremony or at the time the option to leave was given what specific promises I would be making to receive this endowment. One would think the specific promises would have been reviewed in depth in the preparation class beforehand as part of an ethical process of properly informed consent. But they weren’t. In fact, the specific promises weren’t even listed in temple preparation manuals at the time. I don’t know if they are now or not. When I later asked a local leader why not, He said, “I don’t know, but I’m sure the Lord has inspired it to be this way.” I’m sure he was right.
In the “creation room,” we learned about how God the Father created the earth with the assistance of Jehova and Michael (who we were told was the pre-mortal Adam). We then witnessed a representation of the creation of Adam and Eve (naked from the neck up) and entered into a room representing the Garden of Eden.
In this room, we witnessed a ceremony representing the Fall of Adam (Adam obeyed Eve, not God). The men made covenants to obey Heavenly Father. The women made covenants to obey their husbands as their husbands obeyed the Father. Afterwards we went into the next room.
There we continued to receive tokens and signs with accompanying names/(passwords). During this process, we donned increasing layers to the temple ceremonial dressings.
As we added layers of ceremonial clothing, I remember being both shocked and surprised when the brethren were asked to don poofy white caps with a bow on one side and a string on the other. I remember looking around thinking it looked like I was in the middle of some kind of odd baker’s convention or something. I almost burst out laughing, but had just finished making a promise that I would avoid loud laughter and light-mindedness. I was a bit surprised to see I was the only one in the room suppressing laughter. Everyone else there had been attending the temple for much longer than me. They were all clearly better at keeping their temple promises.
As each ensuing promise/obligation was introduced and explained, I was instructed: “bow your head and say, Yes.” to agree to the promise. After doing so, more names (passwords), signs and tokens were revealed.
I was very shocked at the time at some of the promises I was led to make. I was led to promise to sacrifice everything if necessary to sustain the Kingdom of God. I also was led by the ceremony to promise to consecrate everything I had, my time, talents, and everything with which I had been blessed, “to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” AKA: “The Kingdom of God.” In return I would become a god and be in heaven with my family.
So this was why so many Mormons were so dedicated with so many of their callings (without pay) to the Church?!?
I looked around at friends and family at peace and supportive of my first time through the temple endowment ceremony. I bowed my head and said, “Yes.” Repeatedly. I wanted to meet the expectations and “promise to obey” as I had been singing about since I was a boy. “I Love to See the Temple.”
After My Endowment
After the endowment ceremony was completed, my mother asked me in the Celestial room (a room at the end of the endowment representing the highest degree of heaven) how I felt and had handled it. I’ll never forget the look on her face and tone in her voice, a mixture of gleeful excitement and very nervous apprehension and fear… “Pretty weird huh?!? It was for me too the first time… but it gets better over time as we learn more from it.”
Each temple session with my parents after that, we spent time afterwards in the Celestial room discussing “new insights” we gained in the temple… that we couldn’t discuss outside because they were considered too sacred. The more worthy and spiritual one is, the more insights and revelations one will receive. Especially in the temple.
I still had lots to learn.
“Sacred, Not Secret”
Mormons repeatedly stress that what happens in the temple is “sacred, not secret.” It is part of what we are programmed to say.
Looking back, I still find it absolutely amazing I was initiated into an ENTIRE world of Mormonism I had been almost completely clueless about previously. And this despite going to church literally every week, reading scriptures daily with my family (and on my own), spending nearly every Wednesday night with church youth activities and having at least one weekend a month completely filled with church-related activities.
People say conspiracy theories can’t be true because co-conspirators in large numbers can’t keep secrets. Clearly these people have never met Mormons! Maybe it was the older death-penalty oaths…
Shortly after this, I entered the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) where I began to learn Tagalog and what the real meaning of faith and obedience was.
Along with my companion (who didn’t really like doing temple sessions) I went to the Provo Temple several times while there.
One of my most vivid temple related memories during this time was of landing on my head and neck while attempting to do several back handsprings in a row near Provo temple grounds, being rushed to an ER, and subsequently wearing a collar for several weeks.
Yet despite the neck collar, with my priesthood authority I could speak for God even more than the Pope!! We all could!
After two months, I left the MTC and traveled to the Philippines, where I served as a missionary for nearly two more years. While there, I had the opportunity to attend the Manila temple twice. The temple worker told me I should listen to the ceremony in my native tongue. Still, I didn’t want to wear earphones so I enjoyed participating in the ceremony in Tagalog, which I had become fluent in during my mission.
After My Mission
After my mission, I immediately started attending Ricks College (now BYU Idaho). I enrolled for 23 credits. I was planning on not dating until I transferred to BYU (Provo), at which point I was hopeful to date a Sister returned missionary. Being 21 and spiritually mature now myself, I wanted to marry someone who was also a bit older and spiritually “mature.” Mr. Spiritual! (Cue Mister Mellow)
I attended the Idaho Falls temple regularly. While there in September of 1997, a temple worker asked me if I was dating. I said, “No, I was planning on dating and marrying later.” He informed me it was my duty and next calling in life to be seeking a wife at that time. I took it as a sign and guidance from God… after all it had happened in the temple. I dropped down to 18 credits.
At about this same time, I received a blessing from a member of our bishopric while being set apart as the teacher development teacher of our student ward. He blessed me I would find my eternal companion. I had the distinct impression it would be someone in my teacher development class. I later met and married Shandra Petersen, who was in my class. She was 18 when we met, 19 when we married. I was three years older. We were both babies. This entire experience warrants a post all of its own at some point.
Our Marriage in the DC Temple
Shandra and I were married in August of 1998 in the Washington DC Temple. Prior to this, she received her own endowments July, 1998. She describes this as a startling experience, as it had been for me three years earlier.
On the day of our marriage, her new name was shared with me (I was not allowed to share mine with her) and I symbolically pulled her through the temple veil. I guess to help symbolize resurrecting her (by the power of the priesthood) and saving her in the next life.
We were then sealed in a Washington DC sealing room with “worthy” friends and family present. I remember the feeling of intense love I had for Shandra at that time. I also remember kneeling across from her at the temple altar while we made our vows… with the officiator who represented God. We were instructed not to look at each other during this time… that we would have the rest of our lives for this. We were to look only at the temple officiator.
There were no expressions of love, vows or promises allowed directly to one another at this time with the official temple “script” that had to be followed to be together forever. The closest thing to an actual expression of love or vow directed to each other was after the official sealing ceremony was over in the form of a kiss to each other across the altar and the informal exchange of wedding bands.
After this, we had a beautiful reception where the rest of our family and friends were able to attend and congratulate us. But not on a basketball court.
The Laie, Hawaii Temple
Shandra and I attended the temple regularly (just about every month) everywhere we lived until about 2017. We lived in the Idaho and Utah region from 1998 to 2002 and lived in the Washington DC area from 2002 until 2010.
From 2010-2013 we lived in Hawaii on military assignment. I have many fond memories of attending the temple there, right next to the beach. Visiting Ted’s Bakery afterwards, driving along the north-shore coast line of Oahu.
I have fond memories of youth temple trips helping with Baptisms for the Dead as a Young Men leader. It was always a beautiful place of peace and comfort for me. And the beach shoreline was phenomenal!
Mitt Romney For President
One trip in particular is probably worth mentioning. On August 6th, 2011, while in temple session, I received some powerful thoughts and impressions in regards to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. I had always been taught to seek inspiration and be open to such in the temple. Following is my journal entry about this experience:
Shan and I just finished going through a temple session. Several thoughts/feelings came to me during the session… I guess time will tell if these truly are inspired or if they were just my own thoughts. These sort of came out of the blue as I wasn’t even going to the temple with this consciously on my mind and certainly wasn’t praying about this at the time when all of this came to me over the course of about 20-30 minutes.
The world is about to be greatly humbled. The Lord’s hand is in this. The DOW is going to tumble to 3500 or perhaps even 3000 or lower. Unemployment will continue to increase and housing prices will continue to decrease. Much of this will happen by the time the 2012 November elections are upon us. Mitt Romney will be elected in 2012 because he will be seen as a potential economic savior. The Democrats are going to continue to hold the Senate, with Harry Reid as Senate majority leader because the public is going to in large part blame The Tea Party for this financial mess because of an unwillingness to compromise more on raising the debt ceiling. Republicans will hold the house. The Democrats will only narrowly hold the Senate. John Huntsman is not going to be elected.
Mitt Romney is going to institute policies that help pull not only the US, but the entire world out of one of the worst global recession. This is because markets are so intertwined now that in helping the US… he will help everyone. He will be viewed as an economic savior throughout the world. Millions throughout the world will be at a point of increased humility to listen to the gospel not only because of their financial situation, but because of the praise (and also criticism) Romney and other leaders such as Harry Reid will receive in the media. The economy will begin to recover somewhat at the end of Romney’s first term and he will be re-elected. Romney is certainly not a perfect person. He has his faults, to include pandering to people at times and being a people pleaser. However, he has the skills for the job and is being faithful in his testimony of Christ and the temple. The only reason Romney will be elected is going to be because of the dire financial circumstances the world is going to be in. Otherwise… a latter-day saint would not be elected president. One point of marveling among political circles will be the manner in which Romney and Reid are able to work together… .even though they will disagree on many fundamental issues.
Church membership will surge to over 100 million in the coming 20-40 years. The following 20 + years will be some of the most prosperous on a global scale that the world has known. 20-40 years after Romney has left office, the church will be very well known throughout the world, the economy will be prospering a great deal. There will be many prominent latter-day saints in political office and other positions of prominence throughout the world. Then the world will be ready for a humbling again…. and the markets will collapse, and this will be on the way to the Second Coming. The entire world will be very familiar with the church at this point… and those that don’t join will know full well that they aren’t joining and what they are turning down.
At the bottom of this recession 40+ years into the future… a false world messiah will be elected/looked upon. This may be the specific antichrist prophesied of in the scripture. He will be looked at as someone that can save the world from economic ruin again. In many regards… he will be the moral antithesis of so much of what Romney and other latter-day saints stood/stand for. A time of great persecution will befall the saints… in part because they will be blamed for much of the economic ruin (having so many prior leaders in office, etc…. but also because of their stance on gay marriage).
There will be two prophets in Jerusalem at some point during all of this. These are likely to be military generals stationed in Israel as part of their duty… it is not going to be strange at all that they are involved in defending Israel. They will be Latter-day Saints. Perhaps they will be apostles as well, or perhaps they will be prophets in the terms that we all are…. through their testimony of Christ. These two may be from the United States and Britain… mighty leaders from both countries… two heads of Ephraim battling alongside Judah…. until the end/beginning.
On a side note…. I felt that Shan and I have nothing to worry about with our finances and accounts. They are going to take a short term beating to some degree over the next 6-8 years or so… but in the long term… things are going to work out just fine (and in fact… not just fine, but in a very blessed fashion). That was all that came to me. Like I said, I’m not sure if this is any actual prophecy or anything… I think it will be interesting to see what the coming years bring. I’m at peace about it and kind of excited at the same time.August 6, 2011 journal entry
Based off of the strength of what I felt fairly certain was a revelation from God, I subsequently donated $2,000 to Mitt Romney’s campaign. I didn’t tell Shandra about this until after the fact because she might not understand. But I knew God would understand. After all this was part of consecrating “everything with which I had been blessed” to help “build up the Kingdom of God” (aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) as I promised to do in the Mormon temple. Like Adam, it was my job to hearken to and obey God, not my wife (like Eve). If Romney became President, the LDS church would grow. It had (possibly) been revealed to me!!
Clearly, many of the things I thought would transpire have already proven not to in the nearly ten years since I recorded this. LDS church growth has started to stall the last 10 years and is now not matching global population growth. The following nearly 10 years after this was recorded, the stock market saw some of the most robust growth in its history (our accounts did not take a “short term beating”). The DOW surged to over 30,000. Mitt Romney wasn’t elected (though I suppose it remains to be seen if he will run again and get elected… seems very doubtful at this point). Harry Reid and Mitt Romney never worked together well, and Harry Reid is now dead.
Basically, exactly the opposite of everything written in this (possible) temple revelation happened. At least it was consistent!
Back To Maryland for One Year
After living in Hawaii we moved back to Maryland for a short time where I completed a medical fellowship.
We attended the Washington DC temple a few times that year. Shandra was pregnant with our fifth child.
This was one of the most difficult periods of time for her physical and emotional health and for our marriage. My body also apparently thought this was a stressful time as I was diagnosed with and treated for Shingles (often emerges during intense stress) as well as latent tuberculosis, likely from my all-expense-paid trip to Afghanistan on military assignment the year prior.
Our San Antonio Experience
After this, we moved to San Antonio where we attended the temple only a few miles from our home on a regular basis. It was at about this time that major aspects of my faith transition became clearly visible to me.
As mentioned, the stress of completing a fellowship (in large part so I could financially support our growing children as the “sole bread winner” as Mormon prophets had commanded) in combination with the stress of Shandra’s last pregnancy had taken a heavy toll on Shandra’s health and on our marriage.
As we were sitting in marriage counseling in the years following, it became clear my religious scrupulosity, (daily family scripture study, family prayer, Family Home Evening, paying $2,000 to Mitt Romney’s campaign, etc.) was taking a toll on our family.
I thought I was diligently “following the Father” as I had been instructed to do in the temple. But in reality, I was often ignoring the input of Shandra if what she said or thought “contradicted” what Mormon prophets had said (who we both knew spoke for God). Cause, ya know, Adam was supposed to follow the Father. Not Eve (AGAIN). The temple ceremony made this pretty clear.
In reality, I had pulled many ass-hole moves, without even recognizing how ass-holy these were. Shandra had an absolute right to be hurt and to be upset.
Anyway, as we were sitting in therapy, I realized that many of my actions, actions I thought to be from God, actions I had “felt the Spirit during”… so many of my actions had in fact been harmful to my family. I still remember the moment I was standing in front of our kitchen sink thinking this and how the deep realization hit me I had been completely delusional! For years!! There was no way in hell “God” would be directing me to do that which turned out to be harmful to our family. To those I love!
I also realized at this moment that if I had been delusional for so many years, truly believing I was following God, so could the top leadership of the Mormon Church. HONESTLY believing they were speaking for and following God. “Feeling the Spirit.” (As an aside, I saw quite a few people who thought they were following God in Afghanistan as well… convictions such as this don’t always turn out so well).
At this moment, I realized I needed to do a deep search for answers. I had carried many concerns about LDS truth claims on my “shelf” for many years prior to this. But determined at this point I needed to get to the bottom of these things once and for all. Superficial explanations I had received about the Book of Abraham, Joseph’s polyandry (“Hey Brother, you sure have a lovely wife! God’s got a mission call for ya far away!”), etc. over the years were no longer adequate.
The Name of Jehova (YWHW)
At around this same time, as I was intensely studying some aspects of the Book of Abraham and Egyptian to try to understand some Book of Abraham issues further (hint… Abraham didn’t write the Book of Abraham) I stumbled upon a site that discussed the name of Jehova and the sacred Jewish Tegragrammaton used to represent this name. I read how these four letters had in fact evolved from ancient proto-Hebraic or proto-Sinaitic pictograms… with some lineages in common with Phoenician and ancient Egyptian writing as well.
Specifically, the four characters of the Tegrammaton are Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey. These four letters in sequence were represented anciently by a pictogram of a hand/arm in the shape of a square (Yod), a man praying with both hands raised to the heavens (Hey), a nail (Vav), and again a man praying with both hands raised to the heavens (Hey).
I came to believe these four letters, representing the name of Jehova, must somehow also represent the four key sets of signs, names and tokens received in the temple. So receiving all of these signs and tokens was actually about taking upon myself the name of Christ (who IS Jehova per Mormon theology).
I felt that AT LAST I had received an answer to my questions and my searching and two decades of monthly temple attendance trying to understand the endowment ceremony!! My prayers had been answered! At last, I was finally starting to understand!!
However, I wasn’t yet sure how to reconcile this with the recent realization of the delusion I had also been under… Or the increasing realizations I was having of the overwhelming evidence against the literal LDS truth claims.
The Certainty Didn’t Last Long
As it so happened, this new found certainty and fortification to my faith didn’t last long. At around this same time, as I was investigating the significance of the name of Jesus and Jehova in Greek and Hebrew, I also decided to investigate the name of Jospeh Smith. After all, my theology taught me he was the second most important person to ever live, second only to Jesus!
As I investigated Joseph’s name, one I had been taught had been prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus (but only in the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), I realized the name “Joseph Smith” adds up to 666 in Hebrew using standard Hebrew Gematria.
Dohh!! I didn’t see that one coming!!!
At the time this really scared me. Was everything in the temple in fact an imitation to deceive? Was Joseph Smith “THE anti-Christ?” I subsequently thought of these quotes from Joseph Smith in an entirely new light!
Brethren, if I were to tell you all I know… you would rise up and kill me.Joseph Smith
No man knows my history.Joseph Smith
I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam… Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.Joseph Smith
To be VERY clear, looking back on this now, I believe this was purely coincidence. I don’t believe in the Bible in a literal fashion now as I did at this time. I think the evidence strongly contradicts literal Biblical belief in most cases. I don’t now believe Joseph Smith was an anciently prophesied anti-Christ. In fact, I don’t think Joseph Smith was prophesied of at all. By anybody. Ever.
I believe the discussion of 666 in Revelation is just an ancient coded reference to Nero, who was thought of at the time Revelation was written as an “anti-Christ” given the intense persecution he thrust upon Christians.
Regardless though… at the time I was struggling with so much of this, I was still viewing many of the LDS and non-LDS scripture through literal lenses… So Joseph Smith being “666,” combined with the life-challenges and harm we had experienced from following Mormon commandments combined with many other truth claims on my metaphorical shelf… for years… caused me to question.
So I questioned… And questioned.
I questioned and researched many facts around the truth claims of the Mormon Church.
As I questioned I learned the LDS Church itself concedes that Joseph Smith’s temple ceremony was based largely upon Masonic ceremonies that originated in the dark ages (not in the days of Solomon as I had been taught). This is discussed on the official LDS site, but it certainly isn’t openly talked about in Sunday School. And it’s also discussed on the official Mormon church site in a way that still minimizes and obfuscates many facts.
For just a few (of the many) similarities between the Mormon temple ceremony and Masonic ceremonies, see HERE.
I read much from Hugh Nibley, John Gee and others who tried to make sense of these issues, by claiming the Mormon temple ceremony was actually a more modern depiction of ancient and eternal rituals. Rituals performed in a more “apostate manner” anciently in Egypt. (And that THESE were what Joseph Smith’s “Abrahamic papyri”/common funerary scripts were about.)
I also learned Joseph Smith had been heavily involved with and influenced by magical beliefs of the time. In many ways, he was the local village magician. It appeared that in designing the Mormon temple ceremony, there were magical kabbalahistic beliefs intertwined into the masonic ceremonies… along with a sprinkling of polygamy and multiple wives (oh my).
I later learned the tetragrammaton holds a very prominent place in kabbalah as well as other magical traditions: à la revelation!
I came to the conclusion that the papyri of the Book of Abraham have absolutely nothing to do with the Book of Abraham.
I came to the conclusion the Book of Mormon was firmly grounded in the 19th Century. Not an ancient historical setting.
I Came to the Conclusion the Church Wasn’t Literally True
Bottom line, I eventually came to the conclusion there just wasn’t any way the Mormon Church could be what it claimed to be unless God was a liar. But then that also would still negate Mormon truth claims.
I also came to the conclusion that though the patterns I had seen between the ancient pictographs of the Tetragrammaton and the Mormon temple ceremony were interesting, they weren’t in fact any type of solid confirmation of the literal “truth” of the Mormon temple ceremony as a literal path to eternal godhood.
In fact, I had come to the conclusion that there was overwhelming evidence to all but the most willfully blind that the unique literal truth claims of Mormonism weren’t literally true. To continue to believe in such I felt would be much more in line with willful ignorance and willful blindness than faith.
And I was also aware of so many aspects of Church policy, culture and direction that seemed like the very anti-thesis of what Jesus would advocate for.
My Last Trip to the Temple
I still remember my very last trip to the Temple in 2017. My one last time to really try to pull everything together and make sense of everything with an orthodox Mormon lens.
I had probably attended the temple about once a month on average the preceding 20 years. Over the years, despite what I increasingly saw as manipulative, patriarchal and misogynistic aspects of the ceremony, many other aspects of the temple ceremony had taken on very deep spiritual meaning to me. Particularly around the concept of taking upon myself the name of Jesus and following him.
That day, despite my other concerns, I still felt the deep peaceful calm that comes to many inside the temple with temple worship.
The temple veil for me represented a final judgement before God… and a mediation and receiving upon myself God’s name and power with Jesus Christ… and a subsequent entering into heaven (represented by the Celestial Room of each LDS temple).
I remember very vividly “presenting” in front of the temple veil that day. It felt as if Jesus was literally standing behind my left shoulder. This is the only time in my life I have had an experience as if Jesus was literally standing next to me.
I now believe, like many spiritual experiences we have as humans, this vivid experience was generated within my own mind using symbolism, stories and theology I was already familiar with. A type of expression of Divinity. This doesn’t make this experience any less real to me though. After all, what IS reality?
That said, as Jesus was standing behind my left shoulder, he vividly whispered into my mind’s left ear, “You’ve symbolically taken upon yourself my name. You’ve learned what you need to know from this experience. Are you now ready to potentially give up everything that is most important to you if necessary? Are you now ready to actually leave the Garden? Are you now ready to actually follow me?”
I bowed my head and said, “Yes.”
Jason Harris lived as an orthodox Mormon for forty years. He writes about his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View. He believes all religions and scripture are man-made, potentially helpful and harmful. He believes there is Divinity in all of them and everywhere.