Update: The alterations to temple ceremonies are confirmed, as many news outlets reported, as well as everyday Church members who attended the temple yesterday.
Latter-day Saint temples are phenomenal places of worship where one can receive instruction and inspiration to draw closer to God and help one’s ancestors. While the results and experiences are eternal, the mechanics of temple work have evolved over the years, and change appears to be on the horizon once more.
Social media groups have been abuzz with the new year about reported changes to temple ceremonies, in particular the endowment. All temples were closed for New Year’s day, but the Nauvoo Illinois Temple reportedly remained open for a special session wherein temple workers were shown changes to the endowment ceremony. During the morning of January 2, the church’s other temples allegedly held sessions in the morning for temple workers to learn about changes.
Prominent blog By Common Consent published an article detailing changes, but the piece was quickly pulled (and not archived, sadly). However, comments by those who read the article, as well as individuals who attended the temple on Jan 2 confirm that some sort of change has taken place, though nothing is concrete.
Primarily, it seems that the endowment ceremony has been shortened (after being lengthened with the introduction of new films a few years ago) and some verbiage has been changed to make things more equitable between genders. We won’t go into detail on the ins and outs of that on this page, but longtime temple attendees know that women, while empowered to carry out the work of the priesthood in special ways unlike anywhere else, have also been essentially deferential to men. While this is not official, a number of temple workers online have hinted at such a change without going into specifics.
Many Latter-day Saint women praised the changes, particularly for those women who had been put off by language previously used for years in the endowment. One popular podcaster said, “If the temple has made you feel sad in the past IT IS TIME TO GO BACK! Our prayers have been answered. It’s heaven.” Another described the new endowment as “a refreshing feast.” Others expressed gratitude that they could now feel on equal footing with men.
Additional reports involve the film portion of the endowment shifting to something of a slideshow with narration. Needless to say, it’s fascinating that the Church would expend so many resources to produce three newer (if iffily acted) films only to do away with them within five years. If this is the case, it’s fair to miss some of the stirring scenes of the Creation. (But you can always watch a seriously misunderstood movie to get your fill.) But that said, a slideshow also means that dubbing into other languages will seem more organic. We’ve spoken previously on the podcast about how nice it would be to have a temple film produced in Spanish or Portuguese. Removing the motion of the actors neutralizes that issue and puts all languages on equal footing.
However, before everyone gets excited that the endowment is a decent chunk shorter, remember that we’re basically returning to pre-2013 lengths and you’re still not looking at being in and out in an hour. (For a discussion on why the endowment was lengthened with the introduction of the new films a few years ago, listen to this week’s podcast.)
Some temple workers on Facebook also said that couple sealings are “great” and there have been some changes to the initiatories.
For its part, the First Presidency released what has to be the most cryptic release in ages, and particularly confusing if the reader has no idea that temple ceremony changes are imminent:
“Whenever the Lord has had a people on the earth who will obey His word, they have been commanded to build temples. Scriptures document patterns of temple worship from the times of Adam and Eve, Moses, Solomon, Nephi, and others.
“With the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, temple worship has also been restored to bless the lives of people across the world and on the other side of the veil as well.
“Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.
“A dedicated temple is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Its ordinances are sacred and are not discussed outside a holy temple.”
The third paragraph is the clincher, as the way in which temple work has been carried out has indeed changed over the years, whether moving from a live actor presentation of the endowment to a film, or removing and condensing other parts of the ceremony either for narrative, practical, or time reasons.
And to be clear, we follow the First Presidency in not discussing the actual ordinances outside of the temple, but we feel it is appropriate to talk about what they are in a respectful way, and how they affect us as a body of Saints.
This is cool news. Shortening the reasonably long endowment could allow for more sessions, and being more gender inclusive can be terrific news for many of the sisters in our faith.
However, as many temple workers on social media have cautioned, the best way to learn about what’s what is to go to the temple yourself. So if you have the time and means, do that!