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Temple Ritual Altered 3

From The Salt Lake City Messenger No. 75, July 1990
Jerald and Sandra Tanner

Secrets Leak Out

Joseph Smith swore those who took part in the endowments to secrecy, but because of his practice of plural marriage and other doctrines he taught, many of his followers became alienated from the Mormon Church and some of them revealed the contents of the ritual. An account was published as early as April 15, 1846, in the Warsaw Signal.

Increase McGee Van Dusen and his wife exposed the temple ceremony in 1847, and their account was reprinted several times. Many other exposes were printed in the 19th century. As we noted earlier, the Reed Smoot investigation took place just after the turn of the century. At that time many people who had been through the ritual were questioned regarding its contents. While a number refused to talk about it, others spoke concerning what went on in the temples. Their testimony was printed by the United States Government in four volumes.

In 1889 John Moore and W. J. Edgar were denied citizenship because it was believed that they had taken "an oath or obligation incompatible with the oath of citizenship..." As in the Reed Smoot investigation, Mormons or those who had formerly been Mormons were called upon to give testimony concerning the temple ceremony. In the "Temple Lot Case," a dispute over the property on which a temple was to be built, additional testimony was given concerning the ritual. Much of this testimony appears in a large volume entitled, The Temple Lot Case.

On February 12, 1906, the Salt Lake Tribune printed the temple ritual, and in 1931, W. M. Paden published an account of the endowment ceremony in Temple Mormonism--Its Evolution, Ritual and Meaning. In 1964, William J. Whalen printed the ceremony (see Latter-Day Saints in the Modern Day World), and two years later John L. Smith, a Baptist minister, published the ritual in I Visited the Temple.

In 1964, we reprinted Paden's 1931 publication concerning the temple ceremony. We suspected, however, that there had been some changes in the ceremony over the years. Since we wanted to publish the most accurate account possible, we had a couple who had been through the ritual about fifty times revise Paden's work. Later, however, a man who had been through the temple approximately 120 times heard that we were preparing to publish the ritual and felt that it was important that the most accurate account possible should be given to the world. He, therefore, volunteered to bring the ceremony right up to date. We published this account in vol.1 of The Mormon Kingdom in 1969, and later we incorporated this same account into our book Mormonism--Shadow or Reality?

Tens of thousands of copies have been distributed throughout the world since that time. It was our feeling that Mormons should have the right to know what they were getting into before they were sworn to secrecy and had to take part in thedemonstration of the penalties. Although we felt that we were performing an important service for the Mormon people, many people were horrified that we would dare to print the ritual. Nevertheless, a number of Mormon scholars verified that we had produced an extremely accurate account of the ceremony. Many Mormons had a difficult time believing that God would allow anyone to reproduce the ritual and found it hard to believe that a printed copy actually existed. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1990, John Dart commented: "Some candid Mormon officials have acknowledged in interviews that the whole secret ritual was published years ago by church critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Salt lake City."

The Salt Lake City Public Library obtained a number of copies of Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? Unfortunately, however, there was a continual problem with people ripping or cutting out pages which related to the temple endowment. Some people wondered if the church would allow us to continue to publish the ritual. We shared the same concern, but, as it turned out, the Mormons allowed us to continue exercising our freedom of religion and of the press.

In any case, as far as the Mormon Church was concerned, the situation turned from bad to worse. About eleven years after our publication of the ceremony, Bob Whitte and Gordon H. Fraser printed the ritual in a pamphlet entitled, What's Going on in Here? Later, Chuck and Dolly Sackett published a pamphlet with a similar title, What's Going on in There?

The Sackett's pamphlet was unique in that on page 4 of the booklet they claimed that their printing was "transcribed from a tape recording made inside the temple during the actual Endowment ceremony." While Mormons questioned the ethics of someone secretly recording the ceremony, no one seemed to doubt that the tape recording had actually been made. The Sacketts, who had previously been deeply involved in genealogy and temple work for the church, went a step further and began duplicating copies of the tape recording so that others could actually hear what went on inside the temple. These tapes were extensively circulated and even played on radio stations.

Another member of the Mormon Church secretly recorded the temple ritual in the Provo temple and a good number of copies of this tape have also been circulated. Many others have published material or made films concerning the endowment ritual. Still others have given lectures about it. The cumulative effect of all the audio and video tapes, lectures, radio programs, films and printed copies of the ceremony being available to the general public has placed the Mormon leaders in a very awkward predicament. They had previously maintained that the temple ritual was so holy that God kept the knowledge of it from the world. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie declared:

"So sacred and holy are the administrations performed that in every age when they have been revealed, the Lord has withheld them from the knowledge of the world and disclosed them only to the faithful saints in houses and places dedicated and selected for that purpose." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 227)

To an outsider, it would almost appear that the Mormon leaders and the God they worship have lost all control over the dissemination of the ceremony. The contents of the ritual have been scattered to the ends of the world. Many non-Mormons now know far more about the endowments than the average Mormon. Only adults are permitted to go through the temple, and, according to the Church Section of the Mormon newspaper, Deseret News, Jan. 16, 1982, "two-thirds of the adult members have yet to go through the temple for the first time, said Elder W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department..." The same issue of the church's newspaper also noted that Bangerter said that "Through the history of the Church... only a fourth of the members have received endowments..."

It is certainly ironic that a person can now easily obtain a non-Mormon publication such as Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? or What's Going On In There? and find out more about the temple ceremony in a few minutes than most of the Mormons learn in a lifetime! Furthermore, the material available to the public seems to be proliferating as the Mormon Church grows larger.

Mormon leaders are not only faced with trying to explain the availability of a ceremony which they previously asserted was "withheld" from the "knowledge of the world," but they also will find it very difficult to explain why God did not protect his sacred temple from those who brought in tape recorders to expose the ceremony. It has been a common belief among the Mormons that God's hand protects the temple and its rituals.

Ezra Taft Benson, who is currently the prophet of the church, stated:

"I think the temple is the most sacred spot on earth... Temples are places of personal revelation." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 250-51)

One would think that if the spirit of the Lord flows freely in the temple, deceivers would be detected. In the Old Testament, II Chronicles 26:17-21, we read the story of a wicked king named Uzziah who "went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense." He was warned that only the priests who were "consecrated to burn incense" were allowed to do so. When he persisted he was "smitten" by the Lord with "leprosy" and was "a leper unto the day of his death."

Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie maintained that "the discerning of spirits is poured out upon presiding officials in God's kingdom; they have it given to them to discern all gifts and all spirits, lest any come among the saints and practice deception.... There is no perfect operation of the power of discernment without revelation. Thereby even 'the thoughts and intents of the heart' are made known."

Apostle Mathias F. Cowley told how the gift of discernment protected the temple:

"On one of the three days during which the Dedicatory Services of the Logan Temple was held, President John Taylor... sighted a woman in the crowd whom he did not know but indicated her to President Card and said: 'Don't let that woman come into the assembly; she is not worthy.'... Brother Card said to President Taylor: 'She couldn't pass the door keeper without a recommend.' President Taylor replied, 'That matters not; she is not worthy.'... Brother Card turned her back and later on he went to see her... she said there was a man in the ward who was not worthy of a recommend, but the Bishop gave him one... This woman happened to meet the man on the street and he asked her how she would like to go to the dedication... She said she would like to but could not get a recommend. He said: 'I have a recommend and will give it to you for one dollar.' And so she got her recommend by paying this amount." (Temples of the Most High, p. 100)

One would think that if the temples were protected by God and the current Mormon officials were really led by revelation, those who used deception to obtain tape recordings to expose the endowment ceremony would have encountered judgment from God or at least been thwarted in their nefarious plans to discredit the church. The Sackett's, however, report the following:

"The tape recording of the Mormon temple Endowment... was recorded in the Los Angeles Mormon Temple, and was made using a personal pocket-size tape recorder carried by one of the patrons... The patron... entered the temple using his own personal temple recommend...
He was greeted by several temple worker acquaintances who obviously did not know of his excommunication from the Mormon Church, which had been at his own request several months earlier. One of the objectives of this foray was to test the well-known Mormon claim of divinely-assisted temple security.... Contrary to popular Mormon belief, not one person in the temple appeared the slightest bit spiritually or supernaturally alerted to the presence among them of one whom they classify as an 'apostate' and a 'son of perdition.' As he departed, the patron was encouraged by a member of the temple Presidency to return again soon." (What's Going On In There? p. 4)

When we think of this incident with the tape recorder, we cannot help but remember a picture of Mark Hofmann, the man who forged Mormon documents, standing in the presence of the 12th prophet of the church, Spencer W. Kimball, and four of the apostles. In this photograph, which ve have reproduced in our book, Tracking the White Salamander, p. 73, the prophet and the apostles appear to be carefully examining what purports to be the prophet Joseph Smith's copy of characters found on the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. This document, of course, was a forgery, but the Mormon leaders were completely oblivious to that act.

Mr. Hofmann continued meeting with church leaders for about four years for the express purpose of deceiving them so that they would give him large amounts of money in exchange for his fraudulent documents. Church leaders, however, could not discern the wicked plan that Hofmann had in his heart. While the Mormon leaders claim to have the same powers as the ancient apostles in the Bible, their performance with regard to Mark Hofmann certainly does not match up to that of the Apostle Peter when he caught Ananias and Sapphira red-handed in their attempt to deceive the church with regard to a financial transaction: "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3)

From the time the endowment ritual was first revealed in Nauvoo, Mormon leaders have feared that the contents of the ceremony would become known. It now seems that all of their efforts to stop the spread of knowledge concerning the endowment ceremony have been completely in vain.

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