Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Daughter Is Going to the Temple for the First Time Today

This is a departure from my normal New Year's Resolution weekend posts, but our third daughter is going to the temple for the first time today. I have spent part of the evening talking with her about it, and she astounded me with a simple observation I want to share here.

I talked with her about how I view the temple ordinances as almost completely symbolic - and that there is great power for me in the symbolism and figurative nature of turning our hearts to our fathers and serving them in a symbolic way. I asked her if she understood what I mean by the difference between viewing ordinances as symbolic and thinking they are literally necessary as we currently perform them, and she said the following - to the best of my recollection:

It's like the Jews using circumcision and us using baptism now. That symbolism worked for them, but it doesn't work for us. Baptism works better.

She then added:

It's like when kids at school think we worship Joseph Smith because we sing "Praise to the Man". They only use "praise" as a religious term when they are talking about God, so they assume we don't worship God when we praise prophets. They just don't understand that it's ok to praise people for what they do and worship God. It's the meaning of the word to us that's important - the symbolism we see in it.

She's a great kid, and I'm proud of her. I'm not certain I've ever shared those examples with her directly, but they are two specific examples I have used in the past.

I'm glad she understands the concept of symbolism at this age, since I believe it will help her tremendously as she gets older and faces other things that often are difficult to reconcile in a more literal paradigm but have great power when viewed symbolically.


Tracy M said...

Wow, Ray- sounds like you have a marvelous daughter. Blessing to you and your this day. I hope it goes wonderfully.

S.Faux said...

Such profound words, with such a deep understanding... .

I hope the eternal symbols of the temple generated an enjoyable spiritual experience for you and your family on this special day.

Mama D said...

It was a neat experience and a tender moment. Being in the temple with our children gives greater depth to the meaning of eternal families. Also, it was a pretty great birthday present for Papa!

This daughter is like a mini-Papa, the 12-yr-old female version of him! :)

Jana said...

Do you have any recommendations on what (besides the obvious The Holy Temple) to read to prepare to go through? I am a lifelong member who has been endowed for about 10 years. My convert husband and I are preparing to be sealed, and I'm not sure how to prepare him for the symbolism. Thoughts?

Papa D said...

Thanks, everyone.

Jana, My first and main piece of advice is that there really is very little that can't be discussed, despite the cultural traditional of not talking about anything. When you consider what is taken from scripture and then consider those things that explicitly are mentioned as not to be discussed (which basically is nothing more than the signs and tokens and actually quoting directly), and then look at what has been published in places like "The Holy Temple" (and add the entire transcript published by anti-Mormons on the internet) - I am very comfortable talking about everything that goes on in the temple.

I think that is very important, since it removes the sense of secrecy that surrounds the temple in many people's minds. Take away the sense of secrecy, and much of the anxiety disappears - and a sense of secrecy is NOT necessary to maintaining a sense of sacredness.

Second, I look at just about everything as symbolic and/or figurative - including the creation of Adam and Eve and walking back to the presence of God. There used to be a statement in the ceremony that said the depiction of mortal creation was figurative, so I have no qualms at all about viewing it that way - even if I weren't prone to do so anyway.

Finally, I describe the "big picture" of the endowment as a grand morality play - with us inserted into the play in the parts of Adam and Eve. It depicts our journey from God's presence to this world and back again, focusing on the fundamental commitments (covenants) we need to accept and live in order to enter the Celestial Kingdom.

By focusing on the entire experience as symbolic and figurative, and by positioning myself into the narration (as we are told directly to do), the symbolism comes to life for me - and I don't get caught up in nit-picking details that might or might not be literal. It's taking some things literally that causes much of the angst I have heard and read - and not realizing that women can enter the Celestial Room with or without their husbands, directly through the help of the Lord himself.

I hope that helps a little. Don't hesitate to ask if you have any more questions.

Jeff Lindsay said...

A sharp young lady. Congrats!

Jana said...

Thank you so very much! I really appreciate your input.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou,Ray,that is a lot of help to me.I've never felt confident in thinking of the whole thing as symbolic,yet felt innately that this was the way in which I could make most sense of the experience.It is the literalisation of things that has always confused me.You have clearly been very useful to your daughter's thinking.

But then again,symbols of what?