For at least the second time in four years, religious rituals performed in Latter-day Saint temples have undergone significant changes, placing an enhanced emphasis on Jesus Christ, boosting gender equity and providing more explanations of the promises participants make to God.
The “endowment,” considered one of the most sacred ceremonies in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, depicts a reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and humankind’s earthly journey and heavenly return.
Rolled out this week, the new version, according to members who have seen it, appears designed to help newcomers and infrequent visitors feel more comfortable throughout the experience.
Attendees receive an explanation, for instance, of the vows, or covenants, they will be making earlier in the ceremony, allowing for greater informed consent among those engaging in the ritual for the first time.
In those covenants, according to the church’s General Handbook, members pledge to:
• Live the law of obedience and strive to keep Heavenly Father’s commandments.
• Obey the law of sacrifice, which means sacrificing to support the Lord’s work and repenting with a broken heart and contrite spirit.
• Obey the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the higher law that he taught while he was on the earth.
• Keep the law of chastity, which means that a member has sexual relations only with the person to whom he or she is legally and lawfully wedded according to God’s law.
• Keep the law of consecration, which means that members dedicate their time, talents and everything with which the Lord has blessed them to building up Jesus Christ’s church on the earth.
The new endowment also supplies attendees with more visual guidance on the ritual’s physical elements, including how to wear the robes and other clothing during the symbolic ceremony.
In 2018, the Utah-based faith released a brief YouTube video that explains the endowment and shows the temple apparel. It posted a second video, as well, about the often mocked, maligned and misunderstood temple “garment” that faithful members wear under their regular clothes.
The new endowment includes more frequent references to Jesus Christ, more egalitarian language regarding the relationship between husbands and wives, and stresses love — for God and for others — as the motivating force behind the covenants.
Attendees say the latest film also includes nods to more racial diversity than in times past.
Church officials declined to comment this week on the fresh changes. But members took to social media to share their observations.
Jody England Hansen, who has served as volunteer temple worker for decades, celebrated the increased emphasis on Jesus.
“I hope it will help us look for ways to be more connected, Christlike and loving,” she said in an interview, “and less focused on the need to do more or be absolutely perfect.”
That is ultimately the purpose of the temple, she explained, “to lead us to Christ by gaining our own individual insight in the experience.”
These endowment additions echo church President Russell M. Nelson’s push to heighten the focus on Jesus by accentuating use of the faith’s full name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nelson and his counselors in the governing First Presidency released a message in 2020, explaining that “through inspiration, the methods of instruction in the temple experience have changed many times, even in recent history, to help members better understand and live what they learn in the temple.”
From their beginnings in the 19th century to today, temple ceremonies “have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping,” the three-member First Presidency said in 2019. “Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to his servants.”
That same year saw a number of sweeping changes to temple ceremonies, many of them designed to bring greater gender equity to the rituals and even giving more lines to Mother Eve.
Unlike regular church meetinghouses, where Sunday services are held, temples are viewed by members as Houses of the Lord, places where they take part in their religion’s highest rites, including eternal marriage.
There are 300 existing or planned Latter-day Saint temples scattered across the globe. Since he became president, Nelson has announced the construction of 118 of those buildings, or nearly 40% of the total.
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