History of LDS temple worship includes second anointings, floating temple idea

To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post, click here

Ask an active Mormon if she or he knows what a “second anointing” is, and I’d wager most of the time you’ll receive a blank stare. However, second anointings, or second blessings, are still performed today in temples, albeit rarely. A century ago, second anointings were far more common.

A second anointing was an extension of the temple endowment. My best definition of it is as a guarantee of exaltation, but others may disagree with that.

Through the first third of the 20th century, about 21,000 couples had received second anointments. One could not apply for one; stake presidents determined who received one. It was usually reserved for longtime Saints with a lifetime of church fidelity; preference was also given to pioneers. Eventually, church officials took the selection process away from stake presidents and gave it to apostles. At that point, second anointings slowed to a trickle, despite the pleadings of apostle and Salt Lake Temple President George F. Richards to resume its regular practice. Richards, by the way, is responsible for many, many changes in temple ceremonies and customs adopted by the LDS Church Presidency in the early 20th century.

This information, and much more, is contained in a new book from Signature, “The Development of LDS Temple Worship 1846-2000: A Documentary History.” Edited by historian Devery S. Anderson, the book is comprised of memos, instructions, personal opinions, debates, decisions and declarations shared among LDS Church officials and leaders. It is a fascinating historical look at the evolution of LDS temple worship. (I digress to assure readers that nothing of a sacred or secret temple worship nature is in this documentary history). For information on the book, which will be released on March 24, click here

But what readers discover in this book underscores the lack of enthusiasm LDS authorities have to reveal more about the church’s unique, interesting history. How many Latter-day Saints today know that the 19th century Mormon garment had a collar, went from the neck, to ankles and wrists, was crotchless, and used strings instead of buttons? Placed below this blog post is an old advertisement of a “modern” ladies garment that was compared to a union suit. Showing this garment is not disrespectful because of another fact that is learned in the book: For a long time, garments were sold without the sacred marks on them. The stitching of those marks were the responsibility of the owner and was done by someone worthy of a recommend. Over time, church leaders discontinued advertising and the outside selling of garments. One reason: many stores were selling them in fashions that were not church-approved at the time, such as straps instead of sleeves on ladies garments.

The importance of members wearing the LDS garment is a focus of many of the book’s correspondence. Indeed, LDS leader Brigham Young told church officials that Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith died in Carthage, Ill. because they had taken their garments off. Young said that Willard Richards survived the Carthage attack because he was wearing his. Wounded in that same attack was a future LDS leader, John Taylor.

LDS Church leaders pondered and debated the temple-worthy status of divorced women, of those who married out of the LDS Church, whether black children could be sealed to white parents, the age of eligibility for endowments, how many leaves should be sewn on a temple apron, etc. The endowment ceremony, originally an oral tradition, was finessed with a script and audio and motion pictures became a necessity as the church grew in the world. For years, the LDS temple ceremony included a short scene — with permission — from the Disney film, “Fantasia.”

More issues discussed include the gradual insistence on following the Word of Wisdom to enter a temple, the small payments allowed persons who stood in proxy for endowments, and so on. But I want to focus on two more events, one sober and shameful, and another that tickled my funny bone.

The book recounts church leaders receiving a request from Joseph Smith’s black servant, Jane Manning James, who came to Utah and remained a faithful Latter-day Saint. As her life drew to a close late in the 19th century, she asked to be sealed to the church’s first prophet. Such sealings were not unusual at the time, but “Aunt Jane,” as she was called, was of course considered to have the “curse of Cain.” In a then-compassionate gesture that would be considered grotesque today, church leaders rejected her request for a family sealing, but as a compromise, sealed Jane to Smith as a celestial servant. One hopes that this sealing was changed after blacks received the priesthood scores of years later.

The second event involved a suggestion in the late 1960s that the LDS Church construct a “floating temple” that would sail the seven seas and provide, via docking, temple rooms and ceremonies on board for Latter-day Saints who lived outside the U.S., and far away from a temple could receive endowments, etc. This idea, suggested by a church building coordinator, gained some traction until LDS Apostle Elder Alvin R. Dyer, in a leadership meeting, pointed to the LDS scriptural book, Doctrine & Covenants, Section 61, versus 14 to 16, which reads:

14 “Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters.

15 “Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.

16 “And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart.

That early-church revelation effectively ended talk of a floating temple. I recall, in 1983, as a missionary in Peru, being warned about entering lakes and oceans, with the same scriptures being cited.

Readers who enjoy LDS history and the temple experience will spend hours poring over the book. Others can quickly scan the index to find out what LDS Church leaders have said over the years regarding issues that include kissing over the marriage temple altar, oral sex questions from bishops that offended married couples and swapping rings during temple marriage ceremonies.

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27 Responses to History of LDS temple worship includes second anointings, floating temple idea

  1. Pingback: Signature Books » The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History

  2. Jake D. says:

    The second endowment/annointing is done in two parts. The first happening in the temple and the second at the couples home. It’s interesting to read pioneer accounts of this ceremony. I’ve also seen it referred to as “having your calling and election made sure”. The promises of what you may have that are given to LDS couples in their first endowment are sealed and guaranteed in the second ceremony. Essentially you are guaranteed exaltation in the celestial kingdom as kings/queens priest/priestesses.

  3. Neal Humphrey says:

    Your description of the “19th century” Garment of the Holy Priesthood doesn’t just refer to a tradition from that long ago. In the 1960s and 1970s that same style was used in the Initiatory Ordinances.

  4. Howard Ratcliffe says:

    “Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ Hill, and said Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious…God made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Acts 17:22-24

    • Steve Hill says:

      22 ¶ Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are aoo superstitious.
      23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

      Note – Howard Ratcliffe left out verse 23 which changes the context and contradicts the point he was attempting to make.

      24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

      (New Testament | Acts 17:22 – 24)

    • NateT says:

      Boy, Solomon got it wrong.

  5. ScottH says:

    I’m not sure if this story is apocryphal or not, but it is said that David O. McKay was once asked if the scripture cited above was the reason missionaries couldn’t swim. He replied simply that the main reasons missionaries were forbidden to swim were that none of them had drowned since the ban began and that they were on missions to serve, not to recreate.

    My grandfather smoked his entire adult life until terminal cancer ended the habit. Smoking was frowned upon but not forbidden back when he was baptized five years after my Grandmother’s baptism.

    The church’s approach to the Word of Wisdom prohibitions on certain addictive substances has evolved over the years. Nowadays the Temple recommend interviewer usually simply asks if the applicant is following the Word of Wisdom. It is up to the applicant to apply the proper interpretation to the question. I know recommend holders that would never touch coffee but that down a number of addictive stimulant-loaded energy drinks daily.

  6. Heidi says:

    What was the reason behind Joseph Smith not wearing garments in Carthage jail? This is a real surprise to me! Had he worn them, did that mean he would not had been martyred?
    How is it that people, struggling with the Word of Wisdom, and other bad behaviours, such as porn etc. even today, can have Temple recommends, A Temple being “The house of the Lord” no unclean thing shall enter therein. Have the standard requirements been lowered? Maybe our Prophet Thomas S. Monson can answer this.

    • lee_hoecherl@comcast.net says:

      If persons have an unaceptable life style and ask to go to the Temple, they will be asked by their bishop to repent for a period of time determend by future bishop interviews. If they are
      endowed, depending on the unaceptable action they have commiited, they can repent, be disfellowshiped, or excomunicated. This will depend on the magnitude of offense determend by the Stake Presedentcy/High Councile.

  7. John says:

    Reading this Temple history related article prompts me to ask about the now defunct, I understand, Temple practice of the “throat slash” gesture that I saw in various Temples I observed in the mid 1960′s. I recall the text something to the effect of rather than doing or seeing some act or deed, that “I would suffer my life to be taken” followed by the throat slash gesture.

    I have asked a relative and a friend who are now regular Temple attenders and you think that I spoke a terrible thing by asking the question. Both raised the old “sacred not a secert” response refusing to talk about it at all. I know what I saw and heard and am afraid it’s going to be as though it never existed over time because the current generation of believers but not talkers will all be gone in the next 20 years.

    • Johnny Ho says:

      I swear the throat cutting gesture action is true. I participated in several of such bloodoath undertaking from 1986 onwards. The atmosphere in that endownment room was always eerie and satanic , to say the least.

  8. Neal Humphrey says:

    John -

    The Penalties were removed in the spring of 1990. There were three representing slashing the throat, chest, and abdomen. The usual explanation was to emphasize the seriousness of not revealing the transactions of the Endowment. In that regard, a content analysis of the ceremony indicates that the word “secret” occurs far more often than “sacred.”

    Also removed in 1990 was a Christian preacher in the employ of Satan the Lone and Dreary World scene.

  9. Al says:

    Great article. I will be buying this book now.

  10. ZENNEPHI says:

    One of the most divine moments when I was when, in the terrestial
    room of the Salt Lake City Temple-edifice; I was where me and
    the Matron, played with dominos and played role-plays” with
    (tm) Tonka Trucks. {circa’ 1965}.
    I count it all-joy that today I “Stand All Amazed”.Where the faithfull
    of Zions can find solice and comfort on the Prayer-list available in
    all 133 active temple settings.

    “…And the Sign says you to have to have a membership card to
    get inside…”
    Artist Unknown

  11. Di says:

    I had never heard it referred to as a second anointing, but one of my high school seminary teachers did discuss having your \calling and election made sure\ and claimed to know someone who had this happen.

  12. Thom Duncan says:

    Joseph didn’t wear his garments in the Carthage Jail because it was the freakin’ middle of June in Illinois. In an upstairs room where there was no air condtioning.

    • So I guess it’s okay for me to take mine off when I’m mowing the lawn on a hot day? Oh wait, we’re not afforded that privilege nowadays.

      Love the magazine ad for full length womens garments, by the way. Now THAT’S sex-y.

  13. Steve Wightman says:

    was there a limit of 144,000 placed on the number of saints to receive the second endowment?

  14. Jared McDougall says:

    There is a quote where Joseph smith explained that he took off the garment because he did not want the mob to mock them and defile them. Hyrum followed his council. Hyrum is the one who encouraged Willard Richards to remove his garment (not Joseph) but he chose not to. Joseph knew it was his time to die.

  15. Alan says:

    The garment was originally only worn by the small circle of men who lived polygamy (Joseph’s trusted inner circle or his “order”) and they were used to identify this to each other. The whole temple ceremony, sealings, etc., all came about because of polygamy. Joseph Smith was sealed to many women before he was sealed to Emma because she originally would not accept polygamy. So, therefore, she wasn’t sealed to Joseph until she did. Joseph removed his garments before he went to Carthage because a big part of why he was even in there was due to him living polygamy, marrying young teenage girls and marrying other men’s wives. This got him in a lot of trouble. That’s the information written in The Expositor (it exposed much of what Joseph was doing and what he didn’t want others to know), thus Joseph ordered it’s destruction.

  16. Megan says:

    Alan, I have read this too. Do you have any references for this? It is very troubling to me that Joseph Smith married so many women (including 9 teenagers and most of which were nanny’s in his home who Emma loved and trusted; and 11 women who were already married to other men so Joseph entered into 11 polyandrous marriages too). I did not know that the men who published The Expositor were Joseph’s counselors in the church and men who loved him and the church. They were trying to save the church from his scandalous behavior (he had actually propositioned some of their wives). I think Joseph Smith just got so caught up in the power of his position that he used it to have as many women as he could. Why else would he live polygamy with his secret circle of men but publicly deny it and hide it from Emma? Can you imagine if Thomas S. Monson did this today?

  17. linda hatfield-southern says:

    russell nelson stated in his book he and danzel received their second endowment before he performed open heart surgery on President Kimball.

  18. Megan says:

    There are accounts written about what the ordinance contains for the 2nd anointing. Here is one account that pretty much confirms all that has been documented and written about what takes place:
    http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon508.htm

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  21. Kaitlyn says:

    No second endowment or anything of any other temple ordinances are necessary for this great blessing. It is a blessing that can be preformed anywhere at any given time. You do not even need to be baptized to receive this promise if it so be that you are already so close to being like Christ. You can receive this promise without your spouse or having any family members sealed to you. In fact, I had this blessing as a non-member at age 13 and 14 years old long before I ever knew Mormons existed. The Lord himself told me, “Ye shall be great and ye shall do great things for the building of my kingdom.” And I have tasted of the tree of life.

    I tell you that a person’s calling and election is made sure when Jesus Christ himself tells a person that they shall be exalted. After that a person with higher priesthood authority, I’m guessing a prophet, will meet up with you and give you a priesthood blessing by the laying of of hands. After this blessing, you will have living waters spring forth from within your heart. When these living waters spring forth, it is the same as tasting of the tree of life. And tasting of the tree of life and also the receiving of living waters is the same as coming to know with perfect knowledge the love of God. Knowing God in this way produces eternal life. I can witness to you that this thing is true. (Scriptures for study: Rev 7:13-17, 1 Nephi 11:25, Rev 22:14, D&C 63:23, John 7:37-39, John 4:10, D&C 132:20)

    If Christ himself has not told you that you shall be exalted, however he decides to word it, then your calling and election is not made sure. If you have not tasted of the tree of life, then your calling and election is not made sure.

    I know that these things are true. I know that our Lord and savior is my witness. I know the Holy Spirit is my witness. And if that priesthood blessing to receive living waters must come from a prophet, then I met John the Beloved and he is also my witness.

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