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.