[Editor: This is the ninth article in a series of excerpts from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s new book, entitled “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.” Color and black-and-white editions of the book are available on Amazon.com and at selected LDS Bookstores (including EbornBooks, BYU Bookstore, and the FAIR LDS Bookstore). An iBooks version is can be purchased from the Apple iBookstore. Downloadable articles and a pdf version of this book are available at www.templethemes.netPart 1 “Why Do We Participate in Temple Ordinances?”Part 2 “A Christ-Centered View”Part 3 “Knowledge as the Principle of Salvation”Part 4 “How Are We Physically and Spiritually Reborn in the Temple?”Part 5 “What is the Endowment?”Part 6 “Passing the Angels Who Stand as Sentinels”Part 7 “The Meaning of the Atonement”Part 8 “Becoming the Seed of Abraham’: The Sealing and Healing Power of Elijah”Author: In discussing temple matters, I have tried to follow the model of Hugh W. Nibley, who was, according to his biographer Boyd Jay Petersen, “respectful of the covenants of secrecy safeguarding specific portions of the LDS endowment, usually describing parallels from other cultures without talking specifically about the Mormon ceremony. This approach earned him a great deal of trust from both General Authorities and from Church members” (B. J. Petersen, Nibley, p. 354). For Nibley’s views on confidentiality as it relates to temple ordinances, see, e.g., H. W. Nibley, On the Sacred and the Symbolic, pp. 553-554, 569-572.]”The Church and Kingdom”: Becoming Priests and KingsIn previous articles, we have examined the significance of each of the phrases of D&C 84:34, a key verse in the passage describing the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood:They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.The ordinance of the endowment portrays the process of the Saints becoming “the sons of Moses and of Aaron,” and the sealing ordinance of celestial marriage symbolizes their becoming “the seed of Abraham.” Continuing with this description of the required sequence of temple blessings, the phrase “the church and kingdom” refers to the blessings of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, belonging to one who is made a “king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.” Correspondingly, worthy women may receive the blessings of becoming queens and priestesses. Figure 1 hereFigure 1.J. James Tissot, 1836-1902: The Offerings of Melchizedek, ca. 1896-1902 It is fitting for these blessings to be associated with the name of Melchizedek, because he was the great “king of Salem” and “the priest of the most high God,” who gave the priesthood to Abraham. Later kings of Israel, as well as Jesus Christ Himself, were declared to be part of the “order of Melchizedek,” which was originally called “the Order of the Son of God.” Figure 2 hereFigure 2.The Church and KingdomBecause of the sacred nature of the ordinance that confers the fullness of the priesthood, very little detail about it has been given in official church publications. For example, Elder McConkie described this ordinance, along with those ordinances leading up to it, only in very general terms: In setting forth as much as can, with propriety, be spoken outside of the temple, the Lord says that “the fullness of the priesthood” is received only in the temple itself. This fullness is received through washings, anointings, solemn assemblies, oracles in holy places, conversations, ordinances, endowments, and sealings… As with all prior covenants and ordinances, the Savior Himself set the example for us to follow. Summarizing the exacting requirements expected of those who receive this final ordinance of the temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.Figure hereFigure 3.Val Brinkerhoff, 1953-: Crown and Initials on Joseph Smith’s Cane Anticipatory Nature of the OrdinanceAlthough other temple ordinances had been administered to selected saints in Nauvoo beginning in 1842, the ordinance conferring the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood was not administered by the Prophet until the final months of 1843. On 6 August 1843, Brigham Young said that “if any in the Church had the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, he did not know it.” However, on 22 November 1843, he finally received this much-awaited ordinance. In later instructions at the temple, President Young said: Those who… come in here [i.e., the Nauvoo Temple] and have received their washing and anointing will [later, if faithful,] be ordained Kings and Priests, and will then have received the fullness of the Priesthood, all that can be given on earth. For Brother Joseph said he had given us all that could be given to man on the earth.In contrast to the priesthood ordinances discussed previously which are available to all faithful members of the Church in this life, this crowning ordinance of the temple is now almost always reserved as a blessing for the hereafter. Indeed, even if the ordinance could be performed in this life, the realization of the blessings it portends could not be made fully effective in mortality. Emphasizing the anticipatory nature of this ordinance, Brigham Young explained that “a person may be anointed king and priest long before he receives his kingdom.” Figure hereFigure 4.Samuel Anoints David, Dura Europos Synagogue, ca. 250 Antiquity of the Royal PriesthoodAlthough the concept of a “royal priesthood” expressed in the ordinance conferring the fullness of the priesthood is foreign to most people today, it is perfectly consistent with ancient religious practices. For example, Wyatt summarizes a wide range of evidence indicating “a broad continuity of culture” throughout the ancient Near East wherein the candidate for kingship underwent a ritual journey intended to confer a divine status as a son of God. Scholars have long debated the meaning of scattered fragments of rituals of sacral kingship in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, but over time have increasingly found evidence of parallels with ancient Near East investiture traditions. In this regard, one of the most significant of these is Psalm 110, an unquestionably royal and-for Christians-Messianic passage. A well-known scholar of the Psalms, John Eaton, summarizes the import and setting of these verses as part of: … the ceremonies enacting the installation of the Davidic king in Jerusalem… Items of enthronement ceremonial seem reflected: ascension to the throne, bestowal of the sceptre, anointing and baptism signifying new birth as the Lord’s son (v. 3 ), [and] appointment to royal priesthood … As [in Psalms] 2, 18, 89, [and] 101, the rites may have involved a sacred drama and been repeated in commemorations, perhaps annually in conjunction with the celebration of God’s kingship, for which the Davidic ruler was chief “servant.”Note that, in Israelite practice, the moment of investiture would not necessarily have been the time of the king’s first anointing. The culminating anointing of the king corresponding to his definite investiturewas, at least sometimes, preceded by a prior princely anointing. Baker and Ricks describe “several incidents in the Old Testament where a prince was first anointed to become king, and later, after he had proven himself, was anointed again-this time as actual king.” Figure hereFigure 5.The Exaltation of Resurrected Israel, Dura Europos Synagogue, ca. 250 Although there is little indication in the Old Testament that these Israelite rituals were given to anyone besides the king, there is significant non-scriptural evidence from later times that similar rites were made available to others. For example, findings at Qumran and Dura Europos suggest that in at least some strands of Jewish tradition these rituals of royal priesthood were democratized, enabling members of the community, and not just its ruler, to participate in a form of worship that ritually brought them into the presence of God.
Indeed, a precursor of this tradition is evident in the account of God’s promise to Israel that, if they kept His covenant, not just a select few but all of them would have the privilege of becoming part of “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Going back to the very beginning of the Bible, scholars have concluded that the statement that Adam and Eve were created in the “image of God” is meant to convey the idea that “each person bears the stamp of royalty.” As an example from the New Testament, note that similar blessings, echoing temple themes and intended for the whole community of the faithful, are enumerated in statements found in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. In the most direct of these statements, Revelation 3:21 declares: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”Misconceptions Relating to the Fullness of the PriesthoodSince the marriage ordinance of sealing is usually the last ordinance that temple-worthy Church members receive in this life, it is sometimes mistakenly concluded that this is the highest ordinance that can be received in the temple. In addition, sometimes it has been falsely assumed that the marriage sealing itself confers the fullness of the priesthood. However, the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith made it clear that it is in the “crowning ordinance of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood” that husbands and wives receive “the confirmation of promises that worthy men could become kings and priests and that women could become queens and priestesses in the eternal worlds.” Differentiating the blessings of becoming priest and king (“church and kingdom”) associated with the name of Melchizedek from the prior ordinances of endowment (“sons of Moses”) and patriarchal marriage (“seed of Abraham”), the Prophet Joseph Smith explained that: Melchizedek… had still greater power… which was not the power of a Prophet nor Apostle nor Patriarch only, but of King and Priest to God…. No man can attain to the joint heirship with Jesus Christ without being administered to by one having the same power and authority of Melchizedek. ReferencesBaker, LeGrand L., and Stephen D. Ricks. Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? 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