Jesus Cleansing the Temple

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felixfabulous
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Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by felixfabulous » 05 Apr 2021, 08:37

Perhaps no part of the New Testament creates more dissonance for LDS readers than the story of Jesus overturning tables and driving out money changers in the temple. It does not at all seem to fit into our philosophy on Jesus or paradigm about the temple. We kind of settle on this idea that the temple was performing vital ordinances in Jesus' day, but he was cleansing it from practices that had gone astray.

When you look through the New Testament, Jesus does not have a lot of positive things to say about the temple. When you step away from a "dispensation/restoration" narrative, it seems plain that the temple was the realm of a priestly class who had elaborate cleansing and sacrificial rituals that were expensive and exclusionary. Jesus openly defied the purification codes by eating with unclean people and supported John the Baptist who advocated for a cleansing baptismal ritual that could happen in the muddy waters of the Jordan river and was available to all, not just those who could afford to make the expensive trip to the temple in Jerusalem.

I have not figured out how to re-integrate the temple into my reconstructed faith. I can appreciate and respect that it is a huge source of comfort and peace for a lot of people and that a lot of my friends and family members are anxious to get back to the temple. Some people see powerful metaphors of the journey presented in the endowment and it serves as a great life guide for how to return to God. I feel like it's hard for me to "unsee" a lot of the problematic elements that seem to promote leader worship, blind obedience and prideful exclusivity.

One of the hardest parts of the conference for me was the renewed push for temple attendance. I've enjoyed having that off the table during Covid and worry that at the ward and stake level there will be a big push to make up for lost time and social pressure to go. I also have a hard time seeing the need for these new temples, especially in places like Vienna and Oslo where church membership is shrinking. In 10-20 years will we have lots of expensive empty temples and have to pay people to staff them? With so many people reevaluating their faith, it's hard for me to see temple attendance increasing in the future? What will be the role of the temple in the future Church? What was Jesus really trying to teach us by overturning the tables in the temple and downplaying its importance?

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On Own Now
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by On Own Now » 05 Apr 2021, 09:58

Interesting topic. I appreciate your bringing it up and your insight to the question.

For me, I don't think I'd say that Jesus was downplaying the importance of the temple. I'd probably say that he was using it as a way to illustrate internal corruption that can (has) come upon us that needs to be purged. FWIW, even non-religious scholars believe Jesus of Nazareth was executed as a direct result of some demonstration at the temple. So, I'd say that the temple was important enough to the man to risk crucifixion to make his point.

IMO the temple was very important to Jesus, the early disciples, and Paul, in particular. But Paul was working with and among people of the Diaspora and Gentiles. Their connection to the temple was more representative of something, rather than concrete. I'm a fan of I Corinthians 3, where Paul describes the community of Saints in Corinth as having been built up from a field into a building that has become the Temple of God, because God's Spirit dwells within that congregation.

As for LDS Temples, I'd say that the same concept applies. It's the House of the Lord, if you see it that way. It's not if you don't. I haven't been to the temple in ages, but I sometimes think I could go back now and easily unsee things that used to bother me more, because I have abstracted spirituality away from the dogma of the Church. To me the Church (with its chapels and temples, conferences and scriptures) is just a vehicle, it's not the point in and of itself.
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Roy
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by Roy » 05 Apr 2021, 10:37

I find it hard to know what the historical Jesus was like. The NT was written quite a few years after his death by people that had specific purposes in writing it. Also, some scenes are private moments without any witnesses. How did the author know what happened? I do find great meaning in the redemptive story of God's sacrifice and unending love - however, I find it less important for me to try to deduce what the historical Jesus was trying to say.
felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
I feel like it's hard for me to "unsee" a lot of the problematic elements that seem to promote leader worship, blind obedience and prideful exclusivity.

One of the hardest parts of the conference for me was the renewed push for temple attendance. I've enjoyed having that off the table during Covid and worry that at the ward and stake level there will be a big push to make up for lost time and social pressure to go.
I understand that. In another thread I have been describing how our new stake goal for every member to get a TR has led to my bishop bringing me in to "help" me to get mine (by becoming a full tithe payer). Because our local temples are closed for most purposes he volunteered that, for him, having a TR means having reassurance of being right with God and is of value even without the ability to go to a temple. I am glad that he can feel that assurance and that it is meaningful to him. However, that feels like the opposite of how the good news of the gospel is supposed to go. To me it feels too much like saying, "I have a get into heaven card and you should have one too." At best, having a TR is a corollary to living a decent and spiritual life dedicated to God. At worst, having a TR could become an example of looking "beyond the mark" and trusting in one's own efforts (and the certification of those efforts that the TR can represent) to save one's self.
felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
I also have a hard time seeing the need for these new temples, especially in places like Vienna and Oslo where church membership is shrinking. In 10-20 years will we have lots of expensive empty temples and have to pay people to staff them?
It could be just as likely that having a temple available locally will help generate positive temple experiences that help cement people's activity in the church. The church has the resources and I am quite confident that they see building temples as squarely in the mission of perfecting the saints, proclaiming the gospel, and redeeming the dead.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by Old-Timer » 05 Apr 2021, 17:11

I have issue with the way some of the recommend requirements are tied to temple attendance (especially the Word of Wisdom), but I love the temple theology as I view it (symbolic of the idea that just showing up and enduring to the end means entering into the presence of God - and that literally everyone will have that happen for them so they can choose to accept or or not). I also like nearly all of the most recent changes to the ordinances - and that women literally perform some of them.

Jesus was a devout Jew. There is no question of that based on the Bible. He was unorthodox by the standards of his day, but he appears to have valued the idea of rhecremple highly - which caused him to seethe at its corruption. He is recorded as having referred to it as his Father's house.

For me, minus the seething, that is a good model: love the concept and bemoan / be disappointed in deviations from the ideal.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by nibbler » 05 Apr 2021, 20:14

felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
When you look through the New Testament, Jesus does not have a lot of positive things to say about the temple. When you step away from a "dispensation/restoration" narrative, it seems plain that the temple was the realm of a priestly class who had elaborate cleansing and sacrificial rituals that were expensive and exclusionary. Jesus openly defied the purification codes by eating with unclean people and supported John the Baptist who advocated for a cleansing baptismal ritual that could happen in the muddy waters of the Jordan river and was available to all, not just those who could afford to make the expensive trip to the temple in Jerusalem.
As I understand it the temple was divided into several courts, where each court became more and more exclusive the closer one got to the Holy of Holies (god's presence). In fact only one person could enter the Holy of Holies and only did so once a year.

The veil was rent when Jesus died. One interpretation of the symbolism is that Jesus removed all of the man-made barriers between man and god. One need not be a ritually pure Jew, a priest, or a High Priest to approach god; Jesus symbolically freed god from the cage that we made for him.

I don't think we preach that one has to go to the temple to access god but we have made access to the temple exclusive, maybe a rough equivalent to only allowing entrance for ritualistically pure members. Feels like a step backwards to me.

A side note from a scattered brain... something that our temples have taught me is that a rent veil allows one to enter.
felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
I have not figured out how to re-integrate the temple into my reconstructed faith.
The good news is that you don't have to. :smile:
felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
One of the hardest parts of the conference for me was the renewed push for temple attendance. I've enjoyed having that off the table during Covid and worry that at the ward and stake level there will be a big push to make up for lost time and social pressure to go.
Disclaimer, this next statement is overly cynical. The temple represents the proverbial motivating carrot for orthodox believers. It's come to represent the pinnacle of Mormon worship. The promise of attending the temple can be a motivating goal for members to become more active and obedient.
felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
I also have a hard time seeing the need for these new temples, especially in places like Vienna and Oslo where church membership is shrinking. In 10-20 years will we have lots of expensive empty temples and have to pay people to staff them? With so many people reevaluating their faith, it's hard for me to see temple attendance increasing in the future? What will be the role of the temple in the future Church? What was Jesus really trying to teach us by overturning the tables in the temple and downplaying its importance?
I don't have any answers. I don't get the need for the 20 announced temples either. It's nice to provide more access to members with fewer means but I wonder when we reach the point of diminishing returns, at least in North America.

I wonder if some of it is not knowing what else to do with the money. What do we do? Shrugs... build more temples?
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by SamBee » 06 Apr 2021, 03:15

My mother (non-LDS) hated shops in churches and cathedrals for this reason.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Apr 2021, 07:56

I think part of the problem with the temple is that members tend to look at the ancient Jerusalem temple through the lens of modern temples. They are completely different in scope and purpose, with the main purpose of the Jewish temple being at-one-ment. Jesus comparing himself to the temple was spot on in that respect. There really is little comparison between our temples and the ancient ones.
felixfabulous wrote:
05 Apr 2021, 08:37
I have not figured out how to re-integrate the temple into my reconstructed faith. I can appreciate and respect that it is a huge source of comfort and peace for a lot of people and that a lot of my friends and family members are anxious to get back to the temple. Some people see powerful metaphors of the journey presented in the endowment and it serves as a great life guide for how to return to God. I feel like it's hard for me to "unsee" a lot of the problematic elements that seem to promote leader worship, blind obedience and prideful exclusivity.
Why do you feel the need to re-integrate it? I get there are family pressures, etc., but other than that? I have not re-integrated the temple in my own rebuilt faith and doubt I ever will. I do hold a TR (actually it's expired but about to be renewed) not because I am longing to return to the temple or believe in most of it but because I want to be part of family events there. (I do have other reasons why I think it's important for me to hold a recommend.)

Genesis 1 & 2 is actually two stories, maybe even written by different authors. The second version starts in Gen 2:4. The first version does not give Adam (Hebrew for man) and Eve names, the second version does. How Eve came about is different in the two stories. Nowhere in either story does it indicate Eve is subservient to Adam. It's interesting to me how it all gets viewed as one story when a careful reading clearly reveals it as two versions of the same story - and the temple somehow melds that together (be ignoring some elements in each). Just to be totally clear, I don't necessarily believe either story is correct and both could be correct. Likewise, the temple version can also be correct, especially if you believe everything in the temple is symbolic.
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Roy
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by Roy » 06 Apr 2021, 09:05

DarkJedi wrote:
06 Apr 2021, 07:56
Just to be totally clear, I don't necessarily believe either story is correct and both could be correct. Likewise, the temple version can also be correct, especially if you believe everything in the temple is symbolic.
Right. All versions of the story can be correct in that they add new elements that refresh and enliven the story for new generations.

As I have explored some other Christian religions, I have come to see the Adam & Eve story as the primary answer for how we can have a benevolent and all powerful God and still have evil and suffering in the world.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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felixfabulous
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by felixfabulous » 06 Apr 2021, 09:25

Great thoughts, I appreciate the comments. I have renewed my recommend, but mainly to attend weddings, etc. and don't know if I ever will re-integrate the temple back into my faith paradigm. Good to hear that others have given themselves permission for that not to happen.

Another temple question I have is how committed Joseph Smith was to the temple ordinances by the time he died. The version of history we hear is that he worked to get the ordinances presented in some form and the temple built, but died too soon and Brigham finished the work. The Community of Christ views it very differently, saying that the temple ritual "phase" fizzled out a few months before his death and he had moved on to different things. Some historians view the whole thing tied up with polygamy and that Joseph abandoned both shortly before his death. I do think it's interesting that Joseph and Hyrum were not wearing garments in Carthage Jail and that Emma did not seem to thing the temple ritual was important after Joseph's death.

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felixfabulous
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Re: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Post by felixfabulous » 06 Apr 2021, 09:30

The temple represents the proverbial motivating carrot for orthodox believers. It's come to represent the pinnacle of Mormon worship. The promise of attending the temple can be a motivating goal for members to become more active and obedient.
I think this is one of the most troubling aspects for me. We are getting a little better, but we generally throw someone into the temple before a mission or before marriage, surrounded by family members and have them commit to some big things on the spot. When you break it down, it's almost the equivalent of what a nun or priest would commit to with their vows (minus celebacy and poverty) and then hold it over their heads for the rest of their lives.

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