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Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Definitive Guide to "Sacred, not Secret"

Imagine a religion in which there are no scriptures. Absolutely no discussion of ordinances like baptism, confirmation, sacrament, priesthood advancement, baptism of the dead, initiatories, endowments, sealings. No explanations of garments.

Imagine zero evidence of spiritual gifts and personal revelation. No testimonies. No personal inspirational stories.

In fact, imagine a theology banning all discussion of the creation of the earth and mankind, the atonement, the resurrection and any appearances or dialogues of God to man.

What you’ve just read about is a religion which places a paramount importance of sacredness over secrecy. After all, isn’t the atonement sacred? Of course. The First Vision? Definitely.

Aren’t families sacred? Marriage? Freedom? Justice? The U.S. Constitution?

When you stop and look at the list of things we consider sacred, it can get pretty long:
  • The Sacred Grove’s a sacred place. But anyone can visit it.
  • The same holds true for our temples. We invite anyone -- anyone -- to pass through them during Open Houses. In fact, we allow into our temples members who are later proven, in courts of law, to have been conducting evil, criminal actions while holding temple recommends (and presumably using said recommends).
  • Baby blessings, baptisms, confirmations, sacrament meetings and priesthood blessings are sacred, but can be attended by anyone (believer and non-believer) as well.
  • Our garments are sacred, hidden and not discussed. But on October 22, 2014, the church posted the video “‘Mormon Underwear’ is the Temple Garment and is Sacred to Latter-day Saints”.
  • People continue to post sacred testimonials to open Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter, blogs and podcasts.
Thus, we have a situation where the most sacred events in history are freely discussed, our most sacred places are visited by some who may not match the sacredness of the property, our most sacred clothing is freely publicized and our most sacred thoughts and dreams are freely bandied about on social media for anyone to mock and denigrate.

Sacred, NOT Secret.

All throughout history, God has declared certain sacred places and things as “off-limits” to the unworthy:
  • The Garden of Eden was a sanctified site. After Adam and Eve were expelled from it, they were denied entrance back into it (Genesis 3:23).
  • Moses was commanded to remove his sandals because he stood on holy ground (Exodus 3:4-5).
  • Since the exodus, God has denied entrance by just anybody into His tabernacles and temples. In fact, back then, requirements as to who could enter the tabernacle were stricter than they are today. Only Levites could serve in the tabernacle (Numbers 3:5-10). Even then, only the sons of Aaron could serve as priests (Numbers 16:3-10). And even among the sons of Aaron, only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16). There is no indication that Yeshua disapproved of this practice when He was alive.
  • God brought leprosy upon King Uzziah and burned Nadab and Abihu to death for offering sacrifice in the temple without proper authority.
  • God punished Uzzah with death for steadying the Ark of the Covenant.
Nothing was secret about Moses’s tabernacle, Solomon’s temple and the Ark of the Covenant. All knew about them, their purposes and who could enter or touch them. While their secrecy was questionable, their sacredness was undeniable. Perhaps this is what Pres. Hinckley meant when he decoupled the terms “sacred” and “secret” with respect to the temple almost 10 years ago:
“These buildings, different from the thousands of regular Church houses of worship scattered over the earth, are unique in purpose and function from all other religious edifices. It is not the size of these buildings or their architectural beauty that makes them so. It is the work that goes on within their walls.
The designation of certain buildings for special ordinances, as distinguished from regular places of worship, is not new. This was the practice in ancient Israel, where the people worshiped regularly in the synagogues. Their more sacred place was, first, the tabernacle in the wilderness with its Holy of Holies, and then a succession of temples, where special ordinances were performed and where only those who met the required qualifications could participate in these ordinances.
So it is today. Prior to the dedication of a temple, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invites the public to go through the building and inspect its various facilities. But when it is dedicated it becomes the house of the Lord, vested with a character so sacred that only members of the Church in good standing are permitted to enter. It is not a matter of secrecy. It is a matter of sanctity.” (“Why These Temples?”, Ensign, October 2010; emphasis mine).
(Personally, I believe that Pres. Hinckley could see that with the advent of the internet, there was no way the church could credibly contain the secrecy of temple ordinances. To call them “secret”, while every word of the endowment was being displayed on websites (and soon thereafter, on YouTube) would be tantamount to denying the sun shines at midday. But calling the temples “sacred” would be a continuation of Old Testament teachings regarding holy sites).

Sacred AND Secret.

So, if everything from “How God helped me find my car keys” to the tabernacle/temple to the atonement is sacred, then when does the “secret” part kick in?

I think much of the “sacred, not secret” practice comes from Yeshua’s’ parables, where He likens the mysteries to feeding pearls to swine:

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

In many of these teaching situations, there were mixed audiences; His disciples were likely far more ready to receive His mysteries than were the Pharisees, Sadducees or Scribes they were sitting next to. So, it was entirely legitimate to not share certain sacred information:
“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)
These mixed audiences are even more significant in the internet age. Today, it can be a real challenge discerning who has or hasn’t had a legitimate spiritual experience.

So it seems as though there is some legitimacy to denying entry into sacred locations, and denying certain knowledge, to those who would profane the sanctity of the site or information.

However, I have seen some members say that it is improper to discuss anything that happens in the temple. Anything! As far as I can recall, this is not what is requested of us. In fact, placing a blanket gag order on the temple is counterproductive, as Pres. Ezra Taft Benson elaborated:
“The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren.
As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.
I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his.” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” an address given at the Logan Temple Centennial, May 17, 1984; emphasis mine).
Today, it seems many have forgotten Pres. Benson’s talk. In considering anything and everything sacred and secret, they “play it safe”, leaving nothing shared. Are there consequences to this? If Pres. Benson’s quote is any indication, the answer is a definite “yes”.

For example, here is a comment recently posted in this blog’s Facebook group:
“I have a friend that is no longer allowed to hold any teaching callings and is not asked to speak in church because she openly talks about seeking gifts, miracles that are happening, etc.” (Facebook group subscriber)
Like the temple, if we refuse to discuss the existence of and benefits from spiritual gifts, then after a while, those gifts will become a rarity, an anomaly. And when something becomes extremely rare, the belief in them can also wane into almost non-existence. And when the belief in gifts teeters on unbelief, that’s trouble:
“Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!” (3 Nephi 29:6
“And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.
And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one.” (Moroni 10:24-25)
Unfortunately, many of us tend to take things to too the detriment of everybody.

So, where is the dividing line between “OK to share” and “not OK to share”?


In June 1971, Elder ElRay L. Christiansen (an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and the church’s Temple Coordinator) wrote an article for the New Era magazine. In it, he said,

“The ordinances of the temple are so sacred that they are not open to the view of the public. They are available only to those who qualify through righteous living. They are performed in places dedicated especially for this purpose. Their sacred nature is such that discussion in detail outside the temple is inappropriate.” (emphasis mine)

President Howard W. Hunter reiterated Elder Christiansen’s emphasis on appropriateness:
“Let us share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple. And let us teach them more earnestly and more comfortably the things we can appropriately say about the purposes of the house of the Lord.” ("Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter", 2015, p. 184; emphasis mine).
If we roll with Pres. Hunter’s suggestion, discussing something that’s truly sacred becomes less a factor of quaint little phrases like “too sacred to share” or “sacred, not secret” and more a factor of appropriateness...a conversational consideration based on what the Lord -- not you -- dictates.

For example, you may want to share a spiritual insight with a few people. After consulting with the Lord, He would approve your sharing it with Person A, but not Person B, based on what He deems appropriate at the time.

We mortals, typically operating at a small, almost imperceptible fraction of the insight and wisdom of God’s, are abysmally poor arbiters of appropriateness. However, when we unreservedly rely upon the Lord and His wisdom, we will never, ever get such decisions wrong.

Sometimes, our minds can fool us into thinking that something shouldn’t be shared or discussed, when in fact, it was alright to begin with. Case in point: my last blog post. I was pretty concerned some might take it out of context, misinterpreting some of my statements as attacks on others. Interestingly, the criticisms never materialized. In fact, just the opposite happened: People noted how much the post benefited them. I was completely amazed. My fears and concerns were unfounded, and God’s wisdom reigned supreme, proving that despite my myopic sense of sacredness, He, not we, is the best and therefore only arbiter of what’s appropriate to share, and when.

One of my favorite scriptural examples is the Brother of Jared. Now, here was a guy who had a personal visitation with the Almighty that was so sacred, the veil got yanked. He saw God, totally unfiltered. Just by the nature of what he saw, I’d say it would have been a safe bet that he wanted to keep that experience pretty close to his chest. Publicizing it to billions, thousands of years later, as canonized scripture, probably wasn’t the top of his consideration list. But no, that’s not how it played out. God had other plans for his information that were likely way above his perception level.

If it were true for him, it’s pretty likely true for you, too...depending on what Yeshua tells you.

I invite you to ditch the “sacred, not secret” and “too sacred to share” phrases today.
You can’t find them in the scriptures.
Yeshua never said them, and neither did Joseph Smith.

And for good reason: We. Wouldn’t. Have. Scriptures. If. Prophets. Didn’t. Share. Their. Stories. But your tingly chest-feelings are too private to share? No. Something’s not right here. The logic and reasoning is inconsistent.

Start thinking in terms not of what’s sacred, not what’s secret, but what is the Lord’s will? What does He say about sharing specific information with someone? If you don’t hear His voice and know how to discern His will, then immerse yourself with some of the advice found on this blog, maybe starting with the Discernment and Prayer sections of our “Posts by Topic” page.

God’s will always trumps man-made phrases. Always has. Always will.

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