In recent weeks, a video secretly taken by a bitter ex-Mormon of the temple ceremony has garnered much attention gaining over a million views on You Tube and posted by Andrew Sullivan, and Richard Dawkins among others. This morning, I talked to some friends in Russia that said that they saw a documentary recently about Mitt Romney that aired temple footage. There have been some great responses to the footage including that by Joanna Brooks and Timothy Dalrymple on Patheos. I commend their writing as great examples of how both members and non-members could/should respond to the public display of sacred rituals. There’s a lot that could be said about the appropriateness of such videos and the nature of sacred/divine ceremony in American religious life. However, I am going to focus on a slightly different aspect here.
The major criticism and attack that comes up when people hear about/watch the temple ceremony is a question of loyalty. Sometimes merely implicitly and other times explicitly, there are question about whether or not Mitt Romney is fully loyal to the United States of America. Most egregiously, there is the suggestion that in the temple Mormons take ‘secret oaths’ to prop up a theocracy (zion). This is of course far from the truth
The controversy centers mostly around two covenants that are made by members of the Church ( and I will argue, by all Christians who truly claim to have faith in Jesus Christ) entitled “The law of sacrifice’ and ‘The law of consecration.’ However, contrary to assertions, neither of these covenants is secret or surreptitious. Indeed, they fill the pages of the Old and New Testament and are frequently cited in modern day scripture and by modern day Prophets and Apostles.
I found this really wonderful list of General Conference talks about the topics of Obedience, Sacrifice, Consecration, and Zion. This list is far from exhaustive and I am sure you could find dozens of examples of talks focused on these topics.
Bruce R. McConkie a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave one of the most through and comprehensive talks on this topic. If you read this talk you will know much more about these laws than members are taught in the temple or anywhere else
He clearly lays out what these commandments are
“Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church: such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.
The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.
One of my favorite quotes that McConkie cites is that of Joseph Smith who clearly explained why sacrifice is such a vital element of the Gospel Of Jesus Christ. Indeed, living these laws
Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.” (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.)
There is absolutely nothing secretive about these teachings. They are at the core of the teachings of Jesus Christ The story of the Rich Man who comes to Christ asking what more he needs to do to enter into the kingdom of God is especially instructive: Again from Bruce R. McConkie
“There came to Jesus, on a certain occasion, a rich young man who asked: “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Our Lord’s answer was the obvious one, the one given by all the prophets of all the ages. It was: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The next question was: “Which commandments?”
Jesus listed them: “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Then came this response and query—for the young man was a good man, a faithful man, one who sought righteousness: “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”
We might well ask, “Isn’t it enough to keep the commandments? What more is expected of us than to be true and faithful to every trust? Is there more than the law of obedience?”
In the case of our rich young friend there was more. He was expected to live the law of consecration, to sacrifice his earthly possessions, for the answer of Jesus was: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
As you know, the young man went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:16–22.) And we are left to wonder what intimacies he might have shared with the Son of God, what fellowship he might have enjoyed with the apostles, what revelations and visions he might have received, if he had been able to live the law of a celestial kingdom. As it is he remains nameless; as it might have been, his name could have been had in honorable remembrance among the saints forever.
Indeed, the savior repeatedly taught the vital truth that we must put him and his kingdom first even above our own lives (Luke 9)
“23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Or what about this teaching that even our very own family must not come before our loyalty to the savior.
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)
Perhaps the ultimate example of the law of sacrifice in the scriptures comes in the Book of Genesis as Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his beloved son. This explains in part why we are asked to live the law of sacrifice. As we do so, we are living in similitude of the sacrifice of the only begotten of the father and we are showing God that we value his grace and his kingdom above all else (Genesis 22)
1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did atemptAbraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, hereI am.
2 And he said, aTake now thy son, thine bonly son Isaac, whom thou clovest, and get thee into the land of dMoriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of….
“ 12 And he said, aLay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou bfearest God, seeing thou hast not cwithheld thy son, thine only son from me.
16 And said, By myself have I asworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy aseed as the stars of the heaven, and as the bsandwhich is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the cgateof his enemies;
18 And in thy aseed shall all the nations of the earth be bblessed; because thou hast cobeyed my voice.
Christ’s teaching was a hard one for the people of his day to understand. The early Christians were persecuted by both Jew and Roman as being disloyal to the emperor. Indeed, these accusations are trotted out from time to time against all true disciples of Christ
Yet, the disciples of Christ have always been called to live the Law of Consecration to the best of their abilities (Acts 4)
“32 And the multitude of them that believed were of aone heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that bought of the things which he cpossessed was his own; but they had all thingsdcommon.
33 And with great power gave the apostles awitness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great bgrace was upon them all.
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses asold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and adistributionwas made unto every man according as he had bneed.
There is nothing secret about these promises that we make. Indeed, they are part of the baptismal covenant that we make and something that all Christians take upon themselves when they promise to follow Jesus Christ. The book of Mormon prophet Alma expressed it very powerfully (Mosiah 18)
now, as ye are adesirous to come into the bfold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are awilling to mourn with those that bmourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand ascwitnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the dfirst resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being abaptized in the bname of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a ccovenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
However, the question may of course arise. These teachings are Christian to the core, but are the accusations true. Are Mormons/Christians likely to be disloyal to governments and planning to subvert them. Again, the teachings of Christ and his Church offer a resounding no
“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
Indeed, in the Articles of Faith, we read
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (Article #12)
In addition, the question is especially moot in regard to Mormons and loyalty to the United States as we believe that the constitution was divinely inspired and instituted and that we should maintain and defend the constitution (D&C 101)
77 According to the laws and aconstitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for thebrights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
80 And for this purpose have I established the aConstitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose
Faithful Latter-day Saints as all other true followers of Jesus Christ have covenanted with God that they will put him first. Yet, this does not mean that they not loyal to the constitution and to this nation. Those in office take their oaths to protect and defend the constitution very seriously and are as dedicated to this nation and its rule of law as are any other people