I am very excited to share with you a post by fellow Mormon-to-Orthodox convert, Jerry Thomas:
One unique feature of the LDS Church, especially considering its time and place of origin, is its insistence on the importance of temples. When the Saints were sacrificing in Kirtland to build the first Temple it was because the Lord had promised them an “endowment” with “power” upon completion of the temple. In Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph described the experience he had with Oliver Cowdery of seeing and hearing Jesus announce: “7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house. 8 Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.” The interesting feature of this “endowment” is that it lacked any of the features of the later “endowment” as developed in Nauvoo under clear Masonic influence. The vision of Christ that Joseph had in Kirtland, however, was immediately following the Lord’s Supper, the key event in the dedication.
Although the first Mormons got their ideas about temples from the Holy Bible, the Orthodox Church has been building and worshiping in temples since the founding of the Church. A true temple, in Orthodox understanding, is where “two or three” are gathered in Christ’s Name for the purpose of participation in the Holy Mysteries, particularly Holy Communion. These impromptu temples came first, often in people’s houses, and only later did the Church become established enough to build buildings.
In the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, with the Lord’s Supper as the central rite, we find ourselves well within the common Christian tradition. It is with the further development of the “endowment” as a separate rite, with the Lord’s Supper still celebrated in the temples on occasion, but no longer the centerpiece, that we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory in the traditions of Christianity. This new rite contained features taken directly from Masonic ceremonies, including the handshakes and the Five Points of Fellowship, as well as the penalties. Many of these elements were eliminated or downplayed in the 1990 revision of the endowment.
Even though the Lord’s Supper was eliminated from the central temple rite, “washing and anointing” were added. These can be seen as a repeat of baptism and confirmation (by anointing, as in the Orthodox Church) or both can be seen as a continuation of the rites accompanying the Day of Atonement when the high priest had to bathe in the ritual bath and vest to participate in the rite.
In the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the Lord (as His Body and Blood) comes out of the veil to be among His people (through their participation in Holy Communion). In the LDS Endowment, the opposite happens. The participant enters the Celestial Room through the veil after reciting the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The text of this is apparently the most sacred part of the Endowment, as it is often eliminated even in “exposes” of the Endowment. A careful examination of this text, then, is in order to understand what is happening in the Endowment.
“Health in the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and in the sinews. Power in the priesthood be upon me and my posterity through all generations of time and throughout all eternity.” First, one notices that neither God nor Christ are invoked to cross through the veil! The first part seems to be an invocation for health and the second part invokes “the priesthood,” not God or Christ as the origin of the “power” to be passed on through all time. Second, while the Scripture ties together the “veil” and Christ’s “flesh,” making clear that Holy Communion is how one “enters through the veil” ([Heb 10:20 KJV] By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh) and this connection persisted at Kirtland, the Nauvoo endowment removes even mention of Christ from the action of entering through the veil. Third, while it is clear that the Scriptures are being quoted in the first part ([Pro 3:8 KJV] “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones”) is there a Scriptural basis for the remainder? Job’s description of the mythical monster “Behemoth” is the only possible Scriptural basis for the remainder of the first sentence: “[Job 40:16-17 KJV] Lo now, his strength [is] in his loins, and his force [is] in the navel of his belly. 17 He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.” Here we find “strength,” “loins,” and “sinews” together, the only place this happens in the Holy Bible.
The second sentence of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood may be alluding to these Bible verses:
[Exo 29:9 KJV] And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.
[Exo 40:15 KJV] And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.
Here we find the idea of the “priest’s office” or the “priesthood” being “everlasting throughout their generations,” reminiscent of “the power of the priesthood” invoked to “be upon me and my posterity for time and all eternity.”
In the New Testament and subsequent Orthodox teaching “priesthood” refers to several different concepts: 1) the Aaronic priesthood of the Second Temple 2) the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ and 3) the “priesthood of all believers,” which is participation through the Mysteries in Christ’s Melchizedek priesthood. In later developments, a fourth meaning was added, the “priesthood” of the Christian clergy, which priesthood derives from the “priesthood of all believers,” which priesthood is Christ’s Melchizedek priesthood. There is no role for the Aaronic priesthood, a hereditary priesthood, in the New Testament nor in the subsequent Christian Church. The titles, however, of the Aaronic priesthood were incorporated into the Church with “bishops” being “high priests,” “presbyters” being “priests,” and “deacons” being “Levites.”
Thus, the present-day Orthodox Church has buildings called temples with a “holy place” and a “prosthesis” (Table for the Showbread). Often the “holy place” is divided from the rest of the temple by a veil and an icon screen or wall. It is from this place that several “entrances” are done—with the gospel book before the readings and with the prepared sacrament before the blessing, culminating in the entrance of the Lord Himself as His Body and Blood during Holy Communion. It was following Holy Communion when Joseph Smith saw Christ in the Kirtland Temple. This is what one would expect based on the Holy Bible and Christian tradition. Between Kirtland and Nauvoo something changed and Holy Communion ceased being the culmination of the Holy Mysteries in Mormonism. Instead, an odd rite with Masonic roots culminating with an entrance of the believer into the “celestial kingdom” while invoking the power of the “priesthood,” presumably the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ, without reference to the Holy Name of Jesus or to Christ or to God, has taken the place of Holy Communion in Orthodox Christianity.