Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Free Pass on the Test of Life

I recently read this supposed account of a second anointing ordinance.  Assuming it's legitimate and accurate (and I think it is), there are some very clear problems with the ceremony and the situation surrounding it.

First, the authority who extended the narrator his invitation stressed how important it was to keep the ordinance a secret because it would create jealousy in the general membership of the church.  He was right about that.  The general membership tends to have level of awe for the General Authorities, and they aren't as bothered if the men who give General Conference addresses have their calling and election made sure.  But if they knew their local leadership--stake presidents or patriarchs, people they actually know--are getting second endowments, they'd be much less able to accept the choices of who gets it and who doesn't.  They've seen these men's flaws up close and personally.  (Why does the stake president get a second endowment when I'm a better parent than he is?)

Second, the concept of the ordinance totally defeats the whole "this life is a test" teaching.  Why don't these people have to "endure to the end" like everyone else to prove their worthiness?  It sounds like a shortcut to salvation, something that ensures someone's return to heaven (barring denying the Holy Ghost or murder).  And ensuring something like that sounds a lot like the plan that Lucifer brought up in the war in heaven...the plan that we were all taught in primary classes was horrible and wrong and stupid and bad.

Third, the ceremony seemed very impersonal.  The narrator said that the blessing he was given was very similar to a blessing Brigham Young gave to Heber C. Kimball and that each of the other couples received pretty much the same wording in their own blessings.  If God has decided to give someone an assurance of the highest degree of glory, why would it not be accompanied with a personal blessing?  It's a very personal gift, both in the sense that it's uncommon and that it's given to specific people.  Wouldn't the Lord want to say something to those people?  Wouldn't you expect a blessing that contains things like expressing the Lord's gratitude for your faithfulness, citing examples of what made you eligible for this gift, and counsel on how to proceed with your personal life after such a life-changing experience?  Wouldn't that make more sense?

Fourth, the ordinance seemed weirdly couple-oriented.  The narrator said he went through the ceremony with four other couples, and he was later asked to nominate two more couples for the ordinance.  So this clearly means that if your spouse dies, you're not eligible for a free pass to heaven.  Tough break.

Fifth, past the couple dynamic, it seemed very man-oriented.  This would be great fodder for critics who claim the church is sexist.  The narrator is in a room with a bunch of stake presidents and mission presidents...and their wives.  It seems as though the degree of leadership the man has attained is in some way prerequisite to each couple's presence.  Beyond that, the woman washes the man's feet and gives the man a blessing as though he is the focal point of all of this.  Sure, sure, the man holds the priesthood and the woman doesn't, but if they're both getting a free ticket into heaven, it can't just be because the man is just so damn awesome.  It has to be because they're both worthy...unless the lesson here is that women only get into heaven by riding on their husbands' coattails.

That does not seem right to me.

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