Few Mormons, I think, know that May 4 is a significant day in LDS liturgical history. (This is reposted from last year.)
On May 3 of 1842, Joseph Smith instructed several men to prepare the upper room of the red brick store in Nauvoo with plants and hanging sheets, for the giving of the first “full” endowments, in contrast to what had been done in Kirtland. (It’s actually a bit complicated, because these things were not entirely understood yet. The upper room was also where the Relief Society was organized, debates were held, Masons met, and lots of other community and communal events.)
Then on May 4, Joseph initiated James Adams, Heber C. Kimball, William Law, William Marks, George Miller, Willard Richards, Hyrum Smith, Newel K. Whitney, and Brigham Young into the “ancient order of things.”
4 Wednesday, May 4. — I spent the day in the upper part of [Joseph’s Red Brick] Store (IE.) in the private office [of the Prophet Joseph Smith] (so called, because in that room [he] keeps [his] sacred writings, translate[s] ancient records, and receive[s] revelations) and [also] in [the] general business office, or Lodge room (IE) where the Masonic fraternity met occasionally for want of a better place), in council with Gen James Adams, of Springfield, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Bishops Newel K. Whitney, & Geo. Miller, . . . Wm Marks, Wm Law & Prests Brigham Young Heber C. Kimball. [With these brethren, I was] instruct[ed by the Prophet Joseph Smith] in the principles and order of the priesthood, [and from him received my] washings & anointings, & endowments, and the communications of keys, pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedec Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of days & all those plans & principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings which has been prepared for the church of the firstborn, and come up into and abide in the presence of God the Eloheim in the eternal worlds. [Joseph Smith] in this council instituted the Ancient order of things for the first time in these last days. And the communications I [received in] this Council were of things spiritual, and [are] to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to [us by the Prophet] but [what] will be made known to all Saints, of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints: therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the temple and all houses which they have been or shall hereafter be commanded of god to build, and wait their time with patience, in all meekness and faith, & perserverance unto the end. knowing assuredly that all these things referred to in this council are always governed by the principles of Revelation.
This is Willard Richard’s draft of the entry for the History of the Church, which he based upon the entry in the Book of the Law of the Lord and his own personal experience. ( I have some commentary on the above explanation here.) The quotation is found in Andrew Ehat, “‘Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?’ Sesquicentennial Reflections of a Sacred Day: 4 May, 1842.” in Temples of the Ancient World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994): 48-60, now online here. It’s an excellent article on what is, for me, a sacred day on my personal liturgical calendar. On May 4, I try to go to the Temple if I can, or at least spend some time reading and thinking about the significance of temple ordinances and covenants in my life. I won’t make it this Wednesday, because I’m giving a brief presentation about the restoration of the temple for our Institute opening. That’s still consecrating time and talent for the kingdom, so in my mind, it’s temple work. I’m not entirely sure how (flannel boards?), but when I have children, I plan on using May 4 to teach them about temples and their importance. (The book I tend to recommend is Matthew Brown’s Gate of Heaven. Be sure to read the footnotes)
A further historical note. Those first endowed in the Red Brick Store were men. As is commonly known, parts of the temple ordinances are administered by men to men and women to women. Joseph endows Emma at some point prior to September 28, 1843, and women begin being endowed thereafter. Again, this is a bit complicated; the September 28 ordinances differed somewhat from the May 4 the prior year. Joseph knew this, and charged Brigham Young with organizing and systematizing everything.
So, Happy Temple Day. If you’re interested in further understanding of the temple, creation, and science, see my syllabus here.
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