Wednesday, April 26

Similarities between Catholic Rites and the Mormon Temple Ceremony

On the RFM boards (I'm drawing a lot of inspiration from them these days), there was a post that linked to a BYU document that discusses the similarites between the Catholic liturgy and the Mormon temple.

The document is a beast to read (each page is a separate PDF), but I did my best to peruse most of it. I'll get it printed out this week if I can and I'll type a post about it. But as I thought of the title in the post, I vividly remembered something in my early days of investigating the Catholic church.

The Rite of Acceptance as a Catholic Catechumen is done usually a bit before Advent, to formally welcome the investigators into the Catholic church and officially declares them Catechumens in the eyes of the Church. After going through this Rite, a person can be buried in a Catholic cemetary and is considered "Christian" by the Catholic church.

In our parish, all of the catechumens and candidates were walked down the center aisle, and our sponsors stood in front of us. Then a prayer very similar to this was said:

The presider addresses the candidates saying.......

"I mark your forehead with the sign of the cross [all signs of the cross being done with the palm and not the thumb]. It is the sign of Christians. Let it remind you always of Christ and how much he loves you."

At each of these prayers, the sponsors make the sign of the cross of the areas of the bodies mentioned.

"We stand with you, we pray for you, O holy child of God

I mark your ears with the sign of the cross: hear the words of Christ.

I mark your eyes with the sign of the cross: see the works of Christ.

I mark your lips with the sign of the cross: speak as Christ would speak.

I mark the sign of the cross over your heart: make your heart the home of Christ

I mark your shoulders with the sign of the cross; be strong with the strength of Christ.

I mark your hands with the sign of the cross: touch others with the gentleness of Christ.

I mark your feet with the sign of the cross: walk in the way of Christ"

The presider alone traces the sign of the cross over the whole person of each candidate saying...

"I place you entirely under the sign of Christ's cross. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: to live with Jesus now and forever."

We were then presented with a wooden cross - we were officially carrying the cross of Christ as we continued on our journey towards becoming Catholic.

Upon reflection of this Rite, I had the distinct feeling that it was familiar to me. At some point, it dawned on me - this is extremely similar to the Initiatory Ritual in the Mormon temple. Here is information that clarifies what happens in that Mormon Rite in the Temple:


After showing his [or her] Temple Recommend to a worker stationed near the entrance inside the building, the patron repairs to the men’s [or women's] dressing area, where he is assigned a private locker (dividers and a door ensure privacy). After disrobing he covers himself with a "Shield"—a white poncho-like linen covering with a hole in the top for his head and open sides (held shut while walking). Covered in the Shield [a person is completely naked underneath the shield], he carries one pair of Temple Garments (one-piece style [basically like a one-piece t-shirt boxer short combination with a zipper up the front]) to the Washing and Anointing area, and waits on a bench until directed by a temple worker to enter one of the Washing and Anointing booths through a veiled partition. The booths are simply small cubicles made up of suspended lined veils.

When called for, the initiate enters the booth and hands his Garments to a worker who places them on a towel rod. As the initiate stands upright in his Shield the temple worker wets his fingers under a small faucet of running water in the booth, and lightly touches each area of the initiate’s body through the open sides of the Shield. [NOTE: While this sounds naughty, in my experience nothing unseemly or inappropriate happened during the ceremony. Also, the temple ceremony has changed this policy this past year, but when I went through the temple in 1997, this is how it was done.]


Brother _______, having authority, I wash you preparatory to you receiving your anointings [for and in behalf of _______ (patron and then temple worker read name of deceased), who is dead], that you may become clean from the blood and sins of this generation. I wash your head, that your brain and your intellect may be clear and active; your ears, that you may hear the word of the Lord; your eyes, that you may see clearly and discern between truth and error; your nose, that you may smell; your lips, that you may never speak guile; your neck, that it may bear up your head properly; your shoulders, that they may bear the burdens that shall be placed thereon; your back, that there may be marrow in the bones and in the spine; your breast, that it may be the receptacle of pure and virtuous principles; your vitals and bowels, that they may be healthy and strong and perform their proper functions; your arms and hands, that they may be strong and wield the sword of justice in defense of truth and virtue; your loins, that you may be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, that you might have joy and rejoicing in your posterity; your legs and feet, that you might run and not be weary, and walk and not faint.

(Females undergo a similar ritual, attended to by females, which includes the following, "Sister _______, having authority, I wash you preparatory to your receiving your anointings [for and in behalf of _______, who is dead], and whereas you have obeyed the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a true and honest heart, and have been faithful in keeping your covenants, your sins are forgiven and you are clean every whit. I wash your head that your brain and your intellect may be clear and active in discerning between truth and error, and that you may be filled with the spirit of the Lord..." etc.)

After the cleansing with water, a similar prayer is said, but with the annointing of oil, and then the temple patron is presented with the garments and their "new name". (I remember getting terribly excited because I was "clean every whit" - I had essentially gone through an ordinance that cleared all of my sins, just like baptism!) The church doesn't speak of these things outside of the Temple walls, so the whole thing was a surprise to me.

It was very interesting to me that the Mormon Initiatory and the Catholic Rite of Acceptance both were intiation rituals. Both blessed different parts of our body. Both ended with us being given something that we would keep with us always and something that was tangible. The Rite of Acceptance gave us the mark of the Cross on our soul and a wooden cross for us to wear, the Mormon Initiatory gave us a "new name" and Garments (sacred undergarments to be worn at all times under clothes).

The main difference between the two rituals in my opinion is while the Rite of Acceptance happened in the center aisle of the Cathedral in front of my priest, all of the parishoners, my fellow catechumens, and my sponsor, the Initiatory happened in a small curtained off room, with an old lady with minty breath and shaky hands. And I got to keep my clothes on for the Rite of Acceptance.


At 12:57 AM, Blogger glorybe said...

That is facinating. I am curious about something else. Is it true that many rituals from the LDS church were also "borrowed" from the Masonic Temple? I think I heard that years ago, but didn't know if it was true.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Joel said...

I know this sounds weird coming from a Catholic, but should you be reprinting the Temple ordinances? I know you're not a Mormon anymore, but you DID take a vow not to reveal them, as I understand it. It seems to me that a promise like that probably should be kept even if you're not a member anymore.

At 1:51 AM, Blogger Vajra said...

§3 A vow made as a result of grave and unjust fear or of deceit is by virtue of the law itself invalid.

(Can. 1194 A vow ceases by lapse of the time specified for the fulfillment of the obligation, or by a substantial change in the matter promised, or by cessation of a condition upon which the vow depended or of the purpose of the vow, or by dispensation, or by commutation.
from the Catholic Catechism.
The entire ritual of the Morman

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Vajra said...

church is done without full disclosure.


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