Friday, February 19, 2010

The Veil Was Taken From Our Minds

As I was studying the great visions that were received by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as recorded in Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, I could not help but contemplate the simple logistics in which they were received. It is recorded that the two men “retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed... in solemn and silent prayer.” This description is loaded with symbolism in itself.

The Kirtland Temple has a completely different construction from any of the other LDS Temples in operation today. In its simplicity, I believe it is arranged similarly to that of the tabernacle that Moses constructed. The tabernacle was organized in a way to reveal the progression necessary to come back into the presence of the Lord. The Kirtland Temple also teaches this theme through the placement of the pulpits and veils.

Originally the Kirtland Temple had four pulpits which stood, one above another, in the centre of the building, from north to south, both on the east and west ends; those on the west for the presiding officers of the Melchizedek priesthood, and those on the east for the Aaronic; and each of these pulpits was separated by curtains of white painted canvas, which were let down and drawn up at pleasure. In front of each of these two rows of pulpits, was a sacrament table, for the administration of that sacred ordinance.

The outer courtyard of the Tabernacle, with the brazen alter and brazen laver, represented the steps necessary to be able to enter in at the door. I believe that these first steps could be correlated with the first four principles of the gospel, which are, faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This laying on of hands also was required to “set apart” or ordain those who would become priests, allowing for entrance into the door, to administer in further ordinances.

Floor plan of the Tabernacle of Moses

The saints in Kirtland had proven themselves worthy of the blessing given in the outer courtyard and were prepared to enter into the door, or second gate. Viewing the layout of the Kirtland Temple it is visible that upon entrance one must pass through the Aaronic priesthood side and walk forward to the Melchizedek priesthood side. The veil of the Tabernacle that separated the inner sanctuary from the Holy of Holies symbolically would have been similar to the veil drawn between the congregation and Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when they received their visions.

Original floor plan of the Kirtland Temple

The veil in itself is very significant; it was a symbol of separation or of “setting up bounds or stakes”. It was symbolic of a separation from the world. Likewise the wording used by Joseph Smith to describe their experience of viewing the Lord behind this literal veil involved another type of veil, and is as follows:

110: 1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

Joseph Smith taught, “Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther. Did Abraham when called upon to offer his son? Did the Savior? No. View him fulfilling all righteousness again on the banks of the Jordon, also on the Mount transfigured before Peter and John there receiving the fulness of the priesthood or the law of God, setting up no stake but coming right up to the mark in all things.”

The veil of unbelief was removed from their minds, thus allowing the transfiguring process to occur which allowed the “eyes of their understanding to open.” I believe this veil was removed by faith.

“Transfiguration is a special change in appearance and nature which is wrought upon a person. This divine transformation is from a lower to a higher state; it results in a more exalted, impressive, and glorious condition” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 803)

Likewise, we too can have this transfiguring experience by exercising faith in all righteousness and therefore the Lord will not be able to with hold his presence from us. In the Book of Mormon Ether describes a similar experience had by the brother of Jared.

Ether 3:6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

7 And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?

8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.

9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?

10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.

11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?

12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

The prophet Moses described his experience this way:

Moses 1:11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

I love the simplicity with which Joseph Smith described his experience, The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.” For me, his simple explanation makes this process seem attainable for all. We simply need to remove the “stake” of unbelief, allowing us to come right up to the mark, and let the Lord open our eyes in faith.

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