Mormon Leaders Delete Some Of The "Most Sacred" Parts Of The Ceremony

By Jerald & Sandra Tanner
(This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake City Messenger, Issue No. 75, July, 1990)

...The New York Times gave this startling report in an article which begins on the first page of the issue dated May 3, 1990:

"The Mormon Church has changed some of its most sacred rituals, eliminating parts of the largely secret ceremonies that have been viewed as offensive to women and to members of some other faiths.

"Last month the church... quietly dropped from its temple rituals a vow in which women pledged obedience to their husbands... and a portrayal of non-Mormon clergy as hirelings of Satan.

"Church officials have confirmed that changes went into effect in mid-April, but the ceremonies are considered to be too sacred, they say, for them to comment further.... More specific information on the changes has been provided to the news media by Mormons participating in the rituals at the church's 43 temples around the world and by former Mormons who are critical of the rituals. A number of Mormons who would not discuss details of the rituals verified that these reports were 'pretty factual' or 'not inaccurate.'...

"'Because the temple ceremony is sacred to us, we don't speak about it except in the most general terms,' said Beverly Campbell, the East Coast director for public communications for the Church... she said 'the ceremony itself needs to meet the needs of the people.' The revised ritual is 'more in keeping with the sensitivities we have as a society,' she added. "Lavina Fielding Anderson, who will soon become an editor of the Journal of Mormon History, said she 'greeted the changes with a great deal of joy,' and added, 'The temple ceremony in the past has given me a message that could be interpreted as subservient and exclusionary.'

"In the place of an oath of obedience that men took to God and the church, the previous ceremony required women to vow obedience to their husbands... "Although Ms. Anderson would not describe any of the changes, she said the revision 'gives me hope and renewed faith that changes will occur in the future as they have in the past.'...

"The ceremony also contains elements resembling the Masonic rituals current in 1830, when Joseph Smith founded the church...

"The latest revisions diminish these elements, including gestures symbolizing the participant's pledge to undergo a gruesome death rather than reveal the rituals. Also dropped is a scene in which Satan hires a non-Mormon 'preacher' to spread false teachings....

"Ross Peterson, the editor of Dialogue, an independent Mormon quarterly, said the unfamiliar elements of the ritual frequently 'catches young Mormons cold' and disturbs them. I've known an awful lot of people who went once and it was years before they'd go back, especially women,' he said....

"Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of the church's communications office in Salt Lake City, denied that the changes were made in response to criticism or social pressure. The Mormon Church believes 'in continued and modern revelation,' Mr. Olsen said, so that practices might be changed when 'the Lord clarified' church teaching....

"But some Mormons see the church as responding, without admitting it, both to critics and to the church's growth overseas.... "Among the critics are many conservative Christians who complain that Mormonism features occult practices."

The Arizona Republic (April 28, 1990) referred to the modifications in ceremony as "Revolutionary changes." The same article went on to state:
"The changes in the Temple Endowment Ceremony are seen as a move to bring the secret ceremony closer to mainstream Christianity. The changes are the most drastic revisions of the century... "Church officials in Salt Lake City refused to discuss the ceremony which is shrouded in secrecy. In fact, the church has issued a directive to temple members telling them to refrain from talking about the changes in the ceremony....

"Another prominent Mormon, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that portions of the ceremony have been removed.
"' The temple ceremony has been significantly abridged,' he said... "Changes in the ceremony include:... A modified version of the woman's vow of obedience to the husband.... "I think this is in response to the feminist movement in the Mormon Church," said Sandra Tanner, a former Mormon who now heads Utah Lighthouse Ministries in Salt Lake City. 'Many of the women objected to the obedience.'"

An article by Associated Press writer Vern Anderson also note that the ceremony has "undergone what some view as their most significant changes this century." He went onto say:
"The revisions, effective April 10 in the faith's 43 temples, are being greeted with enthusiasm by church members who say they reflect a greater sensitivity toward women and other religions. "'The temple is an important part of my spiritual life and the changes have allowed me to go to the temple with renewed joy,' said Lavina Fielding Anderson...

"'The general consensus is that it's a breath of fresh air,' said Ross Peterson, co-editor of Dialogue, and independent Mormon journal... "Peterson said many Mormons who never had expressed a negative word about the endowment ceremony are thrilled with the changes, indicating there had been elements that 'were silently upsetting them.'
"'I think we're gradually moving away from the subjugation of women,'

Peterson said....
"Rebecca England... said the changes may boost temple attendance. "'I know quite a number of Mormons who stopped going to the temple because they found it demeaning. And I think this revised ceremony addresses many of the concerns...

"'The changes were not announced to the membership at large, but temple attendees are being read a statement from the governing First Presidency which says the revisions, following long and prayerful review, were unanimously approved by that three-member body and the advisory Quorum of the Twelve Apostles." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1990)

On May 5, 1990, the Los Angeles Times printed an article by John Dart. In this article we find the following:
"The central temple ceremony in the Mormon Church has been changed to eliminate the woman's vow to obey her husband... In the new version of the rites, women now pledge to obey God and to merely listen to the advice of their husbands.

"'That's the most significant change in the church since blacks received the priesthood in 1978,' said Ron Priddis, vice president of Signature Books... "The new version 'reflects greater sensitivity and awareness of women and women's role in the Christian church,' said Robert Rees, a Mormon bishop... Although unwilling to disclose elements of the ritual, Rees nevertheless said that some parts eliminate 'were historical and cultural anachronisms.'"

On June 2, 1991, The Salt Lake Tribune ran an Article by Los Angeles Times writer John Dart. In that article, Mr. Dart reported that, "Most Mormon Church members quoted last month in news stories about revisions in the church's confidential temple ceremony have been summoned for interviews by church officials... One man said he was reprimanded for talking to the press and another was asked to surrender his 'temple recommend'... The public communications office of the Church... issued a statement Thursday, defending the questioning of members and re-emphasizing the sacred confidentiality of the temples."

...In the version of the temple ceremony which we published in Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 467, the men "covenant and promise" that they will "obey the law of God." The women, however, agree to obey the law of their husbands:

"ELOHIM: We will now put the sisters under covenant to obey the law of their husbands. Sisters, arise, raise your right hand to the square. Each of you do covenant and promise that you will obey the law of your husband and abide by his council in righteousness. Each of you bow your head and say yes. "SISTERS: Yes."

We have already shown that since the church leaders revised the endowment ceremony on April 10, 1990, there has been some kind of a change in the covenant women are required to make. It has been stated that they "no longer must vow to obey their husbands." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1990) While we do not know the wording of the new version, it appears that some of the women are pleased with the changes in the ritual. In the Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1990, we find this: "Lavina Fielding Anderson... said she received the revisions 'with joy.' 'I anticipate further changes with hope and faith,' she said... 'Some portions of the temple ceremony have been painful to some Mormon women and, in some respects, still are,' she added, without identifying what elements may still be objectionable. Women, for example, still cover their faces with veils at certain points in the ritual, sources said." Another important change seems to have been made in the sign for the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the ceremony, as printed in Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 471, we find this:

"The sign is made by raising both hands high above the head and by lowering your hands to the side, saying:

Pay lay ale
Pay lay ale
Pay lay ale"

As early as 1969 we pointed out a problem with this: "there seems to have been a change made in this part of the ceremony, for the Salt Lake Tribune, Feb.12, 1906, gave the words as 'Pale, Ale, Ale,' and Temple Mormonism used the words 'Pale, Hale, Hale.'" (The Mormon Kingdom, vol.1, p.138) However this may be, in another portion of the ceremony (Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 468), it is explained that "Pay lay ale" means "O God, hear the words of my mouth!" In the early 1980's some critics of the church began to proclaim that in Hebrew these words really mean, "Wonderful Lucifer." If this were true, this would mean that the Mormons were praying to the Devil in this part of the ceremony. We took very strong exception to this claim and pointed out that there is no way that these words can be translated "Wonderful Lucifer." We still stand by this research which we presented in detail in our book, The Lucifer-God Doctrine, pp. 11-15, 85-86.

In any case, many Mormons must have been bothered when they had to raise and lower their hands repeating the strange words "Pay lay ale" three times during the ritual. According to what we can learn, the Mormon leaders have now replaced the mysterious words with the English words which were mentioned earlier in the ceremony: "O God, hear the words of my mouth!" The fact that four different versions of the sign of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood have been given over the years certainly raises a question concerning the claim that the endowment was revealed by revelation.

We have been informed by two different sources that the Lecture Before The Veil has been removed. This lecture was previously given to all those who were going through the ritual for the first time. It was not deemed necessary, however, for those who were going through the endowment ceremony for the dead. The words "penalty" or "penalties" were used six times in this lecture, and it referred to the "sectarian minister" who preached false doctrine (i.e., the minister who was employed by Lucifer).

There probably were many other changes made in the temple ceremony which have not been reported yet. There have been different reports regarding how much material was actually removed from the ceremony or changed in some way. The Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 1990, referred to the rituals "current length of about 90 minutes." One man noted that just after the changes were made, temple workers were having a very difficult time with the new wording and felt that when they become proficient in the use of the new script, the ceremony might be somewhat shorter than when he went through.