Friday, August 19, 2011

Three Sacrifices and Three Altars.

The notion of four worlds which also includes three degrees of glory is well established in LDS theology. These three degrees of “glory” are three degrees of “salvation.” Frequent readers of my posts and other materials know that I contend that the three glories are three different “dimensions,” or groups of dimensions (as our current world is a group of three and a half dimensions). If you take this idea further, salvation is a very delineated proposition.

Let me propose this questions: Did the atonement take place in the garden or on the cross?


LDS folks are often quick to answer “the garden” because we have been taught about what happened in the garden, but was the garden the completing of the atonement? If you answered yes then you must believe that the cross was not necessary? Or perhaps it only had to do with accommodating the resurrection? If so why was it that Jesus waited until His experience at the cross was complete to say “it is finished.” The cross is prominently pointed to in scripture as the place of atonement.

I would suggest that the atonement happened in three different glories, and three different places. We see this pointed to in the plan of salvation in stone, the temple. We can observe the underlying structure that is shared with all true temples. Central to this structure is the existence of three levels of salvation, or holiness. For simplicity, let’s look at Solomon’s temple. There are three basic section; the Court representing the Telestial Kingdom, the Holy Place representing the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Holy of Holies representing the Celestial Kingdom.

Each of these kingdoms has a prominent feature, and that is the altar for that kingdom.

In Solomon’s temple, the space designed to represent the Telestial Kingdom had an altar called the “Altar of Sacrifice.” It is here that the working out of the salvation of man is symbolized, and memorialized.

The gate into the telestial space is equated with membership into the church, or in other words, the Kingdom. To rightfully enter that space the initiate had to accept the principles and ordinances of that space. We are not told all of what went on in Solomon’s Temple, but we do know some things.

The altar in any given holy space represents the spot where God and man come together in that degree of glory, where the symbols of the covenant for that degree are expressed, and where a portion of the “Covenant of Creation” is renewed.

The symbols for a kingdom are not some unrelated abstract token, they not only symbolize of the underlying saving truth. they are emblematic of that truth, and in a likeness of that truth, which is the covenant.

The Altar of Sacrifice was the first order of business in the telestial space (The Court). It symbolizes the suffering and death that Christ endured on the cross. It is meant to impress upon us that in a telestial world that justice is achieved in brutal and violent ways. The Altar of Sacrifice is the space where the covenant, the cross, justice, mercy, man, and God come together in what some ancients thought of as a knot, where all of these things intertwine. What happened on the cross is symbolized by what happens on the Altar of Sacrifice.

If we then enter into the space representing the Terrestrial Kingdom (in Solomon’s Temple) we find another type of altar, the Table of Shewbread. It is at this table that the covenants belonging to the Terrestrial Glory, along with the ordinances are expressed.

We know [1] of only two places where Jesus atoned for our sins; the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane, 
but certainly there are three. It is likely that the place that Jesus retired to with Peter, James, and John, that was farther into the garden than He allowed the other apostles, where He was “exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34) is the place that is represented by the Table of the Shewbread, and is the place of atonement in the Terrestrial World. This could rightfully be referred to that which saves someone into that kingdom, but it might be more properly be described as a level of sanctification.

The Table of the Shewbread has a strong resemblance to the modern LDS rite of Sacrament. The existence of the bread and the wine 
on each table leads us to believe this connection may exist. If this is a real link, we are forced to consider the Sacrament as a Terrestrial Ordinance [2].  Which would also make some symbolic or mystical link between the altar of the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Sacrament tables of LDS meetinghouses. We could view this as an extension of the temple into our weekly worship. In the telestial realm our baptismal fonts clearly have a theological link to the temple sea on the backs of twelve oxen.

The priests and laymen (at least in the early years of Solomon’s Temple) killed the lamb and other victims on the north side of the Altar of Sacrifice in the Court, or the Telestial area of the temple. This was a playing-out, or theater of the Atonement upon the cross. When the participants burnt the offerings it was an invitation to deity to participate in or accept the sacrifice (like burning incense symbolizes prayers or petitions to God). The eating of the remaining parts of the victim has to do with internalizing the deity, or becoming one with God.

We can eat the flesh (flesh and blood) of the Telestial sacrifice, at the Altar of Sacrifice, and become one with God there, be identified with Him at that level, with that law, with those ordinances, or we can eat from the Table of Shewbread, drink the wine, and be sanctified and one with God at that level, glory, dimension, law, and ordinances. It’s our choice.

There is an additional choice. When Christ went further into the Garden of Gethsemane, there He suffered to the greatest degree. There he suffered alone. He left the area where Peter, James, and John waited, the place of “suffering unto death” and went in further. What exactly happened there we don’t really know [1], 
other than; for us He suffered to a very great extent:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit...” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18)

----------------
1. Others may know, but it is not widely known.
2. Some may view this assertion differently, but I see this as a holy and inspiring thing.

17 comments:

Michael said...

I really enjoyed your remarks. Especially the observation of the pattern of three degrees in the “notion of four worlds.” More specifically in LDS theology and in Kabbalistic observation, we can observe the pattern of five in the notion of six worlds, meaning the three degrees of the Celestial Kingdom combined with the Terrestrial, Telestial, and the Outer Darkness inheritance in the final judgement; this coinciding with the Kabbalistic view of five spiritual phases; Keter, Hochma, Bina Zeir Anpin, and Malchut, or Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya (in conjunction with the five commandments on one tablet, the division of the fourteen digits of the fingers combined with the palm divided by three. the five leaves from the sprouts of the burning bush, etc.) combined with “Our World”. We know that Jesus suffered during His mortal existence independent of His “Atoning Sacrifice” in the Garden and on the Cross.

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” (Hebrews 5:8).

Within this we may concur that Jesus suffered within His mortal life in general (Luke 9:58, John 6: 66-71, 7: 5, 12: 27, Alma 7: 11etc.), plus the Garden, and the Cross.

Jesus entire existence (pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal, past, present, future) has been for our benefit. Surely it has highlighted the pattern of three.

More fully though, it has highlighted the pattern of five within six.

We progress “cut off from the presence of God” (Leviticus 22:3, 1 Nephi 2: 21, 2 Nephi 1: 20, 2 Nephi 4: 4, 2 Nephi 5: 20, 2 Nephi 9: 6, etc.) unto the obtainment of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion (D&C 121: 46, John 14:16), unto the obtainment of the Savior as the Second Comforter (John 14: 18, 21, 16: 19, 1 Nephi 10: 17, 2 Nephi 31: 16-17, 3 Nephi 18:25, etc.), unto the obtainment of the personal ministry of the Father (John 14: 23). But the emphasis is that this ministry of the Father comes by degrees of three progressive levels as well(and the fullness of the Father cannot be obtained in this life).

The Prophet Joseph Smith alluded to this in his teachings, “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry ‘treason’ and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today” (TPJS p. 348).

This coincides with Kabbalistic teachings that mortals must connect with the “reshimot” or recollections of our pre-mortal relationship with God (the one that originally accepted an invitation, as an intelligence, to grow into oneness with Him), and continue from that original relationship unto oneness with Him. However, we cannot reach the fullness of Ein Sof in "this world". The mastery of the last three degrees of the Father's fullness awaits those who have mastered the previous degrees in this world.

Anonymous said...

Now you sound Catholic - But it was an insightful post-
I think it is a stretch to apply (3) to the three degrees of Glory -

However I once heard some good preaching about Noah's ARK and the (3) I would like to hear your insights.

Anonymous said...

If you take this idea further, salvation is a very delineated proposition." 3 degrees?

Jesus Never Taught a lesser "Saved" or Lesser "Eternal Life" Not in the Book of Mormon or in the Bible -
NEVER

Read the Book of John - Read the Bible -
Jesus Taught ETERNAL LIFE - Nothing Else -
In My Father House are Many Mansions - He was Talking of His Father's house- Jesus said He would Prepare a "PLACE" For you in His Father House- Not a House down the Street Half way between Heaven and Hell.

Eternal Life - Nothing Else

With Freemasonry and the Blue Lodge Degrees Joseph Smith Embraced the Pentagram - Made OATHS and COVENANTS to an UNGODLY Religion-
Joseph Smith was A Freemason, Master Mason to the 3rd Degree of Glory
who had duly and truly served his time as an Entered Apprentice, passed the Degree of Fellow Craft, and has been raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason

The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England (GLE), was founded on 24 June 1717( St john's Day), when four existing London Lodges met for a joint dinner. This rapidly expanded into a regulatory body, which most English Lodges joined. However, a few lodges resented some of the modernisations that GLE endorsed, such as the creation of the Third Degree.

There is no degree in Freemasonry higher than that of Master Mason, the Third Degree

There are, however, a number of organisations that require being a Master Mason as a prerequisite for membership.[20] These bodies have no authority over the Craft.[19] These orders or degrees may be described as additional or appendant, and often provide a further perspective on some of the allegorical, moral and philosophical content of Freemasonry.

CEREMONY OF EXALTATION the Royal ARCH

Anonymous said...

And are you ready and willing to take a solemn obligation, restricted to this Degree, to preserve inviolate our mystic rites? Royal Arch Masons.
Ritual for Exaltation into Royal Arch Chapter

let me now congratulate you on your admission into this sublime Degree of Freemasonry, which is at once the foundation and keystone of our whole Masonic structure. You perhaps conceive that you have this day received a fourth Degree of Freemasonry; but such, strictly speaking, is not the case; it is only the Master Mason’s Degree(3rd Degree) completed. For you will recollect, that when you were raised to the third Degree.......Exalted Companions, the forms, symbols, and ornaments of Royal Arch Masonry, together with the rites and ceremonies at present in use among us, were adopted by our predecessors at the building of the Second Temple, as well to preserve in our minds the providential means by which the great discovery was effected, as in our hearts those lessons of exalted morality which we, as members of this sublime Degree, are bound to practice.

I also strongly recommend you to read and refer to the Royal Arch Regulations which are published in the Book of Constitutions. I now present to you this copy of the By-Laws of the Chapter. On behalf of all the Companions I give you a hearty welcome as a member of the Chapter."
http://www.lds-mormon.com/masonry.shtml

http://www.freemasonrywatch.org
/royal.arch.rite.freemasonry.initiation.ritual.html

"LDS theology and in Kabbalistic observation"
Mixing Masonry -Mormonism and trying to pull out Christian Truths - The 3-4 World degrees are a mason Thing
Jesus Taught ETERNAL LIFE in his Father's House

Anonymous said...

EXALTATION?
All Masons above the third, or Master's degree, are sworn to keep inviolate the secrets of a brother, murder and treason excepted, up to the seventh, or Royal Arch degree. In the oath of this degree the candidate, as we shall see, swears to keep all the secrets of companion of this degree, murder and treason NOT excepted. All Masons of and above this degree are solemnly bound to do this. The same is true of all the points sworn to in this obligation which we proceed to examine.Here, then, we have a class of men sworn, under most frightful penalties, to espouse the cause of a companion so far as to extricate him from any difficulty, to the extent of their power, whether he is right or wrong.

www.gospeltruth.net/1869Freemasonry/
freem_chap7.htm

www.gospeltruth.net/index.htm

At my first exaltation, I was taught to believe it an ancient degree; but I confess, that even at that period I entertained considerable doubts on the point. The Degree is too incongruous to be of any great antiquity. It exhibits too many evidences of modern construction to be received with implicit credence as a ceremony practised by the ancient Dionysiacs, or even the more modern colleges of Freemasons, or confraternities of the Middle Ages. The earliest mention of it in England which I can find, is in the year 1740, just one year after the trifling alteration, sanctioned by the modern Grand Lodge, already mentioned.--Origin of the English Royal Arch, pp. 19, 20.

To the additional portion of the penalty of my obligation, that I would sooner have my skull clove off, and have my brain exposed to the scorchings rays of a noonday sun, than divulge any of the secrets of this Degree unlawfully.

www.sacred-texts.com/mas/dun/dun08.htm


Matt 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
34 But I say unto you,Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Moses 5:29 And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die

Joseph Smith Did "swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die"

Joseph Swore and so Did the Brethern and so Did I
and it was Wrong
I received the 3rd Degree

Bob said...

I thought you promised to stay in the Housekeeping section.

Anonymous said...

Bob - He is a great chance to Explain away Jesus teaching. ETERNAL LIFE - Most of the Churches Profess Jesus - Jesus did NOT teach Freemasonry and the 3rd Degrees - He taught the Degree of ETERNAL LIFE - not Levels and Degrees-

Always Jesus Spoke of living with Him and His FATHER.

Joseph Smith taught another Gospel
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry ‘treason’ and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today” (TPJS p. 348).(MICHAEL)

I did like David's article on the Cross and Sacrifices -
But I thought it was a stretch to extrapolate 3 Degrees of freemasonry -

10 As it is written, There is one righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the away, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.23 For all have asinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

You cannot climb your way out of hell on a ladder nor could you and a bunch of freemasons build a Tower to heaven with the Works of your hands

Jesus Taught ETERNAL LIFE not the 3rd Degree

D&C 131: 1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; 2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];(Many Wives Polygamy)
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
5 (May 17th, 1843.) The more sure word of aprophecy means a man’s knowing that he is bsealed up unto ceternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood. 6 It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.

How is that Many wives thing going or are you staying off the ladders?

I'll go back to House Keeping and the Fall - I am sure your many wives will keep you busy - Now start working your way to heaven.

How many wives do Mormons have today? Are You saved? How Many wives do you have? and is Many Wives Polygamy still Doctrine or no? Hinkley said NO

"It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance".

David Littlefield said...

I removed that last little hate filled comment.

- David

Manuel Gerardo Monasterio said...

Hi David! Thank you for your wonderful site. I am coming back to LDS activity after 42 years of wandering away. Your insights are very fruitful for thos eof us that seriously need to go beyond the surface of our religion. Your work is a source of inspiration and an incentive to growing in our faith.

Anonymous said...

http://blog.kingsolomonslodge.org/2008/12/temple-and-its-sacred-altars.html


We are taught that Entered Apprentice Masons hold their meetings on the ground floor of King Solomon's Temple. The ground floor is the Courtyard, where the Altar of Sacrifice is located. It was upon this Altar that the Sacred Fire from Heaven descended and consumed the Sacrifice at the dedication of Solomon's Temple. Once burning, the Fire from the Altar of Sacrifice is never extinguished. It is carried into the Holy Place and used to light the Lampstand and its coals are used to kindle the Incense Altar, and is carried by the priests in censers whenever the Tabernacle must be moved. It is the manifest presence of that Eternal Flame which never goes out, the Aur Ein Sof (Light Without End) of the Kabbalists, universally depicted over the Master's Chair in Freemasonry as the letter G.

Steve Reed said...

Hi David, I love your articles and would like to point out something here that you alluded to but seemed to miss.

The entire experience from the upper room to the cross was "the Atonement". On the Day of Atonement, the Hebrew high priest would offer sacrifice in behalf of all of Israel, wash in preparation to enter the Holy Place, pass by the menorah and table of shewbread and offer an intercessory prayer at the smaller alter where incense was burned. He would then sprinkle the blood three times upon the veil and enter the presence of the Lord.

Now follow along in the book of John starting in chapter 13. Jesus is meeting in a special room on the day of the Passover; the altar of sacrifice in the temple was representative of the original Egyptian Passover. Then he washes the feet of his 12 apostles (think of the basin of water of the temple on the backs of the 12 oxen), next he eats bread and wine with them (table of shewbread) and then gives a lengthy sermon on the Holy Ghost (think of the light of the menorah). After this, he goes to the garden to offer an intercessory prayer (think of the alter of incense) where he prays three times (blood placed on the veil three times) and his own blood is shed on the veil of his flesh. The last thing for the high priest to do was to go through the veil and enter the presence of God.

Once he gave up the ghost on the cross, the veil of the temple was rent signifying that the real high priest had just passed through the veil for all.

So it isn't just about the garden and the cross, it's about the upper room to the cross ;) In John, we see Christ performing what each high priest was only doing symbolically.

Steve Reed said...

Hi David, I love your articles and would like to point out something here that you alluded to but seemed to miss.

The entire experience from the upper room to the cross was "the Atonement". On the Day of Atonement, the Hebrew high priest would offer sacrifice in behalf of all of Israel, wash in preparation to enter the Holy Place, pass by the menorah and table of shewbread and offer an intercessory prayer at the smaller alter where incense was burned. He would then sprinkle the blood three times upon the veil and enter the presence of the Lord.

Now follow along in the book of John starting in chapter 13. Jesus is meeting in a special room on the day of the Passover; the altar of sacrifice in the temple was representative of the original Egyptian Passover. Then he washes the feet of his 12 apostles (think of the basin of water of the temple on the backs of the 12 oxen), next he eats bread and wine with them (table of shewbread) and then gives a lengthy sermon on the Holy Ghost (think of the light of the menorah). After this, he goes to the garden to offer an intercessory prayer (think of the alter of incense) where he prays three times (blood placed on the veil three times) and his own blood is shed on the veil of his flesh. The last thing for the high priest to do was to go through the veil and enter the presence of God.

Once he gave up the ghost on the cross, the veil of the temple was rent signifying that the real high priest had just passed through the veil for all.

So it isn't just about the garden and the cross, it's about the upper room to the cross ;) In John, we see Christ performing what each high priest was only doing symbolically.

David Littlefield said...

Steve Reed:

Fantastic comments!

You are right, I had missed that symbolism. While I instinctively understood that that period was all part of the atonement process, I missed actual symbolism you pointed out.

Thank you!

-David

Janet Lisonbee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet Lisonbee said...

I liked your thoughts on the 3 altars and 3 locations in the Garden. I wrote an article for Meridian Magazine a few years ago, "Day of Atonement" which compared the rites of this Jewish holiday with the atonement of Jesus Christ. I think we could combine insights!

David Littlefield said...

Hi Janet!

Sorry for the delay.

By all means, let's combine insights.

Can you send me a copy or a link to your article?

Thank you,
David

Janet Lisonbee said...

Here is the link to the article, "Day of Atonement" by Janet Lisonbee
http://www.ldsmag.com/article/190/1