Joseph Smith once made a statement to the effect that if we start right, it is easy to continue right, but if we start off wrong it is very hard to get things right later (The Words of Joseph Smith, 356).
Ancient Egypt had a prophecy which held that “a time will come when…human beings will become weary of life and will cease to regard the universe as worthy of reverence or wonder. Religion will be felt as burdensome, and people will prefer darkness to light. In that time the gods will depart from humankind, and their voices will no longer be heard. The soil will turn barren, the very air will sicken and stagnate, and in this way old age will come upon the world” (Jeremy Naydler, Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred, vii).
Have you ever wondered, why the temple ceremony begins with the creation story? Why is that so important for us to understand? What lessons can be gleaned from it?
We should recognize that the simplified creation story contained in the scriptures and the temple is a mystical account. It is not the scientific ‘how’ of the creation, but rather God’s ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the creation. There is no need to be hung up over differences between these accounts and the scientific learning of our day.
If you have read my book, you recognize that covenants are much more than simply a two-way promise. Likewise, priesthood is a topic that is perhaps more vast than is generally understood.
Abraham implies that a knowledge of the creation is part of the priesthood. He testified, “the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in my own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day.” (Abraham 1:31). In other words, the priesthood records Abraham received gave him a knowledge of the beginning of the creation. Along with this “book” knowledge of the creation, later Abraham also saw and was given further knowledge of the pre-earth life and of the creation from God.
In the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that Abraham’s endowment included a vision of events before the creation of the world (Abraham 3:22). Likewise, Moses’ endowment included a view of God’s works including the creation and the ends thereof (Moses 1:8; 2:1). The Brother of Jared was also shown “all the inhabitants of the earth…even unto the ends of the earth” (Ether 3:25). Joseph and Sidney were also shown the events before the creation (D&C 76:13) as part of their endowment as contained in that section.
It is well worth considering how elements of all of these scriptural endowments parallel our own temple ceremony. Here is a link to a short essay that may help you get started with the endowments of Moses and Abraham:
Is it enough to receive the symbolic, ceremonial endowment contained in the temple or are we meant to sanctify and purify ourselves to the point that we can also receive our own spiritual endowment directly from God? Consider the promise contained at the end of Joseph & Sidney’s endowment. We read in D&C 76:116-118: “Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory” (emphasis added).
As a final thought on the creation story, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” How very like that little acorn we are at present. IF we are redeemed and exalted to our full potential, how does God’s eternal round of creation continue with us? And with that thought in mind, is the creation drama a representation of past events only? Or does it potentially point to the future as well?