God’s Formula for Hitting the Heavenly Target: What Jordan Peterson Bible Lectures Inspired Me to Learn about the LDS Temple Endowment
Recently, I had a particularly meaningful and spiritual experience at the temple, so I thought I would attempt to share some of the things I learned. It will be difficult to convey everything I was taught and understood, and this writing will probably only scratch the surface. As I wrote this, I tried to channel the same Spirit of enlightenment I felt during the endowment, and you might have to tap into that same Spirit to fully comprehend what I’m trying to convey. In summary, I saw the endowment ordinance at a more holistic level than before and how each law and covenant built on each other, connected step by step, like a recipe or formula for our progression to reach the ultimate goal of living with God and being like Him and having all the blessings, power, and joy that he has.
I should start off with two disclaimers. The first disclaimer is that what follows does not reveal anything from the temple that I covenanted not to reveal. The details of the temple ordinances that I mention are only things that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has already publicly published. The second disclaimer is that what I learned was a personalized message that the Spirit of God taught me and not necessarily the canonical or comprehensive interpretation of anything from the temple. In fact, I believe the Brethren have often repeated that there is no single, right way to interpret temple ordinances. But they have said, “What we gain from the temple will depend to a large degree on what we take to the temple in the way of humility and reverence and a desire to learn. If we are teachable, we will be taught by the Spirit, in the temple.” (from the Church pamphlet called Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple)
Background of What Was on My Mind in the Temple that Day
During the endowment ordinance on this day, many of the principles I have learned from Jordan Peterson’s podcast, including much of his Bible lecture series, where in my mind. As I have listened to those lectures, I have often thought they were very insightful regarding the psychology of the gospel, my religion, and the scripture stories. I have felt the specific prompting that many of Peterson’s points could shed new light and provide new insights for me regarding the endowment and other temple ordinances. This day in the temple turned out to be particularly insightful regarding the situation of Adam and Eve, their progression, and how it relates to me and all the children of God.
Let me first establish a little background on the principles or concepts that were on my mind and came into relevance during the endowment session.
- Sin is defined as missing a target. As Peterson has explained, the root of the word sin is missing a target, or in other words to have a goal, strive to achieve it, but then not reach that goal.
- Sacrifice is the voluntarily abstaining from or withholding something that you could enjoy now, in order to save it and have something better later. Peterson has often talked about how understanding and living this principle of sacrifice is key to much of human progress towards gaining strength to conquer problems and enjoying greater peace and joy in life.
- Meaning and joy to life come through the pursuit of a higher purpose. Joy is not achieved by sitting around, being waited upon by servants, eating grapes, and basking in luxuries. True joy and satisfaction comes from the pursuit of goals and hitting a target, which gives meaning to life. Not coincidently, this explains why sin (not hitting the target) never leads to happiness (Alma 41:10).
- Scripture stories contain profound meaning. Whether or not the people and stories of the scriptures are factually and historically precisely accurate is less important than the lessons and meaning embedded in those stories. There is a reason why the stories have persisted for thousands of years, and they teach vitally important lessons.
Setting the Stage: Adam and Eve’s Awakening
The dramatic elements of the temple endowment take us through the awakening of Adam and Eve to a knowledge of good and evil, hitting a target and missing a target. Adam and Eve are symbolic of each and every one of us children of God and our similar awakening to the possibilities of progression and learning how to reach our target and achieve the greatest blessings. How Adam and Eve come to realize their awakening knowledge between good and evil is something to dive into on another occasion, but on this day the learning for me was that they, and all of us children of God, at some point come to realize our potential to be more—to have more joy, power, and blessings. Adam and Eve, and by extension each one of us, also realize we are woefully short of that goal and even don’t know how to reach that goal. Having a goal, yearning for it, striving to achieve it, and not being able to hit that target is the very definition of evil or sin as outlined above.
I need to interject another brief disclaimer here and that is that the scriptures and the Brethren always refer to Adam and Eve’s partaking of the forbidden fruit as a “transgression” and not a “sin.” I agree with that assessment, and it is a fascinating differentiation on it’s own, but not too relevant to what I learned on this occasion in the temple, so I’ll leave the deep dive into that topic for another day.
The point for now is that Adam and Eve and all of us come to know there is good and evil out there, good meaning a way to hit our target, and evil meaning missing the target. With mankind awakened to that knowledge, God, in His infinite love and wisdom, kicks off a plan that will help all of us reach that goal, hit that target, have purpose and meaning in our existence, and achieve the greatest peace, joy, and blessings possible.
The creation narrative in the temple endowment reiterates the point that joy is achieved through the pursuit of goals. It says that that plants, animals, and humans achieve joy by filling the “measure of their creation” which it clearly links with having seed, being fruitful, and multiplying. But the phrase “measure of their creation” also seems like a way of saying the “purpose of their existence” or in other words the goals that will give their life joy, peace, and meaning. D&C 88: 19 says that the earth will be crowned with celestial glory after it fills the measure of its creation. So too will we receive the greatest eternal blessings when we hit our target and fill the measure of our creation. Adam and Eve’s awakening to their inability to fill the measure of their creation is a key component of the knowledge they gained in the Garden of Eden.
A Man and Woman Can Only Progress toward Goals Together
So, Adam and Eve, representative of all men and women, start on a journey, guided by God, to learn how to hit a target (i.e. not sin) and thus grow, have meaning, and achieve joy. After their awakening, one of the first things God does in the execution of his plan exaltation and happiness is to put Adam and Eve, man and woman, together and tells them they need remain with each other. Throughout the endowment, Adam and Eve progress together and I think that is a key teaching in learning to overcome our obstacles and reach out goals.
You may ask why does a man need a woman and a woman need a man in order to progress and hit our heavenly target. Again, tomes could be written on that subject, but let me provide a few possibilities based on some of Peterson’s ideas.
We need other people in our life or we go mad and not be able to survive. Being left alone without interactions from another person would be sheer torture, would make us miserable, and would prevent us from reach our goals. That other person needs a partner equal to us but with a different point of view who will help us hit our target goals. It is difficult, if not impossible, to hit a target if you have force from only one direction. Oppositional forces are needed to accurately hit the goal, and this can be illustrated in a number of scenarios (turning a dial or valve, or even using a zipper, for example). One of the first and foundational things God is telling us is that if you want to reach your goals, you can only do that with another person, a companion and help meet, at your side.
Related to the need for oppositional forces to hit a target is perhaps a broader theme that a thing cannot exist without its opposite also existing. There can’t be a woman without a man. They complete each other. If a thing is whole, true, and real, it must have two opposite sides. A woman needs a man, and a man needs a woman in every sense of the word need. And thus God puts Adam and Eve together as a prerequisite step in their learning how to hit the target of eternal life and exaltation.
Order of Events
Now you might be saying here that I already have things out of order since I spoke of Adam and Eve’s awakening to the knowledge of good and evil, first and then being placed together. In the Bible and in the temple narrative it is true that those are reversed–God put Adam and Eve together first, and then they partook of fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. So know that I am aware of that and my choice of order is intentional for the lessons emphasized by the story and what I learned that day. It also leads to something I noticed in this temple endowment session, and that is that there seems to be some starting, stopping, and starting again for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden narrative. I think this may be symbolic of people’s hesitation as they come out of their sheltered, pre-awakening cocoon, and begin their eternal journey. It also may have to do with the fact that things tend to happen spiritually before they happen physically (Moses 3:5), which can give the appearance of repetitiveness.
First Lesson for How to Hit Your Goal: The Law of Obedience
After establishing that men and women can only progress toward their eternal goals together, God introduces them to first law and covenant of the temple endowment, the Law of Obedience. Adam and Eve were already introduced to that law to a degree when the lightbulb came on for them and they learned good from evil. They were awakened to the goodness and greatness of God and they wanted to achieve that level of life as well and they realized that if He could do it, there must be a way. God confirms that there is a way, and that He has a plan for them to achieve it, and the first step is to master the Law of Obedience. If they obey God, they will learn how to hit their goal but if they disobey His instructions, they will not achieve it. The Law of Obedience is foundational in this whole narrative because it means that if they obey the commandments of God, they will be led to the things that will help them grow, get stronger, and become able to achieve their target of eternal life and exaltation.
Second Lesson for How to Hit Your Goal: The Law of Sacrifice
Having demonstrated a level of mastery with the Law of Obedience, the next step God reveals to Adam/Eve/us in the endowment ceremony is the Law of Sacrifice. Sacrifice is an indispensable principle of growth and in learning to hit our target goals. Sacrifice, the decision to consciously forego some blessings or delay gratification, is what distinguishes us from most animals and distinguishes most successful humans from unsuccessful ones. As Peterson has pointed out, when we learn that working and saving brings a brighter future, it naturally leads us to realize that greater sacrifice brings greater blessings. It begs the question of how much things can improve, perhaps infinitely, as we apply the principle of sacrifice and receive the attendant blessings. Jesus Christ is the pinnacle example of sacrifice and the eternal blessings that accompany an infinite sacrifice. The atoning sacrifice of the Son of God, sacrificial ordinances, and much more on the Law of Sacrifice was taught Adam and Even from the beginning, and volumes more could be said about it, but that can suffice for now as I proceed with what I learned this day.
By this point, as I sat in the temple endowment, if it hadn’t been instilled in me previously, I was now realizing that each law and covenant built on each other in a great, cohesive eternal plan. I became anxious to learn what the Spirit would continue to teach me as each next law and covenant was revealed.
Third Lesson for How to Hit Your Goal: The Law of the Gospel
The third law and covenant introduced to us in the temple endowment is Law of the Gospel, which we are taught is the higher law that Jesus taught while He was on the earth. It has been reported that the word “gospel” literally means “good news” and is a reference to the glorious message that God sent his Son to atone for us and that repentance and forgiveness is possible and that it allows us to be healed of our mistakes and reach our target goals in the kingdom of Heaven as we follow Jesus. While that may be true, the endowment doesn’t seem to focus so much on that aspect of “the gospel.” In the temple ordinance, the focus of the Law of the Gospel seems to be around teaching us how to lead a more holy and pure and God-like life. It is teaching us how to conduct ourselves and the characteristics of God that we need to emulate, which makes sense in the progression of teachings. If our goal is to be like our Heavenly Father, we need to become the type of person who can dwell in His presence, in celestial “burnings” (Isaiah 33:14), and this section of the endowment teaches us how to do that.
Fourth Lesson for How to Hit Your Goal: The Law of Chastity
The next covenant God teaches us in the endowment is for the Law of Chastity, which is about sexual purity and marriage according to God’s law. As I sat pondering how this law helps us progress toward our eternal goals, I felt the Spirt of God was reinforcing the concept of covenants. Obviously, we are making and keeping progressively higher covenants and laws along the way in the endowment ceremony, but to reinforce that idea, the Lord here asks us to bind ourselves in a covenant to control the thing for which we humans have some of the strongest emotions and feelings—that of sexuality and family relations. As we demonstrate fidelity to this covenant, it provides thorough testing of our strength and will, and helps refine and improve our ability to aim and hit our eternal goals. And of course it reinforces that initial teaching of God that men and women must remain together in order to progress in our ability to hit our heavenly target.
Fifth Lesson for How to Hit Your Goal: The Law of Consecration
The fifth step and final covenant revealed in the endowment ordinance is the Law of Consecration, which means a willingness to consecrate everything we have and turn it over to the Lord. God is teaching that we must be willing to give up everything we have in order to hit our target and gain everything we want. Jesus, once again, is our exemplar of consecration through an ultimate, infinite sacrifice and we are reminded of that during the ceremony. We are reminded that consecration means being willing to give up everything God has given us–our time, our talents, and even our life, if necessary–and turn it over to the Lord for the building up of His Kingdom. Things God has been teaching me for many years swelled up in my mind as I reflected on this principle, and I’ll have to go into it in more detail later, but let my testimony of the truthfulness of that principle suffice for now.
Bonus Lesson/Target Practice: How to Have Your Prayers Answered
After learning these five laws and covenanting to keep them, the endowment teaches us how to pray and get answers to those prayers, or in other words, how to achieve our goals, hit our targets, and receive the greater blessings that we have been aiming for. This seemed like an apropos next step that fit nicely into the overarching lesson the Spirit was teaching me that day. When we know how to truly pray, we will be able to ask the Lord for what we want and need, and we will have the power to achieve those aspirations. Much more could be said about this “true order of prayer” but that can wait for another day.
At this point, the endowment ordinance is brought to a conclusion as we are ushered, metaphorically, into the presence of God, as we enter the Celestial Room of the temple. We have been shown how to reach our eternal goal and gain entrance into God’s Celestial Kingdom of Heaven to be able to achieve all that the Lord has in terms of power, joy, and blessings. If we follow the formula the Lord set out and put the laws of Obedience, Sacrifice, Gospel, Chastity, and Consecration into practice in our lives, we will know how to hit that target we were awakened to and be endowed with the power to do it. As we are faithful in doing all these things and follow the covenant path laid out in the endowment, we will achieve eternal meaning, a fulness of joy, and live with God in His Kingdom forever.
That is what I learned. Again, I’m not sure if my words even closely approach the conveyance of all that was taught me, but I have tried. I pray that you will seek the Spirit of God yourself to understand what I have written, and more importantly, that the Lord will teach you what you need to know to achieve all your goals and all the greatest blessings of eternity.
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