Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Many Mansions 1: A New Temple


The New Temple ceremony is written as a successor to the current LDS endowment. It presupposes large amounts of available space, but does not, as written, require any technology which does not currently exist. Some of the technology may be quite expensive, but it exists.

This text also assumes that Joseph Smith was given a fairly simple set of instructions: 'The Saints should make covenants with me; a solemn ceremony in the Holy Temple is required'. This is my understanding of the actual situation – but that doesn't mean I'm right.

-1. Preparing to Enter

To enter the temple will require a temple recommend; however, this recommend is not a 'worthiness test', but simply a confirmation that you understand what the temple is about, and are seeking to enter in 'good faith'. It can be obtained by interview with your bishop, or at a special building on the temple grounds (or, perhaps, a room to one side of the entrance desk). It is available to all, but can be refused, with an explanation as to why.

The interview will include a run-through of the covenants and promises you will make, and you will be encouraged to voice any questions you may have. If you feel uncomfortable with any of the covenants, you should not accept a recommend.

0. Entering the Temple

On entering the temple, one of the first things you see is a large plaque or carving describing the covenants made within. This will be placed above the entrance desk, and (unless you received your recommend on-side) the receptionist will draw your attention to it and ask you to confirm that you are still comfortable with making them.

You will then pass through the temple and change into your ceremonial white clothing. Once changed, you make your way into the AUDITORIUM.

1. The Auditorium

The first room you enter is the Auditorium, which may have different appearances depending on the temple – a Roman amphitheatre, a large chapel, a gothic cathedral are possible variants. In all cases, it is virtually enhanced to appear extremely large, with a (silent, save for breathing) virtual crowd of which you and your co-worshippers are a part. The crowd is arranged to face or encircle a stage, of which you have a clear view.

The stage is taken by the figure of HEAVENLY FATHER, and the congregation is led in a hymn of worship and praise – with the virtual component being low volume, such that the actual participants can be heard. Once the hymn concludes, Heavenly Father discourses on why you are here.

This discourse is not simply thrown together, but serves as the starting point for three distinct stories. On the one hand, it must prepare you to travel through the symbolic environment of the temple. On the second hand, it represents the speech of Heavenly Father prior to the creation of the world. On the hypothetical and deeply symbolic third hand, it is a preparation for your journey through life itself.

Once the discourse is concluded, you exit the Auditorium one by one, stepping through into the ANNEX. From this point until the final room, you will be alone save for the voice of Heavenly Father.

1.5. The Annex

The Annex is not, in fact, a true 'room', but serves to isolate each participant for their own sacred experience. It is an extension of the theme of the Auditorium, and immediately on entering you make your first covenant.

Each covenant in the temple is presented in both verbal and written form: the voice of Heavenly Father speaks, asking you if you will covenant to do such-and-such. Simultaneously, a screen by the exit door displays the same question.

With the question held on the screen for you to read, Heavenly Father will continue, saying that you may answer in your own words and in your own time, and that none save you and Heavenly Father will hear your words. (This use of the third person is deliberate, and indicates that it is not the actor or temple staff being referred to, but God Himself). When you have made your covenant with Him, you are to press a distinctive button – perhaps lit with blue – below the screen, which reads 'I have covenanted with my Father'. This instruction may actually be better suited to the Auditorium discourse.

Following each covenant, it may be appropriate to have the voice describe a blessing conditional on your honouring the covenant – that, however, is so far outside my remit it isn't even funny.

The First Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to strive to do His will and follow His plan?

After covenanting, the voice of Heavenly Father directs you to don a symbolic white robe located in the room. This robe represents both the Priesthood (as the power of creation) and your physical body. The door opens and you pass into the WHITE ROOM.

2. The White Room

The White Room is just that – white, well-lit, and featureless save for a chair in the centre and the requisite screen. The voice of Heavenly Father recites the text of the First Day from Genesis 1 – or perhaps a specially-written version - and then invites you to sit a while and think about your relationship with Him. When you wish to progress (he says), approach the screen.

The White Room represents the first day of creation ('Let there be Light'), and also the innocence of childhood. Soothing, culturally-appropriate music plays while you meditate. When you approach the screen, motion detectors trigger the asking of the Second Covenant.

The Second Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to earnestly seek to know Him, despite this earthly separation?

There are no further instructions; simply the opening of the door to the LABOUR ROOM.

3. The Labour Room

The Labour Room represents the second day of creation (the separation of the waters/creation of the atmosphere), and also preparation for receiving the gospel. On entering, you hear the voice recite the text of the Second Day, and then pass through the Maze. The walls of the Maze (which is in fact a very simple labyrinth – a single corridor with two or three corners in it) are screens which show a raging dust storm, which gradually diminishes to a clear blue sky. As you pass through, the cloth of your robe darkens, as if being coated with dust itself. At the end is the Third Covenant.

The Third Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to always seek after truth, however hard the way?

Again, the door simply opens to the next room, the WATERFALL ROOM.

4. The Waterfall Room

On entering the Waterfall Room, you find yourself in a small annex, the walls rippling with water-like patterns. The annex is cut off from the brighter main chamber by a waterfall which comes from the ceiling and passes into a drain below. The voice invites you to 'cast off your old robe, pass through the waters and be cleansed'.

Leaving the robe behind, you step towards the waterfall, and it parts in front of you, letting you walk through and stay dry. As you step out into the main room the voice reads the Third Day – the creation of dry land and the appearance of plant life. The main chamber reflects this, being decorated in a verdant scheme, possibly with actual plants. The Waterfall Room represents this Third Day, and also baptism and entrance into the Church – so just a hint of structure around the edges, perhaps in the form of a colonnade, can be allowed. The floor should be absorbent enough that your shoes dry off from any residual water on the drain.

The voice presents you with the Fourth Covenant.

The Fourth Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to repent and sincerely forsake all wrongdoing, now and for your whole life?

On pressing the button, you are invited to don a new robe, and the door opens to the UNIVERSE ROOM.

5. The Universe Room

This room begins in near darkness, but as the voice recites the Fourth Day, the sun, moon and stars light up. The moon lies over your head as you enter, with the stars filling the room, and the sun shining over the far door. The Universe Room is walled in virtual mirrors – either through computers or through some trick, the stars are mirrored, creating an infinite universe, but you and the sun/moon are not repeated.

The Universe Room represents the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and you must head towards the sun to pass through. On reaching the far door, the voice gives the Fifth Covenant.

The Fifth Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to follow His path, accepting His guidance and the guidance of the Holy Ghost throughout your life?

On covenanting, the door opens to the LIFE ROOM.

6. The Life Room

The Life Room represents the creation of sea creatures, and also the application and spread of the gospel. It consists of a glass walkway above the Web of Life. As you enter, the voice recites the Fifth Day narrative, and as you walk forward, a glowing web representing the tree of life (biologic and also religious) spreads out from your start point on the floor, until you reach the far side and can look back to see the whole spread of the Tree as you receive the Sixth Covenant.

The Sixth Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to live His Gospel, to turn your heart to him and to be His true servant?

On covenanting, the door opens to the LONG WALK.

7. The Long Walk

The Long Walk represents the creation of animal life, and also 'enduring to the end'. It consists of a gentle, straight ramp between two display screens. After the recitation of the Sixth Day, you slowly ascend the ramp. The evolutionary ancestral lineage of humanity appears on either side of you, following you up to the top. At the top is a manually-opened door, and no screen.

You open the door and step through into the VEIL ROOM.

8. The Veil Room

The Veil Room is a small chamber divided by a white veil, and either seated in front of it or on a digital screen on one wall is Heavenly Father. If an actual worker is used, this may necessitate a message in the Long Walk explaining that you'll have to wait to open the door. The Veil Room symbolises the passage both into and out of the world, depending on which narrative you follow.

Heavenly Father greets you, and asks you to confirm each of your covenants. He asks each one in full, and this time a specific response is requested – 'Yes' or 'I will', likely. Once all six previous covenants have been confirmed, he tells you that the final covenant is the greatest of all. Thus primed, the Seventh Covenant is given.

The Seventh Covenant: Will you covenant with your Heavenly Father to be filled with charity towards His children; to love them as Christ loved them, to serve them as Christ served them, and to care for them as Christ cared for them?

On confirming the Seventh Covenant (in the same manner as the recaps), Heavenly Father pronounces a blessing on your head – a blessing suited for this world. He then smiles and tells you you may now pass through the veil. He either lifts the curtain, or if digital, it is mechanically lifted on one side, and you pass through into the MIRROR OF THE WORLD

9. The Mirror of the World

The Mirror takes the place of the Celestial Room, and has much the same decorative theme, except that it is centred around the Mirror of the World itself – a still pool beneath the chandelier, with the globe of the world visible in the depths. The chandelier here represents both the sun, and God, and depending on the temple, it may be appropriate for short videos to fade in and out on the globe of the world.

The Mirror represents earthly life in its entirety – it is the creation of Man and all that follows after – and also the Celestial Kingdom. This will require a lot of symbolism built into the architecture, but hopefully both messages can be conveyed. Like the Celestial Room, it serves as a meeting point and sacred contemplation/whispered discussion room for all participants.

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