clasped hands LDS endowment


Why this website?
Site contents
About the endowment


The Initiatory
The Endowment Proper
 The Creation
 The Garden
 The Telestial World
 The Terrestrial World
 The Veil


Baptism for the dead
Second anointing


Historical documents
Masonic parallels
The endowment on film
Garments & temple clothes
Suggested readings

Those who receive the endowment covenant never to disclose certain portions of the ceremony
--specifically, the signs, tokens, and keywords of the holy priesthood. Because of this injunction to silence about some portions of the ceremony, Latter-day Saints are typically reticent to discuss any aspect of the ceremony. Exposés of the endowment, which some anti-Mormon evangelicals are fond of publicizing, violate LDS sensibilities of the sacred.

As an endowed Latter-day Saint, I am concerned that my people's desire to preserve the sanctity of temple worship has turned into paranoia. Our covenants permit us to say in public much, much more about the ceremony than we are wont to do; and though we insist that the endowment is "sacred" not "secret," in practice we proceed as if these terms were synonymous.

In an article on the connection between Mormonism and Masonry which appeared in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Michael Homer observes that the Saints' reluctance to release an official text of the endowment gives "more credibility to unauthorized exposés than would otherwise be the case." I sense that this reluctance is due ultimately to a kind of embarrassment about the endowment--a fear that the ceremony will seem "weird" to outsiders (as, indeed, it seems "weird" to many Latter-day Saints the first time through) or that detractors will hold the ceremony up to ridicule.

I do not share these concerns. Since detractors have already put the ceremony on public display, silence on our part merely allows others to control how the public perceives us. And the "weirdness"--that is to say, the distinctiveness--of the ceremony is, in my opinion, one of its chief attractions. I see the endowment as a witness to the creative, spiritual power present in my faith tradition. I therefore have no qualms about discussing the endowment with people who want to know what goes on inside the temple . . . with the proviso that I will not disclose what I have specifically covenanted not to disclose. To do that would violate my sense of the endowment's significance as an initiation into sacred knowledge.

On this website, you will find various descriptions or texts of the endowment. In reproducing these, I have omitted those few elements of the ceremony that are meant to be disclosed only to initiates: that is, I have omitted specific descriptions of the signs, tokens, and keywords, as well as (in pre-1990 texts) the penalties. For readability's sake, I have tried to make the omissions relatively unobtrusive. My goal has been to create a website that allows researchers to study the endowment and its historical development in detail, while respecting the sanctity of the ritual experience--leaving unspoken what is meant to be left unspoken.


  1. Along these lines, LDS sociologist Armand Mauss has written:
    [T]here is no real reason that even devout Church members could not talk more about the temple ceremonies than they do, with appropriate discretion about time and place, since the oaths of secrecy attach only to the new names, signs, tokens, and penalties. Indeed, more open talk about the temple would not only facilitate understanding among both Mormons and non-Mormons in certain historical and scholarly respects, but would also infinitely improve the preparedness of initiates, almost all of whom now enter the temple with only the vaguest idea of what to expect or of the obligations they will be asked to assume.
    Mauss also writes, "Nor is anyone likely to be mollified by the facile 'explanation' so often heard that the temple ceremonies are 'sacred, not secret,' a semantic word play ignoring the fact that to Mormons the ceremonies are obviously both." See Armand L. Mauss, "Culture, Charisma, and Change: Reflections on Mormon Temple Worship," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20.4 (Winter 1987): 77-78.

  2. Michael W. Homer, "'Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry': The Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27.3 (Fall 1994): 42.

  3. Strictly speaking, I am not under an obligation not to disclose the penalties, since I received the endowment after the 1990 revision (when the penalties and all references to them were removed from the ceremony). However, since the penalties were historically protected by covenants of non-disclosure, I have omitted them from the texts that appear here.

Back to Top | Webmaster