Those who receive the endowment covenant never to disclose certain portions
of the ceremony
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.