“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” -1 Timothy 1:12
On May 4, 1842 Joseph Smith Jr. introduced on the second floor of his Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois what some call the Nauvoo Endowment to nine Brethren: James Adams, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards. According to the Prophet, these Brethren were instructed “in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of Keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of Melchizedek Priesthood” (Joseph Smith History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, p. 1328).
Originally, the rite consisted of washing, anointing, clothing in the garment, giving the new name, and instruction in the signs, tokens, and keywords of the holy priesthood. We know these were not meant to be kept secret, as Joseph stated that these Sacraments would “be made known to all Saints of the last days” (Joseph Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, p. 1328).
The First Endowment of the Ministry they were given was the Endowment of the Deacon. Every Deacon and Teacher in the Fellowship of Christ should receive this Endowment. This Sacrament was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Remembrance, Chapter 14. In Chapter 15, God sends Raphael to them, teaching them the purpose of this Sacrament.
Raphael begins by stating, “Blessed are the wise by the mysteries coming from the wisdom of that tree, given them of the Lord God; light is given to teach truth unto mankind; the power of the Lower and High Priesthoods is the foundation of the glory of Elohim. This secret word, for it is as yet unknown to the world, is as milk and honey upon the tongues of the righteous; for now, it be to you alone; for behold, these teachings are no longer foreign unto you” (Book of Remembrance 15:2-5). While Adam and Eve partook of the tree without permission, when we are given the Sacraments of the Endowment, we are given the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by God, or in other words, with permission.
In truth, this fruit was first given to us when we were born again. When we receive the baptism by fire, the gift of the Holy Ghost, we receive the first Endowment, the Endowment of Pentecost. This is the only Endowment we need to be saved and exalted to the Celestial Kingdom. Some are called to do more, and thus are given more, line upon line and precept upon precept. But that “more” doesn’t bring anyone closer to God or grant them any additional glories. These Endlwments are needed for the Ministry. They are not required for anything else.
The second Endowment is the Kirtland Endowment, or the Initiatories. This Endowment washes us clean, anoints us, and gives us the gifts of the Holy Garments and our new names. The third Endowment then is the Endowment of the Deacon.
The word “deacon” comes from the Greek, diákonos (διάκονος), which means “minister,” or “messenger.” After receiving the Endowment of the Deacon, Raphael prepares Adam and Eve to be sent out as God’s messengers, commanding them, and thus us, to pray to God, that God will teach them (Book of Remembrance 15:6-7). This is a commandment to continue building their personal relationships with the Lord. He then instructs them to “turn away thou from evil, journey on the path of righteousness,” telling them that by doing this, they will again see God (Book of Remembrance 15:8-9). He is telling them, and us, how we can re-enter the Garden of Eden. This is the path to the Celestial world that we teach as ministers of Christ.
We are not ordained for ourselves, or to make our way to Exaltation, as that already came with the first Endowment. This third Endowment is given to assist us in bringing others to Jesus Christ, to help us in the Deaconship or ministry God has called us to. And this counts for Teachers as well. Teachers are also ministers and messengers of God.
After this, Raphael tells Adam and Eve that there are three secrets they must learn, and to learn these they must know the first wisdom, which is Reverence of the Lord, and there are three reverences:
- Reverence to the Lord (YHVH/Jesus Christ)
- Reverence to the Spirit of God (the Holy Ghost)
- Reverence to Elohim (God the Father, and God the Mother)
(Book of Remembrance 15:21-22)
These are important to know because the purpose of the Low or Levitical Priesthood is to prepare the earth for the things of the heavens (Doctrines of the Saints 119:10). And this we do, he says, because “mankind only receives happiness when they revere the Lord YHVH (Jesus Christ), and it is reverence of Elohim to revere the Lord; and this shall ye do in love.” This is why we call God’s plan “the plan of happiness” (Alma 19:98 RAV, 42:16 OPV; Mormon 3:29 RAV, 7:7 OPV).
Once we know and understand this first commandment we can learn the three types of secrets, which are:
- The secret of the journey
- The secret of origins
- The secret of the Laws of God
(Book of Remembrance 15:13-20)
This list gives us three ways we can find happiness and the plan of salvation. The first, the journey, allows us to learn and grow on our paths. We gain experience from life. The second is understanding who we are, and where we came from. The scriptures say that we are gods, and we are the children of God (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34; Acts17:19; Alma 19:43b RAV, 40:11c OPV). Understanding where we came from helps us to understand where we are going. All are Children of Elohim, but only those who have received the first Endowment are the Children of Christ (Mosiah 8:28-30 RAV, 15:1-3 OPV). And lastly, by obeying the Laws of God we discover that wickedness never was happiness (Alma 19:74 RAV, 41:10b OPV; Book of Remembrance 15:33-34). These are the three truth all minsters teach when we preach teshuvah, or repentance, to all people. We are calling our brothers and sisters back home, to Israel.
“Desire in thy hearts, yea even write these things upon your hearts, and ye shall keep the commandments; for this is the whole Law: love the Lord thy God in reverence to Elohim; yea revere Elohim, lest you come into the hands of temptation.” – Book of Remembrance 15:26-27
Raphael wraps up his teachings telling Adam and Eve not to serve God in temptation, or in other words not to focus on themselves. It is not about what we get but what we give. Why? Because God loves us so much that He gave His son, and Jesus loved us so much that He gave his life. If we are the children of God, and the children of Jesus Christ then we will emulate them. We will love and serve God’s creation, just as God loves and serves us (Mosiah 2:30-41 RAV, 4:17-25 OPV; Matthew 5:44-45; 3 Nephi 5:90-91a RAV, 12:44-45 OPV).
The love that was written upon our hearts when we were born again becomes the light shining froth from the darkness, healing the fallen creation (Book of Remembrance 15:40-41). By bathing in this light, we are both purified and act as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14, John 12:36). And we can only be that light because we are a reflection of the love of Jesus Christ, the true light (Alma 18:12a RAV, 38:9b OPV; John 8:12; Avahr 22:45). And that light is love, because ours is a God of love (1 John 4:8).
“Ye that have gone forth from darkness into light, these have been divided from those led astray; and as the light shines down upon the waters of baptism, this is the reverence of Elohim who spoke unto thee in the Garden. From love, understanding was created by the love and reverence; and a thousand generations come after from that love.” -Book of Remembrance 15:40-42