Descriptions of the Nauvoo Endowment


The Nauvoo, Illinois, temple.

Account by Heber C. Kimball:
"The main room is divided into apartments for the ceremonies of the endowment. Beginning from the door at the West end is an all[e]y about 5 feet wide extending to about 3 feet beyond the first partitioned off where the saints receive the first part of the ceremony or where the man is created and a help mate given to him. From these rooms to the third partition in the Arch is planted the garden, which is nicely decorated and set off with shrubs and trees in pots and Boxes to represent the Garden of Eden. In this apartment is also an altar. Here the man and woman are placed and commandments are given to them in addition to what is given in the creation. Here also after the man and woman has eaten the forbidden fruit is given to them a charge at the Alter and the first and second tokens of the Aaronic Priesthood. They are then thrust out into a room which is dark being the one on the North side between the fourth and fifth division of the arch which represents the telestial kingdom or the world. Opposite to this is another apartment of the same size representing the terrestrial kingdom and between these two is an alley about 4 feet wide. In the telestial kingdom, after the man has proved himself faithful he receives the first signs and tokens of the Melchizedek priesthood and an additional charge. Here also he vouches for the conduct of his companion. They are then left to prove themselves faithful, after which they are admitted into the terrestrial kingdom, where at the alter they receive an additional charge and the second token of the Melchizedek Priesthood and also they key word on the five points of fellowship.
There are words given with every token and the new name is given in the preparation room when they receive their washing and annointing.
After received all the tokens and words and signs they are led to the vail where they give each to Eloheem through the vail and are then admitted into the Celestial Room."

(Source: Nauvoo Temple Journal, 11 December 1845, George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), p. 205; "On the day temple ordinances begin, Heber C. Kimball asks William Clayton to help him keep a record of Nauvoo temple-related activities." Ibid. p. 199.)

"Last evening an arrangement was made establishing better order in conducting the endowment. Under this order it is the province of Eloheem, Jehovah and Michael to create the world, plant the Garden and create the man and give his help meet. Eloheem gives the charge to Adam in the Garden and thrust them into the telestial kingdom or the world. Then Peter assisted by James and john conducts them through the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdom administering the charges and tokens in each and conducts them to the vail where they are received by the Eloheem and after taking with him by words and tokens are admitted by him into the Celestial Kingdom...."

(Source: Nauvoo Temple Journal, 13 December 1845, Ibid., p. 210.)


Account by "Emeline":
"Dear Sir:—I discover by your paper, in what you have published in regard to the Mormon endowments, given of late in the temple, that you have been wrongfully informed at least, so far as an actual experience has taught me in the orgies of an afternoon, in that (as I have been taught to believe) most holy building. In revealing what I am about to do, I have no lashing of conscience; notwithstanding I took upon myself, during the laughable farce, several oaths and obligations of a serious character, not to reveal the secrets of the priesthood…

I went into this pretended holy operation, in company with 14 others, all sisters in the Mormon church, and with most of whom I was well acquainted. They were, in the main, women of good character, and appeared sincere in their respective devotions. We were first received past the Guard into a private room on the north side of the Temple—this was the room of preparation or purification.—We were divested of all our apparel, and in a state of perfect nudity we were washed from head to foot,—a blanket was then thrown about our persons, and then commencing at the head we were anointed from head to foot with sweet oil scented (I think) with lavender. We were then clothed in white robes. All this was done by sisters in the church—none others were present—it is false to say that men and women are admitted together in an indecent manner. We were then conducted into a room called the garden of Eden; here we found several of our brethren robed in white also, and apparently in a soporific state. We were presented before them and a voice from the Lord awake them from sleep. After a considerable ceremony, which I do not recollect much of, we were left by the Lord and soon a very dandy-like fellow appeared with a black cape on, that had a long tail attached to it; he appeared very familiar—and by his very insinuating and friendly manner induced some of our sisters to eat of the ‘forbidden fruit.’ Soon after the voice of the Lord appeared again in the garden; we a;; appeared frightened, and both men and women huddled together into the corner of the room, as if in the act of hiding. The fellow in the black cap presents himself before the Lord and engages in a controversy, boasting of what he had done. The Lord pronounces a curse upon him—he gets down upon his belly and crawls off. At this period of the holy ceremony, I could not suppress my visible passions; for this fellow acted his part well—undoubtedly his part being the part of the Devil—was the most natural. We were then presented with aprons, which we put on about this time, a sword was shook at us through the partition of the room, which was to guard the Tree of Life. After considerable ceremony, which I do not recollect, we were passed into another room, which was dark and dreary. This was called the Terrestrial Kingdom; immediately the dandy in the black cap made his appearance; at first he appeared very sly—peeping about, and when he found the Lord was not present, he became very familiar and persuasive. Said he, ‘here we are, all together, and all good fellows well met. Some Methodists, some Presbyterians, some Mormons, and some Strangites, &c. &c. Come let us drink together.’ In this way he tempted us, and we partook with him. After a considerable parade and ceremony, we passed into another room, or Celestial Kingdom. Here I saw some of the twelve, and particularly Brigham Young, with a white crown upon his head, and as I have since been told, representing God himself. We passed this room without much ceremony into another. I have forgotten what it represented; not so much of interest transpired here, & we were conducted back and put in possession of our clothing….

In the different apartments of this singular farce, we took upon ourselves paths and obligations not to reveal the secrets of the priesthood. I do not consider them binding; as I have had ample and repeated opportunity to prove the administrators of these obligations as corrupt as the Devil in Hell. In one place I was presented with a new name, which I was not to reveal to any living creature, save the man to whom I should be sealed for eternity. By this name I am to be called in eternity, or after the resurrection. This name was ——; and from what I can gather, all the females had the same name given them, but we are not allowed to reveal it to each other, under no less penalty than to have our throats cut from ear to ear, our hearts torn out, &c., &c. I have forgotten a part of the penalties. In one place something was spoken to me which I do not recollect—the meaning was ‘marrow in the bon;’ the token was a firm hold of the hand, pressing the finger nails firmly into the wrist of the right hands. I have since been told by a brother, that there was a mystical meaning in this, that will hereafter be revealed.

Now sir, this is the substance of the Mormon endowment…."

(Source: "Mormon Endowment" by "Emeline" in Warsaw Signal, April 18, 1846)


Account by Catherine Lewis:
"On Monday, Mrs. K. and myself proceeded to the Temple; we went up three or four flights of stairs to the upper story, called the ‘upper room of the Temple,’ which is a large Hall with six rooms on either side, for the Apostles; and the Hall for the purposes of Initiation, or Endowment, is divided by canvass into six rooms more, making eighteen rooms in the whole. Two of these rooms, separated by canvass, are reserved for dressing-rooms,—one for males, the other for females; and one of the Apostle’s rooms on the right of the entrance, another on the left, are used for washing and anointing rooms. The right hand room for males, the left for females, with a large entry separated by canvass, into which Mrs. K. and I entered; she (Mrs. K.) knocked at a door, which was opened by the Porter; we went in; she conducted me to the women’s dressing room; I was told to remain until I was called to be ‘washed and anointed.’ While waiting, a company were going through the room called the Garden of Eden.—This part of the ceremony any number of persons can go in company, with or without wife or husband; but at the second part, none are allowed to go without a companion. I heard language from Scripture, and a noise apparently as if by a man crawling on the floor; soon after I heard singing, what seemed to me a romantic song; the sound was farther off than at first, and I puzzled to know what it meant. I was called into the wash-room to receive my washing, anointing and a new name; the females were attended by females; one of whom came to me with a basin of water, and began to wash my face, saying, "Beloved Sister, I wash you with pure water in the name of the Lord, that you may be clean,’ &c.

My companions and myself were required to go into a large bathing tub, and wash; then each had a blanket wrapped around us, while we were anointed. One of the ordained women, called Priestess, begins to anoint, another stands by with a horn, containing consecrated oil, which she gives to the Priestess from a wooden spoon, in such quantity and at such times, she is directed; the priestess begins at the head to anoint, and blesses by saying:—

‘Sister, I anoint you in the name of the Lord, and bless you. I anoint you to be a Queen; you shall do the same work in the Temple which you now see me do. I anoint your ears, that you may hear, your eyes, that they may see, your arms, that they may be strong, &c.’

She then whispers in the ear a name, called a new name, adding—

‘You must not tell any one your new name, until you get to the vail; it must never be spoken above the sound of your breath; if you ever mention it, the name will be taken away.’

Our names were then recorded; we then dressed and went into the other room, and waited. When the men and women were ready, a voice was heard saying, ‘Michael Jehovah, there is space, go down, create a world.’ After a few minutes the second person said, ‘I have done as thou hast said.’ The first person says, ‘all is good,’ and pretends to send the second person until all the ceremony of creation is gone through with; then man is found without an helpmeet, the first person says, ‘it is not good for man to be alone; I will cause a deep sleep to fall on man, take a rib and make a helpmeet for him.’ Then a noise was heard in the men’s room, but I know not what they did; after a while, it was silent, the doors were opened to the men’s and women’s rooms, and the women called for; who proceeded to the men’s rooms, selected their companion, each for herself, except myself and two others; then the company marched into (what they term) the Garden of Eden—which was adorned with flowers and branches of trees, one of which represented the tree of life, and another the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While walking around, the guide told us the Garden was made for us to dress and keep, of all the fruit we might eat, but of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, we must not eat; for in the day we eat thereof, we shall surely die.

I was behind the others, which the Guide observing, he came to me, and said, ‘walk along with the rest.’ I looked on him contemptuously, but obeyed orders. Soon a person appeared frightfully dressed; he went to the tree of forbidden fruit, and plucked the same, then came to the women and gave them to eat, saying, ‘take, eat and give to your husband,’ &c. When he came to me, I refused, and looked upon him with contempt, it seemed so foolish to me. I found there was no time for words, so I took it. We were then told to hid amid the trees in the Garden, for the Lord was coming, &c. Men and women began to hide, but I stood gazing; the Guide came and said, ‘Hide, the Lord is coming.’ I walked toward the trees by a door; he said, ‘go amongst the trees, for the Lord will come in at that door.’ So I moved again. Presently a person representing the Lord came in, who walked round and said ‘Adam, where art thou;’ the guide answered, ‘I heard thy voice in the garden, and was afraid, &c.’ The rest of the ceremonies are recorded in Genesis 3d chapter, with some slight variations. This person then cursed the earth, also the one who personified Satan, who goes on his hands and feet, and crawls out of the garden. A man and woman were then called to the Altar to receive the signs and tokens of the Priesthood; the one who is styled God, says:—

‘I knew you would transgress, &c. Before I created, and placed you here, I in intended you should; but I have prepared a Saviour for you, and in due time he will come. I will now give you the signs and tokens of the priesthood. If any one comes without these signs, you may know they are not sent by me; do not receive them; the first sign or token is to take hold of the right hand, pacing the ball of the thumb between the two upper joints of the fore-fingers. The second sign is to place the thumb on the upper joint of the second finger;—these tokens signify you have two names; one of which is a new name. The third sign is called the patriarchal grip, and has three names; the first, Patriarchal grip; second, the Son; the third, you will receive at the Veil.’

Whilst theses ceremonies were enacted, I heard a noise, when looking round I beheld a flaming sword come flourishing in at the door, near the tree of life. It had a singular appearance, and looked like fire. After another room, representing this world, the only light we had came through the canvass, which separated one room from the other. The Devil came in to tempt us with a vessel of wine; (as it was called, I did not taste it.) He was singing a vulgar, obscene song; he handed the wine all around, saying ‘this is my kingdom; here you may eat, drink, and be merry.’ He strutted about, singing; some one came in and tried to get the signs. Soon another came with the Gospel, and began to preach; the Devil contending with him for some time; a knocking was heard at the door, upon which the teacher went to the door, and appeared to be listening; he returned and said, ‘Peter has given me the Keys of the Kingdom, which is to be set up in the last days.’ Then the Devil began to rage, and was cast out, and he left the room hissing. Soon after this our robes, caps and shoes were brought; the men wore shirts over a pair of white pants or drawers, and had no other clothing until our robes, &c. were brought—linen caps for men, and muslin caps for women. We were then ordered into another room, which was called the terrestrial kingdom, and there say after our Teacher what he said. So far as my memory serves me, he began by saying ‘I swear, I will sustain the Bible and the Book of Mormon; the Book of doctrine and covenants.—I will not disclose any thing here made known.—I will avenge my brother’s blood in every possible way.’ To the men the Teacher said, ‘I will not touch a daughter of Adam unless she be given me of the Lord;’ then to the women, ‘I will not have any other man but my husband.’ The men and women were told to hold up their hands. It seemed so frivilous to me, I did not raise my hand; as I had no husband I thought it altogether unnecessary. The teacher came to me apparently frightened, and said ‘Sister, you did not raise your hand.’ I smiled and raised by hand, but wondered at his appearance. I have since been informed it would be death to resist. Our shoes and loose clothing were carried to the upper part of the Hall; we could not obtain them without going through; there was no way to escape; if any one should attempt it, they would be met by Brigham’s Holy Ghost, I suppose, which one of the Elders told me ‘was a man standing at the door to knock them in the head with a mallet, if they attempted to escape.’

We were to hold up the heads of the Church, and obey them in all things, and at all times. Then we held up both hands above the head, and placed out right hand under our left ear, drew it across the throat, the left hand was placed to the right shoulder, then drawn across the breast, and the right hand suddenly thrust down the right side. We then raised our hands again, and were taught how to pray. This ceremony concluded, we proceeded singly to the veil, (which is a large sheet separating us from the upper part of the hall, having five hole in it—two for the eyes, one for the mouth, and two for the arms,) the person representing the Lord is on the other side of the vail, to take the signs and converse with us. Our Instructor tells us how to answer. Then the Lord asks for the signs; we give them; our new name is whispered in his ear; he then whispers the third name of the Patriarchal Grip in our ear, viz:—‘Marrow in the bones, Strength in the sinews, and virtue in the loins throughout all generation.’ This being over, our Instructor knocked at the door, which was partly opened by this Lord, who asked, ‘what is wanting?’ The Instructor answered ‘a Candidate is ready to enter;’ he says, ‘take off your robe and put it on the right shoulder; everything appears wrong end foremost in the other world. Take off your shoes, the place upon which you stand is Holy Ground.’ A motion being made, we enter the place representing ‘the Celestial Kingdom;’ we obtain our clothes, and go out a different way to our homes."

(Source: Catherine Lewis, Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the Mormons (Lynn: Published by the Author, 1848. According to Mormon Apostle Heber C. Kimball’s Journal # 93, p. 174, Catherine Lewis received her Temple Endowment in the Nauvoo, Illinois, Temple on December 22, 1845.)

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