Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Who Hung the Temple Veil?

Posted by BrianJ on January 11, 2009

Tim recently raised an interesting question during a discussion on his blog. I don’t want to get into his exact concern here, instead I want to discuss the question Tim’s question made me ask:

Who hung the veil? Who’s veil is it?

I’ve pondered before on veil symbolism in both the ancient Israelite and modern Mormon temples, but this most obvious question never ocurred to me. The veil was always something to “get through,” and since I knew—or, would be instructed—how to do that, I didn’t give much thought to the veil other than seeing it as a representation of a separation between me and God.

But Tim got me thinking, and I realized it makes some difference who hung the veil. What are some possibilities:

1) I hung the veil: because I am not willing to give my life completely over to God, I erected a privacy curtain to keep him at somewhat of a distance.

2) God hung the veil: in order to keep the profane from defiling the holy, God erected the veil so that only the pure could enter his presence.

3) Satan hung the veil: …okay, I don’t have anything to say about this option. Just throwin’ it out there.

I Hung the Veil

Maybe this seems silly—I mean, God’s the one who told Moses and Joseph to build temples and put veils in them! But that misses my point. What did God intend the veil to represent? A possibly connected story is in Exodus 34:29-35:

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, that…the skin of his face shone. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out.

So there’s at least one example of people appreciating a veil between them and God (or, at least, God’s representative), even though it doesn’t explicitly say that the Israelites requested the veil.

Another indication that the veil represents something I created is in D&C 67:10:

And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.

God Hung the Veil

Do we have scriptures that suggest it was God who hung the veil in order to keep us out?

And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3:19-20)

The problem here is that I’m not so sure that the veil in the temple represents the same veil that is discussed in Ether. We talk about a “veil of forgetfulness” in LDS doctrine: Is that the veil in Ether and is it represented by the veil in the temple? (Note that I hope to discuss the temple veil and not the veil worn by women.) Either way, the story in Ether tells of a veil that God does not control, whether he erected it or not.

Summary

My brief study of this has me leaning toward viewing the veil as a representation of my unwillingness to completely commit to God. It’s not a wall or a barricade: I still want to hear from God and maybe even catch a few dim glimpses of his glory, but I’ve got some things going on on this side that I’m not ready to let him stick his hands in, and I’ll bet he’s got some things going on over there that I just don’t want to deal with right now.

Now for your thoughts.

10 Responses to “Who Hung the Temple Veil?”

  1. I tend to think it’s #2. However, I don’t feel it’s so much that God wants to keep us out. To the contrary, I feel it’s more that we simply can’t endure his presence in our mortal state.
    IOW it’s more of an act of love for us than God concerned that we might somehow defile that which is holy.
    …my 2 cents

  2. Matthew said

    I enjoyed the post. Thanks. I think your evidence for 2 supports 2 despite the fact that (if I understood you correctly) you weren’t sure. In any case I feel like there is likely some truth in both 1 & 2.

  3. Tim said

    Glad I got you thinking. I think you know which option I think it is.

    • BrianJ said

      Bruce: I’m not denying that we can’t “endure his presence in our mortal state,” but now I’m wondering what that means? Would we burn up and be utterly destroyed? Seems to Hollywood. Would we cringe and be terrified? Would we simply die? If so, why? What is so terrible about God that we can’t be around him (in our mortal state)?

      Tim: I’m not sure which of my options you like since I know you disagree with me on the fundamental question. I think you view the OT temple veil as a curtain God placed between us and him to keep us out (so, option 2). If so, how do you read the scripture I quoted in Ether? (knowing, of course, that you don’t believe Ether, etc., but anyway….)

  4. Robert C. said

    I think the veil should be understood in conjunction with the Fall, so that we can recast the question of the post as who caused the Fall? I think this makes it easier to think about the different roles that we each played in the Fall: we (as, symbolically, Adam and Eve) partook of the fruit, but then God kicked us out of the Garden in order to help us avoid everlasting death. Or, being a bit more careful about the analogy, the veil is like the Cherub(im?) that was (were?) placed to guard the Tree of Life, and being cast out of the Garden was an act that would help us learn to approach God in the right way, rather than by trying to take the fruit of the tree illicitly. (I think it’s helpful on this point to think about those in Lehi’s dream who partook of the fruit and then later drifted away—it seems they weren’t really prepared to par-take of the fruit in that they didn’t sufficiently desire or appreciate the sweetness of the fruit. So, I think this “world of sorrow” is supposed to help us cultivate desire for the fruit so that we will “re”-partake of the fruit in the right way, with appreciation for the fruit as a gift, rather than a kind of commodity that can be taken/seized….)

  5. joespencer said

    I think Robert’s right to recast it in terms of the Fall. And so I would respond this way: God “used” Satan to set us up so that we would hang the veil. Hence, 1, 2, and 3.

  6. BrianJ said

    Robert: I’m happy that you recast the question in terms of the Fall. I think it’s especially useful to say, “being cast out of the Garden was an act that would help us learn to approach God in the right way.”

    I do caution against the “they weren’t really prepared to par-take of the fruit” idea, simply because it seems very deterministic/predestination (or whatever the correct term is!). In other words, we can’t say that everyone who falls away just wasn’t really “there” in the first place because then there’s really no such thing as “falling away.” On the other hand, I think it is quite certain that they “didn’t sufficiently desire or appreciate the sweetness of the fruit.”

    And perhaps we could make another analogy, since you seem to describe the Veil as something disciplinary. When my child misbehaves and I take her into a different room (away from fun things) for a chance to “cool off,” you could rightly say that she put herself in time out even though I was the one actually forcing the separation (thus, both 1 & 2).

    Joe: fair enough to include #3 as you do; I was more thinking that someone would come up with some more direct role for Satan here, though I can’t think of any.

  7. BrianJ said

    Tim: one last thought I had while responding to Robert. I know that you think the veil was completely done away in Christ’s Atonement, but I’m thinking that if we follow Robert’s Fall:Veil analogy it seems that atonement-driven veil-rending occurs every day—perhaps today in one man’s life as he finally fully gives himself to God, perhaps tomorrow for someone else. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all live….” Yes, Christ overcame the Fall, but people born after ~35 AD are still in a fallen state. We all fall, we all have veils, Christ is the way to rend our veils.

  8. J Bosket said

    The veil was required by God to be put in place by temple priests in construction of the temple to separate the Holy place from the Holy of Holies, where the earthly presence of God dwelled. The veil symbolized man’s sin separating him from God and it is also a symbol of the body of Jesus Christ, God’s Son who knew no sin (2Corinthians 5:21) but became sin so that through His life and death on the cross, we could enter in to eternal life. The temple veil was 30 feet wide, 60 feet high and 10 inches thick made up of 10 curtains and it took 300 priests to hand it on 4 pillars made of wood. The number 10 is symbolic of human responsibility as seen in the ten commandments…it was man’s sin that separated Him from God, God did not chose the separation. The curtains were made of four colors, white, blue, purple and scarlet. These for colors describe perfectly the person of Jesus Christ. White for His righteousness, Blue for His Diety as it is the color of Heaven, Purple for His royalty as the King of Kings, and Scarlet as the color of blood sacrifice. The veil was hung on wood, as Jesus too was hung on a tree; the cross made of wood.

    The fact that when Jesus died, the temple veil was rent in two from top to bottom speaks of the completion of Jesus’ sacrifice allowing all men access to God through faith in His sacrifice. That it was ripped from Top to bottom indicates this was the work of God, not of men. For a man might be able to make a small tear eventually in all 10 curtains and maybe part way up, but he could not come close to reaching the top in and of his own efforts. What man could not do through the keeping of the law, God did in the sacrifice of His Son.

    Our hearts are certainly veiled by sin, the sin we choose over relationship with the true and living God. By denying God’s gift of grace, we continue in sin and thus our hearts are veiled to a true two way love relationship with Him. This speaks again of our sinfulness, although we never have to stay there.

    When Moses veiled his face, it was a choice he made so that the people would not see the glory of the Lord fade from his face. (2Corinthians 3:7-18) Outside the presence of God, His glory would fade. That is the reason the people would have to make annual sacrifices for their sin. But with Jesus as the final sacrifice, we have access to God daily, intimately and individually. Upon receiving Jesus as the sacrifice for our individual sin, His spirit comes and dwells within us. How much His spirit is known to others and to ourselves is dependent on the unconfessed sin in our lives…thus the reason to confess our sins quickly and to partake of the body of Christ though communion regularly in remembrance of all He has done for us. Communion renews our spirits and frees us from the weight of sin that can stifle the outpouring of the spirit in our lives. If their is a veil in one’s life or a feeling of separateness between a believer and God, it can be removed through the remembrance of the cross. That veil is always lifted by God, through His son as we sit at the foot of the cross and remember that He has set us free, removed the veil and reconciled us to Our Father in Heaven.

  9. Rocky said

    I tend to agree with a lot of what j basket said: the veil represents Christ from it’s colors to the wood that it was hung on, also note that the veil in the temple does not touch the floor, temple patrons do not grab or allow us to grab the cloth as it is sacred. Hebrews 10:19-20 says the veil is the flesh of Christ , the veil has the same four markings as found on your garments, so we don’t just take upon us the name of Christ but we literally put on the flesh of Christ through wearing garments. So Christ is our mediator through whom we say our prayers to god through, and also who we converse with at the veil which is between god and us. Notice that te markings of the veil are not a reflection of our garments when facing the veil, rather the right breast is lined up with the right breast, this seems to me that Christ who is our advocate with the father is facing towards god with us as we approach him.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

 
%d bloggers like this: