By Hollie Ogden
The ordinances of the temple are full of symbols. A particular symbol I have taken notice of lately is the veil. It is a critical, capstone part of the endowment ceremony and has some obvious and less obvious meaning behind it.
The veil represents our separation from God, the veil of forgetfulness, God’s merciful protection from His glory, and it is a symbol of Christ.
When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, a partition came between man and God. I don’t know how to describe this metaphysical separation, it is vague and impossible for our mortal minds to wrap around. So God uses a physical object— a separating sheet of cloth— to represent that gap. The scriptures refer to this separation as spiritual death, or the “first death” (Helaman 14:16) Gratefully, despite the very real gap between man and God, “the resurrection of Christ redeemeth all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.” (Helaman 14:17) We are shown how to part the veil and make it back to God’s full presence- that is the true essence of the endowment.
Veil of Forgetfulness
When primary children or newcomers (or, let’s face it, adult Sunday school classes) are taught the Plan of Salvation, a diagram of circles and lines effectively displays the roadmap of God’s merciful plan. Typically, the first little slash bears the title “Veil.” This again describes a divide between us and God, but in a way different than spiritual death. Adam forgot his role in the premortal life before he fell and became spiritually dead. It makes life based on faith.
There are multiple uses of the word veil in the scriptures that describe an almost physical cloak that God uses to protect man from His full glory. There are two particular examples that illustrate this well. Before the Brother of Jared’s sees Christ, it says “the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord;” suggesting that Christ was in the Brother of Jared’s presence already, but was hidden, protected from His full presence.
Secondly, after Moses converses with the Lord, it says “the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
This veil of protection is similar to the cherubim and a flaming sword referenced in the Adam and Eve story that protects them from partaking of the tree of life once they were fallen. It is the same principle behind temple recommends— God only wants us to be accountable for what we are worthy to receive and deliberately choose to do so.
A Type of Christ
In the October 2021 conference, Russell M. Nelson said, “everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ.” I would add to his thought that nearly every part of the endowment ceremony is reflexive and symbolic of Him, His role, and mission in some way.
As the participants progress through the ceremony, there is only one way to the Celestial Room: through the veil. The Celestial Room of the temple symbolizes God’s presence, so naturally, it is only through Christ— our One Way— that we can enter. Christ said “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14: 6), and He means it. It is through Christ that we communicate with the Father, receive essential knowledge, and enter HIs presence.