Washing and Anointings

The Initiatory ritual is a precursor for the Endowment. What is this ritual? How as it changed over the years?

Early Mormon Leaders
Bathed in Whiskey

This video comes from Oliver Cowdery's Ohio Sketchbook, written on January 16th of 1836.

Initiatory in 1836

 The following entry comes from Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland Ohio Sketchbook. The Kirtland Temple was completed between 1833 andn 1836. For whatever reason, the early church leaders performed their initiatories outside of the temple in Joseph Smith's home.

Post Script to Saturday the 16th.

Met in the evening with bro. Joseph Smith, jr. at his house, in company with bro. John Corrill, and after pure water was prepared, called upon the Lord and proceeded to wash each other’s bodies, and bathe the same with whiskey, perfumed with cinnamon. This we did that we might be clean before the Lord for the Sabbath, confessing our sins and covenanting to be faithful to God. While performing this washing unto the Lord with solemnity, our minds were filled with many reflections upon the propriety of the same, and how the priests anciently used to wash always before ministering before the Lord. As we had nearly finished this purification, bro. Martin Harris came in and was also washed.

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Initiatory in the 1860s

The following story comes from Ann Eliza Webb. She was endowed when she was seventeen years old as a means to help her heal from sickness. The following is found in her book, Wife No. 19:


When I entered the Endowment-House, I was made, first of all, to take off my shoes, for the place was too holy to be desecrated by outside dust. Having done this, I gave my name and age, the names of my parents, and date of baptism and confirmation, to the officiating clerk, who entered them all in a large book. Several other persons of both sexes were present, and after all had been similarly catechized, and their answers noted, we were asked to produce our bottles of oil, — for we had been instructed, among other things, to bring with us a bottle of the best olive-oil: these were taken from us; our bundles of clothing were handed to us again, and we were told to "pass on."

We entered a large bath-room, which was separated in the middle by a heavy curtain, for the purpose of dividing the men from the women. The men passed to one side of the curtain, the women to the other. In our room were several large tubs filled with water, and Miss Eliza R. Snow and two or three other women were in attendance. I was received by Miss Snow, who placed me in one of the tubs, and washed me from my head to my feet, repeating certain formulae to the effect that I was washed clean from the blood of this generation, and if I remained firm in the faith, should never be harmed by any of the ills that beset the world, and which soon were to be showered in terrible profusion upon the earth. Plagues, pestilence and famine should cover the earth, and be let loose in its every corner, but I should be passed by unscathed, if I was true to my religion — the only revealed religion of God. After I had been wiped dry, she proceeded to anoint me with olive-oil. As she did so, she repeated, solemnly, —

'Sister, I anoint your head, that it may be prepared for that crown of glory awaiting you as a faithful Saint, and the fruitful wife of a priest of the Lord ; your forehead, that your brain may be quick of discernment ; your eyes, that they may be quick to perceive the truth, and to avoid the snares of the enemy; your ears, that they may be quick to hear the word of the Lord; your mouth, that you may with wisdom speak the words of eternal life, and show forth the praise of the immortal gods; your tongue, to pronounce the true name which will admit you hereafter behind the veil, and by which you will be known in the celestial kingdom. I anoint your arms to labor in the cause of righteousness, and your hands to be strong in building up the kingdom of God by all manner of profitable works. I anoint your breasts, that you may prove a fruitful vine to nourish a strong race of swift witnesses, earnest in the defence of Zion; your body, to present it an acceptable tabernacle when you come to pass behind the veil; your loins, that you may bring forth a numerous race to crown you with eternal glory, and strengthen the heavenly kingdom of your husband, your master, and crown in the Lord. I anoint your knees, on which to prostrate yourself, and humbly receive the truth from God's holy priesthood; your feet, to run swiftly in the ways of righteousness, and stand firm upon the appointed places. And now I pronounce your body an acceptable temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit."

As may be imagined, I was literally besmeared with oil from my head to my feet. I breathed it, smelled it, tasted it; it ran into my eyes, and made them smart fearfully, and dripped in any but an agreeable manner from my hair. I was fairly saturated with it; was cognizant of nothing else; and I was so nauseated from it that I could scarcely go on with the ceremonies. I got a distaste for it then that I have never got over, and to this day even the sight of it makes me ill.


The Holy Garments

After the washing and anointing, I was given a garment which I was told to put on, and charged, after once assuming it, that I must never leave it off. When it became necessary to change, I must take off one side, then put the fresh one in its place ; then I could drop the soiled one altogether, and get the fresh one on as soon as possible. So long as I wore it, I was free from danger, and even from death. Disease should not assail me, and neither shot nor the assassin's knife should have power to harm me ; all should be turned one side. Every good Mormon wears this garment, and is very superstitious about allowing it off. It is said that Smith never would have been killed had it not been that he left off this charmed garment when he went to Carthage. Had he allowed it to remain on, the balls of the murderers would have been utterly powerless to harm him.

There is nothing elegant about this garment; on the contrary, it is quite ugly, and the young Saints who assume it dislike it terribly for its plainness and awkwardness. In shape, it is like a child's sleeping-robe, with the waist and drawers combined, and reaches from the neck to the feet. It is of white, bleached muslin, and untrimmed. Latterly, some of the younger daughters of Brigham Young, and other young ladies of the Mormon bon ton, have instituted a reform, and, to the horror of the older ones, — who are not given over to the "pomps and vanities," &c., — have had their garments cut shorter, low in the neck, and shortsleeved, and elaborately trimmed. Of course the majority of the people, who have known of this innovation, have been terribly scandalized; but all to no avail. Mormon girls, like girls of the world, object to making guys of themselves; and neither "counsel" nor ridicule can aftect them when once their minds are made up on the subject of dress. They will suffer for that what they will not for their religion.

Mine, of course, was made after the true orthodox fashion. Over it I wore a white night-gown and skirt, and on my feet white stockings and white linen shoes. My Temple robe was the last to be donned. It is a long, loose, flowing robe of homespun linen, falling to the ankle, and at the top plaited into a band, which passes over the right shoulder, and is fastened under the left arm ; it was girdled by a white linen belt: the cap, which accompanies it, is a simple square of linen, or muslin, gathered in one corner to ht the head ; the remainder falls down over the back of the head, like a veil.

While all this washing and robing was going on on one side of the curtain, the same things were being done on the opposite side. I suppose we could hear the murmur of voices and the splash of water; but everything was quiet and subdued, and the most perfect order reigned.

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