To me, the Gospel of St. Luke is the superior of the four. Fortunately for me, most of the gospel readings for Mass readings come out of Luke this year. This last Sunday was a particularly easy-to-digest parable.
Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’
Of course, in this story, Our Lord praised the Pharisee, right? He was living the most holy life! He had a position of prominence within the temple, and even fasted and paid tithes on his whole income! Surely this holy man, who was doing all that was asked of him, would be praised by Jesus!
I tell you that [the tax collector], rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Nope! That would be totally out of character for Christ, who is both predictable and poignant in this teaching – but it did get me thinking about temples and tithing.
In Mormonism, you are not even permitted to enter a Mormon temple unless you attest to your local Mormon ecclesiastical leader that you paid tithes on your whole income, which has evolved from the initial requirement in Mormonism to pay a tithe only on your surplus. Even more astounding is the Mormon church’s own edit of the Bible in Genesis 14:39 stating that God defined Abraham’s tithe as “more than that which he had need.” Note that this version of the Bible – with Joseph Smith’s own edits – is not accepted as canon by anyone other than Mormons, and even they do not implement this edit in their own policies, leading to more paradoxical credibility issues within Mormon canon.
Regardless, the very fact that Mormons are not even permitted to enter their own temple without attesting to a tithing on their incomes would on the surface makes their temples appear to be full of Pharisees who are boasting of their righteousness before God, especially when one considers that Mormons believe that true exaltation cannot occur without going to a Mormon temple – which means in Mormonism, you must attest to a Mormon leader that you’re paying the Mormon church 10% of your income before you’re allowed to access the ordinances that Mormons believe are required for exaltation. The “unworthy” Mormons and non-Mormons are not even allowed to sit in the back of a Mormon temple and pour out their humility to God. This goes even beyond the detestable practices of simony implemented by certain Catholic bishops in the form of paid indulgences in the middle ages before they were banned by the Pope in 1567.
Fortunately, temples in Christianity are not necessary thanks to Christ. He fulfilled the law. My friend John wrote a fantastic post about how the pre-Christian Jewish temples worked. An excerpt from his article:
The New Testament records that when Jesus died, the veil of the temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was rent in two. The symbolism is obvious. […] The Epistle to the Hebrews explains that Jesus Christ is now that one High Priest who makes intercession for his people at the throne of God.
A core tenet of Mormonism teaches that the doctrine of the necessity for temples was one of many truths lost through Catholic meddling in early church doctrine; if that were actually true, then Paul and the original apostles were part of the conspiracy.