Veils and their removal

Aug 01
Veils and their removal

I have been listening to Alonzo Gaskill’s book “Sacred Symbols: Finding Meaning in Rites, Rituals, & Ordinances” and at one point he mentions the symbolism of veils. It set me off on a search to understand this topic better. I did a simple search in Scripture Notes for:

veil*

If you’re new here, the wildcard * on the end brings in any results like veils, veiled, and so on beyond the word “veil.”

There were 58 results, and as seen below, other verses came up as well that don’t mention the word veil.

What veils are mentioned in scripture?

  • Veils for women (Genesis 24:65)
  • Veil in the temple to separate the holy place from the most holy place (Exodus 26:31). Certain things happen outside the veil for the congregation, and to prepare the priest to enter the most holy place.
  • Moses put a veil on his face – Note: It was AFTER Moses spoke to the people that he put the veil on (Exodus 34:33). The purpose here is so when he is delivering a message to Israel, they know the message is from God and carries that authority because his face is lit up. Then Moses would veil his face (perhaps consistently according to some commentaries) until he entered the tabernacle again to speak with God, where he would remove the veil and speak with God face to face (Exodus 34:34). After which he would exit with the glory of God showing in his face, deliver the message, and again veil himself at the conclusion (Exodus 34:35).
  • A veil to cover the ark of the covenant (Exodus 40:3). When the tabernacle was moved, the veil to the most holy place was used to cover the “ark of testimony” (Numbers 4:5).
  • Veil over the earth which the Lord will remove at his coming (Isaiah 25:7) to bring the telestial world into the terrestrial. This veil is the covering of Christ’s temple in his tabernacle (D&C 101:23).
  • Veil of Herod’s “temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” at the death of Christ (Matthew 27:51) symbolic of Christ bringing access to God to all mankind. Paul records he brought access from God to man so we could have “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).
  • Christ’s flesh was the veil (Hebrews 10:20) and was torn for us so that we could have access to God for a remission of our sins and the sanctification of our temples. Christ is “the way” (John 14:26) for us to follow. In the sacrament, the bread is torn just as the veil of the temple and Christ’s body was torn for us.
  • Veil of understanding – sometimes God conceals knowledge until the right time. His disciples’ “eyes were holden that they should not know him” (Luke 24:16) and Paul tells us their “minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.” (2 Cor. 3:14-16). False traditions concealed the understanding of Christ as told in the Old Testament until the veil over their hearts was removed and their minds opened and they transitioned from glorying in the law of Moses to glorying in Christ.
  • There are two veils to the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:3). One to enter the tabernacle from the world, and one to enter the most holy place. None were to enter but the circumcised (Ezekiel 44:7-9). Reading this brought to mind the recent articles I’ve researched on circumcision. Curiously, there are two coverings that must be removed through circumcision. One in the flesh and one on the heart. Do those represent the outer and inner veils respectively? The Lord condemned some in Israel who allowed the uncircumcised of heart and flesh to enter his sanctuary.
  • Dark veil of unbelief was cast from king Lamoni’s mind when he repented (Alma 19:6). Our bodies are a veil which both prevents and protects our spirit from viewing the spirit realm until we are sufficiently sanctified and prepared to enter that space and have encounters. Otherwise the encounters may destroy us. Unbelief is one of the elements to that veil that must be overcome to enter into the veil. Another example of this is when “the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord…” (Ether 3:6). Because of his knowledge, “he could not be kept from beholding within the veil…therefore he saw Jesus,; and he did minister unto him” (Ether 3:19-20). The dark veil of unbelief is removed by obtaining a broken heart and contrite spirit (Ether 4:15) which is also the baptism of fire (3 Nephi 9:20) and circumcision of the heart. The Lord also calls this the “veil of darkness” (D&C 38:8).
  • Satan’s chains of darkness veil the earth (Moses 7:26; 61). Satan’s goal is to keep us in darkness (and bondage).
  • The heaven’s were veiled at the crucifixion of Christ (Moses 7:56).

From the topical guide entry for veil, there are 3 other references not found in a search for “veil*”

  • There is no remembrance of former things, Eccl. 1:11. (IE. forgetfulness from our spirits being put into a mortal body/veil that shields us from the heavens)
  • now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face, 1 Cor. 13:12. (IE. concealment or foginess in the mortal state)
  • hath broken down the middle wall of partition, Eph. 2:14.  (“Perhaps an allusion to the warning barrier which marked off the Court of the Gentiles from the higher level of the Court of the Women in the Temple. It was death for a Gentile to pass the barrier.” (Dummelow, p. 962))

There is also another reference in 1 Corinthians 11:10 which I will address below.

Why are things covered with a veil?

As can be seen there are various elements to veils. Satanic veils are to conceal light and truth from people.  They are individual and global in nature. Without seeing the spiritual reality of these things, just imagine a dark covering over your head, body, or the whole earth. He’s trying to shut us out from God’s light.

On the other hand, God’s veils are not to keep us in darkness but to protect people until they are sufficiently sanctified to pass through the veils and receive more light. They are holy and hidden from the world. They veil us to protect things of a lower order from the consuming power that emanates from God which will be “utterly destroyed by the brightness of [his] coming.” (D&C 5:19).

How to rend the veil

Christ rent the veil to give us power to come to God ourselves. Then throughout scripture he informs us how to come to him in faith and ascend into heavenly realms through the veil. We are invited and commanded to do this. These are only 3 key verses which contain instructions for specifically doing this. There are other verses as well, but these contain the sacred formulas.

  • ​Ether 12:19 see things with an eye of faith first, then with physical eyes. The eye of faith is our sacred imagination.
  • D&C 67:10 – To see the Lord with our spiritual mind
    • Remove our jealousies (of everyone’s life experience when we all had a choice in what we experience here)
    • Remove our fears (another hard one to put our faith in a perfect God instead of the arm of flesh)
    • Humble ourselves before the Lord
  • D&C 93:1
    • Forsake our sins (repent/turn to God)
    • Come unto Christ (fully, without reservation. “Giving up the summer cottage in Babylon” to paraphrase Neal A. Maxwell)
    • Call on his name (in mighty prayer)
    • Obey his voice (follow the revelations you receive)
    • Keep his commandments

These elements sound simple enough as if they are “primary” answers, but as we dig into them, seeking to implement them in our lives, they can quickly become overwhelming and difficult. It’s part of the process. If rending the veil were easy and everyone did it, so many more would be condemned because of the higher knowledge they attained and then rejected by returning to Babylon. By making the process difficult, God has put a protection in place that only the serious achieve spiritual heights.

It reminds me of this statement by Thomas Paine in his letter, “The Crisis,” published December 23, 1776.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  ‘Tis dearness only that gives every thing its value.  Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated…”

Take for example removing our fears and jealousies. We quickly discover we have layers of false beliefs and traditions in place that our ego is quick to protect. It constantly tells us we are in the truth and protected from falsehood and wraps us in self-deception that make us rely on the arm of flesh instead of truly coming to God and relying on him. Practically the whole last year and a half have been reliance on the arm of flesh for the world. Panic and false promises have turned freedom in society and hearts, to false security and false hope. We have to learn to subjugate the ego and move from one state of grace to a higher, relying on faith instead of tradition (or arm of flesh knowledge). This is largely a private journey that may lead us in directions we didn’t expect. I am aware of a few people’s strange journeys they’ve taken to come to God… It’s not our place to judge what paths someone walks because, I believe, they worked that out with God before coming here and this is why blaming God for things is pointless. It was our choice of spiritual development paths that put us into our circumstances, with promises for how they would let our spirits grow.

Life is full of surprises that are both planned by God for our spiritual development, and caused by the use of our agency in opening and shutting doors along life’s journey. Our goal has to be the elimination of unbelief and the increase in our faith so that the veil of unbelief is removed and we can lift the veil that separates us from God. This takes great mental effort to tune our minds to God, but he’s promised it’s available and achievable.

Women and Veils

What do all these things imply for why women are covered with a veil, particularly in sacred temple rituals? What is the symbolism? I think a lot of people are confused by the use of women covering their face with a veil and consider it something negative, yet consider these things…

Moses hid his face with a veil because of the power emanating from his encounter with God because the people couldn’t look upon that degree of glory, yet he wanted to lift the veil for all Israel to experience God for themselves. The Holy of Holies is concealed with a veil to protect the people from the presence of God, yet Christ removed that veil through the atonement to bring access to God to everyone. We might consider the possibility that women are “behind the veil” and not in front of it, as a protection to the rest of us and a sign of authority and that they lift the veil symbolically to reveal something powerful.

Alonzo Gaskill in his book Sacred Symbols, chapter 5, discusses the symbolism of temple clothing and in speaking of early Christian worship where the woman would wear a veil, notes that the veil was a symbol of power and authority.

In 1 Corinthians 11:10 we read “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” There are different interpretations of this in commentaries you can find on Bible Hub for this verse.

Most other translations of this verse change the word power to a sign or symbol of authority, and a couple translations change this to a covering or veil. In essence, the woman is clothed with power and authority in prayer and coming to God in the presence of angels.

Paul mentioned (not as doctrine) that women’s long hair is a glory and a covering to them (1 Cor. 11:15). In a sense, the covering is a veil. One interesting commentary (Ellicott’s) noted that the Jews would be familiar with the power that came from Samson not cutting his hair. It may have been equated to the concept that angels once fell to marry the daughters of men (Genesis 6:2-5) apparently because of their beauty, so women conceal their beauty (with a veil) to be modest in the presence of angels. Interesting interpretation…

Paul taught that husbands should love their wives, “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Eph. 5:25). Christ is the bridegroom (D&C 88:92) and the church is the bride, so the church as bride is concealed by a veil. The symbolism here is perhaps simply the sign of subordination to God, and modesty which we ALL must do in humility or we do not obtain the communion we seek.

Paul also taught that we are the temple of God. Then the temple must have symbolic meaning within each of us. When we engage in sacred temple worship, and are told that we must consider ourselves as if we were Adam and Eve, we see a prototype man and woman, fall, then ascend through the steps of their worship to return to God’s presence. In a macro view, we might consider the possibility that Adam, who refused the temptation of the devil, represents the spirit of both men and women. We might consider that Eve, who partook of the fruit, represents the body or natural man state of both men and women. In this sense we are all both Adam and all Eve. I suppose you could say it’s the male and female parts of us, or our yin and yang. Then at a point where women veil their faces, it could also be perceived that it is representative of the body showing subordination to God and having the need to veil itself whereas the spirit does not require having protection from the spiritual nature of coming to God.

There are many facets to this concept of veils and trying to establish just one symbolic viewpoint seems fruitless. On the one hand, there is protection for the wearer, another view is the sign of subordination (both to the husband, and to God), and on the other, it is a sign of power and authority and being in God’s presence.

Jewish customs also state that a man is to place the veil on the woman he’s marrying as a sign that he will clothe and provide for her and that he marries and values her for more than her outer beauty. It was also to prevent the mistake made by Jacob where he was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel because she came to the wedding heavily veiled leaving him unaware who she was.

The whole of scripture is ripe with the symbolism that we are entering into a marriage covenant with God. Perhaps the unveiling and revealing of the bride is somewhat reminiscent of the uncovering or circumcision of the heart where our love for God is uncovered and unrestricted. That’s speculative and something to ponder, but the word uncover reminds me of the definition of circumcision.

The scriptures are amazing and when viewed in light of the ancient customs, gives a richer meaning than what people in today’s world often ascribe to a cursory examination viewed by today’s standards.

 

(Featured image by iakovenko at 123rf.com)

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About the Author

Oak Norton - Sometimes inspired, sometimes perspired.

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