This morning I went through a "live" endowment ceremony at the Salt Lake Temple. I went at the invitation of a very close friend [Brook Bowman] who wanted to go through for her own endowment and who wanted me to go through with her.
I was dismayed to find how little of the ceremony I remembered. It must have been years since I went through an endowment session. ... Certain things still irritated me. The repeated use of "It is well." Also the preoccupation with the signs of the penalty. Certain other things have now been eliminated, e.g., the elimination of the flaming sword, and the elimination of the Protestant hymn we always used to sing. I keep thinking that so many beautiful things could be said to make the ceremony more memorable and beautiful and substantive. I think of many people that I would not encourage to go through the temple, who would be turned off by it, who would not get the spiritual lift that it promises. The building is beautiful-the rooms, the paintings, the hallways, the woodwork and painting and art work. The uniform [white robes] impresses me as being quite Arabic-or perhaps ancient Greek. The hat, the robe, the apron, all look quite Greek, except for the length of the robe. The ceremony is also quite masonic, and could be improved to make it less so. Even the prayer circle, which I have remembered as a poignant moment in the ceremony, seemed this time to be mostly a preoccupation with ritual and ceremony, tokens and signs. The prayer seemed to be an afterthought, subsidiary to the principal part which was the performance of the various signs. I had remembered it as a splendid and intimate fellowship in which we joined hands in a solemn beseeching on behalf of the sick. It did not seem that way this time.
[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]