“Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” (Discourses of Brigham Young [Deseret Book Co., 1941], p. 416.)
Using a nice cheap online dictionary we learn that the word “sign” can mean lots of things. I have decided that in this dictionary definition #7 is the closest to what Brigham was talking about.
A portentous incident or event; a presage: took the eclipse as a sign from God
Yes, I know there are symbolic signs we Mormons are given in certain sacred places, but it has recently dawned on me that it is all symbolic of real things in our upward journey toward a unity with God (aka exaltation). The real signs being pointed to are probably “signs from God” or various levels of revelation. The closer we get to God the more clear our revelations become.
The definition of tokens is found here. I suspect that we could go with a combination of definitions 1-3 and get to what Brigham meant.
Again, I realize we have symbolic tokens in our endowment ceremonies, but I think they symbolize something very real. I have recently concluded that the tokens are really our characters. I would say our actions or behaviors are the tokens but I think that the actions only are useful in helping our characters change — the only actions that matter are repentance related (and that is why we are to say nothing but repentance to this people).
So while God gives us the signs (revelation), we give him the tokens. The restoration of the church and the priesthood give us living prophets that teach us how to repent (and receive revelation) and our repentance allows us to present our new and improved selves to God as tokens. Then we get more signs, then we repent more and have another new and improved self to offer to God as token. (I’ve discussed this basic pattern before and I’ll probably discuss it again…)
What is the end of it all? We have all the signs and tokens required to enter His presence and become one with him.