Temple Worship and Temple Worthiness

E.-SanctuaryHandshake
A good friend of mine recently returned to Church activity. His story is a complicated one. Tyler (I’m going to call him Tyler) is a returned missionary and prior to his period of inactivity had served as an EQP, Executive Secretary, and temple ordinance worker in his ward. About a year ago, Tyler came out of the closet. First to himself, then to immediate family members and a few close friends. He did not tell his bishop or any of his fellow ward members. Instead, he moved out of his ward and eventually stopped attending Church altogether. He also began to date in an effort to get into a serious relationship with another man. So while he had spent most of his life as a model Mormon, coming out and embracing his sexual identity led him into a period of general non-engagement with the Church. He occasionally drank (though did not abuse) alcohol, and generally his lifestyle reflected a shifting (and distinctively less LDS) perspective on morality and right and wrong. He also began attending the Episcopal Church, which he enjoyed in part because it was new and different but still Christ-centric, but also very much because he fell in love with the richness of the liturgy. He spent a total of 6 months basically totally inactive in the LDS Church, and not conforming to certain key LDS behavioral standards.

Then he received an email from a close friend (actually a mutual friend of both of ours, I’ll call him Jake). Jake is a very liberal Mormon, and well outside of the Mormon mainstream on LGBT issues (including his unequivocal support of gay marriage). In his email to Tyler he strongly encouraged him to return to church activity, reach out to his new ward, quit drinking, and hold himself to behavioral standards in his dating life consistent with the Law of Chastity (no sexual relations outside of marriage). It was a gutsy email for Jake to write, and he knew that it had the potential to harm his friendship with Tyler. But it was also surprisingly effective, Tyler tells me, in part because of Jake’s own unconventionally progressive brand of Mormonism. He would have simply dismissed it out of hand coming from most of the Mormons he knows. This courageous and unsolicited bit of encouragement from Jake influenced Tyler’s decision to return to the Church.

Attending the Episcopal Church, particularly during the holiday season, rekindled within Tyler a sense of how deeply religious his own personal nature was. But it also reminded him that he had lost something valuable in his absence from Mormonism. He resolved to try and return to his Mormon roots, not just by going back to his ward but by returning to the temple. He still had an active temple recommend, and had already made the lifestyle changes back into conformity with temple worthiness standards. During his first three weeks of renewed Church activity, he attended the temple three times. He had hoped that he would rediscover something like the deep connection to our high liturgy that he had experienced at the Episcopal Church, but found that he was disappointed on that front. By comparison to the spiritual invigoration of the Episcopal liturgy, the endowment ceremony was rote, formulaic, even uninspiring. And while he did feel the spirit in the temple, he did not feel it as strongly as he had during the Episcopal worship services. This was especially true his first two times at the temple after returning.

His third time was notably different. Unlike the first two, this time Tyler felt a measure of guilt. He really questioned whether or not he was worthy to be there at all. This feeling of unworthiness, of not belonging, persisted throughout the ceremony. Until he reached the celestial room. The contrast could not have been starker. There he felt God’s presence and God’s unconditional love. He felt accepted, embraced, wholly worthy to be there. And whereas for most of his time there he had wanted to leave as quickly as possible when the ceremony was over, he now desired to stay.

* * *

I remember vividly my first time at the temple. The strangeness and unexpectedness of it. How almost shocking it was to see so many members of my extended family participating in this weird, esoteric ritual seemingly without a second thought, as though it were the most natural thing in the world for us to be doing. But the memory that stands out most is the initiatory, the moment I received the garment. The initiatory rites have changed over the years, so many of you will not identify directly with my experience. Back then, you passed through the different stages of ritual blessing, washing, and anointing wearing only a tunic-like shield, nothing underneath. It covered you, but only barely. I felt exposed, and that raw, vulnerable exposedness was compounded by the intimacy of the rites. By the time I reached the final stage, I longed to be covered. When the ordinance worker ritually clothed me in the garment (they actually did this in a very dignified and comfortable way), the sense of relief was palpable. Where I had felt exposed and vulnerable and uncomfortable, the garment now made me feel covered and protected.

I recognize that there are valid reasons for changing the initiatory rites. Now initiates begin the ceremony already wearing the garment, beneath a significantly more protective tunic. At the rite’s culmination, the garment is simply ritually acknowledged and formally authorized rather than placed upon the patron. There is less discomfort with the ritual now, especially for first-time initiates. I’m not sure how representative my own experience receiving my temple garment is of the experience of others, but my only regret about the changes to the initiatory (and, again, I acknowledge that there are benefits to the changes) is that no-one will experience the profound and palpable sense of relief, of enclosure, of protection, of wholeness that I did that first time the garment was placed upon my otherwise exposed and vulnerable body. The promises made to me as I received it rang as deeply and as true as anything I’ve experienced in my Mormon life.

* * *

Tyler’s description of his third post-reactivation visit to the temple reminded me of when I first received the temple garment. Of the unnerving and progressive discomfort transformed into an emotional and spiritual sense of peace and comfort at the ceremony’s culminating moment. I have thought about it a lot, and come to the conclusion that there is a deeper truth in his story about the temple, about seeking and finding God’s presence in our grossly imperfect world with our grossly imperfect lives. We are required to be worthy to be in the temple, to receive and renew our endowment covenants. Yet in a very real sense, the endowment makes us even less worthy. It’s not just that God has unreasonable standards of absolute commitment and even perfection, but that we freely and willfully promise to live up to those standards. We turn, by covenant, high standards into minimum requirements. And we go back over and over again and are reminded of what standards we have committed ourselves to and, if we’re being really honest with ourselves, just how much and how often we fail to live up to them. And the ceremony itself frames just how impossibly high the stakes are. We place ourselves in a double bind by acknowledging the necessity of our worthiness and ensuring our unworthiness at the very same time and through the very same means.

I think that more Mormons should experience the endowment the way Tyler did. The bulk of the ceremony should serve as a progressively unnerving reminder of how inadequate we are, how miserably we fail to live up to our sacred commitments, what a fallen world this is and what fallen and vulnerable and exposed creatures we are. And then we should experience the spiritual relief wash over us as God, on the basis of only tokens of our effort and of our having even accepted the impossible commitments in the first place, accepts us, embraces us, lets us into His presence, gives us a place of rest, considers us worthy. The failures of our lives, ritually reenacted in the temple by our acceptance of obligations we know we cannot and will not and do not live up to, inevitably propel us toward an encounter with God in which our unworthiness to stand in His presence is manifest and inescapable, a state of unimaginable vulnerability. And yet we are taken in, and once in His presence, despite our unworthiness, we desire to stay.

**Note: this post is not about Tyler’s personal story per se, and should not be construed as an invitation to discuss the particulars of Tyler’s experience inside and outside of Church activity.

Comments

  1. Nice work Brad. Very nice indeed

  2. Thanks Brad. This is a lovely companion piece to Taysom’s from the other day; I like the idea of the temple creating a stark contrast between me as I can achieve and me as the Atonement can create me.

  3. Brad,
    Well articulated but it leaves me with a heavy heart. It feels like you are reaching toward symbolic self-flagellation here. We are clearly less than God but we are his children. Is this the attitude you would want your children to have approaching you?

  4. Thanks . Beautiful. Deeply personal. This is lovely and helps me remember my first endowment and gives my hope that someday I will be ready to return.

  5. @Howard: It’s more about contrast than self-flagellation, I think. The world will impose upon us all a sense of our shortcomings and failings, and a commitment to God (at least to a God who makes some real demands of us) will only deepen that. But to the extent that our actual encounter with God contrasts with our feelings of human failing and unworthiness before Him, then yes, I hope that my children will approach me in the knowledge that my love for and acceptance of them can overshadow and overpower even the deepest sense of failure, brokenness, and inadequacy. I don’t think the sense of failure and unworthiness is calculated so much as it is inevitable. What’s wonderful is that the same process which makes us acutely conscious of our unworthiness also channels us directly into the presence of a God who accepts us on the basis of mere tokens of effort and commitment, rather than our having fully lived up to those commitments. Yet it’s not just a contrivance either. He really does expect us to strive toward the absolutes dictated by our covenants, and to continue to do so despite our failures, _and_ He accepts our failed efforts because the same covenants that obligate us to a kind of unreachable perfection also bind us to the body and power of Christ to make us whole and worthy and acceptable despite our failures to keep those commitments. The grace God extends toward us by which He accepts us is only meaningful (and therefore profoundly meaningful) to the extent that we fail to earn that acceptance by living up to our commitments. We all fail in the eyes of our parents, and yet the parental love that persists despite those failings can be a powerful force in moving us beyond our brokenness and inadequacy.

  6. Often, in recent years, I have felt the same uneasiness through a large part of the ceremony, but it is always capped by the utter joy and relief of being accepted at the end, after all that has happened, into the presence of God. This is what keeps me coming back- the reminder that this experience is a necessary but temporary journey, and that even through mistakes and trials I can somehow be found worthy to return.

  7. Thank you Mae and Susiebjoe for your comments and your perspective.

  8. Thanks Brad, I think that is what was missing for me. It’s a very thin line and a slippery slope from worthiness to guilt to shame.

  9. Thanks for this, Brad. I will be speaking in Sacrament Meeting in a few weeks about the Atonement, and this post will influence the content of that talk.

  10. Thanks Howard.

    And cheers, Ray!

  11. Very nice thoughts Brad. Much appreciated. Is it Temple Week at BCC? /g

    Not that it’s my area or yours, but this reminded me distinctly of Calvinist interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount.

    “The bulk of the [it] should serve as a progressively unnerving reminder of how inadequate we are, how miserably we fail to live up to our sacred commitments, what a fallen world this is and what fallen and vulnerable and exposed creatures we are.”

  12. I enjoyed this post a lot Brad. I’ve never been in the Celestial Room where I had the opportunity to just sit and ponder with my own thoughts. I look forward to having an experience like that because I want to be able to totally concentrate on the Spirit and to attend the Temple with purpose other than proxy work (which is important to me as well). My current geography prevents me from ever being able to attend The Temple alone and I almost feel obligated to listen to and engage others in discussion if I am there with them. I hope like Tyler I can find myself wrapped up and embraced by a loving God on the other side of the veil.

  13. it's a series of tubes says:

    Brad, this is an interesting post. Given that the details as you describe them would in most instances be cause for a disciplinary counsel (Book 1, 6.7.2), your description of his third experience in the celestial room raises many areas on which I think I should ponder more before jumping to any conclusions, as your narrative doesn’t appear to involve any form of conventional, bishop-involved “worthiness” determination. Thanks for this.

  14. ErinAnn says:

    Relating to the changes in the initiatory clothing, I wonder if perhaps our general discomfort with the exposure and intimacy of years passed is the fault of our increased modesty rhetoric. The majority of my experience in the American LDS church has shown an enormous discomfort with women nursing in public (covered or not), which is certainly a huge change from years past when the Relief Society used to tend to one another in birth and death. Our level of physical intimacy has been reduced to a shaming assessment of others clothing. It shouldn’t be a surprise that semi-nudity is extremely uncomfortable for Mormon women.

    Indecently, all four of my Utah-based SIL/MIL use the toilet stalls or curtained areas in locker rooms to change their clothing. Mormons have huge body shame nowadays.

  15. Having been a temple participant for over 30 years, I was very familiar with the original initiatory ceremony. Every woman I talked to about it loved it. For me and many of my friends, it was our favorite temple ordinance, because it was women serving women in a way that felt warm and personal. But when I talked to my husband and other men, they were distinctly uncomfortable with the touching and the openness of the clothing. In my limited experience, therefore, I would be very surprised if the initiatory was changed because of LDS teaching of modesty to women or because women felt ashamed because of the semi-nudity. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that it was changed because men were uncomfortable with it.

    Back to the original post, however, I have really been enjoying the beautiful insights into the depth of temple worship this week at BCC. I am looking forward to heading to the temple soon with these ideas in mind. Thank you!

  16. melodynew says:

    First, thank you. This is lovely. And powerful.
    Second, I loved the washing, anointing, garment-placing ritual of my youth. I wish it were still done the “old” way.

    .Third, I’m surprised that Christ is missing from this narrative – both from Tyler’s story and from your beautiful and apt application of that story to each of us. Maybe it is assumed that we all understand at-one-ment is the key to “experience the spiritual relief wash over us as God, on the basis of only tokens of our effort and of our having even accepted the impossible commitments in the first place, accepts us, embraces us, lets us into His presence, gives us a place of rest, considers us worthy.”

    God doesn’t simply accept us on the basis of our best efforts. In fact, those things cannot bring us home, right? Even at the ritual level in the temple, admittance into this shower of God’s loving presence (celestial room) comes via an embrace with the Savior. But maybe that’s what you mean after all. Our efforts bring us to a place where we can meet the savior – either in our weakness and sorrow for our sin (most often) or in our humble practice of sanctifying tokens.

    This is not to diminish Tyler’s or anyone else’s experience. But, more and more, even within progressive Mormon communities, Jesus is absent from the story. Where is He? I’ve asked myself this question on multiple occasions after reading truly wonderful, comforting and inspiring blog posts. I asked it when I finished reading this remarkable post.

    P.S. God bless Tyler. And each of us.

  17. Brad,
    Sorry I slept on it but I’m still haunted by the needlessly pessimestic and near shaming viewpoint you express here:

    about seeking and finding God’s presence in our grossly imperfect world with our grossly imperfect lives…God has unreasonable standards of absolute commitment and even perfection, but that we freely and willfully promise to live up to those standards…We place ourselves in a double bind by acknowledging the necessity of our worthiness and ensuring our unworthiness at the very same time..Yet in a very real sense, the endowment makes us even less worthy..The bulk of the ceremony should serve as a progressively unnerving reminder of how inadequate we are, how miserably we fail to live up to our sacred commitments

    . I haven’t been to the temple in many years so perhaps the faithful will find it easy to dismiss my remarks and move on but this is not at all representative of my loving interaction and relationship with the Goidhead and it reminds me more of an O.T. interaction with God. How is this a healthy exchange with the divine? Divine perfection is wholeness not obediance to a list of metrics used to shame, the path to perfection is spiritual growth not better obediance grades. Sorry if I am misunderstanding you intention but to me it reads like an expression of your own shame. Sure prideful is the wrong approach, humble and reverant is appropriate but reuniting with our father is be loving acceptance not critical shaming. Our performance review with him is offered as a learning experience not a repremend.

  18. BHodges says:

    Howard, I think Brad would likely agree that “prideful is the wrong approach, humble and reverent is appropriate [and] reuniting with our father should be loving acceptance not critical shaming.” I see Brad simply trying to say that it can be better (and less hypocritical) to go through the Temple knowing about one’s fallenness as opposed to thinking one earned the right to be there already and doesn’t need much more to be celestialized.

    Tyler, if you’re reading this, welcome back.

  19. I like your thoughts HBodges but does fallenness mean something worse than mortalness or humaness? Can’t our mortal difference from God’s perfection be acknowledged as a loving respectful student/teacher relationship without the self deprecation?

  20. “. . . experience the profound and palpable sense of relief, of enclosure, of protection, of wholeness that I did that first time the garment was placed upon my otherwise exposed and vulnerable body. The promises made to me as I received it rang as deeply and as true as anything I’ve experienced in my Mormon life.”

    Resonates deeply.

  21. happyatheist says:

    I am no longer a believing member so take this for what it’s worth. However, when I was active, I went to the temple a lot and frankly it depressed me. The threats are distasteful. The signs and tokens seem unnecessary for entrance in future realms if you look at it logically. And if you truly look at the origins, J.S. liked masonry due to the loyalty demands and therefore wanted it for Mormonism. In Nauvoo if you recall, J.S. spent a lot of time evading process from Missouri and marching in his military uniform. He was afraid of turncoats like Bennett and others. So, it makes sense he would want to force the members to take loyalty oaths to the church (him).

    Anyway, for me it was never the spiritual experience that the guy above apparently had.

  22. I hope that one day I can have an experience like Tyler’s in the temple. My first temple experience, which has been very hard to overcome even though it’s been 15 years, was very off-putting. I couldn’t (and still sometimes can’t) reconcile the Church from my days in Primary with the Church as I saw it in that moment. Brad, if you know or can ask, I’d be interested in what Tyler did beforehand that he thinks may have prepared the way for that experience.

  23. “The threats are distasteful. The signs and tokens seem unnecessary for entrance in future realms if you look at it logically.”

    Context and worldview are everything. Even “logic” is worldview-dependent. That’s all I’m going to argue, though.

    Emotionally and academically, I miss some of the elements we’ve lost, to be frank. I like the weirdness, especially when it’s “functional” weirdness.

  24. I’m really grateful I am not required to look at anything about the temple logically. It would be so incredibly limiting for me.

  25. Anonymous for this one... says:

    Threadjack– As a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, the initiatory FREAKED ME OUT. The experience of being next to naked and being touched by a stranger, however innocent it was, was very triggering. I for one am glad they changed it. I did it because I had to in order to get married; then didn’t go back for nearly 14 years until they changed it. FWIW.

  26. Sorry Anonymous. Your reaction is totally understandable.

  27. Jack Hughes says:

    Having mild OCD, I find the temple experience shaming enough, as well as the surrounding requisite processes (recommend interviews, worthiness rhetoric, etc). Don’t make it any more painful, please.
    Whenever I get to the end of the endowment ceremony and enter the Celestial room, I feel like a fraud. I can’t balance the cognitive dissonance of “you need to be perfect but nobody’s perfect so the atonement makes you perfect but you still have to be good but you will still never be perfect no matter how much you try but you still have to try….”

  28. I frequently feel a greater contrast just walking IN to the temple and passing the recommend desk. The ideal in my head is completely taken in by Christ and my willingness to go and willingness to receive the blessings of the temple is enough.

    unfortunately the to do list frequently returns as I drive home.

    great post and great reminder about just how great God’s love is. I am glad Tyler persisted in going.

    Although I REALLY liked the older initiatories, I frequently do initiatories when I’m pregnant and not having to dress and undress a bunch of times is a big relief. I can just soak in the women serving women beauty. I didn’t have the uncomfortableness with not being covered so I didn’t have that experience at all. I was just soaking in being in the temple with a woman’s hands on my head.

    EOR…you can dress and go straight to the celestial room and spend all of your time there if you would like. I have done that on a rare occasion when I really need to pray or ponder.

  29. As I continue to ponder this it continues to bother me. Temple reccomend holders as a group do not equal inadequate and fail miserably to live up to their sacred commitments. As a group they represent a commitment to righteousness. What kind of father would look down on this?

  30. Hedgehog says:

    I am so not a kinaesthetic learner. What I wish is for someone to give me the book, and I’ll find a nice quiet corner in the temple to sit and read it.

  31. howarddirkson: If a commitment to righteousness were sufficient, we wouldn’t need to renew our first and most basic covenant over and over each Sunday. I believe that the more righteous we are, the closer we are to God, the stronger we feel His Spirit, the sharper the contrast is between the depths of our commitments to God and the shallowness of our efforts to be like Him. I don’t think that should make us depressed, just more properly reliant on Christ.

  32. mnshep
    You view makes sense to me, where do you place self deprecation?

  33. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    happyatheist:

    A friend of mine once shared with me his visual imagery of Joseph Smith receiving the Mason ritual and thinking to himself how effective the use of rote ceremony would be in committing the temple covenants to memory, in a day where there was no visual or audio recording. I never viewed the penalties as distasteful. It seems a cultural norm of that time to verbalize a consequence of a commitment as something violent. The simplest remnant of that time is the phrase, ‘cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”

    I wouldn’t describe the post to encourage self-flagelism, rather self-introspection, much like our assessing our degree of repentance during the sacrament. The message of being fallen and the opportunity that a fallen state provides to gain a pathway to redemption is a great theme. All of the little efforts that precede the veil ceremony symbolize our earthly efforts at works, but in spite of falling short, the Atonement makes up the difference and we are pulled into the Celestial realm. I remember the beauty on my first endowment ceremony of having my parents and other relatives already there waiting to welcome me. Again, rich symbolism.

    I also found the earlier initiatory experience to have a more special spiritual impact, though I understand that not everyone will feel the same way.

  34. I can definaytly get on board with introspection Rigel, self or otherwise. :-)

  35. Meldrum the Less says:

    In connection to LDS temple worship, I find the worthiness issue simply wrong.

    God does not look upon sin with any degree of allowance. We are all sinners. This is basic Christianity 101. None you reading this are worthy to enter the Temple of God. True or false?

    The mere act of thinking you are “worthy” is playing footsie with the sin of pride. One of the seven deadly sins. If we understood this principle as a Mormon people, the answer to that last question in the temple worthiness interview would be different. Those who can look a bishop representing the Savior square in the face and say “I am worthy in every way to sit in Your House” are both broken and don’t recognize their brokenness. Our leaders who contrived this question are beyond my feeble comprehension; as to what they were thinking, and what they believe or understand about the Atonement. (Or even a useful interrogation process of extracting honest information from thinking adults).

    I used to tell the bishop that I was not worthy. I would say; what is this a trick question? Anyone who says they are worthy should be told to go home and repent and try again later. Not a few bishops would begin probing under the assumption they were on the verge of discerning some remote horrible sin, as if I would tell them under those circumstances even if it was true. Others would say, “do you want me to sign the recommend or not?” One bishop told me he didn’t have time to play rhetorical games with me and just signed it off. Another said the standards for temple work were not that high. Another replied to my counter query, if he thought he was worthy, that the interview was not about his beliefs and worthiness but about mine. (But do not his beliefs and worthiness speak to a previous question, about supporting him? Or not?) I have found when I was young and mischievous that I could answer all of those temple interview questions wrong exceptin’ those on tithing, chastity and WoW and still “pass.” Absurd! I suspect grey hairs might allow me even more latitude, on the last two anyway.

    And our critics say we think we are better than others. Conceited and favored of heaven, cruising in the fast lane to the celestial kingdom . Your most shrewish and obnoxious 3rd cousin with a temple recommend is worthy to go to your temple wedding while your non-member/non-believing/ non-10% paying future mother-in-law is not worthy to be at her own daughter’s wedding. That some of us would not let our children play with other non-LDS children for fear of contamination. (A whole barnyard heaped a mile high of this sort of horse hockey stinks up the lore of contemporary Mormonism.) That we as a temple-going people are quite beyond the need for emphasis on Humility, Repentance and the Atonement; with a few exceptions of teenagers with raging hormones and rare other unmentionables.

    I applaud many of the comments above I perceive running somewhat towards this direction. But that does not erase the overwhelming emphasis on worthiness. You can’t even get in the door to experience any of it; if you sip a cup of coffee, or your provider husband won’t pay tithing (and hacks off the bishop), or your boyfriend gets a little frisky and you just sat there.

  36. Meldrum,

    I don’t look at worthiness as anything more than living within the covenants I have already made. Perfection is not required to live within the covenant. Repentance is part of the covenant. The recommend questions are minimal standards, yet those who live them are promised enormous blessings that they obviously aren’t worthy of on their own. We KEEP the covenant. If we slip so much we violate that covenant, we quickly mend that covenant (which is essentially a loving relationship with God) Grace then takes us places we couldn’t normally go.

    And I wouldn’t spend time obnoxiously mocking priesthood leaders with word games.

  37. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    Howardd—

    Yes, I need an editor!

  38. unendowed says:

    Was anyone here scared to go to the temple at first? I’m struggling with this. I’m 24 years old, no plans for a mission, no current marriage prospects, and therefore no timeline to get to the temple. Nevertheless, I want to prepare myself to feel that “push” from the Spirit to go get my endowment, whenever that may be.

    But I can’t shake off the intense, visceral fear I have about going through the temple. I have nightmares about it. I try to find comfort in others’ feelings about the temple, but I get about the same mix of reassurance and alarm regardless of how others felt about the temple–great experiences make me worry that I won’t feel the same but give me hope that I can, bad experiences validate both my discomfort and my desire to keep preparing.

    Did any of you experience such a fear? Do you have any suggestions on how I can move past it and start feeling good about the idea of getting endowed?

  39. Much of the discussion here resonates with a quotation I recently was reminded of from Hugh Nibley: “Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him” (Approaching Zion, 301).

    It simply can’t be the acts we do that make us worthy to enter the temple, because even if the majority of those acts are ones we’ve been asked to perform, there will be other acts that we have done that we’ve been told NOT to do, others that we probably should be doing but don’t have time for, or the inclination for, or even those that we have no idea we should or could be doing. In short, we all sin and fall short. But it’s God’s house, not ours, and so he allows us in, dirty shoes on the clean carpets and all, if our hearts are pointed in the right direction. Because he knows that what we’ll find there is (or should be) instruction on how to get to the place where our shoes are a little less dirty, we’re more aware of those around us who could use the same sort of help, and we all lift each other.

  40. Thank you for this post which has really taught me a lot and given me new insight into the Temple ritual.I’m a former Anglican (Episcopalian) and do miss the liturgy, but I recognise Temple worship as a form of liturgy too. I miss some of the Anglican hymns, too, but I know that I can go back for evensong any time I like and hear it all again. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to engage in both forms of worship.

    I was lucky enough to receive my endowment before the initiatory was changed and I loved it. I listened to the amazing blessings and walked out of there feeling ten feet tall. I didn’t find it awkward in any way. My understand is that it was changed to make it easier for the elderly (and let’s be honest, they’re mostly elderly) Temple workers and patrons to manage. After all, the endowment was changed for the same reason – much less standing up and sitting down than there used to be.

  41. haventbeenbackforyears says:

    dear unendowed,
    I can’t alleviate any of your anxiety except to say, “You’ll be ready when the Spirit prompts.” It took me until 47, but that included the time when women were not allowed to go except for marriage or mission. I read these comments enjoying others’ testimony and hoping for similar comfort. But still I feel a visceral distress when considering the temple. And with this feeling, I believe that, for me, it’s better not to go than to attend with such dissonance. “Fake it ’til you make it” didn’t work for me.

    During my interview with a bishop when the opportunity was first allowed, he gave very comforting advice. If I chose not to be endowed now but continued to live worthily, I was about “5 minutes behind in eternal progress.”

    I wish you luck and continued contemplation.

  42. Bethany West says:

    Unendowed, talk to someone. You can have the entire process explained to you and still be within the bounds of righteousness. I would explain it here, but think it might detract from the sacredness. I firmly believe that more information is the key to dispelling many such fears or doubts.

    My mom told me exactly what happens in the initiatory, endowment, and sealing ordinances while keeping the secret and sacred ritual parts plenty sacred and secret. Also, my current stake pres has a 2 hour interview before each new endowment where he does a similar walkthrough and other preparation. You can see the clothing, if you like, and that would be okay. People are paranoid, but the rules about sharing what goes on in the temple are not that strict, as long as you are respectful and purposeful. There are specific parts that you aren’t supposed to detail outside the celestial room, but you can still be told that they exist. You can know ahead of time the specific covenants that you will be asked to make and lots of other stuff. Get some help in person! There is at least one person that you know who would be able and happy to help.

    Shed a little sunlight on those fears. Satan would love to keep you afraid of this mysterious and mystical rite of passage, when in reality it is no big deal. A little odd, if you’re coming from middle class American culture, but not scary, and not awkward, except as you don’t know what you’re doing and need to be told what to do for every step and then some. But I have a feeling that you will go and have a letdown (as I did) that it really isn’t that mind-bending or hard or intense or whatever thing you think the temple is. It’s just a bunch of old people in white, a movie, and some promising.

  43. Unendowed, you may find my essays useful at http://mormonmonastery.org. This, in particular, is mostly a series of quotes from General Authorities and Deseret Book. The dots are fairly easy to connect.

    On the topic of initiatory, I was a temple worker in Provo the semester after I came off my mission. I tend to be aloof and uncomfortable with people, but the initiatory became my favorite part in spite of it being so personal. I understand the ostensible reason(s) why the change, but I miss the old way. Guess that makes me old.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,514 other followers