A Letter to a Friend Going to the Temple for the Last Time

By and large, I think we do a poor job of helping people understand and learn to love the temple experience, whether in terms of advice to those going for the first time or in the form of advice, nurturing and education for those who have already received their endowment. We let people down, and sometimes they make the choice not to return. And so I write a letter to my friends that have decided to stop attending the temple.

Dear Friend,

I’ve heard that you have recently made the decision not to return to the temple anymore. I was hoping to share with you some thoughts about your choice. You probably aren’t interested in what I think of your decision, and so I understand if you don’t read this letter or if you disregard what I have to say. But I’ve put some thought and a little prayer into this, so at least I hope you know that I care enough about you to make an effort.

I haven’t spoken with you about it, so I don’t know the particular issues you might have with the temple. Maybe it’s the temple’s treatment of women; maybe it’s feelings of unworthiness; maybe you just don’t feel the Spirit when you attend. In a way, I’m glad I don’t know the reason why you’ve decided not to attend, because hopefully I can avoid being dismissive of your feelings. One of the first things my parents taught me about the temple is how individual and how unique our experiences and reactions can be to the endowment. Hand-in-hand with the promise of this uniqueness is the challenge of understanding and being a friend to the thousands who also feel alienation and possibly offense at the temple in a thousand different ways.

My first temptation in writing this letter to you is to try and solve your problems. As I said before, I don’t know why you’re not attending the temple any longer. But, I can probably guess as to the reasons you have, and the reasons I sometimes give myself. I can’t resolve these problems for you. I can give you some explanations, and will gladly talk with you about anything you would like to talk about. I can also introduce you to some people that may also be worth talking to (JWL is my personal favorite). But fundamentally, the ordinances and the rituals aren’t going anywhere and don’t seem to be changing anytime soon, and so a mormon must either make their peace with the strange, wonderful and frightening endowment, or move on. And you’ve decided to move on.

You should know that not attending the temple does not mean the end of your life in the Church. Many happy, active members do not attend the temple with any frequency. Amongst our international brothers and sisters, temple attendance is even more of a rarity. So, in a sense you are in good company — try not to let your feelings about the temple affect your covenants to worship with the Saints and to mourn with those who mourn. We’ve been your brothers and sisters since you were baptized, and we are still there as your family. That may not mean much to you right now – in fact, having us as your family may be one of the reasons you’re not attending the temple anymore! It’s true that not all of us love you unconditionally the way we ought, and if people find out that you have stopped attending the temple you may fear reprisals of some kind. If that happens to you, I’m sorry. But I love you and care for you, or at least that’s my intent.

My advice is for you to retain your temple recommend and retain the level of worthiness and participation that you’ve always had. I believe you will find the community valuable. If the ritual and the asymmetry of the temple disturb you, I believe that returning to Church and witnessing your brothers and sisters together will do much to restore your confidence in the restored Gospel. I believe that you can and will find joy in the meetings, and feel the Spirit as you take the Sacrament and spend time with your fellowsaints. I also believe that the blessings of the Church are still yours to possess so long as you follow the commandments. You are not going to hell because you no longer attend the temple.

I need to be honest with you about a couple of things. First, I admit that I don’t attend the temple as much as I feel I ought. I share this with you so that you know that I am familiar with what it’s like to go without temple attendance. Second, you need to know that personally, I love the temple and feel it is a house of God. I share this with you so that you can see that I have an agenda, and that partially I’m a hypocrite: eventually I would like to see you and the temple at peace with each other, even if lately I haven’t been there very much.

At the end of this long letter, I want to tell you that I’m sorry if I wasn’t there for you when you first went through the temple. I’m sorry that I haven’t been sensitive to your doubts, and I wish I’d done a better job at explaining the temple and taking the time for each of us to share our feelings. I know you attended a temple prep class — maybe we should have a post-temple prep class too! Maybe this is late in coming, but if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m around.

Yours,

Steve Evans

Comments

  1. You are not going to hell because you no longer attend the temple.

    I no longer attend the temple because I went to hell. I remember the last time that I attended the temple in mid-1994 before I was disfellowshipped. Since repenting, having my nature changed and my soul healed, I yearn to return — to experience the temple with my new understanding. It’s difficult now to accept that someone would choose to stay away.

  2. Thanks for that unique and wonderful perspective manaen.

  3. Costanza says:

    I admit that I bristle at a lot of things in the church. I’m a lousy home teacher. I disliked my mission. I usually find most church meetings intolerably loud and lacking in substance. I am actually very surprised that I do, and always have, really enjoyed the temple experience, and I make efforts to go as often as I can. I like the liturgical complexity and the ritual formality and the relative quiet–all things that are missing from typical LDS meetings. I have, however, many friends and some family members who have found the temple a singularly negative experience. I am cheered that the church has made real efforts to take the pulse of the membership regarding temple worship, and have made changes to try and help those who feel uncomfortable (remember, the 1990 changes were the result of surveys sent out to some church members beginning in 1987). Maybe someone will read your letter and change their minds. I hope.

  4. Matt Thurston says:

    Nice letter Steve. It never ceases to amaze me the disparate ways we humans interact with God and feel his spirit. Even within the relative homogeneity of the Mormon subculture (compared to the relative heterogeneity of religious culture worldwide), one person’s “temple” is another person’s “prison”.

    In the end, we want what’s best for the people we love. The tough thing to know is whether what works best for “me”, also works best for “you”.

  5. Anonymous D. says:

    Life is a journey manean…

    During my life I went from faithfully attending the temple, to not being able to go to the temple because I was disfellowshipped, to repenting and returning to the temple, to eventually choosing to stay away from the temple (but still active in the Church)…

    At each point in my life, even the disfellowshipped period, I was sure I was doing the right thing and experienced “soul yearning” and “new understanding”. Who knows, maybe my life will eventually circle back to faithful temple attendance again? The journey continues to surprise me…

  6. Anon D., I hope it circles back for you.

  7. As for a suggestion for those looking for a different way to experience the temple, I find the different ordinances refreshing. I think for some, the temple = endowment. I would submit that the initiatories are far more emportant an ordinance, plus there is the bonus of women effectuating them should you be female. Plus, it is hard to fall asleep.

    Sealings are also fun. It is cool to do it with the older folks in the temple.

  8. Costanza says:

    I want to echo what J. Stapley wrote, and add that, for those of you have not done initiatories in a while, they are consideably more “user-friendly” than they were before last year.

  9. I would say that God allows U-Turns and nothing is forever. People can just change their mind. That happens. And what everybody else said, and you said.

    Manean, I was disfellowshipped, many years ago. Anonymous is right. It was a learning stage in my life, not a sentence of life without parole.

    Blessings on you, Steve, for bringing this up and saying what needs to be said.

  10. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ve mentioned on the other thread, I’ve not attended an endowment session since taking out my own endowment in 1977. I was…bewildered, and vaguely terrified, by the entire experience, for which I was not prepared. I wasn’t struck by any profound insight or wisdom, but more struck by the thought that it wasn’t true, that this was the best evidence yet that men… “made up” the Church.

    So, a letter written to me about the temple experience would catch me at my first, and last, attendance there.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Sorry, D.

  12. D. Fletcher says:

    Gosh, my post sounded so harsh, and sad, eh? The upside is… I’ve never actually left the Church. I like to go to Sacrament Meeting, hear the talks, feel the closeness and connection, and sing the songs. Until 2004, I pretty much never missed a week.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    See? My diligent home teaching has paid off!

  14. D. Fletcher says:

    Ok, if you say so.

    :)

  15. Steve Evans says:

    Actually, since your sole period of inactivity in over 20 years was during my watch, I guess I shouldn’t brag.

  16. D. Fletcher says:

    Yep, where you were when the lights went out?

    But seriously, my current home teacher (Logan Sheffield) is the first in 20 years to actually visit me for 6 months in a row without a break. Very impressive.

    Of course, he comes without his companion, who doesn’t do HT I guess.

  17. Really great post Steve, written with a gentle honesty that is often sorely lacking in our community.

  18. Wow. I’m enjoying both letters. These are very good for me. VERY good. There IS a gentleness about it that IS . . . missed by one like me who is, has been so BRUISED by the world, by my struggles, by the way in which I constantly bump up against the ways in which I don’t fit into the way the world works, the way people think and interact and stuff.

    A gentle kindness that is encompassing and non-judgeing. More of this would be SO wonderful, in any area, on just about any subject.

    But on this issue . . . wow. Thank you SO much, I’ll be posting on the other letter as well, but I’m gaining from both.

    I despair of ever being consistent enough at anything, to be able to meet the requirements, to go, and the deep despair I have that my bipolar and anxiety disorders may keep me from the temple, is just a horrible thing for me.

    I have a despairing hope that one day I might be lucky enough, but I keep trying and I never seem to be sufficient (and yes, this includes lots of prayer, etc., and lots of help from the Lord; but He is not choosing to take this cup from me, and I am still to struggle; I accept this, although I despair that that may also mean I may have to accept not enjoying the blessings of the temple as well.)

    Anyhoo. All I can do is hope that some day, some where, some how . . . I separate these words on purpose, to give a different twist on the meaning.

    Thank you for your post. Sorry to ramble. I know I shouldn’t ask, but I am really horribly fearful that I’ve somehow been inappropriate in length or content of this comment, so let me know.

    Sara (P.S., I just got off the phone w/talking on the radio w/Governor Huntsman, I blogged about it).

  19. that this was the best evidence yet that men… “made up” the Church.

    Interesting that such disparate experiences are out there. The temple has, over time, become one of the strongest witnesses I have of the divine at work in the church.

  20. Kristian says:

    Echoing J. Stapely’s post-
    I recently visited a ward during their ward conference. The SP had asked the members of the Stake to work on doing all of the ordinaces of the temple this year. I actually have been trying to do that and I’ve found it wonderful. Even if the endowment is something that gives one pause, baptisms for our family always seems to be a joyful time.

    my $.02

  21. Tatiana says:

    I haven’t been yet, and I hesitate to go. These discussions have confirmed that if it’s not yet time for me.

    To whom do unmarried women covenant to hearken?

  22. Tatiana says:

    I think I’m worried because I’m going to be asked to make solemn promises to God, but I’m not told the content of those promises in advance. What if, when I hear them, I think “no, that doesn’t sound good to me”? Do first time temple-goers ever say “sorry, I made a mistake” and leave in the middle of the ceremony? Why is it set up so that we don’t know and understand perfectly well what we are being asked to promise ahead of time? It doesn’t feel honest to me, and right, that things are like this. It feels very different to the feeling I get from the rest of the dealings of the church.

    I have read Boyd K. Packer’s “The Holy Temple”, and watched a temple prep video and studied every church document on it that I have seen. I’m still left wondering what is going to happen and feeling as though something is going to be sprung on me that will come as an unpleasant surprise.

  23. Tatiana,

    I can’t resist but to share a story about the experience I had in going to the Temple for the first time..that is, the first time I went for the endowment ceremony.

    I had converted to the church at 19, my freshman year in college. My Methodist family was very much against it. Thank goodness for me, I was away from them and had met a very welcoming and wonderful family in my new ward, especially with my Bishop’s family.

    A year and a half after I joined the church I decided I wanted to serve a mission. This meant first going to the temple. I had been for baptisms, but was definitely aprehensive about the endowment. Much like you, I was concerned about the odd secrecy of it and how no amount of studying would prepare me for “that which we cannot talk about outside of the temple.” What was THAT? It didn’t help that my very anti mother was warning me that this was the stage when I would realize what was hiding behind the curtain, but that it would be too late. I truly hoped that she was wrong about that.

    Anyway…I went with friends and ward members for my first endowment. The Bishop, in his infinite wisdom, realized that the solution to my worry was to take me in advance. I had not taken a temple prep course, as our ward didn’t offer such a thing. But he decided that during lunch in the temple cafeteria prior to the service he would tell me about the endowment. See, in his rationalizing, we were inside the walls of the temple…nothing was out of bounds now. So, we talked. Actually, he talked and I listened. Yes, I must admit, I was surprised by some things, but never felt uneasy or unable to go forward. The spirit was in his words and I trusted him.

    In the end, the endowment service was beautiful. Yes, there are moments provided for those not wishing to go forward to withdraw, but I do not recommend it. The endowment is unlike other church services, but just because it is different, doesn’t mean its wrong. It is a blessed experience. And I echo Ben, the experience has only bolstered my testimony. I don’t know if my Bishop’s act of kindness was the apporpriate thing to do, but it wouldn’t hurt in seeing if the same experience could be available for you. I know that my good experience the first time through was greatly aided by the advice and words of my Bishop. Hope this long story helps.

  24. I would also add that there is a reason why every temple has a temple president…and I believe more than just to serve administrative purposes. I have been to several temples now and have taken advantage of having these men and their wives available for my questioning. Most of the time no appointment is necessary. Anyone who has a question can just ask to speak with the president or one of his assistants. I highly recommend this!

  25. kristine N. says:

    I miss the old initiatory. I liked the symbolism of it. It’s such a beautiful blessing, and I thought the way it was done reinforced what was being said nicely. Just out of curiosity, has the way we do annointings in general changed? I’ve heard that it wasn’t uncommon to annoint specific body parts with oil when asking for a healing blessing, but I’ve only seen or experienced annointing on the forehead.

    Tatiana–the covenants you make in the temple aren’t really all that different from the ones you make just to be a member of the church. I’m sure I’ll hear a lot of people disagreeing with that statement, but really, if you’re worthy to take the sacrament, you’re probably not doing anything you covenant not to in the temple, and you’re likely doing the things you covenant to do.

    As for the hearken covenant, we’re all supposed to listen to the Lord, regardless of gender.

  26. Tatiana:

    I have gained a new appreciation for the temple as I have served as an ordinance worker. The temple experience is wonderful. It provides a great testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. The endowment will give great blessings and knowledge. The covenants that you make, to paraphrase Elder Talmage, are chastity, sacrifice, clean your self of all ungodliness, consecration, which you already uphold since your baptism If you compare the questions asked for your baptism and for the temple recommend, you will see great similitudes.

    I would recommend that you put aside all doubting and fearful feelings and dive yourself into the cristal waters of serenity of the temple. Make up you mind about it by attending. If I may be so bold, pray that the Lord be with you as you enter the temple (the first, and second, and third, and…). Let Him tell you about his house. Let Him be the guide through it. As a member of the Church, you have the wonderful personal tutelage of a member of the Godhead. Enable him to teach you. There are wonderful blessings in the initiatories, personal to you. Claim them Tatiana. There are for you personally. When you decide to go, all fears and doubts will disappear. The apostle Paul wrote that the things of the Spirit can only be undestood by the spirit. Let the Holy Ghost be your teacher.

    Steve:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Your letter is quite sincere an has a lot of positive aspects. I concur with you in that members should strive to be ‘temple worthy’ even if they do not go to the temple. I would add that the covenants and blessings are personal and with the Lord. The temple ceremonies have changed (NOT the ordinance, but the wording that is) over time to better instruct us. I believe that the Lord is anxious to give us further light and knowledge. Therefore it is imperative that we attend to His House and learn of him. I would plead with those that have attended sparingly to the temple to consider a ‘date’ with the Lord, to be at His House and teach, console, confort, direct and uplift them. I imagine Him ready to put his loving arms around us if we just let Him do it. That is why returning to the Temple would be a magnificent experience. To be nourished, heard and wept with. I have done that in several ocasions, as Elder Holland stated for the ‘tsunamis of the soul’. Thank you Steve for such a wonderful post.

  27. Re: #21 & 22

    There is no reason that the covenants you make should be kept secret from you as you prepare to recieve your endowment. I would suggest asking your bishop about what you will be required to promise at the temple.

    I personally don’t feel a web log is the appropriate place for those types of discussions, but you can find out. I agree with Steve Evans that we generally don’t do a good job of preparing others for the temple. Saying that the temple is a “wonderful place” is not preparation.

    With my children reach the age that they’ll be attending the temple for the first time, I’ll sit down as their father and explain to them what to expect. There shouldn’t be any surprises.

    I wish you the best and can assure you (I guess if you trust an anonymous person from an LDS weblog) that the things you promise in the endowment are all very much part of the Gospel and things that are good, benevolent, and virtuous, Nothing to worry about. Don’t take my word for it, talk to your bishop about your concerns.

  28. I often find myself very skeptical of the whole notion of being cryptic and closed-mouth about exactly what goes on in the temple. I sincerely believe that, done in the right setting and with the right spirit, there is a lot that we can share with those preparing to go to the temple outside its walls. For example, I was with a group of friends, one of whom was preparing for the temple. She was anxious and was obviously looking for some reassurance that it wasn’t going to be some pagan ritual. In the middle of the discussion, she said, “So I hear the whole thing is actually just a movie. Is that true?”

    The whole room got quiet as if she had broken the Da Vinci Code and was about to be struck down. I explained to her the process, while people in the room stared me down wondering how I could speak in such plain, open terms about what goes on in the temple.

    Does it really make that much of a difference if you are sitting in the temple cafeteria (where the exchange of lucre is going on….I won’t get into that ;) ) or sitting 25 feet away outside its walls? I don’t believe so.

    There are very specific things we are required to not speak outside the walls of the temple, but compared with what most people are willing to discuss, they are very few and far between. I think a more open dialogue, done with prayer and with study, in the right setting and with the right spirit, would be very beneficial to those preparing to undertake what is probably the most unique experience of church membership. Expecting them to just have faith and jump in head first is unrealistic, IMO. We are very quick to hide behind the “sacred, not secret” mantra because, I believe, in many instances, just as some missionaries, we are afraid to open our mouths, afraid to teach and to testify.

    And I think that’s just about the opposite of what the Lord is expecting of us.

  29. Cheers to JamesP for eloquently stating in a few words what I attempted to do in two posts. I’ll tell you, at first I thought it was just the anxiety of being a new convert to the church, but as time passed I realized that it had nothing to due with one’s length of membership. There is a stigma attached to the temple and I side with James. We as a community of saints could help remove that stigma by opening our mouth and not hiding behind the famous mantra already mentioned.

    What I wanted more than anything as a new member was to hold fast to that bright and shining, recently receieved testimony. I did pray for guidance and understanding as I approached the endowment. But afterwards, I realized, much like James has said, that there is really no need for the anxious anticipation. Why tell someone, “Trust in the Lord, have faith, and dive in” when the Lord has given us ecclesiastical leaders and each other with whom to counsel? The endowment is personal, it is uniquely our own, and above it all, it is especially sacred. But secret?

    Or is the common understanding in the church and reason for such secrecy really to protect one’s innocence of the whole experience? Perhaps if one enters the temple having no preconceived ideas, images, or thoughts, (derived from parents, teachers, and sacrament meeting talks) then he/she is more open to the spirit’s teaching, the spirit’s guidance and the spirit’s formulation of thoughts, feelings, etc. This is a possibility I’m willing to explore. But then again, on the other hand, I find the secrecy and anxiety to be one of the main reasons that keep faithful members away, not what draws them near. The mystery and fear of the unknown is not always inviting; not always necessary. In the end, there simply should never be a reason why a youth, brought up in the church or not, should receive glares and disdain when asking a simple, yet important question like, “Is the whole thing actually just a movie?”

  30. JamesP,

    That was what I was trying to get at as well.

    Thanks.

    -scott

  31. CS Eric says:

    Sarebear,

    I read with interest your comments. Please do not let your mental health challenges keep you from the temple. I have discussed in the Boggernacle some challenges my wife has that are similar to yours, and the aspect that bothers me the most was when our district president would not sign her recommend because he was not sure that she would not have another episode of bizzare behaviour.

    One thing that she has always struggled with was the idea that God did not love her, otherwise He would not have let the things happen to her in her life that did. Our district president’s denying the recommend did not help her at all in that aspect. She really was worthy, and could honestly answer all of the questions “correctly,” and I felt it unfair to impose an additional requirement that he would not have put on someone with a physical illness. He simply could not see that attending the temple could give her additional strength to avoid some of the problems she had had in the past. After all, it is not the whole who have need of the physician, but the sick.

  32. CS Eric,

    That’s really too bad. It amazes me how often we (and this isn’t just in the church) are so quick to accomodate the masses and work hard to make them comfortable, avoid awkward situations, but we squirm at the thought of accomodating those who need help the most.

    It amazes me that, when given the choice, we often choose to do the exact opposite of what the Savior would do.

    And on the whole “sacred, not secret” theme, it often strikes me how the idea of the Atonement is just about the most sacred piece of information within the church, and yet we don’t keep that a “secret” or only discuss it within the walls of the temple. Instead, we’re instructed to preach it far and wide.

    The best counsel to follow, IMO when it comes to temple ordinances, is to treat the temple as you do the gospel. Take care not to cast your pearls before swine, so to speak, and to follow the specific instructions given, but to also do well to not hide your candle under a bush.

  33. Kiskilili says:

    I’ll play the voice of the devil to Tatiana’s fears. I don’t think it’s hyperbole if I say I experienced the temple as emotional rape.

    I feel that, if I’m honest with myself, I have to keep myself open to the possibility that God is malevolent, because the God I encounter in the temple wants me to hurt. The God of the temple treats me as an object rather than a subject, and I firmly believe there is no worse way to treat a person.

    I wish that I had not gone to the temple with the desire to give myself to God, or with a thorougly naive belief in God’s love, because I think in other circumstances I might have hesitated longer before making covenants I truly feel are aboslutely demeaning. What I know is, I will never, never put myself in that situation again. I will never open myself to God and give him an opportunity to betray me that way.

    In many ways it’s everything people have said–it’s beautiful and wonderful, and this makes the betrayal all the more profound.

  34. Kiskilili says:

    “To whom do unmarried women covenant to hearken?”

    Unmarried women (like myself) don’t seem to register on God’s radar.

  35. Kiskilili says:

    Thanks for your letter, Steve. It’s beautiful and sensitive and it really touched me. I wish I could find a way to reconcile myself to God, and restore my faith in the positive spiritual experiences I’ve had, in spite of the temple. I haven’t figured out a way yet.

  36. Tatiana, there’s an essay on your question on this site. It’s a work in progress, but I hope it’s helpful.

  37. I agree with what others have said. This is a great letter, Steve. It’s sensitive, understanding, and honest in all the right ways.

  38. K,

    I do not doubt for a moment the veracity of your feelings. I mourn with you, truly. I think it is worth pointing out, of course, that many (most?) people quite enjoy the temple. There are two convergent trouble spots, however:

    1. The endowment is written in a 19th century way that at times reflects the 19th century world.* The Church has made modernising changes, but it’s a slow process. Let’s just say, it’s very “Brigham,” quite masonic, and contains undercurrents of even more hoary ritual that are sometimes jarring to us of the 21st century.

    2. We bill the temple as the ultimateamazingnumerounospiritualexperienceyou’llloveit event. In some ways — especially because we cannot really talk about it — this leads to a terrible anticlimax, or worse.

    FWIW, I liked my own Endowment. Quite a lot, actually. But I was very prepared for it, having read an expose when I was 17. Strangely, this was a good thing in the long run (further evidence for the desperate need to speak openly about the temple: there very few things that are meant to be kept secret).**

    And can I just recommend The Monk’s website. Everyone should peruse that site. It’s wonderful, open, honest, respectful, and faithful.

    *Although the fact that the 19th century Endowment even included women was quite progressive.

    **Ah! The secrets! Let’s just say to the uninitiated that they are utterly harmless. Alas, there is no grand conspiracy. Just imagine that the Scout salute was supposed to be kept secret. It’s akin to that. No biggy.

  39. Kiskilili, your comment is deeply offensive. You have cast the temple in terms of the most evil in man. Such words have no place in such a discussion, despite your emotional turmiol. You can express your feelings in terms that don’t defile what we hold sacred with perjoritve.

  40. kristine N.: ust out of curiosity, has the way we do annointings in general changed? I’ve heard that it wasn’t uncommon to annoint specific body parts with oil when asking for a healing blessing, but I’ve only seen or experienced annointing on the forehead.

    Indeed annointing body parts was quite common in the blessings that both men and women gave in the 19th century. Up until the 1950’s the saints were instructed to bless as they annointed as well as including a blessing with the “sealing.”

    It is a incomplete, but here is a brief write up on the evolution of anoings for healing.

  41. Kiskilili says:

    Thanks your comment, Ronan. I wholeheartedly agree that the temple ceremony has improved drastically (several times!), and the very fact that women are admitted at all is a considerable improvement over Masonry.

    I also truly believe that ritual and symbols are only meaningful in a social context; by definition they are not transcendent but should rightly be subject to change. All this leads me to suspect that the temple does not necessarily reflect God’s attitude.

    It worries me, though, that I have no firm basis to claim that it’s drastically different from God’s attitude toward women, either. For whatever reason I find the temple ceremony painful enough that even a tiny sliver of possibility that it captures God’s will is too threatening for me to deal with. I’m not even sure why. Before I went to the temple I could pretty comfortably dismiss certain scriptural passages as obvious baloney (Paul lived in the first century CE–what do we expect of the poor man?).

    But for some reason I just can’t do that anymore. I want more evidence of God’s love than God is either willing or able to provide.

    And I apologize, J. Stapley. I agree my comment is offensive, and should be offensive. My feelings are offensive, no doubt both to the Church and to God. I’m not sure what to do with them.

  42. Anonymous R says:

    My own first Temple experience was horrible. I was woefully unprepared despite attending the prep class. Nobody told me anything beyond “there’s a lot of symbolism… you won’t understand it the first time.” The strangeness of it all was traumatic… it was nothing like I expected. I vividly remember sobbing myself to sleep that night in my new garments. I realized I knew next to nothing about Mormonism, despite being raised in the faith from my birth. I returned a couple more times just to make sure my first impression wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t. I have never returned. I read everything I could find about the Church for a couple years. I left the faith altogether a few years later. I doubt that my experience of the Temple is very unusual.

  43. Thank you for your sweet testimony of the temple, Steve.

  44. This is what I make of the hearken covenant, historically speaking (and I’m inviting an historical critique). Many nineteenth-century Mormon leaders believed in the efficacy of the “curse of Eve” — even Eliza R. Snow talked about it. In fact, she used it as a theological justification for polygamy.

    This “curse” wasn’t as things should be, but a reflection of the fallen world and this mortal journey back to God. As a consequence of this, women needed to rely on sealing and submission to priesthood authority for the purposes of exhaltation — at which point, they could shed such injustices and reign as queens and priestesses, etc.

    Now, we do not use the “curse of Eve” language anymore — in fact the “redemption of Eve” is now part of what sets our interpretation apart (e.g. Eve made a good choice). However, this has not always been our operating theological viewpoint. Thus portions of the endowment, perhaps, reflect some of our histrical inconsistencies in terms of how we view the role of Eve — and that is a metaphor for our sometimes modern inconsistencies about how we view the role of women.

    I got some of these ideas from Jolene Edmunds “The Redemption of Eve” — an excellent article — and some speeches of Eliza R. Snow. Feel free to correct my thinking!

  45. I didn’t mean that pejoratively like in a “sweet spirit” way. I really liked your post.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Kish, thanks for the compliment. I’m so sorry about your experience — I know that for you the temple is a glaring hole in your worship. My heart really goes out to you, because many people I know have similar feelings (though as Stapley indicates, others are perhaps less vocal :) ).

    I guess part of what I wanted to say is look — the temple is a doctrinal focal point for us. It’s a major piece of our worship, and there’s no way around that. But it’s just one focal point of many. The temple is not the heart of our church. The regular worship, the communities and the families represent what we really are and what we really believe. If all else fails, that’s the real centerpiece of Mormonism.

  47. Kiskilili: Unmarried women (like myself) don’t seem to register on God’s radar.

    Did God tell you personally that you don’t register on his radar? Oh… wait… if he told you then you would have to register on his radar first…

    That’s the problem I guess. You have a problem with middle management and procedures in the organization. Why not take your issues directly to the boss? Getting the Gift of the Holy Ghost gave you a standing personal appointment with the owner after all. Millions of women have had wonderful dialogues with him. They will all tell you they know from experience that they more than “register on God’s radar”. If you don’t ever have personal dialogue with God going to the temple won’t really help to begin with in my opinion. When you do enter such a dialogue you can ask what he means in those ceremonies yourself.

  48. Steve, I agree with the community being the real centerpiece of Mormonism, but the temple is presented to us as the highest and holiest ground upon this earth. How heartbreaking it must be to experience this holy place so tragically.

    Seems to me that the only way to reconcile one’s deeply upsetting experiences in the temple is to cherish and appreciate the community of Mormonism while trying not to feel left out and believe that there is something wrong with _you_ because of your negative experiences in this holy place. Unfortunately, Church culture and practice can be shockingly sexist and insensitive to women, so there may not be much positive reinforcement in the community to assuage these tragic fears lingering from the temple ceremony.

  49. easy there Geoff. Yes, people can and should seek out a personal relationship with God. But in my experience that is not a panacea. Don’t throw that relationship in people’s faces if they have problems in the Church.

  50. Kiskilili says:

    Thanks, Steve. Your letter’s given me renewed motivation to give participation in the community another chance. (I’m sort of haphazard in my Church commitments; I can’t seem to stay and I can’t seem to leave!)

  51. Probably too late to comment, but I wanted to recommend that anyone going to the temple for the first time bring along someone who loves to sit in the Celestial room and talk. I think I’m blessed (cursed?) with an accepting spirit, so nothing in the endowment seemed wrong or weird to me. I do remember, though, sitting with my soon-to-be mother-in-law in the Celestial room and talking about thoughts and feelings while my dad was practically tapping his foot ready to get out of there. If my mother-in-law hadn’t been there, I don’t think I would have learned so quickly that the endowment is there to be enjoyed and explored and discussed (albeit in appropriate ways and places). Perhaps those who had horrible first experiences might have been able to resolve some of their concerns if they had someone with them willing to discuss and listen and share before leaving the temple.

  52. Ditto what Steve Evans said. I haven’t experienced the anguish that Kiskilili has over this issue, but I have struggled with gender issues in the church quite a bit. And let me tell you–I have prayed and prayed to God, and while I have been blessed to receive a measure of peace, He has not chosen to answer my prayers in such a way as to fix the problems (or realign my thinking about them).

    And I think what Anon has to say in #48 is important. While I think Steve is entirely right to point out that you can be a faithful Mormon without attending the temple, the temple is cast as the pinnacle of our worship and the place where the most sacred rituals take place. To experience betrayal at such a holy and wonderful site has got to be incredibly heartbreaking.

  53. Come on Steve. Kiskilili gets to call God an emotional rapist and I can’t recommend she spend more time getting to know him before passing such judgment? She gets to put the blame for her bad experience on God and the church (things beyond her control) and I can’t recommend she look at her personal relationship with God too (something within her control)?

    And for the record, I do think that a personal relationship with God is a panacea. (Life eternal is to know God. The first great commandment is to love God and the second is like unto it. Etc.)

  54. sigh. maybe this conversation isn’t for you Geoff.

  55. In the Book of Job, God did a horrible, terrible, unforgivable thing to Job. He wagered Job’s soul and took away his family.

    Job felt utterly betrayed by God, whom he loved. His anguish led him to desire death. He shook his fist at heaven, lamenting over ever having known the Great Yahweh. He wept. He screamed. But he was not silent. He demanded God answer him.

    That holy struggle with the divine is as old as Jacob. Kiskilili, I hope you keep on wrestling with God until he blesses you; and if during that fight you have to curse a little, I hope we can understand. Please do “give participation in the community another chance.”

  56. Nicely put Ronan (#55). It better states my intent than my comments did. I agree with you (and Steve) that there is nothing unforgivable about being angry with God — in fact every intimate personal relationship entails some of that I think. But with you I hope that those who are angry will keep “wrestling with God until he blesses” them. I suspect that willingness to engage in such ongoing wrestling is among the greatest examples of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  57. cchrissyy says:

    24) To whom do unmarried women covenant to hearken?
    34) Unmarried women (like myself) don’t seem to register on God’s radar.

    I think the loigcla imposibiltiy of hearkening ot somebody who doens’t exist should tell us something about the relaism/symbolism of the covenant.

    May I sugest that it’s not actually covenanting to listen/obey any individual, as it sounds, but that the meaning is to portay all womankind as agreeing to fallen, unfair conditions as she steps into the world?

  58. Anonymous D. says:

    Anon (#48) makes some good points. I am not a woman, but one still can be upset by their marginalization in the temple, just as one can be upset re Gay or Black issues and not be Gay or Black.

    Besides women’s issues though, what if you just don’t get anything from the temple experience? What if, despite repeated attendance and determined attempts to really focus and concentrate and feel the spirit, the temple experience still seems like either 1.) just a bizarre ritual of dressing up and making signs, or 2.) a boring, repetitive service? For me, any spirit I’ve felt was depite, not because of, the service itself… it was from not focusing on what was happening around me and focusing instead on God, my eternal nature, my family, etc., or from spending time with friends family. (And don’t tell me that’s the point.)

  59. Anonymous D. says:

    It is obvious that the temple experience can be an emotional and unusual experience, otherwise we wouldn’t feel the need to write long letters to first timers (at T&S) or to people who have decided to stop attending (here at BCC). I’ll admit my own first experience was bizarre, cushioned only by the fact that my Mom and Dad were there and seemed to accept everything at face value. I trusted them, so I went along with everything. Had I been by myself I wouldn’ve been convinced I had stumbled into the wrong Church.

    But dealing with these heavy temple-related emotions, has anyone just laughed and laughed and laughed, unable to control themselves? I know that sounds or seems inappropriate because so many find the experience to be the ultimate holy, divine, spiritual experience. But have you ever laughed because an experience is so sad, or so bizarre, or so extreme, regardless of it being the temple or not? Maybe a funeral?

    I’ve had too fits of uncontrollable laughter related to the temple. The first was when I took my future wife through for the first time. At some point midway through the ceremony I looked across the aisle at her and the look of bewilderment and puzzlement on her face as she was trying to figure out what was going on was so singular, so helpless, that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing… I just felt so empathetic for her at that moment… the giggles took over in a most cruel way… I literally could not stop myself, and the harder I tried, the worse it got. I felt terrible because a few people were giving me nasty looks, including the temple officials, and I don’t blame them. But then that image of my wife’s face would come back to my mind and my body would just be seized by the giggles. Oh man! I remember thinking at the time: “I’m going to hell for this for sure!”

    (And then later I thought, maybe God was laughing with me — not at Mormonism or Mormons — whose worship, faith, and temple ceremony He accepted, but with me and my struggles to make sense of life… maybe He was laughing with me and saying, “Don’t worry Anon D., I’ve been there done that, life can be bizarre, and sometimes all you can do is laugh in the face of it!”)

    The second time was when I was discussing the temple with an old friend and former mission companion. He told me of his own bizarre experience which happened at the end of his mission. As is common in missions close to a temple his group of returning missionaries was able to attend the temple together (in Taiwan). Not having been through the temple for a couple of years, my friend had forgotten about many of the details. At some point he took off the English headphones and listend to the ceremony in Chinese. Something about listening to it in Chinese jolted him and he was struck as if by a thunderbolt, “Holy Sh*t! This is a Cult!” he thought and sat bolt upright with a deer-in-headlights look on his face.

    I’m sorry, but when he related this story I just couldn’t help myself and burst out into fits of laughter and giggles that took 10 minutes to bring under control. (The inappropriateness of laughter in such as situation made my ability to control it that much worse.) Again, it was something about his face as he told the story, mixed with my own struggles, the empathy I felt for him, mixed with the realization of how truly crazy and bizarre life can be sometimes… I just couldn’t help myself.

    Anyone else have this kind of experience? Or am I truly insane?

  60. Anonymous (not D) says:

    Like many, I went to the temple for the first time right before my mission. That was in the 80s, before the ceremony was changed. It almost stopped me from going. I felt like it was weird, cultish, and completely unlike the gospel as I thought I knew it at 19.

    Going again week after week in the MTC didn’t help either, though I sort of became inured to the stuff I had a problem with. During my mission, with no temple around, I came to appreciate the ceremony more because I could reflect back and better understand what the symbolism meant.

    Skip ahead some years later. I was asked to work on the new temple films. I sat in a room and read the new script and was stunned by the changes. They are for the better, but they did change what generations of Mormons experienced when they went to the temple. I can’t help but think that many who never experienced the earlier version would be quite taken aback by it.

    As for attending the temple, I don’t nowadays. For one, I’ve labored in the sausage factory; I know what goes into it and don’t find it all that appetizing. And second, the Church has been drifting rightward for 15 years while I’ve been drifting left, to the point where we just shouldn’t spend too much time around each other anymore.

  61. Anonymouses,

    Thanks for the experiences. I’m sorry that you have become distant from the Church because of the temple. I should clarify — this thread isn’t here for the sole purpose of venting about negative temple experiences. Can we please, on all sides, keep our comments within narrow bounds of respect?

    In other words Anonymous D., yes you’re insane. :)

  62. Kiskilili, thanks for your open, honest thoughts. They are mine as well, but I’m just too tired of it all to speak out much anymore. I haven’t been back to the temple since 1990.

  63. Alas, laughter (of a sort) ist im Tempel verboten.

    Is it laughter, or laughter done loudly, and just what does that mean? (That’s a 19th century phrase if I ever heard one, btw: “loud laughter.”)

  64. My uncle, who was a rancher by trade, was in the Temple presidency at Manti. He was often known to joke around in the temple, albeit quitely.

  65. Kristine says:

    Kiskilili, I don’t think your comment is offensive, because I don’t’ think you meant to offend. It’s deeper than offensive–it’s horrifying, because none of us wants to believe in a God who could be malevolent. But I don’t think God takes offense at our honest attempts to understand and commune with Her/Him, any more than I take offense when my children misunderstand and are angry at me. And if God is not offended, you probably shouldn’t worry much about anyone else.

    One thing you get at, I think, is the raw power of the temple experience. My own experience is not quite as negative as yours, but it is intense and unsettling. Part of what disturbs me is that I *feel* things so powerfully there, and I can’t rationally articulate my feelings. Like any good post-Enlightenment pseudo-academic, I don’t like not being able to name and control my experience. In part, it’s that power that makes me think I shouldn’t give up on the temple quite yet, though I cannot muster an ounce of desire to be there.

  66. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill manners.

    -Lord Chesterfield

  67. greenfrog says:

    I miss temple worship, but lack a recommend (and one of the belief elements required to obtain one).

    Did I think it strange the first time I went? Undoubtedly. I had somehow come to understand LDS Mormonism as austere and unadorned as the Quakers. The ritual — to my unschooled mind, any ritual — felt more than a little Catholic to me. In hindsight, I was ill-prepared, and I would have benefitted by both Steve’s and Nate’s letters.

    Over time, I came to enjoy the ritual, and I continue to find great value in the covenants I made there, in the life that the orientation of the temple, in the distinctive (Joseph Smithian? Godly? whatever, I’m ok with either) thinking that imbues the ceremony, and in the specific teachings of the relationship of thought and ideation to tangible, physical existence.

    As others have remarked, I find a number of things about the ritual that are (IMO) flawed reminders of its construction. Just as I’ve seen a number of changes in the ceremony since I first received it, I (hubristically, of course, for someone unqualified to see such things occur) think I see several more that will occur in the future.

    But on the whole? I find great value in ritual and ceremony, and of all the rituals and ceremonies I’ve witnessed, participated in, or invented, what I think of as the core of the LDS temple ceremony is among the most powerful and important.

  68. Leahhona says:

    I have really enjoyed this conversation on the Temple. My first decade of Temple attendance was fruitless to me, personally-I, as a single woman, did not see where it was I fit, the Temple was a place of Weddings, and had little to do with me, so I quit going. I get what #34 is saying, completely.

    here’s my $.02, for what it’s worth…

    I had studied Hebrew, and through this I knew Elohim was a plural noun, encompassing both Male and Female, (lest the Hebrews offend G-d by making a word for G-d that was not totally inclusive of anywhere and anything G-d might be), so I figured, regardless of what I was seeing, what I was hearing, the language was the important thing. So I stopped watching the Temple ceremony and opened up to listening, and a whole new world dawned.

    If we are to consider ourselves as respectively Adam AND Eve, and Adam is on the right-the side of Spirit, and Eve is the left-the side of the Physical, then everything, garments, the whole thing-is about our Creation, our Fall, and our own Redemption -personally – who an individual is to it’s Creator, regardless of gender.

    For those who are single, I hope this helps, is is just my own idea, I have had some LDS who dug it, and some who told me I was nuts…maybe this is a little of both? I would love to hear the insights of the BCC community, even if you think I am totally wrong. I really respect what I read here.

  69. My sister got the giggles once while participating in the prayer.

    I should say that she tends to giggle like that to relieve stress. It isn’t that she finds things funny, though on the surface that’s what she often thinks. It’s normally that she’s incredibly nervous or uncomfortable. It’s made worse by the fact that if she’s giggling someplace where it’s inappropriate it makes her more nervous, so she laughs more and more uncontrollably. Perhaps that could explain some of Anon D’s instant uncontrollable laughter?

  70. You are spot on about the endowment drama being about us, not some semi-mythical beings of a mystic past. As soon as that clicked for me (i.e. Adam = me), then it all became clear. Well, almost.

  71. Anonymous D. says:

    Steve (#61): You are probably right about the the insanity. Maybe this is not the right thread or Blog to discuss negative temple experiences, but people still need a forum to discuss the negative relative to the temple or any church-related issue. Undue criticism and excessive murmuring is wrong of course, but everyone from the prophet on down needs a forum to express the positive and negative constructively. I’m sorry if my story was inappropriate.

    Ronan: I know laughter was wrong and inappropriate, especially in the temple. I felt terrible the whole time, and still do, despite my parenthetical remarks re God understanding my weaknesses. Ill manners? Folly? Absolutely.

  72. A.D.,

    Nah, don’t believe anything Lord Chesterfield had to say. He was, after all, a Whig.

  73. I was once wandering around LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo with a friend who worked there and saw in a prop barn a couple of strangely familiar papier mâchè planets several feet in diameter. The experience has actually enhanced my temple worship.

    Yeah, I said “papier mâchè.”

  74. Randy B. says:

    Ronan, I think what Leahhona is saying is that you are not just Adam, but “Adam AND Eve.” (Or am I misreading?)

  75. Well then, er, um, ok… (Let me think about that.)

  76. Leahhona’s interpretation is an interesting one. I am no authority and can’t comment as to whether hers is a plausible or definitive interpretation, but to the extent that we find lessons and examples in the persons of either Adam or Eve, I think that we should be willing to accept those lessons and integrate them regardless of gender. That’s not the same thing that Leahhona’s saying, but it’s a watered-down version most people can swallow, I would think.

  77. When people leave the church altogether because of problems with the temple, it seems to me that it’s often triggered not only by a negative experience with the temple, but also because there isn’t anywhere to talk about it. Given that at least a significant minority of people do have such temple experiences, I wonder about the possibility of creating some kind of space where people could talk honestly and openly about their difficulties. When this topic comes up on the bloggernacle, the complaint is often made that it’s not an appropriate forum to discuss the issue. I can see why internet discussion of this subject might raise some real concerns. And yet my sense is that people literally do not feel that there is anywhere else that they can talk about this.

    I don’t at all want to discount the value and power of personal prayer. And yet in my life, I’ve found that in coming to terms with my most negative and painful experiences, I’ve needed more than prayer— I’ve needed the involvement of other human beings. It profoundly disturbs me that there are people going to the temple and finding it tremendously painful, and then on top of that weight are feeling that they can’t talk about their experience. Not to mention that the lack of discussion means that people who have difficulties with the temple are likely to feel isolated, and to think they’re the only ones who struggle with the issues they do. I don’t know the best solution to this (a kind of post-temple prep class, as someone suggested?), but I see it as a problem worthy of some serious thought.

  78. Lynnette, I completely agree with your comment. A post-temple prep class would be a great start.

  79. Hey, COB-lackey who’s reading this and taking notes for our files:

    We want post-temple classes, ok?!

  80. Kristine says:

    I don’t think a post-temple class sponsored by the church would work. If you’ve been taught consistently that the temple is going to be the pinnacle of spiritual experience, and it turns out to be otherwise, you’re hardly going to confide your distress in the people who told you how great it was going to be. I can’t think of any *official* church setting where one would feel comfortable discussing negative emotions about the temple–after all, this is the church that prints “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in the Primary song book AND LEAVES OUT ALL THE OTHER VERSES!!

    If I were a bishop, I’d make sure that a really understanding woman who “gets” temple issues was assigned to take newly endowed women out for dinner soon after their endowment, or something like that. Has to be one-on-one, has to be not at church.

  81. Kristine, you have to have faith in the COB. have faith!!!

    But yeah, you’re right. One-on-one is infinitely more personal and more designed to show real love. But how about BOTH?

  82. Re 77 and others, I’ve found temple presidents and matrons to be extremely patient, understanding, and accessible. They’ll listen to post-temple experiences and help you try to make sense of it…

  83. Kristine says:

    I just find it nearly impossible to imagine a church-sponsored forum where people would feel comfortable saying “I hated the temple ceremony.” Although I did see it happen once in Relief Society, and the chorus of “me too!”s and the subsequent outpouring of sympathy and understanding and practical help that followed remains one of the touchstones of my Mormon experience, something that gives me faith and hope in the possibility of Zion.

  84. Kristine says:

    queno–I’m glad you’ve had good experiences; my attempts at getting help or information from temple matrons have been uniformly awful. Geographic luck, I guess.

  85. Elisabeth says:

    Steve, it’s Lynnette. Two “n”‘s.

    Amen, sister. (You too, Kristine).

  86. Elizabeth, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  87. Thanks, Elisabeth with an “s.”

    Kristine, that’s a very good point–people who had a bad temple experience are probably not going to not be particularly eager to share it in any kind of official church setting. Perhaps what I’m wishing for is some kind of institutional acknowledgment that such things happen, which would be the message such a class would implicitly convey. Though I don’t know how well it would work in actual practice.

    And re #83–wow! Now there’s a faith-promoting story.

  88. Kristine says:

    Lynnette, it might not take much–imagine the power of somebody saying over the pulpit in General Conference that she had struggled to make sense of the endowment and felt hurt and puzzled by some aspects of it. I feel fairly certain that even women who are “churchy” enough to land in General RS & YW & Primary Presidencies probably have had questions, even serious ones–and a mere mention might be all it would take to give women permission to accept their own distress and grief and start to find the answers. Without getting too, too psychobabbly, I’d posit that the worst part of people’s feelings is the sense that those feelings aren’t *allowed* and must therefore represent some sort of personal failure.

  89. Heather says:

    Dear Friend,

    Thank you for your concern. I wish I could give you the reasons I don’t go anymore but I guess I don’t think even I understand them all.

    I think part of me feels let down by the church. I live worthily. I pay tithing even though I sometimes think about spending that money on other obligations. I go to church even though it is hard. I do my duties; I try to be uplifting to others.

    I know that part of it is because I am falling short in my own eyes. I just feel like right now, if I were to go into the temple, I would not be giving it the honor I’ve always felt it deserved. Because even though I feel like I am trying, I realize that today, my trying, my best, isn’t good enough. Not if the temple really stands for all the things I want and hope that it does stand for.

    I don’t know all the answers as I’m guessing you don’t either. I just know that there is hole in my heart. Maybe as time passes, it will close and I will be able to return. I keep looking for the answers. I just don’t know if I’m looking in the right place.

    I know how lucky we are to have temples so close to us. The closest one to me is 2 hours away. But I refuse to go based on guilt because someone else can’t. Because if I go on guilt, the hole in my heart will just grow and the emptiness will increase.

    So thank you again for your concern. But I’ll tell you, if I could just fill this hole, if I could just find some answers, if I could just receive some peace, then I would go back, as a pilgrimage, as sign of my devotion and gratitude, in wholesome worship.

    Yours,

    Heather

  90. I like the post-temple class idea. And I do not think people would be as reticent to say “I hated it,” as some might think. Last year a few months after my first, and horrendous, temple experience, I was asked to give a talk on, of course, temple attendance. I was still just beginning to recovery from my testimony funk and make some sense of it. I didn’t know what I should say. So I just decided to be totally honest. In my talk I opened with the story of how hard my first time in the temple was, I moved on to a talk by Pres. McKay about how even he was disappointed by it, and then I outlined some ways we people who struggle might find a peace about it. It was sooo nervous about giving the talk, I had never heard anyone at church say anything about the temple except “you’re going to love it.” But….it was a HUGE hit. Many, many people came up to me to thank me for it and say how much they enjoyed it. And several people also shared with me that their first time had been horrible too. It was as if all people really needed was for someone to say it first. So I think a post-temple class would work…especially if it is the same group who for weeks before the endowment does temple prep together. It should be comfortable enough for people to speak openly.

  91. Leahhona’s message is very intriging to me. I have a question though, she says:

    Adam is on the right-the side of Spirit, and Eve is the left-the side of the Physical…

    Where does the right side=spiritual left side=physical come from? Is it from ancient Hebrew ideas about their hands? (I don’t know much in this area) How common is symbolism like that used in religious rituals, and art ect.?

  92. Mark IV says:

    The first time I went to the temple, I got to observe a sealing after the endowment session. The endowment itself was a little bewildering, but the sealing was wonderful. As I watched the parents and children kneel around the altar together and heard the officiator pronounce the sealing, I was overcome with love for God and his church. It was just a week before I went into the MTC, and it gave focus and meaning to my mission.

  93. Ronan, Job’s soul was not “wagered” any more than any of the rest of our souls are. I think the story of Job is just another version of the Adam and Eve story, the story of the pre-existence/ council in heaven, my turn on earth, whatever you want to call it. Doesn’t make it any less painful, though. Guess I just take issue with the word “wagered” since I don’t think it’s a crap shoot.

  94. I don’t want to bore everyone by repeating the comment I made on That Other Blog, but I feel very strongly about Latter-day Saints who feel alienated by our temple rituals. Partly I feel strongly because I, like many others here, was totally weirded out by my first pre-mission temple experience. And it is so completely avoidable. My total relevant temple preparation was the stake president mumbling something about symbolism. Are the insights into the temple ritual that I have gained from reading Eliade and attending ‘high church’ services of Catholics, Episcopalians, the Eastern Orthodox particular to my reconciliation with the temple or can they be of general benefit? I’ll admit that this kind of expansive approach can be a distraction, like wondering what the temple play would be like redone as a Noh drama (which would better bring out the fact that it is symbolic and dramatic rather than realistic and literal) or if Peter sang “Climb every mountain” (he does fulfill the same mythic function as spiritual guide as Mother Superior).

    The single most disturbing aspect of the temple rituals appears to be the hearken to your husband covenant. Strictly speaking, the covenant involves hearkening to only one person, a woman’s husband, not the authoritarian bishop, looney right-wing seminary teacher or that self-righteous RM you dated in college. Technically, a single woman is not covenanting to hearken to anyone, it is in abeyance until such time as she finds someone she loves enough to marry, in which case some understanding can be reached as to the application of the covenant in the circumstances of a particular marriage of two specific people. I would be interested in knowing if married women see the covenant differently since they know specifically whom they are dealing with in making it as opposed to single women for whom it becomes an abstraction which can attract all of the larger issues of patriarchal domination in the Church and society.

  95. Leahhona says:

    In response to #’s 74, 75, and #76 Yes, I am saying we are Adam AND Eve, all of us, not just the women folk because I think in this case, Adam and Eve have nothing to do with gender. Guys always have a problem with this, seeing themselves as a she, but it should not be a big deal. Follow me here for a sec, here is my twisted logic…

    The scriptural defense of this starts when Elohim created Adam he was initially Male and Female, according to Gen 1:27 and Moses 2:27 (Eve and the infamous rib do not come along till the next chapter.) So, guys were both from the get-go, by my read.

    Throughout the Scriptures we (regardless of gender) are referred to as the Bride, and Christ as the Bridegroom. I will spare you all the whoring references…

    And if my scriptural references to my ‘logic’ are not persuasive enough, I always have 7th grade Science class where we were taught that girls are XX chromasomes, and boys are XY, yes, genetically half female…

    How’s about a rousing chorous of “As Sisters in Zion?” Who’s with me? :)

  96. Leahhona says:

    In response to Starfoxy (# 91’s) question about left-right Female-Male alignment, this was a visual cue I got. I noticed it at first, because it bugged me, then I got to thinking that if it was about us truly being both Adam and Eve, this would make sense.

    I noticed that Eve is taken from Adam’s left side and in the movie & is always to Adam’s left, even being physically moved to the left in some cases.

    We know from Moses 3:5 that everything was Spiritually created before it was Physically created, so having Eve (the Physical) come from Adam (the Spiritual)makes sense…

    I had to get over my Sheep and Goats ideas about right and left, good and bad, and think about it as a Spirit/Body differentiation, nothing more.

    The physical body’s key organ is the heart,for this is what determines physical life itself. Someone can be brain dead, and still be considered alive (some Politicians function for years like this! LOL But I digress) but the heart’s stoppage ends our life’s beautiful rhythm. Hearts, physical life, are on the Left.

    The women are on the left of the Endowment room, and the men are on the right. Physical life comes from Woman, and she is born with all the eggs she will ever have to make life.

    And (paranthetically) up until now, this is the reason all cloned animals have been female-they have no way to create life, even in a test-tube, from a man.

    As for the teaching of the Jews, Tefillin (phylacteries) are worn on the center of the forehead and inside left arm, up by the bicep, but I believe this is to fufill Deuteronomy 11:18, which talks about G-d’s word being between the eyes (unforgettable, always before you and helping to resist sin and always to seek more understanding) hands (in all the works that you do) and in your heart (so that it becomes what your life is about) having the Tefillin up on the bicep puts the word next to the heart.

    This method dates from the Talmudic teachers, I do not know if it is an older teaching, or not.

    This follows my logic. Like I said, this is my own ‘I gotta get some understanding’ I could be way off base.

    To the Chinese that follow the Yin/Yang, Feminine is the dark part on the right (Yin) but I got to thinking, if one was to embody this Yin/Yang, that would reverse….

    And, in conclusion (I can hear eyes rolling on this one) Joseph Smith chose to manipulate the Masonic Emblem to have the Right side mark be open to the arm that resurrects us and the Left, inverted and over the heart, open to the influence of Heaven.

    And, if you believe popular Fiction, to embody the Sacred Feminine in all of us. Yes, I went there. You knew I was heading there, admit it. It is another interesting theory, is all.

    I’m not saying I have the truth, I’m just a gal looking for answers.

  97. Leahhona,
    Thank you for your response. I’m interested in hearing more about how the being on the left or right side is indicative of being representative of the spiritual or physical. I really like your thoughts and am very glad you’ve decided to share them. For example you list several examples where Eve (or women) are found to the left of men. Then you list several examples of how women are representative of the body and men are representative of the spirit. To tie it all together I’d like to understand where you see evidence for left and right being symbollic of body and spirit respectively.

  98. Mark Butler says:

    Re 95: Should we be glad that there are no YY’s around? Why is that, anyway? Any biologist type out there care to comment?

  99. Mark Butler says:

    By the way, I know why YY doesn’t normally happen, but why can’t it ever happen, when we get all sorts of other odd combinations? Why isn’t there Y monosomy for example? Where does the second Y in XYY trisomy come from? If there are two Ys possible why not just YY on occasion? What would be the consequence?

  100. Left Field says:

    The X chromosome has a bunch of essential genes. Without at least one X, you’d be in big trouble, or in other words, dead.

  101. YY would require a meiotic error in both the egg (no X) and in the sperm (two Y). Not likely to happen, and if it did, as Left Field said, you’d be in big trouble.

  102. #36 Monk, which question contains the answer to Tatiana’s question? I’m saving the site, but I want to go back and see what you have to say.
    thanks.

  103. oh, never mind, I found it.

  104. JWL in #94 wrote, “I would be interested in knowing if married women see the covenant differently since they know specifically whom they are dealing with in making it as opposed to single women for whom it becomes an abstraction which can attract all of the larger issues of patriarchal domination in the Church and society.”

    This is akin to the argument which President Oaks made in his recent talk about the priesthood and authority (Nov ’05 conference) that the women who have problems with priesthood authority in the church are single women who have never experienced the priesthood in a marriage relationship.

    While I can definitely understand where the question is coming from, I think it’s problematic. Basically, a question like this assumes that women’s complaints about gender issues in the church (whether it be priesthood authority or the temple covenants) are coming from bad experiences they’ve had with priesthood leaders (another common assumption is that these women must have had abusive fathers).

    It ignores the fact that many women have feminist beliefs that stem from an inner moral compass about what is right and fair. Instead, it paints feminists as women who are hold their feminist beliefs because of painful experiences with men (I realize, JWL, that you might not be going quite this far, but many people do).

    I will admit that I am not married, and there is much that I do not understand about the marriage relationship. However, I am engaged and my fiance is someone who wants a marriage relationship of equality, and that’s one of the many reasons that I’m marrying him. I came from a family where my father was the same way. I have had almost completely positive experiences with priesthood leaders from the time I was a child to the present day. And yet, I am a feminist. And I have a strong suspicion that even after I’m married, issues relating to women in the church (including the temple covenant) are still going to upset me.

    So, do any of you married feminists want to identify yourselves? I know you’re out there… :)

  105. Julie M. Smith says:

    s, I feel that your account of Elder Oaks’ talk is not quite right. Here’s what he said,

    “The principles I have identified for the exercise of priesthood authority are more understandable and more comfortable for a married woman than for a single woman, especially a single woman who has never been married. She does not now experience priesthood authority in the partnership relationship of marriage. Her experiences with priesthood authority are in the hierarchical relationships of the Church, and some single women feel they have no voice in those relationships. It is, therefore, imperative to have an effective ward council, where male and female ward officers sit down together regularly to counsel under the presiding authority of the bishop.”

    I don’t see this as dismissing feminists. (I thought it was pretty amazing that he acknowledged that some women feel that they have no voice in the church, and that it was the role of the ward [esp. ward council] to do something about that!)

    And, yes, I am a married feminist. I think all sorts of Church-related gender issues are easier to deal with when you are married–if you marry a man whose commitment to equality matches yours.

  106. Leahhona, I have some difficulty with the reading above.

    when Elohim created Adam he was initially Male and Female, according to Gen 1:27 and Moses 2:27

    The problem is that the ‘adam of Gen 1:27 has the definite article on it, which proper names do not. ‘adam can indicate both the proper name “Adam” but also “mankind.” It would be highly unusual to read the text as Adam when it has the article on it. Thus, I read Gen. 1:27 as saying “god created mankind is his image. In the image of Elohim he created it (ie. mankind) in the image of God. He created them male and female.”

    The NRSV and some other Bibles bring this out as well. The “him” in the KJV is misleading. If we were strict, we’d translate it as “it” since mankind is not a “him.” There’s some nice parallelism between the grammatical singulars in the first half and the plurals in the second half, ie. both mankind as a whole (grammatical singular ‘Adam) and mankind as individuals (ie. “created them male and female.”)

    I thus read Eve as being present here, but I like many others read Genesis 1-2:4a as a separate and self-contained creation story, distinct from that in 2:4b onwards.

  107. Julie, you are right–it was good that he was addressing the fact that many women have complaints and that there need to be changes.

    I wasn’t trying to say that Elder Oaks was being dismissive of feminists (if it came across that way, I apologize). I was just trying to point out a basic assumption in the church that marriage will eliminate feminist concerns (or complaints about priesthood and authority, etc). I think there’s a practice that’s way to common of responding to single feminists, “once you’re married, you’ll understand” (I confess that there are many, many things I don’t understand, but my feminist convictions are not there because I’m single.)

    While Elder Oaks isn’t dismissing feminists, he seems to be implicitly saying that once a woman gets married, she’s going to have an easier time accepting and understanding priesthood authority. (Elder Oaks is an implicit statement of this, and some of the other attitudes I outlined in my post are more explicit statements.)

    I was merely trying to make the point that a belief in feminist principles and struggles with the church when it comes to gender issues can still occur when you are happily married to a righteous, equality-loving priesthood holder.

  108. Steve Evans says:

    Please, PLEASE don’t let this devolve into a debate over feminism and the temple. This has been debated ad nauseum at other blogs, with disastrous results. I would prefer not to have to pull the plug on this thread.

  109. Leahhona says:

    In response to #97 Starfoxy’s comments, When I went into the Temple, and looked at the Covenants, promises, and Creation and then added this Right-Left twist, it became, for this unlearned seeker, anyway, a deeply personal struggle about or Spirit’s willingness to follow it’s Creator, and the flesh’s weakness. Eve’s mistake (to me) was not trusting what G-d had told her, and her not checking back and just listening to Lucifer said. We know the eating of the tree was a fall up, my current noodle baker is that if Eve had resisted the temptation in the story, would G-d have eventually provided this knowledge?

    I have no other evidence, it was how I was able to reconcile a ceremony where Women were providing me with all these intimate blessings and knowledge in an equal format, yet Women were asked to make a Covenant that required a middle-man to hear thier Creator. This twist kind of saved my relationship with the Temple, and gave me a way to enjoy it without having a husband to share the Covenants. Is this a Feminist perspective? I don’t think so, it is admittedly egoist, if anything.

    Any ideas or insights would be most helpful!

  110. Julie M. Smith says:

    Steve, you feel free to edit or delete this if you need to, but let me assure you that I am not intereted in rehashing women and temple. (One wonders why your concern is arising here and not when God was called an emotional rapist, but I suppose this *is* your blog.) But I think S has raised some really fine questions about feminist sentiment and marriage that I would like to address.

    S, I am of two minds about your take on Elder Oaks.

    On the one hand, yes, it would be shortsighted to think feminist sentiment would just disappear when a woman gets married. (But I don’t think that is what Elder Oaks is saying.)

    On the other hand, Elder Oaks is making a huge distinction between how priesthood operates in the home and how it does so in the church, and it doesn’t seem like a huge leap to think that a woman who hadn’t seen the priesthood operate in a home where she is a wife will not yet have the same understanding of it as a woman who has. [This may be mitigated by half if the woman was raised with a phood-holding father.]

    And in my experience, I *was* a lot more concerned about the hypothetical of what life as a wife would be like given LDS roles *before* I was in that position.

    To sum: I think “once you are married, you’ll understand” may be about 25% true, depending on the person.

  111. Fair enough, Julie. I’m closing the thread.

Trackbacks

  1. […] TEMPLES: 5.  We talk a lot about temples, but as an unendowed (and therefore subordinate) member of the Church, I haven’t experienced most of what’s happened in the temple.  I don’t see that as a problem, but I don’t feel that I have any real understanding of what will happen to me.  I doubt it will be anything that troubling (lots of people I respect and who see the world in a similar way don’t seem to have been traumatized), but I don’t think we do a lot to educate our members, which makes the temple this desirable, yet incredibly vague construct.  See very informative posts at Times and Seasons and BCC for great discussions of this.  The temple probably deserves higher than a five, but it won’t get it from me until we get more education in the membership.  As it is, I’m not going to “prepare” to go the temple, although I will try to be a good person.  Preparing to go to the temple at this point would be like preparing to play jai alai without knowing the rules, the equipment, or what a court (is there a court?) would look like. […]