Temple Night

So, it had been a long time since I had been to the temple. I’m talking years. I don’t have a good sense of how many; certainly more than two. Maybe five or something like that. This was strictly a function of my fundamental laziness. I used to go maybe four to six times a year, but working in the City and commuting by train it’s hard for me to do it on a week night. So often I would go on Saturdays, but then they started encouraging locals not to do that so that they could accommodate all the people coming in from out of town. These days, now that the temple district has been repeatedly cannibalized from various temples being constructed in what used to be a huge district, that concern probably doesn’t exist anymore, but I still have that directive rattling around in my brain. And when my TR expired, getting a new one was a hassle. I’m psychologically not down with having to return to church after the three-hour block, and having to do two interviews is a pain. And the Stake one can be a difficult get. But, to make a long story short, my blogmates recently inspired me to get back in the saddle, I managed to orchestrate the two interviews I needed in a fairly painless bit of logistics, and with a hot new TR burning a hole in my pocket I attended our ward’s temple night this evening. I just got back a little while ago.

I went with a man and a woman who are pretty elderly, like maybe 30 years older than I am. The man is my home teacher. My wife and I don’t really want to be home taught. But it turns out I home teach the woman, and she very much does want to be home taught. Getting together with my actual companion is difficult, so the way I’ve requested my home teacher to home teach me is by going as my companion to home teach this woman. So that is what we do. It works out great, and frankly I think it’s a brilliant arrangement. So anyway, we’ve spent a lot of time together and have an easy rapport.

When I got to the recommend desk, the guy furrowed his brow and said my TR wasn’t activated. I had no idea what that meant, but luckily a supervisor came by and said the stake simply hadn’t activated it yet, but from the dates it was clear that they were just a little behind and it was fine. So I made it past the sentinel into the building itself.

We got there waaay early for a 7:30 session. I went to the chapel to wait for my friends, but at some point I realized I had forgotten to get something I was going to need for the actual session, so I went back and got that thing. (If you’ve been to the temple, you know what I mean.) Having been gone so long had kind of thrown me off of my game a bit.

The chapel was full. They did two separate 7:00 sessions, and then we did the 7:30, and our ordinance room was packed to overflowing, which is great. It always seems a little sad to me when there are like three people there.

I hadn’t seen any of the new movies, so I knew that the film would be completely new to me, and that was something I was looking forward to. I got the one with the brown-haired Adam, blond Eve, bald Satan (he looks kind of like Michael Chiklis from Fantastic Four). Eve showed way more emotion than I was expecting, with big smiles and a sobbing scene. The big three looked like they were filmed with motion capture technology, like in Frank Miller’s Sin City or something like that. In any event, it was fun to see a completely new film.

I was thrown for a little bit of a loop by the lack of standing in places where we used to stand. But otherwise, I still remembered all the ritual just fine.

The main thing I noticed was that, after having been away so long, coming back tonight I kind of saw things through a fresh set of eyes. In particular I was more attuned to women’s issues. There was good and bad to this. On the negative side, I noticed the sexist parts–things that had pretty much passed right by me in the past. And I also noticed how unnecessary the sexism is; those would be easy edits and we wouldn’t be missing a thing. For that reason, I believe that eventually those parts will be edited out, but I’m not counting on that happening during my lifetime. Things move slowly in this church.

But on the bright side, I also noticed, as if for the first time, how strong of a connection there is between priesthood and women in the temple. I knew of the arguments to that end, but tonight I witnessed it in a new way and it really hit me viscerally. So that was very encouraging to me; we as a church have the tools to be able to do something meaningful on that issue. Whether we will actually follow up in that sphere is another question, but the raw materials for great things are there.

On the way home we stopped at a 24-hour IHOP for a late dinner. Food is always a great motivator for me to go to the temple.

So that’s my story. I’m back in the saddle on going to the temple. And all in all, I had a wonderful time. I’m glad I jumped back into it.


  1. Kevin, Welcome Back. I work in a temple and recently helped a gentleman who was a little hesitant. He told me it had been a while and he was a bit rusty (or “off his game” as you might put it). When I asked how long, he said 27 years and it was an emotional experience for both of us. I’m glad you jumped back into it too, since your knowledge of the scriptures and writings of them benefit all my temple experience and work. They have so many applications that have inspired me and (someday), I’ll respond to more of the “sexist” parts in the temple which I view in an original way. Thank you also for your comments about the priesthood and women in the temple. I know you are so well respected in the community.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the welcome back, Terry H, I appreciate it. At the end at first they only had enough workers to cover one slot each for the men and the women, and they asked whether there were any certified veil workers present (as they usually do). There was only one. I used to be one, maybe 20 years ago, but I assume that certification expired somewhere along the way, so I didn’t volunteer. I very much appreciate those who give of their time to make the temples work. (Eventually they cobbled together more workers to cover all the slots.)

  3. Nice to bring fresh eyes. Thanks for sharing, Kevin

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. I enjoyed reading it!

  5. I don’t agree that serial is the right term to use. Sexism to be properly used as a term should require one gender (typically female) to be devalued. There is nothing that devalues women in the temple and if anyone see it, the problem is the assumptions they are bringing to the ceremony.

  6. Serial=sexism

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    DQ, for most of my life I never noticed or thought about it, but now it seems pretty obvious to me.

  8. As a woman and someone who has worked in two different temples, I’m afraid I don’t see it either. Maybe because I have learned the ordinances and know them better than someone hearing them after several years.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Really? I have to admit, that surprises me.

  10. Thanks for this post, Kevin.

    My wife, who is as faithful and orthodox as it gets in nearly every conceivable way, told me when we went last week that she only has one concern about the wording in the endowment that she hopes will be changed – and it relates directly to women, specifically. We both love the temple, and I understand enough varying explanations to understand how some people can attend and see no sexism at all – but that isn’t the case for many others. It has **nothing** to do with one’s level of understanding but rather with one’s perspective – and I am not saying one perspective is “wrong” by stating that.

    Anyway, all I really wanted to say about the post is that I am very glad you made it back and that it was a good experience. The changes I would make are things I believe to be important, but the things I absolutely love about the temple FAR outnumber those changes and are every bit as important to me.

  11. Let'sbehonest says:

    [Note: this comment was edited to remove detail about the temple ceremony. Admin.]
    Let those who have ears to hear, hear; and eyes to see, see. If you don’t see and hear the sexism in the temple, I’m afraid you are tone death and color blind, so to speak. If it doesn’t bother you, it does not mean it isn’t there. It’s quite obviously there. The temple puts men higher than women. Men are the go-between from women to God. Men can be anything they want in the world. Women can only righteously choose to be there for him and the kids. She has no life of her own without criticism and judgment. As one man said centuries ago, “Men reign and rule the world. Women comfort them and by so doing bear the sons who will grow up to reign and rule, and the daughters who will bear their sons to reign and rule.” The temple offers no other option for women. My father often quoted the scripture to my sisters and I to always remember that the woman was made for the man, not the man for the woman. It’s a patriarchal order, so obviously, it’s sexist. Though women are beloved and honored, they are always below men who have all the power and authority and dominion. There is no other way to explain it, even if there are so many who are fine with these truths. Perspectives and attitudes can help women abide and endure, but they cannot change the truth. The more you go, the more you learn there, if you’re willing to see and hear.

    Bro. Barney, I truly enjoy your posts and remarks here, and at fMh. There’s a lot of thoughtfulness in you that calms troubled waters. You have a gift, and I’m grateful you share it with us. I’m glad you wrote of this significant experience and that it went so well for you.

  12. anonymous says:

    Bro. Barney, welcome back to the temple. I’m glad you made the sacrifice to get there with your schedule and hassle to get there. I can’t imagine what it’s like. Aside from my mission, the furthest temple growing up was 45 minutes away across town in traffic. Now I live two blocks from a temple.

  13. around the corner says:

    I went back for the first time in a long while. Saw the same movie as Bro. Barney. For the first time in my life I realized that I didn’t believe Satan’s closing speech. Why should I believe Satan anyway. I left a lot of guilt and shame behind me when I stopped embracing his words as true. Just a thought.

  14. @around the corner: That was one thing that my Stake President pointed out to me in my interview right before I got married. I believe his words were: “Why would you believe anything told you by the Father of Lies?”

    I guess what I’m saying is that there is semi-official support for your view there.

  15. Rhododendron says:

    I like Ray’s comment above. Seeing sexism in the temple doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s level of understanding, but has to do with having a different perspective on life and spiritual matters. Rather than flapping our hands dismissively at another person’s experience by touting our own superior knowledge, I think we should really seek to understand why a person might feel that way. I, for one, am very troubled by it, maybe more than I am about any other thing in the church. I appreciate my friends’ efforts to explain their interpretations to me even as I appreciate their willingness to listen to my interpretation without judgment. Bro. Barney, I sincerely hope you’re wrong about it not changing in our lifetime.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    I hope so, too, Rhododendron. (Of course, I’m on the older side of things [55]), so I have less of a lifetime left than most ‘Nacclers.)

  17. Seeing the sexism or lack thereof is not blindness either direction. As Ray says, it is perspective.

    When one has a righteous husband, or even no husband at all, and covenants are either working as they should, or theoretical, there is not sexism, but divine interdependence.

    But, speaking as a woman who both loves the temple and finds it very painful now, when a husband breaks his covenants or exercises unrighteous dominion, suddenly the fact that some of your covenants rely on him is devastatingly painful. When you realize you can never see the fulfillment of the blessings of your covenants because of his actions, you feel like little more than a divine commodity.

    I do not doubt that this does not reflect the true nature of the covenants. But it remains that the wording clearly places you, as the wife, in reliance upon his righteousness in a way that is not reciprocal.

  18. FWIW, I think that the idea of Zion calls us to try and see other perspectives than our own. It’s very, very difficult to represent accurately what another person thinks, but we ought to try.

  19. @ Let’sbehonest:

    Even if I accepted your interpretation of the endowment fully (which I don’t), I do believe that we are all under the Abrahamic covenant and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Each person or couple who fulfills the obligations of those priesthood covenants inherits all the Father has. Period. Should any one of us be upset because we are temporarily presided over by another in this church? No. Because in the eternities we get EVERYTHING if we are faithful. There is not more of everything for one person than there is for another. Exaltation entails everything. We don’t have to compete for or agitate for anything. We just have to keep our priesthood covenant alive, regardless of our assigned roles in this church in mortality.

  20. Last week I returned to the temple to see my first new film (the version mentioned in the post). I enjoyed the new film, but as an audio visual nerd, I couldn’t help but notice that they went from a 4:3 aspect ratio to a 16:9 ratio. Moving to a widescreen format is usually an improvement, but I think many (most?) temples have a 4:3 projection area framed with molding so that you can’t expand the width of the image. The net result is a picture that’s now 1/3 smaller (shrunk to match the horizontal constraint with black bars on the top and bottom). Here’s hoping they fix the molding to match the film . . . and yes, i realize most readers will think this comment completely absurd.

  21. Alonzo Gaskill’s book talks about a layer of symbolism in the Garden narrative where the Adam represents Christ and Eve represents “all living.” So by one reading Christ voluntarily takes upon Himself morality so that He can be with us, and we covenant to obey Him. So it isn’t males that are the mediator between us and God, but Christ.

    This layer of symbolism was obscured when they tweaked the wording to make it more egalitarian in 1990, but I imagine you’re right that it will eventually be taken out altogether. Which makes me sad, but given the number of people who take even the overt symbolism literally it’s more likely that this aspect of the ceremony is a source of pain more than enlightenment.

  22. Bryan H.,

    That is an interesting perspective. I like that. Sadly, it does not replace the hierarchical setup of God-husband-wife. It is in all three parts of the temple ceremony (I/E/S). And I do not accept that my husband stands between me and God (endowment ceremony), nor do I believe that I will be his eternal accessory (initiatory), nor that I belong to him any more than he belongs to me (sealing).

  23. ErinAnn,,
    Do you accept anyone in a temporary mediating role between you and deity? Parents? Bishop? Stake President? Temple sealer? Prophet? If you do, then why do you suddenly exclude the person who probably loves you as much as life itself? The person who cannot be exalted without you? A person whose weaknesses you know? A person that actually completes your possibilities?

    Please take this as a philosophical discussion and not an attack or challenge in any way.

  24. Ok, I think I know the parts you mean, Kevin, and maybe I just don’t pay that much attention to them, because I know they they will be changed eventually. I also don’t take the words as literally as some do, though I’m sure many would consider that wrong of me. I’ve been going to the temple for 37 years now and have seen at least two major changes already, and I know from those older than I that there have been others. God wants us to make certain covenants with him and to receive the promise of certain blessings predicated upon our faithfulness to those covenants, but he left the actual ceremonies and verbage up to men to create. Humans need ceremony to mark special milestones, like marriage, but look how the ceremonies vary according to culture and custom. Whatever the ceremony, though, the marriage is created. To make the covenants we do in the temple also requires serious ceremony so we recognize their importance, and so we came up with a ceremony, which is tweaked when necessary. But back to the sexism. That exists in this world and always will, but I do not believe it will in the celestial kingdom. That is based on my own marriage of nearly 50 years. We started out two separate people, but over time have grown to be as nearly one as two people can. My husband has learned to rely on my intelligence, my different way of viewing things, my “feelings” and I have done the same with him. If either of us have a problem we know the best person to rely on for whatever help is needed is the other. I am not less than him in this life and will not be in the next, nor he to me. I fear we do not understand just important that oneness is, the natural man/woman resists the idea. Perhaps I am totally wrong about all of this. I know as a convert I have a somewhat less orthodox view of things in the church, but I am at peace with my beliefs, and believe I understand just what God wants for me. I know how much He loves me. The rest will sort itself out in due time.

  25. Sure, in brief, specific instances. That is not the presentation in the endowment. I would not have a problem with it if it were reciprocal — in all three parts of the temple ceremony — but it is not.

    We are told explicitly who represents who in the endowment ceremony, and to make wild jumps to say that it is actually otherwise is no different than me saying that I don’t believe that God intends for us to believe things as specifically taught in the temple. My own interpretation is that the temple ceremony is held down by the traditions of men.

  26. ErinAnn,

    I’m pretty sure nobody believes those things.

  27. Really? You think that no one in the church believes in the man being the head of the home?

    I don’t believe those things, but I know people who do. Join any conservative Mormon discussion forum.

  28. ErinAnn,

    Your comment that I was responding to says nothing about the head of the home.

    Most Mormons I know are comfortable with the idea that the father presides in the home even while husbands and wives are equal. Just like The Father presides over the God head but Christ “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”. It’s only in the bloggernacle that I find people to be upset by the violence this does to dictionary definitions of words.

  29. Bryan H, you’ll have to fill me in on what “those things” are that no one believes.

  30. ErinAnn,

    I do not accept that my husband stands between me and God (endowment ceremony), nor do I believe that I will be his eternal accessory (initiatory), nor that I belong to him any more than he belongs to me (sealing).

    I don’t think anybody else believes those things either.

  31. I reject entirely the notion that I preside over my wife, or that I mediate between her and God in any respect. I find the idea repellent… It’s one reason I’m not much a fan of the endowment. But hey, if people get something good out of it, I won’t hold it against them :)

  32. Bryan H., I’m sorry. I don’t understand what your point is. I don’t believe those parts, you don’t think anyone believes those parts (I disagree with you there).

    Segullah, I think I lost you somewhere, but I did reply to you (though I didn’t name you in it.)

  33. ErinAnn,

    I didn’t say nobody believes those parts. My point is that I’m pretty sure no one believes your interpretation of those parts. Despite being couched in hierarchical and patriarchal language, which we may expect from rituals that had their genesis in the 19th century, nobody believes that husbands stand between their wives and God, nobody believes their wife is an eternal accessory, and nobody believes that they belong to one any more than the other.

  34. Bryan, the number of members who believe those things now is substantially lower than in the past, but I personally know a few. Extrapolate that across the entire membership and the number, while a very small minority, still is significant.

    Also, just to say it, not stressing about something that is stated because “nobody believes it” is one approach. Another approach is to ask that what “nobody believes” be removed and/or reworded. Dismissing either approach (or others along the spectrum) as illegitimate doesn’t help in the slightest, since it doesn’t change anything about the central issue of what is stated but not generally believed.

  35. Ray,

    In my first comment here I took exactly the approach you describe.

  36. Let'sbehonest says:

    To the Admin: the part you edited out is in Pres. Packer’s The Holy Temple book. It’s in lesson manuals also. Just saying.

  37. As to “who believes those parts”. The thing most troubling to my wife who has written on this quite a bit is that it is clear Brigham Young absolutely believed in man as intercessor for women. He and other leader have actively taught it for generations. It was common for women of BYs time to refer to their husbands as “their Lord”. So framers intent is absolitely what the temple says literally. More troubling is the fact, as Kevin mentioned, is that removing this aspect of the temple could be easily done with a few edits and could have very easily been done in 1990. However, our leaders not only refused to take this structure out, they very carefully manufactured the big 1990 edits to maintain the structure while softening some language. So it begs the question about what our current leadrlers actually believe in regards to our most fundental eternal doctrines and the place of women.

    That said i applaud and encourage all efforts by individuals to reinterpret, change or ignore the ceremony to bring it in line with the value of equality between the sons and daughters of God. Generally I see the majority of Mormons living far more egalitarian marriages than our current doctrine dictates. We get to choose what we believe and if that means rejecting what BY or say BKP might happen to believe about men and women in the eternities so be it. Since the ceremony is unlikely to be changed any time soon our powers of personal interpretation is all we have got. We shouldnt gaslight people for seeing framers intent however. That is just cruel.

  38. rah – thank you. Agreed.

    I’m surprised, Bryan H., that you take disagree with my understanding of the blatantly spoken words of the ceremonies and call them an “interpretation”, like I just misunderstood. The temple ceremony is quite explicit as to who has what *named roles* in the eternities. I have to either assume the temple is wrong or believe that God thinks of me as an accessory.

    I believe I have as much value and regard from the Lord as any of my sisters and brothers. The temple does not lead me to believe that. My own reasoning and witness has done that.

  39. One other thought. The choice made by leaders to keep the temple stubbornly “uncorrelated” may have been one of the wisest they have made even though it is at odds with other trends in the church. To me it speaks to the power of what a less correlated Mormonism could have.

  40. I appreciated the “Let’s Be Honest” comment even though it is hard to read.

    I also feel like Rah’s comment has truth to it: “I applaud and encourage all efforts by individuals to reinterpret, change or ignore the ceremony to bring it in line with the value of equality between the sons and daughters of God.”

    There should not be so much confusion stemming from the House of Learning….yet we still do not talk about these issues at church or temple prep classes or really anywhere. I think many people are angry that we’re even talking about them at all.

    It does seem like all women are punished for Eve’s decision.

    Heavenly Mother is also completely absent from the temple. The Proclamation teaches that gender is an essential characteristic of eternal identity and purpose.

    Having “everything” in the hereafter gives me no assurance that things will change. What kind of “equal partnership” do Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother (or the Heavenly MotherS) enjoy?

    The temple teaches me that I will one day (hopefully) become my husband’s priestess when he is exalted. Somehow it shouldn’t matter that I’m a “priestess unto him” since I’m also exalted with him. It just does not sound at all like a partnership…more like a master servant relationship.

    I am grateful that discussions like this are going on. This is a good thing. We all need to talk about this. Prospective temple goers deserve to know about these things before going.

  41. To Kevin’s point about how easy it would be to fix the ceremony. I think you could get 90% of the way there with 4 smallish edits all of which I basically make in my head (and I think many do in their own interpretation):

    1) In the initiatory change “priestess unto your husband” to “priestess unto God” (there is already some small support for this from the early Nauvoo ceremony)

    2) Either remove the hearkening covenant or better make it reciprocal so that Adam covenants to hearken unto Eve in righteousness as she does to him.

    3) Make it explicit in the endowment that Eve is covenanting with God not Adam. Currently, the only time Eve directly says who she is covenanting with it is to Adam. If you you go back pre-1990 it becomes even clearer that Eve never actually covenants with God but only with Adam.

    4) Make the sealing language symmetrical so the husband also gives himself to his wife. Currently, the wife receives her husband and gives herself. But the man only receives the wife.

    “Easy-peasy lemon squeezy” as my daughter would say. There is still the issue of a completely missing heaven in mother but this takes out (or clarifies if you prefer) the overtly gender hierarchical language in the current version.

  42. rah: no surprise that I see things very much the same as what you’ve said here. Your 4 suggestions are exactly what is bothersome about the existing temple ceremony. To the ears steeped in sexism in BY’s day, I’m sure nobody batted an eye. Likewise through the 1960s and even beyond. It’s just impossible not to notice as a woman. Any woman who doesn’t notice it is not paying attention, which is everyone’s prerogative obviously. I also believe very firmly that those aspects of unequal language are not divine but human relics. They are also contradicted in our own church manuals. They don’t seem to be the current flavor of teaching anyway. That’s what gets me to sleep at night. Wouldn’t it be great if we women didn’t have to ignore things to make it through the temple unscathed.

  43. unendowed says:

    Kevin, thanks for this post. It strengthens me and takes away my fear of the temple when I read about other people’s positive experiences there (or their routine experiences, even–anything non-negative).

    I tend to really dislike talks and lessons about the temple, and I think it’s because the attitude is not “here’s what I love and experience” but rather “GO! Go to the temple! Go all the time!! Have you gone yet? Repent! Attend! You slacker!” A few weeks ago, both sacrament meeting and RS were about the temple (side note: my current bishopric seems to like to do this. They did the same with marriage a few weeks before. TORTURE) and the message felt very much like “If you don’t attend the temple, you are not doing enough. Attending church means you are merely sliding by.”

    Surprisingly, “go or you aren’t sufficient” is not a great motivator for me to receive my endowment. But a message like yours–“I went back to the temple and I noticed things and here’s what I noticed”–helps me look forward to a time when I’ll be ready to go.

  44. Kevin Barney says:

    unendowed, I’m so glad you found it useful! Thanks for letting me know.

  45. Congrats, Kev. Your post reminded me of changes I’ve seen over the years. A few from the Kimball years were meaningful to me: ward and stake leaders interviewing for recommends were enjoined from setting quotas for temple work. Interviewers had to stay with the prescribed questions and not pursue their own notions (still hear of this happening though). The recommend questions were changed to ask about relations with family members and about personal testimony. Two-piece temple garments (yay). No more long john garments in the temple.

    All this contributed to increased attendance I think, but I only have anecdotal evidence.

  46. Michael Chiklis as Satan–almost thou persuadest me to return to the temple.

  47. OK, so I just went through the temple and got married, not even one week ago. So to all you old hats here is a woman’s first impression for comparison:

    Yes, I noticed the sexist language in the ceremonies discussed above. Yes, it was disconcerting. Like another commenter, I am secure in my belief that inequality does not exist in the celestial sphere, so inequality on earth is created/perceived without basis. Still, language matters, and I too hope this will change eventually. Getting over those little moments of uncertainty was also made easier by being partnered with a man who neither presides over me nor puts me on a pedestal, but who treats me every day as his partner.

    I loved being ministered to by women in the temple, and I loved feeling that connection to the priesthood that seems intentionally (?) severed in our weekly and annual meetings.

    I felt a deep connection to the men and women who have gone before me, and loved participating in a tradition/ceremony/ordinance that is held so close to our hearts as practicing saints.

    My favorite advice about the temple is what my dad said – that there are a lot of ways the information could be presented in the temple, and this is the way that has been chosen for us (by God and the leaders who interpreted his word). So don’t get hung up on the window dressing – the message is all that matters.

    And it is a wonderful, wonderful message.

  48. Kevin Barney says:

    Congratulations, Rachel!

  49. “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness….In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. ”

    “a man who neither presides over me nor puts me on a pedestal, but who treats me every day as his partner. ”

    I’m not sure why we have to swallow the world’s critical theorist way of looking at things which pits principle against principle, rather than embracing the truth in one eternal round. I, and I believe many other “traditional” LDS members, embrace the endowment, priesthood, church, etc. in this way, while others seem to look for dichotomies to pit against each other.

    Rachel, the Q12 and FP member of the church for the last 20 years have supported the above statement, and I’d presume everyone before them would support it as well. So I’m not sure why we have to create such push back against the term preside, when right there we have the equal partner terminology to follow-up which you trump as the superior alternative.

    Two alternatives. Your way of looking at things needs to be tweaked, or every Apostle of the restoration not only needs their perspective adjusted, but have been teaching false doctrine and declaring it to the world as God’s will (divine design).

    Interestingly enough, I think a forward thinker would look at the fact that a woman is asked help be an equal partner in the role of presiding in a family to be a positive trait.

  50. DQ, I think it’s important to note that the way “preside” is used now is different than it was used in the past – not just to say, “See, we teach equality in marriage,” but also to recognize we haven’t done so always. It’s also important to note instances where our current wording doesn’t match the new way preside is being used – like some points in the temple, which retain the former understanding of what it means to preside.

    Like most things, I wrote about the evolution of presiding on my personal blog. The comment section illustrates the conflict that still exists in some members’ minds. The link is:

    “Presding: An Evolution of Definition”

  51. “Fathers are to preside…” – I assume Rachel’s husband isn’t a father yet, so doesn’t have to worry about presiding. The fact that the proclamation says “Fathers” and not “Husbands” in that sentence suggests to me that we’re talking about children and not spouses when it comes to presiding. Which does leave room for a bit of disconnect with the endowment language.

  52. @Kevin: thanks! It’s been fun :)

    @DQ: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness….In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. ”

    Rather than seeing one truth, in this statement I see a clear contradiction in terms. By presiding over families fathers are automatically placed in a position of authority their wives do not share (or it would state that fathers and mothers preside over families *and* act as equal partners). You can’t have it both ways, and traditionally much more weight has been placed on the previous statement – fathers presiding – than on the latter. I am pretty sure that my perspective needs to be tweaked about a lot of things, but it is also pretty clear that the perspectives of church leaders have evolved over time regarding a whole host of issues. Thank goodness!

    @Ray: True, the cultural use of preside is changing, but that doesn’t change its definition. To preside means to act in authority – and authority must be shared to be equal.

    @Sara: That is a very narrow interpretation. The language of the family proclamation specifies fathers presiding over families, not children. We are taught in the church that our divine roles are that of fathers and mothers, regardless of current circumstances. So if my husband’s role is that of a father, and he and I constitute a family, then it logically proceeds that he would preside over me as his wife according to the proclamation. Even without picking apart the language of the proclamation, I am sure I am not alone in having been taught that ‘husbands preside over wives’ in church settings. If that interpretation is incorrect, then it nevertheless seems to be supported in the language of the temple ceremonies.

  53. Rachel, the same word has multiple meanings many times – and I see a clear move to invest “preside” in terms of marriage and the home with a different meaning than in a church organization.

    I would love to have co-preside replace preside when talking about marriage (as I heard in a GC talk or world-wide training session fairly recently), but I think it still is important to recognize when a word is being used differently than in the past – and this is one such case. Until the terminology changes we still can credit a chance in practical meaning.

  54. *change* in practical meaning

  55. Ray, I really appreciate that perspective. I think you are right about its meaning changing, though I would also love to replace it with a term with less historical/cultural baggage (co-preside is great, I’ve never heard that before).

  56. @Rachel – I’m not same page as you when it comes to assuming that Fathers = husbands. (Of course I spend a lot of time railing against the notion that womanhood = motherhood, too.) The use of “father” in that line has been a sweet little relief to me precisely because there is discrepancy. I’ll continue to believe that it’s an inspired word choice that suggests that modern presiding advice pertains to parenting and not partners.

  57. Sarah, I think you are right that we should be careful equating man/womanhood with father/motherhood, though it is certainly commonly done in the church, and the word ‘father’ is an interesting choice in that passage.

  58. Congratulations Rachel! May you have a very happy (and egalitarian) marriage! In the end it is what both you and your husband *jointly* believe and live that ultimately matters for your day to day life. So the only thing I would add is to make sure you have these discussions with your husband about how you interpret the ceremony, the proclamation etc. It is sad when spouses can not agree or don’t know they disagree on such fundamental matters. It is better to discuss than assume as well. Today, for the vast majority of educated westerners, the general expectation is for an egalitarian marriage. If I look at both my Mormon and non-Mormon peers that is what I tend to see. However working toward the goal of a truly equal parternship is a life long endeavor. It shouldn’t be taken for granted because signficant, important inequalities can creep in and fester in even the best marriages because of all the complex, many-dimensioned compromises required by life and circumstance. Constant vigilance andd dialogue is required!

  59. Single woman here, I love all the “. . . unto your husband” stuff. It reassures me that I will actually have a husband some day. I view it as a confirmation of a forthcoming blessing. Why should it be changed to accommodate your concerns? Rather than addressing mine?

  60. Angela C: ” Any woman who doesn’t notice it is not paying attention . . .”

    Any woman who interprets it as sexist doesn’t understand the Gospel.

  61. Absolutes often aren’t.

  62. Lily,

    It isn’t so much that the ceremony points toward marriage, it is that it creates an explicit hierarchy between husband and wife, was meant to do so when written, and has expressly remained unchanged through numerous iterations. I assume you want a marriage founded on equal partnership before the Lord not obedience to and worshipping your husband as Lord.

    And I am sorry but any women who doesn’t notice the sexism doesn’t understand our own mortal history. The Gospel has little to do with it.

  63. The best word I’ve found to use in discussing this among people with different world views is “asymmetry.” It acknowledges the differences without anything more, effectively neutral.

  64. Ben S,

    I think that is a good suggestion. I think there is a reasonable discussion to be had about whether it should be discussed neutrally though. Even if discussed as asymmetry the nature of the asymmetry does not pretend in any way to be a balanced one. The man takes on no obligations or positions in the ceremony that provides a novel check or balance. In no place in the ceremony is Eve puts in a privileged position relevant to Adam. That is just the reality – as is the framers intent and teaching around the ceremony for decades upon decades. As I mentioned in other comments I am all for inventive, personal interpretations to read equality into the ceremony or, more often, inequality out of the ceremony. It is essential for those who want to base a healthy marriage on the temple covenants. However, I think we have to recognize these for what they are – personal interpretations – not institutionally driven attempts at addressing the problematic asymmetry. I think to ignore this or to ask swaths of women to ignore this or more egregiously to pretend it doesn’t exist is more problematic than helpful. Especially when framed as “you don’t understand” or implying that something is wrong with the women who simply see what was the original intent and the remnants of what remain for what it is, has been and will continue to be damaging for thousands of women and marriages. That doesn’t preclude finding beauty or truth or peace in the temple. Clearly, many people do who clearly recognize all these things. That is great.

  65. ErinAnn,

    Since the words “eternal accessory” are most certainly not “blatantly spoken” in the temple, it absolutely is an interpretation. One of Jesus’s explicitly named roles is “Son” which is hierarchical language also. So do you believe He is our Heavenly Father’s “eternal accessory”? Neither does anyone else.


    I said “Nobody believes those things,” not “Nobody has ever believed those things.” I already acknowledged that the language is hierarchical and patriarchal and prone to causing pain and misunderstanding. I’m not gaslighting anyone.

    As well as “framers intent,” a church that believes in continuing revelation must also interpret things in light of the past 100 years of doctrinal teaching and development. The idea that the brethren publicly teach the virtues of egalitarian marriages while their actual beliefs are revealed behind closed doors in the temple strikes me as ridiculous on its face. Rather, I see them trying to change things prone to cause pain and misunderstanding while making as few changes as possible in order to preserve layers of symbolism and meaning. That the changes are not good enough for the kind of people who get worked up over pronouns surprises me not at all.

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