Temple Prep for Daughters: Brace Yourself

This post is an honest and personal admission of my raw feelings about attending the temple as a woman and my budding concerns as the mother of a daughter.

As my daughter has entered Young Women this year, I’ve been contemplating her eventual endowment in the temple, and the experience she will have that I had over 25 years ago.  Every week she is told, as I was, that attending the temple will be the loftiest goal of her life, the culmination of her religious experience, and the final step in ensuring her eventual exaltation. And I hope it will be!  How do I help her to embrace what is good in the temple rites and covenants without being sidetracked by the inherent sexism and secondary status women face in each of the ceremonies?  How will I prepare her for the temple without feeling like I’ve sold her out?

When I first attended, in preparation for my mission, aside from the rites being unfamiliar and very different from our usual low key church services, and aside from the discomfort of wearing underwear that was made from about six times more fabric than anything I’d ever worn before, the elements of the ceremony that differed for women felt like a slap in the face.  I was making the same covenants, but my eternal reward came with caveats that did not exist in the language used for the men.  I made the same sacrifices, but my then non-existent husband was put in place as my intermediary where I had thought the savior was.  No matter how great my husband is, he’s not Jesus.  I don’t recall this bait and switch in any of the church lessons I was taught.

When I first attended the temple as an initiate in preparation for my mission, I was fresh-faced and enthusiastic, sure that this was going to be the crowning experience of my mortal life, the final step needed to bind me to my earthly family, the place I could go in future to seek comfort, the place where I could seek personal revelation unhampered by the concerns of the world.  And I found those things.  But I also found heartache and deep doubt about my place in the eternities.  For the first time, I had serious doubts about the celestial kingdom as a place I would want to be.

I returned to the temple over and over again, as if by mastering its rites I could erase the discomfort I felt with the inequality.  I wondered if I was missing something, some key piece of information or understanding that would suddenly make the sexist differences comprehensible to me, that would make me feel that they were right and that they reflected who I am.  I took pride in my ability to memorize the ceremony, to find new meaning in the symbols, and to be one of the first ones done at each stage.  I enjoyed the beauty of being surrounded by faithful people of all ages dressed in white, there for a common purpose, full of love and acceptance.  But the sexist distinctions continued to intrude on my experience.  That feeling has not changed in the 25 years since I first attended.  I have never attended without feeling that I’m complicit in accepting my female status as eternally inferior, an eternal loser.

When I was sealed, a few years later, the inequities in language were another slap in the face.  Was my husband not under covenant to me at all, but I was under covenant to him?  Was he not actually bound to me?  Was I the only one getting married?

When she was 9 years old, my daughter noticed that her brothers were passing the sacrament but that the girls didn’t get to participate in that way.  She was irritated by the sexism inherent in this distinction.  I downplayed her concerns by pointing out that it’s kind of lame anyway, but she disagreed.  She thought it would be really cool to get to participate in the service like that.  I didn’t really have a good explanation why girls aren’t allowed to participate in the service at all, although I pointed out that we give talks and say prayers, and that the boys just serve the sacrament to others, receiving no unique benefit to themselves.  She thought it would be cool to be able to contribute, to have her presence there matter, to be given the gift of being an integral part of the service.  I suggested to leadership that we as a ward should consider letting the girls hand out programs or be ushers, but nobody was interested.  Since I had no solution to offer her, I hoped her feelings would fade away, although I suspect they haven’t.  She just stopped talking to me about it because I didn’t have an answer.

The explanation that one day when we are in the celestial kingdom we will feel differently (our eventual celestial lobotomy) rings hollow.  I realize that’s similar to what they said about childbirth, but let’s be honest.  Childbirth sucks.  It hurts a lot.  Was it worth it?  Sometimes.  It’s cold comfort to tell my daughter that God probably isn’t a sexist and these things aren’t really the eternal order of things.  If so, how should she feel about the temple?  For many women in the church, the temple feels like it is pitted against our self-esteem and our personal feelings of worth.  In order to accept the view of women in the temple, we have to sell ourselves short.

I know there are women who feel at peace in the temple.  I have felt peace there at times as well.  I have even felt peaceful enough to fall asleep a few times!  Usually women make it work one of three ways: 1) they simply ignore the differences in language and basically don’t listen or they selectively hear only the good things (these women are the most successful at making it work, and I’m not knocking this strategy; it just doesn’t work once you know what’s being said), 2) they assume God’s not sexist and it will all work out in the eternities, or 3) they look at the world around them as being sexist, so they see this as a cultural infiltration and mentally separate it from any theological implication, which would be fine except our current leaders keep insisting that it is theological.  I mean, honestly, that’s how I “make it work,” but it doesn’t really work, and my daughter is being raised in an even less sexist world than I was.  Having to ignore what is really said to women isn’t a very faith affirming experience.  Ignoring things takes some level of energy.  Deliberately not paying attention still requires some attention.

This is the key issue for many faithful women in the church.  I believe far more women than men dislike the temple, and that this is why.  I think it’s one reason women generally prefer the initiatory; we aren’t confronted with the differences in the men’s version.  Women are negatively surprised by the sexism we encounter in the temple, like it was hidden from us and now we are in a high pressure situation and have to agree to it.

I would prefer that my daughter embrace the covenants of the temple, that she choose to live a Christlike life, to make sacrifices, and to bind herself to her family in love.  But if the price for that is that she has to be subjugated to the arm of flesh (her husband) while the reverse is not true, and that her eternal reward is permanent second class status, that’s a hard sell. I can’t sell what I don’t buy.  If the choice is between my daughter’s self worth and the temple, I don’t see how the temple wins.

If that’s not really our doctrine, then it’s time to finally update the temple script.  We have revised the temple ceremonies continuously since they first began.  I can only hope that thoughtful changes are in the works.  In ten years, it will be too late for my daughter.  It’s already been 25 years too late for me.

I understand that many of you will probably feel the instinct to come in and help me fix my problem.  Please resist that urge.  And, gentlemen:  please think twice before you attempt to explain away my experience.

Comments

  1. Well done. I have no fix or explanation, but only validation. This is true to what I have heard in private-not-public conversations for even more than 25 years.

  2. This was a major concern for my wife and for me as well. For my wife the unpalatableness of the temple was a major reason she thought long and hard about her involvement with the church, decided it did not line up with her sense of right and wrong, and therefore wasn’t true. Now neither of of us go to church. A lot of effort goes into explaining genuine inequalities away instead of dealing with/fixing them. It’s a point of pain for us.

  3. Okay serious high five here. I can’t tell you how many women have gone in once and never returned. For years when I was growing up Dad always went to ward temple night, Mom stayed home. I asked her about it one time, she came up with some necessary reason. Later I overheard her telling someone she never did have a spiritual experience in it. She loves my dad, she loves the idea of a bound family, she encouraged and supported all 3 of us kids in our sealings to bind us together. But its not her sanctuary or pinnacle.

    One final note – when my husband and I were sealed the sealer at the end of the event, stood us both up in front of our 60 friends and family, handed my husband our marriage certificate and said, “There are your property rights.” Lots of little chuckles emanated, me, I died a bit that day. Chattel.

  4. Amen to preferring the initiatory. I don’t have any answers when I contemplate bringing my daughter there in ten years either. This came up last night with my husband again and he just said, “well, we hope that’s something that changes as we continue to receive revelation.” Sigh, I don’t think there’s any hope of it changing soon, it would require them to deconstruct polygamy and the temple rites and I just don’t think we are anywhere near there, retrenchment and all that.

  5. I have had the same experiences as you when attending the temple and wonder how to talk to daughters about the issue. On the one hand I want them to be prepared and have the understanding that it might not be the spiritual pinnacle of the discipleship and that thats okay. On the other hand, I worry about bringing it up before their endowment because some women don’t see the sexism at first, if at all, and once its seen it can’t be unseen. Its an impossible situation, but maybe it will change before my kids time…one can only hope. I wish you well in helping your daughter through this experience.

  6. You articulated very well how I feel about the temple, having had some deeply spiritual, peaceful experiences there. Unlike you, however, I was not bugged for years (naivety, I believe). I subconsciously used both numbers 1 and 2 of your “coping mechanisms” but in recent months, have moved onto number 3. And I’m not sure how long I can just deal with that and keep accepting it. It seems like the more I pray and search for explanations, the more angry and let down I become.

  7. It is precisely because of this that I really struggle with going to the temple. I can achieve so much peace with the church, even with all my doubts, and then I go to the temple and then it all feels so false. And although I don’t have any children, I have precisely the same worry when I think about even the possibility of raising daughters in the church. How can we help women to feel like real, whole people – something society will constantly tell them they are not – when in what is supposed to be the most sacred space, their inferiority is confirmed?

    I’m not married, and not that long ago I realized that the temple plays a major part in me not having a strong desire to be married to an LDS man. While I make covenants now, in the absence of a husband, it seems like there really is a relationship between me and the divine. Marriage – at least, temple marriage – somehow seems like a barrier between me and God. How messed up is that?

  8. It’s my understanding that there are differences between the men’s and women’s initiatory, but the blessings women receive are better. Which is nice.

  9. Thank you for this post. I find it difficult to attend the temple and have avoided the endowment for close to 10 years. I hold a recommend and attend youth temple nights, but that is as far as I can go. It is definitely a point of pain and hurt for me and I dread the day that I need to address it with my daughters. I really hope that there will be changes before that time.

  10. Right there with you, Angela.

    The sexism hurts both women *and* men, and we sometimes brush it aside, but it’s true. Eventually, this must be dealt with, for everyone to benefit from full humanity.

  11. Carrie, sometime in the late nineties or early aughts I heard or read a talk by President Hinckley in which he chastised men for mistreating their wives and informed men that their wives weren’t “chattel.” I was floored. Based on what I’d learned in every temple ordinance, as well as the message of scriptural passages like D&C 132, I understood the church’s official position to be that women and wives were, in fact, nothing but chattel.

    Since then I’ve rarely felt more cynical about the church than when I heard GA’s and other official representatives reassure the media that our doctrine teaches us that men and women are equal. They church is able to get away with this blatant misrepresentation of itself partly because of the secrecy that surrounds the temple. If the temple were thrown open, it would become evident just how deeply inequality pervades every aspect of our most central, most sacred ordinances. And so Elder Nelson can reassure us that in contrast to other misinformed Christians, we Mormons honor Eve for her wise choice–even as behind closed doors every endowed LDS woman is punished for her transgression and subjugated in her name.

    That contradictions are galling.

  12. “Celestial lobotomy” is hilarious. I always figured it would be more of an opening of a perspective (you know, adding back the memory of millennia of premortal existence plus the eternity of core intelligence to balance out the century or so of experience in a human-made cultural framework). I noticed the differing temple language at some point but it never really bothered me (my attitude is probably a combo of #1 and #2). The language used in the temple feels archaic in many ways, so my attention tends to be drawn more to underlying symbolism and mysteries. I see a lot of the temple rituals as human approximations of much more fascinating heavenly concepts. Just as we look at animal sacrifices as barbaric and brutal (how could anyone really grasp atonement from that?), I feel like we’ll eventually look back at our current rituals and cock our heads a bit.

    I didn’t realize the pain that many women felt from temple language until I discovered Mormon blogs last year. I suspect that many members (including women) are similarly ignorant of how strongly this affects some members.

    I have no idea how to prepare my daughters for this. I’ll probably wait and see if either one has a problem and try to help at that point (maybe some changes will have occurred by then). I similarly worry about discussing historical polygamy with them. I want to give a faithful perspective but there’s no way I’m going to be able to hide my emotions on the issue. Luckily we’ve only had to deal with questions regarding the discrepancy between Cub Scouts and Activity Days so far, and that wasn’t too bad.

  13. Angela, I don’t “high-five” you and I don’t at all feel the same way you do about the Temple Endowment. Also, I do not intend to “correct” you. I’m just going to add my comments to the others.

    I’m painfully aware as a previous Ordinance Worker that many women do not prepare properly for the temple experience. They come to the House of Lord dressed like they’re going to a night club. They wear high heels that disturb the peace of our Lord’s house. They chop their gum, giggle loudly, and talk and complain almost non-stop about how hard life is. They clearly do not understand the purpose of the Temple and how we are to behave in our Father’s House. Neither, do they understand the individual covenants, the endowment, and the opportunities for all of God’s children in His house.

    Based on your own words, I suspect, neither do you. That is not a slam or me trying to take a jab at you. Based on what you’ve shared it appears that way to me.

    Many women (and men) just don’t understand the gifts and the Atonement that allows us, as Daughters of God, to be equals to His Sons. I’m not going to recommend some deep wisdom or several books, scriptures, movies, etc. that you could educate yourself with. I’m doing as you did, giving my honest response to your comments.

    You mentioned there are 3 ways women usually “take this.” Let me offer another “way” this woman takes the temple experience. I’m educated, still teachable, ask questions, and with my limited, mortal comprehension, I trust 100% in our Father that he got it right. Father is okay with us asking questions. It’s that simple. Does he need our corrections as we see life should be? I don’t think He does. Just as I don’t need a 7-year old advising me on how to drive or bay pills, etc. Father does not need my limited opinion on how to operate His house.

    I sincerely wish we could have a face-to-face, or phone call, because I know that emotions are hard to relay in a quick response. My comments are just as you did, my insight based on my experiences.

    Let me add that years ago, when I decided to take out my endowment (it’s singular; many people say endowments) I had to ask “permission” from my husband to take out my endowment. He had not stayed true to the marriage covenants. Talk about a hard pill to swallow. Then I realized it was certainly not about him. My covenants are with my Father. I don’t know if my words helped, I pray they did not hurt. But, this has been my experience.

  14. Ann Porter, why would it be “nice” for women to receive better blessings than men? Sexism is damaging whichever way it cuts.

    Angela, I can confirm that the male hierarchy expressed in our current temple ceremony greatly pains me, an active male member of the church. I find it not only inherently flawed, but in conflict with the way marriage is portrayed in church circles outside the temple. As one example, in the church’s marriage prep course, the “triangle” analogy is used which shows men and women as having equal access to God and that, as the couple comes closer to God, they necessarily come closer to each other. That analogy greatly resonates with me. I wish it could be found in the temple as well.

    As for the temple ceremony changing, unfortunately, I think the answer from our current leadership would be the same as their answer for female ordination; namely, they we “lack the keys” to make such a change in the structure of the kingdom.

  15. Way to keep it classy, Melinda.

    Allow me to turn the mirror around for a bit. During my years commenting on this and other blogs, I’ve ran across some people who are crass, selfish, rude, jerkish, and entirely ignorant. Now, I’m not trying to compare you to those people. Heaven’s no. I’ll just leave the innuendo out there.

  16. Nonny Mouse says:

    I was 19 years old, in love, desperate to please my family and prove that I was a “good girl” to all the terrible people in my parents’ ward. The temple was the gauge, the mark to attain so I could really be righteous – all my hopes were pinned on it. There I was, escorted by my adored grandmother, so thrilled to finally learn all the wonderful things I had been promised would be revealed to me. I loved the initiatory, it felt incredible. And then the endowment…

    What a punch in the gut. I have never felt such a combination of awe and repulsion. And by the time I realized just how off everything felt, what was I supposed to do? Break my mother’s heart? Break my fiancee’s heart? Be brave enough at 19 to get up and run? So I did it. And I tried and tried to see the beauty and the truth, and every time mostly all I felt was sick to my stomach. And there was no one, NO ONE to talk to about it. I’d point it out to my husband and he’d brush it off. Blind eye.

    That was 20 years ago. I stopped going after about 5 years. I tried again, maybe 7 years ago, and it was just as alienating. I haven’t been since. The temple holds no comfort for me, only a cold feeling of dread for what awaits me in the next life.

  17. Please persevere in the growth of your faith. Remember that our religion requires the sacrifice of all we have to create the faith necessary to save. Sacrifice wouldn’t be such if you weren’t aware of what you were giving up. Consider this trial your experiencing to be one of the most significant sacrifices of your life and when you give it to the lord he will embrace you into his bosom with loving arms.

  18. “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.” – Joseph Smith

  19. Anarene Holt Yim says:

    “I can’t sell what I don’t buy.”

    That’s exactly where I am too. I used to sell it to myself, to the kids in my house, and to the kids in my church callings, using all kinds of spin and semantic twists. I’m not able to do that anymore; integrity doesn’t allow it. Now, like you, I just hope for a change to the script. It’s a little too late for me personally, but I’d love to see better for the next generation.

  20. James, wouldn’t that be lovely.

  21. (all being saved on the same principles, that is.)

  22. I’ve said this before and I am going to say it again: nothing will change as long as most of the women of the church don’t have a problem with what is going on. As long as we have Melindas in vast numbers (which we do) the men won’t have any reason to change anything. “Keep the men cushy”–our fifth mission of the church.

  23. Ron, lemmeguess you’re a man?

  24. My oldest daughter is not a big fan of the church, and gender issues are the primary reason. I have answers for her on some of the troubling aspects of church history and other things (not entirely satisfactory answers, but answers I can live with and she can sort of understand), but in the event that she decided to go through the temple, I wouldn’t have any kind of answers for her regarding the gender inequality because I haven’t found a way to stomach it myself. I mostly just ignore/disregard it in order to get through a session. My daughter isn’t the type to ignore stuff, and the only way to put the sexist stuff in context is to remember that polygamy was a central tenet of the faith at the time the temple rites were introduced, which only serves to make the ordinances seem less relevant today. So why should my daughter want to go to the temple? What do these ordinances even mean? I’ve got nothing, so I guess I’m glad she has no interest in going.

  25. Thank you, thank you, Angela.

  26. “sure that this was going to be the crowning experience of my mortal life”

    We do a terrible job managing expectations for the temple. I’ve said before that we oversell it because we don’t know how to talk about it properly.
    Davis Bitton framed it this way. “What’s potentially damaging or challenging to faith depends entirely, I think, on one’s expectations… Any kind of experience can be shattering to faith if the expectation is such that one is not prepared for the experience…. the problem is the incongruity between the expectation and the reality.”

    I don’t gainsay your experience at all, as it is shared by women I know. I know plenty of women, on the other hand, who seem to have very positive feelings about the temple and attend regularly. Obviously, one’s mileage may vary, for a variety of reasons, and end up with a variety of feelings about it.

    How, then can we create realistic expectations without giving women, in particular, a negative bias ahead of time? You neither want to prejudice them towards negative nor leave them unprepared for the asymmetry of the ordinances. That’s a fine line I’m not sure how to walk other than to say something like “not everyone has a wonderful experience, and that’s fine, you’re still a good person.”

    Eh, not enough time to edit and clarify my own thoughts, but I hope my constructive gist is clear.

  27. anon for this says:

    This post resonates. Especially your line about feeling complicit in accepting female status as inferior when you attend the temple. I feel like such a liar every time I do an endowment session. (I don’t have any intention of hearkening to my husband in any sort of non-reciprocal way.) Which is why I have stopped doing them. It’s a tough situation to feel like you can be honest or you can do an endowment session but not both.
    Also, I love “keep the men cushy.” I mean, I love it as descriptive, not prescriptive.

  28. Cjanekendrick,

    My thoughtful comment was to stay faithful and give your sacrifice to the lord and feel his love and you ask if im a man? What an unthoughtful personal attack on the non-issue of my sex!

  29. It’s time to do it. Changing the wording so that women are not represented as second class to men would be so simple to do. A little rewriting, a little praying for confirmation in the top church quorum, and it’s done. What’s the big deal? Where is the blockage? Why hasn’t this happened already? If other parts of the ceremony have been changed for cultural reasons – isn’t that why penalties were removed decades ago – what is the holdout??? Women are not second class in God’s eyes. I don’t understand why a prophet hasn’t taken care of this.

  30. Cjanekendrick,

    So my thoughtful comment was to stay faithful and give your sacrifice to the lord to feel his love, and you sarcasticly and personally attack me on the non-issue of my sex! Don’t be a cyber bully.

  31. Ben S hit the nail on the head. We can’t discount the feelings of women who have bad experiences, but we also can’t discount the feelings of women who have no problems.

  32. I agree with Ben S. that we oversell the temple. The fact is that the temple ritual (aside from gender issues) will really connect spiritually with some people while others…not so much. For me, I appreciate the temple ordinances and promises, but it is not where I turn when I need inspiration. I’m much more likely to be spiritually uplifted through other means. I think Angela’s comparison to childbirth is quite apt. For some women it really *is* a magical, spiritual experience. For others (like myself)…not so much. For new mothers who are told to expect the positive magical experience, the real deal may be a huge physical and psychological blow.

  33. anon for snark says:

    I chuckled at “bay pills”.. hehe

  34. I should note, Bitton is not talking specifically about the temple, but his statement about expectation vs. reality is highly applicable.

    Mary Ann, that seems like a good analogy.

  35. There is no “second class” exalted beings. To even think that wives are second class to their husbands is to ignore what the endowment really is about.

    “If the choice is between my daughter’s self worth and the temple, I don’t see how the temple wins.” The temple is important in determining ones future eternal state. What does it profit a woman to gain all the “self worth” in the world and lose her own soul? A woman can have great self worth and the temple blessings but without the temple, all that self worth will one day wither away and be replaced with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. We all have choices. We can accept the blessings the Lord has already given us or we can let pride in and complain and declare “that is not fair. I want more”

    Could the endowment be rewritten? Sure but if the purpose of the endowment is to present truth and the ordinances. Not to make us feel good. If the truth causes some people to feel bad, is should the truth be changed or should the people who feel bad make some changes?

  36. There are several ways to oversell. One is to say the temple experience is “wonderful”, “best experience”, “you’ll love it” and so on. When there is pretty clearly a mixed experience, among women and men, and for an individual from time to time and even within one session. This one is easy to fix if we just pay attention.

    Another is to say that the temple is the summum bonum, the culmination, the peak experience, the place where the gnosis is revealed. We really do that too. In the context of this discussion starting with the OP, the summum bonum oversell encourages the belief that what the endowment portrays is the true and everlasting role and status of women. This is very disturbing to some. Actually, very disturbing to me and everyone I’ve ever known to have an opinion on the subject. This oversell is deeply embedded and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many who disagree with my using the oversell label in the first place.

  37. Anonymous Number Four says:

    When my daughter went through the temple for the first time recently, the temple matron brought up these gender concerns during the instructions, without having been asked. She didn’t use any of the answers suggested above; instead she presented the problem and said we simply don’t know; we don’t have answers.

    My recommendation for the women here, especially those with concerns for yourself or your daughters: make an appointment with your local temple matron. Sit down and visit with her. If she’s never considered these concerns before, it may take awhile to explain what you mean and have her understand and comprehend that these are serious issues for you and many others. She may try and suggest answers, or as my daughter and I recently experienced, say “we don’t know.”

    It is possible that she will not be willing to try to understand; you might encounter a temple matron who reacts like Melinda. However, members of the church can discuss and discuss this topic on blogs, but if the people who are working in the temples don’t know that this is a concern, how can they begin to pray and petition the Lord for answers? Then hopefully with time and education the answer can at least progress from “we don’t know” to “we don’t know, but we are seeking revelation.”

    And if the temple workers hear these concerns from you first, in a kind and non-confrontational way, they might be more knowledgeable and less judgmental when young women, including some of our new younger sister missionaries, react strongly to the temple experience.

  38. Anonymous Number Four says:

    And, russ, are you trying to mansplain, or does it just come naturally?

  39. Great post. I also with the temple experience, being particularly pained with the inequity and subjugation involved in women’s covenants. As I sat through yet another session trying to understand, I found myself thinking I am not going to be content with Truth mixed in with falsehood. I’m waiting for Truth, I’m waiting for Heavenly revelation. Following the temple pattern I may be waiting for a while, but I’m not going to stop and be content with what is. I’m going to be Faithful that there can and will be more. Maybe that revelation will come to women, maybe they are stewards of themselves more than we now recognize. But I do think there is more we could learn from God in regards to women’s ability and destiny.

  40. Ben, I think Davis Bitton’s counsel is generally true with respect to issues of faith and questions of church history. But the problem here doesn’t seem to be managing expectations so much as the content and ideas of the temple ordinances. Angela says she has gotten the comfort, revelation and respite from the world she expected from the temple. The origin of her pain is what the temple teaches about the relationships of men, women and God to each other. That pain is not going to be mitigated by moderating our extravagant temple discourse to our children with the intention of lowering their expectations of their experience there, but by reconciling the teachings of the temple to everything else we teach on the subject. Either by a fresh understanding of the temple ordinances or by changing them.

  41. Thank you for sharing your experience. I struggled for 19 1/2 years in trying to make myself comfortable with the temple, to no avail. The temple was such a huge source of pain and heartache for me, and became even more so as I was attempting to raise three daughters in the church. Panic attacks in the temple became the norm for me.

    Ultimately, I chose to dive deeply into the historical and doctrinal foundations of the church, including the origins of the temple ceremony (freemasonry). Only then did I realize I did not have to perpetuate the cycle of my daughters becoming the second-class citizens in the LDS church. They did not deserve that, just as I did not deserve it.

    For those women that are perfectly content with the sexism in the church, I’m happy it works for you and you’re confortable in your prescribed role. It didn’t work for me, and it wasn’t working for my daughters who were already struggling with the sexism on Sundays at ages 10, 10, and 14. I’m hoping there are changes made (and soon) in the church and temple for the sake of my nieces. Unfortunately, those changes, if they do happen, will have been too late for our family. My daughters deserve more.

  42. I daresay that lowering expectations of the temple is a lose-lose path. The temple SHOULD be the pinnacle of our liturgy. It is High Church, straight up. Let’s not lose that. Let’s just make the experience better.

    And to those who say the ordinances cannot be changed: nuts to you. They have been changed, they are changing and will continue to change. That is an awesome thing.

  43. I used to be one of those people who said, “Just go to the temple and it will all be okay. You’ll feel better in the temple.” Then one night I listened extra hard for hard for specific words of comfort to share with women who were struggling with the sexism that they were seeing in the temple and I was not . . . and it was like scales falling from my eyes. I was shocked and dismayed and the temple hasn’t felt the same since.

  44. Ron, now that your admonishing me I think I have my answer.

  45. *oops, posted before I edited. Strike that extraneous “for hard” and add:

    My current coping mechanism is to hope that the sexist language in the temple is a cultural artifact that crept its way in. I hope I’m right.

  46. It’s strange to me that we adduce the feelings of women who don’t mind the temple as evidence by which to evaluate the *content* of the temple liturgy. The problem is not that we need to make women feel better; it’s that we need to understand and teach truth. We generally don’t use emotion as the yardstick for doctrinal purity–why do we do it in this case? Can’t we just talk about the actual words and teachings and evaluate them in the ways we usually do in reasoned discussion?

  47. My experience was like Layne’s, where the endowment didn’t bother me (a man) until a visit when I paid attention to the differences in the words. My perspective changed, so I guess that’s a revelation I got in the temple.

  48. My wife quit paying tithing and attending the temple over this.

    I feel so very abandoned and alone.

  49. I’m a woman, and a number 3-er. I believe that priesthood and ordinance are eternal — but the temple ceremony isn’t (and will change). So I attend regularly, ignoring what I don’t like and relishing what I love. Some might liken this to “picking and choosing from a buffet” (I believe the metaphor goes), but if it keeps me at the table…

    Of course it also helps to observe that there are several aspects of the temple ceremonies that are a step ahead of the general church experience vis a vis gender equality, especially that women administer ordinances.

    I married a man who converted in his late twenties. Although I know so many wonderful LDS men who grew up in the church and really treat their wives as equals, I’ve always been kind of grateful my husband didn’t have any of this life-long baggage to shed.

  50. Here’s something to read in case you don’t get what the problem is: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2014/04/the-mormon-priestess-the-short-version/

  51. Is initiatory better? I’ve never been through the women’s initiatory, but I always understood that the word “husband” appears in that ceremony in the same way that “God” appears in the men’s. I wish there was a ceremony in the temple where I couldn’t find readily apparent inequalities — but I can’t think of one.

  52. The ceremony has changed in the 30 years since I first started going and those changes were very good ones. That they haven’t changed the sexist parts is very hard to get over. When I hear a woman say it doesn’t bother her at all I am just stunned. Why is it that the 2nd article of faith only applies to men? Every time I hear a conference talk when the speaker says something about how we all know the peace and comfort that we feel in the temple, I die inside just a little bit more. Even the initiatory is sexist. Men’s ears aren’t blessed to hear the counsel of their wives. Just sayin’.

  53. For me, I just can’t see this temple issue as a sexist issue. I see it as a matter of education and knowledge. Truly studying the doctrine, understanding the principles, and following our Savior’s example by talking to our Father (i.e., praying to Him).

    I reference Doc & Cov 46: 10-26
    10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
    11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
    12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
    13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
    14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
    15 And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
    16 And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
    17 And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
    18 To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
    19 And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
    20 And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
    21 And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
    22 And to others it is given to prophesy;
    23 And to others the discerning of spirits.
    24 And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
    25 And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
    26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

  54. Anon for this says:

    Angela, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate to much of it. I took out my endowment about 10 years ago and had a really negative experience in the temple (due to the issues you cite). I went back a number of times but felt similarly anxious and disheartened with each subsequent visit. The anxiety I felt there over these issues developed into a pretty serious anxiety disorder (where there had been none before) – that impacted my life in significant ways, even outside the temple.

    I resolved to stay an active, full tithe paying member but decided I would no longer seek temple recommends. That worked well for a number of years, then I was called to YW. I felt so dishonest reciting the YW theme each week and just could not bring myself to recommend the temple to these young ladies. I also had a daughter around that time. It’s amazing what we’ll put up with for ourselves, but trying to pass that pain on to my daughter was too much.

    People referenced my lack of temple attendance in YW planning meetings (!) “Oh yeah, who can help take the YW to the temple..pause…{blank} doesn’t go”…- Can we make room on Sundays for those who can’t abide the temple (b/c of inherent sexism or other reasons, etc) without making them feel like subpar Mormons?

  55. It’s kind of a problem to imply that people who have been going to the temple for decades and reflecting on their experiences lack either education or knowledge. Where else were they (we) supposed to get it, exactly? And although I love that passage from section 46, it does not (and indeed cannot) interpret itself–which is also true of the temple ordinances. One need not embrace wholesale subjectivism to admit that the process whereby anything has meaning involves non-trivial acts of interpretation, so why can’t we acknowledge that interpretations like that in the OP (which are shared by many women I know, augmented by the testimonies of commenters here) are just as legitimately within the range of plausible readings as Melinda’s? In my experience, the acquisition of education and knowledge has led me to realize that most things are more complicated than I first supposed, and also to doubt that I actually know much, if anything, at all.

    Yes, this comment subscribes to the radical notion that women are people. I may not know much, but I’m pretty sure about that one.

  56. Didn’t I read this same or substantially similar post, along with the comments, over at fMh?

  57. When I first went to the temple, I thought “Wow, that was strange.”

    For many years after that, I found the temple to be uninspiring. I am a guy, so I was largely – to my shame – unaware or unmindful of the gender stuff. I enjoyed the calm of the celestial room. I liked the idea of proxy service – in theory. But there was a lot of waiting around, lots of confusing liturgical verbiage, and a bunch of stuff that felt disconnected from my understanding of core doctrine. Perhaps worst of all, it was just plain boring.

    Nevertheless, I attended. At first by myself. Then with my wife. Mostly out of a feeling of obligation. Much of my lived experience of mormonism has involved doing things I felt obligated to do, at least at first. Ironically, perhaps, my wife – who feels quite strongly about women’s issues in the church – has always been the driving force behind our regular temple attendance. She kept me going when I otherwise might not have continued.

    These days, I have (mostly) come to see things differently. Rather than rolling my eyes or napping when possible, I try to think of new ways I can ‘translate’ the temple liturgy into my own life and experiences. I look for the elements that call me to action and repentance, and I endure with patience and charity the stuff I don’t like or understand. There are elements of the endowment that reinforce traditional gender roles, but there are other elements that imply a very progressive doctrine of feminine authority and deification. There are elements that seem to promote a limited, literalist view of creation, the garden, and the fall; but there are other elements that suggest the whole thing is symbolic and personal and more of an invitation for me to think about my relationship to God and community than it is a factual account of historical events. I have found a great deal of peace when I focus on those elements that call me to repentance, that impel me to compassion, and that help me to better consecrate my life to others. Those things are in there, but it has just taken a shift in my mind and heart for me to become more sensitive to them.

    I don’t mean to dismiss at all the disappointment and frustration felt by some (especially women) when they attend the temple. It would be great for the liturgy to change, I agree. I just wanted to share my personal experience of discovering that – as with many things in the church – my attitude and orientation going in ended up playing a crucial role in what I got out of the temple.

  58. I’m not sure that the fact that some women are bothered and some aren’t is quite the dilemma it’s being made out to be. My question is—for the women who aren’t bothered, would they become bothered if the sexist language were rewritten? Would that make the temple less of a positive experience for them? Unless that’s the case, changing the ceremony would help one group without harming the other. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum problem.

  59. The word sexist is used a lot. What part of the endowment is sexist? (Sexist being defined as Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women…) Where is the discrimination?

  60. All other complaints aside, I do wish that we could find out who first coined the phrase “took out my endowments” and posthumously excommunicate him. If you want to “take out” something, take out the trash. If you believe the endowment to be a gift, “receive” it.

  61. Brokenhearted says:

    Thank you. This is the key issue for me. It is the one thing that I would give almost anything to change. I try so hard to believe in coping mechanism #3, but the temple has made me deeply terrified of God and the Celestial Kingdom.

    I agree that what we need is not more pats on the head or nice words about how much God loves us. We need a reasoned, open confrontation with the actual words of the temple ceremony where we try to understand what they mean and how they square with what we say in public about the reach of the atonement, the role of Jesus Christ as the only way to God, and the worth of souls. As far as I can see it, the theology the temple is radically different from the theology we teach at church.

    Please, just tell me which way it is. If it is the doctrine of this church that I am to be my husband’s obedient priestess (or polygamous wife) and that my access to God is through him rather than Jesus Christ, then I want out. If the doctrine of the church is that I have a personal relationship with my heavenly parents, that I can become like them, that I will work in equal partnership in power and glory with my husband in the eternities, and that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the way I will be forgiven and ennobled, then I want in. I can’t bear the uncertainty.

  62. Bait and switch is correct. A big problem is that nothing in the YW Program prepares a woman for what she hears in the temple. I went through 20 years ago as a young bride and was quite stunned by the language. It was NOT what I had been taught in Young Womens! In fact, it felt quite opposite. Whatever happened to divine nature and individual worth?

    It also shocked me that no one seemed to have a problem with this language. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I definitely put it on a shelf.

    My immediate solution was to view those parts of the temple ceremony as anachronistic to the time in which the endowment was first created. Women are no longer considered the property of men and I wish the temple language would reflect that. It just feels very outdated and inconsistent with what we teach the Young Women to me.

  63. As I was married to a non active non endowed man, I used to ask myself who’s “counsel” I was supposed to heed. I just decided I needed no one to be the messenger from Christ to me. And I agree with the poster’s frustration.

  64. This is everything.

  65. I worried about raising children to go to the temple within months of going through my first time. Having had a lot of physical trials in my lifetime, I liked hearing the blessings to my body in the initiatory, but the “priestess unto her husband” part tore my heart, especially once I found out that it’s not reciprocal.

  66. AMEN, AMEN and AMEN! Wow, it feels so good to read my thoughts and experience more eloquently and thoughtfully expressed than I could do myself.

  67. Another Anonymous says:

    Good point, Mark B. Until now I’ve always used the phrase “receive [one’s] endowment,” as I was taught that was proper. But I don’t consider the endowment a gift—far from it. So from now on, I’m going to talk about taking it(/them) out; it’s a more apt phrase all around.

  68. I struggle as a man to experience life like my wife does. I work hard every day to have the level of compassion as she has, and I am not natural at it. I try but I’ll be trying to best her in this area and never will have my light shine like hers.
    I struggle as a man to experience what it’s like to give life to another human being like she has. While she is in the trough of childbirth she tells me to “shut up” as I try to encourage her. I try to “feel” her pain but never will, never can. And because she has been in that trough she also gets to experience the sheer ec

  69. You could argue that the second annointing fixes the inequalities, at least in part. So if you have high general leaders and perhaps temple presidents and matrons participating in this, they may see the other ordinances in a different light, as sacrifical stepping stones to this higher learning.

    Of course you only get to that if you’re chosen to participate, and then it’s one of our most secret secrets so you wouldn’t be able to talk about it with your daughter.

  70. ecstasy of joy that I can’t experience that comes from childbirth.

  71. Yes, it’s akin to the orgasmic pleasure of kidney stones.

  72. Anarene Holt Yim says:

    Oh for Pete’s sake, CallingMichael. “Sheer ecstasy” and “childbirth” should never be used in the same sentence. You’re fooling yourself if you think either birthing children or begin manipulated into making promises to obey a fellow human are joyous experiences. There’s a reason your wife told you to stop talking, and it probably wasn’t because she was having so much fun.

    And this old argument of women being so much more righteous than men, therefore they need to be under men’s rule is ridiculous. Men are people, women are people. We all have differing experiences. That doesn’t mean one sex has to be in charge of everything and the other has to be stuck up on a pedestal.

  73. Melinda,

    For me, I just can’t see this temple issue as a sexist issue

    And yet others can. I confess that some people have issues (with the church, or with other things) that I really don’t get. But part of mourning with those who mourn, comforting those who comfort is trying to understand the real hurt they face. Not to solve it, necessarily, and not to try to explain why their pain is illusory. It is to accept the reality of that pain, empathize with it, and acknowledge that person’s intrinsic value.

    It is wonderful that you don’t find the temple experience sexist; you frankly don’t have any moral obligation to experience it that way. But telling others that their experience is invalid doesn’t really help build the body of Christ. And ultimately, the temple, and everything else in the church, should aim us in that direction.

  74. Thank you, Angela. Is anyone listening? This is our truth!

  75. Amen sister.

  76. Kristine’s and Brokenhearted’s bring it home for me–Doctrinal/theological content. Of course, we should each have our own revelations/interpretations in the temple. But at a certain point, we have to give weight to the face value of the words spoken/taught in the temple.

    Also, last time I went to the temple, I decided to take a reprieve from the endowment so I decided to do sealings. Halfway through, the sealer stopped and explained to us that women’s names are unnecessary to do sealings–that is why sometimes you see “mother” and no female name in a proxy sealing. He emphasized that this is not the case for men–the man’s name always has to be there. So much for my reprieve…

  77. My temple experience has been nearly word-for-word the same as yours, Angela, from the eager, extremely prepared pre-mission endowment that made my heart sink through the 20-year effort to make it fit (but it just got worse and worse) to the daughter in YW. I hoped and prayed and wrote letters and wept and fasted and talked to temple presidents and hoped the endowment would change by the time my daughters arrived at the temple. When the new film was made and the verbiage was retained, I was crushed. The last time I went to the temple I wept, shaking, as I rose my hand and accepted a covenant that violated my conscience. I swore I would never do that again, and I will not. Yet I stay in the Church, and my daughters are headed toward BYU, missions, temple marriage… what do I do?? A few months ago it came to me. It’s so simple. I will teach my children ahead of time about the covenants they will make, tell them to think seriously about it, and that if they want to proceed but don’t feel comfortable with those parts, they may accept the parts that feel good and right, and let the rest go. During the part where they are required to verbally accept the offensive principles, they have the right to bow their heads and quietly say no. Those covenants are between them and God alone. In the future when I attend the temple I intend to quickly and quietly say in regards to the spirit for whom I am participating,Yes for you if you want it, but before God, angels and witnesses I say NO.” This allows me to participate to the limit of my ability without losing my integrity.

  78. ricksantorum says:

    I can’t really seem to understand why we might put our faces in the hat of blindness and try to decipher the writings from a stone, who would do that? I have a hard time reconciling the matter of facts to the supernatural. The Temple is kinda weird sometimes. Anyone with a rational mind can decipher those words out of the “stone”. Holiness is about being good in the present, not putting the mind in the evil past. Don’t subject yourself to pain when being good and normal in the moment is what matters.

  79. Melinda: as an exercise in empathy (“mourn with those that mourn”), try going to the temple with a prayer in your heart that God will give you a glimpse into the experiences of women like those commenting on this thread. Part of what I love about that discourse of spiritual gifts that you quoted is its implication that different people have different strengths and perspectives. Getting to see those, even for a moment, is a very special gift.

  80. I’ve had a lot of experiences with people who respond like Melinda: first condescension, then preaching, and then admission that they don’t really know what the issue even is (albeit thinly cloaked in pretense of more condescension).

    The sexism in the temple, in short, Melinda, is the reliance on patriarchal order as a method of conveying rites, ordinances, and worst of all, covenants. It’s language in the rites that reflect on times when wives were property, or even hint at polygamy. It’s women veiling their faces to be before God, without explanation. It’s women making covenants to their husbands or future husbands, instead of God, while men make them directly with God. It’s women covenanting to obey the law/hearken to their husbands. I could go on, but hopefully you get my drift. After being instructed that you go to the temple to make covenants with God, it can be quite a shock to not only realise that you make them to your husband (check the wording – the initial covenant women make is to their husbands, and all follow that pattern), but he doesn’t make them to you – it’s a unidirectional patriarchal order.

  81. In other words, what Sam said.

  82. My apologies for being brusque. Jason had much better of a response than I.

  83. As I experience the Temple I am always reminded of how it was Eve who “got it” first. It was Eve who mastered the Father’s Plan to perfection. It was Eve who set the world of spirits onto the path of Eternal Life because she saw the wisdom that “there was no other way”….and Adam seeing that he would lose his “equal” he chose to follow and do what she did.

    Does that make me less of a human because Eve took the leading role? Am I as a man something less than my wife? The thought makes me pale in reflection.

    My wife has her talents and her “feminine intuitions” that I can work hard to develop and will never master. We truly are different. But that is the whole of the matter —

    What I bring to the ‘telestial experience’ is only half of the picture. What my wife brings to the ‘telestial experience’ is only half of the picture. Try as I might to play her role and the experience will suffer irreparably. Try as she might to play my role and ditto — harm has been done to the experience. How can one be without the other? How can I look at my role as superior? Or even inferior?

    The Father in Heaven I worship in the Temple is not found in subjugation symbols. He is not found in one party being over another party. I look over at my wife (wishing she were by my side for this beautiful experience found in the Temple because she has that natural compassion) and I see an equal, and in all ways this proves out in our life.

    I, being a man, find it hard to see life as a woman. I wish I could in so many ways, but I cannot. I try to put myself in my other half’s position as I study problems that plague male/female issues, but I cannot. But that’s the beauty of the whole picture — the complexity of gender roles.

    And if we truly see ourselves as the servant of all then the ‘telestial experience’ is all the more enhanced.

    I wish I could experience life as my wife does….well maybe not for that would ruin her experience.

    I, as a father, will not teach my daughters that they are “positional beings”. Their husbands will never be over or under my daughters…their roles are different and were never meant to be the same. Neither is superior or inferior.

    And I don’t worship a God who I understand to be thus…and especially in His House.

  84. This echoes my feelings almost exactly. After 15 years I realized that I couldn’t get around it – I could stay and be subjugated, or I could leave and be myself. Maybe some women with a stronger sense of self can manage it, but the sexism in the temple and the way it’s sprung on us is one of many things that led me to conclude that the church isn’t true.

  85. A temple matron once told me that the temple is an acquired taste and it took her a long time to acquire it. If the temple is the Lord’s house why would I have to struggle to feel loved there? Why is it an acquired taste?

  86. Callingmichael2050: “I look over at my wife [….] and I see an equal, and in all ways this proves out in our life.”

    But that’s the crux of the problem: Our lived experience is as you state, but the covenants in the temple are not.

  87. Thank you for sharing this, Angela. It closely matches my experience for the last twenty years–trying to make peace with something when my heart just says “NO” to the hearkening to my husband (whom I love dearly!) but, NO. From the first time I went, I couldn’t believe my ears. My heart tells me I deserve that same clear and direct connection with my Creator, just as my husband does. He’s a great man, but NO.

  88. An Earlier Anonymous says:

    “It is wonderful that you don’t find the temple experience sexist; you frankly don’t have any moral obligation to experience it that way.”

    On the contrary. In the temple we place ourselves under the most significant moral obligations of our lives. Jason K. is right to note that these obligations, and the temple liturgy as a whole, are not self-interpreting; nonetheless, as every humanities student painfully learns at some point, there are limits to interpretation. The temple liturgy simply does not sustain interpretations that it is not sexist. And in the most morally freighted freighted context of the Mormon experience, I’m frankly shocked to see that it’s the people most eager to identify themselves as orthodox who take such liberties with interpretation. Our widespread cultural flirtation with radical subjectivism (evident in Ben S.’s and Frank Pellett’s “Some women find this sexist, but others don’t, so evidently we can’t draw any conclusions about our own most sacred covenants–???) is the symptom of our deep moral discomfort with the actual content of our most sacred ceremonies.

    We have a moral obligation to face and to enact the meaning of what we have covenanted to do. I simply do not see how as Mormons–as human beings–we can possibly argue otherwise.

  89. Just from her comments, I think that what makes the temple work for Melissa is that she truly believes that differences between men and women justify different covenants, promises, etc. – it’s the “things don’t need to be the same to be equal” argument. (And again, this is just a guess.) That’s a hard perspective to argue against, especially since people who hold it seem to see evidence of its accuracy in every part of their lives (relationships with spouses! temperaments of male and female children! interactions with church leaders!). I get that. I don’t get why it always has to boil down to a question of someone’s worthiness, spirituality, or faith. Melissa, is it so crazy to think that someone could be praying, studying, reading scriptures, and looking for truth with integrity and yet be having a different experience than you are?

  90. callingmichael – a little OT, but I think it’s odd that you won’t teach your daughters that they’re positional, but you will teach them that they’re relational – that there are exactly half of the qualities held by humans that they can aspire to hold, and anything beyond that is stepping into the role of their “other half.” Really, they can never expect to marry a spouse who can do anything but fulfill stereotypically masculine roles? And if your daughters don’t happen to have “feminine intuition” or a natural proclivity toward compassion, where does that leave them?

  91. Miss Quoted says:

    Melinda, are you truly implying that Angela arrives at the temple dressed like a slut, smacking her gum, and complaining loudly about her hard life? Who are you to judge Angela’s level of preparedness?

    Angela. I owe you an apology for my argumentive nature. I simply do not feel that it is ever right for any of God’s children to judge another’s worthiness. I appreciate your thoughtful, yet painful, look at temple ceremonies.

  92. Earlier Anonymous, if our community is stronger when Melinda is empathetic to those who find the temple sexist, it is also stronger when we’re empathetic to those who don’t experience sexism. Like Jason said, the temple isn’t self-interpreting, and it doesn’t, of itself, provide a heuristic with which to interpret it. You see it as inherently sexist, and I tend to agree. At the same time, some significant number of members don’t experience it as such. And, unless you want to argue that they’re somehow inferior thinkiers, it seems to me they have some heuristic that allows them to read the ceremony differently than me or you. If they can experience the temple without experiencing sexism, it doesn’t strike me as your or my place to asset that they’re stupid. That is, if we want others’ empathy, we’re under the same obligation to empathize with them.

  93. I’m with you there. Very well written! To be honest, the sexism bothers me greatly.

  94. I have a rule of thumb. If someone can’t own their words (i.e., is anonymous or uses a silly name) and use their own name, I don’t have time for them.

  95. Miss Quoted says:

    I think Fairchild hit the nail on the head. The temple ceremonies were written in a time when it was expected and accepted that women were second-class citizens. The ceremonies are a bit archaic (to put it mildly). As a divorcee from a temple marriage, I have learned to keep my trust in God. I do worry about what my current, convert, feminist husband’s response will be when he is endowed in the next few months.

  96. An Earlier Anonymous says:

    No, Sam, I am not arguing that they’re stupid, nor am I refusing to extend empathy to them (I have, in the course of my life, occupied similar positions on various issues, and continue to). I’m simply arguing that they’re wrong in positing such breadth of interpretation to the temple. Those who claim that the temple is not sexist are engaged in special pleading for a degree of linguistic flexibility we would never tolerate in any other setting.

    You and others on the thread are engaged in the admirable and stereotypically feminine work of empathy and community building. That’s all well and good–as it happens, that’s most of what I do in my life at this point–but sometimes the soul of a woman longs for reason.

  97. So, I asked which part of the endowment is sexist. I didn’t see a legitimate answer. I wonder what answer a person will give our Father. “Father, you’re temple endowment is sexist and belittles all Thy daughters. Here’s why…”

    The rest of the conversation will be educational to say the least. Patiently, our Father will teach, not justify Himself to that person. I imagine the same conversation between an atheist who has “so much wisdom” that they can determine from their mortal experience that there is not God.

    It doesn’t reason out to me to label the endowment sexist, based on the definition of that word. I get it that verbal attacks are so much easier than a substantive conversation. Never in any words I said, did I attack Angela C. for her opinion, view, experiences, etc. In fact, as everyone else has done, I’ve also stated my opinions, views, and experiences. No one has to agree with me. I’m not asking that and don’t need it. But, the attacks are petty and gain us nothing. We don’t have “reason together” but neither do we have to be ugly and petty.

  98. Sam Brunson, it’s certainly true that some experience it as sexist, while others don’t. But rather than arguing about the validity of experience, at some point can we have a discussion about content? I’d like to see a case be made, based on the text itself—and not on whether anyone feels equal, or feels that the church is wonderful for women, etc.—that the ceremony isn’t sexist. Empathy doesn’t mean that you can’t assert that some interpretations are more persuasive than others.

  99. Melinda, several people have pointed out that women and men make different covenants. Men get direct access to God, and women don’t. I don’t know how that doesn’t fit into the category of sexism.

  100. An Earlier Anonymous says:

    Melinda, since you asked, the part of the ceremony where women are required to hearken unto their husbands, and men to God would be a textbook example of sexism. The part of the sealing ceremony where women give themselves to men and men do not give themselves to women would be another. The disparate wording in the initiatory, in which women are anointed to hearken to the counsel of their husband and men receive no such anointing to hearken to their wives, would be another.

    This is sexism in its simplest sense: discrimination, differentiation, on the basis of sex. It really doesn’t get much clearer and starker than this. If you want to argue the it’s justified in some way, or that we simply don’t know why it’s this way–or if you want to tell me that such language is in you experience counterbalanced by other factors or experiences in the temple, such as a sense of God’s love and justice and peace–I’m more than willing to hear you out, whether I share your experiences and your perspectives or not. But we must begin by acknowledging what is. What is is sexism. I care less where we go from there than that we are honest enough to begin there.

  101. Melinda, I listed some of the main elements of sexism in the temple above. If you’re actually interested in the answer to your question, you may need to put aside your True Scotsman mentality and accept that people who use pseudonyms aren’t always a waste of your time.

  102. Lynnette: the definition of sexism: “Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women” Where is the discrimination? What are women being discriminated against in the endowment?

  103. A few months ago I left the LDS church. My perception of inherent sexism within the churches culture and doctrine was a large part of it, among other doctrines that I do not agree with. One of the last things I did before fully coming to the decision was to go to the temple with my parents, who live in the area. At the time I hoped that my prayers would be answered while I was there, that God would give me peace about the things I couldn’t reconcile with my personal beliefs, instead I noticed something that I had never noticed before.

    As a young man in the church I was so… ignorant of the inequality, partly because I was young, and partly because the church never draws attention to it, even going through the temple as many times as I had before, preparing for and on my mission and the few years since, I had never been bothered by the difference in the blessings and covenants given to men and women.

    However, the last time I went, with my mind questioning, with my heart searching, I realized how different the ceremony was for men and women. And it bothered me. Instead of feeling peace, I felt more that the church was not right for me. So I left. Maybe someday I will feel like the church is right again, but not likely.

  104. An Earlier Anonymous says:

    Melinda, you’ve asked for examples of sexism in the temple, and several of us have given the clearest examples I can think of. Perhaps another way to consider the matter and hopefully advance the conversation would be to ask you what, if anything, you would consider sexist. If a judge were willing to hear direct testimony only from men but not from women, would you consider that sexist? If not, why not, and if so, why would you not consider the analogous situation in the temple sexist?

  105. I have somewhat a different perspective as an endowed woman married to a non-LDS husband.
    Yes, I’m aware of the sexist language and hope will be reworked. The way I have handled it is
    this: it doesn’t matter who hearkens to whom as long as they are hearkening to God. In fact, my pat. bless. says never simply give obedience to my husband when I know better just because he holds the priesthood–which he doesn’t yet. As an unsealed woman listening to the part where men covenant to listen to God and we listen to him–I have thought how wonderful it would be to have a husband who is explicitly committed under covenant to hearken to God –no room for lax excuses or committment issues here. No putting it off on his wife. She has enough to do. No, God expects him to be a responsible adult man now, not a boy. I think in general, the missionary elders at age19 need that message more than the sister missionaries. And I’ve had them living in our home over the years.

  106. Except, in the temple, it really doesn’t work the way it is presented in your blessing. “As” is not a conditional word, it is a simile. Men are not supposed to second guess God, so women shouldn’t second guess their husbands, either. Men are supposed to listen and obey God, not evaluate wether God is making the right decision.

  107. p.s. In other words, I already hearken to the Lord. I just want it insured that he hearkens!

  108. I know someone who only does baptisms anymore. When wedding days come, she anticipates doing baptisms as a large extended family group, and then going elsewhere for a civil ceremony.

  109. It matters because patterns are important, as Elder Bednar says, and the pattern that repeatedly plays out in the temple is God is to the man as man is to the woman. Take one thing out of the context of the liturgy and you can explain it away, but taken in context the pattern is clear.

  110. Nonny Mouse again says:

    To those of you who insist that our theology teaches that women and men are equals, that exaltation is equal, that the temple liturgy is equal, that women matter to our Father just as much as men, I have one question. Where is our Heavenly Mother?

    My post-mortal options, as I understand them after being in the church for 40 years, lack much appeal. Even if I should manage to achieve the highest level of exaltation and my husband becomes Godlike (or a God, or whatever the latest essay on lds.org says), I get to do what exactly? Apparently disappear. And then toss some polygamous theological speculations on top – perhaps I get to be the “head wife” over an invisible heavenly collection of wives? There are no clear answers, and the implied answers all make me hope that everything we think is wrong.

    I want answers. I want clear, spelled out answers. I know, I know, I don’t have enough faith. Give me something that I might actually want to have faith IN, please.

  111. When I was growing up, my mother always told me that Eve was under a curse and that since it was the first curse, it would be the last one removed. I’m not sure where this came from, but I’ve always viewed certain elements of the temple as parts of the curse that will be removed. I read in a Woman’s Confrence talk many years ago that the veil is a symbol of Eve’s curse. Of course I would like all of this to change sooner rather than later.

  112. Cjanekendrick,

    God bless you.

  113. Moss,
    If I’m correct, the wording is we hearken to him as he hearkens to God, correct? Which means if he doesn’t then I go ahead and hearken to God without him. On major matters, no one should have to second guess anyone who is trying to follow the Lord. We may disagree how to best implement but when God is clear about something, that’s that. I have no problem following in another’s path as long as it’s a righteous one that leads to Him.

  114. Nonny–
    That’s what I’d like to know. Surely Heavenly Mother is not under lock and key being kept away from us against Her will. She seems all right with how Jehovah and Elohim are doing things or She would show up and make it known. That tells me Her perspective is different somehow.

  115. Pedro the Lion says:

    It has been a game changer for me to read several others on this same topic. Valerie Cassler / Hudson has mind blowing interpretation – the two trees. Also, Samuel Brown book First Principles and Ordinances segment on temple is mega

  116. Thanks Angela for your perspective and insight into your experience. It is my feeling that the temple lags behind the rest of the church by about 25 years in the changes it requires to stay contemporary. As has been said, the fact that it is withheld from the world promotes ridgitity and slows its change. As I see it, the temple is not subjected to the same rigours or conventions as our scriptures. What, ultimately would stop the prophet from altering, even significantly, various aspects of the temple??

  117. Whether I have time for someone depends more on whether their content is ignorant and offensive than whether they use a full name or a pseudonym.

  118. BTW– Elohim is plural.

  119. You are reading it as a conditional word, my argument is that it is a simile. I wish I could see it as you do, but taken in context with the rest of the ceremony I have to conclude that it follows the temple pattern- the God in the temple doesn’t require my obedience to him, only to my husband.

  120. Christopher says:

    Kristine — I really love your reply. I can’t agree enough with you that it would be so great to just sit down and talk about the words and teachings and evaluate whether they are accurately representing what we understand to be the gospel of Christ.

    The problem is in your second statement, that “we generally don’t use emotion as the yardstick for doctrinal purity–why do we do it in this case?” That’s the whole problem here–we DO use emotion as the yardstick of doctrinal purity. The spirit testifies of truth, and the spirit is something that is felt. End of story. Until we find another way to asses the doctrines of the gospel, feelings will always be the only measuring stick that counts.

    As much as I wish we could, I just don’t think it’s in any way possible to have a “reasoned discussion” about this issue. It’s always going to be messy. If we’re ever going to get past it, I think we have to embrace that and work to bring everyone’s feelings out into the light (which I think this post helps accomplish).

  121. I should say, the word “Elohim” is plural and always has been plural. Look into it.

  122. mem, you act as though you’re doing some big secret reveal that just fixes everything. But we aren’t the right audience for your revealing act, are we? I wish you would perform it for the brethren instead, as they have always chosen to produce films which actively contradict what you are saying.

  123. mem,
    Grammatically plural. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to meaning.

    Melinda,
    The endowment so obviously discriminates that I’m a bit baffled by your assertion. It discriminates in the sense of treating men and women differently and it discriminates in how men, in the covenants and the movie, are given direct access to God while women, in the covenants, the rituals, and the movie are almost always given access mediated via some other thing (a man, a veil). There are two exceptions to this that I can think of in the endowment, but they seemingly pale to the multitude of instances that where discrimination based on gender/sex takes place. Now, you might argue that different people have different talents or that they experience the gospel in different ways (which seems to be the point of the scriptural excerpt you use above), but generalizing differences to apply universally to a sex is the very definition of discrimination in the more common, negative, modern sense.

  124. Ed Chigliak says:

    I have always struggled with the temple. After my initial endowment I wanted to check the outside plaque on the building to make sure I was in the right place. My wife draws meaning from it, even if she thinks it was written by inspired MEN.
    I just have a hard time getting it. I just don’t see a need for it. Maybe it is because I was raised in a different faith and I still can’t find any book of scripture in and out of Christianity that says I will be separated from my family after I die.

  125. This is a very interesting thread. I appreciate the efforts to be respectful. I’d like to share my story on one of these questions—looking to the temple ceremony for understanding on basic questions of LDS doctrine.
    I first received my endownment 46 years ago. I had very little preparation. I was leaving on a mission & would not return to the temple for more than 2 years. Later I was married in the temple and tried to follow what I learned there in our family.
    I struggled withe serious depression and PTSD & aspects of that “older version” of the ceremony were very difficult for me. The hardest part, as previously presented, suggested that I as the husband was supposed to come up with a “law” for my family that my wife was willing to obey.
    I’m not kidding when I say she actually was diagnosed with “OD” = oppositional defiant disorder, so you can imagine what struggles we had trying to live a “temple marriage” & not being able to discuss any of this “outside the temple.”
    For an opening remark here, I just mean to say that I’ve learned over time to Forgive my leaders and have Compassion on them—-I take everything now with a huge handful of salt (however you say that) because I believe that nearly ALL we are taught now is a series of interpretations on ideals which are impossible if taken literally; they are superimposed on our changing cultures;
    I truly believe that No One in times past felt there was any way of having order in a church without a hierarchy or in a family without SOMEone having final say—-so that the very most righteous way any human could picture “family” was having “a” person have final say in a most loving and listening way.
    I think that leaders now face a world never experienced before, without any parallel in cultures past where “The Fullness of The Gospel” was preached. I have seen the wording in the temple ordinances change dramatically in my lifetime, reflecting NOW that I don’t need to come up with a “law” thank heaven & I must Forgive over and over whoever including God may have come up with that language that caused so much anguish in our family. (I was raised to be ready for a democratic marriage way back in 1973, so there was nothing appealing about the patriarchal struture I was taught. . .)
    So, yes, I believe that some Apostles and other leaders might suggest major further changes right now in the wording of the temple—–I’m saying this very imperfectly—–I believe that each of us has the right and opportunity to receive our personal revelation, for our circumstances, on how to implement those principles of governance in our family, according to our understanding and readiness.
    In that way the exact wording of the ordinances loses the power to hurt me. My mom was a member and my dad wasn’t. Imagine 60 years ago how a woman in the church was told that her husband was “the head of the household” & she was raising us while he was in Korea & didn’t see the need to change when he came home.
    There is no Official Interpretation of the temple ceremonies because we are to seek how The Spirit directs us personally & I can state very clearly that while I was figuring out how I was supposed to (sincerely now!) come up with a “law” for my wife to obey, SHE never felt any spiritual prompting to obey MY law. . .

  126. Moss–
    Of course, He requires your obedience to Him–He gave the commandments to all of us. You had to answer to your bishop and stake president for your temple recommend–not to your husband. For some reason, God made it perfectly clear and explicit to all males that He holds them directly accountable to Him for their direction in life –not their mothers, fathers, wives or children, but THEM. If the God in the temple puts others under your guidance, you should feel quite humbled and on “notice” that you had better take this “hearkening” business, seriously and not mess up. If I’m to follow my husband, then he had better follow the Lord. Jehovah follows Elohim and has no problem with it. Michael follows Jehovah and has no problem with it. We are all called to lead and follow, to serve and be served.

  127. PS according to several mission presidents—they receive no official interpretation of the temple ceremonies outside the scriptures and public statements of the 1st Presidency. (The story of Creation, for example, as presented in the temple, is not meant as a correction or clarification of scriptural accounts, though they might vary.) Even scripture can be very cultural in context: when Lehi “commanded” his wife to follow him in the desert, was that a model for us or an example of “cultural context” for Priesthood leadership?

  128. PPS When my daughter married in the temple 10 years ago, I said “the two of you need to seek agreement on your roles” & we talked about what partnership meant to her, and to him. It seems to me that avoiding “unrighteous dominion” means that no husband–or wife– can impose any interpretation of celestial marriage “on” the other without their partner’s consent–which means they are not “imposing”—

  129. There is a reason “Elohim” is plural grammatically. Look it up on Sunstone.

  130. Cynthia,

    I’m simply sharing how I have come to view things over the years and have some peace. I’m sure you see some things that I don’t and vice versa. This life we all walk by faith none of us knowing for certain anymore than anyone else except perhaps the prophet and apostles who are supposed to be directly accountable to the Lord for how His Church does things–and they aren’t perfect either and He allows them to err and grow as He does us. I expect ‘ the brethren’ could enlighten me more than I could them. I actually met one of the apostles in the SLC temple and spoke with he and his wife in the Celestial room briefly. Lovely people and although I would probably see a few things differently than he, he is fine and so am I.
    We all are ‘where we are’ until we have an ‘a..ha…’ moment and we gain new perspective and progress. I’m just sharing my perspective with the hope that it might help someone find some peace amid such imperfection.

  131. mem,
    In order to discover that reason, you’ll have to unearth some long dead Isrealites (who were probably long dead when there was an Israel). Anyone claiming otherwise is trying to sell you something. There are several theories out there for the plural ending (plural as emphasis, plural as “royal we,” plural as a vestigal ending with some other meaning, and, yes, plural as representing a plural divinity of some sort (council of gods, divine pantheon, Mormon Godhood, whatever). To assume one or another of these is inherently better or more inspired is a matter purely of personal preference. There is no historical, linguistic, or cultural reason to grant one of these explanations priority.

    tl;dr: Grammatical morphemes cannot resolve systemic gender inequity.

  132. Angela
    Re passing the sacrament, this is not meant to be a glib comment or to disregard concerns. A deacon may bring the sacrament to the start of your aisle, you then have opportunity to pass it to the person next to you with all the meaning that you may wish to endow this with, and all the meaning with which it is endowed.

  133. sjames, then it shouldn’t matter if said deacon is a boy or a girl.

  134. I and my family am with Kristine. The temple ceremony was a very carefully crafted piece of theology making. There was a real, live framer’s intent. Framers whom we know a lot about and whom have a large set of writing in and around this topic. Framers who spoke at length about these subjects. As Angela says we can choose to interpret away the object meaning and I too strongly support members right and effort to do so. We are actually pretty fortunate that the interpretation of the temple ceremony hasn’t been correlated which has allowed the personal flexibility.

    For those who struggle to understand how and why some women see the temple ceremony as objectively sexist I recommend The Mormon Priestess essay over at FMH written by my wife. A shorter version will come out in the new Mormon feminist anthology here this year. You don’t have to agree with the interpretation but I think it clearly spells out most the issues that people have in that regard. One thing I don’t understand personally is how so many women find the initiatory the best part. To me that is the most obviously and traumatically sexist part now that the obedience covenant has been softened. Just changing two words in the initiatory could undo a good portion of the harm remaining. I have no desire for my wife to be my priestess. She worships God not me.

  135. oops I am and my family are…Kristine doesn’t like grammatical mistakes :)

  136. And i will add that as the father of two girls the temple ceremony is probably the single biggest factor to my faltering desire to raise my girls Mormon. Hands down, no question. Here is a prayer for our leaders to find the empathy, courage and vision to see and address this issue.

  137. This post and the comments have been (mostly) a delight. Thank you, Angela C, for framing the problem so clearly. Also, for the record, my moniker here has a great deal of personal meaning for me and thus is not silly. (I’m not very incognito; If I commit any bloggernacle crimes, I can be tracked down and punished.) Furthermore, I have reasons beyond my own indulgence for using it. If you don’t like it, you may ignore me.

    With that properly addressed, I’ll say that my temple experiences were initially successful because of Method 1 (selective hearing and ignoring/shelving all the bad stuff) but eventually I paid the price for too much of that. Now I get by with a combination of 2 and 3, but I have this lurking fear that maybe God really does intend for me to be cherished breeding stock in the eternities, and not a creator of anything else. Which fear is exacerbated every time somebody like a condescending speaker (or Melinda, the PR department, my gospel doctrine teacher, mom etc) repeats any of the many doctrinal bits that sure make it seem like the best we women can hope for is to be in some very loving and eternal celestial harem.

    The thing is, I really do believe in my covenants, but I find it increasingly difficult to fathom what it heralds for my future, and sometimes I wonder if maybe that’s okay. I can find peace in the temple more easily when I differentiate between the covenant itself and the ceremonial elements, and not focus too much on the flaws in the latter. But that begs the question of what purpose all that ceremony serves. These mental gymnastics are a drain on my faith if I indulge my questions. As the OP put it, “Having to ignore what is really said to women isn’t a very faith affirming experience.” Is it possible that these burdens could be addressed and mitigated? Do enough of our (all male) leaders even see this yet as a problem? Do they care? Will it happen in my lifetime? My daughter’s lifetime? Are we really that special that we should have what no women have had for centuries? Did God maybe just send us here to grapple with cognitive dissonance? Etc.

    On the other hand, having all the questions addressed by a committee of correlating leaders might make my wrestle with the angels of dissonance seem like a picnic.

    So, I’m trying my best along with the rest, while I’m waiting for further light and knowledge. Hoping it’s about our Mother.

  138. I asked my wife about all this earlier tonight. In essence, she says she views the temple ceremony as scripture. Scripture frustrates her because it is so clearly sexist. Women’s voices are almost entirely absent. Their lives are glossed over and spoken of only insofar as they relate to men. However, she is an attentive and daily scripture reader. When she doesn’t read a chapter or two in a given day, or when we don’t read as a family in the evening, she feels a loss of spiritual focus and power. If she were to let her frustration fester and her disappointment grow, she would be cutting herself off from a source of real strength in her spiritual life. To discard scripture would be a true tragedy for her – historical flaws, male-centric perspectives, and dubious historicity notwithstanding. Thus, instead of jettisoning the text, she works to apply, to liken, to translate; in short, to use the scriptures as a conduit for connecting to her God and to her fellow woman.

    For her, the temple liturgy is just as clearly sexist as scripture. But it is likewise a source of real power. The temple grounds her, anchors her, brings her perspective and peace. Just as she understands Paul’s outmoded perspectives on women to be an artifact of a cultural context long since past, so too she considers the sexist elements of the temple to be relics of an earlier, less enlightened age. To no longer visit the initiatory, celestial, or sealing rooms, however, would be just as great a loss as to remove from her life the gospels or her favorite bits of Isaiah.

    I share her thoughts with you all not as a ‘fix’ or a dismissal of others’ experiences, but as an alternative perspective to contribute to the conversation. I appreciate the OP for initiating that conversation for my wife and I. And I pray that both the formal wording and our collective interpretations of the temple ceremonies can evolve in such a way that we experience more togetherness and less pain as a people striving for Zion.

  139. See, I think there’s a fourth option and sadly, it makes more and more sense to me the more I Think about it: That the temple is an accurate reflection of God’s will, and it is God Himself who considers women second-class citizens. There’s certainly plenty of evidence for it: The way God created Eve as an afterthought and handed her to Adam as a gift; the way God treats women as chattel throughout the scriptures (when they are mentioned at all – there are what, FOUR women in the BoM); the way God sent an angel with a flaming sword to command Joseph Smith to marry a fourteen-year-old-girl; the way God will not allow us to have a relationship with our Heavenly Mother because she is “too sacred to talk about” (that sounds a lot like a jealous, abusive husband if you ask me).

    It makes perfect sense if you look at it that way. Perfect, horrible sense.

  140. There are ways to struggle with the temple and use that struggle to better understand God. I loved the temple until I married a man who became abusive. I have struggled with it since.

    But wrestling with those concepts before God and trying to wrestle with them in humility and with a willingness to be taught has been a divinely transforming experience. We can choose to let ourselves chafe under injustice, or we can turn it into an opportunity.

    Undoubtedly, the wording in the temple can be excruciating. Especially to someone whose spouse has no intention of submitting to God. But pain can be mere pain, driving us away from God, or it can sanctify as we struggle to understand.

    I have as much real reason as anyone to find the temple difficult. And while I can’t solve the pain for you, nor outline the keys to understanding, I can say that I have a testimony of the temple ceremony, one purchased through that same pain. It does have cultural symbolism and phraseology, but the temple is of God, and can be a powerful tool in coming to Him if we let it.

  141. Good morning John C. I read your comment and wanted to reply. This will be my last comment on this topic. Enough has been written and each person has their own limited opinion. Mine is as limited as anyone else’s.

    John, you said, “The endowment so obviously discriminates…” Is this what you will tell our Father? Will you say this to His face? That He discriminates against His daughters and that His temple ceremony is sexist? I ask the same question of all the others who commented. Will they really be able to justify to our Father, our Creator, and our Savior (The Son) that they are sexist beings? As baffled as you are, as am I.

    The reason I use my real name, I’m not a coward. I take responsibility for my words and my actions. Clearly, some here wanted to find offense in my words and my tone, and they found it. Maybe I should apologize, but I’m not going to. I wrote as honestly as you all did and managed not to take offense.

    I asked an honest question and felt that most of the answers were what the commenters here believe. I never attacked anyone and I never called names. The act of not owning ones words, to me, is cowardly. For some, it’s their way. It’s just not mine.

  142. sjames: “A deacon may bring the sacrament to the start of your aisle, you then have opportunity to pass it to the person next to you” Yes, I did point that out to my daughter also. It was not well received. She thought I was dismissing her concerns or not “getting” what she really thought was cool about passing the sacrament. But I tried.

  143. For any others who, like me, have found this post and its comments disheartening, I would encourage you to read a great piece I came across this morning: http://mormonwoman.org/2015/02/26/thoughts-on-the-temple-and-temple-preparation/

  144. Anita, thank you for sharing!!!

  145. Wheat Woman says:

    Angela, I identify with all that you wrote. I received my endowment in 1989 and maintained a temple recommend and attended the temple faithfully for 25 years. I believe God sees me as equal to my husband, but I can’t use the temple ceremony or the scriptures surrounding the ritual as proof. This has always bothered me, but what really hurts is that when I express it (which I rarely do), I have been called faithless or been told I simply don’t understand the doctrine. It’s slowly killing my love for the church.

  146. Anonymous Number Four says:

    Cowardly to use a pseudonym? As Cynthia said, if my comment doesn’t stand on its own, you’re welcome to disregard it.

    Also, in my case, I commented pseudonymously since I was discussing my daughter and quoting a temple matron without consent. There is absolutely no ethical breach in mentioning or quoting either one of them, but I do prefer to give them their privacy and allow them the right to speak for themselves. So the motivation for my pseudonym was politeness and respect rather than cowardice.

    Moral of the story: it’s a good idea to ask people about their experience and motivations rather than jump to conclusions.

  147. Melinda’s comments give me yet another reason to shy away from attending the temple: the knowledge that my appearance and demeanor will be discussed behind my back and found wanting.

  148. I guess I don’t know what to do with people who say that the temple doesn’t discriminate. It does. This is sort of an incontestable fact. We can disagree as to whether that discrimination is meaningful, or doctrinal, etc., but the temple treats men and women differently and that, my friends, is discrimination. I am not making this up!

    As for calling anonymous people cowards, well, I guess it’s better to be an anonymous coward that an eponymous jerk. That’s what people tell me, anyways.

  149. Moonshadow says:

    The initiatory is different for women. We are told we will be priestesses into our husbands, not God.

    The temple was a devastating experience for me spiritually. It felt like a bait and switch. I didn’t see Christ or God or goodness anywhere. I had been told my whole life that the temple is the most holy place in which we learn the most holy truths.

    For a decade I wrestled with the idea of the “holy” truth that women are to be eternally subordinate to their husbands. Whenever I went to the temple, I heard language that said God hates me and all women. I could not make peace with that. I cannot believe in or worship a sexist God. I had to give up the temple because it was killing me relationship with God.

    I tell my daughters that the temple was extremely painful for me and that if they choose to go, they need to be aware of the sexism, the format, and the covenants beforehand. I personally have found only pain and no value whatsoever in temple attendance.

  150. Anarene Holt Yim says:

    Melinda,
    Absolutely, I would say to Heavenly Father that the temple script is sexist. I have done so many times and I continue to do so. He knows that my dislike of the temple has to do with the disparity between His treatment of me and church leaders’ treatment of me via the script they control. He has proven to me that He is not sexist and that He loves all His children, male, female, and other. You may be afraid of Him, but I am not. I rest confident in His love. If it turns out I am wrong and He is sexist after all, I choose not to follow a god like that.

  151. Melinda,
    I’m sure he’s well aware that the endowment is sexist, just as he was well aware that the Priesthood ban was racist. I just don’t lay the blame for it solely at his feet. After he speaks to us according to our language and understanding. Maybe someday he’ll give us the endowment he’d really like to give us, rather than the endowment we currently have (and likely deserve).

  152. Rah, I haven’t done enough initiatories to have the words memorized, but the reasons I liked initiatories better than the endowment had to do with being blessed by women. Having women put their hands on my head and bless me felt right and just. I also enjoyed the times when temple workers were training and didn’t have everything memorized yet, and all the women helped and coached and encouraged each other. It felt friendlier than the endowment where there are less “mistakes.” And until a year or two ago, I naively assumed that everything in the women’s initiatory was symmetrical in the men’s. Silly me.

  153. Anon for this one says:

    Ben S. said “How, then can we create realistic expectations without giving women, in particular, a negative bias ahead of time? You neither want to prejudice them towards negative nor leave them unprepared for the asymmetry of the ordinances. That’s a fine line I’m not sure how to walk other than to say something like “not everyone has a wonderful experience, and that’s fine, you’re still a good person.””

    I’m in this moment right now. I’m a man, and while I disagree with (and frankly, detest) the oddly out of place sexism in the endowment, I have come to a satisfactory interpretation (aligning with the OP’s #3 at the top) that reads the intrusion of worldly faults into the temple as part of the greater lesson being taught. But that’s a conclusion I personally reached after study and introspection, and I don’t feel that I have the authority or certainty to teach that to others–especially women.

    This is important for me because I have a close female relative who joined the church about a year ago. The missionaries are now pestering her to get her endowments and I’m certain that it would be a profoundly negative experience for her at this time. She is still learning basic doctrine and is still adjusting to the many differences between our church and her previous church experience. She’s also thrice-divorced. I can’t 100% guess at what her perceptions of the endowment would be, but I don’t know how to prepare her without giving her a profoundly negative predisposition. And I don’t even know if a negative predisposition would be incorrect.

  154. Melinda,

    You haven’t addressed one question anyone has posed to you, but instead keep asking if people will ask God if it he is sexist.
    1) The temple ceremony has been changed several times and can and will be changed again over time.
    2) People are assuming God is not sexist and the sexist wording is not his intent-and therefore should be fixed.
    But as others have said, the temple is incontestably sexist. I am left to assume you either agree or are unable or unwilling to articulate how it is not. Either this, or you are posing your rhetorical question to yourself and think something like, “I can’t ask God if he’s sexist (God is clearly not sexist), therefore the temple must not be sexist.” And that is not an answer to whether the temple liturgy is sexist.

  155. it's a series of tubes says:

    I’d just like to add a note of thanks to all the women who have shared their experiences and perspective in the comments. I believe this is a step, slowly, towards Zion.

  156. Robert F. Smith says:

    Well spoken, Steven: “my attitude and orientation going in ended up playing a crucial role in what I got out of the temple.”

    The Mormon temple is a mirror for each who enters to do “work” for another or for one’s self. In the midst of that mystery play, we really encounter ourselves. A good deal of what takes place in the temple liturgy is allegorical, and is not meant to be taken literally. It is a means to an end, a way for all of us to quietly commune with God the Father, while at the same time being completely selfless. It isn’t meant to be easy or convenient or to salve our preconceptions. As Hugh Nibley used to say, if he didn’t learn something new each time he went to the temple, he wouldn’t go back. Each of us must make that crucial decision about the value of the temple.

    LDS temple rites are not an intellectual encounter-group session, but rather an archaic component of a mystery religion. The signs, oaths, and covenants are binding, of course, but are only part of a much greater, cosmic endeavor – to test us and to get us back to our Father in Heaven. To do so, we play many roles on the stage of life, and each is essential. In the process, we must lose our ego, learn humility, and serve others, just as our Savior did. Disappointment, contempt, and anger are no doubt experienced by some of those who attend the temple (and certainly well expressed on this board), but that sadly tells us more about them than it does about the temple.

  157. Britain Morris says:

    It truly saddens me to hear of anyone not feeling an outpouring of love when at the Temple, for any reason. Sometimes I have been that person too, and the heavens have seemed silent, and all I can see are the bumps, flaws, and errors in the place. But I do testify that on numerous other occasions, the building has been on fire with the Holy Ghost, and I’ve felt like my body was going to be consumed in the Lord’s glory.

    I think the conversation has circled around two concepts:

    1) “Is there anything that can be done to make the Temple ordinances better?”
    2) “Should we accept the Temple ordinances in their current state as acceptable to the Lord?”

    The answer to both is simply yes. Keep coming to the Temple. Encourage the whole world to enter the Temple and make these sacred covenants with the Lord. Without them (and without renewing them) we cut ourselves off from His liberally shared power. And keep having honest discussion about how to make things better, withholding judgement of anyone’s thoughts, suggestions, and feelings. “Forgive everyone, everything, all the time, or at least strive to do so.”

  158. “If it turns out I am wrong and He is sexist after all, I choose not to follow a god like that.” So emblematic of the position taken by so many, so confident that in their declaration that “the God I worship” is the God that exists, and that if not, they will reject with ease the God that exists. Such declarations are fulfillment of scriptural prophecy, so no real surprise there. But they are shaky foundations on which to stand, or worse, nonetheless.

  159. I absolutely agree. I looked forward to attending the temple because there was so much hype and because I grew up realizing that our normal religious activities felt oddly Protestant and watered down compare to our doctrine and I expected the temple might add something a little more to chew on. And it really did. Part of what it offered was the sexist slap in the face you mentioned. Being present as my father researched Brigham Young the summer before I had entered the temple (mind you I also faced sexism trying to take out my endowment), I knew going into it that WE CAN CHANGE THINGS. THE GOSPEL HAS ALWAYS AND IS RIGHT NOW IN FLUX. However, it wasn’t until reading this post that I realize trying to figure out how we might change things is what keeps driving me back to the temple, keeps me thinking about sexist symbolism in my school work, and keeps me at church. Thanks for articulating this and for that smart disclaimer at the end. I could benefit from that in my next blog post!

  160. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I will also address Melinda’s direct question. If Father asks me if I think the endowment is sexist, even discriminatory, I will reply “absolutely!” I won’t be asked, because he already knows. The sexism is not a product of his wishes, but an artifact of the very human men who perpetuate sexism throughout a worldly religious organization. Regrettable, but understandable. Still, that doesn’t excuse it. While Father won’t ask me the question, I am confident there will be some who are asked “What’s with the sexism in the endowment? ” Glad I won’t have to answer that one.

  161. Discussions like this drive me batty. One asks “How is the Temple sexist?” Any response to that question will either be shackled in ‘respectful’ vagueness– and ignored as a non-answer, or be discounted out of hand as disrespectfully cavalier about the sacredness of the temple and obviously an opinion of someone who hasn’t studied and prayed about the issue.
    It’s a catch-22, we can’t win.

  162. at, I guess I should be glad that you think what I said is a fulfillment of scriptural prophecy. Woo hoo! One more female character for the scriptures!

    I’ll very roughly paraphrase the Givenses, because they say it best: If God is, after all, not completely good, then I might be afraid of that god and obey that god out of fear of reprisal, but I don’t have to respect or love or adore or worship that god. If God is not at least as good as humans, I’m not interested. Period. Everyone is free to worship and obey whomever they choose. But the God I know is good, and that’s who I worship.

    I agree with A Turtle Named Mack that the people who defend and hold up sexism have more to fear from God than those who call sexism out as wrong.

  163. Hook 'em Horns says:

    This post was amazing. Thank you!

    The temple has never been a sanctuary for me either (and I’m a man). Obviously there must be something wrong with me. I mean, what else can it be, right? I’m not prepared spiritually, I’m not in tune with the spirit, I’m not going for the right reason, no going often enough, not paying enough attention, etc.

    I envy those members who can go on a weekly or monthly basis with their batteries re-charged. It’s never been that way for me, and this post articulates many of the fears I have for my daughter as I see her progressing through YW. More importantly, I dread going with her…and being complicit in the bait and switch that I feel she’ll be exposed to.

    While I hold a recommend, and am worthy to attend in every way (except for my attitude), I find much more joy and pleasure in serving others by cleaning the chapel on Saturday mornings, or going to the cannery and canning applesauce. It’s a more tangible and satisfying experience for me.

    I’m so glad it’s not just me!

  164. Joni,

    I can feel the emotion and raw hurt in your post, thank you for sharing. The temple ritual and the scriptural accounts were written by men. God didn’t send inspiration independent of the mortal instruments who authored these texts. Everything is filtered through culture, tradition, and generations of sexism and discrimination towards women. I honor and admire women and their ability to rise above it all, and stand for morality and integrity in spite of all that is pushing down on them. You have my respect and my empathy. If there is a God, and I believe there is, then this being cannot be what our traditions have portrayed with respect to viewing women as something less than. I refuse to believe that.

    Melinda,

    I think I understand what you’re saying about God not discriminating. I too don’t believe God discriminates. But you can’t ignore the clear evidence that the temple ordinances do discriminate. That is the definition of the word, to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or group. The only reasonable conclusion is that God is not the author of the discrimination found in the temple ceremonies. They contain mistakes, which hopefully will be corrected in the future through our ongoing restoration as Elder Uchtdorf portrays it. Lots of changes have occurred in the past, we can anticipate future changes as well.

  165. My great irreconcilable question. I honestly can’t figure out how anyone comes to peace with this. I have wrestled with it for decades. And I always come to a decision between to unpleasant realities:
    1) The temple is as it is meant to be. This is horrible to face for more than just the surface sexism (which is real and undeniable) I think that the only way one can actually come to peace with the temple is to accept that this really is the eternal structure of things. And this is, sadly, backed up by all the official teachings of the church–why do you think the brethren are so resistant to the idea of a female priesthood. They soften their language because they don’t want to hurt our feelings and lose a lot of modern women who would never understand, but…this is The Order of Things as understood by Mormonism–the chain of authority goes God-Man-Woman. It’s not a triangle, it’s a chain. The triangle thing was constructed by well meaning people trying to reconcile the teachings of the gospel with their own moral compass.

    2) The temple is wrong. And I think if you accept this, you have to accept the church as wrong. It’s The Central Pinnacle of the theology. The temple IS the gospel You can’t grow up in the church and not learn this. I think all the harping on the temple, without ever addressing what is taught there, is how the church codes to members that, despite the increasingly softer, gentler, more politically correct picture the church presents to the world–this is what we REALLY believe.

    And I just…in my heart of hearts, my greatest fear in life is that…well…that’s the truth. My destiny is to be the bottom of the chain. That if I’m good, I will learn to be happy there. And if I reject it, well…I just don’t get to be part of the chain at all.

  166. Joni…I didn’t read your comment before posting, but yes—that is exactly what I was trying to say. Only you were more eloquent.

  167. Anonymous Number Four says:

    Robert F. Smith: “Disappointment, contempt, and anger are no doubt experienced by some of those who attend the temple (and certainly well expressed on this board), but that sadly tells us more about them than it does about the temple.”

    Your comment and your quoting of Hugh Nibley also tells us something about you, specifically that you are most likely a white middle-or upper-class male of a certain age who has likely served as a veil worker, benefits personally from the system, and does not need to navigate language or relationships to participate.

    Tell me if I’m wrong.

  168. Another frustrating thing–people who say they are OK with the temple never say WHY or HOW–just vague “if you were as righteous as me, you’d get it”ness. Including the Mormonwomen post linked to above. There just isn’t anything THERE.

  169. It just confirms for me that the thing they “get” is that, yeah…women are lesser, but once you are awesome enough, you are OK with that. I guess they’ve all had their Celestial Lobotomies early (loved that phrase BTW)

  170. I Wear Heels to the Temple says:

    Melinda,

    The world is flat, the world is flat, the world is flat.

    Even if I keep saying it over and over, it doesn’t make the world flat. Funny how that works (or doesn’t).

  171. Britain Morris, thanks for your comment. There is indeed mighty power in the temple.

    However, nothing requires renewal of temple covenants. They do not expire. We take the sacrament weekly, as commanded. But there is no requirement to renew an endowment. It is wisdom to attend frequently to feel the Spirit in the temple and to aid the dead, but that is different.

  172. I do think the Temple is sexist and painful, but my wife does not. I’ve learned to be ok with that. For the Temple endowment itself, I continue to work on what I can still learn and my time in meditation (a likely laughable attempt at achieving Zen). I have found it helpful, recently, to think about how Peter had to deal with the thought of the Savior being tortured and killed and not try to stop it. It hurts, it’s probably unnecessary and could be done differently, but this is the way it is right now.

    In taking the attitude of “it’s sexist and wrong, and you should see it too” doesn’t really work to convince, as it gets slotted right in with those who believe the entire idea of God is wrong and easily dismissed. Goes about as well as “there’s nothing wrong, you small minded people”. Much better to share personal experiences of the pain felt and be amenable to those who share personal experiences where there has been no pain felt. Hopefully we can learn from each other as we look for additional guidance from above, whether that guidance be personal or institutional.

  173. Steve Evans,

    I’m about to give a lesson on this in priesthood, so I’m exploring some ideas here. I don’t believe the primary purpose of the temple is to redeem the dead. I actually believe it is primarily to connect us with our ancestors emotionally and symbolically. This connection in turn helps us to orient ourselves towards the bigger picture here on earth and live more ethical lives.

    The discrimination and hierarchical Heavenly structure are cultural artifacts in the temple narrative. We should focus on the Malachi scripture about turning to our hearts to our fathers and children in an eternal linking of the human family. This is the key of the temple in my mind. It trumps everything else. This is the principle that was revealed to Joseph in a thousand messy ways, but this is the core of what the temple gets right in my opinion.

    The specific wording of the ordinances is not important; they have been changed multiple times anyway. Christ conquering death through the atonement is the primary purpose of the temple. The Savior’s actions connect all of us together, and the temple reinforces this message for me.

  174. ” I don’t believe the primary purpose of the temple is to redeem the dead. I actually believe it is primarily to connect us with our ancestors emotionally and symbolically. This connection in turn helps us to orient ourselves towards the bigger picture here on earth and live more ethical lives”

    I agree that this is an outcome, but the desire to actually redeem the dead is a key part of the origination of the ordinances. The perspective you add there is vital but I don’t think you can lose sight of the desire (at least in the 19th century) to redeem ancestors.

  175. Joni and Nona, the negative conclusions you seem to be coming to are heartbreaking. If I considered those philosophies remotely true there is no way I could continue being a member of this church. Although the scriptures have a predominantly male view, I still see positive, uplifting messages for myself as a woman. There are 6 named women in the Book of Mormon (I know, their names were posted on my wall as a teenager). There are several other unnamed women there who are faithful examples of righteous disciples of Christ. In the Book of Mormon we get testimonies of Mary’s significance as the mother of Christ hundreds of years before she was born, the only known female to have her name prophesied before she lived. My experience with the scriptures (Bible and Book of Mormon) has shown me that even in cultures where women were clearly viewed as inferior, God’s view of women and their role in his plan is much bigger. We have a lot of cultural baggage on gender issues. Only in the last century have a few societies come to view women as equal to men. We are fighting millennia of philosophies of men mingled with scripture. We don’t know why our doctrine of Heavenly Mother has not progressed beyond the fact that she exists. We make up stupid stuff to explain it, like the pedestal thing or that she’s off making babies. These ideas have no basis in doctrine, they are attempts at explaining a mystery. We do not know everything in this church, though we have authority to provide saving ordinances. My gut feeling is that our understanding of true doctrine is considerably less mature than we realize. Please do not settle for believing that we truly must believe women are second-class citizens in Christ’s gospel as presented in this church. (I guess I have more of view #3 in me than I realized.)

  176. A couple quick anecdotes – others have already said beautifully what I felt to say.

    Melinda L. Brown, in your first comment you stated, .”I trust 100% in our Father that he got it right.” My husband thought the same, so when they made some changes to the temple ceremony he flipped. “I thought this was already perfect!” That and other contradictions piled up in his black & white world and he left the church. Please, for your own sake, don’t make the assumption that the way things are is necessarily “Father getting it right.” – that’s a dangerous mindset. You’ll either have to ignore many real & true facts, or face a painful reckoning. (I do understand that in your current perspective, it looks like the unorthodox or questioning members are on more dangerous ground – but please trust me – of all the people I’ve seen leave the church recently (many – way too many) they were overwhelmingly ‘all or nothing’ thinkers like yourself.

    I escorted my daughter when she went through the temple 3 years ago. It freaked her out. Completely. She never went back. She and her husband have left the church.

    Please try to see that real people are hurting (and leaving!) because of both our mindset that our ceremonies and doctrine are already perfect, and the discrimination in our rituals.

  177. Brava, brava, brava!

    Unfortunately your thoughts ring true all too well. I constantly hear how great and wonderful the temple ceremonies are and how people love it, learn from it, and live it. I sit there every time wondering if they have been to the same ceremony I have. Perhaps I just haven’t convinced myself thoroughly enough that it’s ok. I’ve found it’s easier to just not participate in this part of the church experience rather than try to reconcile the difference. With this solution, my wife sits alone making promises to harken to her husband who is not there. Along with the single sisters who make promises to harken to their non existent husbands. Nevertheless, they will most likely be re-allocated in the next life as a sister wife for a more righteous man than I.

  178. Angela, Thank you for writing this thoughtful, eloquent post. I could not agree more, and I have taken the time to read every comment.

    It took me twenty-five-years of (partly) uneasy temple-attendance until, one day, I found the endowment-session too hard to do. Raising my right hand to “hearken”, while the men do not do the same – I felt very strongly that I was diminishing myself as a daughter of God. I felt this – my actively diminishing myself – a crime that God never asked of me. (Only mortal men). And yet, I raised my hand that one more time instead of walking out. It hurt me emotionally “to the bone”.

    As a LDS I have been taught to strive for honesty in all things. Honesty towards all is one of the interview-questions to receive a temple-recommend. But I feel that honesty towards myself is a foundation upon which all my integrity rests. The truth is that I will not hearken to a husband that is not AS bound to hearken to me. We can only hearken to each other equally and freely if we desire a loving family. This is my every-day-experience and truth. Subjugation never was happiness. There are other parts of temple-experiences that I have felt at liberty to “interpret” symbolically. (I am not sealed to my husband and have thus not “given myself” to him unreciprocally)

    I have pondered to write the temple-presidency and ask them if I am welcome to attend if I do not participate in the specific “hearken”-covenant. (And ask them to let temple-workers know – I do not want others to be upset by my non-compliance). But it’s a hurdle. It is easier to stay away, sadly. So I stay away. There is no way I could prepare other attendees who will see that I do not comply, and I do not want to make them uncomfortable. If there ever was a Mormon religious taboo about “being different” it is in the temple. But – in my mind many of the women-ancestors we do work for might be just FINE with “their” attendee not binding them to subjugate them to their husbands.

    I do think that these are remnants of our own “traditions of our fathers”. And that these traditions surely must change. The sooner the better.

    I have no daughter of my own. But I do have nieces, and it pains me to ponder how to prepare (or rather – not prepare) them. It is a loose-loose situation.

    There are parts of the temple-ritual that I appreciate very much. But as for now, although I have a recommend I cannot attend.

  179. “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek out and exchange pain narratives on the bloggernacle.” Joseph Smith. Actually, scrap those quote marks, it might not be word for word.

  180. MaryAnn–I appreciate your perspective, but honestly it’s just not enough for me anymore. I can’t go digging in the scriptures for crumbs and ignore the piles and piles of contradictory evidence. And as far as the world fighting through cultural misogyny…I just…it seems like if God was really there and really cared about women…S/He might at some point have chosen to mention that fact to a prophet. S/He might have set up a system of religious governance that did not further entrench the sexism.

    I’m afraid I just have come to a point where there is no logical conclusion outside of the idea that either God does not exist or God is deeply sexist. To do anything else is to stick your head in the sand.

  181. Nona, I appreciate the reply. I sincerely hope that you find the peace you need, wherever it may be.

  182. Britain Morris says:

    Steve Evans – Thanks, yes we do not need to receive the endowment again to renew our covenants. It’s my understanding that partaking of the Sacrament is how we do renew ALL covenants we have made with the Lord, not just baptismal. Surely no one gets through life with their temple covenants perfectly intact without the renewal that comes through weekly repentance and the Sacrament.

    The Sacrament is sufficient but it’s sure easier for me to remember what I’ve promised to do by reviewing the ordinances via work for the dead. And, in turn, that’s part of how I make good on Remembering Him.

  183. I too have had similar type thoughts. When I realized that the temple ceremony is not a script, but rather taken from scripture the “sexist”, (just using your word, not disputing), tone I picked up on made more sense. There just isn’t more mentioned in the scriptures about women and for women to add to the temple dialogue. Not very articulate, but do you see where I’m going?

  184. I went into my first temple experience full of hope, sure that I would feel the Spirit and God’s love, excited about being initiated into adult LDS rituals. I was pure. I was an orthodox believer. I was born and raised in the church. It is not my fault that the temple was horrible instead of wonderful and it’s extremely upsetting when people try to blame others for not having positive temple experiences.

    For example, part of what was so traumatic was the format of the initiatory. As a survivor of sexual assault, the nudity and the touching of my body by strangers caused me to flashback to my assault in vivid detail. I felt completely violated and traumatized in what was supposed to be the House of the Lord. No one warned me that this was how the initiatory was done because no one told me anything remotely useful about the temple ceremonies due to fear of saying “too much.” I’m very glad the format of the initiatory has changed to be less triggering, but it does not help someone like me get past the trauma of previous experiences to feel comfortable in the temple.

    I LOVED going to the temple before that initiatory experience. I loved doing baptisms for the dead I loved the peace. I loved the quiet. I loved the Spirit. I loved getting away from the world for quiet moments of contemplation. My initiation into the higher rites completely ruined the temple for me. Every time I went back, I remembered my assault.

    The sexism was another layer of pain that I only saw upon return visits. My first experience was too traumatic to even hear any words.

  185. I have to agree with what so many brothers and sisters have said here. I am a guy myself, and the wording has always caused me a sense of wonder as to why that is. As has been said already, while the ordinances and reason for them may not change, the way they are conveyed to us through ritual has changed, according to further light and understanding (and, I would add, input from the faithful attendees), and it is this that I will hope for and start praying for. I feel that there should be some way to get the Brethren to consider this and pray about it, without feeling any fear for the asking. I don’t want our sisters, or my future spouse and daughters, to feel like they are of any less worth to our Father in Heaven. To say that they are somehow subservient to the opposite gender is not the truth of the Gospel. It is not what has been revealed to me, and I think it’s time we make a change.

  186. I think that rather than listening to other’s experiences and attempting the empathize with them we should just solve their problems by telling them the correct way to think. Or alternatively, dismissing their problems entirely. Because serious, what would Jesus do?

  187. First, this was really well done Angela C. I’ve had many of these thoughts over the years, although it would take a post as long as yours to explain how I have resolved this. Britain Morris said it well, I think: “1) Is there anything that can be done to make the Temple ordinances better?
    2) Should we accept the Temple ordinances in their current state as acceptable to the Lord? The answer to both is simply yes.” I find this compelling because of an experience I had as a teen, when I was dismayed by the old YW program (the one with “Homemaking Arts” and “Personal and Social Refinement”). I felt these were such wrong things to focus on, that I should be developing spiritual qualities like faith, things that weren’t gender-specific. I worried that women were not as important to God, and I worried that I was in trouble for not loving God’s program for me. I prayed about it, and got the distinct answer to be at peach, that I was not in trouble for my concerns, that women had as much worth as men, that yes, the most important thing for me was to develop those spiritual qualities, that are not gender-specific, and that even so, I would suffer no harm or spiritual delay by participating in the YW program (6 months later it changed, BTW). This experience has helped me greatly with the temple.

    Moss said “’As’ is not a conditional word, it is a simile. Men are not supposed to second guess God, so women shouldn’t second guess their husbands, either. Men are supposed to listen and obey God, not evaluate wether God is making the right decision.”

    I think you switched terms inadvertently. I promised to listen “as” he listens, not “as he’s supposed to” listen.

    Is there a practical difference between whether it’s conditional or a simile? Conditional: I listen to him “when” he listens to God. Simile: I listen to my husband “like” he listens to God. Sometimes, he doesn’t listen. (Nobody’s husband does all the time in mortality, right?)

    Lastly, consider how men, particularly prophets, have interacted with God. They have asked questions, shared concerns, asked for help, pleaded for change. God has listened, reasoned, asked them how they want to handle things (brother of Jared) and adjusted His plans because of their requests. Isn’t this part of the simile too?

  188. I can’t do the endowment anymore, I just find it so hurtful. My spirit cries out that it isn’t true. That I covenant with and obey God alone. It took me 10 years to admit to myself that I wasn’t missing anything to clarify that it couldn’t possibly mean what it says. I feel at peace that God does love me, and that love has nothing to do with the endowment ceremony and I don’t have to go and assault my spirit anymore. I take my children to the temple grounds, I participate in sealings and inititories, and I actively pray that the wording is changed before my daughters are old enough to want to go to be endowed because I will not lie to them about my feelings. They changed the racist wording in the Book of Mormon and added footnotes, I hope someday they will do the same for the endowment.

  189. I also wanted to add that the wording is hurtful to men too. I know of several people in my life who had that hurtful phrase lorded over them by their husbands to win an argument. As much as I can look that in the face and say “that is unrighteous dominion and wrong”. It is literally what is said and can be hard to argue with if a person doesn’t have the self esteem to look deeper. The men in these situations feel they don’t have to listen to their wives and should be respected as gods in their homes.

  190. Good points John. I agree that there is value in finding common ground and experience with our fellow posters and that we each should be compassionate. But more than anything I hope that each of us can find out how much greater the power of the Atonement is, in its capacity to heal us of our pains, than is any other source. It seems to me that generally, we tend err on the side of overestimating the healing power of internet exchanges and underestimate the healing power of the Atonement.

  191. I remember the first time I went with my fiancee thinking that the hearken covenant didn’t make sense… “If I’m promising to follow my husband who promises to follow God, shouldn’t I just promise to follow God?” And so for years (before I ascribed it to sexism and only just to not making sense) I would repeat the covenant in my mind in a way that made sense to me.

    In the last few years it’s gotten more difficult as I’ve seen the pedistalization of women and the sexism and how the results play out in a myriad of ways.

    I agree there are certain interpretations of the temple that make the sexism more palatable. But that doesn’t change the fact these words make the husband the god of the wife, and if we study the words of our early leaders, yes that was their literal belief. It’s hard to maintain a belief of myself being co equal partner, when everywhere I look said I’m not.

    It drives me crazy that as a culture we take a sexist concept (like men presiding) change the meaning of the word (co equal partners) and then deny that sexism ever existed. So we keep all the sexist words, tell you they aren’t really sexist and that’s not what it means and you’re crazy/wrong if you think so, and problem solved? Think again.

    I was heartbroken when the new movies came out without changing any words. Years of prayer and I just knew that new Movies is the perfect time to make the change. And if I didn’t see it in the new movies we had decades more tip wait until they did new movies again. My heart broke going through the first time with the new movies. Later I was able to be grateful for the baby step changes they did make.

  192. I’m always late to these things because I love to read previous comments from those who are much smarter than I am. However, I wanted to add a couple of things that I believe help understand the endowment. I’m not a woman but have thought about this a lot since I have a daughter who just entered the Young Women program.

    1) I believe the stuff about women in the endowment needs to be understood within the context of the polygamy lived and beliefs espoused by Brigham Young, who was the first to write the endowment down and, comparing it to accounts from the Nauvoo era when Joseph Smith was alive, made extensive edits to the ritual. Brigham was a misogynist living in a misogynistic culture, exacerbated by the practice of polygamy. As such, I take the stuff about women with a heaping dose of salt. In other words, to me, it’s the philosophy of men but doesn’t nullify the rest of the ceremony.

    2) At no point in the endowment ceremony do you die.

    3) Keeping in mind item number two above, reviewing the Israelite Day of Atonement ritual, found in the Old Testament, especially that of the high priest in that ritual, has a lot of parallels with our endowment ceremony. Remember that the high priest wore a vestment representing all of Israel when he entered the celestial room – er, holy of holies – symbolizing that God’s presence was available to all. This was again expressed when the veil of the temple was rent at Jesus’ death. This stuff is dripping with symbolism and Margaret Barker has some great material on this.

    4) After reading through and understanding the Day of Atonement ritual, the experience of the Brother of Jared should be read. To me, it’s powerful stuff.

    So, with those things in mind, I believe the endowment has tremendous value to our daughters. I intend to help my own daughter see it for the symbolic teaching tool it is, and ignore the nonsense interjected by the culture of the pioneers.

  193. I read Angela C’s post with interest last night and just waded through all 170+ comments. These are clearly issues that need to be talked about. For the first seven years that I was endowed, I unconsciously engaged in #1 and 2 and was able to love the temple, especially because I enjoyed seeing women administer in rites and ordinances. I would say that this was easier for me to do because I was single – I had no husband to hearken to and could very easily ignore some of the sexist portions of the ceremony because they did not seem relevant as a single woman. When I got married, my sealer repeatedly said I had convenanted to obey my husband and it was as though the scales fell away from my eyes. Every time I went to the temple, I was hit by a new wave of patriarchy. My sealer’s language was not consistent with current temple language – but it nonetheless caused me to open my eyes to the crux of the problem, as Angela C, Joni and all discussed:

    The temple lays out two paths, one for men and one for women.

    Men obey God the Father, and in turn are able to utilize their priesthood to become gods, or as God. They then can use this priesthood to save their wives/posterity, and to serve God the Father. They are saved by the Atonement.

    Women obey/hearken to their husbands, who are their saviors. They are saved by obeying/hearkening to their husbands. Their eternal destiny is to become priestesses and queens unto their husbands, not to God the Father.

    There are many beautiful and symbolic parts of the temple rites and ceremonies, but at the end of the day we are left to grapple with this issue which is hugely defining for Mormons but often not talked about due to the sacred nature of the temple. The paths I have laid out above are also often not seen or grappled by many members of the church – I know because I was one of them before my marriage.

    I absolutely believe that the temple language can change, but not without grappling with the inherent issues with polygamy and women as second class citizens that are woven throughout the temple ceremony. It causes me to think that the LDS church as a major truth issue: either we participate in rites that do not accurately reflect the nature/experience of God that we preach (men and women are equal, we honor Eve, etc) or we do not accurately portray our doctrine with regard to women: that they are in fact second class citizens, destined for eternal polygamy as priestesses to husbands, with no hope or need to be saved by God/Jesus due to their lesser status. As Kristine said, we must understand and teach truth. For some reason, it is enormously difficult to do with the temple.

  194. I very much resonate with the author. I went through only 6 months ago, and though I have been through a few times since the cognitive dissonance (and disappointment) is very real (and very hard to put into words).

    I understand why we tell our children that the temple is an important/all encompassing goal. But I think I will temper that language, especially for my daughters. I do not believe our eternal truth/worth is captured there, nor do I believe the temple reflects the nature of eternal relationships between men and women. I truly hope it will someday.

  195. Learning about the history of the temple and its ties polygamy helped me accept that the temple (or at least its current content) doesn’t necessarily reflect God’s plan. I felt comforted that my negative reaction to the sexist elements was just due to ties to polygamy and Adam God theory. I no longer felt worried that God thinks less of me and other women because I do not believe God is the author of sexism (or racism or homophobia or classism, etc.). I do not believe in Adam God theory and I do not believe polygamy was divinely inspired or a commandment. It therefore makes sense that the higher temple rites do not bring comfort, joy, insight, or peace.

  196. Love Lynette’s comments. And the post.
    I face the same dilemma with my daughter.

  197. Molly Bennion says:

    “Nevertheless, they will most likely be re-allocated in the next life as a sister wife for a more righteous man than I.”
    I hope that was a flippant comment, because it is so painful. “Re-allocated” assumes a lack of free will, polygamy assumes more righteous men than women, and the idea that there would be no way for love to be rewarded with endurance assumes a God not defined by love. I see no reason to believe any of these assumptions. I suspect many will be surprised in the hereafter by the buying power of the currency of love.

  198. I’m quite glad to have stumbled upon this post. It helped me reflect on my own experiences, both positive and negative. The best advice I’ve found on this thread (most practical, most helpful on an individual basis, and having the farthest reaching possibilities) was to talk to the temple matron. This is an easy step for those that are escorting daughters, friends, sisters, etc. I know you can set an appointment with the Temple Presidency and I would imagine we’d be able to do the same with the temple matron. Doing so would allow you to express thoughts, concerns, etc. Even if the matron doesn’t share your particular thoughts or concerns, I can’t think of a better opportunity to “get the word out there” (if you’re worried about that) or to seek some support for reconciling positive/negative experiences at the temple (if that’s your objective).

    My only piece of advice (and this might not be new–I haven’t read ALL the comments…) is to try taking a name to the temple. Find a neighbor if you have “none left” in your tree. Whatever you do, research that person before you go. Put in some effort before-hand and think about that person as you are going through the session. You may not get complete answers to your soul-burning questions. But I’d be willing to bet an awful lot that your experience would differ from normal and you’d find inspiration and revelation about something new. Isn’t that the gospel? We’re told to “seek” and we shall find. I’ve usually found that my seeking an answer to one question leads to finding an answer, line upon line, to something completely different. This does not mean I stop caring about my original question, it just adds fuel to my faith and hope that I can get answers about ANYTHING and reminds me that those answers rarely come on my timetable.

    Lastly, I’d just like to quote an article from Mormon Women, which I found helpful.

    But questions and struggles should never be used to make final judgments about the temple, for self or for others. I’m concerned that we have a generation of people, especially young women, being somehow warned by some about the temple rather than taught with faith and excitement – as my friend did for me. Where those with questions gather, especially online, I am seeing a deeply concerning perpetuation of assumptions, assertions and beliefs about the temple that go beyond expressing personal struggle to making declarations that the temple is not inspired, is optional, needs to change in order to be true, or is not reflective of a loving God. – See more at: http://mormonwoman.org/2015/02/26/thoughts-on-the-temple-and-temple-preparation/#sthash.SkRlbcC1.dpuf

  199. I’ve really appreciated all the comments on this post. For me, it’s not just problems with words or covenants here and there. It’s the entire structure. I was always told that the temple would be the place where I make covenants with Heavenly Father. Yet, all my covenants were “before God,” not with Him. The only time I covenanted “with” someone, it was my husband. I was also told the temple taught about my eternal destiny. But after years of attending I’m more confused than anything. There is no example of a glorified, exalted female god in the temple. All I have is Eve, who transgresses, covenants to hearken, and then stands around smiling prettily. She has no direct connection or communication with God or his messengers post-fall.

    So I leave the temple wondering: Why do I covenant to harken to my husband as he hearkens to God? Why should my behavior be dependent on (or like) his? Why is my relationship with my husband paralleled to his relationship with God? That’s not an equal partnership at all, nor is it intended to be. Does my husband have a direct link to God that I don’t? Why? How can I get that? And before anyone starts spouting on about how bearing children is my connection to God, that’s not the way it’s presented in the temple. Childbearing is talked about at the same time that thorns and thistles are brought up for Adam. The temple presents it as a consequence, not a redemptive, atoning act.

    When I first went through the temple I felt so overloaded by everything (clothes, dramatic movie, covenants that were new and explained in a rush) that I didn’t get much out of it. I was about to get married so my fiance was with me for the last part of the ceremony. At the time I was so happy to have him there because everything was overwhelming. But I didn’t think about it having any kind of meaning. As years went on I always thought it was odd that female friends who were endowed well before marriage had an experience with their soon-to-be husbands at the veil prior to their sealing. And it makes me wonder, why? I am afraid their husbands (and mine) weren’t acting as proxy for Jesus. They were taking the place that the temple teaches belongs to the husband – the place of the savior for the wife.

    I hoped the temple would be the place where I would be brought closer to Christ and more fully feel Heavenly Father’s love for me. Instead I felt like the ceremony taught that the only way for me to come back to God’s presence was through obeying a husband and that becoming a god is not an option for women. That’s a hard thing.

  200. I don’t go to the temple anymore, but it’s only because I don’t pay tithing anymore. When I was going I thought that the temple ceremony was inherently sexist. But church is inherently sexist and for that matter, mortality is inherently sexist. I recognized the sexism in the temple ceremony, but it didn’t bother me, at least not any more than the sexism of advertising or Sunday worship. Maybe the bigger reason for the frustration isn’t the sexism, which most women deal with regularly, but with the hype that doesn’t match expectations.

  201. I was reading a book this morning, and a passage about someone being a moon to someone else’s planet made me think back on this post. Essentially, what happens to women in the temple is that they find out they are moons, and their husbands are planets (which would, I guess, make God the sun).

    It’s just hard for me to believe that there is any woman who truly understands what the temple says about women and isn’t disturbed by her secondary status in the cosmos.

  202. Grant Kimball says:

    My mom, now 83 years old, was so horrified by the temple ceremonies (that she was only allowed to first go through on her wedding day), that she stopped going to the temple for 20 years and only started going again when my older sister got married. My mom stayed wholly active in the church i.e. stake camp director, stake relief society president, my dad was a patriarch, and she is still active to this day. But it was brutal for her and still is. I don’t think she’s been to the temple in 15 years. I’ve always wondered how women deal with it.

  203. Since we have moved somewhat into fixes, and my wife tells me that my rationalization (fix is way too strong) is not one she’s heard, and even though I’m a man, I’ll offer up that years ago “figurative as to the man and the woman” led me to consider that even though persons typed as women in this life play a certain role in the temple ceremony, and persons typed as men in this life play a different role in the temple ceremony, in fact the essential me should be thinking that I’m playing both and all parts at the same time. (As for gender essentialism–cite the Proclamation on the Family–I don’t believe it.)

  204. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    ” If that’s not really our doctrine, then it’s time to finally update the temple script”

    What? Just after they spent millions of our tithing money making 3 lame new movies with the current dialogue?

    “keep the men cushy”

    There are those of us that don’t really want the cushy status, we want what you want. I remember hearing elderly sisters I was visiting with my family saying how relieved they were that the covenant of “obeying the law of your husband” was modified, as it became a pretext for domestic abuse.

  205. I prefer to believe that Heavenly Father knows what he is doing. He created us. He gave us everything. Trust Him. If you enter the temple mistrusting, you will not feel peace. So sad.

  206. WillingMind says:

    Grant If I had gone through the temple 60 years ago I probably would have been traumatized myself and it would have nothing to do with the sexism.

  207. ” If that’s not really our doctrine, then it’s time to finally update the temple script”

    What? Just after they spent millions of our tithing money making 3 lame new movies with the current dialogue?

    Rigel, that’s what just gutted me about the new films. Some women were celebrating a greater emphasis on Eve, and other positive changes. But I felt the new films reset the clock for another 25 years on the current script, and it was emotionally devastating. There was a flicker of hope in me as long as the current movies were clearly showing age: I kept thinking, they have to revamp before too long, and that’s the opportunity for not only a film change but a script change. Now the once-in-a-generation opportunity has passed, I have no hope left. I haven’t been back since the first time I saw the first new film.

    The rational (?) side of me knows that most of the necessary ritual changes could be made with little or no editing to the film (initiatory and sealing, especially). So maybe Angela’s call will reach somebody’s ears. But there’s something so sad about the thought of a bunch of people (let’s be real: men) in a room revamping this thing and not having wording changes be on the table, or having them considered and dismissed.

  208. “If you enter the temple mistrusting, you will not feel peace. So sad.”

    Pauline, in nearly every story in the post and comments thread there *was* trust, and then a feeling that that trust was betrayed–that’s precisely why the experiences were so painful! Did you read them?

  209. Coffinberry says:

    I recognize the agony of these things. I have a daughter who is fast approaching this age (and have already brought my sons to the temple). I will share the thoughts on the matter that have brought me peace.

    First, I do believe wholeheartedly in the Plan of Salvation, that we lived with our Heavenly Parents, That a way was prepared for us to obtain a mortal body and to have experiences, including mistakes, that would allow us to fulfill our divine potential as offspring of heavenly parents by becoming like them — a potential made possible infinite atonement wrought by our Brother and the grace which he shares with us.

    From this belief follow two things: I believe in the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, and I believe in the restoration of the Priesthood keys and sealing power as it continues today.

    To these I add the principles in Article of Faith 9: We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. From this belief follows one thing: that in the here and we do not yet know all that God has in store to tell us.

    My human life experience teaches me that the information we receive — whether by word or eye or book or demonstration — is filtered through individual experiences. This human element of communication is present in revelation from God, because whether by the voice of prophets or teachers or in our own heads, it is with Humans that God communicates. From this follows that sometimes God’s divine truth is something other than the specific words or deeds we see in the here and now, and perhaps has to be re-communicated for new ears to hear it; or eyes to see it and thus I am willing to accept changes and adjustments, because I do believe God will continually try to help us understand.

    SO,, from these above principles, this is the thing that I find great peace in, and that enables me to continue serving in the temple — I trust the ME that chose to accept and rejoice in this Plan. I trust the ME that had lived with our Heavenly Parents, the ME that saw what eternal life as exalted beings looked like – both male and female — the ME that rejoiced, the ME that rejected the alternative proposition made by Lucifer, the ME that elected to follow the Only Begotten. I trust the decision I made then, and so I choose to act on what light and knowledge has been provided, including the ordinances of the Temple. (I think this is a different perspective from merely trusting that it will all work out in the end, because it is based on -at least believing in- my own choices and observations, rather than a mysterious hoping for something unknowable.)

    This is what I teach my daughter–and sons. (That, plus a whole lot more about the nature of ritual and symbolism and what to expect.) Your mileage may vary.

  210. Chelle (from 2/25 at 9:46 P.M.), This is your husband writing. Did you have to capitalize the “NO”? We get your point, sheesh.

  211. I feel I have two choices: I can feel betrayed by God (by acknowledging that the temple ceremony is exactly the way He wants it), or I can feel betrayed by men (by believing that the temple ceremony was written by men using their cultural frame of reference and personal beliefs). Guess which one is easier to bear?

    I’ve heard of a third option: that I’m just not spiritual enough to understand it, but if I were more in tune it would all make sense. To that I say enough is enough. Is the need for symbolism so great that it is worth crushing the souls of so many women?

    Quite frankly, I try to remember the entire movie is symbolic – how can people who have not yet been born touch each other (think PJ&J). I can buy into that to a certain point. But when we make the covenants they become quite literal. It becomes you and each of you. It makes it very concrete and difficult to explain away.

  212. Chris, she did say you were very nice. :)

  213. As an addendum to my previous comment, I just wanted to mention that, to me, the endowment is a demonstration that we are all expected, in this life, to approach the veil in faith, have it parted, enter into the embrace of God, and receive an endowment. It is explicit in this, at least to me. All do this – male and female. Regardless of whatever nonsense men placed into the wording of some of the covenants, each woman approaches the veil, has it parted, and enters into the presence of God – just as the Brother of Jared did.

    The Day of Atonement ritual in ancient Israel had the high priest, with clothing upon him that included a jewel for each of the tribes of Israel (in other words, representing all of Israel), approached the veil, entered into the holy-of-holies, was before God’s throne, and sought blessing before God. He then left by going back through the veil and into creation. He was a new man and had the name of God on his forehead (the Hebrew tau).

    Now, Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdelene has correlation with Eden and the temple. It even took place in a garden! Jesus, who had died, passed through the veil, and entered God’s presence, had now left God’s presence, back through the veil, and returned to creation. As God on earth the first person he appeared to was a woman. Clearly women can approach God and be ministered to by him. Even when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was rent, symbolizing that all can approach the veil and enter the holy-of-holies – men and women. It was available to all. Our endowment shows the same thing. Both women and men approach the veil and enter into God’s presence, just as has been demonstrated in the scriptures. Women are not kept from such a blessing.

    Women have equal access to God as demonstrated by the actions of the endowment, Moroni’s comments about the Brother of Jared’s experience (please read it), the high priest symbolizing all of Israel in the Day of Atonement ritual, and by Jesus himself appearing to a woman right after he had left the holy-of-holies. Please don’t get disenchanted by the bleeding of some of the pioneer culture into the endowment wording, for the beauty and majesty of the true Gospel – that all can approach the veil and be redeemed – is plainly manifest in that ritual as well as the scriptures.

    I hope I don’t sound like a lunatic but I feel quite strongly about this and think it would be tragic if we don’t see these beautiful things because we’re focused on the philosophies of men that have been mingled with such beauty.

  214. Brokenhearted says:

    Way up thread there was this, “I know, I know, I don’t have enough faith. Give me something that I might actually want to have faith IN, please.” Yes, exactly. Whenever I try to pray about these issues I run into a solid wall. Prayer is apparently all about submitting our will to God’s. But I don’t want to submit my will to his if he is as the temple portrays him. I don’t even WANT to have faith in that God. I just can’t seem to make any progress in gaining the certainty that others in this thread have expressed that God is good, loving, and that the sexism in the temple is not from him.

    A lot of you have mentioned studying about the history of the temple to better understand the cultural influences that impacted its form, and changes that were made between Joseph’s time and Brigham’s. Would any of you be so kind as to recommend reading on the subject? Similarly, those who have mentioned interpretations that make it easier to bear, can you recommend? Thank you. I really need something to help me get out of this rut of despair I’ve been in for years over this.

  215. An Earlier Anonymous says:

    I’ve heard of a third option: that I’m just not spiritual enough to understand it, but if I were more in tune it would all make sense. To that I say enough is enough. Is the need for symbolism so great that it is worth crushing the souls of so many women?

    Back in the seventies, Harold B. Lee, Boyd K. Packer, and others were fond of saying that we must teach not just clearly enough so that everyone could understand, but clearly enough so that no one could misunderstand.

    I’ve always wondered why that injunction never seems to apply to gender issues. It’s fair to assume that in every ward in the church there’s a man or two who’s using the temple language to dominate his wife. (I myself can think of three or four right off the top of my head.) If that’s not what the church wants to happen, then it needs to teach equality so clearly that no one can misunderstand, starting in the temple.

  216. “I hope I don’t sound like a lunatic”

    I hate to disappoint you!

  217. jc – I agree so much with your comment. Great summary of how can we possibly reconcile this to make sense in mind and heart.

    And Chris, you rascal, you are as good as they come. That’s what makes this even more troubling. My lived experience is one of equality in my marriage. What I experienced in the temple does not match my experience in my marriage. Just, NO (there I go again with the capitalizing) ; )

  218. “It’s fair to assume that in every ward in the church there’s a man or two who’s using the temple language to dominate his wife.” Unfortunately, I have seen this also. When I was growing up, a woman in our ward fled with her baby and stayed with us for a while because her husband was abusive. He cited his priesthood authority as meaning that she needed to submit to him and do what he said, and he had to “correct” her if she failed to do so. He made repeated threats to get my parents to quit harboring his wife, to return to him what was rightfully his. Once, while she was staying with us, my dad and I got into an argument, and he was very angry (although not physically abusive). When she saw this exchange, she concluded that this was the way things worked. She tearfully decided to go back to her abusive husband because she felt that as a woman it was her duty to do what her lord and master said. My mom says she never forgave my dad for losing his temper that time given the consequences.

    Domestic abuse isn’t a uniquely Mormon problem, but it’s decidedly ugly when bolstered by our doctrinal rhetoric.

  219. wreddyornot says:

    We came to this earth, God’s world of marvelous evolution that we see all around us. It is a gradual process in which things change into a different and usually more complex or better form. Change is all around us and has been from the beginning and will continue on. Look, for instance, how much the processes in the temples, as noted, have changed — evolved — just since the restoration. Our Heavenly Parents put us here.

    Agency. It’s a feature of our being. We are tried and tested. Even our narratives of pre-mortality make agency essential. Let’s use our imaginations to make better choices now and to fancy a better, more perfect, future. I suggest that we stop using God as a male singular and recognize it as the Divine Pair that we believe it is. It seems to me, for example, that if we, who remain active and have some or all of the concerns articulated here, have the courage to begin praying in private and, when called upon aloud in church and in our public places, to Heavenly Parents, some progress can be made. We can do the same in classroom discussions, in our callings teaching, etc. This posting is essentially a call for change, is it not?

    As a male, I call on my privileged brothers of faith to take courage and do what’s right.

  220. April Carlson says:

    I served as a temple ordinance worker and enjoyed the connection to Heavenly Mother I felt as I pronounced the blessings of the initiatory. Each time as I participated in different elements of the temple I did feel that I gained new knowledge and spirituality. Eventually, I came to the realization that the temple was impeding my relationship with Jesus Christ. Each time I repeated the language that routes my salvation through an invisible husband I have yet to meet (instead of directly through the Savior) I felt the Holy Ghost testifying that elements of the temple are corrupted by men and do not represent my true relationship to deity. I still have a temple recommend and remain worthy to renew it. But I no longer attend. I go to the mountains and I pray. I meditate at home. I remember the covenants I have made. I remember that my body is a temple. I repeat the temple language in my mind and heart, but I covenant to follow Jesus Christ. I do not believe God is pleased when I repeat the lie that my covenant with deity goes through a male conduit on earth. Until the temple language changes, I believe as a people the LDS are just as lost as the Catholics beseeching a saint to appeal to Jesus Christ on their behalf. I know with every fiber of my Mormon being that salvation is through Jesus Christ and not through Lucifer, a saint, or a husband. The temple was important to me at one time, but I feel more peace and sanctification outside of the temple in a close personal relationship with Jesus that transcends what I felt when I was frequent temple participant.

  221. “Whenever I try to pray about these issues I run into a solid wall. Prayer is apparently all about submitting our will to God’s. But I don’t want to submit my will to his if he is as the temple portrays him. I don’t even WANT to have faith in that God. I just can’t seem to make any progress in gaining the certainty that others in this thread have expressed that God is good, loving, and that the sexism in the temple is not from him.”
    Yes!! I feel like I could have written this. This issue, along with a few others (*Ahem* polygamy) have set my testimony back so far that I actually don’t currently hold a temple recommend because I can’t in good conscience get past the first question–“Do you believe in God the Eternal Father?” I’m at a place where I am finding it hard to even WANT to believe. If faith requires first a desire….I’m in the wilderness grasping blindly around for so much as a desire because…I can’t just trust fall on this one. And I don’t want to go into the whole praying about it thing having set myself up to accept whatever the answer may be. In large part because I’ve got a pretty good idea of what that is. I’m not ready for my Celestial Lobotomy.

  222. Steve, I appreciate the validation that I am, in fact, lunatic.

  223. I don’t know if she’s still following the discussion, but my comments are directed toward Melinda. Unfortunately, we don’t have frank and open discussions about the temple and what it all means. I have found the best, most respectful and probably correct interpretation in the Feminist Mormon Housewives link provided up thread. I’m not going to talk about language. I’m going to talk about actions.

    1) Women veiling their faces in the prayer circle. We know that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they became spiritually dead, cut off from direct interaction with Heavenly Father. In the first covenant, Adam covenants with Heavenly Father and Eve covenants to Adam (not Heavenly Father). In the temple ceremony, Adam is not spiritually cut off from Heavenly Father. He can covenant directly to him. However, Eve does not (cannot, Heavenly Father does not allow her to) covenant directly to him. Eve remains spiritually cut off. Eve remains spiritually dead. I believe this is why women cover their faces in the prayer circle. Women are spiritually cut off and not able to interact directly with Heavenly Father.

    2. At the veil. Men are pulled through the veil by someone representing Christ. Women are pulled through the veil by their husbands. This makes it so The Savior doesn’t determine if any given woman enters the Celestial Kingdom. Her husband does. Some conflate this to mean that her husband is her God, and other language in the temple supports this, or that her husband is her mediator between her and Heavenly Father in perpetuity. We have no ceremonies in the Celestial Room that indicate that Eve can now speak directly to Heavenly Father without using her husband as mediator.

    Additonally, We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression. Yet, all women are separated from God, because Eve ate the fruit. If this were not the case, women would not veil their faces in the prayer circle and they would be pulled through the veil by the Savior.

    Finally, this permeates out into the real world. It is the reason a man presides in the home. If both you and your husband faced a dilemma, prayed about it, received different answers and then went to the bishop to break the tie, your bishop would side with your husband. I’m not even going to say “might” or “probably”. I’m confident enough in this to say it will happen, because that is how our doctrine spells it out. Your husband’s spiritual insight will trump yours, every time. If you don’t think that’s unfair, yet, just wait, you will.

    Will I tell Heavenly Father this is sexist? Yes. I will and I do. If I can’t be honest with my maker, with whom can I be honest?

    Now. I could be entirely wrong. Completely wrong. As could you. I will say that the bulk of the comments from our church leaders from Joseph Smith to today supports what I say. Also the fact that this information is withheld and not discussed openly in a church setting implies that I might be right. If they won’t change the ceremony, I would hope that they would openly and bluntly explain and discuss these things so our members have full disclosure before they covenant. Yes. There will be many who will walk, but the ones who stay will be more steadfast.

  224. Anonymous Number Four says:

    Mary, I respectfully and thoroughly disagree with your interpretation. I am uncomfortable discussing the temple ceremony online, but I want to state for the record that it is entirely possible to be a Mormon feminist and have issues with sexism in the church and still disagree with the fMh interpretation of the temple.

  225. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    wording changes that could be on the table:

    Although it is biblical, the separate consequences for Adam and Eve could be given jointly. It’s not like women never earn their bread by the sweat of the brow and men never suffer sorrow as their children suffer the plagues of mortality and even childhood death. The consequences could be combined–Adam AND Eve, because you (plural) have done X, you will both have Y. The two stand together, sharing the consequences that overlap. Does it really matter who is put under covenant first? Both made the same transgression.

    I have not viewed Eve’s covenant as truly being to Adam, just as the language was modified in 1986 or so to go from obeying the law of your husband to obeying the law of the Lord. The Lord may allow the covenant to be to Him through the husband, but that only is binding as He wills it. I am truly grateful that my wife sees me in that picture somehow, but I though I certainly try to be a Christ-like influence in our marriage, I never visualize myself as any kind of mediator.

    I’m not supportive of veiling and unveiling of our endowed sisters either. That practice seems totally cultural.

    And jb, women in the temple are ENDOWED. They wear the garment of the priesthood. This is way beyond the Ordain Women debate.

  226. When they changed it from “Law of your husband” to “Law of The Lord” the didn’t actually change anything substantial- the husband is The Lord of the woman: it is the same dude. There are tons of quotes in the Journal of Discourses that reflect this and given that these men were the framers of the temple ceremony I can’t help but see a connection.

  227. Anon #4. I absolutely understand and respect your desire to not discuss this online. What discussions like this make abundantly clear to me, is the need for true preparation for the temple. True discussion of the meaning of the temple. Even if these prep classes and discussions take place inside the temple. You know why?

    It is my experience and education in the Church that the temple, our theology, our doctrine are discriminatory. You can argue your point of view all you want. I’m glad you’ve had different experiences. However, I would appreciate hearing and learning from unquestionably authoritative, yes correlated, sources exactly just what this all means. Yes, I believe every last one of us “slothful servants” should have it spelled out plainly for us. That way, if the temple actually is about equality and there is no way if can be construed otherwise, it will be the beautiful experience for everyone it was meant to be.

    As it is, we are left to online discussions that are only just guesswork and can very quickly dissolve into disrespect. I wish I knew your point of view. Anon #4. It might give me comfort, but I absolutely respect your desire to not discuss it here. Blessings to you.

  228. Anonymous Number Four says:

    Thanks, Mary. As I noted above (way, way, above) these are real concerns and not lightly dismissed and if they are getting in the way of the truths of the gospel taught in the endowment, they should be shared with temple matrons, and probably others, but the matrons are a starting point. I do agree that we need better temple preparation than most people get.

    After thinking for a few hours I think I’ve figured out some thoughts that I would be comfortable sharing. This discussion has been long and I haven’t read it all, so I don’t know if someone has brought up any of the following, but this is what works for me.

    I like to view the entire ceremony as symbolic of the plan of salvation, and not primarily or even secondarily about family or gender roles.

    The endowment is not a discrete ordinance but is part of a series of ordinances starting with baptism and ending with sealing. Taken all together from beginning to end and interpreted in light of ancient and modern scripture, these ordinances teach us that we each, male and female, approach God individually, but also together as families and communities. Each of us, male and female, can approach God and we do so endowed or gifted with the power of the Holy Ghost and the power of the priesthood. Each of us, male and female, takes upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, and enters God’s presence through the atonement and intercession of Jesus Christ.

  229. Anon#4, that’s a nice worldview, but we should change the script to match. Right now it doesn’t match what you said.

  230. Anonymous Number Four says:

    Oh, I think if you’re willing to consider the symbolism and language in ways other than through the lens of gender relationships, it can work. Takes some effort, but there’s plenty there to work with.

  231. My heart hurts. I feel brought down to the same or greater level of despair that I always feel about this topic. I have gone away feeling confused, scared and deeply hurt by some of what is said and implied in the temple. I have and continue to look for answers. For something to calm my weeping soul. I don’t want to argue. I genuinely want answer. I want to be faithful. I want to do what is right. But I also want to know truth and feel peace. Before entering the temple, I was so happy to go somewhere that I could feel the spirit more strongly than I had ever felt before. I couldn’t wait to have all of my burning questions answered in the Lord’s house. I had been taught that it was the most holy place on earth. Where the most pure and true principals were taught. I was horrified and dismayed to be placed further away from my Savior and my Heavenly Father. My link to him was now to be through my husband. Because Eve did “the right thing” she was further away from the Lord. Women must veil their faces. Women must listen to the counsel of their husbands. They give themselves to their husbands and their husbands take them. I try so hard, every time I go, to ignore the hurtful language and actions. I try to desperately to hear the words differently or for them to mean something else. But I always leave feeling like a second class citizen and an unfaithful member. I also leaved so confused because I know that in all of my church lessons, conference talks and member discussions, I have always been taught that God loves us all and we all have the opportunity to have access to him and to salvation through the Savior. So my brain and heart die each time I try to match this up with the words and how I feel in the temple. The temple is the place where the epitome of truth is to be found, so why then is it tainted with “the philosophies of men”? Why would God allow this to happen in the most holy of places? I can’t rectify it. I can’t ease my heart. Please God, please speak to your prophet. If this isn’t how your kingdom operates and you love me and want me to have as much access to you as my brothers, please change this. And please help me to understand why these words and the words in earlier endowments were allowed to stand. I know you love us all. I feel that deeply in my heart. I know that at least is true. And I cling to that with everything I have in my soul.

  232. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    When they changed it from “Law of your husband” to “Law of The Lord” they didn’t actually change anything substantial- the husband is The Lord of the woman

    The Lordship is a title that can be given and taken away. The husband must hearken to the Father. Thus it was not phrased as the Law of “Your Lord”; it was the Law of “The Lord”. Prior to that change, it was the law of “your husband”, not the law of ‘The husband’. I find that to be significant. I am not up on my Journal of Discourses, but while I find JD interesting, it is not canon. And while I believe my interpretation to be the case, my opinion is, obviously, not canon either.

  233. “Oh, I think if you’re willing to consider the symbolism and language in ways other than through the lens of gender relationships, it can work. Takes some effort, but there’s plenty there to work with.”

    So when I’m getting sealed and the words of my commitment to my husband are different from the words of my husband’s commitment to me, I am supposed to “consider” that “in ways other than through the lens of gender relationships”? Like I have hazel eyes and he has dark brown eyes? How does that work for couples with the same eye color though?

  234. Christopher says:

    “And while I believe my interpretation to be the case, my opinion is, obviously, not canon either.”

    And thank goodness it’s not. Even if “Lordship is a title that can be taken away,” how does that make having a husband be lord over his woman any less sexist? The sexism has nothing to do with the righteousness of the people involved. It’s about structure, and that is an undeniably sexist relationship.

  235. Anonymous4this,

    Certainly you can disagree with any given interpretation of the ceremony. it is possible to read many interpretations into any ceremony, especially if one is willing to be selective or allow for large allegorical jumps. The Two Trees for example is a remarkably creative attempt at theology making. What I think is harder is to argue that these very convenient interpretations have any support in the historical record. I think the FMH essay does a pretty convincing job of laying out what the intended structure and interpretation of the ceremony was when written down by BY. It is after all his “Lecture at the Veil” that provides all the background voice over content that runs throughout the ceremony. It is just incredibly clear that BY saw, taught and intended a strong gender hierarchy in the temple liturgy. Men *were* the Lords of their wives. They were specifically to make obedience covenants to them. The men did act as intercessors for the women. The ceremony was designed to reinforce polygamy (and Adam God doctrine).

    Today we are highly uncomfortable with this hierarchy and it stands in opposition to the repeatedly expressed belief that man and woman are true equals before God. Given that belief we are all but required to come up with competely new interpretations of the ceremony – ones completely at odds with the framer’s intent. Not so bad, but you can understand that for people that strongly believe BY’s temple ceremony came through direct revelation this creates all sorts of problems. Does God really think this way? How could he allow such mistakes into the most important, crowning liturgy? Why did the rewrites in 1990 work SO hard to keep the hierarchical structured systematically intact across the whole ceremony? Why when with just a few minor modifications one could establish a largely equal/partnership relationship in the temple liturgy have there been a centuries of resistance to doing so? Even as large number of women weep to God? These are hard, hard questions. Looking for the “secret”, “correct” interpretation that was “intended” all along I would suggest is a counterproductive road to lead anyone down. It just doesn’t exist in the ceremony as written. As Eliza Snow would say, “Reason stares”. Hoping for further light and knowledge – light and knowledge which *corrects* bad doctrine instead of explains how were were just so blind all along is the best I think many of us can do.

    Nothing else is good enough for my daughters (or my wife). It is time we tell our leaders that. Its time we tell *each other* that. It is our truth, this is our Light of Christ. This is our offering. I hope one day it shall be accepted.

  236. Inherent sexism implies extreme form of prejudice.

    If you mean men and women are treated both individually in addition to jointly, welcome to biology. Nature I suppose is inherently sexist, don’t blame the temple.

  237. Anonymous Number Four says:

    You’re right, Mary, regardless of any discussion here or elsewhere or any language in the temple, no one stands between you and your Heavenly Father except Jesus Christ, and he stands there on your behalf, to help you to return to the presence of your heavenly parents. That is the foundation of our faith. That is the restored gospel. I’m truly sorry if my words caused you any additional pain. I did not mean to do anything but share what works for me. It is important for you to work through this and come to your own resolution. I hope you feel peace and comfort throughout the process.

  238. “No matter how great my husband is, he’s not Jesus. ”

    While that is obviously true, where many are missing the mark on this issue is that priesthood specifically is connected to Jesus. So Jesus, in effect, gives your husband (presuming he’s endowed) not only power but the authority to represent him. So in many things when officiating as a righteous priesthood holder, he’s just as good as — and in in eternal sense, which is what the temple is about, is an equal inheritor with Jesus. Gripes about that?

  239. rah said: ‘Does God really think this way? How could he allow such mistakes into the most important, crowning liturgy? Why did the rewrites in 1990 work SO hard to keep the hierarchical structured systematically intact across the whole ceremony? Why when with just a few minor modifications one could establish a largely equal/partnership relationship in the temple liturgy have there been a centuries of resistance to doing so? Even as large number of women weep to God? These are hard, hard questions. Looking for the “secret”, “correct” interpretation that was “intended” all along I would suggest is a counterproductive road to lead anyone down. It just doesn’t exist in the ceremony as written. As Eliza Snow would say, “Reason stares”.’

    Someone needs to write “The Girl Who Weeps: How Mormonism Doesn’t Make Sense of Life.”

  240. “You’re right, Mary, regardless of any discussion here or elsewhere or any language in the temple, no one stands between you and your Heavenly Father except Jesus Christ, and he stands there on your behalf, to help you to return to the presence of your heavenly parents.”

    Look, any time you have to start conceding the words (“regardless of…any language in temple”) that means that the temple script ought to be changed to match what you are saying. I agree with your worldview, we agree. But the temple language says something different, or at the very least, something that any person would easily mistake for something different, and so why not bring better clarity?

    If there is a sign in the lobby of the temple saying “”?

    Why with all this weird nonsense about “well if you just view the sign not through the lens of direction, the sign is completely clear!!” That’s evasive and, frankly, insane. Just change it to match what we all agree it actually means.

  241. Oh bother. A big chunk of my comment was mistaken for an HTML tag and removed.

  242. Ok here is the text (thank you, Back button):


    If there is a sign in the lobby of the temple saying “(left arrow) Go Left” and it turns out that the door to the left is a dead end broom closet and what the sign really means is to go right, and pretty much everyone agrees with that, and if you complain to the temple president or matron about the fact that the sign directed you to a broom closet they would tell you the sign actually means go right, wouldn’t it make more sense to just change the sign to say “Go Right (right arrow)”?

    Why with all this weird nonsense about “well if you just view the sign not through the lens of direction, the sign is completely clear!!” That’s evasive and, frankly, insane. Just change it to match what we all agree it actually means.

  243. Anonymous#4, the Mary you responded to was different from me. Thank you for your compassion, though. Also, thank you for sharing your views. I have tried other symbolic views and they haven’t worked. I’m willing to take any one on a trip through the temple to see how it works, including yours.

    For the crowd, at present, I don’t agree with Anonymous#4, but that is because I haven’t experimented upon her word. She said she was hesitant to share, yet she did. The temple is a remarkably private experience for us, as saints. I am honored she shared her interpretation with us. I think it has merit. I like the beauty of the concept of growth in your interpretation. Like i said, I may not agree, but there is something to be learned, if only about ourselves by considering a symbolic interpretation. Aren’t we all saying, “it’s all symbolic”?

    For clarification, I’m the one who wrote about the circle, the veil, the article of faith and defended your privacy. I’m also changing my screen name, slightly.

  244. Really, Cynthia, you don’t have to convince me. I have some understanding of the issues and what’s at stake. I understand that my method is not a grand unified theory, beautifully and internally consistent and perfectly logical, uniting all dispensations of time and converting it all into pure truth and language and creating a glorious solution, calibrated to the modern mind but also applicable to all future generations. I know that. But I’m coping with life and faith as best as I can and sometimes, like others here, just barely making it, but still forging ahead, trying to make sense of it all.

  245. Every time I read something akin to “its just biology” it makes me wonder how far we have fallen when we are using the behavior of dogs, Neanderthals and arachnids as an excuse for men’s historic treatment of women and some claim that God wants it that way. I always thought the natural man was an enemy to God not our exemplar.

  246. rah, I absolutely agree with you. I frequently read excuses for poor behavior as it’s our animal nature, it’s just biology, it’s how chimpanzees and other primates behave. My response is chimpanzees are not my role models. That is for the evolutionists. Long ago, some of those primates decided they didn’t want to be chimpanzees, anymore. rah covered those that are on here who believe in God and I am 100% behind that statement.

    A#4, I will let you know that I read your symbolic interpretation and I thought you might be struggling. When I applied symbolic interpretations, I was struggling, too. I honor that you are trying to make it work. I’m glad you have found a way. Like I said, I will be taking your interpretation on a trip through a session.

  247. Well, I am an evolutionist, but I’m not a devolutionist. Biology is not destiny, and we imbue “biology” with social constructs a lot in the church, and to a lesser extent, in society at large.

  248. Anon, but just for today. says:

    I definitely see gender inequality in the temple ordinances, and I don’t like it. My wife however, is not bothered by it. She was endowed long before we were married, prior to going on her mission, and she was sexually assaulted at some point after (again, before we met each other). For a few years after that incident, she didn’t date or interact socially with men, as her trauma caused her to have an overwhelming distrust of males. As she tells me, making covenants to a non-existent husband gave her a great deal of peace, and hope for a better future, during a time when her marriage potential looked bleak. Frequent temple attendance, along with therapy, was integral to her healing process. But that was her unique experience, and it differs considerably across Mormondom.

    Nevertheless, I tolerate the wording of the endowment ceremony as presently constituted, as I understand it to be the work of men, reflecting pioneer-era attitudes about gender roles. But more importantly, it is the overarching principle of using an imperfect process to ultimately gain admittance to God’s presence that makes it meaningful. Once we pass through the veil, there is no more ceremony, no more pageantry, no more key phrases or hand motions, no more gender segregation. No more words. In the Celestial Room, there is just beautiful silence, and in silence is where God communicates to us best. Language is man-made. Words are cheap, and ultimately meaningless to God. Which is why a few archaically constructed phrases in the ordinances shouldn’t dictate a person’s worth.

    The gender-specific covenants in the endowment ceremony have been changed before, and they will probably change again. And now that we live in the era of digital media editing, the new movies can, with relative ease and inexpense, be altered to reflect such a change.

    That fact that this thread has been so active in such a short amount of time is telling–that perhaps we as a Church still have a lot of baggage to unpack regarding this issue. No matter where exactly one stands, the topic resonates with a lot of people.

  249. it's a series of tubes says:

    This makes it so The Savior doesn’t determine if any given woman enters the Celestial Kingdom. Her husband does.

    Mary, your interpretation is expressly contradicted by 2 Nephi 9:41.

  250. I Wear Heels to the Temple says:

    The Power of Plainness by Marvin J. Ashton.

    “Glamour and mystery do not lead to eternal life. Some overlook the great rewards and the joys of the gospel because they feel that the gift of eternal life and the knowledge of the Savior can only be attained by ornamentation and mystery.”

    Why can’t we just say what we mean? To those of you saying that the words in the temple liturgy don’t mean what they say, and that the rest of us are just too dumb or spiritually immature to get it, please open your eyes. I’m so tired of the church’s tendency to dance around things with language (example…”several months before her 15th birthday” instead of 14, or “carefully worded denials…while implicitly leaving open the possibility that individuals, under direction of God’s living prophet, might do so.”).

  251. Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this difficult topic. I’m closing the thread.