Roundtable: Temple Prep, Part II

Part I is here. Second question for Tarik, Jana, Tracy and Steve: What are we missing in our temple prep courses? If you haven’t looked at the Endowed From On High manual, I encourage you to do so – it is the current course. What’s your opinion? What more should we be doing?

Tracy: I keep circling back to “nuts and bolts”. The temple prep class is basically a re-warmed version of the discussion and new member lessons. I’ve glanced at the lessons and they don’t seem very different than they did 8 years ago, but I’ll give it a closer reading later.

I would like them to actually go over a What to Expect… type lesson.

Once you revive your living-endowment recommend (it’s different than the one you use forever after) you will to get your ceremonial clothing (and then explain what it is, why you cannot put it on at home, and how and why you can’t open the garments until the locker room, etc) You will walk and at the desk will be greeted by a man who will check your recommend. and so on and so on.

I was lucky enough to have two friends (Steve, one of them is you) go over specific details with me prior to going through. It helped me immensely. Matter of fact, I’m willing to write that piece.

More thoughts later.

Tarik: What’s missing is our understanding that only certain things are not to be revealed to others (they are explicitly stated several times if you get my drift) the rest should be fine to discuss. No manual will ever correctly inform candidates if we are overly sensitive to information that can be talked about openly with those seriously investigating.

Steve: I’m not sure if the missing piece is more ceremony content. I’m not ruling that out as a possibility or anything, I just don’t think that the content is the only missing element. You could completely spell out the entire ceremony and still people wouldn’t be prepared. No, I feel like the missing piece for me was around expectations and attitudes. Maybe more discussion about what makes the temple different, how to situate it as part of regular worship, something like that. I’m probably not making a lot of sense – I just think that more information is not a sufficient improvement to temple prep.

Tracy: “I feel like the missing piece for me was around expectations and attitudes.” Yes. This.

So many people, still, talk about the temple in breathless whispers, in awe at how wonderful and spiritual and amazing it is. You’re told it’s the holiest place on earth, and are set up to have it be the pinnacle of your religious experience. And you hear this from not just one or two people, but everywhere you turn. So when you go, and don’t experience it that way, there is tremendous emotional risk and potential alienation. I remember being bombarded with well-meaning people asking me, with bright, excited eyes, how it was. The expectation was that my spiritual mind was blown and that nothing could ever be better.

It was anything but. The high ceremony and symbolism is something we don’t even remotely prepare people for. We drop them in and say “This is the best thing ever!!1!” and then refuse to talk about it afterwards. It’s particularly alienating when you don’t have any family to talk about it with- no mom or dad to turn to, no sisters or brothers who have done the same thing and even have a frame of reference for it.

I thank God for the online communities of faithful saints willing to talk respectfully. I didn’t and don’t want people who are against the church to be where I turn- and their voices are loud. We have to do a better job of speaking out about things- respectfully, but still speaking. I probably would have ended up leaving, confused and alienated, had I not found the support of places like BCC, T&S, ZD, fMh, etc…

Jana: I had a difficult experience with the endowment when I went through the temple the first time, particularly because it seemed to me that Christ, whose picture was prominently displayed throughout the temple and whose example and sacrifice are the cornerstone of the LDS faith, was nowhere to be found in the ritual itself. I felt crushed by that. How could such a Christocentric religion have as its centerpiece a mystery rite that did not revolve in any obvious way around Christ?

In the aftermath of this experience a couple of things were really helpful. The first was that when I saw my devout friend JL shortly after and he asked me how it went, I told him honestly with tears in my eyes that it had been confusing and not at all what I had expected. His comment was, “Would it help you at all to know that it used to be worse?” When JL had first gone through the temple, it was before the 1990 changes. I had read about that and knew what had changed, but him asking me that question was crucial in that moment because it made me realize the temple ceremony has evolved before and it can evolve again.

So while the question “Would it help you at all to know that it used to be worse?” may not seem on the surface like a very pastoral thing to say to someone who is hurting, it absolutely was the right thing for him to say to me in that moment—what I needed to hear and think about. It led to a long discussion that evening with him and several other friends who helped me put things in perspective. To balance all of the facile magical thinking that surrounds the temple ceremony, I needed to be reminded that it is a product not only of God’s inspiration but of human vision. And that the temple, for all its importance, is just one more step in the journey I am taking to grow closer to God, not the most important spiritual experience of my life.

The second thing that was helpful occurred many weeks later, when I happened to run into an LDS scholar at a conference and we began to discuss my recent first experience in the temple. This person, who was far more reflective about the temple and experienced in its teachings than I was, was able to essentially walk me through key elements of the endowment ritual and help me to understand what we were meant to do and say. It was mind-blowing and life-changing to have this conversation. This scholar was careful not to violate sacred covenants, but within that parameter there was still a great deal we were able to talk about. I was given a larger suggested narrative through which I could understand the overall significance of the stages of the endowment. It transformed the way I viewed the temple ritual and my role in it.

One thing this person pointed out to me over and over was what a blessing it is that the Church doesn’t tell us how to interpret the temple ritual, meaning that we have total freedom to interpret it however we want. I had not seen this as a blessing before, I confess. But I’ve had cause to reconsider. As frustrating as it is that we don’t have strong spiritual guidance about the temple ritual, that’s no doubt better than an inflexible or literalist interpretation being foisted upon us.

Steve: Jana and Tracy, it sounds like you lucked out, to a certain extent, in having a great network as you went through the temple. It makes me wonder what happens if there isn’t that network. Tarik, what was your experience on that front? Were you on your own through all this?

Tarik: I was not alone, I had friends every step of the way. The mission president was a great help, nearly walked me through the ceremony. Was my escort through the temple. So I had good people around, my entire ward was there.

Comments

  1. To Tracy’s comment, people don’t know how to talk about the temple, so they compensate by overselling it.

    Back in the 00’s, President Hinckley did a regional training with SPs in the midwest. He said they were the last line of defense in making sure people were prepared to go to the temple. In response, I know that 2 SPs started, in their living recommend interviews, basically walking people through the ordinances. I don’t know how widespread this counsel was or is, nor how many do this now.

    With the passing of Elder Packer, I fully expect to see some changes in our approach to the temple, including temple preparation, although I’m not inclined to say more about this.

  2. Anon, I would agree with that. Elder Packer really drove the last big wave of temple prep.

  3. If I were in charge I would focus more on the historical context of the development of the endowment liturgy, the early revelations that talk so much about receiving God’s law, becoming clean from the sins of this generation, and receiving God’s presence, how those promises were fulfilled with the Kirtland endowment, and how the current endowment preserves that event and provides access to it even now by providing a way that we symbolically become clean, symbolically receive God’s law, and symbolically receive his presence, sort of like the way the sacrament preserves the memory of the last supper and symbolically provides access to God’s presence.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I will mention one thing that I personally found very helpful in my understanding and appreciation of the temple. When I was in law school at the University of Illinois in the early 80s, we went to church at the Institute building and attended a student ward (for both marrieds and singles). So we were pretty plugged in to Institute stuff. A visiting CES person came and gave a great presentation, one small portion of which touched on Masonic influence in the endowment. Rather than being defensive about it he acknowledged such influence and pointed out that the parallels were widely known in Nauvoo, since there were so many Masons there, but over time as Mormon involvement in Masonry waned the knowledge of that influence waned along with it. He didn’t give any specifics, but just that general framing was helpful.

    So maybe a couple of years after that I’ve graduated and am working in Chicago. I’m browsing in a bookstore one evening (yes, we used to have those things) and I see a book titled Ronayne’s Handbook of Freemasonry. Remembering the words of that Institute lecturer, I picked up the book and browsed through it, and, lo and behold, there, with drawn illustrations, was an explanation of many of the ritual elements that were familiar to me from the temple.

    While some people might find that distressing, I found it enlightening. The “weird” ritual stuff that was presented acontextually and without any real explanation now all of a sudden had a real life historical provenance, which to me made it not weird anymore and much more interesting. I know the Church is skittish about that, but for me discovering the Masonic precedents to the ritual gave it all an historical grounding that was far superior to thinking it was just weird stuff made up out of whole cloth by JS or BY.

  5. As frustrating as it is that we don’t have strong spiritual guidance about the temple ritual, that’s no doubt better than an inflexible or literalist interpretation being foisted upon us.

    Well said, Jana. My worry is that this is happening more and more though — an inflexible or literalist interpretation is being foisted upon us. Little by little, we are losing our ability as a people to think about things as types and shadows, symbols and metaphors, allegorical drama aimed at moral education, in favor of a literalism and inerrantism borrowed from fundamentalist political Evangelical Christianity. It’s a real concern with implications for our culture as a whole.

  6. Great comment, JKC. That’s a really helpful way to look at it and explain it.

  7. I would summarize that we’re missing content (after temple prep, you still have no idea what to expect) and context (you have no idea how to contextualize it, historically, scripturally, or in terms of genre.) I think that there’s a lot of room to expand our prep in a way that won’t offend or shock a typical LDS but provide a lot of help.

    FWIW, my Genesis book will have a chapter on the temple (assuming it makes it through editorial) that deals with some of these issues, and I hope one day to turn my temple site and unpublished prep materials (taught temple prep in Chicago for 18 months) into a book.

  8. “It made me realize the temple ceremony has evolved before and it can evolve again.”

    I sincerely wish I could share your sense of optimism. Historical and scriptural contextualization shows that there are no easy fixes to the temple ceremony such as giving Eve more speaking parts.

    “Within Mormon theology, as it developed within the Utah church, the concept of the plurality of worlds has implications eventually extending far beyond the idea of multiple inhabited worlds. Fundamentally, the plurality doctrine is wedded to a complex fabric with both theological and religious dimensions. Theologically, astronomical pluralism is a necessary feature of the other forms of Mormon pluralism – wives and gods. Brigham Young later expressed Joseph Smith’s pluralism holistically. Speaking on plural marriage before a general conference session on 6 October 1854, Young clarified this radical feature of the restorationist gospel: “The whole subject of the marriage relationship is not within my reach or in any man’s reach on this earth. It is without the beginning of days or the end of years; it is a hard matter to reach. We can feel some things with regard to it: it lays the foundation for worlds, for angels, for Gods; for intelligent beings to be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives”. Within Mormonism the sealing of the men and women is the underlying condition to attain godhead. In turn God ( male / female ) propagates spiritual, and eventually physical, progeny that requires, of course, worlds for inhabitation. Thus the complex of pluralism – wives, gods, and worlds – established the fundamental basis of nineteenth-century Mormon cosmology” (Science, Religion and Mormon Cosmology, Erich Robert Paul, p. 120)

    Mormons will need to fix their creation story first, then fix everything else. That so many people, including President Nelson, take this story to be literal makes that job even more difficult than it already is.

  9. Bro. Jones says:

    I made this comment on a BCC post in 2008, think it’s still pretty good.
    ***
    If ever called to teach the temple prep class, I’d want to give the following introduction:

    “Let me tell you exactly what happens in the temple endowment: after being blessed, washed and annointed, you will dress yourself in sacred clothing, and observe a retelling of the creation story and of Adam and Eve. This story will have some familiar elements, and some new ones. You should understand that this story is meant to have symbolic meaning about your own journey through this life and your relationship with God. You will also make several serious covenants with your Heavenly Father; although very important, sacred, and serious, if you have ever been interviewed by a Bishop, you should not expect anything shocking in the content of these covenants.

    In this class, then, we will research the scriptural and historical significance of: the temple, the priesthood, washings/annointings, sacred clothing, the creation story, symbolism as a teaching principle, your relationship with God, the nature of covenants, and the application of scriptural teachings to yourself as an individual. This will prepare you for the teachings, setting, and ritual of of the temple endowment.”
    ***
    In the years since I wrote this, the one thing I’d change is the bit about the covenants. I was trying to be circumspect in this post, but in the years since then I’ve felt that female temple patrons need to be forewarned somehow about the gender-specific covenant that they make. It’s not my place to suggest that this covenant change (though I truly hope it does), but I feel like the women can be completely blindsided by it, and it’s totally off-key in the context of current gender rhetoric in the church.

  10. excellent comment Bro. Jones!

  11. Thanks, john. It took me years of going to the temple before I saw it that way, but once I did, it seemed so obvious. And I like that seeing it that way helps me to see Kirtland not as just some incomplete forerunner that can be dismissed now that we have the real deal, but as the thing that gives meaning to post-Nauvoo endowment, almost like the founding event, the same way that the last supper was the founding event for the eucharist. Seeing how important the Kirtland pentecost was to the early saints, including my own ancestors, I think seeing it this way is probably closer to the way that they saw it. Also, it makes the early revelations much more seamless between Kirtland and Nauvoo.

    Also, seeing the endowment as a sort of way to access the Kirtland pentecost, collapsing the distances of time and space, is kind of cool because of the way that it ties in with the idea of work for the dead, which kind of does the same thing but on a different level. Also, the sacrament sort of does the same thing as well, where we look back to the Nephite sacrament (because that’s where our prayers come from), which in turn looks back to the last supper, and all of which also look forward to the millennial sacrament described in section 27.

  12. Also, why in the world would we not discuss the covenants openly in temple prep, rather than just say that they won’t be surprising? Even if we are squeamish about directly quoting the language, it seems to me that the five covenants of obedience, sacrifice, the law of the gospel, chastity, and consecration can be discussed without crossing any lines. I mean, they’re not even really that different from the vows of obedience (or fealty), chastity and poverty that are taken in religious orders in other faiths.

  13. Indeed.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve heard the five covenants described just as JKC does on more than one occasion over the pulpit in sacrament meeting. They are not off limits, and so refusing to tell someone going through the temple ofr the first time about them makes no sense.

  15. They’ve been discussed publicly by various presidents of the Church, though not always in explicit connection with the temple. Collection here.

  16. A different Anon says:

    Could we discuss the hearken covenant for women in temple prep as well? I’ve never heard that one discussed over the pulpit.

  17. I see no reason why not.

  18. I would really like to discuss that one, but I cannot figure out how.

  19. My grandmother went through the temple in 1942 when she got married. She was so disturbed by what she experienced, she didn’t return for over 50 years. I had a very similar experience when I went through in the early 1990s. Everyone I tried to talk to about my experience just smiled and told me that I should just keep going. Don’t worry, I would grow to love it. Everyone does.

    FYI, when your initial reaction is, “Help, I’ve grown up in a horribly weird cult without knowing it!”, being told not to worry, you will eventually be assimulated, is decidedly NOT comforting. I am very envious of the members of the roundtable. I would have loved to have someone to talk to. My mother just kept begging me not to embarrass her any further in the temple. I may have made a small scene in the celestial room. Maybe there needs to be a place to debrief afterwards? Or perhaps a Valium beforehand, as my mother had suggested before my sealing a few days later?

  20. If we can discuss obedience, I don’t see why we can’t discuss hearken, since they are part of the same thing, but like Tracy says, it’s not easy to figure out the right way to do it.

  21. rrt,
    “FYI, when your initial reaction is, “Help, I’ve grown up in a horribly weird cult without knowing it!”, being told not to worry, you will eventually be assimulated, is decidedly NOT comforting.”

    THIS!

    I wonder if it would be helpful to have temple preppers attend ritualistic services of other religions. I don’t know that this would ever be correlation approved, but I think I would have my children do this.

  22. The only reason why the hearken thing is tough is because of implications about gender inequality. Hit it dead on, I say. As with a lot of temple stuff, it is what it is, but it is not an accurate descriptor of spousal relationships or of the relationship between God and women. It just isn’t. That covenant is an anachronism and a tie to polygamy that we don’t really believe anymore. I take it the same way I take ‘presiding’.

  23. I attended a temple sealing earlier this year and the sealer attempted to explain the women hearkening to their husbands and the unreciprocal giving of themselves (my phrasing, not his). He said it was because Eve disobeyed God. He then went on to speak directly to the bride on how she could hearken. I felt sick to my stomach. She started quietly crying as soon as he moved on to another subjectand want looking at her. I guess the 2nd article of faith only applies to men.

  24. That is repulsive.

  25. The problem I see with discussing the hearken covenant is that, unlike the other covenants, it runs contrary to the general teachings of the church. I feel like there are really only 3 ways to go about it:
    1) Discuss the patriarchal order and that men are the presiders and women must hearken to them (I assume this would have been the preferred method when the endowment was written).
    2) Discuss the time period and culture of the time the endowment was written and put the hearken covenant in historical context stating it is not really gospel.
    3) Redefine hearken and discuss how hearkening is part of an egalitarian marriage.

    None of these are palatable to me, so I can imagine that discussing this before going through the temple would cause some women to not seek their endowments (e.g. the recent ZD post).

  26. *and wasn’t looking at her.

  27. EBK, I guess I don’t believe in taking on these things blindly. If such a thing causes women to not seek their endowment, isn’t that telling us something? Should they be otherwise ‘tricked’?

  28. I think the easiest and best fix is to have the men covenant to hearken to their wives and have both women and men covenant with God. Hearkening is not a bad thing, in fact most marriages could benefit from both spouses really trying to listen to and hear each other.

  29. Steve,
    I completely agree with you. I’m just trying to think of this from a correlation perspective. If we want to improve temple prep, how do we do it in an official church sanctioned way. I have every intention of explaining the ins and outs of the ceremony and all covenants to my children (and other close friends and family) and letting them make their decision. I’m afraid that the church doesn’t seem to have this same perspective of the temple. Also, putting the hearken covenant in a temple prep manual would require them to take some sort of stand on what it means I would think.

  30. That is great, Q2! I like that approach. Both hearkening to each other. See, equality and love aren’t so hard!!!

  31. I so agree with better preparation as to the specific covenants. I would just add that a preparatory discussion of the covenants should include a warning that consecration is covenanted to the Church rather than to God. Hearkening to my husband wasn’t the only covenant that bothered me. Also, there is one particular and often overlooked covenant that no one seems to agree on what it means exactly, and I was uncomfortable promising something I didn’t understand.

  32. Bro. Jones says:

    Steve–I would love to present the hearken covenant in the manner you propose in your comment at 1:21pm. I suspect doing so would get the temple prep teacher released in a big hurry. :(

    Prior to my own endowment, I had done a lot of homework. Looking back, my two major reactions after attending were 1) “Wow, there was only one surprising thing. I never actually read a transcript of the ceremony but I apparently did my homework so well that I pretty much had the whole thing down without realizing it.” 2) “But I had been pretty convinced that the ‘hearken’ covenant was anti-Mormon propaganda; I am shocked, embarrassed and angry that it was actually there and more or less as reported.”

    For my part, I’ve since come to interpret the ritual at the veil as superseding all the covenants, including the hearken one, but I’m probably in the minority with that view.

  33. A different Anon says:

    EKB, I agree that the hearken covenant is/should not be part of the gospel as it’s preached from the pulpit today. I wonder if those on the temple committee are discussing this issue, and what their reasons are for keeping it in the script. Is there any possibility for change now that they’ve allowed one woman to serve on the committee? I desperately hope that Rosemary Wixom will speak up.

  34. Q2, yeah, if we could make it equal, both giving of themselves, both covenanting with God, and both covenanting to hearken to each other, it would simplify things a lot. And it would be an easy fix.

    But that’s the rub. We don’t do it, even though it’s simple and more in-line with what we openly teach in our Sunday services and all of our materials. That makes the secrecy doubly problematic- which place are we being deceitful, because we cannot constantly re-define words to have them mean whatever is convenient in a given space. Preside means something. Hearken means something. Giving oneself means something. *My Husband* is not God. Am I equal before God or not? It’s actually a very painful question to ask as a woman, given the current state of things.

  35. A different Anon says:

    Bro. Jones,

    For women, the ritual at the veil reinforces the hearken covenant. Prior to being sealed to her husband, the husband stands in the place of the Lord at the veil. What are we to make of that?

  36. Right. We are to move forward, I think.

  37. Bro. Jones says:

    A different Anon–I’d forgotten about that. I was remembering my own experience and forgot that the sisters have a very different experience. Male privilege. :(

  38. “You should understand that this story is meant to have symbolic meaning about your own journey through this life and your relationship with God.”

    Which, for women, can be devastating.

  39. Tracy M,
    For me, part of the problem with hearken is that I don’t think the church is redefining it. Members who are trying to make peace with the temple and apologists are redefining it. The Teachings of the Living Prophets institute manual written in 2010, the D&C seminary manual written in 2013, and the Old Testament Seminary Manual written in 2014 all define hearken as “to listen and obey.” So when people tell me that it really only means to take their counsel into consideration and then do what I think is right anyway, they are not in agreement with the Church’s official manuals.

  40. That last comment shouldn’t be directed at Tracy M and now I can’t find the comment of whom I meant to direct it to. Sorry Tracy.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    Q2, I agree, and that would be a very easy edit in the same spirit as what was done in 1990. It is to be hoped that the PTB are paying attention and at some point they make the change.

  42. Bro. Jones says:

    EmJen – point well taken. We did something odd at my endowment: both my wife and I participated in the ritual at the veil separately, but then a temple worker realized we were to be sealed the next day and then she had me “officiate” for my wife. For that reason, I’d always read the endowment to have both men and women interacting directly with God and I assumed that the temple worker had made a mistake. If the implication is that women are always assumed to be interacting with their husbands, I can very much see how upsetting that is.

    For what it’s worth, as a man I have felt that the gender imbalance diminished my temple experience and it has made me much less eager to attend, even without me seeing it as you have described it just now. :(

  43. Bro. Jones,
    I appreciate that you, and others, are trying to make theological sense of things that seem gender imbalanced to others. Or hoping things will change.

    However, much like my post on presiding, young women are told over and over and over again that the temple is the pinnacle of their spiritual education and they will learn what they must do to achieve celestial life. More your statement struck me in it’s normalcy. Nothing sounds bad with “You should understand that this story is meant to have symbolic meaning about your own journey through this life and your relationship with God.”

    Unless you believe what you’ve been told your entire life: that the system as it is set up is eternal.

    Many women believe that hearkening, silencing themselves, and completely giving themselves to their husbands as their head is the sacrifice they must make to achieve eternal life for their families.

  44. I recently had a woman explain that there is no inequality in the temple sealing. In fact, she heard a sealer explain it perfectly: the woman is given to the man in the sealing because women are the ultimate gift and isn’t that the most loveliest thing you have ever heard?

  45. EmJen,
    I think this is the very reason many women don’t feel unequal. It is not that they can’t see the differences in how men and women are treated, it’s that they define equality differently. When I worry that women are not equal in the church I am concerned about equal opportunity, power, and governance. Many women are only concerned with equal value. A woman being described as the ultimate gift is evidence that women are equal in value, but not really evidence that they are equal in anything else.

  46. ” That covenant is an anachronism and a tie to polygamy that we don’t really believe anymore.”

    Is that really the case though? The gospel essay on race quite clearly disavowed numerous pst teachings, but the essay on polygamy struck me as overly defensive while at the same time leaving plenty open to its practice both now ( e.g. Elder Oaks ) and in the future.

    Lesson 1 of the temple prep quotes extensively from the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham, the two places where plurality of worlds and plurality of Gods is described. It is unique to Mormons as is the practice of plural marriage all of which are inextricably linked. I sincerely wish it could be as easy as Tracy’s suggestion: “if we could make it equal, both giving of themselves, both covenanting with God, and both covenanting to hearken to each other”.

    “Discuss the time period and culture of the time the endowment was written and put the hearken covenant in historical context stating it is not really gospel.”

    That’s the problem. It * IS * the gospel as outlined in lesson 1 “The Temple Teaches About The Great Plan of Salvation”, which like it or not, includes plural wives. And plural worlds. And plural Gods.

  47. Jeff, not for me. I’ll pass.

  48. PS I don’t think plurality of Gods and plurality of worlds are concepts “inextricably linked” to polygamy. And such are not the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the suffering, death and resurrection of the Son, and the power of salvation in Him. That’s it. Polygamy is out.

  49. Steve, not for me either. And I suspect not for a lot of other people as well. But it remains ambiguous today.

    “Ancient principles—such as prophets, priesthood, and temples—would be restored to the earth. Plural marriage was one of those ancient principles.” It’s difficult to believe in the restoration of some things, as opposed to the restoration of all things.

    Also, “Church members no longer practice plural marriage. Consistent with Joseph Smith’s teachings, the Church permits a man whose wife has died to be sealed to another woman when he remarries. Moreover, members are permitted to perform ordinances on behalf of deceased men and women who married more than once on earth, sealing them to all of the spouses to whom they were legally married. The precise nature of these relationships in the next life is not known, and many family relationships will be sorted out in the life to come. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to trust in our wise Heavenly Father, who loves His children and does all things for their growth and salvation.”

    Maybe that’s comforting to some to trust that it all gets sorted out, but I’ll pass on that too.

  50. Steve, the fact that the language could easily be changed, but hasn’t, is at least indicative of the fact that it is still believed in some corners. Perhaps we’re splitting hairs, and maybe it’s not important to salvation. It does, however, appear to be crucial to exaltation as per Jesus.

    “Latter-day Saints’ motives for plural marriage were often more religious than economic or romantic. Besides the desire to be obedient, a strong incentive was the hope of living in God’s presence with family members. In the revelation on marriage, the Lord promised participants “crowns of eternal lives” and “exaltation in the eternal worlds.” Men and women, parents and children, ancestors and progeny were to be “sealed” to each other—their commitment lasting into the eternities, consistent with Jesus’s promise that priesthood ordinances performed on earth could be “bound in heaven.”

  51. Jeff, just a point of clarification: “Consistent with Joseph Smith’s teachings, the Church permits a man whose wife has died to be sealed to another woman when he remarries.”

    She doesn’t have to have died. She could also be divorced. A man can have more than one living wife, just not at the same time.

  52. Men are routinely denied requests for cancelation when they remarry after a divorce. The new legal and lawful wife has no choice but acquiesce to a polygamous sealing TODAY. NOW. IN 2015. If the new wife wishes her family to be sealed, she is sealed to living man who is still sealed to a living woman, DESPITE his request to have that sealing canceled.

    Polygamy is alive and being practiced today.

  53. Tracy, that’s totally true — but at the same time, I find it completely inconceivable that God’s system would be one of coerced polygamy. My rule of thumb, generally, is to discard elements that go against the God I have come to know through moments of personal revelation. God doesn’t do forced polygamy. So, out it goes! As for the Church’s practice, yeah that’s something that needs to change.

  54. So, this whole talk about what should and should not be discussed… Whose pattern do we follow, the one laid out by you or the church leadership?

    It’s probably a good decision to approach the issue, not as a lawyer, parsing words as to where the dividing line of public discussion about sacred spaces should apply; but rather to simply look to the Apostles and how they approach the topic of speaking about and preparing us for the temple.

  55. GY, I would recommend that you follow the Spirit, that you follow the injunctions you accepted in the temple, and yes, that you look to how the leaders of the Church approach the issue.

  56. GY,
    They don’t approach the topic.

  57. Molly Bennion says:

    Amen, Tracy, at 2:11. Add to that the suggestion God may not wish to see my face and my unease and confusion too often threaten the peace and wisdom possible in the temple. One expects to see the historically human in any earthly ritual but that is little consolation.

  58. Steve, that’s true, and that’s what I’ve opted to do, but it becomes a larger and larger hill when I must sustain people who do *nothing* about this problem as my leaders. I don’t believe God is a jerk, and so I parse it out that way, but when the highest ordinances in my faith offer such dissonance with my personal experience, where does one turn?

  59. Tracy, I turn to my spouse, my friends and to Christ. Mormonism to me is far more about my community and heritage than it is about specific rites,though those rites are important to me and there is real spiritual power in the Church. I take what I can from it all, and just try to live my life in a happy way. The dissonance is there. But there’s also so much good, and the good is far more relevant and proximate to me.

  60. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read all the comments)

    For me, one of the most jarring issues with the “hearken” commandment is that the temple prep class teaches an entirely different marriage model. Members who take the class will come out thinking of marriage under the “triangle” model – where both spouses are on equal footing and grow closer together as they grow towards Christ (the top of the triangle). But that model is completely at odds with the hierarchical model presented in the temple. So, at least on this point, I believe temple prep class makes members less prepared for the temple experience.

    FWIW, my solution to the “hearken” issue is to interpret the commandment as an invitation and then extend that same invitation to myself. My wife and I recognize that sometimes inspiration for the family will come through me. In those instances, she should give serious prayer and thought to what I’ve received and follow it when she gets her own confirmation. Likewise, we consider me to be under the same obligation with respect to inspiration for our family that first comes through her (a not infrequent occurrence).

    Just as with the PotF and presiding, our answer comes more from adding an equal role and authority for my wife than from downplaying or ignoring those roles for me.

  61. Bro. Jones says:

    EmJen–thanks for the additional comments. That gives me a new perspective that I’d managed to miss. I wish we could fix this from the bottom up somehow.

  62. Eve of Destruction says:

    The specific things that made me cry were separate seating by gender and wearing a veil over my face along with all the other women. I knew this would happen but was unprepared for how it would feel. What flashed through my mind were images from the news of veiled women kneeling in mosques separate from men. And everything I did to try to tell myself it was okay, just made me feel like I was a veiled woman in a mosque trying to tell herself it was okay, so I ended up crying until I was almost to the point of having to leave to calm myself. Luckily my tears tend to read as “spiritual” so no one guessed how distressed I actually was.

    I don’t actually think it would help me personally to put those aspects into historical and cultural context. It’s part of the culture I belong to today for a lot of women to wear a veil on their wedding day, and there is separation of genders in PH and RS every Sunday, and I don’t have a problem with those. I can’t explain why I feel powerless and deeply troubled in one instance and not in others.

  63. This discussion has been enlightening–I wasn’t fully aware of the female perspective. My wife’s brief references of personal dissonance with the ritual now make much more sense to me. She actually has more problems in the fact that any changes were made at all, as she was always taught that the ceremony was “revealed.” We taught temple prep together years ago and I often had the same questions–how could we make it a better preparation? I recently read personal journal accounts of the 1847 ceremony. That was also very enlightening. Back then the ceremony seemed much more of a symbolic personal journey through life, as Bro. Jones (November 4, 2015 at 10:54 am) says above. Seems that through several revisions in the ceremony over the years, that granted, were needed to shorten it and also skip the more masonic elements, the result is a less cohesive story that can seem disjointed in parts. Along the same lines, it seems to me that the dramatization and the realistic portrayals in the current film versions are more of a distraction from pondering on the symbolism. Much of the post-session conversations with family members is more a critique of the acting than the content–makes me want to attend the SL Temple “live” sessions again to get re-grounded. I don’t know what to suggest regarding the “hearken” covenant issue, and I guess none of us is on the temple committee. I suppose it’s all a part of the challenges of the restoration of the ancient Church in a modern world.

  64. Not trying to justify / excuse anything, just exploring thoughts:

    1. I think what you personally feel and intend is more important than the thoughts and intents of other people – even the people who wrote the script – which do you think God cares about more?

    2. The dictionary definition of “hearken” doesn’t include “obey” – and hasn’t for a long time as far as I can tell (and never has in my mind). I think the word is difficult in part because when used in scriptures in relation to God or Christ, we tend to think it _must_ include “obey”, but I’m not 100% certain it must, even there. (Certainly we should obey God, but are those scriptures asking us to obey Him, or to listen to and consider His counsel, then use our agency?) But even if it does mean “obey” in those cases, surely its meaning can change with context (“tons” of other words do, like “ton”). There are other scriptural uses of hearken which to me do not imply obedience, but rather, consideration.

    3) The woman’s covenant in relation to “hearken” includes the word “as”. If you interpret this to mean “in the same way that”, it seems like a problem – either subjecting the woman beyond question, or lowering what’s expected of her to “no more diligently than him” – neither seems right (everyone is expected to do their best, regardless of where that falls in relation to another’s best). But if you interpret it to mean “when” or “while” (common definitions of “as”), then there’s an implicit expectation that she’ll know what counsel her husband is receiving (and would have to be receiving (confirmation of) it from the same source herself – as we’re expected to do when prophets and apostles counsel us), and what he’s doing with the counsel he’s receiving – thus, implicitly requiring of her the same as is required of him. And if her husband’s counsel to her is contrary to the counsel he received (or would have received had he been worthy), she is under no obligation to heed his counsel. (This latter interpretation seems much more in harmony with the Gospel as a whole, to me. It also seems logically and linguistically sound – to me.)

    4) Keep in mind that Satan’s tactics are always divisive and isolating. He first tried to get Adam to act without consulting Eve. Then he tried to get Eve to act without consulting Adam. At the very least, to commit to counsel together can help us to help each other recognize and resist temptations… (Yes, I know, the husband doesn’t make that agreement, but logistically, I don’t see a way for him not to do it even without a covenant – not if he’s going to keep the one he made and his wife is going to keep hers…)

    Those thoughts certainly don’t answer every concern or question, but they don’t seem out of harmony with either the letter or the spirit of the endowment to me. (Sorry for the length.)

  65. Zil I agree with your point that “as” could mean “if” or “when.” If the husband is out of harmony with the Lord then she is not obligated to follow his wrong counsel. She still has the choice though, just as Adam chose to follow Eve’s plea to taste the fruit even though it was in direct disobedience to one of the Lord’s directives.

  66. It is a nice thought, but it is difficult to read it that way in context of the entire ceremony where all of your promises and covenants are “unto your husband” starting in the initiatory. You can explain away the veiling, or the hearken covenant, or the asymmetrical sealing, or just the husband learning your name or all of it individually but taken in context you get god is to man as man is to woman. And you get that again and again and again.

  67. A different Anon says:

    Zil and Bro. B.,
    The ‘curse of Eve’ that is still implicit in the liturgy suggests that hearken covenant is most definitely not conditional (while or when). Supposedly Eve’s redemption/salvation depends on her obedience to Adam, not to God. Pay attention to who which law women are required to covenant to (the law of the Lord), while men are covenanting to obey the law of God. Husbands stand in place of the Lord at the veil ceremony prior to a sealing. Brigham Young often taught that the husband was the lord of the wife.

  68. A different Anon says:

    Make that…”Pay attention to whom women are required to covenant…”

    Grrrrr, stupid grammar mistakes.

  69. I agree that the wife or any woman doesn’t have to follow the unrighteous directions of her husband/priesthood leader, but in practical reality what does this mean? The church has placed the man in a position of power over women. Does God automatically smite down men engaging in unrighteous dominion? Of course not. Then what are the checks and balances in place to prevent men from exercising their priesthood and their presiding authority? I’m sure there are some, but they are wholly ineffective in the moment. This is a stark example, but police officers are granted the “righteous” use of force against non-cooperative citizens, and despite body cameras and tribunals and investigations, what force is allowed under to be used in the circumstances is typically accepted as what ever force the police officer reasonably believed was necessary. Sometimes this produces tragic consequences. The grant of priesthood power to men is not a grant to use physical force, but it is also used inappropriately quite often with little recourse for the people harmed except to point out that the priesthood power may have been used un righteously.

  70. I normally lurk here, but feel so strongly about the topic of temple prep I wanted to chime in. I’ve had several experiences with the abysmal lack of preparation we currently have, with the most notable being two conversations with a convert friend shortly before and after she went for the first time. The first was less than a month before she was going to the temple after she’d completed the class, where I discovered she had absolutely no idea about temple garments. None whatsoever. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for her to come home to her non-member husband after going through for the first time and hearing, “WHAT are you wearing?”

    The second conversation was a couple of weeks after, when I broached the subject of “How was it, really?” and have her confess her complete confusion and dismay at what she’d seen. Even more troubling was the fact that she’d already stopped wearing her garments because they didn’t fit and itched horribly, but figured that was just how they were supposed to be. (Not to mention she’d bought 8 pairs of them, because the woman who’d gone with her to the distribution center insisted these were by far the best style to get.)

    Which brings me to my main point: there is only so much that can be done in a temple prep class. WE NEED A TEMPLE FOLLOW-UP CLASS. It’s beyond bizarre that we go the temple, where one of the themes is “Go do this thing, then tell me how it went,” but we don’t do that for the endowment experience itself.

  71. I have wrestled with temple issues since 1977 when I went for the first time. There are razor blades among the rose petals. One can find mighty powers and promises as well as confusing and painful incongruities. It is simply too complex (or “all over the charts”) to read only one way – either in support of women’s potential or against them. The relational set up of God-Man-Woman does not now and never has rung true to me (see Rodney Turner’s 1970’s book “Women and the Priesthood.”) The “unto your husband” clauses seem similarly necrotic – except that in the German version of the text, the preposition used for the “unto” corollary is “an” which has the meaning more of abutting, next to, against – like a picture on a wall. I feel some warmth in that idea. I tried to discuss the lack of parity with my temple president. He first dismissed it as not existing, then used the “separate but equal” explanation and ended with what he surely thought of as the good news that “Heavenly Father provided an escape clause for women!” Despite all the (enormous) cognitive dissonance I experience there, I am assured in private, holy ways I trust that God still wants and needs me there. God’s still mum on the explanations. Thanks for these helpful conversations. They help as I continue to walk by faith.

  72. Mephibosheth says:

    Jana, can we get a rough outline of what your LDS scholar friend said?