New Church Videos Explain the Temple to the General Public

joe-cook-780015-unsplashThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just published a glossy series of 90-second explanations of our core temple practices.

I’m amazed at how much demystifying content these videos succeed in outlining in less than seven minutes of total video time.

Here are the highlights.


Can I Go Inside a Latter-Day Saint Temple?

  • Clarifies the difference between meetinghouses and temples.
  • Invites everyone to visit meetinghouses.
  • Invites everyone to tour temple open houses, prior to dedication.
  • Explains that after a temple’s dedication, only faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can enter the building, which is where they make sacred covenants to God.

What Are Baptisms for the Dead?

  • Explains the Christian belief of baptism, including that Jesus Christ was baptized.
  • Cites Corinthians: “The Apostle Paul spoke about baptisms for the dead in the Bible, and Latter-day Saints continue that practice today.”
  • Ties baptisms for the dead to the Church’s emphasis on family history.

What are Temple Garments?

  • Connects our religious clothing to other forms of religious clothing.
  • States that garments are worn symbolically, to remind us of our covenants to God.
  • Demystifies “Mormon underwear” and “magic underwear,” describing their correct name as “temple garments.”
  • Pairs well with the 4-minute garment explanation video the Newsroom published four years ago.

What is a Temple Wedding Like?

  • Defines “sealing” as a husband, wife, and their family being joined together both for this life, and throughout all eternity.
  • Summarizes the wedding ceremony as a “promise to honor and love one another completely, and a commitment to follow the teaching and examples of Jesus.”
  • Bears testimony of the blessings of eternal families.

What is a Temple Endowment?

  • Provides a high-level description of the Endowment as a “gift” of knowledge that depicts Adam and Eve, the fall, the plan of happiness, and returning to live with God again.
  • Journeys on a walk-through of the ceremony through different physical temple rooms.  Explains each step as a symbol of mankind’s progression towards God, as He grants us hope, happiness, and promises of eternal blessings through Jesus Christ.
  • Previews that there is significant additional symbolism beyond what the video shows.
  • Lists the covenants members make during the Endowment:

    “We are invited to make solemn promises with the Lord, called covenants.  These covenants include:
    (1) Obeying God’s commandments;
    (2) Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ;
    (3) Being morally pure; and
    (4) Dedicating our time and talents to the Lord’s service.”

That last point is particularly notable.  There are other Church publications listing the spiritual covenants, but it’s rare for me to see them outlined and publicized so cleanly.

I know these have just barely been released, but I hope the Church is in the process of adding a 90-second description of initiatories to this video queue.  That’s the only major temple ordinance not covered, and I know it’s one many members continue to be confused, hear rumors, or experience anxiety about.  Another video could do much to eliminate anxiety and emphasize its beauty.

Overall, these videos strongly succeed in their goals.  They demystify the temple to non-members, and they supply members preparing to go to the temple with helpful context and an accurate visualization of what to expect.

One critique.

As I recently wrote at length, I struggle with the temple endowments and sealings.  The focal point of my struggle is the stark disparity between (1) what our Sunday School curriculum teaches and our marketing teams describe the temple as teaching, and (2) what the text of our temple ordinances actually say.

All of the above videos emphasize how the temple helps us experience and understand our “equality before God.”  The videos repeatedly emphasize eternal families, and Christ’s desire to extend his love and blessings to all people.  Those are beautiful messages I fully endorse.

But the wedding and endowment videos, in particular, don’t explain how the temple is starkly gender-divided.  This is not a critique limited to our videos, it’s a critique of our temple curriculum as a whole.  There is no video or curriculum explaining that women make a preliminary covenant to hearken unto their husbands, before members make the above-listed covenants to God.  There is no video or curriculum explaining that men do not reciprocally covenant to hearken unto or give themselves to their wives.   There is no video or curriculum accounting for the temple’s lingering tie-ins to polygamy.

If the purpose of these videos is to provide high-level explanations of our ordinances that can be played at public open houses, those omissions may be fine.  But if even one purpose of these videos is to educate members taking a temple preparation class, those omissions are glaring.

One of my deepest spiritual desires is to see the Church fully acknowledge and publicly address this disparity.  In my flights of fancy, I pray for God to correct it.


  1. I’m impressed that they’re actually outlining the general scope of the endowment! I’m an unendowed lifelong member and I had no clue that we were learning about Adam and Eve and the Plan of Salvation in the temple until I went to an open house at 13. And this is the first time I’ve actually seen the list of covenants made upstairs. Maybe being this open about it will help us to better prepare folks like myself to go.

    I, too, hope that the Church can acknowledge the differences between the women’s and men’s endowments. I obviously don’t entirely know how I feel about the women’s yet because I haven’t done it, but the little I know has created a lot of anxiety for me. Hopefully it’s a better experience than I fear it might be.

  2. Where are these videos located?

  3. @DeAnn: they’re all embedded. The links go to the Mormon Channel on YouTube

  4. Is President Nelson aware of the name of that channel?

  5. Salzgitter says:

    When will the church release videos to the members of the church explaining the Second Anointing (a.k.a. Second Endowment)?

  6. Sal after the Tom Phillips debacle I’m sure it’s become nothing more than a historical oddity.

  7. They’re a step.

    Beyond the totally inaccurate description of the sealing ceremony, I have this critique:

    “TCOJCOLDS” ≠ “The service of the Lord”

    Also interesting to see so many non-white people in the leading roles. Majority? Or is that my subconscious bias shining through?

  8. I saw one shared on Facebook and didn’t realize it was part of a whole series! Thanks for putting together a one-stop-shop for both the videos themselves and highlights.

    One clarifying question of my own, as you’ve written much recently about the temple experience. In the presentation of the endowment, women covenant to hearken to their husbands only insofar as the husband is hearkening to the teachings and commandments of the Lord – a crucial caveat that often suffers omission in these analyses. Those teachings and commandments forbid any semblance of abuse and mandate that the spouse is seen as an equal partner before the Lord.

    Clearly, we all are learning, and we understand and practice that caveat with various degrees of success. But doesn’t that qualification for ‘hearkening’ change the picture?

  9. I don’t love that euphemistic description of the law of chastity, but listing of the covenants of the endowment this specific is a good thing, I think.

    And this is just a quibble, but I don’t think it’s correct to think of the endowment primarily as a gift of knowledge. The drama is there, in my opinion, not to convey knowledge, but to tell a symbolic story of how grace redeems us from our fallen nature and gives us God’s presence and spirit. The gift of the endowment, in my view, is primarily the gift of spiritual power, harking back to the Kirtland endowment and the day of Pentecost. Personally, I think it makes most sense to think of it as an extension or a working out of the mandate we’re given when we’re confirmed to receive the holy ghost.

  10. Bensen, Carolyn can answer for herself, but I don’t think the problem is that folks have just overlooked the qualification. Yes, the qualification releases a woman from any obligation to hearken to her husband if he’s being abusive, but that’s not the only issue. The issue is that men don’t have to promise to hearken to their wives the same way. There are a variety of ways that church members can reconcile that inequality with their own conviction that God is no respecter of persons between men and women, and the church’s own teaching that husbands and wives are supposed to be equal partners, but you can’t just deny that it’s there.

  11. JKC: the conflation of sexual propriety with “moral purity” is perpetually irksome.

  12. I mean, I guess if we all know what the euphemism means it’s alright, but taken literally, it assumes reduces morality to chastity alone, which is a really precarious position to be in.

  13. @Bensen: I agree that as the husband hearkens unto God is an important qualifier. But there’s no reciprocal covenant for the husband to hearken unto his wife as she hearkens unto God. And there’s no world in which any woman can tell a man he’s not hearkening and so he’s lost his authority. I wrote about that problem at length here:

  14. it's a series of tubes says:

    It’s true, these videos are not perfect, but let’s be honest – as Carolyn notes, they are significantly, significantly better than what was available previously.

    Given that the garments video was produced as a result of issues arising from the Romney 2012 campaign, what do you think the odds are that these videos are in part a response or reaction to NNN’s hidden camera temple vids? I suspect it was a significant factor.

  15. The video on the temple endowment refers to it as a gift “including” knowledge and “power to do all God wants us to do”. I understand JKC’s quibble to be with that omission from the OP’s list of highlights more than with the video.

    While I appreciate the videos’ existence as representing greater openness about what happens in the temple, I am concerned about a number of the omissions. Regardless of the intended audience, these videos will likely be a part of temple preparation for some people. For some of them, the omissions may contribute to an experience of the same sort of shock, dismay, or even revulsion that some others have experienced at their first temple experiences other than baptisms — at least partly as a result of inadequate preparation. (Or maybe merely “disappointed and grieved” as was David O. McKay.) For some others the videos may invite a mental re-writing of the 19th century language and covenants to make them consistent with the list and descriptions of covenants stated in the videos. Maybe the videos are intended to function as authorization of exactly such mental revision of language.
    The problem arises primarily for those who actually pay attention to words and tend to be literalists as to their initial understanding of the otherwise unexplained words,. This is not unlike the often repeated statement: “”Everything in the temple points us to Christ …” Really? “Everything”? cafeteria, laundry, restrooms, the occasional critical and offensive rather than helpful temple worker, the 19th century language and context, etc.? Luckily, it seems many, perhaps most, either pay little attention to the words or are not such literalists, but are willing to understand the whole thing charitably and symbolically in just the way JKC and others have suggested.
    Here’s hoping for continuing improvement in temple preparation.

  16. “And this is the first time I’ve actually seen the list of covenants made upstairs.”

    They’re a few other places as well. See especially the second link (and apologies I’ve still never finished that essay.)

  17. I did watch the video and noted that “power” was mentioned, but it came at the end of a list where knowledge was the first item and seemed to get primary emphasis. My quibble was with the video. Still, it’s a minor quibble.

  18. Considering “insider” videos of the temple have been around for more than a decade, it’s more likely that these videos are one of many things President Nelson has always wanted to do but couldn’t, for one reason or another.

  19. @Benson, as far as I remember, you have added the phrase “only insofar” into that particular covenant. That small phrase changes the meaning of the covenant, as would “as long as” or “as much as.” Am I misremembering the wording? Are the words “insofar as” actually part of the covenant?

    Regardless, it’s still a hierarchical or lopsided arrangement, not at all what I would consider equal partnership. And I doubt the videos’ silence on this point was due to oversight.

  20. But doesn’t that qualification for ‘hearkening’ change the picture?


  21. Deseret Defender says:

    “One of my deepest spiritual desires is to see the Church fully acknowledge and publicly address this disparity.”

    The church has acknowledged and publicly addressed the disparity between men and women: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

    “In my flights of fancy, I pray for God to correct it.”

    God won’t “correct it” because it is God’s will for mankind. Hence, “by divine design.”

  22. Echoing this: “I struggle with the temple endowments and sealings. The focal point of my struggle is the stark disparity between (1) what our Sunday School curriculum teaches and our marketing teams describe the temple as teaching, and (2) what the text of our temple ordinances actually say.”
    At some level I have reconciled myself to the Sunday School version (repetition?). Something about marketing still grates.

  23. *snorts at Deseret Defender saying that without a ppm of irony

  24. @Deseret Defender: Please enlighten me. How do YOU explain the disparity between our curriculum that says:

    (1) men and women are equally beloved by God and make equal covenants before God so that they can be equally exalted before God
    (2) men and women are sealed through a covenant where they promise to love and be faithful only to each other for forever

    And a temple ordinance that says:
    (1) women make no covenants to God, they only covenant to their husbands in order to become Priestesses unto their Husbands. (Men make no reciprocal promises.
    (2) women “give” themselves faithfully to their husbands, but husbands only “receive” a wife as one of many potential wives (Men make no reciprocal promises.)

    And also: I’m sure if you think hard, you can come up with at least one thing the Church has changed regarding its doctrine or procedure in, say, the last 50 years. How does that change reconcile with your statement about God’s divine design for mankind?

  25. I’m short on time, so apologies if this comes across as terse. No animosity or rancor here, just a genuine observation / question.

    There are a few inherent assumptions undergirding the overt desire to change the temple language – language and ceremonies that have undergone changes already in recent decades. Perhaps paramount is the assumption that the Top 15 are kindly-but-misguided-or-misinformed at best, purposely-misogynistic-and-abuse-sanctioning at worst.

    Giving the Church leadership the benefit of the doubt – that is, assuming these are men who know the Savior’s teachings and try to embody them in their daily living and administrating – I’d like to hear a supportive explanation for why the wording should remain as-is. Some who think themselves super-woke are actually super-misguided; some who like things “just the way they are” need to bring themselves into the 21st century and recognize the need for change. I get that it cuts both ways. But I assume there are legitimate explanations for the temple language as it stands today that preserves equality before the Lord as He defines equality. Can you give any?

    There is quite possibly a divine purpose that, like most divine purposes viewed through a mortal lens, doesn’t make sense or gel with our contemporary notions of equality. For the detractors, can you articulate one (or many) reason(s) why the temple language should remain the same?

    **Caveat: this is a legitimate question, not a baiting one. Accordingly, if you’re tempted to give baiting answers such as, “to maintain white, patriarchal supremacy” or “to keep women subverted,” please don’t bother.

  26. Mr. Schmidt says:

    Asking only for sake of asking: what are the chances that some of the language used in the temple are a reflection, symbolically or literally (your pick), of the unique circumstances of this mortal life? I’m thinking about the context in which that women-covenant-to-men thing happens. What if we just aren’t seeing the full picture yet (however frustrating that must be right now)? What if there is something that reconciles the equal-before-God view and the covenant process in the temple, and which will be made more clear sometime in the future?

    I ask this with a shred of frustration, as none of the BCC regulars seem interested in engaging in any of my commentary thus far this year.

  27. @Deseret Defender,

    To expand on what Carolyn said, at no point during the ceremony does the husband or wife “promise to honor and love one another completely.” Those words are not in the script. They promise to keep the laws of matrimony and the new and everlasting covenant, but it’s not specified what those laws are.

  28. To both Bensen and Schmidt, if there is something already out there in church teachings that reconcile it, please, please, tell me. I mean that. I spent years searching for it. If you can’t find one, then, well, to me that means its entirely appropriate for struggling women like me to ask or even beg for more revelation.

    A good starting point would be “What, exactly, does Heavenly Mother do? what authority does she hold and exercise?” If we could answer that question, then I think a lot about the Temple could fall into line — either how it’s currently taught, or how it needs to change to reconcile with a higher truth.

    As to Bensen: “I assume there are legitimate explanations for the temple language as it stands today that preserves equality before the Lord as He defines equality. Can you give any?”

    The ONLY explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with is that change happens slowly. Including women in the temple at all in 1840 was radical, but we’ve never moved beyond 1840. We’ve slowly chipped away at it, but even the teeniest of chips have been MAJOR MARKERS in Mormon life. The very problem with making the temple the height of divinity in our worship experience is that the aura of divine perfection we have granted it makes it the LEAST suspectilbe to change through revelation. Essentially: we are equal before God, but tradition matterrs and is slow to change, and no one has figured out yet / God has not revealed yet how to uphold the tradition while either jettisoning the flawed sexism, or issuing a new revelation about Heavenly Mother and feminine divine worth for it to make sense.

  29. Regarding the unequal covenant, I think women covenant to obey their husbands “as” their husbands covenant to obey God. We in the 21st century (well, most of us) would like to read this with “insofar” as Bensen does. I think it’s clear, though, that the meaning is supposed to be “in the same way as.” It’s establishing a hierarchical relationship: God on top. Adam next. Wife/wives last.

  30. @Ziff – With respect, I don’t think it’s clear at all that your interpretation is accurate. Hence, my earlier comment.

  31. @Carolyn – Have you read some of Dr. Valerie Hudson-Cassler’s work on female equality in the Church? I’ve appreciated her insights over the years and think she offers a perspective worth reading and assimilating. In my opinion, she deftly combines the reality of divine power for women in the present while supporting the need for faith and patience, as we still see through a glass darkly.

    Here’s an essay in particular that addresses the topic at hand:

  32. @Bensen: Even if Ziff’s interpretation is not accurate (personally, I think it’s a strong contender of an explanation), I’m still looking for an answer to my question:

    When can a woman tell a husband / priesthood leader that he’s spiritually wrong?

  33. Whenever she wants to, I suppose. If you’re counseling and councilling in equality, a woman can speak her mind and voice whenever she deems it appropriate. With that right comes the equivalent responsibility to recognize that even if your words are heard and considered, they might still be wrong or misguided. You can respectfully listen to someone and not heed their advice / counsel. There are context-specific questions here of stewardship and accountability that color an answer to your question, of course. “Spiritually wrong” can mean many things.

    I read this recently and it resonated:

    “If we have faith in God and really want to be like him, we must listen to the voices of the women. As with male voices, not all that is said or recommended by female voices will be right, but without hearing those voices, without speaking and listening in righteousness, there will be inadequate emotional impetus for the Saints to become Zion.”

  34. There’s more in the endowment that is unequal than just the disparate obedience covenants. I thought I’d made my peace with that particular promise a couple of decades ago, and then my husband and I went to the temple every week for a year, and other things started standing out to me. Which is ironic considering how often the advice is “just go more often.” It was going more often that has led me to be less happy about the endowment. It’s such a strange experience to go now, because there are parts that make my heart soar, and parts I just grit my teeth through.

    What I am bothered most by is the idea that I’m a priestess TO my husband, not to my Heavenly Parents. Soooo, I’m worshiping my husband in the afterlife?

  35. Deseret Defender says:

    I am unaware of any time during which men and women made “equal covenants before God” and I dispute that our Sunday School curriculum teaches such nonsense. Covenantal equality ends when young men are ordained to the aaronic priesthood while young women are not. Men and women make distinct covenants because men and women were created for different purposes. The covenants we make reflect and assist with fulfilling those purposes.

    As for being “equally exalted before God,” we are equally exalted in the sense that individuals of both genders will have perfected bodies and will be blessed with eternal increase, but I have seen no evidence that the divinely designed gender differences will cease to exist in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. All evidence points to the contrary, actually.

    A wife giving herself to her husband, and the husband’s reception of his wife is divinely inspired and beautiful when properly understood and exercised. That it contradicts modern feminist theories of equality and liberation indicates not that we should abandon that which God has ordained, but that we should reject modern feminist theories of equality and liberation.

    Regarding “changes in doctrine and procedure,” we rejoice and heed new revelations when the Lord sees fit to bless us with them. We must not, however, allow our faith to be contingent on hope in personally-desired future revelations.

  36. @Bensen,

    Spend a little time reading about Brigham Young’s attitudes toward women (before he embraced their economic usefulness in Utah). Read the text of the blessing that Emma requested from Joseph, that he told her to write out herself and he’d sign it. Read about Eliza Snow’s teachings about the curse of Eve, and how polygamy and obedience to a husband could help remove the curse. Read the early Relief Society documents and history. Do some research on the pre-1990 endowment language. Really listen to the structure of the current endowment, and take note of who is made Lord of the earth, who covenants to obey the law of the Lord and who covenants to obey the law of God. Consider who stands in place of the Lord at the veil prior to a sealing. Men are not designated as priests to their wives. Taken as a whole, there’s every indication that Ziff’s interpretation is valid.

    At some point in the future, will there be a Gospel Topics essay disavowing ‘theories’ of why women were not fully equal in the temple, similar to why black members were denied priesthood and temple ordinances?

  37. @Also anon – taken as a whole, there’s every indication that Ziff’s interpretation correlates with some attitudes present in 19th century America and the 19th century Church, nothing more. As well versed as you may be in Church history, there are many interpretations available. The items you present rather authoritatively as evidence of omnipresent misogyny in the temple ceremony simply demonstrate to me the messiness of reality, and the present-day subjectiveness of the experience. I know many educated women – some of them with degrees from America’s most prestigious universities – who revel in the temple ceremony and look forward to attending. It’s not as cut and dry as you propose.

    I really do feel sorry for and sympathize with those who currently have trouble with the temple experience. Maybe (hopefully?) there will be additional light and knowledge on this matter in the coming years. Helpful though these comment-section discussions might be for some, the only peace on the matter can come from God, and He often requires patience and faith prior to receiving an answer.

  38. Unless you imagine and insert words that ARE NOT actually part of the ceremony, Bensen , Ziff’s interpretation is strong. The actual wording resembles a classic analogy— God : man :: man : woman

    :: = “as,” not “inasmuch as,” “insofar as,” or “as long as”

  39. Deseret Defender says:

    I too agree with Ziff’s interpretation. When multiple reasonable interpretations exist, we should adopt the interpretation that (1) most concurs with past prophetic statements and (2) provides the most historical continuity.

  40. As a former Mormon, I can’t tell if Deseret Defender is a true believer or expert level troll who loves needling the thoughtful crowd but I love his (or her) contributions all the same because DD represents Mormonism as it actually is. People falling all over themselves to correct him or her is hilarious.

  41. We (or at least I) am not falling all over myself to “correct” Deseret Defender. I’m making sure we have the fullest explication of the Defender’s views documented for posterity. Because yes, he/she represents the teachings of the Church as it is now. So when in 50 years the Church says “known know records exist regarding why the temple was sexist,” we’ll have archived bloggernacle posts and comment threads for historians to gain deep insight from.

  42. Carolyn – I stand corrected and agree with what you are doing.

  43. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Let’s make one thing clear, Deseret Defender. Men and women were ABSOLUTELY NOT created for different purposes. They were created for precisely the same purpose – by loving Heavenly Parents whose only desire was that they have joy and progress.

  44. Husband of One Wife says:

    @Deseret Defender says “That it contradicts modern feminist theories of equality and liberation indicates not that we should abandon that which God has ordained, but that we should reject modern feminist theories of equality and liberation.”

    Come off it, dude. We’re not talking about feminazis marching the streets of San Francisco, we’re talking about what I would guess is a majority of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Carolyn isn’t some weird anomaly in being uncomfortable with this stuff. The ladies are just too polite/gracious/beaten-down/scared/systematically voiceless to tell us menfolk how hurtful all of this is. At the very least, there is a terrible lack of explanation about the female experience in the temple. The most basic information about that unique experience (e.g. that veils are a symbol of power) is not shared with hardly any women going to the temple for the first time, which prevents the power of that experience from being realized in its fullness. The discomfort and disquiet among the sisters is not a sign of Satan in our midst, it’s a sign of a shortfall in our current understanding that cries out for further light and knowledge. And if you think that discomfort is not widespread, you clearly don’t have the trust of many women in the church. This is a church of revelation and grace, and God loves his daughters and his sons more than any of his other creations (If you’re a father with sons and daughters of your own, you know I’m being generous about the sons here…), so to propose that leaving them in the dark and unequal before him is part of his plan is just clueless. My black daughter would have been a second-class church member before 1978. Now she’s a full female member. If that hadn’t happened, we would have exactly a 0% chance of keeping her in the church as an adult. The next step is for female members to cease being second-class to male church members. It’s obvious, and it’s going to happen sooner or later. I just hope any of my daughters are still in the church when it does. There’s plenty of explaining and teaching we can do, but Carolyn nails one of the intractable sticking points square on the head.

  45. Husband of One Wife says:

    Oh, and these videos are rad.

  46. Mr. Schmidt says:

    @Carolyn, just to be clear, I was not taking the position that it is inappropriate to ask or beg for revelation. Far from it. Really, I was just trying to ask, what if we still don’t have the full picture, and what we’re worrying about isn’t actually an issue like we think it is? If you think about it, that actually dovetails directly with your comment to seek revelation on the issue. If we don’t have the full picture, what else can we do but ask the being that should have the full picture?

  47. Husband of One Wife, I would be interested in sources for your concept of veils being a symbol of power. That seems to be contrary to at least some historical uses of veils. This is not a challenge to your assertion; the same thing can be used as a symbol of different things in various contexts. What’s the context and source(s) for your assertion? Thanks.

  48. Men have been given the priesthood for they are ultimately responsible to prepare their family for eternal life. This comes with a heavy burden as well as blessings. He cannot do it without a wife. They are both equally needed. Adam could not have progressed without Eve. Although my husband has abandoned our family I find peace and hope in the covenant. We covenant with the Savior- He has the priesthood-he will preside and care for us.
    Here is a thought from George Q Cannon.
    By the Saints refusing to be led by the influences of Satan and not yielding to his seductive temptations, he is virtually bound so far as they are concerned; and, when the head of the family can attain unto this power and persuade his wife and family to do likewise, the power of Satan will be bound in that habitation, and the Millennium will have commenced in that household. (1:88)
    Cannon, George Q. Gospel Truth. 2 vols. Ed. Jerreld Newquist. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974.

  49. @Mr. Schmidt
    By Study and by Faith – December 2016 Ensign – Elder Ballard
    “Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, “Don’t worry about it!” Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.”

  50. Mr. Schmidt says:

    @Also anon: I’m not sure whether you think you are refuting something I said. I think I was pretty clear that this is an issue to seek revelation on (agreeing with Carolyn) – “what else can we do but ask …”

    Nonetheless, taking your comment at face value, I think that there are times where we ask a question, and we don’t receive an answer. Or am I the only one that happens to? I think it is important for us to also develop the patience to “wait upon the Lord” as we ask questions. I don’t think that is the same thing as advocating to not ask the question.

  51. Re: arguments for the inequality in the temple being “correct,” I think DD’s argument is the most consistent with other church teachings. The entire structure of the church reinforces a gender hierarchy. Men preside, women follow. As men are to God, women are to men. This is explicit in the temple and implicit everywhere else.

    Reconciling that with statements about equality just requires noting that “equal” has different meanings. There’s functionally/structurally equal, and then there’s equal in intrinsic worth. Church teachings are pretty clear that all humans are equal in worth and value to God. God *loves* us all in equal amounts. That is NOT the same thing as being equal in terms of authority, access, knowledge, or ability. There’s a rhetorical trick happening.

    In that sense, “Husbands preside, but both are equal partners” is not a paradox. The man is in charge, but both partners retain equal amounts of general human dignity. It’s like how my boss and I have equal worth and equal rights, but that doesn’t mean we’re “equals” at work. She’s in charge of me. She can’t abuse me (by violating employment laws, for example), but outside of that she gets to dictate everything I do.

    Now, personally I feel that if the context isn’t limited (I get to leave work, after all) then the distinction doesn’t matter all that much. But I do think that’s how church doctrine/practice tries to have it both ways.

  52. Hopefully Last Anon says:

    For the veil as a symbol of power, search for “veil” in the Old Testament. It is power and sacredness.

  53. “When multiple reasonable interpretations exist, we should adopt the interpretation that (1) most concurs with past prophetic statements and (2) provides the most historical continuity.”

    If the question is what interpretation the church assumed to be correct at a given time, as a matter of historical fact, I agree.

    But if the question is what interpretation is the one that is actually correct, and should guide my life, as a devotional matter, I disagree; we should adopt the interpretation that the holy ghost most strongly bears witness of. Prophetic teachings and historical continuity may be important considerations in seeking that witness, but they are not conclusive.

  54. Hopefully Last Anon, Indeed some of the uses of “veil” in the Old Testament are in connection with power/sacredness. That is comparable to the veil of the temple in LDS practices (or, if we had a Moses, to Moses’ wearing a veil when speaking to those not prepared to see the power of God in his face). Those uses do not seem to me to be parallel to the use of veils to cover women’s faces during part of the temple endowment. Perhaps someone can come up with a source or context that would suggest that women’s use of veils in the temple had anything to do with women being powerful rather than subservient or unready to approach the Lord face to face — or even any historical use of a woman’s veil as a symbol of her power. I haven’t found one.

  55. Ryan Mullen says:

    Carolyn, thank you for this post. These videos are better and more complete than anything I’ve used in the past to talk to our youth about temple ordinances, and I was completely unaware of them.

    What do you, or others, make of them listing only 4 of the 5 behavorial covenants of the endowment? It seems like an odd omission.

  56. “what if we still don’t have the full picture, and what we’re worrying about isn’t actually an issue like we think it is?”

    Isn’t this true of all human life and human problems though? Should we give up entirely on continuing revelation for the church because none of our concerns on earth really matter?

  57. Since the videos are geared to non-Mormons, I’ll toss out a few questions I have received over the years from non-member friends I imagine the videos don’t cover (I have not watched the clips but based on the blog and comments doubt they cover these questions):

    1 – A non-member friend was appalled when he learned you have to give the church a lot of money (10% of your income) or you don’t get to go into the temple, particularly when finding out it is an essential rite for entry into heaven.

    2 – A non-member friend told me when we were younger he thought the Mormon church was the most family friendly and family promoting church he knew of. He was intrigued the asked me a lot of questions and expressed his admiration. A few weeks later he found me again, disturbed, and confronted me about the fact if he were to convert to the church and marry a Mormon girl in the temple his family would be excluded from the wedding. He told me no longer felt the church was family friendly and, further, seemed not to have any issues dividing families apart if some or all of the rest of the family wasn’t Mormon. He told me he now viewed the Mormon church as being family unfriendly and hostile to non-member Mormon family members. I didn’t try to rebut. He never asked me any questions about the church again.

  58. Anyone who questions the power and influence of a woman has never been married to one.

  59. My wife goes about doing much good but for some reason is not too keen on slowing down long enough to sit through an endowment session.

  60. It’s beautiful thing that a man and woman need each other and the Lord in mutually dependent ways with their own emphasis in spiritual focus and obligation.

    It’s truly hurtful and tragic to me that others will belittle what I and my forefathers have received as sacred. Please stop.

    If you’re not happy with something, ask the bishop, stake president or temple president. But there’s no need to drag my sacred faith through the mud because you don’t understand it or haven’t received it the way I and my spouse have.

    I understand some of you take real issue, but any debate on this is hurtful. It’s like if you wanted to jump on a Muslim forum and continually voice all the ways you find their faith hurtful and oppressive — constantly. Truly they would be outraged, and some would muster the patience to ask you kindly to stop and hold your tongue instead.

    Before you stop and say, but wait this is my faith too… I’m not so sure once you start disparaging it sacred rites. You’ve otherized those faithful to the endowment. You’re publicly attacking what I hold sacrosanct and am trying to teach my children the same. How can that be done when within my own ranks I give this kind of affront?

    Please take the advice. Stop publicly voicing your opposition. Take your concerns to a priesthood leader and to God and hold them there in patience. Answers may come in due time. If they don’t, then bear that burden rather than tear down what I hold dear.

  61. Californian says:

    @Ed, when you have escorted women through the temple (live endowment for the first time) and then you immediately have to do *damage control* in the Celestial Room as they implore you for real answers to address their valid concerns regarding what they experienced (including feeling cursed and the veiling of their faces), then let’s chat about tearing down those women whom we hold dear and bearing this burden generation after generation.

    You suggested “If you’re not happy with something, ask the bishop, stake president or temple president.” These leaders are all males. For women, it is very difficult to speak to many of them because they often don’t understand a woman’s perspective and often refuse to even exercise basic compassion.

    @Husband of One Wife observed “The ladies are just too polite/gracious/beaten-down/scared/systematically voiceless to tell us menfolk how hurtful all of this is.” However, some women like @Carolyn are courageously using their voices to write public blogs to discuss women and the temple.

    Thanks to these blogs, and the hours I invested searching for answers, I was better able to offer hope to those newly endowed women and lift their spirits in the Celestial room. Without public blogs, I wouldn’t have had much to offer those women and that would have been “hurtful and tragic” indeed.

  62. Hopefully Last Anon says:

    Ed, speaking with the voice of male privilege. Undoubtedly white heterosexual male privilege. Do let me know if I’m wrong about your demographic, Ed, and if you’re not really telling us that women and gays and nonwhite people should remain silent. (Although women can also perform the voice of white male privilege.) That’s what it sounds like, and it’s a bad look to tell people to sit down and shut up about oppression or inequality, even if framed in the words of faith — and perhaps especially if framed in the words of faith. That’s a good message to tell oneself; not so much to dictate to others.

  63. @californian, I would be super curious to know what hopeful answers and compassionate words you’ve found

  64. Ed: “If you’re not happy with something, ask the bishop, stake president or temple president.”

    In my very limited sample of asking bishops, stake presidents, and temple presidents about temple matters that were troubling, I’ve found none of them either knowledgeable or helpful about such troublesome matters, though some have been quite knowledgeable about currently established and approved procedures. Though I cannot generalize that small sample to the universe of such ecclesiastical authorities, it seems worth pointing out in addition to Californian’s comment, that the problem with seeking helpful responses from such leaders is not merely a women’s problem. And the need for damage control is not limited to women.

  65. @Ed, I’m not seeing anyone belittle the Endowment ceremony. What I see are people who feel that it has room for improvement. Given that the ceremony has changed over time it’s not sacrilege to think that it will change again. No one here is making fun of it, parodying it, defiling it, or are trying to destroy it.
    In the book of Philippians Paul says

    every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

    So some here have received of the ceremony and are still hungry and still suffer need from it. It’s not bad to be grateful for something, yet still have desires for something more. If you don’t desire for something more you may have hit a plateau and need to reenergize yourself.
    Maybe it will change in the way some here want it to change. Maybe there’s an eternal principle there and it will never change in that way. I don’t know. Perhaps this is an example of someone trying to instruct God, or perhaps it isn’t. God wants us to constantly petition Him for more. To me, the requests here are a reasonable example of that.

  66. Californian says:

    @Carolyn, first, I did not shut down their critical thinking or their feelings: they needed a safe space to express their worries and concerns. Second, I told them I felt their pain, understood it profoundly, and assured them our Heavenly Parents love us. Women and men are equal before God, because divine nature and individual worth are true principles for everyone.

    Then I briefly reviewed 19th century status of women in the USA. A female was considered property of her father and then of her husband. Now, most women living in the US are no longer property, however, some elements of the temple reflect this lower status of women. The hearken covenant is one example. Understanding that a covenant is an agreement between an individual and God, not another mortal (and for unmarried woman a covenant to a non-existent spouse) leaves one tremendously confused.

    The endowment has changed many times and I made sure they understood this fact. And gave them the perspective when I received my endowment, it was even more cruel toward Eve, who according to our doctrine made the correct choice. I also expressed my deep disappointment in the three most recent films the Church has produced. The inequality was not addressed, and although the filmmakers attempted to be more inclusive of Eve through a few actions and gestures, she still has no voice after leaving the garden. Therefore, I said I am hopeful the endowment will change again because many of us know our temple ceremonies need to mirror what is taught in church: women and men are equal before God.

    I shared with them a few things I had learned of Heavenly Mother. One blogger suggested the lady temple worker present in the Celestial Room as the Divine Feminine and so I offered this idea. And although some researchers believe She was redacted from the Bible, they believe She is known as Wisdom and trees are symbolic of Her. She needs to be part of the endowment.

    As to why women are asked to veil their faces, in some cultures, a veil covers the most sacred person or object in the room. However, I did point out, I’m not 100% with this interpretation because I would rather women and men be treated equally before our Heavenly Parents. But it is better than the belief that a woman is cursed and unworthy to show her face before God in prayer. As I recall, the interpretation that women are sacred was appreciated.

    Finally, I did not shame them or tell them they were unfaithful for how they experienced the endowment. And perhaps, showing love, respect, and hope for a better future for women and men was helpful as well.

    Side note. A while back, I discovered more about the language of the sealing. An elderly woman explained why the wording was considered empowering for women in the 19th century. (1 minute read). However, I am aware of the polygamy angle and the way it sounds to us in the 21st century.

  67. RockiesGma says:

    Oh glory goodness…..

    Please don’t silence those who have truly legitimate concerns about sacred things. If you find these posts and comments disturbing, just don’t read them. But don’t disparage these folks for their honest awareness of honest problems within our sacred spaces.

    It is true many women suffer in pain because of the whole concept of being priestesses TO our husbands instead of to God; that it hurts deeply to give ourselves but our husband doesn’t give back; that we wear the robes of the holy priesthood but are never ordained, hold no power, nor any authority; that our voices are only heard if we echo what the Brethren say from their male perspective; that we are unjustly and ignorantly labeled ugly things.

    Like Jacob in Nephi importuned, How long, oh Lord, must thou hear the cries of thy fair daughters??

    Until those in authority even listen to our sincere voices, and then even have a desire to inquire of the Lord diligently and earnestly, our pain will go on. I’m old. I’ve endured in silence so as not to rock the good ship Zion. I will yet endure. But some of my posterity are gone, especially among my grandchildren. The pain and suffering has spread and runs much, much too deep for words.

    Oh Lord, how long must thou hear our fair cries?

    Dear Brethren, how long till you hear and not turn away?

  68. @Mr. Schmidt,

    I apologize for my terse reply to your comment earlier.

    I read your “what we’re worrying about isn’t actually an issue like we think it is? … If we don’t have the full picture, what else can we do but ask the being that should have the full picture” as a ‘don’t worry about it, there’s probably a good explanation why God’s OK with the inequality.’

    Like JR, I also find asking priesthood leaders to be a unproductive endeavor. A temple matron preemptively brought up an issue she probably gets asked about a lot, saying ‘we don’t know why’ which essentially shut down any further questions or discussion. The thing is, somebody knows (the Temple committee has to know if they’re approving the script, right?) but they’re unwilling to own it. If you’re a temple matron, there’s a pretty good chance you’re aware of the second anointing for select, elite members. Even acknowledging that ordinance is still performed would explain a lot about the ‘priestess to your husband’ situation. But saying ‘we don’t know’ sounds like a carefully worded denial to me. So asking for more revelation seems futile when we can examine the history, and current leaders refuse to remove the hierarchical language/structure, or explain why it remains, or even acknowledge that it’s an issue.

  69. Just want to add, the overwhelming response to my temple concerns by every single Priesthood leader I’ve ever talked to (they are lay clergy after all) is:

    “Huh, I never noticed that before.”
    “Wait, that can’t be true? Is that true?”
    “I have no idea.”
    “Woah, I paid attention last time and you’re right, where can I read more?”
    “You’re not alone in this concern, I don’t have any answers.”
    “Huh, I have a buddy in Salt Lake, do you think they know about this problem women have? I seriously think they don’t know.”
    “Have you read this random book? It helped me but it’s not authoritative.”
    “Here’s a pet theory of mine but all my Priesthood buddies and I have discussed it and we all have different pet theories?”
    “Just go by faith.”
    “God loves you.”

  70. I think the first couple items on Carolyn’s list are exactly why it’s important for women to share their concerns.

  71. Deseret Defender: in the past, some commenters have referred to the concept of “chicken patriarchy”–that is, we try to practice and enshrine patriarchy but for various reasons we do our best to talk around it. You’re absolutely right in your assessment of many church teachings about the role of women in relationship to men. But we don’t generally publicize that message these days. There are no videos where Mormon women talk about embracing a subservient role and supporting their husband as the patriarch of the home. There are no videos with Young Women talking about listening to their fathers as the patriarch of their families. We didn’t have a campaign called “I’m a Mormon Man Who Presides Over His Family.”

    Some of us would prefer that things lean more towards the equality side of things, other prefer a more patriarchal structure. But if we’re going to preach the latter, let’s practice it and abandon the marketing pretense of “equal partnership.” We can’t have it both ways.

  72. Mr. Schmidt says:

    @Also anon: fair enough.

    Asking priesthood leaders is only one avenue for revelation. It does happen to be the only avenue right now that usually is coupled with systemic change – which is, I assume, the goal. I wonder if we won’t get answers step-by-step from God (whether through our own channels or through “our priesthood leaders”) instead of one complete, single answer. I suppose that is a trite thing to say – bit I think I believe it.

    Perhaps those steps will help lead us along to at least take the next steps in faith, to get the next part of the answer as we grow and learn. Maybe even the types of questions we ask could be better served to change – what is the next thing I should know to help me along this path of understanding vs. what is the final answer, bar none?

    I don’t mean that as a criticism of the questions raised. Nor do I mean it as a “things are fine, let things be if we don’t know”. I’m just trying to tease out my belief that the form of the question can matter (not saying that as a blanket statement right now, I don’t know if I can say that). If I’m not getting an answer to the question I’m asking right now, could I break it down into smaller increments?

  73. Mary Wright says:

    Thanks for this post. I remember reading the verses in Ephesians about husbands and wives after going through the temple and thinking, “wow I guess church leaders must believe these verses about the relationship between men and women to be true since that’s how they structured temple covenants.” Here are the verses for your reference:
    22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
    23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
    24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

    What’s interesting is that in the new Come Follow Me curriculum, there is the following commentary:
    “It is important to note that Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:22 were written in the context of the social customs of his era. Prophets and apostles today teach that men are not superior to women and that spouses should be “equal partners” (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, inside back cover). Even so, you can still find relevant counsel in Ephesians 5:23–33, especially if you are married or preparing for marriage. For example, how does Christ show His love for the Saints? What does this imply about how husbands should treat their wives? What messages do you find for yourself in these verses?”

    To me these verses very well parallel the gender hierarchy in the temple. I think it’s interesting that church leaders recognize verse 22 and others above as asserting male superiority. I absolutely agree that that is exactly what these verses do, and it is false doctrine that was popular during Paul’s time. How is it then that the same hearkening and submission of women to men in the temple doesn’t also assert male superiority? Surely the early church leaders who created/received the temple endowment got the idea for the woman > man > Christ relationship somewhere, like probably Ephesians. So how is this scripture wrong, but the implementation of it in temple covenants is right?

  74. Suomalainen says:

    Late to the party, but would nevertheless venture some thoughts, especially in reply to Carolyn, Bensen and Mr. Schmitt’s comments.

    First of all I’d like to say that the temple language has been deeply hurtful to me as well. It has taken me years/a decade and a half to feel a measure of peace over it, but it’s a fragile peace that needs much prayer and constant research and that always feels a little shaken again each time I go to the temple.

    So what I will offer now are some thoughts arrived at after much pain and putting my questions to the Lord over and over and over again. Not perfect answers, but in the hope they may offer some peace to others, here they go.

    I agree with Bensen that the hearken covenant is in the meaning of “as far as”. I don’t know whether the people writing the ceremony meant it in that way originally, or whether prophets past have interpreted it this way, but I think it fair to assume that God himself means it this way. Eventually the church will follow. Somebody asked whether reading it this way actually changes things. The answer is: yes, it does. Because it makes a woman the knower and guardian of God’s will. Before she does any hearkening to anyone else, she must know God’s will so well that she can tell when someone’s hearkening correctly to him or not. It’s powerful and reflective of Eve’s role in the garden of Eden. It involves discerning and knowing God at a very advanced level and it’s an admonition to know and to study him well. Read this way, it is also an admonition not to hearken to men unless they are aligned with God’s will (which essentially means most of the time). ;)

    There is a lovely story in the Pearl of Great Price nobody seems to ever talk about, about Adah and Zillah, the wives of Lamech (descendant of Cain). He kills seven people and then boasts about it. The wives, however, do not buy into this business of their husband, but instead go about revealing his dark deeds and secret covenants. They are revered for it in the scriptures. There is also Rebekah tricking Isaac into giving the right blessing to the right son, etc. There are many more. Moses’s wife telling him to cut the foreskin of their son, etc. The three women that ask Moses to rethink inheritances. These are all stories of women hearkening as long as…

    Those stories are also an indication that scriptural / righteous women can and do challenge priesthood authority @Carolyn, though I absolutely agree that there is no formal venue in the church to do this on a larger scale.

    I think Mr Schmitt you are up to something when you say it has something to do with our mortal life. Which also means that none of the inequalities are meant to stay forever or eternally. One might wish to study the differences between the promises made to women and men in the initiatories. From those one might actually conclude that that there is also spiritual inequality in the church, and here it’s the men who have received the shorter stick. (Or one might view it as a device to put women on a pedestal or justify men’s leadership role within the church). In either case, there is some powerful language for women to be had in the temple too, which should not be forgotten. It of course doesn’t change the fact that many view women as having a subservient role in marriage/church and that this is damaging and should be changed. I don’t think for a second, however, that God views us this way. At all.

    As to the sealing, I was fortunate enough to attend a session once in which a certain sealer took the time to explain to us the wording. He said “receiving” meant “receiving as in receiving a very special gift” that you honor and cherish and are deeply grateful for. He also pointed out that the words “receive” and “give yourself” are in the exact opposite to what each gender does physically during intimacy. (Yes, he was awesome talking about this openly in the temple).

    Anyway, long way to say: I do think the language in the temple can be damaging. I don’t think it is meant to be. I do think it’s a situation of milk before meat. Eventually we will come to understand it in a higher level. I know tgat is unsatisfactory, but I don’t mean it in the “don’t ask, it’ll be revealed” sense. Quite the opposite. The more we ask, the more will be revealed. I also think the hearken covenant can actually be empowering, as can the initiatiry and the sealing. I do get when it’s not. Most problematic of all is that many men seem completely oblivious to the language and its implications, either in the empowering ir disempowering sense.

    I agree that the video making it sound like the temple is about equality is stretching it quite a lot.

  75. Suomalainen says:

    Well, I am so relieved that mostly everything I said above can now be safely disregarded.

%d bloggers like this: