Last month I signed up clean the temple, it was the first time I had ever been a part of the temple cleaning crew. I did not expect that it would become one of my most valued and cherished spiritual experiences. In a way that only spending several hours in the temple can, perhaps for the first time in my life I was blessed with a glimpse of eternity.
We were asked to come at 8:30 dressed in plain pants and shirt (no jeans). We put on white slippers and a white jumpsuit and all 30 of us from our ward were escorted into a room for training. A sister stood up after a short video, she was in charge of coordinating all of the temple cleaning every night. With her, standing to the side, were about a dozen BYUI students who had volunteered to supervise one night a week on a cleaning shift.The BYUI students were pretty evenly mixed group of men and women.
After our instructions we were split into mixed-gender groups, one group started in the baptistry and the other in the sealing rooms and we worked to meet in the middle. As my group walked upstairs to the sealing rooms we were split into smaller groups and assigned to a student coordinator; please note, not once were we ever assigned a task by gender. A few of us were asked to dust the wood in every sealing room. As we completed one task we were split off further and re-assigned to another coordinator. The male students passed us off to the females and regularly asked their female supervisor what to do next.
I have never, in all of my 34 years of serving in all three female auxiliary presidencies and teaching positions . . . have I ever had an experience among fellow mormons where every single body was equal and needed and viewed as having the same capacity for work in any position available.
There was one moment near the end of the night, after the last person had left the Celestial Room (seriously people, don’t go to the last session of the night and then take an eternity leaving the celestial room) when all 15 of us volunteers plus about 10 coordinators rushed onto the floor with vacuums as soon as the patrons had left. I was on one side of the temple vacuuming when someone from my ward (a BYUI religion professor with a lot of Gospel knowledge and wisdom and church leadership experience) tapped my shoulder to ask me where he should go next to vacuum.
After our work was done the Sister in charge of cleaning the temple asked us to gather in the terrestrial room and watch as the drapes were brought down over the veil of the temple; she then brought us to other areas to watch and just think quietly as the lights were turned off on that floor. As we were shuffling from room to room at first the men tried to stand back and let all of the women through first, but it was so crowded and awkward that way that the next time people were just shuffling through the door by who reached it first.
It was the first time in my 35 years in all of my Gospel service that I truly felt equal. Oh I have felt equally valued before; but this is the first time I felt equal in that I had the same purpose, need, and role as every other volunteer that night. I had the same capacity and abilities and all that mattered was my willingness to show up and work.
I truly hope I was granted a glimpse of eternity that night. We know so little about what eternity will be like. I hope there will be work to do, and I hope that work is done by those willing and able. Full Stop.
Beautiful Kristine, just beautiful. Sounds like the kind of feeling I have when my lovely husband and I have completed our housekeeping. Not that our home is as ordered, beautiful or well run as the temple, but we can try together to work towards it being so.
Nice, and a bit eye-opening for a guy reading it. I have been in many leadership positions and I sometimes have tried to empower women to take more of a lead, but I often find that many of them wish to push that back on me. I always assumed it was more of a cultural thing and they were trying to show respect. You are encouraging me to continue nudging the wonderful sisters to take their rightful position.
(in proofing this before sending, it could come off as condescending. I don’t think I am, but I try to be open to my blind spots. Plus I don’t have time to re-write/edit as I need to get to work).
Happy Hubby: keep trying! That women are resisting is totally normal. We’ve been taught to never seek or have the spotlight and to do so is wrong.
Last week was stake conference here in Rexburg East stake. Last year I gave my Stake Prez a copy of Neylan’s book “Women at Church” where it talks about leaders making sure our actions match our doctrine (ie in our wards and stakes if we believe that women are equal to men in receiving inspiration and revelation and that we value them as much as we do our stake male leaders…..we need to make sure we hear from them more — at least enough that stake members know their names).
Our SP announced that in Stake Conf he asked 6 women from stake leadership to speak to take up the hour before the spresidency spoke. My friend was one of them and she complained and moaned about how the women did NOT want to speak at all. I told her they HAD to even if they didn’t want to. It was the only way to prove that we believe our doctrine, is to act like it.
I love this, Kristine. Thanks for sharing it.
Oh, Kristine, this was lovely. I struggle so much with seeing heaven (as construed in Mormonism) as a place I want to be and your post has given me hope. Thank you thank you thank you!
Mostly, this just makes me sad. The world is so much bigger and better than the one this author is experiencing.
I loved my time cleaning the temple. For one semester at BYUI I was the Friday night supervisor for the 4th floor. I didn’t realize at the time how perfectly equal I felt there, but reflecting on that time I have thought often about how much respect I felt for others and they for me on those late nights cleaning the sealing rooms.
Now if we could just get this same feeling and application down to cleaning our meetinghouses. I know Temples are more special, but the familiarity with our meetinghouses seems to just breed contempt. If we had these kinds of experiences of leaving behind gender, rank, and station in our more everyday Church lives, we’d be more amenable to seeing how they could be applied to the little things we’d never thought about before.
I feel the same way! I recently volunteered at Gilbert and it was so Celestial.
The room that impressed me the most was cleaning the Nursey. Thinking about the little children that play or nap there, waiting to become an eternal family.
Feminism equals whining and complaining.
Give it a rest.
I have found service projects in general to be refreshingly egalitarian, with some room for meritocracy for those who possess a special skill relative to the project needs.
My experience is like Tom’s. I thought about our ward Christmas party cleanup as I was reading this. There were women and men in the kitchen washing dishes and cleaning up the mess. There were women and men in the gym putting away chairs, tables, and decorations. The woman in charge of the event was giving orders to women and men and everyone was working together to get things done.
Husband is crowned a king and priest unto God and the wife is crowned queen and priestess unto her husband. This is the patriarchal order of Heaven. You have about as much hope of changing this as you do snuffing out the Sun.
Genhy, be careful. If you’re going to continue to post trolling comments, we may choose to snuff you out. Stay on topic and quit posting irrelevant, personal insults.
One of the works I fear the most is cleaning. The cleaning of temples seems gruesome. As a temple worker I’ve never been called to do that yet. I hope that won’t happen a lot – maybe never. I don’t think my wife would see it that way. It would have been nice if she could have been with you.
What a nice post and you temple cleaners, keep up the good work. When I and people like me are in them, it makes us look more righteous.
I love many of your thoughts and even more of your writings but LDS Mormonism is far too material. There is no need to clean anything or be in some special “place” to experience heaven or eturnity both can be found by being present in the present and communing with God. That is heaven, eturnity and a Temple all in one. Being *active* in the church is the antithesis of all three. I’m happy this was a moving experience for you but there is so much more waiting for you inside of you. The Kingdom of God is within, not is some building no matter how well built.
Equality via cleaning? How sexist!
Beautiful Kristine! It heartens me to see this egalitarianism somewhere, but it is especially touching to discover it in such humble service.
This type of egalitarian work exists in genealogy (real genealogy work…the nitty-gritty research and file sharing, not the official hierarchy) and in temple craftsmanship. The men in my family are tailors who sew for the temples alongside the women. My sister is an upholstess and is a carpenter who builds furniture. Both men and women create oil paintings for temple walls and the groups that paint temple murals function as you described. Aldi, both men and women play the organ in the temple chapel and contribute to the temple movie music.
What I find fascinating is that these task-oriented dual- gendered groups work extremely efficiently and accomplish much without the male hierarchy making a puffed show. Instead, it’s like watching the murmurations of starlings…large flocks that swoop and dive together in synchronized precision. Scientists don’t know how they do it. I stand in awe as mormon teams sync together, just getting stuff done. It’s nothing less than a miracle. When I try to figure out how these teams work, I feel the same type of puzzlement the grinch feels as he wonders how Christmas could come without boxes, packages or tags. Honestly, how do these groups smoothly and effectively work without formal male leadership and typical pomp and circumstance? We have created so many cultural formalities and stumbling blocks, I’m surprised we can still work organically as equals. All I can say is praise be to God.
Frank: I have a close friend who has said she loves cleaning the church for the exact same reasons I list here.
I don’t know if it’s my husband or the group I usually get assigned with – but usually somehow the “boys” split off for the “heavy lifting” and the girls end up with the “lighter” work (incl bathrooms and dusting/windows, etc). Maybe it was because many hands made for light work…..and church cleaning usually ends up w a family not showing up and extra burdens placed on those w young kids (etc.). It’s kind of the same, though, you are right.
I really wish we hadn’t done away with Activities Committee in our church. It was one of the few callings where gender was a total non-issue; you could have a female Committee Chair presiding over a mixed gender committee.
“Honestly, how do these groups smoothly and effectively work without formal male leadership and typical pomp and circumstance?” Ultimately the cleaning of the temple falls on the shoulders of the temple presidency. Don’t think that just because they aren’t sitting there, personally giving instructions, that they haven’t organized and delegated the affairs of the temple to ordinance workers, both male and female, and on to other administrative staff. Maybe the pomp and circumstance that accompanies such leadership is only imagined. Maybe it’s possible to have Kristine A’s glimpse of eternity experience under the direction of a priesthood leader with keys after all.
I never said my ideal heaven is without priesthood power and keys; but I would doubt anyone who thought an experience like this is not an anomaly.
Another of the few (besides, obviously, Primary, and YSA, and SA): Try stake or regional public affairs. I’ve worked in both in two different regions, in three different callings, in mixed gender committees where sisters where called as directors. Good stuff when it’s done well.
I am grateful for the service of all who keep our temples clean.
And while I am glad that the OP had an experience that she found worthwhile, in which women and men work side by side, I have not found that unique in my 35 years in the church.
As B.H. has noted, public affairs rocks and women often play key roles. I’ve worked on committees in two different stakes in two different regions and found a similar pattern of female leadership and male committee members reporting to her.
As Joni notes, women often served as chair of the activities committee when that was a thing. I held that calling as well.
Most of the seminary teachers that my kids had were women. And a woman taught the mixed-gender missionary preparation Institute class that my daughter attended.
As others have noted, service projects have women and men toiling side-by-side, with women providing much of the detailed organization and on-the-ground direction. And we do a lot of service projects.
Also, we’ve had female directors of various stake plays and musical productions.
Family history is another area in which men often report to women, since women often serve as Family History Center Directors.
So I don’t find that aspect of the experience to be anomalous.
I do not, however, feel that heaven is a place where men and women have the “same purpose, need, and role.” That is not the pattern we see in our Heavenly Parents, where He and She seem to have different roles.
While all of us follow a path of discipleship, we each have different routes on that journey. It would seem to be ungrateful to ignore or reject a gift or opportunity that women are given, just because men don’t have the same opportunity–or vice versa. I don’t see the lowest-common-denominator tasks as being superior.