A recent on-line discussion about the temple had the following comment:
I heard so many times that all my questions would/could be answered in the temple.
None of my questions were answered. None. Temple workers had no answers. Temple president had no answers. My FIL, a sealer, had no answers. Everyone told me to just pray harder, go to the temple more often, and God would let me know all the answers.
It didn’t work.
I look back at going through the temple 10 days before my marriage. It was policy back then to not allow women to go any sooner.
No one told me what promises would be expected of me. No one told me that I was expected to promise to put the LDS church first in my life. No one told me that I was required to put my husband between me and my relationship with God.
With wedding announcements out and a lifetime of expectations on the line, it was a difficult situation to be put in.
I used to say that I “felt” coerced. I don’t say that anymore.
It was coercion.
I knew that to be married, I would kneel across the temple altar and say “yes” rather than “I do”. I knew the basic wording of the wedding sealing ceremony and what marriage was all about. That gets discussed.
Yet promising my future, my everything to the LDS church?? I was expected to do that without prior thought or prayer.
No one should be making promises and vows that are supposed to last eternity without time to ponder and think.
The LDS church needs to do better. Serious promises need to be done with serious preparation.
My Temple Readiness class was useless.
I walked out of the temple feeling confused, coerced and lied to.
And yes, 32 years later, it still makes me mad.
The truth is that if you ask temple workers, you will get the following:
As a temple worker, we are instructed to refer all questions to the temple presidency. That, in a nutshell, is why you can’t get answers from temple workers.
For many things asked of you in the temple, there is no advance warning or discussion. Temple preparation does not discuss the specifics of the various promises required of someone in the temple, especially women.
If you study the history of the temple ceremony, you will find that the most problematic issue, the one that causes the most issues for women, was finalized during the reconstruction of the endowment after the death of Joseph Smith.
A debate occurred at that time and the question was settled by an appeal to logic according to the standards of that era. Thus, the endowment portrays the beliefs by some of those involved in the debate that women were naturally inferior to men.
When Brigham Young began to preach on the equality of men and women, that part of the temple ceremony was not changed.
Those same 19th century thoughts are seen in other discussions from that same era and folk doctrines that follow them:
- Discussions of how polygamy really is the true order of the gospel were justified by the doctrine that women are and should be subservient to men (See Orson Pratt in the Seer and numerous folk doctrines); and,
- The position that marital rape is acceptable. That was a prevalent folk and legal doctrine of that time. The law did not start to change until the mid 1970s.
Neither 19th Century thought is likely to get an affirmation in General Conference. The reality is that in this modern time, neither practice is endorsed and either will get you excommunicated.
The other discussion you will find frequently examined in a variety of online forums is the question of “Why.” Why do we make promises in the Temple that make women appear subservient to men?
The underlying basic question asked and talked about over and over is why does it look like women are subservient forever? The question of apparent female subservience is the question about the part of the Temple most likely to cause people to quit going to the temple or to leave the Church.
At its heart the question is the question of whether female subservience is prescriptive or descriptive.
The core question is whether the part of the Temple that portrays women as subservient to men reflect a broken and fallen world (the way things are after the fall) or does it portray an ideal world (the way things should be with the gospel)?
The use of the term Descriptive is to describe what is. In the context of the Temple, if what is presented is descriptive of the world outside of the Garden of Eden, then we are describing the way that reality operates in a broken and fallen world. That means that in being Descriptive, one describes a state of sin that we should endeavor to escape. If the female subservience in the Temple is Descriptive then are speaking in terms of what currently exists and what we have to deal with.
The use of the term Prescriptive is to describe what should be. If the female subservience in the Temple is Prescriptive then it describes the order of heaven and how things really ought to be. If something is Prescriptive it is the ideal situation we should all seek after. If female subservience in the Temple is Prescriptive then it is what should be, not merely what is.
It is seeing female subservience in the Temple as prescriptive (what the Church teaches that God wants) rather than descriptive (what the Church is teaching that we need to overcome) that causes so many to reject the Temple.
If I see women being treated as subservient to men as descriptive — as describing a fallen world, then I do not see it as justifying polygamy or other things because I am seeing subservience as something we need to overcome in order to not be in a fallen and broken state.
If I see women being treated subservient to men as prescriptive — as describing the ideal, then I would be taking a position that justifies any number of abominations.
The problem is that we have so very little discussion of Temple related subservience. There are no official statements as to whether the temple is descriptive or prescriptive except by looking at our cultural practices. Current practice has far fewer women than men in any positions of authority.
Women in positions of authority no longer serve for life and they do not receive stipends or other indicators that their authority is “real” or valued. In comparison to the cultural markers we give men in authority, from where they sit, to how they are addressed, and how much they are paid, women in authority look subservient.
The authority structure is combined with a culture that pushes women to stay home and focus on motherhood. That is too easily wrapped into a yarn ball of temple questions that are not addressed in a Temple Preparation class. After going through the temple, people have more questions, not fewer. In reflecting on that, it seems that the Church might consider a post-endowment class that allows members to discuss the temple. It could be held in the temple (like the lectures that used to take place in the Swiss Temple) if that would allow for easier discussions.
That approach would allow for the question of female subservience and many other questions and issues to be addressed clearly. It would allow for concepts that are not covered in Temple Preparation Class to be addressed. It would provide answers to questions that people currently ask and do not get answered.
This is important since just like female subservience, other questions arise in other parts of the Temple Ceremony. Consider the question as whether consecration is dedicating everything to the service of God or if it is turning money over to the Church. That is only one of many other questions that comes up.
But all of the additional questions tend to pale in comparison to the issue of whether the parts of the temple that paint women as subservient to men are descriptive or prescriptive and that is a question that causes so much anguish when it does not get answered when people ask about it.
Nothing we do to prepare for the temple seems to answer the questions I’ve discussed and many more. No questions asked in the temple seem to get answered beyond “pray often and attend more …”
Questions for our readers:
Where would you go if you had questions about the temple? Have you ever had questions about the temple and had them answered?
- Do you think the status of women in the temple is descriptive or prescriptive?
- Why do you think something decided by logic has not been changed even though the logic supporting it has been rejected publicly by Church leaders from Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith and others?
- How could or should the Church further distance itself from what are now folk doctrines that it already excommunicates people for practicing?
- What would temple preparation would you have liked to have had? What would it have needed to include to make you feel like you were prepared. Would it be the same or different from what you received and how or why would you change it?
- Why does the temple require dedication to the Church rather than the Kingdom of God?
- What about the temple inspires you? What fails you?
- What other thoughts do you have in response to this essay?
- Is it ok to still have the temple respond to you personally and give you strength or inspiration if it fails someone else?
- Do other things or contexts affect how you see the Temple?
I’ll answer just a few questions to keep this from being too long…
1) I would go to the internet for questions about the temple. I have gone to Bishops, etc. and with a questioning friend to a temple president (25 years ago). I’ve never received any answers beyond keeping attending and praying. I see no point in discussing it more with bishops, etc.
3) I doubt most church leaders or members have any clue where the temple ceremony came from. Almost all members believe it came straight from God. I had a conversation with my bishop a while back and he said ‘The temple isn’t going to change.” I commented back that it had changed in the past, and he said I was wrong (to which I replied ‘Google’ it – which didn’t help my case).
8)The primarily problem here is that at the end of the day, there are no answers. If there were answers, the Temple Presidents (at the very least) would be able to answer the questions. I’ve never even heard of a Q12 being able to answer the questions. So I wish we would just admit that and then see what we can do about it.
10) Yes, if I’m honest. That we are only allowed to speak positive things about the temple at church, when I know very well that I am not the only woman who feels as I do, really annoys me. It’s all so totally dishonest. One honest discussion of how someone woman really struggle with the temple would have gone a long way in making my first time not so terrible. Because my initial challenge was a huge gap in my expectations – and of course I thought that was my fault. It wasn’t until the last couple of years (aka popularity of the topic on the internet) that I realized I’m not totally crazy in my experiences.
This is a HUGE problem for me, particularly with regards to the “hearken” covenant. My eternal salvation is riding, at least in part, on my ability to hearken to my husband as he hearkens to God… And I have NO good working definition of that because we NEVER talk about it.
Sure, we talk about what it means to hearken to God or to the prophets (it means obedience). Sometimes we will even discuss what hearkening to my husband DOESN’T mean (“it doesn’t mean you have to obey him!”) but that is woefully insufficient for understanding an eternally binding covenant.
It’s not that the covenants are “too sacred” to talk about outside the temple. We also covenant to the Law of Chastity, and look how much we talk about THAT.
No, I think there’s another reason the (mostly male) church leadership doesn’t want to publicly discuss or define this covenant. Imagine if an apostle gets up in the next Women’s Session and says “now sisters, remember you promised God you’d hearken to your husbands. This is what it doesn’t mean, and this is what it DOES mean.” The mainstream media would have a field day with that – Male Mormon Leaders Teaches Women To Be Subservient, or whatever. And it wouldn’t even necessarily be an unfair or inaccurate spin on things.
In other words, the unequal “hearkening” covenant is embarrassing/backwards/sexist enough that our (mostly male) church leaders don’t want to TALK about it, but it’s not bad enough that they actually want to CHANGE it. They get to have their patriarchy cake and eat it too.
And that’s one of the big reasons I don’t attend the temple anymore…
“A debate occurred at that time and the question was settled by an appeal to logic according to the standards of that era. Thus, the endowment portrays the beliefs by some of those involved in the debate that women were naturally inferior to men.”
I’ve never heard of this debate. Where does one learn about it? If this statement is true, that seems to me to be a big deal when it comes to whether or not the ceremony could/should be changed without a big revelation.
1. Where have I tried to get answers? I talked to a temple president after we were first married back in the 70s and his answers amounted to: 1. polygamy is an eternal principle, and if that means women really are inferior, well, it wasn’t him that said it but God. 2. That the signs and tokens that get us past angels are really because our “heavenly Father” really does not know us personally, and 3. That if I am just a good girl and obey my husband then I don’t need answers.
When his lack of answers and throwing God under the bus didn’t sit well with me, he got frustrated and told me that my attitude (of thinking there should BE answers) would “take me straight to hell” (his exact words, in the temple)
The Internet has not given me any answers that I can accept and still believe in a God who loves his daughters. The Internet answers have been “it is symbolic” with symbols that put women below men. “Women represent earth while men represent Christ.” Or it has been “Two trees” kind of thing that does not FIT with what the temple actually says and turns bodily functions into sacraments.
So, I trust only myself for answers and the only answer where God still loves his daughters throws the whole temple ceremony into “philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.” Yup, I’ve gone apostate.
No longer believing that the temple comes from God sort of answers or makes the other questions not apply.
8. Other things that bother me? Oh yeah! The whole need for “signs and tokens”. If our Heavenly Father is our father, then he knows us, and his angels all know their brothers & sisters, so there is no need for “secret passwords”. I went through before the 1990s changes, when we women still promised to “obey” our husbands and it was just a bit more clear that we were to be priestesses to our husband when he became a god, never priestesses to Christ. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want the priesthood of Tom. The penalties were still in, and pantomiming slitting my throat was a bit much. Much more like ” secret combinations” of the Gadianton robbers than like anything to do with Jesus of Nazareth. Then there were things that mocked other religions that also have been taken out but still bothered me that making fun of any of God’s children who are doing their best was any part of “righteousness”.
Martin, I ran across it in print.
I will note that a long time ago Hugh Nibley taught a course on the temple for GAs in Manti. Lots of things spun off.
What we need is to get Maxine Hanks to write a post on the endowment editing during the reconstruction. Or Dalin Oaks (if I can dream).
She has been collecting sources recently though I don’t know if she would be comfortable discussing them. We have a blogger who was going to interview her. Maybe they can bring it up if she is ok with it.
I really should have collected different things than I did.
Where would you go if you had questions about the temple? Have you ever had questions about the temple and had them answered? I’ve asked my priesthood leaders but they hadn’t noticed it or given it much thought. I took it to God and received an unmistakable response that the sexist parts reflected the bias and worldview of the people who ultimately framed the ceremonies. Your response may vary, but that’s what I got.
Do you think the status of women in the temple is descriptive or prescriptive? If it wasn’t intended to be prescriptive it wouldn’t be reflected in church policy and practice and doctrine outside the temple. We still haven’t disavowed polygamy, have we?
Why do you think something decided by logic has not been changed even though the logic supporting it has been rejected publicly by Church leaders from Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith and others? I would love to know more about what exactly it was that was “decided by logic”? I’ve never heard about this.
How could or should the Church further distance itself from what are now folk doctrines that it already excommunicates people for practicing? It could change the things that support the folk doctrines, or spell things out better in conference. But the church is so good at double speak I don’t know if people would believe them, even then.
What would temple preparation would you have liked to have had? I wish someone would have told me I didn’t have to do anything that made me uncomfortable. And that I might not have the superlative and supernal experience everyone talks about, because some people don’t, and that’s ok.
Why does the temple require dedication to the Church rather than the Kingdom of God? Good question.
What about the temple inspires you? What fails you? I like the idea of linking the whole of humanity together. I like having a sacred space, in terms of time and physical environment. I like our cosmos-sized gospel and the opportunity to consider our relationship to it and place in the universe. What fails me? Joseph’s contemporaries were well aware of what he was trying to do and spoke the same semiotic language. Me? Not so much.
What other thoughts do you have in response to this essay? I’m glad men are talking about this. Most don’t seem to notice or care how it might affect their sisters.
Is it ok to still have the temple respond to you personally and give you strength or inspiration if it fails someone else? Yes.
Do other things or contexts affect how you see the Temple? In video games, temples are places of trial, where you are tested and face difficult challenges before you are awarded with power and knowledge. I find this framing helpful- it acknowledges that it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for some people but there can still be value for those willing to make it work.
If you go through the endowment thinking that Adam/men represent Christ and Eve/women represent the church, it makes the experience entirely different. The church hearkens to Christ, the church has to leave the garden and so Christ follows, and so on. Something to reframe that has been helpful for me. The most insightful book I’ve read on the temple recently (and I feel like I’ve read them all) is Wendy Ulrich’s: https://www.amazon.com/Temple-Experience-Journey-Toward-Holiness/dp/1462110851
Wow. Much of that essay rings true to me.
1. I have never heard of someone getting questions answered about the temple beyond, “we will know in the afterlife.”
2. I have a hard time given the overall way women are treated in the church, I have a hard time seeing it as prescriptive. And when I say, “treated” I am not saying they are always mistreated, but they are not respected in a way that I think is appropriate.
5. What would temple preparation would you have liked to have had? I don’t see it so much as temple prep failing, I see it more that the secrecy (as the essay clearly describes). It really feels to me that you are asked if you are OK with doing this “of your own free will” before you even have much of a clue.
6. Why does the temple require dedication to the Church rather than the Kingdom of God? A big question I have. I don’t think that statement is from God.
7. What about the temple fails you? I have never felt “the spirit’ in the temple. I have never had any of my pleadings with the Lord answered in the temple.
8. What other thoughts do you have in response to this essay? Moss mentions something that I am embarrassed. The fact that as a man I didn’t see clearly some of the misogyny and how that must feel being a woman listening to it. I did feel a twinge of “huh?” but I brushed it off. I am STARTING to get it.
ACW, is there any reason why the better thing (Christ) has to be represented by men, and the less good thing (the world/the church) has to be represented by women?
Would the symbolism still work if the church was represented by the man, and he covenants to hearken to his wife (representing the Savior) as she hearkens to God? Or can only a man be symbolic of Jesus?
(FWIW, my problem isn’t that there aren’t *reasonable* explanations for the many, many problematic aspects of the temple – it’s that there aren’t any *official* ones.)
Joni: “our (mostly male) church leaders don’t want to TALK about it, but it’s not bad enough that they actually want to CHANGE it. They get to have their patriarchy cake and eat it too.”
Please feel free to discount this first part of my comment as a male baby boomer viewpoint if you wish, but sometimes I think there is a more fundamental and possibly less negative reason for the disparate obedience covenants not yet having been changed to be reciprocal. In some ways the current GAs seem to be caretakers of the received Church (and endowment), not innovators. Thus, when the membership aversion to the penalties grew sufficiently widespread they were eliminated — at the risk of offending other members who would insist that the received form of endowment was dictated by God for all time. When the aversion to derogatory language about priests and popes grew sufficiently widespread it was modified and the preacher who was there to be made fun of was eliminated. When the “oath of vengeance” (covenant to pray and teach your descendants for 3 and 4 generations to pray for God’s vengeance on the United States) became sufficiently repulsive to general membership, it was eliminated. I would expect that sometime after the membership aversion to the disparate obedience covenants outweighs (in the prophet’s mind) anticipated difficulties of members who would perceive reciprocal covenants as a departure from revealed TRUTH, the covenants would be made reciprocal. But apparently we aren’t there yet. Of course, it would help if it were possible to teach the general membership some view of revelation that does not amount to GAs taking dictation daily from God or otherwise acting at all times as God’s puppets. BTW, there are a good number of male baby boomers who do not expect subservience of their wives and a number of those who have been as offended by the disparity (including the burden it places on the husband) as have the women and some of those who privately make to their wives the same covenant the current temple endowment asks of women to their husbands.
Some of the other problems – wholly inadequate temple preparation – continuing false teachings that there are covenants not to speak outside the temple of what occurs inside (the actual non-disclosure covenants are far more restricted) – the offensive expectation that it is possible for someone to agree to make covenants of his/her “own free will and choice” when the words of the anticipated covenants have neither been disclosed nor explained – occasional officious, busy-body, controlling temple workers – language that has changed in meaning (e.g. “loud laughter”) – the identification of the kingdom of God with the Church organization – etc. affect patrons without regard to gender. And yet the fundamental idea of sealing the individual to the family of God and sealing all together as family remains ennobling. Sometimes the clean and quiet sacred space is helpful, but there are other such spaces to be found or made as well. I have no difficulty with the idea that the temple experience as it now stands can be uplifting for some and overwhelmingly negative for others. I am currently convinced that the difference is not their worthiness or the frequency of their temple attendance, but, of course, I could be wrong.
1) “Where would you go if you had questions about the temple? Have you ever had questions about the temple and had them answered?” I prayed. Nobody working in the temple ever answered an actual question in my experience, and no leaders would talk about them either.
2) “Do you think the status of women in the temple is descriptive or prescriptive?” Prescriptive as originally intended. It’s utter bollocks intended to subjugate women and make polygamy work better.
3) “Why do you think something decided by logic has not been changed even though the logic supporting it has been rejected publicly by Church leaders from Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith and others?” Because it benefits men and hurts women, and they don’t care enough about the latter to inconvenience the former. Also, plenty of women in the church turn a blind eye to it.
4) “How could or should the Church further distance itself from what are now folk doctrines that it already excommunicates people for practicing?” Remove the hearken covenant (even just the covenant part – it could be in the story and be less of an issue), make female anointings identical to male, make female sealing language identical to male.
5) “What would temple preparation would you have liked to have had? What would it have needed to include to make you feel like you were prepared. Would it be the same or different from what you received and how or why would you change it?
Why does the temple require dedication to the Church rather than the Kingdom of God?” It should be changed to Kingdom of God, not the Church.
6) “What about the temple inspires you?” The whole human family being sealed together. The different types of Christian covenants (the non-sexist ones). The idea of progressing to enter God’s presence. Having a place set aside to seek answers with no external interruption. ” What fails you?” The treatment of women.
7) “What other thoughts do you have in response to this essay?” I wish our male church leaders cared about the heartache of women in the temple. I see no real evidence that they do.
8) “Is it ok to still have the temple respond to you personally and give you strength or inspiration if it fails someone else?” It’s a personal experience. I would never begrudge anyone the comfort they find therein.
9) “Do other things or contexts affect how you see the Temple?” I am troubled by what I see as obvious links to polygamy in the sealing ceremony.
Since I’ve kvetched plenty about ‘hearkening’, I suppose I should take a stab at the actual questions…
1. I’ve tried to talk to my husband. He keeps trying to foist me off onto female relatives.
2. I think it’s prescriptive but that’s because I personally see God as the author of the sexism in the temple/church. I know a lot of people don’t see it that way, but I do.
4. I don’t know
5. I wish that someone had told me about the many, MANY differences between the male and female temple experience. It begins as soon as you walk in the door. (Seriously – why can only a man – sorry, a priesthood holder – scan the barcode on my temple recommend?)
6. There’s probably a legal reason for this (like the tithing donation slip saying that our money becomes the property of “the Church” and not God, He is not a legal entity).
7a. The architecture can be nice. The new Indianapolis temple is pretty – it’s not cookie cutter at all.
7b. Literally the worst spiritual trauma I’ve ever experienced took place in the celestial room. I’ve never gotten over it and I probably never will.
8. I don’t know
9. I’m happy that other people are uplifted by the temple. I just wish that wasn’t the only narrative we’re allowed to tell.
10. I’m puzzled/distressed by the complete lack of Heavenly Mother in the temple and upset about what that implies for my own eternity.
Acw, this is why the Adam/Christ and Eve/Church seems to fit so well in the temple ceremony:
A man loves many wives because God gives him many; and he is required to love them, or become a transgressor. …And, as the husband stands as the master of the house, if a woman had two husbands or masters, she would be sure, according to the words of Christ, “to hate the one and love the other,” for no one can love and serve two masters; but two can love one master; yes, a hundred wives can love one master or husband, for he is their head, even as Christ is the great Master and Head of the Church. As Christ is one, and is the Great Bridegroom, being married unto many, so likewise the man, being one husband, one bridegroom, may be married unto many. As the bride of Christ consists of a plurality of persons, so the bride of each of his faithful servants may consist of a plurality of individuals. The bride of Christ, though a plurality of persons, should be one in spirit, in love, and in good works; so likewise the bride of each of his servants, however many persons, should be perfectly one in their love and union of spirit. (Orson Pratt, The Seer, Vol. 1 No. 10, p. 154)
See, in the 1800s, men were considered lords and saviors of their families, just like Christ was Lord and Savior of the church.
That is impressive research Mary Ann. Interesting how that segues with acw’s comments.
ReTx — thank you for leading off.
Joni and Anna, thank you for your reflection.
Angela and Moss — that seems very honest.
JR, that was interesting.
Happy Hubby — that is too bad. The temple is the only place I’ve seen the Spirit fall in visible sheets like flames of fire. I still do not know what to completely make of the experience.
Martin — I gave you the best answer I had above.
This is good.
I am the author of the original online comment that is quoted in this posting.
I would like the temple endowment to be something that we approach as individuals, without tying it to missions or marriage. Classes could be held that went over the promises that are made. The promises are essentially equal to a priest or nun dedicating their lives to God and Church. It seems appropriate for such promises to be discussed and reviewed at length with full knowledge of expectations and promises by the individual.
Too many details about the temple are treated like shameful family secrets. Changing that could be the first step. The church needs to decide what is sacred, decide how to best discuss sacred things, and lose the secrecy.
Wonderful post, Stephen. I don’t have much to offer beyond what was already said so well here by others, but after being troubled by these things for a long time, an approximate year-long dive into the source documents (those that are available) left me with the conclusion that our modern treatment of this topic, as bad as it is, is much better than the foundation upon which these doctrines are built. In other words, the foundation is more troublesome than where we are today, which is very concerning to me.
David Buerger wrote an excellent book called “The Mysteries of Godliness” that I am reading right now. It gives an excellent history of where the temple ceremony comes from and how it has changed over time. I would love to pin the whole ceremony and the bad language on Brigham Young and Heber C Kimball and say the ceremony is descriptive, but there is too much evidence from other aspects of our doctrine, the Bible, and the restoration that imply it is much more prescriptive. I have not heard any stories of female angels who visited or administered to Joseph Smith or anyone else. That tells me that men are mostly running the show in heaven. Unless someone can tell me different, we still believe and teach that gender roles will exist in heaven where women will be birthing spirit babies and nurturing them while the men get to enjoy the part of procreation that we are involved in and then spend the rest of our time presiding. ( Sorry Mary Ann. I know I just ranted on this same topic on your post but it just fits here too.)
Replacing the words in the temple will only eliminate the bad feelings that women have during the ceremony. It will not replace what we still believe. Unless a more clear vision is given explaining what it means to become like God (for men and women) and what it means to be a begotten son or daughter of heavenly parents, Mormon women will still have to live life having eternal motherhood and a subservient role being their prize in the eternities. I realize there are many women who love the idea of this, but it depresses my wife like no other. I don’t believe any of this “spirit baby” stuff BTW. I just have faith that there is a God and he created us and this world for a reason. I don’t pretend to know any more than that.
As far as temple preparation, I can’t control what the church does, but my children will know the whole ceremony, the history of the ceremony and know what they are getting into well before they enter the temple.
The temple inspires me because I love all the people inside the temple that serve. Most of my temple service right now is cleaning assignments and youth baptisms. I like taking the young men and young women of our ward to the temple because it forces them to take time out of their schedule and think of others. We go four times a year and I look forward to those mutual nights. I really dislike the lecture they give the youth in the chapel before we go do the baptisms. Some have been good, but most of them end up being creepy and they try a little too hard to bring the spirit in.
I have only had 4 or 5 huge spiritual experiences in my whole life where I feel a connection to a higher being that convince me that there is a God and none of them have happened in the temple.
1. I wish I could discuss it with the wise older women in my ward. But people just don’t talk about the temple.
2. It seems meant to be prescriptive. Eve, because you did this, you promise this and this.
3. I assume it is not changed because the people at the top think it is the way it ought to be. Although I did like JR’s take above.
4. I wish for an official statement that polygamy is not the order of heaven. I suppose this would also require either a halt to subsequent sealings for men, or allowing all women to be sealed to multiple husbands. The idea being that it will all be sorted out in the hereafter.
5. I definitely think tamping down expectations would be helpful.
6. I thought the church was supposed to be the kingdom of God on earth. They probably thought of those as interchangeable.
7. The sealings and work for the salvation of every individual inspire me. The priesthood power given women inspires me. The placing of men over women and between women and God fails me. Also, the lack of Heavenly Mother in the creation story fails me.
8. It drives me nuts that so many people won’t admit that the temple explicitly places women as subservient to men. I think many people don’t even see it, or if they do, they just think it is the order of the universe. That really bothers me. I think many must see it, and maybe have dealt with it, and I’d like to know the specific ways in which they have done that.
9. It is wonderful that so many people find peace and strength in the temple. But I agree with Joni, I wish other experiences were validated as well.
10. I’ve never considered myself a real temple-person, but two of my most powerful spiritual witnesses were when I was sealed to my husband and when I attended my baby sister’s sealing with our whole family (including my long inactive dad) together in the sealing room. So I think my take on the temple is pretty much how I see the church, that the main ideas are true/good/important/necessary, but the way it’s packaged isn’t perfect.
Stephen, I really think the source material regarding that debate is crucial. So much of the temple ceremony was thrown together in what made sense to 19th century men (who were probably also all freemasons), some of which was subsequently removed, that such information seems pivotal in deciding what is 19th century trappings and what might be more central. The language in the Bible has a similar conundrum — what is central, and what is a re-telling couched in the language and attitudes of the era?
“I wish our male church leaders cared about the heartache of women in the temple. I see no real evidence that they do.”
I’d be interested to hear what they could say or do, short of changing the ceremony, that wouldn’t make things worse.
One of the women in our ward was recently suggesting that temple endowments only be taken out when a couple feels ready to do so.That system worked well for converts I think, who saw it as the next stage in their commitment to the gospel.
My wife and I both served missions before meeting. My wife didn’t feel comfortable with the temple from Day 1, but she chose to focus on things other than the subservient role of women portrayed throughout the temple ordinances and covenants. She was an outstanding missionary.
We married and those issues in the temple began to weigh on my wife. I was a bishop, and my wife found reasons not to attend ward temple night with me. It put a strain on our marriage. I just didn’t understand as a man what there wasn’t to love about the temple.
More years went by. I was serving in a stake presidency. I found I couldn’t answer any real questions about the temple in temple recommend interviews. I started to really try to understand why my wife struggled with what was supposed to be the most defining aspect of our membership and our lives.
We both started doing a lot of research to understand the history of the temple and why God would create this form of worship . It makes me sad to even write this because I still feel the loss of what used to be such a glorious thing for me personally (never my wife ): we both concluded God never intended the temple as we know it. We no longer attend the temple. I was released from the stake presidency. Our marriage has never been stronger. For that I am grateful and we both feel very secure in our relationship with God.
Zach, I did not find Buerger’s “Mysteries of Godliness” particularly helpful. The review at https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/publications/an-imperfect-history includes some explanation of why I had that reaction, even though I am unable to buy into all of that review any more than I could buy into all of Buerger’s work. For some, Buerger’s book seems to have more influence than it deserves because it is their first encounter with anything purporting to be a history of the LDS temple endowment. I am expecting/hoping to find well researched viewpoints different from Buerger’s in Samuel Brown’s “In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death” published by Oxford and in Jonathan Stapely’s “The Power of Godliness” forthcoming from Oxford.
There is no doubt that Buerger has a bias and takes some liberty in jumping to some conclusions that I do not entirely agree with. The book is filled with quotes from journals from people who were present in Kirtland, Nauvoo and later in Utah. I find those very useful. The question was where to go if we have questions and it is at least something. I did not know that Stapley is writing a book about it. That will be a great asset.
I think women’s submission and polygamy in the temple is very closely tied to the ‘curse of Eve’ teachings in the early church. Eliza Snow believed that the way for women to redeem themselves from the curse was by submission to righteous Priesthood holding men, and by enduring polygamy.
THE ELIZA ENIGMA
This line of thinking shows up in many addresses by Eliza to the reconstituted Relief Societies in Utah.
I think we do a disservice to people getting their endowments by not giving them a better idea of what will happen during the ceremony. There are a lot of things I would have liked to have known better before I first took out my endowments. I think that for me, a discussion of each of the promises and their practical implications would have been useful. Obey the law of chastity? Sure, I understand that. Obey the law of the gospel? What does that even mean?
Part of why it doesn’t help to ask temple workers is that there isn’t a whole lot of specialized training on what any of it means, and whatever training you get on symbolism of anything (at least where I served as an ordinance worker) depends on the temple presidency and opportunities do get that training during your shift. Most of the training I got was on the mechanics of the ordinances. Most of the insights I got during the time I was a temple ordinance worker came from my own initiative. We really don’t know much more than the average patron does.
Martin: “I’d be interested to hear what they could say or do, short of changing the ceremony, that wouldn’t make things worse.” This sounds a bit like “I wonder what white people could do, short of freeing the slaves, to show that black people are equal.” Occam’s Razor = there must be changes to the ceremony. There really is no justification for it the way that it is that isn’t a slap in the face to women.
Dan, your comment is wonderful. It gives me hope, but very aptly illustrates the problem. I would never want to take away someone else’s joy in their experience. But that doesn’t change what my own is.
Two Brigham Young quotes for perspective:
“Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings.” – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:311
In the Council of Fifty minutes.
“[T]here has not yet been a perfect revelation given, because we cannot understand it, yet we receive a little here and a little there. [I] should not be stumbled if the prophet should translate the Bible forty thousand times over and yet it should be different in some places every time, because when God speaks, he always speaks according to the capacity of the people.”- Brigham Young
I think that when we look at Brigham Young saying his talks were as good as scripture it helps to understand that he saw much of scripture as well flawed.
Especially the apocrypha such as 1 , 2, 3 and 4 Esdras; Tobit , Judith (“Judeth” in Geneva), Rest of Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4 – 16:24), Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach), Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy (“Jeremiah” in Geneva) (all part of Vulgate Baruch), Song of the Three Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24–90), Story of Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13)
The Idol Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14), Prayer of Manasses (Daniel), 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Corinthians, The Pearl and the Shepherd of Hermes.
“no thanks” I’ve always agreed with “But the “curse of Eve,” that her desire should be to her husband, and that he should rule over her, was not to last forever. As Adam had found redemption from his sins, so also would Eve from hers. ”
It is the start of my seeing the entire story as descriptive of a fallen world rather than prescriptive of how the kingdom of heaven should be and is.
Temple workers are specifically instructed to answer no questions from patrons, and refer all of them to the Temple President. It’s been like this for at least a decade.
Stephen R. Marsh,
If the story is intended to be descriptive instead of prescriptive, then why require women to eternally covenant to submission if they are intended to be equal in the heavens? I know they softened the wording from ‘obey’ to ‘hearken’ but it’s a distinction without a difference. Why not require the husbands to hearken or give themselves to their wives? If the intent is to prepare us for eternity, why can’t husbands start working on that in mortality? Are the other covenants intended to be obeyed only in this world?
ZR: thanks for the link:
“I am saddened that President McKay felt he had been poorly prepared for his experience but encouraged by his frankness in talking about it.15 We need to do a better job, both institutionally and personally, in preparing our children, our friends, and new members to receive their endowment.”
CS, thank you for the comments.
JR–I am looking forward to Stapley’s book.
I liked this quote from the review:
“hyperbole, no UNDERLINED CAPS, adequate (though misused) documentation, and no preaching for fundamentalist, inerrantist Christianity. More importantly, Buerger does not deliberately misquote, selectively edit, or wrench scriptures and history out of context, a hallmark of anti-Mormon literature. I feel that this book occupies a middle ground. ”
No Thanks– excellent points. Sorry if I have more questions than answers.
Dan –I think we see through a glass darkly.
We need to acknowledge that. At least I know I see through a glass darkly.
Kim and Hawk–I think you capture things well.
Damascene–thank you for the permission to quote you for this essay.
I wish I could say I believe the temple language is descriptive, but I find the evidence quite clear that it’s descriptive. The endowment ceremony specifically says that “BECAUSE Eve was the first to partake of the fruit, . . . ” From there the negative consequences to all women ripple out and embed themselves in every temple ritual except baptism/confirmation.
Weird, I’m surprised that more people haven’t been able to approach temple presidencies. I have some excellent instruction and discussions with temple presidencies over the last 17 years I’ve been endowed since my mission. On the way back from my mission in the Philippines I stopped in Taiwan for a week with my father. We did the last session at the Taipei temple one evening and struck up a conversation with a member of the presidency after the session that lasted for a couple hours. One of the best experiences I’ve had. I’ve had questions answered in a couple different temples across the States over the years, I’ve never been turned away when I asked. Have people just never asked to meet or approach a temple presidency member before? Or have you all been turned away?
I thought I should share some of my own background. It creates my perspective, which is different (different, not better) and which is more focused on looking at the Temple as a mystery rite, from the perspective of myth and heroquests as embodied in myths. It is a perspective which is pretty much irrelevant in today’s world.
I used to do some reading in mystery religions. It turned out that my grandfather did the same (though I only met him once, he and my mother were very estranged).
Most of what I ended up doing with my reading and reflection ended up in discussions and in games. So while I was involved with FARMS when it was a desk in Professor Welch’s office and a reading list on temples passed around by Don Norton, I’m not an academic in the area. Instead, with a number of others I worked at simulating heroquests in games for a period of about thirty years, more or less. We designed and analyzed patterns, both fictional, in created worlds, and from our world (using the pyramid texts, the triad lodges and other sources).
I did get to talk with Hugh Nibley and others. Disagreed with Nibley on some things (where he saw the five wounds of death, I made the case for the four breaths), enjoyed his perspective on others, and I’ve read some of what others in the area have done since.
With some exceptions, I don’t seem many looking at things through the lens of the hero pattern or even through the lens of myth rather than literalism (or why I enjoy Ben Spackman so much). I also do not see many looking at the scriptures as being the written record of oral induction rather than written deductive logic (which is modern writing).
Written deductive approaches will lead you to seeing things through a prescriptive lens. Which is what you would expect people to see and conclude and the environment that we have in the modern world.
But as I look back at the elements, to me it looks like:
1. An unfallen state.
2. A fall.
3. Things phrased in terms of the fall (since X did Y, if they will do Z, then AA). That looks like a descriptive loss.
4. A question of how do we escape the fall, and what does escape look like?
a) Does escape look like the result of the fall, just carried forward?
b) Does escape (restoration, being saved, etc.) look like the unfallen state without the fall imposed conditions.
5. That is, is the fall a permanent change with permanent bad consequences, or is the fall something we surpass?
I’m affected by Nibley who was fiercely egalitarian. He believed strongly that women were equal to men in an unfallen world. So, if the gospel is the gospel of salvation, to save us from the fall, then it should save us from the consequences of the fall, not embody those consequences. Just as we believe men should be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression, I think it is a good conclusion that women should be punished for their own sins, and not for Eve’s transgression.
Which is how I read the Temple, and why I see it as descriptive rather than prescriptive.
And, BTW, we do get journal entries and accounts of female angels, of female righteous dead returning to minister to their descendants, etc.
Those are my thoughts of how and where things should go.
Without getting too far off, the three messengers (a pattern that shows up a lot in Christian and Jewish mysteries and related texts) can be male or female. There are a number of other things.
I realize that many of the efforts to re-read Genesis are fraught with problems or issues. The “thy desire shall be to thy husband” line runs the gamut in interpretation from “you will try to take control, but he will prevail” to “as a result of the fall, you will find yourself bending to his will.” There is a line in hearkening that means “obey” and another that means “ignore him when he is speaking out of his own wind and not following God.”
There is room for a good deal of change while being true to the basic pattern.
What will be done with the room, how much of what we currently have is cultural, and how much anyone sees of a need for any change (since the system works for “the same twenty people” who make up the core of who become leaders; even if it is the cause of widespread loss of membership and the Church starting to shrink everywhere outside of third world countries), or is even thinking of one is beyond me. I’m not connected to anyone of importance and hear no rumors or thoughts. I am about as far from an insider as exists.
[Though, make no mistake, in the third world, the Church is seen as an anti-patriarchal force — the Bryndis Roberts interview that discussed that among other things was touching as have been other interviews and discussions about how in the third world the Church empowers women against male oppression. Those were eye opening.]
Those are my thoughts, on topics that have bridged out from a modern reprise on President David O. McKay’s address about how we need a better temple preparation than we have that is still as true today as when he gave it.
[Which is me, coming back around to the original question of my essay.]
For those who may have gotten a little lost in the previous comment, Stephen is well-known in the gaming industry for his decades-long contributions to Dungeons & Dragons. He’s literal in saying he’s created entire worlds. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_R._Marsh
I’m still thinking how best respond to those many great points. There are so many conversation pieces on there that I think it may deserve it’s own post.
Stephen: Some very interesting thoughts there. Almost a new post in itself! Yes, I do see the temple as a hero’s quest (along the lines of Joseph Campbell). The gender inequities are problematic because the temple rite is knowledge passed down through oral tradition that has lost its meaning along the way. Nobody knows the original intent. Most of what we have are post hoc justifications, and as such, they are colored by the intentions of the interpreters.
Ultimately, the real issue is that our current church does not see women as equal in authority, importance, or value. That’s just the way it is, and it’s evident to anyone of sense who is looking. Women are only valued in support of patriarchy. The temple as it is bolsters those (wrong) attitudes, whether that was intended by the framers or God or not. I don’t believe God sees women as a secondary appendage to men or less than men.
never forget, I have approached a few temple presidency members with questions. They made it clear that, though some would speculate, they knew no answers except to current procedural questions. It has seemed to me that Temple presidencies are trained to and charged with running the temples as directed and not trained in the history of and changes to temple language and procedures or theology or meanings of the covenants. The questions to which I have been able to get answers are current procedural questions, for example, whether the Temple presidency would please instruct certain Temple workers to stop telling patrons that the elastic of their caps must be in the middle of their foreheads and not at or above the hairline.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they were even instructed not to try to answer other kinds of questions. E.g., the language of the endowment liturgy “because Eve was the first to partake…” (See Sue Bergin’s comment above) differs significantly from the otherwise parallel language in Moses chapter 4 where there is no “because” in connection with what the Lord described would be the case with Eve. I have wondered who added “because” and why. The “because” is a part of the basis for the commonly proposed prescriptive reading of that text. (See, e.g., the comment of No Thanks, Eliza above.) A more significant question is why we should “believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” but that women will be punished for Eve’s transgression. Another is the question how one can possibly square the disparate obedience covenants with the current teaching on marriage as an “equal partnership.” Other questions also arise around the meaning of other covenants.
I don’t believe it is fair or reasonable to expect answers to historical or theological or meaning-of-covenant or how-much-is-figurative questions from Temple presidencies. On the other hand, it is helpful to some people to realize that there is a strong 19th century element still present in the endowment liturgy, e.g., that its reference to “loud laughter” is not necessarily a reference to some decibel measurement, that the liturgy was more inclusive and respectful of women than many other aspects of 19th century America and its liturgies, that it was a teaching and motivating tool in language so developed by Brigham Young that, if we believe it revealed by God, we should probably to apply to its language (including the covenant language), the perspective of Brigham Young on scripture and revelation as quoted by Stephen’s earlier comment. I am regularly amazed to find folks believing that the endowment presents literal history, without realizing, e.g., that the depiction of Peter instructing Adam cannot be reconciled with D&C Section 129. Like many scriptures, the endowment liturgy is more successful for some as motivating questions and prayer than it is as providing answers. Perhaps for some that is its value.
Maybe you asked different kinds of questions of different Temple presidencies or are more easily satisfied with the answers you received than I.
Thankyou Stephen for your very interesting and constructive response to the puzzlement that exists around this subject. I believe more such conversations would create more light, but OTOH there seem to be such differing views that I often leave these conversations end in devaluing all points of view. If all things can mean all things to all men, what’s the point?
I just try to stick with the reality that the peak of our experience is to pray for our suffering sisters and brothers in unity. An admirable aspiration, and the rest is to me incomprehensible either chronologically or ideologically.
I must just add, whilst I am sad that none of my children have been endowed, there is a part of me that is pleased not to have to attempt to explain or to justify. And that may be seen by some as tragic.
Great post and very interesting discussion. Both of my parents are temple workers and they have several friends who have been temple presidents. Based on what they’ve said: 1. Workers are instructed to tell people with questions to talk to the temple presidency; 2. The temple president tells people that they can get their own insights and inspiration to answer their questions (translation: they do not answer questions). Also, many temple workers shut down conversations they overhear in the temple with people discussing the ceremony. Like discussions in the hall or locker room. From what I hear, this is the most restrictive it has ever been, in the past they used to do things like chapel meetings where people could ask real questions and discuss. These type of meetings appear to have been totally shut down.
I think this issue encapsulates a larger problem in the Church. 1. We have all of this revelation from Joseph Smith; 2. Subsequent leaders have not revealed anything new, they have just acted as caretakers of what Joseph gave us and have either modified practices or discontinued them (Brigham Young may be the exception as he started some new things, much of the endowment may have been from him). For example, Joseph F. Smith would not change the temple garment because he thought it was revealed directly from Joseph Smith, Heber J. Grant felt like there was room to modify and changed the length. With the information age and 50 years of historians looking at Mormon history and uncovering all kinds of information that was previously unknown, we have unearthed all kinds of things that look a lot like personal opinion, folk doctrines or erroneous interpretation. No one knows what to do with these. The leaders are not in the business of revealing anything new and, with time, have gotten more conservative and less inclined to change things, unless absolutely necessary. When presented with honest questions, they don’t have answers and are very reluctant to speculate.
We seem to be at an impasse and either need historians and theologians to meet with leadership and have a Vatican 2.0-type rewrite of our current theology and practice that is voted on by the Church or have some revelation from the leaders that straightens some things out. With the temple, I would welcome having the garment only be something worn in the temple (this has been proposed and narrowly defeated by the Q15 several times according to journals), change some of the language around women and have less secrecy around the ceremony and better prep. Right now, curious people seem to turn to Google to satisfy questions about changes to the ceremony and history, because we do not have any avenues in the Church to answer these questions.
For my thoughts on temple prep, see my bcc post “The Need for Better Temple Prep.”
It’s a fallacy to assume our top leaders are knowledgeable about the origins of our temple liturgy. That is pretty specialized historical knowledge, and there’s nothing about being a GA that gives one an exposure to that knowledge. Compare how GBH, one of our most historically astute leaders of recent memory, was utterly shocked to learn of post-Manifesto polygamy. Being an Apostle and being an historian are two separate things.
I was blindsided by my first temple experience over a decade ago and stopped going years ago. I did everything I was supposed to do to be prepared, I had 4 years of seminary, was at BYU, took Temple Prep, read everything I could get my hands on…but did not expect the patriarchal words, archaic covenants, references to Eve’s transgression and more.
I went the first time in preparation to be married, and already at this point I had some major issues with church doctrine in relation to women. From age 12 after my first time reading D&C 132 I was in the bishop’s office, talking to leader’s and reading everything I could get my hands on to try to understand polygamy and women not having the priesthood. I prayed over and over again to understand it with no answer. But I kept on because I thought the temple had the answers.
I was raised to believe that the temple had ALL the answers, that it was the most sacred place in the world. So I put my concerns and issues on a shelf, thinking that when I went to the temple they would be answered. But not only were those questions not answered, I left downtrodden, weeping and reeling. After going through the temple I saw two choices—either God really did not value women and saw them as subservient, or the church wasn’t true. I spent a few years wrestling with the second choice, going back to the temple again and again, asking the workers, reading, praying etc. But that work led me to no other conclusion than the second choice—that the church isn’t true.
Since I’ve left I’ve run into more women that found that second choice and left. It was helpful seeing I wasn’t alone. Many people have left the church because of the Temple, and many more will leave.
I’m a professional educator. Part of good teaching is making sure that intended learning outcomes are clear. The simple lack of clarity about whether female subservience is prescriptive or descriptive is either 1. Poor teaching, or 2. Not a key learning outcome. If the answer to that question isn’t a key learning outcome, then the endowment tacitly endorses the position of prescriptive subservience.
Separately, if it’s merely descriptive of the fallen world, then why is Elohim the one putting Eve under the covenant? The endowment ceremony is misogynistic. Until we’re ready to admit that out loud, we can’t make the necessary changes.
Kevin, I’ve been looking unsuccessfully around the internet for something on “how GBH… was utterly shocked to learn of post-Manifesto polygamy.” Is there a direction to point me in?
I went through the temple the evening before I was married. I had a particular moment that was cool in the initiatory, but the rest felt foreign with all the high ritual. My biggest disappointment wasn’t the gender stuff (I came from a family that had traditional beliefs about head of household, so the formality wasn’t surprising and I trusted my soon-to-be husband), it was the lack of new doctrine. I’d been having high hopes of gaining new knowledge, but the experience seemed more about the actions and the clothing. The men’s clothing made sense to me because of OT studies, but the veil and the clothing on the women was weird. Eventually I had an epiphany that women being veiled and men’s faces being visible mirrored what we see in the heavens. On the one hand it was comforting that I could view female deity as present and working in tandem with male deity, even if invisible. On the other hand, it made me wonder why women being invisible was necessary.
I felt like I had good temple prep from a doctrinal standpoint, but that was because of good scripture and anthropology classes in college, *not* anything I got from wards and stakes. Maybe because my mom kept whispering to me throughout my first experience a bunch of the stuff that *used* to be in the endowment I never got the impression that things were set in stone.
It wasn’t till years later that I learned women had a really hard time with the endowment. I realized I’d been oblivious to the 19th century historical context and always felt free to walk away reading what I wanted into it.
I’ve never tried to ask a temple presidency questions even though I’ve received that instruction. That might be due to arrogance. I like to figure out possibilities on my own. I’ve also been disappointed in the past assuming high church position guaranteed greater insight.
I think we should respect different responses to the temple. High ritual and connecting to a sacred history is a great thing for a lot of people. I love the feeling I get stepping on to temple grounds and seeing people so willing to help complete strangers. I don’t particularly get a lot out of the ritual, though. I feel more intellectually edified in personal studies and research (scriptures or family history). Other people don’t get as much out of those. We have different interests and ways of connecting to God. The problem is when someone loves high ritual but is disturbed by the doctrinal implications in the temple.
As to Stephen’s recent comment, I’ve always viewed the endowment as an initiation rite rather than a hero quest, so I see it as more prescriptive of what our place in the world should be. Also, accounts of female spirits ministering to those in their families is consistent with existing gender roles. There weren’t any female spirits involved in the administrative aspects of the Restoration; that’s consistent with an all-male church administration on the other side.
For those who oppose David O McKay’s right to criticize:
Richard Rohr’s daily meditation, on prophets:
The Hebrew prophets are in a category of their own. Within the canonical, sacred scriptures of other world religions we do not find major texts that are largely critical of that very religion. The Hebrew prophets were free to love their tradition and to profoundly criticize it at the same time, which is a very rare art form. In fact, it is their love of its depths that forces them to criticize their own religion.
One of the most common complaints I hear from some Catholics is, “You criticize the Church too much.” But criticizing the Church is just being faithful to the very clear pattern set by the prophets and Jesus (just read Matthew 23). I would not bother criticizing organized Christianity if I did not also love it. There is a negative criticism that is nothing but complaining and projecting. There is a positive criticism that is all about hope and development.
The dualistic mind presumes that if you criticize something, you don’t love it. Wise people like the prophets would say the opposite. The Hebrew prophets were radical precisely because they were traditionalists. Institutions prefer loyalists and “company men” to prophets. None of us want people who point out our shadow or our dark side. It is no accident that prophets and priests are usually in opposition to one another throughout the Bible (e.g., Amos 5:21-6:7, 7:10-17). Yet Paul says the prophetic gift is the second most important charism for the building up of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11). And note how often the text says it was “the priests, elders, and teachers of the law” who criticized and finally condemned the prophet Jesus. Interestingly, I have never heard of a church called “Jesus the Prophet” in all the world. We do not like prophets too much.
Human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with our shadow. It is in facing our conflicts, criticisms, and contradictions that we grow. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding that we break into higher levels of consciousness. People who learn to expose, name, and still thrive inside the contradictions are people I would call prophets.
As I reflected after the United States presidential election last fall, it seems we are in need of courageous prophetic teaching at this time. Both parties showed little or no ability to criticize their own duplicitous game of power. I suspect that we get the leaders who mirror what we have become as a nation. They are our shadow self for all to see. That is what the Jewish prophets told Israel both before and during their painful and long Exile (596-538 BC). Yet Exile was the very time when the Jewish people went deep and discovered their prophetic voices—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others—speaking truth to power, calling for justice. There is every indication that the U.S., and much of the world, is in a period of exile now. The mystics would call it a collective “ dark night.”
The prophetic message is not directly about partisan politics (which is far too dualistic); it is much more pre-political and post-political—which has huge socio-political implications that challenge all of us on every side. Those who allow themselves to be challenged and changed will be the new cultural creative voices of the next period of history after this purifying exile.
I have slightly unorthodox views about temple preparation, probably because of my father’s slightly unorthodox views. I completed the ward’s temple preparation class as is typical. About a week before receiving my own endowment, while sorting old lumber in the garage with my dad, he proceeded to list out each covenant that would be asked of me during the endowment. He thought it was absurd to be expected to make these covenants without any forethought, as described by the OP. He also explained that many people would be uncomfortable with him telling me about the covenants. His view was that he had covenanted to not reveal only very specific parts of the endowment. Anything not explicitly called out as “non-discussable” should be discussed, so long as it is treated with reverence, respect . . . and honesty.
At times this ingrained unorthodox view has made my inlaws uncomfortable. I don’t mind that too much.
Anonymouswife: What makes me really sad about your story is that the church absolutely does not care if women leave over this issue. There is definitely a lack of empathy and often outright hostility toward all who leave, doubly if they are “uppity women” who just “don’t understand” the beauty of their subservience.
I care. I care deeply. I feel the loss. I wish those in a position to do something about it did.
My wife has a different perspective on the temple. Like many relate above, her departure from the Mormon reservation was directly preceded by intense temple attendance, prayer and seeking for answers that were not found.
But my wife does not have the same issues with gender equality that some women describe here, especially with her husband ( because she knows what a dunce and doormat I can be and she forgives me for it). And she very skillful at manipulating domineering men.
My wife is first and always a evangelical Christian (and 7th generation Mormon). What she finds most objectionable about the temple ceremony is the lack of Christ being in the center of it all. The Mormon cosmos portrayed in the temple does not revolve around Christ. he is reduced to an errand boy in some places.
The other issue is the lack of emphasis that we are sinners; we have sinned and we will sin again. She finds the episode when Satan ( the most interesting and least wooden character ) to threaten us with being in his power if we do not keep every covenant made in the temple. We are basically consenting to having our souls put under Satan’s dominion every time we sin. Absent is the continual forgiveness of Christ until we are transformed , born again, even if it takes 10,000 years (which might be the fast track for me) as long as we repent and keep a faith in Christ.
A weak Christology in the temple ceremony is the problem for my wife..
Mike, I have taken the “threat” from “Satan” as yet another lie from the “father of lies.” Understood that way, I am certainly not consenting to having our souls put under Satan’s dominion every time I sin. Perhaps I am simply looking for some healthy, Christian way to understand the endowment presentation. I certainly haven’t succeeded in seeing it as reported on lds.org:
From lds.org: “The Temple is Centered in [sic] the Savior” “Everything in the temple points us to Jesus Christ.” “Everything that occurs in the temple is centered on the Savior Jesus Christ, His role as our Redeemer, and His desire to have us return to the presence of God.” From Richard H. Winkel, October 2006 on lds.org: “I also testify that everything in the temple testifies of Jesus Christ.”
In its context Elder Winkel’s comment seems to be an afterthought. I wonder if anyone has succeeded in understanding the temple both reasonably and in such a way that everything there points us to, is centered on, or testifies of Christ. I haven’t.
Mike, I echo your wife’s view. I said above that my first impression of the temple seemed more to do with Gadiaton Robbers and secret combinations than it did with Jesus of Nasereth. I simply cannot find any hint of the atonement in the temple. It gives us signs and tokens we use to pass by angels to return to God. That is NOT the gospel of repentance. That is the gospel of, “I have a secret to get me back to God, so my sins don’t matter.” And when my husband first told me about the second anointing, it just confirmed that repentance for sins is not part of the upper levels of Mormonism.
Steven, I like your view of the temple as hero’s quest. Only the problem is, women are never the hero. We are the hero’s side kick. We are auxillery to the hero. The one who goes along as loyal friend, who is less than heroic, in fact often a royal screwup. We are not heroines, because we are not even reward to the hero. We are Balam’s talking jackass, In the Percy Jackson series we are that kid who walks funny and is really half goat. We support the hero, but are far from heroic. We are the cause of sending the hero on his dangers journey because it was Eve’s screwup that got Adam started on his hero’s journey. Women are most certainly not the hero. Not even damsel in distress, just loyal talking donkey, like the one Schreck takes on his hero’s quest.
And JR, I can’t understand Winkle’s statement that everything centers around Christ, either. All I can find is that tokens may be interpreted to be symbolic of Christ. Or maybe it is just a Masonic handshake and has nothing to do with Christ. But we just gotta find a connection, so we stretch and find something that might fit. So, I am with you in saying his statement feels like an afterthought or maybe an attempt to Christianize something that really has nothing to do with Christ. Like people who justify Santa as being really a symbol of Jesus in order to make their point that there is nothing wrong in our secular Christmas celebration because, see, it isn’t secular after all. Why not just accept it for what it is, a way to make Christmas more fun for kiddos. And why not just accept the temple for what it is, whatever the heck it is. Why pretend that secret handshakes are really all about Christ? I see nothing in the New Testament or BoM Jesus that is reflected in the temple.
As far as what changes the church could make to fix the problem in the way women are treated in the temple, I think the only changes that would really solve it, is to completely restructure the church and give women the priesthood. ( Sooooooo not going to happen.) But consider, the church now gives lip service to women and men being equal. But then the structure of the church turns around and puts the lie to that statement. Women are not valued in the church as much as men. Women are second class, even if a necessary second class. Slaves were valued and necessary in the old South, but their economic value and necessity did not change their status. The structure of the old south needed to be completely changed and slaves given freedom. In the same way, in order to be equal, not the same necessarily, but equal in the eyes of the church women need to be given priesthood so that women can fill the callings that are now reserved for men. If the church just changed the wording in the temple, but left the church structure as is, it would just be more lip service to the idea that women are valued as much by God as what men are valued.
Hugh Nibley is where I go to find enlightenment on everything. His “Temple and Cosmos” book is deep and puts the focus where it is meant to be. My opinion on the hearkening and subservience issues is that the temple is about turning our will over to God–being humbly obedient and subservient to Him.Humility is the lesson. Jehovah is subservient to Elohim, men are subservient to Jehovah, which is the same as Elohim because they are as one. Women are subservient to their husbands and children are subservient to their parents.
This places the burden on the one who is being looked up to than on the subservient individual. That individual is responsible for guiding the others in doing right. I think in most world cultures, generally men would be more likely to take their part seriously by being solely put directly under to God to account for their family. If his pride gets in the way, he could easily dismiss being accountable to his wife if men were subservient to their wives. But not if he’s reporting directly to God. By not making the couple as a unit directly subservient to God means the man can’t put his responsibility off onto his wife. God is holding him to a standard of responsibility.
I DON’T WANT TO BE SUBSERVIENT TO MY HUSBAND.
And I don’t know any women who do.
Anna, I’m not sure of “never.” Peter Bleakley’s recent post on the temple (over at Rational Faiths) is worth a read. It explores “contraries” including both the feminine subservience problem and the following contrary:
“I love how feminist the Endowment is – Eve is totally the hero of the story! As Genesis 3:6 describes, when she looks at the fruit she uses multiple intelligences to decide what to do – her practical intelligence says it is good for food, her aesthetic intelligence tells her it is beautiful (as an artist I have to endorse the idea of being willing to suffer and die for beauty) and her intellectual intelligence and curiosity tells her it is a key to greater knowledge and wisdom. She understands that to resolve the contradiction between the commandments God has given them to multiply, but not eat the fruit because it will make them mortal, they have to self-sacrifice.
She is the first and greatest Christ-like archetype, consciously choosing to suffer pain and death in order to give us all life. The men like Moses usually presented in our curriculum as ‘types’ or archetypes or living symbols of Jesus don’t come close. She is a visionary strategist, ambitious, loving and seeking truth and knowledge above all other things, whatever the price. She is a boundary-breaking explorer who wants to progress and grow. She is brave in the face of uncertainty, danger and physical suffering. These are all attributes traditionally attributed to strong males, particularly in the medieval Christian culture that absolutely demonised Eve, and with her all women, as weak and corrupting influences. To them, and many people still today, women are the downfall of men, ruled by their emotions and bodies rather than their minds, unable to think boldly, or most importantly strategically, and therefore unsuited to the rigours of political or commercial or spiritual leadership. So the endowment takes the philosophical foundation myth of western sexism and oppression of women and assertively kicks it into a shredder.”
I wonder how much I have read the disparate obedience covenants and language adopted from older Christian culture back into a judgment on Eve (and her daughters?) in the endowment, rather than seeing this side of what Peter pointed out.
To say that Eve is the hero of the endowment is to seriously misunderstand the story structure of ‘Hero’s Journey.’ It feels like reaching for straws and mental gymnastics.
“She is a visionary strategist, ambitious, loving and seeking truth and knowledge above all other things, whatever the price. She is a boundary-breaking explorer who wants to progress and grow. She is brave in the face of uncertainty, danger and physical suffering.”
If these are correct descriptors (and I’m not convinced in the first place), what she gains by her attributes is being shut down and shuffled off to the side. These great characteristics are not seen by God, Peter, James, and John, or Adam as positives. She is punished for them and relegated to the sideline. These characteristics (and her choice because of them) are directly related to her being commanded to be subservient.
In a true Hero’s Journey, God, Peter, James, John, and Adam would then be obstacles for her to overcome along with her role of helpmate to reach the full measure of her creation (if that measure is ambition, truth-seeking, boundary-breaking, bravery, etc). But that isn’t what happens. Adam fulfills the measure of his creation (in the course of the story on screen) and Eve’s journey comes to a screeching halt.
Unless of course, listening and being passive is the measure of her creation….
“By not making the couple as a unit directly subservient to God means the man can’t put his responsibility off onto his wife.”
You have a seriously low opinion of the male gender. I can pretty much guarantee that this falls apart entirely when you go back in history 50 years.and further.
ReTx, I don’t think Peter was casting Eve in the hero’s journey role by his pointing out contrasting (contrary) aspects of the endowment liturgy. I quoted only a part of his post. It certainly doesn’t solve or ignore the issues you point out. It has seemed to me worth reading the post and the comments there for a view of how at least one person has managed to love, loathe, and laugh at the thing. It seems that in the right contexts, each of loving, loathing, and laughing may be healthy for some people. For some those varied approaches to varied aspects of the endowment may be healthier than either the depression or anger options I and some others have experienced. But then Peter may be unique.
just remember no one will be forced to enter the kingdom of heaven,stop nitpicking and get on with your life.
We must avoid the tendency towards literalism. The most common metaphor for the church in the New Testament is the bride and Christ is described as the bridegroom. Even the Old Testament labels Israel as the bride. In my humble opinion, this has nothing to do with women submitting to men but the Church covenanting to following Christ as Christ follows the Father. Everything in the temple points to Christ, as I see it. To further illustrate: there are four creation accounts: Genesis, Abraham, Moses and the Temple. We understand corruption likely taints the first, but why are there significant difference in the other three accounts? Symbolism, I believe, is the answer. Each are geared to teach different truths. There is no training school on what the temple means, and so bishops, stake presidents, temple presidents and even general leaders are doing their best to understand it. And so if they interpret in another way we must be careful not to be too harsh. They, even temple presidents, are administratively swamped and don’t have the time to ferret out the underlying truths. The temple, unlike the “church” outside the temple is deeply personal.