You may have heard that the LDS Temple ceremony changed to (1) provide an explanation of five temple covenants before people agree to continue, (2) show pictures of Jesus, (3) eliminate the roles of the witness couple, (4) change it so that certain elements are only shown on screen, not performed during the ceremony, until the end (which I assumed shortened the ceremony but have heard that it is actually 13 minutes longer now), (5) tweak some language (mostly immaterial except potentially something about laughter …), (6) provide different images during the presentation (including Adam and Eve dressed in temple clothing, which is new), and (7) remove the “who is dead” language from ordinances being performed vicariously for the dead.  The Tribune article–which, sorry Trib, I usually love you but that piece reads more like a puff piece than journalism–also says the changes increase gender equity in the temple ceremony, but I have yet to hear anything that supports that conclusion.  

If you’re keeping track, this is the third change that Nelson has implemented during his reign.  The first (2019) was the most significant revision to the temple ceremony that I’ve seen in my lifetime (I am too young to have experienced pre-1990 temple). It was one I initially applauded as having resolved much of the sexism I had experienced in the temple till that point–and most of the articles from the time period likewise applauded it–but after going a few more times and listening more carefully I realized it just hid the sexism better:  taking out an obligation for women to “hearken” in the endowment, but adding “preside” into the sealing; replacing the language stating that women would be queens and priestesses to their husbands with language stating that women would be queens and priestesses in the new and everlasting covenant which, umm, is plural marriage, so it says the same sexist thing in more opaque language.  Color me not impressed.  (Hey 2019 bloggers, update your posts, THE TEMPLE IS STILL SEXIST.)    

The second set of changes was in 2020 but I am not clear on what those changes were. My understanding is they were designed to minimize contact during Covid but I’ve not seen explanations or attended. 

And most recently, the changes from this week.  I have no idea what prompted the changes (or why, if Nelson has a direct line to God, he didn’t make these changes in the 2019 overhaul). Some plausible explanations are (1) minimize germ-spread (consistent with the 2020 changes); (2) reduce the number of workers required to run a session; (3) attempt to address issues of informed consent by explaining the covenants prior to beginning (temple prep seems a better option for this, because it would still be really awkward to get up and leave in front of friends and family your first time); and (4) trying to seem more Christian (ok that was snarky, I imagine it is a sincere effort to make Christ more central to the ceremony). I had initially thought some changes were designed to shorten the ceremony to encourage more people to come–if my stake and regional communications are any indication, I think temple attendance is still way down and nowhere near pre-pandemic levels–but apparently that’s not the case as some are reporting it is now 13 minutes longer.  

I don’t really have feelings one way or the other about these changes. They seem neutral at best to me.  They certainly don’t address my primary concerns with the temple—those concerns being (1) sexism, (2) polygamy, (3) heteroexclusivity, (4) pledging loyalty to the institution of the Church rather than to God, (5) temple recommend & tithing gatekeeping / exclusion mechanisms, (6) vestiges of penalty oaths and non-ancient Masonic practices, (7) genuine confusion about what the temple endowment adds to baptismal covenants (or otherwise what it has to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ), and (8) a complete lack of interest in inheriting kingdoms and principalities and having endless posterity.

Indeed, similar to my post from last week (sorry, I guess it’s week two of downer posts from me), there is little that could be done to the temple ceremony in anything resembling its current iteration that would seem meaningful to me so I honestly just don’t care.  (That isn’t stopping me from blogging about them, I guess, but I’m just doing my journalistic duty here!)  The fact that I don’t care after spending so many years scrutinizing every single word and motion and symbol in the temple is probably the most significant thing to me about the change.  

So I guess what this leaves me with is a series of questions I’ll leave it to our insightful readers to discuss.

  • If you are dissatisfied with your temple experience, do these changes move the needle for you?  Better or worse?  Don’t care?  
  • If you are happy with your temple experience, do you think these changes are net negative (particularly taking away some of the ritualistic elements which some people actually prefer)?
  • What do you think motivated these changes?  What do you think their impact will be?  Why do you think they were not made in 2019?     
  • Is there any plausible argument remaining that the temple ceremony is of ancient, unchanging origin?  What are the implications of that? 
  • If you went through the temple for the first time during a different iteration of the endowment, which covenants did you make?  Do these changes retroactively apply?  
  • Are you seeing a greater contingency of non-temple Mormons in your circles?  Do you think we should do a better job making space for them?