Come to the Dentist–er, Temple

dentist timeI love visiting the dentist.  I feel so happy and peaceful when I sit in the dental chair.  I learn something new every time I talk with my dentist.  When I leave the dental office, I feel invigorated, motivated, and renewed.  If you don’t want to visit the dentist and don’t enjoy your dental appointments, maybe you should reevaluate your lifestyle.

Now that you’ve heard my glowing opinion of the dental care experience, don’t you feel motivated to visit the dentist twice a year like you should?  No?  Oh dear. That is a shame, because dental care is very important to your health and hygiene.

A well-intentioned gentleman recently shared a testimonial similar to this one at church.  The only difference was that he was talking about visiting the temple instead of visiting the dentist.  From my perspective, he may as well have been talking about the dentist.

For me, temple attendance shares a lot of commonalities with dental care. It can be tedious, uncomfortable, or even painful.  I don’t love attending the temple.  Sometimes I feel happy and peaceful at the temple.  More often, I feel bored.  Occasionally, I feel confused or angry.

Moreover, I rarely learn anything new at the temple and I refuse to fret about that fact.  After all, there are many valid reasons why a person might not learn anything new at the temple that have nothing to do with personal worthiness.  The most obvious is that the temple ceremonies are always the same  (with the exception of rare, permanent  revisions to the script).

Another is the formal teaching style of the temple.  Some people, like myself, are drawn to the Mormon faith because they enjoy the informal and interactive nature of weekly church meetings.  I love discussing scripture and life experiences with other members.  However, these interactive elements are not part of the temple ceremonies.

Symbolism is incorporated into our Sunday meetings, formally through the sacrament ordinance and informally through the object lessons many members choose to incorporate into their lessons and talks. However, these symbolic elements make up a small proportion of the Sunday meeting.  In contrast, the temple ceremonies rely on symbolism almost exclusively as a teaching tool.  I’m not a huge fan of symbolism. That says more about my learning style than my personal worthiness.

Do you want to motivate me to attend the temple? Maybe you should mention some better reasons for me to go than how enjoyable it is.

I’m not saying that you can’t talk about how much you love attending the temple. I won’t stop you from speaking your truth.  Just try to keep in mind that your opinion won’t speak to me more powerfully than my own personal experience.

And please don’t imply that because I don’t enjoy the temple the way you do, I  must be spiritually unfit in some way. I already evaluated my lifestyle and I’m doing fine.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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25 Responses

  1. Keri Brooks says:

    This is a great post. The endowment really doesn’t do much for me. I prefer to read the scriptures, meditate on them, and then discuss them with other people, hearing their insights and sharing mine. Sort of like a celestial book club. At first, I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have the same transcendent experiences others reported having. (I loved doing baptisms as a youth, and that’s still my favorite temple ordinance. I do find it to be as rewarding and spiritual as some people report the endowment being.)

    A few years ago, when I started law school, we all had to take a learning style test called VARK. It breaks down learning into four styles, visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic. The endowment is primarily auditory with some visual and kinesthetic portions. I scored very heavily in the read/write category on the test. So, my learning style and the temple’s teaching style don’t really match up. (The few times I’ve attended a closed-captioned session it was like a whole new world opened up to me because I could read the text. It was amazing.)

    • spunky says:

      Interesting insights, Keri Brooks! I have not considered the temple ceremony in regard to learning styles before, but it makes a lot of sense.

      I see Relief Society activities much like attending the dentist… so can relate to the comparison… we find edification in different ways, not always at the typical places that other do– I could never understand those who rave about the temple as though it were a place of temporary, magical deliverance…

    • LovelyLauren says:

      Can you find out when sessions with closed captioning are? I am the same kind of learner and I think it would help me focus on the parts that I do like if I could read everything that is being said.

      I have not returned to the temple for an endowment since my own 8 months ago. It was not a good experience and the constant reminders of how full of joy and peace and warm fuzzies it is for everyone else doesn’t help. It just makes me feel like I’m broken for not loving it.

      • Keri Brooks says:

        I’m sure if you call the temple, they’ll tell you. There was a sign language branch in my old stake, so at stake temple night, there was a screen off to the side that had someone doing sign language of the ceremony, and there was closed-captioning below. So if you ask about a sign language session, you should be able to read it. (Occasionally on Saturday mornings I’ve seen it, too.) This was at the Oakland temple, where if the language exists, there’s probably a regularly scheduled session in that language, so your mileage may vary.

  2. Rachel says:

    That’s how I feel about ward camp-outs. Someone asked me today if we were going this weekend, and I said I didn’t want to know what the RS pres looked like just rolling out of bed, and I don’t think anyone else wants to see me in that state, either. I also don’t like to go swimming with people who normally see me in high heels.
    My favorite part of the temple is the question/answer period at the end. I like to go with female friends and ask their perspectives about the things I wonder about.

  3. Whitney says:

    Awesome post. I have nothing to add other than, AMEN!

  4. Rita says:

    Hmmm – very interesting post – one that I relate can to. I live in an area of very faithful temple attenders – despite the fact that there are definite traveling challenges. I have sometimes felt spiritually defective because I don’t share their fervor or the need to go.

  5. Tama says:

    Wonderful post! You put into words a lot of what I feel. Thanks.

  6. Hope says:

    I feel the same way. I never buy DVDs b/c I can’t stand to watch the same movie twice. English was never my strong subject b/c I never able to read between the lines and come up with what the author was suppose to say instead of what he was literally saying…
    Besides when I read about temples in the scriptures it’s always people in there teaching, more like church, right?
    Plus it always seems what they get up and say about women in general conference is different then how I feel about being a woman in the temple.

  7. Cate says:

    Great post! Thanks for speaking out on behalf of the rest of us non-temple-lovers out here.
    I was endowed the night before my wedding. To me this was just a prerequisite for temple marriage and I had a LOT of anxiety about it (despite having taken a rather confusing “temple prep” class). I also had been told by my married girlfriends that “YOU might not like it” and “YOU need to keep an open mind” (implying that I might have issues with it where they did not due to the fact that I am a “feminist”). This only heightened the anxiety. I went anyway, with 50 or so family members in tow, put on a brave face through the entire thing although my toes were curled in my slippers the entire time, and then burst into tears and collapsed on my fiance in the celestial room with a “get me out of here” look in my eyes while well-meaning family hugged and kissed me and took my display as “an overwhelming holy moment”. Needless to say, I did not have a happy experience and I even feel like it put a damper on my sealing (I didn’t want to go back). I have rarely attended since then except when I need to. The temple is a beautiful place and I do believe one can become inspired there. But I just can’t seem to feel warm and fuzzy about it. And honestly, I’m kind of okay with that for now. I’m not 100% sold on temple attendance being a requirement for my salvation, I won’t go into details, but I’m trying to work it out. Also, I think that its worth mentioning that in general I think men have better experiences in the temple than women do. So when our male leaders stand up and say “attend the temple often…its a happy place of learning and fulfillment…” I’m not sure they are reflecting the feelings of the majority (since women make up the majority of the church).
    So, don’t feel bad April. We totally get it. I’m still trying to live with the “sore gums” from my last “checkup”.

    • Jane says:

      This sounds like my endowment too, Cate. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. And there are a couple of lines in the ceremony that get my blood boiling every time I go. So I just don’t go much anymore. I think we’re allowed to use our own discretion. We shouldn’t feel bad about following our own consciences. If we’re wrong, we’ll learn our lesson someday, but for now we’re doing what seems best at the moment. The less I go to the temple, the more I’m able to feel positively about the church. I think that’s a good thing.

      • mac says:

        Thank you for this post and subsequent comments. They are very comforting to hear. My endowment was probably the most earth shaddering moment of my life. I literally flipped out. I couldn’t understand how something that I was told that was suppose to be so glorious and wonderful was so traumic for me. And for a while I hated myself for feeling the way I did.

    • wendyl says:

      My first temple experience was similar. It has been about 20 years since I first went, and it is better now for me, but I still don’t absolutely love and adore it. I wish I did. It would make my life easier in some ways. But it just is what it is–and I don’t believe that makes me a terrible person.

  8. Kris says:

    My experience has been that when you get desperate in your life the Temple attendance becomes more rewarding.

  9. Heather says:

    Oh, man–you nailed it for me. Absolutely nailed it.

  10. Martine says:

    I loved the temple for many years and attended faithfully as often as I could. I’m now a non-believer, not only in the necessity of temple ordinances, but in the truthfulness of the Church’s claims in general. So my temple recommend lapsed a year ago and I didn’t renew it. Interestingly, I did learn something new quite often when I was attending. I researched and read the history of the endowment and found it fascinating. I’d also recommend the Mormon Stories podcast on the parallels between the temple and masonic ritual. It’s not a Mormon bashing thing. I especially liked how the interviewee— an LDS Mason from a long Masonic line in Maine– talks about learning styles and why Joseph adopted elements of Masonic lodge ritual as an affective way to teach the Nauvoo population that consisted of a high percentage of non-English speaking immigrants.

    On a lighter note, you might all want to go see The Tree of Life, a Brad Pitt movie–more of an artsy film–which is really slow moving–like the temple film–portrays the creation with breath-taking photography and you get to watch Brad Pitt. Our group last night, voted on recommending the church adopt The Tree of Life as a replacement.

    Let me add that, attending “live” sessions at the Salt Lake temple is far more engaging than the movie. You never know what might happen.
    And I just realized, after writing about the podcast, that a large percentage of church members who have gained recent access to temples are illiterate, as were some of the early saints– well, in English at least.

  11. Naismith says:

    I really love going the dentists office. It’s not the dentist–I only see him once a year–it’s the chance to lay down, listen to soft music, and have someone else take care of me. I find it nurturing. And I am not expected to keep up a conversation, I can just zone out. Wow, as a young mom, especially, that time out was much appreciated.

    I have dry mouth, so I have to go 3-4 times a year. I’ve been seeing the same wonderful hygienist for years, and will follow her whatever dentist she works for.

    Our “local” temple is a few hours a way in a big city that has an Ikea and Whole Foods and all kinds of great shopping possibilities. I wonder if there is some operant conditioning going on. Would I enjoy going to the temple as much if it didn’t also involve a shopping trip?

    I guess I never had high expectations for understanding the temple, so I am not disappointed at my lack thereof. But I like how it feels there. For now, that is enough for me.

  12. Visitor says:

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that this issue is why so many evangelical Christians, to their great confusion and frustration, have so much difficulty converting non-Christians. Over and over they describe the warm fuzzy feelings of God’s love, of being in church, of being saved (or whatever language their denomination prefers). And they just don’t get that the person they’re trying to convert simply doesn’t feel it. One person’s experiences are as written in Spanish and the other’s as in Japanese. They just aren’t making any connection.

  13. EmmelineBW says:

    Gotta be the best blog post title I’ve ever read! Made me laugh out loud!

  14. Diane says:

    I don’t remember any Q and A session after a session in the temple and the one time I did ask a question no knew the answer to, including the Temple President.

  15. Caroline says:

    I’m just catching up on some old posts and read this one. You nailed this one for me also, April. I had a painful experience at the temple, one so profoundly full of despair that I have never been able to bring myself to attend again. Which I feel bad about in some ways, since my husband would love to go with me.

    Hearing others speak so emphatically in church on the peace and joy and happiness one finds in the temple is difficult for me. I’m happy for them if that’s what they personally find there, but the assumption that that is what everyone finds there just exacerbates my feelings of alienation when it comes to temple stuff.

  16. After all, there are many valid reasons why a person might not learn anything new at the temple that have nothing to do with personal worthiness.

  17. Gary E. Smedley says:

    As a man and also a non mormon I found this post quite interesting. I have no desire to bash your beliefs nor belittle your sincere efforts to seek your God according to your genuine attempts. So do please put up with an old man and his folly for a few moments and help me to understand you fine ladies.
    You gals seem to have a simular mentality with regards to temple attendance. If I hear you correctly it seems as though it is both boreing and dead as well as possibly demeaning to women. Jesus brought honor to
    women. In His day women were second class at best. Men controlled the religious enviorment from top to bottom. And nowhere more so than the temple.
    At Jesus death the vail in the temple was tore from top to bottom as a sign
    from God that the temple time was over. A few days later a couple of women went to the tomb to complete the burial process of our Lord and were met with a couple of angels who asked them “Why do you seek the living among the dead”? “He is not here,but is risin”. It was not to men that Jesus revealed that He was risin but to women! When the women tried to tell the men the wonderful news, the men did not believe them.
    This brings me to my last point; A couple of months after Jesus accended
    to heaven we come to the death of Stephen the first martyr, in the book of Acts. Speaking to the jewish leaders he tells them “The Most High does not
    dwell in temples made with hands,as the prophet says;’heaven is my throne,
    and earth is my footstool.What house will you build for me ? says the Lord,
    Or what is the place of my rest? Has my hand not made all these things?’
    (Acts 8:48-50)
    I know that in your mormon temples that you do a lot of work for the dead,so I have one question for you; Why are you seeking the living God among the dead in a temple where he is not ?

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