My Temple Experience and Hope for Equality

I received my temple endowment when I was 21 years old, a few months before going on my mission.

Before being endowed, I knew nothing about what to expect in the temple. Nobody would tell me anything. People said it was so sacred that they couldn’t talk about it. I asked my mom, but she wouldn’t say anything about it.

To prepare for my endowment, I read Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, by Elder Boyd K. Packer. This pamphlet didn’t really tell me much. It talked about ordinances being done symbolically and also mentioned signs and tokens. But I wanted to know more.

When I met with the stake president for my interview, he told me I would get a new name and that there were several different covenants I would make with God. The part about the new name really intrigued me, and I was excited for it.

I was very nervous when I went for my endowment, but everything went well. I was anxious about the “washing,” thinking there might be a bathtub involved. But luckily, there was no bathtub anywhere. I enjoyed the movie and was awed by all the different things I saw and heard.

My endowment was a great experience.

The bishop was helping me prepare for my mission and suggested I attend the temple often. I only attended endowment sessions about two more times before my mission, and instead did lots of initiatories. It became my favorite thing in the temple. Especially since I had the opportunity to witness women actually giving blessings!

I went on my mission, and since there was no temple in the country in which I served, I had no temple experiences for a year and a half. After I finished my mission, I started attending the temple again.

A few years after that, when I was engaged, I was sitting in the temple doing an endowment session. Suddenly, I heard something in the script that I had never noticed before. I stopped and looked around at the other women. Were they all okay with this? I felt terrible and had the urge to cry, but I didn’t see anyone else looking flustered.

Was it really true? Was a man’s opinion more important than a woman’s? Would I have to always follow my husband’s opinion even if I didn’t agree with it?

The temple is the most holy place on Earth, so I always assumed it would have the complete truth. I wondered if the inequality I had perceived was doctrine.

This one thing troubled me so much. I forced myself to attend the temple again and again, but I would come home and feel so sorrowful that at times I would cry. My day would be ruined and filled with deep sadness. Soon I stopped attending sessions.

I decided to do sealings instead. I went with my fiancé to do proxy sealings. Listening to the words, I realized there was one major difference in what was being said about the husband and wife.

The husband “takes” and the wife “gives.” Once again, I was severely disappointed by the words, because it implied that a woman is a possession. It implied an unequal relationship between husband and wife.

Needless to say, I stopped doing sealings. I decided I would do initiatories instead. I remembered how much I’d enjoyed doing initiatories before my mission. But while I did initiatories, I noticed two similar phrases that are used in the endowment.

Is this for real? I asked myself. Could I not find peace anywhere? Did this gender inequality have to exist even in the initiatory? I was incredibly disappointed and miserable.

I stopped going to the temple. It hurt too much. I wanted to be happy and did not want those horrible reminders. Especially since I didn’t know if it was doctrine or not.

I needed to find the truth.

I didn’t attend the temple for about two years or so. I did go several times as a volunteer to clean the temple, since this particular temple relied on volunteers to clean it each night.

I enjoyed that part, because I got to go to the different rooms of the temple and see the art in the creation room.

I was able to enjoy the temple without experiencing gender inequality. I felt equal, which made me feel good.

Also, I was one of the people in charge of the cleaning, so I would give out assignments to both men and women. I felt empowered, especially since the temple had become a place I associated with gender inequality.

At the end of the shift, I would turn off the lights in the endowment rooms and proceed to the lower level where I would hand in my key and walkie talkie to the supervisor.

I had nobody to talk to about how I felt. It took over a year until I finally told my husband how I felt. He was very understanding. But I still wanted a woman to talk to.

Finally, I found an outlet. I discovered The Exponent and realized that other women felt the same way I did.

I also discovered this issue of Exponent, which really comforted me.

I wasn’t alone.

Over time, I prayed to Heavenly Father and came to the realization that He does not approve of gender inequality. Gender inequality is not doctrine. It’s not part of God’s plan.

I don’t know why the temple has those inequalities in the script, but I know that in the afterlife I will become a goddess to God and not to someone else. I also know that the value of an opinion isn’t based on gender.

Once I realized these two things and didn’t view the inequality as doctrine, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. I felt free.

I wanted to attend the temple again, since that’s the focus of our religion. I prayed and over time felt the desire to become an ordinance worker. I was nervous, though, because of my concerns about gender inequality. I didn’t want to be hurt like I’d been the last time.

Finally, I became an ordinance worker. I wanted the opportunity to perform ordinances and feel like I was part of something important. I also hoped to gain greater insight about the temple ordinances and to hopefully look past the inequalities.

The temple has made changes to its endowment in the past, and I’m certain they will make changes in the future. I hope they remove the terms “husband” and “counsel” from the initiatory. I also hope they equalize who the men and women become gods and goddesses to. I hope they either add that men should hearken to their wives, or just take out the “hearken” portion altogether. As for the sealing, I hope they equalize it and either say that both parties “take” and “give” or just take out the “give” and “take” parts.

Making these changes would definitely help women have the experience they should be having in the temple. If women are happy and feel comfortable in the temple, they will keep coming back. The temple should make them feel empowered, not put down. I hope for the day when the temple becomes a place of complete gender equality and true refuge for women.

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35 Responses

  1. acw says:

    I resonate with your experiences, and one thing that has really helped me was a recent insight to approach the language in the endowment symbolically–read Church for Eve/woman, and Christ for Adam/man. Now when I see Christ leaving the garden to go out in the world with his bride, and all of us having fallen and covenanting with Christ to return to the Father, it is a more peaceful experience.

  2. Dani Addante says:

    Yes, I’ve heard of that too. Even so, it’s still hard for me to hear it and knowing that a lot of women will be hurt by it. I will try harder to see it that way. Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where it doesn’t bother me anymore. Thanks for your insight!

    • spunky says:

      Why do you think a lot of women will be hurt by thinking of the experience as entirely symbolic, thus erasing gendered covenants?

      • Dani Addante says:

        I think I might have said that wrong. I meant that the wording would hurt women and that it needs to be changed. Erasing gendered covenants would be a great thing! 🙂

      • Moss says:

        Spunky- I am intrigued: how do you determine which covenants are symbolic and which are literal? There does not seem to be anything to indicate which is which. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to literally keep the Law of Chastity, for example. How do you navigate the temple?

  3. Moss says:

    I knew which issue it would be before I even clicked on the link- I read that Exponent issue so often it fell apart.

    Thanks for your hopeful words, Dani. I applaud you for your desire to make the temple part of your life. I have decided to shape a Mormon religious identity that does not include the temple at this time- it is just too painful. There is so much polygamy era doctrine still clinging to the temple, and God is calling me to work elsewhere in the vineyard.

    • Dani Addante says:

      Yes, I found that the thing that worked for me was in becoming an ordinance worker, because at least I get to perform ordinances.

      Just do the best you can. I understand how painful it is. As an ordinance worker, my least favorite part is taking part in the endowment, because I get to hear those words about hearkening. It continues to bother me.

      I recommend reading The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy, by Carol Lynn Pearson. It addresses the wrongs of polygamy in our church today. I’m currently reading it and it’s a great book so far!

  4. Liz says:

    Yes! I also thought there would be a bathtub! When they said “washed and anointed with oil” I totally thought I would be getting a little-old-lady scrubdown and then maybe a nice massage afterwards (ha). I don’t know if I was more relieved or disappointed when it wasn’t like that at all. 🙂 Hahaha.

    • Dani Addante says:

      That sounds like a spa! 🙂 I would probably not enjoy that though, because I am very modest. When I took gym class in high school, I would always go change in the bathroom.

  5. Cathy cann says:

    I feel like the whole “hearken” thing, was to make certain that women knew when hubs was called to take another wife, she needed to go along, especially since he was hearkening to the will of the Lord to take another wife. Doesn’t make it any less bogus, along with being a priestess to my husband…I haven’t been for 5 years. Since my son married and I noticed his wife give herself to him, with no reciprocation.

    • Dani Addante says:

      That’s interesting. I never thought that because I had always assumed that once two people got divorced their sealing was canceled. But recently I learned that’s not true. They have to get approval for a cancellation of the sealing. I don’t really know much about that.

      Also, I made my husband promise me that if I died, and he wanted to remarry, he would only remarry for time. Having him make this promise is what set me at ease with the polygamy thing. But I’m upset at how polygamy hurts women.

      I hope they make changes in the script soon, so that women aren’t made to feel so sorrowful and uncomfortable in the temple.

  6. Marivene says:

    A while back, Papa D., At Things of My Soul, published an explanation given to him by an elderly woman about “take” vs “give”. If I remember correctly, the woman told him that a man could not properly take a woman as his wife who had not given herself to him, because to do so would be taking her without her consent. The woman was in her later years, & Papa D. noted the societal changes since then, but I found it fascinating that this elderly woman saw “giving” as a sign of her independent choice in the matter.

    • spunky says:

      I love this, Marivene!

    • Dani Addante says:

      That’s very interesting! Also, when members talk about marriage, they always say that the husband and wife give themselves to each other. It makes sense, because otherwise, it’s not really a marriage. To me, giving themselves means that they will be faithful to each other. We teach this a lot in our church, so that’s how I wish it sounded like in the temple.

  7. Em says:

    Same struggles here. I haven’t been back in years. I miss how I felt about the temple at first, but I can’t unheard and unfeel. I’ve tried a few times but it’s so dang painful. I’ve decided I want to be an active member of the church and the only way I can do that is to distance myself from the parts that make me want to quit. So I don’t go to the Temple, I selectively do General Conference and I unsubscribed from the Ensign. I do my calling and visiting teaching and scriptures and prayer. Maybe that makes me a cafeteria mormon, but then the Temple has a cafeteria so….

    • Dani Addante says:

      Yes, it’s so hard. I think women are stronger than men, because they have to wade through these hard things in the temple.

  8. AnonBecause says:

    I found the temple was disruptive to my relationship with Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Parents, so I choose not to go. I let nothing stand between us.

    But that’s only relevant to me.

  9. KG says:

    This! Thank you for writing this. I really miss the temple…well mostly baptisms and the celestial room, but other little parts too. I want to go back but I feel so much fear because of exactly what was mentioned in your writings. I’m scared of it hurting again so deeply that I can’t bear it so I just stay away…but my heart aches for the peaceful and beautiful parts.

  10. Laurel Lee Pedersen says:

    I am so saddened that some of you have these feelings about the temple. As I approach 70, I look back at all my temple experiences as well. I came out of the temple and burst into tears after my own endowment before my marriage at age 20, out of frustration. I was so ill-prepared! But, over the years, as I have studied church history, and matured, I have realized that the restoration is still on-going. Joseph Smith charged Brigham Young with the duty of organizing and writing the temple ceremonies, since he (Joseph) knew his allotted time was up and unable to do so himself. Culturally, Brigham Young was a man and prophet of his times. I have lived through changes in the endowment and washings and annointings, and especially who is allowed to be there. Prophets are men of their times and truth is restored and amplified often by bit and piece. Don’t let these words written in a past cultural time keep you from the blessings of renewing your covenants with your Father. That is what Satan wants you to do. Imagine those who were unable to attend the temple at all, before 1978, and them saying that because of the past, they would not attend now. I have no doubt changes will continue to occur, and for the better, in temple language. Be patient! With love I implore you to go and serve your loved ones, and serve yourself in the Lord’s temple. Wait upon the Lord, and you will be blessed.

    • spunky says:

      I agree with you, Laurel Lee Pedersen. I personally only see the temple is symbolic terms. The literal terms are simply asinine and make no sense. I wish more men and women would study the temple as symbolic, and leave the literal rubbish at the curb. It would be even nicer if we would talk about it openly, so this hidden concept of eternal slavery and servitude could die.

  11. Cathy cann says:

    I feel like the whole “hearken” thing, was to make certain that women knew when hubs was called to take another wife, she needed to go along, especially since he was hearkening to the will of the Lord in the matter.
    I haven’t been to the temple for 5 years. Not since my son married, and I noticed his wife give herself to him, with no reciprocation. This was after years of feeling shocked and hurt, that I would always be a priestess, only to my husband, not to God, and would forever only be able to approach Him with a veiled face.

    • spunky says:

      I think you might enjoy a book called “Understanding Your Endowment.” It addresses some of the issues and what the symbolism of the veil means.

    • Sheri says:

      I do not believe that woman have to cover their faces before God. God would not do that to women. God would not treat half of his children as less than or subservient to the men.

  12. Michael V says:

    I am a man who has felt hurt by the wording in the temple. As I have experienced Healing in my Life, I have felt more and more permission to understand what Heavenly Father wants ME to understand about what is being presented. I am also someone who was personally affected by the 1978 Declaration, which offered many emotional complexities. I agree that “wording” is very imprecise and I don’t feel bound by worldly definitions. I also know that older members often believe “old things” which may not be true in an eternal sense–hence one or more of the Apostles needed some basic changing-of-beliefs to receive a testimony of the Declaration. Also, .The Church evolved under Brigham Young as a military organization, with some justification for survival
    among the mobs, the pioneer trail, and the settling of Deseret. Someone had to make the “final” decision as a matter of practicality. I encourage anyone reading these materials to seek what is meant for THEM individually, and allow for departures from literal or traditional definitions. We have no suitable vocabulary for Celestial principles. Some personal revelations I keep to MYSELF as I have learned that no one needs to sign off on what I feel I have been taught privately.

    • Dani Addante says:

      Thank you for your post! I agree with what you said about the wording being imprecise. Since it hurts men and women, surely they will make changes in the temple script soon.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Of course they will. We can just keep changing things until everyone is happy.
        Wording of covenants, ordain women, seal same sex couples, etc. etc. etc.

        We don’t need God in these enlightened times. We know what He wants for us – to be happy. So we just make the church so we are happy.

        Now, end tithing and stop enforcing the word of wisdom and everyone will be a lot happier.

  13. Violadiva says:

    I think you’re right about which little words should be removed and which little words should be added. Just little words, but with such tremendous impact!

  14. Cory Jensen says:

    A little history may help provide some perspective. Joseph first administered the endowment in May of 1842. For the next 34 years, it was then transmitted orally and not reduced to writing until 1877 when Brigham Young wanted to formalize the ceremony and eliminate variations then occurring in the presentation from session to session and between different temples. He asked L. John Nuttall, Wilford Woodruff, and John D.T. McAllister to spearhead this effort. This occurred between January 14th and March 21st of 1877 and included revisions, discussions, and changes to the endowment ceremony before being standardized. Since that time additional revisions have been made from time to time and will undoubtedly continue in the future. Wilford Woodruff seemed to believe that the underlying principles were more important than the particular wording. I agree with his belief. My personal opinion is that we should focus on the temple’s underlying principles (as taught by the Spirit) and be somewhat careful about how much weight we put on the specific wording. I don’t believe that God views any of his children (sons or daughters) differently and the scriptures support that. There is also wording that some see as favoring women over men. Again, I don’t place much weight on these differences. [For a more detailed discussion of the relevant history, see Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine by Jennifer Ann Mackley (High Desert Publishing, May 2014)].

    That said, there may also be a grain of truth in the wording of the obedience covenant that we shouldn’t just cast away without further thought. It’s not that women should be subservient to men. But there is some truth in the concept of spouses submitting to and serving one another within a marriage covenant. That submission should be the man to the woman and the woman to the man—it goes both ways. The idea is inherent in a covenant relationship. I am bound to my wife in a different way from my relationship to any other person because of that covenant. Paul taught that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church—even to the laying down of his life (Ephesians 5:25). Ultimately, both spouses sacrifice for one another and for their children. This voluntary submission of ourselves to another is one means to truly lift or change another and to bless them. Think of the example of Ammon and Lamoni in the Book of Mormon. Ammon submitted to the king for a time in order to bless and serve him. Of course this must be done prayerfully and carefully and doesn’t require that we submit to abuse.

    There is another very beautiful example of this in the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai. His character is changed through a woman who ministers to him when it is very difficult for her. As he begins to understand her sacrifice it changes his life. He then is able to change and influence the emperor of Japan in a similar manner. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth watching.

    • Dani Addante says:

      Thanks for your comments! I’ll have to look at that book you mentioned. I agree with you that both spouses hearken to each other. That’s what my husband and I do, since we love each other dearly.

  15. ForeverSeeking says:

    This has always been a tough pill for me to swallow. It eventually led me to break up with my long-term boyfriend/fiance. (Which ended up being a good thing.)

    But, I find hope in reading the Gospels. Christ showed women love and true equality that transcended time and cultures. (Isn’t there a blog post on here about that?). As the head of the church, I doubt he would hold women eternally to passive roles.

    There are similar discussions about what God wants for women going on in many religious circles. Has anyone ever reached out to them?

  16. Nona says:

    Was my comment deleted?

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