Question Authority

mon cheri

By Jana
(Based on a post from my soloblog)

This weekend I scraped off the tattered bumper stickers from our car (Another Family for Peace, Live Simply so Others May Simply Live, and Just Say YES to Equal Marriage Rights) and put on three new ones.  One of them, “Question Authority,” was John’s (my spouse’s) first choice.  The others: a large peace symbol and “Consume Less, Share More” were more of my choosing.

However I had a musing this morning that affirms the significance of the “Question Authority” slogan for me as I had a strong flashback of something that happened many years ago but almost made me cry as I recalled it today.

I’m not someone who has a strong tie to talismans, but I do find that certain items bring back a lot of memories.  For example, I can tell you when and where I’ve acquired every item of furniture or book or the plants in my garden…I love the stories of “things.”

Many years ago John gave me a simple pair of earrings that had small white flowers dangling from them.  I will emphasize the small part (I’d say there were about 4-5mm in diameter).  Now those of you who’ve read my New Era story know that part of my affinity for flowers and gardens comes from a particular moment with my Dad when he gave me encouragement after my amputation surgery.  So these small earrings that John gave me I wore to my Dad’s funeral and then every time after that it was in some small way linking me to my Dad and to that special moment that we shared.  I took to wearing these earrings to the temple, given that they matched my white clothing nicely and because they reminded me of how special my Dad was to me and they represented my carrying his memory with me in a symbolic way.  It seems silly now as I write this, but it was important to me at that time–I’d grieved so deeply when he died.

So one day when I was stepping out of the dressing room at the temple and going to the area to wait for the next endowment session a female temple worker stopped me and told me that my earrings were inappropriate and I would have to remove them before I could pass into the ordinance areas of the temple.  I questioned her lightly about why and explained that I’d worn them frequently in the temple before.  “No dangly earrings are allowed,” she said firmly.

I went back to my locker and curled up and cried as I took off the earrings (I don’t know what has happened to them since then and I don’t remember ever wearing them again).

As I look back on that incident, I remember attempting to explain to this temple worker why the earrings were so important to me, but I realized that she wasn’t in a frame of mind to listen to me. She was in the frame of mind to tell me the rules. I could have put the earrings in my pocket and then put them back on once I was past the locker room (though I would’ve felt terrible and sneaky doing that, so I didn’t). I could have asked for a second opinion from another temple worker. I could have gotten angry or picked a fight with her about it. Instead I simply went to someplace where I could be alone and grieved by myself.

Though you may never have had an experience like mine, I would like to know what you’ve done when you’ve bumped against authority. Do you fight? Do you retreat? Do you cry? Do you try to ‘sneak’ around the rules to do what you want to anyways?
Even though, at the time, it didn’t occur to me to challenge the authority of that temple worker, I wonder if I should have to avoid further hurt–the hurt of feeling powerless and alienated in the very place where I should feel the greatest connection to the divine, to my family, to my sisters.

And this morning I put on these earrings before I even knew I’d be writing this post. They are reminding me of flowers, family, and how much some things change and how much some things stay the same.

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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15 Responses

  1. Jessawhy says:

    What a sad story. I’ve had a lot of experiences where temple workers overstep their authority. It drives me crazy and totally takes away the Spirit.
    I’m sorry that you lost the earrings and had such a bad experience. It’s hard to say what is the right thing to do in those situations, because it’s hard to argue with people in the temple.
    I hope that you’ve found healing and peace over the years regarding your father’s death.
    Thanks for sharing this post.

  2. stacer says:

    That’s so odd. I’ve been a temple worker three times and I’ve never heard anyone suggest that dangly earrings were inappropriate for the temple.

  3. Jana says:

    When I questioned her about it, she said it was a new policy (of course that was like 14 years ago). In the meantime, I’ve heard from temple worker friends that they are now trained not to criticize people’s apparel choices unless they are egregious violations of temple policy.

  4. I have never liked the random assertions of authority that you came up against. But for most of my life have not had any good way of dealing with them. Now I try to put people at ease and ask questions. Keeping people talking is important. If noting else they relax and it gives them the chance to see that you are not a threat to them. When the perceived threat is removed the rules tend to relax.

  5. marta says:

    Jana, my experience was silly compared to yours. I went to the temple wearing knee socks and ugly flat brown oxfords and the dear brother at the recommend desk told me I could not go in unless I was dressed in hose and heels.
    I used very big eyes and told him that they had told me I should dress for the temple as I do for sacrament meeting, which I had done. He let me in.

  6. Sharon in Tennessee says:

    Dear Jana: I hope none of us will let hurt and pain from unthoughtful comments aboutmetal petals sever our “roots” in our journey of spiritual oneness and progress of relationships. Yes, it hurts.
    I’ve had all sorts of varying experiences in and outside the temple. I am there to worship God, learn more about His ways and feel the true Holy Ghost. All temple workers are humans and are just as varied in their own spiritual growth / state as the flowers in your garden. Some are “losing their petals”…(smile). I’ve had many comments made to me WITH and WITHOUT the spirit of love (Holy Ghost) or with the pure love of Christ. We must carry with us, such a testimony and confidence of our standing with the Lord and our purpose being in the temple and what WE want to take from it…in the same divine spirit, not mortal one. I am sorry your heart was wounded. Sometimes a not so pure spirit “sneaks” in….within certain people with their Human-ness overbearing their Christ-ian charcteristics. What matters is our attitude, NOT theirs and maintaining a truely intent focus on Christ…moment to moment, hour to hour. When we feel and exhibit the fruit of the spirit…Galatians 5:22-23, we can KNOW, earrings or NO earrings, we are one with the Lord, approved of him, CLOSE to divinity…..right with His standards.
    A pair of earrings that reminds your heart and emotions of these fruits of the spirit…LOVE..tenderness, longsuffering, joy, PEACE..etc., are also loving, tender, joyful symbols in the eyes of the Lord.
    Of course there is opposition in all things. Even your sweet memories at times may be challenged. That is where our determination to remain focused…on the Lord and His ways. Bring you BACK to only patience, long-suffering for any human who has LESS understanding and tact.
    The earrings in the final point were not interferring with your hearts expression of love. Ancestors are close to us in the temple. No doubt your father was there too. When we keep focused on the HIGHEST reason we are in the temple…
    and the highest ..most divine points of our mortal journey…”to bring to pass immortality and eternal life”…the smaller and mundane things of metal begin to merely tinkle and fade beside the outstreached scarred hands that reach for us to be healed and loved within the folds of the Shepard’s Cloak.
    Love to you dear sister. People will ALWAYS be people. Mortals who error.
    May all your heart be healed with the Balm of Gilead. From He who is the..
    Christ who is Forever & ALWAYS our Christ and Savior.
    Love & PEACE to you from my heart (hurt thousands of times, healed just as many from the At-One-Ment)….Sharon

  7. Jana says:

    Marta: I love the image of you in knee socks and oxfords! If I’d had to wear stockings and heels for the temple, I would’ve never made it in (I can’t wear heels on a leg with a fixed ankle height for crying out loud). The paternalism in that brother’s judgment of your clothing is downright offensive.

    A good story: a friend of mine who was a brand new convert to the church went on a trip to Utah and got a recommend to do baptisms beforehand. Because of transportation issues, she had to walk a couple of miles to the temple in the summer sun so she wore shorts and a t-shirt. No one had told her about wearing “church clothes” to the temple. When she explained to the recommend gate-keeper about her trek to the temple and that she was newly baptized, he let her in despite her casual attire.

  8. stacer says:

    Jana, I love that story. It’s definitely important to dress for the temple with respect (which isn’t hose and heels, but the same as you’d wear for sacrament, and argh on that guy who tried to say otherwise), but I love that that brother showed compassion and understanding for your friend, too.

  9. m&m says:

    Although difficult, I think we can find peace and heal from hurt regardless of what others choose to do. Calling someone out really often just perpetuates problems, imo. As hard as that situation was, I suspect she was doing her best.

    That doesn’t mean that people overstepping their authority is a good thing, but I think usually, it’s best to leave the judgment as it were to God…because people usually are doing their best, imo, and part of the journey is to learn to forgive, without qualification, to learn to have hearts of love even when we are hurt.

    I have found that sometimes, if I am really confused or troubled about something at a local level in the Church, I will simply ask for an explanation. I have usually found willingness to clarify and help me understand, even if I still won’t always agree. It helps me try to put myself in their shoes. Being in a position of authority can be hard work! And it’s part of the journey to learn how to be patient with each other in our weakness.

    I read Ezek. 34 the other day, and found great comfort in it. Even with egregious faults of leaders that the Lord condemns here (where He talks of shepherds who have “gotten fat” at the expense of their flock) He says that HE will care for the sheep who have been hurt.

    I think that is really the ideal. We turn to God in our pain, and trust HIM to make up the difference when others fail us.

    Hard stuff, though. I remember vividly a Costco worker snapping at me, and I was having one of those days. I cried all the way through the rest of my shopping trip.
    It doesn’t have to be significant authority to have the potential to cause a pain.

    This is a reminder, too, to me of how tender-hearted most of us really are. How careful and kind we need to be with each other! (and even those in authority need love, too. 🙂 )

  10. m&m says:

    In short, I have found that usually, letting go is the best thing for my own heart and peace. Either that, or honest and kind communication when the emotion is not there in such intensity.

  11. Marjorie Conder says:

    I have gotten better at such things over the years. Several years ago a “too sweet” temple worker said to me, “Dear, you will be much more comfortable if you take your earrings off.” I replied, “No, I won’t, but you will” as I took them out and put them in my pocket. I felt I had clearly let her know “who had the problem.”

  12. Lori says:

    I had a similar experience once in the Atl temple. I was in the celestial room with my parents and brother and we were quietly discussing the recent changes to the endowment session. A temple worker approached us and asked us to stop talking, as talking was inappropriate in the celestial room. I tried to argue with her, but then determined it would do no good.

    So, later that week, I went back to the temple and asked to speak with the temple pres. I told him of the incident and asked for clarification on the policy. His response was the the temple worker had been out of line, he apologized, and promised to clarify the policy for the temple workers.

  13. Evelyn says:

    I had an experience a few years ago at my daughter’s temple wedding that still makes me wonder. The sealing was over, we were headed back to the bride’s room for her to freshen up for pictures. In the instruction, I was sure I was told not to step out of the temple without my temple recommend being with me. My daughter handed off some film for me to give the person doing the photography. I stepped a few steps in front of the desk, the photographer headed out with everyone else and I turned to go back to join my daughter in the bride’s room. The temple worker stopped me, said I had gone beyond the desk and could not enter without my recommend. I pointed out it was in my purse in the bride’s room.She just stared at me. I asked if they could call down there and ask my daughter to bring my purse to me. No phones allowed. Another stare. The sister had just watched the whole bridal party go by and knew I was the bride’s mother. I didn’t want to make a scene, but also couldn’t believe the whole attitude coming across. I happened to look back towards the lobby, there was a person I knew who I was able to ask to go to the bride’s room and retrieve my purse. I realize now I should have asked her to please go get one of the temple presidency, since she was not bothering to offer a solution. I also don’t remember a brother being in attendance at the desk at that moment, which seems strange to me now. Maybe he had stepped away for just a minute.

  14. Kiri Close says:

    I don’t take it.

    I’m also very creatively effective at telling annoying people to shut the hell up.

  15. Kiri Close says:

    And in honor of this wonderful post and responding contributors, I will proudly wear long, colorful, dangly earrings to my next temple session.

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