Singles at the Temple (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

Note about the Singles Series:
This is the last post in this series: “Single and Married in the LDS Church”, which has run for over 2 weeks.  We have tried to post about a variety of topics that touch the lives of LDS singles, but we realize that we did not cover them all. There are other singles not addressed in this series, such as widow(er)s and LGBT members. There are also other 
situations, such as single parenthood, that were not addressed.  We wish that we could have covered them all, but hope that our offering of available resources has been enlightening and beneficial to you, our readers.

And, now, our concluding post: Singles at the Temple.

DC TempleAs a Primary child I sang:

“I love to see the temple, I’ll go inside someday– to covenant with my Father; I’ll promise to obey. For the temple is a Holy Place – where we are sealed together. As a child of God, I know this truth: a family is forever.”

As a Young Woman, I wore in my mother’s wedding dress for pictures in front of the Boise Temple. (I did this gladly at the time, but the thought horrifies me now.)

I was taught that temples = families and marriages.

As I grew older and remained unmarried, the temple became a place of sadness; a place where I was reminded of what I lacked rather than what I was given; a place of remorse rather than of peace. My initial excitement for the temple became avoidance (especially on Saturday mornings when I was sure to see many happy brides).

I wanted to love the temple, I wanted to feel peace, I wanted to commune with God. But I was distracted by the heavy Sunday School rhetoric that joined the temple with the eternal family I didn’t have.

The Angel Moroni

I persisted in my attendance with a determination to find solutions, albeit less frequently. One day as I walked toward the white spires, I noticed the angel Moroni – at the very top – all alone. “Well”, I thought, “he’s alone (maybe even single) and he’s here.” It gave me a bit of a lift as I went in. Later that night, I read about Moroni in Mormon 8:5. “And behold, I would write if I had room, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I live I know not.”

After that, I purposefully looked for Moroni. He was a symbol of solidarity with my situation. His example of faithfulness in the midst of trial gave me courage to go in – alone. He became an anchor – that brought calm to my heart and spirit. This allowed me to begin to hear and see better. And as I could more fully commune with the Divine, I grew in understanding.

My Journey to Wholeness

Not long ago, while teaching the Primary children about baptism, it struck me that this ordinance was a solo commitment. I taught the children that baptism is a covenant that you make with God; just you and God.

I then began to think of other saving ordinances, my confirmation, initiatory, and endowment. They each are covenants I made one-on –one with God. (This is an idea that my theologian friend, Maxine Hanks, has often shared.)

As a single woman, who often looks for ways to fit myself into church doctrine, I was excited about this idea. The next time I attended the temple, I went with this frame in mind. And it made for a more powerful, meaningful experience.   I looked for symbols and references to the individual.

I saw the temple bringing me, an indiviual soul together with God. As I made covenants with God, I felt myself coming together with God –becoming whole. And when I am whole, I can enter the presence of God.   Upon this realization, my worship did not include my missing spouse or missing children; it was about me, myself, on a quest to return to my real home and my divine family. I took these lessons from the temple and used them in my life and work and extended family.

In the endowment, when the session ends and the veil is lifted, I see heaven and earth become one. I see the heavenly parent and the earthly child come together with a single understanding. The natural woman is consumed by the spirit. And it is then, when we are all made whole – and covered by the atonement of Christ – we pass into the presence of God, our Father and our Mother.

(The temple hold many layers of symbolism. I share only a small piece of the symbolic nature in order to demonstrate how the temple can be more meaningful to the individual.)

Mysteries & Temple Worship

The temple can be a place of meditation and contemplation. When I was younger, I focused much of my seeking on specific answers for my life: where should I go to school, how should I direct my career, how should I manage a relationship. But as I grow older and mature – many of those life questions settle. So, rather than ask specific earth life questions, I find myself contemplating “the mysteries of God”. (Nephi 10:17 “I was desirous that I might see, and hear, and know of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God to all who diligently seek him.”) Though I am far from comprehending all that I wish, I am learning. Many ideas have impressed me. I sense the understanding of things in my spirit that are hard to write or verbalize.

As a single member of the church there are some parts of my life that are simple -and I find that simplicity allows my mind and spirit to be free of some concerns, allowing the spirit to teach me directly.

Single Members & Unique Insights

As Kristine Haglund writes in an early blog post in this series, “[Singles] are also in a unique position to … teach. Simply by existing within the body of Christ, unmarried Saints open space for a richer and deeper understanding of God.” Single members have unique insights learned through sacred, lonely experience. Aloneness can heighten holy worship.

I encourage my single friends to use their unique temple experiences to teach the gospel in new ways. With the springboard of singular communion with God, offer understanding to the wholeness of all members. And I encourage married members to seek out their single friends for spiritual nurture, counsel, and blessing. Single members share in God’s bounty, consecrations, and inheritance.

Suzette

Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents – and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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26 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    “I then began to think of other saving ordinances, my confirmation, initiatory, and endowment. They each are covenants I made one-on –one with God.”

    This is also true, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, with the sealing ordinance. The covenant one makes is with God, and the blessings extended are to the individual.

    This is one of the reasons the brethren are reluctant to cancel a sealing until a sister wishes to remarry and be sealed to a new husband. All of the blessings of the sealing ordinance are individual and come to that sister irrespective of her ex-husband’s sins, etc. if she continues to be worthy of them.

    Nice post. But I believe much of what you say can, and should be thought about, by married people too.

    Our relationship with God is utmost. It may be expressed by our family relationships, but it is nonetheless of vital importance that we consider how our covenants bind us to God and His Christ.

    • Maggie says:

      I wanna give you the benefit of the doubt here. But this comment is just so unhelpful and condescending.

      Yes, it is true that even divorced women have a higher status than the unmarried in the church and our theology.

      Yes, lessons learned by single people can often apply to married people.

      Why you felt the need to point both of those things out is beyond me.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Well thanks for the benefit of the doubt. I certainly wasn’t trying to be condescending. Whilst I would not even pretend to understand what being single in the Church means (married at 19) I got something from this post. My point was that in our relationship with Our Father (Heavenly Parents) we are all single – to an extent. Yes I have my wife to worship with. But the communication I get through the Spirit is mine. My Endowment was for me, and only for me.

        I have taught Institute in the past, for a total of 6 years. I have also taught the Endowed from on High course several times. In those lessons I have spent a lot of time ensuring that the students understand that the Endowment is for the individual a unique experience. OK it is the same each time, and it appears the same for all. But the Endowment is supposed to be a revelatory experience. The Covenants are to bind the individual to Christ and give the individual power.

        I do understand why, with all that is said in Church meetings, why for single members the temple seems to be a place for couples. But I don’t believe it is meant to be, and I believe Suzette captured that in her post.

      • Devin Best says:

        You will be happier when you learn to get rid of bitterness. I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he was trying to offend anyone… I think this blog is great. I hope it could be helpful to my single sister.

      • Moss says:

        There’s lots of ways to be unhelpful and condescending and often we aren’t even aware we’re doing it. I think we need to be more thoughtful with how we treat single people in a family church, and listening to them when they say something is wrong is a great start.

  2. Crystal says:

    Very insightful! Thank you for this article. I’m struggling with returning to the temple, since I feel uncomfortable there, but reading this made me feel much better.

  3. Maggie says:

    It’s been 4 years since I’ve been to the temple. And I hold out the possibility that the desire to return might come to me. But for now, the thought of walking through those doors fills me with anxiety and rage I didn’t even know I had. As a single member of the church, it holds no promise for me. It only shows me what I might have if I were married to the right kind of man. I am glad for those for whom it is meaningful. I don’t understand it. But there are lots of things that I don’t understand. And I never imagined 4 years ago that taking a sabatical from the temple would lead me to a deaper and richer relationship with diety. I thought I was giving up. But I now think that God was helping me see more.

  4. Alysa says:

    “I then began to think of other saving ordinances, my confirmation, initiatory, and endowment. They each are covenants I made one-on –one with God. ” This is only true if you are a male. Listen more carefully and you’ll see that women – even unmarried ones – are making these covenants to a husband-god. So, yeah. there’s that.

  5. Pearl says:

    Suzette I love your insights here. I have always loved the Temple as a single adult and you insights have given me fresh ideas to ponder. Thank you!

  6. Olea says:

    The question on my backburner is: if the temple is wrong (or incomplete), can I still make it work for me?

    I agree with Alysa that the words and images say something I don’t think can be true, but maybe there is something there. I’d never considered the temple as a monument to the fundamentally lonely human condition. Thanks for sharing your insight about Moroni, it’s something to ponder, and perhaps explore the edges of in person.

  7. CS Eric says:

    I thank you for the insight that Moroni is the ultimate symbol of staying faithful while single. I’m going to work on that for a while.

    • Lily says:

      Not to derail, but I have often thought that about the sons of Mosiah. They go on a mission to the Lamanites and the King asks Ammon how long he plans to stay. He says essentially, forever. I figure he didn’t abandon a wife back home, so he’s probably single, and seems to have no thought of marrying. He is worried only about bringing souls to Christ.

  8. Maggie says:

    For a woman, the endowment is not a solo ordinance. She must promise to obey a man, in your case, you promised to obey a man you don’t know. You were anointed to be a priestess et all UNTO your husband. Like the previous commenter said, he becomes your God.

    There is a reason single women used to be barred from going through the temple.

    • Cyndie says:

      I think you need go back and listen to what you are promising. There are many things involved in the endowment that have a lot to do with authority and righteousness. Women are not second hand citizens and God has given us very unique and important abilities that seem to come naturally to women, especially women who are in touch with Him and themselves. There is more to the anointment and commandments given in the temple, and the whole thing can not be discussed here. Maybe you could go to your Bishop or to the temple Matron and discuss this?

      • Devin Best says:

        Very well said!

      • Alysa says:

        Cyndie, many of us have spent years – decades! – studying what the temple ceremonies *actually* mean to women. “Going to our bishop/temple matron” is NOT helpful, as I guarantee they know less about it than we do. If you can’t even see what – or to whom – you are making covenants, it’s you who need to go back and really listen. The difference between what God thinks of us and what the church thinks of us is stark.

      • Cyndie says:

        I thin Alysa that maybe when you are studying things the intent may help. I have studied and the answers I get tell me that I am loved and respected by my Heavenly Father and His servants, what others think does not matter. I know my worth. I was given loving insight from Bishops and temple workers/Matron. I have also had similar people try to down grade me. I KNOW from whom my enlightenment comes, I just pray everyone can be so lucky.

      • Maggie says:

        Cyndie, respectfully, saying women have all the same natural abilities is hogwash. We are all individuals. In the temple, they are second hand citizens. Eve never talks, nor is she spoken to, after she promises to obey Adam. She is the only women in the entire thing and she is silenced early on. In the sealing, she is his property. She gives herself to him, he receives her. No, there is not more to the anointing. Women become everything to their husbands, whether they have one or not, men get to be God’s priest.

    • Sophia says:

      I am a single sister nearly 50, and I love going to the temple. To me the endowment is absolutely for the single, individual sister. If this were not the case, how come the endowment comes before the wedding? (Shouldn’t it then be the other way around?) How come missionaries-to-be take out their endowments before their missions? Their missions are not about marriage. The endowment is an endowment power, of knowledge, of pretection and of blessings through covenants, allowing the individual to walk the path that leads back to God.

      I do remember a time when single women were not permitted to go through the temple. If this were a doctrinal issue, how come this has changed? Has doctrine changed? It has not. It was a matter of policy. It has also been the case–and I would say this is cultural more than anything–that young women take out their endowments in connection with their wedding, more because it has to be performed before the wedding than anything else. I think this is one reason of the misconception that the temple is all about, and only about, marriage.

      All of the covenants you made in the endowment are individual. Yes, there are a couple of covenants that have to do with a current or future partner, but you are not required to be married to make those covenants.

      In this discussion, there have been some references to the “husband-god”. I don’t have much to say about what this may or may not mean concerning the relationship between husband and wife, but I can absolutely tell you that there is much more to this particular part of the endowment than marriage. Consider: Who was able to keep the fullness of the law to the last iota? Only ONE in the history of all mankind. Who is dependent on being bound to that ONE making and keeping HIS covenant? All of us, men and women alike.

    • Sophia says:

      Maggie, please have a look at my comment above.

      • Alysa says:

        Sophia, your comments above are nothing new to Maggie. Or myself. We’ve heard them before, we’ve studied them out. They don’t work for us. It’s great that they work for you.

      • Sophia says:

        So you are not asking for answers or other views in this discussion. You have already made your mind up. What would you like to see happen?

  9. Alysa says:

    I would like to see the temple ceremonies reworked so they are not sexist. This would mean a lot of changes, among them: I would like for women and men to make the same covenants, and make them to God. I would like to be anointed a queen and priestess unto God (or Goddess), not unto my husband. I would like my husband to make the same covenants to me that I made to him when we were married. I would like to know his sacred name, as he knows mine. I would like to not veil my face in the most sacred of ceremonies. I could go on and on. How any woman can look at this (very abbreviated) list and still think she is treated equally in the temple is beyond me. But, hey, if that makes you happy, be my guest. It offends my female soul.

    • Sophia says:

      I guess the long and short of it is that although we’re looking at the same thing, we are seeing it differently and reading different things into them. To me, many things in the temple are more about the relationship between Heavenly Father, Christ, mankind and the atonement more than anything else. I am sorry you are feeling such pain and bitterness on the subject–maybe it’s an issue tender enough that there is nothing anyone can say that will not be aggravating to you. I hope you will be able to find some healing in your personal relationship to heavenly Father. Ultimately, that’s where it’s at, no matter what else is going on. Peace, sister.

      • Alysa says:

        There is nothing in the relationship between myself and God that needs healing. We’re good. It’s the relationship between myself and a church organization that views me as less of a person and more of an accessory (or “auxiliary” or “appendage” – actual words used to describe the RS by church leadership) to a male. I am an actual, complete, full human being, created in the image of my Mother. The temple doesn’t support this. Period. Full stop. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t live up to the beauty and fullness that the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches me about myself and my worth to God. And while it no longer causes me pain, I will never be “at peace” with it, because it is not OK.

  10. Michelle says:

    I’m a single, never married sister who served an honorable mission. Taking out my endowments for the first time was a positive experience. I had high hopes for a bright future. I came home, ready to continue my eternal progression. Tragically, as the years passed, (I am now over forty) I found myself struggling with that very first covenant the sisters make to their husbands. No husband wanted me as a companion or helpmeet. I was never called, let alone chosen. Eve never had to compete with other single women (and now men) for the attentions of Adam. The Lord led her to him. Why didn’t He do the same for me? I hated the feeling of being incomplete, alone, rejected (as if being constantly rejected on my mission wasn’t enough!) as I sat through session after session. After passing through the veil, there was never anyone waiting for me. Even when I attended with my fellow singles ward members. Single LDS men aren’t looking for future mothers.
    One day I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore. It is not good for man to be alone, yet so many women are alone and…God is okay with this? I haven’t been back in years. I wish I had a reason to return but the temple is and always will be for marrieds only. We can only progress so far in this life as individuals. Neither the man without the woman and all that.

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