Temples, Trauma, and (Visiting) Teaching

Sunday morning, my visiting teachers came by for a visit. After the usual pleasantries were exchanged, one of the sisters commenced sharing August’s visiting teaching message, “Become an Instrument in the Hands of God by Preparing for and Participating in Temple Worship. The message she presented was standard fare—we read a few of the general authority quotes, she asked me how I felt about the quotes, I gave some pleasant responses, and we gradually started winding down. What came next was completely unanticipated—my visiting teacher turned to me and said, “You know, now that we’ve had the ‘official lesson,’ I just have to say that I HATE going to the temple.” What ensued was a frank, hour and half long conversation about the difficulties she had experienced with respect to the temple ceremony and gender issues. She expressed feelings of anger, disillusionment, pain, and confusion. She admitted that she attended the temple out of a desire to honor her covenants and placate her husband, not because she felt any spiritual enlightenment during or after attendance.

I was fairly surprised to see the conversation turn in this direction. Previously, I don’t know if I would have pegged this particular sister as having this particular set of concerns. She’s a mom, a returned missionary, and slated to be the next RS President in our ward.

As this unexpected dialogue began to develop, I, too, admitted to some of my concerns about the temple ceremony. However, I also shared that over the years my temple experiences have improved, and that recently I’d even attended the temple and departed (relatively) emotionally unscathed.

My visiting teacher then asked if I could recommend anything to help with her concerns. While I don’t believe there is a magic bullet that will miraculously resolve this complex problem, I gave her several suggestions, and we agreed that for our September visiting teaching visit we’re going to attend a temple session together so we can speak more freely about sacred topics.

While gender issues and the temple have been discussed ad nauseam around the bloggernacle, I have no memory of a post specifically devoted to helping women resolve their issues or become more comfortable with the temple. If I could make a short list of possible suggestions, it would include:

-Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break from the temple for a while. You’ll know when you’re ready to try it again. For several years the temple was so emotionally charged and traumatic that it made matters much worse to force myself to attend.


-Talk to your friends and family about how you feel. Intense and dark emotions must be brought to light in order for the healing process to begin. I remember how afraid I was to tell my husband my true feelings about the temple, but when I finally did, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. He still loved me, he didn’t condemn me, and he genuinely wanted to help me resolve my concerns. The same thing happened when I told my parents and several of my close friends. While none of these individuals actually share my concerns about the temple, each has been incredibly supportive as I have struggled down this messy and confusing path.

-When your husband, roommate, family, or ward goes to the temple, and you just can’t bring yourself to join them, try using that time to study about the temple instead. While the fluffy Ensign stuff really didn’t do anything for me, academic treatments, such as Hugh Nibley’s TEMPLE AND COSMOS, and Carol Cornwall Madsen’s Mormon Women and the Temple: Toward a New Understanding (in SISTERS IN SPIRIT, eds. Beecher & Anderson), provided a contextual framework regarding the evolution of the ancient temple ceremony, temple symbolism, and modern-day temple practices and ceremony modifications. After reading these pieces I actually felt some measure of, dare I say, excitement, about returning to the temple to gain additional personal knowledge of these sacred ceremonies.

-If the endowment ceremony is a flashpoint for you, try doing baptisms for the dead or initiatories. That way you are participating in temple work and helping to fulfill the three-fold mission of the church, without quite so much of the problematic language. After nearly a year of self-imposed temple estrangement, I eased back in to temple attendance with a 30 minute initiatory session. The words, the feelings, the sweet elderly women administering the ordinances, everything—it was a beautiful, peaceful, calming experience.

What advice would you give to a woman who expressed concerns about gender and the temple ceremony? What has worked for you? What has helped other women you know?

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41 Responses

  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    I have very strong feelings that the temple is the most pro-feminist thing in the Church. But I have learned that this can not (at least in my experience) be conveyed in the bloggernacle. I did attend a temple session with a sister that I had met online, and it was a great experience for both of us.

    So the only thing that I can recommend is that you find someone who is both aware of but not bothered by the temple, and go with her.

  2. Caroline says:

    Maria, thanks for all your ideas. I’ll have to think about them to see if any might possibly help me.

    I’m one of the ones that has been traumatized by the temple. Early in my marriage, during my 3rd endowment session, I lost it when the obedience covenant came up. I sobbed for the entire hour and a half. I sobbed on the two hour car ride home. I sobbed all night. I was devastated. I never went back. It’s been six years since that experience.

    At the time I didn’t realize that that would be it for me. I thought I’d try it again in a few months, a year. But I just have not been able to bring myself to the point where I want to put myself through something like that again.

    I think it’s good advice to try other ceremonies, if the endowment is particularly painful. But I, unfortunately, haven’t found any other ceremony that hasn’t had something hurtful in it. (With the possible exception of baptisms for the dead.)

    I like your suggestion of talking to others about this problem. It has been healing for me to be open about this.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    I’m agree with Julie. I, personally, find the temple very feminist. In fact, it gives me hope for the future of the Church.
    It certainly has some parts that I find irksome, but in talking with my parents and grandparents, things are more egalitarian than
    they were.

    I think going with another like-minded woman is helpful, and as trite as it may sound to some, prayer has been helpful for me during difficult parts of a session.

  4. Courtney says:

    Those are some very good suggestions! I am coming up on my one year mark of my break from the temple and am wondering where this is going. I like the idea of doing other ordinances– though Provo won’t let you do baptisms if you’re endowed unless you bring your own names. I also think it’s good to not feel guilty about taking a break. I don’t have any new suggestions, but I’m glad to think about yours.

  5. G says:

    thankyou for this post, maria.
    I am just coming to the point where I am thinking of going back to the temple, and your suggestions are good ones for me.
    especially, thanks for the reading tips.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have not been to the temple yet (just haven’t felt that the time is right for me), but this is the second post I’ve read in as many days that has touched on this subject — and now I am starting to freak out a little bit…

  7. S.L. says:

    Before my endowment one year ago this month, I was an avid reader of the bloggernaccle. I still am, but I do think I would have had a better first time through had I not already been well exposed to a number of fellow sisters’ complaints. I think it negatively biased me. I really struggled the first time through, and the second, and the seventeenth. Unlike some others, I did not stop going. I do realize this is an entirely personal decision, and am very sympathetic to other women who abstained for awhile. Had I thought my husband would support me, I might have left as well. But I didn’t. Each time I went, I sobbed. And prayed. Until one day, in the temple, I had a series of epiphanies which were absolutely miraculous.

    I now feel like Julie in comment one. I wish I could urge all sisters to keep attending.

    btw, Julie’s post at T&S, Authority on Her Head, was instrumental in my mental paradigm shift.

    I think this post is long overdue for the ‘naccle.

  8. Maria says:

    Julie,

    Cornwall Madsen’s article presents a very female-friendly perspective on the temple ceremony, as well as eternal marriage and celestial priesthood. Reading her article was definitely a turning point for me, probably more so than anything else. It was the first time I found a comfortable interpretation that was within the realm of doctrinal plausibility.

  9. Maria says:

    Caroline,

    I don’t know why it is, but as soon as I say something out loud it doesn’t seem as big and scary as it did when it was trapped inside my heart. My therapist parents agree–one of the most important steps for processing and dealing with painful events is simply acknowledging their existence to a second person.

    Also, by talking about this particular concern, we may discover other co-strugglers who can offer support and encouragement. I’m so glad my visiting teacher said something on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to going to the temple with her in September.

  10. Maria says:

    Another random suggestion–if you speak a foreign language you might want to try attending a session in that language. On a recent trip abroad we attended a session in Spanish–and I was reminded that many of the Spanish translations are much “softer” than their English counterparts (i.e. “hearken” is translated, literally, as “listen”). Yes, it’s still problematic for various reasons, but I like the general direction “listen” is moving toward.

  11. Maria says:

    Courtney,

    I bet if you went to the temple matron and told her you didn’t feel comfortable doing an endowment session, but still wanted to participate in the temple by doing baptisms, that she would find some way to accommodate you even if you didn’t bring your own names. While the temple matrons I have approached with questions about gender issues have offered ZERO doctrinal assistance, all have been incredibly compassionate and eager to help in any way that they could. Just a thought.

  12. Shannon says:

    I received my endowment in 1983. I came from a family where absolutely NOTHING was taught on what to expect or any generalities at all. My first time to the Temple terrified me. I felt betrayed and angry by those who I believe should have done something, anything to prepare me. Shortly afterwards, I had an opportunity to speak privately with Marion D. Hanks for 90 minutes. I requested to speak with a member of the Temple Presidency, and I got the President himself. He was incensed that parents and leaders send unendowed members to the Temple as unprepared as I was. He said that very little of what goes on in our Temples is secret. Much of it can and SHOULD be taught in our homes and in church. In fact, he wanted the covenants we make specifically taught in YW and YM manuals. I believe we as LDS people confuse our culture with our religion. There is a confusion, in my opinion, that we need to be paranoid about discussing the Temple to be a good Mormon. His conversation with me has insured that no one within my sphere of influence will be as ignorant or as vulnerable as I was. President Hanks is now in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. Luckily, 11 years ago his fabulous daughter Mary became my dear friend, and I was able to thank him for teaching me, and consequently many, many others true doctrine.

  13. Debbie Mayhew Zufall says:

    I feel badly that some sisters are hurting because of this. Some things that have helped me: realizing that the endowment ceremony has been changed for the better since I first went through many years ago. Second, that after the first time, we are going through for someone else, and it is up to them whether or not they accept it. Third, lately the talks from our leaders have been much more feminist than ever before, even exalting women above men, and speaking out against spousal abuse. Finally, the sweet spirit that I feel in the temple and the spirit I feel in my own moments of communion are what matters to me.

  14. AmyB says:

    Third, lately the talks from our leaders have been much more feminist than ever before, even exalting women above men

    Debbie, I’m glad you’ve found your own peace in the temple. I do have to say that this statement of yours doesn’t fit with my version of feminism. Putting women on a pedestal is another way to deny that they are not truly being treated as equals. I also disagree with any feminism that says women are better than men. My own feminism says that both women and men need to rise up together and all be treated with equal respect. We need not denigrate men to find our own value.

  15. Katie says:

    “I think it’s good advice to try other ceremonies, if the endowment is particularly painful. But I, unfortunately, haven’t found any other ceremony that hasn’t had something hurtful in it. (With the possible exception of baptisms for the dead.)”

    As I have mentioned elsewhere before, I had a very similar experience to Caroline-crying through the whole thing, and into the night. I like the advice about going to do other ordinances rather than the endowment, but I felt they were all marred by sexist language. But I discovered recently that doing sealings for the dead is very straight forward, with nothing hurtful included. The experience was entirely spiritual for me. Also, and I don’t know if this varies from temple to temple, but we were allowed to chill in the Celestial room after doing the sealings. That is the only thing I miss about the endowment, so it is a great way to get there while avoiding the hurt of the endowment.

    On a different note, while I respect what s.l. said about her experience with continuing to go the temple, I personally felt very weirded out by people telling me to go until I liked it. Here was the most hurtful experience of my life, and the idea that I should keep revisiting it and revisiting it until I liked it seemed rather cult-like to me.

  16. stacer says:

    I recognize that different people struggle with different things–I myself have never had a problem with the Word of Wisdom (at least the don’ts) because I find smoking, drinking, and coffee all pretty gross, but I know people who find it the hardest struggle of their lives. But I don’t understand what about the temple could be “the most hurtful experience of [your] life.” I don’t say this to denegrate the struggle of those who do find the temple hurtful. I say this out of a desire to understand, because though I’ve had questions about aspects of the temple, I wouldn’t count it among the things that have hurt me most of my life (perhaps because I’d say that the abuse I suffered in my childhood was far worse).

    But I do sympathize, because there are some things I didn’t understand the first time through, and some things I still don’t understand after years of attending the temple. As I’ve studied the scriptures and continued to attend the temple, and as I became a temple worker (three times over the course of moving to different cities, the first time just a month or so after I was first endowed), I find truth in what people mean who say you have to go more than once to understand. My feelings of peace and understanding have only increased as I’ve studied and continued to attend the temple, especially in doing initiatories.

    There’s still a lot I don’t understand about the temple ceremony–a number of which are the gender-based questions raised here–but I feel small parts of understanding have unfolded to me as I’ve continued to ponder, pray, and study on the subject.

    One thing that has really helped me is to study how we see Eve in LDS doctrine. We don’t see her as the seductress who tempted Adam—she’s a wise mother figure who had the foresight to know that the fall was necessary. I’ve seen a discrepancy between that perspective and the temple ceremony, and it’s something that I’ve questioned enough to focus on in a lot of my scriptural study as well as even doing a grad paper on different cultural perceptions of Eve/woman in fairy tales (I wrote one paper in grad school that compared/contrasted Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty and their retellings as opposite views of Eve, one as temptress and one as independent actor with foresight, the “fortunate fall” perspective). I think that this has really helped me when I go to the temple to recognize that though the spirit I feel there in the temple and the doctrines it teaches help me feel peace, there’s something that has be said for bad acting that kind of reinforces a worldview that I don’t think we entirely hold as a people. (In at least one of the versions of the film, I notice that facial expressions tend to emphasize the temptress idea, when I don’t think that’s what we’re going for at all.)

    This idea helps me to kind of reinforce my pondering in the temple with what I know from my scripture study about the fall, Eve’s role, and what that means to me as a woman. Often in the chapel while waiting for the session to begin I’ll study scriptures that cover this topic. I found that studying the creation, fall, and atonement, especially in the Pearl of Great Price, helped me a lot. The Pearl of Great Price in particular was a book of scripture I read and reread in the years after I was first endowed. I especially love to study Moses, because so much there is what we learn about Adam and Eve in the temple, chapter 4 in particular.

    My best-guess conclusion, the idea that helps me at least come to peace with the parts of the temple ceremony I don’t understand, is that I live in a fallen world and that there was something very ritualistic in the way that Adam and Eve covenanted with the Father in the Garden of Eden (Moses 4). I’ve had trouble with understanding “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Moses 4:22). I’ve puzzled over scriptures mentioning women for most of my life, from the time I first got my own set of scriptures. But I guess I approach it from a less invested point of view, in that I don’t feel it’s personally hurtful to me that the ceremony is what it is. I just expect that my husband’s (whenever he shows up) desire will be to me, too, and that he will “hearken” to me as much as I do to him because that’s how I see a celestial partnership—and anything less wouldn’t be something I’d agree to commit to.

    I also ask questions when I’m with friends in the Celestial Room– I agree with Maria that talking about it in the temple helps a lot, especially if you go with friends who have similar questions but perhaps might be a little farther ahead on the journey. The year I was first endowed, I went with roommates who had been endowed for years, girls who were feminists carving out their careers while struggling to balance that with desiring to date, get married, and have a family. Their answers to my questions weren’t always satisfying, but just being able to discuss what we’d been pondering while sitting in the Celestial Room opened up my heart to the answers I was seeking–and still seek.

  17. s.l. says:

    “I personally felt very weirded out by people telling me to go until I liked it. Here was the most hurtful experience of my life, and the idea that I should keep revisiting it and revisiting it until I liked it seemed rather cult-like to me.”

    Katie, I understand the inner torment. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it, and know that I don’t say it in a spirit of condecension.

    However . . . I can only say this.

    You may be right that it’s a “cult-like” suggestion, but I believe that’s a myopic description . The qualities which may make something qualify as cult-like are not necessarily all pejorative.
    By your assumed definition, virtually all truth claims made by any religion are cult-like, since they require acting through a faith which must be assumed before evidence.

    I had questions and pain. I also had a testimony of various aspects of the LDS church. I decided to find the reconciliation, wherever it led me. It happened to lead me finally to peace with the temple. I will honor it if you say it does otherwise for you.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Paradigms O’Plenty
    Ye Pilgrims Pride!
    The temple ordinances are so individually experienced according to ones own way of internalizing each segment. While Eve’s issues could totally be ominous to one, the “no sex outside of marriage” covenant could comfort another. Then as one is being saturated by the “newer” endowment film because of the exquisiteness of the music, another would run out hysterically with the old symbols contrived that implicated deadly consequences! So, if you are a feminist, if you are submissive, if you are a theologian, if you are divorced, if you are gay, if you are so old you can’t even stay awake at the altar…. I guess that the Temple experience is quite individual. Great for some, horrible for some, and insignificant to others. I loved my first time with all my heart. I actually loved wearing the sacred garments. I do not attend now. I have a hard time with some of the questions for the temple recommend. I am not a good confabulator! If I can’t be totally honest about something, I will not have selective listening or answering.
    However, I have become apathetic, languid, and impassive. Where once I was the one who could do all, be at all, see it all, and try to know it all, I am now an observer more than a partaker of mankind. A chronic illness took away my abilities to “run faster than I had strength”. I find being an observer quite entertaining and yet despicable at the same time! Especially where the Mormon “sub-culture” is more highly regarded than the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    As for me and my household we say…
    “W.W.J.D.? C.T.R.”!
    p.s. I am embarrassed to post here since I am an illiterate non-literary protege like the rest of you.

  19. Katie says:

    Stacer, admittedly my life thus far has been fairly smooth sailing, which is why I can honestly say that my first endowment experience was “the most hurtful experience of my life.” Obviously if I had experienced something like child abuse, that would trump my temple hurt a million times over.

    So my hurt was personal but it was a real. And since you say you honestly want to know why I would be so hurt, I will try to explain. When I made the “hearken covenant” I started to cry and I honestly felt like something inside me died. My heart broke. I had always felt close to my Heavenly Father, and in that moment I felt I was being told that my relationship was not as I had always supposed-it was not direct-my husband had a direct relationship to Him, and my relationship to him was mediated through my husband. Thus I was crushed. I had always felt men and women were equal, especially in God’s eyes. And in that moment when I said “yes” it was the first time in my life I felt I assented to something my soul and heart did not agree with. My heart said “no!” my mouth said “yes.” And that it why I felt part of me died. I felt had betrayed part of myself.

    Then when I veiled my face to approach God in what was described as the “true” order of prayer, I felt my heart break again. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t approach God face to face, that he would ask me to cover it as we spoke to Him. I felt terrible to be a woman, and that I had this secondary status in the gospel which I had never suspected.

    I am a convert, someone who sacrificed a lot to accept the gospel. And I felt in that first experience that I had been betrayed by the church. That it wasn’t the entity that I had always imagined it to me, that it wasn’t what it has presented itself to be. I had loved it with my whole soul, and the fabric of the gospel is woven into every cell of me. And this is why that first endowment hurt so much. I really felt during it that I was going to leave the church, and what can be more hurtful that separating from this thing you love so much? And my sealing to my husband-to-be was coming up and I worried during the ceremony, “will he still marry me if I never want to come back here?” And so during the ceremony I thought I might lose BOTH the great loves of my life-the church and my husband. I felt my whole world was crumbling. I could go into more detail, but I hope this explanation has helped you understand how the temple could in fact be a terrible experience for a person.

  20. Katie says:

    S.L.-

    I know you didn’t mean it in a spirit of condescension. I have actually gone back myself looking for peace, and I have honestly found much. I have received a lot of revelation on how to make sense of the things that tormented me, and it has smoothed over a great many things. I was just saying how that advice FELT to me when I received it. I had had other times when as you said something bothered me but I had to gone on faith. But those things hadn’t pained me like the temple, they were just questions. The temple went beyond that and it was a hard idea to accept that I had to return to the pain in order to feel better. I couldn’t think of anything else in life where that was good advice-if I had a friend who’s boyfriend had betrayed her and broke her heart, I wouldn’t say, “oh you need to keep getting back with him until you feel better.” I would say “Stay away from him, he’s no good for you!”

    But as I said, as it turns out it is another one of the paradoxes of the gospel-and it can prove effective. It is just hard to return to the pain.

  21. Anonymous says:

    stacer,

    I cannot speak for all women who have a really hard time with the temple ceremony, but I can share with you at least part of my personal experience.

    While I can appreciate that many women are not bothered by the language used in the endowment because their interpretation and their husband’s interpretation of that language is not literal. They are happy with their relationship and can reconicle it with the gender language in the temple.

    Even though my husband and I have also interpreted the temple ceremony in what I believe is the “right” and more equal way, I see instances all around me where men take things in the temple “literally” and use it to wrongly define how they treat women. I do think that it is happening less and less as modern prophets speak out against such things, but until the temple ceremony isn’t so easily misinterpreted, I will always have a problem with it. It hurts sitting there listening to the words knowing that men have used them to justify their (what I consider to be poor) treatment of women who are close to me.

    With that and my other issues surrounding the temple, I honestly don’t know how I will ever work through it.

  22. Ryan says:

    Admittedly I don’t feel that the temple is sexist, but I do see where those perceptions come from. My suggestion, therefore, is this:

    1. Recognize that there are those who gain great peace from the endowment and see it as an exalting ordinance
    2, Remember that some of those people are dead and never had the chance to be endowed
    3. Focus more on the service you are performing and how grateful many of those people are.

    Maybe that will help you “survive” the endowment ceremony and maybe one day it will become something more to you than an opportunity to serve those who have gone before.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! There are so many emotions that run deep upon this subject. I read the majority of comments on this post and at first I was very confused. I am one that finds the temple, especially the endowment, a pinnacle of peace in my life. I find it an oasis from the stresses of daily living so as I was first reading this I couldn’t understand how someone could feel the opposite. And then it hit me. Our feelings towards anything in this life, gospel centered or not, are based more on our environment and our experiences than the actual event or object. Our feelings and attitudes are derived from our circumstances.

    Because of this, I wonder if some of those that have some very strong feelings towards the temple in the negative might in fact have stronger feelings about situations they’ve experienced or people that they know. Sometimes we channel our emotions about one thing towards something different that we see as “the cause” of the situation. Perhaps there are men that have unrighteously, and against the very will of God, tried to usurp power over someone. It brings to mind D&C 121 34-40. As a very real and clear warning the Lord himself said “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

    My thought would be the same as if anyone struggled with anything in the gospel, work and fight to gain a testimony of it. The first step is to ask yourself: do you want it? Do you want to have a testimony of the temple? Do you want it to be a center for peace? Do you want to understand the covenants the way the Lord intends you to, not the way someone else wants you to? Pray, fast, read, search, study, hunger for it, work like crazy to know, and then GO to the Temple.

    One can never truly know what ice cream tastes like until they get a spoon out and dig in. No matter how hard someone else wants it for them, no mater how much they know about it, they can’t experience all that comes with eating ice cream unless they actually EAT IT! It’s the same with anything in this life. You have to experience it.

    So, I would say have the desire, pray for it if needs be, and then “prove the Lord herewith” to know for yourself that the temple is the House of the Lord and the one sure way to return to His presence.

    I find great peace in knowing that the Lord loves us infinitely and places us at the highest regard, making woman the crowning jewel of His creation. He teaches men how to regard women with the utmost care, respect, loyalty and love, to cherish them with all their heart. Seek to understand how the Lord sees womanhood through the words of the prophets and apostles and you will come to see in the temple, that we truly are His choicest creation.

  24. Anonymous says:

    So maybe if one of the temple ordinances was that a man must be a eunuch before he is endowed?
    ????
    I was abused as a child, much to my dismay, my father was a pedophile and molested 2 of my daughters and 1 girl I babysat! My husband calls me a “femi-nazi” because I am probably the least of a “submissive” wife sort. I think one of the catch phraseiology (covenants) I repeat in my mind is… “I will obey my husband, as he obeys God” I have my personal internal hell that any man obeys God enough for me to obey him.
    I have 1 son age 16, I found snippets of porno from a memory card on his ds game. I made some explicit comments to my husband in which showed my disapproval of perhaps “maleness” and he went angry on me! He was concerned that I would ruin our dear #5 child, only son, from my bitterness of pervs. I did my usual bow out act and let him go figure. I do the FBI work in our home and he does the “heart to hearts”!
    So he thinks.

    But, this obeying husbands etc. is not exclusive to “Mormonism”. The Evangelical Christians (born again) and other conservative religious groups are BIG on the wife submissive thing.
    Balance, and humor, and filtering out the unnecessary items until you get to the other side! It’s your business and only your business with Heavenly Father.

  25. Jessica says:

    I have never posted on here and I just started lirking. I have enjoyed reading everyones thoughts on this topic. But I am interested to hear what some of you think about this situation that I am going through.

    This is rather personal especially since it is so fresh from this morning. I met with my bishop this morning because I needed to renew my temple recommend. I straight out told him that I disagreed with the obedience covenant that is in the temple ceremony. I also told him that I feel like this part should be changed to say that a husband and wife as equal partners should look to god. I expressed desire that I still wanted to go to the temple. But, because I didn’t agree with everything in the temple he denied me temple recommend at this time and told me that we (meaning the bishop and I) needed to work through this issue.

    Do I have to agree with everything in the temple to attend?

  26. Maria says:

    Jessica–

    My husband knows EXACTLY how I feel about the “hearken” covenant as well as my other issues with the temple and has never denied me a temple recommend yet (he’s the bishop). His feeling is that so long as I am worthy to attend the temple (meaning I can honestly answer all of the temple recommend questions in the appropriate way) that my strong feelings about certain parts of the temple ceremony should not keep me from the temple itself.

    Yes, there is a question about striving to keep your temple covenants–but I honestly feel that I am striving to keep the temple covenants in the best way that I can. If this the question he is hung up on?

  27. Deborah says:

    To add to what Maria wrote, one of the best places to ponder temple questions is . . . in the temple. We all have questions and/or concerns about the (appropriately named) mysteries of God. Fear, not doubt, is the anti-thesis to faith . . .

  28. Deborah says:

    Which is my way of saying, I don’t think you have to “understand” or feel comfortable with all aspects of the temple to attend. That’s not what the recommend questions ask. And if that were the litmus, you’d have far far fewer people attending.

    Perhaps you can talk to your stake president about this — he might be more understanding? Best wishes to you . . .

  29. Ellinor says:

    To Elizabeth: I appreciate what you are saying concerning negative life experiences possibly ‘coloring’ ones temple experience or view of the gender-based language. However, this is certainly not the true of all (maybe many) women (including me) who were initially hurt by the language.

    My background is a strong, loving father, always a worthy priesthood-holder who never exercised any form of unrightous dominion. I trusted and loved the men in my life (no abuse) and have always felt the full, equal love of my Heavenly Father.
    All the more reason why I was so immediately shocked that I apparently did not have (as I had always blithely believed) a direct line to my Heavenly Father. I suddenly felt just like a daughter-in-law or something close to it, instead of Father/daugher. Perhaps it is so easy to digest this when you are traveling through the temple dizzy in love and adoration with the fabulous man you are going to marry. But when you are a single sister, without that ability to gloss over that phrase (perhaps because ‘your man’ is just so darn wonderful and ‘gets it’), it makes for serious contemplation.

    So, you are correct; our feelings are derived from our circumstances. My circumstances had been full of many ideal situations in life. I had also spent 18 months of careful preparation (not the fluffy stuff). My happy, content feelings about my place in the gospel, and my relationship with my Heavenly Father were precisely the reasons why I felt that sense of hurt the day I attended the temple.

    Perhaps your only advice I (and certainly every other woman on here that is struggling with this) have not already wholeheartedly undertaken of my own accord is, perhaps, to eat more ice cream. That is one area I can Dig In a little harder. 🙂

  30. Jessica says:

    Thanks Maria and Deborah!

    Maria – you stated that you might think my bishop is hung up on whether or not I am striving to keep my temple covenants. I actually don’t think he is hung up on that. I actually just moved into this ward so he doesn’t really know me and all the experience he has with me is what my husband has told him and what I told him in my temple recommend interview. He doesn’t know me and I think he is the type of bishop that puts people through long repentance processes and wanted me to go through some “process” (whatever that meant) so he felt comfortable about letting me into the temple.

    I have thought about this and prayed about this alot more since I posted. I know I can answer all the temple reccomend questions appropriately and I feel worthy to go to the temple. Even though I was denied a recomment I still could not bear to not wear my garments. I am heartbroken that this bishop is denying me of going to the temple. I honestly haven’t been through a session for at least 1.5 years. But, I still feel bad.

    I have discussed this with my husband and he can always relate problems and situations to the scriptures. This still doesn’t change the meaning of the obedience covenant. However, here is a different way to look at the covenant.

    In John 14 there is dialogue with Christ asking us to keep his commandments if we love him. (John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my ccommandments.)
    However he doesn’t ask us to just blindly “obey” by keeping his commandments he says that he will do anything for us if we ask in his name. (John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.) This is powerful, It shows it as a two way covenant. I know that in the temple the wording isn’t a two way covenant but I guess we can assume if there is love in the guidance then it will go both ways.

    This is exactly how My husband and I have based our relationship off of. I am not worried about this covenant because I feel that the priesthood authority in my home is too dominating. I am worried about this covenant because I don’t think it is right. I don’t know if you knew this but prior to 1990 the women covenanted to obey the “Law of their husband”. Thank goodness it changed. But there must have been a problem with people not feeling comfortable with it because there was change.

  31. Cassie says:

    I too have struggled with the temple ceremonies since my first experience with it. Thanks for the post– it comforts me to know that there are many other women out there who find the temple discombobulating..

  32. Mary B says:

    The English language is an ambiguous and occasionally multi-meaninged one. When I find a ritual that is of God but that seems to be contrary to what I understand about him and his gospel I have two choices. I can assume that I’ve understood the message correctly and feel miserable or betrayed, or I can assume that I’ve understood the message incorrectly and toss out my first understanding as wrong and seek for a more correct one. I NEVER assume that I’ve understood something in the temple correctly if that understanding seems to imply relationships or principles that are wrong, uncharitable, diminishing of someones worth or potential, or discriminatory. Even if someone I love or respect reads it that way, I feel totally free to reject that interpretaion. In such situations I always assume that my first interpretation of the phrase or language is incorrect OR that it was received incorrectly and I’m getting it in an imperfect form.

    In other words, I never assume that I’ve understood it correctly if it feels wrong. In such situations I always assume that my initial interpretation is wrong and that there is another, more correct one that is good. If it feels wrong, it is wrong. Study and listen to the Spirit and find an understanding of it that feels light-filled, not oppressive and dark.

    I echo Julie Smith’s (#1) comment.

    I can add a few semantic helps, though there would be much more that we could share if we could spend some time talking together there.

    The “over” in Genesis 3:16 is the Hebrew word “bet” which means “with”.

    “As” is a word in the English language which has a multitude of meanings. I find that the meaning that makes most sense in this context is the one that means “only as long as” or “while”. Using such a definition, by the way, requires much direct communication with God on the part of the person making such a conditional requirement and requires thoughtful, accurate discernment on the part of that person.

    “Hearken”, despite various conference talks that expound upon it and add a measure of “quick obedience” to the definition, actually means simply to listen or to listen sympathetically or kindly, something all Christians should do for each other.

    Finally my understanding of the phrasing in the endowment does not in the least imply to me that I do not have a direct line to our Father or that my husband has some mediator role or other between Him and me. I can understand how the phrasing could be interpreted that way, but it doesn’t say that to me. And I’m sure my interpretation is more accurate. (big grin)

  33. Jenny says:

    I think all of us would understand temples and our womanhood better if we understood more about the symbolism of the veil. I am still learning about veils and how they apply to the temple, but I do have a few thoughts.

    There are only a few references to veils and “covering” in scripture, but I think they may help us if we open our minds to the possibilities.

    Moses veiled his face when he spoke with God face to face. It enabled him to bear God’s presence. Does it symbolize virtue and righteousness? Does it symbolize being filled with the Holy Ghost and transfiguration (a change in figure or face)? Does it symbolize seeing a glorified world through spiritual eyes because they appear whiter and more beautiful? Moses’ face shone white while seeing the Lord–does the veil symbolize this whitenss and glory shining from us because of our experience with God? Does veiling faces show that we anticipate God actually arrive to hear us?

    Rebekah veiled her face prior to meeting Jacob for the first time. Does it symbolize purity and modesty? Does it show preparation for marriage? If we are learning about what our foreparents did, does covering faces show us that it doesn’t really matter what we look like, the truth still applies to us just as it did for Eve? I personally thought that the veil was so lovely and I felt so beautiful wearing one. Christ tells the Church to adorn herself like a bride–do I do that in the temple? Is the veil a feminine version of a crown of glory? If I am behind my veil, does that mean I’m like the Holy of Holies, which was also behind a veil, holy sacred, precious, set apart from the world?

    I don’t know all the answers, but I think we can find dignity, glory, respect, and deep love for us as women within the symbols in the temple.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I grew up LDS, and was being prepared to start temple work in my youth. Due to many family issues, I never went on to do temple work, eventually married outside LDS, and have become a born again Christian. Aside from all the issues and differences the LDS temple rites can focus on, I just have to ask–is this what our Lord Jesus Christ wants from us in attending what is supposed to be sacred and meaningful? Fear and dread and confusion?

  35. Tigersue says:

    I can assume that I’ve understood the message correctly and feel miserable or betrayed, or I can assume that I’ve understood the message incorrectly and toss out my first understanding as wrong and seek for a more correct one. I NEVER assume that I’ve understood something in the temple correctly if that understanding seems to imply relationships or principles that are wrong, uncharitable, diminishing of someones worth or potential, or discriminatory.

    I absolutely loved that comment. It is a wonderful example of leaning small steps at a time

    Jenny comments on the veil. I am going to throw one more thought out, one that I heard at education week.

    Who is behind the veil symbolically when we approach it? Then who do women represent when they use the veil? Just something to think and ponder.

  36. woundedhart says:

    Oh, thank you for posting this. I’m still in the afraid-to-talk-about-it stage, but I cannot express how comforting it is to know I’m not the only one. I don’t agree with all the comments. It seems like some people who have never had doubts think all you have to do is pray a little, get more righteous, and things will work out. I wish so fervently that it would work that way, but it hasn’t for me. I wish I did have someone to talk it out with, someone who knew how I feel and had been there before. I don’t want to be dismissed as being unrighteous, contrary, apostate, or anything else. I just want to get back to believing God loves me and that all the things I believed in are real.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Regarding the veil of the temple. Three scriptures have been of much help for me.
    D&C 84: 19-22. What is required before we can see God?
    Hebrews: 10:20 Who is on the other side?
    Ether 3:11-13, 20. Well known story but substitute “hand” for “finger of God.” What does it take to see the whole of God?

    While today I am less believing and have not attended the temple in some time, I cannot deny the power of those three passages.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Ok I’m going to feel and sound like an outdated, naive 80 year old woman when I say this but here it goes…I’m shocked, and disappointed that so many of you are choosing to openly discuss sacred aspects of the temple in this thread. That isn’t even the point of Maria’s original post. As far as I can tell this thread is open to everyone, not just endowed members. And how are you feeding those sheep? Those who are not endowed who are reading this thread? Those who are non-members, inactive, investigating or those who’s testimonies are fragile? Ask yourself this, would you sit in a restaurant or movie theater and speak of these things so loudly that anyone and everyone in the vicinity could hear your experiences? I really doubt you would, and this thread should be no different.

    For the record I’m 30 and have been endowed for less then two months. I was thrilled to read Maria’s original post because I too have some questions. Your responses have not answered any of my questions nor did you answer the original question posted by Maria. I have learned one startling thing from some of you. Any questions I have will be asked in private as I could never live with myself knowing my careless words persuaded someone against attending the temple.

  39. Caroline says:

    Anonymous,
    You bring up an interesting topic. Just what are we not supposed to talk about regarding the temple? People obviously draw lines in different places. I personally think there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about the covenants we make there. There is no vow in the ceremony to not reveal those. It’s the signs and symbols that we are instructed not to reveal.

    I personally am quite glad that people told me explicitly what to expect in the temple before I got endowed. It got me through my first two sessions. I think it’s a point of fairness to let people know – if they are interested – what it is they will be covenanting to God beforehand. It still baffles me that the Church wants people to go in blindly and make covenants when they’ve had all of half a second to think about them. That’s not playing fair IMO.

    Blogs may not be the right forum for you, anonymous, but I do hope you find someone to talk to personally about it. It can be very painful to have these questions bottled up.

    And for the record, I think there have been some great suggestions on how to help people who have a hard time with the temple.

  40. momomom says:

    Where did my comment go? It seems to have disappeared between blogspot and here.

  41. Caroline says:

    momomom,
    If you commented on the old blogspot blog, your comment should be over there, rather than here. I wish we could get it so that new comments over there would automatically transfer to this blog, but I don’t think that’s possible.

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