The Temple

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Posted by Zenaida

I haven’t been to the temple in almost a year. Until recently. There are so many reasons for this hiatus of which I could create an extensive list and has been discussed around many forums, but for this post I want to focus on the things that I like about temple attendance:

  • I love meditation. Sitting with a set time frame contemplating life, the universe, and everything brings clarity, peace, and drive to improve.
  • I love connecting with nature and seeing God’s majesty in the world. Animals, plants, landscape. Nature is absolutely awe inspiring!
  • I love having community support of values and morals and ideals.
  • I love the equality of every person there dressed in white (disregarding the inequality of male/female attire and individual choice to wear expensive/less expensive attire). It allows you to see that person as they are: Divine.
  • I love escaping the mundane and the banal to a beautiful place, created by men with their best efforts meant to reach for the divine, and to be supportive, embracing, healing, etc.
  • I actually love the initiatory.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to say that I have many issues with the temple, and my recent attendance has not alleviated them, but I want to know if Mormon temples have the monopoly on these things. You know, I think the answer is no, but I am wondering if I personally can find ways to find fulfillment like this from other sources. Are there personal experiences with the temple that keep you going even if it is hard to do?

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  1. Caroline says:

    Well, I think other sacred spaces offer some of those things. I think Catholic/Anglican churches and cathedrals can be transcendent. And I love their openness – that anyone off the street can go in and meditate and enjoy the beauty.

    I can see what you mean about the symbolism of the white clothing. I like the idea of equality that comes accross, but I’m a little creeped out by it too. I wonder why that is… maybe it’s the symbolism of conformity. Maybe it’s the strange 19th century quality of the clothes. (That bow under my chin makes me feel like an idiot.)

  2. Zenaida says:

    Ok, sorry for the post-posting edit. I wrote in a hurry. It’s such an effort to avoid digressing into my laundry list of “what about this, and that’s pretty weird, and I just don’t get that,” kind of stuff.

    My secret with the bow is to tie it behind under my hair. No chin bows for me! 🙂

    I also want to say that I think meditation can be achieved in many other ways, and I want to explore Buddhist meditation or some other method. I’ve always loved communing with nature in the great outdoors, so that definitely fills that need, but the sense of community is difficult for me to find, and being a worthy temple recommend holder feels restrictive to exploration of other communities, in terms of really trying to become a part of one.

  3. Caroline says:

    ‘and being a worthy temple recommend holder feels restrictive to exploration of other communities, in terms of really trying to become a part of one’

    Zenaida, what makes you feel like that? Is there something in the interview or the temple itself that directs people to not try other meditative practices or join other meditative groups? (It’s been a while for me – I may just not remember.) If you’re thinking of the question about apostate groups, the way I understand that is that they are referring to polygamous break-offs. After all, most of us associate with groups of people who don’t always share Mormon values, and that doesn’t prevent us from getting the rec. What I see preventing most Mormons from becoming involved in other communities and practices is probably just time and interest more than anything else.

  4. JohnR says:

    I can’t speak to attending the temple recently, but much of what Caroline said echoed my feelings. The kids and I spent an hour inside of NYC’s great St. Patrick’s cathedral, and I felt as meditative there as I ever did in an LDS temple. Hanging out at St. Pat’s increased my sense of connection to a wide range of people who were praying and admiring there: a Latin American tourist who asked me for picture taking advice, homeless folks trying to keep warm, this fashionable woman who knelt in focused prayer (with her Macy’s bag) at practically every altar:

    The temple is very good at reinforcing Mormon solidarity. As the temple belief questions became more difficult for me to answer, the more I felt like the temple, and by extension, Mormonism, was not a place where I truly belonged.

    One more experience: I was sitting in a Quaker meeting a few years ago, still a practicing Mormon, and pondering silently the Quaker ideal of “that of God in every one of us.” I was with a group of people that included Quakers and non-Quakers, and I could sense the divinity that I pictured like a little flame burning in each one of their hearts. As I listened to the musical sounds of downtown Santa Ana, I could picture these divine lights in those passing by below. My mind did a slow zoom out thing, and billions of little lights flickered across the earth. I’m not saying that Mormons can’t have this sort of experience–they do–and I did. But it’s definitely possible outside. And for me, for now, I’d say it’s *only* possible outside of Mormonism.

  5. JohnR says:

    Tried to include a thumbnail of a picture in St. Patrick’s. I’ll try linking instead:

    http://flickr.com/photos/mindonfire/3166079605/in/set-72157612152081156

  6. mraynes says:

    I like this post, Zenaida. I too have been trying to find things I like about the temple recently. I echo your appreciation of the sacred space and loving the initiatory. Many other aspects of the temple are exceptionally hard for me and probably always will be. Last week I went and did family sealings with my husband and parents. I hated every moment of it for a variety of reasons. But I did discover something that will keep me going back to the temple; my presence at the temple made my loved ones so happy. Despite the painfulness of the experience, the sacrifice was worth it to me because I knew it made my family happy and that they really understood and appreciated the sacrifice I was making. I also felt an increase in my spiritual understanding after making that sacrifice of self. I probably won’t do this a lot but it will keep me going back to the temple a couple times a year.

  7. saral says:

    While I also have unresolved questions about the temple, one thing about it I enjoy (in addition to the other things previously mentioned by others) is feeling part of a community where people are serving one another. No matter what questions arise about temple work, it nevertheless gives me good feelings to see people being willing to take time out of their day and participate as patrons or volunteers for the purpose of serving both the living and the dead. I just think it’s a beautiful concept and makes me feel more positively connected to humanity. Of course you can feel that spirit of service in other settings too. I have felt similar feelings of connection when I have volunteered or chosen to do something unexpectedly to help someone else. It’s just that when I think of positive things about the temple, that one always comes to mind.

  8. Amy says:

    I appreciate the honesty that comes from the post. I think many of us feel guilty when we don’t always have the “happy feelings” about any and all things related to LDS.
    I know that many times I hear people tell about how they learn something new everytime they go to the temple. I don’t honestly feel that way every time I go. And at times, it is frustrating. However, I do feel more love towards my husband when I see him in the temple and afterwards and I feel more love towards my family. I also feel like my burdens are being lightened-even if it is for the short time I am in the temple. Many times not that I have found a miraculous answer to my problems, but that I feel more peace.

    Also, I don’t think there is anything wrong about finding meditation etc from other places. I enjoy doing yoga. I think there is a majesty in nature. I feel that most churches have many truths and are striving for right, although they don’t have the fulness of truth.
    Zenaida, I hope that you’ll find ways of fulfillment out of the temple, but that you will continue to attend the temple also. I know that you and your family will receive promised blessings if you continue to go.

  9. LucySophia says:

    I am a new “poster” but have been reading the blog for a while. I have been going to the temple for over 34 years. I divorced from a 29 year temple marriage and have since married a non-member who supports my beliefs and values, including the temple. Having said that as a preface, I have recently become somewhat disatisfied with the temple experience and have many questions. Mostly I am so sad about how Eve is portrayed. She says very little and mostly stands next to Adam, smiles and looks pretty. I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but it does not square with what I’ve learned about MOther Eve. SHe does not take any leadership role in the temple. It upsets me becasue X used the temple ceremony to tell me what I should do and not do as a good LDS wife. I do love the initiatory prayer becasue it is directed at me, personally. I love the promises made and I especially love being attended to by women actually holding the priesthood.

    I love the beauty and serenity of the temple grounds and the majesty of the spires. I love wearing white clothing although I need to buy new ones as I’m still wearing the dress I wore when married to X. I tell myself I’ll buy another dress when current husband joins the church, which is not imminent at all.

    For me, attending the temple still brings back difficult memories with X and many questions. I have spoken w/ Temple Pres. once and Matron once. Pres. answered my question satisfactorily, matron did not. She was getting flustered so I quit asking.

    Any ideas on how to enjoy going to the temple again?

  10. amelia says:

    i share your distaste for the portrayal of Eve, LucySophia. it’s one of the most upsetting elements of the temple for me. that, gender inequities, and the compulsory nature of the whole thing. i wish i had some good advice about how to reclaim the temple for yourself.

    i’ve been thinking about your post, zenaida, since i first read it last night. and it’s been hard for me to respond. you identify many of the elements of the temple that i like. i think the thing i would add is the doctrinal insights i’ve found there. for instance, it’s the temple that has convinced me that what matters is not the next life but this moment and how well i live the principles christ taught now. and that our physical bodies are part of how we experience divinity. i like the understandings i have of the gospel of christ as a result of going to the temple, even if it’s a slightly peculiar understanding.

    but in spite of this, i don’t find myself at peace in the temple or the church at the moment. and i think i can find similar experiences through other means. except for the initiatory, of course.

  11. pmbl says:

    I don’t go right now. It’s been a year and a half. I have deep problems with the gender inequality.

    But.

    I so miss initiatory. It was so special to be part of an all-woman ordinance. I liked it, even before they slightly changed it.

    I so miss sitting in the celestial room on a couch with my husband. Just quiet, just sharing meditation, maybe cuddling, usually crying (me).

    If (when?) I go back, it will be to participate in the rituals of my culture, to commune with my social group. It may or may not ever be a place of personal meditation again.

    My thought have recently changed on this after reading Chaim Potok’s The Chosen and The Promise. I used to think I would never go back, but this story made me rethink the importance of principle, of community. I highly recommend both books.

  12. LucySophia says:

    I just picked up “The Promise” at a thrift shop yesterday. I’m an avid reader, but I also work full time and go to school, so I’ll put in on top of my bedside stack LOL.Has anyone tried addressing these issues directly with a temple pres/matron? About Eve’s portrayal? I pray about it and ask HF why, why, why women don’t have a role model? Men are scattered everywhere in the scriptures, church history, etc. BUT if ever there was a time when women need strong women as role modles, it is NOW.

  13. Caroline says:

    Lucysophia, you might want to pick up The Chosen and read that first, before The Promise. I think The Promise is the sequel. Also, My Name is Asher Lev by the same author is very powerful.

    I think I tried to address a member of a temple presidency about the inequities in the endowment ceremony once. It wasn’t a good experience – he became very defensive. But I think it’s good to communicate how Eve’s portrayal makes you feel. The more our leaders know how painful that is, the greater the chance that it might be changed in the future.

  14. LucySophia says:

    Thanks Caroline.How long ago did you bring this upw/ your Stake Pres? Do you know any other sisters who have brought up those subjects?

  15. Caroline says:

    Lucysophia
    I brought that up with a member of the temple presidency about 7 years ago. I’ve also mentioned to bishops in temple rec interviews that I don’t believe in the obedience covenant that women have to make. They don’t touch that one at all – clearly they don’t know what to say. Then they give me the rec.

    I do know other women who have brought this up with their leaders. My feeling is that the best thing a leader can say to these concerns is, “We don’t know why. I hope it changes soon. We love you and want you as a member of our community.” All attempts to justify it just cause more problems, IMO.

  16. H.K. Bialik says:

    My time spent in the temple is, perhaps, the only time in my entire life when I have not been distressed or troubled in some way. I have a mind that plagues me, if that makes sense, but in the temple, I feel at peace. I’ve been to any number of peaceful locations, meditated, prayed, and felt at one with nature, but I’ve never been free of what feels like a curse on my mind except in the temple.

    I hope that makes sense.

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