Another Perspective on the Temple Changes

By Adia J. Olguin

As many know there have been some changes made to the temple ceremony recently. Generally the consensus has been that these changes have been long overdue and are a giant leap in the right direction. However, an observation that I have made is that while so many, women especially, are ecstatic about these changes, they are still dealing with pain in regards to the old practices.

As a black woman it’s been VERY interesting to watch everyone’s responses to the temple changes, to say the least. But there was something that I found so interesting. On more than one occasion someone mentioned not receiving an apology for the years of trauma. For no acknowledgement of the pain and suffering caused by the language of the temple, or the practices therein, etc. There has been discussion of how traumatizing the past procedures were, and how it is hurtful that these changes have not been acknowledged on a larger scale. That there’s been no apology, and how it does not erase the years, and in some cases decades, and even generations of hurt that was endured because of past practices. This brings us to a discussion of intersectionality. These feelings many are having are the same as what black members, particularly black women, have been feeling since day one as members of the church, but in regards to race and racism. But we’ve been told to move on, that there’s no racism now, etc.

For decades it was taught from the pulpit that black people were cursed. That they were unworthy. That they were inherently bad, and less than the white members. This has bled into the teachings in the members homes, how they approached missionary work and so forth. My own father began meeting with the missionaries in 1981, after the ban was lifted, but was told by the white, male missionaries, that he could get baptized, but wouldn’t really be able to progress, because he was black. He did not get baptized. Nor did my white mother. It was not until more than twenty years later that I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Shortly after I served my own mission, and was told by my zone leader how all the black people would be made white in Heaven, and also some choice thoughts on how affirmative action ruined America (even though the group that benefited most from affirmative action, was actually white women and not Black people, as many seem to think.) Now, more than a decade later, I have been called the Devil, and told how I was the worst member of my ward, any time I try to address the past and acknowledge the pain our our shared Latter-day Saint history.

My own personal history proves that while a a practice may change, that does not automatically change the hearts and minds of those that were taught otherwise for generations. That just as those hurtful doctrines were taught from the pulpit, the new procedures and doctrines need to be taught from the pulpit, and stressed, and explained why they were needed and important. A steady effort to heal the past has to take place, otherwise it will continue business as usual.

I invite you to think about the fact that even though this may feel like a step forward you are still able to feel hurt by the past, suffer repercussions from the past, and deal with people that will continue to maintain past language and practices despite the fact that changes have been made. Because that’s what it’s like for black members. Sure they lifted the priesthood ban in the 70s but each and every single black American member is still affected by those practices. Most of us have been told the same lies of how we’ll be white in heaven, or how we must have sinned in the pre-existence, etc. We are treated as outsiders and assumed investigators no matter how long we’ve been members. I have friends that have been temple workers, and have been questioned, INSIDE the temple, about whether or not they belong there. I have never gone to the Mesa Easter pageant, gone to the visitors center, and not been assumed to be an investigator. Every time I step into a new chapel, I am asked if I am investigator, and always get to witness the shock when I say that I am a member, especially if I’m moving into the ward. While not all black American saints experience what I have experienced, my observation has been, that the majority do.

Some of you may be thinking , but what about the Be One Celebration?! Let’s be clear. That happened because a group of black women organized an event honoring past, present, and future BLDS saints. And it was a success so they brought it to Utah. The brethren then hijacked the event and took minimal direction from the original organizers. Ignoring their ideas and suggestions and having the event on Brigham Young’s birthday. To top it off it was poorly advertised, and many people did not even know it was happening to begin with. That event wasn’t for us (us being black saints). For many of us we were happy to see some kind of representation, but still reminded of how no one really wants to address the church’s history of racism and exclusion towards black members, and how we can move forward and create space for all of Heavenly Father’s children.

I know many women feel that the past temple procedures, and videos, did not really represent them the way they feel they deserve to be represented. But for black saints, what we see is that white couples were still being represented. Also, I might add that when white women go to church, or the temple, they get to see themselves represented. Maybe it’s not exactly how you would like. But “your” faces are in the artwork. “Your” stories are in the lessons. Saints who aren’t white don’t have that same luxury. Which leaves saints of color, ESPECIALLY black saints, feeling that there’s no space for them. Not that there’s not enough, which is how white women feel, but there is no room for us, at all. There is no where that we belong. And this is why so many black members are the ONLY LDS person in their family, because so many do not want to intentionally subject themselves and their families to constantly being “the other”.

Anyways. As you’re discussing these changes and other ways that the church can be better, more inclusive, more respectful, more whatever, towards women, remember, the church hasn’t only wronged white women. The damage done by the church has been intersectional so your work to improve the church needs to be intersectional as well.

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33 Responses

  1. Nicole Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Joanie says:

    Really good article. I’m so sorry for the hurt you have felt and still feel. I hope for an apology and acknowledgement of incorrect practices.

  3. Jason K. says:

    Thank you

  4. Anna says:

    This makes me so sad. Thanks for sharing.

    Emotional injuries will never heal unless we can talk about them, and we can never fully reconcile with those who have hurt us until they are willing to talk to us about the pain that their actions caused. We can forgive them,

    When Elder Oaks says that the church doesn’t apologize, all he is saying is that you can’t trust the church not to hurt you over and over. You can’t trust that the church has learned from its mistakes. The church refuses to repent.

  5. Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

    As a victim of devastating injury due to the fiery serpents of identity politics, cultural traditions, practices and policies, sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuses I desired to be made whole, comforted, healed, empowered and filled with the pure unfeigned love of Christ to be able to love my God, myself and others as He loves. I came to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ was fundamentally about eternal progression thru forgiveness and repentance made possible thru His Atonement. The choice came down to looking to the to the abusers to make me whole or turning to look to my Savior for comfort and healing or look to the abusers. That excruciatingly difficult act upon my faith in Christ, thatchoice to keep turning to look upon the Brass Serpent has made all the difference in my life. But many will not be healed or comforted because of the simpleness of the way.

    • Tessa says:

      Top notch passive agressive attack on the author’s righteousness, identity, and relationship with Christ.

      She is totally justified in wanting an apology from the church that has wronged her. I am sorry for the abuse you have endured, but that should make you more sympathetic to the author’s pain, not more judgemental about it.

      • Tessa says:

        Okay, so responding with sarcasm was a jerk move. That was rude. I am sorry. Let me try again.

        I am sorry for the abuse you endured. I am glad that the Savior has been a source of comfort and healing for you. However, your final sentence goes beyond your own personal journey and compares the author to the unrighteous Israelites who were too prideful to be healed. It’s not cool to imply that the author is prideful or unrighteous just because she wants an apology she is rightly owed. It is possible for her to rely on the Savior for healing and still want an apology from wrongs that the Church has inflicted.

    • Anna says:

      You can turn to the Savior for healing, but you still can not safely reconcile with an abuser.

      Now, consider that in the author’s case, it was the church who hurt her. Christ’s church. So, just how do you turn to the Savior for healing when it was the church supposedly led by him that abused you? You either have to decide that this is most certainly not Christ’s church, like I did, and leave it or you really really need an apology from Christ as to why He led his church to abuse you.

      Your reasoning just makes this whole situation more painful.

    • Violadiva says:

      Your description of personal repentance and forgiveness is apt.
      Adia’s post is addressing the lack of institutional repentance or forgiveness, and therefore is a much more difficult offense to reconcile. Individuals may be reconciled to these offenses, but as the whole institution has not accepted responsibility or sought forgiveness, the wounds are still open.

      • Segullah says:

        Interesting idea, that one may approach Christ and not be healed because the perpetrator has not apologized. Forgive me if I misunderstand…

      • So many questions says:

        Segullah,

        Does Christ’s atonement exempt people/institutions from having to apologize/acknowledge wrongdoing since the victims don’t need it to be healed?

      • Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

        As I understand the principles of forgiveness and repentance neither are dependent upon the actions of others. From Christ’s teachings I understand as His fallen follower I am required to forgive 70x 70, to forgive all, to love my enemy and to do good to even to those who dispitefully use me. I am not always initially forgiving but I keep trying to not let my pride justify unchrist-like behavior or unchristlike emotion. I keep trying to repent, to turn to look to the Savior for His promised healing, comfort, power to forgive abuses, or offenses intentionally or in intentionally given. I believe my capacity/ability to forgive and repent are a reflection of my choice to exercise my moral agency. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to trust the unrepentant. For me it means to be able to respond as Christ did to the abuses of individuals and institutions heaped upon Him to a degree that i can not fathom. I keep trying to follow His way, to repent for giving and taking offense , and to forgive the offender regardless of what the offender does. I don’t compromise my principles. I chose to be wise and loving, not indulgent. And hopefully more like the Savior whose mercy, grace and power thru His Atonement makes even my puny attempts to live such principles possible. Eternity is progressive. We are free to go as far as we want to go. Agency trumps everything else.

      • Anna says:

        Yes, repentance and forgiveness are totally independent, one is not dependent on the other at all. For example, my father sexually abused me, then did a very half a**ed job of repenting of it. Yeah he was sorry he got caught, but never really accepted that I was a child that he used his authority as father to abuse me. But I forgive him.

        Then we come to reconciliation. Reconciliation is a whole different animal. It is dependent on repentance. There are even scriptures that say that if the person who offended you repents, then you are to reconcile. If/then. Not reconcile even if it means you get abused over and over. This is where people make the mistake of telling abused wives to go home and forgive. They are forgetting that reconcilliation is dependent on repentance. If they repent, you are to reconcile. Says so in the New Testament. Doesn’t say what to do if the other doesn’t repent. I guess you get to do what you feel is best.

        See, the church abused women by teaching in the temple that they were less than men. It hasn’t said it is sorry. I for one to not intend to reconcile and am under no Christian obligation to do so. I am reguired to forgive and I intend to forgive from a great distance and not reconcile until I see evidence of repentance.

      • Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

        I believe Reconciliation is different than forgiveness and repentance. Reconciliation requires opposing parties to be willing to clean up one’s own side of the street, to be unified, to understand and accept personal responsibility for behavior and the consequences of choices and to love one another as He loves us. From the JST 5:21-26 I gather that I reveal my discipleship in how I follow Jesus, in how I treat others, not in how others treat me. 21 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou ashalt not bkill; and whosoever shall kill shall be cin danger of the judgment:

        22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is aangry with his brother bwithout a cause shall be cin danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, dRaca, shall be ein danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

        23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

        24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be areconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

        25 aAgree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

        26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid athe uttermost farthing.

  6. Shawn says:

    This is such an excellent summary of the gender and racial issues facing the Church. Thank you

  7. Moss says:

    Thank you for this.

  8. Lorraine says:

    Well said. It is too easy for some of us to forget.

  9. SC says:

    I know that Mormon leaders will never apologize to you for the way that their institution treated you, but as somebody born into the church in the seventies let me say this: *I* am sorry for the way the faith of my childhood and my ancestors treated you. *I* found it personally reprehensible, and I chose to have my name removed from the records of the church this year because I found it intolerable, inexcusable, and ultimately decided that they no longer deserve my sustaining, money, or service because I see how they treated you at that so-called celebration, I see how they treat children in interviews, LGBTQs, and the poor, and I am now saying: no more. Mormon men with all this power don’t get my name behind them nor my tithes or support any longer. Many more friends are joining me. We care about you and the pain you have suffered. The church won’t apologize, but I sincerely apologize for the years I spent supporting those leaders in their narratives and evil doctrines against you and your people. I care about you and I know God does too.

  10. Camsten says:

    Beautiful piece. Thank you for writing it, and sharing.

  11. Enn says:

    Well written post, Adia. Thank you.

    It’s important for Mormons to remember that just because they personally may not have experienced the pain of abuse at the hands of their church, others have. The “This never happened to me, therefore it never happened” mentality is a gaslighting technique, another form of abuse, and it needs to be eradicated from members’ minds.

    Be humble and listen, even if it makes you uncomfortable. The pain is there and it’s real.

  12. Jerry Taylor says:

    This is really well written and impactful. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Sam says:

    I’m so sorry for the way the church has treated you. You’re right that the Utah Be One wasn’t for black members; it was mostly to make white members feel better about themselves and to show “not racist” their church is. I’m sorry. Thank you for writing about this. I don’t think I would have ever seen this perspective otherwise.

  14. I also made this connection between improved practices in regard to racism and sexism. Yes, rejoice that things are getting better. But how can people still insist that the men who made the old policy were prophets? They messed up and it harmed so, so many people. I’m sure that the racist and sexist policies were not from God. The current changes came because the men in charge finally listened to a group of members were experiencing pain and it is rather insulting to say that it is revelation. If God wanted this, why didn’t God make the temple ceremony like this from the beginning? If God is not racist, why did LDS prophets teach he was racist for centuries?

    I see this change as greater evidence that the LDS prophets are not a good source for information about God.

  15. Ziff says:

    Outstanding, Adia. Thanks for this reminder and comparison. It’s so disappointing that the Church continues in the same pattern of, even when it changes things for the better, wanting to go forward and pretend that the things that happened before the change never happened, or that, as you point out so well, many people hold onto the old ideas and think of them as some kind of higher law.

  16. anon says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am sad and do not understand why the church won’t issue the apology. An acknowledgment of the pain suffered by so many people seems such a small effort. I just don’t get it. I’m sorry for the pain you and so many people have gone through.

  17. EJ says:

    Beautifully written and expressed. Thank you for sharing your experience and pain. I found it a helpful reminder to identify and acknowledge so we may bear one another’s burdens.

  18. Becky says:

    My mind has gone to this comparison often in the days since the temple changes were announced and I so appreciate your sharing your experiences. Every time someone expresses a wish for an apology I think there is no way the institution that doesn’t acknowledge the pain it perpetuates and has perpetuated on our Black members in public will acknowledge the pain it perpetuates on its women in private ceremonies.

    I often wonder what it takes for any institution to mature to the point of being able to acknowledge its own wrongdoing. For my part I often picture the church as petulant and defensive teenager doubling down on positions that make no sense and in fact are self-destructive. I still love that teenager but really hope our relationship can survive through adolescence. I hope someday we can fully embrace our doctrine of continuing revelation and acknowledge that surely one reason we need continuing revelation is to help us to make right previous misinterpretations of revelations and/or human frailty mistaken for revelation. And that charity and humility call on us as a church to repent and apologize for those mistakes.

  19. m says:

    Thank you for this. It really is time that many of us start paying closer attention to the lives and concerns of people who may not be exactly like us, and have very different life experiences, wants, needs, and hurts. May we be better at binding one another’s wounds and protecting each other from harm.

  20. Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

    As I believe JS was the Prophet of this dispensation of the fullness of times, the significance of his omission of the phrase “without cause” JST 5:22 guides understanding of forgiveness.

  21. Loren says:

    This is such a great article. I hope you are published in the ensign some day. Your voice needs to be heard and the compassion you are able to show is an example to all of us.

    I (a white woman) came home from the temple this evening sobbing in hurt and anger. My husband was shocked. We both thought that having so many issues resolved in the temple ceremony would cause me to be simply ecstatic and grateful.

    I am grateful for the changes. I am happy that they have occurred. But there is so much pain. So much shame, guilt, confusion, doubt, etc. It is so validating to hear that it’s ok.

    I am so sorry for the pain that black members of the church have suffered through and continue to suffer through.

    Please consider writing something for the ensign. Maybe you have been published and I am unaware. Your voice is priceless.

  22. Kay Healey says:

    Thank you for your thoughts and perspective. I have felt the treatment to black people for over a century in our church has been shameful. It shows how prophets can be terribly wrong as Brigham Young was and the many prophets who followed him had not the courage to change until Spencer Kimball. Empathy for the other is hard, but it is a Christlike virtue we espouse.
    I have struggled with the temple ceremony for 50 years and seen many small changes. I am hopeful I won’t have to veil my face ever again, but don’t even know yet if that is part of the change.

  23. SarahBGoode says:

    Yes to all of this.

    I went to the temple (Provo) last night so I could experience the changes first hand. I haven’t been to the temple in a bit, and I noted that more paintings of POC than I had noticed before. Most stunning to me was a portrait of a black man giving a blessing to a black child.

    After the endowment, I found that painting and stared at it. During the ordinance, I had many moments of comfort, but while in the celestial room, I realized that this pattern of changing harmful things without acknowledging their harm would be considered abusive in other circumstances. To hang a beautiful painting of a man blessing his child felt undeserved. That they were happy to own the love, but not the pain.

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