Guest Post: As We Unveil Our Sacred Injuries
By Sister Taylor
More prominent MoFems than myself have written some initial responses to the changes in the temple endowment ceremony. There’s a prevailing theme of conditional relief—relief that future women will be spared some of the hurt we’ve born for years—but also a mix of sorrow and frustration as we remember being told how that very pain was divinely ordained. I’ve seen elegant and raw expressions of disillusionment and indignation. Some of us were chastised for wanting these changes long before our Holy Men signed them into scripture a few days ago.
Like others, I worry that in failing/refusing/forbidding explanation of why these changes are made, all the pain and history and damage and work that preceded today will be swept under the rug and discounted. I, too, fear that I already know how this will go based on the lifting of the Priesthood Ban: the faithful accept the changes and praise the prophet for modern revelation; ultra-orthodox members get a whiff of our lamentations and declare that there’s just no pleasing liberals; there’s never a wider discussion of how the “old version” of things was wrong and hurtful.
Even if it’s a “too little too late” gesture, it feels historic. I wish I could put everyone’s personal stories and reactions in a book, so I could share it with the LDS family and friends who thought it was normal to blindside a young convert with the old endowment ceremony, and then the sealing.
And then I want to share that book with the orthodox friends (who I still want to love) who accompanied this convert through my first endowment ceremony. They sat there beaming at me when the temple worker (as Peter) stood silently and pantomimed the beginning of the ceremony. Surrounded by a sea of calm faces, I felt like I was the crazy one for panicking as “he” announced that it was my last chance to stand and leave or else face God’s implied wrath if I ended up reneging on the still-unspoken-at-this-point covenants. As this was the lead up to my wedding day, I was effectively being asked to choose between 1) walking away from my wedding and maybe my fiancé, or 2) agreeing to sign my soul over to whatever lay behind the huge curtain at the front of the room.
Alarm bells went off over and over, but I’d look at those friends’ faces and at my fiancé’s face, and I received conspiratorially proud smiles (“You’re finally in the club now!”) or, intermittently, the benignly bored looks of commuters on a long train ride. Their expressions certainly didn’t approach anything resembling “reassurance” they might think I needed. Why would I need reassurance on this, the happy day of my Mormon bat mitzvah?
Meanwhile, I felt like a fish who took a field trip onto dry land with amphibious friends. “This isn’t hurting them? Why can they breathe here? I need to get back to the water—I need to get back to the water! Where is the water?!” I kept hoping that there was relief somewhere up ahead, but instead for 2 hours I was asked to hand spiritual blank checks to an alien God, the Church, and my future husband (who also seemed to think all of this was as ordinary as a summer breeze).
I want to share that book with the Bishop who advised me to keep going “but next time don’t think too much; just enjoy it.” Well-meaning mentors implied that “understanding” would eventually just come to me as I attended, as if I were a pre-pubescent girl endearingly inquiring how to get my first period. For, evidently, one day I would naturally “get” how to feel all the peaceful things others described while offering obedience to my husband and my church rather than directly to my God.
I want to share it with the temple workers who wouldn’t answer my distressed questions about garments and covenants and scriptures that refuted things I was hearing in the temple. I urgently wanted to understand and be at ease and keep believing.
I want to share it with the in-laws who were so pleased with the “beautiful” sealing ceremony in which I solidified their son/brother/nephew/grandson’s spiritual authority over me for eternity—the in-laws who were patronizingly oblivious to the gut-wrenching pain this was causing a few floors below. My family drove and flew to Utah from all across the country so they could sit in a waiting room full of LDS kids who were merely too young to attend their families’ ceremonies.
I want to share it with the temple workers who acted like it was a normal wedding day activity to be shoved into the “Bride’s Room” to get ready, only to find 10 other brides and their mothers tripping over each other so everyone can keep the sealing schedule on time. I want to share it with them and ask why we were being rushed into the holiest ceremony of our eternal existence.
And I want them all to know that I am all at once heart-broken and happy that my family wasn’t in there. Because I don’t know what would have been more crushing for my fiercely proud forebears: not being there for my wedding or witnessing a ceremony in which their beloved sister/daughter/niece/granddaughter was treated to the honor of being named Sister Taylor (#1 implied) and promised the gift of being an eternal priestess to her god-husband if she behaves well. But given that none of them are beholden to the cultural taboos, the latter scenario might have actually ended with several of my female relations staging an impromptu rebellion and hauling me out of there, white dress, apron, and all.
I want to go back in time and read such a collection of stories to myself as a young newlywed, who cried into a pillow on the floor next to her marriage bed so she could keep her anomalous grief and doubts to herself. How could I love my husband so much and not be able to discuss this pain with him?
I don’t know what use it would serve, but there are people I want to introduce to my pain from those days, and every other time I struggled through the temple. I don’t want people to sweep me under the rug with the old temple ceremony. And it would seem others feel the same.
So, regardless of how official historians end up describing this change, let us remember it as a time when we unveiled our sacred injuries to one another—free to feel relief, and sadness, and anger, and everything else. Your stories are all written on my heart, and I rejoice with those who feel some relief, and sit with those whose wounds lay open still.