Guest Post: I Was Right
Four and a half years ago I delved into the temple. I had been endowed for more than twelve years at that point. Aspects had bothered me since my first time through as an adult, but I continually chalked it up to my own lack of understanding or spiritual maturity. I had been promised my entire life that the temple was the highest, holiest place of worship, the place I would feel the closest to God, learn about my role in His plan and the eternities, and receive personal revelation. While personal revelation had and still remains a constant of my experiences there, while I have consistently felt close to God and the divinity that is there, it also became one of the most painful, confusing places of my spiritual life.
I decided to attend weekly that summer. I wrote down specific questions, hoping for specific answers. Most of them centered on the sexism I finally acknowledged there, thinking that if I started by admitting what were surely my own immature, weak thoughts, then eventually I could work through them and get to the deeper, true meanings of the rituals and wording.
During one of my weekly visits I was sitting in an instruction room, waiting to go through the veil into the celestial room. I was overcome with the wrongness of certain parts of the ceremony I had just participated in. My eyes felt opened for the first time. I sat there looking around me at the room full of people going along with everything, just as I always had, shocked at what we were doing. I knew the sexist parts were sexist, and wrong. And I was mortified to be admitting this in God’s house. I expected to feel shame at my realization, or distanced from God for my weakness. Surely I was wrong, I was the problem, I still didn’t have enough knowledge or faith to understand this. Instead, I was immediately overcome with a warm feeling of love and strength from God, telling me He loved me completely and wholly. I pleaded for answers, for the light and knowledge I had been seeking to flood my mind and bring clarity and fix my thoughts. I had nothing come. Just the feeling of complete love.
At the end of the summer, I came away with no answers for my questions about the sexism. I stopped attending weekly as it was getting harder to attend. I still attended monthly as I always had, but each time, certain parts of the endowment hurt me more and more, eventually causing shaking hands when I had to raise my hand, and panic attacks resulting in intense sweating, heart racing, and the need for deep breathing during “those parts.” About a year ago I stopped doing endowment sessions and have only done initiatories and sealings. Both had sexist wording that bothered me too, but significantly less than the endowment, so I got to the point where I felt comfortable going through the motions of those parts while saying in my mind, “I don’t believe this part, it’s wrong.” I have had some of my most powerful spiritual experiences in the temple and come away feeling strengthened each time. That has never changed. But I had to get to the point where I could accept fault in the ceremony along with the divinity.
I brought my concerns up with three former bishops. One of them outright dismissed my concerns, the others listened and said we don’t have all the answers. I prefer acknowledgement of no answers to dismissal, but I did come away from those meetings with the impression that I was the one without the faith or knowledge to get answers and that they would come and it would all make sense some day. I eventually did get answers, that parts of the ceremonies were wrong. But I could never say that in church. I could never say that to other church members or family members unless I knew they also struggled.
Last week, the temple changed. I haven’t attended yet, but the reports I’ve heard are that women no longer covenant to hearken to their husbands, and we make the same exact covenants to God as our husbands. Those are the things I struggled with the most.
I was shocked that it happened. I prayed for it, wanted it so badly for so long and it finally happened. But I felt conflicted. It confirmed to me that all along, I was right, and the church was wrong. All the times I read or heard comments explaining the wording way, the messages implying answers would come if I had more faith and patience, knowing how that wording had enabled abusers even in my own family, hurt. How dare others tell me I was the one without enough faith. How dare they defend the church at all costs. How dare the church allow this to go on for so long. And how dare they change it without an explanation or apology. But that’s where we are at. And I’m so conflicted. So grateful for the changes, grateful that my sons, and especially my daughter, will have a better experience than I did. But I’m hurt. I will need time to heal. I don’t want to forgive right now but will have to eventually. And the moral of the story for me is to listen to the promptings I receive, not what others tell me I should think or believe.