Guest Post: One Man’s Experience with the New Temple Endowment

 

By Bryan

Much has been written about the January 2nd changes to the temple endowment to make it more equitable for women. I have thoroughly enjoyed the perspectives that have been shared on this important topic by the Exponent II bloggers and guest posters. By sharing my own experience here, I want to be clear that I submit this as just one more perspective to add to the discussion, and by no means as a rebuttal or criticism of anyone else’s experience.

Like many others, I celebrated hearing about the changes to the temple ceremonies. After having served for many years in bishopric, high council, and other leadership callings, I had come to know well the pain felt by many women regarding the blatant inequity existing between women and men in the temple. As I became more aware of these things, my temple attendance dwindled as I felt increasingly less comfortable with the treatment and placement of women in the ceremony, knowing that many women would take those rituals as an indication of their place and value in the eyes of God.

On what I genuinely thought would be my last visit to the temple several months ago, I distinctly remember thinking, “I never want my two young daughters to hear the words that I am hearing right now. NEVER. And if I don’t want them here, then I shouldn’t be here either.” So when I heard that changes had been made, I felt compelled to witness the extent of the changes myself.

Before I discuss my impressions about these positive changes in the endowment for women, I have to first acknowledge with disappointment that there was little-to-no progress to speak of in making people of color more represented in the presentation of the ordinance, and the changes to the Law of Chastity covenant seem to have been carefully and deliberately reworded so that, no matter what changes may happen to marriage laws or public opinion, our LGBTQ community will remain unwelcome in the House of the Lord. So, while I celebrate the positive steps forward for women’s equality in the temple, I want to recognize those in our midst who are still waiting and hoping for change.

The prelude to the new endowment—-which is a statement from the First Presidency that will be temporarily played regarding the changes—-already left me feeling hollow and angry. Somehow the statement manages to explain that changes needed to be made to the endowment without acknowledging that there was ever anything wrong with it, and certainly not apologizing or taking any kind of responsibility for the pain that has been caused by the inequities of the past. It feels as if they’re pinning it all on God, as in “I guess God used to really want women to covenant to hearken to their husbands rather than to God directly, but He has recently informed us that He changed His mind on that point. . . . Don’t kill the messengers!”

They further explain that these changes have come through revelation from God, and due to their sacred nature, not only should we not discuss the specifics of the changes outside the temple, we should not even discuss that there have been changes. I had always been taught that, with the exception of the handful of things that you specifically covenant not to discuss during the endowment ceremony, the rest of what one experiences in the temple can and should be discussed with family, friends, and others who could be relied upon to treat such conversations with the reverence they deserve. So it was puzzling to me why Church leadership would require complete silence on this topic.

If this truly is revelation from God, why can’t we publicly rejoice and give thanks for such a blessing? I suspect that most Church members would agree that the First Vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith was among the most sacred revelations ever given, yet we send missionaries out by the tens of thousands to tell that story to anyone who will listen. The fact that they are demanding silence on the entire topic makes it seem like a subtle acknowledgement that serious mistakes were made with the previous ceremonies, and they’d rather not have those mistakes—or the fact that corrections of such mistakes were necessary—in the public domain (which, by the way, is absurd to even attempt; there are no secrets in the Information Age. All this prohibition will accomplish is keeping the Church’s most ardent defenders silent during the public discussions/debates that are bound to happen.)

Once the actual endowment began, I was again disappointed by the inequity that remains. Right at the start of the old endowment, there was some language about what the men and women in the room had been anointed to become in the eternities. It had always felt to me like the part talking about what is in store for faithful men went on and on with grandiose phrases like “kings and priests unto the Most High God” and “rule and reign in the House of Israel forever.” This had bothered me because, when it came time to talk about what the eternities have in store for faithful women, all that was offered was a short phrase that essentially assigned them as eternal possessions to their husbands. In the new ceremony, I anxiously listened to the men’s part (which, to my ear, had not changed) wondering what new, more substantive language they might have added for women. Were they to be queens and priestesses unto the Most High God? Would they rule and reign in the House of Israel? Would they be granted some other new honors entirely? It felt like a punch in the stomach when I heard the same short, unceremonious phrase as before, with just the small change that “to your husbands” had been swapped with “in the New and Everlasting Covenant.” At best this change doesn’t transform the original meaning much at all, and at worst it suggests a destiny for women of eternal polygamy.

Of course, not all of what I saw and heard was negative. My heart sang when I heard Eve covenant to hearken to God rather than to her husband, using the exact words that Adam uses to make the same covenant. I also noticed that the pronouns throughout the ceremony had finally been changed to include Eve. For instance, rather than “I am looking for messengers from my Father,” Adam now says, “We are looking for messengers from our Father.” And the super-offensive practice of male characters referring to visiting “the man Adam in the Telestial world”—as if there is no other person present there—has now been changed to include Eve.

I also really loved hearing Eve’s new monologue from the Pearl of Great Price at the end of the slideshow portion of the ceremony. It was beautiful and inspiring, but it just left me wanting to hear more of her voice in the earlier parts of the story. In the entire hour-plus of dialogue included in the endowment, I counted 13 lines of dialogue spoken by the only woman in the story (which is generous; two of those “lines” consisted of “Who are you?” and “Is there no other way?”).

I’ve heard it said that Eve now speaks more than Satan (I guess that’s a win?), but that is most likely due to how many scenes there are where Satan is not present at all. When he is there, he is talking. The same is not true for Eve.

What remains most striking to me about Eve’s part in the presentation of the endowment is how often she is actually present and where the matters at hand clearly involve and affect her, but she is silent. I understand that Church leaders are trying to keep as much of the dialogue as they can to what can be found in scripture, but there is still a lot of non-scriptural dialogue that could easily be given to her. Why couldn’t she be the one to tell Satan, “We are looking for messengers from our Father” or the one to ask Peter, James, and John to prove they are true messengers? There is so much more that could be done to include her and recognize her value as a person—separate from her husband—in this story. Sadly, those opportunities, if considered at all, were dismissed.

The last time I went to the temple, I said that I never wanted my daughters to hear the things I was hearing. Despite the significant improvements that have been made, unfortunately my opinion on that point remains unchanged. I don’t want my daughters to be subtly taught the message that, when it comes to matters of their own spirituality and salvation, they need to always take a back seat to the men around them. Until that message is rooted out of the ceremony entirely, the temple will not be inspired enough to earn their participation. And if I don’t want them there, then I shouldn’t be there either.

 

[Photo by Adam Segal-Isaacson https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51914203]

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13 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Bryan. I appreciate your thoughts. It’s sad that the changes still leave so much undone, and as you point out, are given a cloak of secrecy to boot.

  2. Maureen says:

    Interesting to hear your perspective.
    It is helpful to me to differentiate my relationship w God from the words and practices that change over time.
    D&C 88v13 speaks of the light of Christ being involved in Light, Life, and Law.
    I have been studying and pondering & praying for understanding about the Light of Christ.
    I believe this is what the Temple is attempting to teach or covey to us.
    The Light of Christ has a fullness that we can access in mortality
    Leading to increasing LIGHT (inspiration & wisdom)
    Leading to increasing LIFE (understanding the same sustaining life force in all plant animal and human life and the progress from premarital through Tel, Ter, Cel kingdom.
    Leading to higher LAW ( progress from 10 commandments to New Testament thinking and spirit of the law. Also inc understanding about laws of nature.

    The light of Christ is given to all and we are asked to go deeper
    That is what the sacrament prayer says… to always have His Spirit which is the Light of Christ
    Have we been true and faithful to that gift?

    I am able to view the temple via this lens
    And it’s made a difference for me.
    I realize this view might not resonate w others but it is where I am at.
    I hope it might help others.

  3. Seffi says:

    I’d prefer that anyone hear, understand and affirm an agreement before she decides what’s best. Accepting what’s offered includes the opportunity to change her mind as what is best for her changes.

  4. Maureen says:

    My apologies.

  5. DeAnn S says:

    I really appreciate hearing your perspective, Bryan. It gave me a lot to think about. We need more men’s voice about the Temple. Since our church is a patriarchal organization, changes will come quicker if men (lots of them) insist that “all is not well in Zion”. Women’s voices have made an incredible difference – now it is time for men to stand up and speak.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I appreciate your perspective. Thank you for sharing this with those of us who cannot go to the temple but remain hopeful.

  7. Lily says:

    Nothing will immunize your daughters against taking a back to men more than a loving, supportive father. I am one of those women that has never been bothered by the temple – I just didn’t see the sexism It was just too far off my radar to notice. I credit both my parents for that.

  8. Helen says:

    Bryan,
    Thank you for this post. I have not been to the temple in 10 years. The last time I was there, I was 23 years old. I had absolutely no desire to be there again after that.

    Strangely, a few months before the January 2nd changes, I had powerful experiences that led me to desire to return to the temple for a specific reason.

    Your post helps me know what to expect (for when I do go back) so that I am not blindsided.

  9. Ceci says:

    Bryan you must truly value your daughters to want to spare them the hurtful language in the temple. I admire your desire to protect your daughters from the injustice of the temple ceremony which sentences females to an eternity of being an interchangeable possession to a man that they may have once thought was their eternal companion and partner or even worse, to be assigned to some man because you were obedient to God’s commandments but your reward for that righteousness is being THE reward of an extra uterus to bear a male, not of your choosing, children.

    I’m always amazed at the women who claim that they never felt any sexism in the temple ceremony. It shows how powerful the leaders of his church are that they are able to make us doubt the meanings of words. Equality means, “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” Women in the church and in the temple ceremony have never had the same status, rights or opportunities as men. Sexism means, “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.” Women’s roles in church and throughout eternity are based solely on them being female. If you are female then your role throughout eternity is support staff for the person (male) that really counts. For 25 years I’ve felt confusion, doubt and hurt every single time I’ve attended the temple but I’ve been successfully gaslighted into thinking that there’s something wrong with me. I’ve spent most of my adult life KNOWING that something was wrong with me because I didn’t understand the temple and why my Heavenly Father did not care for me the way he cared for my husband. I’ve spent my whole life wondering how I have offended God, what sin have I committed that made me worth less so that I came to earth in the form of a woman. I’ve spent my whole life not understanding what equality really was because I was told that what happened at church and in the temple was equality. I was taught that equality was what church leaders told me it was. No wonder I haven’t been on the front lines fighting for justice for Marginalized groups: I lacked the simple understanding of what equality and sexism are.

    If God has changed his/her mind and I am more equal than this religion taught me that I was, then why must it be a Secret as our church leaders have directed?Shouldn’t the good news be shouted from the rooftops? If God has had a change of heart about the role of females then by what right do you leaders try to conceal this truth? By what right do you pretend that further light and knowledge was not important? By what right do you leaders conceal the doctrine of Jesus Christ?

    Thank you Bryan for your words and your desire to be open and truthful.

  10. Kay says:

    Thank you Bryan for your post. I too have felt that the Hollywood type actors do not show real human beings and especially that they are all white. Where are the colors of all God’s children? They do at least have a brief picture of all races as the future of their posterity. Also I recognized at the end of the Chastity part that LGBTQ would not be accepted. The endowment ceremony is much better than the previous one. The previous one was much better than the one that preceded it. So I hope I live to see the day when other actors of other races are shown in the video and more acknowledgement is given to LGBTQ members. I for one have shared several times in the temple my unhappiness at having to veil my face. Losing that part of the process brought me hope, as well as Eve communicating with God directly.

  11. Meredith says:

    They had such a chance to make the temple equitable and failed. It really devastates me. I have a recommend but don’t go to the temple because of the spiritual violence I feel in being relegated secondary in sacred ceremonies. Thank you for articulating what is so wrong within the temple. I feel about the temple what I feel about the church – it just has so much potential to be a beautiful Zion but keeps getting so much wrong. I stick around because so much is right but it really pisses me off that a homogeneous group can’t see the need for inclusive voices so that we can become that Zion. I am so glad you serve in leadership positions so you can articulate these inequalities to men who are oblivious. Thank you.

  12. J.C.Petersen says:

    I have no words for the comfort I feel reading this article and comments. For decades I have felt so alone iny concerns about women in the church. I agree that zion cannot be built with these wicked
    pratices in the church. There is so much more change to be done.

  13. Melinda W says:

    Thank you for the detail and your thoughts. I’d read other posts about the one change to the women’s covenant, and it was good to hear about the other changes as well. I let my recommend expire a few years ago. I don’t want to go back, but I did want to hear about the changes. It’s also really encouraging to hear that a man worries about the inequality too.

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