Guest Post: Temple Recommend
My grandfather was a very bad man. Have you seen the movie Spotlight, about Catholic priests who were sexually abusing children back in the 1970s? He was the Mormon version of that, sexually abusing more children than you would believe. I will spare you the details. I refer to him as my grandfather now, because he is not the person I knew, my grandpa. You see, my grandpa was wonderful and kind and loving and fun. He was a WWII vet and dedicated to his family. I spent endless hours with my grandpa because we lived just three houses away. It wasn’t until after we buried my grandpa that I learned about my grandfather. And it has taken me to the brink of despair. How do I reconcile my grandpa and grandfather into one person? While my grandpa did not leave any scars in my heart, my grandfather has ripped it to shreds. And it is those pieces that I continue to pick up and put back together.
One of the lasting effects my grandfather has had on me is that I have no faith or trust in priesthood leaders. I have come to view anyone with priesthood authority over me as a threat. It is awful. I have been having panic attacks for years at the thought of being one on one with a man with authority over me. It is debilitating. And I hate my grandfather for this.
Today I had a temple recommend interview. I have taken some time away from the temple and let my recommend lapse, because it was just too awful for me. The negative feedback loop of anxiety and pain in the temple was not helping me process my trauma. I don’t feel ready to go back to the temple, but for some reason I felt like it was time to get my recommend again.
So I emailed a member of my bishopric who I have talked with socially once outside of any sort of church function, hoping that the human side of him would be more visible than the priesthood side of him. I told him that I needed a recommend interview and that it needed to be the same day as my stake interview. I told him that I would be bringing a friend with me who would sit in on the interview. I told him that I would likely have a panic attack, and that it wasn’t him, but his calling that was the issue. I have found that setting expectations for them and for me is very helpful. He responded that he could have another member of the bishopric come in because we would be talking about sensitive and personal things. And I told him that I would bring my friend. My trauma, my rules.
Two days ago I found out the interviews would take place today. So the night before last I didn’t sleep. And yesterday I was full of anxiety all day.
But today went okay. I didn’t panic. I had a small amount of anxiety, but it wasn’t debilitating. I took my Xanax and brought my friend, and I made it through.
And when the member of the bishopric asked his questions and I responded with my “Yes, but…” answers, it was okay, and he validated my concerns. And when he asked me if I felt worthy to go to the temple, I said yes, but that I had no plans to do that anytime soon. And his response was to ask if there was anything he could do to help me, but he did not push me or tell me I should go and it would be okay. Because it won’t just be okay. That’s not how anxiety works.
Now I have a temple recommend that I don’t plan on using right away. But I feel like Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father are actually aware of me and aren’t asking me to fit in the same box as everyone else. And I feel like today was one step closer to rebuilding trust in priesthood leaders. And one step away from the secondary trauma of my grandfather.
I also teach Relief Society in my ward. Teaching is my safe place, my way to moderate the conversation and allow for open and safe discussions about hard things. So of course my next lesson in a couple weeks is on The Holy Temple. I don’t know how to teach it AND be genuine AND not hurt other people’s faith. It is hard to walk the line of doubt and pain.
And then a friend posted this poem on Facebook today, and it gave me hope that maybe my Relief Society can handle the discomfort of doubt in a sister.
by Carol Lynn Pearson
You can fall here.
We are a quilt set to catch you
A quilt of women’s hands
Threaded by pain made useful.
With generations of comfort-making
Behind us, we offer this gift
Warm as grandma’s feather bed
Sweet as the Heavenly Mother’s
You can fall here.
Women’s hands are strong.
The uncertainties continue to be bigger than the certainties. I’m not sure how to teach my lesson, but I’m confident that will work itself out in the next couple weeks. I’m not sure how to go to the temple. I’m not sure when or if I will get my grandpa back. But today was one small step in the path.
Anonymous is a wanderer and a wonderer. She loves to travel and do puzzles while she unpuzzles her life.