Guest Post: Women and the Temple Changes — A Live Wrestle

By Tara T. Boyce

I haven’t written on the temple changes but not because I haven’t been thinking about them. I’ve been thinking a lot. I tried writing something yesterday, but I didn’t publish it because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, because I didn’t know what I felt. I still don’t.

I’ve been thinking about my past experiences in the temple. About women and their inherent power and the power limited toward them. About change. Correction vs. revelation. Responsibility and accountability of institutions and responsibility and accountability for my own faith. I’ve been thinking about women who have been ostracized or excommunicated for advocating for some of these temple changes. Some who have come back and others who probably never will.

I just want to get out my feelings right now—in the middle of things—because it’s a step in the process that I rarely write about while in it. So here goes:

I don’t feel clarity. I feel glad and hopeful yet confused, and at times angry and very, very suspicious. More suspicious than ever. There have been powerful experiences I’ve had in the temple but there has also been so much confusion and a lot of resentment from it. I did a lot of work—reading, praying, pondering, studying—to try and make sense of it and there were times when I felt like I found some real answers. And now all that work feels unnecessary and wasted because many of my previous questions and doubts were just eliminated but without any explanation as to why. As if, no big deal. Policy changes. About woman’s eternal role. I feel the anger swell in me like contractions.

I’m suspicious of deliberate or unintentional mistakes—abusive, spiritually damaging and destructive mistakes—guised under the term revelation. It makes me feel sick. I felt sick at the Be One celebration when we celebrated a prophet supposedly receiving the revelation to remove the Priesthood ban. IT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. It was wrong. Say it. Say “I’m sorry we ever thought God thought less of you and we didn’t let you have temple ordinances that we believed would exalt you or we cared more about what past leaders did than finding real answers for you.”

But there will always be enough silence from leaders and enough spiritual experiences from God for that small window of uncertainty to make me feel paralyzed. Were the past 150 years in the temple a result of corrupt and sexist views? I believe so. But my leaders won’t say that and I continue to feel slightly guilty for thinking it.

I’m glad for these changes. It will be simpler for my daughters and for young women. They won’t wonder, like I did: “OMG is God actually hierarchical?” And women are below men in that hierarchy for the simple sake of order? In moments of doubting my own self-worth after attending the temple, I approached God with “What do you think of me? What does all this mean?” I asked. For the first time, I literally doubted how God felt about me. God told me, “You know how I feel about you. Hold onto that. Despite what you feel in the temple; know I love you and see you and value you. Despite what you feel in the temple.”

What do my past feelings mean and what do I feel now? I know God works us through the doubt and fuzziness. I know God makes up the difference. But He has also always promised to hold those who place stumbling blocks or caused suffering or practiced unrighteous dominion accountable. He will hold me accountable too. Where do I go from here? What do I do?

Right now I’m waiting. I’m listening. I thought I’d share that publicly because I think that it’s important to recognize that there are others out there not saying anything, who don’t absolutely know everything so we wait. If we don’t actually need to wait, if our leaders know something that will make this less traumatically uncertain for us, please tell us. Please talk about it with us. In the meantime, I’m waiting for God’s voice directly to me because I refuse to have a mediator anymore. I will be here—unveiled and open.

As I read over this, as I sit here, writing in the dark, because it’s so late and I can’t sleep, and I have a massive headache, I’m feeling in the back of my mind and in the back of my chest, “But of you, it is required to forgive all men.” And I don’t even want to write that right now. I know it pisses people off—it pisses me off—and I think that phrase is often used as a dagger to force people who have been wronged or hurt to be quiet, to shut up. And I believe in accountability and I believe in saying what’s true and what I feel and I hate liars and I hate deniers and I hate everyone who doesn’t say anything and tells me to shush and tells me to doubt myself that I don’t know that I’m not righteous enough that I must not get it that I should feel this and I should say this. I hate that all and still, right now, against all odds and against all my will, I literally feel God telling me, “But of you, it is required to forgive all men.”

Even if no leader apologizes or explains or cares and what a freaking waste of decades of pain and struggle of real people and real faith and their real relationship to you? I want your justice because I’ve already felt your mercy.

“But of you, it is required to forgive all men.”

For the first time, I cry.

I feel the resentment begin to leave me, but I will not forget it. And I shouldn’t. Is this how forgiveness starts? A release of the flood?

I cry again.

 

Tara T. Boyce is a woman, Mormon, wife of one (Mormon joke that’s not actually funny?), mother of two girls, writing instructor at BYU, and re-emerging-after-too-many-silent-years-of-pondering writer about all things woman and Mormon. She blogs at Womormonings, www.taratboyce.wordpress.com

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8 Responses

  1. LMA says:

    This is so powerful and lovely (insert many, many heart emojis). Thank you for sharing how you’re feeling when you’re not sure how you feel, and when it’s delicate and messy. This is so powerful and describes a lot of how I’m feeling. Thank you for putting it in writing. I loved this part: “I’m waiting for God’s voice directly to me because I refuse to have a mediator anymore. I will be here—unveiled and open.” That is so incredibly powerful.

  2. leslie dostoyevsky says:

    Thank you for writing this. I appreciate your honesty and restraint. I will go a bit further:

    I am a 30-year member, and have recently come to realize that the Church I joined has never been, and is not. I felt free when I got my testimony, but that wasn’t a testimony of this Church; it was a testimony of God and love.

    Temple ordinances did not engender love, peace, comfort, and they were not of God. The changes cannot be of God, for:
    It is impossible to defend the Church as the perfect organization of Christ on the Earth, while dismissing the Church’s repeated changes in revelations, ordinances, and beliefs as simply the normal mistakes of humans, when we specifically state that every other Church, every other religion, CANNOT be of God -because- they’ve changed their revelations, ordinances, beliefs due to human interference.

    As well, male leaders of cults, sooner or later, take on excessive powers and titles, money, rights, demands, … and women. I do not believe Jesus revealed to Prophet Joseph that Joseph should command married and single young women to marry Joseph, and that a girl’s refusal would send the girl’s family to hell.

    The Temple was not, nor is now, righteous.

    • Andrew R. says:

      If only it were that easy to throw away years of feeling the Spirit, “knowing” what is/was right, doing my best, etc.

      I can not deny God, and yet, maybe because of my indoctrination, I can not see how any other religion comes close to the God I know and love.

      You are correct in what you say, and yet I hold out hope that this is God’s church. Because if it isn’t I don’t know where to find Him – and the idea that He doesn’t exist leaves me colder still.

      Yes, I’m a privileged man in this space. However, having lived this “privileged” existence for 50+ years I can tell you that changes like this do make me wonder if it is all true.

    • Tara says:

      Thank you, Leslie. I wrote this weeks ago and since writing it I have much time to ponder and wrestle. I realize another thing I lost in the temple: confidence in my intuition. We can call it the Spirit or the inner voice. I don’t know. But when I wrestled to make what I felt was gross and ugly and cruel to match what someone else told me was God, I ignored a lot of my inner voice, and a trust in the God I know and love and worship outside of the temple. I lost some of that trust for a while. But these new changes have revived in me the confidence I need to be able to say: I don’t feel God there, or in this. I believe in sometimes testing thing–giving scriptures and leaders the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes there isn’t doubt. Sometimes your intuition tells you: no. Something about changing the heart and epitome of Mormon worship (the temple) has allowed me to say they are no bounds on my intuition. I’m learning the power of trusting in it.

  3. PJ says:

    I loved this so much! A raw “SFD” (Shitty First Draft if you follow Brene Brown). I can feel your inner turmoil and anguish of trying to make sense of things- things you have been taught and believed and things that your heart and soul are telling you today.

    I loved how you said, “I’m waiting for God’s voice directly to me because I refuse to have a mediator anymore. I will be here- unveiled and open.”

    It sounds like to me feelings that go along with betrayal and you’re working through them. That’s so tough but will be worth it as you come to know and trust yourself and see things how they really are and have been and how they should be in your eyes and then being able to live that way honestly and truthfully.

    • Tara says:

      This is a lovely and encouraging response. I am learning to trust myself and realize now that is something I lost in the temple. I did/do feel betrayed and choose to grow from this experience. Thank you.

  4. josh says:

    I agree that the lack of any real explanation by the Church (the Brethren) for these changes is troubling. And then we were told to not discuss this outside of the temple. It’s as if someone is saying “please move along” or “nothing to see here” or “never mind”. Thinking people don’t like this kind of change even if they agree with the change itself.

    I understand why the changes were allowed to take place. The way it was explained to me was: there is a difference between the endowment and the presentation of the endowment. I buy that explanation. But what bothers me is that I have heard forever that each time we go to the temple we can learn something new. Maybe it’s words. Maybe it’s images. Maybe it’s symbols. Maybe it’s feelings. But always something new. So I looked and looked and looked. And now something very overt from the session has been eliminated and we aren’t supposed to discuss it? I feel I was mislead by what has been eliminated because I was searching for truth in words and symbols.

    • Tara says:

      I worked very hard to find many answers myself with how things used to be, including ancient symbolism of veils, etc. There was so much yearning in my search for meaning and understanding, and for those to suddenly be eliminated with no real explanation (almost like a shrug), caused a lot of problems.

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