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