#hearLDSwomen: Temple Artwork Only Depicts Women in Submissive Roles

I live in the Middle East. I don’t get to go to the temple often because when we travel, we have small children with us. Last year I got to go to the Montreal temple to do family sealings involving my grandparents. It’s incredibly hard living in a place where I am not considered equal to my husband. No matter how he treats me in our home, everywhere I go I’m told and treated as though I am less than a man. I was so hoping to go home and immerse myself in a culture that values me.

The temple was a good experience. Until I noticed the artwork.

Right outside the sealing room was a painting of Christ’s tomb. Mary is collapsed to the side in a weak and weepy heap. Peter and John are center of the painting stepping boldly and confidently out of the empty tomb with arms outstretched like they’re ready to spread word of God’s miracle to all the world.

The painting is doctrinally inaccurate. It made me angry.

Mary received that revelation. She stepped forth out of that tomb ready to change the world with what she now knew. She wasn’t a nervous fretting pile of tears waiting for the menfolk to fix things. Her tears dried up when Christ appeared to her. The apostles didn’t believe her until Christ appeared to them AFTER the tomb. SHE was the one who left the tomb with the single most important revelation in human history. THEY were the ones who were angry emotional wrecks because they couldn’t believe the word of a woman when she said a miracle had happened.

Women are given so little voice in the scriptures. Why did the artist feel the need to take hers?

I started looking at all the other paintings. I couldn’t help it–it was like a veil had been lifted. I walked up and down the hallways trying to find some piece of art to smooth out the punch to the gut I had just received.

Every single painting of a woman showed her kneeling with head bowed or in a submissive posture. Every single painting of a man showed him upright, standing, powerful, and very often teaching submissive women. Not one teaching woman. Not one speaking woman. Men taught. Women listened. Everyone had their place, and standing upright together, living and teaching the gospel together, wasn’t it.

I wanted to cry. The comfort I was hoping for in the temple wasn’t there. The story the walls told stole any comfort I might have found.
Amy H.


Pro Tip: Choose paintings that depict women as central and active characters. Make sure to include paintings that feature diverse people, not just white men.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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3 Responses

  1. Beth says:

    I figured out long ago that women have no value in the mormon church.

  2. Em says:

    Now I’m really curious about the painting! I don’t doubt that you saw what you saw, but I’ve been hunting and can’t seem to find the piece. I know temples have different rules from meeting houses for art, because I see things there that aren’t on the approved “meetinghouse art” list. Do you have any idea who the artist might have been? Or how to see it?

  3. Ari says:

    It’s a painful realization to make, after years of believing the explicit message that women matter, to open your eyes and see all of this nonverbal messaging telling us that women don’t. It has taken me 2 years to finally be finished grieving about that.

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