Heavenly Mother and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Temple Open House
In 2015 I went to the new Payson, Utah Temple open house on a complete whim one day. My husband was deployed to the Middle East and I was alone with three small children and we just hopped in the car and headed to Payson with zero planning or even reserving tickets. I have no explanation for why I did it that way. I just went – and it was during toddler nap time with two feuding older siblings who didn’t want to wear church clothes or put plastic booties on their feet.
When I arrived they told me not having tickets wasn’t a problem and welcomed me in with the next available group. In between endlessly shushing fights and comforting a grumpy toddler in the church building adjacent the temple (during the pre-temple tour), I caught two significant parts of a movie the sister missionaries played about the temple. First, Elder Holland got emotional reflecting on his love for eternal families and the temple – “Heaven would not be heaven without my wife there, too” he said. (Or something really close to that.) Another part featured President Packer saying, “This is Heavenly Father’s house. We come here to learn of HIM, to communicate with HIM, and to rest in HIS house.” (Again, paraphrasing.) It bothered me. Elder Holland, you can’t imagine being a God without your wife? I can imagine what that would be like. I see it in the temple every time I go. There’s God – a man – without a wife.
You know what *I* couldn’t imagine? I couldn’t imagine my husband having his own house, where our kids visit HIM, learn about HIS life, and spend time with HIM – all at the complete exclusion of me, his wife. (I had an unkind urge to punch a super cheerful parent I heard lovingly explain to their children on the tour, “This is a sealing room, where we can be sealed with our families so that we can return to Heavenly Father someday!” I WANTED HEAVENLY PARENTS.)
I will admit that I wasn’t at my best or most patient that day. The other people in my tour were walking extra slow and before long I was dying to get the tour over with and leave. It was hot and my pantyhose were falling down. I was carrying a ridiculously heavy toddler for a very long time and my arm was throbbing. My middle child was whining endlessly about the plastic booties on her feet/lying on the floor in everyone’s way and refusing to walk. Well meaning volunteers at the temple were trying to encourage this tired mom (me) by saying things like, “Don’t you just love being in the temple?” and I wanted to say, “Are you looking at me right now? Are we in the same room? Does it look like I love being here right now?!”
At one point in exasperation I gave in to my two older children and said, “It’s fine, sit on the couch in the celestial room”, thinking to myself, “I’ve helped pay for it with three decades of tithing and that’s all the use I’m going to get out of it any time soon”. The volunteers immediately reminded us not to sit on the furniture in the temple and I made my tired kids stand back up, which brought tears of frustration to my eyes. Why was keeping an inanimate piece of furniture pristine more important than helping a very tired woman in the throes of young motherhood? Aren’t couches meant to be sat on? Would Jesus insist I carry two children on my hips so that his favorite imported sofa fabric wouldn’t get wrinkled? My husband was deployed. Where was my military wife discount pass that lets me sit on fancy couches for one minute for free in an un-dedicated temple room? Why had I made the crazy choice to drive the four of us down here today??
In retrospect, I honestly think my intense irritation that day had more to do with an increasing awareness of the utter lack of Heavenly Mother anywhere in our most sacred space than my three grumpy kids. I was feeling the burden of motherhood with a fierceness that day, and my soul longed for some glimpse into the more holy and eternal role I was supposed to be preparing for. But there was nothing in that open house that spoke to that need, and it was even worse when I attended dedicated temples. At least in the open house an apostle mentioned his wife’s existence. But in the tour of “Heavenly Father’s” house itself, there’s nary a wife or mother seen or mentioned anywhere. Is that because He’s got a lot of wives, and they don’t know which one to talk about on the tour? Or are the temples on our planet where God comes alone, to get away from all of his wives and family stress for a little while? Sitting in my church clothes in the pre-tour movie that day, I just couldn’t understand how no one else was bothered by the fact that women are erased in the eternities, including in our holiest houses of worship.
Part of me wishes I had just sat down on that celestial room couch along with my kids and politely declined to stand up when asked. I was very tired from carrying my toddler and they could’ve just dealt with my butt cheeks on the fancy furniture for 60 seconds while I waited for the line through the temple to move again. No sofas would’ve been harmed or testimonies crushed by my actions, and I could’ve really used that little respite to have the strength to journey on to the end of the tour.
Recently there’s been yet another crackdown from top church leadership to avoid discussion of Heavenly Mother online and in church meetings, verified by multiple reliable sources and causing a visceral reaction throughout the online LDS community. Stake presidents and stake leaders are receiving training from general authorities and apostles to stop seemingly harmless activities such as capitalizing the words Heavenly Parents (because only Heavenly Father can be capitalized, and it should be “heavenly parents” and “heavenly mother”). We also aren’t supposed to include or credit Her for a role in creation or the Plan of Salvation, refer to or teach about her at church, and as always – no communicating with anyone but Heavenly Father in prayers.
Back in 2015 I was grumpy about not sitting on the temple couch but I complied because it was the rule. In 2022, I’m having a much harder time caring about rules that I think are dumb, no matter how high up in authority the person is who makes them. You know what I think? I think couches are for sitting and motherhood is hard. I also think telling mothers to just stand there no matter how tired they are, yet give them no hope of future rest and eternal glory (in fact, forbidding them from even discussing the possibility) is a really stupid rule…and I don’t think we should follow it anymore.