Guest Post: I’m not celebrating.

The Exponent blog is sharing responses to the news of the changes to the LDS temple endowment and other temple ordinances announced today. We welcome your responses – please use this link to submit. 

By N. Christensen

I’m not celebrating the changes to the temple.

I do not celebrate, although I think the changes are a good thing.

Now, fewer women will be brought up believing they are beloved daughters of God, valued as much as any child of God, only to be blindsided by a secret ritual – a ritual that has their entire lives been propped up as the pinnacle of their spiritual experience – that dehumanizes them and makes them feel worthless. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.

Now, fewer daughters may express fear and uncertainty to their parents about the unknown covenants they are about to make, only to be looked in the eye and told they will not be surprised by any of the covenants. Fewer daughters will then sit in the temple next to the mother that reassured them as they realize that they are being made swear allegiance, obedience, and worship to a husband and not to God. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.

Fewer women will have to reassess their relationships with the loved ones who knew what they were going to be expected to promise and thought it was fine; that no warning was needed; that the covenants made were a good thing. Fewer women will start their marriages in fear that their husbands, who they trusted, knew and expected that their wives would be made to obey them. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.

Fewer women will feel darkness in the temple and assume it must be due to some sin or moral failing of their own. Fewer women will be told that any discomfort they feel is due to their own misunderstanding. Fewer women will be told that there is nothing wrong with the temple; that they just need to pray more, to have more faith. Fewer women will force themselves to go back again and again, spiraling into despair and loneliness as their feelings about the temple remain unchanged. Fewer women will research the history of the endowment, hoping to find answers and meaning, but only finding that the original meanings and interperetations are so much worse than they could have imagined. That the ceremony itself was once so much worse. Fewer women will believe that they and all women are hated by God; that they have no real value; that they exist solely for the benefit of men, as was taught by early church leaders. Fewer women will spend hours screaming and crying on their knees begging God for comfort and answers that never come. Fewer women will have to bury all this down and sit silently in church as everyone around them talks about the joy and peace the temple brings. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.

But as with all changes to the temple, this is not going to be branded as a correction of wrong, but as a clarification of existing good. There will be no apology. The assurances that any discomfort with the way things were must lie with personal misunderstanding will be forgotten. The church was never wrong. Those who have been in pain until now were silly to doubt the servants of the Lord. The fault is with you; it was never with the church.

So I am genuinely happy for the women who come after me. But I mourn for the women who came before; the women whose pain prompted these changes but whose pain and efforts will now be erased. The women who were silenced and who will now be silenced again.

And I cannot celebrate.

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50 Responses

  1. hjisha says:

    I have the same mixed feelings.

  2. Anna says:

    I am not celebrating either. Why celebrate too little too late? I have struggle with the temple ceremony for 50 years and now we just get to pretend it never happened. Even with these changes, there are still parts of the whole temple thing that need to change. I won’t attempt to discuss what still needs to change because the information about the changes is leaked along with a warning not to discuss changes. Let us all just pretend it has always been this way because if it came from God, then God would have gotten it straight the first time.

  3. Pamela says:

    If the changes are what I’ve read, I’m happy. When you spend years and years hoping for and calling for these changes, a little celebrating is fine. We knew these changes would eventually come, and it is unfortunate that there is no accountability for the past, but I’m glad for any forward progress.

    • BJ says:

      I honestly didn’t know these changes would come. I thought they would never come. For me it’s too late now. The temple will forever be a dark place.

  4. Maureen says:

    If it is true, then I am happy. Perhaps God has heard our prayers. We can know why it happened and receive revelation about that personally, and that is enough for me. I am very happy. I understand what you are saying and it is frustrating to not have more public explanation. President Nelson might surprise us all and publically explain how this prompting came about. Regardless, it is a positive change and we can continue telling the story.

    • While I am happy about the changes, to suggest that “god heard our prayers” is to suggest that one was praying for something out of line with the “brethern”. This could be considered a sign of apostasy and could keep one from getting a temple recommend. If God heard anyone I would suggest that he heard the voices of the disaffected apostates who were championing women’s rights. God heard Kate Kelly even though the Brethern excommunicated her.

      • Navy says:

        These changes did not come from God, but rather from poll testing women and realizing that feminists want to feel more autonomy. Realizing that we should shorten the ceremony as well. Well, since the polls dictated these changes, and they certainly didn’t come from the Lord, you now have an even more dumbed down ceremony than you had before. To see what God would say about these changes go to Isaiah 24:5.

  5. Ziff says:

    I love your response, N. Christensen. You highlight so perfectly this problem of gaslighting for God. Changes that should have been made have been made, but the tradeoff is that they’re framed as being just clarification, and this is gaslighting women who have, as you point out, agonized over their unequal treatment in the temple for generations.

    • Violadiva says:

      “Gaslighting for God”
      FTW.

      • Gardunia says:

        I also am happy for the change, although the attitude still seems to be that if you want further changes, that is wrong. And asking for these changes before, that was wrong. And remembering that there was something wrong, also is wrong. And change wouldn’t of happened unless someone pointed out what was wrong, although they were wrong to do that under this logic. I look forward to further change, but I would like to see recognition of what was done wrong before – some institutional repentance.

  6. Bro. Jones says:

    Amen to this post. No acknowledgement of past hurt, no statement saying “We did the best we could and often fell short; we pray that God will lift us all up and move us forward together.” It’s just cast as an administrative change, lest we stop and ask whether the patriarchy may in fact not be eternal.

    My heart aches for all those who have suffered. May God bring them healing.

  7. dot says:

    Amen. And it still amounts to tossing women a bone–as long as women lack the priesthood and (eternal) polygamy exists, the patriarchal structure remains intact.

  8. V. says:

    I am happy, and was hoping to find others happy, too. In June of 1978 I had no one to talk to, and I hoped perhaps here there would be space for joy and some relief, especially considering all the work women have done to get us to today.

    • N. Christensen says:

      Of course there is space here for your joy! There is room for a variety of perspectives. My (and others’) bittersweet grief doesn’t invalidate your own perspective. At the top of the post you’ll notice a link to submit a guest post; perhaps you’d like to write about your own feelings.

      • Andrew R. says:

        What about room for my wife of 33 years (long enough that she made the covenants in the pre-1990, stronger, version) who, when I read your article, simply didn’t understand the fuss at all. She has never suffered, she see the changes as damaging as these are the sort of things that have sent one of our sons-in-law away from the church, at course my brother-in-law issues too (not the sexist part, simply that things change).

        Is there something wrong with my wife? Is she damaged goods not seeing the patriarchy as evil and needing to be abolished?

        You see in 33 years of keeping the covenant my wife made to “obey my law, as I obey Father’s law” there has never once been a time when that needed to be tested – in any way what-so-ever. Nor would there ever be in a loving relationship in a three-way relationship between spouses and God.

        And this change will not stop those men who seek to govern every aspect of their wife’s life doing so. Bad men are bad men. The obedience covenant may have been seen to facilitate this, but the reality is it will not stop because of this change. It would not stop if it had been flipped on its head.

      • N. Christensen says:

        Andrew, my dude, I have literally no idea how you got the idea that any woman with a different experience is “damaged goods” out of any of this. People are allowed to have different experiences and feelings about the temple.

        Also, “It’s fine that women promised to be subservient because we didn’t really mean it or enforce it” isn’t a great look or a great argument. If you acknowledge that it’s a covenant that’s only ever actually used as a weapon and that good men don’t actually use it at all, better to get rid of it entirely, yes?

  9. Anne says:

    I rejoice! As a young feminist, Mormon woman I feel it is incredibly important to acknowledge any positive change on behalf of the women of the church. This change is a step towards our common goals of equity, empowerment, and edification, and thus a reason to rejoice. The church has changed the very heart of our worship, and has thereby established a stronger doctrinal basis for gender equality. Yes, there remains unresolved pains and anger from past and present policies and culture, and it is critical to recognize this. However, if we devalue such attempts to create an more painless and equitable future, we will continue to only feel and recognize pain.

    • Navy says:

      While you, as a feminist, lobby for equality, you disregard God’s plan and your part in it. While the church caves to pressure and changes doctrines, covenants and ordinances, it renders them void and ineffective. So, congratulations feminists, your crusade has rendered the LDS church untrue. Although, it’s actually been off track for many years. This is not the first instance of straying from the Lord’s direction, but only the most recent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming you, but instead the leaders who lick their fingers, stick it in the air, and make changes to go along with the loudest voices of the day. Or in other words, they poll test their members to see what changes are needed, rather than actually getting direction from God, as they would have you believe they do. Next change coming, btw, will be the easing of the word of wisdom. Tea and coffee will soon be allowed, not because God declared it, but because the church is losing too much money to the millennials who drink lattes, cappuccinos, and coffee, and since they cannot get a recommend while “breaking the word of wisdom”, and subsequently don’t pay tithing either, the church will decide that to grant caffeine addicts their coffee in order to get tithing out of them is a trade-off worth surrendering the word of wisdom hard line. Think logically people…God’s work and glory is to bring to pass your eternal salvation, not stupid policy changes in a now-defunct church that went off track 175 years ago.

  10. Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

    Culture is being stripped away as Satan is bound soul by willing soul.
    Learning of Christ and following Him to love, serve and bless one another. To become like Him.
    What else matters? Is there still anger and pain?
    I reveal myself in my own journey to forgive and repent, to live and love as He does.

    You see, I really do want to return Home

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this post. Obviously, these changes are a good thing. In fact, they are great. I struggled with the decision to go through the temple and get married there last April, and I still struggle (in part) with that decision. When I told my mother about the changes today, she said, “Well, I saw this coming for decades—the Church is true!”

    It was good to see my mother and all her friends celebrating. Of course I can forgive, of course I can “move on.” But these changes (although they certainly do represent progress) are being celebrated as proof of the Church’s truthfulness, of its perfection in this fallen world. What about two days ago, when a majority of Church membership saw the temple as “just right” how it was? Anyone with questions was told to doubt their doubts and go to the temple anyway, because it’s only after going regularly that you come to understand its “beautiful mysteries.” How about a year ago, when my mother (who considers herself to be progressive), told me that I probably shouldn’t consider going through the temple or getting married there if I wasn’t able to accept the covenants as they were. To me, they were fundamentally wrong. And any amount of faith I had could not convince me that it was somehow appropriate to accept them. How could I maintain my personal integrity and accept them?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that these changes are COMMON SENSE, and according to the most basic tenets of human decency, they have always been common sense (even though the patriarchy and other factors have clouded that judgment for centuries… I still do not see this as an excuse or justification). Women have been hoping, praying, and fighting for these changes for decades. But in the end, the changes are labeled simply as “revelation”… Revelation that came from men that refused to listen to that common sense for decades. Of course I am glad the changes have finally come. But I am still waiting for the day that we are collectively able to acknowledge that some of the things in both our (meaning, the Church’s) distant and very recent past were unequivocally wrong.

    I am happy to embrace these changes—I’ve been pining for them since I first discovered what went on in the temple during my freshman year at BYU. That said, I am also—as you say, N. Christensen—also fully aware that it still feels bittersweet. And quite frankly, I think it is perfectly acceptable and even necessary to acknowledge and discuss this complicated reality.

    • Violadiva says:

      Really great perspective you share here, Elizabeth.

    • Jessa says:

      I feel the same way, Elizabeth. I’m unendowed so I’m thrilled I won’t face the same trauma so many women have. At the same time, it would be careless to forget that history and the countless women who faced it, and what happened when they dared to speak up.

  12. V. says:

    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies! I will NOT think of this as revelation, ever! It is, exactly, common sense. Revelation was clear millennia ago: God is no respecter/discriminator of persons. Period, end of story We should not have, nor should we now or ever, tolerate discrimination. We still have a long fight ahead for everyone who continues to be un-invited to the table. It is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ as he taught it

  13. Pete says:

    Have they removed/changed the ceremony at the veil prior to a sealing where the husband stands in the place of the Lord for the wife?

  14. kiely lammers says:

    I can’t find clear information on what the changes are. Can you share a link?

  15. Chiaroscuro says:

    amen. and although it is a step forward, it doesn’t make men and women equal

  16. ew says:

    SJW = No Celebrate – No Surprise
    TB = Celebrate – No Surprise
    Yawn.

    Meantime

  17. Libby says:

    Let’s all please remember that there has been no apology to people of color after the 1978 revelation. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to want an apology. But we also need to feel that righteous anger for and in behalf of other people who also deserve an apology.

    • Navy says:

      The apology really should come from Brigham Young. Joseph Smith ordained black men to priesthood. It was Brigham who declared that black men have the curse of Cain, and cannot hold priesthood. He also taught that there are some sins so bad that you must pay for them yourself. It was called the Blood Atonement and is truly a satanic teaching since it denies the atonement that our savior performed on our behalf. So, Brigham was where the church went severely off track, and none of the leaders of the church since Joseph and Hyrum died, have received any true revelations from the Lord. This is why Nelson is so quick to redefine the word. Now the term “revelation” means nothing more than an inclination. And Nelson is trying to reshape the church to fit his agenda. Then when he dies, Oaks will get to play God with the LDS tithing money and we all are expected to worship and idolize him. If you don’t look to Christ, and double check any utterance the brethren vomit out, against the scriptures to make sure what they are putting out is doctrinal…then you are one of the idolatrous blind followers that will soon be severely disappointed when the church, already in severe decline, shrivels up to virtual nothingness. To be faithful TO the church is literally the blind following the blind. Awake to your awful state of blindness. Open the scriptures and compare what it teaches to what you’re learning at church. Not through reading the manuals or lesson books, but by actually reading the scriptures and realizing that this church has strayed so far from what God had intended the church to become.

  18. Mike says:

    Many people have commented how, during this first year of his presidency, Pres. Nelson is quick to use the word “revelation” for any number of changes and new initiatives in the Church, even for changes that may feel routine. He uses it so much, some have wondered whether it cheapens the value of revelation.

    I find it ironic, therefore, that these changes to the temple are described in the official news release from the Church as “adjustments” and not as revelation. Even though, I would argue, they are the closest thing that we’ve seen that could be considered a doctrinal change in the past year (certainly more doctrinal than combining EQ/HP, rebranding HT/VT as ministering, 2-hour church, using full name of the church, etc.).

  19. Jennifer says:

    I am 100% happy. Even though I felt I found my home in Mormonism, it broke my heart when a former YW/ Primary child went to the temple and she would be told she was less. I can do what I want with my religion. But I know there will be smart, talented, and wonderful girls who I don’t want to be hurt. I will always celebrate something like this.

    At the same time, I am piiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssed.

    I know too many women who have been booted out for asking this. The top will never acknowledge that they had compassion or care even if they did. This only enforces the benevolent overlord model. This only enforces that the 20 year old girl that I just saw go to the temple will think that she has no *right* to be treated like a human being. She doesn’t even have the right to beg and plead for mercy. She can only hope her husband decides to throw her a bone. She’s better than that.

  20. “…they are being made swear allegiance, obedience, and worship to a husband and not to God.”

    Oh? The ceremony’s words, from 1990 up until this recent change didn’t require women to “swear allegiance, obedience, and worship to a husband.” Are you interested in accuracy, or just saying whatever to get people riled up?

    This is exactly what women, including my former spouse, heard when they went through the endowment:

    ——————-
    Speaking to Adam, god said, about Eve, that “she will covenant that from this time forth she will obey the law of the Lord and will hearken unto your counsel as you hearken unto mine.”

    Then, the Eve character said, “Adam, I now covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to your counsel as you hearken unto Father.”
    ——————-

    I don’t see anything about worship of the husband or swearing allegiance. And as for obeying, women were only to obey their husband _when_ he was obeying God. So, if a guy is doing what he’s “supposed to,” he’s nothing more than a pass-through of God. Now, that doesn’t mean husbands are always going to “do the right thing,” but that doesn’t mean what women covenanted to do was bad/wrong. It was all hinged on very specific requirements that are very obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the English language. Besides, changing a temple ceremony isn’t going to cause assholes to change anyhow.

    • N. Christensen says:

      Your ascribing of the quoted portion of the endowment ceremony to the period from 1990 to the present indicates that you are perfectly well aware that prior to the change in 1990, women covenanted to obey the law of their husbands, full stop. Further, with the mastery of the English language you claim, you should be able to see that the 1990 change was deliberately vague such that it *could* be taken as a conditional statement (women are to obey their husbands if and only if they are hearkening to God) but could also be taken as a parallel statement (women are to obey their husbands in the same manner that their husbands hearken unto God). This allowed the church to ostensibly soften the message of female submission without actually repudiating in any way the message of the previous covenant; the new covenant could be taken to be synonymous with the previous. Early Church leaders literally and explicitly taught that women’s husbands were their Lords in the same way that God was the Lord of men and that this was the reason for the nature of the discrepancy between the male and female endowment and sealing (see JOD; this was taught by multiple church leaders but a particularly good example can be found in the sermon in Vol. 5 p 285-292). This has never been officially controverted and continued to be implicitly supported in the temple until the changes this week. If you genuinely want to learn more about this, I’d recommend reading “The Mormon Priestess” at FMH, although I suspect that your motivations are mostly just to tell women how they should feel.

      Thank you, next.

    • Anon for this says:

      You conveniently forgot the part where Adam is made Lord of the Earth. Later, women covenant to obey the law of the Lord, whereas men covenant to obey the law of God. Also, the husband stands in place of the Lord at the veil for the wife prior to a live sealing.

  21. Dee says:

    I was once truly and sincerely TBM but unfortunately I have now come to see this as a man made tweeking of a man made ordinance with our leaders doing what they can to throw us a few crumbs. If the whole ceremony actually came from god to his prophets don’t you think he would make it perfect to begin with? Why did we get polygamy, why were blacks denied the priesthood? Why don’t our LGTBQ brothers and sisters have a seat at the same table if all are equal to God?

  22. Jay says:

    I’m sorry everyone but I think this is a lot of who ha over nothing. At the end of the day it’s just words. May be it’s cultural, as an Australian, we are so laid back we don’t take anything that seriously. We got married in the temple 21 years ago, we’re temple worthy and active and we have never reflected back on these words and allowed them to dictate our relationship. I have no doubt that the Gospel is true but as a lawyer I also understand that people are people and everything will work itself out in the end. Happy New Year.

    • Violadiva says:

      Jay, I appreciate you stopping by to read. I hope you return and read again.
      Your comment is in poor taste, and it’s in violation of our comment policy. In the future, please remember not to invalidate the lived experiences or feelings of women in a space reserved for women’s lived experiences and feelings.

    • Navy says:

      Jay, you almost couldn’t be more wrong. Isaiah 24:5 says:
      “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” When you change an ordinance or a covenant, you render it invalid. To change the temple ceremony, means it no longer conveys the message, ordinance, promises or obligations upon the Lord that it once did. When they changed the sacrament prayer from wine to water, it rendered that ordinance invalid. When the baptism prayer changed from “having authority given me of Jesus Christ” to “having been commissioned of Jesus Christ” it rendered that ordinance ineffective. Now, with each change they make in the temple, that makes it less and less true to the endowment Joseph have to people early on. It literally has cheapened everything, including your temple marriage to your wife 21 years ago, to change wording, for any reason.

  23. Bree says:

    Yes. This. It feels like being silenced once again. It ignores and dismisses the very real soul-shattering pain that many women have felt in the temple. It completely glosses over the very real ways that pain has impacted peoples lives–like being refused recommends for doubts or questions about the temple and subsequently being excluded from a loved ones sealing or, in my case, having a stake president revoke the calling of bishop from my husband when he learned that i found the temple to be a painful experience.

  24. Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

    Institutional history is easily forgotten when there is change. And with that loss, so goes knowledge and lessons learned. After change, each new generation must choose, relearn or reject compassion, charity, mercy and justice. Though Institutional history and knowledge is replete with scarlet Our Father has promised He won’t remember our messups if we repent and forgive. If we remember and understand we have been forgiven and allowed to repent we will have compassion for ourselves and others. If we forget we may have to keep relearning the same things over and over. Forgiveness isn’t amnesia. It’s remembering those experiences, feelings of gratitude for mercy and grace, of compassion and love that we have been given so freely, making it possible for us too to give.

  25. Barbara Ann Gleason Roberts says:

    Gaslighting is done by fallen human beings who do not understand our Father’s Way. Father forgive them for they know not what they do. But if they do know what they are doing, Father help me to forgive, do what I know is right and trust that Thy will will be done.

    • I completely disagree. If you read the JST translation of what Jesus actually said on the cross, he only said “Father forgive them” in regard to the ROMANS. Not in regard to the thieves on the cross or the thieves in the crowd gloating up at him in their priesthood robes.

  26. Katie says:

    It’s been years since I’ve bothered with Mormonism; my faith has been dead too long. But your paragraphs about the altered relationships with husbands and mothers cut me to my core in remembering my own wedding. Everyone knew I was a feminist, and they all knew the hearken covenant was coming. My husband knew from previous temple attendance. No one spared a moment to warn me or soften the blow; I still feel the thoughtlessness 12 years later. I felt crushed, humiliated, and a new fear of this man I’d just promised to obey. I asked the temple workers to see a copy of the covenants, to know what I had just promised. They refused. I had to return to the temple multiple times in the next month just to know what I had agreed to.

  27. I was muted and then kicked off the Crunchy LDS Mamas page on Facebook. They invited discussion and when I supported a sister who was hurting, I was given the guillotine. So much for free speech within the LDS community.

  28. Sonia Francisco says:

    I have made a sacred vow not to discuss the ordinances outside the temple walls. Yet, I feel I must find a way to raise my voice to respectfully refute much of what N. Christensen has portrayed here.

    I did not like the overall tone in this article. It is true that yes, for some women, some parts of the ordinances have made them uncomfortable, but I feel that the presentation of that fact was done here in a way that is sure to to stir up foment and undermine faith rather than inform. It is quite presumptuous on the author’s part to insinuate that our leaders are just making it up as they go rather than receiving revelation and need to apologize to women for not getting it right previously. She, in essence is calling President Nelson a liar. She is also a hair’s breadth away from revealing content that we have all made covenants never to reveal to the outside world. Plus she does it in a most sensational way. Her sweeping generalizations paint a twisted, dark view of the temple ordinances that I do not even recognize.

    I have attended the temple for twenty plus years and have never noticed any ordinance presented in a way that should make a woman feel like God hates her or that she is chattel that must not only obey, but worship her husband. If there is any doubt about the intended roles of men and women, and how Heavenly Father feels about them, it should have been put to rest back in 1995 when the Church issued the World Proclamation on the Family. It very specifically spells out that spouses are equal partners within their distinct, separate roles, much like the Godhead is made up of three personages who act as one. The family proclamation even states that due to life circumstances it may be necessary to adapt those traditional roles to fit what works best for each family.

    In a nutshell, virtually everything in the temple ordinances has already been laid out for us in the standard works of the Church. In the year and a half from my baptism into the church as an adult and going to the temple for the first time, I was able to learn all I needed to know from studying the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, General Conference Talks, Church magazines and the special temple prep class all are required to attend prior to their first temple visit. I had not even been a member my whole life, so didn’t attend seminary or institute which a life-long member usually has. Yet, I found no shocking surprises during my first visit. My counsel to anyone with questions or concerns about any content re the temple ordinances is to speak with the temple matron or temple president while within the temple walls where these sacred matters should be discussed.

  1. January 10, 2019

    […] I’m Not Celebrating by Norienne Christensen […]

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