My Temple Experience and Hope for Equality
I received my temple endowment when I was 21 years old, a few months before going on my mission.
Before being endowed, I knew nothing about what to expect in the temple. Nobody would tell me anything. People said it was so sacred that they couldn’t talk about it. I asked my mom, but she wouldn’t say anything about it.
To prepare for my endowment, I read Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, by Elder Boyd K. Packer. This pamphlet didn’t really tell me much. It talked about ordinances being done symbolically and also mentioned signs and tokens. But I wanted to know more.
When I met with the stake president for my interview, he told me I would get a new name and that there were several different covenants I would make with God. The part about the new name really intrigued me, and I was excited for it.
I was very nervous when I went for my endowment, but everything went well. I was anxious about the “washing,” thinking there might be a bathtub involved. But luckily, there was no bathtub anywhere. I enjoyed the movie and was awed by all the different things I saw and heard.
My endowment was a great experience.
The bishop was helping me prepare for my mission and suggested I attend the temple often. I only attended endowment sessions about two more times before my mission, and instead did lots of initiatories. It became my favorite thing in the temple. Especially since I had the opportunity to witness women actually giving blessings!
I went on my mission, and since there was no temple in the country in which I served, I had no temple experiences for a year and a half. After I finished my mission, I started attending the temple again.
A few years after that, when I was engaged, I was sitting in the temple doing an endowment session. Suddenly, I heard something in the script that I had never noticed before. I stopped and looked around at the other women. Were they all okay with this? I felt terrible and had the urge to cry, but I didn’t see anyone else looking flustered.
Was it really true? Was a man’s opinion more important than a woman’s? Would I have to always follow my husband’s opinion even if I didn’t agree with it?
The temple is the most holy place on Earth, so I always assumed it would have the complete truth. I wondered if the inequality I had perceived was doctrine.
This one thing troubled me so much. I forced myself to attend the temple again and again, but I would come home and feel so sorrowful that at times I would cry. My day would be ruined and filled with deep sadness. Soon I stopped attending sessions.
I decided to do sealings instead. I went with my fiancé to do proxy sealings. Listening to the words, I realized there was one major difference in what was being said about the husband and wife.
The husband “takes” and the wife “gives.” Once again, I was severely disappointed by the words, because it implied that a woman is a possession. It implied an unequal relationship between husband and wife.
Needless to say, I stopped doing sealings. I decided I would do initiatories instead. I remembered how much I’d enjoyed doing initiatories before my mission. But while I did initiatories, I noticed two similar phrases that are used in the endowment.
Is this for real? I asked myself. Could I not find peace anywhere? Did this gender inequality have to exist even in the initiatory? I was incredibly disappointed and miserable.
I stopped going to the temple. It hurt too much. I wanted to be happy and did not want those horrible reminders. Especially since I didn’t know if it was doctrine or not.
I needed to find the truth.
I didn’t attend the temple for about two years or so. I did go several times as a volunteer to clean the temple, since this particular temple relied on volunteers to clean it each night.
I enjoyed that part, because I got to go to the different rooms of the temple and see the art in the creation room.
I was able to enjoy the temple without experiencing gender inequality. I felt equal, which made me feel good.
Also, I was one of the people in charge of the cleaning, so I would give out assignments to both men and women. I felt empowered, especially since the temple had become a place I associated with gender inequality.
At the end of the shift, I would turn off the lights in the endowment rooms and proceed to the lower level where I would hand in my key and walkie talkie to the supervisor.
I had nobody to talk to about how I felt. It took over a year until I finally told my husband how I felt. He was very understanding. But I still wanted a woman to talk to.
Finally, I found an outlet. I discovered The Exponent and realized that other women felt the same way I did.
I also discovered this issue of Exponent, which really comforted me.
I wasn’t alone.
Over time, I prayed to Heavenly Father and came to the realization that He does not approve of gender inequality. Gender inequality is not doctrine. It’s not part of God’s plan.
I don’t know why the temple has those inequalities in the script, but I know that in the afterlife I will become a goddess to God and not to someone else. I also know that the value of an opinion isn’t based on gender.
Once I realized these two things and didn’t view the inequality as doctrine, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. I felt free.
I wanted to attend the temple again, since that’s the focus of our religion. I prayed and over time felt the desire to become an ordinance worker. I was nervous, though, because of my concerns about gender inequality. I didn’t want to be hurt like I’d been the last time.
Finally, I became an ordinance worker. I wanted the opportunity to perform ordinances and feel like I was part of something important. I also hoped to gain greater insight about the temple ordinances and to hopefully look past the inequalities.
The temple has made changes to its endowment in the past, and I’m certain they will make changes in the future. I hope they remove the terms “husband” and “counsel” from the initiatory. I also hope they equalize who the men and women become gods and goddesses to. I hope they either add that men should hearken to their wives, or just take out the “hearken” portion altogether. As for the sealing, I hope they equalize it and either say that both parties “take” and “give” or just take out the “give” and “take” parts.
Making these changes would definitely help women have the experience they should be having in the temple. If women are happy and feel comfortable in the temple, they will keep coming back. The temple should make them feel empowered, not put down. I hope for the day when the temple becomes a place of complete gender equality and true refuge for women.