O Remember, Remember

Dawn, by Simeon Solomon. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It got to be so common that I knew it was happening before we were fifteen seconds into the conversation. A woman from my ward would pull me aside in the church hallway, ask to go for a walk, quietly start up a conversation in a corner at a ward activity. They were Relief Society presidents, a stake president’s wife, a Primary president, my visiting teacher, a senior missionary, a bishop’s wife, a seminary teacher, and a dozen others. They ranged in age from early twenties to eighty. Sometimes the woman was calm, sometimes weeping, sometimes agitated, but the opening words were always similar: “You seem like someone I could talk to about the temple and I just have to talk to somebody . . .”

They told me about how they cried through the endowment because of how women were treated there. They told me that they felt like what was intended as the pinnacle of their spiritual lives was a burden they could barely bear. They told me that every time the temple came up at church, they were internally cringing. They told me they felt ashamed for their feelings. Often, they told me that their husbands simply didn’t understand, and so they’d stopped talking about it.

I just listened. And I told them that how they felt was okay. They weren’t unrighteous. They weren’t imagining things. They weren’t wrong. I told them that I was always willing to talk about these things and they could bring it up again with me anytime and that I wouldn’t betray their confidentiality or judge them in any way. If they never brought it up again, I would respect that silence.

I did, however, carry their stories with me. I have held their grief and pain with my own, making a burden that felt too heavy sometimes. Out of love for them, I have many times been the dissenting voice in a lesson on the temple, earning me dagger-eyes from some other members of the class. Almost all of the women who came to me never showed up on at a feminist blog or retreat. They never publicly shared their struggle and couldn’t rely on the kind of community that I had. I felt, at times, like I had an unofficial calling to be the one-person temple support group for the women in my various wards.

I am genuinely overjoyed to think that these women have had their burden removed. I have gotten weepy with happiness every time I think about them in the last couple days. I’m so grateful to know that my own daughter and these women’s daughters will not suffer like their mothers did. The easing of that struggle is something to feel wholeheartedly and unequivocally thankful for.

But as long as I live, I will continue to carry those women’s stories with me. I will not pretend for a moment like these changes are simply an adjustment of details. These women will never receive public recognition for the quiet work that they did within themselves or their families and they would never ask for it. Yet I believe that these faithful women’s cries to God for relief or comfort were a major part of the birth these changes. I will forever be a witness of that crushing work. My soul wept for them as we had those conversations in hallways and corners. I will not forget or deny that grief.

There will be a “before” and an “after” January 2, 2019 for LDS women’s experiences in the temple. I couldn’t be more happy to be on the “after” side. But the burden of what went before doesn’t disappear. It is etched in my heart. It is etched in their hearts. We will remember together.

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9 Responses

  1. Jason K. says:

    Thank you for ministering to so many women for so many years. I’m grateful that you could be there for them.

  2. Maureen says:

    I forwarded to my Bishop hoping it would help him understand more fully. Many women have helped each other. Thank you for being one. Many women have tried to talk about this with temple presidents, bishops, stake leaders etc
    Maybe now all those conversations will be remembered with the realization that Someone else was also listening.
    Regarding the “do not talk about it”….
    Jesus himself told those he healed to not talk about it, but they could not contain their happiness.

  3. SC says:

    These shared temple experiences are opening up some shocking dialogues among the sisterhood. For example, while talking to some younger millennial sisters about these temple changes, I was appalled to discover that temple matrons are now letting the younger women wear their bras UNDER their garment tops at some temples??? When I received my own endowment, I was told that nothing could ever come between me and my garment top and that it had to be the closest thing to my heart, always, so I have been dressing like a fool for many decades with my bra on top when all that while apparently the younger women have been allowed some semblance of normalcy? (If you can call wearing a second set of clothes under your clothes at all times normal–grumble snarl). Why did nobody ever update us or tell us? I was in there buying garments regularly and NOBODY ever told me!!! I feel furious, heartbroken, left out, and have decided that I am DONE with Salt Lake telling me what underwear to wear and how. From now on, I choose my underclothes and I decide how to wear them. I am done with the temple and done waiting on men in a Utah skyrise to decide when I can or can’t cover or uncover my face or where I get to put my bra. This is beyond ridiculous.

    • Anon says:

      Oh my!! Thank you!! I think I will start to do likewise, as soon as I find a more comfortable bra! Great Point. 🙂 and yes somebody should have told us!!

  4. Mary says:

    Thank you for this post. I wish you had been in my ward. The suffering of women regarding the temple should be acknowledged. It is usually women who bear the emotional burdens of caring for other women who are hurt by the decisions of men. It is frustrating and saddening all around. I also feel for local male church leaders who were troubled and saddened by the temple concerns women came to them with but who could offer no guidance. I am glad you were there to care for these women.

    I’m so sorry for you SC. It seems like temple matron instructions are not consistent. When I went through about 7 years ago, I don’t remember if they gave bra instructions. However, they told us wearing underwear under our garments was fine during our periods. And then they said they prefer that we wear white underwear. I remember thinking “who is we”? Like you personally, as a matron, care about women wearing white underwear? Because why does God care what color underwear you have on during your period? It was truly absurd, not to mention totally impractical to wear a color that stains so easily. God is practical and compassionate. As long as He approves of your decisions, it doesn’t matter what others think. But this does nothing for the pain and frustration you’ve felt over the years wearing garments the way you were instructed to wear them.

    It is hard to know how to make decisons that align with spiritual truth with so many human frailties in the mix, including our own. It seems the only way we know if we are doing right is through our personal relationship with God.

    • Anon says:

      No my time of month ended in the last few months, the last four years of having. I would often not wear the Garment bottom during that time. I had to ruined so many garment bottoms even those times when I did wear underwear under the Garment. Eventually, I just wore underwear during the heaviest days.
      I know Heavenly Father is more concerned with our heart that our underwear!

    • Emily says:

      No one told me anything about what to wear during my period, but the matron did tell me that garments shouldn’t be stained, so after about a year I put two and two together and realized that if I didn’t want to risk stains, I couldn’t wear the bottoms on certain days.

      In my experience, if you ask around, you’ll find that women have been given all kinds of different instructions. We assume that what we’re told is the standard, but actually…

      And, side note, my husband and I went through at the same time. I was told all about how to properly dispose of garments. Over time, it became apparent that my husband hadn’t received those same instructions–I assume because they thought his wife would do it for him.

  5. Descent says:

    Not having to veil anymore, and not having to covenant to hearken to their husband are definitely going to have an impact for women.

    While the phrases “unto thy husband” are gone, I can’t be sure that what has replaced it is any better. The new phrasing will likely confuse women for some time to come and possibly lead women to question what is keeping the church from saying whose priestess endowed women are.

    Also these changes are all being heralded as good news, but rephrasing of the law of chastity moves the goal posts once again. Now that gay marriage is legal, instead of the church acknowledging that gay people are keeping the law of chastity, the church decided to change the law of chastity so that gay people will remain excluded. This is decidedly not good news and we need to make space for all truth to exist side by side.

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