Poll: Temples

Many consider it a place of refuge and peace, while others consider it a frustrating reminder of the negative doublespeak we receive as women in the church. But as members, we believe it is the House of the Lord, and much of church teaching and culture is centered around the ordinances performed while inside. Forgetting for a moment the administerial imbalances and white washing of allegorical history, do you believe the temple serves a useful purpose? Rituals that connect our body and mind can be an important aspect of religious observance, but can the work that we do in the temple be separated from what we may consider to be erroneous interpretations?

Some other questions to consider for discussion:
Do you believe that earthly ground can be made sacred? Do you believe there is value in standing in holy places? Does God reach out to us more so in Their house than our own? Or are we more able to connect with the divine when we are Their invited guests?

How do you feel about attending the temple? Do you get what you hope to receive from your efforts? Do you go for yourself or for others? How long has it been since you last attended? How far must you travel? Do you feel closer to God when you are there?

Share your thoughts with us in the poll and comments.

And for a fun, speculative bonus, why do you think many temples are located on or near mountains and high places? Do you believe mountains are sacred ground, as suggested in various biblical scriptures?


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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24 Responses

  1. Carla says:

    As an outsider (and so with an irrevocably outsider-biased perspective), LDS temples make me think of the division among members between the worth and the not worthy, between the people who are “really” a part of the family, and those who aren’t. The ones who are “really” part of the family are the ones who get to go in and participate in ceremonies, and everyone else is, figuratively and literally, ostracized. Obviously this is because the fact that some people can’t go in is the only experience I will ever have with temples, so it might be of disproportionate significance to me.

    At the same time, the symbolism of the material separation of the sacred from the profane is not lost on me, and I appreciate that as well. I’m curious, however, how you see this in connection with the New Testament account of the veil of the temple being torn in two?

  2. Conifer says:

    I really cannot figure out how I feel about the temple. My recommend will expire in a couple months and I really want to renew it but feel anxious. I want to renew it because of some intangible need I have to not burn this bridge. I want to be able to go if I want. I want to still share that with my husband. I do feel like it’s a place of calm where I can meditate effectively a lot of the time.

    But should I? I don’t know. They’ll ask if I have a testimony and I don’t know that I do anymore. Plus I rarely go anyway because I find it very hard to sit through the session. Initiatories are usually okay.

    If I kind of fudge things around I suppose I can answer yes to the right questions, but it really goes against my nature to do so. But to do anything else means repercussions. I just got a calling where they asked if I had a temple recommend and was worthy to hold it before offering it to me, so I guess I would lose the calling (which in no way should require a recommend to perform anyway, but that’s another issue). I don’t want to lose the calling. I want to be part of this exclusive group because it’s where I fit, even if I’m not exactly the same as everyone else. I hate that I can’t choose my own level of involvement and still be honest. I’m losing sleep over this and I’m going to have to decide soon.

    • spunky says:

      Maybe I am jut too analytical, but the temple doesn’t really bother me. It did at one point in my life, but having spent some time researching temples and church history, and knowing that the temple ceremony has been adapted several times, I see it as a progression. That is to say, as more is revealed, then it becomes perfected- which means that I do not think the ceremony is perfect and perhaps not all of the ordinances have been revealed at this point. Sure, there are things wherein I personally don’t receive a burning testimony, but none of this is enough for me to disregard the personal and spiritual part that I feel very deeply about.

      I am not a fan of the first choice, “I go as often as I’m encouraged to do so by my leaders”. It implies that I don’t have agency in attendance or that I am attending because someone else told me to.

      I also feel obligated to point out that this is a very American, even west-coast centred question. I live a 12 hour drive from the nearest mini-temple. This temple is open 4 days a week for 3 to 4 sessions per day (assuming there are enough people for that). There are a couple more sessions on Saturdays. I have been in prayer circles that didn’t have men in attendance and were just made of women. I attend the temple whenever I am in a town that has an open temple, often to added personal expense for hotels, petrol, work schedules, etc. I usually get there 2 or 3 times a year.

      In having a temple recommend, even if I can’t attend, I feel closer to God. I feel more secure about myself as a daughter of God. Because it is so difficult and rare for me to attend, I have gained a stronger testimony of the temple. Because I know now that attending the temple is an indulgence, not an obligation, I spend more time contemplating and studying the temple and I spend more time seeking preparation and insight that I want to gain at the temple than I ever did when I lived within an hour of a temple. In short, once you live in an area where it is next to impossible to attend a temple, the imperfect parts of the temple are no longer a disruptive issue.

      • spunky says:

        sorry didn’t mean to make that a reply- technical issues! 🙁

      • Corktree says:

        The first option was meant to include a range since local leaders DO like to tell members how often they should be attending, and it varies. And like it or not, some people only do what they’re told, because they’re told to do so. But I said “encouraged” not “ordered”.

        Also, for those outside the US or temple dotted west coast, this could simply mean that they go when it is recommended for their situation by their local leader; which could be only once for some people in some countries, or even not at all. I think the question covers that.

    • spunky says:

      I’ve never been asked if I have a testimony at a recommend interview. Have they changed the interview? I am also quite honest and open in noting leadership issues, but have never failed to obtain a recommend when I have been honest in my leadership doubts. Nor has my mind changed, nor have I been pressured to change my mind about leaders in whom I have addressed issues.

      • Keri Brooks says:

        Two of the temple recommend questions deal with testimony. The first question asks if you have a testimony of Christ. (I don’t recall the exact wording of the question.) The next question asks if you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in the latter days.

  3. Vada says:

    I chose the sad the second answer, but the saddest part to me is that before I took out my endowments I would have chosen the third. When I only performed baptisms I always brought along my journal and spent quite a bit of time sitting in the waiting room or outside on the temple grounds just thinking, pondering and writing. It was a wonderful spiritual experience for me. Now that I’m endowed there’s so much stress, uncertainty and unhappiness over those ordinances that it’s hard to appreciate the temple grounds like I used to. Also, since I’ve been endowed I’ve gotten suspicious looks and comments from temple workers if I ever try to bring my journal in — I guess they think I’ll write down things that I shouldn’t? It’s odd, and sad to me how much the situation has changed.

  4. kew says:

    I do think earthly ground can be made sacred, and there is value in having places of refuge. That’s why I love old churches in England and The Netherlands. When I’ve visited there, I feel welcome to just come, sit, ponder and pray for as long as I’d like. Many of the small parish churches in England were left open and unattended all day, to allow people to come and pray. I don’t feel that in the temple. People are always moving around; staying put does not seem encouraged. Our chapels are promptly locked as soon as an activity is over. I don’t really feel that our temples or churches offer refuge from the world.

    My recommend expired a year ago and I have not renewed it. We moved and the nearest temple is a mini temple 3+ hours away and simply not a priority for me. One of my sisters may get engaged soon, and then I’ll have to decide whether I want to tell my family that I don’t really have faith in the LDS church or if I want to the tell the bishop I do, but for now I am fine not having a recommend.

    • Corktree says:

      Yes! I’ve long pined for a place in our culture where anyone can go to worship as they like, WHEN they like, and I find it intimidating and exclusive in a way that hurts the church AND it’s members that we don’t provide this better. I’m learning to embrace what’s available to me in other faiths to gain this much needed respite and perspective. I feel much closer to God in an old stain glassed catholic cathedral lately than I do in a windowless LDS chapel.

  5. TopHat says:

    I renewed my recommend last summer, but I rarely go. I do struggle with some of the temple text and I use breastfeeding as an excuse to not go. I did go while I was pregnant- but I initiatories thinking it would be better for me. And it was a little better, but not what I’d really like it to be. I do want to go do a session when my nursling is able to be watched by someone else- but I don’t anticipate that happening for the next couple of years.

  6. For many years I attended the temple regularly and gained peace from participating in the ordinances. Eventually, the passive role of Eve as depicted in the endowment ceremony started bothering me. I stopped attending and found other places to bring me peace and give me a spiritual boost.

    Attending the temple helps many people feel more spiritual and I’m fine with that. I do question whether temples contribute enough to the overall good to justify their cost, so I no longer support them financially.

  7. MJK says:

    The “other” box wasn’t long enough to write much.

    I do not have a temple recommend but miss attending and am thinking about the process of getting one again.

  8. CatherineWO says:

    I quit attending the temple several years ago when my chemical sensitivities became so much worse (there’s always someone there with heavy perfume). I do have a current recommend and have been to some temple sealings in the past couple of years. There are things about the temple that I love: it is comfortable in its predictability; my tendancy to OCD draws me to ritual; I like the idea that everyone dresses the same (less class distinction); the only titles used are Brother and Sister; and, it’s nice to get away from the busyness of everyday life. However, I do struggle with some of the language of the temple and reinforcement of gender roles.

    The thing that really bothers me most about the temple is what Carla said–its exclusivity. It creates a spiritual class system within the Church and is very insulting to non-LDS, particularly those with family in the Church. It also gives priesthood leaders a way of keeping the flock in line. I will be the first to admit that I have restrained myself in action and word for fear of having my TR taken away from me. It feels like a form of spiritual blackmail that further silences not only discent, but true conversation.

  9. Keri Brooks says:

    I have a fairly complicated relationship with the temple. I loved doing baptisms as a youth. I received my endowment when I was 19, not in connection with marriage or missionary service. (This was back before they tightened those rules.) I found the initiatory beautiful, but I did have a problem with one part of the endowment. I stuck it on the shelf as a moot point because I don’t have a husband anyway.

    I got called as an ordinance worker shortly after my endowment, and I served until I left on my mission, and for a year after my mission. By the end, the inequality was really grating on me. The endowment ceremony as currently presented goes completely against my understanding of the equality central to the gospel. The scriptures say that “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) I take comfort that there is a distinction between the endowment as an abstract concept and the ordinance of the endowment as it is currently presented, but it just hurts too much to go through a session right now. I’m not limber enough for all the necessary mental gymnastics.

    I still have a temple recommend and I like doing baptisms, confirmations, sealings, and initiatories. I haven’t been in a while because I’m swamped with law school. Even though the temple is only 25 minutes away, it’s hard to get there. For the past three weeks, I’ve been meaning to go, since I have a stack of initiatories that need to get done. Maybe I’ll head over this week.

  10. Two of Three says:

    I turned in my temple recommend last year. Meaning, I walked into the bishop’s office, put it on his desk and said “I can’t do this anymore”. I have knowingly been lying my way through interviews for a couple of years (I have problems with the truthfulness of ONE church ) as the pressure to have a recommend was huge for me (DH not in my corner). Last year, I felt I would crumble if I kept pretending to be someone I’m not. I didn’t want to be a fraud anymore. I fessed up and felt the burden off of my shoulders immediately. My good bishop stood with me and even though I don’t want to “work my way back” to temple attendence, respects the fact that I have a choice and is still my friend.

  11. isobel says:

    hm. i didn’t really feel like i could vote because my response would’ve been, “i no longer have a recommend, but often wish i could attend whenever i wanted” or something like that. it makes me laugh a bit to see it typed out like that, but it’s the truth.

    i think things like the temple and communal rituals are some of the coolest things human beings have ever come up with to connect with the divine/spiritual world. i really value and appreciate this effort in mormonism. i loved it so deeply, so personally. i guess the biggest irony is that my experiences with the ritual drew me further into my own spiritual world with the divine, and consequently further away from the communal element (the result of my effort to “separate [it] from what [i] consider to be erroneous interpretations,” i suppose).

    it’s really hard to have something so esoteric at the heart of such a diverse religious body. it makes everyone want to pin down a concrete meaning to every little thing, afraid to let it mean whatever you need it to mean, which to me is part of the power of symbolic ritual in the first place. that i no longer attend would be/is so offensive to my family, and yet i have no way of conveying to them how much it meant to me when i did attend– it doesn’t matter. it only matters what it means to them, and to make sure it means something of the same to me (correlation ring a bell here?).

    it isn’t perfect, i’ll be the first person to admit that. but i do love it– still makes my little heart thrill to think of it.

    • MJK says:

      That would have been my reply too, so you’re not alone and it is not strange

      • isobel says:

        i guess i thought it might sound strange because one could say that if i really wanted to be there, i could do whatever it takes to get a recommend, but it’s just not that simple. i wish i could go to the temple whenever i like, but i don’t want a recommend. is that a strange thing to say? 😉

  12. Ana says:

    I live three hours from each of three temples. I miss being close by. It is a huge deal to get a sitter for four kids for 9 or 10 hours, not to mention a big expense for gas. I only went about twice last year. Once so far this year so I hope it will be more frequent.

    I love the temple. I can see the things that bother other people and understand why they feel uncomfortable, but they don’t seem to get under my skin. I can’t explain that. I love the initiatory, especially, with the women moving around like quiet angels and doing what they do.

    My husband has been doing a lot of family history work lately and so for the first time I am doing temple work for people with whom I have some connection. I was baptized and confirmed last year for my MIL’s stepfather’s mother, who we think was strangled to death by her alcoholic husband. It was very powerful and very touching for me to be able to offer something to this woman who had such a terrible life and horrific death. There is something very real going on in our temples. I really feel strongly about that. I am determined right now not to let anything stand in the way of my being part of it.

  13. Rita says:

    I was surprised by some of the comments about finding solace in other denominations buildings. In my experience many of their church buildings will also be locked most of the time and some even charge admittance for historically significant churches. I understand that they have to pay for their upkeep but find it rather sad and feel a donation is more appropriate.

    I do have a recommend that expires in April. I have struggled with the interviews for several years now – even though I still consider myself worthy to attend.

  14. Hydrangea says:

    The temple has been a place of healing for me. It is a place where I go to feel the love of the Lord and gentleness of the spirit.
    My stake president always says “the temple is an acquired taste.” So true.

  15. My recommend just expired in December, so I’m newly without.

    When people talk about “going to the temple” or “doing temple work,” I find that they’re usually referring to the endowment ceremony. My first experience with the endowment was really troubling; my feminist sensitivities were hurt at many points, and I didn’t feel the comfort of the Holy Ghost, which is something I’ve really treasured and relied upon in my life. It was confusing to me that in this place – the ultimate goal of my whole life’s religious observance, the focus of so many lessons and talks, the place where it was all supposed to make sense – I could not feel so much as a whisper of the Spirit. I’ve felt the Holy Ghost during other temple ceremonies many times, but in the endowment, it was strikingly absent. Anyhow, all of this frustration and loneliness really got to me as I was making those covenants, and I had a legitimate panic attack. The temple workers all ooh’d and ahh’d over how spiritual they thought I was, because what other reason could I have for crying so ferociously?

    Whenever I’ve performed the endowment since then, I have had negative experiences. I have yet to feel the Holy Ghost during the ceremony. I do really enjoy initiatories, baptisms, and sealings (live sealings moreso than proxy ones), so the temple can be a place of happiness at times. After my trouble with the endowment, though, the temple as a whole has become intimidating in a way it never was when I was going for baptisms as a teenager and single, unendowed adult.

    Now that my temple recommend has expired, I feel really nervous for my next recommend interview. My bishop and I are close, so I don’t imagine he’ll be rude or shaming if I can’t give the answers he wants (though my stake president might be — I don’t know him), but there’s still the knowledge that if I don’t give the “right” answers, I won’t have a recommend. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for my younger brother’s imminent marriage. When I think of having to tell him (and my husband and my parents) that I won’t attend the wedding – ughh! Not something I’m excited for.

    I can relate to Rita’s statement: “I have struggled with the interviews for several years now – even though I still consider myself worthy to attend.” Even though I might give undesired answers to some of the recommend questions, I consider myself worthy. I’m a full tithe payer, I keep my covenants, etc. – I do all of the behavior stuff “right,” which is the stuff I have full control over. With testimony, you have to rely on God’s timing every now and then, taking some things on faith for a while. For me, it comes down to answering some of the testimony-based questions; if I answer them honestly (and one of the requirements IS that we’re “honest in all our dealings”), then I have to say, “I don’t know that yet. It’s not part of my testimony, but I’d like it to be. I’m still working to figure that out.” I feel like that desire should count for something. And, you know, maybe it does. I’ve heard before that the bishop’s handbook doesn’t specify which answers are right and wrong in the temple recommend interview, nor that a recommend can only be given on condition of the (implied) correct answers. Maybe it’s discretionary for each bishop/stake pres. to decide whether the answers given are satisfactory.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that I know my testimony isn’t complete, but why should it be when I’m 23 years old or, heck, while I’m still in this life? I want it to grow, and I’d love to have temple attendance contribute to that growth if/when I’m moved by the Spirit to attend. Seems kind of silly that someone who sincerely wants to attain a better testimony would be barred from having a testimony-building experience in the temple … because of her flawed testimony … ? That logic doesn’t make sense to me.

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