Latter-day Saints for Change

"And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." 2 Nephi 26:33

Women and the Temple

To:

President Thomas S. Monson  and  President Julie B. Beck

I have spent almost my entire life in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My mother converted when I was a toddler, after years of searching for something more than what she had been taught as a child. I attended primary, was baptized, attended early-morning seminary faithfully, was the Laurel President in Young Womens, and received all of my Personal Progress and Young Woman in Recognition awards. I attended and graduated from BYU. I have accepted every calling that has ever been extended to me. I received my endowments and was married in the temple. However, it is the last two events, that I had been taught all my life were the culminating experience of my mortal life, which have tried my faith the most.

With excitement and trepidation I walked through the doors of the Atlanta, Georgia temple one bright winter morning. I changed into the required clothing, I was instructed as to what was expected of me and where I should go. As I participated in the  initiatory, I marveled that I was experiencing women using the priesthood for the first time in my life. I was so thrilled at this that I didn’t pay attention to the language that subordinated me to my future husband. Then, in the endowment, it became painfully aware to me that the equality and mutuality that one would expect in a sacred ordinance directed by God was absent. Sure, women participated in almost the same manner of men. However Eve is portrayed almost as terribly as she is in Genesis. The truth about her understanding about the Plan is not plainly revealed. She is portrayed as manipulative and cunning, while Adam magnanimously condescends to follow her lead. Then, after a few short lines, she is not addressed again by anyone. She is voiceless and stands behind Adam. Evidence of our Heavenly Mother is absent, and vague suggestions and symbolism is not adequate when the rest of the Godhead is portrayed so literally. I tried not to let my disappointment show as the ordinance finished. I had no words to express my dismay. I tried to push the pain out of my head as I enjoyed the rest of our pre-wedding festivities. I told myself that our sealing would be different, and that I would be marrying my best friend and that was all that mattered.

During the sealing, I clasped hands with my soon to be husband and felt joy to be bound together for eternity. Then, the sealer said that I was giving myself to my husband. I was expecting to hear the reciprocity in regards to my husband—I was to be disappointed again. Even here, in the Lord’s house, I was considered property to be exchanged. I was to obey and honor my husband, as long as he was obedient to the Lord, but in no way was he to obey and honor me. He was not required to listen to my counsel as long as I was obedient to the Lord. I was triply covenanted under him, and then to the Lord.

I speak frankly and plainly now. The language used in the temple is damaging to women and men. It perpetuates a harmful tradition of subordination. It marginalizes women and makes them “auxiliaries”, appendages, to the priesthood brethren. In turn, the men bear enormous responsibility to “preside”, all the while being told that the couple is supposed to be a partnership. No number of pretty words or flowery phrases can disguise this fact. Why else would we have to spend so much time trying to tell women that they are important or valued if not for the overwhelming messages of male privilege?

It is common knowledge that the temple ceremonies have evolved over the years and certain policies have been changed. Single sisters can now receive their endowments. Phrases that made many uncomfortable have been removed. If the ordinances could reflect the true nature of Heaven, that of absolute equality and worth for ALL, then they would not be so alienating to so many. I would ask that you consider these words carefully. I add my voice to the thousands who feel that our Heavenly Parents do not see us as one half of the population being subordinate to each other, for that is not how They exist.

SPE

Atlanta, GA

Atlanta Stake

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8 thoughts on “Women and the Temple

  1. SPE, beautiful letter! I was single when I first received my endowment, and so I think it was easy for me to ignore the subordinating language. I had no plans of marrying and so it didn’t feel quite so applicable to me. But the portrayal of Eve and the lack of a Heavenly Mother were blows to my experience as well. Thank you so much for sharing! Kim

  2. Thank you so much for this! I echo your thoughts exactly! Where is the equality? Where is the importance of women in the eternal plan? Thank you, thank you!

  3. I too, received my endowment while I was single, in fact about five years before I was married. And the subordinating language stuck out to me because I had no husband to be subject to. I felt marginalized because there was no man to covenant to and felt like I would never be legitimate until I came back with a husband.

    It was hurtful, but I brushed it aside, thinking I’d resolve it later. I didn’t think at the time of how the hurt would only be compounded later when I actually was subjugated to a man.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s so difficult to find people who can even see this problem.

  5. SharonOB on said:

    Your post truly encapsulates how I feel about the temple wording. It has bothered me for years. Thank you for sharing so openly. It seems that the temple should be the one place where none of the trappings of class, privilege or hierarchy should have any bearing but the wording further reinforces the subordinate position of women. I have hope that these things can change…

  6. annegb on said:

    I don’t see Eve portrayed as manipulative or cunning. More robotic…or ingenue Stepford Wife. There’s no academy awards coming to any of them.

  7. annegb has a great point. I suspect it’s more due to bad scripting and directing than an intentional representation of Eve as manipulative. In some ways, manipulative would be a step up. She seems lobotomized to me.

    I agree with your post about what is troubling for women in the temple. This needs to be addressed. It is long overdue.

  8. Thank you. While I still hold a recommend, baptisms are the only ordinance that I can participate in without experiencing terrible emotional pain.

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