Women and the Temple
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.