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

Where is God in His House?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t adore ritual or feel drawn to sacred space, sacred clothing, covenants, symbolism, and mythic narrative. I spent my young life striving to keep the commandments with exactness and believed my commitment to God was unassailable. Given my disposition, I had every reason to believe the temple would be a profoundly moving experience.

My patriarchal blessing promised me I would have “powerful experiences in the temple of the Lord.” And I did. Experiences so powerful that I lost, perhaps forever, the ability to pray.

I don’t know how to say this to you, you who have touched the divine within those hallowed halls, who have found more peace there than at any other location on earth. I don’t know how to express to you that the source of your comfort in this life has been the source of my alienation and despair. I don’t know what paradigm can validate both of our experiences.

I still believe in God. I just no longer believe he’s my God.

I need something very basic from God in order to sustain a devotional life. I need to believe God validates my subjectivity—that, in a fundamental way, he sees me as a human agent. That he can listen to me directly and understand my experience.

The temple took that hope away from me.

God betrayed me in the temple.  But worse than that, I betrayed myself. I was presented with the choice to accept my subsidiary status for eternity and a split second to decide and, in a moment of duress and confusion, I turned against myself and said “yes.”

That will do.

What did it do? It shredded the relationship I thought I had with God.

I discovered that I have no cosmic trajectory. There’s only one female actor in this cosmological drama, and she’s silenced and punished for the role she plays. I discovered that I was created not for myself but for men. I discovered that it’s dubious whether I, as a woman, had a premortal existence; the best I can hope for is that women’s premortal roles, in contrast to men’s, are irrelevant to the plan of happiness—thus, not worth portraying. I discovered that God can’t dignify me with a direct relationship, but will interact with me through my non-existent husband. The God who can stand in Eve’s presence and address her not as “you” but as “she” is too remote to be approachable.

I can’t prove it, but I feel deeply that I’m a person. Yet the God of this universe, who knows everything, doesn’t know that simple fact. How do I convey how brutal this realization was to my sense of self?

Over and over I was told to just have faith. But it was my faith that was crushing me. It wasn’t that I doubted the temple or took it lightly that hurt me, it was that I took it seriously.

I can’t pray because I can’t be vulnerable with God.

I can’t pray because I don’t want to God to answer. I don’t want God to find my keys when he can’t be bothered to reveal to the church that women, too, are human agents worthy of dignity. Every prayer God answered became a deeper betrayal, because it meant that he’s here, on retainer, and he simply doesn’t care enough about the question whether women have souls to rethink his salvific ordinances.

I can’t pray because I don’t know what words to use anymore. The word “father” just seems inappropriate for someone who shunts his daughters aside, behind their husbands.

You might say I’m wrong about God, that I’ve misunderstood. If I have, why doesn’t the temple ceremony reflect God’s real attitude toward women? If men and women are equal, why am I obligated to take on Eve’s subordinate status vis-à-vis Adam? If women were an important part of the premortal existence, why is Eve absent where Adam is not? If God can address women as a general policy, why does he shy away from addressing Eve, in a display of what can only be considered rudeness? Why does he allow Eve to trail after Adam like a dog?

There’s a chasm separating our portrayal of Eve outside the temple, where’s she’s savvy and celebrated, and inside the temple, where’s she’s secondary, chastened, and submissive. This fact does not mitigate the problems but exacerbates them.

If the temple’s portrayal of women cannot be changed, it should at least be owned. It’s time to put more thought into how we prepare women to make and keep sacred covenants. It’s time to teach them that they access God not directly, but through their husbands (who are, in effect, their gods). It’s time to acknowledge our doctrine that men are eternal agents whose value is inherent where women are contingent and subordinate.

And if we’re uncomfortable owning up to that, it’s time to change our liturgy.



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11 thoughts on “Where is God in His House?

  1. Beautiful and heartbreaking. I can absolutely relate.

  2. Yes! Own it, or change it. Enough women have lost their relationship with God over this. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. This sums up my experiences nearly exactly, though far more eloquently than I could have. Thank you.

  4. Michelle my Bell on said:

    I feel as though someone much more eloquent has told my story. I’m saddened that others have experienced this, but at the same time grateful that I’m not alone in my misery. Thank you for sharing.

  5. This was simply brilliant. I wish I could have articulated this when I went through the temple the first few times prior to my mission. I remember very clearly my second session when a thought popped into my head with power and clarity–“This is bogus” (reflecting the slang of the time). I still think the temple is pretty bogus, and I’ve gotten to the point in my spiritual journey where I realize that it is a man-made way to try to access God. My temples now are my home, nature, and deep conversations with others–anywhere I can feel God.

  6. Bonnie Flint on said:

    How did you express so beautifully my own feelings of heartbreak and pain? I’ve been going to te temple for almost 30 years, and have never felt anything but hurt and sadness.

  7. This speaks my feelings as well. The part that really seems to frustrate me with the temple is that we are told before how we should feel in the temple. Unfortunately, I went for over 10 years, and never had those feelings. I would leave with the guilt that I made covenants that I did not understand the consequences first. Nothing was explained BEFORE the process. Yes, we were told we could withdraw at the beginning, but why withdraw not knowing the future context. You get put on the hook without seeing the hook first. It is kind of like going to a movie and having them say, “If you don’t think you will like this move, then leave.” Well, I haven’t seen it yet; I don’t know. So you go into it blindly and say “yes” because your family, bishop or whoever else is staring at you to make the right choice; the only choice; the only choice, because that’s what you do. What would have happened if I said “no” or “maybe”, when my true feelings were so mixed? That is much how the church works, you just believe and ask questions later. I found the questions rarely get answered. “Just go and do, so we can mark down the numbers.” You’ll be blessed, and if the blessings don’t come, then it’s not God’s plan to bless you. REALLY? Okay, so why go? I never had the feeling that people say they had upon leaving the temple. I never felt those spirits of the people hugging me as I “freed the birdies”. I felt more like I needed to be a quick change artist, so I could get my name, change clothes several times, get back out and change back to my street clothes so we could make it to Chili’s because everyone was starving and bored. Maybe I’m just not as “in tune” or am to analytic (something that as a Mormon is a frowned upon).

    • To add to my lengthy post, Mormon’s can’t use the excuse that “it’s just Satan making you doubt”. Satan can’t enter the temple, we are told over and over. I guess he doesn’t have a recommend. In ten years, you’d think I would finally get it.

  8. Troy, that catch 22 was my first seed of doubt. The fact that I felt like the cards were stacked against me – go have faith and God will bless you, if he doesn’t bless you you didn’t have enough faith. It got dizzying…

  9. My story precisely. Heartbreaking.

  10. I can relate. I’m so sorry that you also experienced such heartache in the temple. The Endowment was very traumatizing for me. Although I felt more like the Church betrayed me than God (not to diminish your feelings! This is just how I personally felt). The God I believed in was not the God portrayed in the temple Endowment. The teachings in the temple seemed to completely undermine the doctrines of agency, personal revelation, and the atonement. I haven’t went back. I don’t believe the current construction of the Endowment expresses my truth. People can tell me I don’t have enough faith or I don’t understand or Satan is tempting me . . . I don’t care. They don’t know my heart, they have no place to judge.

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