Zelophehad’s Daughters

My Journey into Apostasy

Posted by Kiskilili

It’s now been almost two years since I received my endowment, and these have been, without question, the least religious two years of my life.

I was not a closet feminist before my temple experience. I was quite upfront with my bishop about the fact that I think there’s no good reason for women not to hold the priesthood, and how I pray the Proclamation on the Family is uninspired. I took the temple prep class four times over the course of several years, and drove a series of teachers crazy with questions. (Why are ordinances necessary, anyway?)

But in spite of my grievances, I was committed to the church. Of course, even if divinely inspired, it’s an institution run by humans, and it’s fallible, and I don’t expect to agree with every word that comes out of every church leader’s mouth. But I was convinced through personal experience that God is loving and trustworthy and involved in the church, and I could forgive the church’s mistakes for that reason only. I guess I figured, rights will eventually be wronged; God is so good, and so loving, that he’s worth making some compromises for.

The temple blew me away.

At first I tried to convince myself that I just needed to bite the bullet and focus on the good and not the bad. I went back a second time, alone. I sat in the celestial room and wept and begged God to explain to me how he could be so cruel. I got no answer. And I never returned.

As angry as I was (and am), apostasy did not come easily or immediately. Far from falling out of the church, I feel I’ve jumped out, gradually weaning myself off religious practices that came to seem tained by this–what shall I say?–institutionalized declaration that women are not entitled to the same quality of relationship with God that men enjoy; that God does not trust women to the degree he trusts men.

It took me several months before I could bring myself to stop wearing garments, and I sobbed the night I first took them off, begging God to understand that I simply cannot endorse what they represent. For the longest time I vowed repeatedly to stay away from church services, but found myself showing up anyway. In my pre-temple life, I made an effort to fast every Sunday and read the scriptures an hour a day. Now I can’t remember the last time I fasted, or took the sacrament, or got on my knees, or opened the scriptures. I’ve forced myself to give this all up. And there are times, not so infrequent, when I really miss the religious life.

To this day I am as convinced of the reality of God as I am of anything. But I’ve lost my faith in God’s goodness, in his love for me, in his desire for my well-being and happiness. Call it a lack of faith (I do), but I don’t trust God anymore. I can’t worship God from within a framework that is profoundly personally demeaning.

I feel that for a long time I’ve made painful compromises because I value my relationship with God. I’ve been willing to forego “the right to act in God’s name” on account of my two x chromosomes. I’ve spent my life reading androcentric scriptures. But there’s a limit to the compromises I’m willing to make, and the temple is light years beyond it. My autonomy is sacred. Anything that threatens it I consider sacrilegious. I’m not going to cede my autonomy to a fallible male with a fallible ability to recognize God’s will simply because God is unwilling to enter into a formal relationship with me directly. If God doesn’t want me, I don’t want him.

I think I’ve encountered just about every reaction you can imagine to this ongoing religious crisis. To those who say, “Honey, one day you’ll understand why God commands what he does,” my tendency is to reply, “Yeah, after I’ve been lobotomized.” (Did I mention I have a problem with being condescended to?) Then there are those who are eager to uncover the “real” problem: am I not keeping the law of chastity? Do I have trouble with the Word of Wisdom? Other people explain to me how the church actually doesn’t subordinate women, because they have wonderful mothers, or wives. (How nice for them!) One good friend suggested to me that the church is all about vicarious relationships: Christ did something for men they couldn’t do for themselves, and then men do something for women. It’s a gallant effort, and I appreciate the intent, but hierarchy is implied. Christ is able to lift men up because he’s above them, and better than they. Why are further intermediaries needed? Why wasn’t Christ’s ateonment enough to fully reconcile women to God too?

One woman even accused me more or less of setting myself up to show everyone how much more sophisticated I am than they are. She was extremely intelligent, she informed me, and she had no problem with the temple: therefore, neither did I. (I don’t claim superior intelligence. I don’t deny that there are people smarter than I am who have no problem with the temple.) Over and over I hear that it’s not a big deal. What can I say? It’s a big deal to me. I’m not trying to judge those who love the temple or deny their spiritual experiences there (I have good friends in this category), or those who have made peace with it in spite of reservations. But I do wish people could accept the sincerity of my crisis.

Near the end of the movie _The Interpreter_, Silvia asks the leader of Matobo something to the effect of, “How could you give so much, and then take away even more?” I would love to put this question to God. What’s so difficult about the entire issue is that I’ve felt God’s love, and I no longer know how to make sense of it. Just the thought that there’s even a possibility that the God who claims to love me expects me to accept *this is a knife to the heart.

Please observe the following guidelines in commenting on this post: 1) this isn’t the place to discuss Kiskilili’s spiritual failings, 2) though former church members are welcome to respectfully add their thoughts on this particular issue, this isn’t the place to talk more generally about why you don’t like the church or why you left it, and 3) please steer clear of specific discussion of the temple ceremony. –ZD Admin

93 Responses to “My Journey into Apostasy”

  1. 1.

    Kiskilili, thank-you for this powerful post. There’s a lot of problematic gender stuff in the church that I can easily write off to culture and imperfect humans, but the temple is something I really struggle to come to terms with.

    I have a love-hate relationship with the temple. I have had some of my most powerful spiritual experiences there, but at the same time, I can really identify with the sorrow and anger you so eloquently described.

    I guess I’m lucky to be in a place where I can still trust God–I’ve poured out my heart to him and explained to him in no uncertain terms my anger and sorrow and my difficulty accepting certain things. I’ve received no answers, but I have received an “it’s okay for you to feel these things” feeling of comfort that has helped. I don’t know why I’ve been given that gift when others haven’t.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. I’m someone who’s decided to stay committed despite my reservations, but I really identify with the things you express.

  2. 2.

    Wow. A heartfelt disclosure. If you don’t mind saying a bit more, could you describe how the temple resulted in you feeling that God was “cruel”? Was it solely the description of the covenant relationship between God, husband, and wife? If the wording of that passage was change to reflect greater gender equity (as it has been in the past), would that avert your spiritual crisis?

  3. 3.

    I too have a love hate relationship with the Temple. Quite possibly the only reason I was able to deal with the doubts and concerns it gave me was because of my husband. I knew that even if the CK was set up so that I would be second class my husband wouldn’t stand for it. He would treat me like an equal, and demand that others do the same. Had I married anyone else I probably would have left the church too.

  4. 4.

    Kiskilili, I’ve always admired your integrity and your faith, and it’s been wrenching to see how much pain this experience has caused you.

    Jacob 2:32 comes to mind:

    “And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.”

    I so much want to believe in a God who isn’t dismissive of these kinds of concerns–and yet things become ever so much more complicated when God is apparently the one setting up the problematic situation in the first place.

    I wish I knew what to say.

  5. 5.

    First, please know that this is in NO WAY meant to devalue your experience, but I was just amazed to read this post because my temple experience SOLVED all of the problems I had in thinking about women and the Church.

    I wish we could go to the temple together and discuss this because it wouldn’t be appropriate to do it here. It’s just amazing to read of someone having the opposite reaction.

  6. 6.

    Wow. Kiskilili, I don’t really read your experience as a journey into apostasy, it sounds more like the emergence of a strong personality. I think it’s much tougher in the Church for women with strong personalities than for men, hence your difficulties. But I don’t think it adds up to “apostasy.”

    Your difficulties seem more institutional than personal. If you were now a happy Episcopalian, you would be (from the Mormon perspective) an apostate. Simply being a frustrated Mormon doesn’t get you there, IMO.

  7. 7.

    Exhaling deeply…

    Thank you for being so vulnerably candid with your experience. My husband and I are being encouraged to attend the temple for the first time before the birth of our third baby, and I am having great anxiety over it, for some of the same reasons you bring up.

    I am fearful that making covennants while my heart is full of questions and doubts is a recipe for disaster. I don’t know what we will ultimately do, but I empathize with and relate to your pain. Thank you for sharing.

  8. 8.

    I’ve forced myself to give this all up

    An interesting reaction. I’ve known people to do the same when they’ve had children die or have gone through divorces or lost jobs.

    It doesn’t reach to the core of the issue and doesn’t lead them to the truth, all it does is solidify a perspective.

    Ask yourself if you want to solidify the perspective that you hate and that makes life meaningless and eternity a hostile thing, or if you want to find if there is a truth that includes a God who loves you, cares for you and values you.

    That it’s okay for you to feel these things is one of the first messages you should have been able to find if you did not want to solidify the feelngs you had, and the message that our Austinite has is the one you would have eventually come to.

    Remember, God speaks to men in their own language, which includes their own weaknesses, and they only get past the cultural context of their language by getting closer to God and learning by the Spirit.

    Wish you well. But I think you’ve taken the one path that will make you less happy, and get you less truth, than any other.

    There are answers and resolutions better than the one you have.

  9. 9.

    Stephen: In light of earlier posts on this forum, I can’t help but wonder how God speaks to women. . . :)

    Kiskilili:

    Egh.

    Coward that I am, I’ve always just planned on avoiding the temple for the forseeable future; forever, if I could help it. I’ve always been terrified my reaction would be something like the one you describe, and I too would end up with that choice before me — let go of the church or let go of myself? Obviously I can’t put off the fatal day for a whole lot longer, if I’m serious about the mission thing, but nothing in my whole vision of my future frightens me more.

    I don’t know. I hope we’ll talk about this sometime in the next year, when I’ll have any referential experience of what I’m talking about.

  10. 10.

    Your situation is one I reflect on almost constantly, Kiskilili. You’re always in the back of my mind, especially as I’m engaged in religious activity, reading the scriptures or attending church or praying. I’m constantly thinking of you, wondering how you would react to various passsages or talks and wondering what might bring you peace (not that I think there’s one simple answer someone can give you to make it all better, just that I hate to see you suffer). Like Lynnette, even after our many conversations on the subject, I still don’t know what to say. I too felt, and feel, profoundly betrayed by the temple, but in some ways I feel more betrayed by it on your behalf. Like Lynnette I’ve long been struck by your profound devotion and integrity, and it’s hard to see someone I not only care about so much, but also regard as a model of utterly sincere religious conviction, suffer so much for your faith. When I think about your situation, what comes to mind aren’t answers, but the narratives of the Old Testament you know better than any of the rest of us here do–Abraham, and Job. I don’t know that it’s any more possible to extract some easy definitive meaning from your experience than it is from theirs.

    My situation at this point is closer to s’s, in that I’ve decided (not AT ALL to imply that’s what you should do, or that this will solve things for you–just the point I’ve come to for myself) that I have to take account of and be faithful to the many spirital experiences I’ve had of a loving God, although in the interest of my own mental health I haven’t attended the temple in years because I leave just destroyed. Every so often, I feel such a desire to return, and so I do, hopeful that somehow this time it will be different, but so far I always leave destroyed again. Yet, bizarrely enough, there is undeniably something about the temple I hunger for. Just yesterday when the Ensign came in the mail I found myself looking at a picture of the London temple and feeling that old deep desire to return–and that old trepidation.

    How long I can continue in my own abeyance is an open question.

  11. 11.

    Julie Smith, Wow, I must say that I’m as astonished at your experience as you are at Kiskilili’s (and as you said, not at all to imply that there’s something wrong with your experience!). I know a lot of LDS women who seem to be at peace about the temple, and it constantly blows me away.

  12. 12.

    Thanks, Stephen, for taking the time to offer me your perspective. I do sometimes worry that, out of intense anger, I’ll solidify my commitment to a hostile stance and become inflexible.

    It sounds like you’re convinced that the truth is, God values me (and everyone else); all I have to do is discover it. I can only hope that you’re right. But I don’t share your conviction. The truth may be God doesn’t really value me in any way that’s meaningful or consistent; that’s the reality I may have to come to terms with.

    I hope there are answers and resolutions better than the one I have, as you suggest. One possibility I’ve considered repeatedly is having my name removed from the church. I might feel a lot less angry, and a lot more willing to approach God, if I formally renounce the church structure I find so oppressive.

  13. 13.

    Thanks for all your comments to a lengthy and rather unorthodox post.

    In response to #2, the covenant relationship between God, husband, and wife, is not my only problem with the ceremony, but is without question the most difficult blow. If it were changed (yet again!), I would give the church serious consideration.

    To those who haven’t been to the temple, I have no idea what to say. I can only wish you the best–I don’t know what the best is.

  14. 14.

    RE: #2 – they’d have to change more than the wording for it to be a convincing change. There are several ritual actions/symbolism that reinforce the notion of women’s secondary-ness, specifically, the womens’ covenant and the final prayer. It’s also implicit a few other places, but those are the most explicit.

    I went to the temple for the first time with great, innocent faith that what would happen would be uplifting and transcendent; instead, I found myself feeling incredibly truamatized and betrayed. The experience prompted a severe crisis of faith that lasted at least half a year (the severest part, anyway) before I was able to find a shred of comfort or peace about the situation. I was on my mission by that time and was desperately trying to throw myself into ‘the work’ and temple attendance, which kinda felt like throwing myself headlong into a pit of thornbushes. After some wrestling with God, I decided I was undeniablely committed to God and Christ, that I still believed this was, somehow, Their church, and so I would stick with it.

    There’s more to the story, but I will say I’ve found a lot of comfort knowing I’m not the only one (or one of very few) who’s had these feelings–hearing these stories is very validating for me. Thank you, Kiskilili, for sharing your story. Sharing your sorrow gives me strength and I hope that knowing that I share your sorrow gives you strength as well.

  15. 15.

    artemis–

    I need to figure out some way to post on what you call “the final prayer.” It’s just killing me not to explain this, but . . . um . . . well . . . let’s just say that there’s a way of viewing that as the most liberating part of the gendered symbolism although it might seem the opposite on the surface. Clear as mud?

  16. 16.

    You’re right–you’d have to really do some explaining for that to make any sense. Taken in context of multiple scriptural symbolisms, however, as well as it’s own subordinating milieu, not least of which is Eve’s ‘curse’ and silencing; I cannot see any other viable interpretation but separation (spiritual & physical), subordination, and secondaryness. And seeing as it’s unlikely we’ll ever be in the same temple session and know it…

  17. 17.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    Kiskilili wrote:

    “My problem is this: . . . I don’t particularly want to know anymore what God’s opinion is. I’m not convinced that he cares. So why consult him?”

    What about replacing “he” with “she?” When one’s current conception of God leaves one wanting, perhaps it’s worth exploring a different face of God. One doctrine that keeps me connected to Mormonism is its acknowledgement — however tenuous — of the feminine divine. Sometimes when I pray/write, I play with pronouns to help me analyze how, emotionally, I am relating to the Other . . .

  18. 18.

    I am so sorry to hear of your pain. Your feelings of betrayal and abandonment are something to which I cannot relate, but I do not take them to be any less real than my good experiences. I just want you to know that there are those of us pulling for you. Not neccesarily to return to church, but to find the peace and closure you so desperately deserve.

  19. 19.

    K, I feel inadequate to add anything here; I haven’t been through the temple and, although I have plenty of issues with the church, gender issues inexplicably aren’t among them. But please, please know that I’m deeply sorry about your crisis, and I’ll be thinking of you and praying for you.

  20. 20.

    Kiskilili, have you read Stages of Faith by James Fowler? It is not an LDS book, but it does give a lot of hope and comfort to people in your religious situation, as you describe it here: “I do sometimes worry that, out of intense anger, I’ll solidify my commitment to a hostile stance and become inflexible.” According to Fowler’s study, the odds are that you will come out of this with a stronger, more mature faith. You might end up a “happy Episcopalian” (horrors!), or you might find a way to be a less-frustrated LDS, but one way or another, you’ll find peace.

    My experience was very similar to yours. At the risk of being all about stages, I’ll say that the stages of grief were also comforting. As I grieved my loss of faith, there was denial, bargaining, anger, sadness…then acceptance. Acceptance does come.

    You are lucky to have so many friends in this thread who recognize the sincerity of your seeking. Not all who “journey into apostasy” are so fortunate.

  21. 21.

    artemis wrote, “Taken in context of multiple scriptural symbolisms, however, as well as it’s own subordinating milieu, not least of which is Eve’s ‘curse’ and silencing;”

    That’s my point–the scripture passage that’s most directly relevant to the symbolism is either overlooked or grossly misinterpreted. As far as subordinating milieu, well, I’ve got a lot to say about why that isn’t true that I can’t say. But I will say that there is nothing either in the temple or the scriptures about Eve being cursed. She isn’t.

  22. 22.

    Kiskilili,

    Thank you so much for writing this. I think I’ll ask my husband to read your post tomorrow–you give voice to many things that I find difficult to articulate (not that he doesn’t know how I feel–it’s just that I can’t say it as eloquently as you have).

    I think you are a very courageous person. I often feel like such a coward that I continue to lead a “double-life”–the bishop’s wife by day and the apostate by night.

    While the ultimate choice you’ve made seems terrifying to me at this point, I admire you for your strength and your courage to be loyal to yourself and to what you feel is right.

  23. 23.

    Kiskilili,
    Your experience has mirrored my own in many ways. On my third endowment session 5 years ago, I listened to the covenant that women were forced to make, I pondered the implications, I saw Eve silenced and pushed aside, and I lost it. I bawled for the next hour and was so incapacitated by grief that all I could do was ball up in my chair and sob. I had never felt such betrayal and darkness and despair before.

    I have not done an endowment session since, and I have no plans to until they change that covenant. It’s changed before, it can change again. I think it’s high time for these remnants of the sexist Victorian culture in which this covenant arose to be eliminated from the ceremony.

    I refuse to believe that this covenant is from God. I did that for a while, and for me, there is nothing more horrible than thinking that God is fundamentally unfair to half his children. So now I’m very comfortable blaming sexist traditions and the institutional inertia of the church.

    It may be that we have to wait for the whole generation of current leaders to lie down and die before we have any progress. And I look forward to that if it will get rid of these sexist traditions.

    Thanks for talking so openly about this. I think the more we women talk about how degrading the ceremony is for us, the faster there will be changes.

  24. 24.

    Thanks for all of your supportive comments. They mean a lot to me.

    artemis, you’re awesome–it definitely feels good knowing I’m not the only one who has struggled with the temple. My bishop, whom I love–the man is as nice as can be–once said to me, “You’re the only one with a problem. Don’t you think you’re wrong?” (Of course, whether I’m “right” or “wrong” is a completely separate issue from whether I’m the only one with a problem.) But it feels really good to know I’m not, in fact, the only one with a problem.

    julie m. smith, thanks for your perspective, and it’s unfortunate that I can’t respond to your interpretation specifically, not knowing what it is. I admit, though, I’m a little suspicious–no offense intended! (What follows may not apply to your approach at all.) Several people have explained to me how everything in the temple means something completely different from what it seems to mean, sometimes even the opposite of what it seems to mean. One friend even went so far as to say, “Everyone is entitled to interpret the temple any way they want.” I guess I think, Well, let’s just all start speaking in gobbledy-gook! Ordinarily the term we use to describe someone’s behavior when they say something other than what they mean is “lying.” It’s hard to say with a straight face, “God is dishonest–you can trust him.”

    deborah, you make a good point about pronoun use. (Unfortunately, I’m not feeling terribly warm toward our shadowy Heavenly Mother at this point in my life either, but it’s something to keep in the back of my mind.)

    henry jacobs, thanks so much for stopping by and responding with your honest feelings–it makes me feel genuinely heard. I appreciate it a lot.

    mo mommy and i know you in real life (?), thanks for accepting the sincerity of my pain without necessarily understanding it–I admire you for being so Christian and only hope I can give people the benefit of the doubt in cases where their particular issues don’t resonate with me!

    Beijing, thanks for your encouragement. You’re right about the thread–I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many people were so supportive rather than ready to cast the devil out of me. :)

    morm, thanks for pointing to my stumbling blocks. I’ve often wondered myself whether I don’t idolize my autonomy to a degree that’s problematic. But here’s the way I look at it. When I give my autonomy up, I want to be certain it’s to a being who behaves in a manner that’s consistently moral. I don’t see that God has demonstrated this to me, so I have reservations. When I give my autonomy up, I need to be certain I haven’t joined Hitler’s Youth, so to speak.

    In addition, I feel I went to the temple eager to give my autonomy to God. I was never given that opportunity. I guess I feel insulted that God didn’t want it. I realize other interpretations are possible, but it’s hard not to feel that God doesn’t trust me the way he trusts my future husband, or that he can’t be bothered to have a relationship with me of the quality and directness he has with my future husband. A single man is not going to be exalted alone, certainly. But even so, even single, he can have something with God that is simply unavailable to me.

    Maria, I love your comments, and I can relate to the double-life problem; I’m not sure what the solution is!

    Caroline, you are so right about the church needing to change! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve actually written several letters to the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve outlining what I think the issues are, though I suspect some underling blew his nose in them and stuffed them in the trash. In my heart of hearts, I really just can’t believe God would command something this sick. Since the ceremony has changed before, we’ve sort of implicitly given up our claims to absolute transcendance and universality; we can always hope for further improvement.

  25. 25.

    What you are missing, Morm, is that Kiskilili’s experience and reaction are far from being like a bratty child. This is a deep, very grown up sort of hurt–in my experience, it has wounded me more than any other experience in my life–more than breakups, more than the death of someone very near and dear. It’s kind of like a breakup/spiritual death with one’s faith, one that you weren’t looking for, one that you didn’t ask for, but one that God presumably just handed to you and now you have to figure out how to respond and cope. It’s very intense spiritual suffering, definitely not grown from pride. I know in my case, my first response was not ‘that’s not how I want it’, but ‘why, WHY, I don’t understand, why does it have to hurt so much’, with the same kind of overwhelming grief that comes when someone dies, but on a spiritual/emotional level instead of a physical/emotional level. I think the fact that those who haven’t experienced these kinds of feelings tend to dismiss or discount them (because they don’t understand them) is what makes it so hard for people to talk about them. Not only are the feelings excuciatingly painful, but you’re told you’re not supposed to feel them or you’re somehow unrighteous for feeling them (another silencing technique, btw).

    The silver lining I’ve found is that my experience has given me a greater understanding of Christ’s Atonement. To realize that he suffered even more than that–infinitely more than that–is just mind-boggling and it really helped me appreciate Him on a deeper level, one previously unplumbed and one that I think people who haven’t experienced such spiritual pain–I call it an Abrahamic sacrifice experience–simply cannot understand.

  26. 26.

    kiskilili–

    I want to assure you that I do NOT think that the templ can be interpreted any ol’ way one wants to. I do think that (perhaps deliberately?) certain things seem one way but are actually rather the opposite if you are familiar with their scriptural antecedent. I’m working on a post for T & S on one particular issue that I can discuss. . . . I hope Sally will read it, too, as it directly addresses her comment.

    (But don’t hold your collective breath, ladies, I need to dig out an article for it that I haven’t seen since grad school–that’s four moves and three children ago.)

  27. 27.

    Perhaps this should be its own post, but I’m curious what avenues those of inquiry you who struggle with the temple have pursued and found helpful or unhelpful. I’m NOT asking for details that are too personal to reveal, and I definitely don’t want to hear any explicit personal interpretations of the temple ceremony, which would of course be inappropriate, but I’m wondering more generally what you’ve done to make peace with the temple, and what’s worked or hasn’t. For instance, have you found peace praying about it, reading the scriptures, seeking priesthood blessings, talking with others, going more often, not going at all–what’s worked or hasn’t for all of you?

    Although I’ve been urged to, I have to admit I haven’t tried talking with a member of the temple presidency or the temple matron, for instance, nor have I really discussed this with a bishop. It’s such a visceral issue for me–it goes to the very heart of my religious life and causes me such pain–that I don’t feel at all comfortable discussing it with a complete stranger. I’m very nervous that I’d be completely dismissed, which would only add to my devastation. Has anyone tried any of these avenues and found them helpful, or unhelpful? What are your recommendations?

  28. 28.

    It’s kind of like a breakup/spiritual death with one’s faith, one that you weren’t looking for, one that you didn’t ask for, but one that God presumably just handed to you and now you have to figure out how to respond and cope.

    Exactly! I thought I was doing everything right by marrying a good man in the temple, and it was in that temple that I lost my religion. I could not reconcile what went on there (I went in 1990, with the controversial parts of the ceremony that have since been taken out added on top of all the frustrating gender inequality).

  29. 29.

    eve said: I’m wondering more generally what you’ve done to make peace with the temple, and what’s worked or hasn’t.

    I went once and never went back. I could not. I’d have left during the original ceremony, if I hadn’t felt trapped. I wore my garments for 13 years, out of respect for my wedding vows, not my temple covenants. When I finally stopped wearing my garments, my husband was also ready to take his off. I know I’m one of the lucky ones that has a spouse that generally agrees with my current world view, so it hasn’t caused problems in my marriage.

    The only person I tried to talk to about the temple (other than my husband) was my mother. I love and respect her dearly, but she is not one to think outside the box. She thought I was prideful and overthinking the ceremony and asked me to rely on her testimony to get me through, which I can not.

    I do feel like I’m in some sort of limbo with my unresolved feelings, so anyone elses reponses to eve’s question would be interesting to me.

  30. 30.

    An excellent conveyance of your personal feelings. I have empathy for the turmoil this has caused you. Best wishes, mc

  31. 31.

    I have received so much love and support from total strangers on these blogs since sharing some of my personal struggles. I hope I can somehow do the same for you, Kiskilili. I feel a real kinship with you and your sisters.

    Here is my latest attempt to make sense of this particular topic:

    Maybe religious rituals are kind of like religious music. Music can help us feel closer to God. But the music is not created by God. It’s written by people, rooted in a particular culture, subject to a number of influences. Sacred music is born from a desire to feel a deeper connection to the divine. It may resonate with a given listener, enabling us to share in that sense of divine connection, or it may not. I love Tallis, Bach, Vaughn Wms., Handel, African-American spirituals, American folk songs, LDS hymns. I even (to my surprise) felt the spirit listening to Christian rap one day. Responses to various styles of music vary from person to person.

    The temple ceremony might not have been directly authored by God. It may be largely a human creation, born of Joseph Smith’s desire to create a sacred setting where he and his followers could enter into a covenant relationship with God. Whether Joseph was a gifted composer of religious ritual is, I guess, a subjective decision. The temple ceremony does not help me feel closer to God. My reaction was very similar to yours. But I like the concept of consecrating my life, dedicating it to God, making it holy. This idea seems beautiful to me. It feels right.

    I don’t go to the temple very often. The words, the gestures, the presentation do not resonate with me. The experience feels painfully discordant. But maybe I can find peace in the view that the external form of our temple worship is largely a human construct, with a kernel of divine truth at its center.

    Temple ceremonies change. God’s love for us is constant. I may not be certain of very much these days, but I am clinging tenaciously to this one.

  32. 32.

    kiskilili,

    You wrote: “I’m not going to cede my autonomy to a fallible male with a fallible ability to recognize God’s will simply because God is unwilling to enter into a formal relationship with me directly. If God doesn’t want me, I don’t want him.”

    I’d like to suggest an alternative interpretation. I very much believe that even in the language in which that covenant is written there is an implicit obligation on the woman to have a very close and very personal relationship to God. Because she is only to hearken insofar as her husband hearkens to God. Who is to determine if her husband is? I believe she is. and she can only do that if she herself has a close, ongoing spiritual relationship with God.

    I do not say this to eviscerate your experience of meaning. Or to tell you that you are wrong. Or to be condescending. I share my own interpretation because I, like you, struggle regularly with the ways in which the church and even God seem to privilege men over women. I also share it because I believe that almost everything can be interpreted along a spectrum of meanings, from the most nefarious, horrible possible interpretation to the most generous possible interpretation. As i’ve struggled to reconcile the fact that I have an undeniable testimony of Christ and God and the restored Gospel with the fact that I see some fairly upsetting problems in the church, I have made a conscious effort to recognize not only the most damning interpretation but also the most generous one. I truly believe that the most accurate interpretaitons generally lie somewhere in the middle, as they are affected not only by Truth (if truth with a capital T exists) but also by humanity.

    the last sentence I quoted from you above (“If God doesn’t want me, I don’t want him.”) made me think of the Canaanite woman who, when Christ told her it was not fit that the children’s food should be given to the dogs, responded by asserting that the dogs could eat of the crumbs that fell from the table. I recognize the problematic potential of this particular story. It could certainly be read in a gendered way, although I think that would be inaccurate given the fact that Christ’s earthly ministry was to the Jews, not the non-Jews. What I like about this story is that in the face of Christ’s apparently not wanting her, this woman pushed back–demanded he give to her the sustenance she needed. so push back. demand God give you the sustenance you need. if you can’t find it at the temple or in the church, so be it. but don’t let his apparent indifference separate you from the spiritual sustenance you seem to need. I very much believe that God changes the way things are because we demand that they change–that he gives his children what they need because they recognize it and they ask for it, not just nicely but insistently, urgently, undeniably.

    i so very much appreciate your honesty. and i understand your pain, because it has been my own. i hope you can appreciate my honesty in response.

  33. 33.

    Amelia, wow. That’s a fascinating (and powerful) reading of the story of the Canaanite woman (which I too have always found somewhat troubling). Thanks for giving me something to chew on.

  34. 34.

    Melyngoch said…

    Stephen: In light of earlier posts on this forum, I can’t help but wonder how God speaks to women. . . :)

    Except, of course, I think that if this had been God speaking to women, there would be different kinds of mistakes in the hearer’s ears that they transmitted to the rest of us.

    All I can add is:

    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to seperate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord(Romans 8:38, 39).

    If she had lost faith due to burying a child or two, I’d have some advice, but all I can share is what I’ve shared.

  35. 35.

    BTW, as far as I know, the important things that God has said to women include:

    (a) The almost universal condition of women being subordinate to men is not a celestial pattern but is a direct result of the world being imperfect.

    (b) Women need only listen or hearken to men to the extent that they know that the men are following God. Men may end up in charge because the world is imperfect, but women are not obligated to just follow them around.

    (c) In the heavens, things are binary, “in the image of God created God humanity, meaning male and female.”

  36. 36.

    Amelia, that’s a fabulous comment.

    Eve, when I first when to the temple, I tried to really, really, really pay attention and to see if what I was experiencing could somehow fit into a worldview (my worldview) that women are equal to men in every way. When I decided to look for evidence of that, I found it. Heaps of it.

    I also made my concerns a matter of direct, explicit prayer in the temple. It just about killed me to come right out and ask some questions (What if I got an answer that I hated?) but guess what: I loved, adored, treasured, and still rely on those answers to get me though some of the folk doctrine you sometimes hear at Church.

    Short answer: go to the temple and pray very directly about your concerns.

  37. 37.

    Thanks to all of you for your supportive comments and interesting ideas, and I really mean that sincerely. I was hesitant to write this original post because it’s something that’s both so personal to me and at the same time so wrenching, but I certainly don’t regret it. I can truly say that I’ve felt buoyed up by all of your support. It feels so good to be heard; it makes a huge difference to me. (For some reason I actually decided to attend all three hours of church today, bizarrely enough!) Although I really have no idea what I’ll do in the future, and I have no clear resolution, I do feel less angry about the issue.

    bob mccue–thanks for the encouragement and the reading material; I’m looking into it. And kudos for making what sounds like a difficult decision you believed strongly in in spite of family pressures. You have my admiration.

    jessica benet–no worries! You don’t come across as condescending at all! Your comments are great–you post all you want on my threads, honey! :)

    jane doe–thanks for a thoughtful post; the analogy you’re drawing between music and ritual is so interesting–I’m definitely going to think about that more. (Ahhh! A fellow Tallis fan! I have never met such a person aside from certain members of my family, and I introduced *them to Tallis! You rock!)

    amelia–thanks for a really interesting interpretation of the story of the Canaanite woman! That is just beautiful. You’ve given me something to think about.

    And Wendy–can I assume you’re the Wendy I’ve “met” on FMH? I am SO glad you stopped by and shared your experience; it’s very validating. I have loved reading your comments on FMH and really appreciate your honesty. I feel very much in limbo myself.

  38. 38.

    Yes, I mostly post on FMH. It’s nice to know the bloggernacle has such diversity.

  39. 39.

    To steal blatantly, from T&S, check out this link.

    http://www.sundayherald.com/53663

    It talks of Naomi Wolf, a renowned feminist and Jew, and how she “met” Jesus.

    While not specifically related to the temple and the wording, (I have a point! I promise!) it is relevant in that it talks about how she had this amazing experience, and then afterward she was horrified because it didn’t fit in with her world view at all.

    “On a mystical level, it was complete joy and happiness and there were tears running down my face. On a conscious level, when I came out of it I was absolutely horrified because I’m Jewish. This was not the thing I’m supposed to have confront me.”

    I felt like that in the temple for the first time. It was so completely different than what I thought it would be, so completely different to my world view. I really thought “this is not what it’s supposed to be like. I’m Mormon, we don’t have rituals like this.” But my heart knew better. I was trying to force this to fit my world view, instead of letting it expand my limited knowledge.

    For those of you getting ready to go through for the first time – Tracy M, I’m thinking of you specifically, my main advice is:don’t attempt to understand all of it, look for symbols to validate what you know(as Julie said) and take someone smart with you! Talk to them there, let them guide you at first.

    Good luck with everything, my heart just broke as I read this post. To me, there is nothing sadder than people losing their faith. It is such a tragedy.

  40. 40.

    This is in response to Eve’s question a ways back about finding peace at the temple despite my questions and concerns:

    Although there are aspects of the temple ceremony I find upsetting and other aspects I often just find strange, I’ve found a peace from attending the temple that I haven’t found anywhere else. When I first went through the temple, I was very severely depressed, and one of the only places I could feel any amount of calm at that point in my life was in the celestial room of the temple.

    Also, a year and a half ago, I went through a period where I was attending the temple once a week, and I had some very powerful spiritual experiences in the temple, and felt a greater amount of peace and joy in my life in general. So, on one level, my peace has come from attending the temple and seeing the peace that is there despite the issues I get frustrated and upset about.

    I’ve also been able to find some peace through prayer. I’ve prayed to God about my struggles with gender and the church in a general way, and while the answers have been slow in coming, I have felt like God is listening and that He believes I have valid concerns (I haven’t felt like He has dismissed them). I’ve also recently begun to feel like there are aspects of the church that are imperfect because we live in a mortal world, and that when we do get to a celestial realm, things will be righted somehow. I don’t know how long that will take, or what that means, but I am trying to have faith in the few answers and the comfort I have received from God.

    I haven’t ever tried talking to a bishop or temple president, but it’s probably because I’ve achieved enough peace on the issue that I’m dealing with things okay. (And I’m generally not one to go and do this kind of thing anyway.)

    (P.S. I offer these comments as an answer to Eve’s question, not as answers that will definitely solve other people’s spiritual crises.)

  41. 41.

    BTW, the things that I think that God says to women are what I learned from the core rituals of our faith.

    I’m surprised no one else seems to have gotten the same lesson.


    (a) The almost universal condition of women being subordinate to men is not a celestial pattern but is a direct result of the world being imperfect (i.e. of the fall).

    (b) Women need only listen or hearken to men to the extent that they know that the men are following God. Men may end up in charge because the world is imperfect, but women are not obligated to just follow them around, (but instead should follow God and only listen to men when the men are listening to God as well).

    (c) In the heavens, things are binary, “in the image of God created God humanity, meaning male and female.” (that is, that God is not alone in the heavens and that women have as much divinity in them as men).

    That is the message I found, and I hope that Kiskilili is able to overcome the feelings that turn her from God to find those answers as I did (though in the way God would speak to her rather than the way I found those things).

  42. 42.

    Thanks for sharing what you personally have found helpful, Julie and s. It’s not a subject I’ve ever felt really comfortable raising, oh, say, in the middle of Relief Society–by the way, sisters, have any of you had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the endowment? Nope? Well, then, I guess I am the freak I’ve always feared (scuttles out of meeting hoping never to make eye contact with anyone again). So it’s very refreshing to hear suggestions from people willing to be candid about their own struggles. Thank you.

    Michelle, I think you raise an interesting and complex question about how to respond to people in spiritual crisis (or, for that matter, in any other kind of crisis). Personally, I find it a delicate art, one that requires a great deal of spiritual sensitivity and compassion, and probably what makes it most difficult is that people are so individual in what they need. Trying to extrapolate from what I find helpful when I’m in a crisis–and I realize my perspective is inevitably be limited, but it’s where I have to start–I so appreciate it when someone takes the time to really listen and try to understand me as completely as possible before prescribing.

    I guess I try to go back to what we know about God and how he deals with us in our myriad crises, self-inflicted and otherwise. One of the things I love so much about the atonement, as Artemis mentioned above, is knowing that Christ suffered what I do, and that He understands perfectly, as no other human being does, what it feels like to be me. I also find the atonement a helpful model for how we can reach out to others who suffer. First, I have to be willing to care, to allow the other person’s grief a claim on my heart, to suffer with her, not to push her sorrow away with easy platitudes or other attempts to reduce my own discomfort, and second, I have to respect her agency, as Christ does. There are certainly situations where people have the spiritual authority and responsibility to counsel someone and call him to repentance (a bishop or a parent has those roles), but I don’t think any of those situations obtain on a blog. Finally, I find that part of respecting someone’s agency and part of exercising faith in general is being willing to entrust that person to God. Much as I may care and hurt for the other person, and much as I may think I understand his situation, God cares more, and God understands better. If I flail at the person suffering in a panic because he’s not doing what I think he ought to be doing RIGHT NOW (not to suggest that’s what you’re doing, but to admit it’s what I’ve done sometimes, with predictably bad results), all I’m going to do is damage my relationship with him. God entrusts us with our agency. I owe it to others to honor the agency God has entrusted to them, and I owe God my faith, which includes faith He knows more than I do about what others need. When I’m willing to entrust others to God, I find myself more peaceful and humble and more able to seek what God would have me do to comfort them instead of indulging in what I want to do to comfort myself or relieve my own anxieties and irritations in their presence.

  43. 43.

    Thanks Lynette. Now I know where you are coming from and what your concerns are. I do understand the quick jumps to judgement and the easy cure-alls offered by members who don’t give any legitimate thought to the nature of the concerns. I guess as a convert my experiences lead me to view things in a different perspective.

    I was raised Irish Catholic so I actually found the temple very refreshing. It provided me with the structure, ceremony and reverence that I missed so very much in mass.

    For converts, regular LDS Sunday Sacrament meeting can many times seem to be a very disrespectful, irreverant exercise in watching parents not keep their children in line for one hour. Those of us that were raised in more structured environments find that atmosphere to be very spirtually draining.

    Once again, thanks for taking the time to understand my posts.

  44. 44.

    A couple of random thoughts…

    First, if Morm is referring to me as one of some ‘well known bloggernacle folks that are openly antagonistic to the Church lined up here to chant “jump! jump! jump!”, then I object. I wasn’t saying “jump” at all, nor am I antagonistic to the church–hardly. Rather, I was recognizing the legitimacy of Kiskilili’s pain and grieving with her. Just because she’s angry or feels apostate doesn’t mean she’s wicked. She’s searching for meaning and peace. And why shouldn’t any of us be angry at what seems to be a cosmic injustice? Wasn’t Christ?

    Also, when I was describing how temple trauma is akin to a spiritual death or breakup with one’s faith, I should’ve made clear that I don’t see that as the end of the faith road. It’s more like a phoenix life-cycle–the phoenix must die in flames before it can be reborn. And while this sort of spiritual rebirth is very painful (not like our conversion & baptismal processes, for example) and may take some time to work through, it does open up a whole new understanding of one’s existence and faith. I think my understanding of God and Truth are greater because of my experiences, and I see the gospel as being much more flexible and open than I ever saw it before (and as the LDS culture seems to teach). My struggles have also given me a personal confidence to accept, reject, and consider elements of the church institution and/or culture that I might have felt pressured or expected to accept without question befor–I have a less institutionalized faith now, but it is still faith.

    I still have a very difficult time with the temple, no doubt about it, as well as with other church elements that I feel are inequitable or perhaps just the ‘traditions of men’ conflated as doctrine, rather than absolute truth. But I also feel closer and more committed to God because I have suffered for him and wrestled with him. I’m not culturally orthodox. Nope. But I’m honest with God and have a real relationship with him.

    The things that have helped me with these struggles have been lots of prayer, time, and openness to rethinking the paradigm. I have found a lot of truth in others’ faiths, whether LDS or other, and in respecting differences of interpretation and faith. I have tried to stay true to myself while committing myself to God, knowing that neither I nor my church may not yet have an entirely correct conception of him. I think the most important thing is to give yourself the time you need to get space from the truama, heal somewhat, ponder & converse with God about your concerns, and trust that he does love you, and that somehow everything will work out all right.

  45. 45.

    I think there is real value in speaking to a member of the temple presidency or one of their wives about concerns such as those Kiskilili expresses here. Primarily because if enough of us express such concerns, the likelihood of those concerns being passed on to policy-makers increases. The squeaky wheel gets greased, and I don’t think it’s realistic for us to assume that middle-aged/elderly men are going to be able to read the minds of women born in our era.

    One illustration: After a particularly devastating endowment session about a year ago, I asked to speak with the Matron as I left the celestial room in tears. It was interesting to see how the conversation with the Matron progressed–her initial response was the typical “have more faith, pray, fast, and everything will be okay.” But the conversation rather quickly progressed to the admission that she, too, had struggled to understand gender inequity in the endowment, and that it was something that had bothered her for a period of several years (about 25 years ago). She then also admitted that many other “young gals” like me had recently expressed similar concerns to her, and that she was committed to bringing up the topic the next time she received training from the traveling general authorities that periodically train the temple presidencies.

    While I have no idea whether she did actually bring up these concerns at the next training meeting, I think it is very likely that she did. She seemed like a sincere and compassionate woman who could understand, at least to some degree, how I felt.

  46. 46.

    Caroline,

    Your experience with the temple president is very similar to one I had with another priesthood leader. Let’s just say that major mental gymnastics have to go on for a man to even begin to understand what we’re talking about.

    I just wonder what would happen…if every woman who had “issues” with the current ceremony were to try to speak to the temple president the next time she went to the temple? Or at least to his wife? Wouldn’t the combined effect of numerous faithful women, seeking for understanding and relief from what seems like endless pain, at least make a few big-wigs pause to think for a moment? A huge, collective cry for help, for relief from suffering, couldn’t fall upon deaf ears, right?

    I’m not trying to say we can or should try to force policy changes…I just think it is so vital for the essentially disenfranchised women of the church to make their positions felt and heard. Even if we can’t “vote,” or ever become the leader who could make the changes ourselves, we can be heard.

  47. 47.

    About speaking to the Temple Presidency, or Matron I was too scared to do that. I was terrified that they, in effect, would tell me “Yes, women are inferior to men, and will be assigned places of servitude and inferiority in the hereafter.” Obviously they wouldn’t say it exactly like that, but I was afraid that the underlying message.
    Also (though this may vary from person to person) they don’t know me personally, and so, have little emotional investment in me. This means that they would be likely to underestimate or downplay my concerns, and the impact it would have on my testimony. The exception would be if the spirit were guiding the person in the things they chose to say, which I think happens less often than people would think.

  48. 48.

    Wow, my comment about speaking to the temple president got zapped. Hmmmm……I’m surprised.

    Anyway, Maria, I totally agree. I have fantasies about tens of thousands of women making appointments with their temple presidents and sincerely expressing their pain at certain things. I absolutely believe that that would indeed get results. I think the church hierarchy is pretty responsive to such things if enough people express concern.

    For instance 20 or 30 years ago, they cast an African American as Satan in the temple film. So many people were disturbed by this that they pretty quickly yanked that film and did another.

    Starfoxy, I would definitely encourage you to still talk to the temple president. I highly doubt they would say that yes, you are inferior to men. I think they would sincerely try to assure you that you are indeed equal while still talking about males presiding and the patriarchal order of the church. To me, that’s an irreconcilable contradiction, but some leaders seem to really think there’s no problem with those two viewpoints standing side by side.

  49. 49.

    Kiskilili, I am really grateful that you were willing to post your story. I honestly haven’t had the same struggles and don’t “understand” in any true way. But I am grateful for your honesty and that of all the commentors. Threads like this help me in my goal of not jumping to conclusions and being judgemental. I want to be more understanding and compassionate when faced with something I have no experience with. So thank you for being willing to share. I hope and pray that you will find the peace that you seek.

  50. 50.

    Katie,

    That is a really interesting and poetic perspective on the temple ceremony.

    However, we are taught that in this [even fallen] world, we are to strive toward perfection. I think that we [in mortality] will never get there, but we should still try. And this goes for the Church institution as well. We should be modifying our policies and doctrine to become more perfect and that includes more equality between the sexes (the Celestial room).

    I think that using the crutch that “this is a fallen world” can cripple our uderstanding that agency still allows us (and The Church) to choose right, and to work toward being celestial in a telestial world.

  51. 51.

    Thank you for bravely sharing your experience Kiskilili. It is always comforting to hear from other people who had an experience with their first endowment similar to mine. I experienced many of the emotions already discussed here-of darkness, despair, confusion and deep hurt. I cried throughout the whole ceremony,;I felt like my relationship to God was not direct, and it crushed me. When it was done I turned to my husband and said, “I am sorry, you picked the wrong girl. I don’t want to be Mormon anymore.” The only way I got through the temple aftermath and our sealing was my wonderful husband. He would have accepted me even if I had left the church. He said we were equals in our marriage, and in the eternities, he would treat me like an equal. And really, that is all that matters. Still, it is not like the pain just went away, My husband and I both struggled this last year with our feelings and had many real discussion sabout leaving the church. Yet in the end, we have both felt too much joy, and had too many real encounters with Christ in this church to throw it away. My temple scars are beginning to heal, but it is a slow process. I just have to go on faith.

    After my initial endowment, I found that prayer and scripture study truly helped. It led me to a personal revelation about the temple that has brought me the only measure of peace I have found so far about the temple’s depiction of women. I know that personal revelation is just that-personal, and may not help you, like I helped me but I truly think it is worth thinking about. I have posted these thoughts elsewhere in the Bloggernacle, but here they are again. I have attempted to say nothing specific about the temple, while still conveying my point. Here are my thoughts:

    The man-God/woman-man relationship is set up in the terrestrial world after Adam and Eve have fallen. It is not a prescriptive effect, just a descriptive one. In other words it is not a punishment to Eve for doing the wrong thing, just a description of the consequence of entering a fallen world. I think one of the greatest effects of the fall, was that gender roles were entirely screwed up. Men would hearken to their carnal desire for domination and the women would bear the brunt of it. If we think that eternal equality is the hallmark of celestial life, then the perverting of proper gender relations is THE characteristic of a fallen world. In a fallen world men would not (at least for a long time) be able to handle women having the priesthood, it might not be a mortal possibility. I think Eve knew this, she knew it would happen. But she knew that mortality would bring far more blessings and in the end it would be worth it. If my hypothesis is right, her choice to fall was even more heroic. She gave up the equal status she enjoyed in the garden. (the Hebrew words that are translated “helpmeet” could also mean a “strength or power equal to.” hmmm). At first blush it seems unfair that the fall meant that women would have a somewhat “second class” status ,but when we think that the fall also brought rape, murder, incest, genocide, ect., we can see it is just another horrible effect we must deal with and try to make right. Anyway, so the man-God/woman-man relationship happens in the terrestrial room, but by the time you get to the veil gender differences are gone. Men and women approach and enter the celestial room in identical ways and in the celestial room are free to mingle with each other instead of being segregated. When their time in the celestial room is done, they exit through different doors–back into the fallen world. Fascinating, isn’t it? If all I have said is correct, then women and men who work towards equality here, who counsel TOGETHER, who respect each as equals, are not hippie liberals, nor apostates, but are in fact building towards a celestial life in the greatest way possible. We battle each day to overcome the effects of the Fall, to rein in our carnal natures–does this not extend to gender relationships as well? We should be fighting for celestial equality now, fighting against the effects of the fall to the greatest extent possible in this mortal life.

    Here are some quotes that support our equality:

    John Taylor JD 1:37 (emphasis added)
    Have you forgot who you are, and what your object is? Have you forgot that you profess to be Saints of the Most High God, clothed upon with the Holy Priesthood? Have you forgot that you are aiming to become Kings and Priests to the Lord, and Queens and Priestesses to Him?

    And here he seems to be addressing those who have the fullness of the priesthood:

    John Taylor JD 5:189-190(emphasis added)
    What are we engaged in? We are engaged in building up the kingdom of God, and many of you have been ordained by the revelations of the Almighty to hold the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood. Besides this, you have been ordained kings and queens, and priests and priestesses to your Lord; you have been put in possession of principles that all the kings, potentates, and powers upon the earth are entirely ignorant of: they do not understand it; but you have received this from the hands of God.

    -Another thing that helped me was going back a few times. I know it is a cliché idea and I initially resisted it. I thought, “why should I go back to a thing that hurt me so much? If I had an abusive boyfriend, I would not return to him. People just want me to go back so it seems more normal and I can force myself to like it.” But, truly, while it is the thing you want to do least, it is the thing that helps the most. In going back I have begun to notice things that help the experience, and have had times of peace and Spirit.

    Finally, remember that even President McKay struggled with the temple at first:

    “Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the Temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and young women since who had that experience. I have now found out why. There are two things in every Temple: mechanics, to set forth certain ideals, and symbolism, what those mechanics symbolize. I saw only the mechanics when I first went through the Temple. I did not see the spiritual. I did not see the symbolism of spirituality…

    You are not alone. Keep a bit of hope in your heart.

  52. 52.

    Kiskilili,

    Like others, let me say that I admire your honesty, and while I don’t really share your basic perspective on matters religious, I do sympathize with the struggles which conflicts in perspective can give rise to. (There are parts of the church that I find utterly unrewarding spiritually speaking, and have to regularly deal with the fact that lacking such an appreciation potentially marks me as one without faith.)

    That said, let me ask this: it seems to me that the root of your perspective on the temple experience comes down to this passage: “My autonomy is sacred. Anything that threatens it I consider sacrilegious.”

    Have you considered the possibility that this isn’t true? That just maybe autonomy itself–above and beyond any particular issues of power and gender–is not just not sacred, but a false ideal?

  53. 53.

    I wholeheartedly agree Aspen. I too hope that in addition to our personal strivings against the Fall, the church as an institution will also work towards perfection. I hope for changes in the temple ceremony and in the church in general that will testify to the equal relationship men and women have with their Heavenly Father. My ideas about the temple are simply a way to personally be able to have a little peace and continue to function as a Latter-Day Saint until those changes come.

  54. 54.

    I absolutely second EVERYTHING Artemis said in her last comment, and I wish I had written it. That is exactly where I find myself too, and am really becomming ok with it.

    I just keep thinking of Mormon 9:27

  55. 55.

    Katie,

    I think that your perspective is very beautiful and can bring hope… It just saddens me that we even have to explain the inequities away in the first place. That is, that the inequalities are even present in our doctrine, in our religion.

  56. 56.

    Of course, most of you will have picked up the mistake in the quoted verse. It should read
    Let nothing disturb thee;
    Let nothing dismay thee.
    All things pass;
    God never changes.
    Patience attains
    All that it strives for.
    SHE WHO HAS GOD LACKS NOTHING;
    God alone sufficeth.

    Sorry I messed it up.

    Things, Katie, for your explanation of the fallen world. Much of what you said resonates with my studies over the years.

  57. 57.

    Kiskilili and Eve,

    The way I first dealt with the women’s issues in the temple was to follow the scripture “lean not unto thy own understanding” or, that is, your own interpretation of what’s happening. As I got more spiritually and scripturally mature (and physically older), I came to feel more comfortable with paradox. In fact, I think the world revolves around paradox and that, what’s more, it’s supposed to–both spiritually and in every other way. Our responsibility is to sift through the paradox, with God’s help, so that we do lean upon Him and not upon ourselves.

    The second thing that has been helpful for me was to study the story of the Garden–in Genesis, in the PofGP, in scripture classes (the most beneficial being a class taught for women by a woman!), and from knowledgable people–a Divinity student (Mormon) has been one of the most helpful. I feel that I now have a better understanding of Eve’s role in the Plan and how that affected us (all women). I don’t believe there was a curse, and I believe Eve’s role was more than significant–it was monumental.

    I have one comment on your story of asking how God could be so cruel and then not getting an answer. The night before I was supposed to marry the man I married but felt I was in love with another man (it’s a long story), I asked how God could have put me in this position, how I could get out of it, and to please give me an answer before the next day. I got no answer. Years later, I decided that I didn’t get an answer because I had asked the wrong question that night. And, not only that, but that I had already asked the question “Should I marry this man?” many months earlier and had received a positive answer. I feel that I had ventured into the “God will not be mocked” or trifled with or some such category. He’d given me an answer; now I was questioning it again. No wonder I didn’t get an answer that night. (From my vantage point many years later, the original, positive answer was the correct one.)

    And, finally, when I am at a total loss in dealing with the vagaries of life, the following verse has been my lifeline. I repeat in the way some do a mantra. Hope it helps you.
    Let nothing disturb thee
    Let nothing dismay thee
    All things pass
    God never changes
    Patience attains
    All that it strives for
    (S)he who lacks God
    Knows (s)he lacks nothing
    God alone sufficeth.

  58. 58.

    Once again thanks for all of your interesting comments and willingness to share your own personal experiences.

    Maria–I’ll just say, I love your idea!

    Katie–I’m touched by your story. Like you, I desperately want to find a way to hold onto the church in which I’ve had so many positive encounters with God. Your idea that patriarchy is part of a very fallen world is a good one, and one that I’ve clung to for a long time.

    But Aspen’s response makes a lot of sense to me. My understanding is that the temple teaches us how to behave, not in a fallen world, but in a celestial one. Of course, rape, murder, genocide, and incest are much worse than second-class citizenship for women. However, God isn’t commanding us to perpetuate these atrocities simply because the world is fallen–I have to believe that God is thoroughly opposed to such behavior and commands us against it.

    So it’s hard for me to understand why God would command (and I mean “command” specifically rather than “permit,” which is its own problem) other forms of injustice and cruelty. I’d like to think that if I went to the temple and was told, “The world is a fallen place; for that reason, cheat your neighbor at every opportunity, in the ultimate goal of building up the church,” I would feel equally horrified and betrayed by something that goes against my personal integrity. (This example may be too mundane–I hope I don’t offend.)

    In the movie _Contact_, in response to the idea that the world is no place for idealists, Ellie says something to the effect of, “Funny, I always thought the world was what we made of it.” I’d like to believe that God is idealistic enough to command us to behave in ways that are genuinely right, as imperfectly as we’re capable, rather than ordering us to stoop to the level of the fallen world.

    Anyway, I was moved by your responses; thanks for your encouragement to keep hope. I really appreciate the perspectives of those who have found ways to stay strong in the church while addressing the issues.

    Russel Arben Fox–thanks for the kind words; you raise an excellent point. I too have wondered whether I don’t place too much value on my autonomy. I think my issue is that I expect the people I interact with to recognize my fundamental personhood and ability to make decisions, and respect that rather than trample it. To put it bluntly, the God of the temple seems to either trust women less or simply not to recognize that women are fully as human as men, just as fully moral agents leading their own lives, both as capable of negotiating all the difficulties agency brings as men, and as accountable to those decisions as men. This hurts.

    Ellen–thanks for sharing a beautiful verse as well as your personal experience. Prayer is definitely a tricky thing. I’m at a loss to make sense of why God answers some prayers and not others (not that I expect we necessarily get to know that in this life!). But I should admit that God has undeniably given me, not answers, but comfort concerning this issue on other occasions. (Unfortunately, cynic that I am, and considering that I feel there has been a significant breach of trust between us, I sort of tend to question God’s motives, probably unfairly.)

    I guess somehow I need to figure out a way to be true to my own personal experience of God, which has been absolutely unequivocally positive, and at the same time stay true to my conscience, which is admittedly fallible and molded by the values of my environment, but which tells me this situation is wrong.

    Thanks to all of you for your comments and thoughtfulness.
    I sincerely hope in posting any of this I haven’t offended or come across as unqualifiedly antagonistic toward the church. I would be absolutely horrified to think I’d eroded anyone’s relationship with Christ. I’m angry with the church for the reason that I love it so much; it’s what frustrates me, because if I didn’t still care about it and believe it had something truly divine, I could throw it all away.
    Your comments and support are a reminder that I should give God another chance.

  59. 59.

    Ellen,

    Did you know that your mantra was written by Teresa of Avila and is usually called “Noted Written Upon a Bookmark Found in Her Breviary”?

    It is one of the few poems I thought worthy of memorizing for myself.

  60. 60.

    And see this excellent blog post:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2881

  61. 61.

    Anne: That is truly great essay. It’s also reprinted in the book “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir” by Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne. (It’s a beautiful, beautiful book of essays — one that both challenges my thinking and nurtures my faith.)

  62. 62.

    Kiskilili,

    I found this thread after being referred from another LDS-themed board. I’m impressed with the conversations you and your sisters have started here and have bookmarked your blog. Although your feelings on apostasy and the temple would often be considered unspeakable in conventional LDS wards, I think that the discussion is important. Thank you for sharing your feelings.

    I have not gone through the temple but have heard disquieting comments from a few women in wards I have lived in. I sense these women feel isolated with their doubts as they whisper their concerns. You are not alone in your doubts.

    As I was reading this thread, I was reminded of an Exponent II essay (reprinted in “A Thoughtful Faith: Essays on Belief by Mormon Scholars) written by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich called “Lusterware”. Ulrich’s essay on faith and doubt includes a number of gems …

    “… I am convinced that a willingness to admit disbelief is often essential to spiritual growth.”

    “Over the years I have noticed that Saints with doubts often outlast ‘true believers’ “

    “A Thoughtful Faith” is not in print; however, you may be able to listen to Ulrich’s Sunstone presentation which includes an audio presentation of her essay. A free MP3 may be downloaded from the Sunstone site:

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/symposium/symp-mp3s.asp

    Search for “SL86242, Pillars of my Faith Continued – All participants: Phil Barlow, Carlfred Broderick, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, James B Allen, Rex E Lee”

    Ulrich’s remarks start about 8 minutes in.

    Kiskilili, may your faith journey lead you to a place of peace and comfort.
    Anne Hutchinson

  63. 63.

    K:

    That’s hard stuff. I was troubled by the temple, and that as a man. Good luck.

  64. 64.

    Hey Kiskilili,

    Beautifully expressed!!!

    It’s inspiring to see a discussion like this where believers and non-believers can talk about unbelief in a civil and respectful manner without descending into ugliness and fighting.

    Do you also post over on the exmo bulletin boards and/or the exmo blog network? I would be curious to see more of your writing.

  65. 65.

    I have this strange feeling that the greatest curse of humankind today is that of ‘issues’. I have heard many claim that they have an issue with the church…this issue can be a sex issue, a gender issue, a same-sex issue, a political issue, a tme issue, a family isuue, a temple issue etc. My gosh there are many issues out there that is for sure.

    And yet what is at ‘issue’ is our own self-justification for our own self-centeredness by claiming that ‘our’ issue trumps the completeness of the gospel.

    As a human being I should stand on my soap box and exclaim: ‘I have an issue! And I want the world to change because of my issue!

    Now for me, I can understand someone leaving the church…really I can but not for an issue. The church is not on the face of this earth to cater to all of our issues. If that were the case, there would be no church because very few would belong to a issue-centered church and the members would be fighting against other members issues.

    Here is the reason to leave the church: If a person knows without any shadow of a doubt that the Book of Mormon is false. Now that is a good reason to leave and not because of an ‘issue’.

    I know that postmodernism is alive and well in our society. And what is postmodernism?: a rejection of universal truth and an embracing of small little ‘truths’ that are important to that particular person. Hence, our issues become the focal point of our lives and not the universal truth or the meta-narrative of our existence on this earth.

    We are fragmented by issues.

  66. 66.

    Why Me,

    Thanks for your perspective. It’s interesting.

    Here’s my hypothetical question: what if someone has genuine reason to believe that God is fundamentally untrustworthy and does not have her/his well-being in mind? What is the best course of action? In order to avoid self-centeredness, is it best to simply humble oneself and accept that God is not necessarily loving and heaven is not necessarily pleasant?

    Your perspective is interesting to me because I think the above situation warrants leaving the church more than, for example, definitive evidence that the Book of Mormon is false. I think I could stay in the church knowing the Book of Mormon was false more easily than I could knowing God was unloving and untrustworthy.

  67. 67.

    What is God, apart from that which you believe to be true, and therefore worship?

    If the temple fails to resonate, or the Church presents an obstacle to one’s relationship with things one believes (truly) to be true, I would hope that the Church, and not God, would be viewed as the problem.

    I do not enjoy many aspects of the temple, nor of the LDS Church. But I participate to the extent the Church facilitates my relationship with the God *I* believe in. In so doing, I reject those aspects that are counterproductive to my becoming at one with *my* God.

    The question is, which God does one believe in? The God she is told to believe in, or the God of James 1, Moroni 7 and 10, and of Jesus’ promise (“ask and ye shall receive”)?

  68. 68.

    b.bowen, aren’t you imposing an impossible standard for the Church? That if there are things that don’t square with your view of God, that it’s the Church’s fault?

    Yes, the Church is by definition an imperfect organization. But that does not mean that any difference is the Church’s problem.

  69. 69.

    it could be either my or the church’s fault, but the distinction is immaterial. as to me, I can only believe in the God I believe in. That is true by definition. I am obligated to scrutinize that belief (here’s where the Church comes in), but not to acquiesce to an institution’s views, especially when experience indicates that the institution may be incorrect.

    the standard I impose on the Church is minimal, precisely because I expect less than perfection from them.

    The problem arises when the individual takes the Church at its word and is forced to reconcile what the Church says with what spirit and experience tell that individual to the contrary, and, I would argue, to their detriment.

    In other words, I impose no standard at all. Difference could be either my or the church’s fault (or both). The problem lies when I fail to see either one or the other possibility.

    What I see in places here is the assumption that the Church must be right, even when Spirit tells the individual otherwise, and that dissonance created by this kind of difference of opinion should be resolved in the Church’s favor. That position is tenable, if your faith in the institution is such that the position makes sense, but even then it should not be absolute.

    BTW, the Church sets a pretty high standard for itself when it proclaims it (and it alone) to be the purveyor of capital-T truth. My standard is less forgiving than that imposed on the Church from within.

  70. 70.

    the last sentence should read “more forgiving,” rather than “less.”

  71. 71.

    What you’re saying makes a lot of sense to me, B. Bowen. I’ve always loved 1 Kings 13 because one obvious moral one could draw from it is that one should privilege one’s own personal experience with God above all else; even genuine prophets of God may lie.
    (I realize there’s problematic potential to this attitude, though.)

    Sometimes I just become so angry at how horribly wrong the situation seems to me that I push my anger onto God, not necessarily fairly, and not even necessarily because I truly fault him; maybe, like Job, I want to level accusations against him to test him, to see whether he’ll rouse himself and explain the situation. :)

    I’m still searching for a position from which I can feel comfortable worshiping the loving God I believe in from within the church, while rejecting the church’s attitudes I find distressing. For a long time I’ve considered having my name removed but remaining active to the extent I could, as a participating non-member, or having my name removed and then being rebaptized (effectively annulling my endowment).

  72. 72.

    K,
    I am wary to respond, as so often in the ‘nacle we find ourselves mired in contention masking as debate, and I, for one, will have none of that.

    I feel for you, and so I want, sincerely, to offer some words on my personal understanding. Please know that nothing I say is intended with any sort of a condescending voice, or anything like that. It’s simply, “this is what I have and am happy with and offer to you in case it helps.” Read it. Take in what works for you, what resonates with your soul. Leave the rest.

    While each and every one of us need to be a whole and healthy individual to function in our societies in this life, in a celestial scheme, we are each but half a unit. The fundamental priesthood unit is the sealed couple. It can be said that men have authority to exercise priesthood even before marriage, but it must conversely be noted that the men’s priesthood is incomplete without the sealing ordinance.

    I see us as puzzle pieces that together make a whole. And when that whole is complete, brings both of us together, and each of us individually, closer to Heavenly Father.

    We daughters of God are no less loved. We, too, can equally be recipients of the most potent manifestations of His power, the gifts of the spirit and personal revelation.

    A man’s priesthood is not his own. It is incomplete until he is sealed to a wife. It is simply his responsibility to steward that priesthood until such time as he is joined to a celestial partner, and, only then, together, they form a complete priesthood unit before the Lord.

    We, the sisters, by acting with priesthood within the walls of the temple, but not visbily in the world, are a reflection of our Heavenly Mother. She is there; none doubts her necessity in creation, and yet, She is witheld from the slings and arrows of the world–out of reverence. It is Heavenly Father who is visible in the fray, like the pristhood in the world, and it is Heavenly Mother whose presence is reserved for holiest places.

    With Her lessened presence in this world, She is preserved from Her name being misused as profanity; she is spared the angry cries of confused children who spit their rage at Heavenly Father, etc. She is not less; She is *more*–more revered, more sacred, more reserved from this temporal world.

    So, to summarize:
    -Men alone, do not truly ‘have the priesthood’ it *is* a joint venture.
    -Men exercising it publicly, but together with women in the temple, is a reflection of Heavenly Father’s overt presence in the world, and Heavenly Mother’s revered place in the eternities.

    I hope that gives you a new light in which to consider your experiences. I, too, apostatized for a while (three years, almost exactly). So, I do feel for you. I remember desperately missing the parts of my faith that were so right (one of which, for me was the temple; but also prayer, and the community of a ward family). I do sincerely hope that you are able to find your way back, and that your road back does not lead you on the varied and trying paths that mine did. You’re welcome to write me directly, if anything I can say or do for you might help.

    Been there. Done that. Glad it’s over. Love to spare you some of it, and all that.

  73. 73.

    Wonderful post and wonderful discussion. It reminds me that I very much miss talking to Katie and her husband.

    The original post reminds me of the CS Lewis novel Till We Have Faces

    I always conected the novel with the temple, but mroe so since reading starfoxy’s posts on the temple at http://www.theoryofeverything1.blogspot.com/

    I think that due to my gender I didn’t ahve the same problems. I noticed and was bothered by some of the same things- but not to the same extent.

    I certainly didn’t understand the temple- all I really knew the first time I went was that I felt the spirit very powerfully. It wasn’t untill the second and third visits to the temple that I really thought “this is rather strange”

    I rarely feel the spirit as strongly at the temple as that first time (on occasion I do) – I still don’t understand the ceremony, but I do remember how I felt when I was there the first time, and it still influences me.

  74. 74.

    All I can say is that every parent who buries a child or two or three faces these same issues and over and over again I meet parents in that situation who find that God does love them and wants what is best for them.

  75. 75.

    Although I’m no where near at the point that you are, I’ve had my questions about the temple (boy, have I ever). I can only explain my reasoning for being able to overcome my questions with the following: I don’t take it personally or 100% literally. I see the Church as a living, evolving, imperfect entity designed to help us here on earth because we are not yet able to live in the unified way we will when Christ returns to earth. The Church is a vehicle to help me find my own personal path to God. I see the temple as one of the places I can go to meditate advance on that path. But the Church itself is not the end all be all authority. (Does that make me apostate? Huh. Oh well. I don’t mind being a closet apostate.) In addition, we (including the Church leadership) are constantly recieving new pieces of the puzzle–some which negate previously held doctrine. The way I see it, the temple ceremony has changed many times through the years. It has softened, evolved. Ten years from now, who knows?

    So to make a long story short, I don’t take it personally. I know where I stand with God–I just think that the rest of the Church hasn’t quite caught up yet. (smile) I find great joy and peace in my involvement with the Church. So if I find myself silently balking at some of the current temple format, I remind myself that even the temple is an earthly and imperfect shadow of the way things will be when we are living a higher standard.

    Don’t know if that makes sense, but it works for me.

  76. 76.

    Well, you prompted me to blog a few posts on this topic.

    Anyway, hope you journey back.

  77. 77.

    Hi Kiskilili,
    Is it possible for you to imagine a God without the LDS church structure? Is it possible that God’s love, which you felt, is still real even if what is possibly a human institution falls away? Can you still talk to God and discern truth without eartly intermediary? If so, don’t worry. God will bring you back or lead you away — have faith in your path.

  78. 78.

    Kiskilili,

    Wow. I was blown away in reading your blog entry.

    This is me:
    -50
    -Father of six.
    -LDS all my life.
    -Married 28 years.
    -High Councilor.
    -Lawyer.
    -RM

    I went to the temple the first time without any discussion with anyone about what tho expect (dad was my Bishop — go figure). I went in the mission home in SLC, two live sessions, back to back, all beginning at 4:30 a.m. I was disturbed to say the least and never wanted to go back. I still do not like going to the temple and once dicsussed this with a member of the stake presidency. The counselor involved in this discussion confided that he too had misgivings — that was the most comforting thing that anyone ever told me about the temple. Even 20 years later, I rarely go. I inevitably leave feeling rebellious and have difficulty not telling my self during the ceremony that “I do not believe this — this is just crap.” I still have not resolved these issues although strangely enough, the computer age has helped me with all the names signs and symbolism of the temple – I won’t go into that.

    I too had problems with the ceremony as it pertains to women and wondered how my independent, intelligent, clear thinking wife could tolerate some of the temple stuff (especially before the changes in 1992 (I think). This is no subservient woman although her devotion, acceptance of gospel principles and willingness to serve is astounding. She just never had problems with the temple or her role as a daughter of HF in the church. Having three daughters who are most capable in every respect (sports, school, fine arts — everything), I have, over the years taken a hard look at the role of women in the church (I am assigned to the Stk YW). I want my daughters to have every opportunity that my boys have had including alll the trips, educational and other activities that the boys get handed to them.

    Having said all that, can I give you a different paradigm from which to view women in the church and the role of women? To me, there are two undeniable truths about women and the priesthood. First, if men were honest with themselves, they would all admit that women are fundamentally and inately more spiritual than men are. They come into this world more atuned to the Spirit. Second, the “priestood” is nothing more than a device through which men provide service (I know the doctrinal definition folks – power to act in the name of HF etc.). Really, what do you get when you get the priesthood? More jobs. More responsiblilty. Don’t think there isn’t a ton of pressure when you’re administering to the sick or doing your best to get inspiration so as to say what HF wants you to say when you give a priesthood blessing? Those two things in particular are really a killer for me – not to mention disciplinary councils etc.

    Each day of my life I become more firmly convinced that HF gave men the “priesthood” because they needed it in order to develop spiritually and in every other way. Could women lead the church and do every thing that men do? Youbetcha. But then we men, the spirituallly weaker of the sexes, would do little, if anything. I think there was a transcendent wisdom in saddling men with prestood resposibilities. My wife doesn’t need it. She’s light years ahead of me.

    As to the “following your (whatisit)DH, that’s just a vehicle to tell the guys that you have added pressure to follow HF because the most important person in the universe (my wife) is depending on you so you better suck it up and get with the program.

    The term “help meet” is noteworthy to me as well. You can reach all kinds of conclustions as to why the term is used e.g. Eve (woman) is there to “help” Adam(men) “meet” his potential because he couldn’t do so by himself etc. While these precepts are all no doubt pretty true, the most significant thing to me is that Eve didn’t get a help meet. Was it b/c HF didn’t care for her or that he just favored men? I hardly think so. I think that men in their present condition (maybe we’ll be better the next time around), are fundamentally weaker and we simply couldn’t do it ourselves, we just can’t. It would be a rare guy who could conduct his life in a celestial manner (and thereby enter into the CK)without loving a woman so much that he’d want to conduct his life so as to be able to live with her forever. Men are more selfish, more perverse and fundamentally less spiritual than the beautiful daughters of HF (another way of saying men are pigs — an essentially true statement as well). Sooooooooo – I say to the women of the church, we men need the prestood, you, as women, don’t. We needed the extra crutch — in addition to needing you women to help us along the way. Needing you is number one, and the priestood is secondary, yet important all the same.

    Finally, take heart. Pres. Hinkley is repeatedly telling the boys/men to respect, honor and listen to the women of the church. He stated in WW leadership conference for Bishops, “When you save a young woman, you save generations.” Why wouldn’t he say this about a young man — isnt’ it obvious? Also, Elder Eyring has repeatedly taught of the overriding and supreme value of women in the church. He admits that his wife has taught him continually and that her inspiration (aka revelations) are crucial to him and his life as a husband and father(read his most recent book).

    I do not know you. I am sure I will never meet you. But in reading your comments, I can say unequivocally that I love you, your heart, your spirituality. If I (and obviously many others) can feel this way about you just from reading your words, you must know for a certainty that HF loves you and and weeps for you. Nothing in my life has brought me more heartache than to see my own childrens’ pain and suffering. In some ways it’s worse than your own. Just know that your introspection and inquiry is EXACTLY what HF expect of you however difficult it may seem. We don’t learn anyting if we don’t engange in these seemingly overwhelming acts of self torture. We are better for it and you WILL find that you are closer to God for doing so. May HF bless and watch over you as you trudge along this portion of life’s path.

  79. 79.

    I’ve read and re-read your post many times over the past several weeks. Thank you for articulating and sharing such a deeply personal position. I, too, wonder how a loving and unconditional god is unwilling to accept me without a priesthood holder.

    My own journey into apostasy started on my mission (12 years ago) and sort of meandered into my current “atheist phase”. This journey is progressing slowly enough that I can’t really tell where I’m headed – except that I’m not going back to the Mormon church.

    I look forward to reading your future posts.

  80. 80.

    I think I’m going to be talking to myself, because the comments on this post stopped at 2/20 and it’s 6 months later. I just really wanted to comment, though, because I feel very strongly about what you said, Kiskilili.

    Your post really touched me. I found it because I searched zelophehad’s daughters for the term “temple,” hoping to find just this. I first went through the temple 6 1/2 years ago, and I am still struggling with the same feelings you described. During my honeymoon I told my husband that I wanted to “go inactive.” Poor guy. He said something like “that’s information I could’ve used a week ago.” The problem was that going through the temple again brought back old feelings and I just didn’t think I could take the hypocrisy of denying them anymore. I didn’t go inactive, mainly for my husband’s sake.

    I received my endowment right before my mission, and I was mortified. I suffered through the MTC, where a weekly temple visit is required. Looking back (and gaining wisdom from some of the comments on this site,) I really might have benefited from sharing my feelings with the temple matron, mission president, or someone like that. At the time the shame was too great, and I was clinging to the idea that maybe going more often would help. It only made it worse each time. For me, the feelings I got in the temple reminded me of the way Joseph Smith described the attack he received by the devil before seeing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I was wracked, tormented, heartbroken, and beaten down. Every feeling I got in there was terrible, and I never felt the spirit for a second. I even hated the celestial room, where I was scolded once for kneeling.

    I went through my whole mission struggling with this, but never telling anyone. It made it hard to share the gospel while having such powerful doubts.

    I don’t go to the temple anymore. I have decided that my testimony of the church is too fragile for that. I am very active in the church, because I do feel like it generally helps me draw nearer to Christ through service and worship.

    I have no doubt in my mind that Heavenly Father loves me. Maybe it was in anticipation of the struggles I’d have with the temple that He blessed me with a vision/dream/experience that let me feel his love in a way that could never be described.

    Having that knowledge (not faith, but real knowledge) of His love helps me as I struggle with my faith in the church. If I felt that there was another church with more of the Truth, I’d go to it. I do believe that the church institution is flawed, run by imperfect people who are not exactly micromanaged by God. (Oh, how I long for that micromanagement!!!)

    My personal take on the temple is that it is flawed. I think there is some good accomplished by it (some powerful covenants with God,) but also some damage. The fact that not just aesthetics but actually covenant wording has changed is proof that it wasn’t perfect to begin with. I believe that it will further change to reflect the Truth, and not man’s interpretation of the truth. In the meantime, I will not endanger my testimony any more by spending my time there.

    So, Kiskilili, my answer to your questions is that God doesn’t say those things that He’s represented to say in the temple. As mankind is ready, He will dole out more information to further correct the temple experience and bring it to a Celestial level.

    Just as blacks were given the Priesthood when the church membership was ready for it (and probably asking for it in daily prayer,) I believe that when our weak church culture is ready for it, and asking God for it as a whole, women will be elevated to the equals they truly are. (One example that comes to mind is the fact that the modern prophets and GA’s are always clarifying that women are equal, which is a relatively new emphasis.)

    Kiskilili, I love all of your posts. You’ve always been one of my favorite sisters on this site as well as FMH. Stay strong!

  81. 81.

    Zud, (sorry to jump in ahead of Kiskilili, who I think will want to comment too), thank you so much for your thoughts. SO much about your experience parallels mine–I too went through the temple for my mission. It was a devastating experience. I never told anyone either, just bawled as quietly as I could through those weekly sessions. To this day I don’t know if my silence was wise or not–I’ve heard some truly frightening stories from women who’ve tried to discuss such issues with temple presidents or matrons. I suppose a lot depends on how understanding the person you happen to get is.

    My husband knew I had major temple issues (I almost refused to marry him in the temple) and finally a year into our marriage he told me he hated it when I went and he hated going with me because it was such a wretched experience for me. For quite a long time I went back and back, hoping that somehow it would get better. It never did. I too finally quit going. It’s the only way I can save my relationship with the church.

    I too long for just a little micromanagement on this issue.

  82. 82.

    Wow, Eve. It sounds like we really had similar experiences. What happened to those women who spoke with the temple president or matron? Maybe I’ll be glad I never said anything.

    I’m sorry for you that you have had the same experience as I have. I read the story of Job and I think that the worse challenge to his testimony was probably the feeling that God had turned on him. That’s why it hurts so much to hear Kiskilili’s story- she feels like God may not love her and value her. I know He treasures her, but I wish she could feel that love.

    I think Satan desperately wants us to believe that God doesn’t love us.

    Eve, I guess you and I can just pray for that micromanagement. Maybe we won’t be the only ones doing that.

  83. 83.

    Zud, I’ve just heard of several people who’ve approached temple presidents or matrons with their concerns and been given pretty convoluted, untenable justifications. When I was first married, I heard our local temple president speak at an area conference, and from what he said about the temple over the pulpit and the way he laid out gender roles I’m very glad I never approached him. For me it’s such a visceral and vulnerable issue that to have had someone dismiss my concerns would have been even more devastating.

    On the other hand, I’m sure people have had positive conversations with temple presidents or matrons that have helped them. I think what’s so hard is that a lot of it seems to be the luck of the draw.

  84. 84.

    That’s true, Eve. That’s why I chose not to talk to them, too. Because I didn’t know them and didn’t know how they would react. It would’ve hurt to hear the wrong thing there. I feel like my temple experiences already make my testimony (of the church, not of Heavenly Father) fragile, so I have to be careful. For now I’m trying to stay open as I study and try to make sense of things. (And I’m praying that Heavenly Father takes over the temple micromanagement.)

  85. 85.

    Zud, thanks a lot for your comments; I really appreciate them. (I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on FMH as well!) Most of the gender imbalance in the Church, while I’m uncomfortable with it, I find merely annoying. But the temple hits me in a way I can’t easily dismiss. One of the things that I think makes the temple so truly horrifying is that women are compelled to be complicit in their dehumanization.

    It also disturbs me that the Church does not prepare women well (mostly because I think it’s unwilling to own up to the implications of what the temple teaches).
    I hope you’re right and God values his daughters considerably more than the temple would lead us to believe.

  86. 86.

    Kiskililith,

    I think you’re using the wrong word. If I understand your argument, you’re not saying that the temple dehumanizes women so much as that is dedeifies them. In fact, this may be the opposite of dehumanization — isn’t your complaint essentially that the temple overhumanizes women, at the expense of focusing on their divine potential?

    (I realize that this is probably just an annoying semantic quibble; still, given the nature of your complaints, I thought it was kind of odd that you would use the word “dehumanize” to summarize them.)

  87. 87.

    K –

    Do you think it would have made a difference for you if you had been informed of the ‘hearken’ covenant before you went through the temple?

    Also, did you see any religious value in the temple ritual apart from that aspect, or did that overwhelm the balance of the experience?

    I am not asking these questions rhetorically but rather in a sincere effort to understand.

  88. 88.

    Also, did you see any religious value in the temple ritual apart from that aspect, or did that overwhelm the balance of the experience?

    I actually love ritual, and love the idea of sacred space and sacred clothing both. Unfortunately, though, I have other quibbles with the temple ceremony on an intellectual level that really don’t affect me emotionally, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to mention them in this sort of forum. I do think temples are beautiful, but to me this only seems like a part of what is so insidiously harmful about it all.

  89. 89.

    I think I see what you’re saying, Kaimi, (or maybe not??), but since we Mormons believe humans and deities occupy the same plane, spatially and ontologically, dedeifying seems to me like another angle from which to view dehumanizing. I still prefer the term dehumanization because when what we view as human is juxtaposed against what we view as non-human, we rarely think of a pair such as human/deity (when we want to contrast humanity with divinity we usually use a term like “mortal”), but usually human/animal or human/object or animate/inanimate or sentient/non-sentient. So I’m using dehumanization essentially to mean objectification. The problem I see has to do with whether we interact with other human beings with the respect which is due to sentient, accountable subjects at the phenomenological center of their own experience, or as objects useful for some other end whose experience is therefore of little or no account. The evidence I see from the temple is that God himself (whose perception one might even argue represents some objective reality?) regards women not as subjects but as objects. (If it were anyone less than God purportedly advancing such a perspective it would be significantly less painful–or even if, as I already stated, women were not required to formally accede to this perspective themselves.) (Sorry–that was a long-winded response that maybe has nothing to do with your question.)

    JWL, I’ve read enough of your comments to recognize that you’re thoughtful and sincere. I actually did know a little about the hearken covenant; my bishop mentioned it vaguely to me the day before I went (and hinted that his own wife found it objectionable), at which point arrangements had already been made. But honestly, I didn’t at all anticipate how negatively I would react, partly because I’d spent years recognizing sexist Church practices without being overly distressed by them. Unendowed, I think I believed that accepting what I consider misogynistic tendencies was optional for Church members. I though anything sexist in the temple would pretty much wash over me. I was wrong–in part for reasons outlined above, but also because there’s quite a bit of other stuff in the temple that reinforces the message of this covenant; it’s hardly an isolated instance.

    I hesitated when the time to make this covenant came, and I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive myself for not hesitating longer, for being too eager to commit myself to God. I think I’d be happier now if I’d said nothing. I can only hope God doesn’t hold us to promises made under duress.

  90. 90.

    K,

    Thanks for the explanation (far more than my semantic quibble deserved). I see your point; I was just noting that your choice of words struck me as a little odd.

    As for the question of religious promises, promises made under duress, breaking promises, and such . . . well, it’s a complicated and interesting set of questions. Someone ought to blog about it sometime.

    ;)

  91. 91.

    I also must object to the non-transformative nature of the little smiley in my last post. I’m not certain what’s going on, but dammit, I want my comment to have a little yellow circle of pixels that vaguely resembles a face, not just a few pieces of random punctuation.

    I’m not sure how or why, but I’m probably being oppressed. I blame it on Kiskilili. :P

  92. 92.

    Yes, well, ever since I got involved in witchcraft, punctuation marks everywhere have stubbornly refused to transform into smileys (which is to say nothing of the cars that are no longer able to become robots) [gleeful but chilling cackle].

    Such an interesting thread, that on promises made under duress. Somehow, though, I suspected I’d used up my quota of outrageous comments for the year and refrained from posting my thoughts about the temple there; instead I had to satisfy my evil impulses by using sympathetic magic to make cattle sick and by levitating small objects telekinetically.

  93. 93.

    […] the pinnacle of our worship, a place of sublime peace and divine connection. But do we tolerate the tales of the women who find the temple ceremony […]

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