Our latest round of debating the meaning of “hearken” has raised another problem which frequently comes up in this discussion: people being blindsided by the temple. The fact that all the covenants aren’t explicitly spelled out in advance is something I’ve never understood. Why aren’t we teaching them to people all along? How can the Young Women “prepare to make and keep sacred covenants” if they don’t know what those covenants are?
Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of sacred space, and I have no problem with limiting the discussion of particular topics to that space. But I honestly cannot see a justification for not telling people what they’re going to have to promise until they’re on the spot, in a situation in which it would be very socially difficult to leave. We recommend that before getting married, people give some thought to the serious of that obligation–it’s not as if you show up to a religious ritual and have five seconds to decide whether you want to commit to this person for all eternity. Why not give people some time to make an informed, thoughtful, prayerful decision about other temple covenants? It seems like we could avoid a fair amount of heartbreak. While I have issues with the hearken covenant, I might have even more issues with the fact that many women don’t know in advance that it’s going to be required of them.