Leaked Memo on the Effects of Non-Priesthood Cooties (NPC)

In the wake of the Church’s recent announcement that young women will be allowed to hand out towels in the temple (and that priest-aged young men will be able to perform and witness baptisms for the dead), the following memo to the First Presidency that preceded the change has been leaked by an unnamed source in the Church hierarchy.

Executive summary

Recent research and revelation indicates that infection with Non-Priesthood Cooties (NPC) would not prohibit young women from handing out towels in the temple, and it is recommended that the current restriction on them doing so be lifted. No other changes in women’s or young women’s participation in priesthood ordinances are recommended, as NPC infection continues to be a serious concern in all other such situations.

Background

As the adornment of humanity, women and girls are, from birth, infected with Non-Priesthood Cooties (NPC) that prevent them from participating in priesthood ordinances in any way. (Note that NPC infection also makes it possible for women to become pornography.) Women’s NPC may even threaten the efficacy and validity of the ordinances themselves if women and girls get too close to them. The threat of NPC extends even to serving as a witness, a fact which has been known to prophets ancient and modern. For example, it is recorded in the New Testament that when the Savior was resurrected, and well-meaning female disciples attempted to convey this information to authorized priesthood leaders, Peter rightly doubted their testimony and believed it only when he had verified the event for himself. Although the women testified truthfully in this case, Peter was doubtless responding to previous situations in which the women’s NPC infection had prevented them from witnessing correctly.

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Temples and Secrecy

I’m somewhat wary of secrets. Yes, I absolutely think there is a time and a place for keeping confidences, and I’m very much a supporter of private information staying generally private (like not having your entire web history auctioned off by your internet service provider to the highest bidder. But I digress). I’m not entirely on board with the trend in our contemporary culture to leak anything that can be leaked; given my history of willingness to criticize the church, you might be surprised to learn that I actually have some serious reservations about the recent MormonLeaks phenomenon.

Still, secrets are tricky beasts. Sometimes they’re necessary, no doubt about it. But I don’t like how they can place excessive burdens on people who get stuck with more knowledge than they can handle on their own, but who can’t ask for support because the knowledge is secret. I don’t like how they can create dividing lines between people, separating out those “in the know” as a privileged group. I don’t like how they can create a toxic atmosphere in communities (think, polygamy under Joseph Smith), or in families (such as when a parent selects one child and share their secrets with them but not with anyone else, and the dynamics get weird fast). Read More

Worthiness

My favorite Richard Dutcher movie, one perhaps lesser known than God’s Army or States of Grace, is a thought-provoking film titled Brigham City. It’s a highly suspenseful murder mystery set in a small Mormon community, and it deals head-on with some hard religious questions. The final scene is deeply moving. I won’t spoil it by giving too many details, but I will say that a crucial element of that scene is the question of what it means to be worthy to take the sacrament.

About eight years ago, when I was still a PhD student, I got to design and teach a Master’s-level class on Mormonism at my school. One week, I showed them Brigham City. The group of mostly Protestant students quite liked the movie, but they said something that has really stayed with me. They said that their take on that scene was different than mine had been, because they came from traditions in which there isn’t a worthiness requirement to take communion (or the sacrament, in Mormon lingo); in fact, one of them said that when you feel unworthy, that’s actually the time when you need it the most. I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. Read More

Dodging the Temple Bullet

It’s time for a confession. I’ve been a member of the church my whole life. I go to church regularly, and I could probably qualify for a temple recommend if I wanted one.

But I don’t. And I have never been through the temple.

For a long time, I was really defensive about this. Getting endowed is one of the things that marks you as an adult member of the church; like being single, being unendowed will place you, in the eyes of many, in the category of the spiritually less mature. If you got endowed at a young age, you may be oblivious to the social dynamics surrounding this. But if you were older, or an adult convert, you may have some idea of what I am talking about. There is a hierarchy, and there are insiders and outsiders. If you haven’t been through the temple, there is no shortage of reminders that you aren’t a full member of the church.

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Temple talk trends

Over at fMh yesterday, Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks introduced a new series, “When the Temple Hurts.” I was particularly interested in a point she made in the post about how often we discuss the temple in lessons and talks at church:

The temple is a regular focus of meetings, lessons, talks, and discussions in church settings. I’d estimate that, in my experience, 1 out of every 4-5 Sundays in my adult life as a church member has included a talk or lesson where the temple was a primary focus.

I’ve been teaching primary now for a couple of years, and my memory of adult classes is maybe suffering from a bit of haziness, but Sara’s numbers sound good to me. This would mean an average of at least one temple-related lesson or talk per month, with of course lots of variation where there is a cluster of them, and then maybe no mentions for a longer period of time.

I would be interested to know how well that matches up with other people’s experience. It seems like this would be a difficult thing to measure well. Sure, we have correlated lesson manuals, but we also have locally chosen topics for things like sacrament meetings, first Sunday meetings in RS and priesthood quorums, and Teachings for Our Time lessons. And for that matter, even how correlated lessons are taught varies a lot from ward to ward and from teacher to teacher (much to the frustration of the Correlation people, I’m sure).

So I thought I would look at a related question that’s easier for me to answer, which is whether talk about the temple at the general level of the Church has been increasing or decreasing over time. If there’s a noticeable change over time, this is probably felt by people in their local experiences, as general-level material like Conference talks are not only used directly in the preparation of lessons and talks, but they also likely help drive local leaders’ perceptions of what topics are important at the moment.

I used the ever-wonderful Corpus of General Conference Talks to look at how often the word temple has been used in Conference since 1900. This graph shows the result. The dark purple line is the 10-year moving average, and the faded purple line shows the year-to-year rates.

temple refs in conference 1900-2013 Read More

I Loved to See the Temple

Encouraged by Primary, I grew up imagining God like my father: brilliant and impressive, but with a lively sense of humor and a deep affection for me; he could alternate easily between interviews with distinguished newspapers and a chatty phone conversation with me about whatever was on my mind. I felt close to my dad, growing up, in part because he was a loving father who dedicated time to his children and in part because we are so similar in personality—we make the same jokes, have the same competitive streak, and geek out about some of the same topics. I’m lucky in this, but I was comfortable and happy with the idea of a heavenly father, thanks to the example of my own. “Divine nature” made sense to me, and it was easy for me to take my concerns to God in prayer, in the same way I’d take my thoughts about an interesting math problem to my earthly father.

Then I went to the temple. Read More

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

My wife’s life changed forever on a hot summer evening when she was 12 years old. Up until then she had lived a fairly sheltered life in a predominantly Mormon community in a cookie-cutter suburb in the Mountain West. This was a typical suburb–sprinklers greening up the lawns, bicycles in the driveway, the occasional cat or stray dog–no other wildlife to speak of.

On this evening, behind closed doors in his office at the ward building, the mild-mannered, middle-aged, soon-to-be excommunciated-for-adultery bishop, asked innocent little Lilian if she practiced bestiality. Read More

“What is God really like?”

When Beatrice and I were serving together as missionaries, we were lucky enough to be in a district that included the mission offices.  The APs and office Elders were in our district, so more often than not we held district meetings in a cozy conference room in the main mission office building, giving us frequent occasion to see the Mission President and his wife.

Throughout our companionship, Beatrice mentioned to me that she had questions about the role of women as depicted in the temple endowment. We discussed it a few times in companionship study, and then – taking advantage of our proximity to the mission leaders – one day we decided to take the issue to the wife of the MP. To be clear, we didn’t openly dissect elements of the endowment that are considered private or sacred. We talked about the sorts of things that are commonly parsed on fMh, Exponent II, and here at ZD: the hearken covenant; women veiling their faces; the almost complete silence of Eve and lack of other female characters in the pre-mortal realm; and other, similar issues. Read More

Why Not Do Better Temple Prep?

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? Read More

What does “hearken” mean?

This ended up a little longer than I’d intended, but I like my findings too much to trim it down. If you’re not totally entranced by descriptive lexicography, I can’t say I understand, because I don’t (what’s wrong with you?); however, I can suggest that you read the first two paragraphs, the bolded paragraph in the middle, and the last four or five.  You’ll get the argument I’m making, if not the methodology, or the fun.

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The comments on Apame’s fine post below have turned me to this question, and rather than threadjack her understandable envy of those who get to fine-tune their own wedding vows, I thought I’d give it its own post. Because honestly, I’m not sure I know what this word means. Read More

Secrecy and the Economics of Religious Devotion

Religious secrecy is nothing new; ancient mystery religions enjoyed a long history and vital following, and even some early Christian groups apparently did not reveal key doctrines to catechumens until after baptism. A number of instantiations of institutional secrecy in the Church can be identified, among them the veil over the handbook of instructions and the lack of public information on how tithing dollars are spent. But what interests me here is the significance to community dynamics of the conducting of secret ceremonies. Read More

Endowed Before Mission or Marriage: Discuss and Enlighten Me

On Ziff’s recent thread the subject of the church discouraging people to get their endowments before a mission or marriage was discussed (a little bit). Since I’m very interested in the subject, I thought I’d start a post where we can discuss it. I’m going to share my experiences with and impressions about this. I hope that the rest of you will share yours as well. Read More

My Journey into Apostasy

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?) Read More