What I Was Supposed to See

READER POST: It’s funny, really. You’d think a less sexist temple ceremony would make me happy. And in a detached, distant kind of way, it does. I’m glad other women won’t have to feel the way I did; like I was trapped. I’m a lifelong feminist and a born-in-the-covenant Mormon, and I wrestled that with the best of them. I thought I’d figured it out.

But sitting in that Endowment ceremony, it felt like all my worst fears were coming true. It felt like when you suspect your friends are talking badly about you, but they keep insisting that they aren’t, and then one day you overhear them doing it when they think you aren’t there. Like you were a fool for not listening to your gut this whole time. You’ve misplaced your trust.

The Endowment and Initiatory ceremonies themselves didn’t really freak me out, to be honest. I have a background in experimental theater, and the ritual’s actually pretty tame compared to things I’ve done in classes or for audiences. But I remember sitting there, hearing “unto thy husband” disclaimers and a “hearken” covenant I couldn’t actually make (I just stared, mouth agape), watching Eve be cursed by God and then follow Adam around mutely for the rest of the ceremony. I had the clearest thought during that experience: “Women are missing here. They’ve been missing from the beginning.” All the way back to Genesis, we’ve been missing. The men tell the stories, and in most cases they don’t even need to erase us from them. They simply leave us out. I felt that loss deep into my bones. If I’ve ever felt revelation in my life, that was it.

So again, you’d think a little more inclusion in the temple would make me feel better. I recognize, intellectually, that it’s a good thing. This is an important change for so many. I get that.

But I’m not happy. I’m angry.

Maybe it’s the validation that does it. The acknowledgement — after all this time, all those soothing little pats on the head and “You’ll understand someday”s — that I was right all along. The ritual wasn’t complete. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t the way it should be. Perversely, this makes all the past anger feel more justified.

But it’s not just that, I don’t think. It’s where this journey’s led me. 

That moment, which was supposed to be the pinnacle of holiness for me, was the beginning of the end. I didn’t see it right away, but I knew something had changed. I had nightmares that night: I kept seeing Eve, silent and listless, moved from place to place by Adam like a holy puppeteer. Every time I thought of it, I felt such pain and loss.

Over the next few months, I saw echoes of that image everywhere in the church. No priesthood or leadership ability for any woman anywhere. Strictly male deity. A divine purpose that consisted of raising boy children to be leaders and girl children to be support staff. Eternal servitude. And for my LGBTQ siblings, even worse than that — no apparent purpose at all. 

Outside the church, stories that used to make me roll my eyes now had me incensed. I started listening to a podcast about cults, so many of which were vehicles for sexual manipulation and subjugation. It took months before I saw the connection between the predatory behavior of fringe religious groups, and the prophet who told teenage girls they needed to marry him in order to ensure salvation for their families. Once I saw it, I could not brush it away.

Nor could I unsee the cruelty in reinforcing the “other” status of LGBTQ individuals, of denying them equal rights and status. The idolatry in requiring fealty to the prophet above all else. The hypocrisy in building ornate buildings based on a body of scripture that preaches care for the poor above worldly things. The pattern of valuing loyalty over integrity.

I also saw that God could be wilder, more inclusive, more beautiful than the rules-obsessed and bureaucratic “House of Order” god I grew up with. There is so much love and so much goodness, so much righteous power to be grasped if only we seek it ourselves instead of taking what’s given. We can be wonderful, wild things too, built from just exactly what we are. I’ve seen it. I see it everywhere.

The Endowment promised enlightenment, and I can’t deny that the scales fell from my eyes that day. I just didn’t see what I was supposed to see, I think.

So when these changes come, quietly and without fanfare, with an implicit prohibition against discussing them in public? That doesn’t feel like progress. That feels like someone asking me to shut my eyes again. To trust again without any attempt at repairing the break in the first place. Stick around, and we’ll hide ourselves from you better next time. Thank us for removing the wound we gave you, and never say it was our doing in the first place.

So yes, a less sexist temple is a good thing. I acknowledge that. I’m grateful for that. But my anger is honest, too. It’s protective. Because this one poisoned element is disappearing, but the others are still there. And I can’t just overlook them anymore

~Julie~

Reader Bio: Julie lives in California with a husband and too many pets. She is a BYU graduate with LDS pioneer ancestry and a staunch Mormon upbringing. Though she maintains close connections with believing friends and family and maintains much respect for the Church community, she no longer actively participates in the LDS faith.

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5 Replies to “What I Was Supposed to See”

  1. I thought I was the only one who felt this way . When I first went to the Temple three years ago. I felt so uncomfortable during the the Inventories and wished I had had the courage to leave. I mentioned this feeling to one sister in the church and was looked at in a horrified manner. I decided it was best if I said nothing. I still feel uncomfortable when I attend and so only go now and then.

    It was refreshing to find out I am not alone. Regards Amanda

    Like

  2. Julie, I love this, especially your two concluding paragraphs. I feel like you absolutely nail so well why this doesn’t feel like an occasion for full-throated celebration, but rather one for guarded happiness, but continued wariness.

    Like

  3. I LOVE and relate so much to this paragraph, especially:

    “I also saw that God could be wilder, more inclusive, more beautiful than the rules-obsessed and bureaucratic “House of Order” god I grew up with. There is so much love and so much goodness… We can be wonderful, wild things too, built from just exactly what we are. I’ve seen it. I see it everywhere.”

    Yes!!! A thousand times yes, to the Wild and Wonderful God! That is what I see, as well, and it’s so awe-inspiring and soul-nurturing! Beautiful wild blessedness everywhere… thank you so much for this post. ❤

    Like

  4. This is a powerful post. Thoughtful. Gracious. Thank you for articulating ideas I have always known. There is so much writing to do, both for believers and those who live in this community and love the people in it. When I first saw a space called Sisters Quorum I was uncomfortable with the name. Audacious, the title, I felt. I was both laughing and squirming. A big yes to all of the wonderful, wild things that happen from what you already are.

    Like

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