TABITHA: “Sister Tabitha, would you like to come sit by your husband up here?”
My husband was serving as a witness for sealing ceremonies, the rite that binds families together for eternity in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There’s not much to the job, just being one of two men making sure that the man performing the ceremony does it correctly. By sitting next to my husband, at the head of the room, I had a glimpse into church service and duties that I’ll most likely never experience for myself. At first I was excited. Here I am, sitting next to my husband, not behind or ahead. We are already sealed together as a couple. Now we’re a team serving together, as witnesses, even if I’m only unofficially one. Except, I’ll always be an unofficial witness. I’m not needed because I can’t be ordained to an office of the priesthood; I’m just kinda nice to have around to make the work more bearable. Or something like that. Dang. That was a cool feeling for a minute.
I’ve had this feeling before. When I was 11 and in my last Primary program, I was seated in the chairs that the older teenage boys sat in minutes before while they waited to bless the bread for the passing of the sacrament. For years, I had heard adults comment to my guy friends about their upcoming priesthood service. At the time, boys at age 12 would be ordained to be deacons and could then pass the sacrament. We girls didn’t get anything remotely as important to look forward to. As I sat in those chairs, I had an initial feeling of excitement: THIS is the cool view those who bless the sacrament have! That was quickly squashed with the knowledge that I could never give such a blessing.
Another time, while cleaning the chapel with my family when I was a teenager, I sat in the chair traditionally reserved for the bishop, the presiding priesthood member and spiritual leader of the congregation. That vantage point, and the knowledge I’d never be that leader, no matter how faithfully I lived and served, brought a few tears and lots of prayer to a heavenly parentage whom I knew well.
I’ve had a complicated relationship with temple rites and rituals for a while, but I still keep a current temple recommend, the document that allows a member to enter temples. I live two hours away from a temple, so I don’t go very often. I go much less often now than before the things taught became overwhelmingly painful to me as woman. I haven’t decided what the new adjustments mean for my motivation to go. I had agreed to a sealing session because it was Christmastime, and I was visiting family that I was trying to show I loved. A lot of this ceremony is lovely to me, as is the overall idea of families bonding together forever. But sitting literally one seat away from the man representing deity, separated by my husband, and knowing that because of gender, my view and service will never be as great as his, really stings, even if I do it of my own free will and choice.
Sisters Quorum exists to give voice to those who are not being heard and is seeking submissions. If you have a story to tell, SQ invites you to visit our submission page for guidelines.