Friday, July 4, 2014

My Take on the Temple

I've read post after post by women lamenting that their testimony took a beating in the temple.
This phenomenon pains me like you just don't know. I would do ANYTHING to change that.

Here is my small part, and I'm not sure it will help, but it's better than nothing.

The latest blog post was from a woman who earnestly sought answers and was told none could be given regarding temple symbolism and the role of women in The Plan. Allow me to share my insight, which I must first clarify is not official doctrine, but I feel really good about it.

Here goes. I once had a remarkable experience in the temple after weeks of trying to solve a puzzle. I previously had a lot of family names to do and I decided to get through them ordinance by ordinance, which meant the season came in which my husband and I would go to the temple strictly for initiatories. When we were done, we'd meet up in the celestial room. I was always the first to arrive, even when we had the same number of names, and I had to wait. A lot. We weren't able to figure out why this kept happening, "Were they short staffed?" No. "Did some old guy fall asleep?" No. Eventually, we had our side of things memorized and we went through it bit by bit. I won't repeat the exact words, but we were both astounded by the differences. Spoiler alert: Women rock, God knows it.

When all my family names were ready for the endowment, we focused on that. Having had this big, big breakthrough I was incredibly disappointed to discover that the endowment is setup to either quickly gloss over the awesome, unique blessings meant for women or actually chops out certain words so that we hardly have any clues that reflect God's true estimation of His daughters within that ceremony.

What really got me is that this was by design, that this is intentional. I mean, really, this is what I looked like when I made that realization:

You're hiding our greatness. . . on purpose?

Why? WHY would this be intentional? Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the positives. It's nice that all the symbols and teachings are given side-by-side, that men and women are both offered celestial glory and the ability to have priesthood power upon them. That's all very, very nice, but clearly it's not enough for so many women who find other aspects of the endowment unsettling for them. It would have been nice to have a straightforward, "You obviously rule, ladies. And men, you'd better recognize!"

As I wrestled with this issue*, I eventually came to these conclusions:

  • Eve's appetite for knowledge and her passion to start the human family, while being righteous desires, were technically outside the bounds the Lord had set as conditions to remaining in The Garden.
  • By being the first to eat the fruit (Could she have given it to Adam first? Could they have eaten it at the same time? I really don't know.) she had to leave her high estate and enter a world (i.e. training ground) that had been created for Adam, not Eve.** 
  • The Endowment focuses on the male aspect of The Plan so that further light and knowledge about women has to be sought after, earned in a sense. There are no gimmes regarding female divinity.

After accepting the above, I was able to find peace with these explanations::

Figure 1. 

Figure (1) shows my take on the endowment. In math there's this notion of trying to "Square the Circle," it's said that no matter how good your compass or straight-edge is, these two entities (circle and square) cannot be reconciled. But with Christ, all things are possible, right?  Likewise, He can take an imperfect woman and an imperfect man and make them a godlike unit together. Ultimately, this is what the endowment is about. And there are glimmers of female power there, but let's face it, it's designed to explicitly show the male-dominant side of things, the rest is veiled. (Upsetting, I know.) One of the most helpful things I read in trying to understand why veils exist at all was found in this article by Elder Hafen, and this quote within it should be given extra thought: "Why would a man be damned if he saw a sign—if the veil were parted too early? He would be stopping his progress." Also, only that which is considered most sacred is veiled in our Judeo-Christian tradition, so consider that, too.

Figure 2A

Are you familiar with the term enantiomer from chemistry? By definition these are structures that are mirror images of each other, but are not the same (Figure 2A). We know they're not the same because they cannot be super-imposed on each other (Figure 2B). Hands are a good, simple example of enantiomers.

Figure 2B

Keeping enantiomers in mind helps one to ponder the female side of things, which is in parallel to the male story being shown. It follows that if we see Adam doing something along some point in his journey, we can envision Eve as having an experience that mirrors it, but is not the same (Figure 3). Within this framework, the creation segment of the endowment took on new meaning for me as I pondered terms like "form," "create," "organize"and what those would signify for Eve and our Heavenly Mother.

Figure 3.
Points along the circle.

Now on to another sticking point in the temple. . . Many women are disheartened by what sounds like subjection to their husbands. I've been there, I've felt that. It's painful.

This is my take on that:

Figure 4

This is where it helps to have an open mind regarding nomenclature, and listen to word changes (they're very important!). In the Old Testament, the term Elohim makes reference to the supreme God. El- is singular, -im indicates plural masculine. The general term God, however, can encompass many entities, but unique among them is the divine male-female union. (Likewise, Adam is a term that can simply be the name for the first man on earth, or the combination of Adam and Eve.) The next time you go to the temple, pay attention to how things appear like the top of Figure 4, BUT once Adam becomes a unit (linked together by covenant), both male and female have a direct relationship with God.

Keep in mind too that at the very beginning, Eve is sent as a help-meet to Adam. At some point previous to this earthly existence she'd proven herself as having a true and honest heart to which Adam could and should hearken (and he does). Ultimately, Eve becomes dependent on the Savior just like Adam, and so instead of things staying the same (where Eve makes momentous decisions on her own and Adam follows her lead), she must accept that in this earthly journey she has to seek his counsel, too. They need to progress together.

Is it frustrating that the temple endowment is setup the way it is? --That we're not seeing the whole picture, on purpose? Sure, BUT we are promised that the entire truth, the full circle as it were, will one day be revealed for all to see. Or in the words of President Benson, "we shall see how all truth may be circumscribed in one great whole and, that all things shall work together for our good."

p.s. Sorry about all the chemistry analogies, but chirality or direction (i.e. left vs. right) is very important in the temple. If you look at things done on the left/right as being reflective of one gender's role in The Plan, this will help a ton. Figure it out, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right on the first try!

*The irony here is that the people going around saying that they're perfectly content with gender imbalances in the endowment, or deny that this exists at all (so often they love to make others feel bad about their sincere questioning while trying to make themselves look more faithful), they can only progress so much. They dam themselves.

**After the fall, Eve requires a savior just as much as Adam.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks YOU for reading! Did you find it helpful at all? It's obviously hard to write about these things, but I want to share whatever I can if it will do some good.

    2. I think this was helpful and I think you did a nice job of sharing your thoughts respectfully and reverently. From my experience attending the temple often, repeatedly, to the point that you have memorized the ordinances, and then continuing to go often, repeatedly, and for your own ancestors--this is when the veil starts to dissipate here and there and understanding grows. But still, we all learn different things at different times, in a different order. Thank you for sharing a little of what you have learned on women, men, our roles, our divinity, and our relationship with each other and with God.

  2. Fascinating. The temple hurts me so much that truthfully I can't go anymore. But the idea that the mirror exists and us simply veiled fits quite well. As does your final comment on left/right mirroring. So much to think about.

  3. In Elders Quorum this last Sunday the topic of Ordain Women came up. I made the comment that women don't need to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood to address most of the issues that they have concerns about. I said that women don't need the "Aaronic" or "Melchizedek" priesthood to go through the temple where men do and that makes a BIG statement in my mind. We can then think of the Temple as being the great equalizer in this regard. This then brings up thoughts that women are more powerful and capable AS THEY ARE by virtue of being women than LDS conventional wisdom has previously acknowledged. I then said that I believe there is more to the Temple and the Endowment than we may realize or has been promoted to us. Something happens there that (I may be going off grid here) acknowledges and even ordaines(??) women to their higher understanding and potential with a power that is inclusive yet separate from the Priesthood held by men while at the same time making that power and authority(??) being EQUAL to men. How can this be?!! By virtue of our Heavenly Mother. She is THE Highest Queen, THE Highest Priestess and, with our Heavenly Father, is our creator. Maybe the world has not been ready for such doctrine (and maybe I am just up in the night here) but I believe that the next big doctrinal revelation in our time will be that of our Heavenly Mother and the unveiling of the EQUAL but different powers, authorities and access that come with that. And we will find that with these two different but related/separate yet equal powers - male and female - when combined together then create the greatest power and attain the highest level of all. This could doctinally fit AND it would clear up a lot of the inequality issues that exist right now.

    As you put it, the true understanding about women is indeed there in the Temple. It is just veiled. I sincerely hope that this veil will finally be dropped and that all women can understand the EQUAL yet different power, authority and capability that they have.

    Reading your article was very validating with that regard.

    1. I want to write a more thoughtful response, but for right now, I gotta ask. . . How'd that go over in your ward? :)
      Kudos to you, btw.

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  5. Check that: I sincerely hope that this veil will finally be dropped and that the "brethren" will acknowledge the EQUAL yet different power, authority and capability that women have in ALL areas of the Church.