Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Temple

I think this has come up in the comments before, but I've never really written about it. I haven't written much of anything lately, partially because we just finished a big move and I've been packing since the beginning of May, and partially because I haven't had a lot of angst related to my faith transition (and yeah, I'm still calling it that, because although I know what I've left behind, I still don't know where I'm going).

But I'm in the Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook group, and they talk a lot about the temple in there. Mostly about garments, which I've never worn and probably never will wear. And you would think that should mean I just don't care about the conversations, not that they actually bother me. But they do. I've always had a lot of trouble with the idea of the temple.

When I was a senior in high school, my seminary teacher told us that when a couple gets married, the woman tells her new name to her husband, but the man does not tell his to his wife. Ever. She was pretty excited about this, actually, because she viewed her acceptance of it as a measure of faith (and that's what the lesson was on). I felt sick to my stomach.

And for the next eight years, every single time I thought about getting married in the temple, I felt sick to my stomach. Literally sick, and painfully. It was a really big deal to me. I usually ended up in tears, freaking out because I didn't see how I could get married in the temple, freaking out even more because I thought my revulsion was a sign of how unworthy I was to do so. After all, accepting things we don't understand is a measure of our faith, right? And obviously my faith was crap.

One Christmas vacation—just two weeks after I'd gotten engaged—I was home and having a discussion with my family. Some things came up, and I learned that it was possible that my horrible feelings about the temple were related to some childhood abuse. I was so relieved. That would mean it wasn't my fault, wasn't a worthiness issue. And it would mean that I might someday be able to get over it. I went back to BYU feeling much better about things. 

But in the end, that knowledge wasn't the solution. I learned some more things about the temple and I've learned some more things about myself and the church. And those things—not whatever's left over from my childhood—are what have decided how I feel about the temple. 

The frustrating thing is that I still feel uncomfortable thinking about it. Someone took a poll in that group the other day, asking how we all felt about ordinances. My answer was a combination of two of the responses: that I think ordinances and rituals are a nice human-made construct and are not necessary for salvation, but that for some people, the preparation for the ordinances is what is important. For some people, ritual is a big part of their religious experience. I'm not sure yet how I feel about it—either it isn't a big deal for me, or just the Mormon rituals aren't; I need to have some experience with other forms of religiosity to find out what I think.

All of which is to say that since I don't believe in it, I feel like it shouldn't still bother me. But I guess I've been having those feelings for a long time, and maybe they won't go away immediately just because my brain has decided they should. 


  1. I don't like the temple. I was okay with it the first time I went, but then the more I went, the more I understood what was going on, and then I hated it.

    I think it takes time to heal from mormonism. Beliefs and ideas take root inside, and it's not easy to get them out completely...

    My family believes that my dislike for the temple is because I was abused as a child, and then by my husband. (The abuse started on the wedding night. Even in my own head, the temple is what gave him permission to treat me that way.) I don't think that's the case, but really, it doesn't matter. I don't believe. I don't like it. I am never going back.

  2. I understand. I've had a lot of similar thoughts & feelings about the temple for years. Now that it's been taken off the table for me, I've found a lot of relief, although sometimes I wonder about what could have been, and that's generally not fun to think about.

  3. The whole new name exchange was heartbreaking for me. I wanted to cry. What got to me more is that the Temple workers were completely insensitive to my emotions, physically *pushing* me to embrace my husband (to which I snapped at them to stop). I hated it.
    As for the Temple as a whole, I have come to the conclusion that I need to not participate in the Temple ordinances for a while. I am determined to still be worthy, but the Temple is not a place of peace for me. On the contrary, it is a place of turmoil and hard feelings. I am really hopeful that one day I will understand more and not be so .... unhappy during sessions. But for now, I am unhappy, and thus I feel like it is best for me (both for me and others around me) for me not to go. And I do not in any way see it as a lack of faith.

  4. I've never been endowed, and frankly, I think that's probably a good thing--fewer threads to unravel, less complication for an already complicated issue. I used to love going to the temple to do baptisms, especially when I was in college and could go by myself whenever I wanted (as opposed to the Dallas temple, where I only went with the ward youth). It was so peaceful for me. The last time I went was long before my faith transition began, and I'm actually glad about that, because it means I can sort of keep that peaceful association separate from everything else. Baptisms were fine; it's only when I think about the endowment and sealing ordinances that I feel all the angst.

    And Jen, I'm so sorry about what you experienced. There is, unfortunately, so much in the church that creates room for abuse, that can be used to provide justification for it. It sounds like you're out of that situation now? I hope so.