Female Priesthood would Require Changes in the Temple Ceremony

There is an interesting post over at Wheat and Tares by Guy Templeton.  He first asks about whether female temple workers hold priesthood, writing

In nearly all blessings and ordinances, priesthood members perform the blessing or ordinance under the “authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”  I noticed recently at the temple that the ordinances are performed merely “by authority.”  As I understand it, women repeat words nearly identical to men when performing initiatory rites.  There has been some debate about whether women actually hold the priesthood when performing temple ordinances.  Elder Oaks recently said “With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. All authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the church.”

Guy concludes with a poll asking Is this why the words “Melchizedek Priesthood” are absent from temple ordinances?”  As of the writing of this post, 67% responded “I don’t know”, 17% said yes, and 16% said no.

The next poll question asks “Do female temple workers hold priesthood authority, or is this simply proxy authority from the temple president (as if the president were performing the ordinance instead of the woman)?”  38% believe women serve as priesthood proxies, 34% say women have a different type of priesthood, 14% say women hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, and 14% say “I don’t know.”

The comments have been equally interesting.

Geoff – Aus writes “In the endowment both men and women wear the robes of the priesthood on the right sholder, “so they can officiate in the ordinances of the melchizedek.  So yes women do hold the priesthood in their own right.”

IDIAT disagrees writing

Handbook 2. …..Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents. …

All ward and stake auxiliary organizations operate under the direction of the bishop or stake president, who holds the keys to preside. Auxiliary presidents and their counselors do not receive keys. They receive delegated authority to function in their callings.

Temple presidents are given keys. They in turn set apart temple workers. I think, analogous to stake and ward auxiliary leaders, female temple workers receive delegated authority. So I guess I would say they serve as proxies. They don’t ‘hold’ the priesthood in the traditional sense by way of confirmation, but are given the authority of it so their acts may be binding and valid.

I noted that “The baptismal prayer isn’t explicitly offered under either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, but rather by one “commissioned of Jesus Christ.””

Hoffbegone said

My wife and I were called as Temple Workers in the Los Angeles Temple a few years ago. I was with my wife, I was set apart. My wife was given the PH by one of the counselors in the Temple Presidency (my post said Temple President but it was one of his counselors – dont think that makes any difference) and she was set apart.. Hands were laid on her head. With regards to citing by what authority I do not recall exact wording, just that we had a discussion about what happened and the counselor explained women are given the PH because they are performing PH ordinances in the Temple. It could not have been made clearer to me. I have discussed this with my wife and other members (men and women) and they agree that women are given the PH to enable them to perform these sacred ordinances. With regard to other comments made above: Temple Workers do not work as proxies. Patrons are the proxies. A Sunday School teacher does not have authority to perform PH ordinances no matter how hard a Bishop may try to delegate his keys. Keys and authority are two different things. Many words in these posts need definitions otherwise a lot of misunderstanding will take place. PH is conferred, one is ordained to a PH office after the PH is conferred. My wife was not ordained to a PH office. There is only one PH, it is the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. I am not prepared to give a Sunday School lesson on this subject and dont wish to imply that I know it all. But there is good material on lds(dot)org. With regards to keys: who has the keys to the resurrection? With regards to the new films. Yes, the wording is the same but there are images no one has ever seen before in those films giving new emphasis and meaning and intent to those words….

Clearly there is no consensus on the issue.

I’ve been pretty vocal that I support Kate Kelly and Ordain Women on my blog.  Kate has been pushing for priesthood equality and asking the prophet to seek revelation on the subject of female ordination.  Others have also brought up the inherent sexism in the temple ceremony.  The last few comments brought an interesting side note regarding the sexism.  Sarah said “So, to be clear, we women wear the robes and garments of the priesthood, are conferred and thereby receive signs, tokens, and keywords of the Aaronic and Melchizedec priesthood, all in this life (after the garden and before the veil). It’s right there in front of us and still we refuse to accept it.”

Jettboy explained that priesthood in the next life will be different from priesthood in this life, but noted the inherent sexism (though I’m sure he wouldn’t have couched it in those terms.)  He said,

Ah, but Sarah, there is even with those “conferrals” a God, then man, and then woman hierarchical structure taught within the Temple. Assuming that isn’t the case (and I believe it is), the final outcome isn’t going to be the leadership structure of Teacher, Priest, or President we think of with the Aaronic and Melchizedek ordinations. Authority has nothing to do with it, but blessings of the eternities. The highest callings will be King or Queen of our own Kingdoms; and that only as a promised conditional in this life.

This led me to say,


I think you bring up a good point that the highest callings in the eternities will be different. I think it is an excellent point.

On the other hand, “then man, and then woman hierarchical structure taught within the Temple” clearly disagrees with Nephi’s idea that “all are alike unto God, male and female….” If man is hierarchically above woman, then all are not alike, nor equal. This is why people complain the temple is sexist. I don’t know how anyone can argue that men and women are equal in the temple ceremony when clearly the temple ceremony shows a hierarchy that is unequal. Clearly the men are elevated in hierarchy above women.

I understand that this point is off-topic of the post, but your comment clearly illustrates the inequality inherent in the temple endowment, and I think it should be clearly pointed out for those who say that the endowment is not sexist. I think your comment clearly illustrates the sexism within the temple, and I think you are right in your interpretation. I, on the other hand, wish the temple ceremony was changed to get rid of the sexism.

When blacks were allowed into the temple, the temple ceremony didn’t need to be changed. Perhaps if women are allowed to hold priesthood office, the temple ceremony may need some dramatic alterations. Surely a revelation on priesthood for women would simultaneously require changes in the temple ceremony. With the new movies leaving the dialogue essentially unchanged, I’m not hopeful that either the temple ceremony or female priesthood will change under the current prophet.

So, I bring a few questions for you, and would like you to comment on them, as well as answer the poll questions.



26 comments on “Female Priesthood would Require Changes in the Temple Ceremony

  1. Why does everyone place a hierarchical description of the temple ceremony. It isn’t. It’s a companionship. The words that Eve speaks are to “hearken unto her husband has he hearkens unto God”. It does not say that Adam has dominion over Eve and that she has to do what he says.

    Even within the church in other areas (missionary, home teaching, visiting teaching, etc) we are placed in companionships but one is always senior. In a working companionship, its a 50/50 team. The senior takes the lead in meetings only because someone has to be held accountable. The twelve work on the same model, the president of the 12 leads the group, but the group can only act if all are in agreement. At any time the “senior” companion in any situation forces or commands the actions of another, it is ‘unrighteous dominion’ and thus not of God.

  2. Alex,

    This may change your mind. Note the link below is the “short” version (and it is not short). It has instructions for the longer version. See http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2014/04/the-mormon-priestess-the-short-version/

  3. MH, I know you were responding to Alex, however, in regards to your comment, would you consider being willing to have your mind changed also?

    I think it would be interesting to see how firmly attached you are to your stated position after additional education. One way to test this: audit a few upper level (400s – 600s) courses in ritual and ceremony, ritual and ritual process, and/or ritual theory (descriptors not titles). These are often found in anthropology departments. Have you ever considered doing something like this?

  4. forgetting, sure I’d be willing to have my mind changed, but auditing these classes costs money and time. At least Alex gets to read for free (and not a semester’s worth of classes)! 😉 I have long considered getting a degree in theology, and I think some day I will, but my finances aren’t in a place where I can do that right now.

    Can you give me some hints as to what these classes would teach me that would change my mind?

  5. I don’t think women are ordained in the temple, but I think the temple rituals clearly show they should be (ordained). God says he desires for all to receive it. Then the women receive everything the men do. It’s not like the women stay seated while men do all the priesthood-y stuff. As far as power and authority, if the spirit of God moves me to speak or act, God’s power and authority attend me as I follow that prompting. (The same goes for non-members.) The “hearken” thing is a problem. Either you believe God wants men to get between him and his daughters, or you think the ceremony is incomplete and that we should all hearken to our spouses as long as they hearken to the Lord (we should learn together and help one another, but no one gets between us and the Lord). I believe the latter.

  6. On the other hand, “then man, and then woman hierarchical structure taught within the Temple” clearly disagrees with Nephi’s idea that “all are alike unto God, male and female….” If man is hierarchically above woman, then all are not alike, nor equal. This is why people complain the temple is sexist.

    If our interpretation of the ritual conflicts with scripture as plainly written as that, then it is our understanding of the ritual that is incorrect. If we are understanding it incorrectly then we need to start again with a better foundation.  The temple prep course is inadequate if you want to move beyond our current cultural narrative and understanding of this ritual. That is why I suggested more education concerning ritual and ceremony. I realize that it takes time, work, and often loads of money. I understand that very well, it’s what I went to school for.  I guess one hint then, and I have said this elsewhere already, so I apologize for repeating myself here.  We, and in this case, you, seem to be reading the narrative as the totality of the ritual. That is the incorrect way to approach ritual. I wasn’t being flippant when I recommended auditing courses to help your understanding of the different components of ritual and how they interact and work together; both in union and seperately.  It has a cost, but we are talking about the sacred and it seems some effort might be needed. 

    I also think courses like these can help place the mythic aspects of our ritual, in this case the Adam and Eve myth, in their proper context and perspective. Of course studying this can be free as well. I have not found a library system yet that doesn’t have Joseph Campbell and Parabola magazine on the shelves. So that’s a start, and doesn’t cost a dime if you get them back on time.

    Not only is this a hero myth, it is a rebirth narrative. Probably more precise than a rebirth ritual, it is a dismembering and remembering ritual.  We have removed parts of the original rite that we began to feel uncomfortable with as time went on, otherwise this would be more plain. That is one more hint of what you would learn. 

    Also, our ritual could have used a different myth or narrative story and still maintained and contained all of the essential elements. One example, we could use Father Lehi’s dream (with some aspects of Nephi’s) and teach, perform, and experience exactly the same thing we do now in our current ritual. In fact this mythos, and two other Tree of Life motifs (Alma 32 and it’s padding , Christ’s appearance and it’s padding) from the Book of Mormon, can better explain the ritual than any man with gender roles in mind can.  I will go even further and say that using these motifs we can better understand our signs, tokens, and names.

    Bolder yet, and at the same time lighter in the wallet than auditing a course: Give yourself a good study of Black Elk (“The Sacred Pipe” and other scattered writings), “Honoring the Medicine” (Kenneth Cohen), and “Spiritual Hunger” (Dr. Allan G. Hunter).  I probably should include a few other resources (and one about ceremonial drum use), but I would want to take some time and think it through before I did. After that, go and participate in a Native American drum making workshop or ceremony. Properly done, the whole ceremony, the seperate ritualistic components of the ceremony, the creation of the drum, three days later the awakening of the drum, and it’s long term care and use, could (would?) change your view of what our ritual is expressing, and what is going on in the temple.

    I think we (mormons) are overly confident in our understanding of ritual, what ritual is, and how to make ritual effective collectively and individually. We are hung up on one or two interpretations, and both of these are stumbling blocks. Even that is part of teaching through ritual, so in this respect the Endowment is working perfectly (fourth hint.)

    Since I have been recommending books: “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith” by Barbara Brown Taylor. I think she can offer some insight about this mysterious priesthood we all keep talking about.  She has a unique perspective, she was ordained and served in her church.  We brothers could learn a whole lot about priesthood from her as well.  So, there’s that. 

    Pardon the typos, you know how it is on a phone.


  7. You may have noticed that Aaronic Priesthood ordinances never invoke the name of the Priesthood either. (Baptism and Sacrament prayers). My theory is that, in keeping with the historical record, Joseph Smith never used the word priesthood until long after the Church was officially established, so these and most basic ordinances couldn’t possibly have invoked a “priesthood.” You’ll also notice that the Book of Mormon, except in referencing the old patriarchal system or the Law of Moses,never speaks of priesthood either. When Christ comes, he only speaks of power or authority. Moroni, at the end, never says “priesthood” when he talks about how the church was administered. In fact, he states that elders and teachers were called and ordained through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    There simply was no concept of Priesthood until 1831, when Smith decided to take the “power and authority” with which he was officiating, and divide it into two parts. From that point onward, we begin to see the words Aaronic and Melchizedek.

    It would be interesting to know what the earliest members said when they gave a blessing of healing. At what point did the language get nailed down to the way it is now? If the early members never invoked a priesthood by name in giving a blessing, than this would make the omission of the word “Priesthood” in the endowment ceremony make perfect sense.

  8. I appreciate the book suggestions. I will try to see if I can get some of them. I will say that I just don’t “get” where Joseph Campbell is coming from. I have a hard time relating to what he says. I do get things from the endowment, but I don’t “get” it either. I just have a hard time with symbolic learning.

    I’ve purchased Greg Prince’s book on evolution of priesthood, and I am thinking about buying William Hartley’s book. I would like to better understand concepts of priesthood. I remember someone discussing the priesthood ban for blacks and saying it wasn’t simply a priesthood ban, but a temple ban. Obviously priesthood is interconnected with temple, and it would be nice to better understand that connection.

  9. The thing about Joseph Campbell, it is worth the sweat and blood to understand what he presents.
    I really should have included in that first list the novel Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon SilKo.

    Also, by Karen Armstong A Case For God and A Short History of Myth. Personally, I think these two books could (should) be added to a person's study and preparation before the actual temple experience.

    As much as it sticks in my craw to say this, Fire on the Horizon: A Meditation on the Endowment and Love of Atonement by Blake Ostler.

    I would add anything by Victor Turner, and I would recomend first 'The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure'. Any of these are also worth the study, 'The Anthropology of Experience', 'The Anthropology of Performance, 'From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play', 'Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society'.

    Some additional suggestions would include:

    'Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions', by Catherine Bell

    'Rites of Passage', by Arnold van Gennep

    'Ritual Theatre: The Power of Dramatic Ritual in Personal Development Groups and Clinical Practice', by Claire Schrader

    'Theatre, Ritual and Transformation: The Senoi Temiars', by Sue Jennings

    'Theatre, Sacrifice, Ritual: Exploring Forms of Political Theatre', by Erika Fischer-Lichte

    'Women in Ritual and Symbolic Roles', by
    Judith Hoch-Smith and Anita Spring

    Here is the link to an MIT Open Course that someone had asked me about and I had forgotten until I went hunting through my notes to find some other books. http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/anthropology/21a-212-myth-ritual-and-symbolism-spring-2004/

    Now that I think about it, there are probably many free online courses like this and I would check iTunes U, they have a large collection of courses there for free.
    I have a list of papers as well, but many are behind paywalls, and the books I suggested should be in your local library system.

    None of what I have suggested is going to spell out or teach you 'exactly' what the temple is teaching, it isn't that simple, and if there was a book that did that I would probably bury it. The whole point is the experience, not only the ritual, but the learning that comes from the experience and then later study. A large part of this learning is specifically by revelation; that is a condition of our endowment and ritual. Actually, teaching us how to receive revelation is one of the ritual's intent.

    I actually steered you far away from other Christian rituals, and used Native American, because it would be strange to you. New eyes, or see things in a different way and that is the only way you might find your mind changing.

  10. I really wanted to post this over at your W&T post, but I will do it here, quietly.

    I know I just recommended a long list of books, but my understanding of the endowment is not intellectual. I had a good intellectual foundation of myth, ritual, and sacred space, given my schooling, but my understanding of most of the things the endowment ritual is teaching us is spiritual and experiential.

    The Lord made it clear to me that He would heal me, in fact, He had already promised to heal me, and a way had been provided. That way was the endowment. It would be my knowledge, application, and then understanding of the endowment that would do this. You see, in December of 2010 I was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with what I was told was permanent brain damage from cysts, leisions, and calcifications growing all over the brain. My entire adult life, and it started on my mission, I had suffered from seizures, migraines, lost time and memory loss. By late April 2011 it was all gone, the last MRI then showed one last shrinking arachnoid cyst, and The Lord says not to worry about that, it's gone now. By late summer of that year I had last nearly 100 pounds (without exercise) and the need for eye glasses (trifocals). I have not had a seizure, a minor headache, or any lost time or memory for three and a half years. In fact, my lost memories and skills are returning. There has been other healing, but I share only the most obvious to anyone that has known me. It's not something one hides. The outside stuff.

    To be clear, I did not receive a priesthood blessing. It was a faith healing, but not of the kind that first comes to mind. It was applied faith in the temple, endowment ritual, and ultimately the Savior and His atonement. As I said, it was the knowledge, application, and then understanding of the Endowment that healed me. You don't go through something like this without knowing exactly where it is coming from.

    When I suggest trying to see the ritual differently than you do now, it is not because of intellectual* understanding, it comes from my lived experience. Really, we should not be focused on the need to change or update the ritual, it is well designed and the part we dislike actually teaches some vital principles. Instead, we should focus on our need to understand it instead. If it seems to be conflicting with scripture, it is our understanding that is conflicting, not the ritual. I am also aware that I know a raindrops worth in an ocean when it comes to the Temple, but I know enough to know you all are barking up the wrong tree.

    Again, this is just my lived experience, but it had nothing to do with gender roles or hierarchy. What is being taught there is being misunderstood and misapplied. I can only suggest this: See it differently.

    10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

    11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

    12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

    13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

    14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

    15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
    Matthew 13:10-15

    *I don't even get to claim to be an Intellectual. The head problems and seizures caused me to drop out just short of finishing, so there is that.

  11. MH, I decided to post here as well because you seem to indicate not understanding much about the Temple. I think you overstate the case for not prepared for the Temple, often because the membership, like the general non-Mormon population, doesn’t take the time to become educated. It is easier to stay ill-informed. There are a lot of Church appropriate books and articles, including the Scriptures and non-Mormon sources, that can help.

    The first place to look is actually Church manuals that are written as introduction. This can then be followed by personal steps that can be taken after study of the Scriptures. The Temple is very thematic, so do a study of what you can pick out during each visit. Go with undertanding the purpose of the Temple.

    Like I said, there are reading sources that can help. The General Authorities talk a lot more about the Temple than we give them credit. Because of the ample amount of information if someone takes the time, I find strange so many are so ignorant. One thing I have found is that the simplicity of it among the many detailed complications is rather shocking in itself.

  12. forgetting,

    Thanks for the list of books. I’m glad that the temple means a lot to you, and I’m grateful that you were healed through the temple. That’s great. Really it is, and I’m glad God gave you such a blessing.

    But I don’t think that discounts anything that I have said.

  13. Jettboy, “The teacher’s guide Endowed from on High is more substantial.” Substantial? Just look at the titles of the 7 chapters of this “substantial” guide.

    Lesson 1 The Temple Teaches about the Great Plan of Salvation
    Lesson 2 We Must Be Worthy to Enter the Temple
    Lesson 3 Temple Work Brings Great Blessings into Our Lives
    Lesson 4 Receiving Temple Ordinances and Covenants
    Lesson 5 Learning from the Lord through Symbols
    Lesson 6 Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple
    Lesson 7 Continuing to Enjoy the Blessings of Temple Attendance

    I think the church manuals suck. Lesson 1: a person learns more about the Plan of Salvation from the Missionary Discussions. Lesson 2: Worthy? No duh. Lesson 3: Blessings. More platitudes. Lesson 4: Ok, if you don’t know crap covenants, are you actually listening at church? What’s different here than you’d learn in any Sunday School or Priesthood lesson.

    Lesson 5: Symbols. Ok, the title has piqued my interest. Let’s see what they talk about. Click on that lesson. It shows a star of David (which isn’t in the temple) and then throws a softball question. “Show the class your country’s flag or a picture of the flag and ask them to describe what the flag means to them.” Is this for 5th graders? SUBSTANTIAL???? What are you talking about?

    Lesson 6 and 7: Prepare to enter, and enjoy the blessings. More platitudes.

    Ok, so if you think this is substantial, please tell me what is substantial in ANY of these lessons. From what I can tell, this tells me nothing to help answer my questions about the temple.

  14. I am not trying to discount what you are saying, nor am I disagreeing with you, though you still might think I am. The situation you keep outlining is true and accurate. We are only disagreeing with the source of the problem. I am saying it is ignorance of ritual, symbols, and myth. You seem to be saying it is the ritual itself that is the problem.

    I also agree with your assessment of Jettboy's suggestions.

    It shows a star of David (which isn’t in the temple) …

    Funny thing about them using that symbol, it is in the temple, just not in that specific form. The union of Adam and Eve, or this covenant we are all hung up on, can be represented by the Star of David. Too bad the manual doesn't follow it all the way through. As I have said, we are not teaching this well. Here (Sacred Marriage: The Secret Key to Christian Spirituality) is another link I had dug out of my notes earlier but decided not to add to the list (I am not trying to prove anything, just encourage you to see the ritual differently, so I tried to stick with just ritual). It is written from a gnostic point of view, but the understanding and explanation of marriage (sacred marriage) as a symbol is correct and is a common understanding. From the article:

    According to David Fideler, a central symbol of the “alchemical marriage” is the six-pointed star or hexagram, for the fusion of the two triangles signifies the union of opposites. The triangle pointing upwards is an archetypal image of the Masculine; it symbolizes the god, the sun, and the ego. The triangle pointing downwards is an archetypal image of the Feminine; it symbolizes the goddess, the moon, and the unconscious.

    That would be true of the Star of David also. In our case we need to flip it a bit, our Ego must be veiled to receive revelation, and Adam, as Michael, is our more spiritually connected aspect. Then again, this is gnostic leanings, quoting alchemy teachings. My point is, the marriage of Adam and Eve is a very old symbol, and we seem to be the only ones being so damning literal about it. Us and the more fundamentalist evangelicals; never thought I would say that.

  15. Ah pardon, I did mean to add this: In fairness to Jettboy, the list of books from this page is a very good selection. I would second his recommendation on any of them. Gaskill's symbolism book could use some additional work though, it lacks depth. For basics, and a place to jump in, it is a good starting point.

  16. To quote the entire paragraph of the misquote of me you gave:

    “Students, if they attend any kind of Temple “prep” class, are given the aptly titled manual Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple as a study guide. It is a general overview consisting of platitudes, quotes, and simple introduction. Alone it does very little as guidance. The teacher’s guide Endowed from on High is more substantial. A suggestion could be to give the students a copy of this instead of the other, or perhaps both since this one references the shorter text. It breaks down into seven topics that are fundamental to any knowledge base. The lessons contain more specific LDS leadership quotes and a wide variety of scriptural references that make great starting points for contemplation. These manuals should be great beginning, and not ending, points to discussion.”

    The teachers guide is more substantial than the study guide, not that it is more substantial than any other or all sources. Maybe not by much, but it does have more quotes and information. These are, as you yourself pointed out and I just said, “topics that are fundamental to any knowledge base,” meaning the Gospel in general. Once again to quote, “The lessons contain more specific LDS leadership quotes and a wide variety of scriptural references that make great starting points for contemplation. These manuals should be great beginning, and not ending, points to discussion.” To spell it out to you, these are STARTING POINTS that focus on basic information that anyone entering the Temple need to know.

    Really, I am confused what are your problems with your understanding of the Temple? I would LOVE to answer whatever questions you have. If you are doing more than having fun complaining about it, but really want to know, then lets have that conversation. Because of my love for the Temple I am willing to help with more than suggestions of what to read. My e-mail is available.

  17. forgetting, “We are only disagreeing with the source of the problem. I am saying it is ignorance of ritual, symbols, and myth. You seem to be saying it is the ritual itself that is the problem. ”

    Perhaps this is a semantics argument then. I like the ritual. I think it can be tweaked to get rid of the sexism. I don’t see the ritual as the problem (as in it’s so bad we should get rid of it), but I do think that it is inherently sexist. The sexism is taught and accepted as “God’s will” by the majority of temple-going Mormons (I give the evidence of Jettboy’s comment that inspired this post in the first place that this is normally taught and accepted.)

    Can it have multiple meanings? Sure. I suck at symbolic language. It’s very difficult for me. The temple is repetitive, and I don’t know what I am supposed to notice. To answer Jettboy’s question, as Guy posted today at W&T, am I supposed to notice the carpet and butterfly symbolism, or is this straining at gnats? If it is what I’m supposed to be noticing, then I suck at symbolic language. Because it feels like straining at gnats to me. Some people may enjoy this puzzle and may find personal inspiration and enjoyment out of looking at carpet and butterflies, but my brain just doesn’t work that way, and I find it frustrating if my brain is supposed to work that way. Perhaps that is why I don’t get much from the temple. So Jettboy, that’s my question.

  18. Jettboy, to continue with the “misquote” part, in the comment above you said, “There are a lot of Church appropriate books and articles, including the Scriptures and non-Mormon sources, that can help.” I checked out your links, and they didn’t seem helpful to me. Of course you mentioned in one of those links that there is substantial information. Yes you did say the LDS manual was better than the temple prep course, and it was a “starting point”, but if it is a starting point, then it isn’t helpful, and doesn’t bolster your argument above that “There are a lot of Church appropriate books and articles, including the Scriptures and non-Mormon sources, that can help.” I’m not trying to be combative here, but I didn’t find your links or these manuals helpful. So I’m left wondering about butterflies and carpet, and feeling not very hopeful about understanding the mysteries of the temple if that is what I’m supposed to be pondering.

  19. Let me throw out one more story from the temple. I first went pre-1991 when they still had the penalties. My mission pres, a former temple sealer, once remarked that he wondered why the first signs and tokens had penalties, but the last one did not. He came to the conclusoin that was because if we don’t live up to our covenants, the penalty is not living with God, and that was the worst penalty of all.

    Of course these penalties have been removed completely from the ceremony, probably as a response to the Godmakers assertion that these penalties were Masonic in origin. This leaves me to wonder if my mission president’s speculation was even important. If this can be removed, was it really a necessary, important part of the endowment? I mean it probably was there because it was borrowed from teh Masons. So did he find spiritual enlightenment in something that just didn’t matter in the eternal scheme of things? And are butterflies and carpet important at all, or are they really tangential?

    I think they are tangential, as were the penalties. So when people say they learn so much from temple attendance, I just wonder if they are straining at gnats that aren’t really important. And if you agree with me that these are not important, then what are the important things that I am supposed to learn?

    I’ve been told that the temple is about the atonement and/or the plan of salvation. Well, I get more out of a Sunday School lesson on these 2 topics then I ever get attending the temple.

    I understand the covenants. I love the sealing ordinance. I like doing temple work for my ancestors. But I don’t “get” what people “learn” from the temple, and it feels to me like it is really weird stuff when I hear explanations about penalties, butterflies, and carpet. Like I said, my brain doesn’t work that way. If your brain does, that’s awesome. I don’t get it.

  20. “am I supposed to notice the carpet and butterfly symbolism, or is this straining at gnats?”

    How about both? I think that they are “Superficial. These types of observations are straining at gnats,” if they are considered import in and of themselves. I also think, “They might be personally meaningful, but interpretations may be different for each person,” and therefore can be rearranged in multiple ways to engage the most people possible. For instance, the penalties as a symbolic gesture has been removed, but it doesn’t mean that penalties no longer exist. They were physical representations of greater truths, but because of social changes became ineffective and distracting. Not only was your mission president right, but by logic his beliefs actually predicted how superfluous they were to a greater message.

    ” then what are the important things that I am supposed to learn?” To be honest, I think you are supposed to learn how all those Sunday School lessons work together to form a unified Gospel of Salvation. You are looking at it too much like a series of lessons, and not as a Journey from pre-earth, earth, judgment, atonement and salvation, and finally Exaltation. You are supposed to BE Adam and Eve before slowly becoming your own self and then finally taking on the promises of Eternal King and Queenship. If all that “sexism” was to be taken away like the penalties, that won’t change the message that you might still think is sexist. You would have to do a lot more changes that would change the very meaning of the Temple.

    Have you ever played a game of Risk, or Monopoly, Dungeons and Dragons, or Life? None of those are real, and they might even be a bad copy of reality. That doesn’t take away (for most people) the fun of playing them as if they were real, when all they are is symbolic moving of pieces. At a greater and grander scale, the Temple is where you become the pieces that are moved around until reaching the final goal. Of course, it isn’t real, but an imitation of reality to prepare us for the real blessings and possibilities. That is why its called a classroom. We learn each step of the journey to the presence of God by symbolically re-enacting the Plan of Salvation. It is a play where we are the actors and the audience. If understanding the Covenants is all you can take away from it, I won’t say that is a bad thing. I just think its only part of a greater whole.

  21. The architecture and film art and choices should enhance the Temple ceremonies. They shouldn’t replace them or the attendee will lose focus.

  22. I think this brings up another point. Michael Homer has a new book about Joseph’s Temples and the connections to masonry. He says that much of the temple symbolism is masonic in nature. Early church leaders had no qualms about this, but I believe that it was George Q. Cannon that began to try to claim that the temple ceremony was more revelatory than influenced by masonry.

    Homer made the case that the Curse of Cain/Ham doctrines were generated by masonic beliefs. Finally in 2014, we have jettisoned the Curse beliefs via the new essay at LDS.org on race and priesthood. Obviously these penalties were influenced by masonry, which made it easy to discard them. I think the sexist elements of the endowment are most likely relics of masonry as well, and just like the penalties, should be jettisoned from the ceremony. I just don’t believe this God–>man–>woman is a correct model and conflicts with Nephi as I have said elsewhere.

    Jettboy, do you mind sharing some things you’ve learned in the temple? Is it along the lines of butterflies and carpets, or is it something different?

  23. “Jettboy, do you mind sharing some things you’ve learned in the temple? Is it along the lines of butterflies and carpets, or is it something different?”

    That is a complicated question to answer, because like I said its both butterflies and carpets, and something different. That is like asking someone who studies algebra if what they have learned is along the lines of multiplication or division. Um . . . yea, but those are subsets of the whole that allow you to figure the equations. Another hard part is we are getting into things that are beyond the allowable discussion outside the Temple walls (and I know how frustrating that is to say to someone who finds that a disturbance to learning). Besides, even from what I know there are things that I don’t, and that is what makes each visit intriguing is the possibility to learn, by the Spirit, something different.

    Let me give one example of what I learned. For years I did like everyone else and put in separate boxes Evolution and The Garden of Eden for perhaps answers in the next life. I could not for the life of me understand how they would work together, even though I believe in both. After going to the Temple it slowly dawned on me that the Garden of Eden, like the ceremony itself, was a setting apart of Humanity from the Natural World. All the Creation stories in the Scriptures, put into symbolic representation in the Temple, were very simple explanations of a very complicated process. Adam and Eve were *put* in the Garden of Eden the same way we symbolically are *put* there with them inside the sacred walls while the whole rest of the world goes about its business outside. Evolution and the Garden really are separate issues. Its in the Garden that Adam and Eve, much like we are when attending the Temple, are set apart from the rest of Creation and given special guidance. Yes, it does bring up lots of other questions to ponder and I understand its still a personal revelation not binding on anyone else. However, for practical purposes it represents for me our responsibility as people set apart to not go back to becoming a “natural man” once again shaped by our environment. Instead we should look forward to a greater change into the image of God by following higher laws.

    My politics are completely opposite, but I would suggest reading Jacques Derrida’s literary philosophy and the idea of deconstruction. The basic idea is that language is an invention to solidify and control reality. The truth is there is no reality as we have come to understand the term, but signs and symbols encrusted with meaning. Deconstruction is a way to “think outside the box” and ponder greater truths that our preconceived learning has hidden or obfuscated out of rigid notions about language. We too often confuse the signs of words as the things themselves, when often what is not said is as important as what is. Until we “deconstruct” our prioritizing, we cannot get at the heart of things because we will pretend we already are at the heart. The theory doesn’t ask “what,” but “why?”

    To tie this into the Temple, what happens inside “deconstructs” what we know about the gospel and our lives outside. In the process we are re-ordered into new “creatures” that have a far greater worth than originally considered. At the same time we cannot properly learn the truths taught in the Temple unless we “deconstruct” what is happening and what we are doing. What happens in the Temple is symbolic to force us to, if we are willing to let go of what we think we know, pay attention rather than take at face value. This is what we are supposed to do when asked to “ponder” the Scriptures or the Temple; thinking of how to reframe them in a way that reframes ourselves.

  24. […] I’ve really enjoyed the past few posts by Guy Templeton over at Wheat and Tares regarding some topics of the temple.  I’ve also enjoyed the interactions with Jettboy and Forgetting here at by blog.  Guy has discussed temple symbolism.  I have expressed frustration at this symbolism, because to me it seems just like a puzzle  I have said in my previous post, […]

  25. […] I’ve really enjoyed the past few posts by Guy Templeton over at Wheat and Tares regarding some topics of the temple.  I’ve also enjoyed the interactions with Jettboy and Forgetting here at by blog.  Guy has discussed temple symbolism.  I have expressed frustration at this symbolism, because to me it seems just like a puzzle  I have said in my previous post, […]

  26. “The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.

    What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travellers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.

    Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.

    Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

    Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on! [Bruce R. McConkie, “The Caravan Moves On,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 85]

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