not in Primary anymore

how the temple is sexist (and the church is, too)

Note: I am an endowed member of the LDS Church. In this blog, I’m going to discuss certain details of the temple rites without sharing anything that one covenants not to reveal. The opinions expressed in this particular blog post do not reflect the opinions of all writers of this blog. 

the temple is sexist

I believe one reason why the LDS Church has so many troubles letting go of its heterocentric and sexist doctrines and policies is because they’re pushed so strongly in the current version of the temple rites.

I will show in this blog post how the temple rites are sexist, starting with baptisms and confirmations for the dead, going through the initiatories and endowments, and ending off with the sealing rites. I will not mention those things which in the temple one covenants not to reveal. All information about the temple found here can also be found at ldsendowment.org.

I will also start by saying that I believe the temple can be a wonderful experience for people. I personally enjoy the symbolism and ritual of the temple. At the same time, I believe that the sexism found in the temple should be eliminated, and that the heteronormativity enforced in the temple should be adapted.

The temple has gone through many changes so far, so the request to change the parts that lead to misogyny, transphobia and homophobia in the lives of the Church’s members should not be that much to ask for.

baptisms and confirmations for the dead are sexist

The fact that an endowed male can baptize and confirm others in the temple while an endowed female cannot is the textbook definition of sexism. It’s as sexist as saying a qualified man can drive a car while a qualified woman cannot, and it teaches children that men can do things that woman can’t.

The fact that men are baptized and confirmed for men and women are baptized and confirmed for women also enforces a false and sexist dichotomy that ignores intersex people who have both female and male sex organs, androgynous people who do not identify as female nor male, and bigender people who identify as both female and male.

Everybody wearing matching jumpsuits, though, does teach that all people are equal, regardless of gender identity.

The message of equality found in the matching jumpsuits is so powerful that the misogyny of the initiatories, endwoments, and sealings shock many women and men.

initiatories are sexist

For many women in the LDS Church, the temple is the only time they’ll have another woman lay their hands on their head and pronounce on them a blessing. It can be an empowering experience, and it has even led some people to believe that women receive the priesthood in the temple, and that this priesthood authority is simply not recognized currently by the LDS Church.

Unfortunately, there is a part of the initiatory that is bluntly sexist. Every man is anointed in preparation to become “a king and a priest unto the most high God.” Every woman is anointed in preparation to become “a queen and a priestess” unto her husband. (Even if she is not yet married).

That’s right. Man serves God. Woman serves man. That is sexist. It treats women as merely a support staff for men, and it plants the seeds of spousal abuse.

the endowment is sexist

It’s great that modern LDS Church leaders have decided that Eve is the hero of the Garden of Eden story.

It’s also great that some LDS Church leaders have taught that we have a Heavenly Mother who, with Heavenly Father, helped to create the universe.

It’s disappointing, however, that during the entire endowment rite, an all white male cast of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael are the only ones creating the universe, with no mention of a Heavenly Mother or any other feminine presence during the creative process.

The most disturbing part of the endowment rite is when each of the women promise “to keep the law of the Lord and hearken unto the counsel of their husbands as he hearkens unto the counsel of the Father” while the men only promise to “obey the law of God and keep his commandments.” (Who cares about men hearkening unto the counsel of their wives, right? In fact, Adam is punished for harkening unto Eve. What a terrible husband, hearkening unto his wife).

Misogyny anyone? How many women have been silenced because of this covenant? This particular part of the endowment reeks of unhealthy power dynamics.

Whatever seeds were planted in the intiatories are watered here as it becomes clear that man is found between Eve and the Lord, and Eve loses not just her individuality to her husband, but she is silenced as well.

The entire endowment rite itself has men and women divided on either side of the room, each wearing different ritualistic costumes. I already explained above how separating between women and men re-emphasizes a false and sexist dichotomy that forgets those outside that dichotomy.

Even more so, by having different costumes for women and different costumes for men, the false and harmful belief that all women are one way and all men are another way is cultivated. Such an idea is as harmful as saying all whites are one way and all blacks are another.

The most problematic part of the female costume is the veil that is placed over her face when she prays. No such veil is placed over the faces of the men. Why is this? Any reason you can come up with is probably sexist and can lead towards damaging and unrealistic stereotypes.

The sexism of the endowment rite continues for many newly wed couples until the end of the rite when women are pulled through the veil by their husbands who represent the Lord.

Women are expected to share their new names with their husbands while men are expected to keep their own new names secret from their wives.

sealings are sexist

The concept of being sealed to one’s loved ones for eternity is a beautiful concept. It’s unfortunate that such a concept is reserved for heterosexual couples and their children only. (Just like it was formerly reserved for only non-black couples).

It’s also unfortunate that in the sealing ordinance, a woman “gives” herself to be her husband while the man merely “receives” her. As in, he doesn’t give himself equally to her during the sealing rite. In the endowment, women as servants of their husbands, but now they’re being treated as possessions of their husbands.

Another unfortunate thing about the sealing rite is that men can be sealed to multiple women for all eternity, but women cannot be sealed to multiple men. That is sexist.

please change the temple

After showing all the terribly sexist and heterocentric things in the temple, all that I ask is that these things be taken out or altered.

The temple has changed extensively since its inception with Joseph Smith. It actually used to be even MORE sexist than it is now. Women used to promise to follow the law of their husbands unconditionally. Eve used to be somewhat more ignored. And there was even a part where God curses Eve with sorrow during childbirth for partaking of the fruit.

Thank goodness we listened to women in the nineties and altered the temple rites to be a healthier experience for them.

Here’s a list of ways the temple rites have been changed throughout the years:

http://www.ldsendowment.org/timeline.html

Many people have a wonderful experience in the temple despite the sexism, and it’s great that they do. You yourself may not find anything amiss or troublesome in the temple, but please understand that many people do, and it can cause much spiritual distress for them.

Let’s try to make the temple a beautiful and uplifting experience for everyone!

To read women’s experiences with the temple, please check out:

Feminist Mormon Housewives: Unholy Covenants

Feminist Mormon Housewives: Dancing with Doubt

Feminist Mormon Housewives: How Feminism Can Raise the Dead

Dear fMh: I Don’t Want to go to the Temple Anymore 

Feminist Mormon Housewives: Caroline’s Temple Experience

Mechanics of Mormon Subjugation of Females

Zelophehad’s Daughters: My Journey into Apostasy

Zelophehad’s Daughters: Making Sense of My Temple Experience

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84 Responses to “how the temple is sexist (and the church is, too)”

  1. EdwardJ

    Excellent analysis, Curtis! I hadn’t even considered many of the issues you bring up. Time for a good overhaul. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Readyforchange

    I find it interesting that God commands Peter James and John to “share” the laws with Adam and Eve, but then Peter James and John only interact with Adam. Eve is present, but they dont even call her by name. Seems like it is the nature of man to set limits on God’s words and continue to define it according to their own understanding. I think God must be frustrated by this.

    Reply
  3. maggie

    One more sexist point that I find particularly troubling. Before a couple is married, the bride must be brought through the veil by her husband. This reinforces that the wife’s relationship to her husbands is equivalent to her husband’s relationship to the Lord. In effect, this makes the men of the church Lords to their respective wives.

    And when I went through the temple without a fiance, the stranger that met me at the veil was not acting as the Lord (Jesus Christ/God) but my Lord (my future husband). Some believe/teach/speculate that the veil ceremony is symbolic of the resurection, in which, husbands will resurect their wives. But those of us who are unmarried have to just hope that the random dude who brought us through the veil will remember to resurect us. It’s just a mess and I don’t really know what to make of it.

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      I added the portion about the veil. Thank you for mentioning it.

      Reply
    • Sinclair

      That bugged me too. Also, I think the argument could be made that it compounds marital issues when the husband, for whatever reason, becomes disaffected or falls short of church or LDS cultural standards in some way. Nothing like the fear of “who will call me forth in the resurrection?!” to exacerbate issues, however minor they may be. This was, in my more hyper-Mormon past, incredibly frightening.

      Reply
      • Lily

        Everyone is going to be resurrected, whether they have gone through the temple or not.

      • curtispenfold

        But Lily, not everybody is going to take part in the first resurrection.

      • Beck Jansen

        I agree with you. I was sealed to my ex husband when I was young. We had 3 children together. We divorced due to him running around with other women , drug use, theft abuse you name it he did. It’s been around 8 years since the divorce or since he’s even tried to contact us. He doesn’t care. He works under the table to avoid child support. He quit the military so he didn’t have to pay me anything. The church made me try to find an address for my ex and ask him for a temple divorce. What makes it even worse is that I remarried a few years later and my husband passed away in a tragic accident.. My ex is crazy. His old work had to put a restraining order on him so he stopped hurting me and my children. With me telling the church what I have gone through they still wanted me to contact him. So what this tells me is that my ex husband is worth more than the safety of mine and my children. We don’t matter. I’m just the wife and the man has all the day. I still go to church but I’m done trying to get my temple dealing cancelled. It’s not worth it. God is loving and he would never make me live eternity with hat kind of person.

  4. Yikes32

    Well done; I appreciate the research and references / links.
    Also when I first went through the temple I had many questions… One of them was the veil. After being chastised for asking in the celestial room by a temple worker… Horrible experience which my mom was infuriated about it made me feel awful … But I digress I had the opportunity during my mission while cleaning the temple at slc to ask any question I wanted ( I found out every time we volunteered to clean we could pick somewhere in the temple we ve never been and ask any question we wanted; I volunteered every chance I could get). I was directed to scriptures but ultimately I had received several answers from “workers”that said it was symbolic of The veil and that we ( women) were to be relying upon our husband ( PH holder) for revelation and guidance …it wreaked of sexism.
    As for the male and female separation throughout the endowment, I thought that symbolized that we weren’t bound to each other until we have kept our end of the promise and reached the ” celestial kingdom” which is why at the end we are together with our spouse and family and friends but idk .

    Reply
  5. Sharon

    As an endowed member of the Church, I recognize and respect these concerns with the temple, and would like to point out that many changes and extensions have been revealed and integrated into the worship over the past 150 years. However, I felt like this analysis presented way too much information with way too little context. It’s like going to a mosque and being like, “Hey, some of the women are wearing things on their heads! Sexist! Gross!” but not taking in any of the actual worship or talking to any of the actual women. Sure, maybe in a very outward way it could be viewed as sexist, but that’s an oversimplification, and doesn’t examine that practice in its proper, personal context. And the temple is the ultimate personal topic, so I feel like an analysis without more personal feelings or spiritual impressions, or even anything about the doctrine of the temple at all, is missing something crucial.

    Reply
    • Brooke

      My first time going to the temple. The day before my marriage, I felt sick with all the sexism. And I felt good during other parts but the sexism sick feeling was much stronger. There’s your personal experience. And many more women who aren’t in denial feel the same way. Trust me it’s very personal. I don’t think it’s only sexist in an outward way. That’s actually a ridiculous thing to say. I’ve been in the church my entire life and the sexism shocked me. I went again and let God know that I needed to feel good feelings in the temple if it was true. And if I felt bad feelings I would take that as a sign too. Well I felt bad feelings all over again. And I haven’t been back (:

      Reply
    • Kathryn

      Thank you so much Sharon for standing up in this sea of opposing opinion.

      Reply
  6. Mungagungadin

    Sharon, the content is that the temple doesn’t give content. It doesn’t explain any good reason why it puts women under men. Curtis told the bare facts exactly as nakedly as they are presented. And that’s why so many women can’t overcome the PTSD from the temple.

    Reply
    • Shauna

      Sorry, but please don’t say that woman get PTSD from the temple. That is so ridiculous and when you reach too far, then you lose me. PTSD is a real thing. It is caused by a traumatic experience that actually changes your brain. Like going to war, being a child with an abusive parent, or a horrible natural disaster. If anything the temple can be a bit slow. I struggle to stay awake….so unless people get PTSD from taking a cat nap then I think we are safe. So absurd.

      Reply
  7. Curtis Penfold

    Sharon, as one who is fascinated by the nature of spiritual experiences, I would love to hear your own experiences with the temple. If your experience empowered you as a woman, it’d be perfectly appropriate to share in a blog like this one.

    You can also read the experiences of some women who’ve had negative experiences in the temple if you click on the red sentences underneath the last picture of this blog.

    Reply
  8. Moss

    Thank you for this.

    While perusing the links you shared, I noticed that there is more push-back in the comments of the older posts, and there seems to be a lot more women coming forward to say “this hurts me, too” in the later posts. I hope this means that perhaps we are reaching a critical mass where we will see movement on this issue.

    Reply
  9. John Harrison

    My mother in law recently speculated that the reason that many people are uncomfortable with aspects of the endowment is that the interactions represent a pattern of interaction in a fallen world. They are not celestial patterns.

    Once you enter the celestial room many of the restrictions are lifted and there is a different pattern of interaction.

    The point might be that one should be uncomfortable with aspects of the fallen interaction because they are imperfect.

    Reply
    • Kiskilili

      But why would we *covenant* to participate in an allegedly fallen system– of male privilege or anything else? Isn’t that the equivalent of covenanting to lie and steal (if you accept that interpretation)?

      Also, why would Adam have a preexistence where Eve doesn’t, if patriarchy belongs to the Fall? And why would Goddess play no role in creation? Must we then suppose the Fall extend backwards into the premortal realm?

      The way I read it, the androcentrism (Eve’s ontological subordination) accounts for the patriarchy (Eve’s social subordination). If you account for the patriarchy in another way, the entrenched androcentrism is even more striking.

      Reply
  10. maggie

    Also, the temple is sexist because only men can decide who is permited to enter. From the bishop’s interview to the stake president interview, to the guy who checks your recomend at the front desk. Only men can decide who goes in, not mention that only men have decided what goes on inside.

    Reply
  11. speckles

    Sharon: yes, Curtis wrote this post, and yes, he is a male. But I would submit that it’s nothing like an outside observer viewing what goes on in a mosque and not taking into account the actual worship or context. He is a member, not an outsider, who is as entrenched in this as any of us. In fact, sometimes I think it’s that entrenchment that prevents us from seeing the sexism and sometimes, unfortunately, it takes someone else ” outside” to point it out to us. Also, I do believe Curtis has spoken to many, many of the women actually affected by this. There may be many who do not feel this way, but there are many, many who do and Curtis, though male, is representing the viewpoint of these women.

    Reply
  12. Han

    I’ve only ever done baptisms for the dead before, but on 9/14 I will be doing my endowment. I will be interested to see what my own feelings and impressions are. I have already warned my poor escort that I am no scared little girl who is getting married in 2 weeks and so I am not afraid to walk out if I feel it necessary. I don’t want to jump the gun though. I do have a testimony of temples, and so this is something I must experience for myself.

    Reply
  13. Lisa

    I’m curious about the temple sealing ceremony and everyone who says that the woman is given and received by the man but not vice versa. This really bothered me and so since hearing that (I don’t remember much about my own sealing) I have paid particular attention to the ceremony in the temple. Each time I have attended a sealing since my own, I have listened and heard them give and receive both the man and the woman to each other. The most recent time I heard the sealing ceremony was barely a month ago in June in Utah at my little sister’s sealing. So my question is–do the sealers maybe just say it one way or another but it is supposed to be given and received both ways? Or have the sealing ceremonies been recently updated? I hope and pray that the sealer in my own ceremony used the language that I am describing here, but since I don’t remember I’m basing my ideas on the several sealings I’ve attended since. I have not been back through an endowment session since I first went, and I have also not done proxy sealings since my own was done. Has anyone else done them and heard differently than what I have witnessed lately?

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      Thank you Lisa for your message. I perhaps should’ve worded that better, in which case I will again refer to ldsendowment.org, since that website has the most thorough research on the temple rites online:

      “Note that while the bride gives herself to the groom (in addition to receiving him as her husband), the groom does not give himself to the bride. Presumably, this leaves him free to receive plural wives, having not given himself to one wife exclusively. “

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Lisa, I just went on Friday……the Sealer spent time teaching the couple that the sealing is like the Sacrament prayers — it must be stated precisely word for word. The women gives herself to her husband and receives him as her husband, and he receives her unto himself. He does not give himself to her by covenant at all. No word of “give” is uttered in the part pertaining to to man.

      Reply
  14. Anonymous

    Curtis, you mentioned in the post that women covenant to live the Law of the Lord while men covenant to live The Law of God. I have not found what the Law of God specifically means yet through a great deal of study — does anyone know? — but I’ve seen on a few occasions where the Law of the Lord was taught in Joseph’s day as obeying, submitting, and serving her Lord husband, not her Lord, Jesus Christ. It is also referred to as or in preparation of the Law of Sarah, which is plural marriage and specifically, placing a new wife’s hand into your husband’s in the plural sealing. I don’t remember where I read it in Journal of Discourses or on FAIR or FARMS, but if a wife was balking at plural marriage, she was reminded she covenanted to live the Law of the Lord, which meant to obey, submit and serve his needs. The men make no covenant that is defined as submitting, obeying, or serve his wife’s needs. When I ask various leaders what the Law of God is, they say it’s to keep the commandments. But I’ve never seen this explained by a prophet. Not saying they haven’t, just that I haven’t found it yet.

    It is my opinion that everything in the temple is sexist. Now……I’ve had good experiences at times. I try not to dwell on what is taking place, but on feeling the spirit and strengthening my faith in and later use of the power endowed from on high. It works for me.

    Reply
    • Curtis Penfold

      The endowments originally had the woman promise to “keep the law of your husband and abide by his counsel in righteousness.”

      This was changed in 1990.

      Reply
  15. Adam

    I have no problem with your article and found it interesting. I believe if you are looking for sexism you will find it. I respect your belief and hope you happiness in whatever you believe. I believe that women have the most important role in the church and in life. I do not look at myself better than my wife and she does not think herself better than I. We both have our strengths and our weaknesses and help each other through life. I can see how you would think these things sexist if you believe that the priesthood is a device men hold over women, but I see it as a gift that God has given the family. I would not call God sexist for allowing women to give birth, I believe he has a plan for both genders playing to their strengths. I do not believe that the LDS church should change just because the world is changing. God does not bend to popular belief.

    Reply
    • Sherilyn

      I’ve called God sexist for “allowing” me to give birth. During each pregnancy and painful monthly cycle I’ve wondered why He couldn’t come up with a better way.

      Reply
    • Brooke

      “If you are looking for sexism you’ll find it” okay find five ways that the temple is sexist towards men now go! (: good luck I bet it’ll take you a while

      Reply
  16. Thomas

    God actually does know better than we do, and believing that, if the church is true, then He will lead us, not the other way around, and He doesn’t make mistakes calling his prophets or setting up the way to get back to Him. We can’t lead God, and we can’t lead His church. He calls and He leads. Society has always caught up with Him before, so -logically speaking- why should He now catch up to society? I understand how you would think this way, but I think God probably isn’t making a mistake. If a change needs to be made in His kingdom, it won’t be by petition and it probably won’t follow what society think is normal. Historically speaking we’ll probably learn a different perspective and see He was right all along.

    Reply
  17. T

    Honest question for the author: why are you still a member of this church? or are you not anymore? as i see it there are two options: Christ is either guiding these “15 men” you disagree with, and therefore you disagree with Christ, and probably shouldn’t waste your time trying to change Him. or 2: you don’t think the men guiding this church are inspired by Christ, in which case again, why are you wasting your time going to the church they lead? it’s not like apostle’s positions or the gospel are up for vote, so what are you trying to accomplish? i have read a couple of your articles as I was researching the feminist movement this conference weekend, and I have felt neither inspired nor educated. you complain about the church not being progressive, or accepting, or equal, etc. so why do you stay? stop complaining and go live your life the way you want. it would be like me going to medical school and petitioning the instructors to teach me accounting instead. i suggest you take a hard look at what you want in life and in what you believe, because you are living in a world that doesn’t exist.

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Let’s not judge too quickly, I’m sure you and all of us have been in -if not the same- then equal situations. Well maybe she knows it’s true, she’s just having a hard time accepting some individual parts of it. Elder Uchtdorf gave a great talk about this today. He said the church is all about asking questions, so when people are looking for truth we shouldn’t reject them, we should do exactly the opposite. If they’re looking for truth that’s exactly what this church is founded upon, asking God, seeking and really considering our feelings. I think some doubt is necessary, because it means we’re really thinking about it, in order to overcome them and reinforce our testimonies. If we reject the 1st person that doubts, or has intellectual questions about the church, then we’ll definitely be be rejected ourselves at some point. The 1st stone. I’ve had intellectual questions about the church, but I used that same logic to realize the world of religion must hinge on different rules than ours if we assume God lives and that He knows more than society does. I experimented, following His rules, and I got the promised outcome. Everyone arrives at their answers at different times but it’d be very short-sighted to put any kind of ultimatum on this woman. I say Bravo for confronting her questions and even more if she honestly seeks for truth With true principles, like trust, love and understanding.

      This talk really spoke to me. He speaks on a really real and logical basis about questioning the church.

      If you want to see a questioner’s perspective really be addressed, this will be worth your while:
      https://video.byui.edu/media/D.+Todd+Christofferson+%22The+Prophet+Joseph+Smith%22/0_gxm7f8l5

      Reply
      • T

        “she?” if you didn’t even take the time to read the author’s name of this article (curtis, a man) then don’t bother commenting.

      • Thomas

        Oh, haha, I’m sorry about that. Curtis then. I did read the entire article but I messed up. Please forgive that mistake.

    • curtispenfold

      There’s a lot of good I see in Mormonism and in the Mormon Community, even if I’m critical of some things. Just because I’m critical of some of my government’s decisions doesn’t make me less of a patriot.

      In fact, I’m only critical of my country because I love my country. I’m only critical of my church because I love my church. I think it has so much potential to be even greater than it currently is, and I think that because already, it’s doing pretty good.

      I also think we’re working under different definitions of the word “inspired.” It seems a person can seek inspiration from God and still make mistakes.

      Reply
      • Jared

        What T said in his first comment is just logic. He’s not saying anything offensivet that I see there. Either you believe God is leading the leaders of this church or you don’t. He simply asked you to look at yourself and determine what you believe and make decisions on that.

        I’m glad that you love this church Curtis, but a word of caution to one of your statements. “I think it has so much potential to be even greater than it currently is.” Maybe it does, but if the leaders of this Church ARE lead by God, HE will implement the changes in His time through the leaders. Be patient. I’m nost saying there’s a problem in asking questions, I think that’s healthy, but don’t try to force change where, not trying to be rude at all, it’s just the structure of the church, you have no say in it.

        To address just a couple points:

        Homosexuality: there are scriptures in reference to this and I had a very hard time believing that any good christian and any mormon educated at all about their own religion would think that will ever be acceptable to God. I do not hate homosexuals, I love them, I do not agree with them, but I love them and God does too.
        http://www.lds.org/scriptures/search?lang=eng&type=footnote&query=homosexual

        Plural marriage: I do not know why multiple women can be sealed to one man, but I do know that it’s been around since the old testament as several prophets in that time practiced it and the ones that were punished were the ones that did it without God’s permission. This is the same thing I tell people who are not members of our church, cuz that’s all there is on it. We know it’s been around and we know God sometimes doesn’t allow it for one reason or another.

        Sexism: Men and women have different roles in God’s eyes. I don’t mean women belong at home and men at work. I don’t know exactly what the difference in God’s eyes is, but throughout all scripture there has been a difference, it is mankind that allows this to be misinterpereted and misused.

        It is our job to not misinterperet these things or misuse them. Accept that we all have mortal minds and don’t always understand WHY God does something a certain way. Everyone, find your testimonies. Find what you truly believe, and ALWAYS be seeking for truth, but accept that you won’t understand everything. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions, but if you KNOW God has you where He wants you right now, trust that. If you do that, God WILL lead you to him. He may not answer everything, but we must have faith and be patient. He knows better than we do.

        God Bless. 🙂

  18. Sara Taylor

    There are a lot of people backing you up in this so I figured I’ll be the angel’s advocate if you will.

    First off, in my times of going to the temple, I have never (not even in the slightest) felt degraded upon in the temple. The only people that complain about it being sexist is the group that you have surrounded yourself around to feel whatever (basically people that don’t tell you that perhaps you’re wrong about some things). There are millions of people that would beg to differ and only a handful that are trying to find something wrong with the temple.

    Second off, I would not trust a temple that changed according to society’s preferences. But I would trust one that is lead by an All Knowing God. And for that I’m grateful for the temple and its covenants it has given me.

    Third off, where do you get off? There are so many things to put into account that simply saying that “the way that women are treated differently than men is sexist” doesn’t even begin the illogical argument of this whole article. It’s a fallacy to compare driving a car to temple covenants because they are in a whole different league, honey. Honestly, whatever you were trying to convey in this article, it still comes out biased, angry, self-absorbed, ignorant and (what you call the temple) FLAWED! Ignorance is interpreting differences as inequalities.

    My rant is over. I have many flaws. I know that this response is angry and that fighting fire with fire is a stupid thing to do. But I figured I would defend a temple that is incredibly important to me. And to let others know (perhaps from another biased view) that if you look at the light in the temple, their will be no darkness. I know my worth in God’s eye. Reading my patriarchal blessing, I know He sees my strength as well as I do. I’ve done great things. I know that I receive promptings directly from him. But my husband and I are a team. Whenever we both heed to the Holy Ghost, 100% of the time, we come up with the same answers. We are equal. Don’t make it sound like we’re not. “Oh but the temple says this! Bleh” I know what the temple says because, believe it or not, there are ways to interpret are temple covenants without it actually being sexist. MIND BLOWN. Maybe my rant wasn’t over after all.

    Overall message. Stop trying to find flaws in the Church. Have a question and need personal revelation? (Sunday school answers) Pray, read the scriptures, fast etc.

    Reply
    • Katie

      Sara, if there are ways to interpret all these things as non-sexist, please share! Some of us are hurting and desperately wishing there was a way to explain it. If it was just one thing,I think it would be easier to explain, but there are so many.

      Reply
    • Megan

      I second Katie’s request for a non-sexist interpretation of the problems presented in this article. I have prayed, fasted, and read the scriptures, and I just can’t think of any way in which these parts of the ceremonies could be interpreted in a non-sexist way.

      Reply
    • Cobraman

      According to the narrow definition of sexism provided by the author of this article, yes the temple ceremony can be considered sexist. What hasn’t been debated, however, is why simply dividing roles according to gender or sex is inherently evil or un-God-like. It causes the author and many members of the church anxiety and depression, but these feelings are subjective interpretations of potentially amoral temple ordinances.

      Reply
      • juliathepoet

        You do realize what it means to be a feminist, and that this is a feminist blog, right? In most of the Mormon world you can get away with “separate (roles) but equal” as somehow profound. In feminist spaces, you only sound uneducated to the problems of sexism in general, and this post points out what those problems translate into, when ritualized, and institutionalized, in the temple.

      • gender equality

        This is an open blog and I’d hope that here -among all places- would be open to people saying what they think.

      • curtispenfold

        I’m not just arguing that the temple is sexist, putting men and women in different roles.

        I’m also arguing that the current temple rites are misogynistic, that a woman is actually promising herself to her husband as if she was his servant and slave.

  19. MLS

    Curtis, this is spot-on. I went through the temple endowment session for the first time as a 20 year old bride 18 years ago. I remember so clearly wanting to get up and walk out several times during the initiatory, the endowment, and the veil ceremony before my sealing. I only stayed in order not to embarrass my parents and fiance (with whom I have remained happily married). But, the best way to describe my feelings was “icky” and like I had just allowed myself to participate in something very degrading. I have since discovered that my mother, mother-in-law, and many, many other women have had similar internal reactions to what is truly a degrading series of ceremonies for women. Why do we sit silently through this? Intense pressure, embarrassment, self-doubt, doubt of the Holy Ghost (who was practically shouting at me that this was all Wrong! during each of these “ordinances”), fear of others’ judgement (which is a big deal when you’ve been taught your entire life that a man – a bishop – has the power to judge your soul’s standing with God Himself), and fear of rejection by family and friends (who are taught that loyalty to the earthly Church supersedes all other relationships). It’s a form of spiritual manipulation on par with rape of the soul. And, it is traumatic, and it does cause PTSD in many LDS women who have endured the ceremonies.

    Reply
  20. EssieS

    Hi curtis
    I appreciate you writing this analysis of temple and church practices. I personally left the church because of its sexist, racist and homophobic teachings. I’m not saying that everyone should do that, it just felt like the right thing for me to do personally but it is nice to see that people in the LDS church are trying to take a more affirming empowering perspective in interpreting and practicing doctrine instead of the shaming opressive organization it is now.

    Reply
  21. AuMiner

    In the early days of the practice of baptisms for the dead (prior to the Navuoo temple being built) some men were baptized for women and the other way around in the Mississippi River. Joseph Smith said this was not the proper way the Lord intended the work to be done for our ancestors. The prophet said the Lord wanted the work to be done men for men, and women for women. Call it sexist if you want, but I call it following what the Lord has revealed through His prophet.

    Reply
  22. AuMiner

    I find it very disrespectful that you refer to the temple robes as “costumes”. Does the phrase, “God will not be mocked” mean anything to you?

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      I used the word costume to refer simply to the wearing of clothes that are different than what you usually do on most occasions.

      I did not use that word with the intention of offending anybody, and apologize if I have done so.

      Reply
      • AuMiner

        I normally don’t wear a suit and tie, or fishing waders, or a ski suit, but I don’t refer to any of them as costumes when I do wear them. They are the cloths worn for specific purposes. Costumes are for light-minded occasions, not for sacred settings. It seems pretty clear that you are treating lightly things which are sacred. If you can’t see that, you are blinded by your own pride.

      • curtispenfold

        Once again, I apologize if my use of that word offended you. I didn’t mean costume in the sense of a Halloween costume, and I’m sorry if that’s how it came off. Some anthropologists talk about ritual costumes, so I thought it was fine to refer to the temple robes in such a way.

  23. AuMiner

    I can accept your apology for using the word costume, although I think only nonbelievers would use it in reference to sacred ritual clothing. But you didn’t address my comment on J Joseph Smith saying that the Lord revealed that ordinances be done in a way you call sexist.

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      Luckily, the temple endowment has changed drastically since Joseph Smith’s time, so rather than addressing the original endowment ceremony, I’d rather only address the current one.

      Reply
  24. AuMiner

    I have seen the endowment and initiatory ordinaces change in my own time, but the baptisims have not changed since it was revealed by the Lord to Joseph Smith. You stated thamt the way baptisms are done is sexist, now you want to sidestep the issue. The real question at the heart of the matter is “Do you believe that the temple ordinaces were revealed by the Lord to His prophet? ” My experience has shown what some of the other commenters have said, that they view the church as a cultural institution, rather than as the true Kingdom of God in Earth.

    Reply
  25. AuMiner

    I just read Newsweek’s article “When the Saints Go Marching Out”. It refers to you as an “atheist PostMo”, yet you call yourself an “endowed member of the LDS Church” on this blog. Seems that you are trying to create a façade of credibility by claiming to be endowed so you can sway people who read your blog into your way of thinking but are happy to tell the “outside world” the truth about yourself. I guess that answers the question I asked in December about whether or not you actually believe Joseph Smith received revelations about the temple ordinances from the Lord; to an atheist like yourself, there is no Lord nor God.

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      This blog post was, interestingly, one of the major things that led to my stake president pushing me into resigning from the LDS Church. I was an endowed member, however, when I wrote this. No facade there. I had just been called as a temple worker at the time of my resignation.

      Whether I’m atheist or not shouldn’t matter in this discussion, because truth is truth no matter who says it. If the temple rites are sexist, they’re sexist whether an atheist tells you or whether a theist tells you. Who says the truth doesn’t change the truth.

      I’d much rather have a discussion regarding the content of this blog post rather than the worth of my humanity.

      Reply
  26. AuMiner

    If the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that baptisms for dead male ancestors should be done by other men, and that the baptisms for deceased women should be done by women, then the world’s label of “sexist” is irrelevant. If the world has labeled the temple ordinances by a bad label, remember the Lord’s warning to those who call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). But if you don’t even believe that there is a God, then of course you would not believed that He spoke to Joseph Smith or that the Lord revealed anything to the prophet.

    I have seen others use crafty wording to enhance the credibility of their causes; a while back one person in my stake started trying to persuade others to a certain point of view and would mention things like “I go to the temple” or “I have a temple recommend”. Being that I served with the stake presidency, I knew that that recommend was expired. In D&C10: 23-26 the Lord warns us that Satan tells his workers to lie in order to strengthen the arguments for his efforts to destroy the Lord’s work. Hence, I pointed out what I referred to as a “façade of credibility”. I suspected that you had not updated the biographical note after you excommunicated yourself; perhaps you did not think to update the note or maybe you consciously decided to leave it the way you originally wrote it. I do give you credit for using your actual name, but that does not excuse withholding some of the truth in order to gain support. Then again, I have seen some who relish the attention they get, holding themselves up as a light to the world and to be praised of man.

    Reply
    • juliathepoet

      AuMiner-
      I rarely respond when people start making ridiculous accusations, but in this case, I am making an exception. I have no idea who you think you are that is important enough to decide the worth of souls, but you certainly make Curtis’s case for him. You are unable to respond to the content of his post, and so you attack him. The irony of those attacks, is probably the most unfortunate choice you made.

      To be clear, this is not a blog that belongs to Curtis, and this post is nowhere near new. Many people in the Mormon feminist community are aware of the events that led to Curtis resigning, and they happened after this post. To expect a blog to keep up on the details of someone’s life, and publish any changes in those details, that happened after the actual blog post, is ridiculous.

      Please, talk about the content of the post, which by no means is a unique perspective, or spend your venom in another forum.

      Reply
  27. Anonymous

    juliathepoet,
    I did address the subject of the blog- and the underlying issue. Did the Lord reveal to Joseph Smith the temple ordinances to be done in a way that is “sexist”. If so, then calling “good evil” puts one on thin ice. If Joseph Smith just made it all up or stole it from the Masons, then we might as well stay home and keep our 10%. That is the real issue.

    If one does not believe Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, then what he says on this subject is going to have a certain bias. I have a friend who has been involved with some of the “Mormon feminist” issues. I know she is sincere about her believe in the Church but is also swayed by some of the false doctrine that comes from these groups. The Lord told Joseph Smith “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood except by patience, long suffering…” I follow blogs and websites like this because as a priesthood leader, I take that council very seriously. I study these issues diligently. I have seen many that position themselves with a mission to “inform” members of the Church who have difficult questions they can not find satisfactory answers to. But in reality, the answers provided by these self-appointed informers are designed to lead people into apostasy. When I see that, I call it like it is. That is what I see here, and I just want it to be clear that Curtis is an apostate; by asking to have his name removed from the Church records means he forfeits the authority of the priesthood and all blessings of the temple. He made many comments in response to other posters as well as to me. He could have easily posted an update to inform us of his status as an excommunicated member fi he wanted to be honest about it. If you read the last part of my post, I offered a couple possible motives as to why this new info was not included. That is not a ridiculous accusation.

    Reply
  28. Raharu

    I think the main point of baptisms for the dead being sexist was made at the start of that section in the blog.

    “The fact that an endowed male can baptize and confirm others in the temple while an endowed female cannot is the textbook definition of sexism. It’s as sexist as saying a qualified man can drive a car while a qualified woman cannot, and it teaches children that men can do things that woman can’t.”

    As a member of the church who still believes in its teachings and its prophets I am left to the conclusion that God is sexist. That conclusion is, of course, not made by the valid points from this blog alone. This is not calling good evil. God is still good and if I am against Him I must be evil.

    When I was taught in Sunday School that a third of God’s children would rebel during the second coming I wondered how that was possible. I no longer wonder and would count myself among that rebellious lot if It didn’t mean following Satan.

    I used to think that everyone had to choose between one of two masters, God or Satan. What a fallacy.

    Reply
    • Abogado

      Don’t say that. If it comes down to leaving or posting concerns here, it’s definitely better to have some doubts then throw out all you know. I’ve doubted, and I’ve searched, and the last thing we need is to reject people because they are looking for truth. I, for one, am willing to talk issues out with any honest seeker of truth. I’ve been there, and let me tell you, when you’re honestly seeking for truth, and you ask for it, God reaches for you. He gives just what you need to believe. He really does give you enough, for you, if you ask. I still have doubts come up, and unanswered questions, but God even answers those, one by one, with patience.

      Reply
    • Raharu

      Ah, true fellowship.

      So when Jesus was saying, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” What he was really saying was, “…and If you don’t keep my commandments, you MUST not love me and you can go STRAIGHT TO HELL or Outer Darkness or whatever the hell it is.. PEACE!”

      Reply
  29. Jenna

    It’s funny how so many lds woman cannot pick up on sexism. I remember being 5 and already questioned priesthood authority. Why do they get to do that and I can’t? Why can I only go on a mission for a year? Why am I encourage d to be a stay at home mom? Ect. I left the church at 16 there was to much misogynistic behavior for me.

    Reply
  30. Winfred

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!

    Reply
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  33. Otto

    I just have some concerns. I think most members forget that there is a Modern Prophet guiding us today. Christ instructs him when things need to change, and the Prophet doesnt sway to the general masses. Lorenzo Snow discontinued and even denounced plural marriage as a practice because he was shown a vision from the Lord pertaining to the future of the practice, and wisely chose to end it, not because it was already illegal for years and the Saints were being persecuted. As to the sexist nature of only men and women may be sealed for time and all eternity, read the Proclamation to the World, which was signed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, modern day prophets, seers and revelators. The will not be an ammedment to that document, because that document is from the Lord, and they authors foresaw the need for such a distinguished stand for principles in our day. The New Testament contains scripture about veiling and covering heads in time of prayer so that the destroying angels pass over you. Whether you will actually be destroyed, i dont know, but i would worry for the spiteful feminist to tempt the Lord. And last but not least, covenanting to hearken to the counsel of your husband isnt a covenant of unbridled and blind obedience, but following the law of the Lord is. And hearkening your husband’s counsel is conditional based on his “mere” obedience to the law of Elohim. The law of the Lord is Great, but the law of Elohim is a bit more demanding dont you think? Other than suffering through childbirth ( and thanks to cesarean sections, many women do not suffer regardless of need) I think women have it quite nice. Just because they dont get the wonderful calling of being a bishop or stake president, or get to particpate in church courts ( yay i get to go to jury duty and help decide someones spiritual fate!) they gotta complain about being equal. Nothing is ever equal, and life isnt fair. Fairness is up to the Lord to serve, and equality is up to the Lord to Judge. We merely need to have strong testimonies that He guides the Prophet every step of the way.

    Reply
  34. Eliza

    Please update your note. You are no longer endowed, and you are no longer a member. Please be honest and say you were formerly endowed and a member. By leaving the note the way it is, you are being deceitful.

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      I am endowed, and at the time of writing this blog post, I was a member. There was nothing deceitful about what I wrote.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Read the new testament from the Bible, I believe you’ll find your answers there. 1st Corinthians 7 and 11. It’s not sexist, it’s order. And if you are no longer apart of the church then Im not certain that you qualified to speak on the subject of Temple’s. For you obviously no longer understand it’s meaning nor wishin to keep its sacredness and would rather defile it.

        X

  35. Steph

    Um, exactly why I left the church. Why would you ask them to change what they believe to be the truth? The very foundation of the church includes the Temple rites and rituals, which are the biggest LIE that Satan has put upon this earth. If Jesus died for our sins and rose again, the temple makes a complete mockery of it and I am ashamed that’s was ever involved with it. My only hope now is to make sure my kids know good and well that Joseph Smith was a liar and that the Mormon Church is nothing but a tax exempt corporation. Wrong is wrong, don’t ask them to change it, just leave. Do some research

    Reply
  36. Wise

    Carnal vs Spiritual. There’s deeper meaning that you should strive to understand. We are neither male nor female, each of us are both male and female.

    Reply
  37. Anonymous

    I’ve got a question, really hope a member of the church can answer. If it’s so misogynist, and has had many other negative racial connotations in the past. Why work at changing the church? I think that’s like trying to make Satanists change their ideas, into more accepting -god-fearing concepts. Why not leave the church? If you change it, it’s not mormonism anymore…

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      The temple has changed a lot over the years, and yet it still remains a uniquely Mormon ritual.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Can you rephrase your question? You say you want a member of the church to reply but it seems as if your question is directed at non-members (people who, either don’t believe in its teachings or don’t understand their teachings).

      X

      Reply
  38. MormonThoughts

    Just wanted to be the devils advocate for a sec… Man and woman are different biologically/anatomically. Does this, too, promote sexism? Men can do some things and women can do other things. Does this mean that sexism is promoted once a child knows these differences?

    Can we assume that since man and woman were created spiritually before physically, that some of those differences would be spiritually based also? If a man spirit can do some things and a woman spirit can do other things does this mean they are not equal in the site of God? If one spirit is permitted to receive revelation for another spirit, is the first spirit worth more? Is the second spirit in this example lesser because of this? Who stands to be punished to a greater degree for avoiding there responsibility.

    If God knew that a female bishop and male counselor would bring on 70% more sin within the bishopric, should he prevent it and only allow one sex in these callings? If God knew that 65% more women would be worthy of exaltation should he prepare a way for them to be married to achieve it?

    Just food for thought. I tend to think that women are portrayed as followers in the temple. I don’t know why. Maybe God does.

    Reply
  39. suizou

    I’m a 46 year old woman who lives a mile off road in a rural area where I enjoy being the only person around in quiet contemplation. Last week while playing in my personal happy place I was suddenly accosted by two “elders” (mere boys) who had no right to wander up my road looking for people to recruit to their misogynistic hell. I am a Woods Witch and these penis endowed children dared to invade my space with their patriarchal BS? I’m beyond angry. Perhaps I could find out where they live and show up with burning sage in the middle of one of their bible studies.

    Reply
  40. Elise Prescott

    Does the Church hold these temple rites as truth? I have an uneasy feeling about changing the meaning of truth – it should be unchanging, it should be law. If something has to change depending on the increased knowledge of other truths, it was not a truth to begin with, and thus not divinely inspired. Beware of the hypocrites. Beware of falsehoods. Joseph Smith asked God “What church is TRUE?” I do not disagree with the answer he received – NONE. The enlightenment given to you by this article should validate that this is still true. These rites are said to be “God” given. This does not feel like the God I know. Decade after decade goes by, and the direct connection to God’s revelations are proven false.

    I left the Church seeking a truth without such hypocrisies. The Church still claimed to be true when they opening discriminated against people with different skin color, not to mention the abuse they commanded to the Native Americans. The Church will still claim to be true now if these rites and processes are changed in the future. If it is not true now, and it was not true then, how can the same thing be true tomorrow?

    Reply

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