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, endowments, 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 hearkening 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:
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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