Guest Post: Temple Recommend

By Anonymous

My grandfather was a very bad man. Have you seen the movie Spotlight, about Catholic priests who were sexually abusing children back in the 1970s? He was the Mormon version of that, sexually abusing more children than you would believe. I will spare you the details. I refer to him as my grandfather now, because he is not the person I knew, my grandpa. You see, my grandpa was wonderful and kind and loving and fun. He was a WWII vet and dedicated to his family. I spent endless hours with my grandpa because we lived just three houses away. It wasn’t until after we buried my grandpa that I learned about my grandfather. And it has taken me to the brink of despair. How do I reconcile my grandpa and grandfather into one person? While my grandpa did not leave any scars in my heart, my grandfather has ripped it to shreds. And it is those pieces that I continue to pick up and put back together.

One of the lasting effects my grandfather has had on me is that I have no faith or trust in priesthood leaders. I have come to view anyone with priesthood authority over me as a threat. It is awful. I have been having panic attacks for years at the thought of being one on one with a man with authority over me. It is debilitating. And I hate my grandfather for this.

Today I had a temple recommend interview. I have taken some time away from the temple and let my recommend lapse, because it was just too awful for me. The negative feedback loop of anxiety and pain in the temple was not helping me process my trauma. I don’t feel ready to go back to the temple, but for some reason I felt like it was time to get my recommend again.

So I emailed a member of my bishopric who I have talked with socially once outside of any sort of church function, hoping that the human side of him would be more visible than the priesthood side of him. I told him that I needed a recommend interview and that it needed to be the same day as my stake interview. I told him that I would be bringing a friend with me who would sit in on the interview. I told him that I would likely have a panic attack, and that it wasn’t him, but his calling that was the issue. I have found that setting expectations for them and for me is very helpful. He responded that he could have another member of the bishopric come in because we would be talking about sensitive and personal things. And I told him that I would bring my friend. My trauma, my rules.

Two days ago I found out the interviews would take place today. So the night before last I didn’t sleep. And yesterday I was full of anxiety all day.

But today went okay. I didn’t panic. I had a small amount of anxiety, but it wasn’t debilitating. I took my Xanax and brought my friend, and I made it through.

And when the member of the bishopric asked his questions and I responded with my “Yes, but…” answers, it was okay, and he validated my concerns. And when he asked me if I felt worthy to go to the temple, I said yes, but that I had no plans to do that anytime soon. And his response was to ask if there was anything he could do to help me, but he did not push me or tell me I should go and it would be okay. Because it won’t just be okay. That’s not how anxiety works.

Now I have a temple recommend that I don’t plan on using right away. But I feel like Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father are actually aware of me and aren’t asking me to fit in the same box as everyone else. And I feel like today was one step closer to rebuilding trust in priesthood leaders. And one step away from the secondary trauma of my grandfather.

I also teach Relief Society in my ward. Teaching is my safe place, my way to moderate the conversation and allow for open and safe discussions about hard things. So of course my next lesson in a couple weeks is on The Holy Temple. I don’t know how to teach it AND be genuine AND not hurt other people’s faith. It is hard to walk the line of doubt and pain.

And then a friend posted this poem on Facebook today, and it gave me hope that maybe my Relief Society can handle the discomfort of doubt in a sister.

Support Group
by Carol Lynn Pearson

You can fall here.
We are a quilt set to catch you
A quilt of women’s hands
Threaded by pain made useful.

With generations of comfort-making
Behind us, we offer this gift
Warm as grandma’s feather bed
Sweet as the Heavenly Mother’s
Lullaby song.

You can fall here.
Women’s hands are strong.

The uncertainties continue to be bigger than the certainties. I’m not sure how to teach my lesson, but I’m confident that will work itself out in the next couple weeks. I’m not sure how to go to the temple. I’m not sure when or if I will get my grandpa back. But today was one small step in the path.

Anonymous is a wanderer and a wonderer. She loves to travel and do puzzles while she unpuzzles her life.


  1. Anonymous, first, I want to say thank you for sharing your story. These are important and painful issues, and I think it’s really helpful to have stories like these documented. I have no doubt your story will help people who have similarly suffered. And your story will also help sensitize those who haven’t. I’m so happy that you recently had a pretty good experience in this temple rec interview. I love the model you have set here, of defining your boundaries “I will be taking my friend,” and doing what you know you needed to do to feel as safe as possible. I hope more people do the same. Being in a closed door room talking about intimate stuff with a man who has a lot of power over you and who you might not know well is not a comfortable thing for many women, and especially for women who are recovering from trauma. May your healing continue — I have great hopes that your Relief Society will come through and give you the love and support you deserve as you teach your next lesson.

    • Thank you Caroline. My hope is that sharing my story will help others share their stories, or at least know that they have a sister in this journey. And hopefully next time I have an interview I can remember that this one time wasn’t awful.

  2. I felt a lot of anxiety just reading about your experiences, and I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. And all those poor children. I agree with Caroline that you sharing your story is so valuable. I’m amazed at your faith and strength to keep trying to engage with the priesthood in light of all you’ve been through.

    • Emily U, thank you for reading my story and finding value in it. It is so nice to feel like my story is valuable and maybe even helpful.

  3. Thank you for sharing this openly. I have sexual abusers in my family and it is such a painful thing even if they did not abuse you directly. There is a ripple effect of broken trust throughout family relationships.

    • Nancy, I am so sorry you too have sexual abusers in your family. It is far too common, and so harmful. I hope you have been able to find more peace than I have, because it is a tough road!

  4. Thank you, Anonymous, for this moving, powerful, vulnerable and bold post. You are courageous and inspiring. Thank you for your perseverance and for defining what you need and when you need it. Heartbreaking and sacred all at once!

    • Linda, that is so kind. I am so grateful to hear that you found my post to be sacred, that means so much. I am trying to be more vulnerable, because carrying it all inside has not been good at all.

  5. I’m sorry about what you’ve been through, Anonymous. Thanks for sharing it here. I’m happy to hear that you were able to come up with a way to make the temple recommend interviews work for you, and that your priesthood leaders agreed to go along.

    • Ziff, the helpful thing for me in all of this is that I felt like I had the upper hand. Since I am not ready to actually use my recommend, I didn’t have a lot to lose. So when I set my own rules I didn’t give other options. I kept all the power. This would have been much more difficult if I felt like I was depending on my leaders for something that I really needed right away.

      • This is where I am… after an abusive childhood and abusive marriage (both priesthood holders) I want a sealing cancellation. I have to see a bishop to start the process. I want to do it, but can’t. The phone calls and texts from well meaning RS pres, executive secretary, and bishop to urge me to set an appointment only add to the anxiety. (Who said he could tell the RS pres?) Just from writing this I’m shaking.

      • Oh, Abuse Survivor, I’m so sorry that you have been through so much. I’m so sad that someone told the RS pres without your consent. Those small things mean so much in terms of trust. I so hope you find peace and are able to get your cancellation without added trauma. Love to you.

  6. Thank you, sister friend, for sharing your story. I was relieved to learn that your church leaders respected your needs.. Hopefully, other women will find strength to follow your example of naming your boundaries.

    • Luckily, I have some pretty good church leaders right now. Hopefully there will be more good leaders for more people, so others can also find their strength.

  7. Sex abuse can rip a family apart from the inside to the furthest corners–I’ve seen it. And like Emily U above, I felt anxiety just reading about your experiences. But I thank you and I love you for sharing them. Good luck in your journey!!

    • Emily, I’m so sorry to have caused you anxiety, but thank you so much for reading my story. Good luck to you as well!

  8. I always seem to have teaching callings. And like you, have more uncertainties than certainties. But depending on the certainties and the strength of women’s hands has enabled me to keep teaching. Your lesson will come together and so many in the room will be so grateful for the honest discussion. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • It is reassuring that las week in relief society the lesson was on the importance of having women friends in our lives and the ways we can hold each other up. It will be a good priming for me explaining that I have more questions than answers when it comes to the temple. And I’m hopeful that they will hold space for my pain. I’m glad you get to teach as well, it is a good place to be.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this here. I believe you have helped many by being brave enough to get your recommendation and strong enough to share your story.

    You are in my heart and prayers-

  10. Thank you for your honesty and bravery. I know the pain of reconciling two different family members into one, and I send my love.

    • Jennifer, have you come to a reconciliation? I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to put the pieces back together.

  11. I have anxiety about going to the temple, and I have no clear understanding what the feeling is about. I feel like I’m going to suffocate and smother. I last went about a year and a half ago, with a very close friend who I trusted to get me through. It wasn’t horrible, but I haven’t been back. I let my recommend lapse because I lost track, but now just need the stake interview.

    My mom recently confessed that she hates going to the temple and has decided not to do sessions anymore. I was so relieved it wasn’t just me.

    • M, I feel much the same in the temple. I’m glad you had an experience that wasn’t as bad, and I really understand how that still isn’t enough. You are not at all alone in this. I’ve tried different tactics to help me get through the temple, and nothing has worked very well. I hope that both of us can find more peace and figure out what works best for us. Sometimes I think that means just not going back to the temple, which might be okay. We will see.

    • I used to feel anxious about it too. This may sound odd, but I was never comfortable there until I went in as part of the volunteer cleaning group (our stake had an assignment- something like once a year). I went in there in pants and t-shirt and was the only one there young enough to crawl around and vacuum under the chairs. Ever since then I’ve felt like it was my home too… more like a place Heavenly Father wants me to be- vs. feeling like an univited guest in a “don’t make a mess/ don’t touch my nice stuff” house. Somehow that simple service made it a place of familiarity to me and a welcoming home.

      • VacuumIing under those chairs was the first time I felt peaceful in the temple- …please don’t give up on the idea of you feeling close to the Lord in there someday. And you’re doing alright taking it at your own pace. ♡

      • Pat, thank you for sharing your experience of how cleaning the temple helped you feel more comfortable. It is good to hear stories of success in finding peace in the temple.

  12. Anonymous, thank you for sharing your story. I love that you talked about this man as both your grandfather and your grandpa – so often we assume that people who do these things are some kind of other-worldly monster that never do good things, and that leads us to not believe victims when they say that somebody like the bishop or a family member (who is otherwise trusted and/or adored) has abused them. I wish you peace and continued strength on this journey, and I hope that Exponent can be part of your quilt of strong hands. <3

    • Thank you, Liz. This experience really has opened my eyes to the dichotomy of humans. Which in a lot of ways has unfortunately lead me to believe that all people will hurt me. So it’s a process. But I’m working on believing that all people also have a great capacity to do good and wonderful things. The journey goes on.

  13. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. So so painful. I love your honesty about the ambivalence you feel towards your grandpa/grandfather and ambivalence about the temple. It’s so much easier when our feelings are simple and straightforward, be they hate or love. When they are all twisted together it’s so painful. Thank you for sharing this. And thank you for being brave enough to say, “My trauma, my rules.” That should be cross-stitched on throw pillows. I think your ward is fortunate to have you as a teacher. I pray that they are worthy of your willingness to go deep. Bless you!!!

    • Heather, I love the idea of a throw pillow- that would be fantastic! My lesson is tomorrow, and I continue to hope that the women will be kind and open. They have been in the past, so I should trust that they will continue to be. And I will continue to make room for all narratives, because there has to be room for me, warts and all.

  14. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope sharing your story and setting your own boundaries is healing and empowering for you.

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