#hearLDSwomen: My Face Drives Away the Spirit

Going through the temple the first time was overwhelming to say the very least. The fact that I had to veil my face to talk to Heavenly Father in prayer was a total knock to me as a woman. The men didn’t have to veil their faces. And the fact that I needed to hearken to my husband’s counsel but he was not required or asked to hearken to mine? The equally yoked bit flew right out the window at that point.

Where is my Mother in Heaven? Why isn’t she represented with God the Father at the altar or anywhere else in the temple endowment? Where is her voice? Her counsel? Can’t we make covenants with her?

Can I please have a conversation with her? Maybe I will feel like I fit in better with her.

The temple is full of things to cause a woman to feel less important or less intelligent or less needed.
– Anonymous


On my mission, the Washington, DC temple president told me women wear the veil because their sexual power over men is too distracting and deters the spirit during the prayer circle. It happened in 1997 I think. And for the record, even back then, I was certain he was wrong and didn’t understand it any more than I did. Regardless of his position and “authority.”
– Betina Workman


I waited for THREE HOURS after a session to talk to the temple president about some questions, and he told me: “You need to cover your face because it distracts the brethren and the spirit, and we can’t have that now can we? You’re just so pretty; it’s a blessing and a curse.” I was genuinely speechless. I was told this same thing in the Provo, Salt Lake, and Bountiful Temples in 2013, 2016, and 2017.
– Marissa


Pro tip: It’s better not to espouse folk doctrine when we don’t have an answer. Simply say, “We don’t know why this direction is given,” and encourage the questioner to find answers, peace and comfort through prayer.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)


  1. What I find fascinating is that instead of seeking wisdom and answers from God, these women asked MEN and then got annoyed at the answer they got. Forget what some guy says: YOU figure it out yourself. I also do not understand why women choose to believe really NEGATIVE meanings of symbolism rather than seeking positive ones. For example, have you ever considered which side of the veil you might be on? Maybe it is the men who are on the outside and women represent the Lord.

    • It is gross to put any of the blame for this on women. If your approach of coming to your own conclusion works for you that is great. But there isn’t anything wrong seeking answers from authority. The only problem is those in authority need to stop making up false doctrine and should learn to say “I don’t know.” Because we don’t know.

    • I love your idea of men being on the outside of the veil and women representing the Lord. I never thought of it that way. Yes, I’ve noticed that sometimes when men interpret things, they come up with strange interpretations that devalue women. I agree that women should come up with their own interpretations.

  2. What horrible responses from the men! Absolutely ridiculous.

    Personally I love having the veil on and I wish we got to wear it longer. It feels like a chance to have a moment in private, even as you participate in a communal experience.

  3. I can’t remember where I read this but I loved it. When we pass through the veil at birth, it is through a woman. When we return, it will be our husbands bringing us through, thus, completing the circle. I said it much less eloquently. Everything in the temple is symbolic. My dad suggested the Heavenly Mother is so sacred and honored that she is protected from the vain cursings of the world that are often spoken of God and Christ. I choose to think of the veil in this way.

  4. This was the biggest issue I had with the Temple when I went through the first time. I did not understand why I couldn’t pray in the holy order of prayer with my face uncovered but men could. Are women innately unable to face a God?

    I’ve stopped veiling altogether. Temple workers have motioned to me to cover, but I just shake my head no and they’ve left me alone.

  5. I hate to see the temple
    I lost my faith the day
    I first stood ’round the altar
    And veiled my face to pray
    For the temple is a harmful place
    Of female subjugation
    Where the choice is giv’n: obedience
    Or eternal damnation

  6. The idea that women bring children through the veil at birth, so, it is appropriate that men ….um, their wife through the veil. It should be the father bring his children through, not their wife. To me, this is a way of saying that women are like children to their husband, not equals. So, no comfort there about what the veil is about.

  7. I heard that we can’t post link so on here (is that right?) so I won’t try for fear of being moderated out, but other Mormon feminists have posted elsewhere about how oppressive the temple ceremonies are to women if you study them closely: how women covenant only with Adam and not God, how women “receive” from Adam and not God, and how women are priestesses to their husbands not and not god, etc—The temple ceremony is designed to bind the brethren to god and the women to their husbands; women covenant with husbands instead of God, as a consequence of Eve’s fall, according to Mormon doctrine. It is this sticking point that Mormon feminists disagree with—many of us feel we should be allowed to covenant with God. If men aren’t culpable for Adam’s transgression, then neither should women be punished for Eve’s.

    • That essay was such a huge part of my faith transition. It was painful and deeply cathartic and finally made me feel like I wasn’t broken for feeling only darkness in the temple.

      For any who want to read it, it’s the Mormon Priestess essay on Feminist Mormon Housewives.

      • My own faith transition began from that first visit to the temple when I had to allow strangers to touch me all over my nude body and put garments onto my nude body for the first time. That was such an unspeakable violation of personal space and boundaries–it helped me to realize that allowing the brethren to dictate my choice of underwear and who puts them on me and who touches me and how inside the temple is not of God but pure dictates of men. The Savior railed against such pharisaic levels of control. He died so that we could have AGENCY.

    • I’m afraid I’m going to be a voice adding to the negative symbolism. Something that never made sense to me was how Eve is venerated for making the right choice and doing what Heavenly Father wanted, but ended up being separated from Heavenly Father with her husband as her intermediary worlds without end.

      What’s up with that?

      Then I sat still and let those two thoughts co-exist. Eve obeyed Heavenly Father by disobeying Heavenly Father. Eve’s consequence for obeying Heavenly Father is motherhood and being one step removed from Heavenly Father in this world and the next. If Heavenly Father wanted Eve to obey by disobeying, then He wanted to experience this consequence. Heavenly Father wanted this separation from Eve.

      Is it because Eve is more sinful? Because women just incite lust? I think the answer can be most simply found in the time in which the temple sessions were written. Women weren’t considered full human beings. They were considered approximately equal to children. They were considered a man’s property, first her father’s and then her husband’s.

      This is one of those areas where some official continuing revelation would be a very good idea, because the idea being put forth by the men that women are just so pretty they’re a distraction is both blaming women for men’s thoughts and patronizing the women. It sounds like Max from Sound of Music telling Gretl the reason she’s always last is because she’s the most important when we all know the children are customarily listed in birth order and she just happened to be the youngest.

  8. Wow, these are awful. Even setting aside all the other problems (and there are so many), if *women’s* lovely faces are a distraction for *men*, aren’t *men’s* lovely faces a distraction for *women*? The unstated assumption of these temple presidents is that the temple is *for* men, and women are just there as auxiliary. Which, sadly, isn’t really out of line with how women are viewed in the church as a whole.

  9. I have had many questions over the years. My Bishops and Stake Presidents were not able to answer them and referred me to the Temple Presidency. I’ve asked questions to various T. Presidents or Matrons over the years, sincerely wanting to understand what something means or why we do it this or that way. I never got a straight answer until the Matron told me there is no handbook with answers. They are not hiding anything from us. There is no specific answer. So we are all left to ourselves and the inspiration we receive or don’t receive.

    The temple is supposed to be the highest form of worship, but for many it is not.
    Jesus taught in parables but he also explained the parables to his disciples who asked questions.

    In the temple we are told what the symbols on the veil and garment represent. This is helpful. I deduce that down to obedience, truth, health and discipleship. I think about that often.

    I wish when we dress in the robes etc. the announcer could elaborate something like this.
    We will now dress in ……, the robe represents …., the veil for women ….. the cap for brethren …. the sash…., the shoes…

    I wish many things could be explained. I wish for more light and understanding. Occasionally there are glimpses but often there are not.

    Some people truly love the temple experience and seem to get so much out of it. I wonder if there is something about right-brain / left-brain people’s experience.

    For me it is difficult to participate in something I do not understand. Yes we all get the big picture of The Plan, but it is the details and specific of the ritual and the words etc. We as a people are struggling. Repeatedly in our wards the leadership aim to improve temple attendance. They ask what can we do? Why aren’t people attending? I think we know why people are not attending.

  10. We know exactly why. Stop pretending like there are no answers here. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who invented and modified the endowment from the masons, wanted to subjugate and hold dominion over many women. Simple as that. Speak the truth people.

  11. As a Mormon woman I knew that God did not love women as much as he loved men. I felt that from the time I was a little girl. I knew that more once I went through the temple. Then I realized something I wish I had realized years ago: Joseph made it up. I cried when I realized that because for the first time it became clear why so many aspects of Mormonism gave me bad feelings. God does love and respect women. Joseph and Brigham did not. Pure and simple.

  12. Please try to understand and accept this man’s perspective. It is not simply men controlling women; it is also men controlling men. As such, it is about men who control other people. It is clearly manifest in the examples given of men exercising control over women, but it goes much deeper and broader. I am not trying to argue or measure who has it worse, or equate the abuses, or by any means detract from the abuses suffered by women. I am just saying that the pain is not limited to the women. The institutional structure also devalues many men. What really concerns me is that those in authority positions don’t even or always realize they are doing it.

  13. 18 years after I went through the temple I went to a presentation at BYU. The speaker was a woman from Syria and she talked about women in the middle east before Islam. She talked at length about veiling and the modern meaning vs. the ancient meaning. The modern meaning is essentially to shut women out and keep them quiet. Anciently, however, the veil represented the queen. In ancient times the queen was veiled. You weren’t allowed to look at her. Slaves had their faces uncovered. Its a representation of your divine royal status.

    I agree with Rebecca. Too many women take the worst interpretation of Temple symbols and then get mad. How about we start with a loving Father in Heaven and righteous principles and work from there? Like all women, I wondered about the veil when I first went through. I heard the same gibberish – “women distract men” “women are vain”. I easily dismissed those ideas. A loving God simply won’t work that way, sorry. It had to be something else. So after quietly pondering the idea for 18 years, the answer finally came.

    You can do all the mental gymnastics you want, I never made a covenant to follow a man to hell. I agreed to listen to the advice of a righteous man who was following God. This makes my husband the intermediary between God and me?? Sorry, don’t see it. Also, it factually is not the experience of my life – God works directly with each of us. Its a foundational principle of the restored Gospel that anyone can get revelation directly from God. So to turn “listen to the advice of a righteous man” into “your husband stands between you and God” is a bit of a stretch.

    The Temple is the highlight of spiritual experiences for me. I go to church and week after week feel beat down with yet another requirement and more people telling me I am not good enough and not doing enough. I hate it. I can’t stand General Conference for the same reason. (Ministering, food storage, tithing, WOW, grow a garden, turn off social media, etc. etc.) When I go to the Temple I don’t get any of that. I have literally felt a wave of peace and forgiveness wash over me as I have walked in the door. I see pictures of the Savior everywhere, with his arms stretched out towards me. The main message of the Endowment is that it is by the Savior and His Atonement that we are saved and enter the Celestial Kingdom. The signs and symbols that all point to the Savior and the Atonement are literally the mechanism by which we move into the Celestial Kingdom.

  14. It seems once Joseph was “outed” on polygamy, he quickly became a Mason and then quickly instituted the endowment. The obedience oaths allowed the continuation of polygamy. That’s the conclusion I came to, but I hoped maybe there was more to it.
    Captain Obvious is right. Anon male is right.
    What are we doing?

  15. My wife has an issue with covering her face. We spoke to our temple pres who said he did not know why it was done, and would ask SLC for exception.
    She is not now required to cover her face even in the prayer circle. She tells a temple worker before the session starts, some of the other patrons in the circle have tried to correct her, but she stands her ground.
    You can get an exemption if it is a problem preventing you from doing endowments.

  16. Like the Old Testament, the temple ceremony was not written by the actual hand of God. It was written by a man who had holy envy for the Masonic religion and felt he needed to make their rituals even better and more Celestial . . . by INCLUDING women. And he was hated by the Masons for it; nevertheless, he was not immune to the pervasive sexism of the nineteenth century.

    We tend to look at the temple (a 200-year-old ritual) through today’s lenses, and frankly, I expect it to be updated soon (as the church is, at a minimum, two decades behind society when it comes to being “woke”).

    The veiling of faces is a relic. Don’t stress. Don’t even wonder what it means bc it WILL change. KNOW that GOD loves women WAYYYYY more than men do, but men are [still] making the rules. We are loved, and we ABSOLUTELY can talk to God without a veil. Cheers to the sister who refused to veil her face–that is what starts the ball rolling!!! Grassroots, baby!

  17. I second what “m.e.” said. Everything we do in the temple reeks of Masonic secrecy (anybody seen that Netflix documentary yet?) combined with veiled, objectified women who aren’t allowed to talk about it outside the building (forcing us to keep quiet about it=brilliant strategy, dudes). Reflecting on these things, I’m noting commonalities between Joseph Smith and Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper: both sealed themselves to teen brides, both wrote scripture, both declared themselves prophets and were jailed. The only difference I see is that Joseph Smith had parents’ blessings, generous donors, and a publisher, but Joseph did not have his wife’s blessing for all that philandering–Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper had full wifely cooperation. Thank heavens the women on this site are helping me keep my eyes open!

  18. I recognize that there are some interpretations of the veil that can make it an empowering symbol for women, and I’m glad that some women appreciate it. But I will say that standard issue veils don’t seem to be made with women’s comfort in mind. They’re stuffy, they impair my vision, they make me feel isolated, faceless, robbed of my individuality and identity at a time when I’m supposedly closest to God. If the temple ceremony emphasized that women can and should commune privately with God, then yes, maybe I could see veiling as a private time, freeing women from scrutiny or distractions (though why only women?). But instead, the ceremony suggests that women reach God through men. Women also actively participate in one of the more communal parts of the ceremony while veiled, so it’s not really implied that the veil is supposed to facilitate inward focus. The fact that I’m supposed to participate in a communal ritual while blind, silent, and faceless makes me feel like I matter much less than my gender. With the veil, I’m just another woman, and my experience is deliberately hidden from view.

  19. The covenant to hearken to a husband as he hearkens to God seems problematic. If you have no husband, or an unrighteous husband it is a throwaway promise. Easy for me. Less easy for a woman married to a selfish, self-righteous man who equates her obedience him to obedience to God. Very problematic and damaging to many women.

  20. Amen to another comment to stop asking men for answers. While they need to stop espousing things they don’t know, we can be our own spiritual authority. I encourage those with questions about veiling the faces to study “priest” in the Bible dictionary and consider the stewardship of priestess given us in the endowment. Never confirmed my conclusions with a man, but I did arrive at them after going to the Lord in prayer with these concerns, and as near as I can tell, that’s better than what some temple presidents have done.

  21. In light of the recent changes to the ceremony: I’m glad. Even as a man, I felt unsettled in the prayer circle with my sisters veiling their faces. I can only imagine how many of them felt about it. I am happy about the changes.

    I thought so many things when I was in the circle now: how the women with me were in different stages of life, and of different ethnicities. I most recently went without my wife, and so a woman from the audience had to join me in the circle (as people can only pray in male/female pairs). Afterwards I smiled and thanked her, and she smiled and nodded back. It was a small thing but I thought it was really lovely.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Click to subscribe for new post alerts.

Click to subscribe to our magazine, in circulation since 1974.

Related Posts

My ‘Counterfeit’ Temple Marriage: Married to an Asexual/Aromantic partner

Growing up in the church, I learned that marriage was a big deal. God had a plan that included marrying in the temple, which...

Just a Mom Asking Her Church to Stand Up to Gun Violence

I have feelings about calling myself “just a mom,” but there are times when it is the identifier I choose. Recently, on a long plane...

A blessing for all of those in need of a blessing

Prior to the pandemic, I asked the women in the Exponent community what situations they would like to have addressed in a blessing and was overwhelmed by the response. I offer this blessing-of-all-blessings and hope that all of my readers can locate themselves in this blessing and find comfort.

Gospel Principles 39: The Law of Chastity

Start the discussion be reading and dissecting the Note to Parents. It is a remarkably accurate and progressive stance on sexual education. NOTE TO...
submit guest post
Submit a Guest Blog Post
subscribe to our magazine
Subscribe to Our Magazine
Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :