By N. Christensen
I’m not celebrating the changes to the temple.
I do not celebrate, although I think the changes are a good thing.
Now, fewer women will be brought up believing they are beloved daughters of God, valued as much as any child of God, only to be blindsided by a secret ritual – a ritual that has their entire lives been propped up as the pinnacle of their spiritual experience – that dehumanizes them and makes them feel worthless. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.
Now, fewer daughters may express fear and uncertainty to their parents about the unknown covenants they are about to make, only to be looked in the eye and told they will not be surprised by any of the covenants. Fewer daughters will then sit in the temple next to the mother that reassured them as they realize that they are being made swear allegiance, obedience, and worship to a husband and not to God. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.
Fewer women will have to reassess their relationships with the loved ones who knew what they were going to be expected to promise and thought it was fine; that no warning was needed; that the covenants made were a good thing. Fewer women will start their marriages in fear that their husbands, who they trusted, knew and expected that their wives would be made to obey them. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.
Fewer women will feel darkness in the temple and assume it must be due to some sin or moral failing of their own. Fewer women will be told that any discomfort they feel is due to their own misunderstanding. Fewer women will be told that there is nothing wrong with the temple; that they just need to pray more, to have more faith. Fewer women will force themselves to go back again and again, spiraling into despair and loneliness as their feelings about the temple remain unchanged. Fewer women will research the history of the endowment, hoping to find answers and meaning, but only finding that the original meanings and interperetations are so much worse than they could have imagined. That the ceremony itself was once so much worse. Fewer women will believe that they and all women are hated by God; that they have no real value; that they exist solely for the benefit of men, as was taught by early church leaders. Fewer women will spend hours screaming and crying on their knees begging God for comfort and answers that never come. Fewer women will have to bury all this down and sit silently in church as everyone around them talks about the joy and peace the temple brings. If fewer women go through that, this is a good thing.
But as with all changes to the temple, this is not going to be branded as a correction of wrong, but as a clarification of existing good. There will be no apology. The assurances that any discomfort with the way things were must lie with personal misunderstanding will be forgotten. The church was never wrong. Those who have been in pain until now were silly to doubt the servants of the Lord. The fault is with you; it was never with the church.
So I am genuinely happy for the women who come after me. But I mourn for the women who came before; the women whose pain prompted these changes but whose pain and efforts will now be erased. The women who were silenced and who will now be silenced again.
And I cannot celebrate.