Posted on Mormon Matters 5 Aug 2010
I recently had my temple recommend renewed and I’ve been thinking about the temple initiatory for women and wishing I could discuss it from a faithful, feminist perspective. Unfortunately, there are some obstacles which stand in my way of doing this. Number one, of course, is the proscription from discussing certain sacred aspects of the temple. I’m a bit more liberal than many in talking of my temple experiences. I think there are certain parts in the temple which we are clearly told not to discuss, and I’m willing to draw the line there. But can we talk about the initiatory?
Most Mormons won’t talk about anything remotely associated with the temple. Even among other endowed members.
So bringing up any of my wonderings on this subject with fellow Latter-day Saints will be met with resistance.
Next obstacle is my physical distance from the nearest Temple. I currently live about two hours away from the nearest Temple. There were some times in my life when I lived so far away that I could only attend once a year. But even when I live close enough that I can go frequently, it’s not easy to find someone with whom I can discuss my concerns while sitting around the Celestial Room.
The quiet, meditative setting of the Celestial Room is not always conducive to a robust investigation of the sort I am contemplating. I yearn to talk about the 2005 changes to the initiatory ordinance. I loved doing initiatories before the changes, and I found a lot of spirituality, intimacy, and symbolism have been removed. I’d like to talk about these things with a faithful LDS woman who misses this as well, but isn’t about to lose her recommend over it. I’d like to find someone who isn’t freaked out by the presence of large tubs of water in early SLC Temple ordinance rooms and the liberal pouring of consecrated oil from large horns over the crown of the head. But I’d want her to be feminist and knowledgeable enough to also discuss the differences between the male and female versions of the pre-2005 ordinance and their implications for feminists. We’d talk about the words “having authority,” “under proper authority,” and “now authorized.” We’d discuss esoteric, mystical, symbolist, and romantic approaches to the initiatory. We’d speak of the importance of ritual and what, if any, priesthood is exercised by women ordinance workers.
Do you think I can hold out any hope for such a discussion? Must I always hold the sacred/secret deep within a cavern in my heart, never to see the light of day? Or do you think that Mary Ellen Robertson might be able to arrange a Friday night Sunstone temple session, complete with discussion period in the upper Assembly room, as a special part of this year’s Symposium?
I can always dream…