parkhurst

On January 3, 2019, I posted the following on Facebook:

“I feel like throwing up. Not because I am sick, but because, once again, I am angry at my Church and some of its members.

1. The misogynists are coming out of the woodwork, to cry boo-hoo and not all of them are male. I unfriended and unfollowed Mormon Chronicle over the post whose screenshots are below:

mormonchronicle01

mormonchronicle02

2. I always thought, that despite all, I was ultimately covenanting with my Heavenly Father, just like the men were. Apparently not (?!) 🥺  I had come to many of the same conclusions that this author, Elisothel, at Feminist Mormon Housewives, expresses so eloquently. Only she saw more of them than I did.”

Then I included a link to the uncut version of her June 2013 blog post entitled, The Mormon Priestess. I will have more, much more to say on that in a minute.

3. If things have changed THIS MUCH, just in my lifetime, I am concerned. Especially because rumors of the recent changes are beyond huge. They change doctrine. Profoundly. They change the patriarchal-system relationship between genders that has existed in Western society and in the LDS Church since its founding. Profoundly. Why was that doctrine never there from the start? So now, if I care to pursue this rabbit hole, I want to know what the original endowment given by Joseph Smith actually was.

4. Which leads me straight back to my other bugaboo back-burner issues of plural marraige… the original 1835 version of D&C 101 and the strange circumstances of the discovery and insertion of D&C 131… the 1921 removal of Lectures on Faith from the D&C in 1921 by committee despite the fact that they had been cannonized as the “Doctrine” part of that volume by the common consent of the whole church… and the whole issue of women and the Priesthood, especially given the description of what the early sisters of the Restored Gospel were able to do… which I can not.

I believe in continued revelation. What I don’t believe in is survey-driven, focus-group, poll-taking, loudly vocal feminist- membership-retaining changes. I’ve always been taught that though governments and other churches may be governed in this manner (i.e, by smooth words and appealing to the whims and demands of the society and culture of their time) OUR Church is led by God himself through a living prophet who receives direct revelation. So where was God with this whole “let’s blame that damn Eve” thing “and always keep that untrustworthy b***h and her daughters in check under Adam’s thumb” attitude… where was His correction all this time?!

It feels like too much too late. I need to go to the temple to see these changes for myself, but these reactions and reports are making me nauseous, just the same. Because it means a lot of what the ex-mo community has been saying for a long time about the toxic paternalism in the Church is … true. !!!???!!!

Please see comments if you care to know more, and if you don’t, you know what to do with the scroll feature on your mouse, my friend.”

freemind

 

 

My rant does go on into the comments, and, well, the whole thing blew up in my face and turned into an even bloodier mess. Here’s what I had to say about it:

“I just found a message request from a moderator in my inbox. I guess I have been ‘muted for a few days’ by Crunchy LDS Mamas. Call the soft guillotining what you will, it still violates freedom of speech and classifies as religious intolerance…

They were the ones who extended an invitation to discuss the recent changes, but they also controlled (monitored and censored) everything that was being said. To which I respond with this question. What was the REAL reason why Joan of Arc was put to death by her own church?”

I’ll tell you. It was because Joan of Arc refused to recognize the demand of her inquisitors that the authority of the Church was higher than her own personal revelation; in other words, higher than the authority of God, and His individual communication with her.

“So now I’ve been kicked out of the group for being a bad little Molly Mormon. So much for tolerance. Hysterical. I hope you enjoy your self-righteous little club, Crunchy Latter-day Saint Mamas.

This is why the misogyny in our church continues. Because the women have internalized and accepted it as part of what it means to be obedient. I find this especially painful because I keep finding myself on the opposing side of issues to a friend [I’ll call by the pseudonym ‘Valerie’] who moderates this group.

So… last year [Valerie and I] fought about how mean the Church’s stance on gay marriage was, and she took the side of compassion to the LGBTQ’s and I took the side of the Church: defending the traditional family and preserving marriage for the traditional family. (I am not against individuals who are LGBTQI; Rather, I simply see marriage as a heterosexual covenant meant to connect two procreating adults for the sake of the child produced by that union.) And now I’m the bad one again, with this same friend, apparently, for taking the side of compassion for… victims of abuse?!! And this is BAD?!! Because it criticizes the Brethren?! smh. If this is what sifting looks like, then have at it. Better to become disillusioned than to remain deceived. I don’t think my friend had anything to do with the moderators throwing me out, but if she did, so be it.”

 

With the initial stabs from Brutus and company in place, a couple more female LDS friends felt safe enough to publicly joined in with the feeding frenzy. (For, you see, internalized misogyny is the #1 General-Authority approved behavior for LDS women, ensuring your safety within the fold and lots of gold star perks like being trusted with being thrown this bone: lapdog subservient auxilliary leadership positions at the feet of the men.) My friends heartily seconded and thirded Valerie’s disapproval of my opinion, with the following comments:

FRIEND A:  Katie, I suggest you stay away from any sites that are not LDS .org The Gospel is true. People are human & make many mistakes. Let me compare to an analogy. It is like when I am looking @ too many Cosmopolitan Magazines when I am size 10-12. Or getting Architectural Digest, when what I can afford is just comfortable, for me. I am never going to be happy with what I see “Others” are posting.. Because they are not in my situation, life style, or frame of mind. Love you girl! ***I like the “God grant me serenity that I get from giving my problems to thee, to avoid the things I cannot change, Courage to accept the things I can, & The wisdom to know the difference. LOL I pray I have not hurt your feelings.. I think you just do not need the headaches of the Drama Queen world. Let me know what you think. I know you will be honest with me. I want to know that you understand my intent correctly. I will freely admit I am not the best with words. & I would NEVER intentionally, try to hurt you. 🙂

FRIEND B: Friend A, I agree. Sometimes you need to take a break from the Internet and social media just to clear your head and realign your perspective

MY RESPONSE: [Friend A and Friend B]  I love you both. But in this matter I do not agree that lds.org is the only choice. I also do not agree that remaining quietly on the sidelines is the best choice in this case. Maybe because of what I have experienced in my own life. I am not offended with anything you have said because I know it was said in love.

However, I have discovered that a lot of what is on lds.org is carefully filtered and couched. I knew nothing about the death of William Smith, for example, because the Church says just about nothing about this man – who many believed was next in line to be prophet – dying within weeks of his brothers Joseph and Hyrum.

If I just kept myself confined to lds.org, I would know nothing about the Heartland Model of the Book of Mormon, or Rod Meldrum or Wayne May…. nothing about scriptures.byu.edu.… If I just kept myself confined to lds.org, I wouldn’t have discerned for myself that FARMS is a horrible source for LDS apologetic information while the Joseph Smith Foundation is loyal to it’s founder and to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I DEFINITELY would not understand that there are so many people in the Church are hurting, hiding, and contemplating leaving it, and their reasons WHY. Truth is not afraid of light. Truth is not afraid of beauty or variety. I use my mind, my heart, the gift of the Holy Ghost and the spirit of discernment to judge what is truth and what is error. I know you will do what is safe for you, and I will do what I feel is safe for me. It is the darkness that doesn’t comprehend the light, not visa-versa (John 1:5, D&C 123:13). Maybe this is why my PB mentions a work I have to do with people inside the Church AND “others who surround you.

questionboldness
‘If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned.’ “

valjean

 

 

Two days later, on January 5, 2019, I wrote the following email to Elisothel, the author of the article I’d linked onto my Facebook post:

Thank you for your post, The Mormon Priestess (Uncut Version). Thank you so much for putting into words so many of the things that I had either figured out for myself or sensed on the boundaries of perception, but could not give words to. 

Would you be willing to grant me permission to repost your post on my blog? 
The address is . . . I have a lot of posts about unrighteous dominion because I have struggled with it. In fact, I am protectldschildren.org story 622.

I know that the endowment was updated this week, but that doesn’t change anything. Especially not the history. I have heard that the initiatory has now been changed to state that a woman is a queen and a priestess to the New and Everlasting Covenant. Oh, so she’s been installed with a lock and is waiting for that male key, huh? Still not connected directly to Elohim then, huh? This enrages me. It also frustrates me that so many of my LDS friends, FEMALE friends, are refusing to understand why.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

I never received a response.

Guess what? I just went to look for that article again today, and discovered that the entire Feminist Mormon Housewife website has been taken down! Their Facebook page is still up, but only two public posts have been made since January 5th.

suspended

I messaged the page with the picture just above to ask what was up. I asked them directly if it was down because of some threat of church discipline.

The page answered, “Haha. Um, yeah, no. There was a payment mixup and our treasurer is unavailable until tomorrow.Honestly, I don’t think we have anyone on board that fears church discipline anymore. Most of our writers are either completely out of the church, inactive, or indifferent. 🤷🏽‍♀️ ”

frankenshelley

 

 

Guess what else? I listened to my gut and copied down the full, uncut text of Elisothel’s The Mormon Priestess into an email to my then-full-time missionary daughter. It’s been over 6 months now. By this point, I don’t anticipate a response ever coming, let alone that that permission being granted. So I’m reblogging it without permission or authorization from the author until I hear from her one way or another.

Clearly, The Mormon Priestess was published for public consumption before, (albeit with an easily found password for the uncut version). Therefore it’s my opinion that, for the sake of fully exposing and fanning the flames of the blatant, unapologetic gaslighting going on within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints via the General Authorities and male hierarchy below them whose claims of authority rest entirely on always being divinely led of God and therefore always right, the text of The Mormon Priestess also needs to always be public.

voiceless

 

The rest of this post contains the full text of the letter I wrote to my daughter on January 3rd, the same day as the Facebook blowout. The illustrations and final commentary have been added as of today, for this post.

Dear Anna,

[Valerie] is having a meltdown with me… again. She doesn’t understand why I am upset about the changes in the temple (as expressed today in my Facebook post).

I am upset because I feel betrayed, again. It was really hard to put into words, but I think the following very well written article expresses it. I had already come to MANY of the conclusions and resigned myself to them.

Now the Church has turned around and reversed itself on what is CORE, like UBER-CORE gender doctrine. I am livid because SO MUCH OF THE SUFFERING OF MY ENTIRE LIFE has been based on THIS very concept. Of male-female hierarchy. And of the infallibility of the Brethren… and so it all seems so damn flippant.

MeHeroBossMan

Thank you for coming to the temple today

Protected: The Mormon Priestess
(Uncut Version)

  

Note 1:  Due to the large response to this essay, I will continue writing about aspects of the temple in the FMH series Temple Talk.  If you would like to submit a post to the series, please send it to elisothel@gmail.com

Note 2:  Questions have come to light about permissions for distribution.  To repost or publish on a blog or other publishing platform, please request permission at elisothel@gmail.com.  At this time I have no intention to publish the content as a pamphlet or other format, nor do I intend to mass mail the essay to leaders, General Authorities, or lay members – any efforts to do so will not originate with me.  You are free to print copies for your own use.

Note 3:  One discerning reader observed that I had misquoted one of the initiatory passages in the uncut version, which has been updated and corrected in the text.  Thank you, Sister, for your attention to detail!

Note 4:  Many people are approaching this material with raw emotions, strong feelings, and a wide variety of responses and interpretations.  I totally respect that, and want to personally thank readers for what has generally been a sensitive and respectful experience.

Note 5: Quotes from the temple ceremonies were harvested from the website http://www.ldsendowment.org/

Forward:  Though I composed a version of this essay last year, I withheld it, uncertain if readers would be open to discussing the sensitive topic of women in the temple. Following Elder Oaks’ landmark address this weekend, I felt the material to be directly relevant to the moment so I am releasing it now.

WARNING:  THIS VERSION OF THE ESSAY QUOTES DIRECTLY FROM THE TEMPLE.  DO NOT PROCEED IF READING TEMPLE LITURGY WILL DISTURB YOU!!

At no point do I discuss the things that I, as an endowed woman, have covenanted not to disclose.

The Mormon Priestess (UnCut Version)
http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org

The rituals and liturgy of the LDS temple reflect a very consistent internal logic of gender theology.  This essay is my attempt to outline that internal logic, especially with an eye toward the temple ceremony’s messages to women about their identity and spiritual condition.

Women operate as priestesses to God in temple initiatory rituals, which were also used as the template for female-conducted healing and blessing rituals in the early restored church.  Just as the inititiatory ritual blesses parts of the body, pioneer priestesses blessed the body parts of the expectant mother, and healed the body parts of the ill.  Women also operate as priestesses to God when administering in the True Order of Prayer at an altar in the temple.

I suspect that women may start to see themselves more as priesthood actors, which is a wonderful thing.  Elder Oaks explained temple priestesshood as being Melchizedek priesthood power that women utilize under the keys of the temple president.  If only men hold keys and offices, but both men and women can use priesthood power, it is possible that, should the leaders decide it,  women’s exercise of their power in the church could recapture the female priestess practices of the early Restoration era, and perhaps even extend to other areas.

This model of women using priesthood is compelling, and I am so grateful that women and men will be able to speak of it openly going forward, but it is overshadowed by another narrative. The word priestess is actually part of the formal, liturgical temple vocabulary, but it does not denote a woman who is using godly power under the direction of a temple president.  In the temple, woman are promised that they will become “Priestesses unto their Husbands.” Women pledge spiritual allegiance to a husband who will someday be exalted as a god like Heavenly Father, whereupon the wife’s power, her priesthood, will come through the exalted husband.  In this model, the woman is eternally dependent on her husband for a connection to God the Father.

Priestesshood In the Female Initiatory: Priestesses to Elohim and to Husband

The initiatory process undertakes a symbolic cleansing, annointing, and dressing of the body.  Since the initiatory is body-centric, and since men and women have different bodies, male temple workers administer only to men, and female temple workers must administer to women.

The washing is reminiscent of baptism, absolving the initiate of sin and promising purification.  The body is then anointed to receive future blessings.  A symbolic adornment of ritual clothing called the “garment of the holy priesthood” is performed, and the clothing declared “authorized”.  Female temple workers declare authority to enact the initiatory rituals:

“Sister _______, having authority, I wash you preparatory to your receiving your anointings, and whereas you have obeyed the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a true and honest heart, and have been faithful in keeping your covenants, your sins are forgiven and you are clean every whit.”

“Sister _________, having authority, I pour this holy anointing oil upon your head [for and in behalf of _________, who is dead] and anoint you preparatory to your becoming a queen and a priestess unto your husband, hereafter to rule and reign with him in the house of Israel forever.”  

“Sister_______, having authority, I place this garment upon you, which you must wear throughout your life.  It represents the garment given to Adam and Eve when they were found naked in the garden of Eden and is called the garment of the holy priesthood.”

(Since 2005, the wording has changed to “under proper authority the garment placed upon you is now authorized and is to be worn throughout your life…”  This wording reflects the new practice of initiates already wearing the garment instead of it being presented to them. The wording “under proper authority” is also used by the men when they perform this ceremony.)

The garment each patron is given is a piece of ritual priesthood clothing.  This priesthood raiment is further developed through the endowment ritual in the shoes, robes, headwear, and other accouterments for both men and women.  Women are clothed in priesthood robes “preparatory to officiating in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

Certainly, a female temple worker administering initiatories is administering ordinances….however, though the female temple worker is acting as a priestess for God when administering the ordinances, she declares that each patron’s destiny is to become  a priestess not to God, but to her husband.

Priestesshood In the Endowment

The temple ceremonies mention priestesshood only three times.  As discussed above, in the initiatory ordinance a woman is anointed to become “a priestess unto your husband.”  The endowment ritual commences with introductory wording that bridges the initiatory ordinance with the upcoming endowment:

“Brethren, you have been washed and pronounced clean, or that through your faithfulness you may become clean, from the blood and sins of this generation. You have been anointed to become hereafter kings and priests unto the most high God, to rule and reign in the house of Israel forever. Sisters, you have been washed and anointed to become hereafter queens and priestesses to your husbands. Brethren and sisters, if you are true and faithful, the day will come when you will be chosen, called up, and anointed kings and queens, priests and priestesses, whereas you are now anointed only to become such. The realization of these blessings depends upon your faithfulness.”

Modern Mormon women are not instructed on the meaning of the label “priestess unto your husband” or “queens” beyond their own personal interpretation.  No official definition is offered in modern General Conference talks, Church manuals, Relief Society classes, or official proclamations, nor is there any formal instruction for women to understand how to use their priesthood power, unless they are called as a temple worker.

The only venue that DOES explain “priestess unto your husband” is the temple itself. The meaning of the phrase is communicated over and over again in the temple rites, and we often miss it because both men and women see what they want to see – that they are all participating in the endowment ritual from Adam’s perspective.   Women are used to this.  We do, after all, largely use the language of male spirituality at church and as a community (we are to “become like Heavenly Father” even though this is literally impossible for a woman).  It is no wonder that women often seem to interpret their temple journey as a parallel version of Adam’s journey, with expectations of parallel blessings and spiritual status.

The Law of Obedience

Usually when Mormons discuss the status of women in the temple, they focus on the Law of Obedience. Before the changes to the temple ceremony in 1990, Eve said the following:

“Adam, I now covenant to obey your law as you obey our Father.”

And the female participants in the ceremony were instructed:

We will put the sisters under covenant to obey the law of their husbands. … “You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of your husband and abide by his counsel in righteousness.”

After the changes to the temple ceremony introduced in 1990, Eve said:

Adam, I now covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to your counsel as you hearken unto Father.

And the female participants in the ceremony were instructed:

We will put each sister under covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to the counsel of her husband, as her husband hearkens unto the counsel of the Father.  You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of the Lord, and hearken to the counsel of your husband as he hearkens to the counsel of the Father.

This change of “obey” to “hearken”, and the omitting of “your (the husband’s) law in the Lord” to “law of the Lord” were considered the significant changes that possibly reflected a more equitable position of women in the gospel.

However, regardless of the nature of the verb in this vow, the relationship between Adam and Eve was completely unaltered:  in both cases Eve covenants to Adam, and not to God.  Both Adam and Eve refer to Elohim as “Father” before they are called to covenant, but when called to covenant, Adam says his covenant to “Elohim”.  Nowhere in the temple endowment does Eve say God’s name (though she does say Lucifer’s name), including when she covenants.  The single time she portrays a covenant relationship, she utters Adam’s name.

The Two Endowments

The old version of the endowment contained the following paragraph, which has been removed from the current transcript:

ELOHIM: Eve, because thou hast hearkened to the voice of Satan, and hast partaken of the forbidden fruit, and given unto Adam, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; nevertheless, thou mayest be preserved in childbearing. Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee in righteousness.

This paragraph establishes the curse of Eve as an eternal God-Man-Woman hierarchy.  Though the above quote was omitted from the current version of the endowment, this hierarchy is repeated and made clear in the Law Of Obedience, where God instructs how Eve is to obtain her salvation:

Inasmuch as Eve was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, if she will covenant that from this time forth she will obey the law of the Lord and will hearken unto your counsel as you hearken unto mine, and if you will covenant that from this time forth you will obey the law of Elohim, we will give unto you the law of obedience and sacrifice, and we will provide a Savior for you, whereby you may come back into our presence and with us partake of eternal life and exaltation.

EVE: Adam, I now covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to your counsel as you hearken unto Father.

ADAM: Elohim, I now covenant with thee that from this time forth I will obey thy law and keep thy commandments.

God stipulates that if Eve covenants with Adam, and Adam covenants with God, then a savior will be provided for them.  That is, Adam and Eve’s redemption is contingent upon the pattern established in this exchange, wherein Eve covenants to Adam and Adam covenants to God.

This moment creates a pattern that is binding on the remainder of the ceremony.  It is the only moment where the Adam and Eve actors speak their covenants. Once Adam’s covenant to Elohim is spoken, the patrons become participants instead of observers when, immediately following the actors’ exchange of covenants, the audience makes three successive covenants for themselves: the Law of Obedience (to mimic Adam and Eve), the Law of Sacrifice, and the covenant not to reveal the first token, name, and sign.  As soon as the patrons mimic the law of obedience, they take the place of Adam and Eve for the rest of the ceremony and are represented by a witness couple at the altar.

The moment the patron makes the Covenant of Obedience, that person declares his/her God.  The One that a person ultimately obeys is the One the person ultimately worships.  Adam declares Elohim, but Eve declares Adam because Elohim told her that her salvation depended on her doing so.  At no time in the temple does Eve explicitly covenant to Elohim.  Adam is established as her master.  I posit this is true for every covenant Eve makes.

A female temple patron usually understands that she goes to the temple to make covenants with God (again, we adopt the language of the male spiritual experience), but she does not.  Female patrons make covenants to the future exalted husband.  Her future exalted husband will replace her Father as her god.  This transaction starts with the husband learning the wife’s name (a symbol of stewardship, like Adam naming Eve),  continues through the husband/wife ceremony at the veil, reaches into the sealing ceremony where the wife gives herself to the husband and the husband receives her (but does not give himself), and will progress through every successive covenant they make (second anointing, god resurrecting a man but husband resurrecting the wife, etc).

During the endowment, every covenant made after the Law of Obedience follows this wording:

“You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep/observe the law of (obedience/sacrifice/the gospel/chastity/consecration)…”

or:

“I, _______, covenant before God, angels, and these witnesses, that I will never reveal the (first/second) token of the (Aaronic/Melchizedek) priesthood, with its accompanying name and sign.”

In both phrasings for all remaining covenants, patrons covenant before witnesses, but the phrasing does not say to whom.  The whom is established with the first covenant: Elohim receives covenants for Adam, Adam receives them for Eve.  As the ceremony continues, Adam will administer ordinances  to Eve, not just receive her covenants, mimicking how God is administering to Adam.

We don’t readily see this because in the physical space of our view, the witness couple representing Adam and Eve are at the same altar with Elohim presiding, so it looks like both the man and woman covenant to Him and receive from Him.  However, the male proxy for Elohim only gives tokens to Adam. Also, in modern temples, it is temple workers who administer tokens to patrons so when a female temple worker gives tokens the relationship is not obvious.  But in a live session, Elohim gives tokens to Adam over the altar, Adam gives them to Eve, then Adam and Eve give them to the patrons.  All tokens women get are through their husbands, not from God.

This hierarchy of tokens is reinforced in the ceremony at the veil where Elohim accepts the husband’s tokens as his Lord, and the husband accepts the wife’s tokens as her Lord.

Two different endowments are going on, as if there are two different temples in the same room – one for men and one for women – where each individual views not just his/her own endowment, but also the parallel but distinctly different endowment of the opposite sex.  The endowment creates two individuals of different spiritual status, and acts out the relationship between the two in the veil ceremony, names, tokens, and marriage rites.

Woman, therefore, cannot have priesthood in this mortal life, because God only administers to men.  A woman’s power comes not from God the Father but instead directly through the husbandgod’s exaltation.  In mortality, the husband is not yet divine, so the woman is not yet a priestess.  Once he is exalted (calling and election made sure, which can happen after death or during the second anointing), the woman inherits her priestesshood and she can administer to her husbandgod with power.

The Two Exaltations

The dual-endowment insight suggests two different exaltations. If a woman’s deity is her husband, and she provides his eternal increase (children), and she is his priestess, this means she is not, herself, a deity. A priest and a deity have a specific relationship – one worships the other. The deity loves and upholds covenants to the priest, but the priest is not the deity’s peer.

Even when a Mormon man, who is a priest to Elohim, is exalted, this does not make him the peer to Elohim.  Elohim remains the exalted man’s god, or his Patriarch, forever.  An exalted man remains a priest to Elohim and worships Him. Every increase the exalted man gains is also an increase to Elohim, so man will never catch up to or surpass Elohim – Elohim is that man’s god forever.  Mormonism proclaims that as sons of God all men can also become gods, and this implies there are many gods…but a man does not worship them all, just the god who covenants with and exalts him.

If a woman could be  priestess unto God, she could be exalted by Elohim and unto Elohim, and become a goddess.  But she is a priestess to her husband in her afterlife, not to Elohim. Ultimately therefore, I believe the temple establishes that it is the man who has the direct access to Godly power and apotheosis, and woman has as her promise access to her husbandgod’s power (priestesshood) but NOT, under this definition, access to apotheosis.  She shall be exalted but not become a goddess.  Thus we do not worship her, pray to her, or entreat her for favor.  She is not a source of divine power to the human family, but a source of power to her divine husband.  She is a “Mother in Heaven” but not a “Heavenly Mother.”  The man alone will become a Heavenly Father, a deity, and a deity can have many, many priests (sons) and priestesses (wives).

Church leaders seem divided on the issue of whether or not women are exalted into goddesshood.  Joseph Smith may have believed they were, as is reflected in D&C 132:20:

“Then shall be gods, because they have no end;  therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”  (The “they” refers to a married couple, as established in verse 19.)

When Bruce R. McConkie interpreted this scripture to mean that women would be goddesses in his famous book Mormon Doctrine, Marion G. Romney – who was appointed By President McKay to identify errors in the book – listed “women to be gods” as one of those errors.

Certainly there are many women these days who believe that female exaltation means goddesshood – but few believe that a goddess is to be prayed to, worshiped, considered a source of scripture or priestesshood, or to operate in most other capacities reflective of the Mormon idea of “godhood.”  President Hinckley expressly forbade praying to Heavenly Mother in his famous 60 Minutes broadcast.  So what is the Mormon notion of female exaltation?  This is still a question.  Our most developed doctrine of female afterlife remains polygamy.

Nor does the temple shed much light on the nature of eternal womanhood.  Often women are told that men have priesthood and women have motherhood.  Elder’s Oak’s talk alluded to the power of creating life as something only women can do.  However, the power to create life depends on a mother and a father (indeed, this is the basis for the Church’s arguments against gay marriage), so men are also endowed with the power to create life.  To complicate things, in the temple, the creative triad of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael create life without women being present at all.  Elohim and Jehovah create Michael, not Elohim and a Mother in Heaven.  If motherhood/creation is a woman’s endowment of power, where is that exercised in the primal account of creation?  It is not mentioned.  Not only that, but Elohim and Jehovah also create Eve.  And they create Eve FROM Adam.  No woman was used to create man, or woman, and in fact according to the account, woman was created FROM, BY and FOR man.  Priesthood, it seems, can create life without a female input, so how am I supposed to take the argument that motherhood is a compliment to priesthood seriously?  If indeed, a mother were instrumental in the creation of Adam and Eve, why isn’t she shown in the temple?  Would she be a goddess if she were?

Some may suggest that men and women partake of the endowment together so that each knows their place in the relationship.  The woman can know that her priestesshood to husbandgod will follow the pattern of her husband’s priesthood to Fathergod.  With this knowledge she can assist her husband (as his helpmeet) to his godhood whereby she will inherit his power as his priestess. To be the husbandgod’s priestess, I believe, means to provide progeny (eternal increase). Consider again the paragraph omitted from the pre-1990 ceremony:

“ELOHIM: Eve, because thou hast hearkened to the voice of Satan, and hast partaken of the forbidden fruit, and given unto Adam, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; nevertheless, thou mayest be preserved in childbearing. Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee in righteousness.”

To be “preserved in childbearing” is often interpreted to mean that a woman’s mortal life will not be lost during the childbirth process.  However, women do die in childbirth, and there are many women/girls who never experience giving birth at all.  If this statement by God were to apply to every women, it would have to be talking about birth/childbearing in an eternal sense – the begetting of spirit children with her exalted husband.  If we interpret the above paragraph to be discussing woman’s childbearing of spirits, then “thou mayest be preserved in childbearing” is talking about how childbearing preserves a woman’s own eternal (not mortal) life.  That is, her access to salvation/preservation, despite her curse of spiritual death (eternal separation from God), is to bear children for her husbandgod.

She disobeyed God the Father, and fell from Him, so to ensure her access to salvation, God provided woman a husbandgod, with whom she can also be a creator.  She is a creator (mother), and a kindombuilder (queen), but she does not wield ultimate authority (goddesshood) over those creations.  Her authority is limited to her ability to directly administer power under her husband.  Hence we continue to learn that the man “presides” because ultimately that is the order of things.

In this model the family is central to the gospel because the family is the kingdom that each couple seeks to build in their exaltation.  Eve’s fall (spiritual death and subsequent disqualification for priesthood) is healed not through Jesus, but through her husband’s exaltation because he is the pathway to God the Father and thus the pathway to overcome spiritual death/separation from God.

Because of Jesus and the atonement woman can be resurrected (live forever) and sanctified (cleansed from sin), but it is through the husband that she is exalted (receives power and eternal increase).  It is little wonder that wifehood and motherhood are women’s highest identities, roles, and attainments in Mormonism, since according to the temple they are the bases of female salvation.

The Two Falls (Adam’s Fall, Eve’s Curse)

In the temple version of the Garden of Eden account, the primary Fall that takes place is Eve’s while Adam remains in good standing with God.  Eve retains a curse – not to suffer during the childbirth process – but to be demoted away from direct access to God the Father, a condition that Mormons define as “spiritual death”.  The temple teaches that Eve’s fall is qualitatively different from Adam’s, and that thus her journey back to God is also different from Adam’s, requiring an eternal submission to her husband as her god.

Both Adam and Eve transgressed, yet the temple reflects that Adam’s redemption is full and allows him to become a priest to Elohim and a god in his own right, so why would Eve have to covenant to Adam and not get to covenant with Elohim, also receiving a full restoration of her relationship with Elohim?

I suggest that Eve’s “curse” was a “fall”  in that she eternally lost her potential to be a priestess to Elohim.  Her only access to exaltation is to be a priestess to another god to whom she is completely devoted body and soul, and to whom she will exercise obedience (unlike her disobedience to Elohim).  For woman, the husbandgod replaces the Fathergod.

In the temple account, Eve’s sins were to listen to Satan, and to remove Adam’s agency to keep both of God’s commandments.  Adam’s only sin was to listen to Eve, and in doing so he actually was doing mankind a favor.  The transgressions are qualitatively different.  To mend all things, Adam must not listen to Eve again but instead, she must obey him in order to set right her tragic series of events.

In the omitted text, one of Eve’s sins is listed:

ELOHIM:  Eve, because thou has hearkened to the voice of Satan….

And later, in text that is still in the ceremony:

ELOHIM:  Inasmuch as Eve was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, if she will covenant that from this time forth that she will obey….

Both Adam and Eve had to keep both commandments (don’t eat of the tree of knowledge, multiply and replenish the earth), so as soon as Eve broke one, she removed Adam’s ability to keep both commandments even though he had done nothing wrong.  That is, her act interfered with Adam’s free agency.  After she had sinned by partaking of knowledge, Adam could either keep the fruit commandment and lose all progeny by remaining alone in Eden, or else he could break the fruit commandment but still be able to gain progeny.  Adam is put in a position where he has HAS to break a commandment, so he chooses the one that he perceives to be the most important – that is, he chose progeny (“I will partake, that man may be”).  In this context, his act was valiant.  Adam was still punished for his transgression to eat the fruit and to listen to Eve (his penalty was to die /gain mortality and be ejected from the garden) – but unlike Eve, he did NOT remove agency from another or listen to Lucifer (in fact, earlier in the ceremony he rejects Lucifer), so Adam did not lose his potential to gain priesthood unto God.

In this view, Eve’s sin was qualitatively different from Adam’s, and the temple suggests that her act was one that invited spiritual death that could only be overcome by eternally submitting to Adam’s agency, the very agency which she had wounded in Eden.  This is the temple narrative for why women must submit to men and not have direct access to God.

Our modern discourse about Eve does not reflect the temple’s perspective.  In modern rhetoric she is cast as a hero:

“Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.”  (Sherri Dew, Ensign, Nov 2001)

Elder Oaks has put forth some of the most interesting doctrine of Eve, when he discussed the Fall at length in another landmark General Conference address, the Great Plan of Happiness, in 1993:

“It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be”.

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.   Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it. Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least.” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” “

I see this as a marker of great progress and promise.  Perhaps the temple ceremony will be changed to reflect Mother in Heaven’s creative capacity, as well as Eve’s heroism…instead of ignoring one and using the other as a reason to put all women under men’s presiding power.  The temple has so much promise to exalt women! We seem to be heading in the right direction.

However, the current temple ceremony indeed teaches us that Eve fell and must submit to be reclaimed.  Man may not be punished for Adam’s transgression, but women are still punished for Eve’s.  If women are not punished for Eve’s transgression, why the need to submit to a husbandgod?  If Eve’s action was heroic, courageous, and necessary, why is Eve not commended for her sacrifice and woman anointed a priestess to Elohim?

The obvious problem with the temple portrayal of Eve’s curse and necessary submission to Adam is that the atonement of Christ should be powerful enough to overcome anything Eve did.  Why couldn’t Eve repent to fully regain her access to Elohim without a husband intercessor?  The temple doctrine suggests that woman is paying for Eve’s sin instead of letting the Savior atone for it.  Why would Christ not be her intercessor, as Christ is intercessor for Adam himself, by which she could then become a priestess to Elohim?  I believe this is the great conundrum of how women are portrayed in the temple narrative: it limits and contradicts the power of atonement.

The Two Endowment Rituals Enshrined in More Than Words

The analogy, Man is priest to Fathergod  as Woman is priestess to Husbandgod permeates the temple through ritual acts.  I could go into far more detail about how tokens, names, the headwear, the veil ceremony, the sealing ceremony, and even the second anointing reflect the relationship of God/Man/Woman and Husband acting as god to the wife.

In any case, the point is that just by virtue of being a woman, I cannot covenant to, access, or return to my Fathergod without a husband.  If I can use priesthood power under a man, great.  But how can we name a woman equal, who cannot receive a token from the Father’s hand, who cannot receive a priestesshood from Him, who is dependent upon her husband to heal her spiritual death, all because of a sin she did not herself commit?

To call a woman equal under the terms Elder Oaks described in conference would be to ordain her a priestess to Elohim, which priestesshood she practices, like her brothers, under the keys of an authorized leader.

This is not simply a question of what is a woman’s power – it is a question of who is a woman’s god, and how does a woman heal her breach with the Father, and why isn’t the atonement enough to make her worthy of priesthood?  It is a question of what is a woman’s eternal inheritance, and the nature of her future divinity.

I cannot expect the temple to change without a completely innovative, foundational shift in Mormon thought. Of course, the gospel has built-in mechanisms for change in its construct of ongoing revelation.  I do hope women start see themselves as agents of priesthood power, and are further introduced into new ways of ministering and administering in the Kingdom.  But we need more.  Our spirits shrivel in the darkness.  If this Restoration is ongoing, please, let us heal the remainder of the Great Apostasy.

Before the Restoration, our Church fathers longed for their divine Father, yearned for details of their eternal identity, and experienced a righteous desire for direct divine access without a priest standing between them and their God.  Their prayers were answered and we laud them as heroes.

Those of us who are women longing for our divine mothers, who yearn for details of our eternal identity, and who experience a righteous desire for direct divine access without a priest standing between us and our God, remain unanswered and patiently wait for the scorn from those who mock us to go away.

One day, I hope to teach my daughters that they can exercise their priestesshood power under a leader with keys.  I hope to watch them heal and bless.  I hope to teach them that Eve was a hero who sacrificed herself on behalf of humankind, and for them to learn this also when they attend the temple.  I hope they see their creative power of motherhood on display there.  I hope they meet a goddess there.  I hope to teach them that they covenant with God, and that He gives them tokens.  I hope I can witness a sealing ceremony where my daughter and her husband give and receive each other, and know each other’s names.  I hope each of my daughters knows that her identity in the universe is as a Daughter of God, not as wife of a Son of God.

For I know that to be true of myself.

I thank Elder Oaks for his bold words, and hope many more will be forthcoming about the nature of women wielding priesthood, and how we can expand our capacities.  I hope the Church leaders discern how much we Mormon women yearn for their leadership.  I hope they know there is real curiosity and real pain behind our questions.  There is so much more for we sisters to learn about ourselves.  I hope someday we get to show how much more powerfully we could build Zion, when trusted with a power and a chance.

Author:

Elisothel

I am a stay-at-home mother of 4 who joined the church at age 16. I earned a BA in Near Eastern Studies, have lived in several different countries.

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Here are just some comments I read today on Facebook:

“The top 15 remaining closed mouth about the new endowment changes is really frustrating to me. It feels like an abusive husband who after battering his wife brings her home chocolates and roses. Never addresses the problem. Never apologizes in any real sincere way. The top 15 are demanding that the women of the church remain quite about the harmful practices so we can all carry on as if nothing ever happened. I’m glad the changes were made. Now, when a naive 18yr old bride goes through the temple for the first time, she will not have to carry the same pain from priesthood abuse that her mother has carried. But, just because the 18yr old will not have to carry it, doesn’t mean that not acknowledging the mothers pain will make it all go away. It also doesn’t excuse the misogyny whose tenicles crept from the temple into the home, stake and ward. It doesn’t mean that the 18yr old didn’t witness the abuse placed on the women of the church. It just means that she doesn’t know where it stems from.”

silence

Yeah, so now I get it, after reading the article above and this comment. The Elohim-Adam-Eve hierarchy extends to the ward. It goes like this: God supposedly tells Bishop some revelation. Bishop tells Primary President to follow his revelation. Primary President disagrees, having had her own revelation. Bishop gets pissed and releases her. Sound familiar, Anna? Like when President Wood “fired” me for refusing to put on the Halloween Trunk or Treat?

Or how about Bishop Erickson telling me I had an evil seed? Is that because the truth is that Eve is never EVER forgiven and never really can be? She’s SO untrustworthy, that conniving little witch, and can NEVER be forgiven for the Fall. That’s why all us Adams have to keep a close eye on her.

adamthewiser

“I, Eve, must now shrink into the background. I, Eve, must now forever defer to Adam the Wiser. I, Eve, and all my daughters, will never be forgiven for taking the initiative before Adam. We will never dare lead before him again.”

pandorashorror

To me, this image symbolizes the full horror, the reality of what we Mormon Pandoras found when we were finally allowed to open the temple box. We only learned the truth of the nature of the covenants and our eternal status within the Church and before God  when it was everlastingly too late: during the endowment ceremony itself. “You, Eve, are nothing; Adam is everything.”

I just learned that the initiatory has been changed, too. Yeah. You go from covenanting to be a queen and a priestess to your husband… to being a queen and a priestess to the New and Everlasting Covenant. OH… so THAT makes it BETTER?! You covenant to a THING?! As if you are now installed with a lock on your door… it doesn’t matter which key opens it… it still has to be an exalted man, doesn’t it? I can see right through this bullshit. Did you come up with the new wording, Elder Oaks, or was it you, Elder Holland? This mere wrangling of syntax neither changes nor improves ANYTHING!!!

 

This is another perspective from the rationalfaiths.com website

 

The New Endowment: A Time for Repentance

 

The Endowment session has been significantly altered in the new year. In particular, many changes have been made that bring greater gender equality to the temple ceremony and covenants.

Rather than address the particular changes, I want to highlight one lesson I hope all members can take from these changes. The lesson is this:

People who said changes needed to be made were right, before the prophet. They didn’t have the authority to make the changes and he did. But they were still right. That we treated them like heretics for recognizing truth not yet ‘revealed’ was a sin for which the church should repent.

Church leaders have suggested that the church doesn’t apologize, which makes it difficult to repent. But if the church is a collection of imperfect people trying to do our best with the gospel of Christ, why wouldn’t we repent? The idea that we never make mistakes on an institutional level is laughable. And when we make mistakes that hurt people – by holding on to an endowment session that signals women are less, by suggesting to women who feel less that the problem lies within them, and by treating women who ask to be treated equally as heretics – we should repent of that harm.

fishydooRepentance for the church would follow a familiar pattern: The church should admit openly that it caused this harm previously. That it recognizes that it’s actions were less-than-in-harmony with the gospel standards. That it has now made these corrections to more fully bring the Endowment into that harmony. And that going forward it will strive to do better in this and other areas.

As individual members, we also need to repent for our parts in this hurt. Have we contributed to others feeling less-than? Have we counseled people in ways that suggested their feelings of hurt in the temple are a personal shortcoming rather than a shortcoming of the (old) Endowment ceremony? Have we treated people as heretics for knowing and proclaiming truths that hadn’t been formalized by the prophet? Then we, too, need to repent and take steps to be more welcoming, more supportive, more apt to “mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We haven’t done as well as we can and we need to do better.

 


FINAL COMMENTARY:

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[Video: Sting – “Never Coming Home”]

 

mountainsmove

 


[Video: Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” as sung by The Wailin’ Jennys]

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“Eve ate from the tree of knowledge before Adam. To me, it makes sense as to why the divine feminine is called to awaken the divine masculine, which also translates very literally in the physical world… I think Eve was performing an awakening, which, in itself, is a testament to her strength. The story is better understood with a larger symbolic understanding than what is represented from a history of fearful men changing the story as they went along. I don’t think the story is necessarily wrong, perhaps just the connotation and perception.”
– Claire Garcia, Facebook comment


I liked Claire Garcia’s comment when I read it because it reminded me
of the Old Norse version of the Creation story which I discovered last year,
while studying the name, Ida. Norse mythology actually paints Ida, aka Iðunn, aka Eve, in a much better light AND it blames who SHOULD be blamed: Loki, or Lucifer.

Enough of the scriptural misinterpretation and blaming;
enough of the shaming of

the First Breath-of-Life-Giver,

that Venerable First Pit From Whence We Are Digged:

The Very First and Original Well Springing Up Unto Everlasting Life through which,
in unison with the Rock From Whence We Are Hewn,
Everything Good that has Ever come into This World Has Arrived,

the Honored Mother of Us All.

* * * * Eve * * * *

I reclaim her,
reclothed in the robes of righteousness which were torn from her,
rightfully recrowned, recoronated and re-enthroned.

And in reclaiming Eve,
I reclaim me.

 

insult

 

power

 

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