May 1, 2012
John and Zilpha Larsen speak with Megan, Amy, and Richard Packham about the top ten changes to the LDS temple ceremony.
Podcast: Play in new window
By Rich Rasmussen
HAPPY 200th EPISODE!!! You guys are Powerful. No weak sauce here. Nothin’ but AWESOMESAUCE!!
This was an excellent podcast. Thank you very much, everyone. I had several thoughts as I listened. John’s offhand comment about Mormon paranoia touched a nerve. In the wake of my disaffection, I have become very aware that paranoia is an important part of my personal and family dynamic. My immediate LDS family mistrusts society, government, and pretty much every organization except the Corporation of the President (and/or any of the political causes or groups which have the Corporation’s blessing). As I have gone apostate over the last few years, I have come to trust individuals more (whether Mormons or Gentiles), but I have a hard time trusting institutions (of any kind), and I know many of my good friends find me hopelessly backward, cynical, and paranoid. There is something very interesting lurking in this massive paranoia (which manifests not just in my life but throughout LDS culture, and even American culture: we simultaneously love and fear our values, our leaders, and ourselves).
I remember just how it all spooked me out, when I first attended the London temple in 1968.Brought it all back to me in your brilliant discussion. There was no music in the movie presentation, just an opening hymn sung in the chapel, prior to the session starting.
Perhaps the “changes” are an improvement, certainly if they cut out so much of the repetition that took so long. Always thought the preacher man with the dog collar reminded me of a Bing Crosby movie. The actor playing Lucifer could have been a Vincent Price.
Many thanks and congrations on an excellent 200th edition.
I always thing of Mormonism whenever I see Vincent Price.
As far as I know, he is the only major Hollywood actor to have played Joseph Smith (in the 1940 feature, “Brigham Young”).
Great to hear from Richard Packham again. Richard was a key source of information during my early days of disaffection.
I always assumed that there were classrooms where you learned and discussed temple things. There used to be a temple prez at the Provo Temple (Gunther I think), who would discuss some of his odd interpretations of the temple ceremony, but there’s obviously no time for such triviality in today’s corporate church.
I was a pre-1990 initiate, and I was far too gullible to question the endowment. Didn’t like the idea of being disemboweled, but oh well. If Nibley said that the Mormon endowment was just the same as the Israelite, Egyptian or Hopi ceremonies, so it was. [facepalm]
I’d love to see those old pictures of the salt lake temple taken by the guy that snuck in. Do you know where I could find those?
Ask and ye shall receive:
Wonderful episode, great job. I LOVED having Richard Packham on the panel and I hope to hear from him more on Mormon Expression.
I remember my first time going through the temple, looking around at everyone in their temple clothes and thinking ‘I can’t believe that when my parents, bishop, stake president etc. talk about going to the temple, THIS is what they are talking about, THIS is the beautiful and spiritually amazing place they always talk about’ and the next sunday at church I would try and imagine all adult wearing temple clothes and saying ‘oh god, hear the words of my mouth’.
At the time I was an architecture major and so I also kept thinking “how could God’s messengers on earth possible have such terrible taste. This whole thing feels like a moderately upscale hotel.” To be honest, I was so passionate about architecture at the time, that my distaste with the design really spoiled my experience. In addition, since my family had gone to eat just before our time in the temple I was also thinking ‘man I am SO full, it is hard to feel the spirit when my stomach hurts’
Back when I was a believer I had a conversation with a female friend about my discomfort with the whole “hearken to your husband” stuff. She became quite hostile and turned the whole thing around and threw it back in my lap. “If you’re marrying a good man, why would you have a problem hearkening to him? Don’t you think your husband would love you and do what is right for you?” At first I was pissed. But then I realized she was basically projecting. Her husband is a delinquent. I think being told to hearken to him makes her angry. But, being a good little Mormon woman, she sublimates it and puts on a cheery face. Seems natural for her to be so hostile to me. That’s easier than facing the reality of her own life.
Sad to think that some of us spend so much time (sometimes our whole lives) waiting for the “right” authority figure to come along and tell us just what to do. Rather than learn from our own mistakes, we blame them on bad leaders. I am honestly not trying to bag on your friend, Heather. At the end of the day, she is doing the best she can, with the belief system that she has. I just hope she finds a better way of living sooner rather than later.
I had so many people try to explain how “hearkening unto my husband” was in fact NOT being told to “obey” him. But c’mon… it’s just softening the blow.. Or in the case of women like your friend, effectively making them not see it for what it is. Using the word “hearken” leaves it open to interpretation, I guess. Not for me.
Without a doubt, the temple is what was my catalyst for leaving the church. I hated it. So demeaning to women.
Reading stories like this really illustrates how bizarre life becomes when things we are supposed to value become disconnected to actual morality and ethics and how complicated it makes our lives.
If I had to guess what the next change in the temple ceremony will be, I would guess that women promising to hearken unto their husbands will be removed within the next decade. I mean, does anyone like it? I mean that question honestly, does anyone know of any woman who actually, genuinely likes that element of the temple?
That, and them veiling their faces. That is utterly unnecessary. And so very offensive.
Great podcast – again guys and gals. Some of my thoughts were: the words were –
“Previously you were…” I think you were trying to come up with the way they handled some of the wording changes and that is what they said.
Cardston temple as of the last renovation left the murals on
the walls. They changed a hyena to a wolf, but it was obviously painted over the top of the other one. The colors of the fabulous murals was very much earth tones and the wolf was kind of grey.
Richard; you didn’t tell me that you got down and naked at the temple – no wonder you left.
In all honesty it was weird and whacky stuff and very cult like, but having been a member of the church for 7 years before receiving my endowment prior to my marriage, I basically just took it all in stride and loved being told that I was ‘clean every whit.’
i think someone mentioned a dagger. here’s an illustration from wikipedia.
View what is learned in the temple as a ‘metaphor.’ Sorry, but I’ve got a severe case of cognitive dissonance and this does not help. I would be told by TBMs to ‘shelve’ it and all will be revealed. My shelf came tumbling down one day while I was officiating in the temple and my prayers to the lawd have not been enough to rebuild and shore up that shelf!!
My daughter went through the temple prior to the big change in 1990 and she freaked! She is also an ex-mormon and she will probably never look back!
I went through the temple the first time in 1975 and I can assure you, I went through the endowment session and the hand movements indicated clearly that you would suffer death in horrible dismembering ways if you ever revealed anything about the temple. Hey, I’m still kicking at 60 years old. MMM! Maybe the penalties are yet to be visited on me. NOT!!
Pay Lay Ale – Oh God, hear the words of my mouth!! Three times. In the Adamic language. Wow!
Or …. perhaps …. Joseph’s preoccupations … in English :)
When I went to the LA temple at the end of my mission February 1990 the film was shown and the room I was in was the world room and had the murals.
My parents told me stories of people they knew that had been physically protected garments, but on my mission I read out of the teachings of Spencer W. Kimball who said that most of the protection of the garments is a spiritual protection.
The reason you can’t kneel in the temple is because the robes aren’t supposed to touch the floor (like the garments). I was given that lecture once. Which turned out to be useful, because I was able to let a friend know that he shouldn’t get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend in the celestial room unless he wanted his proposal interrupted.
Brilliant idea to have Richard Packham on this panel! I’d love it if you could convince him (or maybe others in their 60′s or 70′s?) to come on the podcast again every once in a while. So much has changed in the church, it’s really enlightening to hear the perspective of someone older.
Loved this discussion!
Some other fun changes the panel didn’t have time to mention (related to #10): Adam used to be chastised for listening to his wife, and Eve used to be cursed with pain in childbirth. They also changed “Adam” to “Adam and Eve” in several places in the script, though Elohim still issues the directions for the hearken covenant to Adam only, calling Adam “you” and Eve “she” for reasons that can only underscore that Eve’s relationship to God is oblique and mediated by her husband.
The contortions women go through to convince themselves the temple isn’t horrifyingly demeaning to the entire female sex are really astonishing.
Woah – I wish I’d known those bits! The Adam chastisement part seems to hearken a little to the Lilith myth doesn’t it? Interesting.
The curse of Eve is a pretty general Christian belief isn’t it? I remember reading that the use of pain relief was really considered heretical until Queen Victoria had it for one of her children and the royal approval overcame the stubborn prejudices.
The more I learn about the ceremony and its heritage the more disturbing I find it as a woman. When I went through for myself (and for the scant few for-the-dead sessions I did) I was so overwhelmed by the oddness and the dreadful disappointment that the sexism didn’t really register. I’m always impressed by people who were aware enough to really THINK about what was happening and what it implied.
I’ve wondered at the range of experiences women have in the temple–I felt like the sexism clubbed me over the head, which was completely incomprehensible to virtually everyone I talked to in my ward. (Well, my bishop did admit afterwards that his wife hated the temple.)
This is a random idea, and no doubt one of many factors if it’s valid, but I wonder how age plays a role? I was 26 when I was endowed, which is probably older than the average lifelong member. Everyone emphasized to me repeatedly that you shouldn’t rush to go through the temple, should wait as long as possible, and should make sure you’re sufficiently mature.
I think the church takes this approach because the temple makes it clear that single women have no relationship to God, so it doesn’t make much sense for us to be endowed at all.
But I think they’d do better to take the opposite approach: endow the girls when they’re really young, before they’ve had a chance to assume an adult role. Because the liturgy insists women maintain the status of a child vis-a-vis their husbands, it seems like maturity works against us. The advice they should be giving the girls is: make sure you’re sufficiently *immature*.
I agree that age was one big reason I missed the sexism. But the really huge, ginormous reason was that I was raised with the perfect balance of feminist-avoidance messaging.
First I was presented with the view that feminists were angry and bitter man-haters, shouting for not just equal rights but BETTER rights.
Then I was given the idea that it was silly of them any way because women were already equal and perfectly valued.
Maybe part of the trouble is that I was already used to accepting words as Truth even when they contradicted observed reality, as well as the idea that Truth didn’t have to be realized in order to be Truth.
I have enormous respect for people who were thinking about their beliefs early on; I certainly didn’t!
That makes two of us
Wow! Proof that they can leave the church, but can’t leave it alone…
<> Or perhaps not…
My wife and I received our endowments on the eve of our wedding in 1984. I was stunned – a deer caught in the headlights – having carried my simple Christ-centered conversion to that “sacred” space in good faith, only to be sucker-punched with gruesome pantomimes and cultish covenants.
So much for the pinnacle Mormon worship, which I now perceive as fitting an institution that still finds virtue in “guilting” members into obedience, diminishing women and out-groups, and ego-stroking “company men” types with easily proffered endowments of imagined authority and promises of eternal kingdoms. And all this complemented by its systemic inability to mentally process real human moral progress or knowledge of the world, led as it is by culturally and intellectually retarded leaders.
John offered a fair disclaimer to those who might be offended. Well, I’ll turn that around. It’s the Mormon temple ritual that is offensive – offensive in all of its derivative, backward, in-group bigotry and misogyny, proven so by its own repeated censoring each made decades too late.
I feel awfully mean saying this and might regret hitting the “post” button. This is mainly because I know so many good people in the Church, including my own family, who find support for doing genuinely good works in this grotesque ritual. So I do not mean to judge these people guilty by association – perhaps no more than an antebellum child of a Southern slave owner whose church used scripture to preserve that peculiar institution.
To the degree that this analogy is valid, a real problem persists and I should speak out. Or maybe this analogy is only personally valid, which makes this rant my repentance for my own shame and guilt by association. I won’t regret hitting the “post” button on that account.
I think the real question here should be: Are these ”
gruesome pantomimes and cultish covenants” actually from God? One man’s
gruesome pantomimes and cultish covenants is another man’s sacred ceremonial worship. I am saddened by your reaction to the endowment ceremony, but seriously, there are millions who have done the endowment and stayed in the church and never looked back. Millions of observant Mormons attend the Holy Temple regularly, monthly or even weekly. I don’t think that the standard should be “did I like it”, the standard should be Could this possibly come from God. If the latter is the case, then abandoning the covenants and publicly criticizing them would not be in order…
I can appreciate the fact that you and many others experience these things as authentically spiritual. I suppose there is nothing absolutely wrong with symbolic suicide as a token of keeping a secret oath of allegiance. I suppose in certain circumstances it can save an entire in-group from destruction.
Yes, I have my standards for what constitutes a proper relationship between a person to an institution, or between two persons, even when one is a god. It goes beyond my personal “likes.” I don’t think being such a thing honors either – it demeans both parties, particularly the more powerful one. And what about James 5:12″ – that’s all I heard on the matter of oaths before being sucker-punched.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest you fall under judgment.
And then I am left to wonder: Why did God see fit to take out precisely those things that I found personally offensive?
Or were these things quietly removed by marketing conscious mortals responding to surveys showing it was disturbing a lot of people – becoming a liability worth jettisoning even after weighing the problem of changing the divine script. Of course, no reason was given and the faithful don’t ask.
My comment suggest that I found it offensive. No, at the time I found it deeply DISTRESSING.
Can you appreciate those feelings? Of a person straining to keep his faith only to make one distressing discovery after another in the process of trying to understand? Of feeling the trust so willing given – and a simple baptismal promise – betrayed by an institution that jacks it up with a silly Masonic oath and systematically obscures even more disturbing facts about its history and its founder’s behavior?
In hindsight, the temple is my symbolic abyss.
But like the Scotsman, no true Mormon can be wrong about the temple … not even millions of them.
And I am happy speaking for myself only … so take it as my personal opinion alone, not as a “standard” I impose on anyone else. To each his own.
I really enjoyed this podcast! I learned a lot because I went through the temple for the first time in 2002. I always found the discussion about the priesthood being held by women in the temple intriguing. Unfortunately, it’s possible that this was just an invention by the church simply to avoid the obvious issues of old men performing the washing and anointing of women. The initiatory process is awkward enough as it is. Can you imagine?
I recently had a discussion about the priesthood ban with my TBM father. I argued that the ban went beyond banning just the priesthood from black members because black women weren’t allowed to enter the temple to receive their own endowments! I used this to support my view that the church’s actions came more from a position of racial discrimination than doctrinal interpretation. Later on I came up with the following questions: Is their any correlation between the prohibition of black women from receiving their endowments pre-1978 and this priesthood power held by women in the temple? Was this the church’s justification for also excluding black women from the temple? Does the church actually believe in this priesthood held by women? Or is it just lip service (folk doctrine) to soften the obvious blow of sexism against females in the church?
Any guidance on the topic is appreciated.
Mormon expression, you are the soft creamy center in the Hostess Twinkie of Life. 200 episodes of just asking about and exploring the one true church. I was so horrified by those death gestures when I went in 87. I always thought it was a little unfair others got some kind of sanitized version. It always made me feel all the more violated. What, that wasn’t necessary? Excuse me?
Zilpha, you referenced an Ensign article from 2001 talking NOT changing the ordinances. Can you provide the reference to which month and author? Thanks!
I should really take the time to look this up, but I believe it’s August 2001.
Ah, found it. Aug 2001 – “Ordinances and Covenants”.
In the LA Temple they renovated maybe 8 years ago or so and changed back, so you actually move from room to room now. Start in creation room with star lights in the ceiling that flicker when the stars get created. You watch part of the movie. Move to Garden room. Watch part of the movie. Move to Lone and dreary world room, watch the remainder of the movie. (All these rooms have murals). Then you move to the terrestrial room which doesn’t have any murals, but has the veil.
Makes the session longer, but you get to see all the murals and since you’re walking every so often it makes it harder to fall asleep. Now I get a handful of mini cat naps instead of one long nap.
Another great episode.
I went through the temple before my mission in 1993 so I missed the penalties. That first visit was unsettling for sure but I learned to “feel the spirit” eventually. There was always a part of me, however, that felt completely ridiculous watching us all milling around in those silly outfits. I started looking into church history and left the church about a year later.
It’s exasperating talking with my TBM family about the temple changes. What more evidence do you need that the church is false? Why would God change “ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world”–especially after polling members about their likes and dislikes about the ceremony? There is only one answer. It doesn’t matter that there is a living prophet.
So what TBMs are saying is: the ordinances were from BEFORE the foundation of the world, through Adam, through Abraham, through Jesus, lost through apostasy, restored through Joseph–but then, Benson comes along and intuits God wants to change it in order to make it more palatable to the modern world. WTF!
I never understood what was “enlightening” about the temple and I always thought it was weird that I would have to remember all these weird long phrases to enter into the presence of God. I think that there really isn’t any new doctrine in the temple or anything especially enlightening to it. It never brought me comfort and I really don’t get the weird hats.
Once again, thank you for helping me put my discomfort with something into words. I know it made me uncomfortable but I did not have enough gumption at the time to analyze why. This podcast has helped me verbalize why things bothered me. Thank you thank you thank you for giving me a voice and a way to process my disaffection!
Does anyone know if they sell Pay-Lay Ale at any breweries in Salt Lake City? I’d like to try some. Sounds intriguing.
They actually give it away free in the temple, but you have to say – “Oh God, beer is good for my mouth, repeated three times.
You are so funny!!!
Excellent podcast. I was endowed in 1976. I have been through the Oakland temple maybe 100x. Back in the 70′s and 80′s once the session was over and you entered the celestial room you could stay there as long as you wanted. I guess times have really changed.
I can’t believe I didn’t know that the cupping sign was originally meant to symbolize catching your own entrails. It’s crazy that they still include those signs, even if they’ve removed the violent language.
“Pure friendship always becomes weakened the verry [sic] moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secrecy.”
Joseph Smith Jr., March 20, 1839
Amazing that he completely understood that religious zealoutry would replace pure friendship in the Church, yet he proceeded to do it regardless. The only people I know that enjoy the temple experience talk about nothing except Church or genealogy whenever they are in the company of fellow Mormons.
The Los Angeles temple is sort of a hybrid. You still move from room to room as in a live temple, with murals, but there is a screen in each room. So you watch different parts of the film in different rooms.
Regarding the sword that John Larsen mentioned: In an account from Nauvoo period Ebenezer Robinson tells of walking in on John Taylor at the red brick store wearing a long white robe and turban and carrying a sword. So the sword was a part of the ceremony from the earliest times. I always assumed it was used in the part about the angel guarding the tree of life with a flaming sword, and that Elder Taylor would have been playing the role of “sword wielding angel.”
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