Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Beyond Mormon judgment in the temple

The Salt Lake Temple is illuminated at dusk in Utah. Photo by Manish Prabhune/Creative Commons

I went to the temple earlier this week, and it was (mostly) lovely.

It was my first time attending since major changes were made to the endowment ceremony (see here), and I found myself awash with gratitude for the adjustments. I was thinking about them quite a bit as I sat there, remembering the women who had gone through various, less female-friendly, versions of the ceremony. I was also praying for a few people I know who are sick or battling serious issues.

In other words, I was having a spiritually refreshing experience, by and large.

Until a woman sitting behind me poked me on the shoulder to whisper that my veil was twisted and needed to be fixed. Right then.

I was able to mostly ignore this by whispering back that the veil was not bothering me, but if she wished to untangle it from where she was sitting, she was welcome to try. She didn’t pursue it.

But the veil must have been pretty darn convoluted because after I had exited the celestial room after the session, one of the temple matrons actually called me back to her in the hallway because she had something to say.

Smiling all the while, she asked, “Now, I wonder if I can tell you something and you won’t be offended by it?”

Uh-oh. Just for future reference, can we not begin conversations this way?

I didn’t give her the nice-Mormon-lady answer she was obviously expecting (which, for the candid and healthy among us who do not make women swallow legitimate annoyance, was supposed to be: “Why, of course! I could never be offended by anything you wanted to tell me!”).

Instead, I told her I couldn’t make any guarantees about offense or non-offense until I actually learned what she had to say.

Then she took my veil in her hands and told me it was “all wrong,” and she was going to show me how to put it on correctly for the next time. Which she proceeded to try to do, and even she wasn’t able to (that veil has always been a bit wonky; I’m a cheapskate). It got her a bit flustered.

“Well, I don’t think this meant that you invalidated the ordinance or anything,” she said, handing back the obstinate veil. “I mean, I don’t think so.”

At this point I just stared at her. Of course a veil being twisted would not invalidate a holy ordinance, particularly an ordinance that has nothing to do with veils. How could she even imagine it would?

And that’s when my irritation began melting into something else, something like sorrow for this woman and the culture that produced her. What would it be like to walk through life as this sister? What would it feel like to be so afraid of judgment all the time—from other people and from God—that you default to the notion that even tiny and insignificant mistakes might threaten your eternal value in the eyes of heaven?

I’d like to say I was able to express all this in a kind way to her in the moment, but I don’t think it came out that well. I replied—probably a bit sanctimoniously, to be honest—that my heart had been very full with important matters in the temple, and that my clothing was absolutely not one of them. I told her to have a good day, and then I walked away to change into my street clothes, thinking all the while about women and judgment.

I’ve written before how, in the Next Mormons Survey research, we discovered that the #1 reason women cite for leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was feeling judged or misunderstood. It’s particularly high among younger women.

Overall, four in ten former Mormon women said judgment was one of their top reasons for exiting the fold, versus only about two in ten men. (For men it ranked sixth overall among thirty different possible reasons for leaving. So it’s not like men do not experience judgment or feel it has pushed them out the door, but not to nearly the same degree as women, apparently.)

Judgmental interactions, and the policing of women’s appearance, are all too common in patriarchal religious cultures. But when we hear the word “patriarchy” we tend to assume it’s all about how men control women, when the reality is far more complicated. Patriarchy rests on women themselves patrolling the boundaries of acceptable behavior for other women—and internalizing those boundaries in the deepest parts of themselves.

And it’s particularly tough for them when those boundaries suddenly shift.

It’s fascinating to me on a metaphorical level that it was my veil—a symbol of female submission—that was a stumbling block for not just one but two women I encountered in the temple. One of the changes that has just occurred in the endowment ceremony is that women no longer have to veil their faces even though they veil their heads; the overall message of many of the temple changes in aggregate is that women do not need male mediation when they approach God.

But maybe, this message is more unsettling than empowering for some. Adapting to sudden change can be hard. Sometimes our fear galvanizes the urge to police boundaries, judge others, and demarcate what is acceptable and unacceptable—especially for women.

I just wish it didn’t happen in the temple.


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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church," which will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2019. She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

92 Comments

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  • The irony here is a bit amusing. The article expresses resentments and judgments against two women.

    Against the first woman: “Until a woman sitting behind me poked me on the shoulder to whisper that my veil was twisted and needed to be fixed. Right then.”

    Against the second woman: “And that’s when my irritation began melting into something else, something like sorrow for this woman and the culture that produced her. What would it be like to walk through life as this sister?”

    Wow! These two women neither said nor did anything adverse to you. They did not “judge” you. They both tried to help a fellow sister in the temple whose clothing was slightly askew. No malice. No condemnation. No vicious words. Just an attempt to help out a fellow patron in the temple. Just attempts to be helpful and kind.

    And for that, we have you publicly besmirching these women and the “culture that produced [them].”

  • Agreed. And I really don’t think this article should have been posted in a public forum in the first place. But then there we go judging the author. Can’t win.

  • Policing other women’s appropriate clothing (she was wearing temple robes; it’s not like she was trying to wear shorts and a tank shirt in the temple) is absolutely an adverse action. I have been to the temple so many times that I can no longer even estimate a number of visits and have not once seen a woman adjusting another woman’s clothing except when helping someone new or elderly during the appropriate times. Not once.

    I have heard occasional stories about temple workers judging the clothes of women as they came into the temple, one criticizing a woman (who had just suffered a great loss and was trying her best to find peace) for wearing earrings to the temple. Walking into the temple wearing earrings. Who would have thought.

    Pretending that this behavior is appropriate suggests that you exist in a cultural bubble and can’t understand how many people outside your immediate sphere would understand the inappropriateness of touching someone else without permission or criticizing another woman’s appropriate although perhaps not perfectly worn clothing.

    Perhaps you are also trying to cope with the changes?

  • Perhaps someone who knows about human development and the psychology of policing the boundaries of a community can explain to us why so many people over the past month have tried to quash discussion of things that are absolutely appropriate to discuss.

  • I had far too many of those sorts of experiences before I had the good sense to stop them by stopping my participation. I was fifteen the first time that I had to set someone straight for thinking that he was doing me a favor by badmouthing my parents to me at church. It never got any better. I had a self-righteous junior companion on my mission who did his best to proclaim his personal superiority each and every day. Sadly, for him, I was always good at the one-line roast and he never seemed to get the message to just chill out.

  • Policing other women’s appropriate clothing (she was wearing temple robes; it’s not like she was trying to wear shorts and a tank shirt in the temple) is absolutely an adverse action.

    ==”Policing?” Loaded terminology. Not very helpful. These women were not “policing” anyone. They were acting out of kindness and a desire to help. And the author is publicly disparaging them for it.

    I have been to the temple so many times that I can no longer even estimate a number of visits and have not once seen a woman adjusting another woman’s clothing except when helping someone new or elderly during the appropriate times. Not once.

    ==I have seen such attempts to help others in the temple. And those attempts have been received with grace and appreciation. So it’s a little weird to see the author express resentment and judgmentalism about behavior that was nothing *but* an attempt to be helpful and kind.

    ==And if your reckoning is correct, then the article is off-base in disparaging a “culture” based on conduct that is, as you say, apparently very rare.

    I have heard occasional stories about temple workers judging the clothes of women as they came into the temple, one criticizing a woman (who had just suffered a great loss and was trying her best to find peace) for wearing earrings to the temple. Walking into the temple wearing earrings. Who would have thought.

    ==So now we’re disparaging fellow church members based on unvetted anecdotes.

    Pretending that this behavior is appropriate

    ==Attempting to be helpful and kind is *not* appropriate? Come again?

    suggests that you exist in a cultural bubble and can’t understand how many people outside your immediate sphere would understand the inappropriateness of touching someone else without permission

    ==This is weird. Of *course* I understand that different cultures have different approaches to interpersonal contact. That’s rather part of my point. The author took offense where none was intended. Cultural differences, particularly benign ones, should be understood and – where possible – accommodated. Instead, the author publicly disparages two women who were trying to be helpful and kind. Because being helpful and kind is part of their culture (which the author *also* disparages).

    or criticizing another woman’s appropriate although perhaps not perfectly worn clothing.

    ==Oh, brother. Even the author acknowledges that the veil had an issue with it (“that veil has always been a bit wonky; I’m a cheapskate”). These women were not *criticizing* the author. They were trying to *help* her. Out of kindness. Not malice.

    Perhaps you are also trying to cope with the changes?

    ==No need for me to “cope.” I have no objection about or concern with the changes.

  • C’mon. Are you seriously claiming that these sisters acted out of malice? That they *weren’t* trying to be helpful and kind?

    The temple is a wonderful place precisely because everyone is there to serve. Based on a voluntary choice. Based on love of one’s fellow brothers and sisters.

    The article disparages the character and motives of two female temple patrons who were trying to be helpful and kind.

    The article disparages the “culture” that gives rise to desires to serve, to be kind, to help others.

  • I have a very similar story, Jana. Maybe you’ll enjoy it.

    A few weeks ago, I was driving my husband to the airport for a family visit. He said to me, “now, don’t get mad, but You’re not holding the steering wheel correctly.” Now, as you noted, the very best way to get somebody really pissed off is to start a critical, judgmental comment with, “now don’t get mad”.

    I didn’t get quite mad, but I was well on my way. I said calmly, “I’ve been driving cars for slightly longer than you’ve been alive, and this is the first I’ve ever heard that I wasn’t holding the steering wheel correctly.” His response? “Well, I told you not to get mad.“ I didn’t get mad, I got furious. I drove him to the airport perhaps slightly faster than the speed limit just to drop him off.

    It wasn’t in the temple, but I do know exactly how you felt. For the record, by the way, I was holding the steering wheel in such a way as to have complete control of the car, and to be comfortable with where my arms were.

  • I see you’re a married man.
    To answer: Who knows? Probably. It might have been 48-12, or horrors!!!! 46-14, or worse 11-1!
    God forgive me. I don’t know! I don’t know! The uncertainty and disgrace of it all.

  • I’ll go back to an old quote. What’s good about TCOJCOLDS isn’t unique, and what is unique isn’t good. This is a prime example.

  • As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized a very important truth: The thing a person says about another person says very little about the other person, but it speaks volumes about them.

    Second truth I’ve learned, one that I’m so grateful for: It’s not my job to judge anyone. I’m not a priesthood leader, and I’m not God. I don’t have to figure out a person’s motives, or whether they’re acting out of the goodness of their heart, or out of malice, or whether or not they’re keeping the commandments because it has absolutely zero to do with me.

    We have a strong emphasis on right and wrong in our culture, and we have a strong emphasis on loving others in our culture, and I think that when the two get mixed up together, we seem to get this idea that if we love someone, we will help them choose “the right.” And that should be true- but ONLY for those we have stewardship over.

    There is a difference between teaching correct principles and doctrine, and giving criticism (however constructive it may be) and counsel. We are all given the charge to teach, and to share the truths of the gospel. But for most of us, there are very few (if any) people in our lives who we have the charge to constructively criticize and counsel.

    Understanding these truths really helped me focus more on loving other people, and I’m so grateful for that. There are so many wonderful, colorful people in my life that I can truly love now, in a way that I don’t think I could have before when I was confusing living the gospel with judging others. I don’t have to look at them and think, “What you’re doing is WRONG,” and then feel uncomfortable around them because I’m thinking that. Now I understand that God doesn’t expect that of me. He certainly expects ME to choose the right, but my only job with regards to other people is just to love them as my brothers and sisters, and to teach when I’m supposed to teach, and to offer counsel only when invited to do so. We all walk our own paths. The only path I have to worry about is my own.

    This isn’t to say I don’t still have challenges– I do– but gaining a better perspective has been truly freeing.

  • You sound very much like a concern troll!

    I can’t count how many times that I have been to the temple either. I used to attend the first session of the SLT as many times a week as I could, prior to working, first in the Lion House Cafeteria and then later, in the Church Office building cafeteria.

    I saw many occasions where both male & female temple workers pounced on folks for insignificant issues, just because they felt that they could, with impunity. All because they have an air about them of having important power in light of their “calling.”

    I remember in the LAT once, being younger than most folks that day I was wearing one of the new one-piece men’s jump suits. The collar wasn’t designed for a tie, I wasn’t wearing one. That day there was a temple worker who stationed himself just outside the men’s locker-room to visually inspect everyone who exited. When I was leaving to join the company he stopped me and criticized me for not wearing a tie. I pointed out that the jumpsuit was designed not to accommodate a tie. He said that I wouldn’t be joining the company without a tie. He handed me an old skinny white clip-on tie and told me to wear it. I put it on. I checked my appearance in the first mirror that I encountered and realized how utterly stupid I looked with the clip-on tie. Other men openly smiled when they saw me. A few whispered that i must have encountered Bro So-&-So.

    After the session was completed, I asked to speak to the temple president. He saw me, I presented to him my appearance and explained my experience. He apologized and asked who the temple worker was. I saw that worker many times over the next year or two as I wore my jumpsuit without a tie, as did many other men. He only ever nodded and smiled from that day on. He had acquired unto himself authority over minor issues that in reality he was never given, but being a temple worker, he though that he held. I think Jana’s experience was similar. Not the innocent situation that you insist that it was.

    BTW, I’m no longer a member of the LDS Church. I was excommunicated for being gay. My crime, holding my boyfriend’s hand and exchanging the occasional peck on the cheek because we were very much in love.

  • I don’t find that she does either. You are neither LDS, nor have ever been, but you love to post this same stupid comment in many of Jana’s articles.

  • Unfortunately, David, you have no idea what you’re talking about and but recently you’ve begun making variations of this same stupid comment to me.

  • So, you were NOT excommunicated for BEING gay.

    You were excommunicated for acting on the inclination.

  • No, the Stake High Council Court excommunicated me for homosexuality. They took the view that because he was 19 and I was 24 that I had to be grooming him and leading him out of the Church. I was an ordained Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood and he was but an ordained Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. I was excommunicated and he was slapped on the wrist and sent home to his dad who threatened to withhold his love from the guy if he was gay. Which is the iron rod that father held over all of his children to keep them in line.

    The father really screwed up that son’s life. (And a few of his other kid’s lives.) My former boyfriend is married to a woman 10 years his senior. This is her second marriage. According to his fraternal twin brother, who lives about 10 miles from me, they have a sexless marriage and only have kids from her first marriage. According to LDS theology, he dies childless, a dead-end and the kids will be with their actual father and his family in the afterlife.

  • “According to his fraternal twin brother, who lives about 10 miles from me, they have a sexless marriage and only have kids from her first marriage.”
    Wow and you complain about Christians in one’s bedroom!

  • It is information shared with him by his wife. Knowledge she has because his sister-in-law, wife of my former boyfriend, has complained about it to her often.

    He told it to me because we both know his brother is gay and lives a life that leave he and his wife unhappy. The only reason she doesn’t divorce him (that would be her 2nd) is because he is a good provider, she and her children want for nothing.

  • OMG, you’re dumber than a rock! That’s you and Mark lately, dumb & dumber, quite the pair. The pro-Catholic and the anti-Catholic.

  • Women cited feeling judged as a reason for leaving the church more than men did?

    Apparently, when someone tries to help a woman adjust some misaligned clothes, the woman is more likely to get all up in a flurry, and hang on to it with enough offense and self-importance to write a published article about it.

    A man us more likely, when being informed some if his clothing is askew, to not give a crap, or at the most get annoyed for 2 second before realizing there is nothing to be annoyed at and THEN not give a crap.

    That’s how I (a man, with a past history of having a bad temper) reacted the 2 or 3 times it’s happened to me, and it takes 1 second to realize I’m being unfairly petty, defensive and ultra-sensitive, and 1 more second to humble myself, feel bad about it, and be glad the guy tried to help me.

    You’re in the temple, and choose to take offense where none is intended and where none is actually even given. If you and I represent a fair sampling of women and men, your pride and pettiness would explain why women take offense (and hold onto it) and “feel” so judged.

    The “patriarchy is just your excuse. Get over yourself (am I allowed to say that to a woman?).

  • From someone who denies Christ, I take that as a complement.
    thank you. Now, are you going to follow me around again?

  • Are you referring to the fellow temple worshiper trying to help the author adjust some clothing, or to the author herself for judging them (first in her heart, and then via a published article) for trying to help her?

  • Wrong again. I’m a baptized, born again Christian who is a member of a local faith community where I serve and attend worship of the Triune God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) regularly.

  • Somehow this is proof positive that men and the “patriarchy” are bringing women down? It’s called a petty husband/wife spat.

    It felt good for me to write that, as I now realize the 20 times a day (I exaggerate) my wife corrects me, it’s because she’s trying help not hurt, and I’m being petty by letting it bother me. She’s likely being petty, too, by trying to correct too many things. BUT, I should stop being petty.

    So should you. And you should realize it goes both ways, and has nothing to do with “patriarchy” bringing women down, and everything to do with learning how to deal with differences in marriage.

  • nope. You deny Christ all over this blog, my friend – even before you start to follow people around

  • I’ve experience judgement and pettiness in the church, and outside the church, and everywhere in between. Not in any sort if regular pattern, just from time to time. I guess that’s why the Lord told us to turn the other cheek — the angry or hurt feelings go away almost immediately and we stay happy and we ourselves refrain from incorrectly judging someone’s motives and heart. I’ve followed that counsel, and NOT followed it, and the difference in how I feel is night and day!

    The story about someone insulting your parents to your face when you were 15 is a different matter, and I assume that’s not the typical level of offense you experienced. If it is, please let me know so I can avoid that place altogether. I’ve lived in Argentina, Quantico, Phoenix, D.C, North Carolina, Chile, Provo and Austin, and haven’t experienced any regular pattern of judgement in or out of the church. So I’m curious where this type of constant judgement might exist.

  • ” I was excommunicated for being gay. ”

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11English Standard Version (ESV)
    Your denial of Christ in print, and Christ’s respnse

  • I wasn’t talking about patriarchy. I’m also not a woman.
    I was talking about criticism from people who don’t know what they are talking about, and who don’t know how much damage can be done to a relationship by it, especially when they think it is their right to do so, and if you object to it there is something wrong with you.
    Only you know what’s going on with you and your wife.

  • You already admitted it was your behavior that led to the decision of the Stake High Council Court, not your orientation.

    Let’s not dissemble.

  • Thanks for the very long answer that provides very little information. Your remarks themselves are a form of blame and shame tactics in defense of Mormon institutional insensitivity and unnecessary judgmentalism. Your unnecessary pushback is exactly what you are trying to assert doesn’t happen.

  • Oh make no mistake. The old guards of Mormon sexism are older Mormon women. They will be the hardest keepers of the old ways.

  • You exemplify the harsh willingness to throw everything and everyone else under the bus in “defense” of Mormonism. Tow the official line or get harshly judged. Thanks for making the case in your over the top effort to do just the opposite.

  • Gay Mormon men have history as good fathers and providers, which why the Church goes to such harsh and extreme lengths to keep them in the closet and in the fold. Gay people tend to need to be needed and that’s another quality that the Church knowingly exploits and uses against gay members.

  • You can’t win by falsely playing victim when bullying and harassment are simply part of the culture emotional abuse as “tough love” within the Mormon Church.

  • Molly Mormons circle the wagons just for “fun” and can do so to defend the “faith” at the drop of a hat. Anything short of adulation for all things Mormon is seen as an attack on the faith. Didn’t you know that Mormon “Profit” Rusty Nelson’s poop doesn’t stink?

  • Actually, the only Christians that can be considered Christ-like are the LGBTQ-affirming ones, such as the Community of Christ, for example.

  • Its not just Gays. Jana thinks it is OK to Have 0, yes 0, yes 0 BLACK MEN in the Quorum of 12 for Decades & Decades & Decades & Decades & Decades & Decades. Not Cool Jana !!!

  • Jana is very moderate and restrained in her criticism of the Church, knowing all too well that it doesn’t take much to be branded as an apostate and enemy to Mormondom. That’s what makes even her very meek criticism so very dangerous to her due to rabid Mormons on the prowl like the “good” Mormon Danites who perpetuated the Mountain Meadows Massacre back in 1857.

  • Nice try at having “all the answers.” It’s what makes UT Mormons and holy rollers two sides of the same counterfeit coin.

  • yes he is…..no, I take that back…..there is nothing funny about a person approving of and encouraging people to choose Hell.

  • There’s no need to answer a statement and I never need to play by any made up “rules” from you. Your need to put yourself “in charge” is your problem, not mine.

  • It’s only part of the Utah culture. I assure you it doesn’t happen among church members in the rest of the world. I have lived in in both situations and in fact it is one of the reasons we left Utah.

  • CA born and raised. Mormons can be insufferable jerks with absolute certainty that being rudely judgmental is a crucial part of the Gospel.

  • Mark isn’t and never has been LDS and knows little about Mormonism. He’s mostly just an a-hole.

    He’s usually screaming at folks that they are anti-Catholic.

  • This week, as I was working my weekly shift in the temple, I had two similar occasions – only I was the one on the side of “criticizing.” On the first one, I noticed that one of my fellow temple worker’s jacket collar was all askew. I said, “Hey Brother (name redacted for privacy), check the mirror on your way out. You have Deacon’s collar.” On the other, I was working in the verification spot (between the locker room and the chapel), and a patron headed into the chapel with the zipper on his pants down. I said, “Hello Brother. Thank you for coming to the temple today! I just noticed your zipper is down.”

    On both occasions, the response I received was a combination of sheepish, and grateful.

    Perhaps you read more into the experiences than what was intended. If someone indeed believed the ordinance you had performed might have been invalidated by the wonkiness of your veil, then they were simply mistaken. In that case, the kind thing to do might have been to as politely as possible educate them. The risk, of course, would be that they take it the wrong way, and write a blog post about it.

  • Most don’t stop or make up for decades of systematic verbal abuse by those who do. I found that the only way to make it stop was to stop attending. My first really bad experience happened when I was 7 and the last when I was 57 when I stopped attending.

  • Ben, not a woman. Sorry, I overlooked that part. Face palm.

    I guess I don’t see where you’re story fits in then. The point of the article (I think) is how the church is this judgemental patriarchy that drives women away.

    Your point is that people criticize when they shouldn’t. I agree with you. I guess in a sense you make a good argument against Jana’s point…being judgemental or critical isn’t unique to any church or group or type of people — it’s only unique to the human race.

    My point about me and my marriage is nothing much — we can all be guilty of being petty, by criticizing others or by being overly sensitive to criticism (actual in your case, perceived in Jana’s case). There’s too much good in life, and too much good yet to be had, to be allowing the little things get to us.

  • You’re welcome.

    Where have you lived that there is so much judgment? You gave 2 examples that occured years apart from one another (one when you were 15, the other when you were 18 or older regarding 1 of your several mission companions).

    I’ve been in the church my whole life and in many different parts of the world, and have not experienced an outpouring of judgment; so I’m curious where you experienced so much judgement.

    I wasnt shaming anyone. I said myself I’ve handled criticism or perceived judgment right sometimes and wrong sometimes. And I still do it wrong sometimes. That doesn’t change (only reinforces, actually) the fact that doing it right makes me happier.

  • I have experienced undue judgment my whole life, both inside and outside of the Church. I have a unique and complicated life story. My first horrible Church experience was to have a Mormon bishop victim-blame my siblings and I when I was age 7 for my mom’s out of control verbal and physical abuse. I had major corrective surgeries in childhood and had to learn to walk three times. I have seen a lot of violent behavior and horrible things but all of it was continually minimized or blamed back on me throughout my Church experience until I simply had enough for a lifetime. Growing up, serving a mission, marrying in the temple, raising 3 kids without any of the abuse that haunted my own childhood; none of it was ever treated as anything but a source of shame and blame for me in the Church.

  • Not a problem. Thanks for your kind response.

    I have to disagree a little bit with what you have to say, though. So much of this all depends on context, nuance, and repetition. If you ask in abusive husband if he’s abusive, most likely he’ll deny it. You ask an abused wife if she’s being abused, and she may deny it as well, despite the shiner on her face, in the case of physical violence, or her misery in the case of mental and emotional abuse.

    In the case of churches and religions, this could well be a process that goes on for some years. I used to know a woman who left her church that she loved, and eventually became an atheist after wandering around some other churches and faiths. In her original church, both as a woman and a divorced woman, she received a stream of criticism for years, all very subtle, but all essentially blaming her for her former, abusive husband, and her independence for not wanting to be married again. She could not pin down what was wrong at her church, for the simple reason it never occurred to her that her pastor and church leaders ship were being abusive towards her, and in fact, we’re just subtler versions of her ex husband. Not just critical or judgmental, but controlling and abusive, much like her ex-husband. Once her perception shifted that little bit, she began to see a great deal more of it directed at other women in her church, primarily, but at some of the men as well. As you note, issues with human psychology can frequently be a lot more complicated than they appear on the surface, and sometimes only a slight shift in perception lays bare a situation that festers for years.

  • Thanks. Great points. I totally agree that context is key. And there are abusers and judgers and shamers of all stripes and in all walks of life. And it’s all bad.

    I just didn’t get the impression that what Jana was explaining was any of the above. It certainly didn’t seem like there was some sort of institutional abuse or judgement…just a couple ladies trying to help out. If that’s what sets a person off, I don’t think there’s anywhere she can go — imperfect humans are EVERYWHERE. Including the human writing this comment. 🙂

  • Wow, that’s tough. I’m willing to admit that some people have it a lot tougher than me, and I can’t relate to everyone or everything.

    We are an imperfect bunch, we humans. As you say, inside or outside of the church (or inside or outside of any other organization, or anywhere that humans are involved, really) we are going to face people doing us wrong.

    I don’t chalk that up to the church or a church culture, but rather to individuals’ imperfections (maybe lots and lots of individuals in your case, inside and outside of the church). You sound like you are oing a pretty good job toughing through some constant adversity. If that’s the case, well done and way to stick up for yourself. Best of luck.

  • How about concentrating on the main issue presented? A religion teaching that God cares about silly things like the ‘perfection’ of a veil…. or the vigilant wearing of sacred underwear…. or men needing to wear white shirts to church to please God….or women looked down on if they wear pants, etc….the list goes on and on….

    God looks on a poor child in rags in Africa the same as a Mormon man in an expensive suit. In fact, I believe He prefers the pure heart of that poor child as opposed to the pride of fulfilling a specific religion’s cultural expectations to appear more righteous than everyone else.

    ‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first’ 🙂

    “Well, I don’t think this meant that you invalidated the ordinance or anything,” she said, handing back the obstinate veil. “I mean, I don’t think so.” At this point I just stared at her. Of course a veil being twisted would not invalidate a holy ordinance, particularly an ordinance that has nothing to do with veils. How could she even imagine it would?”

    A religion that makes people fearful that misaligned clothing affects their relationship with God is NOT from God.

  • “How about concentrating on the main issue presented?”

    I did exactly that: misaligned temple clothes, and Jana’s extreme sensitivity to someone trying to help her out. I also addressed how equating this experience to all women (the survey she cites) is an insult to women, because she unfairly casts women (she as the anecdotal sample) as petty and too-easily-offended.

    You are the one deviating from the main issue. And what you bring seems to be based on a distorted/inaccurate perspective of what is taught by the church.

    Mormons teach that God looks more favorably on a Mormon with expensive clothes than on a poor African kid in rags? Really? I’m certain you know that is not a teaching, insinuation or implied understanding from the church in any way, shape or form. I also have faith that you are a better person than that. Sincerely. So I’ll just chalk that up to high emotions in a comment section.

    “A religion that makes people fearful that misaligned clothing affects their relationship with God is NOT from God.”

    The church doesn’t teach that, so if anyone is fearful of it, they are mistaken in their fears.

    A religion doesn’t make people fearful. People choose whether to be fearful.

    The temple lady (or ladies) is probably a rule follower and was just trying to help someone out with something she thought was important. There are rule followers everywhere. Sometimes that’s helpful, sometimes not.

    Even IF this invalidated the ceremony (it doesn’t), it being invalidated through this inadvertant (or even intentional) clothing misalignment would not affect anyone’s relationship with God. God gets it: his kids make mistakes. Anyone who understands the basic teachings of the church should know that.

    Look. You got some zingers in against the church. I think you know your portrayal of its teachings is incorrect (if not, please actually look into it). I appreciate that you care about others, and I respect your right to have the views you have. But I don’t know how to have a discussion with someone who starts from a place of hostility to the point of dishonesty. Cheers.

  • Not hostility, just asking for honesty from Mormons about church teachings. I’ve worked with many Mormons, am good friends with Mormons…have welcomed them into my home and care for them deeply. My daughter was in love with and wanted to marry a certain stellar young Mormon man for awhile. I know the teachings. I’ve asked the tough questions and done hundreds of hours of research. I know the awful, disgusting things your past leaders have said about people of other faiths, like myself. I know the current PC platitudes that try to tiptoe around offending others. But let’s be honest….

    When you fold down all the layers, your religion teaches that even though I love God with all my heart, serve Him and have devoted my life to Him and His amazing gospel message in the Bible…your church teaches that I will be relegated to spirit prison/hell (as defined on lds.org) where God will not be. You’ll come visit me there and if I don’t accept Mormonism there, I’m relegated to a lower heaven where again, God will not be. And I just get occasional ‘visits’ from Jesus.

    So…when I say “God looks more favorably on a Mormon with the right clothes than on a poor African kid in rags”…even though prophets don’t say those exact words in your General Conference, this is exactly what your church teaches deep down. That I (and the poor child who doesn’t tithe to your church or pass a ‘worthiness interview’ to get into a fancy temple b/c they don’t wear special underwear or sustain your prophets, etc…) don’t deserve to be with our Almighty God for eternity. None of that is in the Bible! In fact, the exact opposite is in the Bible.

    It grieves my soul that your church instills doubt in the reliability of the Bible and then teaches that God is picky and cares about what people wear to church or in a temple or under their clothes, etc… That is why this article struck a nerve with me. That a temple worker (who is trained that things are supposed to be done a ‘certain’ way in the temple) insinuates that God cares about silly things like a pesky veil not laying the way it’s supposed to lay. Men and women are ‘judged’ for wearing a beard or a blue shirt or double earrings or pants to church. And so much more….the list goes on and on. It’s so very sad and I’ve seen it play out in real people’s lives. Jana can hold her own, but what about all the teens and vulnerable adults who walk out of there thinking God only hears them if they look perfect and do everything right?

    I sincerely ask your forgiveness for getting passionate about something that has hurt real people. God cares about our hearts! He makes that crystal clear all throughout the Bible. Not about all the LDS ‘rules’ and hoops they teach you have to jump through to earn your way to God and godhood. That was the Pharisees’ way of life….not the gospel that Christ taught. Please….Take God at His Word with His Word 🙂

  • The Bible is the word of God.
    Paul was taught by Christ for 3 years
    Christ’s apostles condemned homosexuality

  • Jerks and idiots abound everywhere. I was at dinner last night with my local diversity group. One guy in a couple was very sweet and funny but his boyfriend was a grumpy jerk. The sweet guy apologized for his boyfriend by assuring everyone that he was really sweet and fun in bed. My thought is that if he had to go there to make his guy look better, he should be looking elsewhere.

  • I love being part of the local “Boys Night Out,” including getting updates on people’s lives and activities, but the old “grandpa” in me feels for the twenty-something sweet young guy hooked up with a similarly young sourpuss. But then, being part of that lively group is good social therapy for them both.

  • They’re young. If they weren’t making any mistakes, they would either be god, not young, or non-existent.

  • I get a bit of personal catharsis seeing younger LGBTQ couples in our local diversity group. Growing up Mormon and under the intensely intrusive Bishop’s interview and all the blatant homophobia delivered in daily messages to youth made simple self-exploration of things like one’s place on the Kinsey Scale virtually impossible. Getting inculcated with the “everyone’s born straight myth” coupled with the “pray the gay away” myth leaves lifetime emotional scars that finding some healing as you see younger people feeling free to make choices that fit who they know they are.

  • All that happens with religion not backed up by inquisitors and executioners is that the healthy people see the truth and leave the religion, and the unhealthy ones just learn to hate themselves all the more.
    Not what I call win-win.

  • You simply dismiss every valid point David Allen makes, because he declined to conform to the expectations of a system that was built to exclude him. And you still don’t see the problem. This is exactly what Riess was writing about. You’re in the system, and you’re comfortable there, and you’re bothered whenever anyone dares to rock the boat even a little bit, whether the boat-rocking is intentional or not. That’s what shaming culture teaches, from the cradle to the grave.

  • I assure you, you are wrong about that. I have attended LDS wards all over the US and Canada and Mormon shaming culture was alive and well in all of them. They don’t label it shaming culture. They label it “high standards” and “modest dress” and “elevate your thinking” and “doubt your doubts,” but – have no doubt – it’s shaming culture.

  • Rather than “dismiss valid point(s)”, I simply pointed out that the proximate cause of his excommunication was behavior, not orientation.

    Mouth shut, hands to himself, there was no problem.

    And do see the problem: people like yourself that don’t see the problem.

    The solution is to either not join a church, or join a church which had rewritten Scriptures to suit you.

  • I think it can be both, as in a good place for some, and a bad place for others. For me, it was horribly damaging. Yet, I know there are some who seem to thrive inside the organization. But not me.

  • Mark, I purposely put there where it could not be used to undermine you.
    This is one of the things the pope signed in Abu Dhabi –
    “Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept..”
    http://archbishopcranmer.com/pope-francis-god-willed-the-reformation-and-the-church-of-england/
    What is this man doing? Can you guys not do something with him?
    Respectfully,
    Sandi

  • In a word, “no”. Here’s a Lutheran take on him:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEchg1KhmTY

    His position in this area is Catholic. Basically it says people have every right to go straight to hell. And they do.

    The way they should be lead to the right path is by preaching the Gospel.

    He was 82 in December. He won’t be around much longer.

    Unfortunately he talks first and thinks, if at all, later.

  • Can we please put the women wearing pants thing to rest. Even sister missionaries can wear pants these days. Opposition to it isn’t a thing anymore. And if an old lady in Relief Society hasn’t processed that reality, one can exercise charity and blow her off while smiling inside that her opinion on the subject doesn’t matter.

  • I do think that sometimes some of our elderly temple workers have their particular quirks that they strive to pass on to younger generations when they are absolutely not necessary. I like that you raised the issue to the temple president, and that the problem went away. Such an easy, virtually effortless solution that anyone can employ while letting the incident otherwise roll off their backs.

    I went through the temple for my own endowment shortly after two-piece garments began to be made available. The elderly temple worker whose job it was to instruct me on the proper wearing of the garment included a remark about the proper order of putting them on (the bottom portion first, then the top). Over the years I largely adhered to it, but I thought about it routinely, often wondering whether or not that was really a thing, or if it was the personal preference of the temple worker. So after 34 years I finally got around to asking a friend of mine who had served in my local temple presidency whether or not it mattered which order one put on one’s garments. He and his wife both laughed. Of course it didn’t matter! But for the rest of my life I will always think about that guy and his instructions when I was 19. No harm, no foul. But when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to ask – even decades later!

  • You have an interesting perspective on “moderate and restrained,” considering that much of what she writes is from a critical rather than faith-affirming perspective, but I do agree she strives to avoid crossing certain lines altogether which is a good thing.

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