Ahh, don't worry... I am not going to post photos of the Mormon temple ceremonies even though they exist in millions of places (including on this blog, and believe me... I had an opportunity to post a photo of the Pillsbury dough boy dressed in temple garb showing off one of the heavenly token handshakes that cracked me up!) This post is about all the freaking out from Mormons everywhere about Big Love, and HBO series about polygamy, showing part of a temple endowment ceremony.
Obviously, I don't believe that this ceremony is sacred. Just my opinion, of course. It's clear to everyone who studies Mormon history that the ceremony is largely stolen from the Masons. Many believing Mormons tell me that this is because the Masonic ceremony came from Soloman's temple (riiiight). Don't buy it. Joseph Smith was a Mason, and he borrowed the ceremony. Pure and simple.
Just for the sake of argument, lets pretend God is up there and he wants to make a way for righteous people to gain tokens to heaven (or whatever else this is supposed to do). Do you really think that God would use secret handshakes and chanting?
Come on, really?
The whole thing is laughable to me. How easy would it be for someone to steal these tokens and handshakes? Obviously it's very easy, because anyone can find these handshakes if they do their homework, right? Why would God make it so easy for people to fake their way into heaven?
To many, the temple ceremony isn't sacred at all... and the only thing that made them once think it was sacred was that Joseph Smith and other church leaders through history told them so. I thought I would take some quotes from PostMormon.org (hope these people don't mind... I am not sharing usernames because the subject matter is somewhat personal) about their first experience in the temple.
Let me warn believing Mormons reading from this point on that some of the comments might seem offensive because a good portion of them are negative. If I have learned anything at all from comments on this blog, it's that some members assume anything wavering from the cookie-cutter "The temple is sooooo wonderful" statements they hear in church from friends and leaders is wrong, angry, bitter and prompted from Satan. If you don't want to be offended, stop reading. Right. Now.
I personally was so put off by the experience that I didn't go back and subsequently blocked a lot of the experience from my memory. I'd rather have a colonoscopy. At least I'll know how healthy my bowels are, because I do remember swearing under punishment of disembowelment to not divulge the secret handshakes and whatever else I blocked out of my memory. I'm sure with enough mushrooms the whole experience would come back to me. Hopefully nobody shows up at my door demanding my innards.
Excited, enter temple, undress, put on crazy sheet, confused, scared, dress, watch movie, bored, stand up and screw with goofy costume, bored, confused, stand in circle and chant, scared, play tiddlywinks with stranger through sheet, confused, wait in celestial room....then leave... Ultimately it was a huge let down. It was kind of amusing, I mean who knew the temple was so bat shit goofy.
In my first endowment session, I sobbed LOUDLY through the whole thing pretty much. My friend next to me asked if I was crying because of the spirit or because it was weird. I answered "weird". I think it must have been pretty obvious I was freaked out by it.
The really weird thing, if you ask me, is that everyone just ignored it. None of those nice temple workers took me aside and said, "Are you sure you want to go through with this? You don't have to, you know", or "Is there something I can help you understand?" I was getting married the next day, so I pretty much felt I had to.
I was comforted by telling myself that if it was true, I wanted to make these covenants, and if it wasn't, it didn't matter. I remember feeling somewhat happy/relieved when I went through to the celestial room and there was my fiance waiting for me. (If I were him, I might have pretended not to know me after the scene I'd made ).
------------------------Was a bit nervous, very open-minded, sort of excited. Got into the temple thinking how totally cool this was. Then I was taken to the counter to rent the temple packet. As the cash register went "ka-ching" I had my first powerful "WTF?" moment in the temple.
Money-changing? In the temple? I thought this was the House of the Lord; didn't he beat people with a whip for doing exactly this?
Then they told me to get completely undressed and put this poncho on. Feeling VERY much exposed and much more nervous at this point, I was led to the room to get washed and anointed... by far my least favorite part of the whole thing... and stepping into that baggy one-piece garment... and then when I got my special, secret, New Name... "Nimrod." Nimrod?
At this point I just started to see myself going through the whole experience as though I was watching someone else do it. This was NOTHING like the special, peaceful spiritual experience everyone had told me I would have; it was just odd, uncomfortable, weird, and totally beyond any rational comprehension. I told myself that if I thought it was strange, it was because my heart and mind were not in tune with the Lord's because His ways are perfect and beyond our understanding. I learned not to trust my own thoughts and feelings at that point. The whole experience was like this from beginning to end.
Secret handshakes? What about amputees? Do they just imagine themselves doing the handshakes or what? What about people who have short-term memory disorder? They won't be able to remember the handshakes they need! Surely God can make allowances for them; then why not for me? Won't God know me without the stupid signs and tokens? Isn't it enough that I try to be the best person I can be? Do I really need to pass a silly ceremonial test and put on a really stupid looking hat to get into Heaven? The whole thing was a massive shot of cognitive dissonance. It really seemed more like something a 19th-century charlatan would invent than something an almighty creator would ordain. I told myself that the oddness was cultural. I kept telling myself the problem was with ME, not with the temple. What a good sheep I was...
I went back many times because I sincerely wanted to understand; I wanted to tune my heart and mind to the will of the Lord. Secretly though I always dreaded it deep inside precisely because it was incomprehensible, weird, uncomfortable, and more than a little boring, and because the more I pondered it, the LESS sense it made.
The temple is possibly the thing I miss the LEAST about the church... well, no, the temple recommend interviews actually take that place... but the temple experience itself is not too far behind.
The endowment ceremony was a major mindf**k for me. I had no prior information (this was a week before I got married) and as I was walking in, a missionary was at the front office with what looked to be throw-up all over the front of his shirt---nice start! I felt right then that if this missionary didn't feel worthy, what the hell was I doing there? The washing and annointing was beyond frightening--taught all those years that my physical self was off limits and to have the little old ladies touching me---eee gads. The endowment ceremony really threw me off also. What was with the men and women being segregated? Also, the pizza hats were way too much! Hilarious in a creepy way. The temple workers were mean and impatient. I was annoying them to death with not getting my clothes right and they let me know I was a disaster. I think the thing that put me over the edge was the secrecy and the the threat of death at every turn---adding dread fear to Mormon guilt was a deadly combination and I believe the masterminds at COB should be given special recognition for a job well done. At the veil, I was chastised for forgetting and felt (as I usually did with anything mormon) that I could never do it right. Also, creepy to be holding hands and touching knees with an old guy who determines your ability to enter the kingdom by knowing a groovy handshake---really ghetto in todays terms! Oh yeah, the temple workers lost me for 3 hours--I just sat on a bench waiting for someone to figure out where I was supposed to be. It ended up being a seven hour ordeal for me.
I went thru just before I entered the MTC. My parents couldn't travel out here with me, so I was there with a family friend and my great-grandpa.
When I had interviewed with the SP, he asked me if my parents had explained the temple clothes to me. I said yes, 'cause, duh, they wear white in the temple! Man, thanks for preparing me!
Pretty much the whole thing freaked me out! I had no idea what to think. Here I was leaving for a mission and I get all this thrown on me. Why didn't anyone prepare me about how weird it was all going to be? All I had ever heard was how special and spiritual it all was. I didn't feel special or spiritual! I felt dazed and confused!
I tried being a good TBM over the years, but it just didn't get any better. I am so glad that I am done!
During the ceremony I looked over at my dad a few times. I loved and trusted that guy, and yet he let me come here, knowing me, knowing my distaste for anything cryptic or bullshitful, knowing the ceremony, and not giving even a word of warning? He knew that I couldn't even stand scouting for all the various handshakes, laws, oaths, and old guys telling us how this would turn us into real men. How could he not have seen what was coming? Why didn't he warn me? Did he really value the temple oath of secrecy more than me? He wouldn't even have to tell the juicy parts. Just, "Hey, Atrics, you're going to see and hear a bunch of stuff that will creep you out. Get ready, because you won't like it. It's like scouts, like the Order of the Arrow on acid. Just shut up, do what you're told, and try to not laugh out loud." A hint that it might be humorous would have been a tremendous relief, a different outlet for what turned into pure agony. I don't think I've ever felt more sold out by my father. He's really a good guy, too. I remember once, when I was a deacon, how during a stake priesthood meeting he voted against a proposal by our stake, wanting to buy some recreational property. My dad was the first man to raise his hand in opposition, although right after that about five other men did too. I thought he was so awesome, daring to express his real opinion in the face of all that group-think. I really had seen him as a stud of integrity. You might not believe this, but I had never seen him lie. But here he was, more loyal to promises extorted from him, allowing me to be similarly extorted, not giving even a word of warning. In fact, he wouldn't even look at me.
I glanced around at all the more experienced Mormons, speechless while faking spiritual orgasm, and thinking what a bunch of idiots. I hated them.
I hated being asked to dedicate my everything or go to hell. I hated the ostensible "of your own free will" crap, because I knew for certain that it was deliberate whitewash on something that was at best manipulative but more probably sinister. I don't know about the rest of you who went to the temple, but I was already committed before I knew what I was committing to. The only way out was through intense public shame and expulsion by my social world. In all my previous life experience, I had never before felt so betrayed. Only in the Mormon temple did I experience a full-pressure bait-and-switch.
I hated the damned garments and their amazing capacity to work their way right up my ass. In that entire experience, only the ass-irritating garments carried symbolic truth.
The next time I went to the temple was after I entered the MTC. I only went because we had to. Do that or go home. One guy from our group of eight left the MTC early. The rest made all the sympathetic comments that I knew translated to, "Pathetic loser!" The last day that my group of elders had to go to the Provo temple--tellingly shaped like a toilet bowl, a second symoblic truth--I vowed to myself that I would never ever go into that gawd-awful place again, that despite all the compromises and prostitution of my soul to which I had already submitted, I would at least stand my ground on this one point.Argh! I am so angry thinking back on this. I'm angry at my parents for selling me out to something they could only hope to believe by closing one eye and trusting the generation that had lied to them. I'm pissed at my grandparents--my grandpa had been a mission president and surely knew that I was like the missionaries he had told us about, the ones who bucked and recoiled the whole time. Both of my grandparents lied about how I would love the temple and find deep symbolic truth and draw ever nearer to the Lord. Every time I went, they assured, I would see more deeply into the truth of the church. In retrospect I guess that they were right.
I'm disappointed in myself for not standing up, for not telling them all to go copulate with a cactus, and for not standing up with my integrity intact and leaving that loathsome place.
Today I again forgive myself: by that point of my life I was so demoralized and cowed by the searing self-doubt, the repeated lessons by people I trusted who indirectly told me that I was fundamentally evil for having sexual yearnings, moments of doubt, anger, or the arrogance to think for myself. I forgive myself, the young man who was laboring under the painful yoke of certainty that I inevitably would end up as a ministering angel, not having been bold enough for hell, but not being good enough to have love during the eternities. The only testimony that I ever really had was knowing that I was not and never would be good enough. That's what the church and the temple experience gave to me. It's branded into my soul.
I hate this church. I hate it.
It's been over half a century since I went for my personal endowments. Still I remember it as though it was yesterday. I was nineteen, a college kid, living at home. As a recent convert (thanks LDS girlfriend), I was anxious to fulfill the mission plan to temple marriage. I purchased G's to wear and my mom opened them. A saintly woman, she didn't say anything, but she gave me a strange look. Because my dad worked 'graveyard' shift, we'd been raised on quiet evening activities while he slept. Thus I kept a journal. I decided to 'return and report' on my temple experience.
I'm looking at that entry now. It is very revealing. I wrote about those who accompanied me, the route to the temple, the feeling of excitement. I wrote of the four rooms that my company traversed in the temple that day, the pretty murals, the chandeliers, the huge white chair at the foot of the staircase. I mentioned the quiet, reverent atmosphere. AND there my narrative ends. I'm an extrovert, I know no shortage of words. But on that day, nothing, nada, no comprehend senor! I couldn't bring myself to talk about the clothing we wore, the handshakes and oaths, the strange dialogue we listened to, the promises we made and/or forms of death that could be dealt out to us. It was so peculiar, so strange, that for once I was speechless.
Fifty years later, I'm still speechless. I recently decided to never set foot in such a place again. Give me a forest glen, an ocean shore, a mountain peak to commune with spiritual feelings.