I’ve at times posited to myself what I’d do if I had one moment to go back in time. Most times the overwhelming answer has been one that I’m not necessarily proud of. If I could turn back the clock, or visit myself as a 20-year-old bride to be… what are the words of wisdom that I’d speak? I can tell you that I would unequivocally tell myself to stop. I would plead and advocate for and hope that the younger, more naïve, more faithful and “innocent” version of me would open my eyes. I would hope that I could persuade myself not to be married in the temple, and not to be married to “the man of my dreams.”
I met my husband 14 years ago in the usual way, through a good friend of mine. We in no way “hit it off” but in the two weeks that we dated we both had unusual experiences that led us to believe we should be married. So many moments come flooding into my mind as I look back on my rash decision to marry this man I’d known barely 3 months. Somehow I felt Heavenly Father had made it clear to me that this was the man for me, so I moved forward with preparations boldly.
I imagine kneeling across the altar I remember that my fiancé couldn’t even look me in the eyes. Something kept him from seeing me, and to this day he doesn’t look me in the eyes with love and devotion. Love, interest, care, curiosity, desire…these were all looks I’d seen in the men that I had dated previously so I waited in earnest for them to show up on the face of my betrothed. He held my hand and I remember hearing the words “unto your husband” and being cut to the core. In that moment, my inequality was cemented physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mine was to be a fate of blind devotion to a man that neither heard nor saw me as an equal or a partner. My destiny would be one of servitude, pain, silence, sadness and second rate treatment. I don’t say these things to feel sorry for myself the way I once may have, I speak them from a place of a slow education; a tedious wisdom. They are a warning and hope for my progeny, all future generations, the young women I know and adore; and above all else my daughters.
Discovering that after all these years my “service,” my life has been given away is the cruelest and painful awakening I have ever experienced. My marriage to a man who is both a narcissist and a bully has given me the chance to grow and change in ways I would never have, that much is true. But having been put in a place of unquestionable servitude by the church that I love has been a crushing blow. The temple tells us we are priestesses unto our husbands, the church tells us that men are superior to women by virtue of their priesthood power, and in our very homes the man presides and is to be hearkened to above all else. Slowly I watched as my needs, desires, wants, talents, opinions and freedom were taken away in the slyest of ways. I never even saw it coming; in fact I was groomed for it and subsequently welcomed it with open arms. I gave up my education to support my husbands, I had children and worked through postpartum depression to “multiply and replenish the earth” and I gave up my voice of warning time and again to heed the words of my husband.
Fast forward 14 years and I’m a different person than I once was. Having worked through a series of consistent back to back addictions my husband has had, having lost more money through his “investments” than I care to admit, having been emotionally abused and blackmailed, having had any sense of boundaries violated on a near daily basis, struggling through major depression and anxiety that left me wondering if my heart would stop, being neglected and relegated to second rate housekeeper, being abandoned with my children to focus on “striking it rich”, being manipulated into staying because “ he was suicidal”, even having our puppy given away in a moment of rage; the list goes on and on. It’s taken me this long to realize that this isn’t what a marriage should look like, especially an “eternal one”. I’m done my friends. I’m done being told to take a back seat in my own life and let this man drive me into oblivion. I’m done with my bishop giving him a slap on the hand after years of pornography addiction and having him take the sacrament the next week. I’m done with having my recommend taken from me because my husband refused to pay tithing and he blamed me. I’m done with men excusing men and striking down women in the same breath for small and reasonable requests. I’m done crying at night as I ponder my own eternity married to a man that I’m meant to bear children for forever and ever. I’m done feeling like my femininity degrades the essence of my soul and relegates my worth to second rate. I’m done with my husband keeping his stake calling while working through a bankruptcy, sex addiction, separation, and emotional abuse that he lied to everyone about. I’m done asking for the truth and being placated with white-washed half truths and an empty smile. I’m done with my bishop counseling me to be forgiving of everything my husband has done to hurt me and his children and “move forward” without having a real change of heart. I’m sad and tired and don’t have anything left to give to this sham of a marriage, and I expect more from my religion. I’m making a stand for myself and for my children; I’m going to give them health in every capacity I can. I’m going to give them the opportunity and the freedom and strength to choose. I’m taking back my life while I still can. I’m going to use my mind, my heart and my passion for good. I’m going to be an example. I’m standing up for truth, transparency and authenticity. I won’t make the same mistakes my 20-year-old self did, and I sure as hell won’t let my children.
Get thee to an Al-Anon meeting:
I know whereof I speak.
I know that this is probably deeply personal and I completely understand if you choose not to share, but what exactly made you think it was right to marry him in the first place? I’m a twenty year old single woman who is terrified of making a simmilar mistake. What is your advice?
Sadly, this happens too often. Good ol’ Steve couldn’t have the problems and troubles his wife reports. I know him; I count him my friend. He looked me straight in the eye and told me it wasn’t so. What is her problem?
I’ve daughters, very accomplished yet single daughters, and I don’t want them to have to give up themselves or anything they truly want because of some second rate guy. I’ve realized, as I thought about them, that the promise to follow (hearken to) a husband is a conditional promise. He should be followed only as much as he, in turn, follows the Lord. Once he stops, the obligation stops. The Lord (and church) doesn’t require anyone to destroy themselves to keep a relationship.
The use of the word “as” in the hearken covenant is a simile, as in ‘you hearken to your husband in the same manner as he hearkens to God’. ‘As’ is not a conditional word. ‘If’ is a conditional word. The current phrasing, along with the designation of ‘to your husbands’and the non-reciprocal marriage covenant, can cause consternation and hurt to women who go to the temple expecting to be treated as equals.
He told me that he saw us kneeling at the altar in a vision while he was at the temple. When he asked me to marry him I felt that it was my duty. I remember feeling that God told me I was meant to, and that was that.
Well, actually, no:
Note the first definition:
“used in comparisons to refer to the extent or degree of something.”
‘you hearken to your husband *to the extent* that he hearkens to God’
The word “as” is an adverb here. A simile is something else:
They may look alike, but they’re not the same thing.
It sounds like you just married the wrong person, a complicated thing. And terronly common. It’s difficult to choose the right person, especially when you’re young.
But it seems that the words of the wedding ceremony, or the wedding vows in any other wedding ceremony, would have made things significantly better (or worse).
Distaste for the wedding vows or covenant is an added aspect of unpleasantness, obviously. But just as obviously, there are many happy marriages (of equals) who made the same covenant, hearing the same words, but with love in abundance that precludes any possible harmful interpretation, effectively blinding both parties to any meaning that could not be loving.
I have a friend who had a simmilar experience. And my Mom knew a lot of women who felt “inspired” to marry awful guys. Luckily my friend’s parents insisted she have a longer engagement period so she was able to figure out that he was going to be a terrible match for her and break off the engagement. My worry is, why do so many women feel this? Is it really the spirit? Is it wishful thinking? I was taught not to trust any kind of inspiration like that from an early age by my mother, but I worry that our culture encourages it.
I disagree. Taken as a whole with the structure of other covenants and phrasing (‘to your husbands’), it does indicate that the husband is taking the place of the Lord. The husband stands in the place of the Lord at the veil prior to a sealing. Women covenant to obey the law of the Lord, while men covenant to obey the law of God.
Note the second definition of ‘as.’
conjunction – used to indicate by comparison the way that something happens or is done.
“dress as you would if you were having guests”
synonyms:in the (same) way that, the (same) way; informal like
“we all felt as Frank did”
It’s a problem that there is no discussion in the temple of what these phrases mean. We can debate semantics all day long, but the language in the temple is intentional. Someone approved the script. Until someone in authority gives a clear explanation, many women will continue to be hurt by this ambiguity.
Regardless of the meaning of the word ‘as’ (this feels like a Bill Clinton discussion), the covenant still places men as intermediaries between God and women. Eve covenants with Adam, and Adam covenants with God. Many women find this conflicts with assertions of equality currently put forth by the church.
I agree. Placing a mortal man (even my future spouse) between me and God doesn’t seem fair. If “all are alike unto God” then both men and women should have equal acess to him. Women should not be required to go through an extra intermediary. This, and all the “men preside” rhetoric makes me really uncomfortable about the idea of marrying in the church sometimes. I want an equal partner, not an overlord who replaces God.
Does anyone know the phrasing of the hearken covenant in languages besides English?
That’s an excellent question. I hope someone will respond.
One other observation: Instead of getting all riled up about this, maybe we ought to consider the possibility that “Adam” and “Eve” are *symbols* of something else, and interpret the covenant in that light. Instead of condemning the endowment based on our modern conceptions, maybe we should try to *understand* what the endowment is trying to teach us with these things. It may not be what we think it is. Just some food for thought.
I would love to hear some alternate interpretations.
I would love to hear some alternate interpretations.
In that case, I’ll give you some alternate interpretations, although I don’t claim that these are comprehensive, complete, or even correct. I’m offering them as things to think about because I’m tired of hearing people condemn the endowment as sexist when they basically haven’t even tried to understand it.
Alternate Interpretation #1
Yes, the covenant of obedience is sexist and is *meant* to be that way, as it represents the law of Moses–the law of works–and the idea of hierarchical authority. *Obedience* is the overarching characteristic of this worldview and this part of biblical history. But the endowment is not a set of linear covenants, one after the other; it is a *progression* and *ascension* from one state of existence to another.
Little children need to learn obedience. Ignoring a parent’s command to not play in the street can have serious consequences. But we (like God) want our children to grow up, to become adults who can think for themselves, who act out of love rather than obedience. For that reason, the law of the gospel supersedes (or “fulfills,” if you will) the laws of obedience and sacrifice, and this is plainly explained in the temple. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “The law [of Moses] was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:23-26.)
Today, we continue to live the law of the gospel. But the day will come when we live the still-higher “law” of consecration, not because it is required of us but because our own overriding purpose is to build the kingdom of God. We need not wait for the Millennium for this to occur; to the extent possible, we can consecrate our lives now. In my view, obedience and consecration are worlds apart.
Alternate Interpretation #2
“Adam” and “Eve” (and “God,” for that matter) represent aspects of the self, and the covenant shows the proper relationship between those aspects. Adam represents rationality; Eve represents emotion. That’s not to say there’s anything *wrong* with emotion. For example, it’s okay to feel anger. But my rational mind is there to keep my emotions within their proper bounds so I don’t punch you in the nose.
Consider the differences in the following approaches:
LUCIFER: Eve, here is some of the fruit of that tree. It will make you wise. It is delicious to the taste and very desirable.
EVE: Adam, here is some of the fruit of that tree. It is delicious to the taste and very desirable.
Eve says nothing to Adam about the fruit making one wise. Why is that? This whole portion of the endowment is very instructive if you actually pay attention to what is being said. (We are asked to be alert and attentive for a reason.)
Alternate Interpretation #3
The relationship between Adam and Eve symbolizes the relationship between Christ and his church. These words from Paul are instructive:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. *This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.* (Ephesians 5:22-32.)
Other interpretations are possible, but I think it is foolish to force our own worldview onto something we don’t understand very well and basically haven’t even tried to understand. We take the whole endowment as literal, but it is not meant to be understood in that way. As Elder Packer explained, “If you will go to the temple and *remember that the teaching is symbolic,* you will never go in the proper spirit without coming away with your vision extended, feeling a little more exalted, with your knowledge increased as to things that are spiritual.” (“The Holy Temple,” Ensign, February 1995, 34.)
Here’s a famous Zen story for you:
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Or, as Nephi put it, “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not.” (2 Nephi 9:28.)
When we are in the presence of the Master, we would do well to set aside our own prejudices and preconceptions and try to learn what the Master has to teach us: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7.)
Thank you for your thoughts. Initiates are often thrown into the deep end, and there is little to no discussion about possible interpretations of the symbolism while in the temple. It is my understanding that temple workers/matrons/presidents are discouraged from discussing the symbolism. What do you suggest be done to help the significant number of members who see the temple liturgy as hurtful?
I do find it interesting that in each of your interpretations, Adam (men) represents the higher way of acting (rationality over emotion), or the higher law, or Christ himself, while Eve (women) represents the lesser. This does not bolster the case for equality or complementarianism of men and women.
“I do find it interesting that in each of your interpretations, Adam (men) represents the higher way of acting (rationality over emotion), or the higher law, or Christ himself, while Eve (women) represents the lesser.”
Yeah, well, that’s the biblical tradition. The covenant itself has its origin in Genesis 3:16: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” But I think you’ve missed the point of my alternate interpretation #1, which is that obedience is superseded by sacrifice which is superseded by the gospel which is superseded by consecration. And in consecration (actually, in the gospel as well), there is no higher or lower, no greater or lesser: “They had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” (4 Nephi 1:3.) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28.)
Stop taking the endowment so literally. Start trying to understand what it’s trying to teach us. If it will help, try thinking of the endowment as an extended parable that explains (1) the progress of humanity in general, and (2) the progress of each of us individually. Because that’s what the endowment is–a parable.
After Jesus gave the parable of the sower (in Matthew 13), “the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matthew 13:10-13.)
Then Jesus explained the meaning of the parable:
“Hear ye therefore [the interpretation of] the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23.)
What kind of ground are we? How do we receive the word? What do we do with the word after we receive it? These are important things to ponder.
“What do you suggest be done to help the significant number of members who see the temple liturgy as hurtful?”
We can start by not *telling* them that it is hurtful when that is not its intent. We can have them take the temple prep class, which explains that the endowment is symbolic and not literal. We can stop talking about the endowment as if it *is* literal. We can ask people to turn to the scriptures, which actually have a lot to say about the endowment, once you start to look at them with that in mind. This isn’t just my responsibility. What do *you* suggest?
Given that the Christian belief in biblical womanhood–that husband is head and the wife submits–is based on literal interpretations of Genesis and Paul, and that such interpretations are rooted in original sin and the curse of Eve, it seems plausible that these notions seeped into Mormonism and the temple through the protestant worldviews of the early Saints. Brigham utilized this worldview to keep the polygamist womenfolk under male authority. Fast forward 100 years, and we’ve softened and repurposed the protestant worldview again, morphing ‘obey’ into ‘hearken, and whizbang, here we are, folks. We have the leftovers of original sin, biblical womanhood, and curse of eve competing with the ideology of complementarianism. As a women, I am fed up with it and with people saying “don’t take the endowment so literally.”
It’s only my sense of self, autonomy, agency, and understanding of God that has been jacked. No. Big. Deal.
You have so much pain and anger that you haven’t understood anything I’ve been trying to say. At least that’s my impression; forgive me if I’m wrong.
“As a women, I am fed up with it and with people saying ‘don’t take the endowment so literally.'”
Do you really know of others who are saying what I’m saying? If so, I’d love to know who they are.
“It’s only my sense of self, autonomy, agency, and understanding of God that has been jacked. No. Big. Deal.”
I’ve suggested some alternate ways of thinking in an effort to help. If what I’ve said doesn’t work for you, then by all means, ignore it. You don’t have to accept *anything* that you don’t want to accept. You don’t have to believe anything you don’t want to believe. You don’t have to obey anything you don’t want to obey. So stop doing it, okay?
Maybe you don’t know how to stop. If that’s the case, then I repeat the advice I gave at the beginning of this thread: Get some support. I like Al-Anon, but many other resources are available, both online and in real life.
I wish you peace and happiness.
Please read this:
It explains what I meant when I wrote this earlier:
“This whole portion of the endowment is very instructive if you actually pay attention to what is being said.”
Not that anyone even gave that any thought.