Sunday, March 16, 2008
A recent post at fMh took me back to the turmoil and struggle I felt leading up to returning my temple recommend. Namely, the issue of who has authority to pronounce me 'worthy' before God. In the initial post, Carol Lynn Pearson states, "We Mormon woman have a conversation about “authority” all the time, with ourselves, with each other. No priesthood, no authority. Sigh. I can’t even remember when I last believed that." Sadly, the rest of the post didn't really seem to address that issue (though it was a touching anecdote) and many of the subsequent comments bemoaned that lack. Sonnet's comment got to the root of the issue: "...the basic fact remains that you can’t go to the temple unless your bishop and SP deem you worthy (!)..." That, for me, hit at the crux of the topic of worthiness. Another person is in charge of determining it with a set list of what makes a person unworthy (heavily dependent on what they believe, what they consume and what they wear.) The church sanctions men to stand in the place of God and determine who is worthy and who is not.
What it came down to for me, was the difference between being worthy before God, and being "temple worthy" as outlined by the church. I had come to the point where I no longer believed that God was concerned if a person drank tea, or wore a certain type of underwear or adhered to the tenants of a particular religion. Those things had nothing to do with worthiness. But is still took me a little while before I could reconcile that with the notion of being temple worthy. For a little while, I still confused the two.
The realization I finally came to was the concept of respect. Respect for the rules of an organization. While I may feel that I am worthy before God, I recognize the right of an organization to impose rules as to who can enter THEIR building. Other groups have rules and restrictions with their special places (i.e. during the SLC olympics I found that there were certain parties you could go to only if you were a citizen of a particular country. I guess I didn't look Canadian enough) . Out of respect, I would not intentionally invade another religion's holy place if it was only for the initiated. And I came to feel that I should show the same respect for my own faith: it's their building, they can make the rules if they want to. And accept that while it makes me a bit of an outsider, it doesn't effect my relationship with God.
Honestly, this would be so much easier if, like Caroline, I could answer all those temple recommend questions correctly but simply chose not to go in for the interview on principle. This puts her above reproach, so to speak. My own path, however, has been different; I don't wear garments, I drink experimentally (sake anyone?), I have an array of teas I have collected and occasionally drink coffee. These things taint me in the eyes of my peers. I'd love to say that I am confidant enough in my standing before God (claiming my own authority, to take a page from Carol Lynn Pearson) that I don't need the cultural reinforcement... but to be honest, I am still rather sensitive to being viewed as 'unworthy' by my clan ("she's not temple worthy!"). Not sensitive enough that I alter my life to conform to the acceptable parameters (I feel guided in this path I am in, if that doesn't sound to corny to say)... but it is still a tender little spot that if pushed, is sore like a bruise.
Which is why, ultimately, I realized that I couldn't participate beyond a certain point in that thread at fMh without exposing myself, offending others, starting a discussion that I didn't have the energy for.