Sunday, March 16, 2008

temple worthy

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.


Lessie said...

This is a really neat post, g. It really does take a lot of nerve to do these things, doesn't it? I know what you mean about feeling unworthy too. I don't feel like I'm doing anything that would upset God (assuming s/he/it exists blah blah blah etc.), but I know that my mom, sister, and grandma will when they find out that I don't adhere to the temple worthy standards anymore or feel the need to even completely affiliate with a particular religion. Sigh. What to do? Why does it have to be so confusing?

Oh well. Thanks for this. And very cool photo, by the way.

G said...

ya know, particularly when it comes to your 'clan'... it is hard!

you can feel totally good with God (or whatever concept of deity/non-deity works for you) ... but your parents and grandparents and siblings, etc...? whole other story!

Julia said...

Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for this post. I stumbled onto your blog from Lessie's who I snooped from fMh.

I'm going through some things right now where I feel like I really should WANT to go back to the temple. But for someone else to decide that I'm worthy (basically in their eyes, because there is no true standard- at least every bishop I've had has had a different way of deciding). And it's true, why does my God care if I wear garments or drink? does that really ruin my relationship with him? Does that make me a bad mom or wife or general citizen?

But I like what you say about respecting the organization. I mean several times I've thought "well i'll just go back to the temple to see if I can try to like it" but i never want to follow the "rules" to actually get there. And lying doesn't feel right because like you said, the LDS church has a right to demand whatever standards for THEIR building.

Family though. That's the tough stuff. It's always the biggest let down - like you really are going to hell. And that just can't be the way a loving Heavenly Father works...right?

Okay sorry for the long comment. but thanks for this post.

angryyoungwoman said...

I don't know if I'd ever have the guts to do what you dare to do. It must be so eye-opening (have you read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--it's been awhile since I read it, but it's like the bible for giving up old beliefs and adopting your own life). It must be so hard, though, with the expectations from family and friends. I'm sending love your way and support in case things get too difficult.

G said...

AYW, I haven't read that book, I'll have to check it out. I don't know that I would say what have done is eye-opening as much as I would say it is excruciating. So far, I haven't explained myself to my family. they may have their suspicions... but that is all. Eventually, it will have to come out and be laid on the table, I can only guess what will happen then. so thank you for your love and support! hugs and kisses back at you!

Julia- thanks for stopping by! I was at that place several months ago... 'I should just go and see' (not like I hadn't been attending the temple faithfully for years up to that point!).
but, ya know... my particular route may be different from yours. I am sure there are people who attend the temple who are fine with their own interpretations of 'temple worthy', and that is okay. for me, because of my background and personality, it was creating a damaging schism. It had to be one or the other. I don't think everyone is like that.
good luck with working out what is best for you!

mr. pink's mom said...

"These things taint me in the eyes of my peers."

i wish you could see that your peers, myself included, are here on this board and you are not tainted in our eyes.

instead we envy your courage to do what is right for you and love you for your strength to continue on, even when you doubt. we are here cheering you on, encouraging you to be the best G you can be.

we, you peers, don't care what religion you belong to or what cards you carry we care that you are well n mind and body.

your are beautiful and we KNOW it.
now, go forward, look forward and do good.

love m

G said...

Aw mel... thankyou. that was beautiful.

there are a lot of people (like you) who would never consider me (or others) tainted.

I was referring more to the larger group of my ward, family, and various other people on the bloggernacle who would be shocked, saddened, disappointed, (or validated) etc... to find that I don't live the word of wisdom, don't wear garments, etc...

I don't think they would consciously think the word 'tainted' ... but the implication would be similar (i.e. "she is separating herself from God" or "she no longer has the spirit with her" etc...).

This is based on hearing family members, reading ensign articles, hearing Gen Conf talks, and talks and lessons in my wards where the tales of people who stopped 'living the gospel' become object lessons to warn believing members.

having friends like you (especially since you are a believing member) is what helps ease this process.

thankyou thankyou thankyou for being who you are!

I love you too.

Ellen said...

G, thanks for this post. I often feel that things don't click in my head, but I can't put the finger on it. After reading this post and the comments (thanks's mom) I feel like I am a little closer to organizing everything in my head and finding a way to cope with my struggles instead of, like you said, being tainted whenever I communicate them to my peers.
Best of luck!

G said...

your welcome, ellen! and the best of luck to you too!

jana said...

I feel more worthy and more right-minded now than ever before in my life. And I haven't practiced Mormonism in 2 years.

I live close enough to a temple that I see it nearly every day. It makes me happy to see it. But it doesn't make me want to go inside. I think it's much like seeing one's alma mater--you feel a sense of pride at having belonged to that place, but you don't necessarily want to go back to high school again.

I know that there are people around me who judge me if I drink tea or wear a sleeveless top. And I feel bad if that creates any barriers between us. But at the same time, I feel so good about my choices that I can't let their judgments change my behavior.

G said...

thankyou jana for you comment jana.
the fact that I feel more whole now that I can ever remember feeling is what keeps me going.

the weeks leading up to returing my recommend were rather painful, all the doubts and worries and 'what will my family think?' and 'will I get disfellowshiped/excommunicated?' etc...

but the peace I have felt since then has been enormous. it was the right step for me.

G said...

oh sheesh... could that comment have been slaughtered any worse?

hopefully you get the general idea.


Chelsea said...

Geesh. I'm glad I came across your post. I don't know all of the details but it helped me... I wish people could just be more open and accepting of others. I feel like I am a good wife/mother/caregiver... yet there are some things from years ago that I carry around with me and it keeps me 'not worthy' anymore. I think it needs to be let go and people just suck sometimes. It drives me crazy that we base our feelings of worthiness on one 'man's' opinion. I am worthy but have chosen to put my family first. Not a religion. I'm still 100% devoted to God but not the people. Thanks for letting me vent. :)

G said...

thank you chelsea :)