Sunday, July 8, 2012


I know a number of women who are put off by the sexism in the temple ceremony. I didn't give it much thought for many years.

That was my coping mechanism for a number of years in the church--I experienced a type of spiritual paralysis due to constraints I felt were placed on my religious practice. It was a process of deciding how orthodox I would be. Would I believe that scripture study only comprised reading and annotating the scriptures, church magazines and writings of church leaders? I tried to be obedient to that but got very frustrated by the closed feedback loop. I was hearing the same thing over and over again and not gaining any new insights. After that stage, I entered a phase of becoming apathetic. I knew I was done studying repetition but I did not where to turn to study next. It felt like I was spinning my wheels. In 2009, eight years after I joined the church, that all changed when I found the alternative Mormon community. Not only did I find a wealth of study opportunities to give me new insights and perspectives into correlated gospel material, I learned the skill of listening to the heartaches of others. In some ways, their burdens became my own as I listened (or read as the case may be) how aspects of the church caused them to mourn and be burdened with concerns about the morality of certain characteristics.

Due to this willing absorption of whatever new perspectives I could take in, I began to look at aspects of church culture and practice that would have bothered me if I had given myself permission to look critically. On my blog, my readers have watched me puzzle through obedience to church leaders, the cultural silence on Heavenly Mother. Recently my attentions have turned to making sense of the temple in regards to its apparent sexism.

When it came to the hearken covenant in the temple, where Eve is commanded to covenant to listen to the counsels of her husband and all women in the temple by extension make the same covenant for themselves, I mentally reworded the implied "and Adam will hearken to the counsel of his wife."

The more I listened to the upset from those who cried that the missing implication was a glaring issue, I too realized how mentally writing it in was unsatisfactory.

It was with interest that I listened to the Mormon Matters episode on Ritual In Mormonism. I knew that Chelsea Shields Strayer would articulate the position of the injustice of making women hearken to men without reciprocity. I then learned that Chelsea Robarge Fife had given serious consideration to the issue for many months, zealously attending the temple to make sense of the hearken covenant. She came to an impression that stripped Adam and Eve of their genders and put them as mystical symbols of something else--symbols of the body and the spirit--the two essential parts of the human soul, which are both necessary for a person (regardless of gender) to enter into the presence of God as an exalted being.

I have pondered on that perspective and I get it in the context of Mormonism and its belief that the "natural man must yield to the enticing of the spirit"(Mosiah 3:19) and become subject to it. Its pretty appalling, as well as contradictory to the honor heaped upon Eve for her choice made in Eden, to see Eve equated as "an enemy to God" since by extension the temple context would then say all women were seen as enemies of God. That's just not acceptable to me.

This idea is further debunked by church leaders such as Dallin H. Oaks who is quoted as saying:

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.

Furthermore, the scriptures make clear that there are times in a person's life when it is not wise to give wholly over to the spirit and to ignore the needs and abilities of the body (Mosiah 4:27). Therefore, it seems that reciprocity is still lacking to state that the human family must completely subject the body to the spirit when there are needful times when the spirit must hearken to the body.

Due to these objections, I continued searching for meaning in the symbols of Adam and Eve. Reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, I stumbled across another possible interpretation.

Copied from my previous post:

In the story of Bluebeard, the older sister plays the role of Eve, awakening her naive counterpart (the wife and Adam respectively) to the danger of staying naive and unknowing of the true nature of the situation in which they find themselves. In this way, Eve portrays the Wild Woman.

"Whatever dilemma [the pysche] finds [itself] in, the voices of the older sister in [the] psyche urge [one] to consciousness and to be wise in [ones] choices. They represent those voices in the back of the mind that whisper the truths that [one] may wish to [seek]" (p.49-50) in order to escape the false Paradise Found and to find the true Paradise available to the wise and aware.

As one continues the epic journey to the celestial kingdom, the people of the world are called to "re-surface from their naivete" and as they do so, "they draw with them and to themselves something unexplored." Life, you could say. Eve through her choice made in Eden  is now a wiser woman who draws an internal masculine energy to her aid (p. 63) which Dr. Estes defines as the Jungian concept of the animus

In the Garden of Eden, Eve is now established as the masculine energy of the story and Adam the young maiden filled with naivete who, one could say, needs "someone older and wiser telling [him] what to do."

Which then, kind of turns on the whole Eve hearkening covenant on its head, doesn't it? If you follow, what I am saying is this: when Eve covenants to listen to the counsels of her husband Adam, it is actually the male, older, wiser part of oneself who is hearkening to the newly aware stereotypical maiden who is discovering the world, making innovative inferences to understand the world in novel and fresh ways. Thus, in the temple one can choose to believe in a scenario where the male energy hearkens to female energy just as one sees the female hearken to the male. Perhaps there is reciprocity where people have struggled to find it, after all.
As I continued pondering on that vein, the metaphor can be extended to further--after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden to enter the lone and dreary world, Eve once again takes on her assigned gender as woman in the story. However, it must be remembered that the hearken covenant is made before Adam and Eve leave the Garden, so she is still portrayed as the masculine energy and Adam still exhibits the female energy. When Eve hearkens to listen to the masculine energy of her husband (in preparation for the ejection from the Garden), she can also, by extension, be covenanting to hearken to her internal masculine energy, the animus, the part of her psyche that led her to make the choice made in Eden. 

In this way, as we revert to viewing Eve as a woman, we can see that through that dual covenant--both to a mortal male and Elohim (and please remember every time I think of that word as the name of God that I necessarily draw on the translation which includes Mother God with Father God--Elohim is not singular) that she is actually covenanting in three ways. Listing them in order of importance, she covenants firstly to follow the Spirit of her Parents in Heaven, then to follow the counsel of her inner wise woman who manifests then stereotypical male behavior of the animus and then finally, to her life partner.

On that wise, Adam is both himself and Eve until they leave the Garden when he once again assumes the male gender. Before that point, the hearken covenant is made and he covenants to hearken to the inner newly initiated, eyes wide open maiden that he is himself, which then also extends to listening to his life partner who (as evidenced by the leadership role Eve portrayed in Garden) at times takes on the role of the older and wiser leader of the partnership.

I must say that I find this sort of study much more enriching than the study I felt compelled to do in past years and it leaves me wondering how would I have ever continued progressing spiritually without discovering a broader world of interacting with gospel truths?

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