LDS Mormon Temple Celestial Marriage Experience

 
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My Temple Experience
One woman's journey through the temple endowment ceremony and sealing.



Written by an anonymous LDS woman:

It's been over two decades since I went to the temple for my endowment in 1989. I was 20 years-old and went through the temple the day before I got married. It was the Washington, D.C. temple.

mormon-templeI remember not knowing much about what the endowment was. I knew I would make covenants with God, and I had been told about the temple garments. My bishop's wife took me to purchase my first garments at the store, and told me to bring them, unopened, to the temple in a bag. I was mostly excited about getting married, and nervous about having sex, and not overly concerned with the temple rituals. I just wanted to get it over with so I could get married the next day.

It was my fiancé’s first time to the temple as well. He was a one-year convert. I remember the temple was so beautiful: huge and white and a beautiful pool outside. The leaves were turning and the sky was blue. When I got inside I was nervous. It was a big place. Funny, I don't even remember who all came with me. I think a lady from my ward came to sort of guide me through it.

First I went into the locker room and was asked to take off all my clothes and put a big white sheet over my head. It was open on the sides, and I was cold, and very self-conscious. I thought, gee, what is this?

Then they took me into a little booth thing and sat me on a cold stool. The old lady whispered the blessing in my ear. I was dizzy from nervousness, and was really surprised when she forgave my sins and said I was "clean every whit." Wow, I had no idea that happened again after baptism! And I didn't know women could forgive sins. It was all mind-boggling. I didn't like it when she ran her hands over my body with oil and water. It felt strange and immodest to me. But I accepted it as God's will. Soon she had my garments in her hands. She held open the bottoms for me to step into. It was so weird, having an old woman hold my underwear and pull them up for me. I felt... stupid. Childish. Ridiculous. I don't even remember how she got the tops on me.

(Note: The above Washing and Anointing gospel ordinance was significantly changed in January 2005 - see here for details.)

Somewhere along the line, after I got out of the booth I think, and changed into a white temple dress (and was grateful for the coverage), someone pinned some little papers onto me. One said OWN ENDOWMENT and another said my name. I had the little "packet" cloth pouch thing with all of the robes and veil and apron folded up inside and I felt odd carrying it. All the stuff was rented at the temple; I only had my own garments.

An old lady took me aside and gave me a secret "new name" and I was a nervous wreck that I would forget it, and asked her to repeat it. It was Hagar. What an ugly name. I hated it. And I was angry at its implications: Abraham's second wife that he cast off, the one who was not the wife of his heart. I was becoming a second wife to my husband, who had been married before...was this a sign?

I don't remember much else about how I got to the endowment room. I don't remember a lot except how weird my fiancée looked in that hat, and why was it tied to his shoulder? I hated getting out the robes and trying to get them on in time. There were so many people. I had someone helping me tie my robes and stuff but it was awkward. The movie was ok, but trying to get all the handshakes and passwords right was nerve wracking. Why did I have to take off my slippers and put them back on again when we changed the robes from left to right shoulder? I was so confused, nothing made sense, but I tried to just get through it. Everyone was smiling and happy, and I was flushed and embarrassed.

Then of course, they had the “true order of prayer.” And of course, being my own endowment I was dragged up there with my fiancée to chant “Pay Lay Ale” with a veil over my face. I felt so strange. I couldn't even think.

And I also remember, all the many times I was told to "bow your head and say yes." I felt slapped into submission. Obey your husband. Yes. (It was the pre-1990 endowment) The promises of never revealing, and the suffering my life to be taken; the throat slitting and disemboweling gestures. I think I went mind-numb. It was unthinkable, so I didn't think.

Finally we were at the veil. I couldn't remember a single thing. The old lady told me all the answers. I shoved my inner knee against my fiancé’s, I pressed my chest to his and felt his breath on my ear through the veil, his arm on my back, my breast touching him. After I said the magic words and gave the secret handshakes, my fiancé, speaking for the Lord from the other side of the veil, said "Let her enter." No "welcome home" no "I love you my daughter." Just a "Let her enter."

What the heck was it with the mallets hanging on poles? Why did they knock 3 times and God asks what is wanted? Isn't God omniscient?

Finally, I was in the celestial room with my fiancé and my ward members who attended. I was exhausted. It was white and whiter. I just wanted to go home.

I went to the dressing room and saw myself in a full-length mirror in robes, veil and green apron. I couldn't bear to look. I just had to get changed and forget it ever happened, and look forward to getting married the next day.

I was so numbed by the experience that although my husband pleaded, I refused (with excuses) to go back for another endowment session for 5 months. When I did go back, the death oaths were gone. A lot of the endowment had changed. No more death-oaths or Protestant minister serving Satan. And they’d changed the chant “Pay Lay Ale” to “Oh God, hear the words of my mouth.” It was easier to tolerate.

But I won't ever forget that first time.

The day after I was endowed, I was sealed to my husband in the Washington DC temple. I had pretty much sufficiently blocked out the initiatory and endowment ceremony from the previous day. I just wanted to get married.

Since I was a convert, I had no Mormon relatives. To say they were hurt that they were not invited to my wedding would be a gross understatement. My Catholic aunts and cousins asked me why they weren't "good enough" to go inside the temple. They wanted to know how their presence would defile God's house. I was immature and unconcerned and just told them they didn't know enough to understand the temple ceremony. Ugh. My mother wouldn’t have come to my wedding anyway, but my father... oh it still haunts me to this day, the pain it must have caused him to miss my wedding. His only child, his little girl, got married and he wasn't there. He wasn't even invited. And he died a month later. It still breaks my heart. I know he adored me.

My husband was a convert, too, so he had no Mormon relatives either. His brothers and sisters were quite unhappy. He had been married before, and they had been part of the big fancy church wedding. I still think to this day that one reason they never warmed up to me or got close to me was because they were uninvited from our wedding. My husband's parents, poor folks, came to the temple grounds and waited outside in the November chill. My husband had children from his first marriage, but there was no consent for them to be sealed to us, so they, too, waited outside in the cold while their father and I got married, practically alone, surrounded by a few token ward members I barely knew.

I had purchased a beautiful, white lacy beaded wedding gown. It was very long and I carried the train over my arm. When I went into the bride's room, I didn't have my sisters or my mother or my best friends there to help me. Some old temple matron helped me with my dress and my hair and my veil. It was very quiet, and I was very lonely. It didn't feel at all like a celebration, but maybe I felt special or sacred, that I was sacrificing a big wedding for what mattered: an eternal family. I had to wear the endowment robes, sash, and green apron over my dress. I felt silly and I looked silly. I didn't look like any bride I had ever seen or the ones in the magazines. There weren't any flowers. I didn't even have a maid of honor.

temple-sealingFinally I got into the sealing room. It was small and the walls were lined with chairs. Ward members were sitting there but no family, no friends. There was a huge chandelier hanging over an altar in the center of the little room. There was my fiancé, in his green apron, slippers, and baker's cap tied to his shoulder. This was not what I had envisioned! We were instructed to kneel across from each other at this altar, which was cushioned for our knees. I was so nervous. Everyone was so excited because the temple president had "popped in" and offered to marry us. We were supposed to be awestruck or something, having this stranger in high places marry us, I guess.

As we knelt there at the altar, the temple president gave a little speech, about our worthiness. He made some comments about chastity that made me blush. He talked about how special it was, and how blessed we would be, and the babies we would have. He told us to grip each other across the altar in the “Patriarchal Grip” – a secret handshake I had learned the day before that I needed to know in order to enter heaven.

Then he did the ceremony. All we had to say was, Yes. Then we were married, that was it. Kneeling in green aprons and a baker's cap, gripping each other in a weird handshake, saying yes, and the wedding was over. We stood up, he gave me a quick kiss. Then we quickly stuck the rings on each other's hands, as the rings were not part of the ceremony. The temple sealer told us to look into the mirrors and see eternity. We stood side by side, holding hands, and peered into the wall of mirrors. I didn't see eternity. I saw hundreds on hundred of images of myself and my new husband in green aprons and a baker's cap. I looked away.

Now that it was over, I went back to the dressing room and took off the temple garb. Then we went outside to have some pictures taken in front of the temple. His parents and the kids were waiting outside in the cold. They took a few snapshots of us by the fountain, and in the Visitor’s Center by the big statue of Jesus. Then we went back inside and changed into regular church clothes.

I cannot believe I accepted this as a "wedding." We went to my husband's aunt's home for lunch and cake, and his family was there to congratulate us. It was no big deal. Then we went on our honeymoon.

When we came back we did have a "reception" at our home, with a real wedding cake and a meat and cheese tray, and lots of people from the ward came and brought gifts. My husband and I dressed in a tux and the wedding dress and stood there letting people walk through and shake our hands. My husband's parents and sister came. One of my aunts and some cousins came. My father came. It was heartbreaking. I still hurt thinking I excluded him like that, and I only saw him one more time before he died.

Being married in the temple is not the wonderful, sweet, spiritual experience the church makes it out to be. It is a weak excuse for a wedding and it is the first step in alienating the new couple from all their non-Mormon family and friends.

No one should have to go through this stuff without knowing ahead of time what they are "choosing" to do.

Read One Man's First Temple Experience
(and responses from other members)

mormon temple




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