January 29, 2007

My last temple experience

It was time to go...the youth temple night for baptisms for the dead was that night, and since I was a counselor in the Young Women presidency, I needed to be there on time in order to help out.

I had recently received my "Limited Use" recommend for adults who were able/worthy to do baptisms for the dead, but were unable to have a full-use recommend to do adult things in the temple like take out the endowment or other things. My bishop had a little group of women in the ward who had not taken out their endowment like I hadn't, and he pushed us to go to the temple to at least do baptisms for the dead.

I arrived, and since we were unsure how many kids were actually going to show up, I checked out a white jumpsuit to wear just in case I was also needed to perform baptisms. I changed in the girls' dressing room, and the Young Women president and I helped the girls in there until we went out and sat on the benches overlooking the font where the kids waited to begin doing baptisms.

It looked like enough kids showed up, so soon I was in the dressing room helping the girls with getting ready (and helping them stay quiet and reverent) after they came out of the water. The YW president was in the little hallway that led from the font to the dressing room, and she was handing out towels to them as they came up out of the water. She went to get more towels, so I helped her by taking over handing out towels as the girls got done. I sat on a little stool holding dry towels next to the guy who was reading the names to the baptism performer, and across from me sat my bishop (and friend) and one of the Young Men presidency members. I'd hand a towel to those leaving the water as they got to the top of the steps, and then I'd get another towel and wait for the next kid to come out of the water.

Fast forward to the next Sunday. The Young Women president, a very sweet woman who also happened to be the stake president's wife, stopped me in the parking lot at church and said she needed to talk to me.

"Um, Lisa, I hope you're not offended by this, but I was asked to talk to you about helping out in the temple. Um....you can't help with the baptisms like that anymore...can't hand out towels. What you can do is stay in the girls' dressing room to help out, or sit in the chapel and help anyone who needs you, but you aren't able to go into the font area anymore. I hope this doesn't upset you....." I could tell she felt really uncomfortable doing this. I wondered who had put her up to it. Probably my bishop, who was there that night. She is a very sweet, very calm and unassuming woman, and we were both highly uncomfortable. I guess it's also possible she talked to her husband about it if SHE was the one who didn't like it, and he told her to talk to me. I don't know.

I stood there feeling pretty stupid. I had no idea that I was unworthy to HAND OUT TOWELS. Especially if I was worthy to actually step into the font and perform baptisms. I didn't quite know what to say.

I answered her, "No, that's fine, no problem. OK. I'll remember. I won't do that again, now that I know it's forbidden."

She said she was sorry again, and she hoped I wasn't offended, and I assured her I wasn't offended, and I said something to make her feel better, and we said goodbye.

I wish that wasn't my last temple experience to remember. Before that it had always been a very special place to me, a place where I felt a lot closer to God. Not so much anymore.


Sideon said...

Mind boggling. I will never understand the need for all the rules and layers and regulations.

This isn't about worthiness, this is about an idiotic organization that creates their own useless hoops that try and give a semblance of meaning. Unfortunately, when you look at the purpose (honoring God, being of service... versus bogus and proxy ordinances) against the results (communion or closeness to God versus estrangement and belittlement and powertrips for the BishoPRICKS), the Mormon church has nothing to stand on. Nothing. It's a cotton candy religion - all light and fluffy air with a dusting of sugar to make it palatable.

Grr and double grr.

MattMan said...

OMFG! Did you ever find out why you were asked to not hand out towels ever again?

I never once set foot anywhere near the baptismal font, and my only experiences were with the adult temple stuff, so I have no idea what stupid rules would've or could've applied there. Sick sick sick.

Maybe you were looking too hot in the whites, handing out towels, and aroused the bisho-prick so it "took the spirit away" from him. Now *that* would make sense. lol

Cele said...

I was totally flattened in disbelief the first time I heard about Baptism of the Dead. WTF. Then I heard the Pope was even baptised during a recent ritual. As if he didn't know what religion he endorsed, brokered, or took to heart whilst alive. Then to see the incredibly stupid rules laid down. How do people fall for this hook, line, and sinker?

I realize some people need the rituals to feel validated in their choice of religions, but really, this is such a hiarachy power trip.

CW said...

If they say you aren't allowed in the font area, then clearly they think you aren't worthy of being there...

If you aren't worthy of being in an area in god's holy temple, technically isn't it supposed to be physically impossible for you to enter that area in the first place? By standard mormon lore, that is. Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

For the benefit of those who don't know the rule, you aren't allowed to officiate in baptisms for the dead unless you're endowed. It's not "worthiness" per se, but the lack of an ordinance. How someone not endowed could get through and actually do it, with people who know she's not, I don't understand. And why you need your endowment to hand out towels, that's beyond me.

If it's really such a strict rule, they should have invalidated the ordinances. I'm guessing they were too lazy to do that though.

Lemon Blossom said...

Handing out towels is an ordinance? Whoa, I don't get it. The actual dunking I get, but not handing out towels.

If you were worthy enough to possibly participate in Baptisms for the Dead, you were obviously worthy enough to give someone a dry towel standing next to the font. Ugh, what an uncomfortable experience.

Michelle said...

As some of you already know, I am not Mormon and never have been. I've lived in Utah about a year an a half and in that time have learned alot about this religion, although I am STILL surprised and shocked when I learn something new. It's just so very strange to me to have all of these rules and feelings on unworthiness all of your life. Especially when it is something as simple as helping hand out towels?!?! It's just sick...

mikep said...

hey SML:

WTF? You're not supposed to be endowed to do baptisms for the dead, hence that's why they get the young kids to do it. I think that you gave your bishop a boner--er...impure thoughts in the temple with your white jumpsuit, lol.

It will never cease to amaze me how far things get pushed in situations like this and gasp! in the house of the lard too! (not that I ever had any impure thoughts there myself, he, he...)

Gluby said...

Not good enough to be Holy Towel Girl. Nice.

The more arcane and complex and impenetrable it is, the more it has a seemingly mystical appeal. They have to keep it complex and rule-ridden so people don't see that they're just standing around in a great and spacious building doing secret handshakes, playing pretend and passing shibboleths back and forth.

It all keeps people from paying any mind to the man behind the curtain.

Sideon said...

Meanwhile, those white towels will be sold at marked up prices at the new Billion Dollar Mall.

Holy Towels! Get your Holy Towels, here!

Rachel said...

I did baptisms for the dead once and it was so boring and lame and I felt stupid doing it. Not special at all.
The worst part was having to leave the baptismal font, knowing that all the boys sitting there waiting their turn could see my underwear through the jumpsuit.

JMK said...

First, I find this story appalling. Second, from the standpoint of the research and writing I've done on the temple, there's no rhyme or reason to why they would ask you to no longer hand out towels.

What I find even more disturbing than all that, though, is the characteristic (read: Mormon) manner in which you accepted the Stake President's wife's admonition without questioning. Please note: I'm not singling you out SML. This could have been any one of us who have commented here and almost to a person we all would have responded similarly. And that's the most insidious part of Mormonism--the unrelenting devotion and effort on our part to be just good enough for this church that has the most impossible standards.

In hindsight, I likely would have responded in a similar manner. In foresight, I would have said, "Thank you for bringing that to my attention." Then I would have hauled off to the bishop's office and asked WTF put his knickers in a twist. Fucking patriarchy!

I'm sorry this was your last experience and thus your last memories of the temple. Is there nothing these people leave untouched and sullied somehow? To quote Sideon: Grr and double grr. And grr again.

Ros said...

I hope that I am not trivializing your post but I must return and report.

Experiment: Honey Smacks consumed. Urine smelled.

Results: No special Honey Smack smell.

With a sample size of one, that hardly disproves your hypothesis. Other noses may triumph where mine failed.

Mary Ellen said...

Clearly, Pharisees are running the show.

Wouldn't it be interesting to corner the bishop or SP and say, "Help me understand why I'm not allowed to hand out towels to kids leaving the temple font?!"

Bishop Rick said...

Greetings from Singapore.

I'm feeling a little picked on here.
Not sure why.

coral said...

Maybe someone wanted to perve longer at those kids in their white (now see-thru) suits, hmm, there's a thought, hmm.

Maybe the task was too menial for you. hmm, another thought!

Holly said...

Like Rachel, I thought baptisms for the dead were lame. You hold your nose and get dunked in a bathtub over and over and over. Lame.

But then there was the endowment ceremony, and it moved beyond lame and became grotesquely sexist and gruesomely violent. Yeah, I was endowed back when we still had to enact our own executions....

I always thought the temple was one of the most horrible places on earth, a place where the violence, selfishness and tedium of patriarchy are laid bare, but everyone still walks around going, "Wow, isn't this spiritual and special!" I couldn't abide it. I might have lasted a lot longer in the church if I hadn't actually been initiated into that esoteric nastiness.


mormonbradybunchdad said...

JMK hit my thoughts on the head, why didn't you say "Why the heck not?" And then go to the Bishop and do the same and then the SP. Why just accept this blindly??

Sofi said...

Ugh. War politics make me want to hurl. Actually anything ward related make me feel ill. As a tween, I baptized dead people. Now, I'm totally creeped out by it. I'm soooo glad you made it out, too.

Freckle Face Girl said...

That doesn't make any sense! If you weren’t allowed to hand out towels, why was she? Sounds like the special towels need a priesthood blessing.

This will sound odd, but once (14 years old) I did a baptism for the dead (great uncle's mom) & I completely felt like she wasn't happy about it. She basically rejected it.

Just one of many said...

SML, a little correction to Mr.Brady...She should have said "Why the FUCK not, you FUCKTARD?!? "It's only a FUCKING towel!"

mormonbradybunchdad said...

JOOM - You are freaking hilarious!!! LOL!!! You have seriously made me laugh twice today. Man work blows.

As a small side note, why the hell did the Texas Rangers sign Slammin' Sammy Sosa to a one year minor league contract? Is our season already over before it began?? I would have posted this in the ExMo Sports blog but I couldn't find one. LOL!!!

Simeon's . . . Turning the Corner said...

It's rediculous that your Bishop had her talk to you instead of handling it right then and there.

From my experience, only endowed melchezidek priesthood holders are allowed in and around the font while the baptisms are going on (besides the individual being baptised). I'm surprised they didn't kick you out of the immediate area as soon as you sat down.

It's a stupid rule that is probably not even written down, just implied.

mormonbradybunchdad said...

S - I have never heard of this rule and been on many recent trips to the Temple with the youth for baptism. They usually stand righ there next to the water to hand them a towel - men and women and not are all endowed!!!

Sister Mary Lisa said...


This subject bothers you, huh? It bothers me too. I can tell you it was mighty uncomfortable talking with her in that parking lot. In hindsight, I wish I had said something to her, and I think the thing that held me back from blasting her right then and there was the fact she's super nice and seemed so uncomfortable saying it to me at all.

I SHOULD have gone to my bishop, (who was my friend and home teacher) and discussed it with him, but I had been in situations with him before, (recommend interview where I was denied written permission from my non-member husband to receive temple endowment) and really hesitated to relive that particular hell.

So, I did what I'm good at: I retreated inside and resisted subconciously the desire to go inside the temple again.

Bishop Rick said...

I'm not understanding this whole conversation. I never knew how well endowed you were determined how close to the font you could get.

But in hindsight it makes sense why only men are allowed close to the font.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Bishop Rick,

Maybe that's the whole thing: maybe it's because of how well-endowed I am, that it made those men uncomfortable seeing me in that jumpsuit in such close proximity. And I didn't have on garments underneath...just regular sexy undies. Hmmmmmm.

Could be we've solved the whole mystery here.

mormonbradybunchdad said...

SML - It doesn't make my uncomfortable but makes me wonder what idiot Mormon (and there are plenty of them out there along with idiots in other religions and just plain idiots) would be thinking when they told you that. Weird!!

Well endowed or not, those suits are pretty unsexy and now double layered so no one can see your "goods" when you come out of the water.

Cele said...

One little thing about the "men's only club by the font" arguement that might not ring a pure note is that she "took over for" her when she went to get more towels. therefore a woman was doing the towel handling in the first place.

Shit runs down hill so maybe Lisa's friend was reprimanded for doing what Lisa only stepped into help doing in the gap. In either case, what a bunch of anal retentive bunk, by a group of secret hand shake and decoder ring men, whose sole purpose is to make women feel unworthy - my gosh unworthy to serve the Lord? Only a man would come up with that. Opps, my sexism is showing, and I am sure I was offensive, to those I offended, I didn't mean you, because you have the Cajones enough to have been offended.

Bull said...

My 2 cents. I think that Simeon is correct about only endowed priesthood holders are allowed on the "field of play." Mormon leaders are very concerned about appearances and having a female near the font might make it appear as if she is officiating, especially if seated near the steps. Now, we know how eager they are to keep women in their place and they also don't want the kids to be able to get the impression that perhaps someone in the YW presidency actually has some kind of official role in the process.

The other possibility is simply trying to exert pressure on her to get endowed.

Regardless, it's pretty stupid and counter toward any type of true spirituality.

Finally, I find it ironic since women DO officiate in the temple and ARE annointed to be priestesses. If you read the temple ordinances it sure sounds like Joseph Smith might have been edging toward extending the priesthood to women. Who knows.

You're not the only one to have been shaken or upset by what goes on inside the temple. So beautiful on the outside, but truly creepy inside.

Lemon Blossom said...

I just remembered something. When I used to do Baptisms in the Boise Temple 15 years ago, they would signal to the next young adult in line to come up to the font, just before the other one finished, and hand them the towel. That was 15 years ago, so they may now have a rule that only Melch. Priest. can be near it unless you're getting dunked, but I thought it was interesting considering your experience.

I had a hard time after I got home from my mission. Before my mission, I had would often nod off during the movie (no matter how hard I tried to stay awake!), the 10 times I went before going out into "the field," and I thought it was just because I didn't appreciate what I had. Being in Italy, the closest temple is days away, so I began to appreciate it more.

Then, when I returned, I remember it taking months of going weekly before I could feel comfortable there, or even peace. The first time I was back we were giving the signs and the thought popped into my head, "Whoa, didn't the Gadianton Robbers have secret handshakes, too?" I felt horrible for thinking that, but was really uncomfortable for a long time. Eventually, I got over that because I knew the problem was with me, not the temple ceremony.

Matt said...

A weird cult. So weird even the OTHER cults have started to notice!

belaja said...

I have never done baptisms for the dead, but as a teenager I had a friend who was told at the last minute that she could not participate because she let it out to one of the leaders that she was having her period. She was wearing a tampon, not a pad, but no, if you are having your period it is apparently best that you not sully the holy water.

What did they let her do instead (so she would not feel left out)? They let her hand. out. towels. Apparently now even the towels must not be sullied by unclean women.

Fuck the fucking fuckers.

Lisa, you totally ROCK!!!

pokerspice said...

That's just insane. You can go in, but can't hand out towels? Who makes up these rules? I don't miss it. I was big into the temple while I was "in" but I don't have any desire to go back. It's been tainted with the propaganda for me now, big time.

I'm taking a break from blogging until I graduate in May. I'll still lurk when I have time. I just wanted to stop by & say hi. :)

Kita Kazoo said...

Great thread - Truly bizarre story!

I felt totally naked in those wet jump suits. It's a good thing you took over so those poor girls didn't have to stand there exposed to all those men.

What is most disturbing to me is how the men didn't have the balls to talk to you themselves!

"said" Woman said...

I'm not Mormon, never met a Mormon (practicing or not), and I've never been to Utah. All I know is that I appreciate good writing (which is why SML is one of my faves) and that in my heart God exists. I can't speak of all the rules, layers, and regulations that exist in any organized religion regardless of what faith you choose to worship, but I'm pretty sure the rules weren't created by God. They seem to be made up by man...and we all know man is prone to making mistakes (That's why we get to ask for forgiveness!)

from the ashes said...

What a dumb ass church. Shooting itself in the foot.

My last temple experience was when my sister got endowed then married. As I was waiting in line to go through the veil, I told my sister all about the Mason connections.

Yeah, I was totally on the way out, but I just didn't realize it yet.

wry catcher said...

Gah. I was "only" pissed off on your behalf about this story, SML, but belaja's addition to it has pushed me over into disgust and creeped-out-ness.

I have a baptisms for the dead story too, but I'll save it for later. When my head's not buzzing from anger.


ChristFollower said...

We had a situation in our ward where the stake president told a sister that it was inappropriate for her daughter (who had been married in the temple across the street) to have a ring ceremony in the chapel. She politely asked the stake president where the policy came from, and after some research he discovered "it had always been done that way". They had the ring ceremony in the chapel.

Possibly if you ask your bishop to help you understand the reason for this you will also find "it has always been done that way" and it's not really a policy at all. Really they should want you to spend as much time in the font area as possible with the idea that it will help you feel the spirit and want to be more involved in temple work. If this is a policy it's sure a bad one.

Anonymous said...

Did they ever give a reason for not telling you ahead of time not hand out towels in the baptismal font if it was such a big deal?

Karma said...

Oh, I would be RIGHT PISSED OFF! I cannot even believe that! Grrrr!