I’m going to be talking about temples, including some details of the ceremonies. If you’re not interested in reading about these, I’d suggest you stop reading.
Other parts in this Series:
In the last section we briefly examined what exactly the purpose of the temples’ rituals are. In this section I want to delve way deeper into what the core of the ritual is and give some suggestions on what the ceremony could look like.
As mentioned in the previous post, the Washing ceremony’s purpose could be seen as to provide a sense of renewal and cleanliness. Traditionally, however, this is to become “clean from the blood and sins of this generation.” This is built off of an “us VS them” mentality, which I think many of us are moving farther and farther away from.
So if this ritual wasn’t built off of an us VS them mentality, what would it be built off of? As I was researching various washing-based rituals within the Mormon tradition I came across one that pierced me to my core.
Sam Young (/u/Invisibles_Cubit) for years has been advocating to stop sexual grooming within the LDS church. He gathered hundreds of stories of abuse, compiled them into a book, and gave copies to the Q15. He received no response. Later that year he decided to go on a hunger strike, set up some chairs near the Salt Lake Temple, and invite the Q15 to come discuss child abuse and sexual grooming with him. He invited each of them individually, but no one showed up on the day that they were asked to. He invited Jesus to come speak with him, but of course Jesus didn’t show. So, next Sam invited survivors of sexual abuse and grooming to come talk with him. As a way to show how much he cared about them, he ritualistically washed their feet. He said that they represented the Divine to him as they sat, and that he wanted to wash away the shame and hurt caused by their experiences. He wanted to affirm their individual worth and value, in hopes it may help them to heal. Here is a copy of that experience. It was an unexpectedly spiritual experience for me to just watch this video. As I type this I am getting chills just thinking about it.
So, with that in mind, what if moving forward the purpose of the washing ceremony was to help cleanse ourselves of shame, guilt, and self-worth issues? I propose the following as a 21st century version of the Washing ceremony, which is based heavily off of Sam Young’s washing ritual:
[ask name, pronouns, and if they have a preferred name for the Divine (if any)][Washer places fresh water in a bucket on the floor in front of the washee, who is seated in a chair]
[addresses by name], please remove your shoes.
You are providing me with a great honor, as a friend and a fellow human being, by allowing me to minister to you.
I am trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ by serving the marginalized and vulnerable.
[While pronouncing the blessings which follow, the officiator washes their feet]
I see you, ____. I hear you, ____. You are great in my eyes and in the eyes of [favored name of divinity].
I symbolically wash you with love and care of the shame and hurt that is in your soul.
May this be a reminder of your worth and value in our human family.
May this washing provide some measure of comfort on your road and be a healing balm to your soul.
In the name of [favored name of divinity], amen.
This is a very personal ritual that is profound because there is a reverence being displayed towards you. On top of that, it affirms your worth and seeks to help you heal. I feel like taking this approach towards a washing ritual would absolutely provide a sense of renewal and cleanliness.
Traditionally the wording is nearly identical to the Washing ceremony, with the exception of anointing the patron to one day become a priest/priestess and king/queen that will rule in Israel (whereas its in the 2nd anointing that you are actually made these things). To me, this means that the Anointing ceremony’s purpose could be seen as to provide a sense of worthiness and confidence.
In my 21st century version I would omit everything that was in the traditional anointing ceremony, since it is unnecessary to have the same blessing back to back. I would say that the patron is a king/queen/royal and priest/priestess/priestx (gender-neutral term) to emphasize worth now, and not at some vague and unspecified time.
I propose the following as a 21st century version of the Washing ceremony:
[Anointer places oil on the anointee’s head and then pronounce the following words.]
[address by name], I lay my hands upon your head to anoint you as a king/queen/royal and priest/priestess/priestx. and all the blessings that come with that. May you remember your worth and your value within our human family and trust in your own wisdom. In the name of [favored name of divinity], amen.
These are part of the initiatory ritual, and for a long time I did not see much value in them. After all, the new name was one of the passwords to get into heaven. I didn’t see how this could really be a worthwhile tradition to keep.
However, I have experienced a similar tradition during my time studying Buddhism. When you join a Buddhist congregation you are often given what is referred to as a “Dharma Name”. It is a name to symbolize the next stage and is reflective of who you are. When I was preparing to get my dharma name I had studied with this Buddhist community for nearly 2 years. I was asked what was important to me and if I had any preferences for a name. I told him that I didn’t have a preference for a name and how I went through leaving the LDS church, leaving my ex-wife, and tried to stay positive and keep moving forward in life.
I was in a class with the better part of a dozen people, and we were all inducted into the ministry on the same weekend. To be given our dharma names we went into the office of the dude who runs the buddhist organization I was ordained through (Bright Dawn Center of Oneness, sidenote: Noah Rasheta was also ordained through this ministry). He went to us one by one, and told us what name he wanted to give us. I was given the dharma name “Taiyo”, which means “Enduring Sun” in Japanese.
My dharma name felt incredibly meaningful and personal. Someone I respected took the time to learn my life story and what parts of it I valued. He took the time to think of a name that he thought reflected who I am. It is a name that I deeply value.
The garments originated as a way to indicate who was a polygamist. They evolved over time to just be “a shield and a protection to you against the power of the destroyer until you have finished your work on the earth.”
In practice the garments are church-mandated underwear. It feels violating for a church to dictate something that is so intimate. That is why I don’t believe that garments should have a place moving forward.Endowment
As mentioned in the previous section, the purpose of the Endowment ritual could be seen as to invoke a sense of rebirth and communal belonging in temple patrons. Traditionally this was done in the form of a drama, but this method of facilitating spiritual fulfillment that is falling out of fashion because it feels foreign to us today.
I propose revising and adapting the Endowment to better invoke a sense of rebirth and communal belonging in contemporary temple patrons. Instead of using a drama to facilitate these experiences, I would use a guided meditation. Guided meditations are a method that nearly everyone has experienced at least on some level at this point. Employing this method could be used to help stimulate inner reflection on traditional subject matters within the Endowment.
I have a lot of suggestions as to how I would adjust the Endowment, so I will put all my proposed suggestions in bullet point form. However, I have made a complete transcript of what this ritual drama could look like here.
- Clothing: The Endowment traditionally requires a full set of specific clothing. However, this outfit feels foreign and out of place for many people, and is a distraction to the purposes of this ritual. I propose people wear clothing they feel comfortable in, while perhaps everyone wears the same sash or hat. First timers could have the option of a full “traditional” outfit.
- Foreknowledge: Traditionally, people more-or-less come into the Endowment completely blind. They have no idea what it will look like or what they’ll be promising until they are there and participating. Since you are making promises in this tradition without having prior knowledge as to what you’re promising to, I believe that this is a tradition that needs to end immediately. A transcript should be given to anyone who is even considering attending this ritual.
- Attitude towards ritual: This ritual should be seen as an optional culturally significant ritual. It in no way affects Divine favor or guarantees entrance into a more favorable afterlife.
- Tokens and signs: The tokens and signs are often the top concern about engaging in the Endowment ritual. They feel unnatural, secretive, and come with a lot of baggage at this point. To further facilitate the spiritual fulfillment, sense of rebirth, sense of progression, and sense of community that the Endowment can bring, I propose that these be removed.
- Covenants: I would shift the focus of the Endowment from making promises to inner reflection. However, the guided meditation focuses around a rewording of The Law of the Gospel: The Higher Law.
- Conception of the Divine: There is not one explicit model that is presented in my proposed Endowment. This allows personal interpretation and an evolution of how we conceive of the Divine, while not dividing people for holding different beliefs on it.
- The Law of Chastity: It is inappropriate to regulate someone else’s sexual activity if they are consenting adults, especially during a ritual that seeks to unify people. I propose that The Law of Chastity be removed from this ritual, but sexuality should be discussed elsewhere.
Sealings are marriages. They are a very intimate ritual that marks a life-long commitment. I feel it is most appropriate for the couple getting married to determine what they want that to look like instead of it being prescribed.
In my own personal marriage my wife wanted to do a hand-fasting aspect, which I was happy to do. I asked her if we could honor my Mormon heritage by doing the patriarchal grip during that portion of our marriage ritual, and she was happy to do so.
2nd anointings are a secret ceremony that eliminates all the requirements for personal growth by guaranteeing the most favorable afterlife. I think this is a ritual that should be completely done away with.
Work for the dead
As I mentioned in the previous section, I don’t see much worth in doing proxy work. I would prefer doing all of the rituals exclusively for yourself, and being able to do it as many times as you want. I believe that rituals for for living humanity and I highly doubt that those who are no longer human would really care about our rituals.
However, “work for the dead” has a unique and personal aspect to them: connecting yourself to your ancestors. I think honoring your family that has passed on is very Mormon. Performing a ritual with a specific ancestor in mind helps you connect with them and turn your mind towards them, even for a short while.
/u/FrogOnTrombone suggested the possibility of lighting a small candle and bringing it with you through the temple rituals as a symbol of remembrance of your ancestor.
Anyway! That’s how I would change up the temple rituals. I have a separate conclusion for this series in another post, which I will post soon! Stay tuned!