Hello Self-Worth: Goodbye Patriarchy
…going to the temple is what helped me find myself and lose my religion.
For years I let men decide my worthiness, all in the name of God. As a convert to the church and a devoted wife, I wanted more than anything to be considered worthy in the eyes of God. After all, we were all going somewhere, it was just a matter of time. There were rules to follow, a simple and sure path for all the good and faithful.
Except — good is subjective.
As it turns out, worthiness is, too.
Every year I sat in the bishop’s office and answered a litany of questions.
Some of them mundane and easily checked like whether or not I’d paid my tithing. Yes, I had. Even when it meant paying the electricity bill late, I’d paid my tithe.
Had I kept the sabbath holy? Indeed, I had. Sundays were a brutally long day of church meetings, bible reading and listening to church music. About the only thing I looked forward to on Sunday was the afternoon nap I was likely to get. Other questions were more difficult to answer.
Had I been chaste and pure in thought? Well, this is mostly laughable. I gave it my best effort back then, but my thoughts were far from chaste and pure. Already I’d started off bad by proclaiming the fact that I was pansexual during my baptismal interview, so I was constantly on a ‘watchlist’ of sorts, to make sure I hadn’t engaged in any disagreeable behavior.
After my interview with the bishop, my husband was often consulted. As I sat outside the office looking at my shoes like a naughty schoolgirl, I wondered what verdict would be pronounced upon me. Everything worthy was wrapped up in the holy grail of a temple recommend. A temple recommend was a card issued by the bishop of the ward that verified whether I was worthy to enter the holy temple and partake in sacraments and receive blessings, both for myself and for others. Not having a temple recommend would be akin to wearing a bit scarlet “U” for “Unworthy” on my chest for all to see.
I got my recommend, sometimes by the skin of my teeth. I felt like a girl fresh out of confession with a clean slate. It never lasted long. The most interesting part about me getting a temple recommend was that going to the temple is what helped me find myself and lose my religion. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intent.
The temple is a beautiful place. It’s otherworldly, as it is intended to be. Filled with whiteness and light everything is wiped immaculate. Inside those walls I felt I was stepping into another world, one where my worries were left far behind. Nothing bad could ever happen to me in the temple. Let me be clear here, I am not supposed to talk about what happens in the temple. It’s sacred, not secret, we are all assured. There are a lot of strange rituals that happen behind those heavy doors. No one talks above a whisper, everyone wears white, only shoes not worn outdoors are allowed on the white floors.
So, I loved the temple for the peace it brought me, but I never felt that it brought me closer to God. It provided me with an escape. I was able to escape my husband who was abusing me. Ironically, he also had a temple recommend. But, in the temple, he couldn’t lift a finger against me. He couldn’t raise his voice or grab me too hard. In the temple, all was safe with my world.
I spent a lot of time in there thinking. Worthy men in the church are granted the power of the priesthood, never women. I would sit and listen to and watch my ‘worthy’ husband enjoy this special position. It gave them authority and leadership opportunities. Women had different jobs, different responsibilities. Who came up with these rules?
Turns out, it was all revealed, to one man in particular — our very first prophet. Subsequently, revelation was passed through the priesthood and onto the rest of us. As I sat in the temple thinking over my history with religion and my interaction with the priesthood, I began to have my own personal revelations. Revelations on a personal level were encouraged. But, my revelations were in direct contradiction to the wisdom of the priesthood.
I started to wonder at the bishop who prayed for guidance and proclaimed that no ‘unclean’ thing or person would ever be allowed into the temple. Somehow God would stop that, wouldn’t allow it to happen. Yet, my husband stood beside me. I was there too, in many ways considered impure by the church’s standards. The temple still stood. I had been allowed to participate in some of the holiest sacraments available to members of the church. Additionally, I’d received something called a patriarchal blessing, where I was told that I would bear and have many more children to further my heavenly father’s work and to fulfill my duties as an obedient and worthy wife.
I had a hysterectomy prior to that patriarchal blessing.
So, I began to question quietly. If I raised my voice too loudly, it earned me a beating both physically and emotionally. When I examined my beliefs it became clear to me that I didn’t believe in God, at all. I also didn’t believe that I should have to prove myself to be worthy of love or of anything good.
I live by a couple of very simple rules. I don’t hurt other people. Mistakes happen and when they do, I apologize sincerely. I am kind to others. I’m also grateful for all of the wonderful things that I now have in my life. I’m happy, but I wasn’t completely happy until I let go of the church and of the abusive relationship that made me question my worth every day.
I’ve been threatened with losing my blessings in the life after this. Honestly, I care more about the world I live in now and the people that live in this world, than I care about some possible future state beyond this earthly coil. I stopped paying my tithing. I stopped going to the temple. I got a restraining order against my husband and finally a divorce. I employed a fantastic therapist.
I found myself, my worth and I found a life that brings me joy. Because of that, I’m able to spread joy to others. All it took for me, was unyoking myself from the patriarchy and their idea of what I should be or what I should want to be. Now, I can be me instead of someone else’s version of myself.
Hello to self-worth, goodbye patriarchy.