The author requested her story be duplicated here. Some of you may of already read this at the Recovery from Mormonism - Women's site. This story takes place before the massive 1990 changes to the temple ceremony.
I felt a sense of urgency (applied by myself) to get my
endowment because I was an orphan and had no family. It was like,
gawd if I drop dead without my endowment I'll have to wait until
the Millenium to get my work done. April 1965 I packed my bags
and moved from Canada to SLC- ZION! After all God wanted me in
Zion, not to mention a Mormon family who had taken me under their
wing were also telling me they too felt that God wanted me to go
there, and that they would be moving to Zion the following year.
I was motivated.
That August I received my endowment in the Manti Temple. I was told what a spiritual experience it was going to be. I believed them. I was also told that if an unworthy person went to the temple it would be revealed that person should not be there and would be asked to leave. I was told a story about a woman who was stopped part way through the temple ceremony and asked to leave because she was not worthy to be there. The story went that she had "Negro Blood" and therefore had to leave. I'd never heard that having "Negro Blood" in your genealogy would prevent one from receiving their endowment even though I knew the Church didn't teach the gospel to Blacks. It bothered me, it bothered me a lot, and any time I would ask questions about the Church's doctrine regarding African Americans I was told it is a doctrine we don't really understand enough about and that I had to have faith that God knew what he was doing.
I wonder how many of us were really prepared for the actual endowment. I agree with Frances that in not being allowed to discuss the temple outside the temple keeps us from sharing our concerns and questions. And try and find someone in the temple to talk with, ask questions, after you've gotten your endowment, or finished a session as a proxy- NOT. You are hurried through to get ready for another session or get out of there before the next session is due in the Celestial room.
Anyway I believed I should get my endowment even though I was afraid. I was afraid because I'd been taught [not until after I was baptized] that orphans are born orphans (the illegitimate ones at least) because they were not valiant enough in the pre-existence. I was taught that is why illegitimate orphans are not born into Latter-day Saint homes or any home for that matter. I worried that it may be revealed to a temple worker that I was not worthy because of my orphan status due to my being less valiant in the pre-existence and they would request I leave without receiving my endowment.
I thought, what if I get part way through the ceremony like the woman with "Negro Blood" and they stop and say, "There's a sister here who isn't worthy to be here; she is an illegitimate orphan and wasn't valiant in the pre-existence." I'd argue back and forth with myself and think things like, well I wasn't struck by lightening prior to or during baptism, I wasn't hit by lightening when confirmed, so maybe I was safe and maybe God really had forgiven me for not being valiant enough in the pre-existence.
Then I'd think, well maybe God is testing me. "He knows that I know that He knows" I wasn't worthy and valiant in the pre-existence even if no one else knew my status when I was baptized. So I figured hey I'll go and if nothing happens then it means God is satisfied with me and won't hold my not being valiant in the pre-existence against me. I had thought of going to the Bishop with this concern but that frightened me and I felt embarrassed and ashamed of my illegitimate orphan status.
I also felt I needed to go before I got married because if it would be revealed in the temple that I wasn't worthy for my endowment better it only affect me and not a husband. My whole mindset was will I make it through without God telling one of the Temple workers I'm not really worthy. I wondered why would God allow a person to enter the temple and get halfway into the endowment ceremony only to reveal to a Temple worker that the person wasn't worthy? How cruel, how abusive. Why wouldn't God reveal this to the Bishop or the Stake President during the interview for the temple recommend? I can already hear the Church's spin on that, "Maybe God was testing the Bishop and the Stake President." Oh I see, they are being tested but at my expense.
Anyway, there I am in Manti temple and my friends that are with are excited for me. I get through the washing and anointing and I feel a little nervous but okay and felt clean and pure afterwards and the worker was really sweet, really old but really sweet, probably not as old as I thought since I was 22 at the time. She didn't seem to have any animosity or bad feelings around me like I might not be worthy. So far so good.
Then I get my new name. I can't believe it now, but back then I actually believed that God revealed my new name to that worker right then and for that moment only God, the worker, and myself knew my new name. I believed that God would take it from her memory and then only God and I would know my new name. I was given the name Florence. I thought, how appropriate with my being a nurse, I'll not forget my new name. [Much later I discovered that any woman that goes to the temple on the 12th. of the month would get the name Florence.]
On to the creation room and of course the first thing I see is that BIG all seeing eye and it seems kind of spooky but I figured the symbolism was that God is always watching me, translated, checking up on me. Much later I would wonder, why didn't I see that all seeing eye as God watching over me versus God watching me. So much of our behaviour and beliefs as Mormons are fear based. We are always being reminded that God is watching us as in checking up on us. Every moment of every day is always being lived for the tomorrow that is way out there, the tomorrow after death, the tomorrow of the Celestial Kingdom.
So there I am sitting in the Creation room. I hear a voice, a man's voice, and another man answering and then another man. Of course I don't see anyone and the voice is coming from the ceiling. For a split second I even had the thought what if this was the voice of God! Then the three men appear and blah, blah, blah, I listen to the story of creation.
Then on to the Garden Room and I think how pretty the paintings are. This old couple come representing Adam and Eve. Some where in there we are asked if we want to leave and I immediately whisper to my friends I think I should leave but of course don't tell them why. I'm starting to feel really scared, scared that it will be revealed to one of the workers that I'm not worthy to be there. Of course they tell me everyone feels nervous the first time. I don't leave.
I was surprised and disappointed that Adam and Eve were not a young couple. I mean Eve was pretty bent and had arthritic knots and bifocals that I'm surprised she could even symbolically reach for the apple. [I can say this since I now have arthritic knots and bifocals :-)] Then we are asked if anyone has forgotten their new name and to raise their hand....no one did.
I'm thinking how will they be able to tell you your new name if you've forgotten it since I really believed that only you and God knew it. So I figured that maybe the workers who gave the new name were probably allowed to remember it until the session was over and then it would be taken from their minds. But how could each of them remember everyone's new name? Did they get another revelation just long enough to tell you your new name again if you had forgotten it?
That first time of course I had no idea that when the temple workers arrive at the temple they are given the new name, one name for every female and one name for every male for that day, therefore there was only one name for the female workers to remember and one for the males. Revelation has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with receiving a new name. It doesn't make any sense that they stress we are never to reveal our new name to anyone yet every female temple worker there that day knew my new name was Florence.
Next we go into the Telestial room, also referred to as the lone and dreary world. We start with the juggling of the apron, the veil, the robe, the putting on and off of the slippers and trying to remember which side the veil is tied. I always thought the bonnet part of the veil looked a little like the bonnet that Peter Rabbit's mother wore. Then come the signs and tokens and penalties and I'm trying to figure out how I can possibly remember all of this until I get to the veil in the Celestial room. I wondered what happens if I forget when I get to the veil. I wondered if you kept having to go back to the Creation room and keep going through until you got it right. I was a nervous wreck. The penalties signified through symbolic motions were frightening and with each token we agreed that rather than ever reveal them our life would be taken.
Then I'm really shocked to see this guy enter in a black business suit and he represents Lucifer. Lucifer then brings in a preacher. They look so out of place with everyone else in white. I was a convert and even though I didn't feel any affinity to other religions I felt insulted as I saw it as putting down people of other faiths. Then I start thinking, oh my goodness if this person represents the devil is this where God is going to reveal to one of the workers I shouldn't be there. But nothing happened, no temple worker stops the ceremony to announce that I am not worthy.
On to the Terrestrial room. I find myself wondering when do I get the better understanding of the Gospel, and have the most spiritual experience of my life, what everyone said happens in the temple. I wasn't getting it! Why wasn't I getting it? Of course, there must be something wrong with me. Well maybe it will come in the Celestial room. I did however have one bright moment in the Terrestrial room....when they tell you there would be workers at the veil to assist us in the signs, names, and tokens. Whew....you mean I don't have to remember all of this from memory! I listened intently as the lecture was given in front of the veil and my anticipation was great for I expected the spiritual experience I was wanting would happen in the Celestial room. I thought, that makes sense, the spiritual experience everyone told me I would have will be in the Celestial room and I felt guilty for expecting it sooner.
But the Celestial room was a disappointment, a let down, I still hadn't gotten the better understanding of the gospel or the rich spiritual experience I was expecting. I only felt relief, relief that it was over and relief that no one got a revelation that I wasn't worthy to be there because of my being less valiant in the pre-existence.
Of course everyone was congratulating me and saying and , "Wasn't it wonderful?" "Couldn't you just feel the spirit here?" I told them "Yes." So I hadn't even gotten out of the Celestial room and I was lying. I felt so guilty. Not until I got outside and felt the sunshine and breathed the fresh air did I realize how oppressive it felt being in the temple. Of course I felt guilty about that too.
One thing I sure know about myself though is when I make a commitment, I make a commitment. I decided I was going to be the best Latter-day Saint I could possibly be. I took my endowment seriously and I would return to the temple many times, weekly in fact doing three sessions a week determined to understand the endowment and be willing to do work for the dead. But that's another story.
Helen- who is also known as Florence