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Radio Free Mormon: 186: The Temple and Me

RFM shares his first experience going through the LDS temple endowment!


38 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 186: The Temple and Me”

  1. Hi RFM,

    It took me a while but I finally listed to all of your episodes. I feel like being a Mormon today is basically like being in a minority. My family (especially my wife and her side of the family) have this “it’s true no matter what” mentality. They recognize the issues but decide that it’s true anyway. A phrase that is used to describe this style of belief is “living in the gray”. So they reject all the stuff they don’t like but still fully participate in all things Mormon as if there are no problems. For the most part I have no issue with this style of believer, except for one thing. When I was a young teen I remember Gordon saying “Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud… It is either right or wrong, true or false.” It seems pretty black and white to the prophet, no gray at all. I wanted to get your thoughts on members staying temple worthy in the church when they don’t agree that the church is 100% true. I feel that it stems from immense family pressure. My family (probably like most Mormon families) is completely based on the church. They have been in it so long that they are more interested in going down with the ship instead of salvaging whatever life they have remaining. So now I’m a minority within a minority, it blows man.


    1. Some Mormons like me take the church’s truth claims seriously. We are very excited about the “truthiness” of it and study it inside and out, trying to learn more truth, and also trying to buttress the truthfulness of the truth in any way we can.

      For people like us, it is hard to see how Mormons could feel any other way.

      But as it turns out, there are quite a few who are not so invested in the whole truth claim notion. They are not only not interested in learning more of the great “truth” Mormonism has to give if you study it outside the correlated curriculum, they are not particularly concerned whether secular truth tends to militate against church truth.

      At least that is what I have come to conclude.

  2. Hey RFM,

    Thanks for helping me to understand something that had been bothering me for a while now.

    I joined the LDS church as an adult rather than having been indoctrinated from birth. Upon leaving, I was bothered by the fact that the revoke ceremony hadn’t raised more red flags than it did.

    I now understand that it was likely my Catholic upbringing that had helped to normalize a lot of things that would otherwise have been more strange to me.

      1. Glad my experience helped solve one of the riddles you have been living with, Jonathan.

        It is one of the great things I have found about listening to the experiences of others; it can help me better understand my own.

  3. Okay, I just finished listening to this one. In regards to your movie review idea:

    Oh. My. God.

    This needs to be a thing.

    1. That is another idea that just sort of came to me on the fly.

      I mean, really, what do you do when you are 19-years old and you go to the temple for the first time, and the guy who is playing Peter is one of the stars in a very popular sit-com on TV?

      And there were two versions of the endowment that played in the temple at random, apparently. I don’t know if church leaders are aware, but they are generally distinguished by the gal who played Eve. One of them is blonde. One of them is brunette.

      And the two endowment films were called the “Blonde Eve” Endowment and the “Brunette Eve Endowment.” At least by the elders.

      And do church leaders know it was customary among elders at the MTC to weigh in on which Eve they thought was the best looking?

      1. Well the women discussed which Adam was cuter. 😜 Personally the Adam with the whiny voice ( I think it was with the brunette Eve) bugged the crap out of me. Those Temple movies were hilarious especially with Gordon Jump as Peter. Episodes of WKRP kept intruding in my thoughts during the ceremony.😂

  4. I liked temple worship very much. My first time through was good. My. Dad had passed away two years earlier and he was my best friend. Mom and dad had absolutely spotless integrity in my opinion and making a big commitment in spite of not knowing the fine print was all good because I trusted their judgement. It was a family day mom and my siblings were there. Everything about my temple worship I hold on to as a good thing. The dream of all that it promised was a bright thing and I still respect the concept even if I’m not fully persuaded like I once was. All that Masonic stuff concerns me now but at the time I found a lot of good words to ponder. I have a family member who, once he retired, has made temple service a top priority going to almost every hour of every possible day in some capacity. For many reasons he is a man I respect. I went to the temple on the last possible day that I could to do initiatory.

    I knew I would not have a recommend again because I couldn’t answer that I accepted the president as a prophet and other things concerned me. You know I really kept that one about being honest in my dealings front and centre all the time. If I thought I could charge an extra hour on a job that I thought was warranted and then thought that I need to answer that question about honesty I wouldn’t charge it. I still think that way anyway. I will answer that question eventually, I remember standing beside Uncle Jim at the end of a session while he folded his clothes so reverently. Uncle Jim was a tough rancher and I admired him. My mom did many hours of genealogy and we usually had family names to take. I appreciate your respectful approach. I appreciate all that Shakespeare as well. I read The Grapes of Wrath in high school but my preferred novels were Louis L’Amour. Non fiction is mostly what I read or listen to but I should read some of that stuff I only skimmed in school. You are obviously brilliant. I studied every minute in the mission home just learning discussions and I went to an English speaking mission. Your episodes are entertaining and valuable for the education and consequent processing and healing I get from them. Please press forward with the movie review. Thank you very much.

    1. I am glad you appreciated my “respectful” tone, Jim. I try not to be intentionally offensive, and know I am treading on thin ice with a lot of people when I talk about anything that goes on inside the temple.

      That is one of the reasons I went to the Elder Bednar talk, to give such listeners authoritative pronouncements that I wasn’t stepping over the line in what I quoted.

      Yes, there are definitely good things one can find in the temple.

      And yes, there are definitely good people who make going to the temple regularly a priority.

      I am glad the temple recommend question about being honest in all your dealings with your fellow man helped keep you on the straight and narrow.

      I wish church leaders took that particular question as seriously. ;^)

      Thanks for listening!

  5. I wish my iPod Classic was still around, but alas it gave up the ghost years ago from over use.

    I had two early morning seminary students years ago that were conversational in another language (one Spanish, one German) at the time of their calls that we’re both called to Japan! Hmmm. I had always hoped that I would get called on a foreign speaking mission and was disappointed when I wasn’t, but it was probably for the best. After several attempts in HS, college, and even as an adult, it turns out I have no aptitude for languages whatsoever.

    In sixth grade I played the Ghost in Hamlet. It was a terrible performance. Turns out I have no aptitude for the arts either as a performer or creator. But I love the arts as a spectator/observer/listener/reader. Loved the Shakespeare quotes in this episode. And…Give As I Lay Dying another go. I read it about two years ago. Brilliant. Of course YMMV.

    My first endowment session (June 1989) didn’t really freak me out, but I didn’t love it either. Like many others I found it a strange departure from everything else I had experienced in the church to that point. But it was the next right of passage so I tried to roll with it. I had seen the temple clothing when I was sealed to my parents when I was nine (Oct 1979). Fine. I remember that thinking the different ways men and women made the law of obedience covenant was, well, interesting (that has changes significantly over the revisions). The names, signs, tokens and penalties seemed like a silly club initiation. Weird, but whatever. And the all out allegiance to the Church a little over the top. Afterward while taking pictures outside, my Mom (who LOVES the temple) asked if I wanted to go back in and do another session. I replied “no, take me home right now.” Over the years I tried to love it, but I only managed to accept it, then question it (based on the observations above, the changes, and a few other things), then ultimately hate it and abandon it.

    A review style podcast would be great, but which version are you going to review?

    And…just curious…do they still play the January 2019 intro before each session or was that just a limited run thing?

    1. I don’t know whether they are still playing that intro, but what with today’s announcement that more changes are being introduced, they may just keep it in indefinitely.

      I think I would like to review the two versions I saw back in 1979. I think those were filmed sometime in the 1960s, judging on the hairstyles.

      Adam was appropriately wooden.

      Even was appropriately voluptuous.

      Shrubbery was strategically placed.

      That sort of thing.

      Oh, and the temple was really never something that I found so wonderful I wanted to go back for seconds. But I did. Over. And over. And over.

      And of course, Hugh Nibley said he learned something new every time he went. And so the fact I was most definitely not learning something new every time I went was chalked up (by me) to my own lack of spirituality or attentiveness.

      It was only later I suspected Nibley was being a tad euphemistic.

  6. RFM…awesome episode! thank you for going there. I too was one who had no problem stripping naked for the W&A’s ( wish now it had been A&W instead LOL.)

    Everything in the church and my very abusive childhood groomed me to be perfectly fine with signing my life and soul away ahead of knowing the specifics…..sigh.

    I was that excited, proud mother sitting next to Maren on her first time through. I saw that she had a very stiff, deer in the headlights expression on her face. At one point, I tried to cheer her up by nudging her arm and making a silly face.

    She reacted by mouthing to me…”This is NOT ok”, to which I mouthed back, “Oh no…”

    We have discussed our temple experience since both leaving the church, and it astounds and sickens me to know now that she was so traumatized by it, where I was so totally fine.

    As TBM’s, she was partially forthcoming to me after her experience saying she didn’t like it. I wish she had been able to really tell me how bad it was for her. That’s what this cult does to people. My daughter, who I was and am very close with could not come to me when she really needed someone she could trust and confide in. Instead of the endowment bringing us closer together, the temple put an unwanted wall between us, a point of misunderstanding that we were forbidden to discuss.

    She will tell you that she was indelibly changed by that experience.. and not for the better.

    In the spirit of not holding back now….I don’t believe that anything good comes from what happens behind those secretive doors and in those blasphemous rituals, whether it was welcomed or not.

    I really hope you’ll follow through on sharing more of your thoughts about this.

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Angie!

      The temple is so central to the entire LDS experience; intentionally so.

      I did not grow up in the church so I wasn’t primed my whole childhood with how wonderful the temple is and how it is the pinnacle of all spiritual experiences.

      My understanding from talking with some lifetime Mormons is that, when they finally got to the temple, it definitely did not live up to the hype.

      But we Mormons are well trained; we may feel one way about something inside but we know we have to show something different on the outside.

      No matter how strange and foreign and even traumatic we may find the temple experience, we know we have to pretend we found it just as it had been described to us; the most spiritual and sacred of events.

      I suspect there is something unhealthy in that . . .

  7. Oh Thank you RFM!!! I could just hug you. Thanks for reading my comment, but more importantly, thank you for covering this topic in such a satisfying way. I especially appreciated the way you went through the 5 covenants we have to make and basically boiled it down to giving our very selves away without being given much of a choice at all.
    I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and baffled as I considered the covenants I was being forced to make in such a solemn, serious, alien setting. I was already giving (I thought) as much as I could possibly be giving to the church, and now somehow, here they were asking for MORE! I remember thinking, “What do they want from me?! Blood?!”

    I wanted to add another possible reason as to why some people may not find the temple experience all that upsetting.
    It’s perhaps controversial, but one common denominator that I have noticed with post Mormons that I have talked to is abuse. People that were abused as children, especially sexually abused, didn’t think the temple was weird at all. And if that isn’t just a coincidence, I would guess that that is the case because these people have already had a really serious boundary crossed. They might have a higher threshold for inappropriate behaviour and boundary crossing from people in authority. This is just something that I have noticed.
    Of course, the opposite could be true. People who have suffered abuse, might smell this coming from a mile away and take for the hills.
    I’m just thinking out loud.
    I do think that the temple experience is abusive though.
    As you pointed out, legally speaking, this contract we make in the temple, would be null and void because it was made under duress.
    And oh my goodness! Please do the Temple movie review idea!! That sounds absolutely hilarious!!
    Thank you again RFM, for all of your hard work, wit, and deft ability to get right to the heart of the matter.

    1. I am so glad you liked the episode, Maren! And thank you for the wonderful comment you wrote that allowed me to read it!

      Lots of pieces fell into place on this one while I was recording, like boiling down the temple oaths into their basic components.

      I definitely will be thinking about that temple endowment movie review. I already have lots of notes, some of which I have let slip in comments already. ;^(

      But it may have to wait a bit, because right now I am working on a podcast digging deep into the paper recently released demonstrating Joseph Smith’s reliance on the Adam Clarke Bible Commentary in coming up with his Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

      That is a game changer!

      If all goes according to plan, it will be up this Sunday!

  8. RFM — Another great episode, thanks. That bit about 2 different schools of thought about what you can properly discuss regarding the temple ceremony outside the temple was fascinating. Bednar must have had a family member or friend freak out from the shock of it?

    Like you, I felt moved by the washing and anointing (I had it old school, didn’t bother me). It felt very powerful, elemental and ancient, a transmission of power, spirit and wisdom from an elderly man to a young man. (The endowment itself weirded me out, never got over it.)

    When my brother went through the temple for the first time, he was given a small bundle of temple clothing but could not see what was inside. Walking through the halls, he saw a couple men walking back in full regalia. He turned to my dad and asked “Hey Dad, are those the temple cooks?” As my dad shook his head I could see the wheels turning in my brother’s head as he realized that this was going to be a very different kind of experience.

    I would love another temple episode. (A couple items of interest — Is it true that everyone who gets their endowment on the same day gets the same name? How much has the ceremony changed since the days of Joseph Smith?)

    Thanks again

    1. I believe everyone gets the same new name on a particular day. After returning from my mission, where no temple was for me to attend, I wanted to confirm my new name. My memory had faded. I spoke with a temple worker in the office whether they could confirm it. They looked at the date I took out my endowment and looked at their date records to confirm the name. I guess, by asking the clerk, someone else now knows my new name. Yikes! Any thunder clouds forming?

      1. And the names repeat every month. So if you were endowed on say the 12th of the month (any month, any temple), your name would be the same. It’s just a list of 31 names. There is a chart posted on the good old interweb that lists them for both men and women. I can say that for my wife and I, it is accurate. You could use it as a great parlor trick at your next ward activity. It isn’t nearly as special or unique as most people think. Plug and chug.

    2. Thanks for your comments, Rick W!

      I see we have a lot in common.

      It looks like listeners have already answered your question about the new name, but I will add that my understanding is that on a given day, all new names for men and all new names for women are the same.

      There is a list of men’s names and a list of women’s names and on any given day, one name is chosen, probably in order, for use.

      And yes, if you should ever forget your new name, all you have to know is the date you got your endowment, and the temple workers can look up the records for what name was being given out that day (male or female) and give you a friendly reminder.

      It is also my understanding that all men’s names come from the scriptures, but because there are so few women’s names in the scriptures, to make up for the difference, Brigham Young filled out the rest with first names of his plural wives.

      And no, I’m actually not kidding about that.

      1. RFM —

        That bit about Brigham Young’s wives is hi-lar-i-ous! Now you have to do another episode to give more background!

  9. Great episode as always. One part got me curious during your coverage of the penalties and that patrons would rather die a terrible death than reveal the tokens or signs. Do you think there is a correlation between the penalties and some parent reactions that they would rather be dead than find a child is LGTBQ+ or have left the church? In other words, if you had received your endowment in 1990 or earlier, would you be more likely to have an “I’d rather be dead than” reaction to things that don’t fit Mormon theology than someone receiving the endowment later?

    1. That is an interesting idea, Brad, and one that had not occurred to me. There may be something to what you say. I don’t know how we would go about proving it, but it is fascinating possibility nonetheless.

      Thanks for listening!

  10. I remember when I was new to the temple. I was so nervous about getting the signs and tokens right . During repeating the third token of the M P at the veil I said “The Patriarchal brick” instead of grip.
    I have to laugh now but at the time I was mortified.

    1. LOL!

      You sound exactly like me the first time I went through the temple!

      And doubtless the second, third and probably even the fourth time.

      Funny story about the “patriarchal brick”!

      But I have to break it to you, Pam, there is no “third token” of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

      At least not in the endowment I went through . . .


  11. RFM Choro!

    I was always interested in the Salt Lake temple and the other early temples from a historical point of view. I saw the SL temple regularly growing up near Salt Lake. After having been inside the SL temple for baptisms a few times as a teen, I looked forward to seeing the remainder of the building.

    From my upbringing in the church, my understanding was that the LDS church was not into rituals like the Catholic church. Boy was I wrong.

    Naked with only a poncho for W&A (1976) freaked me out. When they asked if anyone wanted to leave, if someone else would have raised their hand, I would have also. The representations of death (penalties) were freaky. Got used to it prior to mission to Japan – Fukuoka. I posted previously about that.

    I was always amazed at the older patrons who could fall asleep as soon as the lights went down, but would stand up at the right time.

    The wording “Rather than reveal the …, I would suffer my life to be taken.” points not to taking your own life, but allowing someone else to kill you. This was actually not unheard of during pioneer times. Mormons who stepped out of line sometimes “disappeared”.

    My spouse was a sign-language temple worker. She said she was given the priesthood to administer to women in temple ordinances. I would be interested in more information on that point.

    Existing Mormon Temple Film reviews:

    Imdb has user reviews, Rotten Tomatoes is bare.

    A 1979 movie titled “Murder by Decree” weaves the Freemasons and temple penalty-like deaths into the Jack the Ripper story:

    It’s a pretty good movie. Better than the different incarnations of the temple film. I have the dvd in my library. My future spouse and I saw the film in the theater shortly after I returned from Japan.

    I look forward to your “Inspired version” and temple movie review episodes. Your insight is greatly appreciated.

    Ganbatte kudasai!

  12. I was similar to you. I was from a convert family, but none had been to the temple. I was the first. I went with my bishop. I didn’t love the naked touching part, but like you, I saw the penalties (I went through in 1984), I never interpreted them as what would happen to me (by the church) if I talked. But rather, that I would allow that to happen to me rather than reveal the information.

    I was not really at all prepared for the temple. I had never seen the temple clothing or even the garments. By contrast, when my wife went through, our bishop really told her everything except the explicitly forbidden stuff.

  13. Excellent episode! “Free will and choice” is definitely an illusion. I was 18 yrs old when I took out my endowments the night before my wedding in August of 1979. My soon-to-be husband was there with his family as well as my extended family. I was sitting between my mother and grandmother with tears running down my face as my fear and anxiety grew with each penalty. (They attributed my tears to “feeling the spirit of the temple.”) But as you mentioned in the podcast, if I left the session, there would be no marriage in the morning…and the backlash of walking out would’ve been unbearable. So I sat through it, praying I would remember everything being said so I wouldn’t be left behind as everyone else went through the veil. It was a horrible experience which added to my PTSD associated with years of church-related abuse.

    I nearly cried tears of joy when I removed my name from the church a few years ago and realized I’d never have to subject myself to temple rituals again!

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