Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 11:11
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
On Sunday May 1, I participated in the Rededication Services of the Atlanta, Georgia Temple. It’s the second Temple Dedication Service I’d had the pleasure of attending since I joined the Church, the first being that of the Manhattan, New York Temple.
I found participating (loudly) in the Hosanna Shout, followed by a powerful singing of The Spirit of God to be a more moving experience than I had anticipated.
Since the Atlanta Temple closed about two years ago, I haven’t had many opportunities to attend the Temple.
And I’ve missed it.
When the Temple closed, I had been serving as an Ordinance Worker for a few months alongside my wife, spending several hours in the temple every week, and having the special opportunity to memorize the words of the ordinances, participate and officiate in them, and ponder their application and significance. My wife was able to do the same.
Shortly following the closing for renovation, we had our first baby. Travel and logistics only permitted me and my wife to attend two Endowment Sessions since that point, all at the Orlando Florida Temple.
So going from concentrated, several-hours-long weekly sessions in the temple, to basically attending once a year for the past two years has been significantly noticeable for us.
This coming Wednesday, we plan on attending the Temple again. And once again, I’ll be bringing some new perspectives and life experiences with me to assist in my instruction, worship, and service.
Trinity In Unity: Christ, The Church, The Temple
I finally picked up Pope Benedict XVI’s extremely thought provoking book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection off my shelf and began to read it.
In particular, the last two days I’ve read the first few chapters, concerning the Cleansing of the Temple,up to through the High Priestly Prayer.
While certainly not an idea original to himself (which he is the first to acknowledge), I was struck at this time by the image Benedict powerfully presented of Jesus announcing and demonstrating the removal of God’s presence and approbation of the Temple and the current state of worship (and worshippers) therein, as He himself embodied what the Temple should be, and continued His final journey to the Cross, the symbolic element of suffering and atoning self-sacrifice which lifted up this New Temple and exalted it to Heaven.
I love also the connection made by Benedict of the practical symbol (and responsibility) of viewing the Church as the Body of Christ going along on this journey – with the connection of all three elements (Christ, Church, and Temple) being brought together in one in Paul’s address to the Corinthian saints as he proclaims them – communally as a Church – as making up the Temple of God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16).
This helps me to look at the Temple experience as a very symbolic introspective look at who we are supposed to be as members of a Sacred Community. If the Temple itself is personified by Christ, and we are all members of Christ’s Body, and the Body of Christ is the Temple – a look inside the goings on in the Temple is very much a look into our own souls, our own ideal journey.
Gender Neutral Introspection
When I approach the temple, I view all the patrons themselves as symbols applicable to – and part of – all participating in the experience of identifying with and striving towards Christ. I do not view men participating in the temple as Biological Males, and the women participating as Biological Females. I view them each respectively as symbolizing dual aspects of our own divine Unity, and important aspects teaching us concerning the Hope of being One in Christ.
In the dramatic Narrative of the Endowment presentation, the symbol represented by the Man (Adam? Christ? Our Divine Nature?) chooses to fall (condescend?) because of the results of a weakness of His Companion (Eve? The Church? Disciples? Humanity?) – from that point on, the Two are One, and serve, and suffer, and are exalted together. (All the while relying on the mercy of a Greater Power as the source of their strength).
While it has been abused by many to be as such, I do not recognize this is as a story about the weak nature of females. It is not a story about how females need strong males and Priesthood Holders to save them. The history of patriarchal societies and cultures of male dominance no doubt contributed to the placement and assignment of the gendered symbols (and its continued misapplication) – but it would do us very well to look past this, and not allow cynicism to halt our abilities to learn and be humbled by what the symbols can actually represent and teach us.
I think it is essential for all, male and female, despite the physical role they may play in the drama, to not allow themselves to typecast themselves, but rather look to learn something about themselves from each symbol in the drama.
For example, the last time I attended the temple, even though I was dressed for and playing the part of the Man, I viewed myself ,and sought to be taught by going through the Journey, as Eve.
In doing this, I was taught that in the course of my life, I’ve screwed up. Nevertheless, I learned that I had Someone who loved me so much that they came down and chose to hang out in the messy world I’d created for myself to help me be better, and to overcome my drive to screw up. I learned that this companion suffers many things they wouldn’t have had to suffer it weren’t for me. I learned that as I strive to grow and emulate the best of this person, and strive to sacrifice right along with them, we will both have Joy together, we will suffer together, we will have Joy together.
Perhaps “the man” figure represented Christ.
Perhaps also, it represented my own spouse – who happens to be a woman.
But does that mean we both can’t play those roles in our relationship?
Does it mean we can’t both be pilgrims on a journey who need each other to look up to, and to make us better?
Does it mean we can’t both be leaders – ‘the head’ – , taking up the mantle when the other needs to be led?
Does it mean we don’t both need to affirm that we will hearken to each other’s counsel, as we each seek to be led by God?
Does it mean we do not both each have the responsibility to apply our divine charisms – gifts of the spirit , the power of divinity, priesthood power, whatever you want to call them – to bless the other?
I invite all who will be attending the Temple in the near future, for at the very least this next visit, as you participate in the liturgical worship of the Endowment, to not view the experience only through the role you have been assigned to physically play out in the Drama. There are many roles in the Temple, and I feel that an important part of the experience is coming to terms with our relationship to all of the roles therein – even those that may make us uncomfortable.
I believe that we can all stand to learn from viewing ourselves as guilty.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it… That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
– Ephesians 5: 25–32