SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Members reported excitement over Wednesday’s changes to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies, saying that they remove some disparity between men and women in the Church.
The Church has explained through videos on their website that the purpose of the temple is to help members make covenants to God. April Young Bennett is a contributor the the Exponent II online magazine and explained, “The covenants that we make in the temple used to be different for men and women and they weren’t as affirming for women as they were for men. I’m very excited to find out that we will be making the same covenants that men make going forward.”
She also explained that an integral part of that ceremony is a depiction of Adam and Eve from Genesis. “Within our faith, Eve is something of a hero, we see her as the person that made a very difficult choice that made it possible for human kind to exist. Unfortunately the temple ceremony reflected other traditions and thoughts of her as the one who caused original sin. It’s disappointing after learning your entire life that eve was such a hero, to go to the temple and see women portrayed in this way.”
The Church made no explanation for this change, but it is not historically unprecedented. Large changes were made in the 70s and again in the 90s–some believe after members petitioned the leadership for changes.
Young Bennett explained how women’s roles in the Church leadership has changed over time as well, “For a very long time the Executive Council over temples was comprised of only men. There were only men on the Council, so only men were making decisions about what the temple would be like. Fortunately about five years ago Sister Rosemary Wixom (then the General Primary President) became the first woman to be admitted onto the Temple Executive Council and I really think that including women has made a big difference.”
Professor of Mormon Studies Kathleen Flake is one of the leading scholars on women within the Church. She explained that temple worship is different than any other kid of worship for members of the faith, “As a ritual it’s meant to function differently than for example a sermon or a Sunday school lesson. Because it is an oral tradition, it is able to seamlessly change over time and it has.” She emphasized that only in the last few years have members and non-members conversed about changes widely because of the internet and social media.
Flake continued, “I don’t think that this is for immediate political advantage, I think this is a sober examination, many people will say too long in coming, but in their words kind of a seeking out what God’s will is. It’s happened in many many other areas of latter day saint life; one way to see this day is it’s finally reached the temple.”
Young Bennett said, “It gives us a lot of hope to see that something that was so important to us has been recognized, that our prayers have been answered.”
Many more members of the faith have reached out with their reaction to the news; one women wishing to remain anonymous said:
Benjamin E. Park is an Assistant Professor of History at Sam Houston State University. He said in part: