Friday, January 15, 2016

Neither is the man without the woman


I freak out when strangers try to separate me from my husband, or insist that I should allow someone else to care for him when we are out and about—specifically in LDS temples. It might not be such a big deal to me, except that it's happened three times now in three different temples. 

Draper. Timpanogos. And now at Provo City Center.

I should probably be more patient with those who are unaware of our situation, of my husband's ongoing health issues, of my necessary role as his caregiver. But temples are not exactly emotionally "safe" places for me. Too many traumas happened there during my last marriage. Too much tiered language exists there that reflects the oppression and control that existed in both my childhood and my last marriage.

And when I say I freak out when this happens, I mean I really lose it.

When Mr. PNU and I visited the Draper Temple the weekend of our anniversary, I panicked when we were first told I wouldn't be allowed to assist him during the endowment session. Every time we've attended the Provo Temple I've been encouraged and thanked by officiators for caring for my husband in such a way that he is able to participate in proxy ordinances, and during our own sealing. I don't understand how policy could be different from temple to temple, and I broke down in front of the Draper temple workers who were trying to take my husband from me. Even though the Draper Temple President eventually came and assured me that I was fine helping Mr. PNU, I cried for the next hour.

At the Timpanogos Temple on our last temple trip of 2015 we were told policy mandated that I neither sit next to my husband, nor assist him during the session. I insisted that at both Provo and Draper I'd been allowed and encouraged, but the temple worker returned from speaking with the Temple Recorder, and affirmed that he spoke for the Temple President in holding fast to the rule of gender separation in the ordinance. As I was ushered away from my husband, I chose not to protest. But I was an anxious wreck the entire session, and once we were reunited at its conclusion I broke into tears in front of everyone in the Celestial Room. We will not return to the Timpanogos Temple unless we hear policy has changed.

My husband doesn't like being referred to as saintly, but Mr. PNU is the only reason the temple is the least bit comforting for me. There is not a kinder, fairer, gentler man. While we are both puzzled at the tiered nature of the genders in the temple, he considers me his equal and treats me accordingly. He would never use the language of the temple ordinances against me. I know there are other LDS men also willing to assume the genders are equal, but my husband is the first I've been intimately acquainted with who could dominate in our relationship—but doesn't.* 

A week ago I managed to reserve tickets for 11 a.m. this morning, the first day of the Provo City Center Temple open house. The week that followed was rough. Sunday, we went through a second grand mal seizure, and Tuesday, Mr. PNU finally had his gallbladder removed. Between biting his tongue so hard mid-seizure that it bruised and swelled to fill the left side of his month, and pain and oxygen desaturation after the surgery, neither of us thought he would make it to the tour. The night before I'd arranged for a ward member to sit with him while I took my kids. But at 10 a.m. today, after showering him and feeding him breakfast, I couldn't see the sense in leaving him home to be in pain, when I desperately wanted him with me. I suggested I put him in a dress shirt and tie, and he agreed to try. With desaturation comes portable oxygen. My kids took turns helping me juggle wheelchair, husband, and oxygen tank into our car. We drove the mile to our gorgeous new temple, parked, and unloaded. We were each given booties for our shoes, and the oxygen tank cart and wheelchair wheels were coated in saran wrap.

We watched an informative film on LDS temples prior to the tour. It was filled with men and women of all races, both young and old speaking of temple experience and the importance of sealing ordinances in LDS doctrine. Elder Holland quoted Corinthians 11:11: "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord."

I understood those words in a new way today. In a way I wouldn't without the constant need to be at my husband's side.

A tour volunteer offered to push the wheelchair so that I could hold Mr. PNU's hand and focus my attention on the finished temple rather than on navigating the twisting corridors and hallways as his driver. She assured me that he and I could stay together. My daughter, L—, offered to push the oxygen. The other children went with the able-bodied tour, while this volunteer, my daughter and I became well acquainted with the elevators. The completed temple is astounding. I don't believe there is another one more beautiful in the world. And this, the Provo City Center Temple is our temple. We are within its district, a mile from its doors. So I won't let the morning be spoiled by the fact that halfway through the tour, as we turned a corner, I was suddenly harangued by another volunteer, urgently insisting that I go with the able-bodied tour since someone else was pushing my husband's wheelchair.

In my sudden confusion she shot at me again, I had to follow the RULES!

I looked at my husband waiting for me to join him in the elevator and back at the bossy volunteer trying to separate me from him. For a moment, just a moment, I panicked. It seems strange to me that with the recent push for recognition of the sanctity of marriage between man and woman over other unions, that heterosexual marriages sealed in the temple aren't more hallowed and respected within the rank and file. I shook my head at the woman spouting her insistence of the rules. I turned my back to her and stepped into the elevator to ride up to the Celestial Room with the only person who's offered me safety, equality, and real protection in this Church.


*Most temple-going LDS people privately note that there is gender disparity in the temple language even though they are unwilling to discuss that fact openly due to the sacred nature of temple ordinance. I've studied, prayed, and researched, and there are no good answers why. We have D&C 132, and a few purported accounts of historical second anointing. It seems, at present, a sort of celestial checks and balances approach to keeping married couples in line. Otherwise, I can't account for the temple gender narrative.

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