Monday, January 5, 2015

Separating the Temple from Experiences Tangential to It

I have a friend who had some negative experiences related to attending the temple but not related directly to the temple itself.  I came across my advice to him and hope what I told him helps someone, in some way, now: 

This is going to be more analytical than "emotionally supportive", so please understand that upfront. There is no intent other than to analyze and offer that sort of suggestion.
I think it's important, very important, to separate from the temple itself, intentionally and consciously, from the experiences you describe and work on getting a handle on the emotional residual effects of the experiences before returning to the temple. It sounds like you understand the underlying issues at the most basic, intellectual level, and I'm not saying you have to go back to the temple right away. I am saying, however, that, if you really do feel like you need to go at some point, as you indicate, then you are going to have to tackle the emotional effects of one bad experience directly related to temple policy (not the temple itself), one bad experience directly related to clueless in-laws (not the temple itself) and one bad cumulative experience directly related to church members (not the temple itself).

I don't mean to minimize those experiences in any way (truly and sincerely). They were difficult. Period. However, only one of them, at the heart of it all, really was, primarily, temple-related - and that was about policy, not the temple itself. Your clueless in-laws were part of the first bad experience (along with strong cultural expectations) and the direct, singular cause of the second one. (Seriously, without your in-laws and cultural expectations, you wouldn't have had that bad experience.) Your ward members were the direct cause of the third one. (Seriously, without their actions, you wouldn't have had the series of experiences in that ward.) Underlying the second and third experiences was the crushing disappointment of the first one - and your inability to separate emotionally the temple itself from your anger / feelings of being judged, ignored, dismissed, etc. For example, according to your own description, the third experience wasn't a temple-specific experience; rather, it was an extension of your overall experience in that ward.

Again, I'm being more clinical than emotionally supportive simply because I think that solution-focused viewpoint needs to be stated - even as I also want to offer the emotional support of making it clear that I think you need to tackle what I described above in your own way and on your own time table. I just think it's really important in the case you described to make it explicit that your issue isn't with the temple itself. Your issue is with a policy which I also would like to see changed (insisting on temple sealing prior to civil marriage in countries that recognize temple sealings as legal marriages) and with people being stupid - and one woman who did her best to help you in a meaningful way. Yes, her offer ended up making you feel worse, but it was a wonderful, kind, caring gesture, nonetheless - and I think it's important amid the negative memories to credit the effort of a good-hearted, kind person.

If I could make one suggestion, again with the timing totally up to you, I would arrange a time to attend the temple with only your wife - even if you have to go to a temple other than the one where your in-laws and ward members attend. Don't tell anyone else you are going; just go. If you like baptisms, do or help with baptisms. If not, do an endowment session - then sit together in the celestial room and talk or just hold each other without saying a word. Think of the type of activity you would like in the temple, then do that - away from anyone for whom you are struggling right now to have kind feelings, overall or related to the temple.

Most of all, I hope you find peace with the temple eventually, however that can occur.

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