Women and Veils

By: Guy Templeton
November 29, 2012

Once again, I’m thinking about the temple.  Why do women wear veils, and why are they supposed to veil their faces when participating in the true order of prayer?  At a wedding, many women wear veils for the ceremony.  For a wedding, it seems to hold a bit of romance.  In Islam, it is a sign of piety.

Jewish law dictates that a man is required to cover his head during prayer.  Is this part of why men have a head covering in the temple?  Orthodox Jewish men have their head covered at all times, less frequently, women in Conservative and Reform communities at times of prayer.  Is this what happens in Mormon temples?

Why do women veil their faces at Mormon Temples?

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64 Responses to Women and Veils

  1. Hedgehog on November 29, 2012 at 3:20 AM

    I just wish we didn’t have to. It’s a total pain. I mostly don’t participate in the prayer circle because my major preoccupation at that stage is whether the veil will actually stay put… It always feels like it’s about to come slithering off.

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  2. Hawkgrrrl on November 29, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    Could they choose a fabric that breathes, even a little? It always reminds me of hiding in my parents’ drapes playing hide and seek as a child. I am convinced it is that same fabric.

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  3. MH on November 29, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    For that matter, Why do women wear veils at (non-LDS) weddings?

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  4. Hedgehog on November 29, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    #3MH
    Don’t know – it seems to be tradition. over here we get to have a traditional church wedding followed by a temple sealing, on account of the marriage laws. I was very unusual in not having a veil for the church wedding.

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  5. Sherry on November 29, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    I HATE the temple veil for women. Strong language I know, but hear me out. I’ve asked more than one matron and several female temple workers. The answers I’ve receieved are mostly “We don’t know” to “It’s a sign of humility” and “It’s a blessing.” HOGWASH! To me, after going thru the endowment, with no strong female role model, Eve is passive, says little and exeercises no leadership. other than making the RIGHT choice, I’ve felt that God is so offended by my female-ness that he no longer wants to even see my face, hence the veil for the most sacred Prayer Circle. I’m a lifetime member, temple-going for over forty years, altho I no longer attend the temple for the reasons mentioned above. Women are NOT treated as equals in the temple and veiling our faces reinforces that we are less than. I would like to be convinced otherwise…..

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  6. MH on November 29, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Sherry, that is strong language, but I agree. For many, the temple is a symbol of patriarchy. I really wonder why veils are used in society at all, and I’m confused why Jewish men would never go to God without a covering for their head, while Christians do the opposite: we always take off our hats as a sign of respect to God. Who is doing it right? Should we really be all covering our heads, or should we all be removing our head coverings? After all, if we are a restorationist church, it seems to be that ancient Jews covered their heads. Therefore, shouldn’t both men and women cover heads (and perhaps faces) when approaching God?

    I’d be very happy to lose the weird hat that men wear, as well as the veil women wear. I don’t know what the purpose is, and it seems to be an outdated cultural practice that has lost meaning. If it has a meaning, I’d love to know what it is.

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  7. Douglas on November 29, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    I voted, like the scant majority, cultural. No other explaination has been given to me in 32 years of temple attendance.
    Methinks, like the otherwise beautiful but rather “frumpy” (unless you’re completely pervy, which obviously would belie your reason to be there at all, you couldn’t possibly notice the hottest babe in temple clothing, and once even she’s veiled, they’re all ‘equal’ – that would be my guess on a reason).
    I would post a related question: why are the sisters “subjected” to their husbands at all, and definitely the SINGLE sisters (my lady friend, who is decidedly NOT a feminist, accepts this grudgingly, figuring the Lord has His reasons). Yes, I’m aware of what the Apostle Paul wrote (Ephesians 5:23), and it’s not as if I have a problem with the patriarchal order, but it is necessary? To me, this teaching is somewhat contriadictory, and like my lady friend, I accept it on faith.
    At least in the prayer circle there doesn’t seem to be preference, in that an equal amount of both genders participate.

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  8. Lily on November 29, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    I start from the undelying premise that God is not a sexist. Anything that runs counter to that is a flat out mistake or is being misunderstood. Along those lines, I heard a woman from the middle east speak several years ago and she talked briefly about the practice of veiling. She said althougth currently, it has a negative connotation, anciently, it did not. Anciently,the queen was veiled, free women (as opposed to slaves) were veiled, rich women were veiled. That gave me a new perspective on temple veiling. I think its a designation that you are royalty but that understanding has been overwhelmed by current negative cultural beliefs about women.

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  9. Sherry on November 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Lily, I agree with you. But if that is so, God is not sexist, where is our Mother?? Especially in the temple? If veils signify royalty, then why don’t men veil their faces in the temple too?

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  10. Douglas on November 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    #9 – my guess is that Heavenly Mother is not explicity referred to simply because her husband will not tolerate her being dissprected. I should think that a God who is tangible and passionate would definitely be so when it comes to how much he loves his wife. Not doctrine, just the Gopsel according to Doug.

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  11. ji on November 29, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    Hasn’t God prescribed the clothing for ceremonial worship way, way back into history? Yes. Is it okay for him to do so again? Yes.

    The temple endowment is a gift. Like any gift, it can be accepted or mocked.

    But those who point the finger should carefully the parable in Matthew 22:11-14. There, the reason for the King’s action is not provided, but the result is. Christian scholars have debated this parable for many years, like people are debating the current temple ceremonial clothing here. When one discerns the reason for the action in the parable, then perhaps he or she will understand the reason for the modern temple clothing.

    Or even if not, if he or she doesn’t understand, he or she will at least appreciate the prerogative of the host and the great beauty of the gift.

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  12. Hedgehog on November 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Well, Ji, if wasn’t that the veil was actually getting in the way of appreciating all the rest of it, that’d be fine. Being frequebtly concerned that isn’t going to stay put is a major distraction (and it doesn’t, it slithers round all over requiring constant readjustment). Maybe it’s just they need to look at their designs a bit more carefully, or maybe it’s just me – everything slide out of my hair, no matter what I do.

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  13. Hedgehog on November 29, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    *frequently (it’s getting late, I nearly did it again).

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  14. Sherry on November 29, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    I think most of you don’t get it….did everything in the temple ceremony really come from God? If so, then why has it changed several times in my lifetime, as well as the garments? Makes me think it can/will change again….for the better I hope. No mocking or making light of sacred things, just honestly speaking what’s in my heart and soul. The temple ceremonies are NOT empowering to women as to the obviousness of what is taught and done.

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  15. Angie on November 29, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    I voted “other” – my answer is, “I have no idea.”

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  16. Moss on November 29, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    The current line of reasoning I am using in order to hold off the pain is: men and women are separated in the endowment ceremony until they are in the Celestial room. The veiling keeps women separate even when the genders are together for the prayer circle.

    I don’t really believe this. My real thoughts are more in line with Sherry’s. This is my explanation to keep me serving in the temple.

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  17. Steven B on November 30, 2012 at 2:11 AM

    Years ago I asked the noted anthropologist and scholar Raphael Patai about the significance of the veil for women. He did not relate the history or origin, but explained the current meaning as primarily signifying that the woman is married and well dressed.

    We should probably not think of it in terms of the woman being owned by the man, but rather supported by the man. Females who work to support themselves typically would not wear the veil, which would interfere with their ability to work. Married women, who were supported by their husbands and who did not work in the marketplace will wear veils to signify their more privileged situation. And in some sense, the distinction could be compared to wearing one’s work clothes vs dress clothing.

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  18. alice on November 30, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I am not the least impressed by traditional or anthropological explanations. And the business of Heavenly Father protecting Heavenly Mother begs the question why she doesn’t have the authority to similarly “protect” him.

    Women know how it feels to be a Mormon woman. Women are telling the church how it feels. Women are watching the church’s reaction to how they feel. And getting the flower and the speech about how noble they are ain’t cuttin’ it.

    PS I find it hysterical that the photo illustration of this entry depicts an ephemeral wedding veil when that’s hardly what we’re talking about.

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  19. Douglas on November 30, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    #18 – To the moon, Alice! (LoL)
    Methinks that Heavenly Mother is far more than, as the old-time Japanese would would put it, THE hidden One. It’s not She that needs protection, it’s us were we to mock or slander her.

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  20. hawkgrrrl on November 30, 2012 at 9:34 PM

    If we go back to the veil as worn in the temple, the other explanation I’ve heard is that the veil women wear is like the veil in the temple. The women are the divinity shielded from men by a veil. Likewise, the hymen is a veil to the female’s “holy of holies.” Your body is a temple indeed. Men GO to the temple (when deemed worthy and accepted), but women ARE the temple (the actual wellspring of human life).

    Certainly primitive cultures viewed women as mysterious for their life-giving powers, especially since they weren’t always clear about exactly how the babies got in there in the first place. So, symbols like this may have a primitive origin, an origin somewhat incomprehensible to our modern cultural sensibilities. What do you do with something mysterious and powerful? You subjugate it, you control it, your protect it, so that you can use it to achieve your ends (your own immortality through offspring in this case – Peter Peter pumpkin eater and all that).

    Obviously, as a woman, this isn’t how I see myself. I see myself as a person in my own right with a mind and thoughts in my head, very much like a man sees himself. I have my own hopes and dreams. I’m not just a vessel for child bearing. I’m as much a pilgrim in the temple as is a man. So the veil (in the meaning I’ve suggested here) makes me feel like an object, not a person. And honestly, so do a lot of talks by men in the church. I’m not implying men are never made to feel like objects in the church. Just that women seldom are made to feel like JUST people without their child-bearing roles attached.

    My vote is the veil is of ancient origin (whether Hebrew or even more ancient) but probably not understood by anyone any more.

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  21. Douglas on December 1, 2012 at 3:28 AM

    Likewise, the hymen is a veil to the female’s “holy of holies. – the Gospel according to Jules Winnfield (when he cautioned Vincent Vega about ‘babysitting’ Mia Wallace). Hey, YOU said it.
    ” Just that women seldom are made to feel like JUST people without their child-bearing roles attached.” – Agreed. A woman is more than a brood mare. And newly on the market (though off and on with someone and not sure of wanting to take it to the next level), at my age (53), inviting down more spirits is the last thing I want to be doing.
    Again, my guess is that the veil, insofar as the temple is concerned, is not the same as say in conservative Islamic culture where the woman is treated like a possession…ergo, her husband has her wrapped up in the burqha or chaddor with her only able to peer out. Rather, along with the very unflattering (re: modest) temple clothing for women, it makes them all ‘equal’.
    I could dispense with it altogether but I trust that the Lord knows that he’s doing with regard to teaching what He wants to impart in the temple. And BTW, even if the ordinances and teachings are sacred, there’s no reason that the ceremony details could not be changed. When you get down to it, it’s all allegory.

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  22. alice on December 1, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    If we’re going with the hymen analogy does that mean we can do it one time and get it over with?

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  23. hawkgrrrl on December 1, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Alice – heck yeah. And also that is technically true anyway. There is no real obligation to go back to the temple for proxy word, just your own initial endowment is needed.

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  24. alice on December 1, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    I meant the veil, of course, and not the temple.

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  25. Hedgehog on December 2, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    #20
    Eeek, Hawkgrrrl. All that mystical stuff (along with Valerie Hudson’s hypotheses) have me running in the opposite direction screaming. To stretch your remarks further would that make the temple a form of the female body..?

    On a tangent, the following I stumbled across may be of some vague interest in connection with the post: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/studies/?vol=4&id=83
    It doesn’t specifically address veils on women in the temple however, but does address clothing, veils in connection with clothing, priestly clothing, and the veil of the temple.

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  26. hawkgrrrl on December 2, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Yeah, Hedgehog, not my favorite analogy either, but it has been applied to many other temples throughout history (with more pagan origins), probably for good reason.

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  27. Beth on December 2, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    My husband and I got sealed in the temple nearly a year ago and after my first temple experience I had similar questions regarding the veil, among other things. Mostly the answers I got from family members and friends who are temple going members was that they didn’t know or that it’s just the way it is (we’re really all the complacent to do something we don’t understand just because we’re told to? No questions asked?) finally after a lot of studying and pondering on my own, a friend of mine who hasn’t been to the temple said something that almost kind of made sense. It is that being in the temple is to represent the celestial kingdom and Gods presence, and in the scriptures we learn that in order to attain the highest degree of glory we need to have the new and everlasting covenant, which is taken to be a celestial marriage. Once you are in a celestial marriage perhaps you share the priesthood (quorum of the anointed?) and the veil is used in part with the hand grasp to signify that you and your spouse are one in the sight of god? Maybe. It’s an interesting thing to think about though.

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  28. Rigel Hawthorne on December 3, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    Since we can speculate here, I will toss in some ideas. For the head covering for men, it is a little easier to find some relevant symbolism. In ancient Israel, the High Priest wore a headdress called the Since Mitznefet (often translated into English as “mitre”), which was wound around the head so as to form a broad, flat-topped turban. Attached to it was a plate of solid gold bearing the inscription “Holiness to YHWH”. Lesser priests wore a smaller, conical turban. Catholic history has recorded the wearing of a mitre being associated with an ordination to an office. In some offices, the mitre was of simple white linen. Some report that the mitre design represents the ‘tongues of fire’ that rested upon the heads of the early church members during the day of pentacost. Mitres have also been associated with royal headgear along with crowns. In some systems of monarchy, the political leaders wore the crowns while the religious leaders wore the mitres.

    So there is some symbolism that could be relevant to temple covenants in light of not being a king, but being annointed to become one. There is also symbolism to the honor of Christ being a King/Priest–being, therefore, one who would have both head coverings. This reunited these two offices which had, prior to that time, been divided between the tribes of Judah and Levi, possibly since the time of Melchizadek.

    The veil is, for me, a bit more difficult to reconcile with the blessings promised in the temple because it is a garment that has so many associations with cultural practices. As others have mentioned, the ‘unveiling’ of the bride by the groom has historical symbolism of the right to enter conjugal relations. The covering prior to that represents propiety and modesty. Wikipedia describes a record dating back to 13 BC where prostitutes were not legally permitted to wear veils.

    The New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage offers so much more to a couple, one would assume there would be more to the symbolism. One other model which may shed insight is the coronation of queenly royalty, which is a model with flaws, but still interesting. The British ceremony involves an annointing with oil by a priest and is considered sacred. This is another occasion where a veil is reportedly worn, but I don’t find much information about it. Another feature of a coronation involves exchange of a ring that symbolizes a marriage between the monarch and the nation. If you look at endowment for women in this sense, you could think of the veil as symbolic clothing in which a women is ‘married’ to her nation/posterity. Sealing protocols keep all children born to a woman sealed to her, even if the first husband passes away and subsequent children are born from another marriage. This is, from my male perspective, a desirable promise that is inherent to female temple covenant.

    I do not really see a symbolic reason for covering and uncovering with a veil for the prayer circle, and having throw out what I have for speculation, I not attached to the veil for temple worship in any way. If an update came and it wasn’t required, I would be fine with that. I do get tired, myself, of finishing a session and having elastic imprint on my forehead from the male cap. I loosened my cap’s elastic as far as it could be loosened to avoid this.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on December 3, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    I read a bloggernacle post (can’t find it right now) that drew the link between the washings & anointings with coronation ceremonies. Here is a similar discussion: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/56040-washings-and-anointing-is-it-masonic-and-or-ancient/page__st__20

    I find that very compelling. However, I don’t see any reference to veils in coronations.

    I’m a little heartsick to think it might be because the endowment was initially how to set apart those who were participating in polygamy. IOW, the veil focuses on the role of woman as multiple bride.

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  30. Leonard R on December 3, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    I certainly don’t know THE reason, but my take is roughly on these lines.

    The veil, like the apron, has both negative and positive connotations.

    As a negative symbol, it represents separation. The veil of the temple, the separation between mankind and the gods, women’s veil the separation between men and women (worn by women in token of their bearing the brunt of that separation). Only when men and women are united as one can the veil be lifted (ie. the veil is only put on for the prayer for practical purposes, but could be considered as being worn from the time it is put on).

    When men and women are united in that way, then the veil is lift, and the veil separating mankind from God is lifted as well, and they enter into the Oneness of the Celestial world.

    On the positive side, it serves, like the men’s cap, as the preparatory covering for women’s future crowns.

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  31. Alison Moore Smith on December 3, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    I didn’t care for the veil at all until I heard a very cogent explanation a few years ago, that I had never heard and wasn’t remotely negative.

    I’ll see if I can find my notes and repost.

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  32. Hedgehog on December 4, 2012 at 1:44 AM

    #28 I’m not aware of a veil being used in coronations of our Kings and Queens, though there is anointing, and a ring: http://www.royal.gov.uk/royaleventsandceremonies/coronation/coronation.aspx

    Apparently also lots of references to Israel and Biblical Kings, orb, sceptre and robing, but no veil: http://www.keithhunt.com/Coron1.html (moving to next page and then next page makes interesting reading, and clearly this guy believes the British throne is the throne of David – interesting reading on whole different topic).

    The only reference I can find discussing both crowns and veils discusses the creation of a crown for Queen Victoria that she was able to wear with her mourning veil.

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  33. Rigel Hawthorne on December 4, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    I read one website that described the type of lace used to make Queen Victoria’s coronation veil, but it may have been referring to a ‘style’ rather than a historical reference. Thanks for the input.

    I was thinking about trying to find a symbolic reason for veiling of the face during the prayer circle and am trying to work out one scenario. Someone mentioned that the veiling of the face is analagous to the veil of the templem which is not passed until entering the Celestial realm. During the prayer circle, a worker representing a heavenly being moves from behind the alter (a position representing heaven) to the front of the altar (representing the state that the temple patrions have moved to). As this represents a parting of the veil and mixes a participant symbolically joining the circle from the other side of the altar, is the veiling of the face substituting for the temple veil for the duration of the prayer circle? Anyone think I am on the right track?

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  34. ConsiderThis on December 4, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Adam = spirit
    Eve = mind
    Earth = body
    Peter = Holy Ghost

    Food for thought:
    - where is Eve prior to the Creation?
    - based upon the above symbolism, what is the true order of prayer?

    Should be now obvious why the “women” veil their faces.

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  35. MH on December 5, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    ConsiderThis, I still have a question for you. It is my understanding that the Q12 participate in the true order of prayer in their weekly meetings in the temple. Of course, there are no women in the prayer circle (since there are none in the Q12.) So when they participate, are they missing the “mind”?

    In past years, if there weren’t enough women or men to complete the prayer circle, then the excess men or women would fill in as necessary. Now it seems that temple workers fill in as necessary so the men and women are 1:1 ratio. So in past years, if there were more women than men in the circle, was the mind missing?

    I mean I like your analogy, but I’m not sure how it holds.

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  36. kjohnson on December 5, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    I have no idea of the why. When I veil my face, I feel diminished and unworthy. I doubt that is God’s goal for me, and that makes me angry.

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  37. Steven B on December 5, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Perhaps the veiling of the women in the prayer circle functions to help keep the men’s attention away from the beautiful women and on their task at hand.

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  38. Bruce on December 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    #37….exactly Steven B. Nibley said it was to keep the men focused on the prayer. It is too easy a distraction to look across at a pretty face and not focus on the words being said. Men are the one’s that need the help…that’s all it is. All this nonsense about putting down women is just that…nonsense.

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  39. mh on December 5, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    If that is so, I think it would be better for men to veil their faces. That would definitely help men stay focused if they could only see a curtain in front of their eyes.

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  40. Hedgehog on December 5, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    MH #39, Like x50.
    My own endowment I had a very opaque veil. It wasn’t good not to be able to see what was happening, when I had no idea what to expect next. So of course, the minute the prayer was over, there I was trying to struggle out of it, completely unaware I had to wait for permission, and no idea that none of the other women were doing the same, because I couldn’t see them. That earned me a glare from the officiator (which wasn’t the first). At least it didn’t fall off.

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  41. Hedgehog on December 5, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Yesterday, I listened to the fMh podcast on the ‘Daughters in my Kingdom’ series, addressing masonry in Nauvoo. Apparently there were veils involved in the 3 masonic degrees for women at the time. Different colours for the different degrees. But that was about the only mention.

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  42. Hedgehog on December 5, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    #33, I saw that reference too. Baffling. There is no sign of any veil on paintings of Victoria’s coronation either.
    Victoria’s wedding veil would appear to have been Honiton Lace.
    No veil is mentioned on this site either, which goes through her coronation specifically:
    http://www.queenvictoria.victoriana.com/queenvictoria.html
    I suggest myth on that one.

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  43. Rigel Hawthorne on December 5, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Re # 37 ‘to help keep the men’s attention away from the beautiful women’

    If that is the sole purpose, then that is a disappointment. I guess if you liken it to the removal of ‘site by site’ washings and annointings to keep men’s attention away from the handsome men, then there may be some validity to that, as ridiculous as it seems.

    #34 I like the analogy, but I’m dense enough at the moment that I’m not getting any light bulb on. I will continue digesting the food for thought.

    #42 Did you see this website?
    http://dehuntington.wordpress.com/
    It mixes myth and history but is interesting…just not reliable historically.

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  44. ConsiderThis on December 5, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    MH,

    I think you’re needlessly mixing the “perfect” form of the endowment (with all that its symbolism expresses) with the pragmatic need to get it performed as best as may be. Of course, based upon my “deductions” the true order of prayer is a pattern of how the individual (a composite of spirit, mind and body) should pray (i.e. as directed by the Holy Spirit). The veiling of the woman’s face is akin to the formation of the circle (turning one’s back to the world, being wholly focused on the altar (heart), where one hears the voice of God) – one should humble one’s mind, being directed and one with the spirit (as portrayed by the grip). Together they simply express what the Lord gives them (akin to Nephi’s receiving the sealing powers, since he would ask nothing contrary to the will of God).

    As an afterthought: the marriage covenant is a similitude of this bond between spirit and mind. This also explains why any other form of sexual expression is abhorred by the Lord.

    Also, if Adam = man = spirit, then it becomes also apparent why only males receive the Priesthood (in its outward (or Aaronic) form, since all may hold it in the inner (or Melchizedek) form).

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  45. mh on December 5, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Consider this, I appreciate your thoughts. Forgive me for being dense. I’m not very good with symbolism.

    Regarding your comments about marriage, I like this idea of becoming one, but since the endowment was primarily associated with polygamy, this whole ‘one’ concept breaks down for me. But in a non-polygamy concept, I like the idea.

    Your reference to male only priesthood is much more problematic for me. First of all, both men and women are dressed in the robes of the priesthood, and we are told that both men and women are prepared to officiate in both Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood. There is no distinction in the temple. It is my belief that had Joseph Smith lived longer, he would have organized the Relief Society as a priesthood quorum.

    Secondly, I have written on my blog about females with priesthood in early Christianity who administered the sacrament and performed baptisms. If women are to be priestesses, they obviously will have some form of priesthood.

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  46. Hedgehog on December 6, 2012 at 2:21 AM

    #43, Yes. I think those veils are more in the tradition of medieval times when all married/respectable women were veiled ouside the home (Queens as well, only with fancier veils) rather than the veil being linked to the position of Queen. And those veils were to cover the hair, not the face.

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  47. ConsiderThis on December 6, 2012 at 4:39 AM

    MH,

    the issue of the Priesthood, as I understand it, can require some chewing before digestion is possible.

    As I see it, since the spirit is symbolised by the male, and the mind by the female, and as true Priesthood is spiritual in nature, it makes sense that it the outward form is reserved for the male. It is merely symbolic, and in no way limits women from exercising true Priesthood power, which is manifest by the Holy Ghost. That, in fact, is one of the most profound and fundamental teachings of the endowment.

    I don’t see polygamy as any obstacle to the relationship between man and woman, as divinely appointed. If polygamy is an eternal principle, then we have to accept that perfect union is possible between a male and several females, without prejudice or detracting in any way from the dignity and worth of the female.

    It makes me sad that our weaknesses and ignorance seem to get in the way of our happiness. Looking at the other comments here, it appalls me that so many women feel devalued in some way by the nature of the endowment. Personally, I think it says more of their own insecurities and lack of self-worth than anything else.

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  48. Hawkgrrrl on December 6, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    ConsiderThis, what possible reason would women have to feel insecure in the temple? Oh yeah, they submit to men, not to God like the men do.

    There is sexism in our beloved church, plenty of it, unfortunately. Since God is not sexist, it’s coming from the members and the traditions. When will it be gone? When our leaders can understand how women feel and also feel inspired to change it. There have already been many changes to the temple to make it work better for women and the elderly patrons also. I have confidence changes will come. But in the meantime,I don’t love the second class treatment.

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  49. ConsiderThis on December 6, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    Hawkgrrrl

    So hearkening to your husband’s counsel *as long as he hearkens to God* is worse than hearkening to God directly? I’m sorry, but I don’t follow.

    And you’re expecting the nature of some of the covenants of the endowment to change? What if they’re exactly the way they should be? Are you going to claim that God is sexist? Or just that the prophets are a sexist bunch and happy to keep women under their thumb?

    How about the fact that the disciples of Christ are, in the imagery of the scriptures, His bride? As a man, my relationship to Christ needs to be totally subservient. But it is based on the faith that He is looking out for me, and has laid His everything on the line for me. How is this any less subservient than what you’re choking on? Is this too an offensive relationship in your eyes? Should Jesus get off His high horse – who does He think He is, putting Himself in the role of the groom?

    If I’m blunt, I’d say that sexism is in the eye of the beholder. If you’re looking for offence, you’ll find it.

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  50. MH on December 6, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    ConsiderThis, I find many men tone deaf when it comes to the temple. Why can’t the woman hearken to God just as Adam hearken’s to God? If she is to submit to her husband, then she is submissive. No man is asked to submit to his wife. There is an inequality going on here, and it’s akin to the misguided theory of Brown vs Board of Education: “separate but equal”. It is not equal.

    There are similar restrictions on women that at not with men. Men do not veil their faces. If you want to know how uncomfortable it is, stick a towel over your head and pray. Similarly, Mormon women used to give blessings, but can’t do it any more. Why?

    Mormons seem to praise Eve for being smart enough to partake the forbidden fruit, yet she is ceremonially punished for doing the act. In the temple, she is asked to submit to her husband, but “stupid” Adam is not ceremonially punished, and Adam is not asked to be submissive to his wife. Eve never speaks again in the temple ceremony. Is this really portraying equality?

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  51. MH on December 6, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I know these questions were addressed to Hawkgrrl, but let me throw in my 2 cents.

    So hearkening to your husband’s counsel *as long as he hearkens to God* is worse than hearkening to God directly? I’m sorry, but I don’t follow.

    Well, I addressed that in my previous comment. If men submitted to their wife’s counsel as she hearkens to God, then it would be a sign of equality.

    And you’re expecting the nature of some of the covenants of the endowment to change?

    Nobody is expecting anything. We’re (as President Hinckley said) agitating for change. Emma agitated for change in the tobacco spit in meetings, and voila, we got the Word of Wisdom. Pres Kimball agitated for change and we got Official Declaration 2. Many Mormons agitated for change in the polygamy, and we got Official Declaration 1. Abraham agitated for change, and talked the Lord down to 10 righteous people, instead of 100. Jesus tells us that we can ask God for anything, and God will bend to our wishes as needed. This isn’t abnormal. Think of the parable of the unjust judge.

    What if they’re exactly the way they should be? Are you going to claim that God is sexist? Or just that the prophets are a sexist bunch and happy to keep women under their thumb?

    A better question is what if they’re not exactly as they should be? I suspect you’re old enough to know that the endowment changed significantly in about 1991. This was primarily due to the Godmakers movie. Many masonic influences were completely removed, because they appeared to be offensive. Then about 5 years ago or so, the endowment changed again so there isn’t as much standing and sitting. This seems to directly benefit the elderly who had a hard time standing up so much. If we can modify the endowment in recent memory to make it more palatable to current cultural attitudes and make it easier for elderly patrons, are you saying that the elderly should just suck it up and stand as the original endowment was? Was the prophet wrong in 1991 to remove the offensive masonic gestures?

    No, I never thought God was sexist, or racist. But Brigham Young certainly was racist (I can provide quotes if you like), and President Benson certainly was racist and sexist (I can provide quotes if you like.) I think God weeped when he heard some of these prophets, but God uses imperfect men to being to pass great things. Certainly Joseph Smith wasn’t perfect either, and we have lots of condemnation of him in the D&C. Moses and Jonah are other examples of fallible prophets, yet God used them. We even have Moses’ father-in-law counseling Moses. Are you saying that Jethro was out of line to counsel the prophet?

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  52. Rigel Hawthorne on December 6, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    If polygamy is an eternal principle–

    Don’t believe it was–it was something Sarah saddled Abraham with because of lack of faith. The Book of Mormon is pretty clear when polygamy is justified.

    since the endowment was primarily associated with polygamy–refuse to believe this too. An endowment from God is receiving something Holy to be a sanctifying experience for one who is prepared. The resurrected Jesus in the last chapter of Luke told the apostles that he would send them the promise of the Father and that they would be ‘endued’ with power. The last verse says that they were in the temple continually blessing and praising God. This endowment had nothing to do with polygamy. If Brigham Young understood that it was his celestial test to live the principle of polygamy and slanted the endowment to provide spiritual strength for those who were committed to live it, then so be it. He lived it as an eternal principle because he did not anticipate a revocation.

    The opportunities to interpret symbolism in the temple are rife and I appreciate ConsiderThis for sharing personal deductions, but I will choose to make my own deductions completely as polygamy-free symbolism.

    If women are to be priestesses, they obviously will have some form of priesthood–and in this vein, I am not sure why they would be robed in a veil as opposed to a mitre. All other elements of the robes are gender equal. Maybe the early sisters didn’t want creases on their foreheads?

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  53. Moss on December 6, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    Consider This- I was really enjoying your thoughts until you were appalled at women who felt devalued by the endowment ceremony. I wish more men in the church could understand how painful it is to be placed over and over again squarely beneath their husbands. That is what the language says. If they mean something else, why don’t they say something else?

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  54. Mormon Heretic on December 6, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Rigel, I agree with you on your thoughts on polygamy–I don’t believe it is an eternal principle either. However, in the Nauvoo era, the endowment was only offered to those who accepted polygamy (even Emma who hated polygamy.) While I agree with your modern interpretation that “An endowment from God is receiving something Holy to be a sanctifying experience for one who is prepared”, from a historical perspective, I just have a hard time separating the endowment from its polygamist roots. I definitely like your modern interpretation much better. But history is history, whether we like it or not.

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  55. hawkgrrrl on December 6, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    “Maybe the early sisters didn’t want creases on their foreheads?” Epic fail, then, because most of the veils have elastic around them (a bonnet style). I always end up with a creased head after. The elastic is very itchy, too.

    ConsiderThis: Being under covenant to rely on the arm of flesh just doesn’t feel right. Certainly, the sisters should also have a personal relationship with Christ, shouldn’t we? That’s how I read the scriptures. I don’t really believe that if we are led astray by a husband’s errant counsel we are absolved of responsibility. And it’s also troubling that “stupid Adam” who can’t see the importance of gaining knowledge is the one in charge. “Smart Eve” is subordinated to a man who had no vision or guts, just blind obedience. Nobody’s looking too heroic in this film.

    The nature of the endowment, the language used, and yes, even some of the covenants have changed significantly over time. When my parents first went in the 1950s, the endowment was 4 hours long. There are things from the early days like extended anointings and blessings and foot washings that have been removed or altered. If you go back far enough, women weren’t even given the endowment initially. We were an afterthought. Or a subsequent revelation. However you want to look at it.

    “Are you going to claim that God is sexist? Or just that the prophets are a sexist bunch and happy to keep women under their thumb?” First of all, I already said I don’t believe God is sexist. That belief is based on my own personal relationship with heavenly parents.

    When it comes to people, there are many degrees of sexism. You don’t have to want to keep women under your thumb to view women as secondary to men. Likewise, you don’t have to agree with slavery to be racist.

    Putting women on a pedestal or protecting them, romantic paternalism, is a variety of sexism we hear a lot of in General Conference. You can believe they are nobler and special and unique rather than seeing them as equal and understandable. It’s easy to lose empathy for people you see as fundamentally different from you, even if you tell yourself they are better. But there are also those who simply see women in relation to men: as wombs, as a support structure (particularly at home), as sexual partners (or temptresses). Those are forms of sexism also pretty common. People from my parents’ generation are mostly sexist. The whole country was. Watch any old movie, and you will see it. Why would church leaders be immune to the cultures in which they lived? It’s not worth being offended about. My dad is definitely, without question, sexist. But I still love him.

    “How about the fact that the disciples of Christ are, in the imagery of the scriptures, His bride?” If so, why aren’t the men also wearing veils? They are also disciples of Christ.

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  56. Rigel Hawthorne on December 6, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    MH,

    Are you talking endowments in the Red Brick store or in the Nauvoo temple? I have ancestors that were sealed in the Nauvoo temple that were not polygamist. Or do you mean ‘accepted’ it in a manner other than entering into it?

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  57. ConsiderThis on December 7, 2012 at 1:32 AM

    I find many men tone deaf when it comes to the temple. Why can’t the woman hearken to God just as Adam hearken’s to God? If she is to submit to her husband, then she is submissive. No man is asked to submit to his wife. There is an inequality going on here, and it’s akin to the misguided theory of Brown vs Board of Education: “separate but equal”. It is not equal.

    But since when do things between men and women have to be equal? This is liberal post-modern thinking that may have nothing to do with the Gospel. Are cheese and crackers equal? No, but they complement and “perfect” one another wonderfully. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t see that my wife should be subject to me, as I do what I want. On the contrary: I fully understand (though poorly implement) the teaching that I am my wife’s servant – my exaltation largely depends on how well I make her my queen. What I’m saying is that equality is a non-issue, and it certainly is in a righteous partnership. In fact, in such a relationship, each partner exalts the other above him/herself.

    Being under covenant to rely on the arm of flesh just doesn’t feel right.

    Not to me. It’s a conditional covenant, is it not? The woman is only expected to hearken to her husband as he hearkens to the Lord. Otherwise ‘[he] has no promise’.

    Putting women on a pedestal or protecting them, romantic paternalism, is a variety of sexism we hear a lot of in General Conference. You can believe they are nobler and special and unique rather than seeing them as equal and understandable.

    Believe me, not all priesthood holders feel this way. I find the fawning and coddling condescending and nauseating. I wish they wouldn’t do it.

    “How about the fact that the disciples of Christ are, in the imagery of the scriptures, His bride?” If so, why aren’t the men also wearing veils? They are also disciples of Christ.

    That’s taking my reasoning in the wrong direction. What I’m saying is that women play a role in the endowment in the same way that men play another role. But both roles represent elements which are within us all, regardless of gender. The point is that both men and women contain the full potential to become gods. They do so together in perfect partnership, or they do not do it at all.

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  58. Douglas on December 7, 2012 at 2:02 AM

    #51 – shoulda kept your your cents, MH, you can’t spare the change.
    Your recollection of LDS history is so off-base that I couldn’t EVEN start. Suffice it that the policies of the Church do NOT sway in accordance with popular demand, nor the pathetic tomes of would-be debunkers.
    I’ve indicated previously some discomfort with the notion of wives “submitting” to their husbands simply because of the disposition of so many men to exercise unrighteous dominion. There is a reason the Lord revealed the things he did in D&C 121; it didn’t take long for some Priesthood holders to act like complete jerks. I’ve no issue with the patriarchal order itself but see no problem as well with a man seeking the counsel of his wife. In fact, I fail to see how a marriage can be an effective partnership unless a man can rely on the frank opinions of his best friends and eternal companion. This principle is easily pontificated and not so easily practiced!
    Furthermore, I don’t know who you think you are to label Presidents Young and/or Benson as “racist”. The modern refuge of the scoundrel, IMO, is the labeling of someone, especially a dead white guy who can’t speak in his own behalf, with this epithet. At worst, I’d say that that their attitudes were not atypical of men of their respective days, but they don’t owe the likes of you an accounting of them, only our Savior that paid for their sins like ours.

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  59. hawkgrrrl on December 7, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    Consider This – I think we are closer in agreement than you think. Most people who would say that we all have all elements within us are not the same people who focus on partnership and men and women as a complement to each other. As to equality, you are describing equality but not calling it equality. The scriptures do refer to men and women being equal (for all are equal before God, male and female, bond and free). The PoF refers to men and women being equal (fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners). The church is truly fragmented on this topic with some focused on equality and others focused on gender essentialism (complementary roles). It’s not black and white.

    Are men and women inherently different? Biologically, yes. But we all have hopes and dreams, we all should have equal standing in the eyes of God, and we all enter our marital covenants expecting full fidelity and partnership to fulfil our dreams and be supported.

    For women to be put under a covenant to a man only and men to be put under a covenant to God only is a really weird experience. It strikes many women as odd and not consistent with our understanding of our divine potential. But it’s certainly consistent with Brigham Young’s view on plural marriage. The women covenanted with the man (not with God or the other wives), the man covenanted with God (he had to be worthy to have the blessing of many wives), and the women could divorce their husbands somewhat freely if they were unhappy whereas the men were obligated to keep and support their wives as long as their wives wanted to stay.

    Personally, I don’t get too hung up on it because I consider it a cultural relic. Even non-LDS marriage vows fairly recently had wives obeying and husbands not obeying wives. Change comes slowly in the church, as it probably should. But it does have a real impact on real women when it is supposed to be the pinnacle achievement of your spiritual life. Perhaps you can imagine how that might feel if you were in that situation.

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  60. Hedgehog on December 7, 2012 at 2:37 AM

    Came across this the other day:
    http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/391/Voice.pdf
    An different perspective on the Adam-Eve story I thought.

    #59 Hawkgrrrl: “the women could divorce their husbands somewhat freely if they were unhappy whereas the men were obligated to keep and support their wives as long as their wives wanted to stay.”

    The divorce part seems to have become a lot harder than it used to be, judging from some of the comments I’ve read elsewhere by women wanting sealings cancelled.

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  61. Mormon Heretic on December 7, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    Douglas, I’ll go toe-to-toe with you on Mormon history any time. I like your hand-wave off with no specifics. But here’s some food for thought on Benson and Young, if you’re up for a real challenge and want to put your money where your keyboard is.

    ConsiderThis, But since when do things between men and women have to be equal? When they are overtly sexist. Changes could be made to make women more comfortable without diminishing the ceremony at all.

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  62. Mormon Heretic on December 7, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Rigel, in answer to your question, the person had to ‘accept’ polygamy, even if they didn’t enter into it. I’d like to hear more about your ancestors in the Red Brick store–sounds like an interesting anecdote. But most of the earliest endowees were endowed because of their acceptance, if not participation in polygamy.

    Emma vacillated between acceptance of polygamy and revulsion of it. It’s my understanding that after her “acceptance” of it, she was able to participate in the endowment. Subsequently, she was rumored to have pushed Eliza R. Snow down some stairs when she learned Eliza may have been pregnant (Bushman addresses these rumors.)

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  63. Rigel Hawthorne on December 7, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    My ancestors were among the many who had the endowment in the Nauvoo temple prior to leaving Nauvoo. It has been my understanding that as many as could received the endowment at that time, and I had never heard anything about it being limited in some way to acceptance of polygamy. I’m not doubting your description, just trying to reconcile the what I have heard with what you are reporting.

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  64. JLM on January 6, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    The reason for this is based on Mormon cosmology . I grew up LDS and the story we are told about Adam and Eve is very unique . They chose to fall and become mortal to have children who would then go on to be gods after they die. They fell up as it is sometimes put.
    Eve ate first so she is seen as the first to have the priesthood. The vial, the green apron and the garments all represent the priesthoods of the god of this world. In the ritual Lucifer instructs Adam and Eve to put them on. This represents also the Klipoth or husks of the reversed tree of life (Daath) in the Zohar. Women are the klipoths deepest secret. We are covered because our body is the temple in human form.
    Please read the Wikki page on both Mormon cosmology and the klipoth. Then read the endowment ritual posted on line. If your a Freemason or a member of the OTO you will get what I am saying .

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