Thursday, September 10, 2015

When the Temple Isn't A Great Experience

Most of the time when people speak of the temple, they speak of strong feelings of peace, or spirituality, or sacredness. It builds an expectation that your temple experience should be some sort of supernatural spiritual transcendence beyond mortal life.

But what if it's not?

Can you even admit that to someone?

Are you a weirdo? 

Is something wrong with you?

Are you just not spiritual enough?

You may not find it discussed in most Sunday School classes or Relief Society, but there is a large population of LDS endowed members who have had bad experiences in the temple. There are people with personal circumstances in their life that make it emotionally painful to go to the temple. There are people who were weirded out by their first experience in the temple and have never gone back. There are people who just don't like it. There are lots of reasons, but the common thread is that the temple isn't always a great experience. 

I know many of these people.

They are good people.

There's nothing wrong with them.

I think if we were more willing to talk about our negative experiences in the temple, maybe we could resolve some of the underlying issues. There shouldn't be a stigma or shame in saying you simply didn't find or don't currently find the temple to be enjoyable. 

I wish I could tell you something magical to make it all better. But I'm not going to. Instead, I choose to validate how you feel and offer some suggestions you are free to take or ignore.

If your underlying issues stem from ceremonial issues, maybe a way to confront the issue is to discuss your concerns with knowledgeable people who can help share insight and historical context to the ceremony. It may or may not resolve your concerns. And that's okay! It doesn't make you a bad person or make you less worthy of God's love. There is some really interesting information out there about temples throughout history. I went to a presentation once about the history of women and veils. It was eye opening and fascinating. You never know, someone may offer some insight that will change how you see things. 

If your underlying issues stem from personal circumstances and emotional pain, I highly recommend finding a temporary alternative. Where can you find peace and feel God's love? The mountains? The beach? A quiet park? A bubble bath? Set aside a regular time to go there and contemplate your relationship with God. The temple can bring up painful feelings for those experiencing marital problems, a faith crisis, loneliness, or a myriad of other difficult personal situations. I can't tell someone to go to the temple knowing full well it will make them feel pain. That's not the intention of the temple. Don't go just to go and make yourself feel worse. Do something else to help you feel God's love. Work on it. Go back when you feel you might be ready.  

Perhaps you go out of duty and simply don't always have any special feeling or experience. That's okay too. Sometimes we just make something a habit and it just becomes an every day part of life. Having the temple be a habit isn't a bad thing. 

You may have thought the temple was disappointing. There aren't any mind blowing secrets there.  You don't go and rub shoulders with angels or have your mind opened up to visions all the time. That's not what the temple is for. 

I don't have all the answers to make the temple a better experience. That's not really the point of this article. If you take anything from having read this, simply remember that it isn't always a great experience for everyone and that's okay. If you haven't had a great experience, you are not alone. God still loves you. It's even okay to talk about it. If someone reacts poorly and doesn't think it's okay to talk about....well, they are the ones with the real problem. 

Your feelings may never change. God's love for you will never change. The latter statement is what matters most. 


  1. I've only had one experience so far when one sister scathingly whispered .. you need wear socks with your slippers. I was shocked and a little hurtat first , but I told her I honestly didn't know and brushed it off . Another time I asked if I knew the answerr to my questions on the temple packet contents and was told I had to talk to the temple president but that they were unavailable. sighs ... so many questions so little answers before and after my endowment very frustrating. A good deal of friends I know have had divorces or hard familial pasts like my own , so I appreciate people not saying "don't worry you can have your eternal forever family even if your growing up sucked"...thanks ... thanks alot(sarcasm). Thank you for pointing that out. Going to the temple doesnt magically cure depression either. Thank heavens the brethren have talked about that more recently with tender kindness instead of the gospel to be this magical Bandaid to kiss our problems goodbye.

    1. So sorry for your less than positive experience with the issue about the socks. As a former relief society president, I know that your relief society president is there to answer all your questions about what goes inside the temple packet, and what you need as far as your temple clothing. She will not be able to discuss the symbolism of those things outside of the temple, but she will certainly help you with making sure you have everything you need. Blessings to you!

  2. If you have questions about any of the ordinances in the temple, next time you enter the temple, ask to speak to a member of the presidency about your questions. At the recommend desk, they should be able to help you contact the presidency member on duty. You may have to wait a bit, but they should never be "unavailable".

  3. I have long had a problem with going to the temple. My temple recommend is completely valid. I answered all the questions correctly and honestly. But the endowment experience leaves me cold.

    Having recently re-read Elder Holland's talk, I Believe, Help Thou mine Unbelief," I think I've come to accept that even if I struggle with some things in the Church, in my heart, I know it's true. I have had somce very special experiences in the Temple, experiences which have told me that, even if I don't much like the endowment, it's nevertheless true and that this struggle is simply an opportunity for me to "hang onto what I know is true." So, I dont attend very often, but I do go, and I do have a valid, temple recommend.(All questions answered honestly.)

  4. As the endowment videos have become more "theatrical" with dramatic usage of lighting and sound, it can sometimes trigger my anxiety attacks.