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The Patriarchal Grip of Mormon Marriage

Mormons are at it again. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is aggressively mobilizing their members to outlaw gay marriage in California. They are pouring millions of dollars into Proposition 8 to “protect the sanctity of marriage.” 


Really? This again? How ironic for a church that still marries multiple women to men in heaven. And since they are so determined to condemn our relationships, I think turnabout is only fair play. It’s time to call out the Mormon temple marriage for what it really is: the ritualistic humiliation of women. It is a ceremony we queers would never want to emulate.

Having been born LDS (and believe me, that was definitely not a choice), I was indoctrinated my entire life to be morally “worthy” so I could enter the temple. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I received my first temple initiation at age 19. It’s taken me years to figure it out.

For those of you who don’t know, Mormons believe that their family can only be together in heaven through temple rituals. That’s how my parents and siblings were all married. Church founder Joseph Smith was given the “Keys of Elijah” to seal wives to husbands back in 1836 in the first LDS temple in Kirkland, Ohio. Yes, the actual angel Elijah from the Old Testament literally appeared to Joseph and gave him the power to marry people for all eternity. Replicating Old Testament patriarchs, Joseph sealed over forty women to himself and called it “celestial marriage.” Smooth, Joe.

In 1842, Smith was initiated into the fraternal order of Masons in Nauvoo, Illinois. He received further revelations that the Masonic rituals were really an apostate version of the true endowment that Jehovah gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden (located in neighboring Missouri). Joseph adapted the Masonic rituals into his own ceremony. After his murder in Carthage, Illinois, Brigham Young led the Saints west to Utah, where he formalized the temple rites and made them available to all worthy Saints.

And though there have been modifications over the years, the key elements of the ceremony remain. Initiates re-enact the myth of Adam and Eve. They are cast out of Paradise. They are taught by angels who reveal a series of secret handshakes that allow them to progress back into the presence of god. The temple is also where newlyweds are sealed together for “time and all eternity.”

Mormons believe the only path to exaltation is through marriage. As a woman prepares to enter “the Celestial Room” (which symbolically represents the Celestial Kingdom, the highest level heaven), she approaches a veil where “god” sticks his hand through and tests her knowledge of the secret handshakes. If she passes, she is pulled through the veil and into the celestial heavens. But here’s the thing: When a woman marries, it’s actually her husband who goes behind the veil. He plays the role of god by placing his hand through to test his wife. As “god,” he effectively controls his wife’s access to heaven. When my mother and sister went through the temple they raised their hands to the square and covenanted to “obey the law of your husband.” They bowed their heads and said, “yes.” Over the marriage altar, the husband grabs his wife’s forearm in what is called the “the patriarchal grip.” The same “grip” is used when the husband/god pulls his wife through the veil. All first time initiates are given a “new name.” Mine was Elijah. Men are forbidden to reveal their new name to their wives. The wife, however, must surrender her name to her god/husband at the veil. This is how he will call her forth on the “first morning of the resurrection” to take her into heaven.

Temple marriage is a symbolic humiliation of both men and women. It falsely inflates the male ego to supposed godhood while women remain subservient helpmeets. Queers should be eternally grateful to be cast out of the Mormon cult of infinite marriage. Being gay saved our souls.

Mormons can keep their creepy rituals for themselves. We’re not interested!

The church is in no position of moral superiority to dictate what is “sacred.” Their pro-family rhetoric should be laughed out of the public sphere. What Mormons call “traditional marriage” I call patriarchal submission. The temple ceremony is an insult to all women. I know many LDS wives will disagree and argue passionately that they feel liberated in their temple marriages. But underneath their testimony and tears, they each know they have been ritualistically humiliated in their wedding ceremony. They made their husbands their god. On some deep psychological level, this shadows every aspect of their relationship. No wonder Mormon women abuse their Prozac.

And further, Mormons worship a violent sociopath named Jehovah. He values obedience and patriarchal compliance above all. And did I mention that Jehovah is also racist? When it was fashionable, the apostles of this false god also denounced interracial marriage. Up through the 60s the Church frequently declared that it was contrary to revealed doctrine for the seed of Cain to mix with the seed of the white race. How times change. Oh, Jehovah—kiss my ass.

Queer relationships are radical. We disrupt the old rules and enrage the old gods. As we should. We must never allow fundamentalists to shame us. We must never allow them to take away our civil liberties. We must categorically reject their lies about our lifestyle. They are projecting their own deviant perversions onto us. I've had enough of Mormons who scapegoat gays and blame us for the corruption of society. If heterosexual marriages are collapsing, then blame heterosexuals! Don't lay your relationship failures at our feet.

It's time for us all to get loud. Come out to your friends and family. Get involved politically. Stand up and demand equality. Never allow religious cults to strip away your dignity. Claim your right to freely love who you desire. NO ON 8!

Troy blogs at queergnosis.com. He excommunicated the entire LDS Church in 1999.

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