One Eternal Nightmare

It was kind of odd that anyone even found her that day. She was alone, in the bed in the handicapped area off the main women’s dressing room at the temple. Her face was pale, and she was sweating, in tears, and sick to her stomach. Her home was some distance away but her stake had a meeting that afternoon. She’d fallen the day before and re-injured her back, causing muscle spasms and making her unable to sit, stand, or walk without pain.

Her new husband had given her a blessing after the accident, telling her the situation was “a test of her faith” to be demonstrated in her decisions about coming to the temple. He brought her to the temple and left her alone while he went on a session; she found her way to the dressing room and then to the bed. To the extent that she was coherent, it seemed that she was to meet him in the hallway so that they could attend the meeting together.

In time, news of this situation found its way to the matron. Someone suggested that in the course of comforting the young woman she invite the couple to visit with a member of the presidency on the way out for some kindly discussion of the situation from another point of view. Ultimately, the matron rejected this course of action, saying that it was a learning experience for the husband in his newly created family unit and “we must respect his priesthood leadership.”

Meanwhile, on a planet nearest the throne of God heavenly Mother sat watching the path below her window. One of her favorite sons, young Elohim, was coming for a visit. His was a newly created dominion, with one of the prettiest planets she’d ever seen. Lately, she’d heard some disturbing news, though, about certain unfortunate events. But, as she’d reasoned to herself several times over the course of the morning, it was a new experience for him and she was obliged to respect his priesthood leadership.


50 Replies to “One Eternal Nightmare”

  1. Well said. And tactly put. There just seem to be certain situations in the Church where, because someone is acting in the name of the Priesthood or claiming divine inspiration, that a conclusioned reached is unassailable. This is bull**** to me. People are wrong all the time, are incorrect about receiveing inspiration or ignorantly misunderstanding the role of priesthood and a few other things too. I can’t say that that Matron was wrong, I wasn’t there, but the idea that she wouldn’t correct a young man potentially vastly out of line just because he gave a priesthood blessing worries me. And in like situations it occassionally makes me mad. It’s like it’s not even possible that God let the guy get it wrong in order to teach him something. Are some people’s faiths so weak that one little demonstration of them misunderstanding the Spirit will send them into a terrible spiral of doubt that leads them right out of the Church? I guess so. We definitely need a way to politely question the “inspiration” that others claim to be getting and we definitely need to collectively grow a thicker skin when a person with the authority to say “you are out of line” lets us know when we goof up. This is definitely one of my pet peeves.

  2. I think you’ve got your names mixed up, though. “Elohim” would be God the Father, the Most High God. “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” would be Christ, the God and lord of Earth. (As my understanding goes, anyway.)

  3. PDE – actually, Mogget got it right.

    I say give women the priesthood. Stop the chauvinistic patriarchal order horse-crap and leverage out the social, familial, and ecclesiastical pressure that so many Mormon women feel due to the “priesthood right” (read: lunacy) of their husbands. If both held this “heavenly right,” one would think they could come to more intelligent conclusions working together as a team. I think the time is approaching when the women of the church finally stand up and start saying “This is bullcrap.”

  4. Sorry, but I’m new to this site. Was the story about the girl in pain at the temple real? I’m just trying to understand the way things work over here. . .
    It seems that someone should have taken her to a doctor. Was that part of the story?
    I had a wonderful discussion with the temple matron last time I was there, so I hope that this kind of incident is isolated.

  5. this post is horrific, and I’m not talking about the story you told. i am truly appalled that anyone would write something like this. unless of course you yourself are perfect in all that you do. i’m appalled. beyond. belief.

  6. How does this story merit the title “One Eternal Nightmare”? Is the implication that this woman will have an eternal nightmare by virtue being married to this man because he gave her a blessing that she should go to the temple despite her injury?

  7. I think Heavenly Mother would be more upset at her daughter’s choice to follow blindly. I mean really, why are we supposed to be upset at the husband’s choice and not the wife’s? She was not helpless in this; it would not be blaming the victim. She suffered yes but as much from her choice not to seek God’s will for herself as from any arrogance on her husband’s part.

    On the other hand, what I see here is husband and wife trying to exercise faith and I don’t see how anyone is truly at fault.

  8. I admit that I think the title is a little much, but I understand the sentiment. When we read of the miracles of the pioneers or the prophets, more often than not, they have tried, faithfully, everything that they can possibly do before they look to God’s miraculous power. By this I mean, they involve God in the whole process, but they only look for his direct intervention when they have exhausted all other options. By pointing this out, I don’t wish to discourage people’s desire to turn to God, but I would think that we should remember that God wishes to encourage us in our own efforts.

    As to the spec regarding Heavenly Mother, I don’t know what the point of that was, but that is okay.

  9. The easiest response is blame: blame the man, blame the woman, blame the matron, etc., etc. I find in this case, as I always do, that ultimately I don’t enjoy the sensations that “blame” produces: furled brow, sour stomach, cynical outlook. Hence, I have given the matter rather more thought than it perhaps deserves. I think that I have moved beyond “blame” to two more neutral and hopefully helpful conclusions:

    1) The language of experimentation is problematic as a paradigm for talking about relationships like marriage. It seems to me that it is impossible to avoid objectifying someone. In this case it was the young lady but nothing makes that situation inevitable. What we should seek is imagery that is as reciprocal and open-ended as possible.

    2) The language of experimentation is inappropriate when no learning has take place. To shrug the matter off as a learning experience once genuine learning has occurred is one way to let the matter go. But to do so in the absence of any evidence of learning is to enable painful repetition. All this does is extend the [lack of] learning process indefinately.

    Alas, my verbal communication skills are not up to the challenge.

  10. I don’t get the Matron’s decision. How is visiting with the Temple Pres not respecting the husband’s priesthood leadership?
    Why do mormons always think we have to be miserable to have a spiritual experience. Dumb.

  11. Why do mormons always think we have to be miserable to have a spiritual experience. Dumb.

    I don’t know why, but I recognize that too. Absolutely ridiculous and erroneous. Since I gave up much of what I considered the trivial and mundane that Mormonism demands, I’ve never been happier. And that’s my testimony.

  12. Heheh, yeah. I’ve seen it too. I’ve also seen another aspect of the same thing, that is, the idea that in order to be serious about God, one must be serious about everything. Losing that outlook was a tremendous step toward a happier life.

  13. What would YOU do if you went to give a blessing and the spirit lead you to utter “a test of her faith”?

    It is amazing to me how many people reach for the mote.

  14. actually, Mogget got it right.

    Can someone explain this claim to me? In Mormon parlance Elohim is usually the name we call God the Father after all…

  15. Lots of motes being sought around here. And I think I’ve also caught a whiff of irony, too.

    There are many instances of ethically unacceptable ideas in what we call ancient revelation so I am unsurprised to find it in the modern versions as well. Good thing he didn’t tell her to sacrifice her son, her only son, the one whom she loves, too.

  16. Geoff,

    I think the last paragraph of the post relies on an eternal regress of Gods, where our God the Father has a MiH who is looking down on him. I’m not 100 percent positive, but maybe David or Mogget will correct me if I am off base.

  17. Good question John. In fact this whole post has me baffled. Is it a true story (minus the bizarre grandmother in heaven sequence of course) or a fictional parable or a fictional account trying to spark an ethics debate or what? I can’t really tell still (despite comment #11).

  18. How does respect for priesthood leadership being identified as the cause of an eternal nightmare promote faith?  How does placing Kolob, heavenly Mother, and Elohim in the context of an eternal nightmare promote faith?

    “The scriptures teach us that whenever we are abusive, thoughtless, or unkind to others,  ‘ the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice’  (3 Ne. 9:2); also … ‘ Amen [or the end] to the priesthood or the authority of that man’  (D&C 121:37).”  (Joe J. Christensen, Ensign, Nov. 1996, pp. 39–40; bracketed comment in the original; emphasis added.)

    I have faith in these three words:

    “God is good.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Oct. 1982, p. 2.)

    In my opinion, this post does not promote such faith.

  19. I’ll leave it to Mogget to defend her choice of title and her choice of parable. I am assuming that the incident in the temple is true because I know Mogget works frequently in the temple and it is the sort of thing that I can imagine happening. Since Mogget said that what we have here is a failure of communication (mostly on her part), I accept the post in the spirit given.

    As to the issue of respect for the priesthood, I don’t think that this is the central issue here. I would think that this is, more clearly, an example of how we sometimes use the priesthood to justify bad ideas. And, sometimes, we are meant to stand up to bad priesthood influences. And sometimes we are not (I’ll leave it to you and the Lord to make the call on that one).

    I don’t know that what these people did was wicked. If the woman felt coerced to going into the temple (which is unclear from the context given), then I would guess that her husband overreached his priesthood. Even the matron decided that this was an opportunity for the husband to learn. That the woman was there demonstrated her faith. As for her husband leaving her…

    Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we use the priesthood or the church in general to justify these mistakes. When we do, this isn’t a problem with the priesthood or the church, but rather with our interpretation of its function. That’s all it is.

    Gary, if you think it causes faith-shattering doubt to note that people (even priesthood holders) can make mistakes, then you really need to reread all that business about our not believing in infallible prophets again.

  20. How does respect for priesthood leadership being identified as the cause of an eternal nightmare promote faith? How does placing Kolob, heavenly Mother, and Elohim in the context of an eternal nightmare promote faith?

    The way I read this post was to in effect point out that if submitting to the priesthood is to be done as recommended in the case of this woman, eternity would be “one eternal nightmare” (playing of course on the notion of “one eternal round”); for this is something we must learn for the eternities.

    While personally the flavor of expression of the original post doesn’t suit my tastes, I get the larger issue.

    Gary, I think we can all agree on the quotes, but it’s a question of “who gets to determine the proper application of it”. In other words, there seems to be very little room to question “authority” without the accusations of being “faithless” and/or “prideful”. In your opinion, how is that to be done? In the scenario above, it could be very plausible that the husband is neither “abusive”, “thoughtless”, or “unkind” from his perspective; and to raise such accusations puts one in the place of being “counter to the priesthood”. Is it not damaging to one’s “faith” to be put in this situation?

  21. Mortals are fallible, heavenly beings are not.  Marriage is meant to be eternal, unpleasant relationships are not.  There is no such thing as an eternal nightmare.

  22. Mortals are fallible, heavenly beings are not. Marriage is meant to be eternal, unpleasant relationships are not. There is no such thing as an eternal nightmare.

    Was this meant to answer my questions?

  23. Geoff J, I think Mogget is taking the Biblical approach to God’s name, which is Yahweh (“Elohim” is a thing, not a name), a fact that “Temple Mormons” might overlook or misunderstand. At least that’s the way I read it. Mogs, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Regardless, this was a good post and I liked it.

  24. smallaxe,

    No, it was just a restatement of what is wrong with this discussion (in my opinion).  But Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote an article that answers your questions better than I could hope to.

    In brief, he outlines five ways to appropriately address differences with priesthood leaders.  I’d be interested in FPR’s response to his article, collectively or individually (click here).

  25. Yeah… that explanation doesn’t really work either David since Mogget referred to “One of her favorite sons, young Elohim”. (Mogget — care to help a brother out here?)

    BTW – Gary is right. There will be no exalted jerks (pretty much by definition) so no one will ever be sealed forever to a jerk.

  26. David J,
    Two weeks ago in general conference, Elder Oaks told of a woman who “persisted in an intolerable marriage for many years until the children were raised.”  He quoted her explanation:  “There were three parties to our marriage—my husband and I and the Lord.  I told myself that if two of us could hang in there, we could hold it together.”
    Living for a time with a jerk who is consistently abusive, thoughtless, or unkind might seem like an eternity, but the jerk won’t be in the celestial kingdom.  And, according to Elder Oaks, if the marriage is beyond hope “it is needful to have a means to end it.”
    Either way, there is no such thing as an eternal nightmare.

  27. I tend to agree with Gary in that I don’t see God consigning most people to being eternally miserable; that said, I am not sure that this is what was intended by the post. However, if you are determined to read the worst into it, please feel free to continue to call us to repentance, you morally superior dude.

    David J,
    I don’t think that I agree with your reading of OT Elohim. Let me think about it some more.

  28. Goodness gracious. Everyone sit back down and let’s have a round of nice, chaste, Mogget-kisses while I see if I can cut through a few things.

    It’s short story fiction; if it once had some basis in a real experience that is now gone. The “people” are characters, this is, constructs, and not real. “Eternal” is used in a less than literal sense. The story is most definitely NOT a parable and Elohim is just a name-title for a God. Somewhere. There is no intent to critically engage LDS thought about multiple Gods. I’m totally okay with everything it says on that subject in the temple recommend interview. You don’t need to control the facticity, the finer points of my theology, or the authorial intent, to engage the story. And I am most definitely not going to explain the relationship between the title and the tale. That’s the reader’s job.

    There are always multiple ways to read a story; as always, most of them are not under the control of the author. I will show you one way to read this one.

    The last paragraph is the key to the former three. There are many and varied links between these two sections but the most prominent one is the near verbatim repetition in the phrase “newly created dominion/family.” This invites the reader to compare the two scenes in terms of family and dominion.

    We know about righteous dominion and we know about unrighteous dominion. But how about that state of affairs that seriously lacks the perfections of the former and yet shows no evidence of the perverse intentions of the latter? The [totally fictional] idea of a world in which wisdom and love are not the governing principles is profoundly disturbing. So also the smaller world of the family, potentially trapped in similar straits.

    No one is evil in this story. No one. Nevertheless, as the story stands the situation is not a happy one. You are not asked to assign blame, but invited to consider an idea. Could the right bit of intervention at the right moment by the right folks might be helpful in making progress? If so, how shall we talk about it?

    And really, it’s no big deal! Now more nice, chaste, Mogget-kisses for everyone and especially for the Head Thang, without whom I would know far less about the really odd parts of LDS thought…

  29. I have to comment on this post…
    A few years ago an elderly family member of mine had a stroke and her left side was paralyzed. Her son gave her a blessing in the hospital, assuring her that she would one day “walk again”. Eventually, she was able to regain some mobility and used a walker to get around. Still, she could only walk short distances (across a room).
    One afternoon, I was visiting her. As she hobbled around with the walker, I could see she was in a great deal of pain. It caused severe cramping in her leg and hip when she walked. But she wouldn’t give up, her son had told her she would walk, so she had to do her part and have faith.
    Several months passed and she made little to no progress. She would walk a few feet and nearly collapse from the pain.
    One afternoon, I came to her house and found her trying to walk without the walker. She was in her kitchen, gripping her counter and struggling to walk to the living room. I tried to help her, but she refused. I called her son (the one that had performed the blessing) and he came over. She was still gripping the counter, refusing help.
    She said to him, “You promised me I would walk and I’m going to do it!”
    He said, “When did I promise that?” I could have slapped him!!
    She said, “When I was in the hospital, you gave me a blessing and you said I would walk.”
    “I did? Well, um, I think being able to use your walker constitutes ‘walking’.”
    “It does? Oh good!” At hearing this, she nearly fell over. Her son carefully carried her to the sofa.
    I will never forget that. It made me mad that her son didn’t even recall promising her that. I knew she took everything said by priesthood holders to heart; he should have thought carefully before making her such promises, “in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

  30. Now more nice, chaste, Mogget-kisses for everyone and especially for the Head Thang, without whom I would know far less about the really odd parts of LDS thought…

    Awwww… I feel like a special boy now!

  31. But Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote an article that answers your questions better than I could hope to.

    In brief, he outlines five ways to appropriately address differences with priesthood leaders. I’d be interested in FPR’s response to his article, collectively or individually (click here).

    To articulate any response other than agreement would seem to violate most of the very methods he outlines. I’m wondering if this isn’t some kind of rhetorical tactic on your part to corner me, or others on this blog, into a category of “faith disturbing” rather than “faith promoting”.

    But without disagreeing I wll point out that his talk does not necessarily address spousal relations where there is no “higher up” to appeal to; which seemed to be where this thread was heading. I do feel however that all to often we assume that there is a clear “right” response to a particular situation, and one of his methods, “agreeing to disagree”, at least admits the possibility that even members can disagree with good reason.

  32. just to clarify (and miss the entire point of the post at the same time 😀 )

    Yehweh is God’s name, so sort of, like David said, is God, so that’s why it isn’t meant to be pronounced (in the Jewish tradition, I don’t know about Christianity)

    Elohim is a conjugation of Elohi (Lord) so it’s a name for God, intended for the use of men (meaning humans), and can be pronounced.

  33. Elohim is a conjugation of Elohi (Lord) so it’s a name for God, intended for the use of men (meaning humans), and can be pronounced.

    No. First, nouns can’t be conjugated, only verbs. A noun can be inflected or declined, but not conjugated. Second, “Elohi” is not a Hebrew word I’ve ever heard of. I would know. Are you thinking of “El”? Third, by my reading of the text, God rarely, if ever, has the name “Elohim.” In Exodus he seems to say that those before Moses didn’t know him by his name, which is Yahweh. They might have called him “El” or “Elohim,” but they didn’t know his name. It’s kind of like using “Christ” when talking about Jesus. Christ is not his name, it’s what he is, and if it is part of his name, we put it there, not him. If anything, his name is something like Yehoshua Bar-Yoseph or something along those lines.

  34. “baruh ata adoni, elhoeinu meleh aholam, she …. (the start of the shabat prayer over wine)” – yep, sorry David, no mention of the infamous ‘Elohi,’ I guess my hebrew’s slipping, and I actually have a question for you;

    you know how in hebrew, the plural form of a word adds ‘im’ to the end of the singular, ex – ‘bgadim’ for ‘clothes’ (plural), is Elohim plural or is it just a conicidence that it has the same ending?

    also, could you please explain the Christ/Jesus/whatever real name he had to me? What is Christ? And what is Jesus? Are they both the same thing? I’m not Christian, so I don’t understand what you mean.

  35. Maybe I’m just slow, but I would have assumed that a story presented this way was factual, not fictional. It seems a little . . . exploitive/manipulative/deceitful to present something this emotionally charged without making clear that it wasn’t an actual event.

    I can’t say that I’ve known well a lot of matrons, but I find the idea that one would discourage people from even *discussing* a difficult situation to be a little off. Certainly, her position is outside the bounds of the counsel always given to married people that they Communicate.

    That said, I think Mogget is making a good point that we wouldn’t be thrilled with the idea of God “practicing” on us but somehow we’re supposed to accept mere mortals “practicing” on us. Of course, it is an interesting conundrum, because we all need to practice on each other. This is an interesting issue, but I wish it had been presented in a different way.

  36. There is no requirement for an author to divulge the facticity of a story and no need for a reader to control this information in order to deal with a narrative. To recognize and deal with the assumptions one makes about such things is part of the reading experience. Note that you were not asked to mobilize and fight off Martians, just to weigh alternatives.

    The story does not suggest that the matron dissuaded the couple from discussing anything with each other. She simply decided, for reasons of her own, against a “kindly discussion” between anyone at the temple and the couple.

    The fourth paragraph, which lifts the story out of its “earthly” frame, does suggest that I think that there is something here that’s bigger than a simple painful trip to the temple. What that might be is definitely up to the reader, though, and there are many possibilities. The comparison of levels of practice is definitely one of them. To me, its advantage is that it opens the story up for everybody to sense a more personal level of discomfort at what the future might hold for the young couple.

  37. To recognize and deal with the assumptions one makes about such things is part of the reading experience.

    Er. . . what was that you were saying about blame?

  38. I suggested that we not engage in apportioning blame among the characters, although that is a legitimate activity if on so desires. To suggest that the reader has some responsibility for his or her assumptions and conclusions is manifestly not part of the same thought.

  39. Mogget, I only recently found this blog, hence such a late comment. No one will probably see it, but maybe you will? That would be nice.
    I like your story very much. And it’s sad that so many people concentrated on the details of the story, its possible factuality, or took it literally.
    Unfortunately, the ability to think abstractly comes with a price. The price is constant bashing by people who think literally. I’ve been there many times.
    As far as I understood your story, it all once again boils down to such issues as questioning authority, the assumption that just because someone has authority, they are entitled to it, and dismissal of any mishaps as “learning experiences”. Hopefully (for me as a reader who flatters herself with the ability to sometimes understand the author’s original intention), that’s what you meant. Good story!

  40. Thanks for your response. I get emails when folks comment on something I’ve posted.

    I think maybe part of the issue here is a distaste for ambiguity as well as abstraction. The story is ambiguous, deliberately so, and that carries its own message. But the idea that revelation, upon which we rely so heavily, is also inherently ambiguous is disturbing as well. We pay lip service to Paul’s comments on “knowing in part” in 1 Cor 13 but we have not really integrated it into our thoughts on revelation and priesthood. We have no way of “gently” telling someone that what they’re perceiving as revelatory guidance is simply not so, or that the interpretation must be treated as tentative in some regard.

    And then there’s whole the issue of just how much our thoughts on revelation, priesthood, and gender create a tremendous potential for abuse. There are many, many, gentlemen who carry the responsibility amazingly well but once again we have no way to deal with the minority who find it challenging. And that’s another disturbing thought…

  41. What is the deal with certain Women constantly demanding that they be given the Priesthood? There’s a divine reason that Women don’t hold the Priesthood and to me, it just comes of as covetousness when somebody (female or male) demands that Women stand up for a right to hold the Priesthood. Just because some men make bad decisions and exercise unrighteous dominion and use their “Priesthood” to do so doesn’t mean that God supports them in that action. In fact, I can’t count how many times the Prophet has said that the Priesthood cannot be used for unrighteousness. Just because some guy thinks he’s all righteous doesn’t mean that he is – and when this happens, women need to have enough faith to ask God for themselves if what their husband is doing is right. Women don’t need to hold the Priesthood like men do. They’ve already been blessed with everything they need to do their part in this world. Besides, every time I hear about a woman having an abortion I don’t say “THIS IS BULLCRAP!!! MEN SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE BABIES BECAUSE THEN I WOULD MAKE A BETTER DECISION THAN THAT LADY!!” Yeah, that’s right I dipped into the “childbirth” subject and I know women are probably gonna remark about the pains of labor vs. the weight of the responsibility of holding the Priesthood. Take that how you want to and say what you want, but “lack of privilege” goes both ways. Just do what you’ve been asked to do before you start trying to do what other people have been asked to do.

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