By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
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Of course, Mother noticed my interest. She was not as concerned as I about my ensemble, because sartorial glitches did not pose an aesthetic problem for templegoing Mormons. A lot of women brought only street-length white dresses to these sessions, and their special temple garments jutted out beneath the hems so that the women looked like Sikhs. But Mom was eager to be sensitive to my mood. "This isn't anything to worry about," she said levelly, rustling away and returning with a dickey for my throat that the temple matrons kept on had for just such occasions.
It wasn't the same shade as my eggshell dress, and its lace bore no relationship to my gown's tulle, but I was going to have to live with it.
"You look like a beautiful Mormon bride," my mother said, and I hoped Monty would agree with that.
@body:As soon as our little bride's room party was ready for the temple ceremony, we all flowed out into the main crowd of worshipers. Glancing around at the other brides, I felt my heart lift as I realized I looked no more eclectic than anyone else. Monty was ahead of me in the throng, surrounded now by all three of my brothers, who were jostling and teasing the groom in a relaxed way that I attributed to the fact that they'd all been to the temple before. At one point, my ordinarily unsmiling brother Len threw his head back and laughed unrestrainedly.
Like everyone else entering the temple service, these four wore white shoes, socks, pants, shirts, and ties. I thought they looked like angels. Across their arms they'd draped articles of ceremonial clothing to wrap around themselves during the upcoming ritual's appropriate moments. The most eccentric of these regulation accessories--a green apron sewn into the shape of a fig leaf--was dangling very low off Monty's arm like a long streamer off the body of a philodendron. That bright leaf bobbing among sets of legs was the last I saw of Monty for a few minutes as he merged with the mob of shimmering templegoers.
We filed quietly into the cavernous Creation Room, where huge and staid murals depicting the creation of the earth loomed above the pews. The paintings were brilliantly colored, and against these frescoes of horizons and meadows and peacefully grazing beasts the chapel full of white-suited worshipers shifted and stirred like a field of daisies. The men took their places on the right side of the chapel, the women on the left. I was seated next to a particularly radiant bride. Her joy was so overpowering that its light nearly triumphed over the sad-sack effects of her temple veil.
The temple ceremony is on videotape now, but at the Mesa Temple in 1972 it was all still done live. Temple workers played God, Jehovah (whom the Mormons believe was born into the world as Jesus), and the archangel Michael (who became Adam), three separate beings who seemed to be in the process of creating the earth together. This first part of the service was a dramatization of the belief in the plurality of gods.
The temple workers were not good actors, and the unreality wasn't aided by the fact that there were no sets or costumes: The performers stood before us woodenly, in front of a curtain, in the simplest of temple clothes. They appeared to be merely reading their lines. Even after the story turned to the tale of Adam and Eve and the serpent, my attention wandered. When instructed to do so, I tied on almost unconsciously my own green apron, a symbol of the fig leaves that had first clothed Adam and Eve. (The ceremonial use of aprons is another similarity between the Mormon and Masonic rituals.)
I came to life only in the moment when God asked Eve and the women in the congregation to promise to obey their husbands in all things so long as their husbands obeyed God. I had known that some heavy pledges would be required of me today, and this one--known as the Law of Obedience--was the first. I made the promise easily. Next came the Law of Sacrifice, where we covenanted to give up all we possessed, "our lives if necessary," in defense of the church.
Now we were getting somewhere.
I kept catching Monty's profile across the room beneath his unlikely hat. I couldn't imagine how I hadn't noticed the hat before. It was made of cloth and was bouffant; it resembled a chef's hat that had been subdued. It attached to his shoulder with a ribbon and a snap, lest it fall and be defiled by the floor. I stared and stared, hating the way he looked in it. I was still brooding about it when I noticed something going on around me that captured my undivided attention.
God had just instructed his onlookers to learn to perform a grip, a special handshake, that he called "The First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood." (There were to be several of these handshakes, and they, too, were strikingly similar to ritualistic Masonic gestures.) Everyone had practiced the handshake with a neighbor. And now Elohim was asking us to make a sign, as though we were slitting our throats "from ear to ear," to signify the penalty for revealing this handshake to anyone on the outside.