As a single woman and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sara Vranes says she was led to believe she needed a man as an intermediary in her relationship with God. And that pained her. But at the beginning of 2019, the Salt Lake City resident said that changed because of new language and rituals in the Church that put women on equal footing with men.
Vranes, a Mormon feminist activist who has been outspoken about the need for change, said she witnessed the adaptations to ceremony first-hand on Jan. 2 and they brought her to tears.
“At first, I couldn’t believe my ears,” Vranes said. “What I was hearing and what I was seeing and experiencing. And, you know [I was] feeling shocked, but shocked in a positive way. And relief, I felt relief that oh, things can change, things can get better.
“But then after, I realized these were changes that, they should have happened so long ago.”
She added that she hopes the church will issue an apology to women who have faced discipline in the past because of pushing for such changes.
“So often things have been dependent upon having a husband to go through, and a man to access God. And it all changed. I felt seen and heard by God and I also felt like prayers I offered up over the last 12 years had been heard,” said Vranes.
What those exact changes are remains unclear to those who have not been admitted to the temple — the church has not addressed the changes directly. But on its website the church alluded to the changes in a statement.
“Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.” — LDS Church statement on temple revisions
Yet, social media has erupted with conversation about the revisions, including more inclusive language for gender equality, which recently went on display in temples.
Dr. Benjamin Park, a historian of American religious and political history at Sam Houston University in Huntsville Texas, says by revising some of the practices and rituals that take place in the temple, the LDS Church is taking a huge leap forward.
“These rituals that took place in the temple really reflected this patriarchal context in which they were originally introduced,” Park said. “And as the church evolved over the past century and a half, the rituals didn’t really catch up with how society was. And what these changes did is bring the rituals and contemporary church standards in alignment.”
Park said the church changes more closely match contemporary ideas of gender power and gender relations between men and women.