The Temple Is Closed
I said back at the beginning of June that my visit to the temple for the Los Angeles temple jubilee was likely to be my last. My temple recommend wasn't going to expire until August, but I had no particular desire to go to the temple again, and certainly no longer feel any obligation to.
Well, turns out that prediction was accurate; my temple recommend was supposed to have been good until August, but it seems they're redesigning all the temple recommends--they have bar codes now, I guess so they can be scanned in instead of, or in addition to, being looked over visually. Since I wasn't planning on going to the temple between now and August anyway, it doesn't particularly matter to me that my temple recommend is invalid a little sooner than I thought. It has, however, led to a few awkward moments, when someone suggested the bishop was free and that now would be a good time to get my new recommend, or when someone else asked me if I'd gotten my new recommend yet. (My response, essentially: Don't have time today; gotta go.) I expect the matter will blow over, though, and in a week or two everyone will just assume I've done it--except the bishop, of course, but it remains to be seen whether he will remember that I haven't gotten my new recommend (or check his records to see), and if so whether he'll try to do anything about it. If so...well, maybe my coming clean about my atheism will be forced a little sooner than I'd planned.
(I could, of course, just go through the interview and get the recommend. But, as I've said before, I already feel uncomfortable enough essentially lying by omission by not telling the people at church that I don't believe; getting a new recommend would involve lying directly (to the bishop and a member of the stake presidency during the interviews), and I certainly don't want to do that. If that means admitting to my deconversion--which it may, if they ever ask me directly why I'm not renewing my recommend--well, so be it, I guess. Hasn't happened yet, though.)
Now, one might wonder, of course, why the church would feel the need to redesign the temple recommends. The addition of the bar code suggests that a reason is to heighten security. Which certainly makes sense; the church has always been very protective about what goes on in the temple, and takes pains to try to avoid any details getting out. Not entirely successfully--there are, in fact, transcripts of all the major temple ceremonies available on the web, and I wouldn't be too surprised if the video from the temple endowment ceremony was available somewhere too (though almost certainly not on the web, because the church's legal department would quickly move to have it taken down due to copyright violation)--, but they've certainly made the effort. The standard church response to questions about why the temple ceremonies are such a big secret is that they're not secret, they're sacred--they're so holy that they should not be tainted by speaking about them in unhallowed contexts. But of course "secret" and "sacred" aren't mutually exclusive, and even if church members do consider the temple ceremonies sacred, they're certainly secret as well...so this standard response is really dodging the question.
During the priesthood meeting last Sunday, the question came up of why new converts to the church had to wait a year before they were allowed to enter the temple. The response a church authority had given to this question was that that time was necessary in order for the convert to be prepared for what he will go through in the temple. The temple ceremonies must be experienced with the proper spiritual mindset. I think it's pretty clear that the real reason, though, is to weed out people who would otherwise join the church just to see what happens in the temple, and then disseminate that information. If they've stayed faithful in the church for a year, it's a safe bet they're genuine about their devotion. It's yet another way the church is protecting its "sacreds".
Or, on second thought, maybe that's not entirely the real reason--though I strongly suspect it is a part of it. Maybe there is an aspect of preparation necessary before one can experience the temple ceremony the way the church leaders would like. Because, frankly, considering the temple ceremonies now...I think to someone who hadn't had some level of conditioning or--at the risk of using a perhaps too loaded word--brainwashing before experiencing those temple ceremonies would see them as absolutely ludicrous. By the time a member has been in the church for a year, its supposed absolute truth has been drilled into his head enough he'll be willing to accept what goes on in the temple regardless of its silliness; maybe someone who hadn't been so firmly entrenched in the church yet is much more likely to be sufficiently disturbed or baffled by the temple ceremonies to be driven away entirely. In fact, maybe that's the main reason the church has to keep the temple ceremonies such a secret in the first place--because if they got out to members who hadn't been sufficiently "prepared", or worse yet to potential converts, they'd lose interest in the church.
Ah, well. Regardless of the reasons for it, I'm content not to get the fancy new bar-coded temple recommend. I've seen the secrets of the temple, many times, and I don't need to see them again.