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News » Deep End

Sacred Shield

The Temple gets a Zion Curtain



When crack spokeselder Mike Otterson confided to The Salt Lake Tribune a couple of weeks ago (“Left Outside the Temple,” June 15) that excluding unworthy family members from temple weddings was a “sensitive and difficult issue, with many complexities, not all of which are always apparent,” he wasn’t even close to conveying what a huge headache the “issue” is for the General Authorities of the Mormon church.

I speak from long experience with the issue of excluding unworthy family members from temple weddings. As the official Good Will Ambassador for the General Authorities, I have spent years working with many of the apostles trying to figure out some way to accommodate not just unworthy family members, but also unworthy friends, neighbors, distant relatives and assorted acquaintances.

You might think that the very first question that had to be addressed vis-a-vis the issue of unworthiness is the whole matter of ascertaining just exactly what it means to be “worthy.” Fortunately, this is not something the General Authorities have to strain their faculties—mental, moral and physical—about.

One is worthy by virtue of possessing a temple recommend, which has nothing to do with virtue, righteousness, kindness, Christian charity or any of those other bothersome qualities that are generally irrelevant to the practice of most religions. No, what makes a Mormon “worthy” is successfully passing the interview with the ward bishop, who asks you if you pay your tithing, obey the Word of Wisdom and sustain the General Authorities.

Honesty, as such, hardly enters into it. As long as you can look the bishop in the eye (or even gaze beneficently at his family photos carefully arranged on his desk) and assert your obedience, well then, you’re in like Flynn, temple-wise.

But let’s get back to the sensitive and difficult complexities surrounding the issue of letting unworthy family members sneak a peek at the sanctum sanctorum during the wedding ceremony of some worthier family member. Over the years, there have been several prayerful proposals for accommodating the unworthy, without, at the same time, of course, allowing them to contaminate the premises with their unworthiness.

I remember the suggestion of one worthy apostle, whose name I have forgotten and who has long since become a god on some far planet. I remember, I say, his rather ingenious solution to the sensitive, and let us be frank—sacred, issue. Why not just blindfold the unworthy, Brother So-and-So suggested. And if you were worried about someone removing the blindfold, why, all you needed to do was tie his or her hands discreetly behind his or her back. This ingenious solution was given a trial run in the Manti temple but was abandoned when someone’s uncle became disoriented and drowned in the baptismal font.

But now there is hope in the ranks, yea even unto jubilation, that a solution to the issue is at hand. You may have been reading about the efforts of Brother Waddoups, he of the long and sleepy countenance, to shield the innocent from alcohol imbibers in local eateries. The so-called Zion Curtain—whether frosted Plexiglas, brightly painted wallboard or some other impermeable membrane or substance—is now required in food establishments serving liquor.

Just after the latest article appeared sometime in early June, one of the most venerable of the Twelve Apostles burst into my cubicle in the Church Office Building.

“The solution to this sensitive and difficult issue, with all its many complexities, is now exceedingly apparent!” said the apostle, who was obviously feeling glad all over. “Instead of a Zion Curtain, we will install in every temple a Plexiglas shield! It works for boisterous hockey fans, and our temple ceremony is every bit as much a spectator sport as hockey! The unworthy will be present, but they won’t be offended by our sacred hocus pocus!

“And the temple translucent shields will, of course, be soundproof, so no one will steal our secret formulas. What do you think? Shall we run it up the flagpole?”

“I like the idea, I really do,” I said. “But I think we can’t be totally transparent. Perhaps the Plexiglas shield should be translucent, or even opaque. That way, the spectators would be seeing through a glass somewhat darkly and wouldn’t be offended by the complexities—and you know what I mean—of our most sacred ritual.”

I’m happy to report that my suggestion was sustained by all the General Authorities, and blindfolded construction workers are, as we speak, installing frosted Plexiglas in temples all over the world.

D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.