I have been thinking about writing this post ever since I posted my “Getting Adam to Partake” essay several months ago. I realized after I wrote it that there is a lot of confusion and misconceptions about the practice and tradition of women wearing veils.
The practice of women wearing veils is found repeatedly throughout the scriptures, and for a good portion of human history it has been common for women (and sometimes men) to veil their heads and faces. Today, in many religions around the world (not just Islam) women still cover their heads and their faces when they are in the presence of people not of their family and/or during religious ceremonies and practices. It is a tradition seeped in powerful religious symbolism and one which Satan has done a good job of misconstruing.
Today many people see a veil as an indicator that what ever is being veiled needs to be protected from outside influences because it is weak, unimportant, or should be controlled. For example there are people in the world who argue that women need to be veiled in order to protect them from men and their lusts. Or in a similar vein, there are people who see veils as a way to keep something secret, hidden, and untouched. Yet the truth is that such interpretations of veils are exactly opposite from what they really symbolize.
The reason you veil something is because it is powerful and the veil is to protect those outside of it from the power beneath it.
Let me give several scriptural examples to illustrate what I mean.
First, in Exodus 26 the Lord gave Moses instructions about how to build the tabernacle. Moses was instructed that a veil should be hung around the Holy of Holies, in order to separate it from the rest of the tabernacle. Later in Leviticus 16: 2, 15 we learn that the Holy of Holies possessed sacred power and that anyone who entered into it without the proper authority, or without an atoning sacrifice, would die. The veil was to protect those outside from the power within.
Second, in Exodus 34:33-34 we read how when Moses came down from the mount, after speaking face to face with God, his face shone so brightly that the children of Israel were afraid to be in his presence. He had to veil his face while he was talking to them because they couldn't look upon him. Yet Moses didn't veil when he talked to God, only when he spoke in front of the congregation. Verse 34 says,
“But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.”2 Corinthians 3:13 also explains that one of the reasons Moses veiled his face in front of the children of Israel, but not before God, was because Israel was not yet ready for the power and knowledge that Moses possessed. But that when Israel “… shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away… But we all, with open faces beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3: 16, 18)
“And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.” (emphasis added)The veil which we often think as being "over the earth” is actually over God. God is the one being veiled because the earth is not yet ready for the knowledge and power He possesses. In fact, God warns that in the day when He does reveal himself to the earth that,
“…every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed; And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth.” (24-25)God keeps himself veiled because if we were to see Him, in our fallen and sinful state, we would not be able to withstand His presence, we would burn-- physically and spiritually. His power and glory are that great.
Understanding these scriptures can also help us better understand the concept of modesty and why, both men and women, clothe their bodies. Clothing, in any form, is a type of veil. Joseph Smith once taught,
“All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 211.)Our bodies are powerful and when we clothe them or veil them we are acknowledging and respecting that power. Satan doesn’t have a body, nor the power that comes with one, and so he tries to coerce us into misusing our bodies to do his work. The one and only way he can gain power over us is if those with bodies give it to him.
Most of the religious women I know who veil do it because they understand this principle in one degree or another. In my “Getting Adam to Partake” post I said,
“…my Muslim friends understood something that, at that time in my life, I was only beginning to comprehend. They knew that because they were women they had real POWER housed within their souls. They knew that they had the power to love men and to attract them to them-- hopefully for life. They knew that within their bodies lay the ability to bestow life and that how they chose to use that power would affect future generations. They fully comprehended the importance and divinity of that power and as a result they protected it and refused to misuse it.”For every righteous thing Satan always comes up with a counterfeit and veils are no exception. Satan and the world have turned veils into symbols of oppression and ignorance. He wants us to think that the power of wickedness and darkness are what is powerful and that we need to veil things to keep them protected and pure, but that mentality ascribes way more power to Satan and the world than they actually have.
The real power lies in us, the children of God, who have been endowed with a physical body that possesses a portion of God's unfathomable power. The veil, whether worn around our heads or around our bodies, is a constant reminder to the followers of darkness that what lies beneath is powerful... really powerful... and that they will never be able to have it.
As long as we don't give our power away.
I was recently reading the list of symbols in "The Lost Language of Symbolsim" by Alonzo Gaskill and was really struck by what the ancient symbol of a veil represented. It said:
"Veils : Three significant symbolic connotations of a veiled face are chastity, virtue, and modesty; submission, obedience, or commitment; and divinely recognized authority or power possessed by the veiled person."
This symbolism would have been much more understood anciently than it is today, when veils have lost much of their real meaning. It makes me sad that so many brides today are omitting (or refusing to wear) a veil, because is really an incredible symbol of female power and authority. It has just been so corrupted that the real meaning has been lost, and with it women's understanding of who they really are and their innate power.