Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Forgotten Grief, World Without End

"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; ...

... and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

—D&C 132:19

When I was a young teenager, I realized that because of my impatience and temper I would never make a good mother. Steeped in a culture that rigidly emphasized motherhood as the measure of female worth, tall, gawky, and unattractive, I simply assumed I was not feminine enough to attract a man, nor compliant and sweet enough to mother innocent children. So I decided to focus on work, on the things that I COULD change.

It was in this mindset some years later that I received my Patriarchal Blessing. I won't share the details, but it gave very specific instructions and commandments from God which painted a picture of me as a stay-at-home mom, supporting my husband in his church and public service, raising many children and keeping the doors of my home open to all who needed a safe haven.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Behold Your Little Ones

When I was a young teenager, I sat on the ground at the edge of a large pavilion. It was dark, and I was surrounded by other girls and women. It was Young Women's Camp, and it had been pouring rain for three days.

We had an old, military-issue canvas tent, the type which leaked water if you touched the sides. We were soaked, our food was cold because we could not keep a fire, even under shelter. The wind had blown down some of the tents, and two of the wards had gone home. When the leaders of our ward had asked us, my two best friends and I wanted to stay, and we convinced the two other girls to agree. Which is why, clutching flashlights and huddled together, I was among those who were left under a tent which, for the first time since we had pitched our tents, did not patter with raindrops.

I loved it. The air was scented with Austrian white pine and rain. We had seen enough sunshine to dry out a rainwashed set of clothing. We had carefully started a fire, gathered around the tent, and prayed. One at a time, people got up to bear their testimony of the Savior. One of the younger leaders, a girl who seemed at the time to be so old, had just returned from her mission. There was nothing unique about her testimony except that, as I sat there, I was suddenly overcome with the knowledge that I, too, wanted to serve a mission.

Years of change followed. I decided I wanted to change my life around, clean up my language and my thoughts, be a better person. I went to college and prepared to serve a mission. Many things happened in those years, but eight years later, I opened up my mission papers. Six weeks after that, I stepped off a plane onto German soil.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Power to Change

"For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved." —1 Nephi 6:4

I've been thinking a great deal of conversion, of what it really means to change a life around, purify yourself, and come to the God of sacrifice. Many times in my life, I've had reason to doubt myself, my conviction, and most especially my capacity to be saved.

So often, we think about missionary work, conversion, baptisms in terms of trackable numbers. Goals. I spent most of my mission wearing myself out against this perception of what it means to proclaim the gospel. And I get it. Numbers can be measured, goals can be set, failure or success can be determined. But the older I get, the more I live through, and the more I come to terms with having to live with my own imperfections, the more I realize that numbers can never measure the capacity of a human heart to change. And none of us have a right to decide whether or not a heart can change—not even when that heart is our own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Still Waters

When you don't know me,
my life seems peaceful.
I have a good house,
a good job.
Children who love me.

When you don't know me,
you see the bread I bake,
the quilts I make.

You see my knitting,
cooking, gardening,
hiking, praying,
teaching, hoping,

And you are jealous.

But you don't see
what lies beneath.
The tossing and turning
when I should sleep.

The nightmares that come
in night or day.
You don't see heartache
that never goes away
under the smile I
paint on for you.

You see all the pain
of your life,
and think that mine
must be much better
because I have learned
to smile when I want to cry.
Comfort when I want to be comforted.

You don't see how
my loneliness cannot find
what compassion creates.

How I have learned to hope,
when hope is darkest,
laugh when there is nothing funny
in life.

If you knew me,
you would see
the real things I have

How, when I despair,
I seek someone who needs
a hug.

When I ache,
I find another's wound
to bind.

And, pray for better
when I despair
of ever finding joy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Abomination of Desolation and a Little Fig Tree

Before you try to read into what I'm about to say, and boil my words down to a "HATEZ TEH GAYZ," I'm going to fully admit that my words are about the legal ratification of gay relationships (vis a vis gay marriage) BUT that they are about much, much more than that. Most of you who read this will call me a bigot, insist that my opinions come from hatred, and soon (once you have power to do so) you will probably physically revile and attack me and my family.

So be it. I hope that when the time comes, I will be able to face it with courage and kindness.

For a long time, I have been fairly silent on the subject of gay marriage/civil unions. I probably will be again, once I've posted this. The only chance I had to vote on it so far, I voted to support gay marriage/civil unions. But my opinions have changed since then, and I become more sadly convinced of them as time goes on. My opinions haven't changed because of gay marriage, or gays, or aversion to homosexual attraction. They have changed because I've been taught of a much larger picture of the role of religious beliefs in a public sphere, and it is that larger picture I wish to address.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"The Spirit said...Slay him."

The first truly troubling passage in the Book of Mormon comes when Nephi, the hero of the book so far, is commanded by God to kill someone. Now, I have never killed anyone or any thing larger than a spider, but I have been present at the death of animals. Death, like birth, is a sobering and humbly powerful thing to witness, let alone do.

For several verses, Nephi rationalizes what he's about to do. He creeps into the city towards the house of Laban, pausing only to assure us that he had no idea what was about to happen. As he comes closer to Laban's house, he sees a man fallen down dead drunk. As he comes closer, he sees it is Laban and furthermore that Laban has his "exceedingly fine" sword with a hilt of PURE GOLD and a blade of precious steel (which is nearly as expensive as gold.) He's just laying there in the muck with his ultra-fancy sword strapped to him.

(I've always wondered, where were Laban's friends? Surely he got drunk WITH someone, and wasn't randomly wandering the streets. How did he come to find himself alone this night? Did his friends feel guilty the next morning, when they realized he had been killed?)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Marriage Contract

You might wonder why I, as a woman who was single longer than I was married, and whose life as a divorcee is now longer than as a wife, might come and talk about what marriage should be. As a failure, perhaps I have no right to counsel those of you who have kept your relationships intact.

Since my own marriage (and even before,) I have watched all of you who are married. I have watched for signs that marriage can be what I think it is. I have found a few people who I believe live what God intended. But I have also found plentiful evidence that being married does not necessarily teach one understanding of marriage.

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