Monday, December 31, 2007

Ode to My Baby's Daddy

When you find yourself living a life that is not what you hoped it would be, it can be difficult to find blessings. One blessing for me, however, is glaringly obvious—my husband. Although many husbands mow the lawn, fix cars and plumbing, and make certain they are up-to-date on all newly released movies, my husband is so much more.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Glory of Self-Censorship

Another thought sparking across my mind lately is the topic of censorship. Censorship is a bad word, right? I have seen a friend of mine (if I'm allowed to use the word, BiV?) talk about beginning to censor herself only to get jumped on by a few people. "What?! You can't censor yourself! What a travesty! What a disaster!!!" I'd like to disagree. Self-censorship is a sign of maturity and well-developed self-awareness.

Now, I'm not advocating censoring something merely because it is controversial. The ability to censor oneself and to think before one speaks (or writes), however, is vital. Mind-vomit, whether oral or written, can cause irreparable damage. Internet mind vomit, for the best example, can easily become immortalized. Your bad day might translate into quotations spread across the internet and used in ways you couldn't possibly have imagined, sometimes to attack the things you hold most dear. Before we invent mental gunpowder, I believe we ought to at least examine the possibility that it might be used for more than just pretty fireworks.

With the advent of the internet, suddenly people with no qualifications necessary are streaming information out into public space. Some of this information is better than other information. Often opinions are spread as facts - the more controversial they are, the faster they spread. The drive to titillate, to be recognized in the wider world, often supersedes our better sense. It is vital that we literary laymen think before we write.

Venting has its place, but that place is not the internet. Not unless you want your periodic venting to illustrate others' perceptions of you until the end of time. As members of the Church we have a particular responsibility to represent the Lord "at all times and in all things, and in all places" of our lives. We have promised God that we would do so by our baptism. Those times, things and places include the internet. If we use the internet - the most public forum conceivable - to spew forth every petty criticism our minds can think up, we not only endanger our own testimonies, we are also responsible for all who read those words. Once it's out there, you can never erase it.

No, you shouldn't hide the questions and the problems you have. But, rather than criticizing and complaining, demonstrate how to work through these problems with faith, patience and humility. Show them how a disciple of the Lord behaves. We all have our own Lights of Faith to shine out into the darkness. Don't replace the pure light of faith with the neon sign of controversy. Don't cover your light with the basket of discontent. You'll find if you cover it long enough, it will go out.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Plague of Agendas

I'm a little concerned by some things I've read lately. Namely, that my daughter's future Young Women leaders might be pushing a feminist agenda. I'd be just as concerned were it a Republican agenda, or any agenda. The fact is, I don't like agendas. When you focus on one issue to the point of it interfering in supposedly unrelated areas of your life, and you are insisting that everyone else copy your behavior, that is the basis for cult-like behavior. I appreciate the irony that some people feel this can apply to the LDS Church and, to an extent, I agree with them. If you are unable to be friends with anyone but Mormons, for example, there is a problem. If you are unable to teach history without spouting your anti-religion babble, there is a problem. If you are unable to teach Young Women's without diverting from the gospel to push your feminist ideals, there is a problem.

Is nowhere safe?

What will I do if I find my daughter isn't being taught the gospel in Church?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lacunae, Part 2b - The Spirit, Charity and the Law

Okay, I know it's been a long time coming, but here it is. For this second part, I'd like to preface it with an admonition. When examining the difference between the spirit and the letter of the law in others (the most readily available research source) do not judge their hearts, always look at them in the most charitable light. By this I mean that in seeking to become like God, never forget that you cannot be like Him without love for His children. That is His single, greatest attribute. All else radiates from this quality. This is not the Relief Society "I love you sisters" sort of love. This is a bittersweet, lay-down-your-life but be-willing-to-live-your-life-for-them sort of love. Christ didn't just die for us, He lived for us. That is what the Gospel holds at its core. When you feel His love, even in the smallest part, the tenets of the Gospel suddenly fall into place. It is important to understand that in a discussion like this, because it is far too easy to begin examining others and categorizing them. (Often people do this by labeling the "Liahonas" and the "Iron Rodders".) This only serves to divide, when I hope to bring points of doctrine together.

When trying to discover how to more fully follow the will of the Lord, it quickly becomes obvious that the law leads to the spirit which leads to the law. There is no one place to start. When you read scriptures such as Galatians 3, it begins to seem that there is no need for law if one is faithful enough. According to Paul, the law is a temporary measure when one is in a state of sin, a taskmaster to teach those who do not have the Spirit how to behave. When reading this, however, it is important to remember that Paul is talking to a group of people affected by the Pharisaical Mosaic Law. The Pharisees took the laws of God and turned them into a god of their own merits - a god that could be interpreted and manipulated at their pleasure. They did not understand that when Christ came, He fulfilled the law and gave the law of the Spirit. He did not change the law, he fulfilled it. There was nothing in the law of the Spirit that contradicted God's principles behind the law of Moses. The spirit of the law does not supersede the letter. You cannot live the spirit of the law while breaking the letter of it. Even Nephi killing Laban was within the bounds of the law under which he lived.

Although one cannot live the Spirit without living the letter, it is obvious how easily one can begin redefining the letter of the law to suit one's own purposes. Simply watch any time a conference speaker says something controversial. In the world of LDS blogs, for example, the pattern of outrage, reasoning and rejection will quickly emerge. It is so easy to define the words of the prophets by one's own understanding, yet we have been taught not to lean unto our own understanding. Yet, learning is not evil. As we discussed before, it is necessary to know the Gospel in order to live it. So, how do we live the Spirit of the law AND the letter without falling into our own trap? How do we approach from the side of law without losing grasp of the spiritual goal? The answer is "easy": we become learned, but listen to the councils of God. To do that, we must be humble. To be humble, we must not only know the gospel, we must understand it. To understand it, we must reach a deeper rapport with the Spirit than simple yes-no answers. We must realize that we have the same access to complete Spiritual revelation as the prophets. We must come to the place between humility and the vision of glory. We must fill the gap between the Law and the Spirit with patience and humility. We must remember that our lack of understanding pales in the light of the love of Christ - an attribute that can only be felt through the Spirit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Because I Like BiV

And no other reason.

Rules--
1. Answer the three missionary questions
2. Do the missionary activity and return and report.
3. Tag 5 of your friends.

Here are the questions:
1. Did you serve a mission, and where?
2. What was your best missionary experience?
3. Who is the most missionary-oriented leader you have ever had?

Missionary Activity:
Ask a random stranger if they have ever heard about the Mormon Church, and if they would like to know more (Golden Question)


1. Yes, I served a mission in the Germany-Munich-Austria Mission.

2. I had tons of great missionary experiences and tons of distressing ones. The one that always sticks in my mind is a little odd, for a missionary experience. We were tracting in an apartment building in the near-freezing cold. As often happened, an old lady was watching us from her window. When we got to her door, she told us not to bother and launched into the usual diatribe about "die Mormonen". I joked around with her a bit - something she absolutely loved, it was probably the most entertainment she'd had in weeks. We continued ringing doorbells despite her taunts. Another old lady stuck her head out the window and seemed a bit interested in talking with us, but it was nearly impossible with the first lady jeering. We moved on, finished out the apartments and walked back to the street. Lo and behold, the second lady was standing at the end of the street. We spoke with her. We spoke of faith and the life after this one. We listened to her bear testimony of her beliefs of the afterlife, which mirrored our own. She testified that it was not what her church taught, but that she knew it to be true. She mentioned that her husband had recently passed away.

It was the most beautiful moment in my mission.

3. I really couldn't tell you that one. My mission presidents, I suppose.


As for the activity and subsequent tagging, I'm going to have to respectfully decline. I don't believe in either.

Lacunae, Part 2a - The Spirit, Charity and the Law

Finally, I have found my next doctrinal lacuna to discuss. I often hear people use the term "the spirit of the law" versus "the letter of the law" to explain a less-than-literal treatment of the Lord's commandments. In this second installment of my attempts to discuss doctrine, I wish to discuss the terms and their basic meaning. This first part will be rather short, as I have a Thanksgiving dinner to cook and a living room to clean.

It is interesting to find where the term "spirit of the law" came into play. Though nonexistent in the Old Testament, you'll find the concept emphasized in the New Testament in scriptures such as Galatians and Romans. At that time, the early apostles had an uphill battle to combat the Pharisaical enforcement of Mosaic law. The term is used often in latter-day revelations as well. The most interesting aspect of this discussion is how often the "spirit of the law" is cited as a reason to disobey the "letter" in application, though there is little to no scriptural justification for that.

After the holidays, I'll delve into this more deeply to illustrate the tension between following the Spirit and following the word of the Lord.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Of Autumn

I posted this at T&S, so I thought I'd post it here, too, so I don't lose it.

Cold kisses
thy
flaming arms,
silhouetting
the sky
with the iced pleas
of Lethe’s forgotten.

Soon shalt thou
shed
thy glory.
Crimson litter
to grace
the earth below
with thy faded life.

A final
blaze
before sleep.
A gift of life
laid down
only to be
taken up again.

Beneath my
feet
thy ending
whispers to me
of hope,
and speaks to me
of beginnings.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Confessions of a Half-feminist

Due to my recent vacation and return, I had the pleasure of experiencing two of the "The Women of the Church" lesson, one in Connecticut and one in my home ward in Utah. I found an interesting phenomenon that proves 1) that different environments affect one object differently and 2) I am multiple personality. Allow me to illustrate.

The Connecticut lesson was taught in a relatively small room in a relatively small and brand-new ward building. The attendant Relief Society was diminished in numbers from their usual women. The president had us pull our chairs around into a circle. I felt as comfortable as I could feel chasing a toddler among strangers. Many of the attendant women were single, widowed or divorced. The president taught the lesson gently and beautifully, quoting from the book where applicable. The Spirit was the strongest I have felt at Church in a long time. Several women testified to the beauty of women's God-appointed role. I felt moved to bear testimony of the divinity of women, the divinity of servitude and the Divinity of women's calling to serve and to seem to take a second-place role. It was amazing, despite the toddler (who, blessedly, fell asleep.)

***One week later***

The Utah lesson was taught in a recently-expanded Relief Society room in a fairly large, though somewhat aged Church building. The room was packed with about 80 or 90 women. We sat in the usual rowed seats. I felt as comfortable as I could feel chasing a toddler among somewhat-disapproving mostly-strangers. Many of the attendant women were single, widowed or divorced. The teacher stood in front of the class and read from the lesson manual with a modicum of discussion. There was an uneasy feeling in the room. Several women testified to the appropriateness of women's role. Feeling an increasing unease, I felt moved to testify to the need to teach our sons the same lessons about preparation for marriage and responsibility that our daughters get. I mentioned that the Priesthood rarely get prepared, spiritual lessons (based on reports from my husband and brother.) I mentioned that boys are not taught to prepare themselves to be good husbands and fathers the way girls are taught to be good wives and mothers. I testified that, in the words of the manual, "Every [boy], and I say every [boy], should prepare [him]self for marriage and for domestic responsibilities." I am certain I offended at least two women who took their turns to emphasize that their husbands got the same lessons they got in Relief Society. Despite believing that, as in Connecticut, I was moved by the Spirit to say what I did, I left with a feeling of embarrassment and frustration.

The same lesson. The same me. The same toddler. Two vastly different experiences.

It is funny, because I know I'm labeled by the largest portion of LDS bloggers who have registered my existence as a very conservative person. Sometimes this frustrates me, too, because no one online has any idea of the things I have gone through in relation to the Church and the behavior of her people towards me. No one has any understanding of the years of soul-searching and divinely-oriented pleading I have willingly traveled through to finally reach my current level of faith and acceptance. Only my Father and I know that. For years I have longed to speak personally with someone who knows, despite knowing I will never have that chance. What I wouldn't give for a half hour with one of the Apostles, certain of the Seventy or the First Presidency. What I wouldn't give to speak with them. I wouldn't ask them questions, exactly. I'd only want to hear from a friend of Christ that I'm doing alright and I'd want to hear them speak of Him - as a friend. To testify of Him. Not in a General Conference sort of way, but in a way that is real.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Final Parting?

I have long thought that reading different LDS blogs was a good idea. It has given me perspective, helped me formulate my feelings on topics I'd otherwise not have thought much about, and has helped me find people I could consider true friends. But after watching Conference, I wonder. In addition to the never-before-dealt-with distraction of a toddler, I found myself thinking "Hm, wonder what they'll say about that," and "Oh, they'll not like that one bit," and "I'll bet that comes up in a blog post." These thoughts severely interfered with my ability to listen for the Lord's voice speaking to me. I have always loved Conference. It is the closest I consistently get to hearing people who know speak on the Lord's behalf. I'm a little saddened that this Conference feels wasted to me.

Though I still strongly enjoy writing, is it possible that I'm growing towards a final parting from the realm of LDS blogs? Is it more of a detriment than a help at this point to read others' struggles? Is there any purpose to my continuing?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lacunae, Part 1c - Faith & Knowledge

I know it's taken me some time to get around to this post. Truth be told, I'm rather intimidated by it. I feel that either I'm saying things that are blatantly obvious to so many, or I'm unable to articulate my feelings or thoughts coherently. Please bear with me, my thoughts are still works in progress.

So how does knowledge and faith truly work? As is made obvious in Alma 32, faith and knowledge are not, as so many suppose, opposites of a continuum. Rather, they are part of the same process. First, though knowledge is vital to our eternal salvation, it is a simple fact that no one will obtain all knowledge while in this life. Therefore, though faith may be dormant in one thing or another, we will never lose our need for it.

Therefore, I'd like to establish that there is never a need to stop exercising faith while we are alive because we will never completely understand everything. Previously, I said that the search for knowledge (both Facts and Truth) is vital to our lives on this earth. Why is that, if we can never gain real, ultimate knowledge? Perhaps the secret lies in understanding our situation here. We are not here to make ourselves perfect. We are here to enjoy the journey. We are here to travel through life and to see if we are willing to submit to the Lord in all things, whether good or painful. In short, we are here to exercise faith, to trust that God will never betray us or do anything that does not ultimately benefit us. To trust God to the point that we are willing to move without complete knowledge, because faith is not a couch potato attribute. You cannot sit and be faithful, you have to exercise it. Faith requires action. Therefore, we turn our faith towards serving God. We serve him by becoming like Him. We are told to learn - to seek knowledge - but only without losing our humility and dependence on God. We are told to let the Holy Ghost guide us to the things we should learn. We are told to learn by studying all we can get our hands on and by faith. The biggest mistake we make is to let pride in our knowledge supersede our need for faith. We allow ourselves to believe that knowledge trumps the need for faith, when in reality our knowledge is dependent upon our faith.

Without faith, we will never gain the Truth. We will be able to quote the scriptures and the General Authorities, but never know the mind of God they are inviting us to investigate. We will be comfortable in our ability to parse words to gain meaning, but never realize that our knowledge of that meaning is imaginary and transient. We will never gain knowledge without faith, because all the knowledge we could possess on our own is nothing. Only faith can lead us to truth. Only faith leads us to truly seeking knowledge. There is no difference between the two, as they are both vital parts to the same process.

In short, this division between those seeking knowledge (the believing skeptics) and those acting by faith (the sheep) is nothing but illusion.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Farewell to a Muse

I have just learned that Madeleine L'engle passed away on September 6th, 2007. Perhaps I am sadly behind the times. This news hit me like a block. Madeleine L'engle was one of my greatest literary and imaginative influences. Each and every book transported me to a place where good can triumph over evil, where beauty thrives despite ugliness, and where one person can be important. I never knew her personally, yet the passing of her light and genius saddens me. It is a loss from which I'm not sure our world can recover. One more inspiration has moved to the other side. Rejoice, Madeleine. You have left a mark of beauty and light in the minds of millions of children. It is one they will not soon forget.

Thank you for your life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lacunae, Part 1b - Faith & Knowledge

Knowledge can seem to be one of the trickiest concepts in the Gospel. On the one hand, you have the Tree of Knowledge which fruit Adam and Eve ate and as a result were punished “for their sakes” by being banned from the Garden of Eden and from the Tree of Life and put in a position of labor and toil for the rest of their days. On the other hand, we are taught to seek knowledge and learning. With this dichotomy within knowledge itself it is no wonder that though the possession of knowledge is generally seen as good, the seeking of knowledge can be seen as very bad. Rather, to explain further, the methods of seeking knowledge are strictly proscribed. As spoken of in my last post, we have two sides of this coin, those who (in the extreme) believe that faith exceeds a need for knowledge (the “sheep”), and those who believe that knowledge is the ultimate necessity (the “unfaithful”). In the eyes of the faithful, we are allowed and encouraged to seek knowledge, but we must do it in a certain way in order to remain on the “Lord’s side”. Such a search for knowledge may even be seen as unnecessary. To the seekers, knowledge is vital, and restricting the methods of knowledge seeking is often considered oppressive and blinding. I’d like to fill this gap within the concept of knowledge before attempting to fill the gap between knowledge and faith.

To begin to sift through the meaning of knowledge, I would first like to examine two types of knowledge separately. For simplification, I will call one type of knowledge Fact and the other Truth.

Facts are simple statements that cannot be refuted (without delving into hyperphilosophy). For example, I can state that I am tall. Including enough qualifiers to satisfy any arguments of relativity (such as to say that I am tall in relation to the average human female), this is a statement of fact. It is irrefutable. Common facts include statements such as “the sky is blue,” “an apple falls when dropped,” or “during gamete formation each member of the allelic pair separates from the other member to form the genetic constitution of the gamete,” otherwise known as Mendel’s First Law of Genetics.

Science, by definition, is a method by which to pursue the discovery of facts. In science, the qualifiers are examined and controlled in an effort to determine what, exactly, causes observable effects. Once all contributing factors are examined and a final understanding of a given situation is achieved, science is 100% accurate. It is irrefutable. (Note that I said ALL contributing factors. Scientific conclusions often change because factors not previously accounted for or properly understood have to be included. Assuming that every contributing factor has been included and accounted for, science is 100% accurate.)

I don’t want to delve too deeply into all the what-ifs of science. That’s a subject for another discussion entirely and any further attempt to explain what I mean will probably only muddy the waters of what I’m truly trying to discuss, and that is the nature of knowledge. Hopefully, you’re with me so far.

The second type of knowledge I mentioned is Truth. Truth is more than fact. Truth describes the actual nature of a thing. Truth is what we are all actually yearning for, actually wanting in our search for knowledge. To illustrate my meaning, let’s assume that we are discussing my daughter. I could list millions of facts about her. She has a beautiful smile. She likes to eat dirt. She is tall for her age. I could go on forever, especially if I were to get down to descriptions about how her cells function. However, even were I to state every possible fact about her, it would fail to describe what she truly is, the essence of her that awes me every day of my life. There is something about her that is more than a sum of her facts. In order to get a sense of that something, one has to understand her true nature, at least in part.

Compare a fact to a stone. It is solid, real, and you can throw it at people’s heads. If you were to take all the facts about my daughter and pile them one on top of the other in an attempt to build a tower that eventually describes her unique nature, you would fail as assuredly as an attempt to build a tower to heaven fails. You can’t reach heaven by building a tower of stones, and you can’t reach the truth by merely assembling a pile of facts.

The Lord teaches us that in order to understand Truth, we have to be taught by the Spirit. No amount of secular searching will ever find the truth. Though the assembly of facts may prepare our minds to understand the truth, and the facts may round out the truth, they are not the truth, and never can be. No matter how well reasoned, no matter how compelling the argument, a purely secular learning will never encompass an understanding of things “as they really are.” That is why so many will learn and learn and learn and never know the truth.

Though it may offend the faithful, however, seeking facts is necessary to our existence. We cannot ignore the search for knowledge, and facts are part of that search. The Spirit cannot inspire you with knowledge of the ultimate nature of the universe if you don't even understand the scientific nature of the universe. You cannot get a sense of my daughter's true nature without possessing at least some facts about her. On the flip side, though this may be offensive to some who have dedicated their lives to factual seeking, such seeking cannot bring understanding. The simplest primitive can come to a greater knowledge of truth without ever seeing a book than the greatest professors of knowledge in the world. How this is accomplished is the subject for my next installment, which shall hopefully bring the concepts of faith and knowledge together.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lacunae, Part 1a - Faith & Knowledge

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who do not question their faith and those who live by questioning. These two groups are most commonly referred to as the “sheep” and the “apostates.”

Between these two extremes, I have observed several points in LDS doctrine where something seems to be missing. Almost every personal struggle with the Gospel I have heard or felt manifests within these doctrinal lacunae. I have thought and prayed, seeking the Spirit to teach me about these things, some of which never bothered me until I realized I could not explain them to one who is bothered by them. Others have concerned me to the point of near obsession. This is the first installment of a series of entries I plan to write as I begin to try to reconcile these seeming gaps. They are not intended to trump or belittle any struggles someone may have, they are meant to illustrate and document my own search for understanding.

The first concern that I see lying under so many of the concerns of the questioning mind is that of faith. In theological disagreements, labels of “unfaithful” and “blindly obedient” are often applied. I would like to examine, briefly, the definition of faith. Whenever faith is presented as a topic, the speaker generally brings up Alma 32:21, “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Mostly, the focus is given on “not seen” and “true.” This scripture seemingly dichotomizes faith and knowledge, placing them at two ends of the spectrum, other than their shared property of truth. It is important to note, however, that it is a perfect knowledge that exists in the absence of faith. As is clear when one reads the rest of the chapter, it is possible to possess both faith and knowledge. Lectures on Faith 1:7 gives a clearer definition of faith as a “moving cause of action.” Faith is actually the driving force behind the search for knowledge. If you did not believe knowledge was attainable, you would not seek it. Similarly, if you believed you had already attained all knowledge, your faith would be dead. A possession of faith is necessary to gain knowledge. This concept indicates that it is possible to be without true faith on both “sides” of the theological spectrum, and also indicates that it is possible to be faithful on both “sides” of the theological spectrum.

With that in mind, I'm going to tender a possibility that some will consider quite offensive, but is an attempt to help bridge the lacuna between the “unfaithful” and the “blindly obedient.” It is often true that those who are the most obedient to the precepts of the Gospel possess the least faith. An easy way to judge this in yourself is to ask yourself the question, “Do I believe I understand the fullness of the Gospel?” If your answer is “yes,” your faith is absent, or “dormant” as Alma taught his listeners. Those deemed the “unfaithful” by other members of the Church must ask themselves a very similar question. An easy way to measure faith on this side is to ask yourself the question “Am I seeking answers, believing God will answer me?” Note that both of these two questions should be asked of yourself, on whichever “side” you believe you are.

Since this has already become quite wordy, and since I've not posted in some time, I would like to leave the examination of the knowledge side of this gap for my next post.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Light That Has Been Given

I have been doing a great deal more reading than writing in the sphere of LDS blogs, lately. Primarily, I have not had time to write, or even to post as much as I would like. Also, however, I have lost the desire to contribute comments to posts. I don't feel that my comments really matter. People seem to be pretty cemented in their views, and quite hostile if you disagree with them.

One such view that has recently struck me is an overall tenet or argument against belief. Those using this argument have repeatedly suggested that no one can claim a knowledge of the truth because someone else could claim knowledge of a truth that is different or opposite to the original claim. Not only is this argument disingenuous, it is a religious belief disguised as reason used by many agnostics and atheists.

First, to examine a claim to knowledge of the truth. From a secular standpoint, knowledge is the act of knowing something. Know, by the word's very nature, indicates an understanding of something through reason or experience. If one is to claim that it is impossible to know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for example, is true, one would have to claim that it is impossible to know anything. Though true in its most basic sense, that conclusion is useless, leaving one in a state where learning is meaningless, since one can never know if they are learning absolute Truth. Since we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world (something even atheists can probably agree with) we are bound by that imperfection, and must learn to function within its bounds. If we are to reject all learning and knowledge on the basis that it may not be true, we stagnate in a state of self-satisfaction and voluntary ignorance. Therefore, the claim that someone cannot know the truth of anything is a useless statement. I find it interesting that those who summon this relativistic reasoning are almost always blind to the correlation that they cannot know that the other person doesn't know!

Secondly, let us look at the faults in the supposition that a seeker of truth must take others' answers into account. Let's say, for example, that I have sought for truth by seeking out a true religion. I have found a church, studied its tenets, earnestly prayed for confirmation from God and have received my answer that it is true. With some variation, this is the method religious texts have submitted to find truth over thousands of years. Many have claimed to find truth through this method.

Now, let's suppose another person does the same thing and receives an answer that the same church is not true. The argument would claim that the first person's confirmation of truth is invalid because the second person had the opposite experience. I would first ask myself why the first person should be expected to doubt his experiences based on the experiences of a second? The first person can't judge the sincerity of the second truth-seeker. The first person can't know God's motives in giving the second person their negative answer, assuming that the second person really did receive that answer from God. Most importantly, the second person's answer is not the answer the first person received. That may seem obvious, but think about the implications. Those claiming that truth cannot be known would seem to be telling the first person that they should believe another's answer over their own. When examined this way, it seems obvious that this is nothing but a ploy to cast doubt on an individual's own ability to seek and understand truth.

We are all human, with the same ability and responsibility to seek light, knowledge and truth. We have the same potential to receive spiritual confirmation. We have the same "chances" of finding the truth. In the end, we will be judged on the answers we have sought and received from the Lord, not on another's. In other words, If it seems stupid to you to claim a knowledge of a truth, if it seems necessary to believe that you can never know what is true and what is not, do what you will, but as for me, I choose to seek the light by the methods I know to be right.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why is the Church Behind the Times?

I've heard this question nearly incessantly in the LDS sphere, particularly by those who perceive themselves as progressive. Usually it refers to the patriarchy and perceived female inequality. The answer that continually comes to mind when I read such opinions is this: Perhaps because the Lord is trying to teach us that life is not about equality?

I personally believe that the Lord is trying to teach us humility. He is not particularly concerned with making everyone feel worthwhile. To him, that is a given. He has presented a way for us to feel valued that is much more important and much more real than allowing women to pass the sacrament or lead the Church. In general for men, the challenge is to lead righteously. For women, the challenge is to righteously follow. It becomes quickly apparent that the point is not who leads and who follows, but to be righteous.

At the risk of sounding rude, I wish that more time was spent on becoming more righteous and less time on becoming more equal.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Difficult Confession

As a warning to those who may not want to know about my personal life, this is going to be very personal. I have been reading The Divine Center by Stephen Covey and have come to a realization. You see, I am depressive. That is the first time I have typed that out. I've never even said it before. Always before, it has been "I have depression" or "I am depressed," if that. In reading this book, I have come to see that I am depressive because my focus is in the wrong place. As much as I've tried to center myself on God, and though I believe that once I did, I have lost that center. Now, I have realized that I center myself on others' opinions of me.

My usual pattern of depression begins with a confrontation of one kind or another. It can be a fight with my husband, or it can be as impersonal as making someone on the road angry, but it usually starts with conflict. Though I can hold my own when actually in the conflict, immediately afterwards I begin to deride myself. I begin to obsess over what I should have done to avoid the conflict. I denigrate my personal righteousness in not backing out of the conflict as soon as it presented itself (turn the other cheek). I obsess over what the other person thinks of me. I convince myself that they despise me, and that they are justified in doing so. I believe that. In my deepest self, I believe that I am a horrible person with no redeeming qualities, a failure in my eyes and the eyes of my God. I believe that more than anything anyone could tell me otherwise, even myself. Even God. I want to believe I have some worth, but I don't know how.

Realizing this, however, has left me without the knowledge of how to change it. As I type, I realize how stiff and formal I sound, but I'm crying hard enough to worry my one-year-old daughter. I am not good at these things. This only makes me think I'm a worse person, harming her by my tears.

I don't know why I'm writing this, because it isn't really fair. There is nothing anyone can do about this but me. I ask forgiveness for the writing; I believe writing is a sort of catharsis for me. Before anyone asks, no, I am not receiving any help for how I am. I have tried to get help in the past, but I can't afford it either monetarily or time-wise. Besides, I don't trust going to someone else for help for my feelings. It is my obsession with someone else's opinions that is the problem.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thoughts and Intents

As I was researching a few scriptures for a post to Mormon Momma, I came across this scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 6.
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth; Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

Suddenly, I had one of those epiphany moments, where you feel that the Spirit has been a bird, waiting for you to read those words so He could swoop down on you and testify that they are meant for you. I have been having a really rough time for several years, now. The details are far too personal, but I have been wracked with self-loathing and -uncertainty because I feel that a major decision I made - despite feeling that it was of God at the time - was wrong.

But this verse and the Spirit have testified to me. I did ask of the Lord. I thought he did "enlighten my mind." Though I had had doubts, I can't deny that I felt the classic lightening of the mind when I asked if my choice was the right one. I feel that the Lord is promising me that I was indeed enlightened of the Spirit, and not my own desires.

I have been struggling especially lately with a feeling of worthlessness to the Church and to the world at large. Many people have corroborated this feeling. I still don't understand why people are so intent on telling me how and why I am a failure. But here, the Lord is telling me that no one knows my thoughts and intents save He. Whatever my social skills, whatever my behavior, He knows how I intended to be. He knows my desires. Therefore, only His opinion can count for anything.

I really need to get myself back to the point where I commune with Him. This distance is tearing me apart. Perhaps this verse is the key to softening my heart. Perhaps I can cast off the shackles of popular opinion and learn once again to serve the Master of my heart.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Spider Story

I promised I would share my Spider Story at Janet's baby shower last night. (Don't read, Janet, you have been warned!)

I've never been particularly scared of spiders, per se, but I am highly allergic to their bites. One small spider bite on my ankle, for example, can cause it to swell to the size of a softball. Though I've never been afraid of spiders, I've never liked killing them, either. At different times in my life (usually relating to how recently I've been bitten) I have wavered between the catch-and-release-outside methodology and the get-it-before-it-gets-me. Several years ago, I rented a basement room. Unfortunately, spiders and basement rooms are friends. One might even say they are deeply intimate. I became very good at killing spiders without batting an eyelash.

Despite being a very deep sleeper, I awoke in the middle of the night one night with a sharp pain on the back of my knee. I had been bitten by yet another spider. I shook out my sheets and, finding nothing, returned to sleep. The spider bite was a doozy. It ached. The back of my knee swelled enough that it was painful to sit properly on a chair.

A month and a half went by, and still the bite was painful. (If you think watching a dog chase its tail is funny, you should try to look closely at the back of your knee.) Eventually, I was bit again by a very small spider on the finger. Minutes later I began to sting and itch on my lower belly. It hurt badly enough that I went to the restroom to check out the problem. It appeared that I had been bitten by ants. After about ten or fifteen minutes of acute pain, the symptoms vanished.

The next day it happened again, but this time it was over my belly and legs. To make a long story short, it eventually spread down my arms and over my neck and face, appearing as whitish ant bites, fading to red and finally disappearing only to appear again some time later. The problem became frequent and painful enough to begin interfering with my work. I decided it was time to go to the Urgent Care clinic. The symptoms happened again on my way to the clinic, but by the time the doctor saw me, the bite-like marks were almost gone.

The diagnosis was systemic allergies. Apparently, my body had been so overloaded with some allergen that it could no longer handle it with a localized allergic reaction, hence the tiny bite-like marks that some would recognize as hives. Upon examination, it turned out that the spider that had woken me in the middle of the night was a hobo spider. I had been walking around with a bulls-eye bite on the back of my knee for nearly two months. After few test samples of Claritin (which was new at the time) everything was fixed.

Denouement:
It wasn't until a few weeks later that I was sitting on my floor, working on my computer when a thick-legged spider about the size of my thumb scuttled along my wall and behind my computer. I was armed with spider-killer. After a few missed shots (the bugger was fast) I hit it squarely on its furry little head. It was the first and only time I have enjoyed watching one of God's creatures dissolve into a puddle of goo.

Rest in peace, little hobo spider, but I regret not thy passing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Do You Believe in Evolution?

An interesting question was brought to my attention in a recent interview between the media (Reuters) and an LDS member. "Do you believe in evolution?" I would have to say, as a trained scientist and a believing member of the LDS Church, "NO!" I find it incredibly disturbing that such a question even exists.

Before I go further, let me make a few things clear. I love science. I graduated with a degree in pre-veterinary medicine. Zoology is fascinating to me. I trained in the scientific method. I trained in writing theses. I've analyzed experiments and reproduced them in lab. I miss my scientific field with a hunger that has made me consider cutting my earning power in half just to get my latex-wrapped fingers around a test tube filled with blood agar. I. Love. Science. I love science almost as much as I love animals, which is why I find the question of whether or not I "believe" in evolution so dismaying. It has nothing to do with my sincere and deep religious conviction. In fact, the religious side of me leaves far more room for a "belief" in evolution or its like. My scientific reason, however, cannot accept that science is being formed into the Church of the People.

Science is nothing more than a method used to break down the workings of the world and find out how things are. It was never meant to define the great "Why" that religion addresses. By its very nature, science has nothing to do with belief. In the scientific method, one 1) observes. Through those observations, one drafts a 2) hypothesis. One then 3) tests the hypothesis in as controlled an environment as possible. During the testing, one 4) observes the results. Then one 5) adjusts the hypothesis and begins again. Once a hypothesis has been refined and is provable in multiple experiments at multiple times, it graduates to a 6) theory. Theories are hypotheses with the weight of reproducibility behind them. If a theory becomes so provable (and so concise) that it becomes a law, it has become as assured as possible under the tenets of science and other hypotheses and theories are built on that law. (Bear in mind that even laws can change, though rarely, in science.)

Nowhere in the scientific method (the basis of science) is there room for belief. There is room for guesses, there is room for educated guesses, there is room for reason, but there is no room for faith. Therefore, one cannot by the very nature of science "believe" in a scientific theory, such as the Theory of Evolution.

What is more galling is that the theory of evolution (bearing in mind that I am speaking of MACROevolution, or the change from one species to another, and not microevolution, or the adaptation of existing traits) is not even truly developed to the point that it can honestly be called a "theory." Macroevolution has not been proven in the lab. Macroevolution has not even been satisfactorily observed in the natural environment. The evidence for macroevolution is sparse and largely circumstantial. Although microevolution is perhaps consistent enough to be elevated to the status of a theory, it has not been quantified, has not been refined and cannot be called anything more than a theory in its fledgling state, not having moved into the power of a scientific law. Macroevolution is little more than extrapolation built on the observable evidence of microevolution. Unfortunately, the term "Hypothesis of Evolution" doesn't sound nearly so titillating as "Theory of Evolution."

So, my answer to the question, "do you believe in evolution?" is a resounding "NO!" I like the theory of evolution. I think it is very probably accurate. I think both the concepts of micro- and macroevolution are fascinating. I can't wait to see what more is discovered about evolution, but my interest in evolution is not a matter of belief or faith. The media has fastened upon Darwin's concept and turned it into a weapon in the science-versus-religion smackdown. Sadly, for the media, there is nothing that science could ever do to disprove or prove the existence of God. But then, that is not the purpose of science. Nor is self-verification the purpose of God.

I love science, but it is not a religion and never can be. It is tragic that people are so afraid of faith in the unknown that they turn to a discovery process like science for their self-affirmation. It is tragic that people need to lean on the seen so heavily they mock or ignore the unseen. However, if people insist on venerating the God of Scientific Theory, they should at least have the decency to recognize that the Religion of Science requires just as much faith as orthodox religion. At least, according to Reuters it does.

Perhaps this is the "great and abominable Church" spoken of in scripture. Move over, Catholics, here come the Scientists.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Pain of Charity

I've stayed away for a couple of days because I've been hurting. I'm still hurting, but I feel ready to write again.

My grandfather passed away June 1st, 2007. He was a pillar of the community, often giving succor to those in need. He was a great man. One of my earliest memories of him was down in his basement. He had a container of black walnuts and taught me how to crack them so I could extract the nut whole. In that same visit, he took me across the street to his neighbor's house and let me help him pick apricots. In an even earlier memory of him, I remember going to his flower shop. I remember little of the sight and sound of that shop, but I remember the sharp tang of moisture, roses and greenery. That smell means beauty to me. I believe it has something to do with my affinity for green, growing things. I remember wanting to design a flower arrangement, though I couldn't have been more than five years old. I remember wanting to emulate his artistry. Perhaps that is what helped me discover my love for color and form. Though my grandfather was a somewhat more distant figure than my grandmother (who passed away in 1999,) his paradigm of service and duty has shaped my life.

I attended the funeral yesterday. Grandpa was surrounded by grieving friends and step-family. It was clear he would be sorely missed in the community. Observing this and listening to the eulogies, I began thinking of myself. I came to some hard realizations. The first was how very selfish I am. Through much of the funeral, I hurt because I wished I had had some part in it, something to give the man who contributed to my life. As I analyzed my own feelings, I realized I had very little place in Grandpa's life, so it was only fitting that I would have no place in his death. Unlike my grandfather, I do not connect with people. At my funeral, there will be many fewer grieving faces.

As I thought about it, I also realized that I do not connect with people by choice. I have actively destroyed any but the most superficial ties to anyone. I'm not sure why I do this. I know I am afraid, but I'm not sure of what I am afraid. I think it may be that I am so afraid of hurting someone - I am so afraid of failing - that I minimize my connections. The ironic aspect of this is that the isolation hurts me. I know that I am hurting myself more than rejection and failure would hurt me, but I don't know how to change. This is what brings me to the topic of this post.

In The Princess Bride, the Man in Black tells Buttercup that "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something." In my estimation, charity is pain. There are two types of "charity." The first is characterized by "alms to the poor." It is simply giving because you know you should give or, in other words, because you gain something from it. I believe it is this brand of charity to which the world subscribes. It is giving because you feel you will gain a reward, whether heavenly, socially or financially. This sort of charity is not evil per se, but I don't believe it is the sort of charity of which the Lord or His prophets speak in the scriptures. It is not this sort of charity that is the "greatest of all" virtues. It is not this sort of charity which "suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." It is not this sort of charity which, as the Relief Society motto states, "never faileth."

The type of charity Christianity teaches is much more difficult because it inevitably leads through pain. This charity is the "pure love of Christ" which "caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink . . . ." It is the charity that enabled Christ to atone for the sins of all mankind. It is the charity that is a cause rather than a symptom. It is love, not for glory, reward or honor, but for the cruel, beautiful, glorious children of God. It is love that gives, knowing that it will be hurt. It is continually building relationships despite the pain, despite the fear, despite the loneliness of rejection.

I know in my heart that God has granted me a great capacity for this kind of charity, but I am too terrified, too bound up in the cords of Satan to utilize it. I feel that this is my purpose on the earth, to love God's children, to be a place where "The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety." I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to let go of my fear of pain and give. I don't know how Christ continued ministering, knowing the pain He would suffer at the hands of the ignorant. I know I need to learn.

Perhaps when I do, I will be happy.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Final Farewell

I wrote this poem when my grandmother passed away. Now, her beloved eternal companion has joined her at last. Bis sp├Ąter, Opa.

Think of Me
Dedicated to Ruth & George, who together have gifted us with a legacy of forgiveness and the sacrifice of love.

I sat on my bed and remembered the day
that your soul was bonded to mine.
How the look in your eyes held tenderness
that was matched by the love in your smile.

And then my thoughts drifted away from the now
and to all of the years that we shared.
The good times and bad ones all marched through my mind,
and I realized just how much you cared.

Then he entered, like so many friends that I've known,
without even a knock at the door.
And though he was pale like the legends say,
no golden sickle he bore.

So I rose to greet him, I knew it was time.
And he hugged me close and said,
"There is no need to fear me, your time was well spent."
And the regrets that I had held, fled.

So I stepped forth to enter the passing way
My heart feeling lighter, and free.
But my head turned and saw you alone near my bed,
and again I felt how much you loved me.

So think of me, though my bones are now cold.
I wait for you in mansions above.
Know that not even death, so friendly and pale,
could hope to sever our love.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Search for a Mother

I understand the desire to know a Heavenly Mother. When I was exploring religious options I became very close to the concepts in Wiccanism. There are many varieties of Wiccanism (including the gothic dancing in the park variety, though that wasn't the one that resonated with me.) All varieties, however, worship a Lady to some extent. As a self-hating girl, this was one of the things that appealed to me the most. Perhaps through the worship of the Lady, I could come to know, understand and love myself better. As time passed and I prayed to know the truth, I received confirmation that God led the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and not Wiccanism. This doesn't mean that I understand all things about the Church and its doctrines. I have seen many conversations in the Bloggernacle, especially on the more pro-feminist sites, that discuss the Church's doctrine of a Mother in Heaven. Most of the time, they express dissatisfaction in the Church's dealing with and practical acceptance of this doctrine. "Why can't we pray to Mother?" seems to be the greatest of these complaints. Most of those who address this have varying reasons for (or accusations against) this doctrine.

As we grow as children, we go through phases where we are closer to our mothers and phases where we are closer to our fathers as we learn who we are in this world. A theory that once occurred to me ("cute" though it may be) is that in the pre-existance, we had our Mother-time, and now we have our Father-time. Thus, we now pray to our Father where we once communed more with our Mother. As mortals, we only see the here and now and often forget that our existence stretches beyond our memories. We see this small moment in our beings as unfair because our Mother isn't here. With a truly eternal perspective, I suspect that we will understand the greater picture of our Heavenly Parents.

One of the more interesting arguments as to why the active worship of a Mother in Heaven is allowable under the true, original gospel is to put forth Asherah of Old Testament infamy as Heavenly Mother. If this is the case—not only that the worship Asherah was pagan, but that it originated in revelation from God—than it illustrates poignantly why that worship is not currently allowed. The worship of Asherah was shockingly lewd. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that it was a wild brand of fertility worship probably dating back to the worship of the Mother Goddess of prehistory. This sort of worship violently opposed chastity, modesty, family and propriety. It spawned (or was closely associated with) Molech sacrifice. It encouraged idolatry and dichotomized worship of the God of Abraham. Many of the more obscure tenets of Moses' law were framed to outlaw Israelite worship of the Mother goddess as inherited from their Egyptian masters.

Naturally, many who argue for the reinstitution of Mother worship also disregard the importance of chastity, modesty, family and propriety as outdated, patriarchial concepts. In this sense, as for me and my house, I prefer the Lord of Israel's way.

In addition, a greater Church encouragement of knowledge of and prayers to our Heavenly Mother would lead to a division of worship. Truthfully, Mother and Father in Heaven are inseparable. They are One, unified. As mortals, we find it nearly impossible to understand this concept, especially in this Age of Individuality. We worship the Self, we venerate independence. Obvious worship of a Mother in Heaven in our weak understanding would most likely lead to a division in the Church. Some would lean towards Mother, others towards Father. In our ignorance, we would create "sides" and then believe that there was something vital to be gained from one side or the other. It already happens, even without Church-sanctioned prayer to Heavenly Mother, as evidenced by the number of people who (mostly anonymously) admit to praying to their Mother. Most of them see themselves as more spiritually progressed than their siblings who do not pray to Her. The concept serves to divide, not unite. It does nothing to help us prove our obedience and dedication to the Lord. I suspect that any further knowledge of Mother is suspended until we are ready to worship both Her and Father properly.

Furthermore, we pray to the Father, not to Christ. I reiterate that we, as mortals, have almost no ability to truly understand equality. We continually conflate it with sameness or wander into superiority of one kind or another. (Use the feminist movement as an example. Very few, if any, feminists truly believe in equality. Most believe either in sameness—that there are no differences—or in swinging the pendulum to the side of female superiority. We seem unable to truly understand different-but-equal in any practical sense.) Therefore, in our mortal doctrine, Christ is spectacularly subservient to the Father. The hierarchy of Heaven is made obvious to us, so our mortal minds might understand what is necessary to return to God (namely, the sacrifice of His Son and all the doctrine associated with it.) If we included a more active role of Mother, how would the Church present this heirarchy? Either Mother would in some way seem subservient to the Father, or the Father would in some way seem subservient to Her. Neither eventuality contributes to the purpose of our mortal lives. At present, all we can do is speculate on how our Parents could be of one mind, and pray and wait patiently until we know the truth.

In the end, the only real answer is one most people will hate: we don't pray to Her because we have been commanded not to. We don't know the reason, but we will, given time. Patience is a virtue that is becoming rarer as this world winds into the final Act, but it is vital in the search for humility and exaltation.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Amish Conversion

I've decided that I am going to be Amish. True, you may have to live without plumbing, but I find that a fair trade for Corporate America. There are many positives to being Amish. My top ten reasons:
10) No Insurance. I feel that Insurance Is Of The Devil. But that is a topic for another post.

9) No Telephones. I hate. Hate. HATE telephones. Convenient though they may be, I already try to use them for business only. I have too much trouble understanding voices without people behind them. I feel like I'm trying to talk to someone through a cotton gag.

8) Defined Gender Roles. No more guessing what my place and duty are. I'd know what I am, I'd know what I am to do, and I'd have the freedom to focus on doing it.

7) Community & Family. I would be a contributing part of a community. No longer a floating number on a list, I'd be a real person with real strengths and weaknesses. I'd have a reason to be alive, and be supported in that reason. It might have its downsides, but I'd be able to fulfil one of my dreams: to go to a barn raising.

6) Farming. I'm a born farm girl who has been largely corralled into cities most of her life. No more suffocating in nasty city air. I much prefer nasty farm air.

5) Clothes. No more shopping. No more horridly bright "spring" colors. No more nasty "Zero to . . . " shirts. No more waiting in lines. No more shopping carts engineered to go six different directions between four wheels.

4) Communal Governance. No taxes. No presidents. No politicians.

3) Germanity. I pine after Germany. The Amish are about as close as it gets on the western continent.

2) No Corporate America. I've already mentioned this, but it bears its own place in the list. This is probably the number one good reason. Well, maybe after horses.

1) Horses. I love horses and have been going through withdrawals for years. I tear up with I pass a field dotted with beautiful equines. Ah, the inhumanity!

Forget all of this "in the world" blather. Now I just have to figure out how to get in without changing my faith. Do you think they accept Mormons?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Separation and Self

I have a concept that's been nagging me for awhile. It dates back to a past thread and a post by another blogger that used my comments as an example of exclusion. To put a bit of background to it, someone was expressing a feeling of being left out by the Church policy of temple marriage, with a caveat that those policies should be changed somehow to include those not worthy to enter the temple. The corollary was that family (especially at weddings) was more important than the sacredness of the temple ceremony, and that by excluding people from the temple, the Church was belying its own family-oriented tenets. My comments essentially were meant to say that the Church excluded no one from the temple ceremony, but an individual's own choices excluded them. Though I see this point of view of one barred from a temple ceremony, I don't agree with it.

If I had friends or family who believed in a religion and had a very sacred ceremony that I could not attend, I'm not saying I'd skip with joy, but I'd respect their faith and not expect them to change it to suit me. I would probably not convert (since my beliefs are elsewhere,) but I would accept that it was my choice of faith that excluded me, not the faith itself. I really don't understand why blame must be fixed to the institution.

In addition, I feel that it is not of God to include everyone in everything, no matter their personal choices. In order for the orders of glory to be valuable, there must be rules set to govern those orders. Those rules must be met in order to receive the glory. It makes no more sense to admit everyone to the temple than it would to award everyone an "A" no matter the effort or answers given. If everything is rewarded equally, than there can be no measure of progression - or indeed, no progression at all. There would be no goal to reach, no standard to attain, and no real choices to make. All would be saved, yes, but that salvation would be without meaning. All would pursue their own right and wrong with no substance or direction.

In essence, all would be as Satan would have it. I wish someone who feels otherwise could explain to me why it would not be that way, rather than just rejoicing in their believed superiority of inclusion.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just Another Mother's Day?

This is my very first Mother's Day as a mother. It feels odd to me. It seems to me that Mother's Day has at least as much angst associated with it as Valentine's Day. Much like Valentine's Day, however, my only beef with Mother's Day is the profuse amount of pink.

I don't like pink.

But otherwise, I've never had the relationship/status-envy that these holidays seem to generate. I never stood up for a gift before I was a mother (I didn't this year, either, but they found me anyways.) I never felt all of this social guilt or disappointment.

My question is why-oh-why do people use holidays as guiltfests, rather than just relaxing and honoring whatever the holiday is there to honor? Does it always have to be personal? What is wrong with focusing on honoring your mother, rather than focusing on yourself? Even if your mother was a venomous harridan, you should be able to at least honor the idea of motherhood.

I love the quote: There are billions of planets orbiting around billions of suns in billions of solar systems orbiting in billions of galaxies, all orbiting around the center of the universe.

That center . . . is not you.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Pain of Progression

In a fairly recent thread at FMH, a long discussion ensued about the temple ordinances separating family members from each other. I'm not really sure why I feel as hurt as I do over the issue. I guess I still cling to a romantic idea that somehow hard choices will be honored. Let me try to clarify what I mean (though it is far from clear in my mind.)

I think that society is leaning towards an attitude that acceptance is virtue. I disagree with this in a sense. Although it is important to love and accept people, the same is not true of ideas. You have a choice. Either you accept all ideas, and end up as a relativist (all things are true, depending on who you are,) or you draw a line somewhere, saying this is true and that is not. I hurt when I think of relativistic philosophies, because I feel that it is an adversarial plan to mask sin with intelligence. Intelligence is good, so if the adversary can draw a veil of sophistry over error, it can appear good to the casual glance. Society has become such that if you do not agree with everyone's opinion, you are close-minded. Therefore, those who call themselves open-minded can be automatically superior. They build walls around their sanctuary of "everyone is right," and anyone who disagrees is ignorant. Thus, they can feel safe in their self-defined superior opinions, and ignore anyone they choose to ignore without feeling the need for further self-examination. The irony is that they are not truly open-minded, they are only open-minded to predefined ideas. They are indulging in a subtle form of pride that allows them to mistake self-satisfaction and comfort for happiness.

Unfortunately, this is a plan of the adversary, and lulls people into accepting themselves for who they are, rather than for who they can become. They no longer feel any need to improve or change, and they are caught in the great and spacious building, pointing fingers at the unfortunates still clinging to the rod of iron below them.

There is a delicate balance for the faithful to walk. Those who have worked and prayed, and painfully changed see things differently than they did. They understand that questions are okay, that people are not evil for questioning authority. They can also testify to the efficacy of searching. Because I have prayed, pondered and studied, I can vouch that those things have changed me. I can testify that God has guided me to peace. Unfortunately, that is all I can do. In this sense, I find myself with hard-earned oil that I cannot share. The oil only works for me. The five wise virgins were not selfish with their oil, they simply had no way to share it. All they could tell the foolish is that if they went to the market themselves, they would find those who sell, and they could buy for themselves. This brings me to my second heartache.

No matter what the wise say, they foolish will see them as hard-hearted, selfish and prideful. "How could they not share?" they ask, "They have plenty." It is easy to see how the five foolish must have felt, alone and cold outside of the bridegroom's door. How their hearts must have ached! How they must have wept bitter tears of regret. What is often overlooked are the feelings the wise must have felt. They were wise and kind, they must have longed to share their oil with the foolish. After entering the chamber, they must have missed their friends, and wondered if they were alright, outside the door. It could not have been any easier for them than it was for the foolish. It could not have been easy for the bridegroom - he who had invited ten, to have only half show up to the feast. How it must have felt to him, to know that his feast wasn't important enough to the five for them to have properly prepared.

Unlike this parable, however, it is not possible for the bridegroom to simply open the door. Certain requirements were set to attend the feast. Those who did not meet the requirements cannot have the same reward as those who did, can they?

It is hard for me to see people ask for the blessings of the Lord when they do not do the laws that are set forth to earn those blessings. It is especially hard, because I have made the heart-wrenching, uncomfortable, painful choice to risk everything of value to me for this one thing. Do they think it is easy for me to contemplate losing my marriage or my child for discipleship? Do they think I thoughtlessly dedicated every day of my life to nothing more than a promise of something better? Why do they think I would do such a thing?

Apparently, to some, it is so I can hurt people. That is the perceived motivation for my actions, and that breaks my heart. It would seem that the foolish who ask for oil are the same who mocked the wise for buying the oil early.

Of course, this doesn't account for those who have truly searched and not yet found.

So of the three states: foolish, wise, and searching but not yet wise, I feel that I am all three. There are some things I have procrastinated. There are some answers I have not yet received. But the things which the Lord has shown me, the feelings that I have had in the past, I have used as oil to see me through the dark times of searching. Even when it feels my oil has run out, and I cannot see, I know that the Lord once provided oil, and that He won't let me fail.

Faith is not to step into a darkened room with a single burning lamp. Faith is to keep walking when you have nothing but the memory of light. Faith is trusting the Savior to catch you when you fall.

Faith is knowing that the opinions of others in no way diminish what I have felt and what I know.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Priesthood vs. Motherhood

I haven't posted in quite some time. My sister is getting married this week, and I've been sewing dresses for myself and my daughter. I also try not to post unless I have something significant (to me, if not to anyone else) to say. In reading Feminist Mormon Housewives (a blog I read often and find interesting, though I'm certain I'm not considered "cut from the proper cloth" there,) I've slowly gathered the urge to write about something that seems to be a recurring theme there.

Not too long ago, a commenter mentioned that they were sick of hearing the priesthood compared to motherhood, and felt that it demeaned both. I've mused over that for some time, and have come to a couple of half-baked questions on the subject. Why would priesthood be compared to motherhood? What is the correlation?=

1) Motherhood is about discomfort and pain.
I put this first because pain is how I became a mother. I went into labor with only two hours of sleep under my belt. I was exhausted and wanted to rest, but my body had other ideas. When a man holds the priesthood, he often finds himself sitting in meetings rather than in a hammock under a tree. He finds himself physically exerting himself to mow an old lady's lawn, or help someone move. He finds himself blessing someone to die, rather than to be healed. Although the pain of holding the priesthood is not comparable to the pain of childbirth, it is present over a much longer period of time, and often comes by surprise.

2) Motherhood is about service.
This one is obvious. The priesthood is not about power and authority alone, it is first and foremost about service. It is a holy calling to serve the Lord's children. The power and authority given through the priesthood is given only to allow that man to better serve. The priesthood requires monthly visiting of every family in the ward. The priesthood requires sitting on the stand at church, rather than with family. The priesthood requires getting up at all hours of the night to bless someone who is sick. The priesthood requires humbling oneself to speak in God's name. The priesthood requires giving up one's own desires and hobbies in the service of the family.

3) Motherhood is a proxy for Heavenly Mother.
We don't know much about our Heavenly Mother. It is necessary for our earthly mothers to represent our Heavenly Mother. The priesthood requires a man to stand as a proxy for Heavenly Father. Matthew 25:40 - "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me," could also read "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it on behalf of me." What a daunting responsibility! I can't imagine what it would feel like to know that I was supposed to represent Heavenly Father to someone who is sick or steeped in sin and needing love and reassurance.

4) Motherhood is about joy.
The joy in motherhood seems bittersweet to me. I treasure my daughter's smiles and hugs, knowing all too soon, she will want nothing to do with me as she moves through her teenage years. The joy in motherhood is found in serving despite possible consequences. When I was a missionary, I felt similarly about investigators and inactives as I do now about my daughter. I loved them and gave them everything, doing things I hated doing to give them a chance to accept the gospel, knowing that most would reject it through the "teenage years" of their spirituality. It must be similiar to a worthy priesthood holder, especially one with a stewardship calling (like a family, or a ward.)

5) Motherhood is about letting go.
The priesthood cannot be wielded through force. My husband is learning to exercise his priesthood. He often gains inspiration on my behalf. It is difficult to me, who has been independant for so long, to accept and act on his inspiration. Unsure in his position as presiding priesthood in our home, he must be nervous to share his impressions with me. He will some day understand that, much like motherhood where the mother may know best, he needs to learn to let go of my decisions, but to share his impressions anyways. That sometimes seems an almost impossible balance.

These thoughts, as I've said, are rather ill-formed and half-baked. Granted, also, one must worthily hold the priesthood in order for them to apply. But it's a start towards understanding, at any rate.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fairy Godmother

I am a relatively new mother of a seven-month-old girl. Lately, I've been mulling over things that I hope to teach her. This morning I compared it to the gifts the fairy godmothers give Sleeping Beauty at her birth. If I were able to grant her anything, what would I give her?

First, I would grant her charity. I don't mean the inclination to hand money out the window to the man on the street corner, or drop some change in the bell-ringers buckets at Christmastime. I mean true, empathic charity. I would hope that she could "mourn with those who mourn" and "comfort those who stand in need of comfort." I would bless her to feel joy for others' accomplishments. In short, I would grant her all the beauty of love for her fellow man that I cannot seem to acquire.

Second, I would give her the gift of self-worth. It isn't the same as the cliche buzzword "self-esteem." Self-worth involves knowing her place in God's plan. With self-worth, she would know unequivocally that she is loved and wanted. She would be able to see herself through my eyes and the eyes of her God. She would recognize her beauty. Self-worth would have her esteem herself as she esteems others. It would guide her charity to a greater understanding of her own worth. Faith not only in God, but in His ability to love and save her is part of self-worth. I would grant her the beautiful self-image that has always eluded me.

Third, I would give her intelligence. She would be able to understand how to help people, to know how the world works. She would be able to enjoy the beauty of the earth and of people's hearts. Her intelligence wouldn't draw her down into the spirals of analyzation and cynicism, but would spiral her upwards towards rejoicing in God's work. She would revel in the transient beauty of this telestial world and its inhabitants without losing excitement for terrestrial and celestial worlds. She would be happy here without being content. I would wish her the deeper understanding that brings joy in this life.

How do you teach your children values you cannot possess? How do I teach her to be happy, to love and be loved when I cannot do any of these things? I know they are possible.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Epiphany of Atonement

I have always had a propensity to believe in others' opinions over my own. For some reason, I believe in my heart-of-hearts that other people can somehow see more clearly and understand better than I can. I have struggled to meet the expectations of my father, my roommates, my teachers, priesthood leaders, my companions, bosses and now my husband. Any slight criticism is enough to send me into the depths of depression, feeling that I have failed in what I am Supposed To Be. Needless to say, this has led to a great deal of heartache as I have moved through my phases of life.

I have had few friends, and never anyone to talk to who accepted and liked me for who I am - bad and good. To everyone I have played an elaborate charade of personality juggling - a mask for every person, a play for every need. I have tried to live up to the values and standards of the church, the culture of the church and the world's expectations. I have tried to be righteous according to what I was told was righteous, and have tried to fill the needs of people I was told I needed to please. Unfortunately, I continually fail in this and know that I can never measure up to even one person's ideas of who I should be. I have often catapulted to the opposite extreme of belligerence and fierce independence. I fear that by trying to be what others' want, I have given the very different impression of being moody and intractable.

I do not wish to go into details, but it seems that my struggles to define self and to deal with my depression has put everything I value at this point of my life in jeopardy. I stand at the brink, looking into an incomprehensible abyss without knowing what to do or how to act. Feeling very lonely and frightened this weekend, I prayed. It was a wordless prayer, a formless seeking after a Parent's love and acceptance. The thought came to me that it doesn't matter what the man behind me honking his horn and flipping me off thinks of me. It doesn't matter what my brother, mother, father or sister think of me. It doesn't matter what my boss thinks of me. It doesn't even matter what my husband thinks of me. For that matter - it makes no difference what I think of myself.

There is only One person who sees me clearly. There is only One who knows and understands not only the feelings in my heart, but the patterns of my life. Only He has the perspective and understanding to love me as a complete self. It is only His opinion I need seek. That is why He is my Advocate with the Father. I am in no state to argue my position. I cannot plead for the mercy of the Father, knowing what I am and having such a deep feeling of failure. Christ can see me, and forgive me despite my failings. He can plead my case where I cannot. He can love me where I cannot. Above all, he can understand me when no one else can.

To me, right now, the Atonement is not a state of being at-one with Christ. I hope that some day I will be able to reach that perfection of being where my will, my actions and my understanding are at-one with His. For now, it must be enough to know that He can plead my case - not only with the Father, but with me. That no matter my poor understanding of my purpose and mission in life, no matter how the man on the street, my family, my husband or I see me, He understands and forgives.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Red Shirt, Blue Shirt, Old Shirt, New Shirt

I find the flurry of politics somewhat overwhelming. As if I am walking into a Hatfield/McCoy battleground, each side is screaming for me to "come and join us, WE are RIGHT!" Both sides have issues I agree with, both sides use tactics I do not like. I can't seem to decide, do I want to wear the Republican red shirt, or the Democratic blue?

When I proudly informed my father some time ago that I was independent of party, he told me I had to choose one or the other to make my vote count. "The real politics," he said, "happen in the primaries. If you don't declare a party, you get no vote in the primary." Each time I have voted and gone to fill in the little black bubble by one party or the other, something holds my hand. I can't commit, despite the benefits.

On top of that confusion lies the mystery of candidacy. I have yet to see a single presidential hopeful exhibit the slightest iota of moral accountability. How can I vote for someone whose main goal is simply power? They do not wish to serve the country, no matter what they say. In the eyes of each candidate lurks the fervor of competition.

"We have had no good president since Washington," is one of my favorite sayings. Why? "Because he is the only one who refused the job."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Feminism, Motherhood and Change

I am currently reading a book entitled "Daughters of God, Scriptural Portraits" by S. Michael Wilcox. It is an interesting read that has taken me through a wide range of emotions from confusion to peace and back again. In it, he examines the scriptural "portraits" of women in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Church History and extracts the lessons and examples of each.

Reading it has underscored my own unworthiness. I'm afraid that I often feel unequal to the task of living as a daughter of God. I have rapidly transitioned from single college graduate to sister missionary to single RM to wife to mother and am left with a feeling of "What just happened? Where am I?" I still feel like my single self, yet I'm living in a sort of perpetual transition. I know so many things that are expected of me - to keep the house clean, keep my husband happy, raise my daughter to be happy and well-adjusted, work and keep a full-time job, visit teach, magnify my ward calling, attend Church meetings and activities, support and love my husband, exemplify charity and kindness - and things I want to do - such as sew toys and clothes for my daughter, organize some of the chaos in our house, teach my daughter to swim, paint and draw, read and be a good neighbor. I think I am trying to adjust to the new role I find myself in with little feeling of success.

The strangest thing is that in the struggle to define what it means to be a "good wife and mother," I feel I am largely on my own. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what is a good wife and mother without any input in how to accomplish it. As a teenager and single adult, you have plethoras of practical advice. Church leaders, parents and teachers are constantly telling you what you should be doing and giving you tips on how to do it. Once you are married, they all back off and focus on the upcoming generation. "You are on your own, now," they seem to say. No church activities, General Conference talks or ward support exists for the newly married or those with new children. I think the network of Relief Society is supposed to fill the gap, but I am not connecting with Relief Society. This gap which I have gradually felt widening between me and the Church populace since my return from my mission seems to grow wider and wider as I walk through this strange new life. I suppose it is rather like learning to ride a bike. There comes a time when your dad lets go, and you fall and skin your knee. I just wish I didn't have to include others in my struggles and falls. Always before, my struggles and pains were mine alone.

With that background of struggles in mind, I have recently stumbled upon the world of the "Bloggernacle." This is a complex Mormon society of bloggers with a bemusing array of fiery opinions and backgrounds. I have found it interesting to participate in a few of the multiple boards involved, but, although many are self-labeled "misfits" in the Church-wide culture, they are not the same sort of misfit I am. I have worked out a testimony, for the most part, of the doctrines of the Church, but have not studied the ins and outs exhaustively. I have come to peace with seemingly anti-feminism stances and the Churchly definition of motherhood and womanhood as discussed so clearly in "Daughters of God." What I haven't come to peace with is my place within it. I have had promises and blessings given to me of which I cannot be worthy. I look at myself and simply cannot see how I could ever "go and do" the Lord's commandments well enough to enter the Celestial Kingdom. I cannot picture Heavenly Father embracing me at the last day and proclaiming "well done, thou good and faithful servant." I don't think I can do it. I agree with the doctrines of the Church, but cannot see how to accomplish them. I am, therefore, neither in the camp of feminism nor in the camp of Church-defined "motherhood."

I suppose it all comes down to trust in the Atonement of Christ. It is more than seeing there is a net below a 100 ft. tightrope, it is knowing you cannot balance, that you will fall, yet trying to walk the tightrope anyways, trusting the net will catch you. Faith is not belief or understanding, it is letting go control of your destiny and placing it into the hands of another.

When I was about 15, I had the chance to rappel down a cliff for the first time in my life. I remember getting into the harness and listening to the instructions of the expert. I pictured in my mind what I had to do, and felt my body preparing for the motions. I walked up to the brink of the tiny, 30-ft. cliff and looked over the edge to see that the man holding the safety rope was a guy in my ward who loved to tease and irritate. I didn't trust him. Despite the fear of ridicule, I simply could not go over the edge as long as that man held the safety rope. Rather than hurt his feelings, I backed away from the edge. To this day, I have never rock climbed or rappelled, I have never had another chance. In order to live this life, you have to be willing to leap over the edge, even though you can't really see who is holding the safety rope. He is shrouded in mist and others' opinions of who He is. Trusting nothing but an internal feeling that it will be okay, you step over. I don't know if I can do that. I don't think I can accomplish all the Lord has commanded me, yet I hope that He believes in me more than I do.

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