Friday, February 26, 2016

Living by Implication—A Woman of God

Believe it or not, I am a faithful Latter-day Saint. Usually, faithful Latter-day Saint women don't talk about what I'm going to talk about, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. I am also a single mother with no real prospects of becoming anything else, which is a confusing thing to be in the Church and in the Gospel.

First, my credentials. I attend the temple more or less monthly. I go to Church every week. Until recently (more on that later,) I encouraged my children to attend their activities. I hold a calling which I fulfill every week. I have had multiple opportunities to be offended and leave the Church, but I haven't. I have struggled with different doctrines of the Church and found my way through them all. I am not a scholar, nor an intellectual, but I have a very active curiosity and I gather knowledge the way a raven gathers interesting objects. I don't shy away from difficult circumstances. I have also come to know my Savior through experiencing my own weaknesses and the weaknesses of others. I have fought hard to learn forgiveness both of myself and others, to learn charity and patience. I have had some success in finding all three, but have a long way to go.

Recently, I've had the opportunity to find out more than I ever knew about the workings of the Church. There is nothing shocking or surprising. I have no horror stories. It's all about what you would expect from an organization filled with very imperfect people who mostly wish to serve God in an organization that is entirely dedicated to doing His work on this earth. It is beautiful in its organic messiness.

But with that opportunity has come many chances to hear how people—particularly men— think about the Church, what they understand of it. I have come to realize how very different my experiences as a woman have been in the Church and as a disciple. I have also come to realize that men, for the most part, truly have no idea how the Gospel as presently taught makes female discipleship so very, very different from male discipleship.

Maybe not all women experience it this way. Many have found ways of coping, or working around the challenges. Most just grow—and flourish—where they are planted. Despite my thinking over these things, I fully intend to do the same thing. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. It does. And while I've shelved the frustration of what it means to be a woman in the Church, things that happen with my daughters tend to resurface the old resentment. This is one of the ways I haven't yet learned to forgive. It still hurts too much.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lost People

It surprises me that in my ward, I teach teenagers. It surprised me even more that, after coming into the classroom to hear her daughter teach, one mother told me, "you are just what these girls need."

I do not feel like I'm just what these girls need. I am not a good example of the efficacy of the things I was taught as a teenager. I waited for a temple wedding, only to have it fall down around my ears. I'm a single working mother with little hope and no expectation of marrying again, in small part because I will not marry outside the temple.

Based on my reading of scripture, both public and private, I have thoroughly failed to do what the Lord asked of me. There is little left. But I intend to do my best at what little there is. At least I'll die trying. I'm too German to give up in the face of failure.

There are two things I have been called to do which still may have some application to my life. I have been told to be a mother and to be a teacher. So when I listened to Paul H. Dunn's decades-old talk, (nearly fifty years old!) I knew what I needed to write about.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lift Where You Stand

It is more than just coincidence that today, after posting yesterday about male motherhood, I was shown this video. This is what the Priesthood does for us. It is less about the authority, less about the ordinances, and more about the responsibility that authority and those ordinances engender in the hearts of those of us who would otherwise find no reason to learn unselfishness. It is not about commanding. It is about bonding.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Becoming a Male Mother

I know that some people get wound up about the comparison of holding the priesthood to motherhood. This post is not going to make those people happy. As I read the talks from the Priesthood session so long ago, an overreaching theme coalesced. It is something I have been pondering for a very long time. It is easy to pick apart how Priesthood and Motherhood are different, but I have spent years pondering why men, and not women, might be given the priesthood at this stage in mortal life.

Ultimately, I believe that there is much more similar between men and women in general than there is between any two given women or any two given men. In other words, I believe there is more diversity within a gender than between genders. I also believe that there isn't much that a determined person is incapable of doing, outside of certain handicaps.

But I also believe that who we are as people is not only based on who we were before we came to this earth, it is also based on who we have become while here. This mortal life is fraught, not only with sin and moral weakness, but also with mortal weakness: the circumstances of our physical bodies, and the culture that has developed from those underlying circumstances. I cannot explain the differences between male and female in a way that is irrefutable or without exception. But I'm not inclined to get lost in exceptions when the pattern has so much to teach me.

My words are mine, and colored liberally with my perspective and experience as a woman. I don't have perspective as a man, nor any of the other myriad options out there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Motherhood and Mechanical Rabbits

"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men...."
D&C 121:34-35

"Mother" was once a word that struck me with fear. As a teenager, I knew I had a temper problem. I knew I was not cut out to be a parent. When word came directly from the Lord to me that His calling to me was to be a mother of "many souls", I was rocked to my core. After much inner struggling, I determined that if that was my Lord's wish for me, I would try to be the best mother I could be.

I spent a decade wrestling with inner demons, praying with all I had, to be changed into someone who could handle parenthood. I went through a 180° change. My heart was softened, I mastered my temper, became a wholly different person than I was. The vision I had been given fell apart over certain events of my life. My life now looks like what I first thought I wanted: very different from what I was led to believe it would be, but in the process I have learned a respect for motherhood that some might call "fetishization." (I have also earned a similar respect for fatherhood and priesthood, but that is a discussion for another post.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Love and Lies

"Without [honesty], there can be no salvation."
Honesty, a Principle of Salvation by Mark E. Petersen
"Everyone lies sometimes. I never understood why liars were treated the same in scriptures as murderers and adulterers until I met [one]. Now I understand."

What is the difference between someone who tells a lie and a liar? Neither are good, but until I spent many sleepless nights trying to come to terms with the truth of my marriage, I had no idea there even was a difference.

But since my education in the school of hard knocks, I've learned to see the threads of deception which weave themselves through the fabric of our culture, our lives, and our very identities. We lie to ourselves constantly. Sometimes, we try to avoid hurting someone, and sometimes we are simply trying to cover our own weaknesses.

But there are people who have willingly and earnestly immersed themselves in lies to the point where they are nothing else. All their relationships are false, because they are built on lies. They live in a constant state of brazen insecurity, as they layer one lie upon another until they convince themselves that they are good people. And the hardest part to understand is that these people are everywhere. To an extent, they are even us.

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