Why I, a Feminist who Wants the Priesthood, Won’t be at the Ordain Women Demonstration

March 19, 2014 § 27 Comments

A few months ago, I fell in love with Abraham. You know, the prophet who almost killed his own kid and risked giving up his wife to another man? A friend of mine asked me why. She said, “How!!?!??!?? Are we even reading the same Genesis!?!?!??!?!”

We started talking about all the crazy things Abraham did as a father, husband, “not to mention a prophet.” But I fell in love with Abraham for those reasons. He did a lot of weird stuff that doesn’t make sense to 21st century me and I’m sure didn’t make much sense to him, but he did it anyway out of loyalty to and I believe an understanding and genuine love of God. At least when I asked God about it, that’s what I felt.

My friend disagreed. She disliked Abraham because his actions seemed to contradict the loving, respecter-of-persons qualities of God. In a way, Abraham’s actions offended her because they offended her understanding of a good and loving God.

I remember thinking Isn’t it interesting that your beef is with Abraham? For all those crazy reasons, my beef is with God. In a way, you could say my friend’s feelings were almost more loyal to God because she believed the God she knew and loved wouldn’t require such—what’s the word?— cruelty? Horror? Total weirdness? (At least from our current paradigm.)

LDS members who believe in past and present prophets are told, “whether it is by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). And yet, this concept has grown increasingly confusing for members since (1) We’re told our leaders make mistakes, that some of what they say is personal opinion, but that their revelation is from God, and (2) We’re told that our leaders will never lead us astray and yet a few months ago, the church told us that all that black men and their not-holding-the-priesthood stuff wasn’t actually from God. It was from prejudiced men who also happened to be our leaders? As grateful as I am for that recent statement released by the church, it has raised questions for a lot of us like, “So is all this discrimination against women, like, the same thing?” Where’s the line between personal perceptions of our leaders (which I believe most of us are more than willing to forgive) and actual revelation from God (which I believe many of us will accept)?

The issues of women and the priesthood and women’s leadership roles in the church come back to the question my friend and I had: Who is “responsible”—Abraham or God? Were Abraham’s actions toward Sarah, Isaac, and that other wife Hagar (who he sent away) a result of his cultural upbringing or mortal mind? Or was he actually doing what God asked him to do? (The scriptures do claim that God commanded Abraham to do each of these things.) Similarly we can ask: Is the church’s exclusion of women in priesthood and church-wide leadership roles a result of our church leaders’ cultural backgrounds and mortal minds? Or is all of this actually what God wants? (After all: our leaders specifically state that God has organized the church as it is—men who hold the priesthood and run the organization of the church.)

I am sympathetic to the Ordain Women Movement after having read and thought more about this Abraham/God: Who’s to “blame?” concept. I am now sympathetic because underlying the movement is a devotion to a belief in a God who loves His children equally and wants them all to receive the same blessings. To them, God would never make them feel inferior even in the way He organizes His church. In their minds, God is a God of compassion and love and concern for the one. He is a feminist. He knows and values women for their distinct perspectives. Women, to God, are not only procreators, but also creators and rulers with promised blessings of exaltation and worlds without number. Sounds like the God all of us women worship and love, right?

So then. If God would never allow this, there must be some kind of misunderstanding in our leaders, the Abrahams, right?

And so, for the OW movement, this calls for action. And it makes sense. Think about it: Just as we hope we would have advocated for blacks holding the priesthood back then, I believe the OW movement believes they are doing something noble by advocating for other women, their sisters, their mothers, their daughters, their daughters’ daughters. As a mother with a daughter, I have felt again and again that all I want is for my daughter to have a better life. That I want her to feel free and limitless, respected and valued.

But I won’t be at the demonstration supporting their movement.

Not because I don’t believe in disagreement or contention. I studied and taught rhetoric and argumentation for two years, a discipline that exists only because of differences in opinions. Deep down in me I love controversy because I believe opposing ideas make better way for truth. We chip at each other’s ideas, back and forth, back and forth, and through each other, we find out more truth, intelligence, light. Though I don’t believe this applies to all doctrinal truths (sometimes God just declares His truth and there is no “negotiating” it), I always love the Sunday School class members who raise their hands and ask contradictory questions because I believe when we address those questions, it prompts us all to better discover what we believe and don’t believe.

Not because I don’t necessarily want the priesthood either. Though this isn’t something I feel particularly pained over (as opposed to other issues, like knowledge of my Heavenly Mother), I do believe the priesthood is a gift and blessing and gives those who possess it more opportunities to serve and become better disciples. And I actually like to serve. There are times when I’ve seen my husband suffer emotionally or mentally or physically and I’ve sincerely wanted to help him in the way he has helped me so many times. I’ve wanted to help him hear what God wanted him to hear through me. Is that prideful? I don’t think so. I believe my love for my husband and for God would give my husband a unique perspective just as his blessings give me one. The same holds true for distributing blessings to all my family members, friends, neighbors, congregations, etc.

Not because I’m fine with church culture as it is. Of course I would love to see a woman help write The Proclamation on the Family and actually sign her name ;) Of course I would love to see a woman sitting on the stand and to watch my husband, brothers, father, and sons admire her leadership decisions. Of course I would love to see more male role models in primary. Of course I want my children to have men more involved in their lives and to see women more involved in decision-making. Yes, I would love the church organization to be an example of the doctrine that women are children of God and that their destinies as goddesses are similar to man’s. Yes, I would love church culture to be a sanctuary from some of the messages and views about women out there in the world. Frankly, it sucks that our church culture is in some ways worse.

But I won’t be at the demonstration because of what it symbolizes to God and my leaders and my fellow church members about my faith, devotion, and loyalty. Simply put: Our church leaders asked the OW Movement not to demonstrate. And whether or not our leaders do everything perfectly (including how they frame their PR statements) or if everything they say is directly from God, I believe God has created this church and stands by it even in all of its limitations and weaknesses. He stands by it in all of its goodness too. By demonstrating respect to my church leaders, I demonstrate devotion to Him. This doesn’t mean the OW movement is disloyal to the church or the gospel it teaches. They’re not asking to lead members away from the church that currently exists. They want to heal. But since our church leaders have asked the movement to reconsider its demonstration, the movement has evolved into a symbol of contention and strife within the church, an us vs. them—and that in itself isn’t a good thing. Even though this may be unfair because the church made this into an us vs. them by their PR statement, if the church leaders view it as such, then I won’t participate. I choose to pledge my loyalty to anything that represents God, including his prophets and apostles and the demonstration of my loyalty to them is more important to me than the demonstration of my loyalty to the questions and doubt I sometimes feel.

I won’t be there because I don’t believe our church leaders’ prayers are more meaningful to God than our own. In an article published about Kate Kelly, the leader of the OW movement, it reads, “Kelly would argue that she is not asking to make the decision — merely for church leaders to pray about it.” We have the divine power to access God on our own and in groups. We can pray and fast alone, together, even organize prayer and fasting together. Yes, the prophet receives revelation for the entire church. But we can still pray that God will work through our prophet and leaders to make things best for women and all of the members of the church, whatever that may be.

Also, these leaders have prayed about it and have told us the following very recently:

Neil L. Anderson: “Some may sincerely ask the question, ‘If the power and blessings of the priesthood are available to all, why are the ordinances of the priesthood administered by men?’ When an angel asked Nephi, ‘Knowest thou the condescension of God?’ Nephi answered honestly, ‘I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.’” (“Power in the Priesthood,” Ensign, November 2013). Here Elder Anderson implies that our leaders don’t know, just as Nephi did not know because it was not yet revealed.

Russell M. Ballard: “When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.” (“Let Us Think Straight,” BYU Speech, August 2013.)

Perhaps, yes, they could better articulate the process in which they received this revelation. But I believe there is sincere prayer, fasting, and preparation before addressing these sensitive topics. I have felt that as I listen to their words.

And yeah, it may be a bummer that not a lot has changed since this statement from Gordon B. Hinckley:

“It was the Lord who designated that men in His Church should hold the priesthood. It was He who has given you [women] your capabilities to round out this great and marvelous organization, which is the Church and kingdom of God” (“Women of the Church,” Ensign, November 1996).

We can argue that this answer is temporary, but this is our current answer and I choose to accept it with an understanding that God’s ways, including God’s timing, are not my ways. I don’t believe it’s fair to put the responsibility or blame on our current leaders who have simply not received guidance. Kudos to those who refrain from filling in the gaps and questions with their own explanations as we have seen in the past.

I won’t be there because of what the movement symbolizes to God about my relationship to Him. In the Bible Dictionary, we learn the following:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”

Blessings do require work, but that work is not protestation, either public or private, especially when answers have been given and repeatedly. Yes, we read and see many examples of saints who pray and ask for desired blessings, but adjacent to those requests is the inward wrestle to configure their hearts to accept whatever God’s will is. That configuration is the kind of work necessary for blessings. President Eyring has even talked about this concept as a spiritual gift we can ask for—the gift to want what God wants. Like Joseph Smith, it’s not good for us or others to keep requesting God to change His answer—to let Martin Harris take the manuscript to his wife because “it would mean so much.” Faith is to ask, but it is also to accept whether God says yes or no or even, “I’m not telling and I’m not even going to tell you why I’m not telling.” Even if the result of that answer encourages pain, strife, or disassociation.

And lastly and most importantly, I won’t be there because I haven’t felt inspired or prompted to do so. Though I would love for women to hold the priesthood, I haven’t felt that women will receive the priesthood or that I must be an advocate, slowly preparing other members for this new revelation. I did recently, however, meet with a group of women who will be attending the OW Demonstration and some of them felt strong spiritual experiences pushing them to go. I can’t say that their experiences aren’t real. And I can’t explain our different answers except for maybe we have different roles in this process. Though I am not a relativist (I do believe it is possible to be wrong), I honestly don’t know that my answer is everyone’s answer.

Some may say that it is cowardly or even ineffective—that my attitude and actions won’t bring about the change that the church “needs.” Yes, I’ve even thought about how some day, if women do get the priesthood, my children might ask me, “But where were you? Why weren’t you there?” It’s a hard decision for me too. But I have carefully and critically made my decision to demonstrate my loyalty to God by demonstrating my loyalty to church leaders who have asked OW followers to refrain. I don’t believe we cannot privately work these things out with God or even discuss these things with our leaders in a respectful manner, as long as we do it with a proper understanding of God, our relationship to Him, and even our leaders’ relationship with Him. We ask and we listen to real answers and we pray to accept all the different answers we may receive along the way with patience, hope, and loyalty to Him and His cause.

 

 

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Perhaps I’ll Start Writing Again.

September 1, 2013 § 2 Comments

Yes, perhaps I’ll start writing again. I haven’t wanted to for a very long time. Perhaps I’ve been busy writing other things (like a humongous thesis–and yes I had to look up and verify the spelling of humongous and yes, I’m an English major, but I repeat: ENGLISH MAJOR DOES NOT = SPELLING OR GRAMMAR MAJOR, people!!!) and the thought of writing anything else made me want to puke. But I don’t think that’s it. Perhaps I had writer’s block. Or life block. Or perhaps there were so many big things that happened that I didn’t want to cheapen it all by trying to explain it. Like holding my baby for the first time. Or the billionth time. Even now, writing this, she is sleeping next to me with her belly up, her arms and legs sprawled open. She is the most vulnerable person I know.

The truth is she is changing me so fast I haven’t known where to begin writing. Where do I begin?

Well, for starters, my little sister emailed me today and just before she wrote goodbye and signed her name she said:

And please take time to write Tara. Don’t forget!

 I wasn’t sure if she was talking about writing her on her mission or writing creatively on my own. I mean, I always write her on her mission–every week.* Well, except a few times. Was she referring to those few times I forgot/got too lazy/distracted? Geez. SO JUDGMENTAL. (And yes, I had to verify that spelling too. I always forget: Is there an e after the g?)

Anyway, I took it as a sign that I should keep writing because I’m starting to want to again because I’m starting to have things to say again. And, as always: I need to.

* For example, this excerpt from the email I sent Lissa today:

Today I was brushing my teeth just before bed and had these thoughts: You are a strong and capable woman. You are a smart and intelligent woman. You are a kind and thoughtful and loving woman. Even with your fat rolls and trying to lose 18 more pounds: You are a beautiful woman with child bearing hips and milking giving giant boobs. And those are good things. 

Moms and The Beginning of Mrs. Mom

February 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

So my little sister Lissa left two weeks ago to serve an LDS mission in the Philippines. She’ll be gone for a year and a half. My mom forwarded me Lissa’s second email today, updating us on Lissa’s language learning (TAGALOG!?!?!?!?!) and transformations. I totally miss her.

But the thing is. When my mom forwarded me Lissa’s email, the email SHE sent Lissa was attached at the bottom. So I read it because I’m mischievous.

“Dear Lissa,

So, how was your week? I am assuming you are now fluent in Tagalog? Do you remember how to speak English? Starting tomorrow I will greet everyone I meet with “Magandag Arow.” It will be my way of being part of your world. 

[ . . . ]

You are my sweet Lissa and I think about you all the time at different times of your life. Lately I have been thinking of you when you were in kindergarten and we were such good friends. Everything was fun and exciting to you. You were curious and interested in everything. If you were to look in the dictionary under “sweetness” it would have said Lissa. I looked up sweetness today and it said “Sister Lissa Brock.” Strangely I looked up courageous, strong, faithful and capable and they all said, “Sweet Lissa also known as Sister Lissa Brock serving a mission for the Lord.”

Lissa, “shall we not go on in so great a cause?”
Cant wait to hear from you.
I love you, Lissa.
Mom”

I emailed my mom: BTW, you’re a really good mom.

Now, I know you’re all thinking, how come you turned out the way you did with a mom like that? I know. Any good I am is because of her. Any bad I am is because . . . I BLAME RYAN!

The good news is this morning I woke up wanting to cry because apparently overnight, I fell in love with my baby. Yeah, my 11 inch, 1 pound, cartwheeling baby alligator. (There’s this picture of her spine that makes her look like an alligator. Let’s hope she doesn’t actually look like one. If she does . . . I BLAME RYAN!)

Let it be known: this has not always been the case. I barfed every day for two months until one time, I swear my throat almost ripped open. We were enemies for a while. And I still refuse to read out loud to her. I mean, it’s not like she can understand books.

But this morning, you guys.

She might have murdered my libido and hijacked my esophagus, but I’m starting to like her. Like really, really, do-anything-in-the-entire-world-for-her-with-very-few-exceptions like her.

You Know Those People Who Go Above and Beyond?

January 29, 2013 § 3 Comments

I am not one of those people. Especially when it comes to Cub Scouts.

Almost two and a half years ago our church bishop asked if I would volunteer to help out with the Cub Scouts around our neighborhood, “leading” the Bear Cubs as the Den Leader. These are terms you may not be familiar with. That’s okay. I had to learn them too. Bear Cubs = loud, distracted, obnoxious nine-year-old boys. Den Leader = responsible adult dedicated to pledging allegiance to the flag.

Little did I know that this volunteering would last for almost two and a half years. It really wasn’t a lot of work at all. Just–what’s the word?–annoying. You know, carving things out of soap with young boys I wouldn’t necessarily call my friends. Practicing skits that don’t really make sense. Talking about camping and crap:

“Teacher, how do you tie the world’s tightest knot?”

“I don’t know, guys. Go ask your dad.”

Last week, our bishop informed me that I didn’t have to volunteer anymore because he found someone else to replace me. I was free!

Well, tonight was my cubs’ Pinewood Derby. They’d been planning on this for like a whole month. I thought about going tonight and supporting them one more time as like a final goodbye. You know, “for the kids.”

But then I started watching The West Wing. And then I started making dinner. I got distracted. You could say intentionally.

Ah, well. I’m not one to get sentimental over these things.

A Side Note on “Being Real”

October 30, 2012 § 6 Comments

After this post, I had some lingering thoughts. So here they are. Bear with me.

I am aware of the fact that it’s impossible to define what’s real, to define who we are, as if who we “really” are is some separate entity that doesn’t have to do with anybody/anything else, including Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Who we are consists of a lot of things: I am my mother’s daughter. I am my father’s daughter. I am Ryan’s wife. I am a devout Mormon. I am parts of each creative writing teacher I’ve had (even the old grouchy one I disagreed with). Thank goodness for all of these people/beliefs that have contributed to this current essence of me.

But I’m curious how this essence would change if my high school teachers encouraged me to major in economics instead of English (we didn’t even have an economics class), or if I grew up in Indonesia instead of Central Oregon, or lived on a farm instead of in a neighborhood. What if I was the fourth child, or the first child instead of the second? What if I married one of those weirdos I dated instead of Ryan (THE BIGGEST WEIRDO!!)? My experience of the world would be different. My understanding of experience would change because of my experience. Does that make sense?

How much of what I consider “me” would change if all my experience changed? I like to say that I’d still have my humor–(I’ve given up on being fascinating and resorted to being sorta funny)–but the truth is, what if my dad was never my dad, or my cousin Dani never handed me a Jack Handy book? What if I grew up watching Teletubbies (GROSS!!!!!!!) instead of Seinfeld? Okay, I’m a little freaked out. I HAVE NO ESSENCE.

But I kid. I kid. I believe there are parts of me that are essentially me. And not just my boobs and saggy butt (which, even though I inherited these from my grandmother, no boobs or butts are exactly like mine. Ryan assures me.). I mean, what about things like my awe? My anger? My hope? My sorrow? (I could go into a long discussion about learning emotions, but that might mean even my emotions aren’t my own. I refuse!)

I guess, though, who we are is constantly becoming. (I wrote a poem about this once.) Both our essences and our details. I am often learning new hobbies, interests, ways of living and experiencing that bring me either more or less happiness. This process of discovery changes what I do and what I want. (You could call it transformative!) Internet/social media = a place to learn new things from all kinds of people. I think that’s good. Great. Excellent. Fascinating!

I guess my concern always comes back to motives. In the words of Michael Scott, “Why are you the way that you are?”

In this sense, my question should not be “WHO ARE YOU REALLY?” because that’s not a fair question. And honestly, I think it’s a stupid and limiting question. Instead, my question is: “WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE AND WHY?”

 

But again, this raises more questions. Do our desires better represent who we are (currently) than our actions? Ahh. No and yes?

Of course, this post as a whole has no central purpose. Add to it what you will.

Apathy a Virtue?

August 17, 2012 § 7 Comments

I like happy-go-lucky people. I do. Sometimes I wish I was a lot more like them.

These people have philosophies like “He who cares least is happiest,” so they just choose not to get all hot n’ bothered. Great. Hot n’ bothered sucks. Trust me, I know.

I get that some things really shouldn’t be stressed about. Even thought twice about. Like the dishes in the sink, this blog post, whatever.

But when did apathy become a virtue? It’s more like an incredible gift. Congratulations, you don’t care about anything. Life must come easy to you. You’re like, naturally stoned always.

Coming from someone who cares about a lot of things, even blog posts sometimes, I don’t get this kind of thinking and living–not that it’s wrong at all. I just literally can’t comprehend it because I’ve never experienced it. I mean, for me, I have to choose not to care about a lot of issues and how to better handle the things I don’t even care that much about. (Which, FYI, I suck at.)

When I hear people say, “What does he care?” or “Why does it matter?” I must confess: I get a little hot n’ bothered. As if because we don’t care, other people shouldn’t care either.

So I write a blog post about it. But I’m thinking, maybe I shouldn’t care about what I hear other people say. The question, though, is how do I not care?

Thoughts on apathy? Is it a virtue?

 

 

 

My First Creative Writing Teacher Failed to Mention that I Sucked

August 16, 2012 § 3 Comments

She was a graduate student when I took her class, kinda like I’m a graduate student now, but she was in the creative writing program instead of in the English/rhetoric program (FYI: that’s what I’m in now). I took her class my second semester of my sophomore year. I remember walking into class on my first workshop day, wanting to puke. I had never had anyone read anything I’d written before and to have a class of 15 or so people read my stuff and criticize it IN FRONT OF ME was perhaps one of the first most humiliating things I’ve done.

I always read her blog because so far in all my searching, I’ve never found a lovelier one. And every time I read her stuff I remember her telling me about the first story I had ever written, how I needed to get rid of all my adverbs. I didn’t understand what she meant until years later, and when I realized, I realized, “HOW WAS SHE SO NICE? SO ENCOURAGING?” Especially when I wrote a dramatic and now super-uper embarrassing, full-of-adverbs personal essay about Ryan leaving. ON HIS MISSION. Yes, I was one of those spewing everything I felt onto paper kind of people. I still am, but I save it for the journal (or sometimes the blog).

And yet she still gave me hope, always. She’d say things like, “Great imagery here,” but in a nicer, more sincere and eloquent way because she is top-notch with her words. She taught me how to “braid” ideas together in an essay. One time she even asked for my power point slides about “atmosphere” because she liked them. She has this way of seeing that I crave as a writer and a teacher.

I remember all these details from her class because I really woke up in that class. I felt so excited, like I was learning all these significant secrets. The good kinds, of course, like “There is a pot of gold!” and “You have a twin sister who is a princess, which means you are too, which means you will live a luxurious life forever!!!!!”

One time she told us to take a new route home. Another time she told us to write about four found objects. Another time she told us to try something we’ve never done before and then write about it. (I wrote about singing out loud in public with my headphones on. I sang all day, in between classes.) I learned that writing was more than writing. Writing was a certain kind of being.

Anyway. I’m saying this because I’ve been so depressed about starting school again. My friend emailed me and asked me what classes I was taking. He said I should take a fiction class with the other creative writing kids. The thought of taking a writing class made me feel so hopeful again–about school, life. I’m not in the creative writing program, but I miss it. I miss it. So. (I might be taking a creative writing class in the fall. To get me through my other classes.)

I feel like I need to thank her for introducing me to all of this–a happier way of being.

(And as side notes: for her honest and glimmering post yesterday. And for this post she posted a long time ago that I read again sometimes.)

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