Bless Us This Good Friday, This Sad, Doubting, Wallowing Friday

I’m thinking today of the ancient, long ago, heartbreaking Friday.

I’m imagining the apostles and disciples and their feelings of despair and confusion and doubt:

Was he really the Son of God? If so, how come people killed him? Couldn’t he have prevented that? What does it mean that he didn’t? That he couldn’t?

Why didn’t he stand up for himself–for all of us, his followers? How can dying further the work of his supposed righteousness? Where’s the wisdom in this? 

How could he betray me? I thought he loved me. He always made me feel loved. But now he’s leaving me and my family here, hunted, despised, likely to meet his same end? How could he abandon me, his friend, and leave me to the wolves?

Or

If he left by choice, why didn’t he love us enough to stay? Or at least stay a little longer? Why not tell me? Why not let me say goodbye? 

Why didn’t he explain to us better that he was going to die and like this? Why didn’t he prepare us?

What am I supposed to do now? What are all of us supposed to do now?

Or

The real Son of God wouldn’t have let this happen. Did he lie to me–to all of us? I let him hold my kids. I let him hug them, and bless them, and weep over them. Was he manipulating me? Was he delusional? Am I?

What does this say about me, a disciple, that bought into all of this? Was what I felt not real? Did I imagine it? How could I have been so deceived? How could he let me? 

I wasted all those years listening and following him–what for?

I’ve thought about these disciples today because I can relate to some degree to the confusion and circuitous route of doubt. I have had moments of deep despair in regards to faith, worship, Jesus, prophets, scripture, not to mention Mormonism as a “correct” church or an inspired one. In the middle of these moments, the outcome has never been clear or certain.

These moments have been very dark as I imagine they were for these disciples and some apostles when their entirely new and fresh Christian paradigms–which had been so radically changed in the last three or less years they spent with Jesus–seemed to crack and break before their eyes. They had been healed, had witnessed others healed, had even healed others themselves through the “supposed” power Jesus had given them, so I can imagine, after watching Jesus wither and die in front of their eyes made them question everything they saw, felt, or heard. And how could it not?

A logical assumption you can make about meeting the Son of God is that if you follow him, if you do what he says, if you give everything up for him–habits, traditions, sin, money, lusts, social standing, comfort, belonging–then you’re going to be okay. Saved, exalted even. Because God is on YOUR side and God doesn’t lose. The logical assumption is that God can’t be killed by a bunch of worried, jealous humans. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense at all. And therefore, a logical conclusion is to assume that if worried, jealous, loser-ish humans can kill the Son of God so they can keep controlling the city and making money off sales in the temple, then who you think is the Son of God probably isn’t the Son of God. And what a depressing, depressing conclusion to make.

That, to me, is the heartbreak of that old Friday.

I love how many Christian denominations observe this Friday with fastings and services to commemorate this day as a time of acute suffering. I love the idea that Catholic priests wear black robes instead of the usual red or purple they wear for Lent to signal a moment of wallowing. I love how Catholics in particular, but other denominations as well, don’t just remember the day, they try to relive it:

“The Holy Church opens before the eyes of believers a full picture of the redeeming suffering of the Lord beginning with the bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane up to the crucifixion on Golgotha. Taking us back through the past centuries in thought, the Holy Church brings us to the foot of the cross of Christ erected on Golgotha, and makes us present among the quivering spectators of all the torture of the Savior.” From Bulgakov’s Handbook of Church Servers. 

This knowledge has been profoundly helpful to me today as I have reflected on the Friday as if I didn’t know the following Sunday existed. What would I feel? How would I react?

As someone who sometimes doubts my own religious impressions or feelings, I can empathize with these disciples because logically you’re seeing one thing, and emotionally, you’re feeling another. You’re literally seeing loser, mocking people with no real power compared to what you’ve witnessed stab the very man who literally washed your feet the day before. Someone who called down bread and fishes and fed thousands–THOUSANDS–in front of your eyes. Who healed sick, manic people and cast out demons into pigs. Even those who study the historical Jesus now describe him as a healer because there are so many witnesses of his healing. So what does that mean? The man who cooked for you and walked on water, and spoke truth that burned in your blood, is now dead because people–just a bunch of regular jerks–killed him.

On this day you’re thinking, where is the power Jesus claimed to have? He hangs from a cross in front of you, bleeding, gasping, bruising. He is thirsty and asks for a drink. Can’t he get his own drink? Where is his power now?

That Easter Sunday does come and the revelation is mind-blowingly bigger and huger than anything I or you or those dear disciples then could have imagined, is a lesson to me that these questions are questions and they do not always reflect reality, as real and bowel-wrenching as the pain can be as a result of asking them. Can any of you imagine how Mary Magdalene–having been healed of demons by the Savior himself–must have wrestled with what lay before her in the tomb? Of course she brought herbs and spices to bless the body who blessed hers. But I’m sure she must have asked herself what all of this meant and prayed hard to not let the sorrow and the confusion consume her.

A brighter light exists and will soon come and the light will feel warmer on her cold, pale, dry skin because she has weathered the weekend storm.

I, too, must weather the wait.

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We Are the Church; We Are the Body of Christ

In light of comments and discussion on my blogpost I recently posted about the alleged victim of sexual abuse, I want to emphasize four things:

1. The local bishop of the victim during the 80s didn’t believe the victim at the time. He trusted someone’s calling (MTC president) more than an alleged victim. This isn’t right. Many of us non-leaders are also guilty of this type of privileging callings or positions over truth. Let this be a reminder to all of us members that truth matters more than position, according to our own LDS doctrine found in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“[W]hen we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

D&C 121:37 

Callings don’t = automatic priesthood power. Righteousness does. When someone in a calling acts through unrighteousness, God withdraws. But when they do act through righteousness, the power of God can work through them to bless others under their stewardship. God grants us stewardship and gives us opportunities to particularly bless those within it. Perhaps that’s what the victim means when she said that God can work through “unclean vessels.”

This understanding of priesthood power and authority and the Spirit of God doesn’t just apply to our local and higher up leaders. Anyone set apart in a calling–women included–are given priesthood authority and power. To those who may not have callings but have been given an office of priesthood or who have been endowed with priesthood power in the temple: this doctrine also applies to you. We also are not immune to this higher standard to avoid pride, vanity, compulsion toward those we are meant to minister to.

2. We don’t know what or if actions were taken by Carlos Asay when he heard about the rape from the victim. Clearly, not enough happened and we don’t know why. This is wrong. The church is now conducting a further investigation. (Scroll down to the updated Mar 23rd version.) They specifically state:

“The Church is looking into all aspects of the assertions on the recording of Joseph Bishop. This includes the work of outside legal counsel, who are interviewing priesthood leaders, family members, law enforcement officials and others with knowledge of these incidents.”

Regardless of why they’re doing that now–we can criticize, but let’s at least be grateful for steps in the right direction–it’s really good that they’re doing it now. Maybe justice can come because members let leaders know “all is [not] well in Zion.” Our leaders listened to some of us.

3. All of us = the church. We are together the body of Christ. We can help our body heal by our individual roles and actions. We should never leave it only to those in higher positions to think and act on behalf of the whole body. This suggests we believe the head matters more than the heart or that the eye matters less than the leg. All matter. All parts are needed. Our own perceptions may suggest that a head does matter more than a heart, but without the heart, without the legs, the stomach, the mouth, the head would be utterly wasted.

Because of leadership callings I’ve had in the church, perhaps I’m especially appreciative of people who have contacted me to let me know of things I’ve done wrong and right. I needed both types of feedback to maintain any type of good. I’ve done so many immature, zealous, silly, downright ignorant things. Leaders need proactive, caring, loving, supportive body members to help them and their organizations be better. Forgive other body parts and be the strongest body part you can be. God will teach you how to do that.

4. After thinking more on my previous blogpost I want to add a few more thoughts that I would like to be the takeaways:

a. The victim demonstrated remarkable courage and an understanding of repentance and forgiveness. She is a hero.

b. The victim trusted her own intuition and impressions and boldly spoke against evil. She is a hero.

c. The Atonement is real. Jesus is a hero. Repentance and forgiveness is a real power that can change lives. Even if leaders don’t always demonstrate this publicly or privately, LDS Church doctrine does. It teaches us to repent and to confess and to forgive. The victim showed a remarkable faith in that Christian doctrine in the interview.

d. I have talked to and cried with close friends and family about this event because to me, the body to which I belong–the LDS church–gives me eyes to discern between truth and error, legs to run and explore marvelous truths, and knees to pray and feel the love of my heavenly parents. This body gives me a mind of consciousness, a heart of compassion, and a pulse for strength to endure. At times, parts of the body to which I belong hurt me and they hurt others. In these moments, an eye may go dark or an ear may not hear. I have to wrestle in the darkness or in the silence, and mourn the loss of an essential body member with other remaining members.

In some cases, like in this instance with Joseph Bishop, parts should be cut off, even if temporarily. Jesus would want that: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” Jesus says. “For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

But for the record: Jesus can still heal plucked parts–the corrupted, poisoned, rotting parts. He can make them new and he can bring them back to their proper function. The rest of us body members can help that happen by what we choose to say and do in these moments of amputation.

I am mourning for this whole body to which I belong because I love it like a family. Bad things have happened that have cut off body parts we need, like this victim who would have strengthened our body. I’ve literally felt my soul churn in sorrow for a body of faith that has so much potential. We come from such a history of communal suffering. Amidst that suffering, we have buoyed up each other in the past. Let’s continue that aspect of our legacy.

e. Though I sometimes wrestle with particulars, and at times that wrestle has been deep and dark, the doctrine of Atonement and Jesus’s ministry of boldfaced love and healing have been taught to me by LDS scripture, leaders, and the ministry of other saints inside and outside of our church buildings. I say this not necessarily because I want to declare that “only the Mormon church can be true then,” but to emphasize the distinct parts of Mormon doctrine and theology that empower me, which is why I choose to remain in it.

The LDS Church has given me section 93 of the Doctrine & Covenants, which sets my heart and my eyes and my hands and my brain on fire, particularly in cases like the one that recently happened to the victim:

“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.”

Despite some members or leaders not demonstrating an understanding of that scripture, LDS revelation has given me that knowledge and that consciousness.

I want to say this not to ignore what wrongs have happened and what wrongs will happen. I write this to emphasize that the victim’s experience was wrong, and is not what should happen in this body I adore and so many of us adore. Like in a marriage, I acknowledge wrongdoing in my church with the intent to improve my relationship with it. The goal isn’t to estrange my partner or my church. The goal is to grow closer in intimacy and love so that we feel safer and happier together. That we feel knit as one.

If any of you have been hurt by what I or others have written in response to my post, please let me know. And please hold onto the light and truth you do have. Because darkness exists, does not mean light does not.

Again, we all have different strengths, perspectives, and roles. Please be the body member you can be and are meant to be, and help the rest of us.

 

 

for my Mother who taught me this

 

Dear Anonymous Victim: Thank You

I saw a tweet a few days ago about the anonymous woman who reported sexual abuse by Joseph L. Bishop, the former Provo MTC President and Weber State president. I couldn’t read it at the time, because it made me sick and I was too busy to be sick.

But the thought kept coming back to me. So today I read all the things. I had so many other things to do, but I read anyway. I read the initial Deseret News article. The Salt Lake Tribune article. The LDS Church’s response. I read friends’ tweets and Facebook responses. I read the entire transcript of the secretly recorded interview because I wanted to know what happened for myself. I’m all about primary sources. I even listened to the latter half of the audio to hear their voices. To hear a woman confront her abuser.

And then I cried. I totally surprised myself because that’s not like me to cry over strangers. I even cried for Joseph L. Bishop. I read and listened to his responses and he seemed so messed up. Weirdly calm. At times controlling. Damningly confused. Utterly ashamed. Sorrowful. He even seemed to treat his abused victim like a therapist. Trying to make sense of how God let him still have spiritual experiences even though he knew he was messed up. His whole life serving in the church, he seems to admit later, was an attempt to dig himself out of this black hole.

And she remarkably kept listening. She said so many strong things and kept listening. To him. She said things like,

“But, okay, so, your addiction was the problem. I understand that. I understand that more than you know, only because I worked in substance abuse, addiction.”

And later,

“[L]ogically, I can understand why people would want to hide from their pain. But when we talk about repentance, we talk about making up for what we did and being sorrowful, and part of that process is we say we’re sorry. And that’s gone 33 years without an apology from you.”

She said real, true, honest, hard things. She listened and reminded him about what it means to really repent. That he actually can be forgiven if he really repents. That she understood how he had a problem. That God can still work through “unworthy vessels,” she kept saying. That he wanted and still wants to hide from his pain. But that’s not enough for his salvation, even if she’s forgiven him.

I want to write about that. Not necessarily about what the church should or shouldn’t do. I’m always hesitant to publicly declare what the church should do because I don’t know all things and I’m hyper-sensitive to its reputation. But also, a lot of good stuff has already been said about what the church can do. Yes, the church can and should dismiss Bishop from his callings of power until he’s proven not guilty. Not the other way around. And the law doesn’t have to prove anything before the church takes action (especially when the law can’t do much of anything now–so many years later). Callings, authority can be reinstated. But unviolated bodies can’t. Real lives, real bodies, real testimonies are at stake here. The eternal life of one does matter more than a temporary bad reputation of the church. And I don’t say that easily. I care very deeply about the church and its reputation because I believe it is good and I have been so blessed by it. I’m committed to the church because I’m committed to its gospel–that its message can light the world. But not adequately handling abuse or not confronting abuse for any reason–even if unintentionally, mistakenly, untraining-ly–requires chastisement. Dear leaders, be deliberate and honest and let the consequences follow. We improve and we change. Mormonism teaches us that. Jesus teaches us that. BYU President Worthen’s response to the sexual assault cases at BYU was a good example of this–admitting fault of the institution and changing. He even oversaw a study on how sexual assault on campus is handled, demonstrating that he is committed to change. Be proactive about improving. Correct false perceptions and messages about trusting leadership authority more than personal revelation. And choose not to privilege the accounts of leaders over common members (especially when women and children are not in those authoritative positions. Maybe they should be.). And lastly, create explicit policies for leaders on how to deal with reports of physical and sexual abuse in ways that protect victims rather than abusers or the church as an institution. I believe many of these errors are a result of not knowing how to handle things or not being trained. I know I would be terrible at handling these things. For that I can offer understanding and forgiveness. But let’s figure out a solution and address these issues head on, and then do our best to enforce those proper solutions.

That said, I want to talk about this anonymous 55 yr-old woman.

There’s this part in the transcript when she says to her abuser,

“[Y]ou singled me out the very first day. The very first day you asked me to bear my testimony. And then the next time the missionaries met you asked me to give the prayer. And then you would call me out of class, the other missionaries were teasing me calling me teacher’s pet, and I can’t record, oh, ridiculous things. But I was so flattered. I thought I was so special. And you told me that I was special. That even though I had been abused that the Lord loved me. And that I was going to be amazing.”

Bishop says, “I remember that.”

And then, the victim says, “I wasn’t amazing. I was nothing. I was no one. I was just a missionary. I was just like all the other kids, well 21 year old, 19 year old, trying to serve the Lord.”

Later, she says, speaking of herself now, “I’m not perfect. I’m not anything. I’m nothing special.”

I want to say something to this anonymous victim: The thing is, you are something. And not in the perverted sexual-abuser way. (Just to clarify.) You are brave. You are needed. You taught me about repentance just by reading your transcript that you didn’t even intend to be leaked. I think I cried because what you said was powerful even in the context of a very sick, sad, horrific situation.

“You can be forgiven,” you said to a man you blamed for robbing you of your trust in men, Priesthood, and the Church.

“You absolutely can be forgiven,” you said. But, you didn’t ignore the bad. You didn’t sugar coat. You said, “You have to be honest. You have to say you’re sorry. You have to make amends. You have to try to make up for what you did. You’re 85 years old. What happened with me, because I can’t talk about anybody else because I wasn’t there, but what happened with me was 33 years ago, and I had struggled for 33 years.”

After I read how you confronted your own abuser; how you mustered up the courage to even talk to him, to your own leaders–has anyone done anything?; how you even listened (I think we could all say this may be a case in which not listening would be understandable); you were firm in your own authority, your impressions, your knowledge of right and wrong. Some might say that this is an obvious wrong, but in those situations with leaders, authority, spiritual settings, things can get muddled and confusing. You chose clarity and conviction.

And yet you still forgave. And you told him you forgave him. That alone requires humility in a potentially humiliating situation.

Because I read what you said and what you did, I just emailed an old leader about an issue that happened in the past that bothered me then and since. To be clear: my situation was not yours at all. But I have had impressions since that I believe needed to be acted on. And you inspired me to act on those impressions. To not let what others say skew what I believe is true and needed. To speak to leaders who need to know and have the institutional authority and power to do something. To not let fear or doubt dominate my actions.

You are something. Something amazing, special even, even though I hate that word.

Perhaps some good can come out of this craphole of a situation. If any of you readers out there feel a need to say something or do something because you know it’s the right thing to do for yourself or for others, do it. Do what is right.

And in true Mormon fashion, I’ll end with a prayer for strength, guidance, confidence, trust, forgiveness. For humility and grace and healing through Christ Jesus.

 

 

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

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.

 

 

Moms and The Beginning of Mrs. Mom

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?

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.