International Series: Seeing Past the Coin

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Elissa.  Elissa lives in Greenville, South Carolina for now. She is married, has three children, and works part time as an English language tutor so she can pretend she’s still all international.

Elissa

I was born in Salt Lake City, a fourth-generation Mormon, ancestors having come variously by wagon train, on the ship Brooklyn, and with the Mormon Battalion. I was planted firmly in the LDS corner of the vineyard with the Mormon flower the only one in sight.

And then came the pullback. The intriguing beauty of all the other flowers. How could it be—with the grand diversity of this splendid field—that mine is the one true flower? Examining it carefully, decades ago in my thirties and forties, I found that to my eyes (and who else’s eyes could I possibly use, even though I see through a glass darkly?) there were some pretty evident flaws—historical and doctrinal positions that seemed indefensible and that felt wrong. Many today who come to feel that way find it highly distressing. I found it thrilling. I gained a new respect for God, a new delight in every one of the billions who inhabit this planet.

-Carol Lynn Pearson, “Why I Stay”

I have been married for 22 years, and nearly half of those have been spent outside of the United States. My husband and I are both American, but his job has taken us to Mexico, France, and the United Kingdom, and all this time out of our own country has affected our family in many ways. For one thing, taking your kids abroad when they are three, four months, and not born yet, then bringing them back eight years later has some good entertainment value. Living in post-9/11 France does not prepare them for American uber-patriotism, and they do not know what to do with being compelled to recite the pledge of allegiance each day. (Actually, they do know what to do: refuse.) They are amazed – AMAZED – at the miracle of Paas tablets. They say things like, “What’s Wal-Mart?” They are self-conscious about everyone understanding them, so they argue in French in public. They don’t get the most common of cultural references. (The down side of this one is they don’t share your grief when Mr. Rogers dies.) They spend a year asking you the names and values of coins (“Remember, ‘le dime’ is the word for tithing, so you can remember that a dime is ten cents.”). They rage against Imperial units, but rhapsodize about toast; discussing where they had the best toast and what is the perfect method of making it (apply butter BEFORE toasting). They just find the nearest tree when they have to pee at the school picnic. (I kid you not, I once saw an adult woman having a wee behind the map at a park in one of the above named countries. Little boys didn’t even have to make a pretense of hiding.) They get kicked out of class for correcting their teacher’s pronunciation of “Versailles.” If they have a speech impediment, everyone thinks it’s an adorable accent. It’s fun.

Since I am clearly given to deep thoughts regarding the effects of expatriation on our lives, you will be surprised to know that until now I had not given much thought to how it influenced my feelings about the my faith. However, it may not be a coincidence that it was in France that the thought, “It’s possible there’s not a God,” wormed its way into my consciousness and open consideration. Or that it was during our next stint abroad in England that I accepted that uncertainty instead of trying to fix it.

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Relief Society Lesson 20: Love and Concern For All of Our Father’s Children

Relief Society Lesson  20: Love and Concern For All of Our Father’s Children

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français
Click for Spanish Translation/Traducción en español

Lesson 20: Love and Concern For All Our Father’s Children

rosegardenstatue  “I believe it is our solemn duty to love one another, to believe in each other, to have faith in each other, that it is our duty to overlook the faults and the failings of each other, and not to magnify them in our own eyes nor before the eyes of the world.  There should be no faultfinding, no back-biting, no evil speaking, one against another, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  We should be true to each other and to every principle of our religion and not be envious one of another.  We should not be jealous one of another, nor angry with each other, and there should not arise in our hearts a feeling that we will not forgive one another our trespasses.  There should be no feeling in the hearts of the children of God of unforgiveness against any man, no matter who he may be.” (Joseph Fielding Smith – lesson manual)

When I read this lesson, this quote alone spoke to me as being the message I would share with my sisters in Relief Society.  I have chosen to break it down into the many bits of counsel that Joseph Fielding Smith offered, supplemented by other quotes from sisters in leadership callings.  A good companion talk for this lesson is Sister Oscarson’s April 2014 address “Sisterhood: Oh how we need each other.”

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International Series: Being an LDS Woman in Palestine

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Sahar Qumsiyeh, who is a Palestinian Mormon woman.  You can read more of her writing at her blog: saharqumsiyeh.blogspot.com.

I was asked to share my thoughts about being a Mormon woman in Palestine.

First, I feel I need to explain where Palestine is, as I still see people confused about it.  Palestine and Israel are the same place.  Some think Palestine is by Israel and there is conflict going on between the two. That is not true.

The below map shows what happened in Palestine over the years:

Map of Palestine

My country Palestine ceased to exist in 1967. Before 1948 Jews in Palestine lived mostly in the white areas, but everyone in the country was allowed to travel freely. Both people lived together side by side. In 1947 the British gave part of Palestine to the Jews so they can make it their home. In 1967, the Jews occupied the whole country of Palestine and it became what we know now as the State of Israel. The flag changed, the currency changed and everything changed. My country, Palestine was not recognized anymore. It was no longer valid to say I am ‘Palestinian’. There was no such thing.  I still refer to the country as Palestine, some refer to it as Israel, but the bottom line is, it is one place. What you call it depends on whose side you are on.  Actually, our church district here which was called the “Israel District” was just changed a short while ago to the “Jerusalem District” because the LDS church does not take sides.

We (the Palestinian Arabs) still live here in Palestine/Israel under Israeli occupation. We are not citizens of the State of Israel, nor do we have the rights Israelis have. During the wars also half of my people became refugees (lost their homes and land). Some are not allowed to return back to Palestine even for a visit. Those of us that still live here have little human rights. (Read my blog post on human rights written in June 2014 for more info: Palestinian Human Rights). This is the reason of the conflict. Not the Hamas rockets nor the attacks on Gaza.  We, the Palestinians living here, are fighting to have the basic necessities of life: running water, freedom to travel, the right for a just trial, the right to raise our flag, the right to live in safety, etc.

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International Series: Don’t Drink the Water

This is the first in our International Series here at The Exponent – over the next two weeks, we’ll be showcasing a variety of perspectives and viewpoints about life in the global church.  We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

mexico city aerial

An aerial shot of a small portion of Mexico City. It boasts an urban population of over 21 million people.

“Don’t drink the water.  Ever.”

That’s the first thing I remember learning after I stepped off the plane in Mexico City, having newly relocated there with my family at the tender age of twelve.  I was wide-eyed and terrified – I spoke no Spanish, so I couldn’t read any signs or orient myself to this brand new world.  I couldn’t eavesdrop on conversations to figure out where to go or how to get there.  I just clutched my suitcases tightly and followed my parents through an endless maze of people, into a car, and eventually to the house that I would call home for the next six years of my life.

“Remember, don’t drink the water.  Don’t take any taxis that aren’t approved – you can’t guarantee that unauthorized cabs will take you to where you need to go and that they won’t overcharge you or mug you.  If you need directions, ask multiple people – people will tell you directions even if they don’t know what they’re talking about, because it’s rude not to.  If you’re in a market, expect that they will quote you double the price of what they’ll actually sell it for.  Don’t worry about the guards armed with semi-automatic weapons outside the bank/grocery store/McDonald’s – they have to pay for their own bullets, so it’s unlikely that they’ll shoot them unless it’s a real emergency.  And don’t ever, ever, ever trust the police.  They’ll make you pay a bribe (at best) or kidnap you (at worst).  But don’t worry – you’re gonna love it here!”

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Visiting Teaching Message September 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Comforter

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

From the formal message:

Jesus Christ promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).

baby (2)

“It’ll be like you don’t even have a dog,” promised my husband before I agreed to let him get a puppy. To be true, he did try to do what he could. But since I worked from home, dog care evolved into much of my daily routine. I didn’t mind for the most part. Because I was lonely, I liked the company of the  dog. I soon grew to rely up on him— I firmly believe that there really is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to teach you about the love of Christ.

Being unintentionally childless, he was my baby. I found sitters for him when I would be gone for more than 3 hours, just as all of the doggy manuals taught. I was picky about his food, and was even fussier about other dogs we had playdates with. As soon as he was “trained” and a little before, he slept by my feet, in the bed shared by my husband and me….and as he grew to adult-dog size, he sometimes crowded me (or hubby) out of bed.

I took him visitDCP02520 (2)ing teaching with me. I ordered him ice cream cones or a  side of bacon at drive-thrus, and instructed the fast-food workers to hand the item directly to him the back seat, where he gently and gratefully received the nosh. A photo of him (being held by the person I wrote about) was among selected images that were published in an academic journal article. He waited at home by the door, or sometimes went with me to four different rounds of  IVF. And when I still came home childless, he licked me, and his fur absorbed my tears. He sat at alert when I was ill, and snuggled me when I was lonely. He comforted me. Greatly. To no end.

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Virtual Oases

“So, what have the Feminists been up to this week?” asks my husband quite regularly. Now I just show him this post and he learns for himself!

Enjoy the weekend reading, everyone!

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