Representing Christ

The Good Shepherd by Waiting for the World

The Good Shepherd
by Waiting for the World

 

 

 

By Jenny

I looked out the window of the bus at the dreary grey sky, as we winded down the long road from Hitler’s Tea House on the top of the mountain.  It had been another dismal workday and I was ready to crash.  I was nineteen and living alone in a mountain village in Southern Bavaria, doing an internship that I had gotten through BYU.  Up until the point that I boarded the airplane for this secluded place, I had barely left my own mountains of Utah.  I was sheltered to say the least.  Now I was the lone Mormon kid, an hour away from the nearest LDS church in Salzburg.  In my immature and naïve mind, I was also surrounded by heathens who might be contagious.  I would come to love the people I was surrounded by and lose most of my self- righteous attitude toward them, but at this point I was spending too much energy trying to keep myself unstained from the sins of the world.  That left me with little capacity for love.

This day had been a particularly hard one.  When I finally arrived at my apartment, depression seized me and I threw myself on the bed and pulled the covers over my head.  I was ready to give up.  I lay there crying and praying.  In my loneliness that summer, God had become my  one constant companion.  I knew that if I got up and ran in the hills behind my apartment I  would feel better, but I couldn’t pull myself out of my bed.  I lay there in misery until I saw  something curious on my back door.  I got out of bed to see what it was and found that it was a note from the Sister Missionaries.

Liebe Jenny, We had a crazy desire to visit you today—unfortunately the budget didn’t take us to the top of the mountain. Na, ja—we picked the second best thing and hiked up here to your house.  Above all, we have been thinking about you—it’s tough being the only Mormon kid in a foreign country but buck up trooper—we know your example will have many lasting effects—the Lord even gives us pep talks when we need them, here’s Sister Nuttall and I’s favorite. D&C 6:34-37. The Lord knows each one of us very personally—even those of us wandering around Salzburg or sitting atop a mountain in Germany!  The Lord is also most pleased in how strong you are growing in this experience—spiritual muscles!  We are sorry that we didn’t plan this adventure to Berchtesgaden well enough—don’t worry, we will get together another time. Wir haben Sie Lieb Schwester Jensen and Schwester Nuttalls

 

That note was everything to me at that moment, and it got me out of bed.  I put on my running shoes and ran through the lush forested hills.  I wondered why the missionaries would take so much time and energy to travel an hour by train and then hike all the way up to my apartment just to leave me a note.  They could have been searching for converts, but they spent the greater part of their day just to make my day better.  That day was not a successful one for them by any outward appearance.  They didn’t find a golden contact, they didn’t convert anyone to the gospel, they didn’t even get to see the one person they spent their day travelling to see.  As a missionary it could have been considered a wasted day.  But their efforts meant everything to me, one lonely nineteen-year-old girl far from the comfort of her tribe.  That day, my missionaries chose to represent Christ.

That was the loneliest time of my life because I was in an unfamiliar culture with people who weren’t like me.  I have felt a similar loneliness over the last few years.  This time I am not alone in a foreign country where I struggle to use the language to express myself.  I am not different from everyone around me because I grew up with different beliefs and values than they did.  This time I am in the culture of my birth.  I should fit in.  But after a life-changing faith transition and feminist awakening, I am different.  I believe differently.  I speak differently and I do struggle to find a common language with which I can fully express myself.  Now I am the heathen whom others are struggling to be around for fear that what I have is contagious.  In the very culture of my birth I don’t fit in.  I am different.

So naturally I am thinking about those missionaries so many years ago and the effort they made to help me feel like I was okay in a culture that I didn’t belong to.  And I am thinking about the ideal we set in the church for every member to be a missionary.  What does that mean?  The typical Sunday School answers are to pray for missionary experiences, give Book of Mormons away, and talk to our friends and neighbors about the church.  But my wise sister missionaries knew that it wasn’t just about getting converts.  What good does it do us to convert people to our church if our church is not a place for many people with differing beliefs and levels of orthodoxy to feel welcome.  If our church is not a church of love and inclusion, then converts will profit us nothing.

We worry about our image, we worry about our numbers, we worry about our rules.  We don’t want to get too close because what that person has looks like apostasy.  We bear our testimonies in an attempt to convert them back to our way of thinking and believing.  We live in a cold and delusional world of Sunday school answers.  It’s time to shed our rules, shed our agendas, and shed the self righteousness that makes us believe that we have all the right answers for everyone.   If we truly want to be representatives of Christ in our member missionary work, then it’s time for us to climb the mountains to find the one.  To find the one who is lonely and feels out of place.  To find the one who is giving up on the church because the church has given up on her.  To find the one who needs to know that she is loved no matter what she believes or how she lives her life.  We can spend our energy worrying about apostasy and trying to keep ourselves unstained from the sins of the world.  Or we can give ourselves fully to loving the way Christ did.

 

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Some Feminist-friendly Finds on Netflix

Commander in Chief

Commander in ChiefCan you envision the day when the United States of America finally has a female president? If you can’t, Commander in Chief should help. Geena Davis won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role as a female president in this series, which unfortunately aired for only one season. Her character faces domestic and international crises that would be expected of any world leader, as well as some uniquely female opportunities to counter sexism.

Bomb Girls

Bomb GirlsWe often talk about our foremothers who paved the way for women in the workforce by working in factories during World War II, personified by the iconic Rosie the Riveter. Yet, it never even occurred to me to ask, “What the heck does a riveter do?” My unasked question is answered by Bomb Girls, a fictional series set in a Canadian World War II era bomb factory “manned” mostly by women.

Secrets of Mary Magdalene

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Women Exit Quietly: A Review of Neylan McBaine’s Women at Church

women at church cover (2)Guest Post by Emily January Petersen

Women are most likely to leave an organization after experiencing a psychological contract barrier, which is a belief “employees have about the entitlements they will receive and that they perceive were promised to them by their employers…. Violations of psychological contracts occur when the perceived implicit and explicit promises of employers are not fulfilled or are broken” (Hamel, 2009, p. 235).  When these violations happen, instead of putting up a fight, standing up for one’s self, or speaking out, women quietly leave.  In her research, Hamel found that some 90% of those interviewed left quietly.

Is this what is happening in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  Elder Marlin K. Jensen, former Church historian, “would not provide any figures on the rate of defections, but he told Reuters that attrition has accelerated in the last five or ten years, reflecting greater secularization of society” (Henderson & Cooke, 2012, para. 6).  While numbers aren’t available, I’ve heard talk of more women than men leaving the church.  I know in my own family and circle of friends, there are many women who have left, primarily because of cultural misogyny and bigotry.  Many of these women have strong beliefs about equality (for women and the LGBT community).  They part with the Church because of their disgust over the treatment of these groups, both officially and in cultural settings. 

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Neckties: Priesthood Attire or Lucifer’s Lust Pointer?

mens-fashion-ties-002 Neckties are arrows that point to the male genitalia. Why are they considered “priesthood attire” in the LDS community? In some congregations otherwise worthy men are not allowed to participate in priesthood ordinances unless wearing a white shirt and necktie. The male missionary uniform is a white shirt and conservative necktie, symbols of orthodoxy in the LDS Church. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby recently noted,

Neckties are so important to Mormons that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them airbrushed onto young men in church publications.

Oh, the horror! Before such a perilous day dawns, I must sound a warning. Neckties are leading women far from the iron rod of righteousness into the shadowy mists of lust. The influence of the necktie is subtle and pernicious and has infiltrated every level of Church leadership. legends-of-the-summer-justin-timberlake-jay-z-1.492.325.c The white shirt and necktie are ubiquitous symbols for male professional conformity and power, but some Christians contend that a man in a suit is too much temptation for the modern Christian sister.

Justin Timberlake and Jay Z acknowledge the power of the well dressed man in the song Suit and Tie. Brother Timberlake croons in the chorus,

And as long as I got my suit and tie, Ima leave it all on the floor tonight.

You are mistaken in hoping Brother Timberlake took off his suit and tie to put on his pajamas,

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A Book Review: Girls Who Choose God

GWCG

Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, Illustrated by Kathleen Peterson

Girls Who Choose God is a book I wish I’d had as a child, and am thrilled to have for my children. Featuring 11 women from the Bible, this lovely book was conceived when my dear friend Bethany’s three-year-old daughter asked her, “Mom, where are the girls?” when looking through her cartoon book of scripture stories. Bethany wanted her daughter to know not only were girls there, but they have stories that are stirring in their boldness, unconventionality, morality, and dedication to changing the world for good. The women featured are,

Eve
Miriam
Mahlah and her Sisters
Deborah
Esther
Mary the Mother of Jesus
Samaritan Woman at the Well
Mary and Martha
A Generous Widow
A Healed Woman
Mary Magdalene

Each of their stories framed as a choice. For example, when Miriam sees Pharaoh’s daughter approach the basket in the river, the authors write, “Miriam had a choice to make. She could stay hidden to avoid getting in trouble, or she could speak to Pharaoh’s daughter in hopes of saving her brother.” The stories conclude with the choice the girl or woman made, and then provide a question for the reader. From Miriam’s story: “What choices have you made to bring your family closer together?”

I like that the women featured run the gamut from sister to prophetess, and I like that the questions are far-reaching, not at all pointing girls toward deferential female roles. There is Miriam’s question that may seem at first to point toward a role type-cast for women (nurturing families). But there is also Deborah’s question: “When have you chosen to be a leader?” And Esther’s question, “When have you chosen to stand up for others?” When I read this book with my kids they are enthusiastic about answering those questions, they see themselves as leaders, peacemakers, and helpers.

I love that the book uses inclusive language. Male names are not always first (“Eve and Adam” instead of “Adam and Eve”). The authors use the word God instead of Heavenly Father throughout the book. I notice a great effort they’ve made to use language to shine light on women playing the key role in stories that make up our spiritual heritage.

The women are described as people children can aspire to be, with qualities they might see in themselves. “Miriam was a quick thinker. [Her] boldness rescued her brother and reunited her family.” I am used to stories of prophets and heroes from the scriptures being almost always men, and it surprised me how I felt reading about the widow who gave her two mites: “Jesus admired her noble deed. He called his disciples over to learn from her actions.” To learn from her. Our girls need stories told in this way to help them see themselves as full agents in the gospel.  The words “bold” and “courageous” appear several times in this book, words usually used to describe people like David and Nephi, but now used to describe Mary and Mahlah.

I love that the authors included the Daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah and her Sisters), because this is one of my favorite Bible stories. To me this story has delicious subversive potential, but the question that follows is so perfectly relevant to children (and adults): “When have you chosen to solve a problem peacefully?” I didn’t know of this story until I was an adult. I hope it becomes more well known through this book.

Girls Who Choose God is unique. I don’t know of another illustrated book on women in the Bible, and it’s definitely a first for an LDS audience. The illustrations are striking and accessible, and match the text perfectly in their portrayal of bold women. Excitingly, the Church has acquired the paintings and will install them in the Conference Center this year.  Finally, the authors are donating 100% of the profits to a charity called Interweave Solutions that supports educational and entrepreneurial endeavors for women.

I think this an important book for two reasons: it’s the first of it’s kind, and it’s providing something we have far too little of — examples of strong, godly women.  Stories matter.  They don’t determine what girls can dream of becoming, but they absolutely inform it, and these are stories I want my daughter to know.  It’s also a beautiful book, in prose and in the artwork.  I hope you have a chance to own it.

 

*If you’ll be at the Exponent Retreat this year, you can buy a copy from Bethany there.

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Mother in Israel, Judge in Israel

Mother in Israel, Judge in Israel

I recently had a conversation in which I expressed my hope for women to someday be ordained and serve in callings such as bishop.  I described a friend whose husband is a bishop.  They are parents of very young children and his bishop duties have made parenting difficult.  There are very few worthy men in their ward who could fill the bishop position, so it has fallen on him in spite of the hardships it brings to his young family.  I thought it would be wonderful if the bishop could be one of the worthy, older women in the ward whose children had grown up.

I was surprised by the reaction of the person I was speaking to.  She found the idea of a female bishop repulsive, even though she agreed that it would be a logical solution to the situation I described.

In contrast, I have had other women tell me that they are uncomfortable having men ask them questions about their chastity and undergarments and would be more comfortable if they had a female bishop.

Poll:

Deborah-mother-judge-in-israel

Poll

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Young Women Lesson: How Do I Guard My Virtue?

Young Women Lesson: How Do I Guard My Virtue?

The outline for this lesson is here and the corresponding Young Men’s lesson is How Can I Resist Pornography? Despite not including it in the lesson title, the outline for the young women talks a lot about pornography and both lessons use the same scripture sources. Keep in mind the ages and maturity of the youth you are teaching and respect the boundaries of the parents. If you are going to go in the direction of discussing pornography, I think it would be wise to type up your outline and what quotes/scriptures you will be using and send that to the parents ahead of time.

I will first give ideas for a general “virtue” lesson. After that, I’ll add “bonus” material for pornography discussion.

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