On Welcoming.

Welcoming

A few years ago, my friend called me up and told me about the beautiful testimony meeting she had just experienced, that left her feeling the spirit more strongly than ever before. The one detail I remember now is that a lesbian sister spoke from her pain and her faith. I was surprised to discover later that the same meeting that meant so much to my friend, caused other members to walk out of the chapel, audibly voicing their distaste. I thought of these things again after a somewhat unfortunate series of events re-demonstrated that words that may be a balm for some may be a source of discomfort, fear, or anger for others. It has made me wonder if this will always be the case, and how a real unity–allowing for real differences–may be developed. It also made me remember something that I wrote here before, about belonging.

In that previous post, I wrote about a friend who was confident of God’s love, but didn’t quite feel like she belonged in her ward, because she was over a certain age, with a PhD, but without a husband or child. I wrote too, about another dear person to me, who had a husband and many children, but similarly felt the not-belonging feelings because she was older than many in her ward. And then I wrote about me, and how I have felt the feeling before, too, including during the period when I biked to church alone, and didn’t know who I would sit by, because my husband was in another state, with a relative who was not well. In my own instance, a dear women literally made room for me by scooting over, and inviting me to sit with her family. I felt the welcome.

So when I was recently asked to speak to the women in my ward about fellowshipping, I wanted to speak to all of these things. There are a myriad of reasons why someone might not feel like they belong. One of them is that they may feel like their truest thoughts and feelings don’t belong. It is why I was so grateful for President Uchtdorf’s remarks in his talk, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth” at this last General Conference.

The printed version includes the subject heading “There Is No Litmus Test.”

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Faith and Knowledge 2015

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A conference was founded in 2007 for LDS graduate students in religion and related programs (i.e., philosophy, women’s studies, history, folk lore, literature, etc.) to think carefully about the relationship between faith and knowledge. It has continued every two years since that time. If you happen to be an LDS graduate student in a related field, and have special insights, research, or experience on this topic, please submit a proposal. The deadline for the Fifth Biennial Faith and Knowledge Conference is November 7th, 2014, so you have approximately two and a half weeks.

While I have not spoken at any of the four preceding conferences, I have attended one, and know the strength and beauty of what it can be. It was the Second Biennial Faith and Knowledge Conference, hosted at Harvard in 2009. I moved to Boston a few months before to study library science, but wasn’t quite sure about either the East or my choice of study. I missed my undergraduate discipline of philosophy; I missed religion.

Listening to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Kathleen Flake, Claudia and Richard Bushman, Gwen Reynolds, Deidre Green, Sheila Taylor, and others, I found it again. I felt that good home feeling that I hadn’t felt in a long time, that I was so hungry for. It shifted the trajectory of my life by setting me on a course to apply for a PhD program in philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University.

This is why I ask you to try. Submit. Add your voice. Especially, especially your woman’s voice. Mormon Studies, like most fields, needs more of them. Maybe like me, you will find your home place. Maybe like me, you will leave changed and inspired. Maybe like others, you will change and inspire.

 

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A Book Review (Of Sorts): Way Below the Angels

Craig Harline

Not very long ago, I read this post, that made me want to read this book, Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. Even shorter ago, I did.

While it isn’t a woman’s story, I still feel that it is worth reviewing here, in this women’s story space for two reasons. 1) The author, Craig Harline, does a fairly good job pointing out when women’s stories, voices, and presence are forgotten.

One example of this is when his Salt Lake Mission Home President tells a mixed group of Elders and Sisters that they are to dress like “local businessmen.” Another is when his going-Belgium group was moved to the Rexburg, Idaho LTM, and they held a nightly devotional with the older going-Belgium missionaries, that fully excluded the Sisters because it was in an Elder’s dorm room. The saddest examples took place in Belgium. The first question they asked women who answered the door was if they could speak to their husband. Not because they weren’t allowed to speak to women, but because they were taught that they should focus on the man. A woman named Lieve demanded focus, because she had a dream and a wish to be baptized. She also had a husband who did not share that dream or wish. He was required to sign a permission slip, which he did. But then he took it back. Lieve learned that if her husband had the dream and wish, her signature would not be needed.*

2) Harline’s ofttimes funny/ofttimes insightful words created a space for me to remember my own mission story.

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September 2014 General Women’s Meeting: Sister Neill F. Marriott

Sister MarriottThis past Saturday eve, Sister Neill F. Marriott, represented the Young Women General Presidency. She began her remarks by suggesting that there are “two responsibilities we carry: adding gospel light and truth to our lives, and sharing that light and truth with others.” Then she asked if we know how important we are, and shared a quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard affirming that “we need more distinct voices of women.” She addressed us as “Sisters,” and told us, “You strengthen my faith. You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go.”

Shortly thereafter, she shared a quote from everyone’s favorite, President Deiter F. Uchtdorf that I wish I would have recorded more in full. What I did record touched upon “a darkening world” and the gospel as “a joyous message.” Sister Marriott emphasized the light. “If you want to give your light to others, you have to glow.

Where there is a temple, it pushes back the darkness. As an earlier General Authority, President George Q. Cannon expressed “Every temple completed… lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness.” Sister Marriott asked, “Isn’t our purpose similar to these houses of the Lord, to push back darkness in people’s lives?”

There was one moment in her life, when she prayed in the temple, and “was given a painful truth about herself.”

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On Mental Illness, Revisited.

RobinThe world lost a great man yesterday, to an illness that is great in its scope and power. I am acquainted with that illness and some of the frightening thoughts that come, though I am less acquainted with what makes some persons suffering from those thoughts act on them so completely.

My very first Exponent post was on the differences between mental and physical illness. I feel impressed to share it again, here, with a few additions and thoughts. Near the end of the original piece, I mentioned mostly being better and feeling better, but that there were still moments. There were and are. I am very bravely and very vulnerably going to be honest about them here, because I believe in the power of honesty, and in the power of bringing dark things to light.

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