Walking with Ordain Women … and the Church

Suzette Smith 2013I read the letter from the Church’s PR Department early this morning. It asks me to “reconsider”, so that is what I’ve done all day – reconsidered. I’ve thought and prayed and pondered.

I’ll be walking with the sisters of Ordain Women on April 5th; not because I want to pit myself against the church, but because I am part of the church – with divine nature and individual worth. The letter called me “extreme” and that made me feel that “I don’t belong”. But I do belong. I go to church every Sunday and the temple every month. I love the gospel. I teach it in my ward. I love worshiping with the Saints. I love the Lord. I am a believer.

I take my faith seriously and I take the question of women and ordination seriously. The church’s letter seemed to say that because I’m in the minority they don’t take me seriously. My concerns felt dismissed by the letter – and yet they are of eternal importance. I’m talking about WOMEN – half of God’s Children. I’m asking hard questions about Daughters and those questions matter. I believe the church is true – and that makes it a living, growing, changing church. (See Article of Faith 9) I am a truth seeker and I love the LDS faith because it is a truth seeking religion.

I’m walking with Ordain Women because I want to attend the meeting of the General Conference of my church (of Latter-day Saints – that’s me) – I want to be seen as a seeker. In the early days of the church, the Saints went to the Red Brick Store to discuss with the Prophet Joseph, who counseled with the Lord. This is the closest thing to a Red Brick Store I know of in 2014 – the door where I know the prophet is.

I do not wish to make enemies by disregarding the request to stay away from temple square but I do not think my walk will be disruptive to the spirit of light and knowledge. I can not stand in the free speech zone and align myself with anti-Mormons because I am not one of them. I am a Mormon.

(I’m also going the General Woman’s Meeting – with just as much passion – and I’ll be wearing my purple dress.)

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I’ll be Wearing Purple

The Purple Dress

Ordain Women supporters (including me) will be wearing purple as we join other Mormon women in attending the General Women’s Meeting on Saturday, March 29, in the Conference Center and other buildings around the world. By wearing purple, we want to show that we both love and support the church in its recent initiatives to make women more visible within our faith community and hope for a continued discussion about gender equality, including women’s ordination.

Last year, the church announced that the General Women’s Meeting, previously held once each year a week prior to the church’s semi-annual General Conference in the fall, will now also be held a week before the spring conference. In addition to providing another opportunity each year for women to hear from their female leaders, the church has also made other changes to give women more voice and visibility, including an emphasis on collaborative, gender-inclusive councils, greater encouragement for women to serve missions, and the opportunity for women to both pray and speak in General Conference.

Ordain Women supporters are active, engaged members of the church and we appreciate these initiatives. We pray leaders will continue to respond thoughtfully and positively to all those who share their belief in the possibility of a more equitable religious community.

Will you join me – and wear purple too?

 

 

 

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There is Beauty All Around … even in January

I love seasons.  I love the feeling of anticipation as one season gives way to the next.  I think there is beauty in all the seasons, even winter, where it is admittedly harder to find.  Sure, snow is beautiful:  snow capped mountains, snow of fir trees, snow flakes on window panes.  But without snow, winter is often left with just cold and dark.

Last week I was taking a walk in the cold January twilight (4 pm) and thinking.  (Author’s note:  I also really love walking.  And thinking.  Perhaps a blog post for another day.)  I was on a hill watching the sunset over the buildings of Alexandria and looking at the trees.  Trees have a melancholy, bare beauty in winter: branches reaching up like a thousand open hands to the sky.  I love the patterns those dark branches make; so stark against the morning or evening sky, which is often white.

As I looked up through the branches of this particular tree on this particular evening, the setting sun caught the tree with its last light and made it shine.  The whole tree – trunk, branches, twigs and all – shone with the yellow, orange light of evening.  It was beautiful! I stood still just looking at the sky through the shining tree and felt blessed to see this moment.  And then it was gone.

I love the seasons.  All of them.

Which season do you love best?  What beauty do you see in winter? 

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Is Motherhood Enough?

Because of my involvement with Ordain Women, I have many conversations about women and priesthood.  These conversations often include thoughts on motherhood and personal experiences from mothers.  In a recent conversation with my sisters, one spoke passionately about her role as a mother, explaining that being a mother had been the most elevating and also harrowing thing she had ever done.  And then said, “when I hear that women should have Priesthood, it makes me feel that Motherhood is not enough, and that my experience with motherhood are not valued.”

Though, I am not a mother, I respect motherhood immensely and I value the wisdom of mothers I know.  I believe that motherhood would be enhanced by priesthood ordination, giving women additional resources and strength.  Others, however, see the responsibility as an additional weight on an already heavy load.

What do you think? Is motherhood enough?

 

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Young Women Lesson: What Does It Mean to Stand as a Witness of God?

When you were baptized you covenanted to “stand as a witness of God at all time and in all things, and in all places …” (Mosiah 18:9)  This is an important covenant.  It impacts many of the choices we make in life.

In this lesson – the lesson manual primarily discusses “standing up” for ones beliefs and inviting other to come unto Christ by embracing the Gospel.  These are import ideas, but I feel that Standing as a Witness means much more than that.  I have outlined below four addition points that can be taught to Young Women in regard to this important principle.

1. Being Authentic

To Stand as a Witness of God means that we first know who we are.  Understanding that we are divine children allows us to let God’s light and love shine through us.

 Discuss with the Young Women the importance of thinking about their own personal faith; their own personal thoughts and feelings.  This requires quiet introspection and prayer. Explain that these will grow and change over time.  Building faith, understand, and knowledge is a fluid process.

As we each explore our feelings and testimonies, we may find that they line up with what the church has taught us and/or what our parents have taught us.

For example, we may gain a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true as we read and pray about it.  The story of Aaron teaching Lamoni’s father is a powerful one to share here.  Alma Chapter 22.

At other times, as we explore our feelings, we may find that we have questions, doubts, or frustrations.  Acknowledge these feelings and make wise decisions about how to act on these feelings.

An example from my own life.  As a Young Women, I was in a strong LDS family with strict rules. Both parents had large Stake callings and many people looked to my family as an example.  This frustrated me.  I did not want to be held up as some sort of example to others; I just wanted to do my own thing.  At the time I did a bad job of navigating my frustration and my love for my family. I wish I could have acknowledged my frustration, being true to myself – and also loved my family in positive ways, showing gratitude for God’s blessings.

Being authentic also means telling others about our faith and our testimony.  Sharing the gospel as part of our life with friends and family can help us grow even more.

2. Standing up without Self-Righteousness

It is import to “stand up” for the Lord’s standards and be true to the principles that we believe in.  Sometimes “standing up” makes us feel superior.  Discuss with the Young Women the spiritual dangers of being self-righteous.  Not only does this limit our ability to be humble and teachable, but it is not good for relationships with friends and family.  People like empathy and understanding from others.  Adding empathy and understanding to our convictions can help relationship grow rather than tear them down.

Joseph Smith is a good example of this.  He often showed kindness and understanding – and he took time to explain his beliefs.  He often educated others who did not share his beliefs.  Find stories that will encourage Young Women to use this well rounded approach.

The story of Esther also shows understanding for other people’s traditions and beliefs. Esther lives her religion through fasting and prayer, but approaches the King in a way that is familiar to him.  Esther Chapter 4-5.

Learn to follow the spirit and anchor faith firmly in Jesus Christ.  As we learn to rely on Him and trust Him, He will help our understanding.  The Holy Ghost can guide us in positive ways to interact with others.

3. Showing Courage in Obeying God

There are many commandments and Gospel principles that are either difficult to obey or hard to understand.  Because of this, it takes courage to obey God – and to Stand as a Witness.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

It can be hard to trust the Lord in this way and believe that He has given us commandments that will be for our good.  As Young Women grow they are eager to use their minds, to learn and to understand.  It takes courage to give room to faith – and to submit our Will to the Father.

Discuss examples of commandments that may be hard to live – like the Word of Wisdom.  Discuss examples of things that may be hard to understand – like – difficult church history discrepancies. 

 

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

Hymn 85

4. Serving in Unselfish Ways

Jesus Christ is our perfect example of serving and loving others.  When we Stand as a Witness, we follow this example.  It is not always easy to serve people we do not like or do not understand.  It is not always easy to take time away from our lives to serve. Learning to serve in unselfish ways is a positive skill for us to learn.

Share examples from Christ’s life (New Testament and 3 Nephi 11) with the Young Women. And discuss how they can follow His example.

 Being steadfast and immovable also means that you keep moving forward with a “steadfastness in Christ”. 2 Nephi 31:20

Conclusion

“And now …. Remember, remember that it is up the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; … which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”  Helaman 5:12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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