Woman, Why Do You Weep?

I weep because gross darkness covers the whole earth. I weep because daughters bear the burden of the sins of their fathers. I weep because women are often harmed at the hands of unrighteous men and everyone suffers for it. I weep for women.

And yet.

mary at the tombIt is no accident that a woman was first witness to the resurrected Lord. Like everything else he did, it was his choice. His first declaration of freedom, new life, and hope for a fallen world was made to a woman. And with his question, he answered the eternal why, when and how to end all our suffering.

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed, so tired and hopeless, so utterly alone in grief, like Mary, it takes a while before I recognize that voice . . .

Dear woman, why do you weep? Whom do you seek?

He is risen indeed.

.

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No estás sola (You are not alone)

No estás sola (You are not alone)

By Anya Tinajero Vega

Co-founder of Mormonas Feministas. Convert of 19 years. Inquisitor, eternal student and daughter and granddaughter of exceptional women. To question is to live. (English translation included below the Spanish text.)

Por Anya Tinajero Vega

Co-fundadora del Grupo Mormonas Feministas. Conversa a los 19 años. Preguntona, eterna estudiante e hija y nieta de mujeres excepcionales. Cuestionar es vivir.

164646_10101358201580119_8038971004578141439_n“No estás sola hermana”, fue lo que me dijo Joanna Brooks cuando terminé de contarle mi experiencia mientras mi rostro estaba lleno de lágrimas. Hoy, desde México les digo a mis hermanas y hermanos de Ordain Women que no están (estamos) solas ni solos. Caminar con ustedes el sábado a la reunión del Sacerdocio hizo que mi corazón reviviera y creciera una fe inmensa en que las cosas pueden cambiar. No estén tristes, el que nos hayan negado la entrada no debe significar que debemos bajar los brazos y olvidar lo que creemos es justo.

Debo confesarles que me tomó mucho tiempo y romper muchos miedos el decidir ir a caminar junto a ustedes. Tenía mucho miedo y eso es raro en mí. Estoy acostumbrada a marchar en manifestaciones, escuchar críticas hacia mí y mis causas, enfrentar a mis detractores, pero nunca en mi Iglesia. Por eso no me gusta leer y escuchar que lo que hicimos el sábado fue una “manifestación”. Siempre fuimos respetuosas, reverentes y amorosas con todos. Nunca gritamos, no teníamos carteles en contra de la Iglesia, no fuimos groseras, no fuimos irreverentes. Abrazamos con infinita tristeza a la hermana que nos negó la entrada a la reunión de Sacerdocio. Estoy muy orgullosa de todas ustedes y de los hermanos que con mucho amor caminaron y esperaron en la línea con nosotras.

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April 2014 Visiting Teaching Message: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Savior and Redeemer

The visiting teaching messages of the past many months have all focused on one or two aspects of Jesus Christ’s role. This month, the focus is on his role as Redeemer and Savior.

When discussing stories or attributes of Christ, I try to ask myself, “How does this affect my relationship with God? And how does this affect my relationships with others?”

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Giving Up Magical Thinking

I learned to pray from my parents, not that I remember it. I don’t remember my first prayer any more than I remember my first word. I assume I learned to pray the same way I learned to speak – by listening and imitating. My parents no doubt instructed me to repeat their words, showed me how to begin and end, and taught by example what goes between the bookends of a prayer. I learned to thank God for blessings and to ask for things I needed.

While I’ve always known the importance expressing gratitude in prayers, I’ve sometimes felt that thanking God was a preamble to the real business of prayer – asking for what I need. All my life I have given God lists of things I wanted and needed. I’ve prayed for myself and for people I love. Occasionally I’ve even prayed for my enemies. I’ve prayed for my kids, for employment, for health, and for a testimony. Sometimes those prayers were answered. Or rather, sometimes events unfolded in ways led me to attribute outcomes to God’s intervention. But I no longer believe I can ask for a specific outcome in prayer, and no longer attribute life events, good or bad, to God’s direct intervention in my life. If that sounds cynical, let me explain.

Some years ago I was a graduate student working on biology research that was not going anywhere. I’d started out with a promising research project, but after several years of working on it, useful results were not in sight. I felt frustrated, but I had faith. Faith that perseverance in the laboratory was going to pay off, and faith that God would help me with my work. So I kept at it for a few more years, but my research was still not giving me the results I needed to graduate. Seven years into my doctoral training I found myself an exhausted new mother who was commuting 40 miles round trip every day, facing tension in my marriage, running low on money, and getting very little support from my thesis adviser. I badly needed to be done with graduate school. So I wrote a letter requesting a master’s degree so that I could quit school but still receive a degree. My husband and thesis committee chair talked me out of quitting, however, so I resolved to finish the Ph.D. I felt I desperately needed God’s help to get it done.

I fasted and prayed that my research would produce results. I worked as hard as I could in the lab and believed that if my efforts weren’t enough, that God would make up the difference. I fully expected God to help me with some kind of miracle. But it never came. After an additional year of working in the lab, my project had failed. My thesis committee decided to let me graduate on the results of a backup project that was not impressive, but passable. My poor publication record and poor relationship with my adviser made it impossible for me to continue a career in science.

In the end I got the diploma, but it was a pyrrhic victory. My faith in God had not weathered the strain of finishing my Ph.D. at all well. God had not answered my prayers, which either meant that he didn’t exist or that my understanding of things was very wrong. I was familiar with the rationalization that God always answers prayers, it’s just that sometimes the answer is no, but this argument was cold comfort. It also seemed like a tautology. God can never fail us if silence and miracles are equal answers to prayer. During my worst moments, my feelings of abandonment caused me to doubt God’s existence. The idea that God doesn’t exist was too hopeless for me to accept for very long, however, so rather that giving up belief, my doubt became anger. I was angry with God for leaving me alone when I needed help – so angry that I quit praying for a while. I’m not proud of the fact that I gave God the silent treatment because it shows how petulant I can be, but my feelings of disappointment and loneliness were overwhelming, and I simply couldn’t see the point of praying at that time.

After some time I resumed praying, but I still had to grapple with the fact that God hadn’t answered my prayers. Perhaps it was self-centered to believe that they’d be answered. But my religious education had been replete with the idea that God answers prayers. What was wrong with my expectations about prayer?

With a little hindsight, I can see that I was indulging in magical thinking regarding my research. I believed I had a connection with God such that asking for what I needed would result in God intervening in the physical world. I fully expected that prayer would result in God taking action to intervene in my life, as if prayer were part of an equation: Prayer + Faith + Fasting = Desired Result, with God acting as the catalyst. I could not have been more wrong. God’s power is not a reagent I can take off the shelf and use at will.

Praying for God’s intervention is a risky endeavor. If you really believe God will intervene, it can devastate you when he doesn’t. All my life I had prayed for things I wanted and needed. Please bless me to get well, to drive home safely, to have a good day. And when I was praying for things of small importance, I didn’t pay too much attention to whether or not those prayers were answered. But in praying for something that really mattered, the lack of an answer was a real shock. My experience with unanswered prayers has made me wary of asking God for many things. Asking for something intangible like patience or inner peace feels safe and proper to me, but asking for God’s intervention in my physical world no longer does. Perhaps I am afraid I’ll be disappointed again; perhaps I simply lack faith. But I suspect that my faith is not the issue. Rather, lived experience tells me that wars will rage, children will die of cancer, criminals will go unpunished, graduate student research will go awry, and God will let it all happen in spite of our pleading for him to intervene.

For much of my life I’ve engaged in magical thinking; I believed that if I asked for something righteous in prayer, having faith that it would happen, my request would set metaphysical gears in motion and the divine vending machine would spit out an answer for me. And even after realizing the error in this kind of thinking, I still find myself believing that my thoughts and prayers may actually affect the world around me. Whether it is habit or hope, I still sometimes find myself asking God to intervene in my life. I just can’t stop myself, although my prayers have changed significantly.

I am not sure if I should stop praying for material help altogether. But I am sure that God is not going to intervene in my life just because I ask. Even if I ask in faith. Even if I’m asking for a good thing. Even if I’m praying unselfishly for someone else. And even if someone is suffering. Christ has said he will heal our wounds, but he will not prevent us from being wounded. And if God is going to stop short of solving problems for me, I think I should stop asking him to solve them. Believing that he will is magical thinking, and I am trying to give that up.

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The Inaugural LDS Women’s Meeting–Part I

I have looked forward to this historic women’s meeting for many months despite sharing the concerns of some that the audience may be too broad. I arrived at my stake center, wearing my subversive purple dress, vowing to keep an open mind and to stand with my sisters, no matter what.

I will be sharing my thoughts on the first half on the session but I have to say, I loved every minute. I was moved and inspired by each talk, I found the videos and music uplifting and heart-expanding. I am grateful that I live in a time where a meeting like this can be held and that we can be taught powerfully by the women leaders of my own faith. I look forward to the time when my daughter can join me.

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This Is Life Eternal. Right Here. Right Now.

jesus_christ_image_204For this is life eternal, that they know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent.                                                                    ~ John 17:3

It’s hard to remember just exactly when I realized God speaks every language. And not just current languages, but all the lost languages and all the emerging dialects. More importantly, God speaks the language of each proverbial heart. God speaks Melody and Karen and Jill and Sarah and every other named and personal understanding of humankind.

I do remember a few year ago when I had a conversation with one of my neighbors who, like me, is an active Latter-day Saint. He and I were discussing a certain gospel principle. We shared how the spirit had taught us truth. The images used by the spirit to teach my friend involved this friend climbing back up on a horse after falling off. My revelatory images involved a harp, whose strings continued to vibrate even after the sound was no longer audible. God had spoken to each of us, had taught us the same truth, led us to the same conclusion, but through two entirely different spiritual dialects.

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