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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Resurrection Eggs

eggs open jesus

Right now my church job is doing Activity Days for the 8-year-old girls. As Easter is coming up, I decided to do a craft that would double as a FHE that the girls could do themselves: Resurrection Eggs. If you’ve never heard of these, I’m pretty sure the Evangelicals came up with them. You take 12 plastic eggs, and each one has a scripture in it along with an item that reflects part of the last days of Christ’s life on earth. My Southern Baptist friend had a set that I borrowed—and quickly gave back.  Most of the eggs were filled with implements of torture: a thorn, a nail, the cross, a whip. The rest were almost as depressing: three dimes/pieces of silver, dice to show how the soldiers wagered on his robe, a sponge with vinegar. I half expected there to be a tiny ear inside to represent Peter pulling a van Gogh on the dude who came to arrest Jesus. Maybe these eggs are suitable for Mel Gibson, but as a Mormon who sees Easter as a time of life, I just couldn’t foist these sadistic symbols on my little gals. Not that those events didn’t happen, but I think to tell the story only in terms of pain and sorrow is to rob Easter of its fuller meaning.  There’s a reason we associate bunnies and lilies and Cadbury chocolate with this holiday; it’s a time of rebirth and promise.  Yes there was pain and death but there was also hope. 

So I searched online for less morbid versions and found some good ideas, but none of them, not even the obviously Mormon ones, addressed the Atonement. I get it. It’s a hard concept, not one easily represented by something that can fit into a plastic egg.  And even as Mormons, I think when we teach kids about the Garden of Gethsemane we tend to shortchange what happened.  Just as Mormons feel the cross reduces the Savior to the crucifixion as opposed to the resurrection, we tend to make the Atonement all about sin when that is just a piece of it.  In Alma 7:11-12 it reads:  And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. If we only think of the Atonement in terms of Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, then we run the risk of thinking that if we can just keep from sinning then we don’t need the Atonement, as if it’s some insurance policy we are glad to have but would really prefer to never use lest our rates go up.  Maybe it’s age (or arrogance), but I feel like I SUFFER more than I SIN and have come to heavily rely on the Lord for the balm that the Atonement supplies.  I find great solace that Jesus experienced “pains, afflictions, temptations, sickness” and uses this knowledge to “succor” us. I want my children to know they can find comfort and peace no matter what the cause.

I settled on a plastic sacrament cup to put in egg #2 along with Luke 22:41-44 where Christ asks that the cup be removed.  It’s a bit abstract but it’ll do. The girls are delighted by the whole project, and we go through the scripture and importance of each object as we put them in our numbered eggs. It touched me to see them reenact the Last Supper and pass a loaf of bread around and each tear off a small piece for their own egg like sweet little deacons in pigtails.  Then comes the cup, representing the Garden and the Atonement. Third are the 3 dimes to show Judas’s betrayal. Fourth, a piece of twine as Jesus was bound by rope and taken to Pilate.  Fifth, a chunk of soap as Pilate “washes his hands” of it all. Sixth, a square of purple fabric to represent the mock royal robe Jesus was made to wear. Seventh, a nail to represent being placed on the cross. Eighth, tiny rocks to show that the earth shook and broke apart at the sadness of the Lord’s death. Ninth, a strip of white linen symbolizing the shroud the Savior was wrapped in by his friend Joseph. Tenth, a good size smooth stone indicating the rock that was placed in front of the tomb. Eleventh, cloves and bay leaves to show what Mary Magdalene and friends brought to anoint the body on Easter morning. And finally, the last egg is empty to represent the empty tomb. I made sure that final egg was the prettiest one. You can’t really overstate the importance of Life Eternal. One needs glitter for that.

And yet, for their day to day lives, I really pray the girls remember the power of egg #2. I took care to explain that the pain He suffered covered all of our sins—but so much more. I asked them to tell me about things that caused them pain. I got great answers: being teased, stubbing a toe, your best friend not liking you anymore, strep throat, pets dying, your dad getting mad at your when it’s not really your fault and on and on. After each answer I said, “Jesus understands that” or “He knows how bad that feels.” I want these girls to know that they have Heavenly Parents who get it.  They have access to divine comfort and healing. That is the heart of Easter.  Whether we are 8 or 80, we all need to feel like someone understands our pain and mistakes and loves us not just in spite of these weaknesses, but maybe even loves us a little more because of them.

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Guest Post: Heeding the Invitation of the Savior to ‘Come Unto Me’

by Laura

(In her post from earlier today, Laura gave us the back story and aftermath of her Sacrament Meeting talk in which she spoke of her personal beliefs that women should be ordained and included in the governing structure of the Mormon Church. Below is the actual talk she gave.)

COME UNTO ME is the invitation of the Savior to us. It is found in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon and reiterated in our modern scriptures in Section 88 verse 63 of Doctrine and Covenants. “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

How do we draw near unto the Savior? He has shown us by His words and his example what He values and how we are to be numbered among His people. Alma, in Mosiah 18:91 sets out our responsibilities if we are to be called the people of God: “Ye are willing to bear on another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those who mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” And in Matthew 25:40 we are counseled, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” King Benjamin told his people and us in Mosiah 2:1: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Jesus spent His life among those who were marginalized, who were unacceptable to and within the mainstream culture of His day.

I have been informed by an incident that happened to me many years ago while I was in college. I regularly stopped by a 7-11 near my home for a snack or a drink. I often saw a homeless man at this 7-11.

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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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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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Visiting Teaching Message January 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Exemplar

I am not sure why this message at first struck a negative chord with me, but it did. Probably something to do with the idea of New Year’s resolutions—that as an Exemplar- I needed to resolve to be exactly like Christ. For me, this is a sure way in which I am doomed to fail. My thought that Christ is perfect, so He set a perfect example for me, so I need to be perfect, Right? But I am not perfect. Not even close. And I get depressed, distressed, and even angry thinking about how I perceive this message to be something that is obligating me to constantly try to be perfect….

To be true, the actual words, and certainly the spirit of the message do not reflect this flawed and failing ideology. Yet,  I did not feel encouraged by the words included in the message. They state that we are supposed to be somehow inspired to “follow in Christ’s footsteps” and “become the kind of people the Lord wants us to be…” (which made me think, “isn’t He, of all beings, supposed to love me for who I am? Does He really not ‘want’ me as I am?” Does Christ… actually not want me?)

So I was in a stupor, trying to feel inspired somehow about the message. Lo and behold, with the holidays, I have been catching up on some of my favourite podcasts, including BYU Free Speeches on iTunes, which is a collection of BYU devotionals. Specifically, I listened to BYU President, Cecil O. Samuelson, give a speech titled “Failure and Success.” 

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