Waiting for Our Day to Come

After much thought and prayer and many discussions with friends and family, I posted my profile on Ordain Women.org.  I believe that now is the time to be thoughtful and prayerful about Priesthood and ask God what He desires for His daughters in our modern-day church. I think we should seek understanding about a dual Priesthood: just as men and women are both involved with procreation – they are both involved with priesthood.

When others learn that I have posted this profile, many questions and comments follow.  The majority of these comments seem to fall in three areas, which I will address below in my own little “frequently asked questions” blog post and poll today.

1. Women’s ordination leading to LDS men’s inactivity.

My simple response to this concern is “I don’t think we will lose our men” – at least not the good men I know.  Some of the best men I know are Mormon men – and I don’t envision my brother-in-laws or my current ward brothers walking away from the church.  I think they will attend their children’s baptisms even if their wives are preforming the ordinance.  Ordaining women does not mean un-ordaining men.  We are adding sisterhood to the strong brotherhood that already exists.

My second, somewhat more complex response is: “Maybe we’ll lose some of our men.  And maybe we’ll lose our women too.” We are currently losing both men and women to inactivity.  Many of those individuals will continue to struggle if women are ordained, but I’m not convinced the numbers will be higher than what we face currently. Concern over men’s activity rates, while important, is not a reason to withhold ordination to all worthy members of the church.  I see dual ordination as a way to work together for the benefit of all.  And when we no longer have to use all our “talk about Priesthood time” splitting roles and justifying women’s peripheral involvement, then we can really explore Priesthood and learn more fully about its immense power.

2. Women’s ordination leading to more work for LDS women.

Many LDS women (that I talk to) feel overworked in the church already – and worry that ordination will only add to the load.  And for some women – maybe it will, but I think for most – probably not.  Ordination brings more hands to the table, not fewer.  There is lot of work to be done in the Kingdom of God – some of it is logistical, some of it is administrative, some of it involves spiritual revelation, and some of it is around blessings and ordinations.  Work rotates within these areas and among people.  Callings rotate. It seems to me that families will spend more time together if the work is spread among more people – including single women.  Perhaps in some homes a mother will spend extra time at church meetings for a few years while the father watches over children on Sunday morning.  And perhaps in other homes, the dinner hour will be less interrupted because Brother Smith can call me (a single sister) to give a blessing rather than the father of a family.

3. Am I questioning church leadership by supporting women’s ordination?

For me, this answer is a firm “no”. I love the church; I trust and sustain its leaders.  I am not questioning either, I am simply giving voice to something I also believe: women’s ordination. My friend, Carri, who is an inspiration to me on the subject of LDS women writes, “for many years I tried to make the status of women in the Church make sense. I tried to find ways to justify it – which is where I believe the vast majority of the Church is now, believing it’s right because it is … but it isn’t necessary right, it just is.”

Nephi also has some interesting thoughts on the matter: 1 Nephi Chapter 25.  I quote from Carri again, “One of the things I find most intriguing about Nephi is how often he feels constrained by the smallness of his world. He is so aware of how much power and knowledge there is to be had, but in his day-to-day life, he is pestered constantly by simple-mindedness and weakness. I imagine him feeling tethered to earth when his vision is so much greater.

“And notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For this end was the law given; wherefore, the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.” 

They keep the “dead law” because that is the commandment they have. They speak of the higher law as they live the lesser one.  Nephi was ready to be Christian 600 years before Christ came. He knew the law of Moses was not complete and that he and generations of his posterity would be subject to living it. But he spoke of the higher law, which he knew someday would come. And he rejoiced in it.”

 

I feel like Nephi: I am living the law and commandments we have.  I am serving in ways that are given me.  And I’m waiting for what I believe is the birthright of all the worthy sons and daughters of God – to act in His name with Priesthood power.  I claim that birthright, even as I wait for the actual ordination  … in the Lord’s time.  “I believe all that God has revealed, all the He does now reveal, and … that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” (Ninth Article of Faith)

There are several schools of thought on the issue of woman’s ordination – or Goalposts as John-Charles Duffy calls them.  Where do you fall?

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RS Lesson #9: Open Your Soul to the Lord In Prayer

Opening Reflection

Prayer.   It’s the earliest lesson in primary (“Fold your arms and close your eyes”) and yet as we grow older, the conversation grows richer, deeper — or perhaps more painful and confusing. How do we speak to God? How does God speak to us?

Spencer W. Kimball said, “The Lord answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”  That someone can be a Relief Society teacher. I am a teacher by trade, and if I have ever felt God’s guidance in my life, it has been in finding ways to reach my students. “Help me be sensitive to the unspoken needs of my students . . . help me say or do something that will reach someone who is seeking today . . . ” These are prayers I believe in.

From the Life of George Albert Smith

Since learning more about President Smith’s life-long struggle with depression, fatigue, and anxiety, I have developed a particularly tender spot for him.  I read his personal anecdotes with this additional lens of understanding.

Take the warmth of this memory — which recognizes his mother’s spiritual power — retold in the autumn of his life.

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Until We Have Faces

How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?[1]

When I was a little girl I once declared that green was my favorite color. My older sister replied, “No it’s not.” Instead of contradicting her I was filled with doubt and wondered what my favorite color was, since it obviously wasn’t green.

An unfortunate confluence of my own proclivities, my family dynamics, and the way the gospel was presented to me turned me into a person who was quite literally selfless. When I say ‘selfless’ I don’t mean generous, or kindly, I mean an empty shell who was what everyone had instructed me to be.

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Thoughts on Prayer #3: What Do I Expect From Prayer?

A few weeks ago, a friend posted on her Facebook page that her husband had been laid off. There were several comments under her post, many of which said something along the lines of “We’ll pray for you.” I wanted to respond, but felt that an offer of prayer was insufficient on my part. I didn’t understand why I felt that way. What’s wrong with praying for someone when something bad happens?

I realized that I often use praying for someone as an excuse to do nothing else for them. I feel that if I pray for them, that is all I have to do.

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Thoughts on Prayer #2 : What Is Prayer For?

As a child (I’ve been contrary my entire life) I often thought that there was little point in praying. On the one hand, I was taught that God knows everything, including what we need and want. Prayer was supposed to be an expression of faith allowing God to give us what we pray for. But since God knew better then we did, often we would not get what we wanted or felt we needed because God knew better and the answer was “No.” So if God knew better then I did, and if my prayers made no difference in what happened to me, what was the point?

This is the way I remember prayer being taught, and is still the way I see prayer being taught. We are told that God answers prayers, but sometimes the answer is no. I really struggle with this explanation of God; a God who listens to prayers (if we have enough faith and if we’re doing it right), but who doesn’t react to what we say. For most of my life I felt like I was flipping a coin or asking Santa Claus for a present when I prayed. I was asking the supreme being to help me, but I had no control over the outcome. I just had to send my letter out into space and hope that on Christmas morning what I needed was under the tree. This created a God I couldn’t communicate with and didn’t like all that much.

This problem was exacerbated by the concept of “Thy will be done.” We are taught to incorporate the idea of “Thy will be done’ in our prayers, which claims to explain why we don’t always get what we pray for. I’ve seen this destroy faith; people pray for loved ones to be healed, or to find a job, or for children and their prayers are not answered. The idea that God hears and answers all prayers sends the message that God does not want a loved one to live, or want you to be employed, or want you to have children. The worst example I can think of for this is a prayer for safety, followed by an act of violence, like a rape or mugging. I pray for safely and am met with violence. Since God’s will is the answer to our prayers, He must have wanted this violence to happen to me; He might have even been responsible for it. That is not a God I can believe in.

My analysis may seem simplistic, partially because I”m trying to to go on forever (fail, sorry), and partially because my mind works a certain way. I find that the pattern that has been set up pushes me away from God, because it creates for me an arbitrary God who does not listen to what we feel we need, and who may be responsible for terrible things happening. If my prayers do nothing to change what happens to me, and if they make me feel desperate and hopeless, why on earth should I keep praying?

A few weeks ago, I found an answer that works for me. Prayer was described not as petitioning God to change things, but as a way of communicating with someone so you do not feel alone. I read a story of a man whose wife was ill. He felt useless because he could not help her. He was advised to pray, but didn’t see the point for similar reasons as I’ve described above. But when he took the advice, he felt that in being able to express his fear he was able to be there for his wife, because he did not feel that he was dealing with the pain alone. We pray because we feel joy or sorrow or anger and God is there to share it, to let us know that someone understands us. God is not responsible for the horrible things that happen to us; life just runs that way. But God knows our pain, and weeps or rejoices with us in a way that no one else can.

I realize that this interpretation will not be helpful to everyone, that many find comfort in seeing God’s hand in the good things that happen to them. I don’t wish to harm that view; find God wherever you can! But I have found great comfort, great relief, and a new relationship with God in the idea that God does not “answer” prayers in the since of giving us, or not giving us, what we are asking for. God answers prayers by listening, by being present, by helping us know we are not alone. As someone who often feels misunderstood, voiceless and powerless, the fact that there is someone who weeps, rages or rejoices with me is life-altering. To feel that someone shares my anger has given me the courage to act to change things I see as wrong. It has given me hope in times when I feel that nothing will change. This courage and hope has given my life a meaning I never thought I would find.

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Why I Love Visiting Teaching

Why I Love Visiting Teaching

I admit I’m a fan of Visiting Teaching.  I’ve been doing it all my life. My mom was the Eternal RS President and with me as her underage companion, she assigned us to visit people who didn’t really want to be visited.  Or were crazy. Or both. But we always got in, often with the help of cookies, and usually ended up making nice connections.  In my current ward they just rearranged the assignments and I have a GLS companion (Good Little Soldier). Which is great. Except that one of the women we teach would be more comfortable at an Exponent Retreat than at an Enrichment meeting. She’s a physician who calls it like she sees it (let’s call her OMD, Outspoken MD). So I’ve been visiting her on the sly because I’m a chicken and was afraid to bring my GLS along. But this month we had a traditional visit. Here’s what happened.

We sit and chat for a while and things go well until GLS says it’s time for the Message. Before she can even open The Engisn OMD says politely but firmly, “Let me stop you right there. Is the lesson on prayer and faith and love?” GLS looks confused, “Why yes, have you already read it?” OMD sighs. “No. But all the lessons are on prayer and faith and love.  These lessons don’t work for me. I don’t find any useful religion in them.”  There ensued a very awkward silence. Luckily I remembered a great conversation I’d had earlier that day with my good friend and shared it as my message.

My friend’s youngest was struggling with a particular task at school and kept praying that he would master it. He even found a quiet corner in his kindergarten class to kneel down. He cried to his mom that his prayers didn’t work because his task neither got easier nor went away.  She held him tight and explained Heavenly Father answers our prayers by giving us the strength and peace to face our struggles. “Sweetie,” she said, “prayers aren’t like magic wands that makes worries disappear.” “But Mom,” he replied, “that’s how it always works in The Friend.”

I told both women that I struggle as a YW teacher and as a mom with lots of the stories in the manuals and magazines. I want to promote faith but fear that presenting only the “and everything got fixed” version of life was dangerous.  The gospel is NOT an insurance policy against pain and suffering; but it is the best tool I have in my arsenal to deal with life when the crap hits the fan. I was surprised when GLS agreed with me, and shared a hard story about her mom getting cancer, twice, and her sister leaving the Church because she felt God had betrayed the family by not keeping the cancer away. OMD talked about how she was strengthened by the faith of one of her patients, a man she’d helped perform a liver transplant on the night before. He was 80 lbs, had contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion as a kid and had been in excruciating liver failure for a while. She marveled at his optimism, his gratitude, and his refusal to live life as if he had a death sentence, which he basically did. That was where she found her faith.

We all talked and laughed and I was so thankful that OMD spoke up and told us what she needed. And I was even more thankful that GLS was not offended but was willing to share her personal message of prayer and faith and love as well. I need to remember that just because someone tows the line and follows rules doesn’t mean they can’t toss the manual when necessary. And just because someone says they don’t believe in Visiting Teaching doesn’t mean they can’t use a good conversation with friends at least once a month.  At times like this I love being wrong.

Do you “believe” in Visiting Teaching? Is it a monthly chore or something you look forward to? When does it work for you, and what do you want in a Visiting Teacher?

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