Created in Their Image

Soon after graduating from BYU and leaving Utah, I left for a study abroad in Denmark, hence my prolonged absence from the comment section (I took Danish for two years at BYU and since being in Denmark, my Danish has become–– according to the locals–– better than the majority of missionaries there and those who’ve lived in the country for several years, almost equivalent to a native speaker, American accent notwithstanding). So far, I’ve been here for three weeks and I’ll be here for close to another four weeks. It is the most magical land and I am close to burning my American passport and living secretly in what is now my favorite country.

During the study abroad, our group has also organized trips to other countries, including Sweden and Germany. And just recently, I returned from a trip in Oslo, Norway. Oslo is a modern city and home to the friendliest people. Oslo is also home to Frogner Park that houses the Vigeland Installation by Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures there are magnificence and worth a trip out to Frogner. Not only for their aesthetic and unique nature of the statues (they are all nude), but for the thoughts and intellectual stimulation they provoke.

IMG_1739

Each of the sculptures in the Vigeland Installation were nude and anatomically correct and full figured. As members of the LDS Church, we are programmed to treat nudity and nakedness as “other”, taboo, or strange. In other words, unacceptable. So to be confronted with this public display of artistic nudity instilled in me the question of vulnerability. It made me question why we as Latter-day Saints afraid of the naked human form. I saw nothing offensive. Is it because of the vulnerability and insecurity it rouses in us? As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, nudity does sometimes leave me feeling vulnerable and insecure. So it was refreshing and challenging to have the park confront me with what is naturally uncomfortable and taboo for most others, and sometimes myself. We believe that our bodies are holy temples, created in the image of the most power Being in the universe. How did we go to being uncomfortable with it?

image

My body was, indeed, created in the image of my Heavenly Parents, so it’s sad that sometimes myself and others feel uncomfortable with it. I am learning to be empowered by my body–– something I once believe was disgusting and broken because of the abuse in my past. I am trying to love all my imperfections and curves and embrace normal sexuality. But lessons in church teach us that we must control our bodies in every form and function. We must cover up. We must be modest. We must not express the fulness of our sexuality. We are merely aesthetically pleasing objects. In the same breath, we teach that our bodies must be hidden and are shameful while simultaneously saying that our bodies are holy and to be embraced.

It is confusing and unhealthy.

Our bodies are modeled after Gods. And we are ashamed of that?

We are created in Their image.

Embrace it. Love it.

Read More

Virtual Oases

by Violadiva
Another roundup of some must-read articles shared on the Internet this week.
  • Evolving conversations between Traditionalists and Feminists – an excellent piece by Andrea Radke-Moss (I love her paragraph of paradoxes on page 2!) And be sure to check out her essay/teaching on basic feminist terminology and theory. Feminism 101 for everyone!
  • Be sure to click over to this article showing the progression of women’s voices in our community, from the old days of the original Exponent up to today!
  • Lots of opinions and interpretations about Women and the Priesthood out there recently.  Fiona Givens writes a piece about Joseph Smith and the early Relief Society. Valerie Hudson describes ways to rid our church of non-doctrinal cultural hindrances regarding what women can/cannot do.  The Church of England votes to allow women Bishops (like a 70 Authority)
  •  Kate Kelly reflects on her excommunication and asserts what’s next for Ordain Women: Carrying on!
  • Bloggers, feminists, and allys chime in about current events, some to great positive receptions, others at the cost of church discipline. Popular Blogger Cjane Kendrick directs her words of support of OW to her young daughters. MikeC describes how he offered words of support in a testimony meeting and how his ward family responded.  Brother Jake makes a hilarious yet poignant “Instructional video” about church discipline.  Kiwimormon shares positive experiences with her local leaders and gives suggestions for building Zion. fMh bloggers and readers discuss Missionary efforts affected by feminism, share personal experiences of discipline, and offer hope about what happens after that. Our Jewish sister, Eden Farber, talks about what it’s like to stay active in her Orthodox faith.
  • an important piece by Nancy Ross, chronicling the rise in feminism, particularly in its rapid ascent due to digital accessibility.  And another  from Ozy with some great interviews.
  • Some surprising details about Mormon women’s issues on the Global scale, particularly of note is how women are used in higher levels of ward leadership in Hong Kong (labeled a special case of local need by the larger church). Read this for sure!
  • recent study of talks given by General Authorities shows very little change in the talking points about gender roles in the church over the last 40 years. And the Mormon Therapist postulates that gender roles are bad for mental health.
  • The church responds to the recent SCOTUS ruling about birth control health coverage (read Joanna’s older piece about the church not covering birth control to its employees) and you’ve got to click over to watch this guy’s song. He turned Justice Ginsburg’s dissent into an awesome feminist anthem which includes the hilarious addition of “slut-shaming geezers” to the tirade.
  • Though not LDS specific, this article about the “anti-feminist” is worth reading. I challenge someone from the Bloggernacle to write an LDS version of this article!
  • And finally, the piece that impacted my heart the most this week was a poignant yet still slightly funny article by Robert Kirby about how our most loving relationships are sometimes sacrificed on the alter of theology. Read this, then call your brother/sister/friend/aunt/cousin and tell them you love them.
Read More

Last Call! Subscriptions for Women and the Priesthood Issue Closing at Noon PST

We at Exponent II are overwhelmed–and happily so!–by the flood of subscription orders to the magazine in the last month and a half. Thank you, everyone, for joining us on this journey and reading what your sisters have written about their Mormon experiences.

But we’ve just about run through our printing of this issue, and the summer 2014 issue is coming up soon. Starting at noon PST (3pm EST), any new subscriptions we receive at http://exponent.hyperingenuity.com/store.cgi/ will begin with our <i>next</i> issue. We have a whole team of devoted writers, readers, artists, and editors working on it as I type this, and we’re sure you’re going to love it.

Onward, sisters! (And if it’s before noon PST on July 22nd, 2014, you can still get the spring issue as your first issue.

Read More

Relief Society Lesson 16: Bringing Up Children in Light and Truth

kyrie-eleison

Kyrie Elaison by Soichi Watanabe

 

Click for Spanish Translation/Traducción en español

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

 

Introduction: As with any lesson that focuses on parenthood or marriage, it may be helpful to remind the class that these lessons can be difficult for those who do not have children, whose children have left the Church, or whose families do not represent the “norm” of LDS culture. Let us keep these things in mind as we discuss a sensitive topic and remember to extend love and grace to all of our sisters in the class and their families. Song suggestion: Teach me to Walk in the Light Opening question: Think of the families you have known, either in or out of the Church, that seem truly happy. What are some of the characteristics you note that are common among those families?  I would share that all of the families I have known, the ones who seem sincerely happy are the ones where love and grace are extended unconditionally, where the children know that they are always welcomed and wanted, even when they make mistakes. I would share the story of the prodigal son and the father who welcomed his son back with open arms, even after the son had done much that likely displeased him. I would also share this section of a talk given by  Elder Jack H. Goaslind, Jr:

“A good friend shared this story about how she learned the deeper meaning of love. Their family has always been active in the Church, trying their best to live the commandments. They were shocked and disappointed, however, when the daughter became engaged to a nonmember. The next day the mother was telling a good friend about her feelings. She knew her daughter’s fiance was a fine young man, but she felt angry, hurt, betrayed, and numb and did not want to give her daughter a wedding or even see her. She said that the Lord must have guided her to talk to her friend because she received this reply:

“‘What kind of mother are you that you only love her when she does what you want her to do? That is selfish, self-centered, qualified love. It’s easy to love our children when they are god; but when they make mistakes, they need our love even more. We should love and care for them no matter what they do. It doesn’t mena we condone or approve of the errors, but we help, not condemn; love, not hate; forgive, not judge. We build them up rather than tear them down; we lead them, not desert them. We love when they are most unloveable…” “With tears streaming down her face, the mother asked her friend how she could ever thank her. The friend answered, ‘Do it for someone else when the need arises. Someone did it for me, and I will be eternally grateful.’” (April 1981)

I find it interesting that study after study has shown that it is children who *feel* loved and cherished exactly as they are, are the ones who thrive throughout life. Our responsibility is to not just love our children, but to express our love in ways they understand and recognize, regardless of their decisions or mistakes.

Read More

The Gospel of the Beloved Companion: A Review

The Gospel of the Beloved Companion by Jehanne de Quillan, published in 2010, is the first English translation of a gospel that was preserved by the author’s spiritual community based in the Languedoc region of France. Originally written in Greek, the text came from Egypt to Languedoc in the first century, and was kept at great cost since that time. de Quillan’s book provides an English translation of the text, followed by commentary that compares it to the Gnostic gospels of Thomas and Mary, and to the canonical gospels. The Gospel of the Beloved Companion (GBC) is most similar to the canonical Gospel of John. I would like to review the book as a whole, then provide my own comparison of GBC to the Gospel of John.

In the introduction to the book de Quillan writes that the original text for the GBC is extant, but protected and not available for public view. Therefore, there is no way to verify whether the text is a translation or an invention; she invites readers to determine whether the text is authentic based on its content, rather than on empirical evidence. In this sense it’s like the Book of Mormon; readers are invited to make up their minds about its veracity based on what they feel. My point of view here will be one of accepting the text as what it claims to be, a gospel written by Mary Magdalene.

The GBC is unique because it tells the story of Jesus’ life from the perspective of a woman. The Beloved Companion is Mary Magdalene, sister of Lazarus and Martha. Overall the message of the GBC is the same as the canonic gospels: Jesus is the way to eternal life.  The stories of the GBC are mostly identical to the stories in John.  So in many ways the message is not significantly different because it came from a female author, which is what I suspect may be true of what would happen if we had female prophets and priests in the church today: the message would still be “Come unto Christ.”  But it matters that the messenger can be female, and it calls into question whether an authoritative account by a woman could have been included in the canonic gospels but was excluded.

de Quillan uses textual analysis to argue that the companion whom Jesus loved, mentioned in the Gospel of John, was Mary Magdalene, not John. She argues that the GBC is actually an older text than the source documents for the canonic gospels, as well as older than the gnostic gospel of Thomas. She uses historical and textual evidence to argue that Mary Magdalene was the beloved companion present at the Last Supper, and points out that after Jesus’ death Joseph of Aramathea begged his body from Pilate, and would have given it to Jesus’ family. Traditional Jewish funerary conventions gave women the duty of preparing bodies for burial, and giving the body to Mary Magdalene’s care should mean she was family, possibly his wife. This idea would have been very unpalatable to the Roman church, which could explain Mary Madgalene’s reduced status in the canonic gospels.

An interesting feature of the GBC is the scarcity of the words “God” and “Father.” Whatever word gave rise to “Father” or “God” in the canonic gospels, de Quillan translates “spirit” and she uses the feminine pronoun for it.  Her reasoning is that in Hebrew the word for spirit (ruach), is feminine, in Aramaic the word (ruah) is feminine, and in Greek the word (pneuma) is neuter. The GBC refers to Jesus as the “son of humanity” not the “son of man” or “son of god.” It doesn’t use the word “father,” but instead “spirit,” for example John 5:19: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”  GBC 13:9: “For whatever things the spirit does, these the son does likewise.”

The GBC is perhaps somewhat lower in christology overall.  It does not include the mystical beginning of John 1 about Christ being the Word.  The GBC uses softer language when it comes to Jesus’ personhood and resurrection, for example GBC 24:1 “I bring light to the world” compared with John 8:12 “I am the light of the world.”  And when Mary Magdalene meets Jesus at the tomb, John 20:17 reads, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” GBC 40:6 says, “Jesus said to her, Mary, do not hold to me, for I am not of the flesh, yet neither am I one with the spirit; but rather go to my disciples and tell them you have seen me, so that all may know that my words are true and that any who should choose to believe them and keep to my commandments will follow me on their last day.”  But the GBC is clear that Jesus points the way to eternal life.

The GBC follows the gospel of John very closely until about John 20, after which it differs. The GBC concludes with a sermon by Mary Magdalene, after which Peter and Andrew say her words are untrue, and Matthew defends her. de Quillan makes the point that Peter had a different understanding of Jesus’ teaching than Mary and Matthew, and perhaps the very first split of what would become Christianity happened very soon after Jesus’ death, and that this also represented the first attempt to silence the feminine from Christianity. This is an interesting idea to me as a Mormon, who has always been taught that a falling away from Christ’s full gospel happened fairly soon after his death.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now here, for what it’s worth, are some comparisons I made between the GBC and the gospel of John.

 

GBC starts with John the Baptist, not with the Nativity, just like the Gospel of John does, and proceeds directly to the calling of the disciples. Next is the miracle at Cana.  In attendance it mentions brothers of Jesus: Jacob and Joseph, and a sister Mary. Mary (the beloved companion) and Martha, sisters of Lazarus.  Also Matthew, and Thomas (a friend to The Companion).  However the GBC adds an interesting detail GBC 6:9: “This beginning of his signs Jesus did at his wedding feast at a place near Cana in the land of Judah, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believe him” (emphasis mine). I’ve heard speculation that this was Jesus’ own wedding feast, and in this text that is explicit.

Next we have the story of the overthrowing the moneychangers at the temple, in John 2. The GBC adds a striking commentary by Jesus.

GBC8:6: “You are like a dog sleeping in the cattle manger.  The dog does not eat, nor does it let the cattle eat. You have stolen the keys to the temple and locked and barred the door.  You have not entered yourselves nor have you permitted others who wish to enter to do so.  Instead you have become as dishonest merchants, selling that which does not belong to you and over which you have no power.”

The stories of Nicodemus, the woman at the well, healing a nobleman’s son, and healing at the pool of Bethesda (John 3-5) are nearly identical. Next is the feeding of 5,000, as in John 6.  He goes out on the sea of Galilee with the disciples, but in GBC he does not walk on water. Jesus said he is the bread of life, and that their father’s ate manna and are dead, like in John 6, but the GBC text is more verbose.  It continues into John 7, where the disciples argue about whether a prophet could possibly come from Galilee.  Instead of concluding just with “every (man) went to his own house,” GBC adds, “But Jesus went back to Bethany to the house of the Beloved Companion near the Mount of Olives.”  There is something dear about the possibility of Jesus returning to beloved friends for comfort. The exchange with Pharisees about being Abraham’s children and the story of healing a blind man follow closely (John 8 and 9). Unique to the GBC is a passage about the Pharisees wanting to stone Jesus for claiming to be the messiah. John 10 has no correlate in the GBC.

John 11 contains the story of raising Lazarus from the dead. The miracle is somewhat downplayed in this Gospel.  Jesus says, “Your brother is not dead but sleeping,” without the clarification in John 11:14 “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” The part about Lazarus stinking and being dead four days is not there.

Next comes a passage that has no correlate in John.  It’s reminiscent of passages in Matthew that talk about the kingdom of heaven being like a mustard seed, or treasure in a field, or a pearl of great price, or leaven.  But also unlike anything I can think of in the New Testament.

GBC 30:3-5: “The kingdom is like a man who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it.  And when he died, he left it to his son.  The son did not find the treasure, nor did he use the field, but sold it on to a neighbor.  The new owner then, desiring to make best use of the field, set to plowing the soil in preparation for planting a good crop, and struck the treasure.  Have I not told you that the kingdom lies hidden within you?  Then the disciple Salome, the woman who had given Jesus water to drink at the well of Jacob, asked him, ‘Rabbi, who shall I find my treasure?’ And Jesus said to her, ‘If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom.  Only from the truth I tell you, unless you overcome the ruler of the world, you will never know the spirit and discover that which lies within you.”

GBC 38:8 “If your leaders say to you, look, the kingdom is in the sky, then the birds of the sky will precede you.  If they say to you, it is in the sea, then the fish will precede you.  Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.”

There’s nothing in the New Testament that says the kingdom of God is within you.  That seems like a pretty modern sentiment to me.

John 12 (Mary Magdalene washing Jesus’ feet) follows closely. But instead of John 12:7: ‘Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this”  the GBC relates,

GBC 32:4 “But hearing this Jesus said to them, “Leave her be.  She has anointed me for what I am come to do, and done what she is appointed to do.  Only from the truth I tell you, whenever they speak of me, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.  You do not know or understand what she has done. I tell you this: when all have abandoned me, only she shall stand beside me like a tower.  A tower built on a high hill and fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden.  From this day forth, she shall be known as Migdalah, for she shall be as a tower to by flock, and the time will soon come when her tower shall stand alone by mine.”

Note the difference between the two accounts of the last supper:

John 14:18-21: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”

GBC 35: 16: “I will not leave you orphans.  When a father goes away, it is the mother who tends the children. Only from the truth I tell you, there is one amongst you who has had my commandments, and keeps them.  That one is the one who loves me, adn that one who loves me isa lso loved by me, and by the spriit.  To that one will I reveal myself so that you will know that what I have said to you is true, that I am in the spirit as the spirit is in me.  And that same one will the spirit complete in all ways, so that by this sign you may know my words are true, and that my testimony is of the spirit, the one who sent me… Those amongst you who understand and keep my commandments will not taste death.”

John 15 is mostly the same, but John 16 and 17, in which Jesus teaches of the Comforter, of his death and resurrection, and offers his intercessory prayer, are not found in the GBC.

John 18 and 19 align – this is where the Roman soldiers come for Jesus and Peter smites off one of their ears.  Mary Magdalene appears again, it says she is the one who let Peter in at the gate where Jesus met with Caiaphas (this is where Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.)

John 19:25-27 is interesting.  It replaces Mary Magdalene for John the Beloved at the cross:
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

GBC 39:3 – “But there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary the beloved companion, also called Magdalene.  Therefore when Jesus saw his mother and the companion whom he loved standing there, he said to his other ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the Companion, ‘Woman, behold your mother!’ From that hour, the companion took her onto her own.”

The GBC expands on the “they” in John 19:40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.  GBC says it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jacob, Joseph, and Salome.  The Joseph is apparently Joseph of Arimathea.

After the scene at the tomb, the GBC relates a scene not found in the canonic gospels.

GBC 41:5 “Simon Peter said to Magdalene, ‘Sister, we know that he loved you more than any other among women.  Tell us the words of the Rabbi, which you remember, which you know and understand, but we do not, nor have we heard them.’”  42:1 “Magdalene answered and said, ‘What is hidden from you, I will proclaim to you.’ And she began to speak to them the words that Jesus had given her. My master spoke thus to me. He said ‘Mary, blessed are you…There is a great tree within you that does not change, summer or winter, its leaves do not fall.  Whosoever listens to my words and ascends to its crown will not taste death, but know the truth of eternal life.’ Then he showed me a vision in which I saw a great tree that seemed to reach unto the heavens; and as I saw these things he said, ‘the roots of this tree are in the earth, which is your body.  The trunk extends upward through the five regions of humanity to the crown, which is the kingdom of the spirit.  There are eight great boughs upon this tree and each bough bears its own fruit, which you must eat in all its fullness.  As the fruit of the tree in the garden caused Adam and Eve to fall into darkness, so this fruit will give to you the light of the spirit that is eternal life.  Between each bough is a gate and a guardian who challenges the unworthy who try to pass.  The leaves at the bottom of the tree are thick and plentiful, so no light penetrates to illuminate the way.  But fear not, for I am the way and the light and I tell you that, as one ascends the tree, the leaves that block one from the light are fewer, so it is possible to see all more clearly.  Those who seek to ascend must free themselves of the world.  If you do not free yourself from the world, you will die in the darkness that is the root of the tree.  But if you free yourself, you will rise and reach the light that is the eternal life of the spirit.”

It goes on to describe passing through the boughs, gaining wisdom, strength, courage, clarity, and truth, power, healing, and grace.  At the top of the tree, Magdalene says,

“I felt my soul and all that I could see dissolve and vanish in a brilliant light, in a likeness unto the sun.  And in the light, I beheld a woman of extraordinary beauty, clothed in garments of brilliant white.  The figure extended its arms, and I felt my soul drawn into its embrace, and in that moment I was freed from the world, and I realized that the fetter of forgetfulness was temporary.”

The GBC then relates that some of the disciples did not believe that Jesus said these teachings, including Andrew, and Peter. Matthew defended her.  And they were divided, and it says they went to teach what they understood of Jesus in their own ways.  This concludes the Gospel of the Beloved Companion.

 

 

 

 

Read More

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Some bike-themed Exponent posts, a poll and a video.

(Click on the titles of some of these wonderful, classic posts to enjoy some bike-related reading. When you’re done, get off the computer and go for a bike ride.)


The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

National Bike Month

“But a year later after we moved from rural Indiana to the suburban sprawl of Chicago, bicycling became my morning meditation.”

tricycle bike

Photo by Jana Remy

 

Biking In A Skirt

Modesty was a problem for me during my missionary days. Skirts flap around Marilyn Monroe-style on a bike.”

Don’t Come Cryin’ To Me!

I have to admit part of me was SAD that the bikes were patiently waiting for them after the movie.”

Read More

Sisters Speak: Rituals and Practices that Bring the Holy into our Lives

 

Dear Exponent readers, the Sisters Speak column of the Exponent II magazine will focus on innovative rituals or practices that enrich our lives.  I am looking for brief (one or two paragraph) responses to the following question, and I will email some of you commenters to ask if I can quote you in the magazine. For those that would like to respond privately, please email me at carolinekline1 at gmail dot com. 

Mormonism has an abundance of rituals and practices meant to imbue everyday life with holiness. I appreciate many of these, yet as a Mormon feminist, some of these rituals just don’t speak to my soul. From experience I know that I feel God more fully in my life when I supplement my Mormon worship with additional practices and rituals, particularly women-centered ones. 

Some of these practices which have been particularly moving and meaningful to me are:
  • a blessing ceremony for my baby daughter, in which a group of women friends brought a thought or a poem to help my daughter navigate her woman’s life, as well as a bead which symbolized some advice or insight for her
  • reading beautiful prayers from world religions
  • displaying images of the divine feminine in my home
  • shifting my God-language, so that I often mention Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father together
I feel like these practices are a good start, but I am sure there are many, many others that would add meaning and spirituality to my life. Please share your ideas on this subject. What spiritual practices or rituals have you developed (or do you hope to develop) to bring the holy into your life? What meaning do you find in them? Do you feel any tension because these practices are not developed or mandated by the Church, and if so, how do you deal with this tension?
Read More