A Spiritual Hiatus

“Will you be moving your records into the branch?”

“….Maybe.”

The YSA Branch Relief Society President was happy and cheerful enough–– not yet jaded by New York City (for now). With a pleasant grin on her face and sincerity in her voice, she asked if I would be joining their motley YSA crew here in New York. I told her an honest “maybe”. I attended my local Young Single Adult branch this past Sunday, made new friends, and felt pretty much at home. It didn’t hurt that the Relief Society lesson was not from the Ezra Taft Benson manual, but instead, on supporting and encouraging ourselves and other women. I also took comfort in the fact that the aforementioned Relief Society President said things like, “Welcome to Brooklyn! Where you can wear pants to church and no one will blog about it!” and then cursed in her lesson–– without the sister missionaries, senior sister missionary, or branch president’s wife blinking an eye. It was the most subversive and uplifting church experience I’ve ever had in recent memory. It felt so good being in church that day.

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In Light

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By Ash Mae.

The day the missionaries came to our house in 1988 a rainbow fell across the sky in our neighborhood on the hill.  I stood on the ledge of the bathtub and curled my fingers on the windowsill to pull my scrawny body up to see.  I could hear their voices, fresh as orange juice, through the open window.  The way I see it now, the rainbow is brighter than any rainbow I’ve seen since.  The sky more orange and small. The fresh puddles on asphalt reflect two shimmering missionaries, pressed shirts and black pants, my mom, my dad, my little white haired brother between them, and somewhere in the background, me, watching it all.  Documenting the magic, cataloguing it for some future time.  Surely they all came in to eat dinner then, and I reached up on tiptoes and pulled down my best dress, because I always did when the missionaries came, and we must have all celebrated my mom. After so long, she’d decided to be baptized.

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What if Christ Had Doubts?

Doubt

 

 

 

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46.) Common LDS interpretations of this scripture and the event it chronicles include: an expression of belief even in the face of great pain (Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done, Robert D. Hales, Oct. 2011) a moment where God removed himself in order to let Christ finish the Atonement alone and the great faith Christ showed in that moment of loneliness (He Lives! All Glory to His Name! Richard G. Scott, April 2010) In every discussion of Christ’s death on the cross, he is presented as a perfect example of faith.

But what if this scripture documents a moment of fear instead of a moment of faith? What if, in that moment, Christ doubted his mission, his calling as the Savior, his position as the firstborn son of God? We believe that Christ experienced everything we do; does that include doubt?

I believe there is room to interpret this scripture as an expression of doubt. To say “why hast thou forsaken me?” suggests that the speaker believes he has been abandoned. He did not ask “have you left,” but “why did you leave?” At such a pivotal moment, to feel abandoned could very easily have led to doubt not just of God’s presence but of everything he was dying for.

In my years of involvement with several Mormon feminist groups, I have been told many times that my questions and doubts were a sin. I’ve been told that “obedience is the first law of heaven,” that “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done” and if I were really following God, I wouldn’t be asking these questions. If you look at the Ordain Women Facebook page for 30 seconds, you will find comments reflecting these attitudes. Doubt is viewed as a sin by many church members. And church leaders encourage this attitude in some ways. The Aaronic Priesthood Manual contains the quote “when the Prophet speaks… the debate is over,” encouraging the youth of the church to obey blindly. In April 2009, Elder Kevin W. Pearson presented doubt and disbelief as the same thing, and he also stated that feeling doubts was a choice, implying that to question is choosing to lack faith. In short, having questions is presented as an incorrect  or sinful choice to make.

But Christ did not sin. He died sinless, allowing Him to atone for the sins of others. So if Christ doubted, it cannot be a sin. We can say we are following Christ when we have questions and reach out to God for answers. If Christ doubted, those of us who question are in good company. We are not sinning when we doubt, because Christ doubted and did not sin.

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Young Women Lesson: How Can I Find Solutions to My Challenges and Problems?

You Are Enough, Vicki JohnsonThe overall theme in November is “self reliance.” Spunky did an excellent introduction last week here, and you can look up the Aaronic priesthood lessons here; they have additional ideas that I thought were helpful for the Young Women.

When I was in high school, I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance.” That essay gave me confidence and made me feel like I was capable of handling anything that came my way. I was determined to be self-reliant. So, I would start with my favorite part of the essay:

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great women and men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now women and men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

I would begin by asking the class,
What does this quote mean to you?

Self-reliance is difficult to obtain, especially in the face of trials and the unknown, but as individuals who believe in the importance of free agency, it is vital that we study and gain the faith we need to be able to make big decisions as we face challenges in our lives.

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Hope in the Darkness

Hope in the DarknessExactly one week before President Uchtdorf offered his beautiful General Conference address suggesting that there are genuine reasons why some members of the church may doubt, I attended a conference in New York City, dedicated to that very theme.

The official title was “Negotiating LDS History and Faith Challenges.” The speakers were Richard Bushman, Fiona Givens, and Terryl Givens. It was sponsored by The Temple and The Observatory Group.

This is the part where I am about to share my notes. It is also the part where I explain that they are neither perfect nor complete: the conference was 6 hours, and I only had my phone to tap the words and sentences that meant the most to me.

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