To say what is truth?

27I have not been able to stop thinking about an essay I read a few months ago: “Oh Say What is Truth? Understanding Mormonism Through a Black Feminist Epistemology”  The author argues that in Mormonism truth is acquired through feeling, citing D&C 9:8, as well as through lived experience; these are the ways we “find out for ourselves.”  These methods of determining truth are part of a black feminist epistemology set forth by Patricia Hill Collins, and the essay argues that her ideas are very close to Mormon methods of determining truth.

Taking feelings and lived experience a step further, Collins argues that a collective dialogue is essential to furthering and developing the truth that each person has acquired, and that each person has a moral obligation to share her truth.  Collins wrote, “The fundamental requirement of [a collective dialogue] is the active participation of all individuals. For ideas to be tested and validated, everyone in the group must participate. To refuse to join in, especially if one really disagrees with what has been said, is seen as ‘cheating.’” The essayist concludes, “Because we all have a truth to speak, to fail to speak our truth especially when it is needed most – when it is being contradicted – is to fail the community’s efforts to build collective, experienced-based truth as a whole body.”

I try to live as though participating in collective dialogue is a moral obligation.  For years I’ve felt that speaking my truth regarding gender equality in Mormonism is one of the important purposes of my life.  For example, Mormonism is patriarchal, but I believe patriarchy is a Judeo-Christian heritage not inspired by God, passed down through many years of unchecked sexism, and now entangled so that it touches nearly every aspect of Church culture and much of Church doctrine.  How do I live as part of a religious community with strongly held traditional beliefs and while hoping for radical change?

I do it by talking.  I use inclusive language, I comment often in Sunday School and Relief Society, I get up in fast and testimony meeting a few times every year, I give carefully crafted talks that are both diplomatic and radical, and I write for a Mormon feminist blog and paper.  I speak my truth wherever I can.  This can be scary because it opens me up for criticism and judgement, but it can also create unexpected connections with people who resonate with what I’ve said.  In the context of contemporary American life it may seem tame to speak truth in one’s own small community – others have spoken up at much greater cost than I have, and to greater effect.  But to do this consistently, to remain attached to a community that has expanded my spirit but also makes me weep, this takes courage and staying power.

So, my ideas matter, even if, or especially when, they are contrary to the status quo.  And if a collective dialogue is needed to develop and advance knowledge, then I need to keep showing up for that dialogue.  I also believe that organizations need insiders working for change for that change to become possible.

But here’s the problem.  What if I’m a lone reed?  In my experience there needs to be a critical mass of people in a Sunday School discussion to get an idea afloat.  It’s great when that happens, and the discussion becomes enlightening and enlivening.  But what if comments or questions fall flat and the teacher marches on with the lesson as planned?  What if people hold your truth in contempt, or possibly worse, just ignore it?  A dialogue in which everyone participates sounds great, but in does that ever happen in real life?  What if, as happened to me earlier this month, a First Presidency letter, the bishopric’s selection of the theme for sacrament meeting, and the material in the talks and discussions form a unified block of content that I don’t resonate with?  Are comments against such a backdrop useful, or contentious even if contention is not my intent?

I’m lonely and tired, friends.  So please, give me your stories.  When you speak up, how does it go?  What do you learn?  Does it create a spark for generating sincere discussion?  Or does your spark fall to the ground, extingushed?  If it’s the latter, what does that mean?

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Relief Society Lesson 12: Seek the Spirit in All You Do

Baltimore Sunrise by Aimee HickmanGuest Post by Trudy Rushforth

I was excited when I was asked to write this lesson plan. Seeking and living by the Spirit is one of the parts of the gospel that I really love. I think that it’s remarkable that we each have a direct line to the Almighty, unimpeded by any human intermediary.

With all of the varied expectations (family, friends, ourselves, our employers, church culture, etc.) pulling us in different directions, seeking the Spirit is essential. Also essential is allowing others the space to seek the Spirit for direction in their lives. Joyce Meyer, a pastor in the Midwest, has this to say on the subject: “Many people feel so pressured by the expectations of others that it causes them to be frustrated, miserable and confused about what they should do. But there is a way to live a simple, joy-filled, peaceful life, and the key is learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, not the traditions or expectations of man.” [1]

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Heavenly Mothers Day: My Absentee Heavenly Parent

Many women—and men—yearn for our heavenly mother.

I don’t. When I believe in her at all, I tend to resent my absentee heavenly parent, just as an abandoned child would resent an earthly parent that doesn’t communicate with her child.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him.” Reference A

If this is how strong relationships with deity are formed, it is obvious why I don’t have a healthy relationship with my heavenly mother, if she exists. I don’t learn about her in my Sunday meetings and communing with her through prayer is expressly forbidden.

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Introducing our Heavenly Mother’s Day Series

CW: Suicidal thoughts

I moved to Oakland five years ago. One of my first outings in the Bay Area was a gathering at Carol Lynn Pearson’s house where she gave each of us copies of her play, Mother Wove the Morning. It sat on my shelf for months because I didn’t want to open up Heavenly Mother-less wound I had.

When I finally read it, half a year later, I discovered that I was right in that it was an intense experience. I loved reading it and yet I ached. I wanted a relationship with Heavenly Mother, but I didn’t know how. Unfortunately the bigger question for me was “why.” Why should I have a relationship with Her?

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May Young Women Lesson: How can a patriarchal blessing help me?

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation

by Lawrence OP on flickr https://flic.kr/p/q91R5DBefore the new Come, Follow Me curriculum, the 12 and 13 year old Sunday School classes studied the Presidents of the Church for 2 years. In that time, I remember hearing about prophets who received their patriarchal blessings at the ages of 13 (George Albert Smith and David O. McKay, precisely) and wanting to be righteous, I thought it would be good to want a patriarchal blessing just as early. However, every time I asked my parents if I could start the process of receiving a patriarchal blessing, they told me I ought to be older and needed to wait. I waited until I was 16 and it is very special to me.

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