The Feminist Line in the Sand
Today’s sacrament meeting talks were about repentance and forgiveness and were well done. Then there was a beautiful and moving rendition of “Come Thou Fount,” performed by talented youth in the ward. Someone later described it as a “perfect sacrament meeting.”
But I was miserable. The thing is, I’m pretty angry at God. When the speakers were talking about working toward forgiving someone by praying for them, I wondered who I should pray to if I’m mad at God?
Most of my anger is unresolved from my feminist awakening, from the structural and religious inequalities between men and women within the church. It’s also broader than that, it’s the social and physical inequalities that perpetuate problems like rape culture and other ills of patriarchy. It’s smaller also, it’s the feeling of being a darling decoration on the arm of my husband when we meet with a member of the stake presidency, and our high councilor as my husband is released as the Elders Quorum president. “And thank YOU, Sister Jessawhy. You have been a big support to your husband.” Really? Because neither of us think that.
What irked me most was when the member of the stake presidency said to my husband, “The Lord wants to thank you for your service.” It really hit home to me how much we believe that in the LDS church God really does direct us on a personal level. We believe that our male priesthood leaders represent God to us.
So, here is why I’m mad at God. If God is the patriarch and lover of men that he seems to be in LDS beliefs and practice, then I don’t like him at all. Why should I? In his eyes, I’m hardly human. Now, this isn’t something I’ve come to on a whim, I’ve thought about it for years, had many interesting discussions both in real life and on blogs, and had personal experience that indicate that as a woman I am seen more as an object (wife and mother) than a subject or actor in my own life.
If you haven’t read Kiskilili’s excellent post on her Journey to Apostasy, you should check it out. She says in essence, she could forgive the mistakes of church leaders, knowing that God was good and loving. But, in the temple, she felt betrayed by God.
And while I didn’t feel this at the time I went through the temple, I see similarly it in retrospect.
I suppose someone could argue that the temple is an extension of how imperfect priesthood leaders interpret direction from a perfect God. But, how much do we have to twist and turn our doctrine to make it harmonious with what we know in our hearts? Women are equal to men.
In the meantime, I acknowledge that I’m blaming God a lot for things that have been done by men for generations, men who were once boys like the ones I’m raising now. They are just as much a product of the culture and religion they were raised in as I am.
Somehow, there needs to be a way for women to break the cycle, to say “This is what God says.” Women need to have the power of God, or if we already have it, we need to acknowledge it and share it.
It seems to all come down to power.
When I go to church and believe what I see and hear about who and what God is, I feel angry. But I can choose to reject that interpretation of God and see the God who loves me as I am, who is more focused on relationships and love than on Signs of the Times and how much more righteous we are than other people as we climb our way to the Celestial Kingdom (confession- this was our RS lesson today and I played Angry Birds on my phone on the front row.)
To a certain extent I already do this. I try to say the sacrament prayer to myself with female pronouns to make the experience more meaningful to me. But, trying to create my own spiritual experience at church, dodging the heavily patriarchal influence of Mormonism, can be exhausting.
Just now, when I looked up the last link, I was surprised that it’s been more than a year since I began reinterpreting the sacrament prayer. Sometimes it brings me peace, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just feels empty, either way. I don’t feel like I’m any more resolved with the issue of Mormonism and gender equality than I was then, or two years ago.
There are moments, though, where I find a ray of light, where I feel a little peace. Today, during the musical number I felt this line was directed to me,
“Let thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.”
Perhaps there is something deeper that I’ve been missing with all of my focus on pain. Maybe I have a wandering heart, whatever that means. Finding a way to make peace with God would let me do just that. Maybe I just need a break from the church to make peace with God.