Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Rexburg Response to Pants to Church

As we approach the two year anniversary of my wearing #PantsToChurch, I asked the UVSJ editor to search and send me two of the most popular "letters to the editor" written in response to their front page article they blindsided me with. I'll be publishing a response to these two letters tomorrow over at Wheat and Tares.

I wear a skirt to church

Dear Editor,

In our culture, the strongest meaning associated with a skirt is femininity. It is not weakness or inequality. Especially not these days.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” It may not be a very popular view these days, but that doesn’t keep it from being true.
Out of practicality and comfort, I generally wear pants throughout the week, but when I want to highlight my femininity, I wear a skirt. That is why I wear a skirt to church. I believe wearing a skirt helps me pay reverence to my divine femininity and the Creator who made me. This reverence is part of my worship. The way I dress not only shows reverence, but that I embrace the revealed truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not believe there will ever be a revelation declaring that women will be priesthood bearers. Women already have the opportunity to participate in the priesthood and in priesthood ordinances as much as men have the opportunity to participate in child bearing and child rearing. It is equal.
While the roles are different, that’s the way it should be. God intended for certain roles of men and women to be different because each is a vital role. He wanted us to realize that we can’t do it alone, that we need each other. If one or the other gender had the ability to perform all vital roles in life, it would make it so we felt that one gender didn’t need the other.
The divine feminine and the divine masculine are inseparable. I glory in the creation and wisdom of God. That is why I put a skirt on when I go to church to worship Him.
Heather Duncan


Make the best offering possible


Regarding the thoughtful and thought-provoking Dec. 19 article regarding Ms. Anderson’s wearing of pants to church meetings, it’s always healthy to live the examined life, isn’t it?
Here are some thoughts also to be considered: as vital as love and inclusion are, scripture and prophets give at least as much weight to submission and deference to God and approaching Him His way.
There are great lessons about making our best offering to God, which specifically includes our dress. I, too, have had the opportunity to travel, and am so impressed with the love for God I see among the poor and, in humble circumstances, their wanting to make their best offering to God, expressed in their dress as they come to worship.
There is the point, making the best offering possible. People initially "come as they are" and are welcomed, then progress to come as God wants them to be. A cardinal principle I’ve found in worshiping and approaching God is that we always do so His way, as He asks.
I can only speak for myself, but if I were to approach God making anything but my best offering, reflected in my dress, that would interfere with my worship. It’s never about me.
Someone who hasn’t given the same amount of thought to issues as Ms. Anderson might make that mistake. And since Paul was invoked, he also spoke strongly to the strong in the faith to not introduce behaviors into the church that might be a stumbling block to the weaker in the faith, for the faithful who are confident in their relationship with God to cause a distraction for others approaching Him. That would be contrary to inclusive discipleship.
He also spoke specifically of customs of the day and warned, though obviously transitory, that not living inside those customs could be a distraction for our brothers and sisters.

Greg Palmer

Friday, July 24, 2015

An Update

I know I have readers / followers of this blog that have noticed the lack of posts lately (as some of you have asked me about it). I never updated here but back in January I was asked to be a permablogger at Wheat and Tares. I like it there because it has a variety of viewpoints and topics that are covered, even those I disagree with - so I do feel like my voice is heard but so is others', and it's a nice shakeout of competing ideas without all being about one issue. On one of the sidebars is a list of authors and if you click on my name you'll land on this page, which has all of my posts. I don't know how much I'll be coming back here to post or what the future holds (e.g. if I get a job my time to write would be cut down considerably) but that's where I'll be for now. I'd love to see you over there, too.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

UPDATED: Mother's Day Talk - Eshet Chayil

(this is the updated version of my talk - after being crunched for time and incorporating feedback from others FYI)

Exactly eleven years ago my husband and I sat in the doctor's office as he told us our test results: unexplained infertility. He said the chances were less than 1 in 1000 that we would ever be able to have a child on our own. That Mother’s Day was not a easy day for me. Mother’s day is the source of pain for a lot of people, and not just the people who can’t have children; it was a difficult day for my foster kids as well and I know there are complicated feelings from my relatives whose mother is serving time in prison. It's even family legend that my grandmother with seven children came home from every Mother's Day sacrament meeting locked herself in her bedroom, cried, and wouldn't come out. There are so many ways for people to hurt on this day.  So I decided I wanted to talk about what I think is the highest and holiest calling we have: discipleship. I wanted to share two experiences that have helped shape my own path.

Rewind to 2002.   It's been six months of waiting for a baby and every month we buy those pregnancy tests: so excited!!!  Just kidding, false alarm!  I'm working as the receptionist at Pres. Bednar's Office on BYU-Idaho campus.  One Tuesday Elder Grow came for devotional and spoke a little about what a blessing it has been for his family to follow the prophet and have his wife stay home with the children and not work.  There are MANY working mothers in the admin building that I see every day on the second floor.  I observed as many of these women (some had to work, single moms etc) turned off the devotional or slammed their office doors as not to hear the radio, and some blatantly stand there and criticize his words, i.e. "He has no idea what he's talking about.  Ricks College would shrivel up and die if all of the mothers went to stay home with their children." etc.  I was getting a little riled up because at this point I would have given my left arm to be able to get pregnant and stay home with a baby and I literally wanted to stand up and tell them all, "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard!".  I wrote Pres. Bednar an email and explained the situation and asked him how you know when you should bite your tongue and how you know when to make a stand and let people know they are wrong.  Thirty minutes after coming back to the office from devotional Pres. Bednar asks Betty to have me come in to his office.  (Can I just add as a 10-year postscript after being a SAHM, part-time worker, and full-time working mother -- this issue is just a little more complex than my 20 yo mind could grasp).

Here I sit, a 20 year-old, lowly receptionist in front of Pres. Bednar.  And I will be grateful until the day I die that he took the time from his schedule to teach me a little about life.  First of all he asked how long we'd been waiting for a baby.  I told him, "Six months."  The man literally laughed in my face and said, "Well first of all maybe you need to learn some patience!"  His son and wife had been trying for over 3 years, he tells me.  One day he was alone with Elder Eyring and his son's problems had been weighing on him and he asked Elder Eyring about it.  What do you say to the couple who has done everything right, who has prepared themselves their whole lives for the day when they can build a family and raise children up unto the Lord, and they remain childless?  Elder Eyring told him that the Lord doesn't send children for us to teach them, the Lord sends children for them to teach us.  The point of this life is for us to learn how to become like Him.  Sometimes that is accomplished by having children.  And sometimes the Lord determines that is accomplished by NOT having children.  Do parents learn patience, long-suffering, service, and humility from having children?  Yes.  Do couples learn the same things from NOT having children?  Yes.  So the point is for us to submit our will to the Lord's to become all that he wants us to be - no matter the path He gives us to get there.

This lesson in becoming reminds me of one of Elder Oaks’ landmark GC addresses from October 2000 The Challenge to become
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.  In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.

We qualify for eternal life through a process of conversion. As used here, this word of many meanings signifies not just a convincing and knowledge but a profound change of nature.
I have mentioned earlier that I felt I had a faith transition; I had an answer to prayer that I wasn't supposed to be a mother again and it shook my foundation pretty hard because I'd always believed the purpose of womanhood was motherhood. I started rebuilding the foundation of my faith, and instead of building it on motherhood - I built it on Christ. I tested that foundation and it was solid, something that would never change. About this same time I found a excerpt from a book written by an evangelical woman who wrote about biblical womanhood and it helped me see a path forward for me:

Proverbs 31 is a well known poem about a housewife: "who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies". It goes on to describe the life of the perfect housewife. For a long time this passage has been seen as instructions on how to be the ultimate homemaker and a woman of God. This is understandable; in a culture that often downplays the significance of a housewife, it makes sense to do all you can to restore dignity to this thankless position.

Would it surprise you to know that Christian congregations may be misinterpreting this passage? This poem was originally written in Hebrew, and Jews have a different understanding of it. An evangelical woman wrote a book about biblical womanhood and she asked her Jewish friend about this chapter during her research. Her friend explained [1]:
    “[Proverbs 31 is] packed with hyperbolic imagery, the poem is an acrostic, so the first word of each verse begins with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet in succession. This communicates a sense of totality as the poet praises the everyday achievements of an upper-class Jewish wife, a woman who keeps her household functioning day and night by buying, trading, investing, planting, sewing, spindling, managing servants, extending charity, providing food for the family, and preparing for each season. Like any good poem, the purpose of this one is to draw attention to the often-overlooked glory of the everyday.”
This woman in Hebrew is described as an “Eshet chayil,” [eshet kile]  or woman of valor —
    “The only instructive language it contains is directed toward men, with the admonition that a thankful husband should honor his wife “for all that her hands have done.” In the Jewish tradition, it is the men who memorize Proverbs 31, so they know how to honor their wives. But often it is no longer presented as a song through which a man offers his wife praise, Proverbs 31 is presented as a task list through which a woman earns it. (In fact if you search for “Proverbs 31 woman” on amazon you’ll find dozens of Christian self-help books for women.) The details of the passage have taken precedent over the message of the passage, and somehow, through the centuries, we’ve managed to turn a poem into a job description.”
 It isn’t the woman’s household accomplishments that earn her honor and praise, but her virtues of wisdom and valor. There’s another woman in the Hebrew bible that is described as an “Eshet chayil.”  She was a foreign immigrant and manual laborer. She was single and barren, and she was dirt poor. She seems the opposite of the Proverbs 31 woman. Despite all this, Ruth is described as an “eshet chayil” before becoming the wealthy, influential wife of Boaz.

Clearly it is not what you do that makes you a woman of God, it is your character. It is your discipleship. As we all strive to “become” in our discipleship, I hope we can remember and honor the men and women of character who have influenced us. I especially hope that today we can all find a way to honor the “eshet chayil,” the Women of Valor in our lives who have influenced us.

My mother is an eshet chayil - she’s taught me a lot of valuable things. She’s taught me that my voice matters, to be brave, and to not care what other people think. She taught me to challenge myself, have goals, and do the best I can every day. Above all this, my mother is an example of discipleship. 

I was once at a stake conference where the Stake Pres described parents as archers and children as arrows. It is the duty of parents to sharpen their aim (develop their own discipleship) to enable them to point their children towards the target (Christ). I remember thinking that this perfectly described my mother. Her aim has always been steady and true in her path towards bringing her children to Christ. Isn’t this the ultimate goal of every mother in the Church? To bring others to Christ?

I hope we can all find a way today to honor the "eshet chayil"- women of valor - in our own lives that have brought us closer to Christ as we move forward in our own discipleship
[1] Rachel Held Evans, Women of Valor

Saturday, January 17, 2015

MMM: Seeds of Unorthodoxy

I have a guest post up over at Modern Mormon Men, a group blog that I started reading 4 years ago. In fact it was some of their posts that prompted questions that led to my faith transition.

The story is over on their site: 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Moderate Mormon Feminist Wish List 2015

We saw a lot of feminist changes in the year 2014 in the LDS church, big and small. We saw women of color praying for the first time in a General LDS Meeting, CES policy changes of women with children at being able to teach as a full-time employee, and many more.  As a moderate Mormon Feminist, I advocate for baby step changes that help expand the understanding of the role of women in God's plan. This morning on twitter I put together a list of wishes of my own, big and small, that I'd like to see happen as a Mormon Feminist in 2015:
  • Women may serve as witnesses in and out of the temple 
  • Women can serve in Sunday School Presidencies (and eventually, as Clerks)
  • Primary teachers will share stories of women from the scriptures for our young girls and boys to look up to.
  • more depictions of biblical characters as not just white Europeans
  • That I never hear another lds (wo)man say "I don't respect women who don't respect themselves by covering up" and instead respect all humans regardless of what they wear because they are children of God.
  • That lds youth will learn principles of +body image in modesty lessons  
  • never give up hope, be grateful and long suffering 
  • We begin celebrating all the ways fathers nurture children
  • a new policy that allows women to hold their babies for their blessing   
  • No more Mormon LGBTQ suicides. No more homeless Mormon LGBTQ youth. 
  • the change the name of priesthood session during to "Men's Session"
  • That mothers of children younger than 18 can be temple workers just like fathers can.  
  • My daughter's activity day leaders will skip modesty shaming and have a career exploration day
  • be grateful for baby steps and bear my Christ-based testimony more often
  • a woman of color praying in a general session of  
  • that wearing isn't seen as a protest or statement, but just a valid choice for Sunday best
  • when possible, replace "Heavenly Father" with "heavenly parents"
  • the curriculum department produces a "Teachings of Eliza R. Snow" for 2016
  • more 8-11 yo girls get to participate in pinewood derbies than ever before 
  • when teaching the law of chastity, we cover consent - what it is and isn't, and help a lot of people avoid a visit to the bishop's office this year
Change has got to start somewhere, right? Do you have any Mormon Feminist Wishes for 2015? Remember to be grateful for every baby step change, and remember that the core of what we want is to improve Zion with a heart full of love!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joseph Smith's Multiple Wives: Why I Care A Lot

walkingI have always been Mormon. I started with the primary basics and grew in faith and testimony. I was raised at the height of correlation - where only faith promoting stories were given to me as part of my heritage. There was once a moment in my life where I claimed that I KNEW every part and story of the Church was true, and I could not deny it. I saw everything in black and white; those who weren't for us were against us. I'd been taught that no leader could ever lead us astray and that when a leader has spoken, the thinking had been done. I was raised to not trust any source of information not published directly by the church. I passionately defended all of my beliefs from those out to destroy them with lies and misinformation.

In the fall of 2011 I received an answer to prayer that shook the foundation of my faith because my personal revelation conflicted with what the prophets had always said: womanhood = motherhood. I looked at the Teachings of the Living Prophets manual and wondered how the answer to my prayer had been so clear - and in opposition to what I thought I knew to be true: that prophets could not be wrong.  I decided to embark on more study, and I ran into some dirty details that had been scrubbed from the Church History I'd been taught. I felt betrayed, like I'd been lied to. For heaven's sake, even our artwork was a lie!  Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with his head in a hat! I discovered more and more, including that Joseph married teenage girls, sealed himself to married women, lied about his polygamy, and kept most of it secret from Emma. I was angry. They didn’t tell me about that! As I prayed and pondered over the matter I realized that possible errors and sins, even grievous ones, did not negate the fact that Joseph was the prophet of the restoration or that he restored the Priesthood to the earth.

This perspective required me to develop a complex faith and understanding of human prophets, a complex understanding of how revelation may or may not work, a deeper commitment of love and forgiveness to others' weaknesses and sins, and most importantly a stronger testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I recentered the foundation of my faith on the Gospel, not the church or any human who has come before, but the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. We may have had prophets that were deceived or even made mistakes in the implementation of God's will (Joseph's polygamy or Brigham's racist priesthood ban) and not even that can stop the work from progressing. God can overcome the greatest human frailties and weaknesses and bring about His will, despite our broken feeble attempts. If there is anything the Old Testament teaches us, truly it is that God uses imperfect, broken, fallible men to lead his people.
Learning, understanding, and embracing the hard truths of our history does not invalidate the fact that God uses men as instruments in His hands to bring about his will. Men. They were and are imperfect men, doing their best and sometimes making a hot mess of it. I finally understood what it meant to be led by fallible men. Maybe if we are required to forgive all men, I could forgive my past leaders whatever wrongs they committed. Could I also forgive church historians through the ages who hid or decided to teach only a faith building narrative form of our history? Yes, I could forgive those fallible leaders as well. Can I continue to sustain, support, love, pray for the success of, and forgive my leaders of today? Yes.

sacred groveDo I believe that Joseph had a vision? Even though now I know that Joseph recorded several different accounts of the first vision - and the original saints would not have even recognized the one we consider official today?  Yes, I believe Joseph had a vision. Do I believe that every word and act and deed he did was from God? Of course not, he would have been translated if that were so. 

I thought back to ten years ago when I lived in the Nauvoo temple district, over several years I spent days and days walking where Joseph and Emma and Brigham walked.

I now unequivocally believe it's vital for us to know our history, and not just the things that make it easy for us to believe, but things that challenge us as well.  Do I now look back on my trip to Nauvoo differently?  Yes.  I walked where Joseph walked and I saw the statues and I stood at the window where he fell to his death - and now I know that a great part of his martyrdom was due to his polygamy and his ordering the Nauvoo Expositor to be destroyed because it published truths about his secret polygamy. 

I know Joseph wasn't perfect.  But looking back on Nauvoo - there is a cost to only accepting the easy, heroic story.  To understand the facts of polygamy (that many girls and women only entered into polygamy under promises of glorious exaltation for them and their families or under threat of Joseph's life; that women who rejected offers of Joseph's polygamy were gossiped about and called liars and adulterers) and then to see my fellow saints reject these facts brings me great sorrow.  To reject they are worth knowing is to say to those women, "Your stories, your lives, your voices do not matter."

To ignore the unpretty parts of our story we must silence and ignore the lives and voices of countless women, women whose backs have been broken against our easy stories.  You must choose your comfort and ease of belief over the buried voices of the past. You choose the rose-colored glasses given to you in primary school over a mature kaleidoscope of faith. No one is asking you to lessen your faith, but they may be hoping for you to deepen it.

My testimony is built upon the foundation of knowing God lives and loves me, that He sent His Son to die for me, and that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved. I believe God used men to restore His church on the earth again.  I believe that I can love, honor, sustain, and forgive our leaders past and present for their ever imperfect offerings of their best before God. I pray that you can too. There is only one man I will ever sing praises to, and that is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Obama's Amazing Speech Supporting Moms

(full disclosure, I consider myself a centrist, and have never voted for Obama)

Apparently there's a big crazy drama over Obama's latest speech where he talks about women in education and the workplace and the struggles and obstacles they face in balancing the demands of family and a job.   Many people are taking one sentence out of context and turning into outrage clickbait.   I have a question to you outraged reposters:  have you read the full speech?  Here it is, included a transcript word-for-word, from which I copied: 

And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that's not a choice we want Americans to make.

Guess what?  He's talking about my life!  And I agree with him 100%.  When I was pregnant with Ellie I left my dream job with Agassi Charitable Foundation so that I could stay home with her.  When she was 3 I started looking for part-time work to help make ends meet, and for the next four years I worked part-time in my field keeping my skills up to date.  Soon we moved and I *needed* to work full-time, me staying home was not an option.  Do you know what I found out about finding work after being home with a child?  Employers valued my education and experience less than  a newly minted graduate with a 4 year degree.  And when I finally did find work (Thank you, God) it was in an entry-level position at a wage less than what I had made 9 years earlier right out of college.  

It's a fact: taking a break to raise kids is devastating to your career.  A woman has to choose between working (and barely being able to afford insurance and daycare) or staying home and permanently handicapping your career if you ever need to work again.  And I agree with Obama:

"that's not a choice we want Americans to make."

I don't see how anyone can disagree with that. I was a SAHM and I loved to have the option, it was a luxury we were able to make work.  But not everyone is so fortunate.  The rest of the policies President Obama spoke about are family-friendly workplace policies, such as:
  1. Higher quality pre-school programs available to those who need it most
  2. Raise the minimum wage, the average mw earner is 35 and many are mothers supporting families.
  3. Equal pay for men and women
  4. Changing attitudes about employing mothers, such as:
    • JetBlue's flexible work-at-home positions
    • Google's 5-month paid parental leave
    • Investing in programs to help women enter higher-paid traditionally male careers (engineering, STEM, etc.)  
Now, I 100% believe that you can disagree with his policy ideas, in politics you can find statistics to support either side of an argument.  That's okay to disagree with his thoughts about equal pay or minimum wage.  But there is no logical or rational way you can interpret his statements to be against SAHMs.  Let's get that straight. In fact, I think we should give the guy credit for understanding the challenges women have to face probably more than most men:

I was raised by a single mom, and know what it was like for her to raise two kids and go to work at the same time, and try to piece things together without a lot of support. And my grandmother, who never graduated from college but worked her way up to become vice president of a bank, I know what it was like for her to hit the glass ceiling, and to see herself passed over for promotions by people that she had trained. And so some of this is personal, but some of it is also what we know about our economy, which is it's changing in profound ways, and in many ways for the better because of the participation of women more fully in our economy.

One last thought from a recently divorced, single parent friend:
I just want to share that I'm thankful for anyone (even if it's a politician I didn't vote for) who recognizes the situation Obama described (I recommend reading a more complete version of his remarks that changes the interpretation significantly, I believe) because it describes where I'm at right now: a young (read: still developing professionally and slowly because I've been doing the SAHM thing until 3 months ago) woman who is in the process of divorce and is making hard choices about career development and child care, particularly in the context of my current salary (and benefits which I'm so blessed to have) not covering ANY level of child care, let alone child care that I would feel comfortable leaving my kids in. I'm completely dependent on the child support payments of my stbx who lives in a foreign country with which the US government does not have an enforcement agreement. So I sure hope he keeps paying so I can keep my job and my kids can stay in their fabulous day care situation which will allow me to over time, make up some of the lag I've experienced professionally as a SAHM that will ultimately make me less depending on child support. I'm not trying to get pity here, or whine. I just want to share that women are in lots of different situations, but the penalty we face in the workforce for prioritizing quality child care for our children (whether we provide it or pay through the nose for someone else to) is real. And I feel that is what Obama was commenting on---I do not feel his full remarks can be reasonably interpreted as a slam against anyone's choice to be a stay at home parent.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

That One Time CES Didn't Hire Us Because I was "Different"

This is also a cross-post over at Modern Mormon Men, a great group blog

Once upon a time I was a newlywed - a newlywed with a husband trying to be a Seminary teacher.  Back in the Ricks College days that had an East Idaho Pre-Seminary (OPT) training program.  So I took Rel 370, Intro to Teaching, in Fall 2001 along with my husband.  I forget all the details back in the day, but we progressed through the program to where he was teaching seminary part time at Madison, Sugar City, and Mud Lake High Schools.  We were in our final semester where you are up for hire and it's pretty intense and down to the wire.  I remember this last semester there are a few things they do to screen applicants:
  1. Lots of in class evaluations by OPT area supervisor
  2. Spouse survey
  3. Meeting with CES hierarchy, if you pass middle mgt interview I think there may have been a GA interview at the end right before hire
We had a few things going against us
  1. The OPT area supervisor didn't like my husband.  My husband didn't like him.  They both thought that the other had a too high opinion of themselves and constantly tried to take each other down a notch.  In retrospect it was entertaining.  
  2. I don't like being manipulated and I have a strong personality.  
The CES middle manager came to interview us as a couple and leave the survey for me to take.  I remember him liking us and being friendly.  I remember sitting down to read and fill out the spouse survey.  It was a few pages long, multiple choice, and it was a joke.  It was filled with loaded questions, in which it was obvious there was only one right answer that you could choose.  And, really, I was offended.  What kind of automaton did they think I was?  I had a brain and could use it.  There was so little complexity it was laughable.  I remember overthinking it wondering if it's a test - would the wife just fill in the correct blanks and follow with no questions?  Or Did they want to see an exercise of originality and someone who was comfortable being a little different?  It was so obvious which answer they wanted, is this reverse psychology somehow?  Welp, I refused to auto-fill the answers and probably snarkily made sure mine was honest but offbeat.

A few weeks later we got a phone call from the CES middle manager about some concerns he had that he'd like to talk to us in person about.  I remember sitting in our front room at Aspen (Ghetto) Village as he delivered the  news: we passed all the middle manager screenings except the spouse survey.  They were enough anomolies there to be extremely concerning that I wouldn't be a good fit in CES.  He said if Darik passed the rest of the hiring process they would relook at me again, but for us to know this was enough of a red flag to put his hire in jeopardy.

You would have had to know me back then, I would have been a founding member of Mormon Women Stand.  No questions, no rule breaking, no R rated movies.  Straight shooters we were - straighter than most (like 99%).  We were a bit baffled.

In the end it didn't matter as much since the area OPT trainer basically told my husband to hit the road and drop out before the end because there was no way in heck he'd ever hire him.  Darik always wondered if he was good enough or if it was just a personal problem with the hiring overlord.  When he taught seminary in Las Vegas he was disappointed to have the CES area guy observe and tell him he couldn't fathom why CES passed on him, as he was one of the best he'd observed.

And in the end?  I'm glad.  It reminds me of something my friend told me when I was applying for a job on campus at BYUI and I tried to cover my social media tracks:

"If someplace doesn't want you for who you are, and what your strengths and what you can bring to their organization - it's their loss.  Don't change who you are for people who don't want you there in the first place."

Wise words, and good riddance. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Polygamy Essays and Prophetic Revelation

So the new Polygamy Essays went live this morning at LDS.org here, here, and here.
 At first I only read the first one, which seemed general and ambiguous, but after I read the other two it seems a little ground shaking.  I'm in a facebook group that was discussing it quite lively, mostly over whether it's a fair historical representation.  I have my own quibbles about a few lines and presentations (hello coercion of 14 year olds . . . but that's for later) but I started a new thread with this:
So with the whole polygamy essay going live today..... I'm feeling in the minority -- anyone else out there believe our prophets can be a hot mess and still be instruments in God's hands, they can still be divinely inspired -- and even be dead wrong elsewhere? Joseph is still the prophet that Restored the Gospel. My personal opinion is that polygamy and racial bans aren't from God -- but that doesn't invalidate that was who God chose to do that work that needed to be done.
I told my brother the fact that we can have a prophet that incorrectly restricts priesthood on race actually strengthens my testimony: that even a racist prophet can't stop the work of the Lord from progressing. It may slow it down, but God's still in charge.
 One of my friends commented about where we are getting the idea that our prophets are not a hot mess, that the OT is really consistent on that point.  And I'm still involved in that discussion hours later.  It's an interesting conversation of people wanting to hold our leaders to a higher standard, and perhaps the inevitable disappointment that will accompany when truth is revealed (hello, essays).  Even one of my tweets from general conference highlighted the tension between counsel we receive for personal revelation and following blindly that we were subject to in just one General Conference Session.  This challenge we have of sorting out the way forward is not unique to our generation -- every dispensation has had prophets that were imperfect and complex and each group of people had to deal with this tension.

A friend posted a link to Julie Smith's essay  at Times and Seasons that was posted during this online conversation I was having, and it's brilliant.  After highlighting about a dozen ambiguous passages from the essays about how our church leaders (prophets) were walking blind trying to figure the whole thing out . . . . she concludes:
What I see here is–intentional or not–the articulation of a theology of prophetic revelation that runs precisely opposite to the way that many Mormons (mis)read Amos to say that God will do nothing without first revealing his secrets to the prophets (Amos 3:7) and that whether by God’s voice or the voice of church leaders, it is precisely identical (D & C 1:38). Rather, this suggests that God reveals things line by line (a scripture frequently quoted in these essays), does not reveal all details at once, and leaves some matters to be worked out without divine mandate.

I think the odd confluence of 1950s American corporate culture, historical amnesia, and rapid world-wide growth led Mormonism to advance the idea that a CEO-like prophet got regular memos from God, bullet-pointed with precise operating instructions designed to maximize return for the next quarter. Diligent work by historians, now disseminated instantly and internationally, shows that that vision isn’t quite precise. It is understandable that some will mourn that vision–I know I’d feel much safer led by that bespoke-suited CEO, divine memo in hand, than by some guy with a leather belt eating locusts in the wilderness. And yet, we should thank those historians (some of whom sacrificed their careers, if not their very membership in the Church, in order to publish things very similar to what is hosted on the Church’s own website today) for helping us overcome the cultural conditioning that misled us regarding what prophets are and what they do. The glass through which we see today is a little less dark because of their work, not just on historical matters related to polygamy but also regarding what we should–and should not–expect from prophets.

for further historical readings on polygamy, Dialogue has a great topic page

Monday, October 20, 2014

Double Standards Help No One

There were a few items this last general conference that made some waves:

1) Members of Ordain Women attempted to attend local Priesthood (PH) meetings instead of trying to attend the overflow location with extra seating on temple square they were denied entrance to for the past year.  Some women were able to attend, others weren't. 

2)  In what some see as an attempt to equalize the Women's Meetings, they were combined to be somewhat equivalent to the PH Session.  Elder Uchtdorf referred to this month's meeting as part of general conference as well as another GA who gave a prayer.  LDS Church Correlation/PR/Editing then edited that GAs prayer to remove reference to Women's Meeting being equal to PH Session.  Further info is found here.

Both of these issues are related - if we refer to women being equal without having the same things (separate but equal clause); when you have something separate for women, it should be equivalent.  In my response to the items above

1) I don't mind if women attend the priesthood session. They don't want to be men, they want to learn more about priesthood keys, authority, and power; something even Elder Oaks admitted women have a relationship with in April - albeit one that we know next to nothing about. There is no requirement of any amount of priesthood to enter.  They let unordained boys enter, they let non-members enter, they don't let female reporters enter.  The only requirement is male anatomy.  Many people argue that the presence of women in this meeting will ruin the spirit and brotherhood there, but:

2) for decades every Women's Meeting has had men in attendance, whether they be ticket takers, ushers, reporters, speakers, or presiders. The presence of men in our meetings has never ONCE ruined the spirit or sisterhood felt at such meetings. What does it mean that Priesthood is a session of General Conference but women aren't?  It furthers the notion of the organization and work of women as being an "appendage." (I have a whole different post about that word as well).  If you want to help women to feel less marginalized?  Count them.

And for heck's sake, change the name of the Priesthood Session to describe what it actually is: a General Men's Meeting.  Bonus side effect? Women no longer want to attend a men's meeting because they don't want to be men; they will look elsewhere for instruction on "priesthood preparation."  And since women always have a man speaking to them about how to be better women of God, I can only see it improving the men's meeting if we let women speak there, too!

If not, if they want to continue to restrict the meetings by gender, then men should not attend our meetings.  They shouldn't usher, report on, or speak at our meeting.  If the reasoning applies to one it should apply to the other.  Double standards help no one.