Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Response to the Standard Journal Article

Welcome if you are here from the Standard Journal newspaper article (I could have never guessed that wearing pants would be worthy of first page news, but I digress).

The editor of the newspaper asked if I would be willing to come in for an interview.  I felt more comfortable just sharing the opinions I stated earlier on my blog, but I talked to my husband and we agreed if the message was just about the things I shared on my blog we didn't see any harm.  It turns out what I thought would be a short feature on an inside of the newspaper turned into a front-page article, using a picture from this blog without permission.  I'm aware that I don't have a copyright statement on my blog - but that is not necessary as Blogger's Terms of Service clearly state I retain all ownership and rights to content and only Google is granted a license to use the content I share.  The point being is that by using the picture on my blog without permission (taking a picture my husband snapped for me that I asked him to as we were packing up to leave church -- so that I could keep one in my memory book) it makes the impression that the picture was taken at my church so I could be in the newspaper.  That is entirely not the case and was never my intent.  

I also wanted to state I believe there is a mis-statement in the article published about me.  I expressed that I felt I was the only feminist in Rexburg and it felt lonely sometimes.  The reporter assured me that he thought there were others out there that felt the same way and would I like to know them?  I said, sure I would love to know that I'm not the only one!

The middle and conclusion of the article states:

She feels there are other people in this region who share her feelings and hopes they will reach out to her in an effort to bring the issues to the forefront — and to be able to discuss it openly.

"Anderson said one of the reasons she wants to share her story is that she hopes to connect to other people in this area who share her views.
“I hope to connect with people locally,” said Anderson.
She is hoping anyone who might want to talk to her will visit her blog site where they can then send her an email. Her site is"

I do not agree with that.  I do not want to start a movement or  get people to connect or bring issues to the forefront and start something.  It is nice to know I'm not the only one in Rexburg, so go ahead and comment and say hi.  But leave it at that.  I'm not trying to get blog followers - I post about once a month.  This is a very personal thing where I decided to share opinions to be a part of the conversation, not to be an activist. 

 In an email to the editor, I said "Would you mind ending with this quote instead of saying my goal is to make connections, but instead to share this message?

"There may be others out there with opinions like mine.  I would say to them it is possible to follow the prophet, be a faithful Mormon, and a feminist!  Others may reject you or decide not to associate with you, but you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and you belong here!  You are welcome.  Do not let negative interactions with others be a stumbling block and keep you from full fellowship.  Don't hold feelings of anger or bitterness, but be full of love and faith in the future.  You are not alone!"

The editor left the message about making connections.  I wanted to apologize to any local neighbors and church members who may feel that this was an issue where manipulation was used to get attention and publicity.  Truly and sincerely that is not the case.  I am not apologizing for wearing pants - that was a matter of prayer for me and I have no regret attached to that decision. 

Kristine Anderson

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why I Wore Pants

I wore pants to church today.  I did not participate in the pants event last year, the stated purpose last year was "to bring attention to gender inequality".  This year the purpose is to "celebrate the inclusiveness of the Gospel" and I decided to this year.  I cannot control what other people think about me, or why they assume I do the things I do -- that is out of my control.  But since I did receive a question about my motivations today, I thought I would share.

(I saw someone else share their reasons this way online so I wanted to borrow it)  Here are NOT reasons that I wore pants. 
  1. Because I think women should be ordained to the priesthood.  No, I do not believe this.  I do believe women already exercise Melchezidek priesthood authority in our temples, which proves that priesthood is not gender exclusive.  I also believe there is more to be revealed regarding women and the priesthood, and how the priesthood functions in the next life.  But I do not support the Ordain Women movement.  There may be women who believe this that are wearing pants, I am not one of them.
  2. Because I think there are no innate differences between men and women.  No, I believe there are essential physical and spiritual differences and gifts to men and women.  I don't believe those are best described by the words "leader" and "nurturer" -- but I believe there are differences and I have no problem with gendered organizations and meetings, ie Priesthood Quorums, Relief Society, etc.  I also believe that perfection in Godhood is realized by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother becoming one.
  3. Because I want to protest at Church and be in everyone's face about an "issue".   No, I'm not protesting anything.  I came to church to worship God and partake of the sacrament.
  4. Because I'm a liberal/democrat Mormon.   No, you may be surprised to know I've never voted for a democrat, although I would describe myself as politically centrist.
  5. Because I have a lot of friends all wearing pants together as a group.  No, I was the only woman I know of in Rexburg-land wearing pants.  I'm sure there may be others.  I saw hide nor hair of them today.
  6. Because I think all women should stop wearing dresses and skirts to Church and wear pants.  No, we should wear what we all decide is best for us to church wear to church.
  7. Because I wish I were a man.  No, my nine-year-old self used to feel this way when I was forced to wear my first training bra; but no, I'm very happy being a woman.
I am a practical girl at heart, I wear what keeps me warm, comfortable, and happy.  Any fellow Rexburgians out there can attest to the fact I wear my large furry Russian winter hat indoors and out whenever I feel cold - even throughout the whole ward Christmas dinner.  Because cold.  So there are many reasons why I wanted to wear pants - these are listed as items 3-7.  The reasons why I chose to wear pants are 1-2, because when it comes down to it, I truly am a practical pragmatist.  
  1. Because it is so, so cold in Rexburg.   Truly, I am more sensitive to cold than most people I know.  I wear jackets in 70* weather and don't wear shorts until it's 80* outside.  Last week I also wore pants when it was -20* windchill and exposed skin was at risk for frostbite.  I wore pants again today at 22* and it wasn't too bad.  I think from now on my personal rule is if it's below zero, the pants come out.  
  2. Because in Primary sometimes I'm crawling on the ground.  As a Primary Chorister it is easier for me to feel confident I'm not flashing anything to anyone.  I have friends who serve in nursery who find it infinitely easier to live the principle of modesty while doing their callings in pants.  As an aside, I also think sister missionaries should be allowed to wear pants because it's often cold and they ride their bikes.  Who thinks it's safe, appropriate, or modest to ride a bike in a skirt or dress?  Yikes, the stories of accidental flashings and bike crashes!
  3. Because I'd like to celebrate and create inclusiveness in the LDS church.  Because there is not one right way to be a good Mormon woman.  Because I'd like to support those who have ever felt excluded at church for whatever reason.  This reason hits several points for me.  First, I have never felt like an outsider until I was not able to have children, and then end up living in a ward with many young mothers.  It was often awkward, painful, and frustrating.  Especially when it seemed every RS lesson would start with, "I know today's lesson is about "faith" (or "prayer" or "tithing") so I decided to teach my lesson about how to teach your children "faith" or "to pray" or "to pay tithing".  There are a myriad of reasons to feel like you do not fit into LDS culture, be you single, working mother, childless, liberal/democrat, feminist, black, LGBT, etc.  Over the past year since feeling prompted to start my blog about my "feminism" I've been called apostate, told that I was destroying others' faith, that I'm not qualified to teach youth lessons on priesthood, that I'm attacking the Prophet, etc.  Last year some women received death threats for wearing pants to church.  This is one way for me to support others and love and include others and say all are welcome here. 
  4. Because I personally have come to realize there is a difference between LDS cultural expectations and the pure Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The only reasons I had NOT to wear pants to church is because (1) what other people would think of me and (2) because "it's not what girls are supposed to do".  In other words, it's a cultural expectation or norm.  I do not believe I have to wear a skirt or dress to be feminine.  All angels and people in the afterlife in LDS art and movies are depicted wearing robes, regardless of gender.  Our Savior challenged the social norms of his day.  He interacted and loved people the religious leaders shunned: women, prostitutes, publicans, Samaritans, lepers, etc.  He often broke rules that others considered sacred, that weren't based in scripture nor the Gospel.  He fought against the religious people whose outward dress and behaviors were supposed to measure their spirituality.
    The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism... the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.
    Hugh Nibley, Waterman, Brian and Kagel, Brian Kagel. The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at BYU. Signature Books. 1998
  5.  Because I want to live by the principle of wearing my "Sunday Best" to church, and I don't think that requires a dress or skirt.   I consider my nice pants to be dressier than quite a few of my skirts and dresses.  In the past when I needed to be warm at church I wore my really long, ankle-length jean skirt (looks kind of pioneer style).  My black pants are much more "Sunday Best" than that skirt.  Also pants are not a masculine form of dress.  During the week when I wear pants I'm not dressing like a boy, pants are now gender neutral in our culture.  So factoring in that I don't think wearing pants is any show of disrespect in sacrament or Sunday - and there is no rule or guideline that women must wear pants, it all just comes down to a decision between me and the Lord about what is appropriate.  Based on my beliefs on modesty I shared earlier, if I feel Heavenly Father accepts what I wear, I don't need to worry about anyone else.     p.s.  Scott Trotter, an LDS spokesman, responded to last year’s event by saying “Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. Generally church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that” (Dec. 11, 2012). 
  6. Because even though I believe in differences in gender, I don't believe gender roles should be taught so exclusively.  I've shared before that my life was infinitely blessed when I realized we are all sent here as individuals to use our talents to build the Kingdom of God and NOT just to fill our roles as men and women.  For most people that includes men providing for their families and women raising the children and that is wonderful.  Personally, for me, it would have been easier to follow God's path for my life if I had not believed in gender roles so fervently; but if I had been more open to the fact that God very often leads you on a path that is different than the norm.  That it isn't a bad or negative thing to experience, only to be endured to the end, that it can be embraced and celebrated.  That we should spend more time teaching about how to receive and recognize personal revelation in our lives, and less time already assuming what God's will is in our own and others' lives. 
  7. Because I feel that is another step of me being who I genuinely am.  That I can outwardly dress and share who I am and what I believe on the inside.   Others don't have to share my opinions or thoughts.  But I should be who I am, and I shouldn't hide or hesitate or apologize.  I should not be abrasive or in your face, but loving and kind and open. 
So that pretty much sums it up - because it's not an easy answer . . . there are many reasons.  There may even be more that I haven't articulated even to myself yet, but I'll stop there - for all of our sakes.
Remember, Love each other!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Claim Your Space

I believe this is from a national poetry slam competition, and it speaks to everyday nuance that shapes our world.

It reminds me of how I was at a high school girls basketball game recently and observed that usually Girls BBall players biggest weakness is lack off confidence, while Boys BBall players tend to suffer from the opposite. I remembered when I was at ISU Bball camp at 16 and my team was playing in the camp tourney I didn't feel it was my place to shoot instead of pass, and the one time I shot the ball my team and coach all cheered for me.  For the mere field goal attempt.  Many of you wouldn't recognize me then, as I've changed and since decided to claim my space.

Last week I went home teaching with Darik, and after he shared his message I asked if I could say a few things.  Afterwards we climbed into the car and Darik looked over and said, "I'm so glad I'm married to a woman with a brain."

I couldn't have received a better compliment. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A (Modest) Letter to My Daughter

You are amazing, inside and out.  How cliche, right?  But I know you love science, and you love learning about bodies, and you've figured out that our bodies are one big flippin' miracle after another.  How a body can provide nutrition and and eliminate waste, be ravaged by cancer and fixed by surgery, and how it can heal itself and create new life, even when that embryo starts in a petri dish (you are the very definition of a miracle, as an IVF baby).  I mean, even though you're only eight, we've had "The Talk" and you understand about eggs and seeds and anatomically correct body parts and where the baby comes out - and although this knowledge has given you pause at times, I know that you love knowing the truth.

Here is another truth:   Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are creative masters - I know how much you love art, and you are a masterpiece: we all are.  Because we were created in their image there is something about all of our shapes and body parts that are divine, they are perfect.

I want to talk to you about modesty.  I have pretty strong feelings and opinions about the issue and I don't always think that the principle of modesty is taught correctly.  Modesty is something that is being debated ad nauseum.  I could link to dozens of articles, of the ridiculous and outlandish or  thoughtful and articulate, and each have their rebuttals and counter-rebuttals.  But instead of talking about hemlines and cap sleeves and objectification and rape culture, I want to talk to you instead about one thing:

Don't ever consider what another person will think about you while choosing what you are going to wear.   I want you to wear clothes that are comfortable, that fit well, that make you feel good about yourself and give you confidence, that match your personality and that you like, and are appropriate for the activity.  Do you want to know what else you should think about while choosing your wardrobe?  Your Heavenly Parents.  You are their daughter and your body is a gift to you.  I want you to think about how your Heavenly Parents would want you to clothe your body.  You know they love you and want the best for you.  I truly believe you would want to do what would make them happy and proud of you.  So please, stand in front of the mirror and think about the opinions of the people who mean the most: yourself and God.

If you follow these guidelines, will your hemlines always match other people's expectations and standards?  Maybe not.  And I'm okay with that.  Because if you wouldn't mind wearing your outfit in front of your Heavenly Parents, then why would we worry about anyone else?

As much as your father is terrified of the day, your body is developing.  And one day soon you will have breasts and curves and even your monthly cycles.  When that day comes, as weird as it sounds, can we go out to eat and celebrate?  To celebrate being a young woman: to celebrate that it is not always pleasant, but it is always something to be proud of.   Also, other people may notice your body, especially if your genes bless you with more of a chest than your mother (ahem).  There is no amount of clothing that will enable you to avoid attention about your body.  So make sure you never seek after that kind of attention and make sure you ignore it when it comes your way.   When we give and seek physical attention, we are not seeing each others' spirits, seeing each other as we truly are, we are seeing each other as shapes and objects first - how Satan would want us to see each other.  It is not your job to avoid notice or to find a way to attract the appropriate amount of notice.    It is your job to be yourself and to please God.

You may have others teach you that your job is to be modest, because you must guard yourself and others from whatever sin your body may lead us all to.  Do not be ashamed of what your body is or afraid of what others may think of it.

In reality, modesty is behavior or appearance that is humble, moderate, and decent. A modest person avoids excesses and pretensions.  I want you to study the scriptures about what it means to be modest:

1 Timothy 2:9 "women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;"

Jacob 2:13 "And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are alifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they."

D&C 42:40 "And again, thou shalt not be aproud in thy bheart; let all thy cgarments be plain, and their dbeauty the beauty of the ework of thine own hands;"

 According to the scriptures, modesty is not dressing for attention or showing off for others or wearing costly apparel.  Does that also refer to fads and fashions?  Hmmm.  Further study from the Catholic Catechism, whose definition I love, provides more insight, "Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It guides how one looks at others  and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies. The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.  (

 So if modesty is about how we see others, does that mean the challenge of modesty is to see each other as Children of God no matter what they are wearing and no matter how our body reacts?  Yes!  God gave male and female bodies hormones that cause us to be attracted to each other and sometimes the sights of something attractive will arouse those feelings.  You will have those feelings!  Those feelings are not bad, they are not a sin, they are from God!  Lusting, the choice of having inappropriate thoughts and desires about something, is a sin.  So, if your thoughts are not appropriate in the situation, pay them no heed and move on.  Some think that men are the only ones that struggle with this challenge, some recent scientific studies have shown this is not true.    Shh, don't tell your dad, but this summer I was at the library walking through the parking lot when a man drove up on a motorcycle.  This man was muscular and handsome and my brain was thinking about what to cook for dinner that night when my body had a physical reaction and interrupted and said, "Hell-o Hottie!"  I could have chosen to keep thinking and to fantasize a bit - but I consciously made a decision to change the path my mind was on.  And the next thought I had was, "Hmm, how about chicken enchiladas?  Do I have enough salsa?"  This principle is probably best taught by Chinese Proverb of The Burden:
Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk across because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.  In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?”  The elder monk answered “yes, brother”.  Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?”   The elder monk smiled at him and told him ” I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”
I wish someone would have given me this advice when I was younger.  Perhaps it was when I shaved my head with Aunt Emily when she was going through chemo that I learned a lot about my looks (and how much we adorn ourselves for others' opinions), my body, and my relationship with God.  Please keep in mind that the ONLY important thing is to make sure you would be comfortable dressing and acting the way you do in front of your Heavenly Parents.  I promise you if you stay close to the Spirit and follow this one guideline you will be happy and you will be blessed. 


Your Momma

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Women and the Priesthood - Book Review

Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes by Sheri L. Dew My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars

I find myself in a peculiar situation as a Moderate Mormon Feminist against advocating for the priesthood, in reality I find peace in waiting patiently for the further light and knowledge regarding women's priestess-hood. So I really don't feel like I have a dog in the actual fighting going on around the "Ordain Women" movement, and obviously this book is in response to that.

Even though I don't believe in advocating for the priesthood, I'm still a feminist who wants to be a part of positive change regarding policies in the procedures of the church to eliminate gender inequality. Men and women are not the same and shouldn't be treated equally, but they should be treated equitably.

I will attempt to summarize the whole of Sheri Dew's book in a paragraph: She doesn't understand why people think women don't have anything to do in the church: LOOK! We pray and speak and lead our own organizations! The doctrine of Jesus Christ holds equality in women and men, but quit trying to be treated the same! If you understand who you are as a daughter of God you will stop being confused!! Be rooted in the gospel and quit worrying about these things, or else your roots will be weak! If you understand the plan of Salvation, you understand that women are to have children and men are to have the priesthood. We don't know why, we accept it with faith. We have our gender roles and that's what we're supposed to do. And Christ is at the head of the Church so STOP questioning it! I will provide no discussion at all about the mistakes and infallibility of human leaders of our church. Quit asking for the priesthood, we are already doing a lot: we are praying and leading organizations and teaching and stuff - and some churches don't let you even do that. So why are we complaining again? We are so vital to the work. We have all the access to every blessing the Lord has promised us. She has access to priesthood power as a single, endowed woman in her home, please stop telling her she doesn't. As for women having power in the early days of the church to lay on of hands, well, it's likely it all could have just been a mistake - or we were doing it wrong until we locked that practice up exclusively in the temple. She explains in a really awesome way the difference between keys, authority, and the power of the priesthood. We don't talk about Mother in Heaven because we're protecting her. Motherhood is a doctrine and you don't need kids to be a mother. If you just immerse yourself in the Gospel, you can change the world and be saved.  

Now here is my response: Wow, what a mixed bag for me. I actually did learn a lot about the priesthood. In fact most of the book was very uplifting to me. She had some pretty insightful discussions about how women's path in life are ambiguous in the Church while men's paths are set. About how our goal in finding out our purposes in life may not include the Sunday School answers. But near the end I felt like she was really negative about people who disagreed with her, regardless of her earlier quotes of it being okay to have different opinions. She implied if you don't understand it her way you won't qualify for the celestial kingdom, that if you are confused you are ridiculous and 'absurd'. The main reasons women have questions about ordination are quickly dismissed or not even discussed at all. I disagree that if someone has a different opinion that they don't understand the plan of salvation. I very much don't agree with her opinion about celestial silence being necessary for Heavenly Mother, especially since it's not based in scripture or any leader ever of this church. It's a myth debunked. BUT I respect her with all of my heart. Her beliefs and interpretations are the product of her life and experiences - just as mine are.

I have a much more in depth summary of my notes on the book and my responses to points made over at my blog. All in all I'd say there is insight to be gained in this book, but by in large it reflects the traditional beliefs in the Church about gender roles and our places in the organization. I certainly understand this perspective. She stuck to her own script about how to explain away Ordain Women, but I wish she would have spent some more time on their actual concerns and questions - and not just why she thinks they are wrong doctrinally. I spend a lot of my time defending OW as not being apostate against really mean people - and this book doesn't help my case, because in a round about way she implies that herself. I'm not sure if this does anything to help the dialog about women and the priesthood than to reinforce people's already held opinions and interpretations. There just doesn't seem to be any attempt at understanding that it is possible to be a Mormon feminist and faithful at the same time. And if you are, well - you're just all caught up in Satan's distracting influence.

I actually am grateful for the OW movement, even though I disagree with them because I think they are prompting a conversation we should be having.  A real and hard look at gender and the church and the priesthood.  I know I've been more sincere and earnest in my study this year regarding this topic, especially inside the temple, because of it - and I'm grateful for it.  I don't want to focus on what we're doing wrong, but what could we be doing better?

I recently told my husband the reason I am a feminist is because I am a mother and because I cherish that role. Because I care so deeply for my daughter and her experiences in life, I do feel prompted by the Spirit to try to change gender inequalities. And because I am a faithful Mormon feminist, there is nothing any human can do on this earth to take me away from the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves me. I know that all things will be made right in the end. I know I will see my Father and Mother in Heaven face to face and every question I have now will be answered in the next life.

p.s. Can I just say Sheri Dew is my hero, and long for the days of her exhorting and expounding over the pulpit, even if we do disagree sometimes.


I am almost done, and so far all I can say is: Deseret Book, you have the worst ebook reading app I have ever used in my life. AWWWWFFFUUULLL. Seriously so much info technology in the church that this is embarrassing :-) View all my reviews

Women and the Priesthood - Summary, Notes, and Discussion

Obviously this issue has to do with Mormon feminism, and I find that many people in the church do not understand the perspective, concerns, and motivations of many Mormon Feminists.  I wanted to see how much I would be in agreement, how much I have to learn, and if there are some misconceptions that might be there that I can clarify in this post.  This post will be long, as I am actually summarizing her points from the notes I took, and incorporating my thoughts in line with it.  This post will also be morphing and changing as I further refine what I want to say.  If you are looking for a quick, short summary - please see my book review on GoodReads

"Despite frequent doctrinal declarations by the Church leaders about the worth, influence, contribution, and value of women, flawed perceptions about LDS women are as old as the Church itself."  She goes on to say that two causes deserve mention: polygamy and priesthood ordination.  (What about those of us who don't doubt one iota in the worth, influence, contribution, and value of women and the doctrine of the Gospel, but don't believe our practices always match up with what the doctrine actually is?  Leaving priesthood ordination out of it??)

 She's hesitant to publish because:
1) she's still learning, it is a work in progress
2) there is much she does not understand and this is NOT doctrine, but her interpretation
3) she knows it will be judged
4) a fair number of women feel marginalized by the practices of the church (not necessarily the doctrine), and that women feel there is no "safe place to share concerns or ask questions. And questions are good, and they lead to answers. But we need to be careful how to couch our questions. Are they framed in doubt or faith? Are they "I don't understand this, I wonder what the Lord will teach me about this question?" Questions asked in faith unlock the power of God to answer them. She has not felt marginalized herself, but believes there seem to be ways to change the involvement of women without altering doctrine, covenants, or ordinances. Changes in policy and administration are ongoing because the Restoration is ongoing. Although she sees ways participation of women could be improved, if it never happens in this life, it will not affect her testimony (exactly, I feel the same way!).
5) to provide a different framework for the conversation

LDS Women are Incredible   (as are faithful Muslim women, and faithful Baptists, and faithful Evangelicals)  She doesn't fault anyone for expressing different views about women and priesthood, motherhood, or any other doctrine re: women. Because we all speak from our own individual knowledge, experience, and concerns. So this is not a "end all" of the discussion, but her adding her voice to the many views that exist.  (I am glad I have added my voice to the conversation and look forward to how this can add to the further knowledge I seek on the matter.  It is an very interesting topic to study, and not always black and white.)

The Question of Perception
Story of meeting with a NYC reporter interviewing her who is SHOCKED that women have the opportunity to serve in administrative and teaching roles (I think she loves this story, heard it a lot :-)  Three recent examples of what she calls misinterpretations of LDS women

1) USA Today essay that accused our church of being "hostile to the idea of female equality, let alone leadership."  She then is flabbergasted how anyone can say that when our doctrine clearly teaches we have equal access to spiritual privileges.  (I believe 100% females have equal access to spiritual privileges, but we don't have equal access to decision-making in the Church.  Decision making is about stewardship not priesthood, and the stewardship of positions in the administration of the Church could easily be adjusted without changing any doctrine of the church.  For example, I'd like to see more women sitting on the Church Board of Education, the Welfare Committee,  General Missionary Board, etc.  There are one or two women there, but we could easily add a few more RS General Board members whose stewardship relates solely to service on those committees.  Because if we have equal access to revelation and inspiration as our doctrine teaches, it would only strengthen the boards to have a wider and broader group of life experiences to draw from when making decisions for an organization that affects 50% women.)

2) The authors of "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites US" stated "male lay leaders fill all posts in the congregational and church hierarchy." and then she said they were confused when they implied the only way to have influence is through priesthood ordination.  (It is true that women have an incredible influence in this church that cannot be understated.  But what about influence to make changes and decisions in the church? I believe that's probably what he was referring to.  Women make decisions only in their stewardships and have comparatively little input in general church matters (ratio wise), otherwise the influence we have is limited to being asked for our input which is then considered but the ultimate decision is made by a group of male leaders.  So the logical step is to work towards women having an equal vote at the table - exactly like they are in the new Missionary Committees.  They look similar to King Arthur's Knights of the Roundtable.  Part of the reason Ordain Women exists is because they don't believe incremental changes like the ones Sis. Dew says could be made, will be made in a timely matter when those making the decisions don't understand the feelings or reasons why a policy change may be in order.)

3) A female blogger for the NYT with an obvious axe to grind against the church asserted we have "male authoritarianism" and "patriarchal gerontocracy" where women are relegated to supporting roles.  She is SHOCKED!  Sis. Dew wonders if the writer ever met a devout LDS woman?  Her definition = temple recommend holding, tithe-paying, temple-going, actively participating woman who understands Church Government and Doctrine.  (Oh hey, that's me!  So I'll butt in a share that, well, it is true our church governing structure and authority is marked by patriarchy (and they are old :-)  ).  And every time I have served as President of an organization I have felt marginalized and put into a supporting role that doesn't match the doctrine that is taught by Jesus Christ.  I'd love to share my experiences sometime, but not in this post.  So we're right back to making policy changes that can be made without changing doctrine.)

"Women in the Lord's Church"
From the beginning Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society to be "after the pattern of the priesthood" (which if you study church history, is true!  The RS was not under the direction of the Priesthood back then.  They were autonomous and separate making their own decisions without having to receive approval from male leaders.  Women were authorized to bless and heal by the laying on of hands.)  Since then church leaders have consistently taught about the honored station of women in the Church(My favorite explanation of this traditional teaching of how we honor women in our church is "The Pedestal."  Best described by Andrea Radke-Moss, a history professor at BYU-Idaho in a comment as follows:  
While I appreciate that you feel valued and equal in the Church, the reality is that many women do not. There are two ways of valuing women– one is on what’s called a “pedestal,” or a set-apart role that accepts the inherent differences between men and women, and also accepts the notion that somehow women’s equality comes from being more righteous, worshiped or revered within a male-led organization. You appear to be comfortable with that, as many Mormon women are, and that’s great. But some women are uncomfortable with the pedestal, especially as it has the tendency to emphasize gender stereotypes rather than recognizing each person as an individual with unique qualities; for some, there is discomfort with much of the cultural and traditional restrictions on women’s participation in the Church– and praying in General Conference is only one small part of that. The other approach to valuing women is through what is equality– not that men and women are the same, but that they are seen as individuals, and not as stereotypical gender roles to be filled. Those who prefer equality over the pedestal just hope for more shared decision-making, counseling within counsels, shared parenting roles, etc. This might mean that some women seek priesthood ordination, but it might mean that other women just want an expended role for women in the Church, without priesthood ordination. Some of these limitations might have to do with tradition and policy, but are not rooted in the restored gospel. The importance is to understand the difference. For instance, women have not always served missions, and since they have, the age and length for missionary service has changed based upon historical need, wars, and yes, even some outdated notions about women’s rightful place. The recent lowering of the missionary age for women is progress in the right direction.
I must say that I have experienced being valued in both ways - in the Church and out of it, especially in the full-time workplace.  For me it is far preferable to be seen as an equal as an individual, for my thoughts, ideas, contributions, abilities, and input - and not because I'm seen as innately "more gosh-darn special."  I've studied the words in the temple and the spiritual differences between males and females and they are real, but they are not where my equality lies. 

 In the last year I've studied more about Heavenly Mother and read prophet's quotes about females being creators in the hereafter (and not just of babies/spirits).  I love-love-love this quote Sis. Dew shared by Elder McConkie and wish it were taught and shared more often.  I think it is instructive about the power of the Priesthood available to women.  We need to hear more of these teaching from the pulpit.  Not just of how wonderful women are, but the true power (separate of procreative powers) we hold.)
"Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women compromised that group of the 'noble and great ones' to whom the Lord Jesus said: 'We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell' (Abr. 3:22-25)  This we know: Christ, under the Father, is the Creator:  Michael, his companion and associate, presided over much of the creative work; and with them, as Abraham saw, were many of the noble and great ones.  Can we do other than to conclude that Mary and Eve and Sarah and myriads of our faithful sisters were numbered among them?  Certainly these sisters labored as diligently then, and fought as valiantly in the War in Heaven as did the brethren, even as they in like manner stand firm today, in mortality in the cause of truth and righteousness."
 Women are not the same - did not intend for them to be alike.  (I agree)

A Legacy of Leadership
Many of the anecdotes she shares are stories that Mormon feminists point to as a fact that RS and women are actually in a lesser position than they were in the early days of the church.  Everything from Eliza R Snow exhorting, LDS suffragettes, Brigham Young sending women to vocation and professional schools and asking them to become writers, accountants, poets, and physicians. 

This all makes sense because the restored gospel of Jesus Christ at it's core is feminist, just as I believe Jesus Christ was the Gospel's first feminist.  The thing about the history of women in our Church is that so much of the powers and responsibilities we once had are no longer there.  Some Moderate Mormon Feminists do not call themselves "progressive" in their hopes for future positive changes for women in the chruch, but "regressive" because there is a hope for a return to the structure of the past.  That when Eliza R. Snow recorded the words at Nauvoo Relief Society as “I now turn the key to you in the name of God” it meant the women had all their own power to do the work and run their organization.  Women set their own budgets, ran their own store selling RS produced goods, ran the welfare organization in administering relief to the poor, ran a hospital, nursing school, started a newspaper, made silk, agitated for women's rights, blessed and healed by anointing and laying on of hands.  The Relief Society was not an Auxiliary under the priesthood, it was an equal organization to the side.  The General RS president's office was right next door to the prophet's office in the earlier days in SLC.  Feminists hoping for a return to earlier structure is NOT a belief that men and women are the same, as is a descriptor so often painted upon us. 

"Women and the Church Today"
 A story of women in ChristChurch, NZ, responding to earthquakes there and the service and preparation the showed.   Much of the autonomy and structure of the Relief Society has changed over the years.  It is true LDS women all over the world go about doing good and changing lives.  But other than Sunday lessons, enrichment, and visiting teaching, there is very little engagement.  What if the RS rebuilt some of the structure that helped enable others to serve that it had before?  I know modern women are already stretched to their limits, but at times hear sisters say they wish there were more opportunities for more service projects outside of local ward sisters. Back in the early years not every woman was expected to commit to every activity that Relief Society was engaged in.  So adding "influence groups" (ie women who would get together to combat homelessness, or female education, or fight against human trafficking or sex slavery, or bringing clean drinking water to developing nations, or starting a new "Exponent", etc.)  would be available to those willing and able and who felt called to that sort of work.

Women Have a Divine Errand
 We lived before we came here and we were all sent here with a divine errand.  Our errands are all different.  Your life's mission is not mine, and mine is not yours.  They are all the same in their origin.  They came from God.  and  This requires earnest effort to uncover and fulfill our divine errand.  It is easier to motivate someone to do something difficult than something easy.  The desire to progress is hardwired into our DNA.   Don't feel inferior, look up and be believing.  (My favorite scripture:  Mosiah 2:41 may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.)  Understanding our divine nature is essential in understanding our errand.  Understanding who we are we must understand our premortal life.  From William Wordsworth:
Our Birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
As we come to understand that we are noble and great, we will feel greater purpose and more confidence living as women of God in a world that doesn't celebrate women of God.  We will cheer each other on rather than compete with each other, because we will be looking for validation from the Lord rather than validation from the world.  

Satan's main goal is to attack females - confuse them.  "Confusion about our identity can wreak havoc.  But clarity about who we are is empowering."  So this is not the time to seek first the things of the world but to "build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness."  Truth is not relative.  The first step in understanding how God sees his daughters it to understand who we are, were, and may be. 

God Expects Women to Receive Revelation
A story of a very experienced priesthood leader who didn't know that women could receive revelation.  Unfortunately he is not alone is mistaken that the heavy lifting to be done spiritually is not for them.
It is More Blessed to Receive
The only limitations on our communication with Heavenly Father are those we impose on ourselves.  We impose those limitations by not seeking, not asking, and not learning how to receive answers, gifts, and information.  What are we willing to receive?  Receiving requires action on our part.
 The Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost
Joseph worried the people would not live up to their privileges.
The Language of Revelation
Scriptures, Purity
The Blessings of Revelation
To receive revelation we haven't yet received, we will likely need to seek in ways we haven't sought before and do things we haven't done.  Read the scriptures now.  Attend temple regularly and ask to understand more about the endowment and sealing.  Read about how to qualify for additional spiritual gifts.  If you are not sure the direction of your life what spiritual gifts will help you?  gifts only given to those who seek them.  Unplug your life technologically so you can have more time to be spiritual.
The Spirit Speaks of Things as they really Are
Are we rooted in the gospel?  The only reason the plants came out so easily is they weren't rooted in the gospel.  (That's why when people leave the church, whether it's because of women discovering 'feminism' or 'googling something about polygamy' or whatever -- I can't blame feminism or whatever they found.  If our roots really are deep -- if we really have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we won't leave.  because we understand that any imperfections we find along the way are not of God, but of man.  Feminism or church history isn't the problem in people leaving the church, it's that their roots aren't deep enough to withstand questions, and they haven't been taught how to approach questions with faith instead of doubt.)

God is Perfect and So Is His Son

Teaching the Plan of Salvation, that men and women can only enter the highest degree of glory together.  We need to access heavenly power in mortality:  (1) through Gift of Holy Ghost and (2) via full access to priesthood power, but men and women access it in different ways.  (Alright friends, here is where I find some of her teachings to be strictly traditional and at times not helpful to the dialog.  Here is where she implies feminists don't understand the Plan of Salvation - because apparently it's all about gender roles?   I missed that in the missionary discussions. 

Also she thinks if you think changes need to be made you are Counseling the Lord and need to repent.  She says we are not a test case in a cosmic lab (which doesn't jive with what Pres. Bednar taught while I was working in his office in Rexburg:  the Church Organization is a Laboratory of Learning.  That there will be some people in this church who are so converted to the programs of the church instead of the true Gospel, that when change comes to those programs - and it will come, that they will not be able to make the transition because they were converted to the program.)   

Basically this chapter is summarized:  God is perfect, the Plan is perfect, and He's at the head of the Church so don't you ever question it.  (This really is not helpful at all to not even have a modicum of discussion about the fallibility and human understanding of leaders of our church.  How about even the McConkie quote from right after the 1978 revelation that he gave at BYU?  “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.” “Anybody,” and “ever” are unequivocal. He also asked his audience to “[f]orget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or . . . whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”  I'm not saying that a revelation will come to give women priesthood.  But we are not even going to have a discussion about the fact that it is POSSIBLE in the future?)

Women Are Vital to the Success of the Lord’s Church
Sis Dew has a traditional definition of what it means to “contribute and participate in the church’.  In what other church can you see women praying, speaking in sacrament, leading organizations, teach, and organize activities.  Women are integral and have influence!

(I’m a little baffled by the fact that she thinks other churches don’t have women organizing and teaching and leading in children’s and youth programs and women’s organizations in other churches.  In Virginia I had friends who were Pentecosts, Baptists, and Evangelicals:  all of their churches had children's programs, youth programs, and women’s organizations that were led, taught, and organized by women (and sadly sometimes better than our own, AWANA sounds awesome, is all I’m saying).
Also I don’t think Ordain Women has ever said anything about women not having enough to do, as she implies.  I don't think the argument has ever been that we aren't participating or leading our own organizations.  So, moot point?) 

The Founding of the Relief Society
Back when the RS was founded, women in society were being repressed while women in the church were being elevated (this is true, Joseph Smith was a feminist)  It is wonderful the Church was much farther along than the world and we understood the importance of women and even ushered in the equality of women around the world.  (so how come in this section there is nothing about Emma, Eliza, and other women being ordained, not to the priesthood though - that they were authorized to anoint and bless by the laying on of hands?  That midwives performed annointings and blessings before child deliveries?  That George A. Smith asked for Eliza R. Snow to join the men as they laid hands on his head and gave him a blessing?)

A Legacy of Service

Eve was the one who made it possible for us to progress into mortality.  Faithful women through the ages have left a priceless legacy.  Talmage: the world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.  (yes, the savior’s treatment of women was radical in his day - he was a Feminist and He is the reason I am, too!)

“It is a wise priesthood leader who recognizes the value of sister leaders and expects and invites their full participation in ward or stake council.  And it is a wise auxiliary leader who learns how to speak up and be heard in a council without becoming domineering or inflexible and while always paying to those who hold priesthood keys the respect that those keys deserve.”

Not only do LDS women participate in the Church, they are integral to its vitality and governance.  (I agree.  We participate and are important.  The reason why so many men treat women as less in the church is because I think our policies don't reflect our doctrine.  Programs should be equal in structure and funding, more women should be put on councils not as someone to give input - but someone who has an equal vote.  And if it's over a mixed gender organization (welfare, education, sunday school, etc.) and equal number of men and women should sit on that board.  I am not equal because of my special-femaleness, I am equal because my ideas and experiences as a daughter of God deserve equal weight and treatment.)
Both Men and Women Have Access to God's Highest Spiritual Blessings
The thing that makes the Church unique is that we have “divine authority of the priesthood.”  (I agree.)  McConkie “where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of person righteousness--in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord.”

The Challenge of Understanding and Discussing Priesthood

-People call men priesthood when they shouldn't
-The word “priesthood” is used to mean different things in different applications
    -keys, authority, power, blessing, holders or leaders
-Understanding priesthood is not simple; known only by personal revelation

The Father’s plan and the Savior’s church are designed to qualify all of us - both men and women - for exaltation.  Priesthood keys are the manner through which the Lord authorizes and disperses His power and authority throughout the Church for both men and women.  In the temple, both men and women are “endowed with the same power, which is by definition priesthood power.”  Neither a man nor a women may receive the highest ordinances of he priesthood or be exalted alone.  Women are to conceive children and men are to exercise the priesthood - but we share these things with each other (motherhood = priesthood, hmm)  She doesn't know why these are the roles and why we don't have clear answers regarding women's issues, but God is perfect and we walk in faith.  

She finally addresses Joseph's teaching about women healing by laying on of hands:
 “Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick… there could be no evil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administrations.” (History of the Church, volume 4, pg. 604)
“Were the statements recorded accurately?  Was the Prophet’s reference to “administering to the sick” referring to only prayers of faith and comfort?  Had issues regarding women and priesthood not yet been fully revealed?  Was he anticipating women officiating in priesthood ordinances in the temple?  Were they allowed to because women often found themselves caring for their families alone?"

(I just don't even have words to respond to her perception of the historical facts of women having the authority (not priesthood authority) to anoint, heal, and bless by the laying on of hands through faith.  We all know the the Spiritual Gift of Healing is available to all?  It doesn't say in the scriptures only men can receive this gift, right?  Can Sis. Dew attempt to understand why some women are concerned that the level of power given to women in the past has been diminished through policy changes?) 

President Kimball reminded men “Our sisters do not wish to be indulged or to be treated condescendingly; they desire to be respected and revered as our sisters and our equals.  I mention this, my brethren, not because the doctrines or the teachings of the Church regarding women are in any doubt, but because in some situations, our behavior is of doubtful quality.”  Human weakness has been evident in how women are treated in the Church sometimes.  One of the most defining tests of this life may be about how we feel about the priesthood and treat those who hold it. 

Understanding The Keys, Authority, and Power of the Priesthood
Only certain priesthood holders hold certain keys in the Church. 
Keys authorize the ordinances, authority required to perform the ordinances, those who receive ordinances have priesthood power available to them.Those men with keys can give some women authority, in the temple women have priesthood authority.  After going to the temple, women have direct access to priesthood power.  Women don’t have keys but preside over organizations.  Sister missionaries and women in the temple have been given authority to perform works by those with keys.  Elders have power to baptize, but can’t unless given authority by someone using keys.  Ordinances and covenants are our credentials for admission into his presence.  With the exception of female temple workers, only men have authority to officiate in ordinances of priesthood.  Authority and priesthood are two different things, women have been given divine authority  (so if the priesthood means the Power of god, the Authority of God, and the Keys of God; and women receive divine authority (which is from God) what makes divine authority different?  It's a sincere question)

Understanding Priesthood and Women

How does a woman, not ordained, draw on that power?  As an unmarried woman, she does have access to priesthood power in her home.  Women who are concerned about the priesthood, it has to to with who has priesthood keys, and we don’t know why only men get them but we walk in faith.
“While it is true that the mortals who hold keys are not perfect and do not always handle things flawlessly, our Father and His Son oversee all.  In their infinite wisdom and perfect knowledge and understanding, they have devised a plan and organized a Church designed to help us achieve our highest potential”

In the temple both men and women are endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power.
what does it mean to have access to priesthood power?  It means we receive revelation, can be blessed and aided by the ministering of angels, learn to part the veil that separates us from our HF, be strengthened to resist temptation, be protected, and be enlightened and made smarter than we are - all without any mortal intermediary.”  We access the power through our covenants. 

Learning the doctrine of the priesthood
She does not fully understand, but perhaps women receive blessings in DC 84 by believing and sustaining the priesthood.  When sealed we become one unit and what he has will be shared.

President Lee: “Pure womanhood plus priesthood means exaltation”

Hafen “Spouses need not perform same functions to be equal.  The woman’s innate spiritual instincts are like a moral magnet, pointing toward spiritual north.  The man’s presiding gift is the priesthood.  If the husband & wife are wise, their counseling will be reciprocal:  he will listen to the promptings of her inner spiritual compass just as she will listen to his righteous counsel”

Faith in God and His power
The things I don’t understand don’t negate what I do know.  (yikes, She implies that women who are annoyed with mortal perspectives of the priesthood may be consigned to lesser kingdoms because they didn’t not receive the gift of the priesthood)  What to women get?  everything.

God Reserved the High Privilege of Motherhood for Women
The world doesn’t recognize that the effectiveness of the Plan relies on the character, work, and faith of mothers.  

"Motherhood" is different than the "doctrine of motherhood".  Doctrine of motherhood = eternal privileges, responsibilities & endowments, and can only be exercised upon principles of righteousness.  Mortality requires women bearing children.  Motherhood is the divine, eternal and core nature of every woman.  Eve was the mother of all living before she had a child.  Mothers are saviors of men, men need the priesthood to become saviors of men.

Mother In Heaven
Sister Dew believes we don't talk about her because we are "protecting" her.  (That myth has been debunked by a BYU study that uncovered almost every recorded quote about her in the history of the Church.  The only written teaching about not talking about her to protect her is from a seminary teacher.  Which is at odds with what the prophets actually did, was continually talk about her.  I don't know why prophets don't talk about her now, but they certainly had hundreds and hundreds of things to say about her in the past.  And none of those things were about how she needs mortal silence for her protection.)
Loving and Leading 

“For every woman, the challenge is one of discerning the Lord’s will for her and then following the promptings of the Spirit.  None of our divine errands are exactly the same.”

Elder cook, “First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children.  nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan.  Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home.  We rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances.”

Converted Women Can Change the World
The only things that matter are the things that matter to the Lord.  May we spend whatever time and make whatever effort is required to understand what our Father has given us. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Calling a Truce to the Mommy Wars

Recently Matt Walsh, a popular conservative Christian blogger, authored a viral post: he defended stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs), and lit up a firestorm of controversy.  Matt, welcome to the Mommy Wars: the she-should-be-at-home/what-do-you-do-all-day female judgment-apalooza.


He is truly baffled by the criticism he's receiving, because it's true: SAHMs need more props.  The problem, when you defend them in a way that holds it up as the one true way things should be done?  Yeah, you might ruffle a few feathers.  A few short years ago I would have agreed with him.  That's how I was raised.  Good mothers stay home.  Mothers who choose to work and doing irreparable damage to children.  They are choosing to work for unnecessary extravagances of life. Of course if you have to work, you have no choice, so that's your out.  Pages and pages of quotes from leaders in my church can be found over the last few decades echoing the sentiment.

Yet I have found my experience to be different.  I feel I have some authority to speak in this area, as I've worked full-time, part-time, and been a SAHM as well.  I will tell you that being home full-time is so psychologically draining sometimes I just wanted to stab myself with a spoon to make it stop.  It is very, very hard with little ones and messes and potty training, etc.  Just learning how to manage the tornado of life with little ones afoot is a sheer act of superpower. 

I also just finished working-full time while my daughter was in first and second grades.  It was a completely different kind of stress.  It is a very different kind of hard, a very different kind of not-one-moment-for-yourself and burdened by the needs and expectations of everyone in your life.  The amount of time we had to do the important things was extremely condensed . . . and yet I still fit in the important things. 

I have also worked part-time and I must admit it is entirely preferable.  In a perfect world I would have would still be an Asset Management Analyst for 30 hours a week.  I know Sheryl Sandberg would be disappointed with my brand of Leaning In, but it truly would have provided a perfect work/home balance.  Kids and moms need a break from each other.  There is such a thing as too much kid time and not taking care of yourself, and there's such a thing as kids having moms meet their needs too much. 

While I was working I attended training in Cincinnati the week my daughter started second grade.  It was a tortuous decision for me to go.  Guilt laden.  And you know what?  My daughter was better for it.  She didn't need her mom that day: her dad curled her hair and got her ready and pulled me up on Skype so I could say goodbye and watch her get on the bus.  There were times she had to attend day care.  It was good for her.  My daughter relies far too much on me, and getting out of the car and going to day care where she didn't know anyone was a hard thing.  She had to learn how to do a hard thing.  And she was better for it.  Part of my job as a good parent is to slowly teach my child that they do not need me, so that by the time they are 18 they have all the tools to be successful without me.

While I was working I was surrounded by other working mothers.  Their kids were loving and obedient and smart, their marriages were happy, and they have found a balance that truly worked for their families.  They were good moms with good kids.  I finally came to a realization:  there are good mothers who work and good mothers who stay-at-home.  There are also really crappy mothers that work and really crappy mothers who stay-at-home.  The home/work split is not where the definition of 'good mother' is found.  As another woman discovered as she researched the principles of biblical womanhood, if you want to be a woman of valor, it is found in your character, not in your role

So why this either or dichotomy?

I know mostly it was how I was raised.  When I was home it made me feel like I was making the right choice when others were wrong about theirs.  It reinforced my decision and made me feel better in all the hard moments - like the day when I was covered with three different body fluids from three different children.  I felt better when I thought what I was doing was the one right way, but I figured something out.  There is not one right way to be or live your life or manage your family.

I have a friend who teaches the online Family Proclamation class for BYUI while her husband stays at home.  Recently Segullah, an online literary journal for LDS women, ran a series about working mothers, their stories, and how the Spirit prompted them into the workforce.  One woman is a cancer nurse, another an engineer. The engineer ended her story with this advice, "If there was one piece of advice I could give a young woman it would be to follow the Spirit. No matter what you think your life should be, no matter your dreams, always be willing to follow promptings of the Spirit. They will lead to happiness and usually something better than you have dreamed for yourself."

If personal revelation to do what is best for you and your family has been the answer all along, what about all those quotes over the past five decades from the prophets?  Has there been a time in the past where it was okay for women to work outside the home without destroying the family?  I decided to do some research (my favorite thing).  Brigham Young was a conundrum - at times portrayed as feminist and sometimes anti-feminist.  In the 1978 study "A Woman's Place in Brigham Young's World", the author shows that both are correct.  He taught that men are to be masters over their wives because the curse that came upon women in the Garden of Eden for them to be dependent upon men (yikes).  But later on he turned out to be a champion of female education and women working outside the home to build the kingdom.  Granted, after the end of the Civil War in the 1860s the telegraph and transcontinental railroad came to Utah, as well as non-members with a promise to settle and overwhelm the Mormons at the ballot box.  So when gentile doctors and accountants showed up in Utah, he felt compelled to provide those things within our own community as a form of self-reliance.
“I do not know how long it will be before we call upon the brethren and sisters to enter upon business in an entirely different way from what they have done,” Young postulated at April conference in 1867.  The following December he announced, “We have sisters now engaged in several of our telegraph offices, and we wish them to learn not only to act as operators but to keep the books of our offices.”

Brigham Young was a particularly strong advocate of women's education. "We have sisters here who, if they had the privilege of studying, would make just as good mathematicians or accountants as any man; and we think they ought to have the privilege to study these branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed," he said. "We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or [medicine], or become good book-keepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large" (Journal of Discourses, [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854–86], vol. 13, p. 61).
In 1873 Bathsheba Smith reported that “the President had suggested to her that three women from each ward be chosen to form a class for studying physiology and obstetrics.” A few weeks later Eliza R. Snow declared that “President Young is requiring the sisters to get students of Medicine. He wants a good many to get a classical education, and then get a degree for Medicine. . . . If they cannot meet their own expenses, we have means of doing so.” For several years Young had been teaching that women should attend to the health of their sex. With the influx of educated gentile doctors following the Civil War and the coming of the railroad, Young realized the Latter-day Saints would need professional doctors in order to remain self-sustaining. Romania Bunnell Pratt, the first Mormon woman to get professional training under this program, returned to Utah from the Woman’s Medical College in New York after her freshman year there. Her finances were depleted and so she paid a visit to President Young who instructed Eliza R Snow to “see to it that the Relief Societies furnish Sister Pratt with the necessary money to complete her studies.” This encouragement came in spite of the fact that Romania had to leave her young children with her own mother in order to complete the training. “We need her here,” said Young, “and her talents will be of great use to this people.”
So if Brigham Young built the Kingdom by having women work, what to do about the gender roles we are currently taught?   I find it instructive that two years ago in Conference Elder Packer called the Family Proclamation a "revelation from God", but in the text released from the Church, they reworded his description to "a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and follow.”  It's a guide, and if we follow the Spirit, Heavenly Father will guide us on a path that we are supposed to follow, regardless of whether it fits into "how things are supposed to be done."  How are things supposed to be done in my life?  I'll tell you I have no idea.  I know I'm doing my best to follow the Spirit.  I feel like I had been so converted in my life to the teachings of gender roles and what I was supposed to be doing - Heavenly Father had to smack a brick up the side of my head to get me to go to school and finish my degree.   I've felt the most peace when I wasn't trying to have a baby.  Recently I received an impression based on some things in my Patriarchal Blessing that I should get a job so I can help prepare for the future.  So, this week I start a new part-time job: I can be reached at  I feel like Heavenly Father's had a plan and a path for me this whole time, and He's frustrated I haven't been open to other possibilities other than the 'ideal'. 

So for the love of all things beautiful, I call truce.   

We need to stop.  Stop the mommy wars.  All mothers need support.  All good mothers need praise.  This is the problem: judging.  When we feel judged we want to lash right back.  And it's not just about whether we stay at home or work, we also receive judgment about a million other things. We don’t need to go around devaluing others based on our own choices.  It’s a simple matter of appreciating everyone…every parent who contributes to the proper raising of a child to the very best of their abilities. If you find that you get some contentment out of putting down others based on their life decisions; I would suggest therapy.  Because I have a secret, everyone is doing the best they can in this beautiful, messy thing we call life.


Monday, October 14, 2013

The Beauty of the Ocean and Following our Leaders

The knowledge of God and the Gospel is like the ocean.  When we enter the waters of baptism we dip our feet into the crystal clear waters near the shoreline.  We have oceanographers who are the few experts to help us navigate the waters.  The regularly hold classes to help us learn and understand what is around us.   As we enter the water there are family and friends who help teach us how to swim.  We are surrounded by those we love.  It is beautiful.  As we get to be better swimmers we can venture out and even learn to tread water in the deeper parts. 

Being as we are all different individuals it doesn't make sense that we all enjoy the ocean in the same way.  Some people feel closer to God by keeping their feet on the ground, others enjoy all the beauty and splendors found in the clear water but they like to go out deep and scuba dive, and some people get into the water and bring some tools to measure the salinity.  There are some parts of the ocean that have cloudy waters.   There have even been discoveries made by people wondering what's in all that darkness.  People asked questions and our Oceanographers brought back something we didn't think could possibly exist, ever.  Those waters aren't off limits, we're welcome to study different parts of the ocean.   It is important to remember that all we ever need for salvation is actually found in shallow, clear waters.  Some people find their love for their creator is strengthened by the clear waters.  Some people find their love strengthened in cloudy waters.  Our Oceanographers have always encouraged Oceanic study, and welcome questions that we bring to them.  

 When you're in the cloudy waters you find a lot of questions.  Where is the bottom?  Does it drop off?  What animals live in these conditions?  How many?  How do they survive?  What about plant life?  Almost any answer is possible.  We don't even have the tools to find the answers to all of our questions.  When I think about the cloudy waters, I am in awe of what God has done.  It strengthens my testimony of His Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence.  I think there is beauty in the possibilities of what we can't see with our mortal eyes.  The wonder of the ocean sometimes requires our imagination.

I find beauty in a question and in saying, "I don't know the answer to my questions.  The possibilities are sometimes endless, for only God knows all things." 

There is danger when through our own reasoning we think we know more than the Oceanographers.  That when someone goes treading in cloudy waters they think they know where the bottom is, even though they've been told otherwise by Oceanographers.  They may have even found out through their own study where the bottom is.   Does that mean the Oceanographers are no longer your guide?  Do you doubt their place as our leaders? There is also danger in assuming to know something about the ocean does not exist, that it won't be discovered later on, or that what we know about the ocean is everything there is to know.  Those are two extreme sides of a completely acceptable journey in the ocean. 

It is true that past Oceanographers have taught things about the ocean that turned out to be false when new understanding and technology came.  But our current Oceanographers are always the most world-renowned experts in Oceanography.  They know more than has ever been known about the ocean.  Still, it's impossible that they know everything.  The Ocean is so deep and so expansive our minds can't even comprehend its size and weight.  It doesn't change the fact that they are who God has chosen or lead, guide, and teach us.  God hasn't promised that his Oceanographers know everything about the ocean, but he's promised that if we listen to them we will never be in danger. 


I think you guys can see where I'm going with this.  It can be taken in a million different ways.  Right now I see a lot of people in the Ocean angry with each other.  There is contention instead of meekness and humility.  Sometimes I think God may be prompting the ladies of OW to test our hearts, to see how we respond to those who do not agree with us.  I know their activism, which I don't agree with, has led me to uplifting and sincere study in the temple and out of it.  I'm grateful for that.  I also believe we received words specific for our situation today from our leaders in General Conference.  And no, I didn't see a "feminist smackdown" as my cousin purported. I did see that our leaders love and care for us enough to address our concerns.  I added some of my favorite quotes in an appendix below. 

To wrap this baby up, I just want to say I'm a big time believer in modern revelation.  In acknowledging that the understanding of man is limited in understanding the knowledge of God.  I believe there is a lot more revelation coming down the pike the next few generations.  That the temple ceremony will likely change as much in the next 100 years as it has in the last 100 years as we receive further light and knowledge. 

If we feel that there is a teaching out there that may be subject to change in the future, what do we do?  I'll tell you what I do, I follow Elder Hafen:
My experience has taught me always to give the Lord and his church the benefit of any doubts I may have when some such case seems too close to call. I stress that the willingness to be believing and accepting in these cases is a very different matter from blind obedience. It is rather, a loving and knowing kind of obedience.
That when it comes down to it, if there's a question for me -- I say, the teachings we have for today are the teachings for today.  I accept them.  I follow the Prophet.   I leave open the possibility that God may change how he's running the show in the future, and it may simply blow our minds.  

Or in the wise words of Jerry Seinfeld regarding authority, "Pants always beats no pants." **

**This reference could be construed as deeper meaning of who gets to wear the pants.  It's not.  Literally we trust doctors because they have training.  We trust leaders because they are chosen.  


Below you will find some of my favorite thoughts and moments from last weekend.  

Elder Hales opened conference by speaking about speaking in General Conference.  It was very meta.  But it was almost as if the Lord was giving us a preface before we jumped in with both feet this time: 
President Harold B. Lee taught: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to … give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your [personal] views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).”10
Immediately after Elder Soares speaks about the importance of being meek, humble, and teachable in responding to others and not just our leaders.  Most of the anger and hate I've seen is towards the small group of women who has a different opinion than the majority. 
What about when people disagree with your ideas, even though you are absolutely sure that they represent the proper solution to a problem? What is your response when someone offends you, critiques your efforts, or is simply unkind because he or she is in a bad mood? At these moments and in other difficult situations, we must learn to control our temper and convey our feelings with patience and gentle persuasion.
I love the story he finishes his talk with, about the man in South Africa who is kept out of the church even though he believes it.  It's not right that he's kept out, it's an injustice.  And he responds in love and meekness in asking the window be opened so he could partake of the Gospel until years later when he is baptized.  There are similar stories in the scriptures, too.

I love this teaching from Lorenzo Snow that I've been pondering for a while.  My first read was that he was saying when we hear something we don't disagree with we should pray for a witness that it is true. But it's actually saying that we can pray to know of their motives and interests.  We can feel their love for us.
There may be some things that the First Presidency do; that the Apostles do, that cannot for the moment be explained; yet the spirit, the motives that inspire the action can be understood, because each member of the Church has a right to have that measure of the Spirit of God that they can judge as to those who are acting in their interests or otherwise.[9]
 Of course I loved Elder Uchtdorf.  For someone whose very nature is to question and to ask why, and whose testimony has been strengthened by finding questions or imperfections -- the man is an answer to my prayers.  
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.  Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, build faith in others.  And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.