Monday, April 7, 2014

Line Upon Line, Precept Upon Precept

I've had some wonderful conversations with family members lately (more on that later) and it has come to my attention that in the process of sharing my story and my opinions -- I have not been the most efficient communicator.  It is very hard to convey my tone and purpose.  As I continue to share I plan on putting more effort into being more clear.

For example . . . when I say the word "question" what does it mean?  Especially when applied to our leaders?

One of the results of going through my faith transition, is that when I studied and pondered the Gospel, I found questions about my faith - I never doubted the core doctrines of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But I looked at the appendages, I saw how they moved and changed and didn't stay constant (this includes teachings of our leaders).  In order to not allow questions to shake your anchor, foundation, or testimony -- one must expand the perspective and vision of what Truth is.  Whereas before I thought I had all the answers with certainty and everything I had been taught was 100% the whole, complete answer; instead I saw it from an eternal perspective from far, far away.  I see everything we have as a place on the path that a full and complete truth is being revealed, line upon line - precept upon precept. 

God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  It is impossible for any human being to understand as He does and know what He knows. As He interacts with us, He chooses men to lead and guide His church on this earth.  As He inspires, instructs, and leads them I envision the following story as an example:
I have a 16-yr-old girl I volunteer with once a week. She wanted to learn how to make a cheesecake. I bought the ingredients and showed her how/helped her make it. The crust was burned and it was intensely lumpy. I could have fixed those things, but I didn’t want to, because she wouldn’t have learned as much, and I would have robbed her of the sense of accomplishment that is so important to her developing confidence in herself. I didn’t fix the problems because I have a vision that goes beyond cheesecake. I have a vision of her and what she has the potential to become. My understanding of God is that he works in the same way. He could fix all of the imperfections in our church [organization or] leadership right now if he wanted to. But his goal isn’t a perfect church, it’s perfected human beings. And to learn and grow and become perfected, we have to be allowed to screw up, and learn from our mistakes. In the end, the cheesecake still tasted really, really good. (Quoted from a comment at FMH)
 When I listen to the words of my leaders I'm not searching out lines and sentences that I am judging to be wrong.  But in the context of my Heavenly Father lovingly revealing truth line upon line, I imagine what the full truth will continue to be revealed.  I ponder the words of my leaders and love their counsel and guidance.  And as I ponder I wonder how these teachings will be built upon and expanded upon.  Sometimes when new truths are revealed, they show that our previous teachings were limited by our human understanding.  I wonder what truths will be revealed next? 

And as I read Elder Oaks' talk from Saturday night, that was my response: I rejoiced in the further light and knowledge that was revealed.  For the first time in my life . . . I heard taught from the pulpit that women are endowed with their own priesthood power in the temple (not access to it, and not through their husbands).  We have priesthood power.  The power of the priesthood is not limitied to being a male, and he taught that neither males nor females are more special or favorite to God.  Women aren't inherently better or special-er than men.  He also taught that those with priesthood keys grant priesthood authority to others perform certain tasks, whether male or female: again, not limited by gender.  WOW, you guys!  We have been living below our privileges!!  He also taught that the Relief Society is more than just an organization of women that holds classes, it is where women with priesthood power and authority are to work together to change the world in wisdom and order.  Women are not currently granted offices of the orders of Melkizedek or Aaronic priesthoods.  I wonder how this will play out and be revealed according to Joseph Smith's teachings that he "was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Paul[']s day"?  (Nauvoo RS Minute Book, Joseph Smith Papers)  Further analysis of that statement is found here.

So as I ponder his words, I wonder, "Hmmm, I wonder if there are other orders of the priesthood that could be established?"and "I wonder what further light and knowledge will build upon this line and precept we have been given tonight?"  I do not perceive our teachings as 100% the knowledge and truth of God, but a step in that direction. 

I heard Elder Oaks speak about how in this Church we should not be worried about rights but responsibilities.  I loved that!  One thing Neylan McBaine taught in her FAIR address about gender in the Church, is that she doesn't think that women in the church are in a power struggle; that we are in a purpose struggle.  I wholeheartedly agree with this perception.  Currently in our church we have a fairly narrow view of the purpose and responsibilities given to women.  This narrow view has hampered my spiritual growth, and I had to discover for myself God has an expanded purpose for women than I was trying to fill.  I imagine it being near impossible to heal from the trial of infertility if one cannot expand their definition of womanhood past motherhood.  General Relief Society President Linda Burton was quoted as saying that the church stands to benefit as “men’s vision of the capacity of women becomes more complete” (Citation)

As one Mormon Feminist explains:  "Expanding the definition of mother to encompass all women merely expands our concept of motherhood. It keeps the womanhood = motherhood paradigm intact.
I want an expanded definition of womanhood— one where motherhood is one of many choices we can make to express our divine femininity."

This expression does not demand sameness and equality - but hopes for further understanding of women in the plan of Salvation and in the life hereafter.  You have to admit our understanding of that is pretty limited.  We desire and seek for further revelation.  It is true I would like women to have more responsibility in building the Kingdom of God (not necessarily priesthood keys).  Not all women feel so and I understand that perspective, but I certainly have the ability and availability because of my circumstances to do so, and I feel my unique talents and gifts should be used to build the kingdom to the fullest respect possible.

I do believe Elder Oaks' teachings were mostly in response to the Ordain Women movement.  And I have expressed I do not mind them existing.  I do not agree with their actions or choices.  I'm grateful these issues became vocal and part of the public conversation, and not just private conversation . . . I believe it played a part in the receiving further light and knowledge we received this weekend.  Sometimes we do have to ask to receive more.  They may continue asking.  I will continue asking for further light and knowledge, because:

"I Believe God Will Yet Reveal Many Great and Important Things Pertaining to the Kingdom of God"

Now, in regards to why certain people have issues or questions or wish for changes, I wanted to share a comment given on my facebook page:
I am not sure there is a more beautiful expression of faith than when we show obedience even amidst questions. That is sustaining.

I loved the talk from President Uchtdorf a few sessions ago when he said, "Don't judge me b
ecause I sin differently than you." I think we would all be wise to apply those same words of advice now... "Don't judge me because I QUESTION differently than you."

We all have questions throughout the journey of mortality. That is simply part of agency, and an important tool in building our faith and making us truly converted. Sometimes our questions are deeply personal, private struggles. And sometimes there is a community of our brothers and sisters struggling with the same question.

Those questioning now deserve the same respect, support, and love that I deserved when I was struggling to reconcile my infertility with my understanding of my divine purpose as a woman, or when someone else struggles to understand the principle of tithing, or forgiveness, or with the temple, or to understand a story or principle in the scriptures or church history, etc. The questions may be different, but the way the person questioning should be treated is not.

President Monson's words today about love touched me deeply. "Love is the very essence of our gospel and Jesus Christ is our exemplar." As disciples of Him and members of His church, we should always strive to love as He would. We know that He would love those who question or struggle, because He lived that way. He would not accuse, or judge, or belittle. And He would certainly never tell that person they didn't belong in His church. He left the 99 to find the 1. He wept with those who mourned. He extended compassion to those who doubted. He forgave those who sinned.

He needs us to do the same now. We have been commanded to love one another, even those—especially those—that may question differently than we do.

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