Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Obama's Amazing Speech Supporting Moms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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