Sunday, November 19, 2017

Emblems and Seers (Febrile Draft I)

When I describe the priesthood structure on earth as I see it, I am often asked why women can't be ordained to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, too. Besides these offices being beneath them, I think the most compelling answer is that the emblems of those priesthoods are reserved for men because they need them, and woman's seership is meant to compliment and even ratify that interaction. Put another way, asking that question is like wondering why a temple sealer cannot be the groom, as well.

Let me try to explain... (As I mount a fever and type deliriously.)

Adam, having lost his memory of the pre-mortal existence and not having undergone a previous endowment, is sojourning through this mortal journey like a little child. --Actually, more like a little near-sighted bunny. When something important comes up, he can only be alerted through an emblem, something akin to size 72 Impact font. Emblems are meant to signify important concepts and even warn about the future. An example of this is the bread and water of the sacrament. Satan is aware of this setup and routinely attempts to distract with his own constructed emblems. Eve is a seer; to "see" does not only mean she can recognize important tokens, signs, and emblems (in all their sizes), to "see" means revealing the truth about these symbols and teaching Adam which ones to accept or reject. When Adam heeds her inspired guidance they can progress together.

To decipher objects with one's eyes is, of course, not the only sense with which Adam is equipped. He, like Eve, has always had the power to hear the call of God. There will be times when Adam must act without a visible emblem in front of him, solely relying on His still small voice. At these times, Eve is expected to set aside her seership and trust in this process. When I think about this, it reminds me of when medical students are training to use their stethoscopes to detect murmurs. We have bedside ultrasounds now that can display the actual valve in question and reveal defects when suspected, but we continue to emphasize independent auscultation because these sophisticated measures may not always be there. Moreover, ultrasound imaging requires interpreting skills that not everyone has. When a medical student reports having heard a murmur I want to believe them, but as this affects patient care I also look in the chart to see if the cardiologist confirms this finding. I do not go back on rounds with my ultrasound machine. In such a case, hearkening auscultation suffices.

Am I losing you? Sorry for going off on a tangent, let's try to make this clearer with visuals... (See what I did there?)

Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on la Grande Jatte

The top image shows what, on a good day, "Adam" or man can see. The painting represents a priesthood ordinance with its visually appealing emblems. (I have seen this painting in real life at the Art Institute of Chicago, it is HUGE.) The bottom row shows details representing what "Eve" or woman can tell the man about what all is happening in front of them. For the sake of this analogy, the woman also happens to remember the context in which this painting (emblem) was created and provide her insight. If she says it's a collection of dots and there's a tiny monkey in the  mix, the man has choices: Reject the insight, trust it, and/or train his eyes to see what she sees.

The pinnacle of this sight/seer relationship comes when a man reverently and faithfully handles and cares for the emblems given to him as part of his priesthood duties and, woman, on the errand of angels, can appear to him in divine form with heavenly wisdom. When that happens, he can see what she sees as though his eyes are opened. He is able to fully understand what the emblems signify and has power to prophesy, which makes him joyful and her glad (see Moses 5).

This arrangement only works when men perform priesthood rituals AND petition their wives to interpret for them. It's that last bit that seems to be lacking today, which is why, when asked "why [do] men have the priesthood and not women?" men typically answer they do not know, save the Lord commanded it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Proclamation: A Bait and Switch for This Convert

When I joined the church, the reasons new converts gave for their conversion sounded like this most of the time:

  • I know the Book of Mormon is true
  • I have a testimony of The Restoration
  • Joseph Smith was a Prophet
  • This Church has priesthood authority

When Prop 22 rolled out in California, there was a renewed focus on The Proclamation, and I started to hear these reasons more and more:

  • I love my family
  • I love my boyfriend
  • I love my husband

Though not given as THE reason for adopting Mormonism, I have heard from convert men that the Church's strong stance against homosexuality through The Proclamation was definitely a draw for them. (Oddly enough, such commentary also paves the way for racist opining... Are these the recruits we want to shoulder the priesthood moving forward?) 

And while I don't have sound data on this, my personal observation has been this irony: With the Proclamation focusing on the heterosexuality of a marital union rather than the priesthood power to perform sealings, I have seen more marriages occur outside the temple (with sealings to follow in a year) than before its emphasis. 


Actual results for #lds


When I joined the Church, Instagram wasn't a thing (man, I'm getting old) but when we conjured up imagery of being a good Mormon it mostly centered on preaching the Gospel and helping others across the globe. Now when we seek #lds, #mormon we are bombarded with pictures of women looking "modest is hottest" in gender-traditional clothes and cute couple selfies. That's all correlation not causation, of course... But seeing as the Book of Mormon (written for our time) says next to nothing about marriage, homosexuality, and looking #totescute you might begin to understand why I find this abrupt shift in priorities so alarming and make an association. 


WHERE IS THE CHURCH I JOINED?!

In Sunday school I would rather discuss the implications of, say, the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood or overcoming poverty, but instead we're talking about how it's Us against the World, and by marrying a man I really "defended the family." Defended how, from what, from whom?

With Utah as our canary in the Mormon coal mine, shouldn't its high(est) rates of sexual violence and child sexual abuse, pornography use, and its push for perfection through plastic surgery alongside sky-rocketing mental illness all be signs of where we should focus our talks on family values? My wearing lady-like skirts with lipstick and passively not being gay in accordance with The Proclamation doesn't add anything to over-coming these challenges. And while you might point out that document does contain condemnation of abuse, that has hardly been the focus of our discussions on it.

Moreover, if the point of belaboring The Proclamation is to remind homosexuals they do not fall into Gospel ideals, I would like to speak on their behalf and say they're already well-aware. Like, so much so we lose precious human beings to suicide routinely in our church.

INSPIRED?

In Elder Oak's talk yesterday he mentioned that it was important for us to know about the origins of The Proclamation. He happened to confirm what Chieko Okazaki had said, that this document about families was created without any insight from women. He then used indirect wording to describe The Proclamation's origins: "Language was proposed, reviewed, and revised," and "a proposed text was presented to the First Presidency," which is a missed opportunity to snuff out reports that The Proclamation was conceived in partnership with the law firm Kirton McConkie in anticipation of legal challenges to same-sex marriage. --A fight that was solidly lost here in the USA. 

Finally, Elder Oaks posits that embrace of The Proclamation is a measuring stick for converted Latter-day Saints. Given that this document is not canonized, never received by common consent, I was taken aback by this suggestion. It's true, I don't display this document in my home... But I keep the covenants I made when I joined the Church, which includes mourning with those who mourn the Gospel they once knew and recognized.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

#WhataProphetessLooksLike


Huldah was a prophet,
last one that we hear about


In the medical world there's a big push to represent women in the field. Too often people assume a woman couldn't possibly be a MD/DO and defer to calling her 'Miss,' instead. Part of the campaign to change these preconceptions is to show women doctors in their element and share that imagery on the internet under the hashtag #whatadoctorlookslike. (This also applies to doctors of color.)

A while back I posted about roles for women in the Church and I included prophetess among those. I had written a bit about this, but cut a chunk of it out and put it aside because the original post had gotten on the long side. I just came back to this and thought I should bring these ideas back to light with the theme #WhataProphetessLooksLike, because we are sorely lacking their representation today.

So here we go!

What Does Being a Prophetess Look Like?

Here are some examples:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his talk, Witnesses of Christ (1990) explained that Anna, a prophetess, had spiritual confirmation that Jesus is the Christ and thus had a "prophetic duty to testify to those around [her]." We can then envision her sharing her convictions with power and authority. Likewise, Mary, the mother of Jesus, shared bold revelations about what was to come into her life as she bore testimony as recorded in Luke.

Rebekah is an interesting case because she prophesied that it was Jacob, not Esau, who should receive the birthright, and she took matters into her own hands --even deceiving Isaac-- to make things so. Similarly, Elisabeth prophesied that her son would be named John, and she came to this conclusion independent of her husband. Keeping this pattern, Hannah knew to dedicate her son, and only child, to the Lord in His temple as he would later become a prophet. In all three cases, I believe it's important to note that when future generations hinge on foretold knowledge, it is woman's distinguished place to set things right.

In the temple account, Eve is contrasted to Adam in the garden as one who has a recollection of many things and has profound insights not afforded to someone who is starting out life from scratch. As a prophetess, she can easily discern who is of the Lord, and who is of the devil. She can warn Adam.
As an aside, I believe we often overlook the term "helpmeet." So often people think this means that Eve and her daughters have a duty to stand out of the way of the righteous "priesthood holder" while keeping things afloat with dinner ready and clothes washed. Such notions miss the point entirely. A helpmeet, as I see it, is like a tutor. And a tutor is someone who has already passed certain tests and can offer her knowledge accordingly. She is lifting up, not keeping up
In 2nd Kings and Chronicles, we also learn of Huldah, who is petitioned by the new King of Judah (Josiah) to clarify scripture. At this time, the covenant people had largely become ignorant to the things of God and so it came down to the prophethood of this one woman to get things back on track and foresee danger tied to not keeping the commandments. (Imagine if all women today thought of themselves as preservationists of truth and righteousness while they search the scriptures.)

During times of war, women like Deborah and the mothers of the two thousand stripling warriors could prophesy battle outcomes contingent upon faith. Today, we see men receiving priesthood blessings prior to deployment, but it is unclear to me how many receive prophetic counsel from their mothers, too.

OK, We Have Prophetesses, but What's the Point if No One Acknowledges Them?

Though we casually state that Mary was the first to see the risen Savior, we rarely reflect on the fact that she was charged with informing the Peter and the other disciples about this (see). In most depictions of this moment, we see Peter, James, and John hearing Mary's words and then racing to the tomb to see what's actually going on. It's as though her word means little, so what was the point of her heralding the occasion? And yet, could you imagine a woman today going up to the First Presidency and informing them about the Lord, and being in the right to do so? Having her revelation (which granted is not the same as prophecy, but in the same "presidential package," if you will) confirmed, too?

So often I feel that being female is like being able to see color while the rest of humanity is colorblind. Just because it's hard to explain what it is we're seeing, what it is we've been blessed with, doesn't mean the gift doesn't exist. The gift is, in fact, quite astounding. Now how do we get others to accept that?

I don't have that answer. But I do know what needs to get addressed first...

Can we, as a church, handle nuances? "Capital P versus little p" priesthood. The prophet, not prophetess. If I commend my friend Laura for being a righteous prophetess, will people know that I'm not trying to undermine Thomas S. Monson? Will others say we should be satisfied with being mothers in Zion and not "seek" for something more?

To me it seems that since 1830, Church efforts have been spent on restoring and preserving the priesthood structure. Now that it's settled and fortified, perhaps we can unwrap the untold story of women. I desire this word 'prophetess' to come back into our lexicon, not for the power is connotes, but for the potential it has to raise women from being in the shadows to having a divine role. In this, I believe, the family unit can be glorified with both Father and Mother ruling righteously as a presidency.



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cherubim and a Flaming Sword


So manly, right?

Having been raised Catholic I was exposed to imagery of Michael the Archangel and had in my mind his being the ultimate warrior. Recently, however, I came across this post about women being described in the Old Testament as 'ezer,' Hebrew for God-like power and oft used in military-speak according to the author. Given the elevated status granted women (as I propose) I began to wonder if a higher ranking in God's army applied here. too.

In case you're not familiar with it, here are the orders of angels from highest to lowest in the Christian tradition:

  1. Seraphim
  2. Cherubim
  3. Thrones
  4. Dominions
  5. Virtues
  6. Powers
  7. Principalities
  8. Archangels
  9. Angels

For some reason, I honed in on the order of Virtue. We associate women with virtue with great frequency. Yes, we talk about this in connection with chastity, but a virtuous woman is described as so much more than that in these precious verses: Proverbs 31:10-31.

This made me speculate that women previously fought in that great battle against Lucifer either at the level of a Virtue or were appointed to that title after having proved themselves strong and brave in the fight for good against evil.

If that's the case, I suggest the following, because you know I'm big on woman and man ascending up the orders of priesthood, tokens, and now angelic hierarchies together to return to the Celestial Kingdom:

  • With the Tree of Life under guard of cherubim, and supposing Eve represents Virtue and Adam comes from the archangel level, then the in-between or missing orders need to be filled in for exaltation to be complete. "Angel," I believe, is covered by saintly living here on earth as defined by LDS doctrine. That is to say that those who do the will of God may be considered angels. This leaves Thrones, Dominions, Powers, and Principalities. Those orders of the angels would need to be added to Adam and Eve through a priesthood that straddles heaven and earth in a binding ordinance. --If I'm on to something, that is.
  • Eve is closer to the Seraphim*, which are purportedly nearest to God. This, to me, would mean that at some point she will do as they do and teach Adam some or all of these ways as they travel upward. What we know from Isaiah chapter 6 is that Seraphim can fly, they cover their feet and faces, and call upon the Lord in repetitions of 3. They also cleanse lips with hot coal... Can't wait to try any and all of that sometime!
  • The cherubim seem mighty in their own right, I'm not sure they need a flaming sword. Are the cherubim meant for Eve and the sword for Adam? Maybe.

In closing, I can't help but think that perhaps the greatest gag played on humankind was getting us to think cherubs were rosey-cheeked babies when they were quite possibly Amazonian warrior babes who didn't mess. The worst gag, perhaps, is getting us to conflate virtue with female chastity as we do today.


*Makes me wonder if President Faust was holding back from titling his talk as, How Near to the Seraphim Angels.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Where in the World(s) is Heavenly Mother?


Feminists be like...

Irony is wanting to leave the Church because it doesn't reveal much about Heavenly Mother, and then realizing there's even less said about her outside of our religion. This problem creates a lot of frustrated feminist Mormons, and plenty of converts to paganism.

So what's the deal with Mother in Heaven? Where is she? What's she up to?

There's three big schools of thought on this:
  1. Shhhhhhhhhhh. We don't talk about she-who-shall-not-be-named.
  2. She's home with the spirit children while Daddy checks into work here on earth.
  3. Something else.
Let's entertain number 3 here, okay?

I have heard and read countless testimonials of outreach to Heavenly Mother and Her interactions in response. They're beautiful, touching, and of course real. 

Yet that isn't enough for many of us. Countless church members want to hear more about Her on Sundays. They want Her included in talks and prayers. 

If the question is should Heavenly Mother receive more acknowledgement at church, then the answer is an easy yes, in my opinion. (Who else recites, "We are daughters of our Heavenly Parents, who love us and we love them...?")

But if we as women are waiting for acknowledgement and further light about Mother from The Brethren, that makes about as much sense as asking Boyd K. Packer how to insert a tampon.

(Oh yes, I did just say that.) 

Because, dear sisters (and dudes who read this blog) the errand of angels is given to women, and part of that calling is to know Her and share Her goodness with others. We can do this in abstract ways, like giving glimpses of what She must be like as we render service to others. Or we can disclose information about our relationship to our Mother in sacred spaces.

Why did I take this in the direction of being a private matter? Because if I learned anything from the temple it's that knowledge regarding female divinity needs to be worked for, not casually received. There's implied intimacy and in many ways a parallel to a mother's birth story. 

There's also a neat challenge to be like Eliza R. Snow who inserted a pearl about Mother in a hymn titled "O My Father," which is sung my men, women, and children alike. To me this strikes the perfect balance of treating our Eternal Priestess and Queen with respect, while reminding others that women are the purveyors of Her love for us. 

SUMMARY OF MY (Current) BELIEFS RE: Women and the Priesthood

This blog has been something of a spiritual journal for me. My thoughts continue to evolve and if I totally change my mind about something I'll go back to edit it, but if something is incomplete I will leave it be and fill it in during a new blog post as it comes to mind. In this way I can track my progress while keeping my message consistent.

I've written a lot. I recently checked my "blog stats," and it looks like other people have read a lot, too. What that tells me is not that I'm super special or anything, but that people (mostly women) are looking for commentary that is neither extreme nor wishy-washy. Unfortunately, most of what is written in the "bloggernacle" makes Latter-day Saints choose between:

  1. Thoughtless obedience. To question is to sin!
  2. Critical discourse that is not faith-promoting

If my personal experiences and thoughts offer a breath of fresh Mormon air, I'm happy to supply it. Thank you for being here!

With that, I'd like to summarize where I'm at on some major points of complexity and debate regarding women and priesthood. I'll do this Q&A style since I'm often asked about these topics:

Motherhood is our equivalent to priesthood, right?
Nope. Fatherhood is to motherhood as priesthood is to priestess-hood. 

Do you think women have the priesthood? Yes or no, don't tell me it's complicated!
Yes, but it is complicated.

Okay fine, tell me more...
We need to make distinctions here. Are we talking priesthood power? Or priesthood authority? Is this in reference to the Melchizedek Priesthood, Aaronic Priesthood, or the order of the Patriarchal Priesthood?

Say what?
According to me, women came to earth with power derived from the Patriarchal Priesthood. They were endowed prior to birth. The temple endowment for women is a further endowment. The only place where this priesthood is used openly is in the temple, and even there not at all times and in all places. 

The vast majority of what takes place on this fallen earth is on the order of the Melchizedek and Aaronic (M&A) priesthoods. While women have access to the greater power, they do not have the same authority here as men. When men use their keys to set women apart in their callings, they open the doors to the offices of the M&A priesthoods and in them women receive priesthood authority to act. 

So these feminists need to shut their pie holes, right? They just don't get it. Everything is fine. 
No, I don't agree with that statement. The accusation that those who struggle with our sex-determined priesthood administration (i.e. males do this; females do that) simply need to "understand the priesthood better," is unfortunate. I very much agree with the feminist observation that conditions could and need to be improved for Mormon women, and it's more than likely that not all limitations on women's power is divinely inspired. Moreover, I've noticed that the ones loudly exhorting women to "go back and read the scriptures" tend be the ones who need to follow their own advice.

Are you saying you know more than the General Authorities?
Listen, I sustain our leaders. I believe they are called of God. The Prophet is the Lord's mouthpiece for His church. All that being said they are, after all, men. To me that means they are subject to error like anyone else, which places a responsibility on all of us to contemplate their words and seek confirmation or further light on the matter. Moreover, I'm willing to bet that even President Thomas S. Monson would agree I know more about what it means to be a daughter of God and have a better understanding of the bonds of sisterhood than he does. Insight into divine femininity, in my opinion, will always favor women. If that's anathema I apologize sincerely.

How do you navigate that view of the Church?
Like anyone else I "search, ponder, and pray."

How do you implement your views in the day-to-day?
I don't defer to my husband in all things. We follow a cooperative paradigm as equals. This whole "head of the household" thing goes in one ear and out the other as we're a co-presidency, and I feel great about that. He gives me insight about Father, and I give him insights about our Parents. Joseph Smith's teaching that for women to give blessings "there could be no evil in it" is taken to heart. Instead of looking to the brethren to validate my spiritual experiences (which will surely lead to frustration), I claim my inheritance as a daughter of God and approach church differently. I expound the scriptures in our Sunday classes and do not hesitate in exhorting men to correct their words and dealings regarding power and authority (see D&C25:3,7). I recognize that men are doing us a service by officiating in the lowest offices of the priesthood (e.g. bishop) and I thank them for it. I teach my daughter that her roles in life and in The Church do not center on those milestones which are "puberty-dependent." I use my feminine seership to point out tokens and signs that would otherwise go unnoticed by my brothers. 

From where do you get your insights?
I go to the temple with a prayer in my heart and a question in my mind. I pay attention to the resulting insights and then study them in the scriptures and pray some more. 

Are you selling a belief system and looking for disciples?
I have at every step of the way said these opinions are my own and people should follow Christ, not me. Also, "Monique-ites" has no flow to it. :)