Friday, June 16, 2017

Orientation

This week has been all about the employee on-boarding process. The hiring department requested a list of my vaccinations and I was informed I could receive whatever injections were deficient in my case (none, thankfully). I was also reminded of which online training modules were still pending completion. Once I have everything I need, I will be able to walk through the doors of my hospital as a full-fledged employee and have a sense of belonging.

Had I shown up and been asked to repeat my already completed courses, or re-inject my vaccines I would have been confused. Instead the orientation process is, thankfully, only about getting me what I need to move forward. The temple is the same way.

Think about it. Wouldn't it be weird if in the temple we repeated our own baptism and confirmation? If that happened we would likely ask ourselves why we were doing them over. We might even ask ourselves if our first baptism and confirmation had been invalid or incomplete.

And yet so often we go to the temple expecting its rituals to represent and/or recreate our entire life's experience. Besides that being a false standard, it sets us up for despair when what remains needed for completion is different between men and women. --Just imagine if during employee orientation we felt someone else was already the stand-out or favored one because he was given several booster shots, a chest X-ray, and many more training modules. That would definitely be the wrong interpretation, even the opposite conclusion as one could easily argue that employee was way behind his counterpart(s).

Below I have created a table of the "series" of gifts bestowed in and out of the temple. I think it serves to highlight the dichotomy between the sexes that would make holding the temple ordinances as all-encompassing to be misguided:



With this in mind, I wish to discuss an insight I had recently. Well, several insights, actually. The first continues with the theme of re-envisioning the temple's functionality.




In the above diagram I'm showing my current interpretation of priesthood power(s). When I think of them, I like to imagine literal offices in a building. In blue we see the "Melchizedek," written in quotes because this is a name given to avoid the overuse of the name of the Lord. (The Aaronic priesthood is not a separate entity and is thus shown as an appendage.) Above the blue building is the yellow skyscraper with its ever-growing levels of glory. This represents the Patriarchal Order of priesthood. Though "patriarchy" conjures up male-only imagery, I have concluded that this actually equates to "of the family." It is in this category that the definition of God means male AND female. The green section depicts the highest office in the Melchizedek priesthood, which overlaps with the Patriarchal Order, and can currently be accessed only in the temple setting.




Since the part in blue represents the power of Christ, and the yellow section is the only place where female divinity exists in its fullness, we see God the Son as being the link between the two as represented above.



Going back to the "building" diagram, I think it important to add the component of keys as represented here by the asterisks (*). They open up the doors to each office on its respective level in the priesthood. I have also added stairs to the highest level of the Melchizedek priesthood to signify an ascent to a higher order within it where another, final door remains.  Along these lines, Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk once using a parable about keys and vaults. He seems to be touching upon the Patriarchal Order when he describes a man and woman turning their keys at the same time to inherit their greatest treasure (shown in my diagram by the door on the left with two asterisks). He adds that woman shouldn't be troubled that man has two keys when she only has one... And to that I say "absolutely!," especially since I offer that that second key was *received* by man from woman. Yes, his greatest power depends on her.

Also, I have added "House of Israel" and "Many Mansions" to describe the extent of each building. If woman is coming to earth from royal birth (so regal you must stand when she enters the room) she is, among many things, not lacking in inheritance when it comes to real estate. In contrast, man has a single, relatively modest house. To meet in the middle (green section), she must be appointed (read: anointed) to his humble abode and he gets to be written into her will. Talk about the guy marrying up!

(It's worth pausing here to recall the start of this epic post where I point out that if one were to take this exchange at face value and no context, it would look really unfair towards the woman.)

I had always known to think of Jesus Christ as the intermediary, but seeing Woman hold both keys to the final door leading to the Patriarchal Order got me to see her in that in-between role, as well. Her role in that position stems from the fact that God the Father (and Mother) is too holy to deal directly with man (His greatness being like a fire would consume him). And Jehovah, before being born to an earthly mother, was too holy to be in contact with earthly man (a natural enemy to God). This is where Eve comes in. For how near to the angels is woman! She is the cherub who can act upon Adam as she is under the direction of Jehovah who is under the direction of God.



Above I have drawn what I like to call "The Glove of God." It's a symbolic representation of how I see God dealing with man on earth.  In The Creation he is forming man through the protective inner layer of Jehovah, who is covered by the outer lining provided by Eve. What characteristic allows Eve to be in contact with both Heaven and Earth? You can find that answer in the temple. But if you're not in a place for that, consider the evidence of this Heaven-Female-Earth dynamic right before our eyes. A pregnant woman, for example, straddles both Heaven and earth as she creates a person somewhere in-between. She then births a child who, if taken before the age of accountability, has a spirit worthy of returning to God. How near to the angels, indeed.

(At this point I would like to point out that Eve is not Adam's mother, but did take part in his creation which in one sense, does make her the mother of all living.)

Analogies are never perfect when it comes to things divine, and in this case the limitation is that this imagery of the glove makes it seem like Jesus and Eve are objects being acted upon. That is not the case. This is meant to show the harmony, even fluidity of their doing the Father's will. I cannot, however, say in Eve's case that she is exercising full agency as she has not yet obtained knowledge regarding good versus evil at the point of The Creation.

When Eve finally does obtain knowledge, it is through transgression and the protective barrier is essentially rent in twain. I show in the middle image the break in Eve and even Jesus Christ who must eventually take upon Him our sins. Absent here is God the Father who cannot be among man in this fallen state for reasons mentioned above.

To recreate the protective barrier, Jesus Christ is born of woman and creates a cross-link (pun not intended, but boy does it work) which allows Adam and Eve to interact with God the Father again.



If we zoom in, we see that Adam has a much closer connection to both Jesus Christ (represented in yellow) and God the Father (not shown under the arch) after The Fall. I posit that this is through the Melchizedek Priesthood. In order to complete the arch, Eve (represented in gray) now has this one area where she needs to work through her husband, Adam, only when he submits to the hand of God.

Thus we see how one mundane experience in life coupled with some faith can lead to all sorts of thoughts and insights in the temple. I'm very excited to go back and ponder on this some more, and feel compelled to again remind any and all readers that this is the gospel according to Monique.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Gaining Knowledge


The tokens and signs of life


I have devised in my mind a new and expansive way of looking at how we obtain knowledge and I want to get my thoughts down here. It centers on our earthly experience being like a large puzzle, where...




  • Token = Starting puzzle piece
  • Sign = Complementary piece
  • Holy Ghost = The glue that binds and seals the pieces together


The puzzle is MUCH easier to complete with the whole picture

  • Prophecy = Knowing which piece(s) fit together, able to envision a large section of the puzzle
  • Seership = Being able to see the puzzle box, which has the entire design on display. (This is the greatest gift.)

Other applications for this analogy:
  • Faith = Holding on to the token and looking for the sign 
  • Hope = Knowing that the shapeless glob in front of you will work out into something grand
  • Charity = Patience to continue piecing the puzzle together, with love and dedication

This probably seems very simplistic, even juvenile, but I feel that this elucidates many great and profound principles we don't often speak about at church on Sundays. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

If You Buy a One-way Ticket...

... You know you ain't coming back.

I know a woman who loved a great man. She made sacred covenants indicating that their love would sustain them through good times and bad times. In front of her groom, their families, and God she vowed to remain true and faithful until her death.

She didn’t even make it to two years.

At some point she felt she had made a mistake. The man hadn’t changed, but the seriousness and expansiveness of what she agreed to had become clearer in her mind. In the classic “it’s not you; it’s me” move, she left their home to stay with friends, and gave little warning. These friends of hers hardly knew her husband. Some of them began to project their own dissatisfaction with previous relationships. As the woman began expressing her doubts about the marriage they encouraged her to “be herself,” “find her truth” and of course “follow her heart.” She would admit that there had been another man who made her wonder, “What if?” They applauded.

The entire time she was separated, neither the man nor the woman would pretend that this was going to end with an intact marriage.  The writing was on the wall. Divorce was the obvious endpoint. That’s not to say the man didn’t try to make things work. He suggested counseling, coming together with the support of their close friends (the ones who witnessed their vows and loved them both), and reviewing the things that made her fall in love with him. These attempts were rebuffed under the banner of, “I’m finding myself.”

Yet as clear as it was that their separation spelled doom, we overlook such obviousness when members of the Church announce they’re stepping away and claim there’s no need for alarm, and that it’s possible they will be restored to it.

That is some high-level BS.

Crises happen. In marriage and in spiritual matters. I understand that. 

If you’re gay, black, female or –goodness-gracious– all of the above, I especially get why you’d feel uncomfortable in the Church setting and would perhaps want to seek shelter somewhere else.


Let’s not pretend that working things out in your mind without faith, while listening to naysayers, and fantasizing about other prospects is going to keep your covenants intact.

Just don’t.

Put it on my mama when I tell you that that approach spells apostasy, which is divorce from the Restored Gospel.

Now some of you might be incredulous at this point. “Monique, who is putting both feet out the door and acting like they’ll be back?”

Convert-bias alert: Lifers, that’s who.

“But you don’t understand!” They say. "I was too young to know what I was doing when I got baptized. No one told me about seer stones/ Fanny Alger/Mountain Meadows/blacks and the priesthood/…” and whatever else isn’t pretty abut Church history. “This is MY time to investigate for MYSELF.”

(Apparently it’s also a time to try psychedelic mushrooms and polyamory, but that’s none of my business.*)

Go on ahead and investigate then, but don’t act like your “journey” is going to end in LDS pews when your greatest source of knowledge is the internet.

We all know that if you want to keep the flame of faith and love alive you can’t move out of your spiritual home. You have to fight the good fight within it. Your position can’t be skepticism, it must be one of hope. Yes, you must “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”

And for the love of all that is good on this earth, don’t be so quick to dismiss Jesus! At one point you knew with certainty that He saved your soul from hell. That He suffered every pain and died for you. Perhaps this is where my “Catholic guilt” upbringing reveals itself, but damn, the next time I hear, “I still believe Jesus was a good person,” I’m going to question your sense of loyalty.

Ironically, I can speak to this process as a convert (one who left her religion and found a new one). When my faith in Catholicism was shaken, I fought tooth and nail to remain in my church because I had made sacramental vows to believe in it. I acted by taking secular classes about the medieval church in addition to ecumenical courses from priests. I taught catechism. I began reading The Catholic Bible. One night I wanted my faith confirmed by the Holy Ghost so I prayed about it. I asked to find an answer in scripture and purposely selected out of the Apocrypha so as to up the ante that my response would be uniquely Catholic. Instead, I was directed to a chapter in Tobit which described the apostasy and the building up of a restored gospel and temple. That direct and obvious sign** from God was the one and only way I could take those first steps towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It comes down to integrity. I can say that I fought the good fight for my (Catholic) covenants, that I wasn’t quick to question or break my vows. I can tell my children that while giving up on Jesus would have silenced all the buzzing noise in my head (giving me a silence easily mistaken for peace), I clung to Him because I love Him. And it’s that same love I offer them, a love they can always rely on.

So yeah, (spiritual) divorces happen all the time. Many of them for good reasons. But the point of this long-winded post is to pay attention to the process. If you come to me and say you have wrestled with angels and are weary, I will offer to carry you. If you decline that offer, I will walk alongside you as we take separate, but parallel roads. But come to me and say peace = release, divinity = what makes you feel good, and inspiration from such-n-such webpage > Holy Ghost, then we’re going to have a problem. Because after so many experiences like this, I’m fresh out of my ability to pretend neither one of us knew how this was going to end. And goodness knows I lack the patience of the Bridgegroom who, in contrast to you, will never abandon you.

*I wish I were joking.
** blessed are they who are moved by the still small voice

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

He Presides... With Equality?

Today I asked on an open forum (to LDS and non-LDS alike) if  one person is assigned to preside can there be equality in a two person relationship? Equality being defined as the quality or state of being equal : the quality or state of having the same rights, social status, etc. I was looking for logic, a study of semantics, and anything but mental gymnastics.

I'll spare you the subsequent discussion, but from it I came to the following conclusion and observations:

IF this relationship is to work there appears to be 3 possibilities:

  1. Equality achieved so long as partners take turns with authority
  2. "Preside" needs to be redefined
  3.  "Equality" needs to be tossed out and replaced with something else, something like "functional," or "efficient"
Interestingly, only from the straight white male commentators came the suggestion that "equality" needs to be redefined. I'm just going to leave that there...

I'd like to dive into the second option here. 

Already we have seen an evolution of terms defining men's authority from God. First we were told Adam would "rule" over Eve (Genesis 3:16). Later, we've been reassured (by President Kimball) this word means to "preside." Preside itself is defined as: To be in charge of something. The intransitive verb means "exercising guidance, direction, or control." In one of my many lessons on The Proclamation I was told it is a man's duty to do the "3Ps," Preside, Provide, and Protect. (Women have the letter N, for nurture.) I think it's worth examining each of these Ps individually as their differences may further elucidate what our expectations are within a male-female union. 

Preside: Many Latter-day saints take this to mean the husband is the head of the house. He is the ultimate authority, and so on. My brother-in-law, much to my pleasant surprise, noted that this thinking comes from the letters of Paul, which uses imagery that is meant to be "descriptive NOT prescriptive." In other words, when Paul describes the man as being in charge, he is using standards for a relationship with which his audience would be familiar at that time in order to paint a picture. He was not, however, endorsing this setup as a fixed principle. If it were not so, if Paul's words are to be taken as prescriptive, then in the very next chapter (Ephesians 6) would any of us argue servants/slaves today should still serve their masters "with fear and trembling"? I doubt it. 

Whether or not you agree with this interpretation of Paul, it stands to reason that one cannot call two people equal when one is at the top and the other is beneath. Instead, as I have earlier suggested, I believe we call upon words like "submit" and "sustain" when referencing women because they are coming from a higher realm (pre-mortally) and must condescend (enter a less dignified level, waive privileges of rank) to function in the lower offices of man's earthly priesthood. With this arrangement, presiding takes on the meaning of maintenance. Even in the janitorial sense. Man, as a presider, is charged with the upkeep of the offices of the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods. He is to ensure the doors are open, authority is granted to work within them, and all members of his family have obtained the proper ordinances therein. Anything beyond this would seem (to me) out of the bounds of what God had intended. 

Provide: I was told this specifically means men are to make the money. That they are to toil and sweat in the fields as a result of The Fall. As it stands, my husband does work to provide for our family, but right now he's sitting on a cushioned desk chair in an air conditioned office in front of a fancy computer screen. He is hardly dying to get bread on the table. How come he gets to be exempt from the repercussions of The Fall while so many other people are sweating it out in the fields? And what about those scenarios where dad stays home with the kids and mom has a career? Are those couples frustrating gospel truths?

Again, I think we need to update our interpretations of these expectations. If you ask me (and this is my blog), providing means doing all that you can within your power to meet the needs of your individual family unit. This often involves anticipating the needs of others and preparing for hardships as we can no longer count on life being a breeze. Women are charged with this expectation, too, but I think it needs to be said specifically to men who naturally think in "I" terms over "we" (see Moses 5:10).

Protect: Many will tell you that because men have physiological advantages over women, protection is limited to muscle power over would-be threats. While there is something really hot about that imagery, I think there's more it than that. 

Lately I've been going back to this concept of the temple endowment being a further endowment for women, and that would imply they were given key tokens and signs prior to coming to earth. We know that when Lucifer fell, he took a third of the host of heaven with him, and I would imagine women were in that number. Is it possible or even likely that these fallen females shared with Satan the key words and tokens given to them premortally? The more I think about it, the more I believe it. To me, this would explain how certain phrases and images (tokens, signs) seemed to confirm to Eve that she could trust Satan in the garden. Because she was the first to eat the fruit and that setup was, essentially: the right message; wrong messenger, the solution was for Adam to offer protection as one not vulnerable to this specific type of attack. He must stand between the Adversary and Eve. 

How does that protection work? I believe not every name/sign/token was given prior to Lucifer's exit. I think some key pieces were administered at the veil of mortality to woman (preparing her for life on earth) and away from Satan's eyes and ears. Once a husband acknowledges that power within his wife, he will safeguard her by doing all he can to keep the Spirit in their environment. When temptation is placed before him he will consult with her to gather strength and push it away. He will pray continually for both their sake and sacrifice to obtain the blessings of peace in their home. 

Another possibility, when Satan observes man and woman, he knows the latter can see him perfectly, he is unable to make a surprise attack. Man is more likely to appear like a fledgling calf, just getting its eyesight. It then seems that while woman would be a prize catch, man is the easy hunt, which runs counter to what we would look towards for protection. Yet perhaps man is meant to be the decoy, and we are counting on him to sprint away unharmed. Those who condition themselves for the race against capture do so by making and keeping priesthood covenants; pride, abuse, greed, and lust make for spiritual carcasses on the field.

Closing thoughts:
With each of these terms and definitions I have arrived at conclusions that are guaranteed to be counter to what most LDS people are thinking on this subject. Some women love putting their man in charge as head of the house. They have a spirit of deference, which frankly I don't have (but would make my life a lot easier, let's face it). I've used this space to gather ideas and clarify thoughts that help me in my situation. I need to reconcile my insights from the temple with the cooperative paradigm of equal partners I'm shooting for in marriage. In other words, this is how Monique strengthens home and family. 

An Open Letter Regarding "The Policy"

To whom it may concern,

I am submitting this letter of appeal as a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a mother, and a child of God. No doubt you have received countless other messages from concerned Latter-day Saints and members of the community since the announcement of new policies regarding the children of same-gender unions. I imagine not all of them are kind and supportive. It is my prayer, however, that this one will leave a good impression because it comes from the heart and it is filled with hope.

To paraphrase Nephi, I know God loves his children, but I don’t know the meaning of all things (1Nephi 11:17). Such were my thoughts on November 5th 2015, when I learned of changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions that would bar certain children from receiving a name and a blessing, and prevent them receiving the ordinances of salvation without additional approval. My heart ached for those children. The image of an innocent baby being turned away from a circle of love brought tears to my eyes. Since then I have pondered much and wrestled with the Spirit. I also did my research. My mind now understands, or at least supposes, that these changes came about as a response to the recent expansion of legal marriage to same-gender couples in the United States of America, with the goal to prevent official recognition of gay unions on record, and to make clear our stance that marriage between man and woman is God’s unchanging standard. The timing and method used to reach those goals, I don’t expect to understand, nor is that important to me at this moment.

What is critical, and the reason I felt compelled to write this letter, is to address an unintended offense created in the new policies. Namely, the turning away of babies from the naming and blessing ordinance. As I have just stated that I understand the likely purpose of the new changes to the Handbook, perhaps my returning to this issue is puzzling at this point. To clarify, I should start by explaining that this is the one restriction I suspect is unnecessary, especially as it is not an ordinance of salvation and does not demand the prior existence of the parents’ membership. In fact, by clearly stating those in same-gender relationships are apostate –thereby valid membership is removed–  this would mean that their child would require parental consent prior to the giving of a name and blessing in the Church, thus negating the concern that following up on this child of record would be awkward or cause tension in the family as it has already been addressed.

With all that in mind, I can proceed to discuss something that is most sacred to me. As a daughter of God, I have taken to heart the knowledge that I came to earth with gifts not found in common with men, even pre-mortal endowments. I have returned to the temple regularly to lift the veil of my remembrance of these experiences and have had many profound moments, but none as sobering as when a pre-mortal token was violated. I regret to inform you that this is what I experienced when I envisioned the child being turned away from the blessing circle.  Though not intended, such imagery mocks divine motherhood, which centers on cloistering the children of men. And I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. Each woman I’ve spoken to, when first learning how the aforementioned policies affect the children, has described a heaviness in her heart. Even those not of our faith can feel it, and I believe that is explained by our shared instruction prior to this existence. We know, at least inherently, that turning away the newborn child is contrary to the emblem of the hen gathering the chicks beneath her wings. To expand that description further would be to go beyond the limits of this medium. But I can tell you that to uphold the barring of babies from a blessing in the Church, whatever their life circumstances may be, would put me at odds with holy covenants I made as a woman prior to coming to this earth. I simply cannot bear to be in this position. Please reconsider this aspect of the new policies so as to free me and my sisters from this predicament.

I add that, moving forward, proclamations and declarations regarding the family unit on earth would gather more strength and power if brought to light through the unity of both men and women. I am by no means vying for ordination of the sisters in the church, but rather a cooperative paradigm at moments like this, which echoes the truth that it is not good for man to act alone (Gen 2:18). The Church is edified and Satan rebuked when the daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam proceed together in the world. In the future, could not the brethren making these expansive changes consult with righteous women for the greatest outcome? (If I’m mistaken in concluding that this decision-making was without female input, then please forgive me.)

Finally, I leave you my testimony that I know this Church is true, it is led by a living prophet, and was restored in these days to bless the earth and bring His children unto Christ. It is because I care that I have expounded this things in appeal, as a wife does for her husband (and vice versa), in love and with concern. Please consider the things I have shared. Pray and ponder them for yourself, knowing that I have written this in charity.

Yours in Christ,

Sister Monique _____


That Time I Said the Word 'Ovaries' from the Pulpit

This is a talk I gave at church that manages to merge charity and gender equality, in the Sabbath setting:

Good morning brothers and sisters,


I was initially assigned to speak on Moses 1:39, which reads: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This verse quotes God as He reveals Himself to Moses, who is transfigured to withstand His presence. And that is what I wrote my talk on before I realized I would be out of town the weekend for which I had been scheduled to speak. I asked if I could be switched to this Sunday and obviously that worked out, but I was then told I should try to fold in today’s theme of the Sabbath. It was back to the drawing board: Moses 1:39 and the Sabbath day, how do I combine the two? I wasn’t sure I could do it until I had pondered much, took it to prayer, and reflected on recent experiences I’d had.


I returned to Moses 1:39 with new eyes. What stood out to me about it was that God’s greatest work centered on the individual. The life of Christ on earth echoes this fact. On the Sabbath day, we read in Matthew Chapter 12 that Christ went about teaching in the synagogue –lessons that I’m sure were tailored to his audience– and healed the sick one by one. We know that we are to follow this example and, that each of us is here today, is proof that we’re trying.


So today I’d like to speak to you about consecrating your Sabbath day for 1) an improved Church experience, 2) that we might heal the sick, and 3) reclaim individual worth.


Before I go any further, I want to make sure to define some terms starting with Immortality and Eternal Life. Immortality is a free gift given to every mortal born on earth. When Christ died and was resurrected, this is what He gave all of us. Eternal life is perfection in Jesus, which allows us to live with God again. The Sabbath, as I’m sure you know, is a day given to mankind to commemorate the day of rest at the Creation, put away our cares of the world, and focus on God.


Now let me take you through a day in the life of the Sabbath as it focuses on progressing towards eternal life:


1) IMPROVED CHURCH EXPERIENCE
It’s Sunday morning and you’d like to sleep in, but you know you have church to attend. Isn’t this supposed to be a day of rest? Funny enough, in that same chapter (Matthew 12), even Christ “walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth NONE (emphasis added).” As you can see, we’re in good company.


So you get yourself together, and any other members of your household, read your scriptures, and come here hoping to make it on time for the sacrament. What better opportunity during the week to focus on Moses 1:39? To remember that He suffered, bled, and died for us that we might return to live with our Father in Heaven. This is also a time to remember what we’ve covenanted, OR what we promise TO COVENANT, at this stage in our lives. Baptism brings with it a charge to bear each other’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn,  and comfort others that we may be filled with the Holy Ghost and obtain that great glory, eternal life. We should reflect on these promises during the sacrament, and carry those thoughts with us to Sunday school.


Now we’re in the second hour of church, the classroom setting. The Bible provides several examples of Christ’s exemplary teaching, which pulls from parables and relies on the Spirit to deliver His message. There are also great examples of the disciples asking good, earnest questions. Then there are the Pharisees. Why do we read so much about them and what they do on the Sabbath day? I believe they provide cautionary tales of how NOT to spend your Sundays, of how one might frustrate God’s work on the earth.  This is worth exploring.


Starting with some background: The Pharisees are a subset of the Jews, or covenant people, during Christ’s time on earth. They pride themselves on their knowledge of the scriptures, tout their lineage, and love the letter the law. They were also xenophobic, not willing to have contact with non-Jews. --Which was, of course, a tricky matter as Roman rule had arrived.  On Sundays, I like to play Bible Videos for my children and in them the Pharisees are typically portrayed as large, prominent, and menacing men who would love nothing more than to trap the Savior in a contradiction to His authority. While my heart goes out to Jesus for having to put up with that, reflecting on Moses 1:39 I am reminded that the work of God WILL roll forth to all lands and all people regardless of what the Pharisees try and do. This makes them look pathetic. Taken in context, I see that their world is changing, power is shifting, and even the scriptures foretell their eventual fall from grace. I can see they’re scared. They’re afraid of the son of a carpenter, a young man, born in a stable to a migrant family. That says a lot. For it appears their words and actions are reactionary (key point: reactionary). And THAT is a trap we ourselves must avoid.


So how do we prevent being as the Pharisees at church? How do we check our insecurities, our hang-ups, at the door that we might cultivate goodness? Ever since President Uchtdorf gave his now popular talk, ‘The Merciful Obtain Mercy,’ otherwise known as the ‘STOP IT’ talk, I’ve given much thought to this. If we are to sustain God’s work and glory, which yearns to bring ALL of us home to heaven, then as President Uchtdorf states: “We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.” It’s really that simple. In my own case, I’ve found if I think to comment on something in class and it requires a comparison –ANY COMPARISON– it’s going to fall flat, it’s going to shoo away the Spirit. So yes, I’m trying to stop that.


2) HEALING THE SICK
This is a matter near to my heart. Today, as in all times, there are many who are afflicted physically, emotionally, and spiritually including among us.


With respect to spiritual suffering, how do we begin to heal those wounds? This question perhaps brings us to that time between classes or right after the third hour when we’re mingling with people in the hallway. What can we do during such times to alleviate spiritual suffering? Let me warn you that one way NOT to behave is what I’ve observed to be a “Hunger Games” approach to the Gospel. Mind you, I have not seen an episode of this show, but from what I gather it has to do with survival of the fittest, last man standing wins… Let me be clear, caring only about yourself in your journey towards eternal life while others lie wounded along the road is a sure way to bring down God’s contempt. And we know this, because that’s what, in effect, the tale of the Good Samaritan is about. What’s telling is that in that story, it’s a Levite who’s down and his fellow church members pass him by. It takes a Samaritan, one of the “undesirables” in society, to extend charity, or the love of Christ. Returning to Moses 1:39, if God’s greatest work and glory is our immortality and eternal life, then I suspect standing by idle as one falls away is the opposite of that. What Christ wants, what He demands of us, is that we do NOT dismiss those who are struggling. President Uchtdorf again spoke about this in the October 2013 conference:


“One might ask, ‘If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?’ Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.”
Let us not be the one to add to that struggle! If you see someone having a hard time, may I suggest telling them you’re glad they came or if you noticed their spouse hasn’t been to church in some time, tell them they’re missed and ask if it’s okay to pay a friendly visit. Do something, and do it with genuine love.


3) INDIVIDUAL WORTH
Now you’re home, you’re trying to teach your children the Gospel or perhaps this is part of your calling. I didn’t grow up in the Church so I rely heavily on others’ examples as to how to do this.
Someone I love and respect has a ten year old daughter, another teenage daughter, and two sons, so from time to time I’ll request her seasoned advice in this area. As I was asking her about how best to teach our children she told me about her challenges regarding the 10 year old. She said that with her sons, the curriculum is clear. Teach them about the offices of the priesthood and their responsibility in them. With her youngest daughter, however, she was struggling to give her personalized lessons. On one Sunday this sweet child commented that someone had told her she was “needed” at church, but she didn’t understand why because she’s “just a girl.” This statement floored her mother, for here was a girl with no hidden agenda, she wasn’t suing for power, and her comment was anything but prideful. It gave her pause and it did the same for me.


After further investigation it was discovered that this 10 year old girl had received the impression, possibly from her older sister, that the so-called individualized lessons she could look forward to would be ones that happen to hinge upon sexual maturation. --Namely marriage, reproduction, and the covering up of “her lady parts.” And while there are lessons to be had there, no one wants to feel like her value depends on her ovaries. So to avoid this happening to my own daughter, I’m working on two specific things: The first is, I ask myself if what I’m teaching is in proportion to how much it is emphasized in the Book of Mormon, which was truly written for our time. Second, I pull from a unique experience I had when I was living in the city. A church member there (in Chicago) had Turner’s Syndrome, which is a congenital condition caused by having only ONE X-chromosome. (That’s it.) Not XX (standard female). Not XY (male).  Just X ZERO. Interestingly, it was from this person (for whom puberty did not apply) that I learned what God’s love for the individual woman is focused on. Being different, she used her Sabbath days to build a ministry of caring for the ones who felt like they didn’t fit in.  She still had the divine feminine powers of discerning where there was a need for charity and acting on it. Like a mother hen, she took people under her wings. THAT is something I can teach my daughter, teach my children, when we have our precious time together on the Sabbath. Taking it back to Jesus will always reclaim individual worth.

It then appears that the answer at the end of the Sabbath day is the same as it was at the beginning: The worth of souls is great in the sight of God, even the individual person for whom God sacrificed that we all might have immortality and eternal life.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Your Mother's Survival Guide for Church Membership

As a convert to the Church, I feel the weight of responsibility for how my descendants will come to know God. While I continue to maintain this is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and it contains within it the necessary ordinances of salvation with proper priesthood authority, there are briers, thistles, and thorns of human error and cultural norms that make the journey towards those blessings painful. To my children and their children and so on, I offer my guide to surviving Mormonism should they choose to proceed of their own free will and choice:

Give strict heed to true messages from God. This is not the same as blind obedience:

Today I've been catching up on General Conference. Some people look forward to hearing these talks, ready to accept anything they hear from the pulpit. But why is it that we're encouraged to search, ponder and pray first? Because what should actually happen is we receive a token of remembrance, a ringing true in our mind that what we're hearing is correct. After that, we must exercise faith (even a small particle) and confirmation (or sign) will be given to us. Then shall we know these are true messages from God. There is a checks and balances setup here because the leaders of the Church are human like you and me, and humans are not perfect (#ponderize).

When confronted with sanctioned gender inequality there are two possibilities here:
      1. Accept this setup as divinely inspired only after confirmation by the Spirit AND realize it must be temporal in nature AND acknowledge that it is a trial meant to be endured, not enjoyed.
        or
      2. Recognize this is the result of men's philosophies mingled with scripture. 

In both of these cases, you will need to fall back on the simple truths of the Gospel, which teach us that Christ suffered and died for us individually as equals. It also helps to surround yourself by like-minded individuals who will sustain you in this endeavor.

Beware the following commonly used phrases, which serve as pitfalls to mercy and have little or no foundation in the scriptures:
  • "Self-Reliance"
  • "Hey, we ALL have trials."
  • "Happiness is a choice"
  • "You must choose not to be offended"

I've talked about self-reliance before, and previously explained why comparisons of suffering help no one.


Is he just not trying hard enough to smile?

While it's true that in order to become happy one must actively find joy in his/her present circumstance, there are enough people experiencing acute, exquisite pain for whom hearing this little factoid would not be helpful nor presently applicable. 


Modern day members would have told Jesus he was choosing to be offended right here

The oft quoted, "It's a choice whether to be offended" is also problematic. Dr. Julie Hanks does a great job of discussing that here. I would like to point out that this phrase frequently has anti-feminist undertones and is used to paint women as hysterical when they voice their concerns. In other instances it discourages members from speaking up about injustices. Like the "happiness is a choice" barb, there is underlying truth to this principle: We are ultimately responsible for what we do with our feelings, but this is not how this phrase is being used most of the time.

You come from community activists. Keep up the good fight. 

Modern Latter-day saints are all about following the rules, working within the hierarchy, and being subject to those with power. I see the value in this, I really do. But protests and civil disobedience for righteous causes have their many examples in the Book of Mormon, too. Know that this departed soul would look down with glee to see her descendants standing up for what is right. To do this the correct way, seek inspiration and humility and all will be well.

Tertiary service has its place, but don't forget to get face-to-face with your brothers and sisters. 

Mormons love to get together and put things in boxes and ship them off to needy people. That's great. That's wonderful, but that doesn't replace primary interactions where you literally clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and mourn with those who mourn. --Yes, even and especially those not of our faith.

For crying out loud, the GOP is not the Lord's party. Neither is the Democratic one. Nor  Libertarian and so on. 

Be true to yourself and pick the best candidate based on your own thoughts, morals, and objectives.

People will think they are literally God's gift to earth because they are white, from Utah, and from pioneer stock. They will try to use scriptures to support this. 

Run! RUN! Get away from these people. You know my preference: Stay out of the Mountain West and attend a nice liberal arts school away from this craziness. :)

"This is for the people of the sun."

This Church, at least as it stands today, can be rough on minorities. I can't tell you how sorry I feel for bringing upon my descendants the inevitable struggle and soul-searching that will take place when they hear terms like "white and delightsome." Here's some consolation for my Latino kids:

  1. For starters, we know that the Lamanites will blossom as the rose. As I type this, I've recently learned that 3 out of 4 newly announced temples will be built in Latin America. 
  2. In the Book of Mormon, Church members are warned that if they continue in their evil ways "a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among [them] as a lion, and tear [them] in pieces, and there is none to deliver." That's us, guys. We're the lion.
    This warning is given again to the Gentiles here.
  3. As if that weren't enough, members of the church are told their idolatry and enmity towards our people will eventually cause them to "bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of [our] feet."
So who's delightsome now?

Last words:
This post will continue to grow overtime, I'm sure, so I'm going to stop here for now and come back to this. Tonight I bury this record in the interwebs for my children, and their children, and their children's children and so on. And I know it is of great worth because this is the only way Mama knows how to get through Sunday.