Monday, January 22, 2018

LDS Women BINGO




You know that scene in Dave Chappelle's skit about Prince where he's lying there on the sofa in a ruffled purple suit, licking a lollipop, and finally proclaims, "This BORES me"? That's how I've been feeling at church events for women. I feel like we say the same things over and over and over again because we're hesitant to get into deep doctrine, we want to place band-aids on festering wounds, and we're interested in keeping the status quo.

I'm about to prove this with my handy-dandy LDS Women BINGO card above. I've got a couple of such activities coming up and if I can make it through without a victorious straight line I'll be seriously surprised. And glad.

High on the Pedestal


Source


A few weeks ago I was pounced on by feminists who didn't appreciate my observations about the temple. Specifically, I said the temple was based on the premise that women came to earth with "unique endowments that are not common to man." I was told that I was pedestalizing women, putting down men, and that God is not a jerk like that.

But, what if He is?

I mean, if your definition of a "jerk" is treating men and women differently, then I gotta say you're setting God up for a rough review. This is, after all, the eternal power who authored menstruation for women and wet-dreams for men, y'know?

His ways really aren't our ways. Always.

At this point in my ponderings, I think God endowed women with greater power than man, and we are in the chapter of The Plan where outward things are focused on the male-driven offices of the lesser Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods. I have hope that further light and knowledge will come so that the awesomeness of women can someday be realized and acted out in the open.

I realize that's terribly unsatisfying for the present time. This is why, when I share my insights, I typically get one or all of these reactions:



  1. "You're making stuff up."
  2. "I reject the temple as it is the product of sexist men."
  3. "If men don't acknowledge our power, what's the point?"


    Regarding the first reaction, I can tell you I'm not lying. Go to the temple, hear that the temple endowment for women is our further endowment, and note how Eve is portrayed as a wise, mature, and upright woman alongside the juvenile newbie man-boy Adam. (If you try to Google this you won't find it.)

    As for the second, I will say that a word change here and there would go a looooong way to improve woman's temple experience. Just as important, I think such changes could be in line with how God really sees us. That being said, I'd like to pose a question in response: Without the temple what do we have? The eggs of equality, if you will, would then rest in the singular basket of us being ordained to the Aaron and Melchizedek priesthoods and I can't help but feel that is beneath us. To me it would feel like we were selling ourselves early for a lower price than what we're worth, precluding the possibility that something much greater lies in store. Which leads me to the third item...

    The final point is where we come together. I don't like the imbalance of power either! I really resent that we as women have so much to offer and it's constantly overlooked. I feel sick when men who note what I have observed use this insight to speak to women in a patronizing way. I.e. "Ladies, let us run the whole show, because otherwise you'd be too great a force to reckon with. *wink*"

    From where I stand, I think there's only two ways out of this rut. We need to pray (literally pray) the president of our church seeks and receives the messages Father promised to send us, and in the meantime stop resting our worth on acknowledgement from men. I see this playing out as we attend church for the ordinances (not the people), call out sexism wherever we see it, and start discussing women in the scriptures and in the modern church. I noticed the Young Women's presidency is starting their research into this and that gives me a lot of hope. 

    What I'm suggesting requires a ton of patience and long-suffering. The current Church setup is not just, nor is it merciful to women who find themselves out of place. When I die, and if I'm fortunate to meet God face to face, the second thing I will ask them about is why we had this power dichotomy. (The first question, of course, is going to be about menstruation. WHY?!) 

    Tuesday, January 2, 2018

    The Priesthood and The Vaginas

    I've been taking online courses to be able to code in a computer language called Python. Once a week I am graded on completing an assignment that requires me to write a program that works based on conditions and values that I get to set. It's pretty neat. Lately, I've been applying these concepts to real life situations. Like, IF laundry ignored x 1 week THEN output equals much sorrow in the home. --I can confirm to you that that is a true statement.

    With regards to the Church, I've looked over our coded language and I think I've discovered a program that goes like this:

    The Priesthood = Men/boys

    The Vagina = Women/girls

    WHERE Vagina = All sexual female organs (as lawmakers are want to define it)

    IF The Priesthood = All that is good and most important
    THEN All that is good and important = Men/boys

    The Vagina = Makes Men/boys = Vital object 


    When I started testing this out, I noticed several patterns. The most common was using Women/girls as object lessons as though they were, well, NOT = most important.

    Take Elder Nelson's talk, A Plea to My Sisters. I recommend watching it on video. He describes the trial he faced when he was a less experienced surgeon. Two little girls died after he performed heart surgery on them and he was devastated by this. At this point in the story, I thought he would speak about forgiving himself for failing. I was hoping, honestly, that he would speak about those little girls a bit more and talk about the Atonement offering a hope of reunion between them and their grieving parents. Instead, he finishes on a climactic note explaining that with his first wife's urging and having learned from his poor outcomes he was able to operate successfully on President Kimball. And since Pres. Kimball = good and most important, this is supposed to sweep those little girls under the rug of our memory and convert this into a happy, uplifting story. (Listen for the audience gasp of relief.) Those girls, after all, were learning tools for The Priesthood.

    The habit of using females as object lessons, once you recognize it, you'll begin to see it everywhere. Take this talk given by Sis. Cordon, Trust in the Lord and Lean Not. Normally we wouldn't think to make a negative example out of someone battling cancer, even lightly, even with their consent. But hey, an object is not a someone thus Sis. Cordon explains how this one poor lady had sunk so low as to feel sorry for herself while she was receiving chemotherapy (imagine that!), but The Priesthood (her husband) wisely put such negativity aside and made sure she could still find a way to be of service. There's even this one super uncomfortable moment in the video where the speaker is relaying the trials of chemo and the audience laughs (7:08). Laughs! To be clear, I'm not saying Sis. Cordon is purposefully trying to come down on this woman, but I am saying that we have a habit of using women to teach lessons through stories that are sad, but not too sad as they're buffered by equating women to something less important, even humorous. Silly vaginas who need The Priesthood to point out their silly ways. Conversely, if you really want to make 'em sweat, talk about The Priesthood nearly falling to its death, facing hypothermia, or anything like that.

    We are so used to equating females with objects, as less than human, that we're okay talking about them dying, replacing them, and being upbeat about it. Elder Oaks has done this, and recently Elder Kevin R. Duncan thought that'd be a great Merry Christmas message for the masses.

    To me, no better example of this setup exists than in a phenomenon occurring throughout the Church relating to woman's use of the church building. As a matter of policy, a woman should not to be left alone in the church. Many have taken this to mean that The Priesthood should be supervising women whenever they use the facility, even when there are many, many women on the premises (i.e. they're not alone). To try and argue this is to often meet a bishop who simply cannot compute: vagina does not equal person, after all.

    Now we can laugh or cry about this all we want. The first step to fixing it is recognizing the pattern and calling it out. In doing so, I hope you won't end up as the object lesson in a cautionary tale of how vaginas women ought not behave.

    Addendum:
    I wish to point out that in the earlier referenced talk by Elder Nelson, he does go on to say that women are important and their strength is needed. But all of this has been framed by an object lesson that shows how feminine gifts are there to bless the lives of The Priesthood. Instead of being told how "vital" they are to the Church, to The Priesthood, I think an improved experience could be had if we taught women how to find strength within themselves for themselves, to be used as God sees fit. I realize that sounds like I'm splitting hairs, but it's like the difference between telling a woman she is complete and has a direct connection to God, versus saying she can access Him through her husband as a complimentary tool.

    All I ask is that we stop using women as object lessons and see them as full persons. Consider that a belated Christmas gift wish. 

    Sunday, December 3, 2017

    Polygamy is NOT an Eternal Principle

    A few months ago in Relief Society, a sister in my ward casually mentioned that polygamy is an eternal principle. There was no push-back on that, it was just accepted and people moved on.

    Except me, of course. I let it simmer in my mind for much longer than I should have.

    I eventually reached out to say that while I appreciate the perspective, this conclusion is not official doctrine* and I for one do not believe it, so please be mindful there are differing views in the room. We had a pleasant conversation from there, but the usual tropes came out...


    • I was encouraged to read the scriptures and pray on the eternal nature of polygamy.
    • I ought to think of the sister who never married. --I wouldn't want to let my jealousy stand in the way of her exaltation, right?


    All of this assumes God didn't have the foresight or math skills to get the ratio of righteous men and women right in heaven. It also ignores the fact that many more male infants die in their angelic state than females.

    So what do I say in response? First, my typical snarky comeback:

    "Okay, well, if you're all cool with polygamy, I'll be sure to volunteer you to share your husband with the billions of women who need him to get into Heaven." Thanks for taking a hit for the team!

    (I'm a jerk.)

    But in all seriousness, my next favorite line to deliver in this case is:


    "Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time. I'm having a ball!"



    We should look forward to polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom as much as we would gleefully anticipate sacrificing our sons on altars there, too.


    Which is not at all.

    Indeed, when referencing polygamy in Doctrine and Covenants  132:50 we read:

    Behold, I have seen your sacrifices and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac. (Emphasis added.)

    Polygamy hardly seems like a celestial reward when it's likened onto a great trial. Note too that God intends to remove this hardship at some point, though the timing of that is unclear. Many even believe Joseph Smith was able to escape consummating polygamy because for as many wives as he had, we only know of children coming from Emma (modern DNA studies continue to support this).

    How then can people say polygamy is eternal? I used to approach this topic from the point of defending my conclusion, but today I've had enough of that. Today I play the offense and ask others how they can still promote an ideology that is not only blatantly false, but just as important hurts so many women!

    I could concede a fair counter-argument in favor of polygamy...

    If The Creation story featured Adam and Eve and Janet and Cindy. That is to say, if the Male:Female union weren't the standard and ideal from the beginning.  
    If LDS polygamy produced more children than would have otherwise been expected of traditional marriage (news flash: It didn't).  
    If men routinely outlived women (the opposite is true), allowing them more opportunities to remarry.
    And especially if The Book of Mormon didn't deliver a scathing condemnation of polygamy except to allow the case where God tries his people with it (see Jacob Chapter 2, also Genesis 38:9-10). 


    Bonded, but not sealed by Krazy Glue


    At this point, some might point out that sealings have been performed for multiple women to one man and that this practice still goes on today. That is true, that's not wrong, but it's not entirely correct to understand it that way. One must first realize that the word "sealing" as it is used to describe temple marriage is a misnomer. A "sealing" is not actually a sealing (i.e. enduring) until it is bound by the Holy Spirit of Promise, this is generally understood to take place with a Second Anointing ordinance that includes the Washing of the Feet. When the sealing power was restored to earth and in both Kirtland and Nauvoo, men were married and "sealed" to multiple spouses, but second anointings were reserved (in almost all cases) to the first wife only. This would support the 1:1 male-female union as eternal in nature and anything else as temporary.

    Furthermore, Jesus our Exemplar repeatedly showed us that female singularity is key along the path to exaltation. Though obvious, Jesus was born of ONE woman, from a virginal womb. In death, he was laid to rest in a virginal tomb (never used before) and returned into the presence of ONE woman, Mary Magdalene. Similarly, though Abraham had other wives and far-outlived Sarah, when he died he was interred next to his first wife's grave and hers alone (Genesis 25:10). This pattern would be repeated with Emma Hale Smith laid next to Joseph Smith Jr.. These examples give a picture of what the morning of The First Resurrection will look like, and it's not a polygamous model.

    Do I point these things out to dig at subsequent wives and single ladies? Do I not care about their eternal destiny? Am I motivated out of jealously to share this viewpoint?

    I've taken away nothing. The concluding argument pro-polygamists have always given is not to worry, "everything will work out in the end." That last bit remains true. We both agree that God is love, He is merciful and will take care of everyone in His great plan. The fundamental point where we differ is, I have faith that His plan does not handle women as expendable, dime-a-dozen figures in a play centered on man. Rather, I propose this radical thought that we are of equal worth, and that the singular male-female union is celestial. Worlds without end.


    Addendum: I was asked when, if ever, God gives the "green light" to the practice of polygamy. To that I say at most He will give at most a yellow light, which is to proceed with caution in the following circumstances based on scriptural references:

    1. The Law of Sarah is invoked in a permissible season. That is, when a woman requests that her husband take an additional wife and the Prophet approves it. 
    2. As in OT times, when a man dies and his brother is legally required to marry his widow for protection and provisions. Perhaps today there are men who are prompted to marry a widow who had been sealed to her first husband in order to "raise up seed" to him,
    3. When God decides to try his people? Maybe.**

    In 2/3 cases, the focus appears to be doing what is in the best interest of a woman, which I found to be fascinating. And note that the third item can be satisfied by the second scenario described. 

    Also interesting, the Second Chapter of Jacob says polygamy is not to be practiced unless God commands it for "raising up seed." A search of the scriptures reveals that the phrase "raising up seed" by itself is typically used in only two ways: To describe the Old Testament setup of brother-in-law duty to widows mentioned above (today the equivalent would be if a man was told by God to marry a woman who remains sealed to her first husband), and in the general (i.e. not related to polygamy) sense of righteous branches of The Tribes needing to keep their line going. 



    *Ironically, Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine (which is not actually Church sanctioned) says that polygamy is forever... But he also said blacks would never get the priesthood, so miss with me that
    **I'm still not sold on this. Any man who enjoys polygamy while ignoring the pain it inflicts upon women will be sorry in the end, of this I am certain. 

    Monday, November 27, 2017

    Visions & Emblems

    I have had some profound insight into the relationship between man and woman as they work through this mortal condition. I see the cooperative model that is heaven-sent and ideal, but must acknowledge we're just not there yet. This model centers on emblems and seership.

    (To dive into this more, where I use "Adam" and "Eve" please fee free to substitute man and woman respectively.)

    Adam has forgotten everything, he is as a newborn fawn just getting his legs beneath him and adjusting his eyes to the world around him. Eve, on the other hand, walked into this world with a recollection of the pre-mortal condition and the callings received there. Her spiritual eyes have great acuity. She also has a former endowment from which to pull power (the temple ceremony is her further endowment), on the order of the Patriarchal Priesthood (if you ask me).


    "'The tree was colorful,' hmmm."

    In the fallen state, Adam can progress along the path towards God by two means:

    1. Trusting his sense of hearing and following the still small voice of the Spirit
    2. Seeking for and handling the emblems of His Son, as they are his "spiritual braille." Due to his limited vision, Adam is naturally attracted to emblems (and Satan seeks to exploit this).

    For the second reason, Adam must be ordained to the Melchezidek & Aaronic Priesthood. Each week, ordained (young) men prepare and bless the sacrament in keeping with this standard. The more they physically hold and examine the sacred emblems, the less likely they are to be fooled by the counterfeit.



    "The tree is full of color!"


    In the fallen state, Eve can progress along the path towards God by a number of means, depending on the circumstance:


    A) Looking at the whole picture, the map if you will, and choosing the correct path
    B) Listening to the still small voice of the Spirit when a veil is pulled over her eyes
    C) Closing her eyes and trusting Adam's sense of hearing when (and only when) he is hearing and following God



    "How do you live like this, bro? Btw, you're going the wrong way."


    With respect to B), why on earth (literally) would a veil be pulled over Eve's eyes? I suspect that when a blessing is meant for both Adam and Eve, a state of blindness is required to get them on equal footing as they aim to receive it. When I think about this, I envision a piƱata setup where the more mature, skillful players are blindfolded and the little child* is allowed to do their best without impediment. In the end, both share the candy reward because they've earned it.

    As for C), this applies when Adam and Eve are working side-by-side as a team. Were Eve always to reveal answers to Adam, he would not become spiritually self-sufficient. In her wisdom, she chooses when to close her eyes and this is based on knowing when different paths eventually converge to the same endpoint, or terminate at different but equally good outcomes. Does this mean that Adam will sometimes select a path that is more difficult, and inefficient compared to other options? Yes. We experience this same phenomenon with the Spirit who, despite being our constant companion, allows us to make our own choices and does not spare us from all of life's troubles. The ensuing struggles test us and help us to grow.

    Eve is, of course, human and therefore not perfect like God's Spirit. She may not always trust the map she's been given, or will prefer to take the desirable path rather than the one that will allow for personal growth. Likewise, Adam is imperfect and may question Eve's perspective, especially since he cannot see what she sees.

    Nevertheless, the ideal I've envisioned has Adam purveying emblems of the Priesthood and Eve acting as a seer who explains and ratifies his handling of these sacred symbols. She also warns Adam when an emblem is not of God.

    But it doesn't stop there.

    The ultimate goal from the Adam-Emblems and Eve-Seership dynamic is for both powers to intersect and merge. In other words, Adam should gain the ability to finally see and Eve should hold sacred emblems herself.

    How is that to be done? I believe that happens sequentially this way:

    1. Adam presents a pathway
    2. Eve sees that it is (at least ultimately) good
    3. Eve puts her visual guide aside, and relies on hearing**
    4. Adam focuses on listening
    5. Without a map, Adam must stop, open his mouth, and call out for direction repeatedly
    6. With each petition an emblem appears
    7. Eve (by virtue of her seership) interprets the emblems for Adam, or confirms when he is able to correctly understand the direction they provide
    8. Eve, on the errand of angels, administers the final emblem
    9. Adam can now see what Eve sees

    Indeed, if you re-read Moses 5:10-12 paying attention to "see/eyes" and "hear" you will find the pattern described above. (Steps 6-8 are not described implicitly in scripture nor in the temple endowment, but let's just say I've had some insight to tell me this is the missing piece...)

    This is a compelling model, but what happens when the process stops at #4? I say you have the Church as it is administered today, with women having relatively little power or input. --That is to say input taken to heart by men who hold priesthood keys. It comes down to acknowledgement. It seems many or most men are not even aware of the potential at their side or across the altar. When asked why they (not women) perform the outward ordinances and preside over meetings, the men can only say, "I know not, save the Lord commanded it." And unlike the story told in Moses 5, it stops there. There is no advancement when woman is not engaged

    To compound the problem, the women who note their under-utilization are likely to open their eyes, see that what is in front of them doesn't match the ideal, and many of them will shut themselves off (or leave) with disenchantment. Others simply accept the current state of affairs and believe they must defer to men in all things, such is their lot. Either way, fewer emblems appear and those that do remain a mystery. When the men who "hold the priesthood" are perfectly content with this setup they do not call upon God to open their eyes as they are not even aware of their own blindness. So the cycle continues. 

    How do we as a church get out of this conundrum? I keep waiting for an angel of the Lord, a woman, to appear with a "live coal" in her hand and start setting $#*+ straight.  Until that happens, my survival guide for women is to acknowledge the emblems and tokens before them and share related insights with other sisters and the men worthy enough to receive them. We must hone our powers in anticipation of the day when we are noticed kneeling across the altar, aflame with the powers of heaven and the greater priesthood. When that time comes, we'll be glad indeed.

    *is that insulting to men? See what I have to say about that here
    **sometimes referred to as hearkening 

    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/husband
    • I love tradition

    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.

    *Not that I personally have a problem with that, but I know the Church cares a lot about temple marriages