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.



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. :)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Orientation II

I have continued thoughts after my earlier post, Orientation (I).

Thinking about the temple as a place where we receive only and all those things we lack, which are needed to enter the Celestial Kingdom, continues to astound me. It puts to rest so many of my troubles concerning temple ordinances that had previously seemed so off-putting and frankly anti-women.

I know that I am at risk of telling myself what I want to hear, of doing "mental gymnastics" to get to a happy ending, but the more I come back to this viewpoint the more I see that it has precedent and holds up against what prophets have said and done:

Take the Baptism of Jesus...




John the Baptist is feeling super awkward at the start here because, in his own words, "I have need to be baptized of Thee." Nevertheless Jesus gets baptized to fulfill all righteousness. Clearly He who is without sin is lowering himself to undergo this ordinance because it is a necessary step to take for all mortals to return to God.

Likewise, women are asked to receive temple ordinances even though they have previously received their own endowment prior to coming to earth, and the invested power given pre-mortally is from a higher station. We as women do this to fulfill all righteousness, even as the Savior did.

Then there's this quote from Brigham Young:

"Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” (Emphasis added)
People, he didn't stop at "necessary;" he adds a "for you" separate from the subject described as walking back to the Father. Why is that important? Because if you use my template for the sexes, this means you go to the temple to receive the things that you as a man or woman are lacking and nothing more. So if you have already been ordained as a priest(ess) to the most high God, this will not be given again. But if, like Jesus, you need to receive a blessing at a lower station (because it had previously not applied to you), then the temple is the perfect place to fill in the gaps.

So, should we call it Ordained Women?

Based on what I've just shared, one might conclude that women must have received "The Priesthood" previously. That's kinda true, but I maintain that we're not talking Aaronic and Melchizedek.  Instead, I've written about women coming from a higher level of priesthood power here.

And now you might be thinking, Monique, this throws a wrench into your template. If the temple is a place where missing steps are completed, then why aren't women ordained to the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods there?

Good question!

My answer is that priesthood power expands from the highest level one has attained, and covers all those beneath it. With that, women ordained to power at the patriarchal level have no need for ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizdek priesthoods since that's already encompassed by their order level. We see that relationship outlined here in D&C 107:17.


My template, you guys, it's lookin' pretty robust, no?

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 stems from 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 virtue (angel) 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 by this. 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 purple) now has this one area where she needs to work through her husband, Adam, only when he submits to the hand of God.


When we zoom out in this cross-section view, we see Eve represented on the whole. This gives the perspective that she is far from broken and has an identity many times greater than that part of her that is inseparably connected to Adam.

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. You do you.

p.s. Upon returning to this post soon after writing about Eliza R. Snow here, I just realized that the hymn "O My Father" is the equivalent of a FUBU (For Us, By Us). It's the story of woman's mortal journey, realizing she came from an exalted sphere, and tapping into that divine power which gives her revelation concerning both our Father and Mother. So fab!

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.