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.

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 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
**This one still gets the "proceed with caution" warning because 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.

*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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

#WhataProphetessLooksLike


Huldah was a prophet,
last one that we hear about


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

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

So here we go!

What Does Being a Prophetess Look Like?

Here are some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cherubim and a Flaming Sword


So manly, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Where in the World(s) is Heavenly Mother?


Feminists be like...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Oh yes, I did just say that.) 

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

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

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