Thursday, March 20, 2014

All Are Alike Unto God

There's been quite a hullabaloo online since Monday when the PR department of the LDS church sent a letter to the Ordain Women movement, a fairly small organization advocating for gender equality within the church and asking the leaders of the church to seek revelation on the matter of ordination for women. Several news outlets have posted articles, many of which began making their rounds on Facebook almost immediately. Harsh, angry words began spewing from the mouths of church members towards the women and men who are part of, or support, the Ordain Women movement.

I'm not one to sit idly by when I see something going on that I don't like, or to stay silent when I have a strong opinion on something. So after seeing the response to these articles, I chose to come out publicly on Facebook in support of OW.

Yup. You read that right. I believe women should be ordained. Now, before getting all up in arms, just take a deep breath. It's okay. I'm not here to argue or to push my views on anyone. I recognize that I am vastly in the minority on this. I understand why people are so opposed to ordination for women. I do. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this. What I DO want to do, and what I hope to do, is explain my reasons for being a part of this movement. Reasons which are incredibly personal and very near to my heart, about which I have very tender feelings. So feel free to disagree with me, but please don't troll.

I believe in the Gospel. I readily admit there are aspects of it with which I struggle. But I believe I have Heavenly Parents who love me, and who sent me here to grow and to learn. I believe in Jesus Christ, my brother, my Savior and Redeemer. I believe in modern revelation, and that such revelation (both on a personal and a church-wide scale) are vastly important. I believe that President Monson can and does receive revelation directly from God. I believe in the importance and significance of temple ordinances, and that families can be together for eternity. I hope to be with mine even after I die. I believe in the power of the priesthood. I have experienced its power too many times to deny it. I believe my husband and I are (and should be) equal partners before the Lord.

I truly believe these things. They are the core of my belief and my spirituality. They are unshakable.

And yet within the church, I struggle with feelings of...well, the best way I can describe it is cognitive dissonance. (Yes, I know, that's not really a feeling.) I believe these things, but I don't always experience them the way I think I should. I'm afraid that's confusing. Let me explain.

I have Heavenly Parents who love me. I have both a Father AND a Mother in Heaven. Our church teaches that. Well, sort of. Our church acknowledges that. We sing about her on occasion. But we aren't taught ABOUT her. We don't have lessons dedicated to our Mother. We don't even really speak of her, and those who do are looked at sideways like they're crazy. Our Mother is a taboo topic. As a woman and a mother, that makes no sense to me, and I can only imagine it would be incredibly painful for Mother to be completely unknown by the majority of Her children and more or less ignored by the children who do know of Her existence. I long for a relationship with my Mother. I'm taught to strive to be like God. But I will never be male (nor do I wish to be), nor a father, therefore I can't ever really be like my Heavenly Father. I long for an example of what it is like to be an exalted woman.

2 Nephi 26:33 says, "...he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female… all are alike unto God". ALL are alike unto God.

And yet...all are not alike in His church. Women play a far less significant role than men. We can preside over children and women, but only under the direct supervision of men. Budgets and events have to be approved by men. Everything depends entirely on the male leadership within the ward. Disciplinary councils consist only of men. The entire leadership of the church, other than the three auxiliaries women are allowed to preside over, consists of only men. That's a huge disparity, and it leads to many women within the church feeling voiceless. And then, of course, there is the matter of the priesthood. I'm not going to go into detail about historical precedents for women holding and exercising priesthood authority. They exist. I'm happy to discuss them. But this post isn't about history, it's about how I feel. So let's get down to the really personal stuff.

I feel set aside. I feel...inferior, in a way. You see, I hold a temple recommend. Brett and I are sealed in the temple for time AND eternity. I'm "good enough" to be his spouse and his eternal companion. I'm told as a woman I have an innate talent to nurture and care for others. And yet, when Brett is sick, I can only tend to his physical needs. When Brett had pneumonia in August, I was powerless to help him. I could not provide the one thing I was sure would help him feel better. I am forbidden to lay hands on his head, to anoint him with oil, and to call upon the power of God to heal him. Instead, I had to call for men from church to come do so. I, his wife, who hope to be with him for eternity, was set aside in favor of someone with the right set of genitalia. Instead of blessings of comfort and council coming from his spouse, who arguably knows him better and more intimately than anyone on this planet, those blessings either have to come from someone else or they are simply not sought out.

I am "good enough" to be a mother. I can carry children inside me for months. I can endure the pain of labor and birth for hours to bring children of God into this world. I can nurse my children. And yet, when Amy (and David) was given a name and a blessing in church, I was set aside. Not only am I forbidden to participate in the blessing, I am not allowed to hold my child during the blessing. I am expected to remain in my place in the congregation, silent and reverent, along with a couple hundred other people who had no role in my child's creation. I am not even acknowledged as my child's mother. I am set aside for the very reason that child was able to come into this world: because I am a woman.

I am "good enough" to raise my children in the church, to teach them and love them and help them grow. But when Amy turns 8, I will once again be set aside. Every milestone in our church (or nearly every) involves a priesthood ordinance. Not only can I not take Amy into the waters of baptism, I cannot even be an official witness--because I am a woman. I cannot lay my hands on her head to confirm her a member of the church. Because I am a woman.

I am "good enough" to care for and nurture my children, to endure endless tantrums, to clean up vomit and who knows what else. When they are hurt, they often cry for me, because I am their mother. But when Amy is in the ER, scared because she can't stop vomiting, I am powerless. I am helpless. I can pray for her and with her, but I, who believe so firmly in the power of the priesthood both to calm and to heal, cannot lay my hands on her head and give her a blessing...because I am a woman. Because I am her mother.

These things do not make me angry. I don't want people to get that impression. These things break my heart. These things make me weep, as I am now. They fill me with inexpressible sorrow. Because the very thing that allows me to be a mother, the very thing that makes me desire to serve and to nurture--my womanhood--is the thing that prevents me from doing so much.

I do not seek ordination for power, or for authority. I do not demand it. I am asking my leaders, I am asking the prophet, to seek revelation. I am pleading with them: Please. Ask.

Because I long to be able to bless my husband and children. I long to better serve them. I, the wife and mother, who so intimately knows them, want to do more. I yearn to place my hands on my daughter's head and give her council from her Heavenly Parents. I want so desperately to bless the lives of others with the power of God that I have so often felt. I want to serve my sisters and brothers more fully. I feel there is so much I am capable of, so much more I can do to serve my Heavenly Parents.

That is why I desire the priesthood. I do not feel it is an unrighteous desire. I know some will disagree with me. That's okay. God knows my heart. He knows my desires. He is the one I will have to explain myself to when the day comes. And in the meantime, I will continue to humbly plead with the prophet and apostles:

Please, brothers. Ask.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days

Being LDS, I generally don't pay much attention to Lent or really any of the "holy" days surrounding Easter other than Easter itself. Lent is more or less ignored in Mormon culture, which in many ways I think is kind of sad. But that's another topic entirely.

Many years, I choose to give something up for Lent, despite my religion's non-involvement. I like the idea of sacrificing something to draw closer to Christ. That's part of the idea behind the monthly fast Mormons participate in. I've given up a variety of things over the years--fast food, soda, ice cream, chocolate (NEVER again). Generally food items because I'm an emotional eater, and sacrificing those things really is a big deal to me. And it's a good experience (except for the chocolate). I actually enjoy making that small sacrifice (except chocolate) and thinking about the sacrifice my Savior made for me.

But after Easter, I mentally jump up and down and think, "Woo hoo!!!!" and go right back to my horrible eating habits. There hasn't been any permanent change. It hasn't really had any lasting effect on me or on my home (other than 40 days of cranky, cranky chocolate-less Laura).

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Lenten season. I was mulling over what I was going to give up this year and was falling flat. I wanted to DO something, not just agonize for the next 40 days about how badly I want chocolate. I wanted to do something that would benefit myself as well as my family.

And then I stumbled across this on Facebook....

join the decluttering revolution! Challenge yourself to simplify and get rid of 40 bags in 40 days. #40bagsin40days

....and I thought, "Ding ding ding! We have a winner!"

Now, I'm not a hoarder or anything. When we moved in November, I got rid of a TON of stuff (at least it felt like it). But it's March now, and the amount of crap in my house really bugs me. It's difficult to keep clean. So much still hasn't been properly put away/boxed for long-term storage. I can't find anything, which means we're spending money buying hygiene items I KNOW we have somewhere. The kids get into stuff that has been left out, creating an even bigger mess. I can't really use my craft room, because it's the default drop-zone, and has so much STUFF just dropped in there right now that I can barely walk through the room.

So, enough is enough.

I'm not just giving up something, I'm giving up STUFF. And a lot of it. If I were a gambling woman, I'd wager I can easily fill up more than 40 bags. But I've accepted that I will never be organized while my house is full of STUFF.

I'm not putting pictures up (mainly because I'm embarrassed at the state of my house). I'm not doing daily posts because they get boring for the writer AND the reader, and really, it's just one more thing for me to try to remember to do. But I AM going to whip my house into shape.

I know my home will be more pleasant to be in when there's less crap in it. My house will never be immaculate. Two toddlers plus one mama who really detests cleaning more or less ensures that. But the mess can be manageable. It can be pick-up-able. And it will be. 40 days from now.

Come join me! Don't think you have 40 bags worth of stuff? That's okay. The point is to get stuff you don't need/want out of your house. Throw stuff away. Recycle. Donate. Have a yard sale. But if it's not being used, get rid of it. When in doubt, throw it out!