Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Then my son became very, very sick. He had ran a fever from Christmas Eve until the day before yesterday. Five days of a fever. My boy who never shuts up, never sits still, always has a smile for everyone and a mouth open to any food that might come in disappeared. In his place sat a lethargic, beet red boy whose vocabulary decimated to "owie" and "mama, i wanna sit wit you."
He spent the night in the hospital with RSV and (double) pneumonia, so I did too. He's better now, but I'm sick too. Thankfully God has spared the rest of my family with these two awful conditions, but my husband and I are fighting sinus infections. I'll take that any day - at least I can function and take care of my kid.
My point? I'm sick and tired and my youngest is recovering from something rather scary. School begins for me soon - my palms sweat at the thought. I still intend to post, but I don't know at what frequency. As a person whose more competitive than perhaps is wise, this is always a challenge. I've enjoyed getting to know everyone. I've enjoyed the challenge of posting something daily. I'm afraid meeting that challenge has gotten in the way of quality. I have to slow down.
I'm going through some big changes. I know this will turn some of you off should I decide to post anything. Consider this a warning - I don't mean to chase anyone away because I value all points of view, but just so we all know.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope we can remember with fondness the things that have gone well this past year, find perspectives that make us smile rather than frown. May the new year bring you all much happiness and growth, love and peace.
Thank you for being a part of my blog, for your time in commenting and support in reading. It means much to this girl. Thank you.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
In my experience, I’m not alone. I believed we only recently came to the conclusion about the detrimental effects of tobacco on the body. Not so. We also recognize now the wonders that are whole grains and less meat. It gave me hope that one day the world would come to its senses about coffee and tea. Anyone else?
Society goes through cycles of preoccupation with healthy living. The most recent was that of the 1980s, but I was unaware of a temperance and "clean living movement" of the 1830s, the same decade the Lord revealed the Word of Wisdom.
Just in case some readers don’t know, I’ll offer a quick “official” background on what led the Prophet to what is now Doctrine and Covenants 89.
“’The first [thing] they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken’ (Journal of Discourses, 12:158). After finding himself in clouds of tobacco smoke and hearing the complaints of his wife at having to clean the filthy floor, the Prophet Joseph asked the Lord about the proper conduct for members of the Church. He was told that “tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man’ (D&C 89:8)” – Brigham Young as quoted in the September 1995 New Era article, “Hooked!”
Michael De Groote of MormonTimes writes of the many concerns of those in the 1830s related to health. Alcohol, tobacco, hot drinks (both discussed in the word of wisdom and not), meat, water, standard 19th century medical procedure, fruits and vegetables, hygiene, clothing, exercise, and yes, even thinking.
This is not to discredit the Word of Wisdom – in fact, De Groote dismisses the easily concluded notion of D&C 89 as mere reflection of 19th century society and credits the Lord’s propensity to prepare his people for a commandment – read: the temperance and “clean living” movement. It's much akin to those who attribute the Civil Rights Movement as the Lord preparing His church for blacks to receive the priesthood.
As Section 89 is now requisite to a temple recommend, we often find ourselves asking to what extent we must follow to be worthy of the temple. I’d like to go one step further: to what extent does context matter? For fun I’d like to focus on the drinks mentioned therein.
“Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation – ” (v. 5)
We could easily cross reference this verse with D&C 27:2-4. In these verses, the Lord tells Joseph it doesn’t matter what we use for the sacrament and issued this command: “…you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies.”
We cite D&C 27:2 when people ask why we use water instead of wine – after all, wine is mentioned in the sacramental prayer written in Moroni 5. But surely the waitress at the local Italian restaurant is not our enemy. Perhaps our “enemy” today is Satan playing with our temptations instead. Hm. There’s a lot of fear instilled here. Some would call it wisdom. I think it’s both.
Now take D&C 27:4, received August 1830: “Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.”
Cross reference this with Section 89 verse 5 and 6:
“That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
“And behold this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.”
I suppose we could make our own wine but with the stigma we’ve established I don’t imagine the Church would sanction one. Can you imagine an LDS vineyard today? Would it interest you to know we used to have them in Utah? Google it. Either way, this verse with others seems to say that we could use wine for our sacraments if we so desired. We’d just have to do it the right way.
1 Timothy 5:23 states "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities."
Verse 17 recently caught my attention:
“Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.”
Now a few people like to hop up and down and insist “He meant this barley drink people back then used to drink to detox their bodies!”
Perhaps, but there are many who disagree. Barley, as many know, is used in the production of beer. Reports argue the early Saints liked their beer. It wouldn’t be a leap to justify their activity with this verse, though others cite the “guideline” that was the Word of Wisdom in the 1800s as opposed to the commandment it is today. Could we consider beer a “mild drink” as opposed to “strong drinks” such as rum, whiskey, or vodka? Absolutely.
Coffee and Tea. As a new member, I trusted the WoW explicitly prohibited “coffee and tea.” I hadn’t bothered checking for myself as I felt my institute classes and new member discussions and Sunday School classes covered it well enough. Was I surprised!
On a slightly related note, I also thought “caffeine” must be mentioned here as well the way some of my friends acted. It’s a widely misunderstood notion that the reason we avoid coffee and tea is because of the caffeine. Perhaps, but if we’re avoiding caffeine we should also avoid chocolate.
Not enough in it, you say? Decaf coffee has about the same amount, if not much less.
We have to assume coffee and tea is mentioned here for some other reason. Perhaps there’s something inherent in the coffee beans or the tea leaves (some cite tanic acid), though it's difficult to find much to that regard. Perhaps it has everything to do with its addictive qualities. Others contend it may not be a health issue at all, but a test of obedience. As the Word of Wisdom is understood as a matter of health, I wonder about that. We don’t really know. That's where faith comes in for some; for others, deference coupled with hope.
Hot Chocolate. When I first read this verse I thought “This can’t mean hot chocolate!” I love my hot chocolate. Given the plain scripture I found it odd hot chocolate wasn’t interpreted as included, but oh well, right?
I’m told some ensure their faithfulness and obedience by avoiding anything hot – even hot chocolate. Sound crazy? Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Seventy writes in the October 2001 Ensign article entitled “Not for the Body,”
“Tea and coffee were discussed, not only because of their adverse chemical effects on the body, but also because of the temperature of the drinks. The drinks were often taken so hot that, without realizing it, many individuals were drinking liquids close to the boiling temperature. Those detrimental effects were observed.”
I hardly think any of us enjoys pouring anything boiling down our throats, though we’ve all done it. I’ve ordered hot chocolate at a café before and about lost all my taste buds due to the temperature. Heck no, I let that stuff cool down now.
But with that in mind, why aren’t things such as herbal tea (often very hot) and hot chocolate forbidden – or at the very least, discouraged?
I could live according to the letter and still get my recommend – perhaps have a beer and attribute verse 17 to my bishop (don’t worry, beer has never tempted me), or perhaps make my own wine? Anyone think that would fly? Why is it, then, I can never have a bite of whole grains and probably get away with saying I follow the WoW – after all, it seems we’re only concerned with the drinking and smoking, correct?
It seems so straight forward at first, but after only a little serious study, the Word of Wisdom strikes as guidance still – pliable, given to historical context. I understand Brigham Young and his successors have stated otherwise, but scripture remains the same.
Just where do we draw the line and why?
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in Thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep
The angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav'n
No ear my hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
* * *
I wish I could find the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's version of this song - or at least, if they don't sing it already, the version found in our CD of church hymns. I'm trying to find a decent version on youtube for everyone, but nothing sounds as good. The Catholic organ dominates too much. I just found a musak version that's ok-ay, but not wonderful.
Just thought I'd share. Have a great Christmas Eve, no matter what you believe. Hug everyone a little tighter, be a little lighter. There are those this year without loved ones for the first time, those who've lost much. Think of them, give someone a call even if you're afraid or think you've nothing to say. Be good to one another. Feel free to share your favorite Christmas hymn here if you're so inclined.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Winter Solstice, End of the year, whatever.
Monday, December 22, 2008
*This is a compilation of a few posts from earlier in this month, so if some of it sounds familiar, that's why. This is also posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives.
Also, I may or may not have time to respond to comments. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc. etc. etc. Hope you have a good one.
One of the doctrines that appealed most to me as an investigator of the Church was the Second Article of Faith: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
This varied greatly from my Protestant and fleeting Catholic teachings I’d grown up with that we are all sinners because of Adam and Eve, and lest we never accept Christ into our hearts we are doomed to eternal damnation because of something some guy did millions of years ago (or however long you believe it to be).
I loved this. And my heart pitter-pattered even more when I heard this tidbit: Eve wasn’t taken from Adam’s head as to be at his head, nor from his feet as to insinuate she would be at his feet, but rather from his rib, his side. Equals. Yay! I loved telling family and friends this.
Then there’s Moses 5:10-11:
“And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
“And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”
Eve. Without Eve, we wouldn’t know good. We revere Eve for her foresight. For her transgression. For knowing that it would be better to know good from evil than remain in such an innocent state wherein they could never progress. President Faust states in What It Means to Be a Daughter of God in the 1999 November Ensign,
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve. In the Garden of Eden, she and Adam were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, they were also reminded, ‘Thou mayest choose for thyself.’ The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, ‘And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.’ And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood.
“After the choice was made, Adam voiced this grateful expression: ‘Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.’ “Eve made an even greater statement of visionary wisdom after leaving the Garden of Eden: ‘Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.’ If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here.”
Sounds great, right? There’s a problem though, and it starts with scriptures such as “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.”
Erm…where’d Eve go?
The problem is furthered in the Bible: “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
Anyone who has been to the temple understands that the teaching of subjection still exists. Some of you will say that a righteous priesthood holder would never put his foot down and proclaim his God given authority, but the fact remains that he has it. The man is the head. The priesthood holder gets the revelation. His wife can pray and discuss issues with him, but ultimately he makes the decision. That isn’t a partnership. It’s not even compromise. It’s a parent-child relationship, and Adam and Eve set the pattern. It all seems to stem from Paul’s writing in 1 Timothy.
By initially being more obedient to God, Adam is given greater access to God. No matter what Eve thinks now, she has to listen to Adam who would have counseled her to reject the fruit. Apparently she’s only allowed to be right in that one thing. Lucky for her she wasn’t taught beforehand to listen to her husband. Lucky for her she didn’t even ask. She didn’t have to. No covenants had been made yet.
Does anyone else see a disconnect here?
I don’t covet the priesthood, just a place at the table; a chance and the right to have just as much access to God as my husband. Real equality. Not something that resembles it, but something that is equal despite what Eve did. I don’t want to pay for what she did.
Spin it as you will, in the end it is a patriarchal order which, by definition, puts the man at the head of the family – read: in charge. Last say. An understood clearer connection with God all by virtue of a Y chromosome.
And yet we go on and on about how holy women are despite these teachings. The more I hear about our inherent holiness the more condescended to I feel. The more we insist there is no distinction is to bring more attention to the actual distinction. I understand that men are generally stronger, taller, etc. than women. I get that women are generally physically weaker, more nurturing, shorter than men. I’m not speaking of physical inequalities: I’m speaking to mental and spiritual equalities, equalities that we should understand to fundamentally exist.
I have a hard time believing my God would make me inferior to men, and this makes the Bible and scripture sometimes incredibly difficult to read. I am His daughter. I am to feel loved and in peace. Like I matter. Sometimes I don’t feel like I really do.
Is the patriarchal pattern a consequence of Eve?
Scripture would tell us yes; the Church would say no - but as my scriptural notes attest we are still rationalizing, still insisting the priesthood trumps all, and as men hold the priesthood and not women (except for the temple), I am somehow inferior. And no, I’m not looking for inversion of roles. If the priesthood is not complete without the woman in marriage, if neither man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord, than I say these things ought to be reflected in the family order.
I have felt respected in our church, but I’ve also felt very much like I don’t matter. I am not the only one, and so we need to address this rather than dismiss it as silly feminism that seeks to destroy not only gender roles but the basic foundation of God’s plan. That just adds salt to an already open wound.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Right now I'm taking some of my more recent blog entries here, cleaning them up (something I ought to do in the first place) and posting them over there. What can I say: it's the holidays; I'm rather busy. If I write anything new, I'm going to post it here and there.
You're more than invited to be part of the conversation, even in earlier entries. You don't have to be feminist, Mormon, or a housewife to do so. Just respectful.
First post: Unhappiness Never Was Wickedness...or something like that
(a cleaned up version of "Wickedness Never Was Happiness)
Second post: Introductions
(nothing terribly interesting - just an "about me" if you want to see)
Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
My recent rants are partly due to doubts and partly due to a freedom inside to say something that might offend (really, some of these things I had no idea would offend). I find courage and lose it almost as quickly, or fear I've overstepped my bounds. It's worn me down. I'm sure it's all worn you down as well.
So, unless something strikes me particularly, I think I'm going to be MIA for a bit. It's the last week before vacation, and I've just had it.
So much to do. So little incentive or motivation to do it. I'm tired.
You've heard all these words. I'm sure there are more. Please, add to the list.
Look, my point today isn't to make fun. We've all used these words at one point or another, maybe more often than we realize. It's ingrained in our culture. It's in our scriptures, our magazines, hymns, etc. If we are as active as we're called to be, these words will become part of our vocabulary.
I just have to ask: do they have to?
What good does it do us to pray or be grateful for "moisture" instead of just plain ol' rain? Why do we "ponder" and not just "think" or "consider"?
What is the point of these words? I tend to think the use of them disconnects us from the outside world, and while we're not to be "of" the world we are in it, and if we want to bring others closer to Christ, we should speak like people today speak. Sure, every religion has its own little vocabulary (my protestant friends use "worship" and "witness" a lot), but I don't think they add much. It's just weird.
Just because the scriptures speak in thees and thous doesn't mean we have to. I know we're asked to in prayer, but that's not my point. How rote are our talks and lessons? I promise these things will go over better if you speak like you would normally. When "testifying" to non-member friends, drop the Mormon-speak. The Spirit is not derived from the use of "ponder" or any other like words. I promise.
I don't know about the lot of you, but I wince when someone tells me about the "tender" mercies of the Lord, or the "sweet" spirit. It bothers me because this is not how people speak. I hate it even in General Conference. The use of the words are distracting from the message and sometimes downright annoying.
I used to think about the Jehovah's Witnesses who would come to my door, their plastic tense smiles greeting me and laugh because, eeek, right? But we have our own little eerie quirks, our own uber-clean-cut-toothy-smile appearance and our own way of speaking that is foreign to the outside world and there is just no reason for it. Speaking like we're from the 19th Century or like we're of King James' people doesn't make us more worthy or spiritual. It doesn't necessarily bring us closer to God.
I have used these words from time to time, but the more I recognized how much they distance myself from others the more I wanted to run away from them. Experience has shown me that when we speak like regular people (ie: "rain" instead of "moisture"), others will relate with us much easier. Even in Sacrament meeting.
It's a rule of writing, really. Don't use big words to sound smart, and don't use old time words to sound spiritual.
It doesn't work.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
Most every time I've felt unhappy I've heard someone quote this scripture. If that didn’t happen, you can bet I’ve remembered past lessons I've had in church – the crux of each were: unhappy people are unhappy because they’re doing something they shouldn’t.It’s lovely, really.
Why don't I buy that? How many of us do? And how much does it suck when we're being "good" and are still unhappy? I’ve had so many of those moments, moments where I was about as Molly as you could get and still had down days. I had family that disapproved of my new religion, school, that sort of thing. My heart was totally in the church, and yet someone always brought up that damn scripture as if shaking a finger if I was having a bad day. The insinuation, if not downright accusation always was, "Well then you must have something to repent of, hmm?"
I wasn't perfect by all means then and I'm certainly not now, but if I'm doing all I can shouldn't there be room enough for a different reason for my having a hard time? Is it really that easy?There's so much guilt. I don't think people pass it on with any malice (maybe there are a few self-righteous morons who do). President Hinckley always said we're doing good but we could be doing better. I liked that, but some took it to an extreme and others felt they could never be good enough, either by their own merits or due to uninvited commentary.
Read the whole verse in its context. It's saying we cannot live a carnal, unlawful life and expect later to live in eternal glory with Heavenly Father. That's the teaching. I think that's all Alma was saying.Happiness requires a certain amount of heart and authenticity with self and others. Unhappiness has all sorts of roots. For some, unhappiness stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain. For some it's a matter of outside, uncontrollable influences that directly affect their lives. For some it's a matter of God refining us. For some it could be due to unwise and downright horrible choices, perhaps in trying to avoid life instead of confront it and deal with it. Sometimes it's because they're living a lie and haven't been able to deal with it. They don't know if they should or can talk with anyone.
True happiness comes from following God, sure. I would add that true happiness comes when we're brutally honest with ourselves and our surroundings and come to terms with it all with God's blessing. We can pretend and ignore all the unpleasantness and call ourselves happy. We'll look happy to others. We can do all the "right" things and still not be happy. It is possible, but it’s not fun. We’re not to be Stepford children of God, but just children of God.
The Gospel is full of good guidelines to help us attain the kind of lasting happiness we all need. It is true doing bad things won't bring us happiness, but in our very small and well-defined box of what is "good" we tend to miss that perhaps other people are happy even if they aren't reading their scriptures every day. Are they missing out on something? Sure, though I imagine it depends on one’s motives in reading the scriptures: out of dutiful, dreary obligation or out of a real desire to learn?
I've endured too many Sundays that were anything but restful even to my spirit. I've had good and spiritual Sundays as well, but definitely enough soul-biting days as to bring me complete frustration. Some may say I was perhaps not being too lenient but too strict. That would be a fair argument; there was a time I feared riding the line in case I inadvertently fell over on the wrong side one day. But I wasn’t happy.
There has to be a wicked-free medium. I’m always searching as I’ve found an ultra-strict lifestyle often leads to unhappiness – at least for me. I’ve found as long as I do everything with prayer I’ll be fine. The guilt still gets to me on bad days, though, that perhaps I'm not being righteous enough and if I'd just get back in line and suck it up all will be well. After all, there were those in more difficult circumstances than I and they did it, right? Sing with me now:
Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked…
But were they happy? I don't know. I can't say. I do think it’s dangerous to assume they were – that anyone is – and then tell those who are struggling that they should not only do what they’re asked, but do it with a smile because, after all, the pioneers suffered even more or because the Relief Society president has much more of a burden on her shoulders.
The problem is the impression that we're either righteous or wicked. It really adds to much anxiety, insecurity, and overzealousness. We all know that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Our happiness is not always a measure of our righteousness, and it’s dangerous to teach that it is.
Posted also at Feminist Mormon Housewives.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
“Larry King: Are people ever thrown out of your church?
“Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes.
“Larry King: For?
“Gordon B. Hinckley: Doing what they shouldn’t do, preaching false doctrine, speaking out publicly. They can carry all the opinion they wish within their heads, so to speak, but if they begin to try to persuade others, then they may be called in to a disciplinary council. We don’t excommunicate many, but we do some. ” (emphasis added)
I’ve struggled with my faith for about four or five years now. It wasn’t until Prop 8 and this idea of keeping silent came to my attention when I felt compelled to express myself publicly. For the first time I found I did not agree with the church’s stance.
I remained quiet at first, keeping my opinions between my husband and myself, but to help me make the right decision I needed to talk about it. Under the weight of my dissenting opinion, I finally conversed with some online friends and later the few who read my new blog. Then I dared let some family know through either my writing or during conversation. While my husband warned me of the reactions likely to come, I was never prepared.
People online told me to rip up my recommend. One friend, someone who introduced me to the church and whom I’ve known for nearly a decade told me she no longer wished to read about what I thought, that she hoped I’d come to terms with my issues – but I wasn’t to talk about them. She’d have no part of that.
To say her response shocked me would be inadequate. It broke my heart: You feel I’m having issues and the best you can do is ignore it and tell me we can keep our conversation to husbands and children? (yes she said that)
My ex-roommate told me when the prophet speaks we don’t need to pray. Not if we sustain him as Prophet.
Another close friend of mine looked at me like I’d suddenly grown another head or perhaps a few horns atop the one I already have. My husband said his father regarded him in the same manner. They couldn’t or didn’t want to believe that we could have received a different answer than the prophets.
My friends and family who know avoid the topic now. It’s as if they hope my doubts will somehow magically disappear. Pretend they don’t exist. Ignore them and they will go away. She’s sneezing, you might catch cold.
These reactions only made my questions harder to ignore, all the more determined to be answered. I never looked to “go against the church.” I didn’t want to disagree with the prophet, I never had, but how do I deny that peace in my heart, even when it does go against the church? I know from experience you can ignore it, but it always comes back. Always.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said it’s never okay to criticize our leaders - even when the criticism is justified. I get the reasoning behind this. It’s not good to spend all your time criticizing anyone. You need to focus on the good, count your blessings, that sort of thing. But where do people go when they have doubts and questions, when they can’t reconcile certain things? Bishops and stake presidents, General Conference talks and Ensign articles would have us pour ourselves into the scriptures, in prayer, to get a blessing. To “have faith.” A former bishop responded to my tearful admission of a crumbling testimony by telling me to watch BYU-TV.
It seems to me that we as a church do not enjoy speaking of such things. In my experience we don’t talk about it and I have to ask: does this kind of willful ignorance help? Hardly.
Doubts and questions do not silence themselves. Scriptures and prayer don’t always give me peace I need, no matter how long or hard I try with the best of intentions. This is deeper than that. People seem to think it’s easy to question. I assure you it is petrifying.
We like to find rational explanations for our commandments. “We are told to tithe because it is a matter of sacrifice to the Lord, to help us pay for our temples and buildings. Look how it kept our church out of debt!” While a matter of faith, we are also driven by reason. Fair enough?
So what of times when I can find no rationale? You might say this is a time for blind faith – and I might agree, except I received answer contrary the First Presidency’s letter. Would you say I must heed the answers to my prayers, or would you insinuate the prophet had said my prayers for me too? Some may suggest pride, a hard heart, etc. no matter what I say. I think these reactions are made from fear as we’ve been told it cannot happen, that our answers will always reflect that of the Church and if they don’t, then we’re wrong.
I understand this sort of reaction if a person went out and told people the church was fundamentally and wholly false – but this isn’t about that. I don’t think a genuine search for truth, even unseemly truth, is a good basis from which to ex someone or even six someones such as with the September Six.
The idea that one could inadvertently learn things that don’t add up, discuss them, and then be told to stop, just stop or I’ll call you to the disciplinary council raises about a million red flags in my heart. It’s potentially faith shattering, worse than any embarrassing fact I could ever discover. And I wish it wasn’t.
We talk about the power in strong, unyielding testimonies, but I ask what is a testimony if it isn’t challenged? Will silencing otherwise faithful dissenters really do the church good? I know we fear modern day Korihors, but I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with good, well-intentioned people who disagree in some instances, and discussion should not only be allowed but encouraged. If our souls find strength in opposition, then so should our testimonies. If the Church is true it will withstand the storms. Truth always prevails.
I would like to be able to discuss my doubts without fear of excommunication. Yes we get enough negative advertising, but for us to pretend the problems don’t exist or are all unfounded is foolish at best. It will come back to bite us, either on an individual or general level. I’m confident about that.
Also posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Does it really matter what the world calls us? Does the title matter? I don't mean to make this a blog entry consisting entirely of questions - none of which are hypothetical - but seriously now. General Conference talks have been based on this. We're all very concerned about the rest of the world accepting us into the realm of Christendom.
Let me ask you something: Is the title of Christian requisite for admission into God's Kingdom? I get that, without this understanding, conversion for those who belong to other Christian denominations might prove rather difficult. But it's hardly central to salvation to have the title.
The fundamental belief of all Christian people is that Christ is our savior. To us, it's rather obvious.
To others, not so much.
But does it matter what others think? If the Gospel is true and we know what we teach and believe in, what does it matter?
I worry this is too much a PR move. We've a long, glorious history of ostracism, persecution, and other such lovely things. People like to spit that we believe in a "different" Christ - and we laugh. A different Christ? How many could there possibly be?
Other churches see us as cultish. Our doctrines are not only strange to many but border on blasphemous (if not entirely blasphemous). This hurts our image. We want common ground to help our image so we can be of better good in the world. I understand that.
What I don't understand is how much energy we've spent on the subject. Please like us. We believe in Christ, too. Look! It's in the name of our church (and while we're on the subject, just where is Christ's name in your church?). We're taking the defensive role where there's really no reason for it. Our penecostal or evangelical (or even Catholic) friends will not be the ones to let us through the gates of heaven. Why we act like they will be is beyond me.
Why expend so much energy in trying to convince others otherwise? Yes there's plenty misinformation out there - people will believe anything negative about us, but this whole idea of jumping up and down with the proclamation that we are Christian too (RU Christian 2?) seems a little needless and silly.
Face it. We are not part of the mainstream Christian group. We don't believe in the Trinity, we believe God has a body, we believe Christ came to America, that baptism is essential and we put more emphasis on works than do other Christian churches (this is especially offensive to them, though it is largely misunderstood). Hell, there is unofficial speculation that Christ likely married. These ideas are seen as heretical and are thus rejected by mainstream Christians, and that is why they don't believe us to be Christian.
I just can't get rid of the image of a bunch of kids out in the playground, some calling one child "stupid" or a "baby." Does the name calling make it so? No. If we are secure in our own standing with God and his Son, than all we have to do is smile and say "Well, go ahead and think that. I know who I am and who I worship" and walk away.
So let's get over it. Let's preach about more important things. Let's worry less about acceptance and more about our personal relationship with Christ, shall we?
(bytheby, I may not post much if at all this weekend as I won't be home very much. I hope everyone has a good one!)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Here’s my problem:
What I mind is that it is the end-all-be-all. Worthy members receive revelation. Worthy members receive revelation over our own stewardship. While counsel and discussion should be made, that person who has stewardship should have the final say. If those above that person feel the one with their “final say” is off their rocker, than there should be a process by which to deal with it. Period.
My problem lies in the idea that men have clearer revelation than their women do, in the idea that God speaks more truth to his sons than He does the girls. The girls are either misguided or just getting partial truth. Silly, silly girls.
We can talk about it all we want, but in the end it’s his decision. And we do emphasize that guy being worthy in his position – there’s no room for unrighteous dominion – but Father Knows Best. He’s got that really awesome Y chromosome and all. Should I have picked one up? Naaaaaah. I like being a girl despite all the crap.
I don’t want to be a guy. I don’t want the priesthood. I don’t want to be bishop, I don’t want any of that. But if as Relief Society President (which I’m not) I truly feel that my Relief Society needs to go in a certain direction and my bishop comes and puts on the breaks despite my very strong revelation, than what? I am to defer to him and just let whatever happens to happen.
Why? Because he’s the man. We can say “because he’s the priesthood holder” but the real, fundamental thing is because he’s the guy. We can be equal in spiritual strength and knowledge, but according to church structure, I am inferior to my priesthood (male) leaders.
We are left back to an earlier question: If I pray with real intent and get an answer contrary to that of my leaders, what then? The Church would say my answer is wrong. If we are one in purpose, after all, than we should be getting the same answer from the Lord.
But it does not work that way all the time. You cannot dismiss me so easily. Call it pride, call it a gateway to the road to apostasy, whatever. I was told when I joined that I should know everything for myself and go according to that. I’m taught that through the years…until I think differently from my leaders. Until I think differently from my husband. I’m certain my leaders would absolutely counsel us to talk about it, pray about it, etc. The fact is that doctrinally and what is taught in the temple is that I am to defer to him if he decides differently than what I think. Period.
This is not a strictly LDS issue, either. Like I mentioned before, it happens in other churches. It’s not even a matter of Pauline politics. It is in the scriptures; it is canonized. It is doctrine. We teach and practice a doctrinal patriarchy. I’m beyond talking about in-house ward matters here like who is bishop and who is not. This is more fundamental than that.
I don’t want the priesthood. I understand that there are priesthood holders who have to go through other priesthood holders to get permission, too. I’m not necessarily pissed about the priesthood. (annoyed at my repetition yet? it's only because I've learned some have selective "hearing" and I want to make myself clear despite the stereotypes about women who speak like this)
Here's the crux of it all: I just want to have the right as much access to God as my bishop or even my husband. I want the right to unique revelation that may go against what the Church teaches because I am unique and only God knows me and my situation nearly well enough. I want to still be in good standing if this happens.
But we don’t teach that. It’s too hairy, it’s too itchy, and it leaves far too much wiggle room. It goes against the whole “one in purpose” thing. We are to teach the doctrine and leave the exceptions up to the individual…except for in larger matters where the Church has authority and have taken an official stand. They know better despite it all – even though history proves they did not always know better despite it all.
We are not to criticize our leaders, even if it is justified.
And as a person who, doctrinally, biblically (as taught), has less authority than all but my own children, I have to sit back and let it all happen because I wouldn’t want to create confusion or contention. And I don’t.
It goes back to Adam. Eve, justified or not, took the fruit and was punished for it. Adam just did what he had to do, damn that woman. He initially told the serpent no, but since his wife went, he had to follow since he was commanded to always be with her. If she goes to hell, he should follow.
That is the inference. Hell, the men today joke about this. The girls complain, and the guys just placate them. Give them the 9 o’clock church instead of the 8:30, what does it matter. It’ll keep the girls happy, and as everyone knows: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
This original act of disobedience slash obedience also suggests that Adam recognized Eve’s greater insight. She saw what he could not, despite the fact that God forbade it. She was able to look past that. But by initially being more obedient to God, he is now given greater access to God. No matter what she thinks now, though we teach she was right, she has to listen to Adam who would have counseled her to reject the fruit. Apparently she’s only allowed to be right in that one thing. Lucky for her she wasn’t taught beforehand to listen to her husband. Lucky for her she didn’t even ask. She didn’t have to. No covenants had been made yet.
Though Eve did what had to be done, she was punished anyway – and not just by exile from Eden, either. Now she has to follow Adam because he was apparently more righteous in refusing the serpent’s temptation. The idea that he knew better is inferred and is passed down to every man since. Since Adam knew better, all men know better. Eve just did what had to be done.
Is anyone else following?
That’s all. I don’t care about having the priesthood. I love my man, I love him being the man – he is absolutely everything I am not. I love taking care of him and our children – but he takes care of me and our kids, too. We complement each other rather nicely. Nothing we decide is ever because “I said so” – we talk about it until a conclusion is made between the two of us. Our lives are not separate, they are one and, to him, I’ve just as much right and access to God as he does.
And that’s how it should be anywhere.
* * *
Anyone heard? Barack Hussein Obama won’t drop his middle name - GOOD. Nobody else has over the past two years, why the hell should he?
But that’s not his reasoning. His rationalizations are that we need to get over our prejudices and realize that “Muslim” does not equal “terrorist.” We need to send a message to the rest of the world that we’re not all idiots, that there is change in this country, that George Bush and his administration is no longer in town. Not really.
What’s disheartening is that there are so many out there who will grumble and grouse about this, the same people who made such a point to use his middle name during the campaign season will flinch at this move….well, maybe not this move but the point in which it’s being made.
The fact that it’s even an issue says something. While the prejudices against the Muslim community are probably somewhat more mild than before - at least in my experience - it is here. It always brought to mind what happened with Pearl Harbor and the Japanese internment camps.
Equating a man with an untimely middle name with “terrorist” is horrifying commentary on American culture. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let’s get over ourselves, focus less on the Muslim (and even Arab) communities at large and deal with the extremists. Arabs and Muslims are not all extremists. Let’s first understand that. It would then do us some good to try to understand the extremist mindset.
My husband took a few classes on genocide and terrorism over the last few years. He spoke with me about it at length (I also typed up his papers), and the real point to be made is this: Extremists are not so much insane as they have a really, really, different view on the world. We see them as insane, and by our standards they absolutely are. Too many people do not want to see these extremists as human, though. You start humanizing people and - gasp - you start feeling a smidgen of compassion. Psssh, stupid liberals.
But we cannot change nor defend ourselves against that which we do not understand. It feels better to call them terrorists and dehumanize them because that is exactly what they’ve done to us. A little research into our own little domestic terrorists, be they the Una bomber or even kidnappers, murders and rapists will tell us that the best defense against those who would hurt us is to make them see us as human.
It’s actually one of the more important aspects of rape defense. You start talking about your family, whose waiting for you at home, what your favorite color is, etc. You fight like hell to get that person to see you as human because at that moment they do not and it is much easier to hurt that which you do not empathize with. It’s also a way they train our military - they dehumanize the enemy. They did it in WWII and in Vietnam. You’d be surprised to hear how many of our soldiers do not have the courage to pull the trigger. The military gets their soldiers over that by dehumanizing those they target.
I fear most in power get this bit of wisdom but don’t want to understand. They want to hurt, and so do we. We want revenge. We want to torture. I get that. I feel it. But it’s childish. It isn’t right - and what’s that Christ says about loving our enemies? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be okay with how we’ve acted. Treat others the way we’d want to be treated. Compassion might seem like more tree hugger philosophy, but it works. As a Christian people, shouldn’t compassion trump carnal desires? Seriously. I wonder about some of my more conservative counterparts when it comes to this stuff. Is it just mere convenience to forget about those the thousand stripling warriors were defending? those who loved their enemies so much they laid down their weapons and resigned to death instead (See Alma 24:17)? We’re always admiring them in Sunday School. I’m not suggesting this is what we should do - we should absolutely defend ourselves, but the fact that we speak of these people in reverent tones and then forget about it once church is over tickles me to death. Is it that we really think that compassion is only for the dude who cut us off in traffic the other day…? I don’t know.
For real homeland defense, we need to get over our prejudices and start understanding our enemies. We need an ounce of compassion or we cannot expect to get any in return. There are books abound written about this. The most recent being promoted is Michael Alexander’s “How To Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq “
If you want a transcript/story of a recent interview with the author, go here - even Fox News’ Sean Hannity can't seem to get around this guy. It's fabulous.
I’m thrilled Obama takes pride in his name and wants to make a point. Good for him. I’m so proud to have voted for this man. He’s already changing things for the better, and the timing couldn’t have been better. People are ready. I am.
This post has also been submitted to Mormon Democrats where I am a contributing blogger.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
First, the good stuff.
1. The following is paraphrased: "Woman was made from Adam's rib - not from his head to infer she should be at his head; not from his feet to infer she should be at his feet, but from his side to imply they are equal."
I liked this a lot when I first heard it. Still do.
2. We are often told about the Relief Society being the largest women's organization in the world, how it is headed by women.
The deal with the Relief Society is that it is ultimately headed by the Priesthood. The guys. Even the General Relief Society Presidency has to get approval from the Prophet. This goes for any of the organizations within the church, sure, but to say we head something is...somewhat misleading. The General RS Presidency is given loads of authority, but in the end they aren't the end-all-be-all.
3. Women don't hold the priesthood - they give life.
This seems more an effort to placate than anything else. It seems to infer that motherhood is equal to the priesthood. Not "fatherhood" - Priesthood. Beyond that, though, what of those faithful women who are infertile or never give birth due to lack of opportunity to marry? Every faithful man can hold the priesthood.
4. We have a Heavenly Mother, but we assume she is rarely spoken of only because Heavenly Father wants us to keep hush-hush about her for she is woman, she is sacred.
Eh. Sounds a little condescending, but whatever. Personally, as logic would insist that I am a woman who would then be "Heavenly Mother's" daughter, I'd like to know more about her. Yet, I am taught to be more like Heavenly Father and Christ. Not that I have issue necessarily with that, but does anyone else see the slight discrepancy here? Gender roles, people!
We often allude to family life on Earth being parallel to that of our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. If we are so adamant about children on Earth having a parent of their same gender as well as that of the opposite, why don't we talk more about Heavenly Mother so their sons and daughters have something with which to learn from?
I don't mean to blaspheme - this is sincere.
5. The men of our church are among the most chivalrous because of the teachings of the Church stating that women are to be revered - I can attest to this one. It's fabulous. I've always appreciated this teaching of manners and...well, most girls I know like a man deferring to her in this way.
I love this. Women take care of their men, men take care of their women. Yay!
And on and on and on. But what about this:
- Women perform priesthood ordinances in the temple. I imagine this is a matter of modesty for the other women, especially given past intiatory methods, but this doesn't hold now.
- 1 Timothy 2:11: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not decieved, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
My head spins and my stomach lurches every time I read that. Our second article of faith states that we are responsible for our own sins, and not for Adam's transgression. Is it mere convenience, then, that we don't mention we're not responsible for Eve's transgression? This scripture here states that Adam didn't transgress - the temple teaches us the same. Eve listened to the serpent, took the fruit, and ate it. We teach she heard the truth in the serpent's lie, that without knowing the evil we cannot know the good.
That much, needing opposition in all things, is true.
But it all just makes my head hurt. And no, there really is no Joseph Smith Translation to this bit of scripture other than "Notwithstanding they shall be saved in childbearing" which lends question again to infertile couples. And all this stuff about women having to be silent and in subjection because of Eve goes against what our church says.
Trust me, I like what we say lots more - but our actions speak against this at times, that men teach us and not necessarily the other way around. We answer to them ultimately.
Then there's Titus 2:2-6:
"That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things."
(so far so good)
"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."
I'm fine until we get to that last bit: Obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed.
This whole idea of obedience to the man of the house drives me up the wall. Those of protestant and evangelical churches also teach this: be in subjection to your husband. We teach it in the temple.
I can't stop scratching my head.
So we're not paying for what Adam did - just what Eve did? And because Adam was made first and insisted on listening to God's commandment to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that makes us immediately inferior? *twirls hair*
The Bible was written by men for men at the time. To my knowledge, this is back when women weren't educated. They didn't know how to read. If they knew anything, it was because their husbands taught them. That offers a little context, but we don't teach this, we don't talk about this. I haven't heard it, at least.
In my scripture notes, I have 1 Timothy 2:11 marked, the word "authority" underlined with the words "priesthood authority" and "silence" attributed to "tranquility and quietness." I also have the words "Father --> Husband --> Wife" written.
What is up with this?
We've been talking a lot about separate but equal with the whole gay marriage thing, but the same applies here. Women and men are separate in their roles but equal. Eh, I can see it I guess. Men hunt, women nest. There is a lot of biology there - but neither is inferior. Why do we insist on perpetuating this? We say we don't, but we do.
Why don't we teach about the prophetesses of the Old Testament (Huldah)? Of the New? (Anna).
In researching prophetesses, I came upon Miriam (referred to as a prophetess in Exodus 15:20) and an interesting and somewhat unnerving piece of OT Scripture in Numbers chapter 12. To avoid typing out sixteen verses, I'll just give you the summary.
Aaron and Miriam are a little miffed at their brother Moses and speak out against him: "And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it." (v.2) God calls the three of them out and declares Moses the main, relevant prophet.
"With him I will speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (v. 8)
God then strikes Miriam with leprosy. Aaron was left untouched, though he, too, took part in the "murmuring."
What the hell is going on here?
Then there's the prophetess Huldah. I'd never heard of her before today. In the interest of space, I'll just refer you to 2 Kings 22:14-17.
Yes, we can say we allow for women to have revelation for themselves and the things/organizations they care for, such as the Young Women, Primary, or Relief Society. However, the structure of the Church states that if a governing Priesthood body (either of the ward, stake or general church) received revelation otherwise, than it trumps what the women say. It's a system of checks and balances. We're all taught this. But Huldah was a prophetess, speaking for God. It's right there.
Perhaps prophetesses are not mentioned very often, though I'm glad they're mentioned at all. I'd just like to know more about it out of curiosity.
Yet we go off on feminists, how they're destroying very cozy and tidy gender roles. Damn them! But how can we ignore these scriptures? How can we ignore doctrine and that which goes on? Why do men and women sit separate in the temple? Why the veils? WHY.
And don't you dare tell me it's because we're somehow more holy or something. The more I hear about our inherent holiness the more condescended to I feel. The more we insist there is no distinction is to bring more attention to the actual distinction, if that makes sense.
I have a hard time believing my God would make me inferior to men, and this makes the Bible and scripture sometimes incredibly difficult to read. I am His daughter. I am to feel loved and in peace. Like I matter. Sometimes I don't feel like I really do. Want to know why?
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)
This is still taught, it's just quiet and subtle. We still learn of our husbands. No longer at home, and women are now able to speak in the church (is it true that up until recently women didn't give talks in church? Anyone?), but our authority is rather limited - and for what reason?
I am to be taken care of just like I care for others. My husband works his butt off for his family and receives more adulation for it. Because he's worked so hard, I've had to as well. Three young, young children. I've made sure he got the classes he needed. Helped him type his papers because he's a poke of a typist. I've sacrificed for this traditional family stuff, and I don't mind doing it because I love our family and I do believe it's best for my kids to have someone at home with them.
But the conversation when we go out as it pertains to me is relegated to "How are the kids? How's the hubby?" and less about what I think and what I do beyond changing nasty diapers and reveling in that which is my kids and Eric. I love all four of them - but aren't I something deeper than this? Is this service of which I am taught to only do as a consequence of Eve?
Scripture would tell us yes. The Church would say no - but as my scriptural notes attest we are still rationalizing, still insisting that the Priesthood trumps all, and as men hold the priesthood and not women (except for the temple), I am somehow inferior.
In this way there is no separate but equal. We can pay lip service to such bullshit, but our actions speak louder than that.
I have felt respected in our church, but enough times I've also felt very much like I don't matter. I am not the only one, and so we need to address this rather than dismiss it as silly feminism that seeks to destroy the basic foundation of God's plan. That just adds salt to an already open wound.
Monday, December 8, 2008
For me, it's to a point where I can't even be certain where one ends and the other begins.
I've found comfort in the past in the thought that with our general authorities, the line is rather clear. I prefer to think and hope it's the members who make it a game of sorts to interpret as they will, to create boundaries where there were none before, to make requirements of things and complicate ideas to the point of no return.
Perhaps this is why we're so stuck on the basics so much. Prayer, scriptures: we all know the Primary answers. It's a way of keeping to the simplicity of the Gospel, right?
I'll tell you what, though: if allowed, I'd totally ban those answers from anything outside Primary. They've become empty and meaningless. Dare I say they hold the same power as the oft repeated "I know this Church is true." Where's the meat behind that? I can pray and have it mean nothing. Nothing. I can be a robot and say and do all the things I'm supposed to - but I won't. Not anymore.
We need to get back to the real basics. Love the Lord thy God. Love thy neighbor as thyself. The Sermon on the Mount.
I love context and digging deep just as much as the next person, but c'mon.
Is it really all or nothing? There is an understandable perception that that's how the Church works. It says jump, you say how high. It says donate as much of your means and time as you are able in support of an issue you cannot stand, and you shove everything aside - everything, no matter what - and do what your leaders ask. No prayer needed when the Prophet speaks.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way!
Well, he hasn't necessarily had the clearest of eyes and deepest of perceptions in the past with some issues. The prophet is still a man with his own prejudices, traditions, and ideas that could influence revelation.
It influences ours sometimes, doesn't it? Isn't it sometimes difficult to know the difference between our enthusiasm and the Spirit? Or our own stubbornness for stupor of thought?
One person told me I shouldn't pray for my own answer because the Prophet gave it for me. Those weren't her words verbatim, but that was the message. The Prophet said, so we do. We can trust him.
"The Prophet will never lead us astray."
I'm sorry, but I can't help but think those are some of the most dangerous words uttered in recent times.
Even the Prophet would tell us, I would hope, that we can receive different answers than he'll get. The more cynical say the Church allowed in-house dissenting opinions regarding Prop 8 because they had to in order to diffuse any assertion that our votes were being effectively forced.
I hope that's not the case.
When the Saints followed Brigham Young West, Emma Smith chose to stay behind. Brigham and Emma didn't get along, to say the least - and many Saints criticize her for staying.
I don't. I don't know her or her heart nearly well enough.
But is this idea of being one with the church so much that it trumps any personal revelation you may get doctrine or culture?
Million dollar question of the day.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I think blog networks on facebook is a new thing, so look into it for your own and invite me to be a reader of yours, too. I'd be glad to help.
(as for the layout, I'm going to stick with this one for a spell, feel it out. A few people told me the last color scheme was hard on their eyes - I hope this clears up that problem.)
Before I get into any more, here's one verse I find especially interesting:
"Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints" (v3, emphasis added).
Now here's what it does mention regarding drinks:
1. If any man drinks wine or strong drink, "behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before Him." (v.5, emphasis added)
2. That wine used for our sacraments should be "pure wine of the grape of the vine, of [our] own make" (v.6)
2. Strong drinks are not for the belly, but for washing your bodies. (v.7)
3. Hot drinks are not for the body or belly (later clarified in context to mean tea or coffee. hm) (v.9)
5. Verse 17 is also interesting: "...and barley for all useful animals and for mild drinks, as also other grain."
So let's look at alcoholic consumption. First we have the verse that states that this revelation is adapted to the weak or weakest of saints. Perhaps we all could be considered that. It goes on later to mention that wine (though according to verse 6 it should be pure and of our own make) is okay for offering up our Sacraments. Verse 17 states that grains such as barley are good for "mild drinks." I'm not very well versed in drinks which use barley, but isn't that beer?
Back to the wine. Moroni 5:2 sets the sacramental prayer for the wine. We all know Jesus turned water into wine.
1 Timothy 5:23 states "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities."
It struck me as I looked at that scripture how I had a little mark beside it. I wonder what I was thinking when I did that.
The truth is, all scripture - Bible to BoM to D&C - all contradicts itself when it comes to alcoholic drinks, wine specifically. From what I can tell, the biggest problem is when people allow themselves to become drunk with wine. It's all about context, and sometimes I don't think we have all the context necessary for full understanding of some scripture. That's why I find history and research so interesting - why I'm having such a fun time writing this today.
I think in the end we don't want to allow for even the chance, correct? The understanding is "Don't even give yourself a chance to like it because you'll definitely become a drunk."
How many of us don't use recipes that call for wine - either because we know that while the cooking process does eliminate most of the alcohol, it doesn't eliminate all; or is it because we don't want to be seen buying the stuff? Avoid the appearance of evil, after all. I almost went manic on my husband when he came home with a small, cheap, plastic bottle of vodka so he could make homemade coconut extract (before you freak out too, smell your pure vanilla extract if you have any). I didn't want the vodka in my house. I didn't want him making anything with it. I couldn't believe he'd bought the stuff. The horror!
I just have to wonder. If we can pick and choose to eat lots of meat and nutritionally defunct white rice and bread (which, by the way, I'm a huge fan of) as long as we don't smoke or drink, than we still follow the WoW...? We all know smoking is horrifying to your health. Coffee, tea, and wine have been found to have nutritional benefits though - in moderation, of course. On the other hand, drinking and smoking is relatively easy to avoid and it's wallet-friendly. Eating whole grains can be a matter of acquired taste as well as expensive and and decent fruits can likewise get expensive (unless you have a garden).
I understand we need to be as healthy as we can be. We shouldn't allow ourselves to become fill our bodies up with toxins that only hurt us, inviting diseases like diabetes and heart related problems due to obesity or our diet. This body, we know, is eternal and we know we need to prove ourselves worthy of it. We know addictions will come with us into the next life - we also know that in the resurrection our bodies will be "perfected."
I also want to look at Section 27, received in August 1830, with this verse we know well: "For behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory...Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies. Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father's kingdom is built up on the earth." (Verses 2, 3-4)
Section 89 was received in February 1833.
Dates are always interesting. But both verses say the same thing: don't drink wine of your enemies (who are our enemies today? surely not the waitress at Applebee's or your local Italian place, right?). If you're going to make it, know where it's coming from. It appears to me from reading the historical explanation of the section that Joseph could have been on his way to procure wine from people who wanted to hurt him. The commandment was made to ensure this wouldn't happen. Historical context versus modern context could mean everything. Back then "hot drinks" meant coffee and tea. Today we're allowed herbal teas and hot chocolate - both hot, but in context not WoW forbidden.
I imagine the use of water over wine also become a matter of economy: water is much cheaper than wine. The idea that it doesn't matter what we use also leaves room for us to use wine "of our own make" and allows for fun stories of times when a group of Saints used brownies instead of bread.
So will a glass of wine with dinner really harm us?
I understand I'm really flirting with the line with this question here, but it has been on my mind. Yes, consumption of alcohol is hardly necessary to live a happy, fulfilled life. That's been my conviction through the years, even though my pre-baptism experiences tell me I hate the taste of most coffee and also dislike the taste of alcohol and know my tolerance to be rather low. I also know alcoholism runs in my family, as do addictions of many sorts.
For example, I have to be careful when taking certain prescriptions I have. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and I have to take some potentially addictive pills. Do I still take them? Yes. Have I created a network of support to ensure close family knows I'm taking them so I have less of a chance of becoming addicted? Yes. I take them because I function better while on them. If I don't take them, I tend to suffer from extremely low temper, head-splitting migraines, and inability to sleep.
Though the American Heart Association strongly discourages drinking (if you do, do so in strict moderation, they warn), there are some studies that suggest red wine aids the heart and perhaps even in lowering cholesterol levels. Their primary concern seems to be that of the Church: that in starting, you're tempting a whole host of problems and temptations. After all, you can't become an alcoholic without ever partaking of even a sip of alcohol, right?
The Mayo Clinic recognizes that as well - but studies still suggest red wine in particular is rather heart healthy. There is always that caveat to be extra careful though, much like I must be with some of my prescriptions.
Of course, evidence could be found for either side - and this is where it gets sketchy. But can you discount scripture such as that found in 1 Timothy? I do. There is a scripture or two in 1 Timothy chapter 2 regarding women and the church that I cannot stand and will discount. We all do it at some point. We are all hypocrites.
For me the end comes again down to your intentions (your heart), and any prayer or communication you have with God. With anything. This isnt so much a matter between me and the Church as it is a matter between me and God. The Church can help me, can back me up and help me when I am feeling weak. It can help me find avenues closer to God, but it is not the end all be all. That is God. Even prophets can fail. I am an individual with a uniqueness God only knows - while the prophets can speak for us all on some issues, with others perhaps not. That is why we must not judge others but instead give them the benefit of the doubt. We don't know everything. While men may fail, God never will.
Forgive a weird ending to a topical post, but that is where my thoughts are at the moment. I'd love to hear yours.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
What about "damn" or "hell"?
Ahh, I didn't think so. Mutter a "damn" or "hell" and your company's eyes will shoot to you with chastising gleams.
Before I joined the church I cursed like a sailor; after I joined I refused to even say "crap" and wondered why even the staunchest of my friends found it okay to say it. It was interesting and probably my first insight into the fact that even LDS pick and choose. It is the extent of our willingness to rebel and be edgy - and that just tickles me to no end. Mormon rebellion. But back to the topic. There are still those times when you want to curse, but can't so we make up stuff that sounds like it.
And that is when the "fetch" comes out or the very...odd "ohmyheck." I didn't even know OMH existed until my trip to Salt Lake City in October 2002. I saw a billboard with a rather crisp mug of beer - perhaps something a bit more controversial, I don't remember - and beside it were the words "If you just said 'Oh my heck' this isn't for you."
Oh my heck?
Ah, my first foray into Utah Mormon Culture.
My husband's best friend's favorite Mormon curse word is Fetch - and I'm sorry, but it sounds almost as bad as "fuck." "Shoot" said with the right intonation can sound almost as guilty as "shit" too. My mom, a very proud non-member, once got on my sixth-grade self for saying "fudge" because it sounded awful, a little too close to what she knew I was trying to get away with.
Then there's the instance with my four year old son a few months ago. He was outside and, out of nowhere, exclaimed "Holy crap!"
I love telling this story for the reactions. Like you people don't say the same stuff. Anyway, I got up and went to see what the deal was. A fat, ugly, totally unnecessary spider was just hanging on a single web strand from the gutter.
Definitely a "holy crap!" moment. Everyone so far has agreed. At least to my face, haha.
I don't know. After about a year after joining, I got over my "crap" moratorium. I'd mostly instituted it because I knew how I worked, I knew that cursing became as much of a part of my vocabulary as the words "the" and "oh" - you know, pretty common. I could control myself around my grandma, and I had enough respect to not drop the f-bomb around my mom and dad - but around friends? Pretty common. Knowing this, and knowing since the age of nine that I pick up on other people pretty easily, I decided to be extra strict, even to replacing "ass" with "donkey" when reading the scriptures. If I'm around someone or speak with someone with a thick accent for fifteen minutes, I'll pick up the accent. If I read an author with a strong style, I'll pick up on their style. If I'm around someone who curses like it's nothing, then I will too. It just comes out. I've learned it's how I work, and I have to take care. We all have our things; that happens to be one of mine.
My propensity ten years ago to litter my conversation with swear words isn't quite like you might hear among some youth today, but it was bad enough - so much so that an LDS friend of mine from high school mentioned the lack thereof at my baptism.
I understand it's absolutely not a way to speak - it doesn't make you sound intelligent, that's for sure. They're pretty coarse words, especially when you consider the history behind some of them...but I'll admit to saying a few every now and again. I do think they have their place. They can be cathartic. They've power - the kind depends on the situation, but words absolutely have power. And sometimes, honestly, it's the only way to get something across.
So I curse. I have to really watch myself to keep it under reigns, but I believe there can be a time and a place. I mostly gave up because, let's face it: may as well, right? Of course I could decide to not at all, but I've decided to fight other battles for the time being. Right now this helps keep me sane, if that makes sense.
And really, "fetch" sounds ridiculous. "Crap" just makes me laugh anymore because of how many LDS say it like it's not a big deal (but no damn or hell). Stop beating around the bush. Don't be a disrespectful idiot, but if it's what you really mean and the situation allows, then why? Why "fudge" and "darn it"? So you can appear clean? Why all these Mormon curse words - the very phrase infers that they're intended to substitute for curse words.
Now, you won't hear me cursing at church, in front of my kids (except for crap), or in front of friends whom I know it would offend: but it happens. Consciously, I'll admit.
Before anyone asks why I don't curse in front of my kids, let me assure you it's not so much because I don't want them cursing. It's more because they're very young and as such their maturity wouldn't allow them to understand the meaning and implications of their words. There are better ways for them to establish a vocabulary in such formative years. I could explain, yes, but I'm saving it for later. They'll run across it in school soon enough. I had friends in the fourth grade dropping the f-bomb. I imagine that begins much sooner now.
I have a fourteen year old sister who, on her myspace page, curses worse than I ever used to. It shocked me at first, but I soon realized: she's fourteen, she's "being cool" and doesn't realize just how lame and immature she sounds. I thought about bringing it up to my dad and her mom, but they look at her page. They know.
It's a part of growing up. I want to be frank with my kids and explain that there is a time and a place for everything. My sister will grow out of it (hopefully) and reign herself in as she matures. Everyone goes through this stuff. To harp on her for this beyond a talk or two will only make things worse. I know because I used to be that kid. I say let her get it out of her system and learn along the way as long as she has set boundaries enough to not speak like that everywhere.
I'm not trying to condone cursing; I'm attempting to get a discussion going. How many of you will admit to cursing and how many don't, and why? Do you ever wonder about the same things? Do you ever roll your eyes and groan inwardly at it all? I just figure the more realistic about things we are, be it about sex, swearing, or anything else - the better chance we'll have teaching others and being an example. I understand the lack of swearing in our culture makes the instances outside our social network quite jarring. We're sensitive to it, and that's okay, but I'm afraid the extra sensitivity makes us less approachable than we want to be.
Is "crap" really not a swear word? Am I really much worse than those who scream "FETCH!"? I get that "oh my heck" is much better than the alternative - but it makes no sense. That's what gets me - and the fact that everyone knows what it's the alternative for.
In the end, it's all in the attitude, isn't it?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I'd never given much thought to how I would die - I'd had reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this...How many people do you know have read this? Have you?
(And come on, that's a pretty good opener. Caught my attention.)
I didn't even hear about this book until last August. Again, it was because I finally allowed myself to step into a Barnes and Noble, let the smell of books seep deep into my pores, and breathe. Before that day, if I had need to step into a bookstore, it was quick. The smell made my writing instincts and inclinations go wild, but I would ignore it, make a beeline for the section I needed, and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
Last August I wanted to just breathe. And browse.
I'd done a little homework online, looking at the best sellers list on sites such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I even checked out Deseret Books. There were a few that caught my eye, one of them was on every list - Twilight.
Of course the idea that this #1 New York Times Bestseller was written by a Mormon woman intrigued me. Number one! And the New York Times status meant it wasn't necessarily an LDS book. As I didn't want to write an LDS book, and this was a research trip to see what was out there, that was a huge plus.
While I knew nothing about vampires, I knew I'd always felt inclined to write Young Adult stories. When I went to the store, I picked up the book and began reading.
The first chapter hardly grabbed my attention, to be honest, but I carried that book with me as I browsed, debating. The "prologue" caught my attention, though and it just felt like something I should get. I had to know what made it so amazing. So I took a chance and brought it home.
...and finished it in less than two days. I've three kids; my oldest was four at the time. My husband was in school full time (including 6 hours of student teaching a day) and working at night. I assure you reading a 500 page novel in less than two days was not an easy feat. Going to bed at 1 or 2 a.m. to get up again at six wasn't easy, but oh was it worth it.
A classic? No, but a good book. Entertaining. Something I needed very much.
To tell you the truth, I wasn't a drooling fan of Edward. He wasn't what caught my attention. What caught my attention, and scoff if you will, was that I could relate so well to Bella and Edward. That tension was all-too familiar, that love and passion was mine and Eric's. The idea that I'd found my one. Yeah. It was like Meyer got it.
Again, scoff if you will. I would too.
Not only that, but I enjoyed Meyer's easy writing style and recognized something of my own style within it. Later I would look at it with a more critical eye and see what could be improved, but the story and the characters were what got me.
I liked at first that Meyer didn't fall into the trap of sex and profanity, that she found a way to write a good, clean book. I laughed the first time I read "holy crow!" because I'd never heard it before, and it seemed to fit Bella. By the second mention of the phrase, I had to roll my eyes though. It started to seem...lame. But forgivable.
The sexual tension *fans self* Good stuff. And all without crossing any lines.
I'll admit, the serial repetition of the adjectives "dazzling" and "velvet" really started to rub me wrong, but all was forgivable. I chalked all that up to learning what I would absolutely not do in my own stories.
But I digress.
I went back to the store to pick up "New Moon."
Oof. What a labor intensive novel. It didn't get good until the last hundred or so pages.
After quite some time (talking a few months), I finished it and moved on to Eclipse which caught my attention quickly. Sex?! Would they have sex?! A few times I hesitated to turn the page. Sad, I know. The end of that book was killer - and I had to wait an entire year to figure out how it would all end.
While the plot of the final book, Breaking Dawn, often caught me off guard and kept my attention that way, and while I'm thrilled to death Meyer tied up all loose ends rather nicely (I've read books that left me bereft. What about ____?), ultimately the whole book was...convenient. And too happy. Unrealistically so.
When I found "they" were making this series into a movie, I was thrilled. Yay! Then they started announcing the cast members. For the most part I didn't like the cast. The trailers didn't impress - the acting was amateurish at best from what I could tell. And chemistry! I didn't sense any chemistry between the two main characters.
In the end, the movie was slightly better than I expected, but being that my expectations were rather low, that doesn't say too much. As huge as the Twilight series was, you'd think they would've had access to a larger budget. Truth is, they were probably more interested in just getting the thing out to make money. No matter how awful the movie, they were going to make money just because it was Twilight and its main audience, besides LDS women, were fourteen-year-old girls who generally don't know what a good movie is.
After the movie, the girls I went with and I went to a Twilight party. Eh, you know. It surprised me who was there, though. Unobservant as I can be, I didn't realize how many 30-something LDS women loved this series.
It struck me as rather funny - and yes, I'm saying this as one who is almost a thirty-something LDS woman.
I had no idea. I'd never liked trends - it's why I rejected Harry Potter so fiercely for so long. You might think I'd have gotten over that by then, but I guess not. The sight of all these older moms with their mom hair and mom clothes gushing over this teen vampire romance, coyly admitting to how much they loved the steamy scenes tickled me to death. Let's just say it: Meyer can write a damn good love scene. She flirted with what many might consider the line between appropriate and inappropriate. Finally! Women could breathe heavily through those pages and not feel as if they needed to speak with their bishop about it (although Bella and Edward alone in her bedroom? tsk tsk, Stephenie) haha
I also wondered how many of these women would have been so enamored had this book been written by an agnostic Stephenie Meyer? A Catholic Stephenie Meyer?
I understand the book would or might have been markedly different, but for the sake of argument let's assume it wouldn't be. Would there have been a party? Would all of these women read a teen vampire romance? I doubt it. But again, I think it was a matter of admiration and support - and the story was good. Could have been amazing, but it was good.
I mean, how many LDS women out there are doing little side jobs in an attempt to make some extra cash for their families? Jewelry making? That sort of thing, right? Meyer was able to take a hobby and be wildly successful with it.
I'll freely admit a large part of the reason I gave this book a shot at first was because Meyer was an LDS mom. I wanted to know what she did and how she did it. I was stoked beyond reason that there was another woman out there like me - it just felt amazing, liberating. It was more a research project and observance in that aspect for me.
The series probably won't ever be considered a classic, but - and I say this with all due respect - it's quite popular literary junk food.
I just hope teens in particular get Meyer's core message. If you've read the books, you know about the triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. Bella fell in love with Jacob, too. I'll leave you with this quote from Meyer, found on her official website:
"First of all, let me say that I do believe in true love. But I also deeply believe in the complexity, variety, and downright insanity of love. A lucky person loves hundreds of people in their lives, all in different ways, family love, friendship love, romantic love, all in so many shades and depths. I don't think you lose your ability-or right-to have true love by loving more than one person. In part, this is true because you never love two people the same way. Another part is that, if you're lucky, you learn to love better with practice. The bottom line is that you have to choose who you are going to commit to--that's the foundation of true love, not a lack of other options.
"...Does this love [with Jacob] devaluate her love for Edward? Not for me. For me, it makes that perfect true love stronger. Bella has another option. She has a really good one. An option that's easier in many ways, that takes nothing-like her family, present or future-away from her. She would have love, and friendship, and family--an enviable human future. But she chooses Edward over all of this. This makes it real for me."
And that, I think, gives this book value. I don't think Meyer was trying to be overly philosophical. I don't believe she was trying to push any weird LDS or anti-feminist agenda. If it came out that way, I doubt she meant for it to. People interpret how they will. I believe she wrote the story according to and adhering to her values, imagination, and ideas. I like the quote above. I like that it was a good, entertaining read that inspired me to do what I hadn't done in years but was just wired to do. She obviously related to the teen crowd, and that's what angsty teens crave: someone to "get it" to at least some degree. People pick and make fun, but you can't say that her message on love and commitment is wrong or untimely.
I just hope it's not lost on the young girls who read it. And if it is, I hope it at least opens them up to reading other books of more substance. I heard one reviewer say that, much like that of Harry Potter, Twilight's ability to get non-readers to read is akin to praising an anorexic for eating cotton candy. But you know, if it gets them to move onto something meatier, then, well, isn't that worth something, too?