Sunday, December 15, 2013

Second Annual "Pants to Church" Day

I forgot to take a photo of my outfit for church today. That's because since last year, I've worn pants quite often. And today, I wore pretty close to the same thing as last year. This year, the focus was not just on women's issues, but on those who feel marginalized for whatever reason. Can feeling out of place by wearing pants when all the other women are wearing dresses, make you feel more welcoming of those who feel like they don't quite fit in? I believe so. Here's some bright spots.

Bright spot: Quote from my good friend, who gave a talk in sacrament meeting in his ward. "Could I suggest that we be a bit more meek and humble and imagine a scenario where we are at fault for some of the people who have left?(the church) Bear with me for just a moment. Are we excluding people because they are outcasts in our church culture? Most of you probably haven’t heard, but there’s an event going on today due to a collection of people getting together on the Internet. While I have several reservations about this event for several complicated reasons, there are many women throughout the country who are choosing to come to church today wearing pants and men who are coming to church wearing purple. In essence, in doing this they are asking for a more inclusive culture at church. The knee-jerk reaction to this event is to scoff, make fun of, or explain to these people that our own experiences at church are free from such judgments and they shouldn’t feel like an outcast. I admit to having had all of these thoughts. But when I am at my more humble, reflective times (I think I had one of these about four years ago), I see people who are at the window listening in. I see people in pain at church and I mourn. If we’ve covenanted to mourn with those who mourn, than the first step is to try to understand the source of that mourning."  (Thanks, I love this.)

Bright spot:
A friend in my ward went shopping this week to buy dress slacks for herself, her girls, (and leggings.) Her husband and son wore purple. The entire family discussed the issue last year, wore purple, but this year took it even further. This friend is one of the most inclusive people I know. She sets a warm example to me and to others of kindness first. 

Bright spot: My husband wore a purple shirt. My conservative, obedient to a fault, husband, wore a purple shirt. He came home, ate dinner, took it off for tithing settlement and went back to church wearing a white shirt and tie. (He's not perfect yet.)

Bright spot: My home-teacher's wife came up to me and my friend, spread her arms in a gesture of camaraderie. She  wore a purple scarf  and told us she was wearing it to show solidarity for us. 

Bright spot. When another woman in our ward was puzzled by what my home-teacher's wife said, we explained briefly. "I must have been inspired today," she said. She was wearing purple. 

Bright spot. I've lived in my new ward for over five years now. I have had a hard time because I miss old friends. But lately, I've felt more confidence in looking beyond myself and being a little less shy, and a bit friendlier, and in speaking up and out on issues that are important to me. I'm finding that instead of feeling sad about losing friends, I'm happy about gaining new ones. I think, it may be the pants. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finding Purpose--Finding Joy

Years ago, I was among a large group of relatives at a Christmas party. My uncle wanted each of us to tell something about ourselves. One family member declared that she was working on being happy. Being happy! What a strange thing to say. Just be happy, I thought. How hard is it? That was back at the age when I had everything figured out, under the age of thirty.

Life, since then has taught me a thing or two. Happiness seemed outside of my grasp, a decade or so after that party. The endless lump in my throat. The heavy chest. The tears only a blink away. The utter hopelessness. For me, that first depression was only a mild one, but it taught me what my relative meant. Happiness wasn’t as easy a thing to maintain as I had previously thought.

Now another couple of decades have passed since then and the happiness roller coaster continues. One of the tenets of my Mormon faith is personal revelation. And even though a quick search on shows that personal revelation is talked about by our church leaders literally thousands of times over the years, it’s something that church members argue about. If you bring it up in Sunday School or Relief Society you will find that your personal revelation will be subject to scrutiny by other members. We judge each other’s personal revelation. But see, I don’t think we have the right to do that. By the very name of it, there’s only one person entitled to it—the individual. So if you think I'm off in left field, that's ok, that's your right. And it's my right to be me. 

I have no doubt that some members of my faith have wondered if I’ve gone off the deep end because I post so many controversial things, especially on LGBT issues. And then yes, there’s that other little thing—my feminist leanings. In the last year or two as challenges to feeling real joy have yet resurfaced, I’ve prayed for answers. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and not be able to sleep because of the anxiety I've felt over the way my church didn’t have any real answers for the LGBT community. Over the years I’ve read a few things. I've listened to BYU’s Dr. William Bradshaw. I've read Carol Lynn Pearson’s books. I’ve listened to LGBT friends and parents. I've read about suicides attempts and suicides. My heart grew heavier. I had to take a break and step away from the church for a time. Attending caused me too much pain. The God I believe in would provide a viable path for his children--all His children--not just the straight.

One morning as I lay in bed, after another sleepless night. I was so sad. God doesn’t reject his children and neither should His church. While I was thinking about this an answer came. And it was very clear. “Don’t just mourn. Do something.”

Well, I’m no expert, but I know my heart. A few years ago, I didn’t dare post anything. I didn’t dare write anything on this issue. Even though I felt like it was important then, I didn’t want my name attached to it. But the great thing about personal revelation is that when you follow the spirit, He gives you the peace and confidence that you need to go forward. Finally, I understand that fear dissipates when you exercise faith. And as I am following my purpose and writing my blog, doing interviews, and attending meetings, my peace and happiness has returned.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

In Response to the Controversial Meridian article "Are You a Liberal Mormon."

Big Sigh. That's the response of most of us liberals when we read this kind of stuff. Others, like me, get out the lap top. In Joni Hilton's diatribe, rant, or whatever you want to call it, she got a few things right, but none of the motivations. We aren't lazy sinners (See Pres. Uctdorf's last conference message). We are frustrated though and this was just another article from a fellow Mormon to remind us why.

 Joni’s words from the article are in italics. “…Liberal Mormon.”It meant people who were of our faith, but who drew their own lines in the sand. They decided which aspects of our faith to accept or reject, from honoring the Sabbath to wearing less than modest clothing. Basically, it described people who were members of convenience. When they didn’t like something the Prophet said, they felt perfectly fine skirting around that one, and writing their own rules.

As my husband likes to say, we all have our favorite sins, liberal thinkers and by-the –book-thinkers alike. I consider myself, not only liberal religiously, but also politically. Joni assumes we all wear “immodest clothing.” Well, I don’t have the right kind of body that anyone would want to see too much of, including myself, so no biggie there. Besides, up until the hot-flashes started a few years ago, I was cold all the time. So unless you’re in my bathroom, you won’t see more than a few inches of skin. And the Sabbath—well as far as I know that one was covered by Jesus when he said, “the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath." So it’s between me and Jesus on how I keep the day holy. Joni’s right about writing our own rules. We all do. Or you could call it setting priorities. Another word for it is personal revelation. But Joni criticizes that one too.
Here’s something to chew on from a couple of our prophets, Harold B. Lee and Brigham Young. The LDS church believes apostolic revelation to be inspired, but not infallible. Lee wrote, "We consider God, and him alone, infallible; therefore his revealed word to us cannot be doubted, though we may be in doubt some times about the knowledge which we obtain from human sources, and occasionally be obliged to admit that something which we had considered to be a fact, was really only a theory." Leaders are still considered regular people with "their opinions and prejudices and are left to work out their own problems without inspiration in many instances." Brigham Young taught "the greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord." Members are taught to rely on the Holy Ghost to judge, and if a revelation is in harmony with the revealed word of God, it should be accepted.

Liberal Mormons are more slippery. They often attend church, but they’re the ones who dodge Gospel Doctrine class because the teacher is “so by-the-book.” This criticism is meant to imply that he’s a dolt who never questions anything, so why should I attend a class taught by someone so narrow-minded?

She’s right. We are slippery. She says we dodge Gospel Doctrine class because the teacher is “so-by-the-book.” What she doesn’t say is that we’re really doing is selling dope to the fourteen-year-olds who are also skipping class. Yes, we’re all behind the church, behind the bushes leading our little ones down a dark path. Or we could be skipping Gospel Doctrine class, not because the teacher is “so-by-the-book” but because he or she is interpreting the gospel in a way that doesn’t come from the manual. It might include rants about the moral decay of our society (code for we have a Democrat president.) Or the political slants may not come from the teacher at all, but from comments in the class condemning different classes or even races of people. She says that we are “members of convenience.” There actually isn’t anything convenient about having to be on guard the whole time you are at church lest someone make a derogatory remark about the president of the U.S.—and yes this has happened too. (P.S. Our ward has good GD teachers and yes they are on my Facebook so know this doesn’t mean you or you or you, but it happens.) And then there’s my liberal friends who are gay who dare to show up to church, and my single friends, divorced friends, widowed friends. It’s not so convenient for them. It's actually very inconvenient and yet, they are brave enough to believe that the church includes them. 

They disagree with several points in the Proclamation to the World, say no to callings that insult their intelligence, and create their own spin on how God will ultimately judge us (very leniently, usually). They think bikinis are fine, iced tea is a tasty drink, and R-rated movies are often artistic and worth seeing.

Hmm. This is a hard one. I do disagree with several points in the Proclamation. I don’t consider it Christ-like enough. It isn’t inclusive of all types of families, those led by single parents for example, and yes, I believe that my LGBT friends have a place in the gospel, too. By focusing on the proclamation, some are left feeling broken. (Yeah, I know sounds liberal. right?)
Yes, I have said no to callings, not because they “insult my intelligence” but because again, I’m entitled to personal revelation. And this spin you talk about on how God will judge us—there’s another word for that too—it’s called the Atonement. I wouldn’t know how tasty iced tea is, but I have seen quite a few R rated movies. I follow what it says in the “Strength for Youth” on that and choose media that is uplifting. Yes, it is possible. The rating doesn’t tell you the overall content of a movie at all. I’ve turned off plenty of raunchy stuff during primetime TV, then gotten out one of my “artsy” Netflix R rated subtitled moves and cried because it was uplifting, enlightening, and “worth seeing.” Not that it's anyone's business besides mine. 

Invariably liberal Mormons do not read their scriptures every day. They do not attend the temple, they do not show up to help someone move, and they do not Home Teach or Visit Teach with regularity. They view those who do as quaint minions who never question authority and who follow the rules like mindless sheep. The one thing they do subscribe to with gusto, however, is free agency. In fact, free agency is their justification for the Designer Gospel they have refurbished to suit their individual tastes.

Wow! This paragraph just blows my mind. If the author had been reading her scriptures, I’m not sure where she would have found anything telling her it was okay to judge others on these details, but should have found plenty to tell her otherwise, unless the truly righteous have a whole set of scriptures I’m not familiar with. Temple attendance—same thing. Whether or not we visit or home teach—again same thing. However this one, I can truly argue with. And the moving thing, too.  But she’s right about free agency—we are big on that one—and if I’m not mistaken--so was Jesus and Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, right on down to President Monson. It’s actually one of the church’s selling points. The Designer Gospel, well yeah, she’s got me on that one because I also believe in another liberal ideal that we do harp on a lot, called personal revelation.

I’m skipping some of the Meridian article, so make sure you read the whole thing. But I’ll end with this gem.

Living in the gray area, the fringe, takes little– if any– effort. Like laziness, it spawns rationalization, something the obedient never have to worry about. The dedicated members don’t have to excuse or explain themselves; they simply continue working, inching along on the path Christ outlined. Only when we stray do we feel we have to justify our choices. Perhaps that’s one way to tell if you’re at risk. Only the Liberal Mormons feel the need to explain their twist on faith.

I’m wondering if she read my essay called “Living in theGray.” But if she had, she might understand that there is nothing easy about it. My own personal struggles to hang on to faith in spite of the constant marginalization by those who feel like their own brand of Mormonism is more superior to mine, is anything but easy. The true difficulty is not that some of us are fringe “liberals” and others are holding fast to the iron rod, it’s that we’re all too quick to draw our own lines in the sand, and not reach out to those who seem different than us. The irony in this last paragraph is that Jesus is the one who said, “My burden is easy, and my yoke is light.” He’s the one who told us following him would be easy and that the gospel came down to two simple commandments; Love God and love your neighbor and on these, hang all the commandments. I'm trying to remember that. 

Where was the writer of this article during PresidentUctdorf’s message this last conference? Here’s just a few excerpts: “Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.

In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.”

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.

Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Ok, me again. Also, be sure to read Elder Causse: In this Church there are no strangers and no outcasts. There are only brothers and sisters. The knowledge that we have of an Eternal Father helps us be more sensitive to the brotherhood and sisterhood that should exist among all men and women upon the earth.” (end quote)

By the time I finished writing this epistle or sermon or whatever you want to call it, my very liberal perhaps even “left-wing, liberal pinko” (one of my conservative father’s favorite phrases) heart has been moved to feel compassion for Joni Hilton. I’m sure, she’s had plenty of time to re-think her position. In all honesty, even though Meridian claims that it slipped through their editorial process, it seems it wasn’t very different from other stuff they have written, just a little more here and there until it’s a slippery slope of hateful spew. The problem is that it’s very divisive and not at fitting of any magazine that claims to be about the teachings of the Jesus Christ. So Joni, it’s ok. We all make mistakes and sometimes let our heads lead without remembering our hearts. So if I meet you somewhere along life’s journey, I really do have empathy for you. Maybe someday we could actually have a pleasant conversation. I hope so.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Believe me, I don't really like controversy.

Last Thursday, I perused our Logan newspaper and felt troubled by the smug and mocking tone of the featured editorial by Kathy Archer called Shaking my head over LDS Priesthood protest.  I knew by the headline that I would be in trouble if I read it and I was. I don't like controversy, though if you know how many times I express a controversial opinion in the newspaper, on my blog, or elsewhere, you'd find this hard to believe. But really, I go through a gut-wrenching period before I get out the lap top. I don't like to offend people, but ever since Jr High, I've found myself standing up for the minority rights. In this case, it was the right to ask that LDS church leaders inquire of the Lord on the matter of ordination of the priesthood for women. This is a controversy that I've tried to stay out of. But today I dipped my toe in by my letter to the editor being printed in today's Sunday paper. Here it is.

Ordain Women’ reaction hurtful

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Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 12:15 am

To the editor:

It’s perplexing when leaving is offered to members of my church who have a complaint, legitimate or otherwise. The “like it or leave” attitude is far from what I would hope of the gospel who claims Jesus at its head. Jesus said, “Come all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” My hope is that the 10 percent of sisters who aren’t satisfied with the status quo are still welcomed to stay members of the fold.
For Mormons, a scripture from the New Testament is important because it lead a young Jospeh Smith to inquire of the Lord. “… Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Whether a person agrees with the Ordain Woman movement or not is less important than recognizing that they are for the most part faithful women with hearts open to inquiry. They have asked only that their leaders inquire of the Lord on this matter. 
Joseph Smith said: “ … we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” It may be in this light that the Ordain Women movement began. Though I’m not directly a part of the movement, I extend an open arm to my sisters in the gospel who stand at the door and knock. Remember the Word of Wisdom came about because Emma Smith complained about tobacco spittle that she had to clean up after meetings (so the story goes). Only then did Jospeh Smith pray and receive the revelation. Remember that in the early days of the LDS church, and even until 1920, women in the church were allowed and even encouraged to give blessings by the laying on of hands to their children and to each other.
In the next decades as our young girls reach adulthood; they may not be so content with the role that has been delineated for them. Is asking them to find the exit really the best course?
C.J. Warburton

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

All You Need is Light

My daughter once told me a story about when she was a student living in Denmark. She'd ridden her bike on a long country path miles through the forest and into the city. She turned around when it was night to return home and realized that she had no light on her bicycle and the once inviting forest was now nothing but black. She thought, "Sometimes all you need is a little light." That little light would not only have lighted her way home, it would have comforted her. Instead what had only taken her an hour with light, took her several in the dark.

Sometimes all we need is a little light. When I was a little girl I was very afraid of the dark. Darkness brought about the nightmares and night terrors that plagued me. My parents allowed me to leave the hall light on while I fell asleep. The little light provided real comfort. Then if I woke up from a bad dream, I’d find myself alone and in the dark. When I was really little, I would run into my parents’ room, and Mom would pull back the covers and let me slip in beside her. Or sometimes she sat on the edge of my bed to calm my fears. Once after we rearranged the room so when I woke up from my nightmare, the door wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I felt around in the dark for a light and found nothing. I can still remember how frightened I was when my mother came running in to see why I was crying, flipped on the light to find me pounding against the wrong wall.

As I grew older I was too self-conscious about crawling into bed with my parents, but my nightmares continued. Once when I was about eleven or twelve, I woke in terror, too scared to move, so didn’t dare get out of bed to turn on the light, so I kept perfectly still and began to pray. I pleaded for comfort so that I could sleep and get away from my fears. We had a Britney Spaniel named Caesar. And Caesar always, always slept clear down stairs with my brothers. While I was pleading for comfort, I heard Caesar’s feet click across the kitchen floor, then pad down the hall, and into my room. He plopped down on the floor at the foot of my bed. And I was immediately comforted and went back to sleep. That was the only time he slept there.

In many ways, I’m still that little girl in search of peace, alone and afraid and sometimes in the dark. And maybe even pounding against the wrong wall.  I may not know, but I believe that I have Heavenly Parents who are mindful of me and my earnest desires, and sometimes desperate pleas. They are near and ready to offer help. Just like the hall light shining just enough light so I could see what’s around me, the answers come just as surely as they did when I was ten years old. Again, I am grateful for these continual years of struggle with my faith as my honesty has led me to strengthened relationships. I can feel the love of my Heavenly Parents offering comfort through the kindness of those around me. Some have acknowledged their own questions and others an encouraging word. Others have become real friends. 

A decade ago or so, in an interview with the a member of the stake presidency, he told me that the path may be straight and narrow, but that it was wide enough for individual differences. And I believe wide enough for our individual journeys. My friend DeAnna offered a metaphor of climbing a mountain together holding hands, but each of us having different obstacles in front of us. I have a feeling that our journeys diverge, cross different rivers, rocks and streams, but perhaps meet at the top. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Living in the Gray

Most people in my LDS faith are more comfortable with certainty. Testimonies are filled with repeated phrases that start with "I know." I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his son and my savior, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and so on. It's tidy and it's simple. We like that. But what if you don't know? It can be personally unsettling, but even more unsettling is some people don't know how to treat those of us who live in the gray. Should you call us to repentance? Should you tread lightly? Should you put our names in the temple? Should you show an extra measure of love and kindness?

I'm surrounded by black and white thinkers in the church, my family, my ward, and amongst my friends. I may at times strain their patience.  But lately I've had a few kindnesses from some of those black and white thinkers. My stake president is a rare man. Ideologically, politically, and in every other way I believe, a polar opposite of me. Yet when he asked me how I was doing and I told him I was still hanging on, he said. "Don't let go." A few kind words that warm my questioning heart. I've had other friends who have called on the phone to see how I'm doing, or who tell me they are sorry that I'm feeling sad after a troubling lesson at church, or I've received encouraging text messages, and some have let me cry when my heart breaks for the umpteenth time.

I'm a new fan of Terryl and Fiona Givens. First, I read a book by them and published by Deseret Book, which means even the black and white thinkers can't disapprove, right? It's called "The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life"  Then after I read it I listened to a podcast interview on Mormon Stories with the authors. The book is like reading a Mormon C.S. Lewis and I underlined many passages throughout. The Givens's give doubt elevated status. On page 4, they state "There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one's personal horizon..."And then on p. 8 "In our experience most believers, like doubters, are continually adjusting their paradigms to make better sense of the world as they experience it. Belief is fluid. So is doubt."

I loved that. When my Aunt Emma Lou Thayne came and spoke to my book club, she said "Doubt is the first step to belief." Hearing of these faithful doubters brought back to my memory something I have never believed, "faith and fear cannot exist at the same time." I'm living proof as I take one fearful step at a time while navigating my best on a journey of faith, that it can and does exist together. I remember those first, but thrilling words sitting on a medical table at a small doctor's office in Garland, Utah. "You're pregnant!"  I was a young married woman of twenty-two years. Excitement and fear flooded me. Can every pregnant woman remember that faith climbs right into the car with your fear when you head to the hospital to deliver a child? And then of course, every day there after I raised my kids in a troubling world, my faith and my fear hand in hand as partners in parenthood.

On my path I've come across other weary travelers who also have struggled with faith. Some have emerged with a new outlook and faith very different than the one on which they began. Some end up in the same place, rooted once again in Mormonism but with a nuanced understanding and compassion. And some still have the look in their eyes that I still recognize in my own. The pain is still on the surface. Many of my gospel friends can't understand what our problem is, "just believe," they may say. Another thing Terry Givens said in another interview I heard, was that "you can offer someone all the money in the world to believe in the Easter Bunny and they won't be able to do it." Belief can't be forced. In Gospel terms, it's "line upon line." But as the Givens's said, "Belief is fluid. So is doubt."

They end the book with this this hopeful passage. "The New Testament makes the point that those mortals who operate in the gray area between conviction and incredulity are in a position to choose most meaningfully, and with most meaningful consequences.

Peter's tentative steps across the water capture the rhythm familiar to most seekers. He walks in faith, he stumbles, he sinks, but is embraced by the Christ before the waves swallow him. Many of us will live our lives in doubt..."

I've heard others say Peter sank because he doubted, forgetting that he ever walked on water at all. If I laid out my spiritual experiences end to end, I would guess few of them would have happened within the walls of a church building; they are everywhere, hiking in mountains and witnessing a sunset, seeing a random kindness at the grocery store, at the bedside of a dying loved one, holding a newborn baby, and so on and so on. But having a community to share those experiences with in a common language can bring us closer as a people and to God. Can the doubters and the believers learn to not judge each other?

I'm learning to be comfortable living in the gray. And I'm still hanging on.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Little Pride

It was a simple thing to do on a beautiful Sabbath morning, but few things in life could prepare me for feeling a love so strong I thought it would knock me off my feet. It took everything I had to continue to walk instead of stumbling in a heap of tears on the Salt Lake City Streets.

A hoard of four hundred plus of us walked together to cheers fit for returning war heroes. There may have been heroes amongst our Mormons Building Bridges group dressed not in soldier uniforms, but ordinary clothes: skirts, or shirts and ties, donning signs that declared love for all, Jesus said love everyone, Equality, and All are alike unto God. Rainbow flags, and banners with emphasis on family inclusion, were held high. The heroes may have been the family there to support their transgender son, who declared not only love for him, but for all like him. Telling news cameras that they wished each family had the blessings that they have had to be able to support their child, and their brother. The heroes may have been the gay couple who marched, arms around each other. It may have been the eighty-year-old grandmother, or the family that marched as four generations of love, or it may have been the man in the wheelchair waving his small rainbow flag. It may have been the many parents who set aside exclusionary doctrine to simply love, as Jesus would have them love. It was hard to pinpoint the heroes amongst us, we looked so much like anyone else, but then that’s the whole point. We are the “alike unto God.”

In a strange reversal of roles I suspect the true heroes were not the marchers, though there were some, the true heroes were the thousands lining the parade route, shouting their love for us, applauding, cheering, crying, hugging, and high-fiving in a way that showed forgiveness, love, and acceptance--to us. The heroes were those who have faced and continue to face day after day discrimination and yet press forward with faith for a better day.  Dreaming for a time when “equality for all” actually means them. I will continue to dream along with them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thoughts about Manufacturing the Spirit

In my adult life I've been very leery of manufactured spiritual experiences. I wasn't sure why, but I've been suspicious of treks, special camps, pretend scenarios such as airplane crashes and others that end up being about judgement and rewards and so on. It's been hard to stick to my dislike when group after group of people bear testimony about the life-changing experiences, but I've managed to keep my distance from such things.

Years ago, when I was in a YW's position, one of these manufactured spiritual experiences was being discussed and I got a pit in my stomach. Even though I was not the president at the time, I knew I had to do something to stop it. There was going to be a whole judgement day game and at the end those who had made "right" choices would be rewarded and those who did not would not get the reward of the celestial kingdom at the end. It was just a game after all, so why did I get so sick about it? I discussed the "game" with a friend and she pointed out that the game denied the atonement. After all there was no place in the game for those who had made the mistakes or listened to Satan's voice to repent. And even a game that does that is wrong if it was held under the guise of a church function.

I was so uneasy about the event even though among all my leaders, both in Young Women's and in Young Men's and in the bishopric, I was the only dissenting voice. Plans were underway. With a pounding heart, I drafted a letter that declared why I thought it was wrong and delivered it to one of the leaders in charge. The activity was cancelled. And no, it was not because of my letter. The decision was made before the letter was delivered. One of the husband's of one of the YW's leaders remembered a similar activity when he was growing up and he felt like it was a damaging experience. I was relieved, but somewhat bothered that he was the only one who seemed to know that things that are supposed to be a wake-up call can backfire. Or activities that are supposed to evoke emotion are replaced for true spiritual experiences.

Today I came across this blogpost that hit my uneasiness about these things on the head. Spirit and Emotion can be confused and often are, but they are not the same thing. Read and enjoy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A year later and I'm still well, I'm doing better...

Last year about this time of year I blogged about all that had been lost in March of 2012. Our lovely church building was being torn down. Now the new building is almost done. My mother-in-law Ruth died at the end of March and I found I had no idea how profoundly I would feel her loss in my life. Perhaps most debilitating was that for the second time in my life I was going through a period of prolonged depression, triggered by an unending loss of faith which may (or may not) have been triggered by a PTSD/S situation. Feeling low and then lower, I called a psychotherapist who had been recommended, and found she had a one year waiting-list. I told them that would not do me any good, so didn't put my name on this list. I wish I had.

Though one year later, I've made a lot of progress. I feel happy more days than not. I've learned to be more honest about who I am. I'm still learning to not worry about what people think about me, knowing that I'm only responsible for my own feelings and not theirs. A friend, recommend a book called "Mindset" by Carol Dweck. I love it. It's helping me to look at failing or making mistakes as growth. Knowing that there is no growth possible without the acceptance that failing is a possibility. I feel like I'm doing a better job of being true to my conscience. I care more deeply and feel more love for people than I did before this period of loss and depression began. I've made some real positive steps in defining my faith and being true to the what brings peace. I'm learning to listen ever so carefully for the answers. I find them on my daily walks, when I visit with a friend, when I read a story to a grandchild, or when I write my thoughts, or make something in my studio.

Last week I listened to the majority of conference. Besides being happy that they finally asked a woman to pray in the public world wide meeting, there were some gems. One was the talk given by Elder Holland. I felt like he was throwing a lifeline out to me and others who walk on the edge of the waters of faith. The path for me isn't murky, it is quite clear. Where my conscience conflicts with the teachings (or current teachings) of my church, my conscience dictates. My own religion teaches me this over and over again. Stand for truth and righteousness. Pray for personal revelation. Do what is right, let the consequence follow and on and on. What I liked about Elder Holland's talk was that much, but these words stand out. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. 
Also, I really liked this: "Imoments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground islimited. ...When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. The size of your faith or the degree of yourknowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward thefaith you do have and the truth you already know.

There was more, but that's enough for now.