Friday, August 31, 2012

Further thoughts on women and the Church

You guys are super awesome and have shared a lot of interesting, thoughtful ideas about women and the Church, and I'm really glad. Also, I'm in a much better place mentally than I was at 2:00 a.m., so it's easier to look at a broader perspective and whatnot.

I want to mention some of the ideas that I found interesting, for the benefit of anyone who cares or has questions like I do. Maybe something will click for you!

First, I really enjoyed this article a Facebook friend referred me to. I felt validated to hear that many others feel the way I do, and I liked seeing some of the author's suggestions on how to make the Church more inclusive. It's a long article, so... yeah. TL;DR: many women feel hurt and confused about seeming inequality in the Church, and there are ways we can make it much better.

A few of you pointed out that in your experiences, women in your wards have been referred to as "President Person" instead of "Sister Person," and that your ward councils are very supportive of the female leadership and the ideas and concerns they bring up. That makes me really happy! I guess my experiences have just been a little more negative than yours, unfortunately.

An idea that my mother-in-law and husband have previously mentioned is the "women=physical responsibilities, men=spiritual responsibilities" idea. What they mean by that is this: women are in charge of bringing children into the world and nurturing them (especially physically), and men are in charge of bringing children back into the presence of God (so, Priesthood duties). I find this idea very interesting. My husband suggests that perhaps either a) women were given some sort of Priesthood authority before coming to earth, so they could "officiate" in their womanly duties, or b) women gain some sort of Priesthood authority from covenants and ordinances to officiate in womanly duties. Or maybe the "power" is something different altogether. But still: this resonates with me and feels pretty okay. (Also, this makes me wonder: is childbirth an "ordinance" that women "officiate" in? 'Cuz you can't get any of the other ordinances if you're never born, so... )

A thought that goes along with this is the "women have certain innate qualities that help them return to God, but since men don't have them, they need to learn them" theory. So, men need to serve in Priesthood offices in order to gain traits that women typically have naturally: nurturing, self-sacrifice, etc. (and, men have to receive the Priesthood for exaltation, whereas women do not). I've heard this before in Church and several of you brought it up to me. I think the idea has merit, and could at least partly explain the division. One thing I do recognize is that Priesthood holders are not directly benefited by holding the Priesthood; it is all about serving others. This does bring me great comfort.

Also: well, I've obviously never been a mother. Duh. So I haven't had any of the cool experiences related to that calling and gift and until I have fat little babies, I won't understand. Maybe I'll finally feel more valid and appreciated when that time comes. My frustration with motherhood and the Church is that people in the Church only seem to praise women when it comes to this calling, and try to make it sound like it's totally perfect and awesome all the time. Maybe it is, but it looks like a lot of poop and crying to me. Maybe that's more awesome than I've been lead to believe. Poop, after all, is one of the best words ever invented, and it's fun to use. But my point is, until I'm a mother, it's hard to understand who else and what else I can be, in the eyes of Church members. I want to do and be a lot of things, but with my current situation, I can't do a lot of that, and I often feel like I slip between the cracks and am viewed as broken or something. I want to be recognized as a full human being even though I'm not a mother right now. I want to be valued and appreciated for who I am right now.

What I really want to know is this: what is the REAL REASON that women do not (appear to) use the Priesthood on the earth (outside of the temple)? Is the reason doctrinal? Policy-based? Knowing this would help me feel so much better. It just feels confusing to me that it seems that men=Priesthood=Church leadership, when something in my heart tells me that isn't quite the truth. It's hard to perform the mental gymnastics to explain how, exactly, women are equal to men in the Church, and why, exactly, we apparently don't need to hold the Priesthood. I would love a straight answer.

I know that God loves everyone the same, and that in His eyes, we really are equal. But I feel that a lot of societal attitudes and cultural values obscure that equality for me. The Church is good and wonderful, but it is also subject to racism, sexism, and all the other -isms. I'm tired of the rhetoric that implies men are terrible people and that women are perfect angels. It hurts everyone, because I know many amazing men AND women, and many not so amazing men AND women. I'm tired of being labeled in certain ways that constrict me from fully experiencing being a human. Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I shouldn't be assertive, shouldn't ask questions, shouldn't get angry or depressed. Because I do all of those things, and I know for a fact you guys do, too. How can I learn to be happy if I'm never sad? How can I find truth if I don't look for it? How can I get anywhere in life if I don't stand up for what I believe in? And I hate that men are made fun of for being gentle or kind or tender-hearted, when apparently they're supposed to be tough and grow some balls and always take charge and not act like women or else they're sissies (or much more insulting terms). Jesus Christ is the most gentle, kind, tender-hearted, nurturing person I can think of. Isn't the point of the gospel to become more like Him?

I'll quit here before I get too rambly, because I could say lots of other stuff but it might get boring and plus I've said the most important stuff. So: share your opinions, please! Tell me what you think about the position of women in the Church. If we ask the tough questions, we can find the answers that will bring us light and peace. So... ready set go!

Women in the Church

The stuff I'm going to talk about today might make sensitive readers think I'm crazy. Also, it's like 2:00 in the morning, and it's not going to be concise, probably. You're invited to stop reading now.

It has taken me a little while, but I have finally realized--and embraced--the fact that I am a feminist. The idea of promoting equality, love, and respect for all of God's children feels so right to me. But a lot of my strong beliefs seem to clash with the structure of the Church.

Let me get a few more disclaimers out of  the way, since you should've stopped reading when I told you to, and you definitely think I'm crazy:

1. I believe in God the Father and the Mother, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I believe that when 'God' is used in the scriptures and talks, it really refers to both our Parents. I believe that the gospel is true.

2. I believe in the Book of Mormon. I believe that the Church is directed by the Savior, and that He reveals truth to our leaders, and to us.

3. I believe that God is no respecter of persons.

4. I believe that most all Church members and those who identify themselves as Mormons are very good people, and have good intentions.

5. I believe that the Church is an earthly institution to spread the gospel, and because it is primarily run by imperfect humans, it is imperfect.

That being said, the Church makes me feel so sad sometimes, and the reason is that I'm a woman.

As a woman, I don't feel very valued or special. I feel ignored, misunderstood, and misrepresented. I long to be honestly seen alongside my sisters as equal to the men in this Church.

Church leaders and members *try* to value women, in a weird and mostly annoying way. We're told how Incredible We Are. We're told that motherhood is the Best Thing Ever and how we're so amazing and angelic and glorious for doing that. We're told how virtuous and pure and perfect we are compared to the women of the world, and how they're a bunch of selfish floozies.

The problem to me is that if everyone thinks women are so great, then why are we left out of so, so much?

Understand me: I love being a wife, and I look forward to motherhood. But I am more than just those two roles. Womanhood is certainly about more than those two roles, which many women, by the way, never experience.

It hurts that the leadership is predominantly male, who decide things for and about females without consultation, as far as I'm aware. It hurts that, when there are female leaders, they are called "Sister Whatever" instead of "President Whatever." It hurts that some callings are only given to men, even though absolutely no Priesthood keys are required. It hurts that we women are excluded from being witnesses or participating in baby blessings in any way (although I can see loopholes in the official policy and you can bet I will take advantage of those loopholes). It hurts that we don't talk about God the Mother; I really, really want to learn about Her and from Her. I want to learn how to be a woman from another woman.

And yes: it does hurt that men are given offices in the Priesthood, when it appears that there is no doctrinal backing for why women aren't allowed. Most of all, it hurts that no one will tell us why.

Well... that's not 100% true. Some people try. But because they don't know, the explanations fall short, don't make sense, sting. Women can't hold the Priesthood because they have uteruses, and dudes are totally jealous? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they're subject to men? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they're so much better than those gross, icky men, therefore they don't need it? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they have to be protected by others? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they're not supposed to, and that's how it will always be, amen?

The most insulting accusation regarding women and the Priesthood is that it's unrighteous for us to want to have it, because we're mothers and it's just wrong and yeah. But if we in the Church believe that men and women are striving to become kings and queens, priests and priestesses, gods and goddesses... then who are you to say that it's unrighteous to want to exercise Priesthood power? I want to serve people in a fuller capacity than I am currently able!

Speaking of a fuller capacity, being a temple worker is so fulfilling to me because I get to officiate in several important ordinances. As far as I know, one can't perform ordinances without the power and approval of God. I believe that we as women are more fully able to use the Priesthood--or maybe our Priestesshood?--within the walls of the temple. It feels so right to me to be able to serve my sisters in the temple in this way.

Here is what I think: our Church is subject to long-standing cultural values, just like everyone else in the whole dang world. I think that Jesus is merciful, and lets us make mistakes, but corrects us when we are ready for it. (... Blacks and the Priesthood, anyone?)

I also think that, perhaps, we just really don't understand the Priesthood all that well, and that until we do, we will continue to come up with confusing answers and shame the questioners for daring to ask.

All these thoughts and feelings, coupled with lingering depression and the occasional migraine makes Church attendance very painful. But because I believe that the life after is going to be so much better helps me hold on. I love the temple so much because I can see a glimpse of that.

This post, while a helpful emotional rant, is also a call to action. If you feel that women and men are equals... show it. Encourage it. Some of the things I'm going to do include calling female leaders by their titles; speaking up for women in ward councils (if I'm ever in a position to); teaching my children to respect and love everyone; giving the same attention to my future daughters as my future sons will inherently receive at Church; doing Visiting Teaching; teaching modesty in a way that isn't male-centered and female-shaming; and finding my own ways to be more involved in things. These are all tiny things. And I know I'll find more. Because by small and simple things are great things brought to pass*, yes?

I believe that things will change. If not in this life, then certainly the next.



*Alma 37:6, in case you were wondering.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Progress

My experiment is going well, and I do believe I may have found a trigger: added sugar.


I had my first migraine in about two weeks yesterday, and I'm almost positive it was because of all the sugar I had the day before. Tricky, right? So, if it does end up being a trigger, that's great, because I'll avoid stuff with lotsa sugar and probably feel healthier. But it will also be sad, because I like sugar.

Craziness: my stake was COMPLETELY REORGANIZED last weekend, and I have been moved into a ward that didn't exist before last weekend. I just don't even know what to do with that. The good-for-sure news is that we have Church at 11:00 now instead of 9:00...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'm an introvert, and I'm okay

A cool person named Mike posted a video about introversion on Facebook, and it got me thinking.

When I was in high school, one of the many identities I tried on for a while was that of an extrovert. It seemed like the ideal of a good, likable, righteous person. I saw extroverts as the bright, shiny, bubbly, popular people who did cool things and were loved by all. I felt a lot of pressure to get out there and make stuff happen and be bold and exciting and be friendly and fun. This pressure seemed to come from... well, everywhere. Peers. Teachers. Church leaders. The Media.

I tried really hard. I jumped into all sorts of stuff to "be outgoing." Although many of the activities were fun, the drive to be with people and seen by people never felt all that great to me. I could pretend, but I didn't like being the center of attention. Trying to constantly keep up with social events and friends and Cool People exhausted me.

It always seemed somewhat unfair to me that the qualities of extroverts were held as the highest traits a person could have, and that if someone hadn't yet attained those traits, they needed to get on it. Stuff like enjoying group work or public speaking skillz or finding parties to attend and getting in the middle of all the action. It made me uncomfortable that I simply wasn't like that, and it made me uncomfortable that no matter how hard I tried to enjoy those things, I was uncomfortable. I felt deficient.  

I was not deficient. I am not deficient.

It has certainly taken a while, but I've come to understand myself better than ever. I'm an introvert, and I'm okay. I love spending time alone with my thoughts. Quality time alone is refreshing and energizing to me. I prefer to listen to conversations, rather than lead them. I'm not a huge fan of spending time with lots of people at once. I prefer books to parties, and spending time at home over Having Adventures.

While I have a few different theories about why I've struggled with depression, one that really stands out is feeling guilt over my introversion. I've been told so many times that my personality is wrong, and that I have to fix it. I have to anguish over making friends, and feel guilt when it takes a long time. Enjoying alone time makes me a loner, and that's bad.

Please don't misunderstand my complaining; extroverts are amazing, and I love them. But they are not socially superior, and we introverts have no reason to feel guilt over our quiet natures.

(Parents and other readers with sensitive constitutions, you are now invited to stop reading so you don't get offended by the dreadful language coming up, which would surely make you worry about my being thrust into the depths of Hell.) 

I can honestly say that I like myself, and I'm happy with who I am. I am a really good person, and I have a perfectly wonderful personality. The world needs people like me. So you know what, Society? Suck it.