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Videos of Jesus Christ – Twig of Faith

A common jab at the person who complains about something relatively trivial in the eternal scheme of things — bad service at a restaurant, annoying people at the theater, a car nice car with a flat tire, a slow internet connection — is to tag their complaint thusly:

#FirstWorldProblems

Twig of Faith

While it’s true that we would all do better to accentuate the positive and count our blessings (research soundly confirms that choosing to see the real good in the world has enormous benefits toward improved happiness), it’s also worth noting that pointing out the truth that “things could always be worse” (and it is always true) doesn’t solve problems nor does it usually help much. This is called the fallacy of relative privation.

My purpose is not to encourage the Relief Society to pass out a sign up sheet to take dinners to every family in the ward who has a hang nail — or even to indulge the negativity some constantly display — but to note that true sisterhood and brotherhood asks us to see the pain of others as real pain, even if we don’t fully understand it. 

Many of you are now passing through physical, mental, and emotional trials that could cause you to cry out… “When I have tried all my life to be good, why has this happened to me?”

Now, I wish to encourage those who are in the midst of hard trials, who feel their faith may be fading under the onslaught of troubles. Trouble itself can be your way to strengthen and finally gain unshakable faith. Moroni, the son of Mormon in the Book of Mormon, told us how that blessing could come to pass. He teaches the simple and sweet truth that acting on even a twig of faith allows God to grow it.

Dozens and dozens of times over my life I have seen people in the church go to extremes to be inclusive — even to the point of harming others.

For example, I’ve seen girls at Young Women Camp who literally stood nose to nose with the priesthood leaders, screaming every curse word in the book (at least every curse word I have ever heard), stealing all the things of value from other girls’ bags, and threatening other girls to “beat the @#%$! out of you in your sleep. The “leader” response was to gently (but firmly!) chastise them and politely ask them to stop.

No one was sent home. No one even had their parents called. Because, you know, “we don’t want to drive them away from the church.”

[For the record, that was my oldest daughters first-year Beehive camp experience. (I was a ward young women leader, but didn’t go to that camp that year due to having just given birth.) I told the stake leaders my child would never go to camp again and my ward wouldn’t be part of any more stake camps if I had any input on the matter. Of course, the next year I was made a stake camp director. But, rest assured, it was a very different experience.]

I’ve seen something entirely, utterly, almost unfathomably different amongst the self-proclaimed “faithful” church members the past few months. Endless blog posts, social media comments, and face-to-face communication directed toward those who are part of Ordain Women (and other groups addressing gender disparity in the church) — loudly cheered and celebrated  and shared and liked and praised — has included some of the most hateful rhetoric I’ve seen from church members in my 49 years in the church.

To be clear I’m not part of OW or any other official group. But I do feel some of their pain and I have since I was four years old.

I didn’t grow up hearing feminist indoctrination and getting my panties all up in a bunch about it.

I grew up in a traditional home in Utah’s “Happy Valley.” My dad was a math professor at BYU and my mother a stay-at-home very domestic homemaker who cooked, cleaned, sewed, and the whole bit. (She was also a scriptorian with a BS in economics (not home economics) and graduate work in the same. She was an incredibly talented pianist and conductor. She did not partake in crafts other than some embroidery and incredible knitting — and she never made “coffee table grapes.”)

Of my entire large “gang” of buddies, only one had a working mom. Only three had non-LDS parents. (Not because we were mythically forbidden to have non-LDS friends (quite the opposite in all my experience), but because demographics dictated it.) We were completely active Latter-day Saints, including church attendance, activity attendance, weekly Family Home Evenings (of the lesson manual variety, not the hang out and play games variety), daily family scripture study, twice daily family prayer. We all graduated from seminary and graduated from BYU (some of us more than once). Plus rabid BYU football fans. The whole nine yards.

In spite of all the religious/cultural/social training and upbringing and indoctrination, the gender disparity in the church has bothered me since the day (at age four) I learned that my dad wasn’t doing all the baptizing and confirming just because my sister asked him to. It was because my mom wasn’t allowed to participate. I was bowled over.

So let me express to you that I know you don’t all share my feelings. My own mother could not for the life of her understand what my deal was. I get that and I respect that. I only ask the same in return.

In my experience, LDS women fall into three very broad, general categories:

  1. Totally, completely content with the status quo. Believe current organization is God’s will because if it were not God would change it. Believe whatever changes occur will be inspired without human intervention. Realize that inspired practice/policy/doctrine change does not mean anything was wrong because the past practice/policy/doctrine was right for the past and the present practice/policy/doctrine is right for the present and the future practice/policy/doctrine will be right for the future.
  2. Totally, completely content with the status quo because being a “faithful” LDS member requires one to submit to the church leadership and to accept their inspired counsel. Would never question anything church leadership does because it would be wrong to do so — more wrong than any of the wrongs that might occur in an imperfect organization. Obedience, faith, waiting on the Lord, enduring, etc., are the primary duties and obligations of faithful members. [This is where I think the survey problem comes into play.]
  3. Believe in the gospel, love the church, but see problems with practice/policy and organization, particularly in how culture molds policy. Unsure of distinction between policy and doctrine, particularly in light of historical authoritative statements and changes. Believe there is historical precedence for open discussion about troubling issues. Believe that issues involving those with no authority are often overlooked/misunderstood because…they mainly impact those with no authority.

For the first four years of my life, I was in category #1. From the time my mom explained to  me (in 1968) that there was enormous gender distinction in the church, I moved to #2 with the proverbial “shelf” full of unanswered questions. When I was about 43 years old — mostly out of a sense of spiritual exhaustion — I moved tentatively, an inch at a time, to category #3.

I’m fine with how you feel and which category you choose to belong to, as long as  you can live in the world of what is real. I’m not insisting the church is wrong about anything nor that you need to agree with me. I’m insisting that:

  1. by definition, the church is sexist — and in the real world, that has consequences that we ought to deal with honestly, for the sake of both current members and potential converts.
  2. you shouldn’t be telling people to leave the church if they aren’t in your category and, in fact, you shouldn’t believe you are the arbiter over their level of faithfulness.

What does this whole discussion have to do with this video or its message? I didn’t intend the post to have anything to do with female ordination. It started out very differently. But as I wrote it kept coming back here. Because maybe those of you who are telling these women to leave don’t understand the trial they are experience and so you label it as “unfaithfulness” or “dissent” or even “apostasy.”

I would like to suggest to you that those who have asked the church leaders to pray specifically about women in the church — not just to get a yes or no response on ordination and (more to the point) not just asking about “how best to value and enhance the amazing contributions of women,” but asking for clarification about Mother in Heaven, about our eternal roles, about what a priestess is, etc.,  — are not apostate at all. Rather, they are showing the ultimate faith and perhaps a faith you can’t even comprehend. Perhaps even a faith greater than your own.

In spite of the fact that they feel marginalized and excluded and subjugated, they are hanging on as members of the church. They are grasping that twig of faith and begging for mercy and consideration. And they are taking those pains and hopes and desires of their hearts to the church leadership themselves. Because they believe in the keys and authority you seem to think they don’t.

That might require much deeper faith and commitment than participating in an organization where you feel happy, comfortable, valued, and fulfilled.

For some of us this path hasn’t been comfortable or even carefully selected. For those like me the path isn’t even clear. I don’t know where I want to stand and with whom I want to align myself. But I do know my heart has been heavy for decades now. No matter what I did or where I served or how I submitted or how many days I fasted and prayed or how many temple sessions I attended, it was just always there, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground. (To be honest, more in the foreground in the temple than most places as the ceremony highlights female subordination.)

Often, due to the nature of the church and particularly women’s place in the church, many of us have repeatedly picked up these gender issues and placed them forcefully back on the “shelf.” We put them away so they won’t be a bother or thorn in our sides or a label that will be used against us by other members of the church. We do it so we won’t be relegated forever to the callings where we “can’t do any damage.”

Instead of embracing them as sisters and doing all you can to help them see the joy of the church, you castigate them. Instead, I ask that you extend love and compassion for the very real trial they are enduring with faith.

If we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest times in life can be a blessing. In all conditions, we can choose the right with the guidance of the Spirit. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ to shape and guide our lives if we choose it. And with prophets revealing to us our place in the plan of salvation, we can live with perfect hope and a feeling of peace. We never need to feel that we are alone or unloved in the Lord’s service because we never are. We can feel the love of God. The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right to bear us up. And He always keeps His word…

His love is unfailing.

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Cranma April 23, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Allison, my daughter sent me here and I hope you will allow a new person to comment. My daughter is in her 30s and has had problems with the church and priesthood since she was about 11 or 12 (when all the boys in her classes started getting the priesthood and she couldn’t).

    She is a definite #2 person. She is really bothered, to the point of having very shaken faith, but would never say so to anyone but those very VERY close. (She is the Young Women president and has been a Primary president and also Relief Society counselor in ward and stake. Her husband has been a bishop and stake president counselor. She is afraid if she tells the truth people will think she’s not faithful and that she will be seen as a bad person in the church, especially by leaders, and that it will harm her and her husband and kids.)

    I admit that I’ve never understood her pain and probably didn’t help because I felt she was kind of silly and not very faithful about it. This has helped me a lot and given me things to think about I never considered.

    Thank you for doing this. I know there are lots of women like my daughter.

  • Jack the Feminist Killer April 24, 2014, 1:44 pm

    The reason people aren’t putting up with the feminist shit is because it’s feminist shit. You think you have a right to speak. You don’t. Shut your old wrinkly face and do what you’re supposed to do. Women ARE valued on the church. They AREN’T valued to lead MEN.

    Sorry you don’t like that. Sorry it makes you cry in your soup. But that’s the way God wants it-for men to lead and women to follow. That’s the eternal order. It’s PATRIARCHAL. Get over it and listen to God for once. Which is to shut your fat trap and follow your leaders.

  • Cambendy April 25, 2014, 7:11 am

    Thank you for this.

  • Margo April 25, 2014, 12:01 pm

    I was going to respond to Jack with the same hate he responded here and decided to wait for a few hours. Now I’m back and the odd things is, I agree with him. No, I don’t like his presentation and rudeness, but he’s right that the church teaches women to follow men in all things.

    If you’ve been to the temple, you will know that even our covenants are made through our husbands. I don’t really understand that, but the husband is the intermediary between the woman and God. Even at the veil we learn that. (Do you know your husband’s new name? Does he know yours?)

    It makes me sad that so many (like Jack and others who think they are such great Mormons) don’t see how hurtful this is.

  • Cherish April 25, 2014, 2:38 pm

    This us the best thing I’ve read about this. I am usually a #1 but have seen so many things from others I don’t agree with. :(

  • jennycherie April 25, 2014, 5:14 pm

    “Which is to shut your fat trap and follow your leaders.”

    Patriarchal or not, this is not doctrinal.
    jennycherie recently posted…Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, April 8!My Profile

  • Angie Gardner April 27, 2014, 6:51 am

    Sadly, while Jack is a jerk, his feelings do represent a good portion of our church membership – although I’d like to think most of them would never say it quite as tactlessly as he did.

    I’m a 3. I’m trying.

  • MB April 27, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Margo,
    I went to the temple yesterday thinking about your “through our husbands” statement, one I’d heard before and thought about. And I noticed something. In the film Eve does make the covenant addressing her remarks to and facing Adam. However, every woman in the company, including me that day and including the woman from the company representing Eve in person, makes the covenant addressing and facing the worker representing the Lord.

    I thought that was interesting to think about.

    And personally, I think that Eve is asked to promise to listen to Adam because she, in her innocence, made that freaking huge decision that, though good, seriously affected his whole life without even consulting him. Not good for a marriage at all. If the tables had been reversed and Adam had made that same decision without consulting Eve, he’d have been counseled to make that same promise to remember to listen to her.

    Like the Lord said in his revelation to Emma “this is my voice unto all”. His requirements at the hands of his children apply to all of his children.

    But we tend to forget that.

  • Shawn May 1, 2014, 1:51 pm

    Not sure I agree with the church being sexist. There are certainly difference in roles, and responsibilities, but the promise is that we can equally acquire the prize at the end, and will be equal in it. True sexism would leave one gender always at a disadvantage even in the afterlife, and hint at misogyny being a valid belief. I find neither the case within the doctrine of the Church. What your local leaders tell you may vary wildly, given their potential for fallibility.

    You present an interesting set of points that reside on a much larger spectrum that includes ignorance and apostasy, and exhaltation and enlightenment. As we move toward the latter, perhaps more will added that helps us understand why the Lord has defined things as they are for now, and what we were to learn from it.

    As for Jack the Feminist killer, he reminds me of Samson. The bible tells us that Samson used parts from the head of an ass, and slew a thousand philistines. Jack seems to use the same weaponry to “slay” feminist blogs. Maybe someone will cut off his curly locks, and eventually his little world can come tumbling down around him.

    If he were to be a priesthood holder, his conduct is unbecoming of such. If women were ever to hold the priesthood in this lifetime (which I don’t have any expectation of BTW), I only wish that his quorum president is quickly changed to a woman.
    Shawn recently posted…Hazards of CruisingMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith May 2, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Shawn, the church simply is sexist by definition. (“True sexism,” whatever that is, doesn’t have the requirements you’ve added.)

    sexism
    discrimination on the basis of gender

    I’ve addressed church sexism in the past. It is what it is. I get that people are uncomfortable with that because we generally see sexism as a negative, but we can’t redefine words just because they make us squirm.

    …the promise is that we can equally acquire the prize at the end, and will be equal in it…

    Where is that “promise”? Have you been to the temple? Is Mother in Heaven a God? (Goddess?) Do we pray to her? Does anyone? What does she do?

    In other words, how can you claim an eternal equality when you have no model for female eternity? You can’t on one hand claim that men and women reside in utterly different spheres and then claim that learning about Heavenly Father teaches women what we need to know about eternity — or that you can make claims about women in eternity.

    I suppose it’s hard for me to understand the “separate but different but still TOTALLY equal” idea because it simply doesn’t mesh with ANY notion of equality that makes sense to me.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken TacosMy Profile

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