What is Woman?

"She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as a healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone."
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Even if the Church doesn't sponsor female chaplains in the U.S. military.

I've thought very little about the fact that only men hold the Priesthood. I have never been inhibited because of it, so I never HAD to think about it before. But the LDS newsroom recently did an article about LDS chaplains, and I really liked the idea of serving my country and my Church at the same time. But I suspected, and had it confirmed, that because a chaplain must perform religious services for its faith, an LDS chaplain must be a Priesthood holder. Not a woman. Not me.

I contacted an LDS chaplain, and he explained to me that a chaplain for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must be married, and therefore his wife is also a part of the package. That's the closest I can ever get to being a chaplain in the military, and they're set apart/encouraged to hold callings in the Church wherever their husbands are stationed. That's a far as their commitment goes... and I thought about that.

I'm to go into Young Women's, Relief Society, and Primary, and believe it's the same thing as serving as a chaplain?

To say that would mean that Relief Society, for example must be important. To me, it would make sense to have women as LDS chaplains to take care of any sisters within the ranks. Just because a man holds the Priesthood doesn't mean he knows anything about how to serve a woman spiritually.

And in a male dominated atmosphere, I would think that a woman would prefer to interact with another woman as her chaplain, if nothing else. Sure, she may not have the Priesthood, and I'm not saying the Priesthood is useless, only that it shouldn't be the deciding factor on what kind of service could be provided by someone within a position or calling. I don't like having it implied that my service isn't worth as much because I don't have the Priesthood. I don't like having it implied to me that my service is only worth something if it's in the form of baking cookies and watching children.

Picture this from my perspective. I'm from the contemporary American family; the one that doesn't eat together, pray together, or acknowledge each other's existence for the most part. I can't cook. The last time I attempted to cook, I threw an oven mitt into the oven and didn't realize it until 30 seconds later. I hate cooking. It represents all of the silent brooding I've done in kitchens in my past. And I'm supposed to be in a calling where I encourage girls to take on the traditional roles of a mother and wife, even if it compromises what she may have always wanted for herself? I can't do that in good conscience. That's not the only way to be loyal to the Church, and I don't intend to present it as such.

I've had to live with how isolated a person feels when they're constantly encouraged to fill a mold they never wanted. I've believed in creating one's own mold for far too long to go back now. And I believe that the faith that is cultivated by finding one's own path is the strongest faith one could ever find. I believe that Heavenly Father would have us learn our path and see it through over blind obedience to someone else's.

Of course that doesn't mean we can make up our own rules to follow. Rather, we need to choose which roles we wish to fill, and fulfill them according to the moral principles of our Father in Heaven; not have a typecast be the determinate of how we serve our Heavenly Father. He should be that determinate, and that can only happen if we are open to everything He says, even if it goes against Church standards. I think that's something a lot of people aren't willing to recognize... and I don't think that makes the Church any less true either. The Church doesn't have to be perfect to be true. If that was the case, then no religion that has ever existed is true.

I've never been dependent upon a man for anything directly. That has been a part of my path for years. I see no reason to change that now, nor do I see a reason why women should be encouraged to be dependent on men. To be fair, I guess the Church tries to do what it can to make sure it's sisters are kept safe and taken care of. The best I can do is say that I appreciate the concern. If it's supposed to be for my safety, that's great for women that want it. I don't need a man giving me permission to do things. That's not what I'm about. If I decide to do something, it's because it comes with the utmost sincerity and deliberation, with my thoughts, prayers and my own motivation behind it. And with that comes being trustworthy and responsible in my decisions for my family's well-being, as well as my own. Women were made in God's image too, ya know....

There's more in this soap box, obviously, than not being able to be an LDS chaplain. I'd say these are the thoughts I've "practiced denying" in myself, the opinions and rants that, if I didn't know better, would allow me to be the raging feminist that I used to be. But I have a mission in this life: to fulfill MY chosen roles of loving wife and mother, to be true to myself by maintaining my own personal freedoms and independence, and to create a healthy mixture between who I was, who I am, and what I could become (a Paradox indeed); and always with an eternal perspective. I must learn to be a worthy daughter of my Heavenly Father, and a beautiful saint that my husband, my children, and I can respect... I want to be like Ma Joad--calm and peaceful--because women like her can be depended on.

That's what I want to be.

Comments

  1. I've never been dependent upon a man for anything directly.

    I find this line interesting. Why do modern people always say dependent as though it's a bad word? Let me take this sentence out of context and ramble on it.

    I understand your point of view--I've never been traditionally "feminine" myself--but I think you're looking at this whole "dependency" thing the wrong way. Obviously, being independent is preferable to being dependent. However, there's another level above them both which is what I think the Church wants us to become: interdependent. The fact is that it's impossible to reach perfection alone--we must work with other independent beings.

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  2. Paradox,

    Here is a link to a recent article about LDS chaplains. The link is about a yard long -- don't know if it will come through clickable or not.
    http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=6346a0816df12110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&vgnextchannel=ae11627d59eec010VgnVCM1000004e94610aRCRD

    I'm not sure -- and maybe this is of no interest to you -- but I believe the army has an enlisted MOS "Chaplain's Assistant."

    I emailed you earlier in the week, but may have gotten your address wrong. If so, let me say again how much I enjoy your blog and that you write very well.

    And how pleased I am to find Liz Muir commenting here. I'm a fan of her Spherical Chickens site.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for the compliment. I've enjoyed your site as well.

    I agree that Liz is awesome. She was my link to the English department at BYU for a while before she went to Europe. I'm sure she's having the time of her life in London.

    Chaplain's Assistant? I shall have to look into that. Thanks for the tip.

    I look forward to reading more of your end of the Bloggernacle as well. We could all use a little more humor these days. LOL.

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