25 April 2007

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.

17 April 2007

What is my world?

"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it." - Buddha
What is my world?

A name tag from the AP Language and Composition mock test that's says:


HEATHER
does not need AP to validate herself as a person


(Only to discover that I got the highest score on the hardest prompt out of 2 schools that took the mock test.)

What is my world?

A set of scriptures that I treasure more than any book I will ever own, let alone anything I've read this year in AP... and yet I haven't touched them for pleasure in I don't know how long... Which makes me question: how do I give myself FULLY to two different things? And I don't think it takes a genius to see exactly what aspect of my life has taken control right now.

What amazes me is that I don't talk to my branch president very much at all, and yet when I went into his office for my temple recommend interview (youth baptism trip is this Saturday), I can't help but notice the questions that he asked me:

"Do you say your prayers?"..."Do you read your scriptures?"

In addition to his question about whether or not I pay a full tithe, which I think is pretty much a standard question that he has to ask, those were the only questions he asked me... and I'll be honest, I'm 1 out of 3-- that's 33%. Needless to say, I'm failing the test.

Considering the first temple interview I underwent was much more inclusive with many more questions (I mean, he didn't even ask me about the law of chastity this time-- not that I have anything to admit, mind you), and I believe there's just as much in what a person DOESN'T say as there is in what they express in words... without realizing it, my branch president managed to nail me for the two things I'm not doing right now... And, especially when it comes to prayer, they're specifically the two most important aspects of my testimony.

Church leaders are men of God-- you're a foolish mortal if you think anything differently. LOL
(If that last statement offends you, RELAX, it's an inside joke.)

14 April 2007

Family

We have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities.
Elder Robert D. Hales

MOM! Where are my boots?! Have you seen 'em!

Nope. They're wherever you left 'em.

SARAH! Are you wearing them?!

NO! Your shoes don't FIT me, stupid! Why does everyone ALWAYS blame me?!

Because it's usually YOUR fault!

You're just mad because I'm the FAVORITE!

I kid you not, this is a model of the most frequent conversation I have with my mother and sister. It comes in 2 volumes (loud and louder), and if it's not about shoes, it's about something else that someone can't find. And I think back to my patriarchal blessing, and the promises it made for my family, and I honestly think it would take a miracle for my family to become an eternal family. Especially since we'd be ready to kill each other after the first 5000 years or so. LOL.

Fortunately for us, Heavenly Father is in the business of working mighty big miracles.

13 April 2007

I might just be divine

I might just be divine

I accepted
as I crawled into my mother's
queen-sized cumulus womb

immersed myself
in folds of fluffy creation

and slipped beyond

a sunbathed chiffon veil

08 April 2007

On Forgiveness

I came home from my "other family's" house, and went into my parent's room to say hi and to ask how Easter down at my grandmother's was. And before I could even get a word out, my mom said, and I quote, "You look like a hooker in a tablecloth."

My Easter dress was cream colored with roses around the bottom and a red cover sweater. I had matching red Mary Jane heels. To say that I liked the outfit is an understatement. I adored everything about it. If I had looked like a hooker in a tablecloth, I wouldn't have worn it. But my mother doesn't think about the gravity of her statements before she tosses them about so casually.

And then, as if I needed to hear another ugly word come out of her mouth, she started talking about her Easter, and how the aunt she doesn't like takes in LDS missionaries to feed them. She asked, "You aren't still thinking about a mission are you? Because they don't feed you. So be careful, because they're just a bunch of brain washers." And I left the room. I left in tears, convinced that she and I were incapable of conversation during which I wouldn't feel alienated for my religion. I felt as if I had lost my mother and gained a sparring partner. I prayed and cried as I brought the laundry in from the Durango like she asked, and felt betrayed and foolish for enduring such treatment.

Pretending like nothing's wrong as I continue about my day with tears and prayers; that's the story of my life presently. She wonders why I don't stick around, why I'm never home, why I spend every day of my life away from my family, whether it’s for work, holidays, weekend activities, or Church. THAT'S why! She can't go without insulting me, without being ugly and cruel! I don't deserve how she treats me.

But, of course, my Heavenly Father always takes care of me. He gave me peace, as he always has in the past. He also gave me understanding of my situation, and what I need to do for now.

The Church is my support system. The blessings I’ve received from the brethren in my branch, the talks and hymns from the church web site I’ve listened to on my MP3 player when I’m upset, the prayers I’ve stumbled through in my darkest hours, my patriarchal blessing, the support of my church family has made remarkable changes to my life, and have gotten me through some of the hardest times I've ever faced. As long as I have the Church, and the love of my God and my Savior, I cannot be destroyed. I know that for certain. Why should my mother's comments even phase me for more than a moment? The best advice I've received from General Conference about what to do in my situation came in the form of a question: If the gospel is true (which it is), then what else matters? Answer: Nothing else. Only the gospel matters.

I failed to appreciate how valuable, how essential an imagination is to the human existence. To be able to create a future, a story, another reality in my mind is something I've often relied on to get me through my trials. To endure through struggle is one thing, and obviously very important. But imagination cultivates hope by creating new circumstances without the grief, sorrow, anger and negativity that is all too easy to inherit. I take joy in the life I conceive silently, yet hopefully. I have a beautiful future ahead of me because I've decided it shall be so. I've painted the images in my mind, and the gospel will be the colors on the canvas.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn has been with the virtue of forgiveness. But as I've thought about this experience with my mother for the past few hours, I wonder, why should I be bitter for anything she places in my path? Why allow petty misunderstandings to upset me? I know full well that she knows not what she does. How can I therefore justify even the shallowest of anger against her? If the Savior can forgive the men who caused him to bleed from every pore, who hung him from the cross, mocked him, and allowed him to die, then why should I allow myself to harbor anger, hatred, or despair?

He lives, and would have me live, which I can only do if I forgive those who wrong me.

05 April 2007

Music

"To hear is relatively simple. To heed and apply what is heard becomes life's perpetual challenge." Charles Didier
Obedience, for me, is on a long list of necessary virtues that I struggle to possess. The matter comes back to volition; I understand fully what I'm supposed to be doing and why, it's just a matter of MAKING myself obey. Especially for an issue that was also addressed during General Conference: listening to proper music.

Listening to proper music is sometimes difficult for me for my own set of reasons, and the excuses I make are too stupid to bear repeating (My mom swears more than my music does, so what difference does it make?, etc, etc, etc... See? Stupid.) But we were told, outright, not to have immoral music. Period. And even though my music is only bad for swearing, swearing is immoral. If I wouldn't play it in the temple, I shouldn't listen to it because my body is a temple. Done deal.

And yet I keep putting off the music comb-through in order to get rid of all of what few songs there are... especially for the songs I really like that I just downloaded from an awesome band in Australia--and their CD is impossible to come by because 1. They're Australian, and 2. They aren't mainstream.

But are The Red Paintings really worth the sacrifice I'd be making? I think not.

01 April 2007

Enjoying General Conference

"A general conference of the Church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ, that He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the boy prophet Joseph Smith in fulfillment of that ancient promise that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His Church on earth and again 'come in like manner as [those Judean Saints had] seen him [ascend] into heaven' (Acts 1:11).

This conference and every other conference like it is a declaration that He condescended to come to earth in poverty and humility, to face sorrow and rejection, disappointment and death in order that we might be saved from those very fates as our eternity unfolds, that 'with his stripes we are healed' (Isaiah 53:5). This conference proclaims to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people the loving Messianic promise that 'his mercy endureth for ever' (see Psalm 136:1)."

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

My gratitude for the General Authorities, the First Presidency, and the Spirit by which they speak is indescribable. General Conference has been a wonderful opportunity to cultivate my testimony; an opportunity to realize that my Heavenly Father knows my thoughts, my feelings, my fears, my hopes, my struggles. He knows me, and wishes for me to overcome my latter-day trials to be with Him again.


Being a writer, I thoroughly enjoyed the talk by Elder Holland on Words. He raised many issues that have weighed heavily on my mind as I contemplated how to progress in my literary career. How much artistic liberty am I willing to take? Am I willing to exchange the darker hues of human nature in my portraits of the psyche for the sake of maintaining my own standards? For these reasons and more, I've avoided too many endeavors in fiction prose. (As if I had the time anyway. LOL) I've realized from past experience that the best way to avoid a problem is to decide ahead of time what's to be done about it. Elder Holland's talk made me consider the power of words, and the good (and harm) that could be accomplished by using them improperly.

I resolved the issue for now by deciding that my goal in my work will be to build faith where it might not have otherwise existed. If I can't do that, then I really don't have anything worthwhile to say. As a writer, I think this is an essential realization that will set me apart from the thousands of others with whom I will be competing.

Many of the other talks held a special relevance to me as well. James E. Faust's talk about forgiveness gave me a better understanding of how and why to forgive my father.

Elder Bednar's Parable of the Pickle was well-developed and amusing, especially because pickles were their own food group for my sister and I when we were younger.

Sister Matsumori's talk about 1st generation members touched me deeply, helping to alleviate my fears about being competent enough to share the gospel with my children.

And Elder Scott's comments on prayer, and the Lord's response to them, left me feeling more confident in my understanding of promptings from the Holy Ghost.

What amazes me is that despite the fact that conference is intended for the Church's 12,000,000 members, the concerns that lay quietly in my heart always seem to be addressed for me, and I leave the session with a better idea of what I need to do for myself and others. How some of the priests in my branch slept through it, I have no idea.

I've yet to listen to the Sunday afternoon session. I didn't attend it, through no fault of my own. Instead, I had a quiet afternoon with my boyfriend and his family. We are fast approaching Easter break , so I'll hopefully be able to watch the talks then. They may be the last thing on my mind, however, because I've committed to performing in the choir on Saturday and Sunday, and my family will no doubt intend to travel as they usually do...

That's the problem I have that never seems to be fully resolved, even after General Conference; how do I chose between Church and my family? Am I doing the right thing by making that decision? What is the right thing to do?

(Un)fortunately, I'm the only one that can make that decision.

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