Intrepid

I felt a little less solitary in my stout feminist endeavors this past Sabbath.

There I was, sitting in Relief Society, listening intently to our lesson on Marriage and Delighting In Homemaking, which, as you can probably infer, is a topic that tosses me into a tornado of fury.

The lesson was going about as i’d expect it to, and I did my best to focus on my breathing so as to not loose my tongue. My attentiveness decreased as the lesson carried on, until one sister raised her hand.

“I’m a feminist, in the best way, I promise,” a shaky voice proclaimed, as my eyes searched anxiously for the source. *cue giggles of discomfort from surrounding sisters.*

“…and I really struggle with the topic of homemaking and motherhood,” she admitted.

Tada! My faith in my own generation had gained some much-needed restoration.

She continued on to tell us how she’d finally made peace with her beliefs in Feminism and her religion’s traditional family values, which, after much contemplation, I’ve decided to discard, although I am thrilled for her for having found a way to settle her internal conflicting beliefs, something that i’ve spent the better part of my post-high school years attempting to do, but to no avail.

But i’m no quitter.

Anyway, I truly admire this sister for her courage in not only proclaiming her feminism in front of a conservative group of Relief Society sisters, but also for admitting that she struggles with the topic we had been discussing. What bravery it must have taken her to make such a strong statement, regardless of the fact that the majority probably wouldn’t agree with her.

I’ve yet to muster up the courage to express my beliefs so strongly in a face-to-face situation. For the time being, I will hide behind my keyboard and express my beliefs via the written word. But hey, I’m working on it.

Thank you, publicly proclaimed feminist in my ward, for being brave enough to speak up. You’ve inspired me to not give up hope, and to speak up. Maybe my comments will inspire somebody else someday. That’s how change happens, slowly but steadily.

M.

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No Prorogation

Today was YSA Stake Conference, which is when a large congregation made of sub-congregations meets to hear their regional and general leaders speak.

My solitary self arrived fifteen minutes early as instructed, and already, the parking lot and a quarter mile of the roads in either direction of the stake center were filled with cars.

I rushed into the chapel and chose a seat almost to the very back of the overflow, actively avoiding eye contact with others, and praying that i’d be left to sit alone for the duration of the meeting. Due to the overwhelmingly large number of attendees, we were all forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder in order to accommodate everyone.

So there I was, sitting on a fold-up chair next to a red-headed gentleman in a sports coat with above-average singing capabilities, who probably came by himself, too.

To my delight, we avoided each other perfectly.

The fun thing about YSA anything is that the main goal is to get us all hitched. YSA Stake Conference is no exception. Our first speaker was our stake president, a man whom I love and respect. He counseled us to pray to find an eternal companion, and to not delay marriage. He then continued to emphasize that our biggest and most important decision in life is whom we choose to marry, which I agree with (if we decide to marry.)

This counsel seems contradictory to me for a couple of reasons. First off, if marriage is the most important decision we make in this life, why are we being told to rush it? Isn’t the universal advice to “sleep on it” when faced with big decisions?

Secondly, getting married complicates educational and career goals, especially for women in a lot of cases. My mom (whom i’d been texting throughout the meeting) told me that a woman in her ward told the story of how she’d achieved her dream of getting into medial school, but then she got engaged and gave it all up to raise a family. It breaks my heart to hear stories like this, because I don’t see why a person can’t pursue the career of their dreams and raise a family.

I do believe that it can be done, if timed and prioritized correctly.

This is not to say that I think that those who chose to get married young are wrong in doing so. We’re all individuals, and different circumstances yield different decisions.

I’ve been twenty for three days now, and at this stage in my life, I can’t imagine rushing much of anything, much less decisions of whom I choose to spend the rest of eternity with.

Hmmm.

M.

Eschew

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been overwhelmed by a lot of questions, especially in regards to my religion lately. Last week, we were taught a beautiful lesson in Relief Society about the prophetesses in the book of Judges. As soon as the topic was brought up, I knew I’d have to do some separation between the patriarchal position in which a lesson of this sort would inevitably be taught, and the literal interpretation of what is actually present in the scriptures.

The prophetesses found in the book of Judges were discussed with great admiration and respect within our little group of Relief Society sisters. Finally, there were prominent, inspired leaders that were easy to connect with and relate to. I was ecstatic- at last, I was feeling empowered during a church meeting, and as consequence, was actually engaged in the lesson (after I shared my excitement on the Young Mormon Feminists Facebook page).

I was so ecstatic because never in my 19 and a half years of membership in the LDS church had I even heard of these inspired women in the Bible. Admittedly, that’s partly due to my slack in scripture study, especially the Bible. If I’m honest, I don’t feel that we as a church focus enough on the bible. We have the Book of Mormon, ANOTHER testament of Jesus Christ, but I feel that sometimes we treat it as the only testament of Jesus Christ. Even so, I had Seminary classes in High School that were Bible based. We even had a whole year dedicated to the Old Testament. Even within that class, I can’t say I recall ever discussing the Prophetesses of the book of Judges.

Why? Because of the patriarchal structure of religion. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that these women have been purposely disregarded from Sunday school discussion, or any religious discussion for that matter. The discussion and recognition of powerful, inspired female leaders is so rare that it takes some of us two decades to even learn that they existed.

My testimony has been hanging by a thread these past few years as I realize more and more how misogynistic and patriarchal the church’s structure (perhaps, more fairly, culture) is. However, had I known of these prophetesses and been versed in what divine roles they played, and felt like I was in an atmosphere that was willing to help me investigate and answer my questions in regard to inspired women, perhaps my attitudes toward my church would be different.

I want to know why the term ‘prophetess’ is now extinct from our vocabulary. I want to know why the title of prophetess no longer exists, and if it will ever return.

I posted similar questions to these on my Facebook page, looking for others’ insights on the matter, and not surprisingly, the idea of a female prophet was instantly shot down. One ‘friend’ gave me the answer that ‘prophetess’ in Hebrew means “wife of the prophet.” However, we have no record that Deborah was even married, so I’m disregarding that explanation entirely.

Even throughout the lesson, the teacher (female) reinstated that these women were not literal prophets. However, their prophecies were fulfilled, and they received inspiration from God, so what about that makes them not literal prophets? The only way these women differ from ancient prophets is the fact that they were female.

Although it is frustrating and disheartening that female prophetesship is impermissible within my religion, and female leadership is very limited, I am choosing to believe that these women were literal prophetesses of God, in the purest sense of the word, and that gives me strength.

M.

Inquest

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, learning and questions go hand-in-hand. The more I learn, the more questions I have, thus prompting me to search for a deeper understanding. This holds true for every opportunity I have to learn, which i’d like to think happens rather frequently.

The one aspect in my life in which I seem to have the most questions lately happens to be that of religion. As i’ve mentioned before, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As you can imagine, my progressive, feminist beliefs mix with my conservative, patriarchal religion like oil and water, leaving me with a constant state of intense internal battle, and a series of never-ending, snowballing questions.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the LDS church has been known to excommunicate those who vocalize their questions and personal belief systems if they do not comply with the Church’s teachings. To me, this is completely heart-breaking. This religion, in which we are taught that we have a loving set of spiritual parents, and that we are sent to this earth to figure out how to get ourselves back to them, does not seem to allow much wiggle room for personal inquiry.

We were given free-thinking minds to be able to learn for ourselves what we believe is true and good, and I intend to use mine. Like I said, when I learn new things, I don’t tend to just accept them the way they are without searching for a deeper understanding. In my opinion, it’s natural to have questions. As my philosophy teacher has made it abundantly clear, very few things in this life are certain, and we as humankind understand virtually none of it.

The understanding we do have, however, comes from inquiring minds who have a thirst to know more. Observations turn into questions, which turn into research, experiments, etc. I’m sure you all understand the Scientific Method. What i’m saying, is this method is wholly applicable not only to our physical world, but to our spirituality, as well.

There is an overwhelming emphasis for each member of the Church to develop his/her OWN testimony regarding the things of the Gospel. I don’t see how one can obtain such testimony without developing individual questions and searching for personal truth. Why, then, is there disciplinary action for doing so?

Not trying to be a problem-solver here, but I feel like the last thing people with doubts or questions need is isolation from their community. We all go through times where we’re not sure about what we believe, and have questioned things. Those of us with fragile testimonies need support and encouragement in finding peace and truth within our religious realms.

The God I believe in loves us each on an individual basis, regardless of our doubts or questions, and even though He does not give us all the answers we are looking for, I’d like to think that he supports our search for truth and knowledge.

These issues have been tearing me apart lately, and I have found myself more puzzled than ever. From the perspective of one who has doubts and questions, I empathize greatly with those who have received disciplinary action for voicing their questions and seeking more understanding.

I dunno, it’s hard not to get lost when you’re drowning in questions.

M.

Dogged

2014 is finally coming to a close. This year, in my life, anyway, can be described best as the Bella Swan year. And by that, I mean, I spent most of it whining about how badly my life sucked and did virtually nothing to make it suck less. Actually, if anything, I probably made it worse for myself.

I think that the whole “New Year, New Me” theme that we have going on with the conclusion of a calendar year is sappy and a bit lame, but my own little rebirth just so happens to be going on at the same time everybody else is vowing to go on the photosynthesis diet, or spend less than they earn and put it in a savings account to be binge-spent later.

I have a resolution or two for myself that I will be implementing in the immediate future. No “one last donut, and then i’ll start my diet” mindset for me. I’m gonna get a little sappy up in here, and drop a bunch of cliche’s that cause me to face-palm myself hard in public, but without further ado, here are my resolutions.

1. Get Back On the Straight and Narrow

I’ve mentioned before that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, ever since I graduated high school and was relieved of any sort of familial pressure to attend my church meetings, I have become rather inactive. My conflicting personal beliefs (i.e. feminism) mix with my church’s beliefs like oil and water, so needless to say, attending church leaves me with the bad taste in my mouth that is internal conflict. I’m not excusing my lack of church attendance, rather, I amd simply explaining my thought processes.

I resolve this day to begin regularly attending my church meetings, as my job permits, and even though it begins at 9:00 AM. If I ever find myself in a discussion in which I find offensive, oppressive, or simply disagree with, I will do one of three things:

  • 1. I will raise my hand and vocalize my opposing opinions, regardless of what others might think.
  • 2. I will reverently excuse myself from the meeting and scroll through Pinterest on my phone in the hallway until the next meeting begins, and maintain an open mind for the next meeting.

I am going to focus my thoughts and energies on the aspects of my religion that I do agree with, and strive to follow Christ, which means learning to accept and love those who are and think differently than I do.

2. Self-Tolerence

I have this cute little habit called Perfectionism, and it drains my happiness. It’s no secret that i’ve been seeing a therapist for the past few months to help remedy my slightly self-destructive behaviors, and let me just say, it has done wonders for my mental well-being. My expectations for myself are completely unattainable, and when I inevitably fail to reach said expectations, I am simply merciless. I resolve to accept my shortcomings, and even try embracing them. I am not superhuman, unfortunately. So I will settle for my humanly, flawed, best efforts.

3. No Comparision

One of my favorite quotes in the history of forever is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have no idea who said that, but he or she was one deep individual. I am guilty of comparing myself to others, and all that it does for me is make me unhappy with the life I have. I’m not resolving to stop comparing myself to others, as that would be breaking my previous resolution of demanding perfection from myself, but I’m sure as hell going to try my hardest to not let it ruin me.

4. Be Present

Lately, I’ve gotten a lot better at living in the “now” and enjoying life as it is. I’ve stopped wishing away my time, eager to tackle the next task on my pathetic, little agenda. I’m learning to fully immerse my attention into what I am currently doing, and that makes everything seem more enjoyable, even work! Yes, work. In order to continue this upward spiral, I am resolving to immerse myself in my relationships with other people. I’m a people-hater, the type that loves to be alone, selfishly locked away in my room, keeping people, and emotions for people, at bay. This will not be the case any longer! I’m gonna start being a person who people want to be around. So there.

5. Lose the Jiggle. 

Yeah, right! That’s like asking me to bow down to the patriarchy, to which I say, “Over my untoned, dead body!” I do want to get healthier, though, and will begin attending the gym as it fits in with my schedule and mood. I’m already a permanently psycho health-freak anyway, thanks to my good friend Anorexia.

6. Stay True To My Beliefs, and Stay Out of the Defensive Zone

I am very “stuck in my ways” when it comes to things i’m passionate about. Yes, especially feminism. I struggle to give suitors the benefit of the doubt in their courting efforts, and tend to assume the worst out of each one. Hmmm, makes me wonder why i’m single again. Anyway, I’m not changing my beliefs in human equality for anyone, no matter how many abs he has or what kind of car he drives. But I am going to stop looking for reasons to be pissed off by those trying to date me and give people a chance.

So there you have it, my six resolutions for self-improvement.

Have a safe and fun new years eve, people! Do something crazy, and kiss someone attractive.

Cheers!

M.

Amelioration

Today, while I was updating my knowledge on current Feminism-related events, I stumbled across the following quote: 

Women's world

Y’know, lately I’ve been so frustrated every Sabbath when I sit down in the pews and just wait for a speaker or teacher to say something that will stir up my Feminist rage. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been attending my church meetings with the expectation that somebody will say something offensive, oppressive, or degrading about the role of women in the Gospel. It’s as if I’m subconsciously, yet actively searching for someone to affront me. 

It’s stunting my spiritual growth. 

I don’t remember who said it, but we all know that quote that goes something like, “no one can offend you without your consent.” All of this consenting people to offend me with their derogatory comments and insisting that a woman’s place is strictly in the home is getting rather exhausting.

Why do I allow these people to affect my relationship with my church and my God? Who cares if Brother or Sister so-and-so don’t approve with my views on what my role as a daughter of God are? The only approval that matters to me is the approval of my Heavenly Parents. (Notice I said parents, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that I have a Heavenly Mother as well.) 

The God I am coming to know wants me to be happy. The God I know won’t repeal the incomprehensible love He has for me if I decide to pursue work outside of the home. Because what matters to me matters to Him. 

The God I am coming to know loves me as much as he loves my brethren, and knows that I am just as capable as they are in achieving anything I put my mind and energy into, and He encourages me to reach my full potential in every dream I pursue. 

So go ahead and keep trying to nudge me toward the ‘mommy track.’ Continue preaching your Relief Society lessons on the cruciality of being a submissive, home-making, child-rearer and telling me that this is the right way for me to live my life and fulfill my role. Keep blaming me for infecting the thoughts of the men I encounter if I choose not to cover my shoulders, or wear shorts that don’t hit the knee. 

Because I’m through letting this culture we are so caught up in affect the growth of my testimony, and my ability to feel the Spirit. 

The important thing is, progress is being made. Even the General Relief Society President has acknowledged the fact that a woman should not be limited to the role of a stay-at-home housewife. 

Small steps toward equality are being made. What more can I ask for? 

Carry on, Mormon Feminists. 

Embargo

Recently, my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has been making headlines for its decision to excommunicate Mormon activists who are pushing for equality, inclusion, and acceptance for women and gay/lesbian community. 

Heartbroken: The only word in my extensive vocabulary that I can think of to encompass my feelings toward these events. 

Latter-Day saints are representatives of Jesus Christ, and as His representatives in these latter days, we are expected to strive to progressively become more and more like Him. Charity is the pure love of Christ, and an attribute that we are all aspiring to master. 

The God I know loves all of His sons and daughters equally, regardless of how we sin in this life. So shouldn’t we do the same? Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly? 

Clearly, the way His children get along with one another is of great priority to our Father in Heaven. After all, the second commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself. 

Not just your straight neighbors.

Not just your male neighbors. 

Not just your neighbors of the same faith. 

Granted, we are all human, and will never be able to love everyone perfectly as He does, but the point is, we are supposed to try.

We are not trying nearly hard enough. 

It is so easy to judge one another, and it grows increasingly difficult when the people we are judging are vastly different than we are. 

I want everyone who walks through the doors of my chapel to feel that they are welcome, loved, and accepted from the second they sit down in the pews, regardless if they’re gay, didn’t serve a mission, are female, what have you. I want everyone who attends my church meetings to be able to feel the pure love that Christ has for them, without feelings of guilt, shame, resentment, judgment, etc. from members of the congregation. 

There was a time, in the 1980’s, I believe, when a general authority stated that women are “discouraged from working outside the home.” The Proclamation to the Family states that a woman’s primary role is that of a mother and homemaker. Granted, the times have changed significantly since the ’80’s, but that attitude of the role of women in the church is still predominantly taught as the “right way” to live. 

I am a young woman with huge ambitions and goals that surely don’t involve my getting wifed-up and making babies any time soon. I have prioritized my life in a way that varies from the mold that seems to have been laid out for me by the culture of my church. Yet, as a woman of the LDS faith, I am taught repeatedly from my youth that there is no better or more fulfilling way for me to spend my life than becoming a wife and mother. We spend our Young Women’s activity nights learning how to bake and crochet and all of those domestic tasks that will aid us in our homemaking futures, while the boys go on scout trips in the middle of the winter and river rafting in the summer.

Ask me again in a decade from now, but as it stands, I don’t believe that I will be happiest being a stay-at-home mommy for the next 20 years of my life. Contrary to my gender’s mold, I am most empowered by gaining an education and sense of independence and strength through finding a meaningful and successful career. 

It’s frustrating to hear all this talk of how women are the stronger gender because we can give birth and have a nurturing intuition and all that jazz, but are then expected to devote our lives to pursuing that route of mother and homemaker, regardless of our differing interests. 

People within my local church community have been expressing concern with my lack of desire to have children at all. May I remind you, I am only 19 years of age. I have my entire life in front of me, and an abundance of child-bearing years left. So what’s the rush? I intend to achieve my academic/career goals first. 

My main issue with all of this is that what I want out of my own life is not as important as my predestined role. Men can-and must, according to the church-be the providers for their families. They are free to get a degree and a powerful career and after their 8-5 shift, they can come home and play catch with Junior while Mom slaves away in the kitchen. Best of both worlds. 

But rarely is that the case for a woman. Every situation is different, and a lot of women have to work in order to support their families. I feel that the Church tries to make everything a one-size-fits-all, rather than recognizing that its members are individuals, and that there is no blanket-solution to the right way to set up your family. 

I just want to be treated as an equal member of the human race, and for all of my spiritual brothers and sisters to, as well. 

I find relief in authoring my frustrations. Agree, or don’t-it’s up to you. But also, have respect for my beliefs. 

M.