Purposive

Now that everybody’s done sharing their tentative New Year’s Resolutions with their online social circles, I think i’ll finally reveal my plans to make myself a less-shitty person than I was in 2015.

 

Though I love the person I’m developing into since my faith crisis, nose-dive into feminism, and increasingly curious mind, I find myself becoming exponentially more cynical, which is something I hate about myself.

I find myself often looking for reasons to be pissed off, which makes it really, REALLY hard to be the happy, energetic ball of sunshine I once aspired to become, but will never be, due to my chronically sarcastic and brazen personality. Indeed, since I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of liberalism, I seem to have the tendency to search for things that people do that strike me as problematic, and will consequently set me off.

There are specific groups of people that are extremely hard for me to get along with (i.e. meninists, anybody who still subscribes to traditional gender roles).  I totally feel justified in avoiding individuals who fall under this category completely, but I also feel that I am much too hard on people.

For example, my dating life is a literal train wreck. Most of my interactions with men are terminated by me giving them a lengthy, wordy lecture about how sexist it is to not be interested in a girl who can’t cook, or won’t send a racy snap-chat after the first date.

I feel like I’m constantly having to defend my feminist views; nothing flips my bitch-switch faster than when a gentleman i’m dating says anything that could be seen as sexist, even if you have to flip it upside down and squint with your left eye.

So i’m going to work on that. Perhaps instead of ripping his head off every time a suitor says something I don’t agree with, I can calmly present my point of view on the matter, and then change the subject as I squeeze the hell out of the stress ball I just bought.

This resolution’s due date might extend into 2063, but it’s all about progress, people.

Additionally, I am going to get out of my own way when it comes to relationships with other people. This is a very poorly-defined goal, but I have very specific quirks that I use in order to build sky-scraping walls around myself, thus protecting my isolation.

First of all, I have got to make peace with my relationship to food and to my body. I’m talking about my obsession/preoccupation about eating in a manner that will cause me dramatic weight loss, and dutiful, religious, nauseating exercise. When one is as engrossed in the aforementioned activities as I have become, there is little time or energy left to spend on stuff that matters significantly more, and after 6 years of eating-disordered behavior and body dysmorphia, I’m tired, damn it. And ready to invest myself in building some meaningful relationships and kicking ass even harder in school.

This problem is never going to resolve itself, so I’ll have to look back into going to therapy.

I always complain about how pathetic it is that I’ve attended my current university for two years, and haven’t made a single friend, but if I’m being honest with myself, I have never once initiated any kind of effort to make friend at college. So this year is going to be different. I am going to focus on becoming more inviting, friendly, and talkative. I am going to take some risks, start some conversations, hell, even ask out a hot guy from my Stats class (after checking his finger for a ring, obviously. We have lots of super young, married folk where I’m from.)

In addition to all of these resolutions, if I have time to spare, perhaps I’ll attempt to kick my caffeine addiction.

Just kidding, I’m taking 19 credit hours. There is no way in hell I’m decreasing my latte consumption.

So there you have it. An outline of how I am going to go from a shitty person in 2015 to a noticeably less-shitty person by the end of 2016.

Happy New Year!

M.

 

 

 

 

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Canonical

I am an intellectual. And we intellectuals, well, we listen to podcasts.

Perhaps “intellectual” is a slight over-statement of an adjective for me, but I do listen to podcasts, which makes me feel sophisticated, educated, and frankly, keeps my mind alert as I commute 45 minutes to and from work each day.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the Mormon Matters podcast, which focuses on problematic themes and societal issues through an LDS lens. The latest episode I listened to is titled “Mormon Women and Equality” and discusses the blatantly sexist practices and policies within our church’s structure, and offered some great solutions, or, at least, steps in the right direction toward gender equality within the church. Good stuff.

The panelists suggested an intermediate solution to the sexism problem that doesn’t involve women’s ordination to the Priesthood. What if we started including women in the decision-making when it comes to church policies and procedures? What if we started allowing women to hold callings not explicitly prescribed to Priesthood holders?

I firmly believe that by not including diverse representation in leadership and decision-making positions, there will always be oppression and marginalization, thus making true equality entirely unattainable among the members of the church.

I mean, even within the senior leadership of the church, there is very little diversity among the Brethren, which means that very few perspectives are being considered when it comes to policy-making.

At one point in the podcast, a panelist noted that prophets receive revelation by asking God what is to be done in regards to His church. I think that maybe some significant questions in regards to women in Mormonism are not being asked, simply because women have a history of being an afterthought, perhaps due to their lack of presence when policy-making matters are being discussed?

And that’s why women have been and will be an afterthought-they are not given the privilege of having a platform to influence decisions that directly impact their lives or voice their concerns in a manner that they will be effectively addressed. Their voices are not being heard, and their pain is being muted.

Women make up half of the congregation. That’s 50% of church members whose concerns are not being adequately examined. The only people who understand what it’s like to be an LDS woman are LDS women themselves, and I think that it only makes sense that they therefore should hold positions of influence over their sisterhood.

The Relief Society is made up entirely of sisters, and yet, no Relief Society meeting can be held without a presiding Priesthood holder. Why is this? There matters discussed in a Relief Society would have absolutely no bearing on any male member of the church.

The Church has a habit of placing its women on a pedestal-there are numerous talks on how wonderful and lovely and delightful we are. These messages are maddening and feel rather condescending when spoken by men, who are superior to women in every aspect of the structure of the church.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

I dunno if any of this would lighten the oppression of women within the church, but why not give it a try and see what happens?

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.

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.