Showing posts with label religious art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religious art. Show all posts

Holy Week: Resurrection

Touch Me Not, Minerva K. Teichert

Mary Magdalene is among my favorite women in all of scripture. She is blessed with a personal interaction with the resurrected Christ that any disciple would love to have, as told in John 20:

 11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

The Greek in verse 17 properly translated from Greek doesn't mean to refrain from touching me yet. It is better rendered as "Hold me not," to refrain from holding me, which you are already doing. Mary Magdalene threw her arms around the Savior, greeted him enthusiastically and without restraint. She had received an undeniable witness of the Resurrection not just with her eyes, but with her own hands. She was the first person after the death of Christ to have such a witness.

She was not the only one to receive such a witness ahead of the apostles. There were multiple women who then saw Jesus after their interactions with the angels at the garden tomb. From Matthew 28:

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is arisen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

These women also received an undeniable witness by touching Christ. They could not know with a greater certainty that Jesus had risen from the dead.

When they did as they were instructed by the angels, to tell the Twelve what they had seen and experienced, the Twelve didn't believe them. They did not trust the women as reliable sources of truth.

From Mark:

 9 Now when Jesus was arisen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

From Luke:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

And because of that refusal to listen to the women in their lives, the women who were closest to Christ and who had received that witness before them, they had to wait until they got all the way to Galilee to see him. Which really is incomprehensible when you consider that he walked with them to on the road to Emmaus and none of them recognized him. He had to baby step them into being able to see him, then cajole them by eating something in front of them, and eventually break down what they were seeing for them in scriptural terms for them to finally receive the witness, the truth the women already had. (See Luke 24:12-48)

In almost two thousand years, this has not changed as much as it should have by now.

Believe women. Believe our words. Believe in the power of our faith. Believe in the gifts and talents God has given to us. Believe in our potential. Believe in our ministries. Believe our leadership. Believe in us the same way Christ believes in and trusts us.

What happens to church that dishonor and disgrace their women by withholding this love and trust from them?

They have the fullness of truth and power withheld from them, their access to Christ curtailed, the same way the Twelve did. And in the Book of Mormon, Ether 12 explains why:

12 For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

It's not just faith in God that matters. It's also the faith we have in ourselves and in each other. When that faith falters, no one can help us, not even the perfected and resurrected Christ. If we want to be in a condition where Jesus Christ CAN help us, it requires us to confront and dismantle our own unconscious biases, the disrespect and prejudice we hold for other people. There is no room for any of that in the kingdom of God, and that spiritual deprivation begins here and now, on Earth. It will last as long as it takes us to do the work to overcome that way of thinking.

Where is the power of Jesus Christ on this earth today? It's in many places. Wherever there is love, wherever there is compassion, wherever there is faith in the future, wherever there are sincere souls who see wrongs and are trying to make them right, there is Christ. And it stands to reason, and shouldn't go without saying, that the power of Jesus Christ is in the hands and hearts of women.

What does learning the lessons of the past, the lessons in the ministry of Jesus Christ this Easter?

Among many of the valuable lessons that others will teach today, let this one be included: Believe, and believe in, the women who serve him.

Another Easter During COVID-19

Arm of Mercy, Kevin Figueira
The same family that took my family's sacrament access away, with their ultimatum to return in person or go without, used the pulpit today during Easter to chastise those of us who continue to social distance by admonishing us to return.

One of the costs of being in community with others who are seeking divinity is having your worship, your communion with God, the prayers you were looking to have answered, derailed by others who place their own issues in your lap.

Especially from former leadership who will not fight the compulsion to steady the ark, to relinquish authority they no longer possess to correct the congregation, this can be especially difficult. It can leave you asking, "Why do I bother to try?"

Here is the answer I find myself giving today on Easter Sunday: because sin is not the only thing I need Jesus Christ to save me from. And it is was always part of the divine plan for me to pray for my God to also save me from anything that devalues my safety and threatens my peace, including this.

The Saints in the pews beside me are not my judges. They do not know my heart or my circumstances.They have not seen what disease and illness has already done to my family throughout the pandemic. They do not know our risks. They do not know our struggles. It is not for them to read irreverence or disobedience into my motives. It is not for them to decide that my worship, my contributions, or my offerings in my home are subpar in comparison to theirs because they attend Church in person and I don't.

That kind of behavior is the real irreverence. They've distracted themselves from their own worship to worry excessively about the behavior of others. That is not what church meetings are for.

So on the day when I needed God to assist me in deepening my love, patience, and desire to serve those in my family whose behavior in life made them difficult to love, I now have to spend time dealing with this. 

My Easter message is: Never be the person who does this to others. Celebrate the power, the majesty of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice by never becoming the opposition someone else needs to pray to be saved from.  

And if you find yourself in that position today, I pray in the holy name of Jesus Christ that we can receive the spiritual gift of faith sufficient to be unbothered, undisturbed by such people. May we be blessed not to believe what those fools are gonna say about us today. May we find and claim the comfort and peace that passes all understanding. It's what we all need and what you deserve, no matter what anybody says.

Happy Easter, my friends.

Finding the Defiance in Turning the Other Cheek

Angel of Empathy, J. Kirk Richards
Part of how I'm navigating this current era of watching the most conservative apostles die on every untenable hill is by shifting my focus to female leadership, members, and their perspectives. What this looks like is getting their books from the Church's thrift store, Deseret Industries. I live in an area where this is very easy to do. Curating my library of church books to be predominantly written by and focused on women is something that brings me joy. 

So of course, some dude had to come and interrupt it.

Around the same time I picked up Rosie Card's book from the shelf, one of the employees came over to stock more books. Apropos of nothing, he tried to engage me in a conversation about the SEC fine, with the opener of "Did you know our church is the richest one in the world?"

Now, the trouble with doing this to strangers is you have no idea who you could be talking to and what their lived experience has been. I could've said absolutely anything back to him, much of which could've hurt his feelings. But I didn't. I was not having this conversation with a stranger in DI because it's not my job to help him manage whatever combination of feelings was going on inside of him to make him approach me like this. So I ignored him.

He didn't take the hint, so I said as gently as I could, "Yes, sweetheart. I'm aware."

He didn't expect that. He didn't know what to do with it. It confused him enough that he disengaged. He then left me alone to do my browsing.

Just because a person refuses to engage in a dialogue about the failures of the Church with you doesn't mean they are ignorant about the situation, or deluding themselves into apologetics to soothe themselves into pretending it isn't happening. Sometimes, the exact opposite is true. They know just as much, if not more of the details of the situation than you do. They know people involved whose names you don't even know.

The world of the Church is small like that.

When you come at someone sideways, in inappropriate times and places, with assumptions and accusations, you put yourself into a position where the only version of a story you will hear and can accept is the one being passed around by people in that exact frame of mind.

Why?

Because folks with the details you don't know aren't interested in having an argument, especially not with a stranger. Silence is how they protect their peace. It's not complicity in wrong-doing. It's the refusal to engage with someone who lacks tact and self-control. That behavior creates an echo chamber of its own in which no one involved actually arrives at a full vision of the truth.

Anyway, here's my haul from yesterday:

I'm going to make a Goodreads bookshelf of my finds to share what I've found so far since people have asked. You can also find what I'm currently reading in the Goodreads widget in my sidebar

I also got Becoming by Michelle Obama. Anyone insulting me for including her memoir will be reminded that she has never had to pay a $5 million fine to the SEC.

 

P.S. If you think "turning the other cheek" in Matthew 5:39 means passively letting people hurt you, let me relieve you of the burden of that false interpretation. Turning the other cheek is an act of defiance, the refusal to surrender your own dignity to the person trying to deprive it from you. That's what Jesus taught.

On Women Being Absent from Scripture

I read this post from The Exponent this morning, and I related so profoundly to what the author was describing in how we teach a male-centric view of scripture in the Church. From that place of frustration, I went to the scriptures on my own in search of women and their stories. 

Women are present in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. Women are not named in scripture at the same frequency as men. That's isn't the same issue as the women not being present, or being actors in the stories, especially in stories where men in those collectives also aren't named. The Book of Mormon especially is a text that focuses primarily on community impact and reactions. Women are present in every story that it tells of crowds, tribes, multitudes, and factions

We could blame these factors for why don't talk about or study women in any detail at Church, at least not to the same depth or degree that we have studied the lives of male prophets, living and dead. But when you realize the multitude of women whose lives and experiences are recorded in scripture, that's not enough of an explanation. The women's lives and experiences are there. So the questions we have to ask ourselves are: 

  • Who taught us to look at a collective of people in scripture and assume the audience is dominated by men, or that men are the actors in the stories and women are passive? 
  • Why aren't we teaching from the lives and experiences of women in the scriptures that do exist? 

There are answers about men becoming the default, specific moments in time we can point to that has had this impact, regardless of what the Church's intent was. The Topical Guide and footnote references for the 1981 edition of the scriptures were created by a mostly (if not all) male team of returned missionaries under the direction of Bruce R. McConkie. These are the same references in use today. The perspective they teach from is ignorant of, if not hostile to, the spiritual needs of women. Any woman who has ever seen the Topical Guide entries for Birth Control and Interracial Marriage, or has gone looking for an entry on Infertility, has felt that hostility.

We project what our lived experiences are in church onto the scriptures we read. We also view our scriptures through the examples we use and emphasize to teach various principles. There are plenty of scriptures featuring women that get no play time in church for teaching the principles they represent. Sometimes, this is because a man's story gets emphasized for that same principle instead.

But more often than not, I think the male default in curriculum happens year after year because the stories starring women make men uncomfortable. In many cases, they exist to detail the disrespect and violence that men have shown to women throughout time, and how God rejects and punishes men who abuse women. Some of these stories are graphic in nature, featuring sexual violence against women as a key feature. It would be impossible to study these stories without confronting those elements. 

So if you don't know that there is a story in the Old Testament where God nearly destroyed the entire house of Israel because men in the tribe of Benjamin brutally raped and murdered one woman, there's a reason for that. (See Judges 19-21)

The Levite of Ephraim, Alexandre-François Caminade

Stories featuring women in scripture often exist, at least in part, to condemn the selfish, inexcusable behavior of men. That's why men don't tell those stories. In many cases, they've never heard of them. The ones they have heard of, such as David and Bathsheba, they've grossly misinterpreted. They've been raised on a steady diet of church instruction that emphasizes the stories that entrench their own roles instead. That's all they know.

When you sit down with the standard works and read them through the lens of actively searching for women, you start to see them everywhere. They're not absent. There's a filter over the scriptures and how we've been taught to read them that makes women disappear that has to be dismantled.

As I Have Loved You, Love One Another

One of the most heartbreaking verses in all of scripture was the moment when Jesus brought Peter, James, and John with him as he entered the Garden of Gethsemane. It was to be the contest in which Christ made himself an offering for the entirety of the human family before all the hosts of heaven, the most difficult test he had ever endured. It would push his body and soul to the brink of oblivion, beyond what any individual human had ever suffered. To make intercession for every soul who had ever or would ever live.

 

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Robert Walter Weir (1803-1899)

Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 

 

"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me," he said to Peter, James, and John.i A plea from a human heart that doesn't want to suffer, especially not alone. No different from any one of us.

We don't have to imagine his fear and trepidation in that moment. The scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ fell on his face before his Father and begged that "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me."ii A plea from a human heart that doesn't want to suffer, no different from any one of us.

"Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou will."iii Willing to undergo the suffering and pain to teach the world, by example, the cost of unconditional love. The price to be paid for eternity. The very best trait any of us in humanity has to offer: the willingness to show mercy and compassion, especially to those who will never reciprocate.

They slept. The most important moment in his life, the entire reason he was sent to earth, and his brothers slept right through it. He came to them repeatedly and asked for them to watch with him. Each time, they fail. "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"iv How difficult it must've been for him to recognize that in a few short moments, everything he had built would be entrusted to them, and they were already asleep at the helm.

Peter, James, and John would spend the remainder of their lives trying to be equal to the moment that had already passed them by and found them wanting. They represent the challenge that remains for anyone who calls themselves a Christian: to be equal to the mandates Jesus Christ left behind for all of us, to become the manner of humans we ought to be. "Verily I say unto you, even as I am."v


Asleep at the Helm

To be distracted and unfocused in a moment when we are being entrusted to minister to, or even just to sit with someone who is in pain, is not a sin that is unique to Peter, James, and John. In many respects, the modern Church has a similar issue in how it collectively confronts current moral failures among its membership. With sexism, racism, and the treatment of LGBTQ members in particular, there are too many times when the suffering and violence faced by those on the margins, including from those within the Church, has silent witnesses who close their eyes to it instead of helping.

The practice of Latter-day Saint parents abandoning their LGBTQ+ children and youth is especially heinous. To reject anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to say nothing of forcing them onto the streets and into homelessness, is an evil with no place within the Church. It's an evil that exists openly, with too many Church and priesthood leaders who know about it without holding the parents to account for their actions. In too many cases, these leaders ARE the parents who are putting their children in danger by turning them out onto the streets. Any amount of this in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is too much, and we have too much. When Jesus taught that ours was the responsibility to take the gospel message into the world, violence against and the rejection of the marginalized is not what he meant.

I could sit here and spout of verses to prove this point all day long. I could quote Matthew 25 about how those who fail to feed and clothe God's children do that violence to Christ himself.vi I could quote 2 Nephi 26 when the prophets taught that Christ sends no one away who is in need. I could quote the parable of the man with 12 children from D&C 38 where God rejects any parent who would willingly deny their children the sustenance that they need and still claim to be a good parent.

Seriously. I could sit here and come up with more of these all day long because I know the God I serve. At no point did God give any injunction or license to do violence towards or to ostracize the LGBTQ+ community among us. So for now, I will settle for the warning that Jesus gave in three different places in the New Testament about the consequences to those who hurt any of his children, especially when the victims are children.

"It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."vii

The problem here is not that the scriptures were vague or inconsistent. Jesus Christ was perfectly clear about how he expects all of us to treat each other. The problem is that too many of us don't want to listen. We want to join into the violent scapegoating of the Other because that's what the rest of The World, and by that I mean too many others in Christianity, are actively doing. It's easier for fundamentalists to accumulate social capital by doing violence and spreading hatred than it is to genuinely "do good unto all men."viii Just because the others engaging in that behavior are other Christians doesn't make it right. It just means everyone involved has every reason to know better and do better.

Jesus of Nazareth has born the griefs of every soul who has ever lived. He knows the pains of LGBTQ+ people who have lost everything they once held dear. He can say together with LGBTQ+ people that he was also "wounded in the house of my friends."ix Which I don't say as any kind of injunction for them to worship with us ever again. No one has any obligation to return to a place of violence that has made them unsafe. That's what the Church has been for too many of our own LGBTQ+ people.

To any and all within the reach of these words who prides themselves on doing violence to God's children because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, my message to you this Easter season is simple: Stop it. Find something better to do with your time. 

In the time it takes to make someone else's difficult situation even worse by dehumanizing them, we could do what Christ did and love them instead.


iMatt. 26:38

iiMatt. 26:39

iiiIbid.

ivMatt. 26:40

v3 Ne. 27:27

viMathew 25:35-40

viiMatt. 18, Mark 9, Luke 17

viiiGal. 6:10

ixZech. 13:6

Talking Openly About Heavenly Mother

I don't like the trend I've been noticing from general authorities in which they try to discourage people from talking about Mother in Heaven. Especially since we're seeing a metamorphosis in the reasoning from "she's too sacred to even mention" to "we just don't know enough to speculate."

In Their Image, Caitlin Connolly
Imagine if Joseph F. Smith had used the collective ignorance of the Church as the reason not to seek the vision of the dead that became Section 138 in the Doctrine and Covenants. Present ignorance is never an excuse not to seek knowledge. Especially about God.

I mean, I can pull at least half a dozen scriptures off the top of my head as to why saying "No thank you" to the knowledge God has to bestow is a bad idea.

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

 Matt. 13:11-12

But I think these two will suffice for now.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.

2 Ne. 29:9-10

The biggest impediment to this approach is how much of a mixed message it has already become, whether general leadership knows that or not. They don't seem to understand that there are women in this church alive today who have been promised knowledge of and interactions with Heavenly Mother in their patriarchal blessings. There is no way for them to be doing all this and not to have to eat crow for it later.

When the Bishop Becomes a Stumbling Block

So, it has been several weeks since my Bishop initiated his ultimatum to force me to come back to church in person to get the sacrament. He has also discontinued all communication with me on the subject.

In the meantime, I've been reflecting a lot on what this means for my religious life in this moment. At a time in my life when I find myself wanting God and craving peace, I'm being shut out of the place I was always supposed to be able to find it.

 

Waters of Mormon, Lina Curley Christensen

In prayer, I've found myself repeatedly coming back to the scriptures from Romans 8 I had taped to my wall when my mother would forbid me to go to church as a new convert. Also in the story that was my first spiritual experience with The Book of Mormon: Alma 32. Where the people in power decided to expel the undesirables from their congregations. They were not allowed to worship in the churches they helped to build.

I feel that in my soul, in ways I've been struggling to fully accept. I gave my life for this church. I have given time, money, literally years of service to it because it is my spiritual home. 
 
I have forgotten how to find God outside its walls.

The power of Alma's message was tremendous the first time I heard it. The Book of Mormon testifies of a God who has no respect for the walls humans build between each other. A God who cannot be contained in mortal boxes.
 
I need to find my way back to my God and my Savior again, separate and apart from the people in this stake where I now live who do not mean me well. 
 
These are the prayers I've been saying. Prayers I thought I would never say.
The answers are coming slowly, mostly because I am already exhausted. But I have not been left comfortless. The way forward is becoming clear.
 
I am not dependent on these men to receive all the blessings of God. They are mine to claim, anywhere and at any time I need them. 
 
Faith. Joy. Rest. Holiness. Gratitude. Love. Healing. Dignity. 
 
They are my new focus. These are mine to claim. They belong to me. No one can take them away from me. They are the blessings I will give to myself through my personal devotion and worship.
 
The ordinances of the Church augment my search for these things. They can't replace it. That is the lesson I am learning right now.

Tolerance as a Christ-like Attribute

The Hand of God, YongSung Kim
Because I'm in a new ward and I just met my new bishop on Sunday, I'm anticipating having the opportunity to speak in church soon. I haven't spoken in church since my faith transition. Even introducing myself feels endlessly fraught and complicated now.

I'm realizing though that I've had talk on Tolerance formulating in my head for the past two weeks. So if I get the chance to speak, it will probably be about that. What put me on that path was something I heard the Elder's Quorum President say. He was quoting President Monson out of context to caution about the risks of being too tolerant. It made me realize that a mistrust of tolerance has been going on in LDS discourse for a long time.

It's only in recent years that a false dichotomy has been drawn between being loyal to God/the institutional Church and being tolerant to social change in our discourse. Before that, it was seen as a virtue. An attribute of Christ. A hallmark of discipleship.

Tolerance is not a weakness or a moral failure. That may be how it's presented in the Republican party. But that's an attitude with no place in the Church. 

Tolerance is a skill, a talent, and a spiritual gift given by God to facilitate compassion. Tolerance is how we exercise patience with others. It's how we are challenged to see issues from more than one perspective. It's how we learn to admit that our way of looking at the world is not the only way to see it. Exercising tolerance with people who are different from us gives us opportunities to receive correction and repent. It's a necessary part of being in a Church that believes in continuing revelation.

We live in an environment where it is rare that we are given the full, objective truth about anyone or anything. There are hidden actors behind algorithms trying to further their own agendas by influencing what we think about literally everything. Their goal is to catch us unaware and uninformed because that's when we're most susceptible to being manipulated. Social media platforms operate to prioritize engagement. They figured out years ago that generating conflict and feeding insecurities are the best ways to do that.

Who we trust. Who we mistrust. Who we love. Who we dehumanize. How we see those around us—it's all being fed to us by machines, programmed by people we don't know and will never meet. These same forces are at work within the Church. We are not immune to those influences. The confrontations at play within our society are at play within the Church. Deepening mistrust and the normalization of disrespect based entirely on political ideologies and social issues have taught us to withhold our compassion from each other.

I've seen those campaigns at work. I've watched as members of the Church have done real harm to others because of how they've been radicalized online. I've been on the receiving end of those attacks more than once.

Exercising tolerance is an opportunity for us to develop the gift of discernment—to recognize and reject that manipulation. Committing to exercise tolerance will protect us from the campaigns at work trying to spread racism, sexism, hatred, prejudice, and violence.

In overcoming these influences, we have a perfect example in Jesus Christ—the one who ate with tax collectors and sex workers. The one who saved the adulteress from being stoned in the street because he could see the predatory guilt in her accusers.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example of tolerance. It's the single most important example he ever set. Why do I say that? Because his compassion is what we love most about him. It's what allows him to be our Savior. He saves us from the cruelty of this world.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matt.5:44-48, Jesus gave the commandment for us to be perfect like our Heavenly Parents. He didn't say that the route to that perfection would be obedience to law. When we read those verses in context, Jesus taught it would be in our capacity to love our enemies, to pray for them, and to tolerate the people who are different from us that we become perfect. Tolerance is the pathway to becoming Christ-like.

That is the single most important skill we will ever learn. It's the entire purpose of coming to mortality—to learn to encounter and embrace differences when it's not an easy thing to do. That is the only way we will ever develop the capacity for the universal, unconditional love our Heavenly Parents have for all of their children.
 
One of my favorite sacrament hymns is "In Humility, Our Savior." It's short. It's a beautiful use of alto voices. It was written by a woman. And it brought us this gem:
"Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving, Teach us tolerance and love."
Tolerance brings the healing and peace of Christ to those who embrace it. I know I need it. My church needs it. My country needs it. This world we share needs it.

When Blessings of Healing and Comfort were Performed by Women

I was at distribution to get some more Jesus Jammies yesterday. We always like looking at the artwork. I was being flippant about White Jesus when my husband showed me this one. My heart caught in my throat.

Relief Society Healing, Anthony Sweat

I stood there looking at it, speechless, for a long time. The contradiction between the way things were for women in the Church and the way things are, after more than a century of losses in autonomy and ability, made plain for everyone to sit with. Right before my eyes.

I pushed back tears because this comes so close to what is painful for me about being a woman in the Church. To be loved continually, but not trusted to accomplish the calling God has given to me with all the tools available to me in my religious community. It hurts so much.

I discovered that I have a gift to heal others through my prayers of faith and through my (artificially limited) access to God's power. That's part of how I decided to become a veterinary nurse. What the Church won't allow me to do with consecrated oil, I will do with medicine and prayer. 

I have a gift. I can use it to benefit the Church in its fullness, or I can go elsewhere with it. Either way, I will not hold it under a bushel or bury it in the ground. That was never an option. 

Those are the words that caught in my throat yesterday and I needed to get them out.

[UPDATE: I need every middle-aged Mormon on Twitter yelling at me because I call my garments Jesus Jammies to: 

  1. Back all the way up. 
  2. Sit all the way down. 
  3. Realize what I do is not up to you.

Garments are not inherently sacred objects that will make me spontaneously combust if I handle or speak about them differently from you. This isn't the ark of the covenant. You're picking fights with a stranger on the internet over fabric. Get a grip.

My garments go through my actual life with me. They're stained from my period blood and vaginal discharge. They have sweat stains and smell like dog half the time because I work in a vet clinic. Be precious with yours if that's your life. Don't get pissy with me because I don't.

I know the covenant I made in the temple in relation to the garment. I've performed the ordinances in which they are given. At no point did I vow to be a humorless scold in relation to how other people choose to wear or relate to them. I promised to wear them. Period.

When y'all get the opportunity to return to the Temple, take some time to reflect on the fact that no where in those covenants is a license to police anyone else about anything.]

Yearning

Maybe I'm just speaking from the experience of having cut both of my parents out of my life at this point. But how do I reconcile, through a Mormon lens, a parental relationship I don't eventually outgrow? Even with Divine Parents?

Like, I don't envision Heaven as a place where I become a child again. I imagine it as a place where I will be an adult, functioning as a fully capable and independent equal.

Maybe this is why I just don't resonate with depictions of Heavenly Mother where she dotes on tiny children. I never had that with my own mother and I'm not having that experience now with any children of my own.

Someone please make a Heavenly Mother depiction surrounded by a menagerie of animals. That's what I need in my life.

Stop Trying to Pray the Gay Away

Rainbow Chair, Maki Yamaguchi
 

God conquering and subduing LGBTQIA+ bodies to force them to be heterosexual and cisgender is not miraculous.

That's why God doesn't do it. It's not because our Heavenly Parents don't care. They don't answer such prayers because they didn't make a mistake in the first place.

The same goes for parents who try to pray various aspects of their children's identities away.

You cannot fix what isn't broken. But you can break a lot of things, including hearts, when you force anyone to be someone they're not.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Ne. 4:35

God does have the power to help us with our problems, including in miraculous ways. In the language of scripture, we have to learn to "ask not amiss." 

LGBTQ+ folks (including David Archuleta) are people to be loved, not problems to be solved.

Mary and Martha of Bethany

Jesus at the Home of Mary and Martha, Minerva Teichert

What if the reason Jesus told Martha to stop bossing her sister around wasn't just for Mary's benefit?

What if he was also fed up with Martha cooking and cleaning up after a bunch of men who clearly didn't help at all?

Think about it. 

What if Martha's real issue isn't just that she's trying to passive aggressively enlist her sister into helping her through someone else? 

What if Mary choosing "the better part" is because she refuses to enable learned helplessness in grown men?

The People You Meet in Infertility

Let's take it from the top and have a conversation about Hannah, and all the people around her who aren't making her life any easier.

Person 1: Peninnah, the sister wife

This heifer taunts and makes snide comments to Hannah about not being able to get pregnant. For years, she does this incessantly until it gives Hannah anxiety and makes her openly cry in public. Now, this is just about the most extreme, hurtful example there is. But encapsulated in Peninnah is a lot of hurtful behavior that many with infertility do experience.

Relatives that make your infertility about them and their feelings? People with better luck passing judgment, asking impertinent questions, or making stupid comments that show how little they understand about what you're going through? Hannah's got that in spades.

Person 2: Elkanah, the husband

"Why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?"

This line makes me laugh every time I read it. He's trying so hard, and he has no idea what to do. Infertility is something couples experience together, while experiencing differently. It's not up to one partner to save, fulfill, or change the way the other partner feels. And because he has children with another wife, he isn't even fully experiencing Hannah's infertility the way she is.

Elkanah. You can't fix everything with the magical gift of your presence. You're not chocolate.

Person 3: Eli, the priest

I'm sorry if this is news to anyone. But walking up to a woman he doesn't know, interrupting her when she's praying, and telling her to go home because she's drunk is not at all helpful. And in that spirit, let's talk about strangers giving unhelpful advice and feedback on reproductive health. Because that has not changed at all.

If you've ever started any sentence to an infertile person with "why don't you just" or "have you tried," you weren't really doing that person any favors. They had to educate you, against their will, about why your behavior was not okay. Anyone who has been experiencing infertility for longer than five minutes will have already explored any option the average person can think of off the top of their head. Trust me on that one. They don't want or need uninvited input from a random stranger who is not a doctor, no matter who that stranger is.

And of course, because Eli is actually the priest, he gets all the credit for "fixing" Hannah with his super special priesthood. I'll pose you a question. Does he though? Point to me in 1 Samuel 1 where Hannah is cured of her infertility because of Eli and the absolute bare minimum he does, after he extracts his foot from his mouth? I'll wait.

Hannah, in my estimation, did everything that was required of her when she prayed to the Lord from the depths of her soul. He doesn't deserve credit for what she did, just because he holds the priesthood. Especially since he's not even good at it. See literally every other chapter he's in.

Person 4: Herself

The most powerful verse in this entire story is when she finishes her prayer, dusts herself off, ignores these wearisome people, gets something to eat, "and her countenance was no more sad." 

She left that moment having absolutely no idea if, when, or how her prayer was going to be answered. She wasn't sad anymore because she decided she deserved to go on living, even if it never was. She accepted that she might never have children. I know that because that was the exact moment I stopped being sad about my own situation, which I did after I read this story for the first time and truly understood it.
Now you may be thinking, why would God do this to her? Shutting up her womb like that. Why wouldn't he do it to the heifer to teach her some humility? Why do it to this very awesome lady?

My awesomeness is debatable, but let me hazard an answer to that one.

Infertility is not the end of the world. It feels like that at times. But that's because of how much of our personal worth and self-perception are wrapped up in eventually being able to have and raise kids. I am not sorry that I experience infertility anymore. I've been going through it long enough that I'm grateful for it. I'm glad this is how my life turned out. I don't live in a constant state of wishing for this part of it to be different anymore.

I've lived with infertility long enough to see how liberating it can be. I've gotten the chance to know and love myself in a way I couldn't if my entire being was wrapped up in taking care of tiny humans and giving them the things they need. That's why one of the things that still bothers me is when people say "you'll never know love until you have kids." But parents don't get the monopoly on true love. It may be true for them to say that those without children can't understand the love they have for their kids. However, it would be equally valid for me to say that they don't know the love infertile people have and develop for themselves because it's something they don't get to experience. There are many kinds of love in this world, and none of them are more valid or valuable than any other.

The fact is, "shutting up my womb" was the best, most loving thing God has ever done for me. It's what I needed and he understood that. Sometimes I feel like he's the only one who does. It's not a mistake. It's not his plan gone awry. It is his plan for my life. It's what the plan of happiness looks like for me.

I'm glad Hannah's story is in the scriptures. I don't know where I'd be without it.

Bathsheba

If you're unfamiliar with the story of David and Bathsheba, it's worth revisiting it in 1 Samuel 11-12 if you've never done it as an adult.

In summary, King David creeps on a married woman who is participating in her monthly ritual purification after her menstruation, as outlined in the Law of Moses. David sees her and decides he must have her, like she's a carnival prize instead of a person.

Pay attention in this story how many times the word "took" and "taken" are used. He uses his position as king and his servants to force her into his house, into his bed, gets her pregnant, and conspires to have her husband killed at war so he can keep her.  

When Bathsheba finds out her husband is dead, she mourns for him. She loved him. But that literally doesn't matter when a powerful person in authority decides a woman belongs to him.

I vividly remember the first time I was ever told the story of David and Bathsheba, but this isn't the version of the story I heard. I was a teenager in a Sunday school class. Bathsheba was the antagonist of the story, not David and his own selfishness. Bathsheba was a temptress and a wanton woman. She wanted David to see her, was the reason he sinned, and was complicit in breaking the Law of Chastity. 

What a shame, the teacher said, because her name means "daughter of the covenant."

The problem is this interpretation is not supported at all by the text. If anything, a truly impartial reading of only what is in the text would suggest Bathsheba was kidnapped and raped, and the only person God ever punished for it was David himself. Look at the last verse in chapter 11. God only punishes David. In 12, he sends Nathan to David. The baby dies and the Lord says it is specifically to punish David. 
 
Any blame to Bathsheba is not supported by the text. What I was taught was wrong. And this woman has had her story and memory forever altered by David, his actions, and seemingly every artist in Europe for centuries afterwards.

And now that my mind and heart are consumed with the news of Joseph L. Bishop, I can't help but think about the toxic victim blaming that goes on in LDS culture. For many of us, it has been inseparable from our religious experience from the time we were children. It was presented to us as fact in conjunction with scripture, with warnings about the type of women we should aspire to become. 
 
As if any amount of our self-control could stop the Davids of the world from wanting to possess us. As if that was somehow our fault.
 
Bathsheba isn't a harlot. She is a survivor. In a culture where being a rape victim could mean being stoned to death as an adulteress, she married her rapist. She did the unthinkable, living with a grief that is too wild for me to ever understand. She isn't someone I should be looking down upon. She's someone I can look up to as a survivor. She is a daughter of God. And I'm glad today that I got to rediscover and correct her story.

Believe victims. They have very little to gain, and everything to lose, by being honest about what they've experienced. Be careful about giving your loyalty to the accused without question. David was a king. But that didn't stop him from also being a rapist.

Xenophobia, Nationalism, Propaganda, and the Death of Jesus Christ

After a conversation with my husband in which the root of some of my current religious struggles took shape, I was reading in John 11. I found some interesting material I've never noticed before.

Source: Lazaro, Ven Fuero, Jorge Cocco Santangelo


In that chapter, Lazarus gets sick and dies. Jesus gets to Bethany after Lazarus has been dead for four days. Because Bethany was so close to Jerusalem, it wasn't safe for Jesus to come any sooner. As it was, the apostles thought they would all die there. 

Lazarus being restored to life is such a beautiful story, I've never paid attention to this subtext of personal danger on the Savior's part. But in our current political climate, it's hard not to see it above all else. In my mind, the rational for why the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus was a power struggle born of jealousy. But the scriptures we have clarify that it goes much deeper than that.

48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation...

52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

Their response to power they could neither understand nor control was not just jealousy. It was the irrational, but deeply-held belief that they would lose their nation and identity as Jews to Rome. They were afraid that Jesus would reunify the lost tribes of Israel, reunifying the kingdom and thereby challenging their power and superiority.

It was an anti-immigrant, nationalistic stance born of fear, hatred, and ignorance.

How did the Pharisees and their supporters justify the decision to kill Jesus, through which they would break any law, enter into any conspiracy, and shed innocent blood?

Nationalism. A rotten fruit of the human spirit, from which no good has ever come.

If the Pharisees were alive today, they'd be wearing red hats that say "Make Jerusalem Great Again." They followed Caiaphas, who couldn't be a better parallel for many of the leaders on the world stage today. Caiaphas was willing to justify murder for the sake of his nation, because "it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."

Jesus was arrested illegally, given an unjust trial, sentenced against the law of his people, and killed because of a vocal minority's fear mongering and manufactured narratives. No one understands nationalism and the injustice that comes from it better than he does.

Like the rest of us, Jesus was a man of many good intentions living in an unjust world. Nothing he could do in mortality could ever make life just. He suffered and died because he tried to make life just a little more fair for the disadvantaged and the outcast. He believed in equality. He believed, and hoped against hope, that he could make a difference. It was exhausting to him. The more he gave to the poorest in his society, the more some people hated him. And even he couldn't change that.

We all will experience that same ugliness of spirit, because evil is timeless & has a habit of repeating itself. But we can't give up, the same way Jesus never did. We can't make things fair. But we can make things better than they would be if we did nothing at all.

Now that Jesus is no longer mortal, has risen from the dead, and sits in judgment over the entire human race, he has the power to right all wrongs. He has the power to achieve justice and fairness. We will have our day in court. We will all have justice.

The injustice and unfairness that surround us are not God's doing. But with his help, we can travel on the same long, arduous road where he walked to create change. It won't be easy, but nothing worth the time ever really is.

Real Talk from a Convert

Let's talk about being a convert in the Church, because there is a cultural tension between me and a lot of lifelong members to which I'd like to introduce y'all.

Source: (Christ) Rescue of the Lost Lamb, Minerva K. Teichert


The Church (the organization) and the church (the people) love to share what they believe with others. They each sacrifice and give a lot to make that happen. Millions of dollars and years of their time throughout their lives, whether they're full time missionaries or not.

How I came into the Church is a beautiful example of this. My community didn't have missionaries, so the members found me, loved me, taught me, and were there to baptize me when I decided to join. They did everything for me. Everything about my story is a testimony of how genuinely church members just love other people. What I'm about to say is in no way a criticism of them. They did the best with what they had, and what they knew. And I will love them forever because of it.

One of the most important things they did for me was give me space to figure out and adopt what changes I wanted and needed to make in my own life. They didn't treat my conversion like it was their job. They didn't expect my end results to look anything like theirs. I was a very different person from a completely different background, and they understood me being exactly like them was never going to happen, and wasn't the point.

I didn't join the Church to be like them. I joined the Church to be like Jesus. To do everything in my power to be changed by him, according to his wisdom, will and timing. They understood that.

The number one praise I heard as a new member was how grateful they were to learn from me and my perspective. They valued me for the unique talents and perspectives I brought with me from outside of the Church. They listened and learned from what I had to say.

That hasn't been my experience in every place I've lived. People I've met in other places have expectations for converts to erase any and all differences in thought and method, to become just like one of them. They couch this in language about "the culture of the gospel."

To them, uniformity and acceptance are totally synonyms with each other. That is their failure, not mine. But they take it upon themselves to punish anyone who is different, anyone who deviates from who they think a church member should be. They do this through gossip behind other people's backs, nasty comments to their face, and a mulish refusal to consider anything else outside of their own worldview and the practices of their own families.

Jesus did not bring me into his church to be someone else. He brought me here to be myself, and to become the best version of that person—with all the gifts, talents, and experiences he gave me before I ever knew the Church existed. He brought me here not just to learn from others, but also so they could learn from me. Growing through our differences is the wisdom of God, and it's only possible if I bring those differences to the table.

I am not okay with being erased and manipulated into being someone I'm not, or being forced to see Jesus as someone I don't recognize. Someone who's love for me is conditional upon conformity and performance, not love and grace.

So the "why don't you just leave?" crowd, the members who just can't metabolize the person I am, who would be happier if I just left, know that I didn't do this to you. You did this to yourself with your own expectations. You don't get to be comfortable in a church that spends all of these resources on bringing in new people, without ever being challenged to learn from them, or (gasp!) be changed by them.

You prayed, fasted, and called down the power of heaven to bring me here. You don't get to choose what my presence means for you now that I'm here.

Philadelphia Temple Open House

 

At the stake center next to the Philadelphia temple. Seeing this painting, as well as the dressing room painting, was the highlight of the open house for me. It makes me wish I could paint so I could be a part of the change I love to see.

Not to mention that this lovely woman was our tour guide. I loved her tour. The way she addressed the protestors, presenting the temple with grace and poise. I wish I knew her name.


 (Update: of course Black Mormon Twitter was able to tell me her name is Josephine.)

More Posts from Me

The Unimpressive Origins of Anti-Queerness in the LDS Church

"Sister Collins, why don't you believe being queer is a sin like the rest of the righteous, obedient Mormons?" Because despite...