From Mrs. T:
My husband and I just finished watching the Matrix trilogy. While we fast-forwarded through some of the more violent scenes, I thought that the movies were completely awesome. It was our first R-rated experience. It took some wrestling with my inner demons to not feel immense culture-induced guilt in watching it. I do not desire to watch gratuitous sex and violence (just regular sex and violence? That phrase has always confused me), and I really hate horror movies, no matter what they're rated. Mr. T cannot handle watching scary movies either. We stick to Star Trek most nights.
But I want to say this: oddly enough, watching that trilogy has given me a way to cope with the things I see happening in the LDS Church that I feel are wrong or well-intentioned but misguided and hurtful. Let me explain.
As Mr. T and I have discussed together, the gospel of Jesus Christ is different from the institution of the Church. They mix and mesh together, absolutely, but in my mind there is Truth and then there is Policy (and sometimes what we think is truth but is actually culture and tradition). When I enter a church building, I feel like I am entering the Matrix. ("Brother Anderson . . . ") The structure of the church is built upon inherent assumptions, expectations, and programs. There is a higher structure governing these programs. It's called the Patriarchy. (I did note that the Architect of the Matrix was a white-bearded, elderly man.) Yet, there is also a Truth that exists outside and through and even despite these human-run programs. This Truth, at its core, is the simple good news of the Gospel: Jesus died for us so that we have time and space to try to be better individuals and so that we can return to God. Love God, love your neighbor. That's pretty much it. It's simply stated, but difficult in practice and very easy to add extraneous rules to. Lots and lots of rules, hemlines, dresses not pants, proclamations, etc. That's where the Church struggles.
Of course, there are mechanisms of the institution that seek to keep people safely inside the net. Sometimes they're from the ward council, sometimes it's a home teacher or a visiting teacher or the missionaries, even the stake presidency:
From Mrs. T:
Last month Mr. T and I attended a meeting led by Terryl and Fiona Givens and Richard Bushman. The topic was on faith crises. (The name "Temple and Observation Society" was explained in that back in the day, there was an observatory set up outside the temple, drawing the parallel that there are those who are observing what is happening in the LDS Church—or something like that.)
There were over 100 people in attendance, each hurt or questioning something. Legitimate hurts, legitimate questions. Our friend, one of the organizers of this meeting, told us that General Authorities knew about these faith crises meetings and approved of them. I find that support heartening, as I did Elder Uchtdorf's recent talk about staying in the Church and Elder Holland's talk last General Conference on having questions.
Here are my garbled notes.
From Mr. T:
"Ye shall know them by their fruits" is how Jesus succinctly taught
his disciples to discern between false and true prophets. As I continue to seek a firmer anchor for my faith, this teaching seems like a beautifully simple and compelling model for finding truth. Goodness is evidence of truth. The prophet Mormon develops this concept further:
For behold a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil. Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil...that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
So there you have it right? The Church of Jesus Christ brings forth goodness, therefore it is true. Case closed. Move on, put your shoulder to the wheel, do some of those good works yourself, and stop all the theological questioning. Well, not so fast...
I am happy to say that we are coming to an awareness about Heavenly Mother. The BYU Studies article
by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido has been instrumental in legitimating this subject. Warren Aston wrote of three myths
surrounding Heavenly Mother (and then debunked them—read the article):Myth 1: Church leaders do not speak of her, so we should not.
Myth 2: She exists, but we know nothing else about her.
Myth 3: Our silence protects her against being blasphemed and slandered as the Father and the Son are.
There are still leaders who are forbidding the very mention of Heavenly Mother or even Heavenly Parents, and I hope you will kindly share this montage with them. What God hath joined together let not man divide asunder.
By Mrs. T:
This article by Hannah Wheelright
encapsulates a lot of what I've been feeling, particularly that motherhood is analogous to fatherhood, not the priesthood. I am hopeful that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God—just as the ninth Article of Faith
states. I grew up thinking that my sole worth was tied to bearing and raising children; everything else was just nice service but not necessary, not as important. I still struggle with this feeling even though I know I have a lot to offer the world. And now, since it turns out that having children is both traumatic and exceedingly painful for me (big babies run in the family, my body is extremely sensitive to pain, and I'm 50% likely to get postpartum depression again), I have to sit down and think about how I can use my many other gifts and talents to bless others. Without guilt. God help me, without guilt.There will be a worldwide fast for gender justice
on August 26th. Please join us (click here
for the event's Facebook page).
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to cleanse the temple. And while I didn't get to throw tables, and they did not let me use a whip, it was nonetheless a very rewarding experience.
I arrived very early in the morning, wearing regular clothes and sneakers. Other than the temple presidency and one other man, the temple was basically empty. I put on white coveralls and white coverings for my shoes and then was given a Ghostbuster-like vacuum cleaner that was strapped to my back. I then had the assignment of vacuuming all the white carpets in the whole temple and was left alone to do my work. After I vacuumed, I washed all the windows and mirrors while the other worker cleaned the bathrooms. We finished the whole temple in about two and a half hours.
When I got home, Mrs. T asked if the temple was even dirty. I assured her that it was. Hair and these little bugs were everywhere. The carpet around the ventilation system was beginning to darken from soot and dirt being blown in from outside. There were plenty of stains that my vacuum could not remove. But I did my best, and definitely feel that I left the temple better than I found it.
I love what the temple represents. The concept of a sacred spaces where we seek peace and the divine away from the problems of the world is so needed in our bustling, stressful world. And temples are beautiful rather than utilitarian structures, in stark contrast to our meetinghouses or places of work. But our rhetoric around temples suffers from perhaps one major flaw: this representation of perfection, of a beautiful ideal, is sometimes conflated with actual perfection. When we pretend that the temple is a perfect building and that those who enter it embody the ideal in religious achievement, a good temple cleansing is in order.
By Mrs. T.
I reckon, based on approximate calculations, that if on average I hear 10 testimonies each fast Sunday, and I add to that testimonies that I have heard during Primary, Young Women's meetings and activities, Relief Society, General Conference, Sunday School, home teaching visits, visiting teaching visits, firesides, ward parties, Family Home Evenings, and Girls' Camp, and I add to that the testimonies that my missionary companion and I ourselves spoke while we were on missions (assuming we each gave a testimony a day, a very conservative estimate), the testimonies given as we taught English, went to zone conferences, district meetings, and mission parties—I reckon that I've heard about 10,000 testimonies in my lifetime.That's a lot.
And I'm not that old.I have heard some form of "I'd like to bear my testimony; I know this church is true. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that Joseph Smith/Thomas S. Monson was/is a true prophet. I know that families can be together forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen" over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Could this be considered vain repetition (Matthew 6:7)? Let's talk about this echo chamber in parts. The "Vain"The Zoramites had their Rameumptom, the place where they stood to offer up the same thing each time. The purpose in doing it was to exalt themselves, glorying in the fact that they had the truth where others didn't. See any parallels?
Alma 31:19–20 Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure. For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers
21 Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand.
22 Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.The fact that we express gratitude (in the form of a testimony) for the things we "know" or the truths we "have" which others do not bothers me.
It is a slap in the face for a new person to come to church and hear "I know that [my church and not your church] is true." Can we please find some other way to express our beliefs?The "Repetitions"
From Mrs. T: I would like to respond to yesterday's article "My occupation is mother" by Tara Creel of KSL.com. As I read it, I became uncomfortable, and then I wondered why I was uncomfortable. It occurs to me that messages like this, which run rampant through the blogosphere, on Mother's Day, and during testimony meetings, center on being defensive: "Being a mother IS TOO AN OCCUPATION! I'm a chauffeur, a chef, a nurse, an educator . . ." and they try to make the list as long as possible. I would like to argue that strictly based on definitions, sure, the act of staying with and taking care of one's children
could be considered an occupation: Merriam-Webster's says an occupation is "an activity in which one engages." Sure. Hard to argue with that.I would say, however, that motherhood is not
a profession, "a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation" (m-w.com). Yes, yes, motherhood may be a calling, in a spiritual sense, for a woman, but while there may be some specialized knowledge a mother utilizes in her day-to-day activities (ammonia is not for drinking, fevers need to be monitored, my child responds positively to this and negatively to that, knowing how to drive may be convenient for taking children here and there), one doesn't get or need intensive academic training to be a mother. If she did, then there would be a lot fewer mothers in the world, because the majority of them are vastly undereducated (I get very
upset thinking about arranged child marriages. I heartily endorse the documentary Girl Rising
, and I join their cause).
From Mr. T:
I am not an epistemological philosopher, but I wish I were. How do we know? What can we know? What can be considered valid evidence upon which we can with assurance construct a narrative of truth?
For Mormonism, spiritual knowledge is a critical component of our very identity. Perhaps unique among Christian denominations, we claim to actually know things. And not just anything—we claim to know the very basis of existence for the entire human family. Our so-called Sunday School answers are startling in their audacity. We definitively state we know where we came from, why we are here, and what happens when we die. And we do not just mean to know these things in some general, theological basis; the foundation of Mormonism is its claim that we can individually and uniquely know these things. So how exactly do we know these things?
In my experience, as members of the church we base our claim to knowledge on one of the following:
Oh boy. I sure have feelings about Mother's Day. And you'll be getting a full dose of it here, since I kept [most of] my wrath back during church. And most of that frustration stems from putting mothers on a pedestal, which puts a whole lot of women on edge, including mothers themselves. We idealize motherhood, but in doing so, we crystallize an idol, and then everyone else outside that stereotype feels lousy. This is a very particular problem in the LDS church, where gender lines are very starkly drawn.
The holiday in general is lousy. Do you know how Mother's Day started? Briefly, Anna Jarvis, in 1908, held a party for her mother, and people liked it so she campaigned to make a national holiday. She got her wish from Woodrow Wilson in 1914, but by the 1920s she was disheartened by the commercialization of Mother's Day and actually opposed the holiday she helped to create. In fact, she spent all of her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting its commercialization. She didn't succeed: in the U.S., Mother's Day is still one of the most commercially successful holidays.
A twist on this Mother's Day was that Mr. T was asked to give a talk about the "sacredness of motherhood" during sacrament meeting. It was a hard week for Mr. T as he tried to prepare for that (particularly because Mrs. T is who she is and they have had many discussions about gender stereotypes). He wanted to present something palatable and doctrinal (is there doctrine there?), but the very fact that he, a man, was telling women how to be women/mothers (i.e., by praising a certain type of good mother he defines what a good mother is or is not) made him squirm terribly. [Mr. T would probably have written about this himself, but he just "came out" to his father about supporting same-sex marriage, and it was a pretty intense conversation. So in the meantime I have to say something or else I'll explode.]