Sunday in Outer Blogness: What women want edition!

You may have heard that the New York Times published an article on female Mormon missionaries and how cool they are! Mormon women like it for its tone and accuracy:

The tone was perfect—respectful without lapsing into the reverence or romanticizing a church publication so often displays for missionary work; curious and interested in what’s unusual and unexpected about missionary life without treating the missionaries themselves as oddities.

It seems the NYT was on a roll — they followed that one up with a piece quoting Mormon women about the changes they’d like to see in the CoJCoL-dS. If only the ladies could get this kind of respect at church, likely many of the problems would be resolved.

As it is… Well, watch the two videos here. If you’re female in the CoJCoL-dS, you are what you wear (and even outside the church you can’t just forget about it). And in response to the Brodie-award winning 19-part-and-counting series demonstrating how equality is not a feeling, Nate Oman explained to the ladies that equality is, in fact, a feeling. Raising girls into their subordinate role is a serious issue — really not a place for adding insult to injury. If you’d like to add your perspective, take this survey.

Interestingly, it turns out that the LDS priesthood is two totally different things depending on the gender of the person who wants to exercise it.

The “do we get planets or what?!” discussion continued from last week. Basically, Mormons are not about to give up their planets no matter what the quorum of the anonymous website authors says, and anyway, the article didn’t precisely contradict the “get to be God of your own planet” doctrine. Holly explained the crux of the problem:

In an interview with ABC, Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, said, “Many of these things can be unsettling to members who have grown up with a typically manicured narrative, but it’s a necessary part of the maturation for the church membership.”

But the pushback on obfuscating revisions of core doctrines isn’t from people used to “a typically manicured narrative,” but from those of us who grew up or otherwise came to terms with large, flowery, somewhat messy doctrines and are now shocked to see them trimmed and pruned and trained into tidy, less challenging shapes without any acknowledgment from the church that that’s what’s being done.

Let’s compare to the scriptures. If anything, the tales of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob deserve an embarrassed whitewashing more than the Mormon planet thing does. Yes, you can do serious literary analysis of the scriptures, but with such a sacred cow, sometimes interesting insights are best illustrated through humor.

On the bright side, the CoJCoL-dS responded graciously to being required to comply with British law. But there are some serious problems with the church’s prophetic claims (maybe clarified in this new volume). Also, Jen’s experience illustrated a problem with Mormon culture, namely that certain random personality traits are simply more righteous:

In fact, for years I pretended that I was a super outgoing, bubbly type of person. I wasn’t just pretending for other people’s benefits. I was fooling myself as well. Because somewhere along the way I got it into my head that part of being “perfect” involved being a “people person.”

You may have heard that the American Atheists will be holding their national convention in Salt Lake City this April — maybe you’ve seen the billboards pointing out that not all Utahns are Mormons. Well, it turns out that Joanne Hanks — author of the polygamy classic “It’s Not About The Sex” My Asswill be speaking! I wish I could attend, but I have only so much vacation, and I can’t be flying in from Switzerland all the time. (Maybe I should at least try to place an ad for Mormon Alumni Association Books) in their program…

In life journeys, Mormon X is taking the plunge, and Monica finally popped in a cute way). Jaded dealt with the consequences of leaving a mission early, and sicheart left because of the hypocrasy. Plus, there was a bit of a theme on how we non-believers need to leave the church alone. The thing is that it’s not a reasonable expectation for people who invested their lives in Mormonism and were shaped by it.

Uomo Nuovo has been posting up a storm, including revisiting topics from his earlier blog (like his thoughts on mixed-orientation marriage) as well as new topics like freedom of religion — it’s definitely worth a visit!

In other random stuff, Kiley hates the idea of being “Christ-like” or “sweet, and Knotty hates mild expletives (my kids’ new thing is to say a loud, high-pitched “beep” to replace naughty words). Those of us on the far side of the planet have some fun holidays coming up! (And click here for a very unusual discussion of Scottish independence.) Heather has a recipe for mouth-on-fire “Buffalo Falafel”.

It has been a fun batch of discussions! I hope you enjoy reading them — see you next week! 😀

Woman Suffrage and Ordaining Women

We acknowledge no inferiority to men. We claim to have no less ability to perform the duties which God has imposed upon us than they have to perform those imposed upon them.

We believe that God has wisely and well adapted each sex to the proper performance of the duties of each.

We believe our trusts to be as important and sacred as any that exists on earth.

We believe woman suffrage would relatively lessen the influence of the intelligent and true, and increase the influence of the ignorant and vicious.

So said declared the 1886 proclamation, “Woman’s Protest Against Woman Suffrage.” Continuing it reads:

We feel that our present duties fill up the whole measure of our time and ability, and are such as none but ourselves can perform. Our appreciation of their importance requires us to protest against all efforts to infringe upon our rights by imposing upon us those obligations which cannot be separated from suffrage, but which, as we think, cannot be performed by us without the sacrifice of the highest interests of our families and of society.

It is our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons who represent us at the ballot-box. Our fathers and our brothers love us; our husbands are our choice and one with us; our sons are what we make them. We are content that they represent us in the corn-field, on the battle-field, and in the ballot-box, and we teach them in the school-room, at the fireside, and at the cradle, believing our representation even at the ballot-box to be thus more full and impartial than it would be were the views of the few who wish suffrage adopted, contrary to the judgment of many.

We do therefore respectfully protest against any legislation to establish ‘woman suffrage’ in our land, or in any part of it.

It is interesting how women against suffrage sound like Latter-day Saint women who object to the ordain women movement. In both cases the argument is rooted in the premise that God has appointed women their sphere and in the late 1800’s it did not included women voting, and now it doesn’t include women holding the priesthood. A century or so ago some women were saying, “I don’t want the right to vote,” today we have some Mormon women declaring, “I don’t want the priesthood,” as though the assertion alone puts them on solid theological ground. If nothing else, “Want” has never carried any weight in a Church that sings, “I’ll go where you want me to go Dear Lord, or do what you want me to do.”

The irony is that in the process of speaking out against women holding the priesthood, these women have actually joined steps with the ordain women movement. They have decided to add their voice to the record, rather than letting those authorized to speak for the Lord have the say. They have temporarily forgotten that they really should be home baking cookies and teaching their sons to want to hold the priesthood and to honor it for the precious blessings it brings into the home. Rather than asserting they don’t want the priesthood, or declaring how the Lord doesn’t want women to hold the priesthood, they should be teaching their daughters to honor the men who hold the priesthood and to be worthy to be a priesthood holder’s eternal companion. They need to remember that they should speak only when invited by the priesthood, and then under the direction of the priesthood. To do otherwise, even in protest, is to join ranks with those calling for equality.

My Ordain Women Testimony

The Ordain Women event on Saturday was absolutely wonderful from start to finish.  It was the best Mormon-related thing I have done in ages.

It helped that it was a truly beautiful autumn day, clear and calm, though quite chilly in the shade and downright cold once the sun set.  Salt Lake City was beautiful, so it was just one more reason people were in good spirits.

You can find all sorts of accounts of the event, including something I wrote for Religion Dispatches and this really great Storified account on Exponent II (which includes a great tweet about the infamous garbage truck they parked in front of the door–I hope someone got in trouble for that).  So I don’t feel the need to give another rundown of that sort here.

Things could have turned out very differently.  The church had a number of options.  It could have let us attend the meeting in the Conference Center–not that I ever thought that would really happen. (Though I was the very first person, back in February, to point out that we had to be prepared for that very unlikely contingency.  Before that, everyone worked only from the assumption that we would be turned away.)  They could have let us into the Tabernacle and just had us sit there, out of sight, and then not let us into the Conference Center once the meeting started.  I’m sure there are other things they could have done–apparently the OW planning committee had come up with dozens of possible scenarios.

Once we arrived on Temple Square and were met by Ruth Todd and told, “Nope, you can’t come in,” a lot of people figured we had done all we could.  They were ready to go back to the park and sing more hymns.  Kate Kelly is who said, “No. We’re not done asking.”  She was the one who had us line up and told us, “They’re going to have to turn down each one of us.”

And for whatever reason, perhaps because they were caught off guard, the church let us.

It was…. weird. Shocking. Deeply confusing and utterly intelligible at the same time, this bizarre juxtaposition that caught you off-guard because it was new, but somehow readily recongizable because it mirrored so many other contradictions we were trained to accept.

Many women said that they were surprised at just how much it hurt to be turned away from the priesthood session.  It was strange to see the line get shorter and shorter, to watch woman after woman (and the occasional man) in front of me be turned away, while all these guys just marched right into the Tabernacle.

And yeah, I was surprised at how emotional I was when it was finally my turn.  But part of that emotion was because I felt so empowered.  It was a really big deal to stand there and to force this representative of the church to acknowledge and recognize me on terms I had helped shape.

I looked the smiling, jovial man tasked with turning us all away right in the eye and said, “I have been told that I am physically and spiritually unworthy to attend this meeting, and I am giving you an opportunity to override that immoral and unjust decree.”

He smiled. (He smiled a lot, and it was never a smarny, dismissive smile or a smirk.  He really, truly smiled, for well over an hour.) He told me that he couldn’t imagine who would have said that because I seemed like a lovely person, but that the meeting was only for dudes, so he didn’t have the authority to let me in.

I asked him if he thought that was fair; he said it wasn’t his place to decide.

I told him that Heavenly Father was very disappointed. (I really did.) He just smiled.

I am utterly sincere when I say that I was very impressed that he managed to remain so pleasant after saying NO to well over 100 people. I heard someone say that they overheard him tell someone else that it was one of the most emotionally taxing things he had ever been asked to do in his job.  Not everyone was so good-natured, though: just beyond him stood a grim fellow from Church Protective Operations. (That’s what the church calls its security detail.  Supposedly they planned ahead and had 13 guys, eight of them “under cover,” assigned to monitor Ordain Women. It seems excessive, given that we always said we planned to be well-behaved, but maybe they wanted as many people as were at the Last Supper.)

After that, I walked across the lawn to the bathroom in the Visitors Center because I needed to use it, and I washed my very cold hands for a very long time in very hot water, which felt good, and then I realized how badly I was shaking, and not just from the cold.

I had an hour-long interview with Kate Kelly about a week ago.  She said that she envisioned the Ordain Women action as “a way to assert radical self-respect* and to claim the narrative as our own.”

I figured I knew what she meant: standing up for yourself, claiming your own identity, expressing what you want and how to be treated. It sounded good.

But there was a visceral element I didn’t get at all.  I spent some time yesterday and today trying to process why I felt so different.  And I realized that Kate was right and that the action had radically increased my self-respect.  I felt better, stronger, more connected–in all sorts of ways.

Even though I dropped out of the planning in April because I wasn’t as invested as the women who still go to church, I always planned on participating in the action itself, out of a sense of duty and curiosity and solidarity with my sisters, and because I planned to write about it.  I figured it would be historic and I figured I’d be glad after the fact that I was there. I didn’t expect it to be transformative.  But it was.  It absolutely was.

It was also just fun.  I got to chat with local friends I hadn’t seen in months and catch up with friends from out of town I hadn’t seen in years and meet people I’d interacted with online but never met before in real life.  A couple dozen of us went to dinner and talked, then some of us went to someone’s house and watched and read coverage of the event until the wee hours of the morning.

I am much more hopeful about Mormon women and Ordain Women than I was Saturday morning.  I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for Kate Kelly.  She has a vision and a clear sense of how to make it real.  She knows what she’s doing, she is profoundly dedicated and unstintingly generous with her time (I can’t imagine how many interviews she has done in the past three or four weeks), and she has a very pragmatic approach to the spotlight she’s in: she doesn’t seem to mind or crave it–it’s just part of what she has to deal with as part of accomplishing this goal.  This really does seem to be about healthy self-respect and not ego.  That’s remarkable and rare.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next.  I still think it will be at least a couple of decades before women get the priesthood.  But things are possible now that were not possible two and a half days ago (I can’t believe it was only 50-odd hours ago!), and the years until women are ordained will be a lot more interesting from here on out.  This is real activism and it will make things happen.  I can’t wait to see what Ordain Women does next–or how the Church responds.


*After the RD piece showed up on Facebook, someone wrote to let me know that I had actually written “serf-respect,” which neither I nor the editor caught when we proofread the piece.  I was mortified and wrote instantly to ask the editor to fix it–that’s one nice thing about writing for the web: you can always edit typos!  Anyway, after slapping my forehead a few times, I realized that serf-respect was a better name for what the church gave me.  Serf-respect is about all the church lets women have.  If they want self-respect, they have to find ways to create and claim it.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Bread and Stones Edition!!

You may recall from last week that some LDS women (including some bloggers) were planning to stand in line to see if they could get into the male-only conference session that they had been denied tickets to. And — surprise, surprise!they didn’t get let in.

OK, I know, that probably doesn’t surprise anyone, and you probably also won’t be surprised that one of the apostles decided to add insult to injury by making some remarks (from the pulpit, at conference) about feminists devaluing homemaking. I naturally assumed this was some sort of intentional provocation designed to anger the supporters of Ordain Women, but then I thought better of it when I remembered the old adage, “never attribute to malice what can be explained by simple incompetence.” (Plus, at least the CoJCoL-dS has a good cop: Elder Uchtdorf.)

fMhLisa, however, reacted more charitably than I did, and wrote a beautiful piece encouraging empathy towards leaders who perhaps don’t realize they’re giving a stone to those asking for bread:

I don’t think Elder Christofferson ever really heard me ask for bread. And I think, I truly do, that when he handed me that pile of rocks, he really for realz not-even-kidding thought he was handing me bread.

I know he hasn’t heard me, because the person he described when he thought he was describing me is nothing like me at all. I don’t devalue motherhood, motherhood is the best most valuable thing I have ever or will ever do. I don’t want to destroy the differences between men and women, I love Relief Society and I love it when my husband gets his beard on and goes all Grizzly Adams and then lifts heavy things. Rawrrrrr. I don’t want to be a man, I look far too good in heels and twirly skirts, thanksanyway, nor do I hate men, see Rawrrr above, nor any of the old feminist tropes.

But beyond continuing to be utterly transparent about who I really am, I can do nothing to convince anyone that my faithful yearnings are not selfish, power-hungry, rebellious and destructive. Until they are ready to look, until they are ready to hear, then the only thing I can do is to try my darndest not to return upon them that lack of seeing and hearing.

The women’s attempt to attend the meeting garnered various reactions: Admonitions to submit to authority, a list of open questions that give a very strong whiff of being rhetorical, sweet stories illustrating how selfish and misguided those women-who-want-the-priesthood must be, sad tales of how the priesthood would be less special for men if women could have it too, floating the idea of a new separate-and-unequal priesthood for LDS women, alternate suggestions for how women could have greater opportunity for leadership, responsibility, and visibility in the church, a request that the leaders listen, tips for giving a “mother’s blessing,” answering those annoying FAQs, and more reasons to give LDS women the priesthood.

Personally — and I’m sure others would back me on this — I think it would have been funnier if the CoJCoL-dS had just let the women attend the session. It would be like: Ha! Joke’s on you! Now you have to sit through another boring meeting that you could have watched on TV from home, only here you can’t slip out and get a snack during the extra boring parts or play “Conference Bingo”!

Well, maybe you could still play Conference Bingo if you’re subtle about it. But not as a drinking game. (Note: Even the faithful don’t rate the content as being the top reason to attend conference.)

As interesting as the Mormon gender-drama has been, it can’t match the whirl-o-crazy that hit the US government this past week. You’ve probably been following the story, so I’ll focus on what Outer Blogness is saying about it: Obamacare has its advantages and now some folks are on unpaid leave. Fortunately, the CoJCoL-dS has stepped in to take over for the government. (Cleary the US government isn’t what it used to be.) Brett Cottrell sums it up:

It might seem like Mike Lee and his Tea Party chums resemble Ahab chasing after their white whale, Obamacare. But this is wrong. Ahab knew how to sail. Mike Lee is flailing at sea, bailing the ocean into his sinking boat. Mike Lee isn’t Ahab. Ahab would take off his peg leg and beat him with it. Either way, they both crash the boat and don’t care who they take down with them.

In other drama — this time totally unrelated to Mormonism and/or this community — there has been an interesting battle over rape apologetics in the online atheist community.

It turns out a lot of people wrote on other topics: Brother Jake explained his YouTube series. Bill posted an unusual picture of a mountain. The CoJCoL-dS doesn’t have a policy on climate change. Mormon Disclosures has a sneak preview of the Brigham Young Lectures. Advice for new sister missionaries from someone who’s been there. And Ren brought us this week’s scripture mastery with a lesson on the problem with holy writ:

I posted the text above on FB. The responses from my TBM friends included one lamenting that some things in scriptures seem weird and she wished she knew more about the culture at the time. Because it would be ok then? My response to that was that I’m sure Leah would not have been happy in any century. I also said that some things seem weird because they are.

In life journeys, Jen described how her approach to planning has changed, and Dad’s Primal Scream explained how he found truth. Plus I found a cool blog I wasn’t aware of (through his wife’s blog), which includes a fascinating deconversion story:

You are expected to not stay too long in the celestial room, but they don’t rush out the new ones too fast. After 20 minutes or so people start to file out. I hang back, and ask my son privately if he has any questions. You aren’t supposed to discuss details of the ceremony outside so like a good dad I want to see if there were any he has. We have a pretty good level of communication, more so than many parents and teens I suppose. He even knew I had some reservations about being here today. (Not the whole long story or the depth of my belief issues, just that I was unsure.) So I ask him, “We have to leave now, do you have any questions?” He looked me square in the eye and said,

“Yeah, did I just join a cult?”

It hits me hard, devastates me. All the same angst I had felt my first time, the ‘freaked out’ feeling I had after making those oaths some 20+ years ago, the eerie feeling of being touched be a stranger, the fear about what I had just done like a bad memory flooded back all at once. I realize in that moment I had not been honest with myself for a very long time and that had led me to this point and to this question.

Wow, it’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? And I’m sure the story of the women who tried to go to priesthood session isn’t over! Happy reading, and here’s hoping you have health insurance and are not on unpaid leave…

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Good Luck, Ladies Edition!!!

A group of LDS women are planning to attend the men-only Priesthood Session of the CoJCoL-dS General Conference, and it has been an adventure!! First off, the CoJCoL-dS refused the give any tickets to women because attending General Conference is an important father-son bonding moment.

(Aside: When I was a young teen, I had bonding moments with my dad doing stuff like playing catch, or hobbies like computers or photo-developing — so I guess getting excluded from this super-boring meeting has its perks…?)

The church also decided to broadcast the meeting (so if the ladies really want to watch it, they can do so without getting in the way), then promptly warned the men that they had better get on their suits and ties and bond with their sons at the conference center — not at home watching it together on their couch — presumably because the leaders would look pretty stupid bouncing the women if the conference center is full of empty seats.

The church also explained that the women have their own “parallel” meeting. And if the meetings really were parallel (eg. women preside over the men’s meeting, give the keynotes, choose the other speakers, etc.) I’m sure this batch of feminists would consider that a perfectly acceptable compromise. As it is, women are planning to stand in line to see if they will be admitted. I’ve got my popcorn ready!!

Reactions are as you’d expect: The women are causing contention (which is of the devil!) or, alternately, they’re pathetic for fighting for such a dubious privilege. And the people fighting for this issue are hurt and annoyed by the criticism. It’s complicated. It’s about power. Some are supportive despite reservations and complexities. This problem naturally gets linked with the criticisms of excluding family from LDS temple weddings. A great riff on a famous Bible story about women’s roles. Women face challenges getting leadership positions in other religions as well. My favorite response was the petition from the Brolief Society:

The group clarifies that they “are not against the Church or its leaders” but instead “want to show all of God’s children we all can receive the same blessings of living the Gospel.” And indeed, these men are true, faithful members of the church—many of them having much knowledge of the Church’s doctrine.

“Our right to true fatherhood has been almost eliminated from our lives,” said Barley B. Bratt, a founding member of the group. “Of all titles given to God, He has chosen Father. I am tired of my children calling me Bishop, since I only see them for Temple recommend interviews.” He points out how fatherhood is more important than everything else, including priesthood responsibilities.

In LDS church watch, Ren discussed some of the consequences of sending out younger people as missionaries, Denver Snuffer described how the current hierarchy of the CoJCoL-dS isn’t very much like where it was at in Joseph Smith’s day, some stories aren’t as uplifting as their tellers seem to think they are, and school is hard enough all by itself, so I’m really glad I’m not sending my kids to this school:

They spent a lot of time on the dress code: “Girls, listen up, because our dress code violators are almost always girls. Nothing sleeveless at all. Even if it’s not a tank top. If it doesn’t have sleeves, you’ll be wearing the scrubs. If your skirt or shorts are more than five inches above your knees, you’ll be wearing the scrubs. Some girls last year used to think that it was okay to walk around looking wearing leggings, looking like Kim Kardashian or Buddy the Elf, but if you wear leggings this year, you’ll be wearing the scrubs. Same with sheer tops, even if you wear a tank top underneath. ” Cheerleaders (in tank tops and tiny skirts) shared the stage with the administrators as they explained the policy.

In scripture study, here’s a new contradiction for the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, and Alma was pretty sneaky.

Remember Bill Hess, the guy who posts amazing photos of his Alaska lifestyle, including shots of his Native American family and stuff related to his Mormon heritage? Well, it turns out that if the Republicans succeed in blocking Obamacare, he will have a serious problem getting needed healthcare due to his “pre-existing conditions” — and I know he’s not the only one in our community in this boat.

In books, Donna Banta has just released the sequel to The Girls from Fourth Ward: False Prophet. I am really looking forward to reading this one — it’s next on my pile! I’m also looking forward to reading Latter-day Virgin (see this new review) not to mention Daymon Smith’s new books. Global Mom looks interesing (more Mormons in Switzerland…? Why haven’t I met them?). Oh, and getting book recommendations from your Bishop can be an interesting experience.

In grab-bag, read a banned book, watch out for Glenn Beck and David Alvord, not all that is pink is actually helping breast cancer patients, Kuri is giving God a chance to prove He exists, and here’s how to celebrate an American-Chinese autumn!!

In funnies, here’s a new ad for Mormonthink, the five stages of LDS apologetics, a factitious overview of the U.S. Constitution, and the Overeducated Housewife posted some funny videos.

Happy Reading!!

what’s wrong with this photo

Just read this story in the LA Times about Mitt’s religion influencing his politics. It led with this photo:

The caption for the photo read:

The Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rancho Cucamonga meets on a Sunday morning. Mormons’ communal spirit rests side by side with a strong belief in individual responsibility. (Dan Krauss, Los Angeles Times / September 21, 2012)

Anyone notice what is “out of place”? Or, in Sesame Street terms, “Two things are not like the others.”

Do you believe in Priesthood Blessings?

In the July 2012 edition of the Ensign, there is an article by Elder Dallen H Oaks.
In the article, he talks about the different kinds of priesthood blessings. For this post, I would like to focus on Blessings of Comfort or Counsel. The article describes them this way:

“Persons desiring guidance in an important decision can receive a priesthood blessing. Persons who need extra spiritual power to overcome a personal challenge can receive a blessing. Priesthood blessings are often requested from fathers before children leave home for various purposes, such as school, service in the military, or a long trip.

Blessings given in circumstances such as I have just described are sometimes called blessings of comfort or counsel. They are usually given by fathers or husbands or other elders in the family. They can be recorded and kept in family records for the personal spiritual guidance of the persons blessed.”

Part of the article is also very specific that blessings of comfort or counsel, should be requested by the individual receiving the blessing. So, I am curious about your experiences with blessings of this type. Since many people who were raised in the church are likely to have had a number of these blessings, I am curious which of these statements fit your experience:

I have never had a blessing of the kind described above.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found it helpful in making a decision.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found it brought me peace and acceptance of a situation.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found it brought me strength during a difficult trial.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found that there were specific things promised me that happened.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found the blessing to be non-specific but still helpful with a coming school year, decision, or endeavor in my life.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found that there were specific things promised to me that did not happen.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found that the contents of the blessing brought guilt or feelings of discomfort.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found the blessing to be non-specific and unhelpful with whatever I was struggling with.

Every (or almost every) blessing I received was at my request.

Some of the blessings I received were not at my request.

All of the blessings I received were not at my request.

All of the blessings I received were inspired, and I felt increased influence of the Lord as a result.

Some of the blessings I received were inspired, and most of them brought an increase in faith.

Some of the blessings I received were inspired, but most of them did not bring an increase in faith.

Most of the blessings I received were not inspired and did not have much impact on my testimony.

Most of the blessings I received were not inspired and negatively impacted my testimony.

Some or all of the blessings I received brought feelings of unrighteous dominion and decreased my faith.

Some or all of the blessings I received brought feelings of unrighteous dominion and led to me completely losing my faith.

I tried to include the variety of experiences I or friends have had, but I am sure I missed some questions. What would you have added to the list?

I realize that many people will have had a variety of experiences that fall into several categories, so I doubt that many people will have only one answer. I can say that I have both had blessings that brought feelings of unrighteous dominion and impacted my testimony in a negative way. I have also had profoundly strengthening blessings, that gave me hope in the middle of difficult trials, and the specific promises of the blessings which happened afterwards, to be an important part of my testimony as an adult.

I am curious about specific experiences that were definitive in your life. For me, during a particularly difficult period with a husband (who I am no longer married to), I requested a blessing from my step-father. The specific information about the needs of my children, and the supports that I should look for as I moved forward to protect myself, were extremely helpful. The fact that my mother took notes while the blessing was being given, and I had those notes to go back to, helped me to keep the promises of the blessing in the forefront of my mind. I have never had an actual recording of a blessing, but until I read this article, I hadn’t realized it was considered appropriate to do so. It is something that I will think about, and consider in the future when I am requesting a blessing.

So, what is your experience(s) with receiving blessings of comfort or counsel? Have they ever helped you, or did they feel like words that were just being said?

Have you ever recorded a blessing either with a recorder of with someone taking notes? If you did, were recorded blessings more helpful than blessings which you did not have recordings for?

Do you find blessings that are specific or more generalized more helpful?

If you have had a blessing that felt like it was simply a priesthood member exercising unrighteous dominion, did you request that/those blessing(s)?

While the main thrust of this post is to talk about experiences receiving blessings, but for those who have given them, at some point,is there anything that you do to prepare for giving this type of blessing, and if you have done specific preparation, do you find it makes a difference in the kind of blessings you give? Were there blessings you gave that you did not feel came from God?

“We do not need more members who question every detail.”

Spending too much time on Facebook, as usual, and a friend shared this link from the page LDS General Conference, a quote from M. Russell Ballard from October 1995 General Conference:

We do not need more members who question every detail; we need members who have felt with their hearts, who live close to the Spirit, and who follow its promptings joyfully. We need seeking hearts and minds that welcome gospel truths without argument or complaint and without requiring miraculous manifestation. Oh, how we are blessed when members respond joyfully to counsel from their bishops, stake presidents, quorum or auxiliary leaders, some of whom might be younger than they and less experienced. What great blessings we receive when we follow “that which is right” joyfully and not grudgingly.

The quote alone was enough to get my dander up. I had to quit reading the comments after three or four because it wasn’t good for my blood pressure. Fortunately there are some commenters on the thread saying, “Hey, wait a minute, let’s not throw our minds out the window,” and this post yesterday from Mike S. at Wheat and Tares about wanting to make “I believe” as valid a statement of faith as “I know” was encouraging.

Sometimes it gets hard to keep a tally on all the ways my experience with the Church was harmful, but this attitude that, “If what you think is different from what we think, we are right and you are wrong,” is definitely near the top of the list. As I’ve written on my own blog:

I think we all have an instinctive inner voice that can guide us toward a fulfilling life. The religion I grew up in taught me to override this voice if it conflicted with external authority….The underlying message: God (as represented by his appointed mouthpieces on earth) knows what’s best for you; you don’t. So just bequiet nice anddo what you’re told follow our loving counsel.

If something doesn’t feel right, you’re the problem. You need to pray harder and be more humble, and keep praying until the answer you get matches up with doctrine/your bishop/etc. My post goes through examples of questions I had about racism in the Book of Mormon, gender roles and gay marriage, and how I suppressed all these concerns to protect my testimony. The most vivid instance when I recall coming up against this “don’t question” attitude was when when I was 19 or 20 and told my bishop I wasn’t really sure godhood was for me. I couldn’t see the appeal in exaltation, didn’t understand why I was supposed to want that. His response: If I were more righteous, my desires would fall into line with what my Heavenly Father had planned for me.

I go through rather large stretches where I don’t feel any sort of hostility toward the Church, and feel I can just live and let live, sometimes even feel a bit of affection for the quirkiness of Mormonism. Then something like this crosses my radar. Yes, this talk is from 16 years ago, but it’s from an apostle during Conference, which I believe qualifies it as scripture, and it’s being shared and revered by many of the faithful today. Part of me wants to get in there and point out the fallacies, but the larger part of me knows it will be useless. So I just thank whatever deity may be out there for the fact that I’m not part of it anymore, and for the peace passing all understanding that I’ve found since relearning to trust myself.


Leah blogs at The Whore of All the Earth.

Orientation, Selfishness and Female Ordination

Many Mormons understand their orientation to be to their spouse. This is commendable, because it demonstrates dedication and fidelity.

However, a spouse for Latter-day Saints means someone of the opposite gender. Homosexuality gets compartmentalized as an affliction that can lead to selfishness if not kept in check.

This selfishness is understood to disorient a person from their true orientation: that of their potential or current spouse of the opposite gender. Some gay Mormon men believe their affliction is a blessing in disguise because it teaches them to be humble. Others begin to question the Churchs framing of homosexuality and of gender.

Because the selfishness has been gendered male (and selflessness gendered female), female homosexuality, in fact, threatens the Churchs patriarchal structure. It is no coincidence that faiths that approve of same-sex marriage also ordain women.

When it comes to the reason why females dont have the priesthood, one Mormon man, after asking his stake president, explained it this way:

The priesthood was given to men to help us learn how to do what to women comes naturally. Everything we do with the priesthood is to help and serve other peoplewe can’t give ourselves blessings, we can’t seal ourselves to our spouses. It is all about service to others! So men were given the priesthood to help us become better people, to be more serviceoriented and less self oriented. In other wordswe were given the priesthood to help us raise ourselves up to the level where women are already at!

Of course, this logic fails on its face, because if women are naturally service-oriented, then they should have had the priesthood from the beginning. Even if one believes the human experience on Earth is a classroom in which those who arent service-oriented (men) are the ones who most need to learn how to be (like women), this frankly results in a sexist pigeonholing of women as selflessbecause of their ties to motherhood and so on.

When it comes to homosexuality, Mormon women are believed to be doing a better job at “naturally” keeping their selfishness in check (except those Mormon lesbians who leave the Church, who are thought of as acting like selfish men). The lesbian Mormon in good standing with the Church might not even identify as lesbian or with her attractions, and might simply consider her orientation to be to her male spouse.

Thus, we hear about gay Mormon men who are becoming humble,” but we rarely hear about gay Mormon women who are already humble.

Still, outside the Church, homosexuality is not framed as lending to selfishness, and more and more Mormons believe it doesn’t; I would think more and more Mormons are also beginning to question why there is no female ordination. The two go hand-in-hand.

Church Handbook of Instructions – 2010 version available online

Not sure who or why, but you can download a full scan of the Church Handbook of Instructions – 2010 version here:

Here’s his summary of what is in them and why he’s doing it: