Sunday, April 29, 2007

FMH Bloggersnacker

What a privilege it was this weekend to attend the FMH Bloggersnacker and meet some of the great women bloggers of our time! I've admired these women online for quite a while, and I must say they are even more extraordinary in person. Our hostess was FMHJanet, who provided us the venue in one of those older Utah homes which I absolutely adore. The "Eliza R. Snow" of the blogging world graced us with her presence--none other than FMHLisa along with her green jello dish.

The food was a smorgasbord provided by Mormon women anxious to impress each other with their cooking prowress. Whoever made those peanut butter brownie type thingies, that was my favorite. Ham, fried chicken, hummus, dips, taquitos, Greek olives, homemade bread, (and other things that I don't know the names of, but you can find here), I tried it all. I became an unabashed "Cafeteria Mormon" for the evening. For your viewing pleasure is the following picture of our feast:

That picture truly does not do justice to the succulent food that was available for our tasting pleasure. So I'm also posting this sensuous photograph of breasts and green jello which I am considering for submission in one of the more upscale food magazines:

The infant, four babies, and 14-year-old daughter were all well-behaved and charming. A few men were daring enough to join this event. FMHJanet's husband seemed quite happy to remain in the kitchen much of the time, though he wasn't wearing his apron. MarkIV made an appearance, conversing comfortably with all the ladies. And one of the bloggers' young husband made a good showing for himself when he found himself seated in the midst of an explicit conversation about tandem nursing and midwifery.

My favorite quote from the evening came from FMHLisa when the talk turned to early Mormon women and their gatherings. She surveyed the group and remarked, "If we were living back then, we'd already be speaking in tongues by now!"

I could only spend 2 1/2 hours at the Bloggersnacker, and they flew by like I had only been there 15 minutes. I'm so glad I met you all, and I'm looking forward to our continued association.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Exclusive Interview by Jana Remy

I happpened upon this great opportunity to be interviewed by Jana Remy! Makes me feel a little bit famous, even.

1) If you were a sea creature, what would you be and why?
(I love this question because of my affinity for the water and water sports. When I lived for 2 years in Hawaii I practically dwelt in the ocean.)
I am much like a sea anenome. I have various tentacles which represent my assorted, disparate personalities. One of my tentacles is the dutiful Visiting Teacher, one is the Sunstone Reader. One tentacle basks in the sun at an upscale resort, another works with disadvantaged Native American children. If touched, the tentacles of a sea anenome retract into the body for protection. They can be spectacular and beautiful, but they're poisonous, so watch out!

2) What heroine from a book is most like you? Why?
Jana must know that if I'm not immersed in the ocean, I am immersed in a book! I have a fascination with the heroine of one of Orson Scott Card's early books: Wyrms. I like the myth of a heroine on a quest. Patience is a young girl about whom prophecies have been written. She will either save the world or destroy it. I see in myself a huge potential for good that can easily be turned to evil. One reviewer said that Wyrms had left him "vaguely disturbed, as if someone I knew closely had lost part of her humanity to fulfill a crucial mission."

3) What book do you recommend that everyone read and why?
There are so many of them. But you should read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. It is a biographical novel about Michaelangelo. It will give you a sense of the majesty and pathos of life.

4) How many hours/day do you spend online?
At the least I spend an hour a day on line. I rarely miss a day. I have been known to spend the entire day and into the night online. (It's always broken up by trips to the laundry room, taking kids here and there, yard work, my job, etc. I do have some responsibilites.) But I check my email, blog, keep in contact with friends from Houston, study the scriptures, learn Hebrew, do research for my books, all online.

5) If you could live anywhere besides Vernal, where would you relocate? Why?
I loved Houston, but mostly because of the circle of friends I had there, and my great house and neighborhood. I don't think I could go back. Southern California is fantastic, but I think I would have liked it better 20 years ago. It's too crowded and expensive now. So I'll have to say Hawaii. Somewhere on the North Shore, away from it all. My criteria are: warm weather (I could care less about four seasons!), proximity to a large body of water, cultural and recreational opportunities without a dense population.

Now it's your opportunity to be interviewed by the (in)famous Bored in Vernal!! If you want to play along with this meme:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” If I don’t have your email address, leave it for me in the comments or email it to me.

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Go see the people I've interviewed so far:
Joseph Addison
John Remy (a twofer!)
Jo in Utah

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Three Nephites Sighting

I went to Provo this weekend for a Coaches Meeting and spent some time at BYU. In the Family History section of the HBLLibrary, one of the little old workers was telling an exciting story of one of the Three Nephites who had visited him in his home to bring an important message. I must tell you, people, these stories are a serious hindrance to my faith. I won't go as far as to say that I don't believe in them. It's just that I really doubt that three pre-immortal beings are running around Provo visiting people in their homes. And yet these people are as sure of their Three Nephites sightings as I am of any of the spiritual manifestations I have experienced.

Another impediment to my faith: Daughter #3 came back from BYU-Idaho for the summer; and every third word out of her mouth is "frick."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Little Purple Pansies

I joined the Church as a 19-year-old college student in North Carolina. Soon I received my first calling. I was to be the Primary chorister. I loved to sing, but this was extremely stressful. I didn't know how to conduct music, and I knew none of the Primary songs. The pianist helped me learn some basic patterns, and each week I would go to the basement of my dorm where the piano was located. With one finger I would painstakingly pick out the melody and teach myself the song, then practice conducting it. I'd make a poster, a visual, or a game. I'd spend several hours preparing, and the entire week worrying. One week the new song I was to teach was "Little Purple Pansies," a song not included in our current Primary book. I thought the words had a great message, and I still remember them:

Little purple pansies touched with yellow gold,
Growing in one corner of the garden old,
We are very tiny, but must try, try, try,
Just one spot to gladden, you and I.

In whatever corner we may chance to grow,
Whether cold or warm the wind may ever blow,
Dark the day, or sunny, we must try, try, try
Just one spot to gladden, you and I.

I had a wonderful visual/game for this song, and I knew all the words by heart so I wouldn't be bound to the book. Unfortunately I also had an entire row of 11-year old boys in the back. That day they decided to sing, "Little purple panties." The one song all year they sang at the top of their lungs. "Little purple panties touched with yellow gold...hahahahaha!" I had not choice but to continue with the song, as I knew no others. It was pure torture.

Perhaps because of this horrific experience, I now sometimes have reservations that one purple pansy in a tiny corner of the world can make any difference. I consider myself an idealistic person, and I'm involved in several "causes." But I often despair that my small efforts can have any influence in the world.

When John Remy introduced our Book Club selection for this month, Adam Hochschild's Bury the Chains, I was enthralled by his introduction. The book is about a small group of Quakers who started a movement which eventually resulted in the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. John says, "I’m not selling Quakerism here, folks. I’m selling idealism. In a generation or two, deeply entrenched, unjust attitudes can be reversed by the focused and passionated efforts of a few."

I got my book in the mail last week, and I've read the first three chapters. Although a history book, it is as readable as a novel, with a great story line and fascinating characters. I'm already enamored with John Newton, a man with a great love, great ambitions, and great weaknesses. In the first chapters, I've already encountered the doubts an idealist can experience as they run up against the status quo. Olaudah Equiano, a free black man in England, attempts but fails to rescue a friend of his who is seized and placed on a vessel bound for the West Indies.

"Equiano could paint his face and pass for white, at least in the dark; he could navigate skillfully through the white world's law courts and networks of influential people. But he was powerless to stop a black friend from being plunged back into slavery and tormented to an early death. Only a tiny minority of people in Britain openly oppposed slavery, and he and [Granville] Sharp (a lawyer) were almost alone in having actively tried to help its victims. He sank into a despair so bitter that he went to sea again and resolved "never more to return to England."

I feel deep in my soul that there are things we as individuals have promised the universe we will do. I think though we may try to escape, we will always have a profound interest and investment in these things, and be led to them over and over. I'm hoping as I read this book, it will rekindle within me a greater idealism and desire to discover and accomplish my vocation.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Magical Transforming Female

Did you notice that the names of all the "magical transforming females" in the three films we have discussed were "Mary?" Carol Lynn Pearson sees this as no coincidence, and says that "Mary seems to be the closest name we have to a whole woman." Maria in The Sound of Music represents the maternal aspect of the Divine Feminine. Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden brings out the Creator/Healer aspect. Mary Poppins shows us the mystical, magical side of the Heavenly Mother. Adding these qualities to a motherless family or society can indeed be transforming.

Carol Lynn Pearson sees herself as a player in the great drama of welcoming back the Heavenly Mother to our culture. She has a much more positive outlook on this process than I do. Carol Lynn says that history is on our side, and we can afford to be gracious. She says that although it is not easy for the patriarchy to watch the transformation, we "need to apply our best most charming most beautiful, most inviting selves into the venture. Because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way."

In my personal struggle with the Patriarchal Church, I haven't found my most charming, beautiful, inviting self to have much of an influence. I find that this charming self is often discounted and easily overruled. One of the questions asked at the end of Carol Lynn's Sunstone session where she presented this talk was, "Whatever is going on between the sexes involves a lot of mystery and chaos. Why does there have to be so much misery between the sexes?" This is one of my questions. As a woman, I see that I am able to be a calming and healing influence most often by capitulating and apologizing. I am not sure this is the best atmosphere for the Divine Feminine to emerge.

How can we move out of Patriarchy toward partnership?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Heavenly Mother and Mary Poppins

(Fourth post in the Heavenly Mother series inspired by Carol Lynn Pearson's "Mary Poppins and the Return of God the Mother.")

The Banks family in the film "Mary Poppins" is a very rigid patriarchy. Things are kept shipshape. It’s a man’s world, it's the age of men. Mr. Banks (who works at the bank) is the patriarchal leader of the home. Mrs Banks is not a presence in the household. She is a suffragette, and physically she is gone a great deal. A new nanny is being sought at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. As in the previous films, the children know what is needed. They make an advertisement and it wafts up the chimney like a little prayer. It ascends to heaven and the wind changes. Down from heaven comes the holy magical woman.

Don't worry, readers, Julie Andrews is not really Heavenly Mother in disguise! Perhaps she is a witch. Carol Lynn Pearson tells us that that is what we call any woman who is powerful.

I have known members of the patriarchy to react in fear toward a strong woman. I often wonder if it is fear which motivates the suppression of Heavenly Mother and those who seek to know more about her.

Mary Poppins becomes the new nanny and takes over the household. Carol Lynn notes that from her handbag come things that are rich in symbolism. In her talk she says she has no time to discuss these in detail. This piques my curiosity. It's been a while since I saw "Mary Poppins." Does anyone know what came out of the purse? I'd love to discuss the symbolism of these objects.

Dick Van Dyke is the masculine counterpart to the patriarchy. We have lots of men like him. He is a delight. He is free, extrovertive, uninhibited, supportive. Perhaps he is a bit irresponsible. You will notice that "Bert" is not an overly masculine character. He sings, he dances, he floats in the air. Carol Lynn tells us that our society is out of balance in the masculinity department. She quotes Alan Alda saying that we are suffering from "testosterone poisoning."

Mary Poppins brings warmth, joy, and fun into the Banks family. If feminism is not more fun than patriarchy, Carol Lynn submits, why bother? Mary's activities are noticed. Mr. Banks is not pleased. The female brain produces more cooperation than competition. This is just what the household needs, but patriarchy is losing control. Here is this person with chaos in her wake. Chaos theory is a necessary next step to a different higher order. Mr. Banks calls it moral disintegration. When Michael wants to give his tuppence to the birds and not invest it, Mr. Banks is furious. Bert says, "Your father is a fine gentleman. There he is in a cold bank, I don’t like to see anything caged up." Carol Lynn points out that patriarchy has put a lot of men in cages.

Mary Poppins asks the children, "Do you think father needs our help?" This is the final step in the transformation of the patriarchy in the Banks home. The children come in and give love to him as they can. Our patriarchy is shaken. Carol Lynn advocates this as an important step in revolutionizing the patriarchal system of things. She explains, "I am not saying no marches, no civil disobedience or whatever is your style, but let us not forget the simple gesture of love is important."

Thus it comes to pass that Mr. Banks offends the sour dour patriarchy in all of their extreme. He is cast out, he is excommunicated. He has nothing to say to their reprimands--except “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” He sings and dances his way out of the bank. He has given himself over to a new teacher. The wind has come around. Seeing the transformation in the family, Mary has finished her work and ascends.

I am especially interested in the reactions of my readers to the idea of the patriarchy's fear of a strong woman. Are any of you men uncomfortable identifying with the characters of Dicken in "The Secret Garden" and Bert in "Mary Poppins?" Do you feel uncomfortable with a man choosing a supportive and building role to a strong woman's vision?

*Yet to come--Carol Lynn Pearson's questions and conclusions on the subject of the Divine Feminine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Heavenly Mother and The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a little girl, and I read it to my own girls when I grew up. Carol Lynn Pearson says she first recognized this story as an allegory of the Heavenly Mother when she saw the play on Broadway. Again we have a home that is motherless. Archibald Craven has lost his wife and is desolate. He will not see people, and he leaves his house and his young son every spring because it reminds him of his lost love. Carol Lynn identifies this as the kind of grief the kabbalah reminds us that God is in without the Shekinah. The curtains are closed. Mother nature is banished from the home. A picture of the mother is draped and hidden from view.

An interesting aspect of this home is another female figure, the housekeeper Medlock. She is a woman who is invested in supporting the status quo.

Into this sad patriarchal household comes Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old whose mother was the twin sister of Archibald's wife. She is a troublemaker. She turns the household upside down. Mary laments that the house seemed dead, it seemed like a spell had been cast upon it. She goes into the mother’s room that had been locked and she finds a key. "There are keys you are not supposed to mess around with," says Carol Lynn.

There are some other similarities that Carol Lynn didn't mention that I'd like to bring out. In the Church we have made the Divine Female so sacred that she is to all intents and purposes a "secret." Like any family secret, we all know she is there, but we are told not to discuss her, not to pray to her, not to seek her.

Mary discovers the mother’s private beautiful garden. No one has been in it for ten years. She uses her stolen key which opens the door. I find this remarkably analogous to the knowledge that we have a Heavenly Mother which was brought to us through the lovely song "O My Father" written by Eliza R. Snow. Her words speak of "the key of knowledge" which restores to us our knowledge that we "have a Mother there."

In the secret garden, Mary sees one shoot growing. Carol Lynn says, "I looked around and saw the concept of the divine mother dead except for a little shoot here and there. Maybe it’s not completely dead. In my heart, the feminine has not been buried, it has been planted, and it is growing and greening."

Carol Lynn describes how Mary makes friends with Dicken and they tend the garden. Boys have their role to play in these dramas, as we will see when we discuss the next film. Colin comes to life. “Maybe I’m not ill,” he says. A prayer circle is held by the children to call the father back. He hears, and returns home. He finds the son is not in his bed. The portrait is unveiled, light is coming into the room. Medlock says the girl has caused havoc. A girl is out of control, what are we going to do? The father says to Mary, “you brought us back to life. You did something I thought no one could do.”

Carol Lynn's concluding remarks to this story show great enthusiasm. "What a day it will be when our patriarchy looks at the garden we have brought to bloom and they say thank you for making the mother’s garden grow. We will never close it up again," she exults. I wonder how Carol Lynn would feel about this statement today. In the '80's and '90's I too felt that the knowledge of a female counterpart to God was growing and becoming more important in the lives of Latter-day Saints. In my lifetime I have seen this excitement quashed, the key taken, and the garden locked up again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Heavenly Mother and the Sound of Music

In her 1998 talk previously referenced, Carol Lynn Pearson compares several well-known movies to the problem of Heavenly Mother in the LDS Church. She states that people everywhere have a universal longing to know of the Divine Female, and this is reflected in popular culture. In passing, she mentions "Peter Pan"--who "needs a mother so bad that he goes out and steals one!" But the first movie she really analyzes in her talk is "The Sound of Music."

Carol Lynn describes the setting of this film as a sad, militaristic patriarchal household. Discipline is the order of the day, imposed by the “Captain.” Titles and the military are important in patriarchal thought, Carol Lynn observes. Into this situation comes the magical woman. Down from the hills, the holy woman, right out of the convent. She is a troublemaker. The captain is not pleased. She brings a female presence into the household. She sings of very feminine things. She works her magic with the children. The children sing the song that Maria taught them, and Captain is amazed “You brought music back into the house. I'd forgotten. Please stay.” To this Carol Lynn comments, "What a day it will be when our patriarchy says, 'You’ve brought the feminine back into the house, I’d forgotten, please stay.'" In her recounting of this story, Carol Lynn seems to see Maria as symbolic of both the Heavenly Mother and symbolic of those in the Church who work to see her recognized as a valid and vital reality in Mormon theology. These women (and men, sometimes) are troublemakers. Their goal is to bring the Divine Feminine to the forefront, where the entire Church can feel her effect upon them.

Soon the Spirit of the Feminine is banished from the Von Trapp household. Her loss is sorely felt. The children go to the abbey to get her back. Says Carol Lynn: "Children should not be passive when they need their mother back. I have a right to knock on any door and demand my mother back." I am continually surprised and delighted to observe how Carol Lynn gets away with saying things like this. Many others have been disciplined for less. I know I'd never be able to get away with a statement like that. Readers, what do you think protects Carol Lynn from the watchful eye of the patriarchy? Is it a good relationship with local leadership? Is it her admired public persona?

At the conclusion of "The Sound of Music" the organ plays a wedding melody, which segues into “how do you solve a problem like Maria?" We now know that instead of being the problem, Maria is the answer. Carol Lynn asks her audience: "How do you solve a problem like Lavina? Or Janice? You love them, allow them, support them-- helping to transform the patriarchal household into a partnership." I often wonder how this could have been done. How could Lavina's and Janice's and Margaret's ideas been integrated and supported and loved by a patriarchal leadership? What a fascinating era it would be to even today have the voices of these intelligent spiritual women heard in the mainstream Church. Having rubbed shoulders for a small time with each of them, I recognize their strivings to have the Spirit guide their lives and their teachings as much as the majority of male leaders I have encountered.

As the film ends, the "fatherland" calls, but the Captain has now been enlightened. He recognizes the value and power of a combined male/female unit. He has greater resources, and with the help of the Holy Woman, he and his family climb the mountain to freedom. Carol Lynn ends her exposition on this film with these words: "I invite the patriarchy to fall in love with me and I promise to be a devoted and useful partner."

(Succeeding posts will address Carol Lynn's thoughts on "The Secret Garden" and "Mary Poppins.")