Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rocky Mountain Retreat

What a thrill! I get to escape for another weekend. I'm going to the Rocky Mountain Retreat at Snow Mountain Ranch near Denver. We'll have some entertaining and intriguing speakers like fmhLisa, a panel of "unevenly yoked" partners (a la Sunstone's "For Better For Worse" session), and Suzette Smith living single and happy in the LDS church. I've never been to this retreat before, but--21 hot mineral pools? Swimming, hiking and canoeing? How can I lose? I'm excited for this new adventure and looking forward to meeting some new friends.

I'll be sure to give you a full report when I return!

Monday, May 28, 2007


This is way more than any of you want to know about me, but it's the only way I could respond to Kevin's post.

This is one wall of the library. It holds all Mormon books. One shelf is devoted to notebooks containing my notes on Isaiah. Another shelf has books on Isaiah. A shelf has OT, one has NT, one for BoM, another for D&C/PoGP. I have a shelf for my Seminary materials and lessons, and one with Primary games/ideas. The Work and the Glory are there, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, etc. One shelf is packed with a bunch of random Mormon fiction.

Here's another wall of the library. Shelves are arranged loosely according to subject. Books on Joseph Smith, Books on each of the prophets, Church manuals, Sunstones, Dialogues, notebooks with my kids' certificates and report cards, Childcraft, lots of other Mormon stuff. See the Journals of Discourses hiding in the back, on the top right shelf?

Below are extra books stacked up in the library!

Moving to the next room:

This one's in my bedroom, and has scrapbooks of my children, with more hiding in two closed shelves underneath. Also the Great Books, World Book Encyclopedia, and some really old Bobbsey Twins.

This is also in my bedroom--it's all Genealogical material, well-organized at last!
uh, looks like I need to clean that big cobweb in the corner--didn't notice it till I posted this pic!

Next come several boxes of duplicates and extra Mormon stuff awaiting more bookshelves. Some of this stuff consists of old manuals. I have many of the Priesthood manuals back to the late 1940's.

Following is a bookshelf in the garage with some books nobody reads. Also in a storage room (not pictured) are every Ensign ever published, and an incomplete set of Improvement Eras back to the 1930's or 40's. With them are some Liahonas, Friends, New Eras, 7th East Press (only a few, I wish I had a full set!) and other magazine type things.

In the kitchen is a bookshelf with art supplies, scissors, yarn, beads, tape, staplers, calculators, etc. Under the counter (not pictured) are about 100 cookbooks and magazines.

The next bookshelf pictured is next to the piano, and has a bunch of music books and sheet music. It includes the Baptist and Episcopalian hymnbooks, and at least 4 editions of Mormon hymnbooks and Primary song books.

Next bookcase shown is in my daughter's bedroom. She just barely graduated from high school, and all the books that used to be on it are scattered on her floor, along with papers for her final exams. I'll give her a few days to relax, then force her to clean up in there!

A book case in the room that 2 daughters share:

A book case in the room that my daughter who just came home from college is now using:

My 12-year old son is sleeping on the couch in the living room since above daughter took over his room. He keeps about 10 library books behind the couch, for easy access.

My 8-year old daughter has about 50 childrens books in her closet.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Memorial to Peace

"War, rather than any foreign state, is the supreme enemy of country and mankind. One day citizens will covet for this nation the prestige of being the first to escape the shackles of war." (Jessie Wallace Hughan, Founder of the War Resisters League 1876-1955)

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which "commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country." Update: Eight U.S. troops were killed in Iraq this Memorial Day 2007. At the risk of coming under the condemnation of Mormon bloggers everywhere, I wish to register my objection to the deplorable sentiments underlying this holiday.

We can all agree on the magnitude of the sacrifice offered by American soldiers. They answered the call of the leaders of their country to go to war. They did this with the knowledge that their own lives might be taken. I am not one who looks upon military volunteers as being either bloodthirsty warmongers or poverty-stricken and brainwashed victims. Their brand of courage is not ordinary, and will never be ordinary.

I must, however, denounce the commemoration of lives destroyed by militarism. Instead of celebrating lives given up for war, I would mourn the lives snuffed out and stolen by our country's participation in martial combat. It seems to me that Memorial Day might more aptly commemorate the lives of America's great Peacemakers--people such as Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Peace Pilgrim, Jeannette Rankin, A.J. Muste, Jane Addams, and a myriad of others.

"The job of the peacemaker is to stop war, to purify the world, to get it saved from poverty and riches, to heal the sick, to comfort the sad, to wake up those who have not yet found God." (Muriel Lester, Social Activist, Gandhian Pacifist, 1883-1968)

Throughout history, nations have consigned their young men (and now women) to kill one another for reasons honorable or absurd. Often war was declared as a response to evil or oppression; other times violence came as political or economic conflicts that should have been resolved without violence. When the causes are just and when they are not, lives lost to war are sacred and full of promise and potential. Those who ponder these things can only regret that wars are still waged and lives are still lost. I wish that on the day which has been set apart as a "Memorial", we would not only remember the courageous souls who were sent by their governments to die on battlefields, but rather we would regret and repudiate the conditions that lead some people to believe that offering their lives in military service is the best or only hope for peace, protection or patriotism.

Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that, from early infancy, the mind of the child is poisoned with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood, he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend HIS country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition
. (Emma Goldman: Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty From the 1917 edition of Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays)

Military indoctrination, by its nature, teaches the young that the enemy is unworthy of life.

Christian pacifists are often asked about Romans 13. ["Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience."] The Mormon counterpart seems to be our Article of Faith #12: ["We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."] But I find my answer in Romans 12, which says to do good to your enemy and to overcome evil with good. In World War II, after all, there were many Catholics and Lutherans in Germany who used Romans 13 to justify fighting for the Nazis.

"Many people know the simple spiritual law that evil can only be overcome by good. Pacifists not only know it, they also attempt to live it." (Peace Pilgrim, Philosopher, Activist, Ethical Vegetarian, Vegan 1908-1981)

A new song, Hymn for Anzac Day, was sung for the first time at Mornington Methodist Church in New Zealand on April 29, 2007. Anzac Day is New Zealand and Australia's version of Memorial Day. Notice the third stanza, where the brave who do not answer the call of war are also honored:

Honour the dead, our country’s fighting brave,
honour our children left in foreign grave,
where poppies blow and sorrow seeds her flowers,
honour the crosses marked forever ours .

Weep for the places ravaged by our blood,
weep for the young bones buried in the mud,
weep for the powers of violence and greed,
weep for the deals done in the name of need.

Honour the brave whose conscience was their call,
answered no bugle, went against the wall,
suffered in prisons of contempt and shame,
branded as cowards in our country’s name.

Weep for the waste of all that might have been,
Weep for the cost that war has made obscene,
Weep for the homes that ache with human pain,
Weep that we ever sanction war again.

Honour the dream for which our nation bled,
Held now in trust to justify the dead,
Honour their vision on this solemn day,
Peace known in freedom, peace the only way.

(words by Shirley Murray, music by Colin Gibson)

I challenge supporters of the American military machine to demonstrate how war brings about peace. How does more killing honor the lives of those who have died? The world has been at war throughout recorded history, and never has war brought definitive peace to any generation. Violent resistance to violence always fails to bring about peace. Rather, it establishes a realignment of forces under principles of violence. War is rarely motivated by the high ideals that its supporters use to justify it.

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

In this day and age, with our weapons of mass destruction and our new and improved ways of torturing each other, war is insanity. It is destructiveness; it is immorality; it is total waste. Our goal today must be the end of war. Negotiation should be our commitment. Perhaps the best way to memorialize the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives in war is to strive for a mastery of peace--a better way of resolving conflict--a commitment to the transformational power of love.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Buck Up, Ladies!

I'm pretty steamed about a comment on Amri's post "Part-Time Jobs and Part-Time Daycare." Amri wonders if a part-time job might help her SAHM friend's mild depression, and asks if part-time daycare is really all that bad. Several commenters defend stay-at-home mothering, and offer suggestions on how to alleviate the depression. Then bbell chimes in with some advice he says comes from his wife, who "at one point had a 4-year-old, 20 month old, and a set of newborn twins at home." Here is the advice:

1. Shower, dress and put on makeup. Being slobby is not going to help your mental state
2. get other SAHM friends including non LDS SAHM friends. The non LDS SAHM friends will be guilt free friends who will not see you thru a pressure filled LDS SAHM prism. You will be able to relax a bit in their presence
3. have lots of sex with hubby
4. Make the bed in the morning
5. Clean the house. Do not have a messy house it will kill you mentally
6. Work out. Get a jogging stroller and go every day
7. Get unlimited long distance and call lifelong friends regularly
8. Do not use food to help you feel better. Getting fat will not help you feel better
9. Date night on the weekend
10. New hobbies
11. Buck up
12. Make your husband cook, clean, laundry, dishes etc. at night Never go to bed with a messy house. Its a horrible feeling to wake up to a mess

And now, here is how some women reacted to that advice:

"I believe you, bbell, that these are your wife's suggestions. But somehow, I wish she had commented herself. I don't know why, but it makes me MORE depressed to hear a man tell me that the way to cure my depression is to have lots of sex with my hubby, don't get fat, don't look slobby, and clean the house..."

"buck up is quite possibly the worst advice i've ever heard. ever."

"I don't think bbell's list would help someone who is already depressed. Those items take a lot of energy and ambition. When I had depression, I'd make lists like that too. Then I'd stare at them and cry..."

"That list looks like exactly the thing that creates that guilt-inducing pressure that mormon women suffer from. You will only be happy if you wear makeup every day, your house is clean, you work out, aren't fat, and have a great sex life. I mean, duh, I think every woman wants her life to be like that. But isn't the point that you get bored, depressed, and often overwhelmed? How is adding tasks to the day going to make someone less overwhelmed? How is telling a woman unfulfilled with her life as a SAHM that she would be happy if she were just, you know, skinny and cute and sexy every day, going to help her? yeesh."

When I was a young SAHM, I was given similar advice in the form of a book by Daryl V. Hoole, The Art of Homemaking, published by Deseret Book. A representative piece of advice in this book is the following:

"Not only is your attitude of great importance, but your appearance also plays a vital role in a happy home. One of the most common complaints unhappy husbands have is that their wives have neglected their appearance and slop around the house with uncombed hair and in runover slippers which look like two dead rabbits. If for no other reason than to keep the romance alive in your marriage, it is worth it to put your best self forward. Each morning get up and get completely dressed...And remember, as far as make-up is concerned, Even a barn looks better if it's painted!"

As I was looking for a link to Ms. Hoole's book, I discovered that she had written a new, updated book called The Ultimate Career: The Art of Homemaking for Today. I figured that perhaps her views had changed since she wrote The Art of Homemaking in 1967. Perhaps she had advice which addressed some of the challenges of being a homemaker in today's world. I haven't read the book, but Meridian Magazine provided some quotes from this new and improved version:

"The hope is to have many more good days than bad ones and to experience joy in our daily lives. To bring this about, our best efforts are required; yes to be happy at home is the result of all ambition. Now, while you're waiting for more to come in the months ahead, treat yourself today to a quick lift and some instant satisfaction by doing three simple chores:

First, sweep your front porch or outside entry way. This stops dirt at the door and provides a welcoming experience for family and friends who approach your house.

Second, wash the window over the kitchen sink, if there is one. As you look through a clean, sparkling window the entire world brightens up. If you don't have a window, shine your sink.

Third, pick up and put away, give away or throw away ten pieces of clutter..."

Now, I am sure there are many "feminist Mormon housewives" out there who will tell me that the advice to "buck up" has changed their lives, or that shining that sink can give one a whole new perspective on life. But to me, this type of advice is at best, silly; and at worst extremely damaging to a woman today. To a woman plagued with guilt, boredom, and depression, one need not pile on more inane and worthless chores such as sweeping the front porch or putting on makeup each day for hubby's viewing pleasure.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The New Moon and Venus, Goddess of Love

Did you see this? Tonight, Venus and the crescent moon were side by side. In Vernal, it was absolutely an awesome sight. Everything is so clear here. After 10pm every light in town is off, except a few flickering TV screens. The stars are so bright and clear in the sky.

Since viewing this amazing spectacle, I've been so taken with the planet Venus. I discovered that until the 1960s, Venus was often considered a "twin sister" to the Earth. Venus is the nearest planet to us, and superficially the two planets seem to share many characteristics. In earlier times, there was considerable speculation concerning the possibility of life on Venus, sometimes with rather elaborate results! In 1686 a French "man of letters", Bernard de Fontenelle, wrote:
"I can tell from here . . . what the inhabitants of Venus are like; they resemble the Moors of Granada; a small black people, burned by the sun, full of wit and fire, always in love, writing verse, fond of music, arranging festivals, dances, and tournaments every day." (Quoted in National Geographic, June, 1975)

Hmm, sort of reminds me of a rumor Oliver Huntington recorded in his journal:
"As far back as 1837, I know that he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do~that they live generally to near the age of a 1,000 years. He described the men as averaging nearly six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style." (Young Woman's Journal, Vol.3, p.263)

The planet Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love, and is the only planet in the solar system named after a female figure.

It is supposed that the placement of Venus in our horoscope chart provides insight into what we are attracted to and what is attracted to us. My chart tells me that I have Venus in Libra. This means that I am forever young at heart and open to love. I have an expressive nature, am a great romantic, and idealistic. I am warned, though, that trying to strike the right balance at every turn may be a bit much to ask. Who else has Venus in Libra? Bill Clinton!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Our Family is Complete--The Decision

I was recently asked the question, "When did you decide your family was complete? Did you have any sort of revelation/answer that you are 'done' with having children?"

I remember exactly when I started feeling scared about having so many children. It was right after #5 was born. She was about a week old and I was feeling well enough to go for a walk. I had baby in a sling, #3 and #4 in the double stroller, and #1 and #2, who were only 5 and 6 years old, were on either side of me on their bikes, with training wheels, not really able to ride well yet. We started walking down the sidewalk in a big parade. I thought, "What have I done?!! There is no way I can do this."

For the first time, I had postpartum depression with this baby. It was sort of a "functional" depression--from the outside I looked like I was OK. I held Church callings, homeschooled like crazy, (I taught all of my kids to read by age 3, had them all working 2 grades ahead of their ages), and did projects like stripping all of the wallpaper off a large home and repainting.) But I lost a lot of weight and lived an entire fantasy life inside my head. My husband and I had horrible fights, I hurt myself and had suicidal thoughts constantly. It was an awful year.

How did I deal with it? After about a year, we moved, which sort of put everything into a new perspective, I read a book called "Cognitive Therapy" and started practicing it (more on that later) and I became more realistic about what "being a good mother" entails. Then I had another baby. My husband went back to school to get his PhD. We lived on less than $10,000 a year for 3 years. Here's a pic of my stairstep children that year. They are ages 8,7,5,4,2, and newborn:

In spite of all this, I have never had a revelation/answer that I was done having children. In fact, I still get twinges every once in a while that maybe I should have more. (I am 47!!) The story of why I stopped at eight children is less than spiritual. When I was 40, and #8 was 2 years old, my husband wanted to have another child. I was barely feeling healthy again, and I didn't want to. I asked him, "if I had another one right now, it would cause a lot more work for me. What would you be willing to change in your life?" He said, "Nothing, I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do already." His answer made me furious. So I decided the time was not right for another one. I think if I had stuck to spirituality, I would have 12 kids and be a raving lunatic. So basically I have no good answers on that one.

Blog friends, how do you balance faith and logic when deciding when your family is complete? Have any of you had revelations that there were no more children waiting to come into your family? Have you felt pressure to have more children? Do any of you deal with the guilt that perhaps you should have had more children, but your faith or your physical or emotional strength was too weak?

How have you come to peace with your family size?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Five More For the Road!

If you're still curious about the inner BiV, it's your lucky day. John Remy has sent me 5 more interview questions, and they're deep ones!

1. You're absolute dictator for a month...of Vernal. What decrees would you issue?

An immediate pay raise for all educators! Each adult over the age of 18 will read one book per month. New buildings and more funding for the USU satellite campus here in town. An end to censorship at the Public Library. More cultural opportunities: theater, orchestra, ballet, fine dining. Each adult Mormon must attend religious services of another faith tradition twice a year to promote open-mindedness. All rifles and shotguns banned...wait, I've just been impeached.

2. What are your favorite poets and poems?

There are way too many--I love classic poetry: Shakespeare's sonnets,Shelley, Joseph Addison, many more.

More modern poets I enjoy are: Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes.

My favorite poems are those that relate worldly problems to religion and things of the soul. I adore The Chambered Nautilus. Another which really stirs me is this:

The Parable of the Young Man and the Old
Wilfred Owen

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned, both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets the trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

3. What is your greatest accomplishment? Your greatest failure? Bonus points for responding in verse.

To bear eight souls so strong
and bring their minds along--
To see them grow, and stretch, and shine
Must be the greatest feat of mine.

I'm strong, yet weak
In those things of which we speak.
My greatest failure, pain I can attest:
I marred the ones I love the best.

4. The people in white coats are coming to take you away (haha! heehee! hoho!). What for? Bonus points for creativity.

I snapped when I realized that even though my older children are entering adulthood, they will never reach a stage of maturity to leave me my privacy when taking a shower. I am accustomed to my 8-year-old coming in and sitting on the counter and chatting away, leaving the door open while I shiver behind the curtain. But last week I was showering with the door locked when my 19-year-old jiggled the door handle. She immediately left to find some implement to poke in the knob and pop the lock. Exasperated, I asked, "What are you doing?" She replied, "Did you know the bathroom door was locked?" AAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!! (Bonus Points: I did not make this up.)

5. You're granted the power to remove one event from history. Which one would you wipe and why?

I know, most people would say the Holocaust. But I just can't do it. Those who suffered have taught the world so much. The world would be poorer without books like Man's Search for Meaning, and Night, and Diary of Anne Frank. In some cruel but transcendent way, their suffering has sanctified them. So I guess I will remove the assassination of Martin Luther King. He "shaped the political and social fabric of the times", and I would love to see what he would have done with a few more years. What would the world be like if he were still alive today?

Friday, May 11, 2007

How I Survive Mother's Day

I am the proud survivor of 22 Mother's Days as an LDS mother, and they haven't all been easy! Today's the day I share some of my survival tips with all of you.

1. Learn that Mother's Day is not about you. I'm not sure exactly what Mother's Day is all about. But once I learned it wasn't about making me happy, I enjoyed it so much more. The disappointment was gone and I could flow with whatever happened (or didn't happen!)

2. Help your family succeed. The husband and the children may have difficulty making this day a success on their own, as mine do. The younger children often become disappointed when they are caught without anything to give. By all means, go out and buy yourself some lovely things to give to your husband to pass out to the children.

3. Forgive your mother, just for this one day. My mother and I had issues all of my life. One year, as I was reading "Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood," I had an epiphany. My mother had done the best she could. She wasn't actually trying to hurt me or be a horrible mother. She had done what she was capable of.

4. Celebrate your mother, grandmother, and other mother figures that you know. Do something special and meaningful for them. Try sending anonymous gifts to the elderly or shut-ins. Little gestures are best. Don't put too much time or money into this. Make it fun for yourself. If it's not fun, don't do it.

5. Don't make Church too personal. Be detached. Think: "That was probably a comforting talk for Sister Jones to hear." Think: "Brother Fry's talk really honored his mother. How nice that he remembers his childhood fondly." If someone wants to give you a flower, take the flower. If they don't give you a flower, let it pass. Just let this be one of those screwy Sundays that happen sometimes.

6. Do the planning yourself. Announce ahead of time: "For Mother's Day, we are all going on a picnic!" or, "Let's go to that new Italian restaurant." or, "After Church I'm going to spend three hours by myself in my room reading." Then thank everyone profusely for giving you the kind of Mother's Day you wanted.

7. Grieve for your deceased mother. After my husband's parents died, he felt like an orphan, even though he was in his 40's. Mother's Day is a sad time for him. It helps when I encourage him to tell the children stories of his mother. He enjoys remembering her in this way. Others might visit the cemetery with flowers, light candles in front of her picture, or write memorial poetry and thoughts.

8. Ignore the day. Some women, for a variety of reasons, may find Mother's Day excruciatingly painful. If you are having a hard year, don't feel obliged to be a part of the holiday. Skip Church, head out into nature, go to a movie. Extend an invitation to some friends who don't have children to come over for dinner and game night.

9. Don't succumb to the commercialization of Mother's Day. Make your cards. If you don't have much money, don't send expensive floral arrangements! Instead, make phone calls, send free e-cards, or make a personal visit.

10. Enjoy whatever you are given. Most mothers are wonderful at this. We love flowers in plastic cups, homemade cards, gifts that are too expensive, things that we don't need or want. One year a friend received the gift of a plunger and toilet bowl cleaning set from her husband. She received it graciously and saved her laughter and groans for her best friends the next day. We have laughed hilariously about this gift so many times over the years!

Please add any of your Mother's Day survival tips if you feel so inclined. Happy Mother's Day to all my blog friends!

To DD:
Virtual rosepetals in your freshly caulked bathtub from me to you--to celebrate your womanhood!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Sacred Union

The religious texts which have been passed down to us through history have the distinction of being patriarchal in their outlook. In the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, and other sacred writings, we inherit a male perspective, voice, and presence. Many of the symbols, images, and metaphors for the Divine coming from the Old Testament and Book of Mormon involve warfare, the struggle for hierarchy and power, or images of conquering and subduing the land. Salvation through sacraments and by proper authority is stressed. I often wonder what a uniquely feminine mystical theology would look like.

I believe that female mysticism has much to do with relationships. In the Garden of Eden pageant portrayed in the Temple, it is instructive to view the individual encounters of Adam and Eve with the Satan figure. When Satan introduces himself to the man, he comes bearing the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and suggests that Adam partake of this fruit. Adam refuses unequivocally. Next, Satan presents himself to the woman with the same offer.

Eve's reaction to Satan is quite different than Adam's. She first wants to know who Satan is. What is his relationship to her? He tells her that he is her brother. She then wonders why a brother would ask her to go against a command of the Father. She is trying to make sense of the relationships involved first, before she will consider the offer.

Interestingly, many of my spiritual strivings involve an imaging of the Divine Feminine and the primordial Sacred Union. I picture "Elohim"--a plural form of the word "God"--to be a sacred union of the male and female Deity. Thus Elohim created male and female in "his" own image. (In many languages, the pronoun "his" expresses both sexes.) I enjoy pondering this relationship as well as the relationship they maintain with their children, humanity.

Reconnection with the divine feminine is essential to our spiritual evolution. However, this must not be done in opposition to the patriarchal father aspect of God. The image of the Sacred Union topples both the notion of extreme female bias in the form of radical feminism, and male dominance with its patriarchal and hierarchical idealogical systems.

In order to reach a more complete knowledge of the Father/Mother God, there must be more freedom allowed to a female imaging of the Divine Feminine. For example, healing is a mystical rite which involves both feminine and masculine. Perhaps the masculine priesthood power provides strength and battles against the infectious elements. The feminine priestesshood is manifest through touch, empathy, discernment, binding. When we eliminate the feminine from our rituals of healing, we lose much. We see a reluctance to touch the body parts involved, and we gradually lose this in our healing, blessing, and temple rituals.

I am interested in hearing modern Mormon reactions to feminine mysticism. Can you see female influences in the symbolism and ritual of the Church? Are you afraid of feminine mysticism? Can you see ways in which the Divine Masculine and Feminine work together in Sacred Union?

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Weeping Mormon

The clouds in Vernal today were so close to the ground, it seemed you could reach out and touch the face of God. They were grey-blue in color, and the celestial palette was that one you see on certain spring days when the sun shines through the rain and the leaves are the brightest emerald green. It struck my heart so strongly that the pain has been there all day. As I read through the blogs, I've mourned, and I've wept, and I've wished to comfort those faceless souls I know only through their passionate words.

First, I came across a tribute by John Remy: I realized that when I hear Regina Spektor sing, I think about Jana. Her music makes me hyperaware of Jana’s presence in my heart, my mind, my soul.

People at Church seem to remember two of my pseudo-sermons across the pulpit. One was my apology-ridden ‘doubtamony,’ and the other was when I declared that Jana was my goddess.

Mormons take this god and goddess business serious–every one of us is a literal child of god and are therefore godlings, beings of Godly potential. And Jana has always been my goddess. In a life stripped of much of the divinity and meaning that it once had, Jana is my Ishtar, my Innana, my Isis. She is the one being left to me to invest all my irrational faith in, to spend my life in adoration.

I like to think that ours is a love of legends–that some day someone will write songs about it. When I listen to Regina Spektor, I feel like someone already has

Strange that reading this would make me weep. I read this, and I wondered what my life would be like if someone loved me so much.

A poignant image of the "Mormon Circle" written by Margaret Young also touched me deeply:

[My father] would continue giving priesthood blessings to me and to my siblings throughout our lives—the most difficult one being at my brother’s hospital bedside after we were told he would not survive the injuries he had sustained in an accident. That brother, Dad’s namesake (Bobby), lifted his arms as high as he could when Dad walked into the ER room. Bobby was threaded and tubed to monitors and IVs, and being transfused. He said one word: “Hug.” And that’s it—that’s the picture. Dad is maneuvering around the ganglia of wires and tubes to embrace his son, and then to bless him. It’s a godly scene. It expresses the image I have of God—a corporeal being who can reach around our mortal mischief and earthbound wiring to embrace us in the fullness of His glory, no matter how damaged we are.

Later, when Dad’s pancreas failed, it was Bobby who blessed him. That’s the Mormon circle.

Love, eternal union, the Mormon circle. They are so beautiful and so ethereal they make one want to sing and to weep, at the same time. But like the clouds I watch above the Uintah Basin, they can be elusive. There is another side to the story. There are those who have been evicted from the Mormon circle.

Mayan Elephant wrote, concerning the PBS special:

Will y'all think I am a lesser elephant if I admit that I cried? It's fine if you think that. It is true. That was brutal to watch. Effing brutal.

I lost it.

Margaret Toscano did me in. I was just amused without seeing anything very interesting, until Toscano came along. Then, it all changed.

I don't know if there are others on here that have sat on the jury side of a Mormon church court. I have. I was a High Priest in the church. I was in the seats they pictured in that video, the jury seats. Damnit. There is no redemption for that. None. Not ever. It is part of me now. I dont expect to ever be redeemed for having been a part of one of those courts. I can only hope to adjust after having made that part of my life experience.

Hearing Toscano tore me to pieces...
On one hand, I saw Toscano, and I knew she would sit in that chair, and take the bullet for me, for my local leaders, for my mission companions, for my wife and kids, for all women, for Mormons. She could do it because she loved Mormons. Does anyone get that? She loves that community.

Toscano being denied the chance to dress her sister is unreal. If anyone reads this and claims families are forever, remember that image, of a sister, divided from her family, her heritage and ritual...

Tribes and families take care of their own. Cults threaten their own and brainwash them to think its a blessing.

This is not what my people gave their lives for

Equality's words on the same subject:

And then Margaret Toscano told her story. Toscano's sister Janice Allred was excommunicated for publishing a scholarly article on Heavenly Mother (and whose heart-wrenching account of her own kangaroo-court church trial can be found right here) and her story hit me like the sucker punch that killed Houdini. I was floored, overcome with a wave of undifferentiated emotion--a mingling of anger, sadness, liberation, enlightenment. I had read Allred's story and some of the stories of the September Six. But Toscano tells her story so eloquently and passionately that I could not help but be deeply, profoundly moved. And then I went to the PBS web site and as I read her whole interview, two years of searching, praying, meditating, discussing, reading, and thinking about Mormonism and my relationship to it coalesced in my soul.

The totality of thoughts and feelings from hour upon hour of exploration and examination gathered into tight focus. And I was left with a conviction stronger than the cords of death. I now believe that, in good conscience, I can no longer sustain an organization that finds women like Margaret Toscano a threat; an organization that inspires a misplaced zeal that tears families apart; an organization that inspires the kind of unblinking obedience that keeps a missionary from coming home for his mother's funeral (and whose death was a direct result of sacrificing reason on the altar of a misguided faith); an organization that fears the search for knowledge, discourages the publication of accurate history, and punishes the telling of truth; an organization that scapegoats gays, subjugates women, and vilifies intellectuals; an organization that, in short, dehumanizes people to advance its own interest in self-preservation. In sum, I have arrived at the conclusion that the LDS Church "as presently constituted" does violence to my sense of morality

I saw it happen before my eyes again today on a thread at FMH. A commenter seemed to relate to Margaret's story and shared some of his private pain. He spoke of how Mormon ritual can get in the way of human compassion and the process of grief, and sever the family in one of its most vulnerable moments. "We probably all know someone who wasn’t able to attend a marriage ceremony because they hadn’t met ritual requirements. Many of my own family couldn’t attend my wedding for that exact reason," he said. "Now that I no longer number myself among the faithful, I will not be ritually qualified to fully participate in the celebration of any new child born into my family."

Rather than words of comfort or encouragement, those in the Mormon circle assigned words of blame:

"No one is banned from those spiritual steps except by their own choice."

"The apostasy and/or the sinful life which separates from the individual from the gospel is the source of the violence in the separation. It creates the conflict the, the rest of it is symptomatic of the situation."

"Nowhere does it say that Christ allowed those who were not worthy and did not seek worthiness or forgiveness the same blessings that those who did do what was required received."

"I think it’s that you are choosing to separate yourself from her. It is her decision to marry in the temple. Your choices separate you from the temple."

"the Lee guy from the MMM argued to his deathbed (if I get the facts wrong, I am just arguing a point) that he was justified in killing those pioneers. Should he have full access to the rituals because he felt like he was acting with integrity?"

"I’m not sure I believe your assertion that you have found peace. I hate to point out the obvious but your very presence commenting on this blog is a good indication that you haven’t."

"There seems to be an intentional naivete, a willful simplicity about how you understand love and family which allows, indeed, causes you to think you see a contradiction where others do not."

"You seem to like to put this issue in the darkest, most insulting light. That is my point. You could choose to see it as a positive expression of deep personal conviction, but instead you let yourself be insulted and excluded."

Today I am the weeping Mormon. I see the Mormon circle and it's beauty--I see its exclusivity. We like to believe that someone is being excluded because they choose to remove themselves through sin. Our Savior never let sin stop him from holding one of his sheep close to his bosom. We don't know what sin or righteousness resides in others' hearts. In reality we are excluding people because they are different. We leave them out because we do not understand.

Today I hear these stories, and I wish to be a part of their circle. A circle of integrity, of questioning, of questing. I admire their great souls, stretched large with travail and heartbreak. I wish in my weeping to share a bit of the pain. I wish you to hear their words and feel their humanity and their longing.

Johnny writes:

The most valuable thing I learned from being Mormon was the experience of losing it. Honestly, it is the deepest pain I have ever gone through. If God asked me to do it again, I would plead for him to rip out my finger nails one by one instead. I feel the angst that Satre’s protagonist in his novel Nausea felt. “Then the Nausea seized me, I dropped to a seat, I no longer knew where I was; I saw the colours spin slowly around me, I wanted to vomit. And since that time, the Nausea has not left me, it holds me.”

I don’t know of anyone else who has has experienced this the same way, and if I do, they have never actually told me. Emerging from that has taken a lot of courage, and I feel like I can face existential struggles with more strength then I ever had in the past. Also, choosing to leave went against everything that my underlying psychological desires would have led me to. Thus, I feel like I can say that I don’t believe things based upon purely psychological motivations.

I know it sounds strange to say that the most valuable experience I gained from Mormonism was leaving it, but for the first time I took a step in the dark and that was a defining moment for me

Mormons take this god and goddess business seriously-–every one of us is a literal child of god and are therefore godlings, beings of Godly potential.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What if?

This is a question I posed over at FMH in a comment. It really was a threadjack, so I thought I'd ask it here.

What if an active member of the Church went in for a TR interview. S/he could answer most of the questions satisfactorily. S/he paid tithing, obeyed the WoW, served in the Church, followed local leaders. But to the questions about HF and Jesus, to the questions about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, s/he could only say, “I don’t know. I’ve prayed about it, and I haven’t received an answer.”
Do you think s/he would be worthy of a temple recommend? Should the Bishop let this member go?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Facing East

Facing East is the newest play by Carol Lynn Pearson which premiered last November in Salt Lake City at Plan B Theater. I was thrilled to see that the play was opening again in Salt Lake before heading to New York City and an off-Broadway run, and then a San Francisco run in August. Last weekend when I was in Salt Lake I had the opportunity to go and see it with my husband.

The play is about a Mormon couple at the graveside of their gay son, who has just committed suicide. There are only three actors--the parents, and their son's partner, who they meet for the first time halfway through the play. The father, a local radio personality, is beginning to question himself and the family he has built as he wonders how he has failed his son. The mother is dealing with her deep grief by holding ever stronger to her Mormon faith.

Carol Lynn succeeds brilliantly at demonstrating how the Mormon faith can conflict so strongly with a gay person struggling to find purpose in life. To her credit, she does this while maintaining an accurate, sympathetic, and poignant view of Mormonism. As liberal as I sometimes am, I found myself sympathizing with the views of the very conservative and doctrinaire mother, Ruth. She believes the teachings of the Church, and she wants her son to be happy, but she feels this cannot happen while he is in the "bonds of sin." She doesn't come across as misguided or stupid, though her religious beliefs cause unbearable pain to her son. It is clear that what she has taught him has made him the beautiful person that he was in life. On the other hand, it is also apparent that there is no reconciling homosexuality and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We get to know Andrew through several flashbacks. He was a sensitive cello player and returned missionary. He used terms like "Kolob" in everyday conversation. He sang hymns to divert negative thoughts. It is especially apparent to Latter-day Saints viewing the play that the Church made an indelible mark upon him, as it seems to do to all who grow up under its influence. In fact, I doubt that nonmembers watching this can see as we do the extreme disconnect this causes. Part of you is Mormon, part is something you instinctively fear and abhor. As you come to accept one, you must reject the other. There is no consolidating the two.

The play closes with Ruth leaving her husband and her son's lover at the gravesite and going off to join the rest of the mourners with the food in the chapel. Before she leaves, she reaches out in the only way she can by providing advice on a recipe. But this is a woefully inadequate attempt to make a personal connection. It is symbolic of the efforts the Church has made to reach out to our GLBT members. Alex, the father, represents the direction that perhaps Carol Lynn hopes the Church will take. He has questioned the way he treated his son in the past, realized he never truly knew him, and now reaches out to the partner and makes plans to meet him for dinner. When I was viewing the play, I wondered why Alex didn't invite Marcus back to the chapel with him. I now realize that wouldn't have worked. It is not enough to invite GLBT's to join us on our turf. We must be willing to see things through their eyes and come together on neutral territory.