Since much of the family history/genealogy work for my forebears has been done (and continues to be done) by my parents, much of my concentration has been on finding cousins, the other descendants of my ancestors. It’s been interesting to see how their lives have developed, even if it’s just through the glimpses left in the records left behind. There’s the widow left by a rail road worker cousin who marries his brother, also a rail worker. The couples who had just a few or many children who saw either all children live and grow or saw all their children go into early graves. The cousin whose wife died, leaving him with two small children he had to leave in an orphanage until he could reclaim them again. There are just so many stories, and we, too often, barely get a one sentence summary.
I’ve particularly been gratified at finding the cousins whose lines have ended. These are those who never married or never had any children. There’s no one to remember them. I wish I’d posted about it nearer Memorial Day, but I wonder how many of those who died in the past wars are simply forgotten?
In any case, the most difficult part I find in this research isn’t the heartbreaking stories, but in finding cousins that have just recently died. You finally get down to people that you could conceivably talk to and get firsthand information from, and they’ve already passed on. Most of the time you don’t even know who their next-of-kin are. So here’s my “Missed connection”:
To my 6th cousins, once removed, children of Inez Pellett-Cavin-Rounds-Bevroot-Linley. I know your mother passed 25 years ago, but I’m hoping to make a connection to learn what you know of your family. Do you know anything about your father or where in Central America he came from? Hope I can find some way to connect with you soon.
Of course, now that I check again, one of them died just 6 months ago. Blast it all.
Spend any amount of time reading the various Mormon themed blogs and you will see any number of reasons people are dissatisfied with and/or have been hurt by the Church and its members. There have been a few attempts to understand the reasons for these things, but mostly there have been unfeeling lists of simple points, trying to codify “why people leave”. To me, aside from the excommunication or removal of those who have shown themselves to be physically or spiritually dangerous to others in the community, coming to Church and being part of the community are mostly a matter of self selection.
People join the Church and attend their meetings because they feel that they have learned the truth of how this life, the next life, and the previous life fit together, want to learn more on how to progress, and want to join with others who have the same goal. There is both power and safety in numbers, and it helps our own growth to work with others with the same goals. Those who fall away do so because the community is no longer a place of peace, but has become, for one reason or another, a place of pain, confusion, or distaste.
This is where self selection comes in. Ultimately, it is that persons choice to stay or go, no matter how deep the dissatisfaction or pain. The question then becomes, what can we do to help them stay, heal, and grow together with us?
There has been quite enough ink (and pixels) spilled on the upcoming disciplinary hearings for Kate Kelly (of Ordain Women) and John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories). Much of it has been with sadness, but some of it with fear. People have been wondering if this is the start of a new “purge”, where anyone who asks questions is likely to be excommunicated. For me, this is certainly sad, but I have no fear. There is a marked difference between what has been done by these individuals and those who have varying beliefs, opinions, and questions about the Church.
For Kate Kelly, she has been a good voice in helping organize those who believe ordination is the answer for the problems many women face in the Church. I believe her discipline (having previous to this been put on probation) comes from the organizing of a second protest on Temple Square (even if they didn’t call it a protest) after being asked not to, and the continued expansion of Ordain Women to try and “convert” people to believe as they do. The Church has repeatedly explained that women’s ordination is not how the Church is organized and this cannot be changed by popular opinion. I am truly sad it has come to this.
For John Dehlin, I’ve little opinion. I’m glad some have found more peace in being part of the Church through these podcasts, but for me, what I’ve listened to his podcast seemed to be interested more in placing seeds of doubt than in trying to find answers. In his case, he seems to have more sought out the line where he would be excommunicated, using it to make himself a martyr for his cause. Even his latest request for messages to console his wife and children seems calculated. I’m sad he’s worked himself in the direction he has gone.
Now, for the fear part. First, two data points do not a pattern make. There is no evidence that this is a concerted effort, nor is there anything to show that other prominent voices with questions are also being “quashed”. Your Bishop is not more likely to censure you because of your ideas. These actions are not broadcast as a warning to others by the Church, nor is there any direction given to discipline those who have sympathy for them. The fear does not come from the Church, but from those who sent these notices to others. It is not the Church saying “get in line or you’re next”. This is coming directly from those taking advantage of this to promote fear in others. Unless you’re actively doing one of these things, you have nothing to fear:
- Spending your time telling people they should leave the Church.
– Teaching things that are completely contrary to Church teachings.
Even with these, it takes quite a lot of either for even disfellowshipment to be considered. These recent actions have not been sudden or unexpected by anyone involved. Undesired, certainly, but not unexpected.
No matter what the outcome, I hope that we can all continue to move forward with faith, hope, and charity.
I’ve come across a few articles recently which have gone back over the idea that men have Priesthood and women have Motherhood. These are trying to make the case that each gender has it’s own sphere and should be content with that. The reasoning used for this comes mainly from Valerie Hudson Casslers’ speech The Two Trees. She brings in information from the Eden story to declare that men are “gatekeepers” of the ordinances required for salvation while women are “gatekeepers” of mortality. She equates this with the two trees mentioned in the Eden story, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve ate the fruit of the second tree and gave to Adam from it, so women are in charge of making mortality. (She also asserts a few things that LDS “believe”, but that’s another post.)
Overall, I think it’s a good speech with some good ideas and thoughts, and while I’m glad for those who have found some measure of peace and understanding through it. However, I find the conclusion of it, the very premise that men are gatekeepers of salvation while women are gatekeepers of mortality, to be overly simplistic and potentially damaging. I know I’ve written on it before, but it needs to be said more often, so people will start to get it.
Making babies is not analogous to Priesthood.
To the point of rebutting Casslers’ analogy, the saving ordinances performed by men with the Priesthood can be done with no input whatsoever by a woman. As far as being a “gatekeeper” for them, the analogy works. Creating mortal bodies, however, cannot be done by a woman alone. Women may stand at the gate, doing the work of guarding and the very nearly all of the work of opening the gate,, but only men have the key. It takes both to open this gate. You can’t call women “gatekeepers” of a gate they have no power to open on their own.
There are also the standard arguments against equating Motherhood and Priesthood, like Motherhood being available to nearly all women while Priesthood is available to fairly few men, and that neither can be the ultimate meaning of a persons’ life, but I’m glad to leave those for other times.
I do think there are many, many wonderful things waiting for us in the future. I may be completely wrong on what they are, but I do know that whatever there is, it will be wondrous for all of us, men and women. I believe we will have the balance that we know exists in our Heavenly Parent’s love for us, but I despair at some of the rationales we develop to try and convince ourselves that we have that balance now.
In LDS theology, there are certain ordinances that are required to progress; Baptism, Confirmation, The Initiatory (washing and anointing), The Endowment (covenants and instruction on how to enter God’s presence), and Sealing of family relationships to be not only for time but for eternity. Temples have been built, as a house for God, specifically to perform these ordinances for the living and dead. (Chapels, which are more common, are where we go for our weekly worship and learning.)
This is one of the reasons Mormons are heavily invested in genealogy and family history work. We believe that “. . . we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” (D&C 128:18). We believe this to be in accordance with Malachi 4:6 – “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” and 1 Corinthians 15:29 – “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”. So we work to find our dead, that we can serve them by being proxy for them in obtaining these ordinances. This does not obligate them to accept these ordinances, but gives them the opportunity that they might have the choice available to them.
There have been a few arguments against the push for getting more work done. The best one I know of is wondering how we can assume our ancestors would desire these things, believing that we are dishonoring their memory and the lives they have lived or even died for their religion. This concern has brought about a policy that ask we only do work for those we are directly related to. We’ve also been asked that we take extra care in doing work for those who died in the Holocaust, being sure we are a direct descendant. I know of some people who had personal experience with some very bad, even evil behavior from a close relative, and have purposely left them out of their work, only to have it done my some other well meaning person. We do not know how the Atonement will be applied for anyone, but we can still show compassion for others by respecting these wishes.
The other common argument I see is wondering why spend so much time and effort to do this at all, since we will have the entire Millennial Age, when Christ comes again and personally reigns upon the Earth, to do it all. This one has given me much more to think about.
On one side of the complex where I live is a strip of land, about 3-4 feet wide and about 4-500 feet long. When we moved in, there were some awful overgrown bushes on it. These have since been removed and for the past two tears has been left a bit of a lumpy, somewhat weedy, mess. The Home Owners Association hasn’t had the funds to do anything with it, though there have been ideas on what they would like to do with it, such as cover it with gravel or some other cover. The problem is that before anything can be done, the ground has to be cleared and prepared for this.
So, I’ve started digging at it. I’m terribly out of shape, so I can only manage a few feet at a time. It’s going to take weeks if not months to get it done. It could be that someone will come in with some large power digger and do it easily in a day, but that doesn’t matter. As much as I’m doing this work to eventually benefit the community, I’m also doing this for my own benefit.
Temple Ordinance work for the dead is much the same. We gain a closeness to our ancestors by learning about their lives, sitting as proxy for something they cannot do themselves. We can be in symbiosis with our dead, both benefitting from this time we are essentially working together. Doing the work now, even if incomplete and potentially incorrect, also helps make these people more real to us. Is there anyone you can look in the eye now and say, “we’ll get to you eventually”? How would it feel to you to be passed off as one of the less important masses?
Why not wait ’til these people are resurrected and let them do their own work? Aside from strengthening the bond I mentioned before, I think that there is something about these mortal bodies, as opposed to the bodies these people will have when they are resurrected, that is needed for this work to be in effect. For some reason, whatever meta-physical reaction that happens that makes these Ordinances required cannot be done by those resurrected, but can be done, by proxy, by those living and have effect on those once dead. I’ve no idea why or how this is (we can’t even measure spirit and no resurrected person has submitted themselves for testing), but this makes sense to me.
So, in the Millennial Age, there is going to be a lot more demand for the living to do proxy work for the dead. We will have more than 12 Billion people to do the work for, with only the barest fraction done beforehand. The time to get started on this, even if we can only manage a tiny percentage, is now. They need us, and we, even with our modern sensibilities, blessings, and trials, certainly need them.
This past Sunday, in the meeting we have of those ordained as an Elder, we had a special topic and teacher for our lesson. The lesson was on how we can better serve as Home Teachers to the single sisters in our ward, taught by one of these single sisters. Home Teaching is a program where the Elders and High Priests of the ward are put into pairs and assigned to met with each family, in their homes, once a month, to share a spiritual message and to try and help the family wherever we can. Usually, Elders aren’t assigned single sisters (by policy, probably because single sisters are perceived to have more need), but since we have 60 in our ward, we’ve all at least one family that consists of a single sister (sometimes with children), rather than a married couple (also sometimes with children).
Our ward may be a bit high on the number of single sisters, but I don’t think it’s all that high. There was a recent New York Times piece on women in the Church, A Growing Role for Mormon Women, that had an interesting infographic, showing the ratios of single men to women of different age groups in the Church. What particularly surprised me was that, while there were more men than women in the under 30 group, each group older than that has progressively more single women than men. Over 60, the ratio of single men to women is up to five women for every man. Some would say that the ratio of 12 men to 10 women under 30 is an indicator that young women are “leaving in droves” over perceived inequality, and that this ratio will continue. I think with the increased numbers of women serving as missionaries the ration will continue to skew younger, it becoming more noticeable earlier that the women who remain in the Church will outnumber the men, even below 30.
I’m kind of conflicted about the numbers of single women in the Church, especially those I see around me. I know they are strong women, many of whom are dealing with impossible circumstances of trying to raise and provide for a family on their own. They do not technically “need” someone else to share the load, but it certainly would make life easier if that were the case. I do not want to ever infer that these women are less than, incomplete people, or anything of the sort, but I do know that beneath it all there is a vulnerability, a need for the Priesthood power only available to men, that they feel in their homes and lives. I don’t think ordination would solve this (even if it may relieve it for some), but some things can only be helped when you can see yourself moving toward that next step of becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in a committed, equally yoked, sealed marriage.
That brings me back to the lesson. The lesson, as I said, was on how we can better serve the single sisters in our ward and was taught by one of these single sisters. She’d done a great amount of work, polling and talking to the single women in our Ward so she could communicate with us the special needs that were there. She’d asked the sisters what the top needs were for Home Teachers. The answers were not terribly surprising, as they tend to apply to all of the families we teach: 1. Show Up, 2. Make an Appointment, 3. Be Consistent.
There were a few comments from the men on how we were needed, especially to help with what I’d refer to as “moving big stuff” (y’know, manly man work) that I wanted to push back against, but I felt that I both couldn’t and shouldn’t. I was there to learn from someone who is one of the women in this group, not to lessen her time to teach by pushing back on this minor misconception. Thankfully, she put in some points that helped put these ideas down. She has her own home, in which she’s done her own yard work, tiled her own kitchen, done her own upkeep. There were also times when she needed an extra hand, like in removing a stump from her yard. She was glad of her Home Teacher who not only got together the people to get the stump out, but went the extra mile of filling in the hole and getting sod to grass the new bald spot. It wasn’t an absolute need, but she was very, very grateful for this service.
She also talked very passionately about the need of having the Priesthood available in times of need. She talked about how we need to build the relationships with those we are assigned to watch over so we’ll be one of the first people they think of when they need help, whatever that help may be. No one is going to call for help someone they barely see once a quarter, not even when something as seemingly simple as a blessing or just a shoulder is needed. These women keenly feel the lack of Priesthood power in their homes, and yet they are still strong in their faith and in the Church.
Priesthood holders are not here to “rescue” these women. We’re not supposed to be swooping in to make everything better. These women are not helpless children. When I attended Young Women’s camp as a Priesthood holder, it was not to be over anyone, to be the “manly man” to keep everyone safe, or to be the body to move the heavy stuff; it was to be simply available when a Priesthood blessing is needed. Yes, this could have been done by any Priesthood holder in the area, but it was important to have someone from each Ward, someone familiar to those being served.
That’s the key, really – familiarity. Knowing those we intend to serve is the only way we really can serve. Familiarity helps remove the broad misconceptions we may have about any group. I hope I can do a better job of being there for the families of every size and shape around me, especially for those I’ve been assigned.
I try to avoid the general topics that are going around the Bloggernacle (LDS-themed blogs), but being an outspoken feminist that I am around work, I’ve had a few people want to talk to me about how I see this issue. Also, there’s a possibility my opinion will soon be published elsewhere, and I want to be sure to put what I feel in a full posting, rather than a simplified blurb.
First, as could probably be gleaned from previous postings, I absolutely believe in the existence of two genders, now, in the past life, and in the future. We have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father, both working as one, just as the Trinity are one. All of these are working in perfect unity to help bring us back home. Yes, there are sexual ambiguities in some bodies, both in genetics and form, but I don’t believe these exceptions disprove the rule. Even though they are exceptionally hard to quantify, there is a difference between men and women, and only by working together can we hope to accomplish our potential. There is no gender we can do without, at any level of home or society, and our society has been stunted by our suppression and oppression of women that continues to this day.
I will stress, for those who will surely bring it up, that I do not believe that men should only work and women should only be at home with the children. I look forward to being independently wealthy enough that we could both be home (or even in the mission field) to build up our family. I don’t care about success in the world; my focus is in strengthening my marriage and trying to help my children be the best they can be. My working now is a “necessary evil” to help provide the funds needed to do that. And no, independently wealthy isn’t even on the horizon for us right now, but we all have dreams.
As I said, gender differentiation is really hard to quantify. But I do know it exists. We would be better off utilizing both genders together than we are now, making the most of one and insisting that the other would only be useful if fit into the mold of the first. I believe we should have more women finding and working in their interests in the world, but, as with men, the family, even a family of one, should be first. I despair at how rare women are in my field, but we’re drifting from the subject at hand.
I respect and admire many of the women involved in the current Ordain Women movement, and do my best to understand their feelings. I mourn with those who have been hurt by well meaning leaders doing the wrong thing. These are the hazards of a lay clergy, and every effort is being made to both reduce the suffering and teach how these decisions could have been different.
That being said, I do not believe the movement to ask entry to the Priesthood session of General Conference is being done in the best way. The Church does not work by public protest. Some would say that it’s not a protest, but a respectful query. The problem is that when you organize a large group of people to each, individually ask entry when they know they will be denied, it becomes a protest. It’s not signs and yelling and marching; it’s a sit in, without the sitting. To say it’s not disruptive is to ignore this reality.
Some have said that this is the only way to get the attention of Church leaders, doing as Zelophead’s daughters did in Moses’ time. Many changes in the Church have come from simple asking and doing, such as the Word of Wisdom (No tobacco, alcohol, etc.) and all of the Auxiliaries (Young Men, Relief Society, Primary, etc.), then these efforts being taken and moved to the entire church. However, some feel that there is no way to directly petition the leadership now, since the Church has gotten so big. I don’t believe this is strictly true. The leadership is not kept in a cocoon of male only voices, not hearing anything but the same from everyone they come into contact with. The trick is to find and connect with those who do know, and can more directly communicate with, the leaders. Do we think that Emma was the only one tired of cleaning up tobacco? Do we think Zelophead’s daughters (who probably had names, but that’s another issue) were the only women with inheritance issues? Of course not. But these are the ones we hear of, the ones who get credit, simply because they were in a position to ask. That is what Ordain Women is missing, and what they should be concentrating on. You don’t communicate to someone you can’t reach across the room by pulling out a bull horn; you send a message through the people nearby.
I do not believe that women should or will be ordained to the Priesthood. I do not accept that for women to fulfill their potential, they need what helps men toward their potential. I look forward to a different way, a Priestesshood that can only be used by women, that can be used together with the Priesthood and will be more than either could do alone and even more than the sum of what each could do.
My view of how we would get the Priestesshood (which could be completely wrong, and I’d be ok with that), would be for it to come as the Priesthood did, through the laying on of hands by those in authority. This could not be done by the authority of the Priesthood, but by those who we may barely know who had the Priestesshood before. This would be done with a full confirmation that it happened by the General Authorities of the Church, who would introduce the changes that would be needed for the Church to move together with the new Priestesshood. It would not be an easy transition, and I don’t think we’re ready for it, but I look forward to the changes that are continuing to be made to try and prepare us for it.
Men and women working together, taking advantage of what both have to offer, is the only way for all of us to reach our full potential, becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in perfect unity. The hard part will be being patient with our rate of growth and the rate of growth of those around us; to not get discouraged or despair because it seems so far away as to be unattainable. Even if I can hardly see a glimmer of how or when, I know it will happen.