Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Religion of a Different Color - Interview

I just finished listening to a two part interview (#22 & #23 of the Maxwell Institute podcasts) with Paul Reeve and Ardis Parshall about Reeve's book, Religion of a Different Color. This was absolutely fascinating!  Namely,

1. The author shares a primary source Mormon view of WHY some considered polygamy to be good, in that because men had greater sex drives, it allowed them to stay faithful to their wife(s) during times when it was not considered proper to have intercourse (nursing, menstruation) because they had other acceptable outlets.

2. People tried to define Mormons as a race so they could discriminate against them like they did with other races. The US was meant for white people, so white people who practiced polygamy (Mormons) didn't fit the paradigm, and they needed a way to marginalize Mormons.

3. Reeve and Parshall could not find evidence that the ban on the priesthood for blacks came from God, yet He allowed it to happen (and allows us all to reap the consequences), just like He allowed Joseph to lose the 116 pages, etc.

I loved Reeve's and Parshall's testimonies at the end. Parshall basically said there is still safety in following the prophets as they are at the helm, even if they may sometimes make mistakes.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

There Were Eminent Women, too?

You may have heard about the "eminent men" who appeared to Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple. Vicki Jo Anderson wrote a book about it in 2000. There are also some paintings of the event.

But did you know that there were also 68 women who appeared who had been instrumental in paving the way for the establishment our country? Hannah Moore was one of these women who appeared. How have we never heard this? What a disservice we do to the wonderful women of history by leaving them out! I wish I had more time to look into this further, but I find it fascinating. Anderson is supposed to write a book about the women, too. 

Seth Adam Smith has written a blog post about some of the women.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Inherent Power of Women

Tonight I read a post by Valerie Hudson Cassler about women and their power. The post was actually in response to Ordain Women in 2013, but now that that's mostly dead, it's interesting applying what Cassler said now.  I'm just saving the quotes here for future reference.

As a feminist, the idea that men would ever have the right or ability to give women divine power strikes me as deeply anti-feminist.  Are we saying that only with the permission of men and by the hand of men can women partake of divine power?  And that since male permission has not been forthcoming to this point, women in fact possess no divine power at present?  That we women are reduced to pleading with men to give us our power?  A laugh wells up in me at the sheer irony of this “feminist” position, but at the very same moment, I also feel to weep bitter tears in the realization that only a profoundly toxic culture for women could produce a situation where good-hearted women and men advocate an anti-feminist position as a step forward for women.
I hadn't thought of that before: why should women need power from men? Shouldn't they get it straight from the Source? Haven't we been given any power that we already need?
Please do not misunderstand.  I am not opposing the ordination of women to divine power.  Not at all—I am suggesting they already possess divine power and authority, and not by the hand of men and not by the “permission” of men.  Dorothy already has those ruby slippers on; she just hasn’t realized it yet.  And it is plain no man can tell her this truth; she has to learn it for herself.  When she does learn, she will then seek to fully hold her birthright, and no longer mistakenly plead for a man to bequeath it to her.  As women more fully wield their birthright of divine power, our community will finally be able to approach Zion
Takes me back to the concept of women living beneath their privilege. Can we discover what that privilege is and act upon it. Is it rearing children, is it more than that?

Men should not hold a privileged position in shaping the world in which women and their children and loved ones must live.  This principle of equal voice must extend beyond the family: women should be equally represented in the leadership of towns, cities, nations, and the world.  The world will never find sustainable solutions to its problems without the input of women, who weave the threads of life.
Yes! This coincides beautifully with the paradigm of Big Ocean Women. Women need a voice; they will contribute greatly to finding "sustainable solutions" for society's ills.

She added several paragraphs about what she thought would happen in the future within the Church regarding how women & girls are treated. The thing that's nice about Cassler, is that she doesn't offer her opinion with an ultimatum for change. She just sets it on the table, and if people want to believe the same, they can. She'll patiently wait any changes, but just puts her thoughts out there.
I anticipate that we will see the Personal Progress Program for Young Women be modified to include preparation in real-world life skills that young women need.  Just as the Young Men (in Scouts) are taught merit badges such as communication, citizenship, and so forth, so we will begin to see that our Young Women need such important skills as well.
Interestingly, as I've prepared to be the Young Women camp director this summer, we already do have a program that teaches "real-world" life skills; it's all found in the camp manual. When we do not use the camp certification program, girls miss out on these skills. Many people don't even know about them.
It is high time for a change of heart among women. We must start believing that women possess a divine power and authority that does not originate with men, though it is foundational to our partnership with men.  We must not only say we are equals, we must walk and talk as if we truly are. 
It's up to us to claim our power and know we are something.
This change of heart starts in our marriages and our homes; indeed, it must, for that is where we live the life of the heart most fully.   What would you as a woman do if you truly and deeply felt you wielded the divine power and authority of your Mother as her apprentice?  Would you not first reach inside and seek to learn what this power and authority is and how to wield it?  Would you not then begin to reach out, even if tentatively at first, to use that power for the good of those you love?  And then extend that circle beyond your family to become a Mother to the whole world?  Would you not seek to ensure an equal voice for women in all spheres of human decision-making, even at the national and international level? And would you not then strive to ensure young women learn these truths at their mother’s knee?
When I went to the Big Ocean training, I LOVED that Carol Allen said we must first meet the needs of our families, then if there's something left over, we can reach out to our communities, and then the world. But, we must do it in order or things fall out of balance.
Again, the great key is this: instead of allowing our culture to remake our doctrine, we must allow our doctrine to remake our culture.
She says the Church already teaches us that men are not above women, so some of us should stop acting like they are.
We take nothing away from our brethren to exercise our own divinely bestowed power and authority alongside theirs in partnership; indeed, we only increase the store of blessings available to the children of God as we women begin to consider ourselves as beings with divine power.
She said this in reference in offering a prayer of faith concerning a child.
It is time for women to rise and shine, sure in the knowledge that it is our divine destiny to do so, and also confident that our brothers will be our most heartfelt cheerleaders.
She believes men will not hold women back in claiming their influence.  Among men I know, I believe she is right.
Because women typically are subordinate and treated as inferior to men in much of the carnal world, men also have much to gain from the establishment of Zion, perhaps more than women do.  For so long as men exercise dominion over women in an order of unequal power, so long as men receive greater esteem and respect than women, and so long as men enjoy greater wealth than women, men will suffer darkness in their lives and their lives will be impoverished.  Indeed, it seems that often those who dominate suffer more spiritually than those dominated, those who esteem themselves better than those esteemed less, the oppressors more than the oppressed.
It's fascinatingly true that by oppressing others we miss out on the great contributions they, too, can make. It reminds me of Half the Sky.

A friend posted on Facebook tonight that her 8-year old son was taunting her 7-year old daughter that she would never have the priesthood. She asked how others would handle the situation. Interestingly, her post appeared right as I was reading the above article. I mentioned that V.H. Cassler would tell him, well he'd never be a mother. I admit, even 6 years ago I'd think that was a lame comparison to holding the priesthood, but as I learn more, I better understand the great creative power and influence of women. The hand that rocks the cradle really does rule the world! My old attitude says that I did not fully value motherhood because had I valued it, motherhood would have be an acceptable comparison to priesthood. Other people responded stating she could teach him that the priesthood is a tool for service, so he's got his "power" all confused. Additionally, someone commented that once endowed in the temple, a woman also is endowed with priesthood power. I know some people interpret that as women holding the priesthood, but I don't think that should be confused with holding priesthood office. The temple does not ordain women to priesthood office, yet it helps a woman recognize the role of the priesthood in her life and everything about it. She does everything under priesthood power and authority.

Oh yeah, one other very interesting thing Cassler pointed out was a slightly definition of priesthood on one of the LDS Church websites. We are familiar with the standard: priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on Earth (and we usually leave off:) to act in all things for the salvation of mankind. This new/other definition states: "The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of our Heavenly Father. Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children. He gives worthy priesthood holders authority to administer ordinances of salvation. All of Heavenly Father's children can qualify to receive these ordinances and access the power and blessings of the priesthood." Therefore, it is His power, and it is used to create, redeem, exalt, and administer ordinances. All His children can receive these blessings and many, women included, help give these ordinances.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Why Did We Get the The Family: A Proclamation to the World?

Twenty years ago we got the The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I remember sitting in the Hart Auditorium at Ricks College listening to President Hinckley reading it and thinking, yeah, yeah, and yeah, so why do we need this?  Who knew 20 years later that cultural norms would have changed so much.

Twenty years ago also was the World Conference on Women in Beijing, which produced a bunch of UN documents that the "Holy See" did not like, specifically concerning "abortion, reproductive rights, and other sensitive issues" (Wikipedia).

I've heard it said a couple times now, how ironic that the same year the UN produced those documents that could potentially become corrosive to society as we knew it, that the LDS Church came out with The Proclamation.

Yesterday I learned, The Proclamation was actually well orchestrated BECAUSE of the Beijing conference:
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued a proclamation on the family. I can tell you how that came about. They had a world conference on the family sponsored by the United Nations in Beijing, China. We sent representatives. It was not pleasant what they heard. They called another one in Cairo. Some of our people were there. I read the proceedings of that. The word marriage was not mentioned. It was at a conference on the family, but marriage was not even mentioned.
It was then they announced that they were going to have such a conference here in Salt Lake City. Some of us made the recommendation: “They are coming here. We had better proclaim our position.” (Boyd K. Packer, CES Fireside for Young Adults, 2 February 2003)

As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I participated in the process of drafting that inspired document. It was a remarkable experience for all of us. As we travel the world, we see things—both within the Church and outside the Church. We were troubled by much of what we were seeing. We could see the people of the world wanting to define the family in ways contrary to God's eternal plan for the happiness of His children. Various world conferences were held dealing either directly or indirectly with the family. Major agenda items were introduced by some delegates that would have greatly weakened the family; yet, through the significant contributions of Church leaders, members, and other like-minded people, the language and thus the effects of those proposals were softened.

In the midst of all that was stirring on this subject in the world, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles could see the importance of declaring to the world the revealed, true role of the family in the eternal plan of God. We worked together through the divinely inspired council system that operates even at the highest levels of the Church to craft a proclamation that would make the Lord's position on the family so clear that it could not be misunderstood. - M. Russell Ballard, Education Week, August 19, 2003
Not too many years ago there came a movement in the world having to do with the family. The United Nations called a council on the family in Beijing, China. We sent delegations to that council on the family and to other councils that were held. And then it was announced that one of them would be held near our headquarters, and we thought, “Well, if they are coming here, we had better proclaim ourselves.”
A proclamation in the Church is a significant, major announcement. Very few of them have been issued from the beginning of the Church. They are significant; they are revelatory. And at that time, this was a little more than 10 years ago, the Brethren issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It is scripturelike in its power.  - Boyd K. Packer, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Feb. 9, 2008
Well played, Brethren, well played. They know what's up.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A New Take on "Feminism"

I know the term "feminism" is totally loaded; some people hate it, others love it. I don't mind it; I actually kind of like it because it sounds like feminine, and I've always defined it as anyone who supports the rights and cause/s of women, whatever they may be.  Many others use feminist to describe those who I'd term "radical" or "extreme feminists" who basically denigrate women and their natural roles, so it saddens me when people lump all "feminists" in the same camp rather than actually listening to what others believe. I may be wrong, but the older generations who lived thru the ERA seem to really dislike the term, whereas the younger generations, myself included, don't mind it as it's been presented educationally in a positive light.

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who thinks "feminist" should or could also describe people who fight for women, especially women trying to enhance and proudly live their natural roles. My friend Carolina Allen is on a quest for a new wave of feminism, a quest to move beyond the last third wave of feminism and get back to supporting the natural roles of women. You could call it New Feminism, 4th Wave Feminism, Post-Feminism, Women of God, Divine Womanhood, or whatever.

Last year, Carolina went to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women and found that, what I call radical feminists have taken over the dialogue there, and women who do support faith and family are grossly underrepresented. International standards are being set that leave out the voice of, what I'd guess, is the majority of the female world population.  Carolina's goal is to get women to the UN to represent mothers, families, and standards that protect children.

Carol writes,
When I heard the term "feminism" as a youth, I claimed it. I liked the word; it spoke of my female power and influence. In my mind, feminism was spiritually infused. It had little to do with "sameness" and everything to do with "uniqueness." To me, women were inherently powerful, independent of external factors. 
Throughout the years, I had cultivated this concept of feminism, what I like to think of as 'true feminism.' Because of this identity, the framework of oppression and disadvantage was foreign to me. Rather, I was lifted up, edified and strengthened. I was confident I could lift others because of the understanding that God’s power naturally rushed within me. 
As time passed, I had no serious cause to doubt my true feminism. It suited me well. I felt it deep in my heart as I maneuvered through college as a philosophy major, as I served in leadership capacities throughout the years, and most especially as a wife and mother. That is, until my very sobering and life-changing experience at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last March... (read the rest here).
As Carol is developing her her thoughts and goals, her working name is Big Ocean Women, or you could say Big Ocean Feminism, too, meaning the bigger female picture that is tied to our true womanhood, or our true nature and characteristics which are never a passing fancy.  There's a web site in the works as well as representation on several social media platforms, including Facebook. Learn more at: Big Ocean Women.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Where Feminism Went Wrong

Yesterday I watched this speech by Christina Hoff Sommers that went into a little more of the history of the women's movement, not the modern women's movement, but a little before that. She included summaries of Hannah Moore and Francis Willard.  Although, as we call it in historic reenacting terms, the "original cast" did not call themselves any type of feminists (as the word did not exist), Sommers divides the different types of female thought into egalitarian feminism and maternal feminism.

Egalitarian feminism is the feminism we see, for the most part, today, which is why so many women do not want to be associated with the word. Maternal feminism has been nearly silenced on a broad scale, yet this more conservative, family-loving approach, is much more agreeable to most women (and men) throughout the world.  Sommers argues that maternal feminists in the past actually made much more progress overall than egalitarian feminists, and we need to bring back this more conservative approach rather than the extreme approach.

Sommers also brands her own type of feminism, freedom feminism, which brings in the best parts of both maternal and egalitarian feminism; although, this speech does not go into specific details.

The thing that I appreciated about Sommers' talk was the idea that most women appreciate the maternal side of things; it's something women can take pride in.  In fact, she shares, even in Sweden where they've tried to de-gender everything and make an equal playing field for men and women, women still choose to have children and want to be with them by choosing to work part time.

This was definitely worth a watch if you're into this kind of thing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Sacred Duty by Rasband & Wilkins Book Review

Yesterday I finished A Sacred Duty by Ester Rasband and Richard Wilkins. This was a 1999 publication from a 1996 experience of Wilkins' with the UN in Istanbul at the Habitat II conference. Now, yes, this doesn't sound very exciting, but this book had me so interested that I couldn't sleep. It didn't help that I read it right before bed!

I minored in International Development at BYU ('98), so it was fun reading and thinking about where I was and what I was doing as this story unfolded. In fact, I took a class where re read a lot of UN docs (I think that's what they were) in '97 or '98, so I wondered if I'd read anything influenced by this Istanbul conference.  The book is easy to read, as Rasband provides a simple narration with inserts by Wilkins.

From the beginning, page 9, I recognized that the book was trying to share that the UN basically sets the "community standard" for the world in regards to what is socially acceptable and what is not. I became familiar with the term "community standard" some time within the last decade when I met JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton who worked so hard to maintain a conservative community standard in my own community. She passed away just last month.  It's amazing that once we accept a certain standard, whether at a close community level, or at a world-wide level, those standards and values do eventually become common practice and even law.

On page 10, Wilkins felt that by going to the UN he would become the "whipping boy" for the traditional family. I thought that was pretty funny; really, with what he was doing, he indeed felt like a lamb before the slaughter. (Interestingly, although he felt like a minority, when he got there and met people, there were plenty who believed as he did, they were just thwarted by those parties with more power, influence, and money.)

On page 11 he says, ". . . but my prayers were more in the nature of 'Please, I don't want to go' than they were 'I'll go where you want me to go.' I suppose I was fiddling on the roof [like Tevye]." Oh how I could relate! I felt like I went out on a limb when I started this blog.  I so did not want to, but I felt the Lord needed another voice from the average Mormon woman. There were too many dissenting, rebellious voices out there and I thought, what will people not of our faith think of us if all they see are those other voices?

On page 24 it was interesting how people didn't think these UN documents made any difference. The representative from India even said, ". . . My nation doesn't really intend to enforce any of this. We negotiate and sign these agreements because we want to go home. . . ." How often do we take that approach?

Around page 40 is a really good summary of how the UN policies and practices and infiltrations came to be and where the power and influence comes from.

On 43 this question came to my mind, Who defines good? God or wo/man? That determines practice. On just Sunday, my neighbor shared that she was talking to her atheist brother about something and he questioned, "Well who says?"  She rebutted, "Well our Heavenly Father. It's God's laws" and he silenced, showing that there may just be a particle of faith left in him. If we're not going by God's laws, everything is arbitrary. His laws are the only stability.  Also related, on page 45 where Wilkins is trying to decide what he'll really stand for he decides, "he had better be true to a source of truth over and above his own perception" because God is the only one with the full picture.

On 44 I was reminded of the movie, The Giver (I haven't read the book, only seen the new movie). I think the only way the state could be allowed to be in charge of family & children would be if people didn't have emotion, which was exactly what happened in The Giver.

Also on 44 I was reminded of My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding where the wife says, "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants" because the book suggests that influence is the great power. So, just as a wife has great influence on her husband, whatever group has the biggest influence in the UN, in this case, will have the most power.

I enjoyed on page 62 how Wilkins compared himself to Jonah. Here he wanted to run away, but he went in and did what needed to do.

It's interesting in 1996 that the Women's Caucus wanted (page 64):

1. Women must make the important decisions regarding resource allocation. Men, they said, are incapable of making those decisions because they simply could never understand.
2. Alternative forms of sexual partnerships must be recognized.
3. Women must have ready access to pregnancy termination.
4. We must have government-sponsored day care.

I didn't realize (or remember) in 1996 that these things were being lobbied for at an international level. I know they are things we face now. Perhaps because they were brought to the table in 1996 is the reason we do face them now.

I remember in that class where we read those political documents hearing a story about women in Africa who were fed up with the men in their communities. The men sat around intoxicated, so the women were the breadwinners and caregivers; the men were useless. In that case, I can see women fully needed to be in charge of financial and pretty much all other decisions, but not all men are like that. There are still good men out there who do fulfill their God-appointed responsibilities, and we should let them.

On 64-65 there's an account of a woman speaking of how "women could be freed from this conflict [of family & profession] by a combination of twelve ours a day of government-sponsored day care, distribution of labor-saving devices, and a proliferation of fast food restaurants (so women could feed their children on the way home from day care)." She received a "thunderous ovation." I'm guessing that woman didn't have children because there is no emotion in this. I don't know anyone who wants such a sterilized, segregated family life. There is no joy, no connection in this.  But then again, when you read the history pages (around page 40) you realized that a lot of this compartmentalized thought has come to the world from people who have been hurt and neglected by their parents, so they see the world through their dysfunctional, sad paradigm, but the paradigm of happy, connected families is not represented, and eventually overthrown.

I do understand the hardships of raising a family; it's not fun (sure it can be), but it's work and it's learning. However, just because it's hard, does not mean it's not valuable or not necessary.

68 - "Be careful. . . before you discard thousands of years of tradition. Do not do it quickly or without great care. The family is the basic unit of society. It is central to our communities. If our problems are to be solved, they are to be solved in the families of the world. Do not adopt policies that will lead to disintegration of our families. We must, instead, strengthen them."

69 - From a delegate of one of the Arab countries to Wilkins, "'Where have you been?' To have support for traditional families from a Western nation was more than the developing countries had hoped for. . . . These delegates felt new hope that anyone form the Western world was on their side." How sad that non-Westerners feel that the Western world has abandoned the traditional family, when few really have.

83 - "At one point a group of Muslims asked Richard: 'Why do you do this? What is in it for you? Is this based on your political belief, or is this based on faith?' Richard responded quickly. The answer is easy. 'Both,' he said. 'I think it is best from a political perspective because history tells us and shows us that societies that recognize religious rights and parental rights, that work to retain the values that religion teaches---clearly those societies create more stable regimes. But ultimately, I'm doing it because I believe it is what my God wants me to do.'"

Pages 97-98 are the most beautiful in the entire book. Wilkins believes that the people at the conference clung to his words because he shared the words from the "prophet of the God of Abraham." They were all fighting to maintain the standards of the same God; they were united. Wilkins felt such great love for all the people, and wanted a better world for everyone, and the way for the better world was to follow the words in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

Even with those he once saw as enemies to his cause, he now believed, "I wanted them to understand that unborn children are our brothers and sisters, and if I used to want to regulate abortion because I thought it was "bad," now it was because I loved those children. I knew that those who saw me as their enemy were concerned about the women---and I was moved by that, but I wanted them to know that I loved both the children and the mothers.
I remembered what President Hinckley had said about those "burdened with same-sex attraction," and I grieved at how heavy that burden must be. At the same time I understood that as caring as it was to want gratification for those so burdened, it was not what was in their best interest. God had something more, something better than that for them.
It all came down to comprehending something as basic and obvious as life. I saw that it was all about life giving, life sustaining, and life nurturing. It is the only part of Godhood that we can begin to understand here, and if one is not engaged in it one's entire life loses its most important aspect of meaning.  [Emphasis added.]
What a testimony! I love how Wilkins turned everything to LIFE and the bigger picture. To understand that bigger picture, we really need the Gospel (which he recognized others believing and loving at the mosques, so obviously this is not something unique to Latter-day Saints). I haven't really struggled with the abortion issue, but, honestly, understanding homosexuality is beyond me. I just don't even know what to say about it.  I know it does not follow God's plan and will not lead to further progression in the eternities, but why the trial? Why do people feel this way? What's the cause? I'm at the point where I understand that I don't understand and cannot be quick to judge. OK, enough of that.

The epilogue concludes with a conference the next year where the Habitat II conference was overlooked. Wilkins recognized, "The price of liberty, it seems really is eternal vigilance" (104). No matter how we'd all like to have this be a done deal on God's side supporting His laws, it never ends; the fight goes on and we have to keep representing Him.

So, even though on the outset, this book sounds like it would be boring, it's actually fascinating and full of miracles! Because I read it, I even understand better how God views His children.