Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Question I Posted On Facebook

Pretend you see stunning vistas and gorgeous beaches, Pearl Harbor, the PCC, Diamond Head, Na Pali coastline, beautiful canyons, and me in snorkel gear.

Because apparently, even though all the photos are on my iPad, Blogger won't let me download them into a blogpost. Curses! I was so excited to post the pictures! Since I did a lousy job of reporting on our China Trip (and only giving you, dear reader, a glimpse of that beautiful country), I figured I would redeem myself and finally post photos of our Hawaiian trip. But obviously, you are not meant to enjoy such pleasures at this time.


Instead, I will bring you a fantastic post about Womanhood in the Church. Fantastic being attempted, of course.

This morning as I was out on my walk, I noticed a lot of runners. There were several out (as there are, it being summer and all) and about, and I saw something interesting. Each runner ran differently. Some leaned far forward (an attempt to get there faster?), some pumped their arms really high (same attempt?), some slowly jogged, others ran rather quickly. Some were young, middle-aged, older; some quite fit, others trying to be so. Both genders were out in earnest. I also noticed a lot of dog-walkers (my walking partner included) and bike riders, and sometimes (not today, though) there are rollerbladers.

All of this reminded me of the question I posted on Facebook yesterday:

Cheryl has a question for her active LDS women friends: Do you feel oppressed and/or treated as second class citizens in the Church? Why or why not? (Please don't answer if you aren't "active." I want to hear from those who participate often and willingly, not those looking for another place to bash/criticize/vomit bitterness.)

This question was prompted by an article written in the Washington Post on debunking Mormon Myths. Brandon sent it to me, asked my opinion, I freaked out (because it was so horribly written, had false assumptions, but was written by an "insider" --seriously, the whole thing left me feeling really bad), he agreed with me, and it got me thinking. In particular this one part of the article where the author states:
And thousands of progressive LDS women and men today call ourselves “Mormon feminists” — rejecting parts of Mormonism that promote inequality while holding to affirming elements of our tradition.
Rejecting parts of Mormonism? That didn't sit well with me (amongst many other things she wrote). What is it they reject? Which parts? Why?

I've been blogging for a really long time now (5/6 years), and I've noticed the trend amongst Mormon blogs: You have family/mommy blogs which focus on keeping track of family happenings, sharing pictures, recording the humorous stories of daily life. You have the serious blogs (Bloggernacle, anyone?) that focus on our religion and put the whole Gospel under a microscope and analyze it over and over and over. You have missionary blogs who do their best to answer questions accurately and try to share their testimonies of the Gospel with whoever might stumble across them.

What I have noticed amongst all of these blogs (and which prompted a question posed by my dear friend back in 2008) is that there seems to be a huge gap between women: Either women are happy, satisfied, and grateful for the Church, or women are upset, angry, dissatisfied, and question everything the Church does.

My friend's question: How many women in the Church truly feel like the last group? Because in the blogging world, it feels like most women feel that way. My friend and I happen to be in the first group (if you haven't guessed already by my obvious bias in writing) and we felt like we couldn't be the only ones. However, in the online world, we felt utterly alone. This began many projects (spearheaded by my dear friend) and launched a sort of "Find women online who actually love the Gospel and don't hate the Priesthood!" campaign.

[Now, before you get all upset with me and my obvious (thus far) prejudice against women who struggle, let me clear: I struggle, too. My dear friend struggles immensely in ways people can't even imagine. We are not free from mortality, nor trial, nor sin. We face our own demons in our own way, too, and we understand more than people realize.]

So, yesterday, I wanted to know: How many women truly feel second class in the Church? Oppressed? Looked down upon? How many of us have, do, or feel we will be treated as inferior? Is this common? Is it as pervasive as online conversations try to make me believe?

Not as many people answered my questions as I would have hoped, but several did, and I wasn't surprised with the answers. Ultimately, women in the church, who are active, do NOT feel second class. However, however, however! I did receive some private messages and had discussions with some who do feel that way, and this is what I learned:

1. Unrighteous dominion by men who hold the Priesthood do not realize (or do, and don't care because they are PSYCHO!) what their sins will do to a woman's psyche and/or testimony. It angers me that so much abuse happens and goes on all in the name of "presiding." This is not something the Church teaches. If anything, this type of abuse is preached against at every Priesthood Session of General Conference I've ever read. But it happens. And it happens a lot. Off the top of my head I can already think of four families I know personally who have been affected by unrighteous dominion, and I know there are more.

2. I talked with women who feel like they are not good enough because they either A. Work outside the home (as the main breadwinner) or B. Are "still" single. They feel left out (play groups during the day, RS lessons centered around motherhood), looked down upon ("Why aren't you married, yet?" "Why don't you stay home with your kids?"), and treated as inferior (my single friend said: But it's as if my accomplishments would only matter if I was married, because only then would I be amazing, because I would have to not only juggle work, school, etc., but also a family. Also, usually one of the first questions I'm asked is always about my marital or dating status. Again, it's as if my worth as a woman is only valued if I were married. Again, I usually just brush it off, because it's not meant to be personal, but since there's so much emphasis on marriage in the church (again, not a bad thing), that's all I feel that I'm seen as: not married, as opposed to: (her name).).

3. Each person who commented has a story to tell. Each woman is different, lives in a different place, has a different situation, and faces different trials. I know some who struggle with physical disease, unemployment, isolation, single motherhood, depression, infertility, etc. And yet, each woman, whether she feels inferior/oppressed or not, has a testimony of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. I was amazed at some of the faith I felt through their comments. Especially from those from #1 and #2.

#3 actually brings me back to what I witnessed on my walk this morning: Every person is different. We all struggle, we all do things a little differently, but we all are reaching for the same goal: To get there.

As a daughter of God living in this mortal existence, I have not had the struggle many other women face. My trial has not been one of finding reasons to STAY in the Church (as some women do). My trials are different. I truly believe it's been a blessing in my life to see beyond the fallacies and imperfections of wo/men and see the truth behind the mortality. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect. The people who run His Church and who serve in His Church are not. It's really that simple to me. And yet this discovery of mine (the FB thing) has shown me that for a lot of people, it's not that simple. They truly do struggle. My thought, however, is that it's okay to struggle to understand. It's okay to feel pain as we learn and grow, as long as where you end up is stronger for it.

A new favorite quote of mine (although an older quote) sums it up nicely for me:
“I do think we should struggle for understanding just as hard as we can. It’s not showing a lack of faith to say, ‘I don’t understand this. Tell me how. Explain why.’ But at the same time, we also need to remind ourselves — sometimes right out loud — that, as the Lord explained to Isaiah: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9-9). We need to accept and be patient with our lack of understanding. It’s a superb and glowing faith to say, ‘I don’t understand this and I don’t like it very much, but I accept it. Show me how to live with it, how to deal with it.’ The limitations of mortality are so real and so personal that I’m sure one of the things we’re going to do in the next life is laugh and laugh.”
– Sister Chieko Okazaki, “Behold Thy Handmaiden: The Answer of Faith,” chapter 13, Disciples
Life is hard. It can be very happy, yes, but it's also hard. We face so much uncertainty in our lives, and it's mostly from our own inability to see beyond what is right in front of us. It's hard to let go and have faith, especially when we can suffer from so much doubt. Our circumstances can change us so easily and sometimes it's truly simpler to give in and walk away. After this experience and learning so much from so many of you, I think I can finally understand why.

This doesn't mean, however, that I agree with it, just that I understand it. I believe, with all of my soul, that the place to find comfort, peace, forgiveness, love, and truth is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart bursts with gratitude for this gift! It is overwhelming when I think about it. And I wish I was better about sharing it with those I love. I think I'm afraid because I don't want to offend, and so I have let so many moments pass without saying a word. I need to change this.

Anyway, dear reader, if you take anything away from this, I hope you would see that as a woman, you are wonderful, precious, loved, and respected by your Father in Heaven and by Jesus Christ. I hope you would learn that, just like you, every other woman in the Church is doing the best that they can, with the gifts and trials they have been given, and it isn't fair to judge their situation. I have been guilty of judgement on several occasions, and if I have offended you, please forgive me. Life is hard enough without having to fight for acceptance in our Ward families and amongst our Relief Society sisters. Or our friends, eh?

Mucho love to you, dear sisters!

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.
~Abraham Lincoln


Julie said...

There are so many who have legitimate struggles with their faith and position within the church. I, like you, count myself lucky to have been free from those struggles. I don't always agree with things. There have been a few conference talks that have really sent my hackles up in recent years, there are a few primary songs that really bother me...but those are so small compared to what I know. I know the Gospel is true. I know the Lord calls living prophets. I know my life is blessed when I follow their counsel. That's more than enough for me and I am so grateful to know it's enough.

Anyway, great thoughts and thanks for sharing them.

Jamie said...

I understand the feeling of being "left out" of activities and relationships with other sisters in RS. Being that I am in my 30's married for over 12 years yet we do not have children causes me to feel 'displaced'. Much like how the older "single" women may feel. Despite feeling judged, misunderstood at times, and left out, I have a love for the Gospel and testimony that is much deeper than any surface life issues. I feel like us woman in the church need to focus on OUR callings and responsibilities and not on what we DO NOT HAVE.

Cheryl said...

I have a friend who got married at 30, had 2 babies very quickly and due to financial circumstanes must work to help provide for her family. She said she feels like a "leper" in the mother's room because A)she doesn't breastfeed and feels like people wonder why she deserves to be in there and B) she's a working Mom and never gets invited to anything that the Moms in the ward do. I hate that we do that to each other and I probably did it as a younger woman. I love that she is still solid in her testimony and still attends church weekly even though she doesn't feel included!

Emily said...

I thought this would show up, but here's what I thought, sort of:

Amber said...

Mostly I just get jealous because Elder's Quorum is so much better than Relief Society, at least in our ward. Other than that, I'm good. But I do wish the prophets still talked about the importance of mothering, like they used to, back in the day.

Amanda D said...

I have never really struggled with my position in the LDS church and after you posted yesterday I wondered if I would feel the same way if I was single. I think that it would be hard because so much of RS and the church in general are focused on motherhood.

I love your post. Thanks for sharing your thought and the one from Sister Okazaki.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I totally feel the same way about this:
"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect. The people who run His Church and who serve in His Church are not. It's really that simple to me."
I know that through the Atonement, all things will be made right. You, more than most of my friends, know & understand my secret struggles. My testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that gets me through those struggles. The way that the imperfect people around me act (for good or bad) does not change that.

Anonymous said...


Heatherlady said...

Oh, i love that quote. It is great. You know one of the main reasons i started my women in the scripture blog was because i couldnt identify with any of the anger and confusion in the bloggernacle. Id already asked those hard questions and felt like id gotten answers. It didnt help me to just rehash things. I wanted to show women that you can find answers and that they are good ones. It is funny but the majority of women who read my blog are mommy bloggers, i think so many women have testimonies they just need to find the way to vocalize it. That is the hard part and i think it helps to have more voices.