Where is Herstory?

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read. My Mom would always read with my brother and I, and she would always encourage us to learn new words and to read challenging books. I remember loving the Magic Treehouse series when I was little; my brother and I would read them so fast and then play like we were the brother and sister in the stories.

I remember reading scripture from the time I was little, as well. If you’ve read the Bible, you know that words don’t get much harder than that! It was definitely a challenge, but I learned how to read the scriptural language when I was little, and ever since, I have loved to read the scriptures.

In Mormonism, we read several volumes of scripture. They are the Bible (King James Edition), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. I won’t go into detail here about the specifics of each volume, but if you are curious, you can go to mormon.org and look them up.

Over the years, I have completed the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price several times, and the Book of Mormon numerous times. I like to think that I have become fairly well-versed in the scriptures; I can recall lots of verses by memory. I have lots of favorite passages highlighted and can call them to memory when I am in need of a pick-me-up. A lot of my favorite scriptures come from the New Testament; I love reading the words of the Savior as He lived here on Earth. He is so loving and kind, and always reaches out to the one in need of His love.

As I have read the scriptures, I have noticed that there is a serious lack of female representation within their pages. Historically, society in general has been really patriarchal; as a result, the historical records and sacred writings we have access to were basically all written by men. If women are mentioned at all, they are usually only brought up in passing; they play no real significant role in the plot of the story.

How unfortunate is that?? It is so sad to me that the stories of strong women have been all but erased from our histories. If I could rewrite history, I would tell more of Herstory. I would make sure they are well represented and that women have a voice and a say.

In the Book of Mormon, there is one phenomenal story about a woman named Abish. She was a servant to the queen at the time, and she had very strong faith. I won’t tell the whole story here, but in a nutshell, Abish is converted unto the Lord and ends up saving the royal family from a mob. The sad part is that her name is only mentioned once and her whole story is contained in just a few sentences.

If I could rewrite history, I would tell the story from Abish’s point of view. I would ask her to give me every detail, every thought that she had. I would ask her to tell me what God told her to do, and how she was brave enough to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I hope that someday, more scripture will be revealed that will tell us about the wonderful women of history and how they influenced and guided those around them. I know that women in history have received just as much revelation and guidance from God, and I can’t wait for the day when we get the opportunity to find out more.


Truth is Universal

I apologize for the delay in my post this week; I am currently taking 19 credits in school, and I had a weekend of crazy pile-up. But, I am back to it now!

A few weeks ago, a woman in my writing class commented on my blog and asked me the following:

Would you ever consider switching religions? Have you looked at other religions? Is there a different religion that believes in Christ that might ring more true to you, or do you think Mormonism is the truth, even if the Church itself is a little behind on the times?

What a great question! I want to take the time to answer this in a post, rather than just reply to her comment because there are many reasons why I have chosen to stay affiliated with the LDS church. I will answer briefly here; I actually am in the process of writing a book about my experiences. So, in the meantime, the short answer will suffice.

The short answer is yes, I would consider switching religions and yes, I have looked at other religions. I believe that there is truth everywhere; no matter where you look, you can find truth. Truth is universal.

I was born and raised into the LDS church. From the time I was a little girl, my parents have taught me about God and Their nature and about Jesus Christ. My parents taught me that it is more important to be spiritual than to be religious, even though we attended Church regularly while I was growing up. Because of that, I have always had a very unique awareness of God’s hand in my life because I was taught to look for divine influence everyday. I could feel God in the world around me and could easily recognize when God was trying to communicate with me. This gift really allowed me to discern between true doctrine and cultural practices while at Church. I have always had questions about practices in the Church and there have always been things that make me sad; however, because I knew that God was a part of my life, I had a sense that it was okay to not have all the answers to my questions. The truth would be made known to me in due time.

When I was a missionary in Japan, I had several experiences that really allowed me to expand my horizons and my belief system. Being a Christian missionary in a place that has no Christian background was a very hard thing. To me, it was common sense to believe in God and Jesus Christ. I just KNEW that They existed, and I had a hard time articulating how I came to know and believe in God (partly because the Japanese language is REALLY hard, but mostly because it was just common sense). But, as I became accustomed to the culture and lifestyle of Japan, I learned about truth in more ways that I can even count.

The religious background of Japan is fairly simple: the indigenous religion of the country is Shintoism, a polytheistic religion that is based on the belief that God is nature, and that there is a God dwelling inside of everything. The main deity of the religion is the Goddess of the Sun. Japan is also heavily influenced by Buddhism, which was introduced into Japan in about the 6th century. If you were to ask a normal Japanese person if they considered themselves to be religious, they would adamantly say they are not, even though they pray at shrines, attend Buddhist temples, and practice religious ceremonies and rites on a very regular basis.

As I learned more about these religions and participated in prayer ceremonies at shrines and temples, I felt something that I had not felt in a long time: I felt that these religions were full of truth. I still knew in my heart that Jesus was my Savior, but it was as if learning about Shintoism and Buddhism was just adding to my knowledge of Jesus, that they all went together and complimented each other perfectly. It was a very deeply spiritual moment for me, and since then, I have taken it upon myself to study these religions in more detail, especially the bit about the Sun Goddess. I feel like I have a special connection to Her. I think that She is the Japanese interpretation of Heavenly Mother.

Shintoism and the concept of God dwelling in nature resonates deep within my soul. This is truth. Jesus Christ is also truth. And if you take the time to study extensively, it is remarkable the similarities you can find in both religions. I believe that we all believe in the same God.

So, while I have lots of doubts about the organization of the Mormon Church, I have been able to let those go, because in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that matters is my personal relationship with deity. God is perfect, but people are not. The Church is organized and run by imperfect people, so naturally there are going to be flaws in the system. But, it is up to me to not allow those faults to get in the way of my personal faith.

I have found truth in Mormonism and Christianity. I have found truth in Shintoism. I have found truth in Judaism and Islam. I have found truth in philosophies like Buddhism and Confucianism. I have found truth in indigenous customs and religious practices. There is truth everywhere, and I think it’s important to recognize it.

There are many reasons why I have stayed with the Mormon Church, and to be quite honest, I’m there right now because it is comfortable. It is familiar. I have gained a sure knowledge of my Savior Jesus Christ through the Mormon Church. This doesn’t stop me from believing in and recognizing the truth and beauty in other practices. My goal is to enhance the knowledge I have by finding the truth in everything. Truth is the way of God, and the way of God can be found all around us.

On Ordain Women: developing thoughts

Happy Spring everyone! I don’t know about you, but the time change, the glorious sunshine, and the much-warmer weather has helped my spirits lift. Spring is a time of natural creation, of fresh starts, and of new life. For me, it is a time of reflection and analysis, and a season of goal-setting and hard working.

This last week, I had the opportunity to interview a friend of mine, Meghan Raynes. She is a woman with some very unique insight into what it means to be a Mormon feminist. We talked about a lot of things that really made me think. I will publish the full interview with Meghan on this blog in the near future; however, I would like to mention some things on this blog post that impressed me.

Meghan and I talked a lot about Ordain Women. For those of you that don’t know, Ordain Women is a movement advocating for the ordination of Mormon women to the Priesthood (for more information, visit ordainwomen.org). In the Mormon church, we believe that the Priesthood is the power of God given to man (keyword MAN) to act in His name. This power and authority allows men to perform religious rites, ceremonies, and to give blessings of healing and of comfort. It is also through this power that the Church is presided over and organized. We believe that this Priesthood has been held by all the Prophets starting with Adam, all the way down to the current Prophet of the Church, Thomas S. Monson. Not only Prophets hold this authority, however; all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to an office of the Priesthood. It is the mission of Ordain Women to extend this ordination to ALL members of the church, regardless of sex. The Ordain Women mission statement is as follows:

“The fundamental tenets of Mormonism support gender equality: God is male and female, father and mother, and all of us can progress to be like them someday. Priesthood, we are taught, is essential to this process.  Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings.”

In our interview, Meghan and I discussed the gender-based inequality that exists in the Church. Meghan feels that there is no immediate solution. Yes, ordaining women to the Priesthood would be a start, but it would not make men and women equal. The Priesthood is hierarchical; it is based on rank. Meghan believes that even if women are allowed to receive the Priesthood, they still would not be allowed to serve in the same leadership positions as men.

This discussion with Meghan really got me thinking about where I stand on this issue. I believe that Ordain Women is a beautiful concept; it brings to light a lot of the injustices that Mormon women experience on a regular basis. Women cannot hold significant leadership positions within the Church; if they do happen to be serving in leadership roles, they are only responsible for other women, and they are presided over by Priesthood-holding men. Women cannot participate in religious ceremonies or rites unless accompanied by a man holding the Priesthood (this is in reference to the ceremonies performed in Mormon temples). It has been my experience that woman cannot really do anything substantial in the church without a man “supervising.” This statement is fairly controversial, and many Mormon women would disagree with me. But like I said, this has just been my experience.

With that in mind, I feel that if women were to be formally ordained to the Priesthood, it would definitely be a big step in the right direction for the sake of solving the gender problems within the Church. But I, like Meghan, believe that it is not the solution to the problem, just a treatment of its symptoms, if you will. As I have mentioned in all my previous blogs, I believe that women are inherently divine, meaning that there is a part of God in ALL of us. I believe in a divine Priestesshood that is just as important as the Priesthood, yet very much different. I also believe that women are already blessed with this divine power, and that we have the ability to use it to bless the lives of those around us. I have seen this power in action in my life. I have felt it as my Mother cradled me in her soft embrace. I have felt it as I knelt in prayer, seeking revelation from God. I have felt it as I served as a missionary, and I was able to use this divine love and power to reach out and fulfill the needs of others around me. I believe in this feminine divinity. We do not have all the answers, and to be quite honest, I don’t believe we ever will while I am still around. But I do know that my Heavenly Mother lives and that Her power resides within me.

So, overall, I think that Ordain Women is a great way to bring awareness to larger issues at hand, but I don’t believe it is the solution to all of the problems. All I can do right now is use the power and love that I have been blessed with to uplift those around me.

I am divine. You are divine. All of humanity is divine. In this I believe with all my heart.

It’s been said that well-behaved women seldom make history…

Happy March! This month is, what, you ask? Why yes, it’s Women’s History Month! 31 whole days to celebrate awesome women who have lived on this beautiful planet! (Although, I must add that I think we should celebrate awesome women EVERYDAY. I know I’m not that the only one that thinks that way.)

It’s amazing how many incredible women there are in my life. My Momma, grandmothers, friends, loved-ones. I think we can all agree that we have been influenced by really wonderful women right from the get-go, whether they be loving mothers, concerned grandmothers, influential family friends, or otherwise. We are so blessed to have women that are so strong, so passionate, so full of love, and have something precious to offer the world.

When I was a missionary living in Japan, I received a letter from my Dad that really changed the way I thought about women in history. He prompted me to make a list of all the visionary people that I could think of. Names like Jesus, Paul, Peter, Moses, Noah, and Adam came to my head. I made quite a long list actually; it took me the better part of an hour to think about who had the gift of vision. My Dad’s letter then read, “Look at your list. Not surprisingly, the list is mostly male.” I took a gander and sure enough, he was right. The vast majority of my list were men in history, men called prophets, seers, revelators. “Look again,” the letter prompted. “Look again! Look, and you will see more of the real story, more of herstory.” I tried to really zero-in on women who were within recorded history that have the gift of vision. Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary Magdalene. Anna, the Prophetess. Esther. Ruth. Mother Eve. I then thought about the women who have directly influenced my life because of their great spiritual connection with Deity. Through them, I have learned what it means to develop a relationship with God, and what it means to be in tune.

Arguably, one of the most important women of all time was Mother Eve. You may be familiar with the story:

God creates Adam and Eve, places them in a garden called Eden, and gives them several things to think about, including reproduction, taking care of the garden, and “DO NOT EAT THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Because if you do, you’ll die.” That definitely is not a direct quote; however, they got the message. Don’t eat the fruit. Or we’ll die. The story continues; Adam and Eve enjoying living in the Garden, often receiving visits from the Big Man Himself. He taught them how to live and how to love; however, in their innocence, Adam and Eve didn’t know the difference between sorrow and happiness, pain and pleasure, (spiritual) light and darkness. Fundamentally, they knew it was good to follow the guidelines God had given them, but they didn’t really understand why. They knew no evil, so they couldn’t truly understand righteousness. The story continues; one day, Eve is in the Garden doing whatever it was that she did there, and Lucifer (or Satan, or the serpent, or snake, whatever you prefer to call him) appears and tries to convince her to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Legend has it that she falls for the serpent’s temptation, convinces Adam to eat some too, God finds out, and they get expelled from the Garden, where they become subject to pain, hurt, ailments, and death.

How morbid. Most of Christianity view the Fall of Adam and Eve to be the worst thing to happen in human history. If they (*cough* EVE) had not partaken of the fruit, life would be all happy, just sunshine and smiles all day long. However, in the Mormon church, it is a common belief that the Fall was an integral part of God’s plan for us, His plan that would allow us to come to this earth, receive a body, and learn right from wrong. It wouldn’t have been possible if Adam and Eve had remained in their innocence.

I don’t know about you, but I think that there is MUCH more to this story than meets the eye. According to the King James account, God asks Adam, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? and the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Adam completely blames Eve for everything that happened. This doesn’t seem right to me, somehow.

I think that when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they counseled together on many things, including the obedience of God’s instructions. He told them to “multiply and replenish the earth,” which nowadays means “get busy making a family.” He also instructed them to not eat of the Tree. The way that I understand it is those two commandments were mutually exclusive; in order to start a family, they had to KNOW how to do that, and because they lived in a state of innocence, they didn’t know, so they would have to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in order to learn. I believe that the decision to partake of the fruit came after much counsel, discussion, prayer, and contemplation. I believe, even though it isn’t mentioned anywhere, that Eve received guidance from her Mother in Heaven. Eve was to become the Mother of All Living. How could she have done that without guidance from the feminine divine? I believe that Heavenly Mother played a vital and essential part in Eve and Adam’s decision to partake of the fruit. They had knowledge of the plan, and they were willing to make the choice to learn to start a family.

I will admit, it is REALLY REALLY hard for me to buy the whole Adam and Eve story 100%. Why did there have to be a tree? Why did they eat some fruit and then magically know the difference between right and wrong? There are so, SO many questions I have about their lives, and quite frankly, while I was a missionary, this part was SO HARD for me to teach people.

But, what I do know is that there is reason in all things, and I feel a very deep connection to my Mother Eve. She truly is the Mother of All Living. She is divine, and she knew that. She embraced the femininity inside herself and because of that, was able to pave the way for her posterity. I know that she had a special connection to God, and that They loved her very, very much. They trusted her to do what They asked, and in return, she has become a blessing to all those that wish to learn from her example.

Happy Women’s History Month, everyone. Take a minute to celebrate the wonderful women around you. :)

Wait. What do you mean, you’re a Mormon Feminist?

So, if you read last week’s post, you are aware that I affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’m a MORMON! If you are an American and you are reading this right now, chances are that you have encountered at least one of us Mormons in your lifetime. I sincerely hope that that was a good experience for you.

A lot of the time, I feel like Mormons have a bad image in most people’s minds, like being associated with the word “Mormon” automatically makes me a crazy woman who believes in shiny gold plates hiding in the mountains, worshiping purple socks, and having oodles and bunches of husbands. Sounds like a great time, right? Well, I personally don’t worship purple socks, nor will I ever, EVER have more than one husband. The idea of polygamy absolutely sickens me. It makes me very sad that members of the early Mormon church practiced polygamy. Fortunately, the policy has changed and now we practice normal marriages, but I digress. But as for shiny golden plates, we actually do believe in those. For the full low-down on Mormons, visit this website, mormon.org. It will tell you everything that you need to know. :)

But, what I really want you to know is that mostly, Mormons are just normal people, trying to live normal lives. We strive to follow Jesus Christ and the example that He set of love, service, and charity. Now remember, people are imperfect. Perfectly flawed. We all make mistakes, and I know that even I have not practiced what I believe in on several occasions. Luckily, we can move past the mistakes we make and try harder to do what Jesus would do next time. So the next time you meet a Mormon, I hope that you have a great experience of love and light, because mostly, that is how Mormons are.

So, what does it mean to be a Mormon feminist? Aren’t Mormon woman supposed to stay at home, make lots of babies and lots of casseroles, do lots of cleaning, and lots of lovely housewife-y things? You might think so. However, the diversity of women within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the most beautiful things, and it is the celebration of this diversity that makes up the essence of Mormon feminism.

We believe that all women are daughters of God and that within them, is the potential to become a truly divine woman. We believe that all men are sons of God, and that they have the same potential to become godly. As Mormons, not only do we believe in God the Eternal Father, but we also believe in God the Eternal Mother. We believe that God is Man and Woman together, that They are co-creators in all things. Unfortunately, this concept isn’t really talked about in church settings very much, but it has been made known to us through a process called revelation that there is, in fact, a Heavenly Mother. For whatever reason, we do not speak of her in such normal terms. I personally think that this is really sad. I cannot wait for the day when I get to learn more about my Heavenly Mother, who She is, how She makes Herself known in my daily life. There have been some occasions in which I have felt Her presence, but they are very rare. The most prominent of those experience was when I took the photo that is the header image for this blog. You might be wondering what the story of the beautiful tree is. Well, here you go.

Last October, I was living in a beautiful place in Japan called Morioka. This lovely city is nestled in a basin in the northern part of Japan in Iwate Prefecture. It was fall, and fall in Japan is absolutely glorious. The mountains turn brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and golden. They look as if they are ablaze when viewed through the smoke of the already-harvested burning rice fields. I was visiting a local park when I happened upon the most breathtaking tree I have ever seen in my life. The leaves were all shades of burgundy, gold, and sun-fire orange. The glow of the late-afternoon sunlight was filtered perfectly though the leaves, and the whole tree appeared to be alive and dancing in the beautiful sunshine. In that moment, I was transported somewhere outside myself, and I felt a love for nature like none other I had ever felt before. I had the most distinct motherly feeling come over me; it’s kind of hard to describe. I knew in that moment that my Heavenly Mother was making Herself known to me, that She was letting me feel some of the love that She had for me, and that I was witnessing one of her marvelous and perfect creations. I wish the picture that I took did justice to just how incredible this tree was; it was as if Heavenly Mother Herself was this very tree. So, I took the picture, but it was incredibly dull. So, my friend Alicia did a bit of Photoshopping to make the colors seem more real, and I think she did a fabulous job.

So yes, I believe in a Heavenly Father AND a Heavenly Mother. Because I have this belief and conviction in my heart, I believe that ALL women have the potential to become like Heavenly Mother. I know that She loves us all dearly, more than we can comprehend. And it is from this belief that my feminism stems.

I believe in celebrating all women, no matter their shape, size, appearance, race, culture, ethnicity, social status, work status, economic status, sexual orientation, or life choices. In my opinion, to be a Mormon feminist means to see women for who they really are: divine beings with divine potential. Every woman has value. There is nothing wrong with staying home and raising a family and loving them to pieces. I have no qualms with this. There is nothing wrong with being a career woman who leaves her children everyday to go to work. I have no qualms with this. There is nothing wrong with women who choose not to get married, or have children. I have no qualms with this. There is nothing wrong with women who live their lives differently than I do. I have no qualms with this. I believe in celebrating the diversity of women all over the world.

The popular weblog I am a Mormon Feminist details the following: “A Mormon feminist celebrates the diversity of all Mormon women,” and I would go as far as to say ALL WOMEN. “As daughters of God, we are unique individuals whose gifts are precious, and our voices matter. As children of God we seek to highlight the diversity of Mormon thought while striving to speak out against oppression, violence and other harms contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As women committed to the heritage of our faith, we advocate for understanding and sisterhood while appreciating our varied perspectives and diverse gifts.”

So, there you have it. A Mormon feminist is one who celebrates the incredibly beautiful diversity of women. And yes, this is who I am and yes, this is who I want to be.