Monday, July 8, 2013

Temples, Feminists, God, and Me

  Saturday, my husband and I went to the temple.  I hadn't been for quite awhile because I am questioning a lot about the church and my beliefs.  But he asked nicely, and since my recommend hadn't expired yet, and I hadn't done anything to affect my worthiness, I said ok.
  I was in a tizzy all the way there, and found myself hoping that the session would be full and we wouldn't be able to stay.  (The temple is 3.5 hours away; Kansas doesn't have a temple yet)  Didn't happen. So we got ready for the endowment session, and the whole time, my mind was filled with questions.  "Why do women wear the same clothes, take the same oaths, learn the same signs if we don't already have the priesthood?  Why is God such a stickler for gender roles? Are wives supposed to be submissive to their husbands?" And most importantly: "If I disagree with so much of church culture and some doctrine, why do I even bother anymore?"
  There are some parts of the endowment that irritate me.  Namely, why am I only allowed to be a Queen and Priestess to my husband? and Why can't I hearken to God myself, only through my husband?  I was nervous and uptight, and I must confess, I didn't say yes at one point.  I was sitting in the session, feeling enraged, upset and conflicted, and then guilty for having those feelings in the temple.
Then something happened.  I had gotten a blessing a few weeks ago that soon my questions would be answered.  And in Saturday, in the temple, I got my answers.  
  First, this session I was having a hard time with, wasn't about me. It was about the sister I was sitting proxy for.  My struggles and anger had nothing to do with her, or her receiving the endowment. I felt that while we all make the same covenants, we all view what they mean in different ways.  By viewing them in different ways, we perform them in different ways.  The way I see hearkening to my husband is sitting down and having a good discussion about what each of us thinks is right.  It doesn't mean listening to him blindly, or pasting a smile on while I tell him "oh, thank you, big strong man for making this decision for me!"  And that's OK.  For some couples, that is how things go, and that's OK, too.  We are all individuals with different experiences and biases.  We all have our ways of doing things, and it doesn't make any of them more right any other way of doing it.   I now feel, that at the end of the day, that what the endowment is saying isn't "obey your husband, as long as he's obeying God", it's saying "You guys are in this together, and however your dynamic works, obey God."
   Second, I got the distinct impression that my previous idea of God (big mighty MAN God who thinks women are 2nd class) was wrong.  I had heard somewhere the phrase "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people, too".  That thought came flooding back to me in the temple.  I realized that we are all children of our Heavenly Father and he wants us all back.  It never says anywhere in scripture about the "Holy Housewife" ideal that is so harped on.  Scripture says "male and female, bond and free" should come unto Christ and be saved.  Our Heaven Father wants us all back, and has given each of us the talents and weakness we need to get there; regardless of plumbing.
  Third, we've all heard the phrase "the Church is perfect, but the people aren't".  After thinking about this phrase a lot, I don't think it's accurate.  What we mean is that God is perfect, but people aren't.  I don't think the Church is perfect.  It's a corporation made up of very human people. And that's the point.  You can't separate the church from the people, because the church IS people. People with racial, cultural, sexual, economical, and bigoted opinions.  It's made up of people with weaknesses, people with different opinions, and people with doubts and questions.  Yes, God is perfect, and so his His doctrine, but He is working through a system full of imperfect people.  Even the prophet isn't perfect, as scandalous as that sounds.  I believe that God deals the best he can with what He has. 
  Fourth, as God is perfect, and working through imperfect people, things may not change as fast as I would hope.  Choosing to believe "One miracle at a time" doesn't make me less of a feminist.  It makes me trust in God more, because I have to rely more on him.  I feel very strongly about women's ordination, and instead of saying "well, God isn't fair because the Church keeps harping gender roles", I should be saying "give me strength to endure this until things change".  I need to rely on Heavenly Father and Mother to help me through difficult times.  
  I know that this sounds really simplistic, and a bit cliche. "Sit and wait, little girl, and eventually somebody will tell you what to do". I want to be angry, I want to get involved, I want to affect change.  First, however, I needed to change myself.  If there's one thing I learned from my dad, it's that anger never fixes problems.  It just makes all sides feel justified. By getting mad and nitpicking, I'm only hurting myself. Does the church have a long way to go, especially concerning gender roles? Absolutely.  Is getting upset and turning towards anger and hostility going to help foster that change? Probably not. So, for me personally, the outcome of my temple trip was to foster a small change in myself as to how I view the church.  I can still be irritated at LDS Inc for what they are doing to women, but that doesn't make the gospel of salvation, repentance, eternal families, and forgiveness any less beautiful.

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