Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preparation for the Temple

Last week, a close family friend went to the temple to receive her endowment. In preparation for that event, I wrote her a letter with temple preparation advice. The first half of the letter was practical advice about garment styles, and the second half was about the theology of the temple, with the specific purpose of mitigating some of the gendered language of the ceremony. I've reproduced the second half of the letter below, edited to remove any personal information.

I will be moderating comments on this post due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Comments that violate the comment policy or that quote lengthy excerpts from the temple ordinances will not be posted.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I've been away from the blog for a while, but I'm still here. I took the bar exam a few weeks ago, and I think it went well. I have a few non-bar-exam-related posts in the draft stage, but I have been too tired to write much of anything. I'll try to get something out within a week or so.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Heirs According to the Promise

Longtime readers of my blog will note that one of my favorite verses of scripture is Galatians 3:28. I was pondering the passage recently when I had an epiphany.

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:27-29
 I started wondering what exactly this promise we are heirs to consists of. We hear about the Abrahamic covenant at church, but not in great detail. So I went to the scriptures for answers.

In Abraham 2, God speaks to Abraham and establishes a covenant with him.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bar Exam Blues

I failed the bar exam. Again.

When I took the bar in February, I told myself that it was the last bar exam I would take, and if I failed, then so what. It's not like I really need to be a member of the bar to be a law professor or HR professional.

But, just like Marty McFly can't stand the thought of being called "chicken", I can't stand the thought of quitting at something. So, against my better judgment, I'll be taking the bar exam in July. Third time's a charm!

I've identified what went wrong the last two times, and I'm working to fix it by changing my study plan. I'm out of my toxic former job and into a new one, so I have renewed emotional energy. Unfortunately, my health problems have flared up again, sapping my physical energy.

I have friends to study with this time around, which is helping. (I graduated a year ahead of my friends, so they're all studying for their first try. I get to be the wise trail-weary guide on this journey of the blind leading the blind.) It was really hard to study alone the last two times.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Christ is Risen

Happy Easter! This post is a rerun of one from last April. I recycle!

That first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb of Jesus at sunrise and found the tomb empty.
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
John 20:11-17
There are many people Christ could have chosen to appear to first. He could have appeared to the leaders of the government or the synagogue. (Honestly, that would have been awesome. Talk about taunting them with the whole "you killed me but I came back to life" thing. But obviously, Jesus is way more humble than that and not prone to gloating.) He could have appeared to the apostles. Instead, He chose to appear to Mary Magdalene.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
Mark 16:9
Society at that time was heavily patriarchal, so it is definitely worth noting that Christ chose a woman to be the first person to see Him after His resurrection. I also find it interesting that Mark notes that Christ had cast seven devils out of Mary. The number seven is often used in the Bible to indicate totality or completeness. Mary had been seriously afflicted (either by demonic possession as the text indicates, or perhaps by mental illness, since people in ancient times often attributed mental illness to possession), and Christ healed her. Another interesting point, which I only noticed a few days ago, is that Christ appeared to Mary even before he went to see God the Father.

The first living being to witness the resurrection was not a king or a priest. The first living being to witness the resurrection was a humble woman who had been healed by Christ and who sought Him out early in the morning while others were presumably asleep.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Don't Believe in Heavenly Mother

As requested, here's my post on why I don't believe in Heavenly Mother.

Several years ago, near the start of my feminist awakening, I felt a yearning to get to know Heavenly Mother. I did the standard thing we do in the church when seeking revelation. I studied the scriptures, I pondered, and I prayed for guidance. The response - chirping crickets and a rolling tumbleweed. Nothing. So I kept at it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Writer's Block

I've hit a blogging slump. I have things I want to write about, but I can't seem to sit down and form the words.

In no particular order, here are some topics I want to cover:
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • Why I don't believe in Heavenly Mother
  • Repentance isn't a checklist
  • The restoration of the gospel isn't finished yet
  • Why (and how) I'm a pro-life feminist
  • What the scriptures really say about interfaith marriage
Does anyone have any requests for which one I should tackle first? (I figure if I know someone wants to read about a particular topic, maybe it will be easier to write.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Taking the patriarchy out of the blessing

If there's one word that can nearly universally make a feminist's hair stand on edge, it's "patriarchy" or any word derived from it.

One important LDS ritual is the giving of what is called a "patriarchal blessing", which is a personal blessing of guidance given to each member who desires one. The blessing is given by someone who has been called and set apart to the priesthood office of "patriarch". The blessing is recorded and transcribed so that the member can refer to it throughout his/her life. It is modeled after the blessings that Jacob gave to his twelve sons, as recorded in the book of Genesis.

I received my blessing about 15 years ago, and it has been meaningful in my life. But it's distracting to have the patriarchy thrown in my face every time I read it. So I've embarked on a search for a new term to refer to the blessing.

When I broached the subject to a few people, one individual suggested that it was a futile pursuit because the priesthood itself is so bound up in patriarchy that it's impossible to separate the blessing from the baggage. I disagree. While I do have faith that someday the priesthood will be extended to every worthy member of the church, I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater until that day. So the fact that the person who gave me this blessing is male isn't the problem. The problem is the word "patriarchal" and everything that implies.

In my search for a new word, I checked the lesson manuals on to see what word was used in other languages to refer to the blessing. I looked at French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, German, and Tagalog. All of them used a word that was derived from and similar to "patriarchal", so no luck there. I didn't look at the other languages listed because the characters weren't the same as in English, so I couldn't even guess at what was being said. I suppose at some point I could run them through Google translate, but given what I saw already, I doubt I would come up with anything different.

I considered using the term "priestly", but I decided that sounded too much like a standard priesthood blessing, and I wanted something that more clearly set it apart from the others. Then I remembered the song we've been singing in primary every week for several months. (Why must all the article of faith songs have such annoying tunes? I guess it worked because I remembered it...)
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
Article of Faith 6
Then I started to wonder who our evangelists are. I remembered in seminary being taught that an evangelist is another term for patriarch. (I'm sure it's bad linguistics, but if it's good theology, then I'm cool with it.) A quick check in the Bible Dictionary confirmed that this is an accepted LDS use of the term.

So, I have an accepted synonym that avoids the troubling connotations of the word "patriarch". Then I figured I could call it my "evangelical blessing". But I decided that "evangelical" has its own baggage. It has come to be solely associated with a specific form of Protestantism in the U.S. I then decided that "evangelistic" would work. I figured it wasn't a real word, but that hasn't stopped us before (I'm looking at you, "telestial"). I checked in the dictionary, and it turns out that "evangelistic" is a real word. It means "pertaining to evangelists".

So I am now thrilled to continue to read and study the wisdom that I can gain from my own personal "evangelistic blessing".

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flunking out of YSA

I often hear people in the church refer to those who marry in their 20's as "graduating" from the YSA program. Well, if that's the case, I just flunked out. I'm no longer a young single adult in the church. I'm now a single adult.

I kind of have mixed feelings about this, and honestly I didn't expect to be weirded out by it. For all the joking about flunking out of YSA, I honestly dropped out a few years ago. I've never been a part of a singles ward. (I'm opposed to the whole idea because it creates a division in the body of Christ. There isn't a separate church for single people, so the congregations should be integrated.) I stopped going to the activities a while back because the things that appealed to me when I was 19, going to college, and living with my parents weren't really relevant when I was in my mid to late 20's, working, and living on my own. Even the mid-singles activities don't really appeal to me. They tend to be the same as the YSA activities, only with a further skewed ratio of women to men. (At the YSA activities, I found it was about 2:1. In mid-singles, it's more like 4:1 or 5:1.)

It's hard being a single person in a married church. When the primary president announces to all of the teachers that there will be an inservice and to "please ask your husband to substitute teach your class so you can attend" or when the relief society president says "we have an assignment to perform proxy sealings at the temple next week and we need five couples to attend", it can feel like I'm invisible. Those same situations could have been handled like this: "Please find a substitute teacher so that you can attend next week's inservice." and "We need five men and five women to attend a temple trip next week." Just changing a few words can make a world of difference.

My life is great. I'm pretty happy, and I'm making progress in establishing myself in a rewarding career. I have friends, family, and a wonderful cat. But there's a part of me that feels I'm missing something. I want to share this awesome life with someone. I want someone to help share my joys and my burdens and I want to share his joys and burdens. But if that never happens, I think I'll be fine. (Even though church culture says that I shouldn't be fine. The constant battle continues...)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Motherhood is not analagous to priesthood

I've often found that people are uncomfortable answering a question with "I don't know." Instead, when faced with a question they don't know the answer to, they try to come up with something plausible sounding. I think that's what people are doing when they posit that the reason that women don't hold the priesthood is because they get to be mothers.

This analogy breaks down on further analysis, though. Motherhood is not some grand female priesthood equivalent. The priesthood is available to all righteous male members of the church beginning at age twelve. No particular familial status or other life circumstance is required. Motherhood, on the other hand, has no connection to righteousness. There are faithful women who, either through biology or life circumstance, will never be mothers. And there are plenty of unfaithful women who will have that opportunity.

This leads to another bad rhetorical move. In realization of the fact that not all women will bear and raise children, some people posit that all women are mothers simply by virtue of being female, and that whatever women do is a manifestation of motherhood. This devalues the very real sacrifice that mothers do make. By reducing motherhood to femaleness, the hardship of gestation and child rearing is swept aside as just a fact of life. It also devalues the lives of women who aren't mothers by saying that what they're doing with their lives is somehow less-than and needs to be called "motherhood" in order to be worth anything.

Motherhood is analagous to fatherhood. Female parenting and male parenting. Priesthood is analagous to... I don't know. I await the revelation that answers that question.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saved by Grace

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.
2 Nephi 2:8
Last night, I attended the adult session of stake conference. The visiting general authority concluded the meeting with a sermon on grace. He said that in the church, we don't preach grace enough. I agree. I wish we heard more about grace; it's the central point of the Gospel. More than that, it is the Gospel. We can't save ourselves. Only God can do that.

When grace is mentioned at church, 2 Nephi 25:23 is the most often quoted scripture, focusing on the phrase "it is by grace we are saved after all we can do." Most often, people interpret this as chronological, i.e. once we have exhausted everything in our power, only then will grace step in and make up the difference. I think this is a misreading of that scripture that misses the majesty of the Atonement. I think there are two plausible readings of that verse that show just how expansive grace is. We truly have a merciful God.

The first interpretation is that the word "after" is being used roughly as a synonym for "despite". Meaning that even if we do everything to the best of our abilities and exhaust ourselves in attempting to attain perfection, we can't do it, and it's grace that saves us.

The second interpretation hinges on just what the phrase "all we can do" really means. Instead of being a directive to exhaust ourselves in a futile quest to work our way into heaven, it's an invitation to partake of God's mercy. All we can do is repent. All we can do is come to Christ and drop our burdens at His feet. When we do that, we are saved by grace.

God promises that "my grace is sufficient for all [people] that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27) That's all we can do - humble ourselves before God and have faith in Him. His grace is sufficient.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bar Exam Imposed Blogging Hiatus (with Reruns)

The bar exam (take two) is in six weeks. Plus, being the crazy person that I am, I'm also working full time and teaching an English class. So, blogging is going to be a little more sparse than usual around here.

I'm going to take a cue from television and do reruns. I've set up auto publishing of reprints of some of my old posts, with a little bit of commentary on what I think of them now. They'll publish on Wednesdays and Sundays, and I'll return to regular blogging at the end of February or beginning of March. (And if something comes up that I feel the need to blog about, I'll pop in before then.)

I'll try to check the moderation queue at least once per week to release comments. I wish there were a way to turn moderation on for specific posts, but my choices are no moderation, moderation for posts older than X days, or moderation for everything. I usually set X to equal 60, but until my temple post gets that old, I'm having to make X a smaller number. So there will likely be moderation on posts that don't need it for a few more weeks. Thanks for being understanding.

See you on the other side!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The House of the Lord

But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:' for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Micah 4:1-2

I know that God views men and women equally. I know that the scriptures support this. I have received witness from the Holy Spirit that I can do anything a man can do, and that one day through the power of the Atonement, all of the remaining pieces of patriarchy will be done away with and women will take their rightful place as full equals in all aspects of society. For this reason, I have struggled for many years with some portions of the endowment ceremony which seem to be incompatible with this truth.