Monday, March 28, 2011

What he said...

Posting for the purpose of pointing reader to a recent post on my husband's blog, titled Moving toward baptism and re-baptism.  I enjoy reading the manner in which he puts words together, as he explores anew things of old, dusts off his books of yesteryear to share with me while all the while he is incorporating different approaches as imprints to lay upon the old.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Funeral Services for Beloved Member

Today funeral services were held at the Ward for a long time and beloved member.  The experience was one of feeling, and brought home for me the strong sense of community coming together in caring and regard for one of their own.  The Opening, Eulogy, and Talk were given by members of his family.  Each man struggled with struggling with his emotions, in not wanting to break down.  It was valiant to observe.  The man who passed was well known in the community, and the chapel was filled, the partition doors opened to expand room for the number of people that filled the space.  Stories shared of his life, his personality, his faith told of a man who wore his beliefs without apology, lived his life without apology.  There were humorous stories, and laughter which broke the solemness I'm more accustomed to in funeral memorials.  

The man who passed was someone we met the first time about 12 years ago when we first moved to this location.  He and another Elder had paid us a visit to encourage us (Arthur) to visit the LDS Ward.  We didn't see him again until recently when we began attending the Ward.  He was among the men who were helping with the investigator lessons we had two weeks ago Sunday....the very ones I had taken exception to in my pronouncement at the Relief Society Meeting lesson on the priesthood that I was not happy with the priesthood that morning.  He was the man who gave a testimony of the need to prepare for end days, with scarcity of resources...the talk that I felt might be somewhat frightening to the children. 

Arthur had the opportunity at their priesthood meeting to help him remember the visit to our home 12 years earlier.  I'm pleased that Arthur's last memory of the man was one of a reconciliation as there had been tension earlier in the investigator (newcomer) lesson as well as my frustration with the man's earlier testimony scare at the sacrament meeting.  I'm pleased that I got to attend this service to learn more about the man and his life among his family, church and community.  We talked with the Bishop afterwards, who told us that the man had been responsible for bringing something like 50 people into the church, his family and his family's family, and friends.   Stories of hunting, fishing, taking boat out in Ilwaco on an ebb tide, two boats sinking, and the man's love of his family were heart warming stories to hear.  It sounds like he was comfortable with his life, his 40 year marriage and the only woman he loved, who he was and what he believed.   Somehow it made for a good closure for me to learn how fully he enjoyed his life.  The dust up from two weeks earlier was not even a blip on his screen from the sounds of how well he lived life. 

What can I learn from this experience?   Much. 

That's a Heck of a Lot of Podcasts!

I have easily invested over 100 hours of listening to podcasts at Mormon Stories and Mormon Expressions, giving me a fairly broad spectrum overview along with detailed examination of some of the controversial issues that make up the history of Mormonism, and the LDS Church.  Along with the study hours we have logged with the missionaries, the investigator lessons, the Gospel Doctrine lessons, and the Sunday meetings, I'm getting a fairly comprehensive information dump since we began this process the first of February 2011. 

 Listening to the podcasts was not suggested, more my personal sense of urgency in wanting to learn a multi-dimensional view of this enigma that is Mormonism.  Appreciating that the milk before meat approach is a favored teaching approach, I wanted a more comprehensive pace.  I was pleased to have available time to listen to the podcasts providing a multitude of viewpoints.  The young missionaries were curious about what podcasts we are listening to, the content, where we found them and did not appear to know what a podcast is, although I'm guessing they just hadn't heard the name podcasts applied to audio interviews via online/internet.  

The format for the interviews typically has the interviewee share his/her background as it relates to the Mormon faith.  The similarities are such that even I, a newcomer, can begin to cite the sequence of events; raised LDS, attended primary, baptized, priesthood, young women's, mission, temple recommend, marriage in temple, callings, active (or inactive), generational Mormon (6th or 7th generation) and then the 'crisis of faith'.  Typically, it is when person learns of some element of Mormon history that doesn't sit well with their values or what they have been taught in church over the years.  The rest of the interview is about their personal struggle with the church, their decision to remain, to leave, or somewhere else on the continuum.  Most of the persons interviewed are educated, college level (mostly BYU), BA and working on Ph.D or have their Ph.D.  

I feel intellectually (a word I heard a great deal in the interviews and one my husband has used with frequency over the years) satiated.  And for me, that is half the equation - the logic, the reasoning, the intellectual understanding.  With that, I think I'll be okay within this belief structure.  I am beginning to develop an appreciation for how they view the biblical storyline in a different light, and yet, it is the same storyline with distinct and added elements making it a unique belief set.  Ahh, but I have experienced other belief sets that have their distinct hallmarks setting them apart from other belief sets.  Interestingly, there is still commonalities among most of them.  I wonder if it is possible to focus on the commonalities, what people share in common in this experience of living life, while retaining the distinctions that simultaneously set them apart?    

I have logged 77 listening hours to Mormon Stories Podcasts.  Episode list of episodes I or we have heard and discussed.  

015: Mormon Stages of Faith Pt. 1: An Introduction to Fowler’s “Stages of Faith”
016: Mormon Stages of Faith Pt. 2: An LDS Perspective on Fowler’s Stages of Faith
017: Mormon Stages of Faith Pt. 3: Tom and Dan’s Journey into Stage 4
115: Mormonism and James Fowler’s Stage 5
Episode 4: Mormon Feminism, Women, and Claudia Bushman Part 1
Episode 5: Mormon Feminism, Women, and Claudia Bushman Part 2
001: Kiddie Baps…My Mission Experience in Guatemala
Episode 12: Inoculating the Saints (with Kevin Barney, Blake Ostler and Mike Ash)
Episode 13: Our Discussion on Inoculating the Saints Pt. 1
Episode 14: Our Discussion on Inoculating the Saints Pt. 2
4 Episodes;   149-152: LDS Anthropologist Daymon Smith on Post-Manifesto Polygamy, Correlation, the Corporate LDS Church, and Mammon
4 Episodes 164-167: Richard Packham and How the LDS Church Creates Unnecessary Enemies
3 Episodes 154-156: An LDS Family Discusses Their Divorce
3 Episodes 129-131: Feminist Mormon Housewives Founder Lisa Butterworth
126-128: Born Again Mormon Shawn McCraney (Video and Audio)
116: John Hamer Part 1 — The LDS Succession Crisis of 1844 and the Beginnings of the RLDS Church
117: John Hamer Part 2 — From RLDS to the Community of Chris
114: Mormon Expression Interviews John Dehlin
077 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 1
078 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 2
079 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 3
080 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 4
081 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 5
082 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 6
083 (Aud): Understanding the Mormon “September 6″ — Paul Toscano Pt. 7
062 (Aud): Women in the LDS Church Part 6 – Margaret Merrill Toscano: The Early Years
063 (Aud): Women in the LDS Church Part 7 – Margaret Merrill Toscano: Becoming a Mormon Feminist
064 (Aud): Women in the LDS Church Part 8 – Margaret Merrill Toscano: Reactions to Dissent
065 (Aud): Women in the LDS Church Part 9 – Margaret Merrill Toscano: On the church, priesthood and Mother God
066: Women in the LDS Church Part 10 – The LDS Church’s Opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment
067: Women in the LDS Church Part 11 – A Gift Given, A Gift Taken: Washing, Anointing, and Blessing the Sick Among Mormon Women
055: Women in the LDS Church Part 1: An Introduction
056: Women in the LDS Church Part 2: The Three Waves of Feminism in the USA
057: Women in the LDS Church Part 3: An Interivew with Dr. Claudia L. Bushman
058: Women in the LDS Church Part 4: 19th and Early 20th Century Mormon Women (with Dr. Claudia Bushman)
059: Women in the LDS Church Part 5: 19th and Early 20th Century Mormon Women Part 2 (with Dr. Claudia Bushman)
047: Richard Bushman Part 1 — Experiences as a Faithful Mormon Historian
048: Richard Bushman Part 2 – The Art of History, Joseph Smith’s First Vision Stories, and Joseph’s Participation in Folk Magic and Treasure Digging
049: Richard Bushman Part 3 – Joseph Smith and the Translation of the Book of Mormon Pt. 1
050: Richard Bushman Part 4 – Book of Mormon Historicity and the 3 and 8 Witnesses to the Book of Mormon
051: Richard Bushman Part 5 – Final Thoughts (For now)
030: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins Part 1–Grant Palmer’s Early Years
031: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins Part 2–The Mark Hofman Bombings, and Grant Palmer’s Deep Dive into LDS History
032: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins Part 3–An Overview of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer
033: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins Part 4–Grant’s Trial and Disfellowship, Thoughts on the Church’s Future, and Closing Testimony
022: Black and Mormon — The Darron Smith Story Pt. 1
023: Black and Mormon — The Darron Smith Story Pt. 2
024: Black and Mormon — The Darron Smith Story Pt. 3
026: Blacks and the LDS Priesthood: An Interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young
018: New Order Mormons Pt. 1: Ann’s Story
025: New Order Mormons Pt. 2: Ann’s Story

In this 5-part series, Brian Johnston ( interviews Jared Anderson

  • Part 1: Introduction.  Jared discusses the meaning of New Testament scholarship and an academic viewpoint of scripture, how we know what we know including what happened in the past, and the difference between academic and faith perspectives.  Jared begins an overview of the New Testament books from a scholarly perspective in chronological order — 1 Thessalonians through Galatians.
  • Part 2:  Scholarly overview of the New Testament – Philemon through the Gospel of Mark
  • Part 3:  Scholarly overview of the New Testament – Gospel of Matthew through Titus
  • Part 4:  Scholarly overview of the New Testament books – Gospel of John through 2 Peter.  Jared also discusses who Jesus was as a historical figure, the evidence for his existence, and how we can determine what he likely said and did.  Jared also gives an overview of the formation, transmission and translation of the Bible we read today.
  • Part 5:  Discussion of Jared’s personal journey, relationship to Mormonism and academia, and he explains how he integrates his academic views with his faith.

In this 4-part series we interview Dan Wotherspoon, Mormonism Broad and Deep

In this 5 part interview we speak with LDS feminist Tresa Edmunds.  Tresa is an active, believing member of the LDS church, and writes for several online blogs including: Feminist Mormon Housewives under the name Reese Dixon
In this 3 part episode, Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Dr. Jennifer Finlayson- Fife, a psychotherapist on issues surrounding female sexuality and feminism within the LDS framework.

I logged 22 listening hours to Mormon Expressions.  Probably more, but these are the episodes I remember hearing.

Episode 99: The God Makers Reviewed
Mormon Expression 96: Bishop Higgins
Episode 95a: Doctrine and Covenants 132 for Dummies Part 1
Episode 95b: Doctrine and Covenants 132 for Dummies part 2
Episode 94: Mixed feelings for Mormonism
Episode 89a: The 14 Fundamentals of Following a Prophet for Dummies Part 1
Episode 89b: The 14 Fundamentals of Following a Prophet for Dummies Part 2
Episode 86: Mormon Meeting House Architecture
Episode 84: The Church Handbook of Instructions for Dummies
Episode 83: 2010 General Relief Society Meeting
Episode 81: Mormon Ad Campaign
Episode 79a: Mormon Stories and Mormon Expression Part 1
Episode 79b: Mormon Stories and Mormon Expression Part 2
Episode 81: Mormon Ad Campaign
Episode 76: Mistakes were Made: How not to Leave the Church
Episode 38: Stages of Faith Part 2: The Fifth Stage and What it Means
Episode 1: Leaving the Church but not Leaving it Alone
Episode 2: Internet vs. Chapel Mormons
Episode 97: The Utah Boy’s Ranch
Episode 118a  Polygamy Manifesto for Dummies, Part 1
Episode 118b Polygamy Manifesto for Dummies, Part 2
Episode 113 Belief and Alma 32

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cleared for Baptism - April 30, 2011

Had another missionary lesson/discussion last week, March 9th.  And this time the young missionary brought with him the mission leader, another young, energetic missionary.  We started off the discussion in good hearted and light humor, and as it turned out it was a planned 'interview' with questions put to me that I was to answer...yes, those questions that have concerned me like do you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet; do you believe the Book of Mormon; will you live the Word of Wisdom, and on down the list.  Then I was given a samll card with the last questions which are of an intrusive and sensitive nature, and instructions to merely answer yes or no.  Uh, more about this in another post, and I could answer no easily enough, yet it was very worrisome to me that if I had reason to answer yes, what would be the next steps, and if I had answered yes, that would mean these young men would now know something about very personal decisions which are not the business of the church in any capacity.

But that is not the purpose of this post.  So, I am good to go now in proceeding with baptism, and the young missionaries are most pleased.   Next, we are waiting for Arthur's follow up interview with the Bishop.  The women's monthly potluck dinner is scheduled for the next evening, and the Bishop is agreeable to doing the interview with Arthur during that time.   I had a pleasant time at the potluck meal - the feminine influence was there with beautiful roses on the tables, tablecloths, and a set up for a lovely shared meal.

Arthur and the Bishop showed up after the meal was fininshed (some thoughtful women had taken plates into the Bishop's office for he and Arthur), and Arthur is cleared to proceed with baptsim.  Now it is a matter of setting the date.  The Bishop was slightly disappointed that we needed to put it out into April, but understands why as we are coordinating a date with Arthur's brothers from Utah to be here for the baptsim.  He informs Arthur that one of the young missionaries may be reassigned within the next two weeks and was hopeful to be here for the baptisms.

Next day is the horrific tsunami that did so much damage to Japan.  We are on tsunami alert here in Western WA on the coastline which is where we live.  Spent an anxious day.  The young missionary phones during that day to inquire about Arthur's interview with Bishop, to which I tell him that he has been cleared to proceed with baptism, and the potential date.  He is disappointed that the date is out so far, catches himself and rearranges his expression to one of congratulatory rather than disappointment.  I tell him that I will see if we can move the date up prior to the other Elder's mission reassignment date, and he is pleased.

Quick exchanges with Arthur's brothers and they cannot be freed up to get here earlier than April, if anything the date is pushed even futher out in April to the last weekend.  I phone the young missionary to advise we weren't able to get the date early enough, but would it be okay to phone the Misson President to ask permission that both missionaries be freed up that day to attend.  He is pleased with the suggestion, and provides me the contact information, although he is not optimistic that special allowance will be given.

Church on Sunday, which is quiet and uneventful.   It was the weekend of the Daylight Savings time change, to switch the clocks an hour forward (Fall Back/Spring Forward).  Many were not at church Sunday, likely due to the time changes and their clocks were not yet on Daylight Savings time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I did not feel good about this Sunday

Saturday we had another lesson with the young missionaries which are conducted at the church building.  I had inquired when we were going to get to the baptism, young Elder answered that Arthur would need to have another interview with the Bishop.    Lesson went well enough and it seemed to me like it was getting to the questions we would be asked in what sounds like an interview prior to baptism.

At the end I inquired about something I'd been told by one of the members - something regarding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and something to the effect that America was the chosen land.   Arthur attempted to clarify his understanding of what I might have been told, based on his understanding, which is not at all as I was told.  The missionaries also tried to offer clarifications.  I'd like to be persuaded, but the person who told me this was pretty clear about what was being conveyed and had an investment in such being true.  

I decided to let it go for the evening and Arthur and I enjoyed a meal together and watched a dvd later in the evening.   Next morning, I did some googling to see if I could determine what position the LDS church has taken on war, and more specifically the Iraq war.  It was disheartening to read the 'non position' yet the enthusiastic support for President Bush in deciding to invade Iraq.  I won't get into all of that in this post, except to point out that it was not at all reassuring or uplifting to read that the then prophet of the LDS Church...well, I just won't get into it...... 

This is the first Sunday of the month, so the pattern in the church meetings for first Sunday of the month is where members are given ample time to go up to the podium to give their 'testimony'.  I recall that we had this experience the first Sunday in February and I thought it went well enough.  Not so today.   A couple of people gave similar testimonies as they had previously given, not much new there.  I likened it to lighting a candle at the Episcopal church.  A young person gave a testimony of concern for loved ones going through serious medical procedures.  I was touched by young person's concerns.  

And then someone got up to give a doomsday testimony of how awful are the conditions of the world, so much so that it must be the end times, and we'll be out of food, resources, and we better brace for mean times ahead.  Well assuredly the news is full of the ain't it awful stuff, in fact, this morning I had put something on my Facebook to the effect that I was wondering where was the good news today.   In this first morning meeting (the sacrament meeting), the chapel has a mix of adults and children, and being a mother and a grandmother, I couldn't help but look around in wonderment about how the children were absorbing this doomsday information.  They might well wonder if they were going to have a meal next week.  The person giving this testimony indicated that while it might be offensive, he/she didn't care;, it was fact, and true, and tough.    

Next person got up and another not so uplifting testimony.   Next person, was in such great personal emotional pain, and I did not feel anything like joy in that testimony.  Couple of quite young children got up to give a three sentence, standardized rote testimony. 

By the end of the meeting, my mood was anything but the 'feel good' I keep hearing as what I should be feeling that the spirit would be letting me know.   Shake it off, I tell myself, and next meeting will see an improvement.  Not to be.  What is called Investigator lesson.   Room full of men again, the young man instructing the lesson, three other men, another man whom we have not met who is apparently also of the investigator status, and myself and my husband.  

I'm determined not to let my mood influence my ability to receive this lesson and I tell myself to just get through it. I am coming to appreciate or understand that this culture does indeed have it's own language with it's own meanings and I feel so outside the language.   The young missionary isn't sure if he wants to teach a lesson on prophets or priesthood.  Suggestions and he decides on prophets lesson.  He is doing well, imo, with staying on lesson, on topic.  The men, in the room, eager to help teach, offer their input and suggestions.

I listen quietly as these men pound home their version of truths until I can stand it no more, the assaultive language.  Don't they have a clue how that sounds to my ears, what they are in effect saying, that I am in the room with them, that I am a woman, a mother, a grandmother, that I have a family and that I would never condemn my children, my family using the kinds of words they are using?!    I speak to it with them.  They reinforce each other's words, all of them in a rush to 'teach'  whatever it is they think they are needing to teach.   I speak to it with them again more forcefully.  And then my husband speaks to them.  That seems to get the attention my own words don't seem to get.  And then they dial it back, explaining that what they meant was..........................    (exactly what they said in the first place). 

It is a heated exchange, not necessarily comfortable, but assuredly an exchange that I don't regret.   In fairness, one man there did acknowledge he understood what I was saying, citing an example in his own family of exactly what I pointed out.  I really don't have any idea what kind of impression is being formed of my reactions as an 'investigator' trying to learn these great truths, but frankly today I'm not much interested in learning much more about these kinds of truths. 

Meeting ends, and Arthur goes to his 'men' meeting while I go to the 'women' meeting, which just happens today to be on Priesthood.  Fortunately the woman conducting the lesson has chosen to read from several different sources and there are not many openings for discussion, until she asks one question of the women 'how do you feel about the priesthood'.   I respond that I'm not too happy about it today, having just come from a meeting with a room full of men that I did not feel were respectful.  She offers that misunderstandings happen sometime, and if I might seek one of them out and explain, to which I respond, no I didn't do anything wrong, they did it wrong (based on the lesson given about priesthood responsibilities) and it's on them to understand their responsibilities.   My reaction is met with quiet, and she goes on with the lesson.  At the end of the meeting, there is time left and women are invited to give their testimony.  Three women do so.  

As the meeting wraps up, several women come to me to inquire what happened, if I'm doing okay, and provide some reassurances, woman support.  It is comforting, in that I had thought perhaps I had alienated the women, and maybe not so much.  

Home and Arthur fixes us a meal, his way of giving grace to what has been an awkward day.  We talk, and then reflect, and then talk again.  I wonder aloud if I have the stuff or stamina to live in this culture.  Sounds like I'm letting one difficult day color my thinking, but it feels much larger than just one bad day.  I have worked diligently, carefully to try to understand it from the other side, what governs the thinking, why it is what it is, despite knowing, living, experiencing first hand the damage I've seen it can cause to families on all sides with it's rigidity.  Today I am not thinking favorably on this religion or culture as demonstrative of a loving God of compassion.  I have worked to try to discern that this is a lay person church, that people are merely people doing the best they can, that the administration of the church, therefore many of it's doctrines are a management level element of operating a global company, and that the people within are church communities enfolding and supporting each other through this earth walk.  Today this philosophy isn't working for me very well.  

In our discussions together, Arthur is concerned, disturbed in knowing that I am disturbed, and we enter into more discussion, coming to a place of deciding to dial this back a bit, push baptism forward several more months, permitting us both time to reconcile in our minds how we want to go forward.   I have engaged a great deal of reasoning, mind work, thinking, researching, studying, and it might be a good time to employ the four legged stool model I learned at Episcopal church of reason, faith, tradition, scripture.    So I've been using three of those, reason, tradition, scripture and for now I think I want to spend some time in prayer, solitude prayer, prayerful prayer, not the public prayer nor the prescribed LDS prayer styles being taught to me in the lessons and at the church meetings.  

And not to leave this on a note of comparisons between religious style approaches, for me there is prayerfulness in the Mother, in Nature, in Great Spirit, and that is yet another venue altogether.  

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