Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why do people care about other people's underwear?

(I've been busy all day, but these thoughts have been running through my head all day. They were more eloquent in my head.)

It started with a question. Several years ago. “Mrs. Kage, why do Mormons wear two pairs of underwear?” I do not shy away from questions from students; I tell my students that I am open book. This question, however, was different. I replied, “Under no circumstances will I discuss my underwear with my class.” We laughed and moved on.

Hours later when relaying this story to two other teachers, one genuinely asked, “Do Mormons wear two pairs of underwear?” It was a sincere question, with a desire to know. I briefly explained the garment to my friends. My explanation was truly inspired. I said, “Just as many Jewish people where a Yamaka as an outward sign of their faith, I wear the garments as an outward sign of mine. The difference is that I do not wear mine for others to see. It is an outward sign of an inner commitment between me and God.” This satisfied my friends better than I could have imagined. Like I said, inspired.

I am faithful in wearing my garments and in keeping my covenants, but recently it was mentioned that garments have become a way for other Mormons to judge the righteousness of others. I have been thinking a lot about this statement, and it bothers me. The truth behind this statement that bothers me. I do not wear the garments for other people to see, and certainly not for other people to judge me. That is not the point. I wear them as an outward sign of my faith…of my commitment. I am ashamed to say that up until a couple of years ago, I, too, would look for the tell tale signs of garment wearing among any LDS that I met…or went to church with. I, like many others, saw it as a way of seeing who was “faithful.” I cannot count the number of times that people came up to me and said, "Hey, your Mormon!" I would inquire as to how they knew, and they would point to a line in my shirt or some other indication of my garments. This always bothered me. Why on earth would someone look that close?? (I truly don't think I ever looked that close.)

It was after too many of these instances that it hit me what a hypocrite I was being. It did not matter that I was not looking that close, I was still looking. I realized that I did not want others to judge my righteousness based on my underwear. I wanted to be judged based on my own actions, and I should afford the same courtesy to other people. So, I stopped. I stopped looking or even noticing whether or not others were wearing garments. I even took off my own garments for a dear friend’s wedding. (Others did not agree with this decision, but I know the Lord understood.) A few hours in a strapless dress for a wedding did not negate my Temple recommend or my righteousness. And those who judged? Let them judge. I do not answer to them.

I digress…why is it that many Mormons feel perfectly justified in judging another’s worthiness by the clothes others wear? Whether it is noticing the garment through clothes or a tank top, when on earth did it become okay for anyone to judge anyone’s worthiness in the eyes of the Lord on that person’s  underwear, shoulders, knees and thighs, or anything else. As covenanted Mormons, we make our sacred promises within sacred walls. We are instructed to keep sacred things sacred…to not talk about them, yet too many people judge the covenants and commitment of others based on clothing! It is quite frustrating.

I faithfully wear my garments as an outward sign of my own faith and commitment. I know that other people judge me based on what I wear. I know that I have been guilty of that in the past. I am so grateful that I had the epiphany that caused me to change my ways. Garments are personal, and they should stay that way.


People really need to stop looking at and worrying about other people’s underwear.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Blessings

I have been blessed to be the mother of two wonderful children....no, blessed and wonderful are not strong enough words. Truly there are no words to express my love for them and my joy in them. They are the best things in my life.

As much as I love them, they understand that today, on this Mother's Day, there is nothing more that I want than to become a mother again. They would like that to happen, too.  I know that Heavenly Father has a plan. So as much joy as there is in my heart today, there is pain and sadness for the child for whom I wait to join our family.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Witnessing History

Disclaimer: I am incredibly emotional writing this post, so please forgive me if this post is awkward...I really just wanted to get my thoughts and feelings down.

First, a confession: I normally only watch the Sunday sessions of General Conference; however, this weekend I was determined to watch all the sessions. While that didn't happen, I did watch parts of both sessions today, and I watched the part that mattered most. 

Today, for the first time in history at a LDS General Conference Session, a woman offered a prayer.

There has been speculation for weeks, and I wanted to see for myself if it would come to pass.  I had to go to work this morning, but as I was driving home I listened to conference. At the end of the first session President Uchtdorf announced that the closing prayer would be offered by a woman. I never expected my reaction to be so strong. No, I did not write a letter to the General Authorities asking them to make this change.  Yes, I was hoping that a woman would pray at Conference. Yes, I was even expecting it to happen. 

President Uchtdorf's calm and quiet demeanor spoke to my soul as he announced that the Sister Jean Stevens, First Counselor in the Primary general presidency, would give the closing prayer. Alone in my car, I wept. The announcement itself moved me. The mantle that was placed upon her shoulders was a significant one, even though there are those who do not realize it. 

I have talked to my children about the significance of a woman having never prayed in General Conference. I told them that there was speculations that a woman would pray at this conference. When I arrived home I gathered them around and told them that I wanted them to listen to this historic moment. I wept during her prayer. It was simple, it was eloquent, and it was perfect. A beautiful prayer, in a beautiful voice, to make LDS history. My children may not fully understand the significance of this event, but I know that one day they will. 

There are those who say "big deal" and those who just never noticed the lack of women praying in conference. It is a big deal, not just for women, but for everyone in the church and for everyone who looks at the church. For the youth of the church. For those women who have felt marginalized by a faith they love so much. For the men who think that women's voices are less than their own. For my sons who deserve to see, in any and all aspects, that women are equal to men in the church. That women are not only revered and loved, but trusted and respected, too.

There are those who chose to ignore this event, and that is okay. I, for one, am celebrating. I know that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are smiling down upon their daughters with pride and love. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friendship

I have recently come to the conclusion that some things are better left unsaid when talking to one of my best friends. This is the friend that I see most often; however, things have been strained and silent for us as of late. We still hang out, go to movies, sit next to each other at church, but there is a difference. She disagrees with me. She is worried that I am losing something. She is frustrated that I do not make my children go to mutual. (I disagree with the way the leaders are running the program, and my children HATE going. That is another post, but let's just say that making my children participate in something they hate, is not a good way to help them gain a testimony.) She is angry that I disagree so strongly with the discrimination in the scouting program. She laughed when I said that there are young men and women in our ward who struggle with sexuality. She thinks the idea that gay and lesbian youth in our midst is laughable. I love my friend. I am frustrated that I can speak more freely with total strangers than I can with her.

So, I wrote this poem based off of Li-Young Lee's poem "A Story."


Sad is the woman who has strong opinions
And can’t speak them to her friend.

Her friend waits in stressed silence
You can’t possibly think that
Are the unspoken judgmental words

In a world full of injustice
And pain, the woman speaks for those
Without a voice. With everyone
Except her friend.

Already, the woman looks ahead,
How can you possibly be so closed minded?
Just because I disagree, does not mean
I lost my testimony.
Listen and open your mind.

But the friend lives in a world
Where windows must remain closed.
Do you see what you are doing?
The woman screams? Sitting mute
And allowing the passive aggressiveness to overtake you?

But the friend is here.
Where she doesn’t want to let others in.
Looking at what she thinks Heaven must be.

Thinking that looking to heaven
Allows her to overlook the earth.
Ignoring the pain and judging the silence.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book of Mormon: The Musical.


PART THREE: THINKING FOR YOURSELF

There was message of thinking for yourself. The “righteous and good” missionary was spoon fed everything his whole life. He was told that if God was proud of him, then he would get everything he prayed for. What a load of crap. The play did not address this directly, but it was there. Too many times, people are fed this. But, you know what? We are all given challenges. Heavenly Father loves each of us, and He gives us the challenges we need in order to be better. Sometimes that challenge is learning to think for ourselves. Elder Price was finally able to do that, but it took a crisis of faith. The musical did not end with Elder Price being the most successful missionary, but it did end with him realizing that the most important thing in life helping other people. Sometimes that help does not look like what you thought it was going to look like. Sometimes your values are challenged. Sometimes your faith is challenged. Sometimes your life is challenged. If you close your eyes to the things that are challenging you, then you miss the lesson you are supposed to learn. And sometimes the person who is going to teach you the lesson has no idea that you need to be taught. Or that he is the one who will teach it to you.

There was a message that along with hope, people need practical things that sometimes cannot be given through hope. I truly believe that hope is essential for survival, but in most circumstances hope will not help a person survive physical difficulties. The humanitarian efforts of my church are just phenomenal. We do many wonderful things around the world, but we also send missionaries around the world to preach the Gospel. They are well trained and well intentioned in preaching the Gospel, but how well do we prepare them to physically help the people they teach?  Yes, they can lift heavy things. They can mow lawns and do physical labor, but what else? How difficult is it to teach the missionaries about ways to help the physical difficulties. Health issues. (In the play it was things like dysentery, where the missionary with the imagination added a dysentery storyline to a part of the BOM and in turn told the people not to drink the water they poop in….pretty simple.) A crazy story for those of us in the know, but effective to the people who needed to hear it.) I know that it is not that simple, but I wonder how well we prepare our missionaries for the practical teachings of the area they are serving.


PART FOUR: THE LANGUAGE and MORMON JOKES

Now, a word about the language. I expected it to be SO MUCH WORSE. It really was not bad at all. I have heard worse at school. I have heard worse in the house in which I grew up. I’m aware of the F-you song, but that is a portrayal of reality. How many people in the world truly feel that God has abandoned them? I would be willing to bet a lot. The musical puts into actual words (in song) how people feel throughout the world. Bad things happen and people feel abandoned, and I am sure the song expresses the sentiments of many people in this world. The musical simply puts a group of those people together in one setting. They feel abandoned by God. They are afraid. They are being threatened, tortured, and killed. They have no hope, and the only thing that makes them feel better is the words in the song. But, if you pay close attention to the play, you will see that throughout the play, the Ugandas stop cursing God and begin to thank him. They begin to have hope. And yes, even Elder Price at the end says those words, but he is still emerging from his crisis of faith. He felt abandoned. He was spiritually wounded and abused physically. It is not unreasonable for him to feel that way. But, he still has some hope, and he is willing to continue to nurture that hope with the people who have taught him…with the people who he expected to teach. Everyone learning something from someone unexpected.

As for the Mormon jokes…did the musical make light of Joseph Smith,  the Book of Mormon, and many of the beliefs that I hold dear? Yes, it did. But, in a way, the knowledge that I had made the play more enjoyable. I laughed at things that others did not. It is quite clear that the creators of the musical have both a healthy respect for and understanding of Mormonism. There are clearly things that they don’t understand, and these were definitely in this musical. As a devout and believing Mormon, the fact that I do understand all of these things, made the play even more enjoyable. It did not shake my faith. It made me appreciate what I have even more. Does that make sense? It actually makes me more determined to raise my own boys with these things in mind.  Understanding all of these things made the play even more enjoyable.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that while this show makes fun of Mormonism, it is actually making fun of all religions in a way. Mormon is the easiest one to use for the purpose because it is one that few on the outside understand. It is the religion that seems “weird.” It is a religion that, for whatever reason, people are okay making fun of. Mormons just happen to be the most outgoing of all the faiths. The most willing to venture out into the world and share our “crazy” with other people.  Outsiders rarely know they who story behind the “funny” things (like special underwear, the Garden of Eden in Missouri, and the Golden Plates), but they are more than willing to make fun of it. This musical makes fun of it, and then continues on with some interesting insights into human behavior, motivation, learning.

 

I read this on another blog,  and I really liked it: (I can't remember the blog, sorry.)

Don’t be offended that the missionaries started a new religion. These missionaries care deeply about the people they serve. In the end, they stay behind to help the Ugandans, to support them, and give them hope. In the beginning, the Ugandans are cursing God. In the end, they are thanking Him.
Elder Price’s line: “We are still Latter-day Saints–all of us–even if we’ve changed a few things, or we break the rules, or we have complete doubt that God exists. We can still all work together and make this our paradise planet.”
What does it mean to be LDS? The final song of the show begins:
“I am a Latter-day Saint
I help all those I can
I see my friends through times of joy and sorrow”
How cool is THAT? This is totally a pro-Mo show. At the end I wanted to stand up with my friend and squeal, “We’re Mormons, too!” that’s how proud I was.
I guess what I’m saying is: It’s gotten a lot of praise and good report, and I left feeling completely uplifted.
I wish Mormons weren’t so offended by it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book of Mormon Musical Part 2


Part two of my Book of Mormon: The Musical review.
 
PART 2: LEAVING THINGS BETTER

There was a message of leaving things better than when you found them.  The other missionary (Elder Price) goes on a mission to change the world…all by himself. He does not want and does not think he needs the help of anyone else. It should come as no surprise that this is the missionary who struggles the most. His mission is not what he planned. It is hard. It is really hard. It is not what he expected it would be. It is not what he was told it would be. He read the BOM and was ready to “teach” the world. But what he was never taught to do was to listen. He did not know how to listen to the people around him. The villagers needed help but not the help he wanted to give. He wanted them to listen to his every word. He wanted them to see how much better he was than they were. He wanted the villagers to want to be like him and to appreciate what he was offering them. The messenger was more important than the message. Well, that didn’t happen, and he gave up. Several times he repeated the same pattern. What he finally learned (through the “imagination teachings” of the other missionary) is that he needs to not only open his eyes and look around him, but that he needs to look around him as well. People are not the same; people have different needs. He went on his mission to change the world the way he wanted to, the way he was told to, but to really make a difference, to truly serve, he needed to open his eyes and see what the people really needed. In this case, they needed hope first, and then they needed someone to not just preach to them, but to really stay and help improve their physical lives. This was interesting to me because I did not expect it. I did not know how the musical was going to end, and the ending made me love the musical that much more. He learned that helping people means more than preaching and baptizing and leaving. It means staying to make a difference. It means selfless service, and sometimes that selfless service means to sacrifice the thing you were there do in the first place. The people heard the gospel according to Arnold; they accepted that gospel because, in the end, the gospel according to Arnold gave them the hope they  needed, gave this missionary the kick in the butt he needed to truly leave things better than when he arrived.  He ended the musical a better person. And, in the end, he and the other missionaries stay in Uganda to support them and to continue the hope they brought. They do not give them hope and leave…they stay to nurture that hope. To help it grow into something greater. Something that can be sustained even after the missionaries leave.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Book of Mormon: THE MUSICAL

First, let me say that I do not offend easily. And I was not offended by Book of Mormon: The Musical. It was irreverent. It was funny. It was intelligent. It was fantastic!

I went to see the BOM musical tonight. It was absolutely wonderful. Did it make fun of Mormons? Of course it did. Was it funny? Of course it was. But there was something even better about it than the humor. *(I will say that I do not remember the last time I laughed so hard.)

I have so many things to say about this musical that I am going to do it parts. Seriously, I have  A LOT to say! I should also say there are spoilers in my thoughts. Sorry.

Part 1: HOPE
There was a message of hope. Yes, I am aware that many people think that some of my beliefs are weird. Some people think my beliefs are just plain crazy, but does that negate the message of hope hope that my faith brings? It most certainly does not.

What was so profound about the musical was that it does just that. It takes the fiction of today and uses the vehicle of Mormon missionaries to show that it does not matter the story that is told, what matters is the hope it brings. In the musical one of the missionariesb (Arnold) has never read the BOM, and it becomes his responsibility to teach a group of people who are in need of help. He reads to them, and they get frustrated and ask, “How does this help me, here and now? How does this book tell me how to deal with                     (Fill in the blank)?”  The missionary, not knowing how to answer, adds his own imagination to the BOM, giving the people the words they want to hear. Make no mistake, the “imaginations” of this missionary are just plain ludicrous. But they give the people the hope they need. He gives them hope, and with that hope come a happier and better people. Are they suddenly transformed to a better place? No. Do they get rich and become healthy overnight? No. But what they do find is togetherness. They find hope in helping one another. It does not matter whether the stories are true or not; what matters is that the missionary (unintentional though it may be) gives the villagers hope that they can be happy even the most terrible of circumstances.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's been a while

I won't go into detail about where I have been...that is for another post...but I have been on such a journey of faith, hope, humility, and gratitude.

That said, let me get to the purpose of this post: I am a feminist. I have shuddered at the thought of making this declaration for a long time now, but after months of thinking and praying, I am, in fact, a feminist.

As an active and happy Latter Day Saint woman, let me tell you first what this means to me:


  • I do not want the Priesthood, and I do not think women should have the Priesthood. I am not the only Mormon Feminist to think so, but there is a large number who DO want the Priesthood. I am not a feminist in that category. While I understand those concerns and frustrations, I do not share that desire. I have gone through fire within myself to answer this question, and I stand by that. There is a divine plan for both sexes which I take on faith. 
  • That divine plan is not motherhood. I do not think that Priesthood and motherhood should be equated.  One is biology, the other is not. I hate it when people say, "Women don't need the Priesthood because we can have babies." Seriously, that is bunk. I am biologically created to bear children. A penis or the production of sperm does not biologically give a man the Priesthood. If it did, men would not need to be ordained. By nature of their birth (with a penis), they would have that authority.
  • I am not sure what that divine plan looks like, and I am okay with that. I take it on faith.
Just because I do not think women should have the Priesthood does not mean that I do not think that women should be treated less because they do not have the Priesthood. Yes, the church teaches the adoration of women. It praises women to high heaven. However, there is a missing element in how  people in the church treat women. Women are rarely respected as leaders. Women cannot pray in General Conference. Young boys are taught that the Priesthood leads and the rest follow. Yes, the Priesthood leads, but that does not mean that women cannot be effective leaders in the church. This is something that needs to be taught. We need to teach our young boys and young men that the words a woman leader in the church says are just as important as what a male leader says. We need to teach our young men that respecting a woman also means listening to her wisdom. That strength in a woman is a good thing. I have always gotten sideways glances at church because I am a woman who is not afraid to speak out, not afraid to lead. I also speak out when I think women are being looked over simply because they are women.

Women should not be subjected to judgement because they are outspoken, strong, and opinionated. That should be celebrated. Women should not be subjected to judgement because they choose to wear pants to church. That should not even be an issue. The Young Women's President should have just as much influence in a Ward as the Young Men's President. The Relief Society President should have just as much influence as the Elder's Quorum President. Young girls and young women should be celebrated equally to the young boys and young men when they accomplish something. The expectations that we set for our young women should be just as high as those set for our young men.

Women should not be criticized and judged because of their bodies. We are not "walking pornography" for men. Men and women need to check their own thoughts and be accountable for them. The young women of the church should be encouraged to be leaders, to get educations, to wait to get married, to go on missions. They should be taught that their worth is the same as the young men. They should be taught that their worth is never dependent on the length of their skirt.

I have so much more that I could go on about, but for now, I will just leave it as that. I am a feminist.