Modesty and the Middle Class

April 12, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Personal

(and the upper class as well, but I liked the alliteration)

I have only very recently come to loathe the word modesty. Previously I considered it a badge of honor, and felt proud that I was doing it “right”. I thought a little bit about my intentions, but mostly I kept my shoulders covered and constantly tugged my pencil skirts down toward my knees (which was difficult to do while simultaneously patting myself on the back).

Blogging opened me up to a world of alternative viewpoints, and I realized that my friends wearing strapless dresses didn’t seem so bad, and my perception of modesty was altered. Modesty for me might be about cap sleeves and kept promises, but the goal for everyone should be self-respect. A modest woman dresses with self-respect, and self-respect looks different on everyone.

I am in the midst of yet another shift in my thinking that takes the idea of self-respect and expands on it. Read more →

The Awakening: Priestesshood

February 08, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Another note: I intended to reply to several comments on my last post, but I want to be very thoughtful in my responses and school has left me little time to devote to my blog. Again, I’m reading and considering all of them, but these posts are quite time intensive to write, edit, etc, and so I’m not going to be able to address as many comments as I’d like. Thank you to all those who are taking the time to add to the discussion. It’s been a wonderful experience thus far. 

The topic of women getting the priesthood in the LDS church has come up quite frequently on my Formspring page. Questions related to this issue can be found here, here, and here. As I change, it’s hard not to want to feel embarrassed about what I said, but back then I really believed it and felt it was right. I think what I said here was key:

But for me, this is never an issue, because I feel like it’s asking “Why can’t I have more responsibility in life?” I don’t know about you, but I have more than enough responsibility. There are a million areas that I want to be better at already, and heaping the job of cleaning the church each week isn’t going to make me feel happier or draw closer to God. That will happen through praying, reading scriptures, etc.

I didn’t understand those who wanted women to have the priesthood, because in my mind they were saying that they wanted to be the bishop. Why would anyone want that? If God wants someone to lead one of His congregations that is certainly a great honor, it’s time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and makes spending time with family difficult because you’re working full-time at your job while simultaneously managing a church congregation.

One day I clicked over to Feminist Mormon Housewives, and it all clicked with this post. These women aren’t asking for the priesthood, they want the priestesshood. They want something of their own, a direct way to conduit the power of God for righteous purposes. It was brought up on that site in 2010, and way back in 2005.

Wow. This is something I can believe in. A Heavenly Father and Mother who are their own Beings, separate, but truly equal. During our time on earth, my husband would be a priest, and I would be a priestess. We would exercise the power of God in our own ways bringing about good works and changing the world for the better. Read more →

The Awakening: On SAHMs

January 25, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Note: I have done my best to write a clear post that presents my current thinking, but I know there are going to be many questions. I appreciate the conversation we have with each other, and will do my best to step in and clarify when possible, but it will not be possible for me to address every person and every concern. Thank you so much for all of the encouragement I’ve received thus far!

To understand this next shift, I think you have to take a moment to try to understand where I was coming from. Raised as a member of the LDS Church I understood that the living Prophet was God’s literal mouthpiece on the earth. Whatever the prophet said in an official capacity it was as though God Himself was right there letting me know what He wants for all of us. At least that’s how I interpreted things. Throughout this period of Awakening, I have realized that I am no longer interested in just accepting what I am told, I want to figure out for myself why the advice in question is right/wrong/best for me/best for everyone.

Lately That Husband has been pointing out some of my tendencies toward being a martyr. I would think, “We should move to Poland!” Why? Because maybe God wants/needs us to build up the Church there. Living in Poland would be difficult due to language and cultural barriers, but by golly, we would be able to serve as the bishop and relief society president and provide an example to the new converts of what a happy little Mormon family is like (no matter that it would mean never seeing my husband between his work and church responsibilities). In some weird way I felt that the only way to please God was to suffer a little bit. The natural man is an enemy to God, and so I needed to put my own desires aside, look toward  the men who lead the Church, and let them tell me how to deepen my relationship with my own Father in Heaven.

What I didn’t understand until recently is that the leadership of the Church can do no more than teach general principles. With a membership that numbers in the millions, filled with members from Japan, Poland, Africa,  Brazil,  Utah all looking to the same handful of men to tell them how to fit the Gospel of Jesus Christ into their culture and lifestyle. One of those leaders, Elder Oaks, once said:

“As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”

I wrote a post about one of these general principles titled Mothers Working Outside the Home and made a lot of people really angry. As I said before, this was not my intention. I needed to believe that this was the key to being what God wanted me to be, because then the sacrifice of myself would be worth it. It was a topic that kept coming up, and I wanted to explain my perspective on what I considered LDS doctrine to be on the subject. I think this sentence from my previous post is key:

I try to seek out the teachings that I believe came from God and apply them in my own life

I was seeking, but I wasn’t asking. I looked at the source (church leaders) and then tried my best to fit the idea into my life, because I was *going to be obedient*. It’s that martyr thing popping up again. It didn’t matter if I enjoyed staying home, or if I’m the best at it, I would force myself to work harder every day to make it work because that’s what we’ve been told to do.

Read more →

The Awakening: R Rated Movies

January 19, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Personal

My first change is subtle and nuanced, but the decision to alter my thinking regarding the type of media I watch is a change I’m looking forward to. To understand the change that has happened, reading this post on my media standards is essential. In short, I’ve decided to watch my first R-rated movie. (I have watched “clean” version of R rated films like Amelie, Memento, Man on Fire, but those are difficult to find because movie studios have said they don’t want people editing the films to clean them up.)

I was reading through the things I wrote previously, and when I say out loud that I’ve decided to watch R-rated movies now it sounds much more dramatic than it is. My standards for violence, profanity, and sexuality haven’t changed all that much. What is dramatic is that I’ve decided not to worry about what is said in the Strength of Youth pamphlet when I choose what to watch. Previously, I read what was said about movies (or other things in that pamphlet) and made my list of what I should or shouldn’t do, and that was it. Now, I make my own list.

You know what I’ve always wanted to watch? Schindler’s List. But I never did because it was rated R, and I wanted to hold on to the statement that I had never seen a rated R movie. Not because I thought it made me “better” in some Mormon sense, but because I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I had done it, and they could to. Now I guess I will tell them that I’d like them to follow my example through high school, and that I think they will likely be better off for it, but once they are in college and developing their critical thinking skills it’s up to them.

Read more →

The Awakening: Introduction

January 18, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Over the past several months I’ve experienced what is best described as an Awakening. I opened myself up to possibilities different than what I was raised in, and my world turned upside down. Those who have followed me for a long time know that I’ve always been a firm absolutist, and I attribute that to my upbringing. Not my parents exclusively, but the small-town, conservative, Mormon culture that I came from. Is this the experience for all Mormons? Of course not. There are many millions of us, and we come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences that shape our views in a variety of ways.

In some respect it’s been a long journey, initiated by classes at BYU like Intro to Women’s Studies and The Gospel and World Religions. Casual reading of By Common Consent and Feminist Mormon Housewives introduced me to alternative ways of thinking. A few months ago I started listening to some podcasts like Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories, Mormon Expressions, and Daughters of Mormonism and the doors were thrown open. I’ve never felt “brainwashed” in the LDS Church (even though I know there are those who would argue otherwise) but it’s very much an environment where  you are simultaneously expected to rely on God speaking to you personally while sustaining the leaders of the Church (and this is often interpreted as “If you feel like God tells you something contrary to what the leaders say, you need to ask again until you get the right answer”).

Once I allowed myself to question a few things, the dam burst and I started questioning everything. It was so freeing! Now when we hear something That Husband and I turn to each other and ask “How would you interpret that?” and “What do you think about that?” We talk things over, sometimes coming to a conclusion, sometimes not. We search, develop theories, talk them over with our friends, revise, and commit to learning more. It’s so liberating!

I wanted to write a series “coming out” on four major topics where I’ve experienced dramatic reversals in my thinking because I want to continue to be genuine and honest with you. I want to share my perspective on some of the deeper meanings of life, and I can’t do that if it constantly leads people to say “But you said X 3 years ago and why is that different than what you are saying now?

I admit that this almost prevented me from speaking out. The fear that I would be attacked for… changing my mind. For educating myself and growing and developing. The worry that I would spend my time deleting comments asking me how it feels to realize how wrong and stupid and ignorant I was.

This sort of discourse is not productive, and I hope that my fears will be unfounded. I hope that by writing about these shifts in my thinking I will come into contact with those who encourage me to continue thinking critically. I hope that those who might feel threatened by one of their own speaking out about sensitive issues will engage with me respectfully that we all can represent our faith in a positive way. I think this fear of mine has come from the political rhetoric we see so frequently in the media right now in the run up to election season. I know we don’t want politicians to do a 180 after we elect them, but at this point we aren’t even allowing someone to change their mind within their entire lifetime! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not hypocritical or wrong to change my position on any given topic. I’m not running for political office which happily means I can switch positions whenever it feels right for me based on my knowledge and experience.

Some of these topics I’m going to cover are things that I’ve written about in the past, and the way I wrote about them or the positions that they took were hurtful. I never intended harm. I’ve long thought, and still do believe, that the best approach in life is to think critically and pick a position that feels right to you, only know that I’ve made this move toward Relativism I am much less likely to say “I’m right and thus you must be wrong”, and instead think “I’ve thought about this, and based on everything I know this is what seems right to me.”

Right now my belief about the LDS church can be summed up by a statement I heard on one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to:

The LDS Church is the truest church, but not true enough.

This is why I want to speak out, because I think we can do better. In some small way, these posts will be my way of paying it forward, because I would not have reached this place if other before me had not stood up to say they had questions they were still seeking out answers for. I look forward to sharing and conversing with you via four separate posts with you over the coming weeks regarding my evolving beliefs and my move away from Absolutism, toward Relativism.

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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