Making Amends

I’ve had this post on my mind for a long time now, but I felt I couldn’t write it until I revealed the enormous shift I’ve made over the past year. If you didn’t know that I had left Mormonism how could what I am about to say come across as anything other than pandering? I needed you to know that I am in a different place so that I could atone for my past mistakes. I choose the word atone carefully, knowing that my recent declaration could make it sound as though I am trying to be clever. But I know of no better word than atone to convey a complete cleansing, which is what I need. Some of the things I’ve said in the past hurt people in really deep ways and I want to shed the baggage that comes along with realizing that. This does not mean I recognize all of the mistakes I’ve ever made or will continue to make, or that I have the ability to own up to each and every one of them. I am deeply flawed, and within that bundle of flaws comes pride and shame, both which prevent me from being all that I want to be. I’ll keep chipping away at those stones that burden my progress, but for now I hope those I have hurt will accept the apologies I am offering up below and know that they come from the truest part of myself that I am mentally and emotionally able to lay bare.

fire sunset chicago eclipse

Most of these apologies are related to my Mormon mindset, but I will start with one that has no relation to the faith of my childhood. While I was pregnant I wrote a post called I’m Gonna Climb That Mountain (those who were hurt by this post have requested that it be made unavailable to the public so that the hurtful messages I voiced within it can’t be spread any further). I’m not sure anymore what I was trying to convey, but reading back over it I can see that it was a terrible post and I said a lot of hurtful things. I’ve been ashamed of that post for a long time, but haven’t allowed myself to take it down because I didn’t want to hide behind my ability to make posts private or delete them altogether. I think women should birth how and where they want. I am sorry that I made any woman feel like her birth plans or birth experience weren’t good enough. I think mothers should have every opportunity to choose the birth experience that leaves them feeling empowered and triumphant, because that is how I felt after the births of my babies and that is what I want every woman to have as well. I think that some women do everything they can to give birth a certain way and it turns out to be something else entirely. Those women should have the opportunity to grieve the loss of a great dream while they simultaneously celebrate the arrival of their little one(s), and no one should ever criticize them for doing so. There is no mountain. There’s just a pregnant woman doing her best for the life she carries inside of her, and then there is a beautiful mother doing her best for her child.

And now for the opinions and thought processes that were a product of my personal history and religious tradition. A wonderful thing to note is that not all of those who come from my community or belong to the Mormon faith think or act the way I did; they are much better people than I. But when I shifted away from Mormonism and a worldview shaped by my youth I left old hurtful attitudes behind and I can’t untangle where these attitudes began and how much of a role my past played in nurturing them. All I can do is acknowledge that they were a part of the Jenna of the past and that I want to leave them behind forever and move toward the better Jenna of the future.  Continue reading

Modesty and the Middle Class

(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. Continue reading

The Awakening: Priestesshood

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. Continue reading

The Awakening: On SAHMs

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.

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The Awakening: R Rated Movies

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.

Continue reading