Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why I Love Being an LDS Woman

As I'm sitting here, I can't believe I just typed that title. I didn't think that when the time came for me to write a blog post on this topic it would be on this side of the table.

Ordain Women is a movement many inside the LDS Church are familiar with and probably few outside of the Church know about. They are a group of women seeking ordination to the priesthood. Granted, that's not their only goal, even though the title of their organization is dominated by it. Women, and men, in the Ordain Women movement seek to create equal opportunities for women in their local congregations and in the Church as a whole by seeking to change some policies and procedures they believe have held women back. On top of that goal, they have petitioned Church leaders to seek revelation on whether or not to ordain women to priesthood offices.

I'm not going to touch too much on the latter part of this. I personally have little desire for ordination, and I am personally comfortable with the way it's set up now.

Still, I empathize with many of the questions that women who associate with Ordain Women have, that lead them to desire ordination as a solution to the problems they see those questions creating. For example:

"If men's roles and responsibilities are to hold priesthood offices and exercise the priesthood righteously in service to God, the Church, and God's children, what are women's roles?"

"If women's role is motherhood, how do we account for the women who are unable to have children or who never marry?"

"Why do x number of men speak at General Conference and only x number of women?"

"Why do x number of men pray at General Conference and only x number of women?"

"Why are certain callings, that don't require the priesthood, reserved for men?"

Other questions exist that are similar in nature. They all pretty much narrow down to one important question: What is my role as a woman in the Church, in the kingdom of God, in this world?

That question...right there...that was the hard one for me to answer. As I saw my husband be ordained, twice, to different offices in the Priesthood, as I sat down with him as our Bishop explained the roles and responsibilities that came with those offices, I couldn't help but wonder: Where's my instruction manual? Why do men have handbooks on how to be priesthood holders, but I have neither a defined role, defined title, or a handbook of instruction?

To be honest, I felt lost. I felt hurt. I felt inadequate. I wanted to serve. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to matter. And yet, I felt if I didn't show up to Church on Sunday, the show would go on. But if my husband didn't show up to Church on Sunday, then there wouldn't be bread for the Sacrament.

I struggled and ached over what it meant to be an LDS woman. It was difficult for me to find my place, to feel needed, or even wanted. I didn't understand policies, and even doctrine at times. Sometimes, I even wondered what my Heavenly Father thought of me, and what He thought of His daughters.

I was terrified to go to the temple. I was worried it would make my aching worse. Some women I had known really struggled to understand the temple, and what the temple taught about women in God's kingdom. My experience challenged me intellectually, but brought me peace. A peace I didn't understand.

It would always bother me when I would hear women's counterpart to the priesthood described as motherhood. First, it concerned me that some women don't have children of their own. Second, I felt degraded to the function of my body. Honestly, I felt sexualized. Like my entire worth and purpose was based on the biological ability for my body to behave correctly.

With the announcement that the leader of the OW faced excommunication my initial reaction was anger. I was frustrated that this voice was being silenced, seeing as it had articulated many of the hurts and worries and fears I had within myself. Then I was disappointed. Then I was sad.

The feeling of sadness struck me. Was I sad that this woman faced excommunication or something else? Or was it something entirely different.

I began to realize that my while empathy and sympathy for the questions being asked still existed, those questions troubled me less than they had in previous months.

In just the last two months I have had numerous experiences that have begun to answer my questions, though many of them remain unanswered. I don't know why things are the way they are. I don't know why policies and procedures happen the way they do. I still don't even really understand the doctrine. But there is one thing I understand better now than I ever have before:

I am a daughter of God.

What does it mean to be a daughter of God?

It means you are divine. It means you are worthy. It means you are cherished. It means you are valued.

As I reflected on the feelings and thoughts I had in the temple in the weeks and months prior, I suddenly realized what the peace I had felt there was teaching me. I am loved. And God has a plan for me.

Justin and I recently experienced the pains that can accompany trying to start a family. The joy you feel when you realize you see two pink lines on a store-bought test, and the utter and unexplainable heartache you feel when you're told that your little miracle has been lost. We were also given a diagnosis that would mean having a baby would be difficult for us going forward.

I always thought something like this would destroy me. I had communicated this with a few close friends, but I had intended to otherwise keep it to myself. But as I sat there today, thinking about these questions, this heartache...I realized how much I don't know. I realized that sharing what we don't know can be helpful in helping us figure out what we do know. I don't know why women don't pray at every session of General Conference. I don't know why women aren't called to be ward mission leaders. But really...are these the things that matter? Are these the things that build and strengthen and grow our testimony of the Savior? Are roles, responsibilities, power, and authority what teach us of Christ? Or are the things that teach us most about Christ our experiences and what we choose to do with them?

I don't know why women struggle with infertility. I don't know why women lose their babies, either before birth or after birth. I can't explain it. I can't even say it's ok. Because it's not. It's a real, painful, deep struggle for many women, and their husbands. Still...I know that in spite of these struggles, our Heavenly Father loves His daughters.

When Justin and I were dealing with our loss, I felt two emotions...sadness and peace. It was weird to feel them together. But as I struggled and as I cried, I felt the love of my Savior draw me close. I felt the warm embrace of His loving arms as He uplifted me and carried me forward. I felt the promise brought by the power of the Holy Spirit that Heavenly Father had a plan for me. And He had a plan for our baby.

Suddenly, I understood motherhood just a little better. I understood womanhood just a little better. I understood my Savior a lot more.

The truth is, there are many wonderful truths that I do know, despite all the questions I do not know. What I do know is that Heavenly Father does have a plan for us. All of us. That plan is to bring us safely home into His presence. At the end of this life, that's where we're headed. Each one of us, male and female, to be ushered back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. The promise of salvation and eternal life are promises given to all God's children and each of us has a unique and divinely inspired path to help us get there.

I love being an LDS woman because the Gospel helps me to understand my divinity. Motherhood is not a headcount of our children. It is not a biological function or ability. Motherhood is an identity, a deep, rich, meaningful word that describes the essence of our creation.

I love being an LDS woman because I have influence. Women have a special and unique moral authority that helps them to influence those around them for good. Perhaps the most noble and important impact women can have is on the children they teach, look over, or raise on their own.

I love being an LDS woman because I can serve others. As a member of the Relief Society I have the ability, and responsibility, to serve God's children. I know that it may seem meaningless to bring meals to a new mother when some men in the Church are making decisions that have a church-wide impact, but the influence and service you find in the ward is some of the most Christlike service you will ever see. Sisters in the Relief Society have the opportunity to greatly impact the lives of those around them, even if the service they engage in is humble, or sometimes even quiet. The people of this Church are the Gospel. It is by serving others that we grow in our faith and understanding of Gospel truths. Only by helping others along their path to their heavenly home do we find that we are walking further down ours.

I love being an LDS woman because the Gospel teaches me who I am. I am a daughter of God. A real, literal, daughter of the most divine and holy being that ever was. And I am His. I know that He loves me with a perfect love.

I love being an LDS woman because the Gospel tells me what I am worth. Jesus Christ died for me. He suffered, He bled, He cried for me. I have been bought for a price...a price none of us can ever repay. A price that can never be outdone or undervalued. No person and no circumstance can ever define my worth because the sacrifice of my Savior has already told me what my value is.

Our Heavenly Father loves His daughters. I know that He has a personal plan for each one of them. Some of those paths may be filled with different trials, some that may cause women to question their role, their purpose, or their worth. But if the last several weeks have taught me anything, it's that I know that we are not alone. We are not alone in our questions, in our heartaches, in our doubts, or in our trials. Our Savior knows perfectly how to succor each one of us to Him. His Atonement can heal any wound, can calm any doubt, and bring peace to any amount of questioning.

If you are reading this, and you struggle to know the answers to who you are, what your purpose is, what your role is, what your worth is, or if you struggle with knowing how you fit into this Church, or if you wonder how you fit into God's plan of happiness...I urge you to seek Him in prayer. Search the scriptures. Ask questions. And always, always, remember that He loves you, more deeply than you could ever possibly imagine.

5 comments:

  1. Very well said. You have a gift with words. I am so so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you guys are doing okay. That is such a terribly hard thing to deal with. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  2. Very well said. You have a gift with words. I am so so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you guys are doing okay. That is such a terribly hard thing to deal with. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  3. Very well said! I think much of why we don't know why things done a certain way is to have enough faith to do so. I struggle with others seeing ME and my abilities, though they make their judgement calls on what they see on the outside and my/our financial standing. I always get comments from others when they have been to my home of how they are surprised they can feel the spirit so strongly there or they are amazed how much my boys know of the gospel and are beyond any of the others in their Primary/Sunday School Classes. Makes me wonder just what they thought of me and my family.

    I am very sorry for your loss. I have experienced it along with losing a baby at birth, infertility and then secondary infertility along with two children having birth defects and medical issues that have created chronic illnesses. Despite it all, I have learned patience and more about our Heavenly Father's plan for each of us. While having chronically ill children is hard, difficult and not a part of my plan, it has been such a sacred experience that I would not trade for a healthy child. I am doing what I am suppose to be doing. I know it with all my heart. I will keep you in my prayers.

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  4. I randomly came across your blog, I don't know you personally. But thank you! Your conversion story is inspiring and your testimony of God's love is really powerful. I love being an LDS woman, too! I can't imagine feeling more empowered and more loved anywhere else. Thanks again for what you're doing with this blog.

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  5. Your blog is exactly what I needed at this time in my life. I love the LDS church, I grew up in it, I try to be a good Christian member. I also Love being an LDS woman. Thank you, Gods blessings be with you.

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