Today as I was sitting in church I had a rush of elating thoughts I wanted to share, so I’ve decided to start a new habit I’m calling “Blogimony Sundays.” Of course, it will likely not actually be posted on Sunday, since writing around kids is tricky business. Before I get into what I’d like to relate, let me give those of you who aren’t familiar with my faith a mini run down to avoid any confusion.
I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are known by many as “Mormons.” Once a month, on the first Sunday of the month, we have what we call “Fast and Testimony Meeting.” Most of us fast for 24-hours on this day for various causes, and we take the money we would have spent on our food and donate it to the church as fast offerings. This money goes to feeding and providing needs for struggling families and individuals. These are not handouts, those who receive assistance work with their Bishops to improve their current situation so that they will not need assistance long-term. We believe that by sacrificing for our chosen purpose (for example today we fasted as a family for my husband to pass his board exams) we will be blessed. In our church we attend 3 meetings each Sunday, the first being Sacrament meeting. We start by singing a hymn to invite the Spirit, then an invocation is offered by a member of the congregation, followed by the blessing and passing of the sacrament. After that members of the congregation who have been asked in advance give talks on various subjects speak from the pulpit. Following the talks we sing another hymn and a benediction is offered, again, by a member of the congregation. We then go to Sunday school, and then divide into classes for males (Priesthood) and females (Relief Society). The children have Sunday school together, separate from the adults, and then divide into smaller classes by age. We spend 3 hours at church on Sunday. Fast Sunday is a little different in that instead of assigned talks, people come to the pulpit at will to bear their testimonies. This meeting is always a very powerful experience, and I hope to talk more about why that is at a later time. Alright, now to get into it…
The Spirit was intense for me today. We walked in just as the opening hymn began. I sat down, opened the hymn book, and began crying. This continued the entire meeting. I’m great at hiding it though, even my daughter who was cuddled up next to me didn’t notice. I think that’s pretty typical for an LDS woman. If you happen to know any of us you’re likely well acquainted with our weepy tendencies. There was so much I wanted to comment on as I was sitting in church today, but one thing has stood out like a beacon in my mind, drowning out all else. One of the brethren got up and opened his testimony by mentioning one of the recent television specials on the “Mormons.” He said that they concluded that one thing was sure, the men and the women of our faith are not equals.
This statement is… hmmm… alarming? Infuriating? Sad? Maybe a mix of things, but inaccurate for certain. When I was “investigating” the church (this is how we describe a person who is attending and learning about the church but is not yet a member) I was quite struck by the reverence the brethren had toward the sisters. It was so apparent I noticed it immediately, as an energy in the room, during the first Sacrament meeting I attended. As I got to know the teachings and the members better this impression only grew. It’s something I’ve talked about with a handful of people over my 8 years as a member. I’ve always said that it’s as though the men view the women as sacred beings. They seem to acknowledge them as possessing something they themselves cannot. The interesting thing is that the assumption that we are not treated as equals comes from the fact that in our religion the men can hold the Priesthood and the women cannot. If you ask the women in our church (and I have) they will tell you exactly what I’m about to. We don’t want the Priesthood. We don’t need it. Women have an innate connection to God that requires no outside conduit. We are His Daughters, sacred beings, co-creators with him. We are the vessels who willingly and with love sacrifice ourselves for the ultimate service: to bring spirits into bodies, the creation of souls. We believe that it is only by obtaining bodies that we have any chance of proving ourselves and returning to live with our Father, receiving the Celestial Exaltation He has promised us. If you were to attend any Relief Society meeting it would be undeniably evident that women hold up this church. We keep the men on the right path. We nurture our world. There is nothing so powerful as the intuition and will of a woman, and this group of women are some of the most intuitive and willful in the world! One thing I’ve always wanted to say to my sweet sisters, as I look around the room during Relief Society meeting is that never in the world is there a gathering of such beautiful women as when these gather together. It isn’t because of outward appearance. It isn’t because of intellect. It isn’t because of congeniality. It’s because of what we know, the sacred truths we hold at the deepest part of ourselves. Any time women are gathered together with a common purpose, even the greatest powers cannot stop them from accomplishing their goal. And in this church, that common purpose is to do good, and there is no greater purpose than that.
Please don’t feel sorry for us or assume we’re oppressed because our husbands are allowed a “privilege” we are not. We’re thankful for that. We have quite enough responsibility as it is! The Priesthood blessed us. It is always there when we need it. We have unlimited access to it regardless of the fact that we cannot ourselves perform Priesthood blessings. The Priesthood is something that is essential for men. It’s a lifeline of sorts. It not only helps them to connect with their Father to carry out His work, but it also keeps them on the good path and gives them something to strive for, as a man who is not living a life of purity cannot hold the power of the Priesthood.
So here is what I know. First of all, the Priesthood is all that it claims to be. It is the power of God, passed down through a lineage that each man possessing it today can trace directly back to Christ himself. The very first piece of my testimony that I gained was of the Priesthood, through a miracle I witnessed when receiving my first Priesthood blessing. Perhaps I will share that story sometime. Second, I know that the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is an organization provided by our Father to bless all of the inhabitants of the world. It is an organization that utilizes the intuition, power, and talents of women to do the work of our Father on this earth. It is an organization of love and of labor, and of love of labor. It is not an organization I am proud to be a member of, it is an organization I am thankful, humbled, and blessed to be a member of. It is the very first place I have ever felt that I belong. I know that I am right where God wants me to be. I know that he is pleased with me. I know that he recognizes me for all that I am and sees so many attributes that even I am not aware of. I know that I am His Daughter. That His love for me far surpasses anything even the most affectionate earthly father can fathom. And what I also know, is that if this is true for me, it is also true for you. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter your faith or circumstance or social status, no matter what you have done or said or felt… you are remarkable. There is immeasurable greatness in you. I encourage you to continually strengthen your relationship with your Father, because as the knowledge of who you truly are grows, so does your power. Women who know their own divine nature will save the world and all the souls who live in it.
May we raise up our daughters to know how they are!
A few quotes from Church Leaders: