Sunday, January 29

'Til We Have Faces: How I've dealt with the Temple, Part I

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author. I've read all(as far as I know) of his fiction, and am slowly working my way through his apologetic works (slowly because if I went fast I'd miss too much). However, I had the unfortunate experience of reading his re-telling of the story of Psyche and Cupid, called 'Till We Have Faces. It was a wonderful book and I loved reading it. So why did I describe it as an unfortunate experience?
The main character, Orual, is Psyche's ugly older sister. In the book, Orual loves Psyche deeply, and is personally hurt by Psyche's choice to leave and live with Cupid. Orual later becomes the queen of her realm. As Orual is not unaware of her ugliness, she chooses to wear a veil over her face. The veil makes her mysterious, and unknown and gives her vey real power. But, the reason she chose to wear it was to hide, and to make herself faceless. The power it gave her was a suprising by-product. The part that stuck with me was this phrase, "We cannot see the Gods face to face, 'til we have faces." I read this book about a year before I went to the Temple, and although parts of the ceremony were lovely and uplifting, some parts broke my heart.
I had so many questions. What is wrong with me that must be covered? If it is that I am mortal and havn't passed through *the veil* then why don't the men need to cover their faces too? Am I not meant to have a face? Will I ever see God face to face? Doesn't He want to see me? All the time remembering the quote, "We cannot see [God] face to face 'til we have faces." What hurt me the most was the veil that kept me faceles seemed to come from God. And if it didn't come directly from Him, it certainly came from his messengers.
So I read. I read anything I could about veils. I read about what they cover, why they cover it, and when it should be covered. It didn't help much. Some said only holy things get veiled, like the Ark of the Covenant. This would be fine, except it didn't feel like I was on the same side of the veil as the Ark. It felt like I was definitely on the un-holy side of the veil. Some said women should wear veils so that our beauty (which is our glory) doesn't compete with God's glory; it's a way of encouraging those around us to focus on God. I don't think *anything* about me is on any level to compete with God's glory. And, if I happen to be pretty it shouldn't be my responsibility to hide every square inch of me so that the boys in the room can focus on the task at hand.
Then I prayed. I asked why should I be faceless? Do veils really make me faceless? I asked to understand, or at the very least to have something to distract me until I can understand. I wanted something to associate the veil that I wore with to make it mean *anything* other than what I thought it meant.
Rinse. Repeat. It was months of almost daily discomfort before I came to a resolution about the veil that I was asked to wear, and it was so anti-climactic that it's almost laughable.
I love African Lovebirds. They are beautiful, comical, and smart. The ones that I had as pets while I was growing up had such personality, that as a young girl I decided that heaven wouldn't be heaven unless my birds came too. My favorite kind were the Peach-faced lovebirds. Those who know much about birds know about Sexually Dimorphic birds. They are the kinds of birds where the males and the females of the same species look noticably different. For example, in some types of ducks the males are green, and females are brown. Peach-faced lovebirds are dimorphic, but just barely. The female's feathers are the same as the males, but they are just a shade softer. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to tell them apart, unless you have another bird of a different sex to compare it with.
My resolution came when I saw a picture of a pair of peachfaced lovebirds. I noticed the dimorphism and thought, "It's almost like she's wearing a veil." Suddenly, thinking of it like that made it all okay. I can't even explain why, but thinking about wearing a veil as being like a dimorphic bird is perfectly alright to me.
I don't expect that way of thinking about veils to help anyone else. I would actually be rather suprised if it did. I guess the main point is that I didn't give up, and eventually my prayers were answered. I wasn't given an explanation, but I was given something that works for me.

Thursday, January 26

Part of the Plan

Let's ignore, for a moment, the myriad troubles of describing life as a test, and think about what kind of test life would be. We understand that under Satan's plan, life would be a multiple choice test, with only one choice (You can have whatever you want for lunch, as long as it is a ham sandwich) . We assume that Heavenly Father's plan (with more Agency (TM) than the leading competitor's) is a fill in the blank test. All of our discourses extoll the permanance, and prevasiveness of Agency. We all forget that we only get to choose from the options that we are given. If there isn't a ham sandwich, I can't choose to eat one. If I don't know that a ham sandwich exists I can't choose to eat one. So, it turns out our test is a multiple choice test.
It makes perfect sense. Heavenly father can't give us the power to choose from anything. He can't let me choose to destroy the earth, I haven't earned that power. But if we've earned the choices, if we deserve them, we'll get them. Right? What if there was a choice that I deserve to be able to make, but the outcome of that choice would change the course of the whole plan of salvation. Doesn't it make sense that it would be better for me to experience some unfairness on earth and be 'repaid' in the eternities so that I will be forced to make the choice that will allow the plan of salvation to continue?
I believe that the options available to us on earth are limited, and our knowledge of those options is restricted so that individuals will only be able to make decisions that allow the plan to move on. I believe that Heavenly Father is responsible for that limiting of choices, and that we agreed to it before coming to Earth.
This is where it gets icky.
We are so often told how important the work of women in bearing and raising children is. Often it feels like empty rhetoric to try and make something that is unappealing into something that is appealing. The fact of the matter is, now that most women have the option of choosing the number and timing of kids, they are choosing to have less children. As discussed elsewhere the population in many western countries is dropping. What do these countries have in common? Good education, and viable work options for women. Many LDS couples wouldn't choose to have children if they felt that it would be a righteous decision. Women were allowed to be treated badly so that most of them would be forced to have children. If women didn't have children then the plan of salvation would have fallen apart. Here's the horrible part. Doctrines, and understandings of eternal truths were left incomplete in order to facilitate the treatment of women that would allow the plan to continue.
In other words, if we knew about Heavenly Mother in any substantial way women wouldn't have put up with the 'patriarchy.' If women were allowed to hold the priesthood then we wouldn't have been content with limiting our influence to our children. If women were allowed the social freedoms that men were then we wouldn't have chosen children. If men were allowed to understand just how valuable, and real, and purposeful women are then they wouldn't have been able to force this social order on us out of respect.
I also believe that, to some extent, true understanding of women has been withheld so that the necessary treatment of women could be commited without understanding, and mankind could therefore remain unaccountable for it's wickedness in these matters.
I take the increasing understanding of women as real partners, and respectable contributors as a sign that this chapter of the plan is coming to a close. It is no longer vital that women be forced to have children. And I believe that Heavenly Father is lifting that veil of ignorance, and disrespect as fast as He can.
The treatment I (and most women) recieve is unjust, and the fact that I can see and feel the injustice of it is proof that it is not meant to be that way, and will not be that way much longer. It chafes me because it is meant to change. I have full confidence that as promised(though I can't find where) woman will be recompensed richly for the injustices she has suffered.

Wednesday, January 25

Understanding, Love & Desire

I was reading my Patriarchal Blessing last night, and noticed something. There is a paragraph that says "I bless you with an understanding of the gospel, with a love for the gospel and with a desire to learn more of it, and in doing this your testimony will be strong, you will have the ability to bear testimony to others in such as way that their hearts will be touched and that they will have a desire to learn of the gospel."
I hadn't read my blessing since I've started reading and commenting on the various LDS themed blogs. I have taken real pleasure in reading what others have to say about various doctrines. Here's my question, is the enjoyment I get out of participating in the bloggernacle related to whatever it is in me that prompted my Patriarch to say this in my blessing?
When I very first starting reading/posting here it made me and my husband a little uncomfortable. My husband said "I get the idea that the church sort of frowns on things like this." I asked why, and we couldn't come up with a satisfactory answer. The best answer we had is that it is a good place for people to promote and espouse false doctrines. It's venue where testimonies could be weakened and where non-members can get false impressions that what we are talking about is really church doctrine. That same thing could be said of Fast and Testimony meeting. (In fact I've heard that some missionaries keep family photos in their wallets to distract visitors with when someone starts to bear testimony that Pepsico is run by Satan, and caffiene is of the devil.)
Here's the thing, I've been able to work through several things that have bothered me about the church by participating here. I'm better able to reconcile the treatment of women in the church with 'the plan.' I'm mostly at peace with the prior practice of polygamy. I'm learning how to teach correct principles better.
Here's the phrase I'm most intrigued by; " doing this your testimony will be strong..." I've decided that this means two things. Learning more about the gospel, and the church's history can be tough on one's devotion to, and belief in the gospel. My initial discomfort with this venue stemmed from a belief that learning *too much* about the church's history, and talking about it with too many people is bad for one's testimony. I believe my blessing tells me that my testimony will be strong, that I can learn tough things, and still believe. Also, I think it means that as I learn more and work through my issues, my testimony will be made stronger.
There are all sorts of people in the world, some can just believe and would suffer if they question too much. Others suffer when they are told to just believe, but thrive when they can dig through the muck and find the gems of truth anyways. I think I'm the second sort of person.

Sunday, January 22

Nancy: Part Two

In my last post, I just told the story of what happened between Nancy and I. I later realized that I never really came to any sort of conclusion. So here it is.

The last time I saw Nancy, I was a freshman in college. From rumors I heard one of her friends (the one who I told about the imaginary boyfriend) had transferred to the university I was at because she had tried to commit suicide at her other university. I was walking on campus during a weekend, and was alone. Nancy must have come to visit her friend because as I was walking I saw the two of them walking together towards me. We passed, I said "hello." A few seconds later I could hear them laughing behind me. It was a sort of laugh that I knew probably had something to do with me, because I had laughed with Nancy like that before.

I hated her then.

I looked back at my high school years and everything that was miserable about them. It was all her fault. I looked at the troubles I was having at the time, and they all seemed to spring from the misery of high school.

I don't hate her anymore.

I still have issues that are probably related to my experience with her. I was once talkative, and friendly. I'm now shy and withdrawn. I don't trust people, and am not near so sure of myself as I would have been.

On the other hand, I am happily married. I have a healthy baby. I have a college degree. I have health and strength. Though I may have been depressed in high school, I'm not depressed anymore. I'm a well adjusted independent adult.

I can see that, had I remained friends with her, my life would have been much different. I don't know what sort of things Nancy did in high school, but the clothes she wore and the friends she kept indicate that her extracurriculars most likely were not entirely wholesome. I can see myself being a better person for the experience I had.

There is a scripture that I read as a senior in high school: Lev. 20:26 "And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people that ye should be mine." When I read this I understood why the whole thing was allowed to happen. I may not understand how, but I know that had I not gone through that mess I would not be the Lord's the way I am today.

Saturday, January 21


In an ealier post I mentioned a friend that I had, who hurt my feelings pretty badly. I think it's finally time that I write about the whole event from start to finish. My junior high school was arranged in such a way that you had a 'team' who went to all the same classes and teachers as you did. This team was determined, more or less by which math class you were in. In sixth grade I had been placed in the 'regular' math class, after about a week, my teacher realized that I should have been put in the advanced math class, and had me moved. This meant that I was put into a new group of people who had already been somewhat established. I had all the 'perks' of being a 'new kid'(no friends to hang out with) with none of the benefits of actually being a new kid (being from another state or something).

One day my science teacher put us into groups so we could start a science project. Because the person who sat next to me was absent that day, I got paired up with Nancy(name obviously changed), whose neighbor was also absent. We got along alright, and by the time we had finished the project we were good friends.

Over time, even though I made a few other friends in my classes (especially orchestra) Nancy became my best friend. I always hung out with her, and really enjoyed her company. She had friends other than me, but I always assumed I was her best friend. I never really noticed them that much.

More time passed and not much changed to me. She became a lot more interested in clothes, and boys, and pop culture. I wasn't uninterested in these things per se, but my interest didn't increase the way her's did. I assumed that she found most of those sorts of things as silly as I found them.

Finally it happened. She got a boyfriend. He went to a different school, but she met him through some of her extracurricular activities. She talked about him a lot. She told me how great he was, and cute, and how she liked him so much. We were about 14 when this happened. We had grown out of "coming over to play," and spent our time being friends at school, and writing emails to eachother. The summer before we started high school her boyfriend moved away. To England. She often talked about how sad she was, and how tough it would be to maintain their relationship.

One night she called me. She was crying. She told me her boyfriend had died. I somehow knew that this was exactly what she was going to tell me. I don't know how I knew, but it felt obvious. The obviousness of it made it feel wrong somehow. She said he died in a surfing accident. She told me not to tell my parents, because she couldn't bear to hear them telling her how it would all be alright. This made no sense to me, since my parents never really ever talked to her anyways. I told my parents, and also told them that she had asked me not to. I bought her flowers and a card.

Later she told me that her boyfriend had appeared to her in a dream, and told her not to worry about him. I brushed it off as her dreaming about him. Then she told me he rearranged her room. Then she told me he wrote me a note. Thats right. She handed me a long note written by her dead boyfriend. After reading the note I was really creeped out.

I finally realized that this boyfriend was largely fictional. I had never met him, but she had always had such convincing excuses for why he coud never meet me. I had never seen a picture of him. She said he hated cameras, and had religious objections to being photographed. His handwriting looked suspiciously like hers, though obviously different. I looked up his name in phonebooks, and places where she said he was mentioned. I thought he died surfing in England because trying to that would be dangerous. I was naive and trusting. I thought I had failed my friend by missing her cries for attention. To me she needed help, and was crying out for it in an unconventional way. I decided to talk to her other friends, and see what they might have noticed that I didn't.

Her other friends, one in particular was eager to talk to me about it through email. She too, was worried about Nancy. She too had seen many warning signs, like not sleeping, not eating well. Her friend said that she thought Nancy wasn't taking her boyfriends death well. She focused on it, until I finally confided in her that I didn't think the boyfriend was ever real. The next day at school just before lunch I was alone in the hallway at my locker. My friend came walking towards me, She didn't say anything, but threw a folded piece of paper at me, and walked off. I was flabbergasted. When I opened the paper and read what was on it I was heartbroken. Her other friend had told her that I thought her boyfriend never existed. In the note she cussed at me, and threatened to kill me if I ever spoke to her again.

Through later conversations with people who knew her, I found out that I was right about her boyfriend, and very little else. Her boyfriend didn't exist, or at least never in the way she claimed. Someone who had been in her other circle of friends came to me one day to apologize for the part she had played in what Nancy did. She told me that I hadn't been Nancy's best friend for years, and maybe never was. I learned that she regularly told me lies just to see what she could get me to believe. I learned that she and her other friends thought up plans of how to trick me, and laughed together when they pulled it off. I learned that Nancy was probably sitting there with her other 'concerned' friend as I wrote emails to her about how worried I was about Nancy.

My other friends had moved on without me while I was being friends with Nancy. I was left with no-one to talk to, or sit with or anything. I can look back and see myself and the sterotypical nerdy looser girl. Glasses, chubby, doesn't wear makeup, wears lame clothes, sits by herself, gets really good grades, and barely whispers when she talks.

As I mentioned before, I haven't really made new friends since then. It bothers me that if I remember too much I still cry about it. It bothers me that my husband and others play down how important that event was in my life, and how deeply it affected me.

I trusted her, and loved her. She lied to me, and made a fool out of me with a whole group of her 'real' friends. As I look back on it, I was probably the person who cared the most about her, and I believe she did herself a disservice in treating me that way. I'm curious what she thinks about when she remembers me. I wonder if she's grown up enough to feel bad about it. I wonder if she is callous enough to think that it didn't really matter.

I really wonder what she would think if she read this.

Thursday, January 5

The Ring of Power

Once my dad asked me who I thought the *main* character of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was(this was when the first movie was released). My first thought was to say "Frodo. He carried the ring, and without him all of middle earth would have fallen under Sauron's power." Then I remembered the end of the story, how Samwise had literally carried Frodo, and went without food and water to keep Frodo strong. I especially recalled how at the very end, within Mt. Doom, Frodo went mad with power and intended to keep the ring to himself, and all that saved Sam from having to push Frodo and the Ring into the pit was the fact that Gollum who was more mad than Frodo stole the ring from him and fell into the pit on his own. So rather than saying that Frodo was the main character, I said that it was Samwise. He was the true hero of the story, though I couldn't quite put my finger on what he did that was so heroic. I just felt it, though I couldn't understand it. My dad answered, "I think so too, and I don't understand why everyone is making such a big deal about Frodo, while they keep forgetting Sam."
I don't think my dad was getting at anything other than what he said, but this conversation hit home to me in other matters, and it's recently come to mind again. It's a fuzzy and mushy glob of thoughts that seem to be related, but I haven't been able to put it in a rigid and obvious form. Anyways, here they are.

The One Ring, is the Priesthood. (Probably not a metaphor you'll see discussed in Priesthood meetings, but bear with me for a while). It's a real power that can be used for good purposes, but it is real *power,* or *authority.* And as D&C tells us, as soon as man gets a little authority unrighteous dominion enters into the picture. The anitdote? Humility, this is why the little unassuming hobbits were given the task of carrying the Ring. This is also why pride is such a potent vice.

Frodo is the Priesthood bearers. Assigned the task of carrying the ring for no obvious reason, he was given the task of leading the fellowship to Mt. Doom and back. So the Priesthood bearer is given authority for no obvious reason and is assigned the task of leading his family through mortality and back. Frodo is given companions to assist, protect, and comfort him, and is also given instructions by Elves and Wizards, just as the Priesthood holders are given family and church quorums and guidance from prophets and the Holy Ghost.

Samwise is the Women of the church. Samwise was "caught listening at the window" by Gandalf and then was given the assignment of never leaving Frodo's side, and being his companion. So it is that Eve was "caught" partaking of the fruit and was thus assigned to never leave Adam's side and to be his companion, and to let him rule over her.

Gollum is... yep he's Satan. Gollum had a taste of power, then it was taken from him, and he's mad with trying to get it back. He knows the only way to do so is to separate Frodo and Sam, then kill Frodo. He knows the Ring has weakened Frodo, and does his best to make Frodo suspicious of Sam. Satan strives to make men and women suspicious of eachother. He tells Men that they are special, or better and have been given the Priesthood for a good reason, or that the priesthood is a horrible burden to bear and they shouldn't have to make that sacrifice while the women do nothing. He tells women that men are evil and they have been keeping the priesthood from women.

It's obvious that if Frodo and Sam agreed to carry the ring together, it would be problematic because of the nature of the ring. Frodo carries it for a day, then Sam the next day, and eventually the Ring would have worked it's power on both of them and they would have killed eachother for it. Gandalf knew the ring, and it's history. I think he knew that only one person could carry it the whole way if he had a companion that would never carry it, and would never want to carry it. That way Frodo could go mad with power, but Samwise would be there to see that the task of destroying the ring gets completed.

So here's the thing, women were not given the priesthood and were told that men should rule over them so that the men can go mad with power, but the women will still be there to see that the task of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of Man (through raising righteous families) gets completed.

We're all so decieved by Satan that we no longer see the heroism in being like Samwise, and we feel disconted at the tasks we've been given. It's as Rosalynde Welch said at this discussion that "When it comes to the competition between needs of individual women and the needs of stable social formations, as we so often find, there’s no win-win scenario. " Perhaps we are so flawed as mortals that we can't share the One Ring and remain righteous. And even though I can't *understand* how what I'm doing as a women is 'heroic' or righteous perhaps I'll have better luck just feeling it, the way I feel that Samwise really is the hero of the story even though it's not obvious why.