Wednesday, August 30

Ant, Aunts and Uncles

I remember when my oldest niece was born. My brother held her up so she could see all of us in the room and said, "These are your uncles and aunts. Your uncles are my brothers. Ants are little bugs that crawl around on the ground." That little baby started first grade last week. She's got three younger sisters now, and many more cousins than she used to. The layout of her dad's (and my) family has changed quite a bit over the years too.

Last Saturday my sister, M, left her abusive husband, an event that all of us are glad for. She's staying with our parents, and has been trying to get legal advice. I spoke with her on the phone and she said that it feels weird to think that she will soon be divorced. She said, "There's just a stigma of being divorced, and I know that it was wrong of me, but I used to look down on people who had been divorced. Now I'll be one of them." By way of consolation I told her that she has, at least, successfully avoided being the 'Spinster Aunt.' That title has been given to our 31 year old unmarried sister T. We laughed and then went on, "yeah, and our brother T is the chubby funny uncle, and our sister J is the bitter childless carreerist..." At this point there was a slight pause and M said, "I guess that would make you the normal one." "Wohoo!" I cheered, "I win!"

There are still plenty of clich├ęd aunt roles that I can fill. The tragic widow, the holier-than-thou good sister, the bully with a henpecked husband, and the list goes on. There are so many ways our lives can go 'wrong.' All of us really will have something go 'wrong' with our lives. I avoided so many pitfalls by watching my siblings struggle, and by listening to their advice and accepting their assistance. Today I was blessed to see just how right my life is going. I worry that it won't last, but there's nothing to do except enjoy it while I can.

Thursday, August 24

Hired Help

In the wake of the Forbes debacle, I came across a comment that started with this:
remember- woman was created to be man's help meet, not the other way around.

Okay, there is, indeed, plenty of evidence for this assertion. Every scriptural account of the creation says that Eve was created after Adam. The story says that after Adam was created, God said, "Hey! He shouldn't be alone! Let's make a woman for him!" Now regardless of what you think about word 'helpmeet' you can't get around the fact that Adam was put here first, and all accounts indicate that he wasn't put here first to help prepare the place for Eve. Eve came after because Adam needed her.

Either way, we end up with an awful lot of people thinking that it is a woman's main job to help her husband. When we get to thinking about the help that men need, in a modern sense it often gets reduced to cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Some have asserted that there is a great deal of emotional work that women are predominantly held accountable for (ego stroking, remembering familial obligations, being pleasant company etc). My main question is, what is it that men do that is so important, and that they need so much help with.

According to the Moses 1:39, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." The main part of that puzzle that we are currently responsible for is providing mortal bodies for God's spirit children to dwell in, and that was one of the earliest (debatably the first) commandments that God gave to Adam and Eve. This would seem to indicate that the all important task of mortality is the bearing and raising of children.

Hey wait a second. Women were put on earth to 'help' men bear and raise children? I wasn't aware that 'to help' means 'to do for or instead of.' Now unless you're willing to assert that the most important part of having a baby is making the sperm, then you will have to admit that physically, it's the men helping the women have children. Also, unless you're willing to assert that money or income is the most important part of raising a child, then you'll have to admit that the model family that the church promotes, again, puts men in a position of helping women.

So, how on earth did we ever get the idea that women are here to help men? And what on earth are we supposed to be helping them with?

Wednesday, August 9

The Princess

In dicussions of women's place within the Patriarchal order of the Church experiences where women have suffered abuse of some sort, or where men have exceeded their bounds are often offered as evidence that the organization of power as it stands is faulty. The most common response to such accounts is that such things are not intended. For example: "That is not what presiding really means," "If you think that having the Priesthood is about having power then you don't understand what it's really about." And, my personal favorite, "If he acted like that, then he didn't really have the Priesthood anyways."

I had these thoughts in the back of my mind as I came across this quote from Machiavelli's The Prince:
"Many men have imagined republics and principalities that never really extisted at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation."

Let us consider, for a moment, the raising of a child. My child, to be specific. Someday I would like for him to speak english, dress himself, use the bathroom by himself. It is widely accepted that the best way to teach my child to talk is to speak to him as though he already can. I should carry on conversations with him, and ask him questions as though I really expect a response. Granted, I should, perhaps, speak slowly and repeat myself often just so that meanings and pronunciations are more clear. However, it is obvious that I should not start him out with the "My name is..." and verb congugations that are used in language classes.
As for dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom, it is the height of folly to think that the best way to teach him to do these things could be to simply act as though he already can. Were I to treat my one year old child as though he could use the toilet by himself it would be most unpleasant for both of us.

I can imagine the Church power structure as it should be. It wouldn't matter that women wouldn't have official authority to change things because they wouldn't want anything changed, and even if they did they would only need to mention it to their husband, home teachers or bishop, and the problem would be understood, taken seriously, and addressed properly. I can see how this could be a very pleasant and clearly organized way of running things, and perhaps if God were to say so, the ideal way of running things. The problem I see with it is that people just aren't that good natured right now. As nice as it would be if things were like this, they aren't.

If you assume that bad behavior leads to unhappiness (wicked never was happiness), and also assume that the ultimate goal of existence is to be happy (men are that they might have joy) then the questions to consider are:
1. Is it more important to maximize people's happiness, or to most speedily make people good?
I suspect, given the conditions of mortality, that it is more important to make people good as quickly as possible.

2. Do people become good people faster when we act like they already are good people (and thereby allow them opportunities to be bad) or do they become good faster when we assume they will be bad and create safeguards preventing bad behavior?
I don't know the answer to this question, and I suspect that it varies widely between individuals and behaviors. All I know for certain is that creating safeguards to prevent bad behavior help to maximize the current happiness of individuals.

I personally feel that the best way to help us be good and treat each other better as men and women is to create safeguards that prevent bad behavior. I feel that an excellent safeguard would be to put women into positions of authority and status within the church. Because as it stands holding the priesthood is about having power, presiding is about 'being the boss' and men who don't really hold the Priesthood perform priesthood duties all the time. The Priesthood structure also gives a rather striking impression that men are more important, more worthwhile, and just plain better than women, even if it shouldn't.

The message we should be getting isn't the message we are getting. I'm sure it's because we aren't understanding it properly, but the fact of the matter is we aren't hearing what we're supposed to. I think the fastest way to fix this (and thereby increase happiness) is to alter how things are taught so that when we hear it, though we may be imperfect, we understand what we're supposed to.