Monday, October 4, 2010

Hopes for RS History study

I visibly startled when I heard President Beck say that the Relief Society history would be a new area of focus. Truly, it was the last thing I thought I would hear completely the phrase “the sisters of the should know and learn…” I was expecting “to know she is a daughter of God” or some other well worn phrase.

To me the history of Relief Society is synonymous with independent women, professional women, working mothers, women giving blessings, prophetic women, “priestesses”, and activism. All of which are frowned upon, covered up and discouraged at this time in church history.

When I read about the history of Relief Society, I feel that's the type of organization and group of women I want to be involved in. I want to live in that time. And I pine for the former glory and don’t recognize those actions in the Relief Society today.

When I first heard the announcement my fear was that the history would be whitewashed. That the fact that women giving blessings and being told they were given the priesthood through the temple would be ignored and hidden. That the way in which women giving blessings was phased out will be called a revelation from God and His will even though my reading of the history does not support that idea. I’m afraid at how these historical events will be handled. I can have hope that women will find the inspiration in their former powers and hope for its restitution but I can’t say I have faith that it will happen. Time will tell. And I hope my uneasiness does not interfere with whatever the Lord intends with this.

I wrote this in response to Spunky's post at Exponent asking the question, "What do you hope? Is there anything in the history of the Relief Society that you wish was embraced in the modern church?"

The Shelf List

This question was posed on a discussion board and since its bloggable, I'm copying and pasting my answer to it here:

What have you shelved? (anything?)

And why have you shelved it? If we are entitled to personal revelation, why would we not get answers about these things? At least personal assurances to whatever degree?

I'm at a period of my life where I'm taking things off that shelf and trying to figure out if through examining them I can come to an understanding of them. I really am testing the boundaries of what I can learn through revelation for myself.

My list of things I've shelved in the past:
the mysteries of the gospel mentioned in the scriptures, what are those?
What does God really expect of homosexuals and us in showing compassion to them?
to what extent does evolution play a part in the creation of the world and the human specie?
why were women granted the power to give blessings, then limited, and then ultimately taken away?
Why the harshness of the law in the Old Testament?
what is the rightful place of Heavenly Mother in our worship?
where do the ideas of other world religions intersect with the fullness of the gospel?
where is the truth that can be found in other religions?

I'm sort of studying all these things right now because I feel like my base of reading materials has expanded. Obviously, these answers aren't in the scriptures though guidance and insight into the answers may be. Once I gave myself permission to study the scriptures by relying on outside sources (Sunstone magazine, Dialogue journal, other Mormon scholarship like FAIR and FARMS) and academic religious studies, I felt like the world was open up to me and I could meaningfully study and ponder these questions. I was so heartened to see that other Mormons have been pondering, writing and publishing their studies for the benefit of others.

I've had to give myself a certain freedom to speculate and try on new ideas without accepting them as truth. I try to brainstorm the possibilities, knowing that one may true, many may be true in different ways or none of them are true and being okay with not knowing. But I enjoy the process and the insights I can gain through it. Sometimes I come to a conclusion that I feel may be as close to the truth as I can get and I will guardedly accept it, pray about it and keep it to myself by trying to remember that it is not my place to openly share experiences such as it with others since it hasn't been revealed to the church and that I must wait patiently to discover if my hunch is right knowing full well that it may not come in this life and I'll have to wait until the afterlife to find out. And I'm okay with that. Most of the time.

Its actually these questions that led me to start this blog and why I state in the header "my ponderings to know the difference." The way I got into the LDS church was through the process I described above. In order to change my beliefs and accept something that I previously thought was impossible or improbable, I had to be willing to suspend my disbelief and see what it was like believing it might actually be true. Giving myself permission to "try ideas on for size" allowed my mind and my heart to be open enough to accept the truth. After joining the church, I found that sort of inquiry wasn't specifically endorsed or encouraged so it wasn't until recently that I gave myself permission to try the same strategy in other areas of the gospel, specifically those not addressed by revelation.

I have to admit that I love speculation and I've considering starting a series on my blog about my speculations on gospel doctrine. I even adapted a song for it which of course I can't remember now. I know that speculation must be done with caution and needs to be checked against revealed truth and policy. So understandably, I'm cautious in publicly sharing my ideas. Perhaps a disclaimer is needed: "You cannot take my writing here to be an indication of what I actually believe to be true. I'm pondering, I'm shaping my understanding through a somewhat messy process called stream of consciousness writing. Its how I process my thoughts and receive useful feedback from others that I exploit as sounding boards. So please know when you read my blog, that is what you are. I welcome your comments and responses but please remember I have good intentions of learning and growing as a child of God and if I am mistaken or leaving out crucial information, please inform me respectfully. I'm open to critiques of my ideas, as long as it is done respectfully and with compassion."

In fact, maybe I ought to paste at the end of every post or add it as a comment policy.