Mormon Discussion

Friday, August 26, 2005

How Would I Want To Be Loved?

Ok, ok...I'll admit it. I'm a registered Democrat.

I know! The gasping! The horror! A Mormon Democrat (who's registered, no less) is as rare as a solar eclipse (and just as burning to your retinas, so beware!).

While most of the time, Mormons are Republican because of the more conservative stance that party takes and shuns the more liberal views about abortion, gay rights, etc. that the Democratic party takes, I still am Democratic.

For me, it all boils down to social policy and equality. Clearly, social programs are the hallmark of the Democratic party. And that's where I plant my political and religious feet. In the idea of social equality. In the idea of loving my neighbor. In the idea of service to others and sacrifice on my part.

Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded of the importance of loving one another. We are reminded over and over again that to love thy neighbor as thyself is the second greatest commanment. This is stressed throughout much of the scriptures that deal with the period in which Jesus was on the earth. Jesus talked constantly about loving others.

How is love defined? What constitutes this love that is so frequently mentioned?

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:7-12

So love is of God and when we apply this love outwards, God dwells within us, which is a pretyt amazing thought. We all know and believe that God's love is infinite, forgiving, and patient. It can change hearts of wo/men. It can move mountains and heal people. It's a powerful force. And we are told that we are to cultivate this love within ourselves and then pass that same love to others.

What does it mean to love someone as myself? What do I value? What do I want? How are the ways that I love myself? How would I want someone to love me? These aren't necessarily questions we consider regularly. We act in ways that bring us pleasure, that make us better, than carve us slowly...we don't always think consciously about the things that we do that show ourselves our personal love for the inner person. Nor do we always pay attention to how we love others--when we love someone, the act of loving them becomes almost natural and subconscious. We do things because we love them and it seems to be the obvious thing to do. We would find a way to do most anything to alleviate pain or suffering of a loved one, to bring joy to a loved one, to serve, to encourage, to teach...we have no qualms about helping and serving those we love.

And as members, we are fairly good about serving those within our communites. More often that not, a group of people I don't know well show up from church to help me move from house to house. Many people brought over dinner for my mom when she was sick. We treat our members very well. We know them and even if we don't like them, we still show them love to a certain extent.

However, the love that we show is more often than not limited to those we see. We are cordial to those we don't know, we are good representatives of Christ. But do we love them as ourselves? Do we love them as we love our close friends and family? Would I do whatever I could to ease the pain and suffering of a stranger? How about millions of strangers? Would I give of myself in a variety of different ways to ensure others joy, health, well-being, and pleasure? Or will I only be nice to them as we pass on the street?

The world is an ugly place today. I'm not talking about the spiritual decline in the world, because that much is obvious. I'm talking about the very basic things that we would all be horrified to have taken from us. Yet, it happens every day to all our neighbors.

Within America, we suffer from below-living-standard wages, racial prejudices, poor educational systems, discrimination, poverty, sickness...we are mired in social problems. It seems so overwhelming at times, and so removed from where we are. Yet, behind all these social problems that are faceless a majority of the time, there are people. There are our neighbors. The same ones we are beseeched to love as ourselves.

How would I want someone to love me if I were a battered woman seeking shelter? How would I want someone to love me if I were poor? How would I want someone to love me if I were an immigrant to a country and didn't speak the language? How would I want someone to love me if I were sick and without health insurance? How would I want someone to love me? How do I show that love to others?

We don't do enough. And yet, the things we can do are so small, so insignificant to our own lives, but yet can make such an impact on others! For example, when I was 19, I worked at Wal-Mart. I was frequently encouraged not to take my breaks, since the pharmacy was too busy to allow that. I was frequently asked to work off the clock. Since I worked in the pharmacy, I was privy to the information regarding the health insurance policy of Wal-Mart workers: in sum, no transplants were covered other than liver, no pre-existing health conditions were treated or medications provided (this means if you started at Wal-Mart and had been diagnosed with diabetes prior to beginning employment at Wal-Mart, you may not be covered for your tests/visits/medications/etc.), women were afforded one yearly pelvic examination and if anything was found wrong or troubling in that visit, the subsequent visits to fix the problem were not covered, most medications weren't covered, including birth control (however, Viagra was...??) and some basic heart medications. This was a very poor health insurance policy. Co-pays on prescriptions cost $20 for generic and $30 for name brand. I'm on 5 medications right now--that would be $100-150 a month out of my pocket if I had Wal-Mart insurance. Raises were 1-2% of $7--the average wage. Workers were encouraged to underreport accidents with bribes of food and parties for "accident free" days. It was not a good place for people to work. But, they had to, since it is often the biggest employer whereever it is located.

My choice, after I left, was to never shop at Wal-Mart again. Ever. I will go somewhere else and pay more for the very same products that I can get cheaper at Wal-Mart because, in my opinion, every dollar I spend at Wal-Mart is a quiet and tacit acceptance of terrible working conditions for people. How would I want someone to love me if I worked at Wal-Mart? I would want them to fight for me for better working conditions and better wages. So, I show my love to my neighbors, even if it's indirectly, by spending my money elsewhere. It may not seem like much. It really isn't, in fact. But if everyone loved their Wal-Mart neighbors like they loved themselves and stopped shopping there, it would make a difference.

My point isn't to convince everyone to stop shopping at Wal-Mart (although that would be great!). My point is that to love thy neighbor as thyself doesn't always have to be a huge thing. It can be small. It can be powerful.

Loving thy neighbor as thyself comes in many forms. Boycotts are one form. They work (see the Montgomery bus boycott if you need proof). Another is service. Service is the hallmark of our church member interactions. We serve by welcoming members, going on missions, etc. But do we service those outside our wards? Outside our church realm? Do we limit who are neighbors are to those we know? Those we share something in common with? Or do we truly serve everyone, regardless of who they are, what they do, and if we agree with their choices?

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mosiah 2:17

We must make an effort to serve others more diligently. And not those that that we deem to be deserving of service. In the parable of the good samaritan, the samaritan did not look at the wounded man and think, "Well, he really did this to himself since he made poor choices in life. He was a criminal for awhile, he grew up in a bad part of town, he'll probably end up here again or living off the system...I'll jsut keep walking." Too often, we make judgment calls about who is deserving of our love and our service and our help. Often, we make these judgments and we do not understand the perspective of those we are ruling on.

For example, prisoners are considered a waste to most of society. They are criminals, right? Dredges on society. Crust of bread, drop of water, let them rot. Rather than make a judgment call on them, perhaps we should ask ourselves: If I were a prisoner, how would I want someone to treat me?

Yes, prison is a place for punishment. But, it is also a place for rehabilitation. So, we take Johnny, a poor black kid from the streets who got busted for drugs at 19. He's in jail for 2 1/2 years for his crime. In this 2 1/2 years, what should be done with Johnny? Should he be allowed to attend college classes within the prison system? Should he be allowed to get his GED? Should he be allowed to learn a trade? Should we give Johnny something that at 21 years old, when he gets out of jail, he will be able to do something? Or should we lock him up 23 out of 24 hours?

How would you want to be treated if you were Johnny? How would you want to be loved?

Our social policies in this country are built with the intention of servicing and loving our neighbors. Welfare is to service and love mothers, fathers, and children who cannot survive on their own. We each have our own welfare system, which we both run and live on, in our own lives. It's called friends and family. When my car was totalled in an accident, I received personal welfare from a friend's family who loaned me a car while I was dealing with things. When my friend needed $1000 to pay her bills, I signed my student loan refund check over to her and she was a recipient of my welfare.

Meals on Wheels is service and love to eldery folks. Free health clinics are love and service to the indigent and ill in this country. Affordable housing and livable wages are service and love to everyone.

Too often, we think about how our sacrifices will hurt us. Specifically, the main complaint I hear against social policy is that so many taxes are taken out of the weekly paychecks and spent on social programs. We don't think about the life-saving medicine that the hospital pharmacy is now able to give out for free to low-income/insurance-less patients. We don't think about the food stamps that feed a child. We don't think about the people that get to stay in their homes because they make a decent wage at their work. We choose to ignore the good our sacrifices bring into the world. We choose to blind ourselves and see only our lack, the absence of our goods and time. We lack money from taxes. We complain. We don't consider that if we were living off of the gov't's assistance, how would we want to be loved? To be cared for? Would we want everyone to remind us how we are a drain on society, a waste, lazy, unmotivated, and abusing the system even if our claims are legitimate? Or would we want people who smiled at us and felt happy that their sacrifice would make our lives easier? That one more person was protected, sheltered and loved? How would we want to be loved?

We think about how our sacrifices hurt us. We think about the loss of time to go volunteer or lobby for legislature. We think about how we have a million other things to do. We think about how our vote and our voice doesn't make a difference so why bother with it at all. We think about those who deserve our help. We think about all the things we do do in this life and rationalize to ourselves that it is enough. We give service in church and possibly in our community, so we do enough. We think about how we will look, if we will look silly, or weird, or insane for fighting for a cause we feel strongly about. We think about how much money we lose when we donate to charities or buy food to give away to the food shelves. We think about our own families and our own friends and our obligations to them. We think that we don't know anyone who is affected by unfair or harmful legislations, so it is not of our concern.

We do not ask ourselves how we would want to be loved. We do not think about how our one hour of time donated, our one voice lobbying for change, our one banner, our one button, our one website, our one bumper sticker can change the lives of many...and sometimes, the life of only one. We don't think about how we would want someone to fight for us if we couldn't fight for ourselves. We don't consider how we would feel if judgment was passed on us and therefore service and love withheld. We don't remember that there is never enough service until we are serving with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. We don't recall that Jesus wasn't content to say that He had done enough service for that day and He wanted to go do something else. We don't think about the pure love of Christ emanating from us when we sacrifice and show love and charity.

Of course, not everyone needs to be a Democrat to fulfil this, nor do they need to believe that prisoners deserve caviar and crumpets. Rather, everyone needs to look at things from a different angle. To make an effort to cast aside judgments formed in their minds before their heart has had time to see the person/people. To realize that there is a constant need to love everyone, even those we don't see, don't like, and don't deem worthy of our love and service.

Everyone needs to ask themselves how they would want to be loved. How would I want to be loved?

There are a million ways to serve others. We don't do it enough. We need to lobby for better programs or reforming current ones to make sure that love and service really are given to our fellow wo/men. We need to avoid purchasing products from and affiliating with companies and people and things that use their lack of love and service to profit. We need to look constantly, search and seek in perpetuity, ways in which our service and love can be rendered. Not just to church members, not just to those we those we don't know. To those we will never know. To those we will never see or even be aware of the help we've provided.

Let us not look back at our lives in the next world and see all our missed opportunities. Let us not look back and see our prejudices and biases preventing us from service and love. Let us not remember in the next life all the times we didn't serve because of the sacrifice it entailed. Let us look at our life with happiness and a sense of fulfillment. Let us greet the people who were benefitted by our actions in the next life. Let us look around and see that we woke up and did something more than dreamed of our mansion above. Let us truly be our brother's keeper in all things and show our love to those who don't even know it.

"Savior, may I learn to love thee
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another
Finding strength beyond my own
Savior, may I learn to love thee
Lord, I would follow thee.

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see
Who am I to jusge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother's keeper
I would learn the healer's art
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart
I would be my bother's keeper
Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For they servant I would be
Savior, may I love my brother
Lord, I would follow thee."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ok, I'm going to be honest: I'm weirded out by garments.

Not that I have my own set, but garments weird me out.

Not the spiritual aspect of them, as I understand their meaning and significance. And I think it's cool that we have that constant reminder.

AND I will concede that I am mostly going off of things that I've heard from Annie's grandma's brother's friend who once knew someone who did it one time when she was like 14. So my firsthand knowledge is HIGHLY limited.

But, speaking as an average 22 year old girl, the physical aspect of garments creeps me out. For girls, there seems to be a bit of confusion on whether it's over or under the bra. If it's over, I'm really grossed out. As every girl does, at some point in my life, I've put a bra on over my shirt. The shirt wadded. Every place it possibly could, it was bunched and awkward and weird. And lumpy.

And I'm also a little reluctant to give up normal underwear because, again, being honest, I LOVE UNDERWEAR. I have a Victoria's Secret credit card and I go NUTS when the semi-annual sale hits because who doesn't want 40 pairs of underwear for $8?! I have so many pairs that my top drawer doesn't shut. I could probably go for about 3 months without washing underwear and still be wearing a clean pair every day. So, I've got quite the investment, both with adoration and monetary value, invested in underwear. And I'm more than a little reluctant to give it up.

Not to mention I hate almost everything that is white. Of course, there is the figurative conotation of being white in the religious sense. But, speaking as a caucasian girl with skin so pale that the blue veins under my eyes become visible in the winter months, pale girls shouldn't wear white. Ever. It's just sick looking. Imagine a tuberculosis infected girl in 1903. That's what I look like in white (or yellow for that matter). So once I'm married, every morning I get to look in the mirror and go, "AIIIIIYYYYYEEEEEE!!!!!! WHO'S THAT GIRL INFECTED WITH CONSUMPTION...Oh, just me. Grrrreat."

And I'm thinking that they would be hot. Constantly wearing more than one layer. I'm sweating just thinking about these stuffy Minnesota summers with 100% humidity and it's so gross outside you don't even want to be wearing skin. And I'll be wearing two layers. Whew. Pass me the extra strength deodorant, please.

Of course, I realize that there are all small things compared to the importance of wearing garments, but...BUT...I'd be willing to wager that other garment-less people have had the same thoughts. And those of you with garments probably wondered about the physical mechanics about them as well.

So, was it weird switching from garment-less to garmented? How did you deak with the basic physical aspect/concerns? And for the garment-less, do you wonder about these too? Or am I just a weirdo (which could be.)?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"If Darwin were right, wouldn't we all still be turning into monkeys?" says a former bishop of mine

So, we are all up in arms as a nation about the Evolution Theory vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design (which, in my opinion, isn't intelligent whatsoever, but who I am? Just a random, mouthy blog-girl).

Although there is no official church doctrine (that I'm aware of and please, if anyone knows of come, direct me to it, because I would love to peruse it), there seems to be definite opinions on this subject. Most of which I've encountered lean towards the creationism view.

However, I have never been able to subscribe to this view. It, in my opinion, doesn't make sense. Either creationism isn't all that it's cracked up to be or Heavenly Father threw some fossils around as a cruel and evil joke.

For example, as I was walking around the science museum today, I was looking at dinosaur bones and fossilized poop (yes, poop!) that was dated millions of years old. And I don't have any problem believing that these items WERE that old.

I don't think the idea of evolution is mutually exclusive with the idea of a divine creator. And there apparently is no school of thought on this (perhaps I should make one up. Called Intelligent Evolution. I like that!).

"And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons; And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets. And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these are one year with God, but not with man." --D&C 88:42-44

"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." --2 Peter 3:8

Here is some (only a tiny bit of much that I found on scriptural reference that states, simply put, that God does not exist in the same timeframe we as humans do. Therefore, i feel it would be very naive of us to believe differently or to take time frames in scripture as given in our time. Sure, it says the Lord took 6 days to create the earth and on the 7th He rested. But, who's to say that 7 days=168 earth hours? We as humans have no idea what God's time is compared to ours. There is scriptural reference to a day equaling 1,000 years or something like that, but again, do we take this timeframe at face value and equate it to be an exact conversion? Or more like an estimate?

So, we can say that at best, we have a rough estimate of God's time to our time. More than likely, we have no clue. So, can we really say that it was a literal 7 days and deny the scriptures that say otherwise? I don't think we can, honestly.

Let's look at the theory of evolution in a rough, simple, what-can-I-remember-from-bio format.

Evolution is something like this:
Pangea--a massive land form. This eventually breaks apart into continents
Single cells--these are the first life forms. They eventually evolve into...
Animals--which then weed out the stragglers through the whole survival of the fittest. Eventually one of these animals evolves into...
Humans--which is where we are now.

Now, let's do a brief look at the creation story:
God created heaven and earth.
Then night and day, light and dark.
Then the firmament (which, I looked up, means the vault or expanse of the heavens; the sky).
Then water and earth.
Then grass, seeds, fruit, etc.
Then seasons and more light and stars.
Then sea creatures and air creatures.
Then He tells these things to be fruitful and multiply.
Then every other living creature that is on the earth.
Then humans.

So, if we look, the story of creation seems to follow a similar pattern to that of evolution. Earth. Water/land next. Then grass. Then sea/air creatures. Then we move onto the animals on the earth. Last, people. Pretty similar pattern, if you ask me.

Not to mention the fact that the water was to gather in "one place" which would imply that if all the water is gathered together, one could draw the conclusion that the earth was then drawn together by default in another area. Sounds like it may have been pangea.

Are these to ideas mutually exclusive? I don't think so. It says that God created the heaven and the earth. It doesn't say He snapped his fingers and the earth popped into existance. Perhaps God, who talks constantly about patience and long-suffering, was interested in seeing a slow fruition of His work, so he set in motion the process of slow compression of the parts of space to create Earth, as I learned about in science class in 8th grade. Perhaps he created sea creatures as one celled ameobas and then set in motion a process we now call evolution. Perhaps in there, the creatures that walked on the land were the creation of dinosaurs. They died off before humans did, so who's to say that that wasn't their entrance and exit?

There is astounding evidence for evolution. Do we deny it? Do I look over the artifacts at the science museum and close my eyes to what I see? Do I tell my future children that their science classes are not true? How can we deny so much evidence?

People are so quick to point out the flaws that they find in evolution, as if that somehow makes it false. But, look at any theory...look at any evolves, it grows. Things change. But the essential part of it stays the same. We used to think that you could cure insanity by putting people's heads in boxes. We were wrong. Were we wrong that insanity existed? That it needed to be treated? No. We were wrong on one area of it. Finding flaws doesn't mean it is false. It means one area has yet to be explained or has been explained incorrectly.

So, is it an absolute must that we choose one side or the other?

Or can we all just jump on board to my new creation, Intelligent Evolution?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sex! And the Church

How do we, as Mormons, deal with sex and sexuality in the chuch?

I remember that my mother was always very forthcoming with sex and sexuality. She answered all my questions very honestly and always corrected any incorrect ideas I had about sex. She sat me down every year and discussed sex and babies and menstruation with me.

However, she's the exception, it seems, since so many people that I know were not taught much, if anything, about sex. What little knowledge they had came from the Church, which the major message of that is NO! unless you are married. No elaboration, just NO!

Here are some of my questions on this issue.

How do we teach kids that sexuality and having sexual feelings is normal? And ok? And that it's ok to want to have sex, even if you aren't married? And that once you are married, then it's ok to have fun with your spouse?

The main gist of the church's stance seems to be to drill it into children and teenagers (and young adults, I may add, as this is my current situation) that we are supposed to be completely asexual before marriage. We aren't supposed to masturbate. We aren't supposed to french kiss. Or make out. We aren't supposed to even THINK sexual thoughts or want to have sex, because "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart." (3 Ne 12:28). I think that that scripture also applies to women as well. So prior to marriage, we are supposed to be completely asexual. We can't even think about sex.

However, what I fail to understand is that, when the discussion of homosexuality is brought up, members are constantly told that there is no sin in have homosexual FEELINGS, but upon acting on those homosexual feelings. So why doesn't this hold true for heterosexuals, as well? We are told that we can't masturbate because it causes us to think about sex. We can't think about sex in general, because that will make us want to have sex and then we MIGHT have sex, so therefore it's wrong wrong WRONG to think about sex!

Why is it wrong to think about sex? To acknowledge that God created us as sexual beings? If the sole purpose of sex was procreation, then why isn't it something that we do to alleviate pain, just like eating or peeing, rather than something that brings us pleasure?

If sexual thoughts lead us to sexual actions, then what about people who have sexual thoughts but who do NOT have sexual actions outside of marriage? Are sexual thoughts only bad if they lead us to have sex? Or are they bad all the time?

What about those people who are 40 and unmarried, still a virgin, who have sexual thoughts? Isn't it their right to at least have sexual thoughts, if nothing else?

And once we are married, does this mean all the sexual restrictions are off? Can I think about my husband sexually when he's not there? If he's on a business trip for three months, can I masturbate? Can I call him and tell him I'm thinking about him? Or are those things still wrong? Are they only wrong for unmarried people or for everyone?

What is so inherently bad about masturbation, outside of the sexual thoughts realm? Sex experts will often tell women who claim to be unable to orgasm that they need to masturbate to find out what makes them orgasm, so they can effectively communicate this to a partner. Why are we told to not be familiar with our own bodies? It's not sinful for me to massage my own arm or even to rub out a cramp in my leg, both of which feel really good, but it's sinful for me to touch my own genitals? I've known women who didn't even know where their own clitoris was located, let alone what its purpose was! They didn't know where their own body parts were!! I fail to see what's so bad about masturbation, outside of the "It makes you think sexual thoughts" thing, which, according to the Church's own admission, it's not the THOUGHTS OR THE FEELINGS that are sinful, but the act (at least if you are dealing with homosexual thoughts/feelings). So if the thoughts aren't bad, then what's wrong with masturbating?

The church sends out one consistent message to members and that's a view that sex is a big no-no before marriage. But, beyond that, there are so many conflicting or confusing messages.

HF made us sexual beings. He gives us sexual feelings and he gives us sexual desire. He gives us the ability to feel wonderful and to cherish the beauty of sex. So, why does the church not talk about these things, but rather, consistently reminds us how terrible it is and that we should be completely in the dark on our wedding night?

We don't necessarily need experience on the wedding night, but information might be helpful!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Guest Blog!

I'm guest-blogging on Various Stages of Mormondom tomorrow. Check me out at this site.