Mormon Discussion

Monday, October 31, 2005

If a floral print dress were the ticket into the Celestial Kingdom, I'd really have to decide if it was worth it...

Why are we our harshest critics?

I've been mulling a lot over my lack of church attendance recently. And why it is that I am not going anymore. And I've been reading other blogs of lapsed churchgoers (isn't lapsed such a cool word to say. Just say it out loud once...lapzzzzzd...ahhh!) and non-lapsed churchgoers.

We are tough on other Mormons. Tough, tough, tough.

I didn't stop going because I was insulted. I think what really happened was I was sick one weekend and then didn't go. And then I was like, "Hey! There are TWO days to the weekend?! Well, WHERE HAVE I BEEN?!" and then just haven't been back in awhile because it's hard to go back to the one-day weekend.

However, I am thicker-skinned than a lot of people. I'm fairly comfortable in my own skin, even though I stick out like a sore thumb at every Church meeting. I mean, really, who else is wearing black leg warmers with hot pink stilettos? No one.

I'd argue that we are a rather judgmental lot, despite all our lip-service otherwise. We like to talk a lot about being welcoming, but are we really? Do we really like those Mormons who aren't quite the same as everyone else? I'd argue that we've got a rather black and white view on what Mormons are and what they are not.

As does the world, really. I hear a million times a day, "YOU'RE a mormon?'re so...normal..." and I shock people all the time. Because I'm not the stereotype. So, true, we are constantly pigeon-holed by outsiders. In turn, you woud expect us to then shun this practice within our own church, but we don't.

We are quick to judge. We are quick to stamp out a cookie-cutter ideal of Mormons. Think about what a Mormon woman wants/does/is--quick, off the top of your head. Is she weaing a floral print dress? A stay-at-home mom? Married? Striving to be married? Pregnant? Waiting with bated breath until she is? A frequent Talbot's shopper? Driver of a mini-van?

Of course she is. It's the stereotypical Mormon woman. And even those of us who shun the floral print dress don't accept everyone who fails to meet all the requirements of the stereotype. I'll speak from my experiences, because that's what I know.

I'm practically a man. Really. I am. I am loud, blunt, and aggressive. I don't have that lovely nuturing side to me. I'm the girl in the ward with the nice outfit on (because I do not DRESS like a man...just act like one) and the coordinating pink handbag who's picking her wedgie and complaining about how much I hate relief society.

I do not view marriage as a goal in my life. Clarification on this point. A "goal" is something that you set up steps to get closer to it, you work towards it. As in, I want to pay off my credit card debt, so thus, I will pay $50 extra dollars on my card each month and then at the end of X amount of months, it will be paid off. Marriage, however, is completely not like this at all, although wouldn't it be nice? I can't say, "I shall go to this YSA dance and meet a tall, handsome, dark-eyed man who is interested in law and politics and then he shall ask me out. This will be within the month. Then, in the following months, he will court me in this manner and I will marry him by this date." Since you cannot set up steps to advance your goal, marriage is not a goal. Marriage is something that happens, based on what HF has for you. It's not a goal.

Try telling that to anyone in church. Shocked looks abound. Is this girl really saying this? How can any Mormon girl not view marriage as the END ALL BE ALL of her life?!?! Of course it's a goal! IT'S A NECESSITY! I shrug. Still not a goal. And I never hear the end of this.

Nor do I sit idly by when someone tells me that an excruitiatingly painful time in my life is because I'm a "strong spirit." Bite your tongue if you ever are about to say that to someone. How condescending! It marginalizes the pain that someone is going through. Believe me, there have been times in my life when I would have preferred to be the weaker spirit and not have my whole world crumble apart. But if you don't swallow whole the canned answers that are provided by well-intentioned but ill-advised fellow members, you are somehow wrong and raising eyebrows. Do not ask what that means. Do not inquire as to what other answers there are for your pain. You'll raise eyebrows.

We expect Mormons to be "Mormons" even if we ourselves are not. We do not comprehend the range of people that we are stifling because of our binding expectations. I found out that my YWs leader cleaned the house while listening to Black Sabbath because she was an enormous Ozzy fan. Would not have had a clue. Because I expected her to be "Mormon" rather than a real person. I think we are harser critics than the outside world, because we give the idea of love and acceptance and welcome in one hand and in the other, slap the face of the person with the bitter realization that there is a role that "Mormons" are.

People cease to go for issues like this. Is it their problem? In a sense, yes. They shouldn't let a person keep them away from the Lord. But is it our problem as well? Certainly. As an old VT told me when she found out I've not been going, "You are depriving the congregation of who you are. They are missing out on what you have to offer, specifically because you don't fit in and you'll be the one to make people think." Who are we missing out on when we create an ideal and hold people to it? Who doesn't come? Who comes, but refuses to reveal who they are inside?

Why do we impose the strictest judgments on those that we are supposed to welcome into the fold?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I'm a mind-controller!

A recent post on feminist mormon housewives about breastfeeding got me thinking about the whole women's dress and actions and men's thoughts connection.

I remember, as a girl in YW, being told that I how I dressed and acted would make the boys think certain things (although these "things" were not specifically outlined--just spoken of in ominous tones) and that I would be responsible for these "things." At first, I was very confused and didn't quite understand what the heck the leaders were talking about.

And then I hit puberty. Or rather, puberty hit me like a ton of bricks. I went from having no breasts to being a size D in a month and a half. Puberty was a cruel, wicked, horrible joke on me. Nothing fit, ever. I looked ridiculous--if I hadn't been 16, I'm sure everyone would have thought I was one of those girls who'd gotten enormous brast implants, because the rest of my body hadn't grown in yet--no hips, no butt, just skinny girl with a big chest.

I hated every minute of it. I felt like everyone was staring at me, no matter what I wore or what I did. And then I would come to church and inevitably get the speech about dressing modestly. Although, what I was wearing was modest. My chest was just so big I couldn't do much about the cleaveage that inevitably showed or the shirt that was stretched too tightly across it. Since I was still small everywhere else, I was struggling to find shirts that fit over my rebellious chest and still fit around the rest of me. I ended up looking like I was wearing a table cloth, since it hug down just like one over the rest of me. I was so unhappy for a long time. And I kept getting reprimanded all the time.

It was the same reprimand. My "lack of modesty" was going to make the boys think inappropriate things and I needed to make sure that I wasn't making them think that. This is a huge pressure for a girl. How am I supposed to know what a boy is thinking? All the time? Not to mention, the entire YMs? All of them? I have to keep track of all their thoughts??

The worst part about it was that I would be yelled at for things my mother and I would pick out together. Given my awkward frame, swimsuit shopping was the worst thing I've ever encountered. I could deal with a tablecloth shirt--how on EARTH do you find an XXL chest swinsuit with a M body? You don't. You have the XXL swimsuit which sags in the butt terribly and is too loose.

But we had a YW pool party to go to and I wanted to go. So, my mom and I searched and searched for a suit. We found one. It was significantly cleaveage-y, for sure. But, realistically, I was significantly cleavage-y all the time. The suit was a rather modest one-piece, all black, with a simple gather on the side. The chest was the bra-type, since any woman who is larger chested knows that a bra type is the ONLY type there is for us. Since it was bra type, it had the appearance of a bra--lower cut in the front, like any normal bra, and underwires. It was a fuller cup than most bras, but it was bra-like. It was a little tight, because it had to fit over the rest of me and Lycra is one constricting material. But, my mom and I looked through many a suit and decided that this one was a good one. It was pretty, it was the most modest one we could find, and it fit fairly decently given the extreme weirdness that was my body.

And then I showed up to the pool party. And I took off my clothes to join the other girls. And my YW leader pulled me aside and told me that my swimsuit wasn't very appropriate or modest. It showed too much cleavage. Didn't I remember the lessons about being appropriate and what the boys would think?

There weren't any boys at this pool party, anyway.

I was upset. I was angry. I looked her straight in the eye and being the mouthy 16 year old I was, I retorted, "Well, God gave me really big boobs and God gave me a lot of cleavage. He has to take some responsibility for not making the rest of me work out so I can be as modest as I'm supposed to be. And my mom helped me pick out this suit, so she thinks it's appropriate."

And then I went swimming.

This attitude that girls and women are responsible for the thoughts of men and boys is troubling at best. It's scary at worst. It's similar to the mentality that a woman deserves to be sexually assaulted if she's in a certain area, engaging in certain behavior, or wearing certain clothes. We go down a slippery path when we place blame on people for other people's thoughts and actions.

Shouldn't the thoughts of the boys be the responsibility of the boys? Now, don't get me wrong. I don't advocate for complete immodesty. Sure, there are boundaries. A mini-skirt, midrift top, etc are all clearly worn for the express purpose of being seen as a sexual object. But, there are also things, which in my opinion, aren't immodest. That if the men think "things" when they are worn, that it's the men's problem.

For example, I'm still a very chesty young woman. It's not going to change. And women's fashions aren't made for chesty women. So, regardless of what I'm wearing, with the exception of a T-shirt, I'm always showing cleavage. Every Sunday, I put on a nice skirt, a tank top, and a button-up shirt. The problem is, the button-up won't button-up. I've still got the same problem--if if fits on top, it doesn't fit anywhere else. If it fits everywhere else, it doesn't fit on top. So, I put on the tank top underneath. It is a modest tank top on ANY OTHER WOMAN IN THE WORLD except me. Because try as I might, I can't hide the cleavage. I try. I really do. But, the clothing industry hates me and thus has decided to make my life horrible. So, in this instance, I think that my cleavage (and we're not taking MASSIVE amounts here...we're talking just a tiny bit) is fine. And if the young man across the chapel is staring at it, thinking "things," then I think it's his responsibility to keep those thoughts in check.

Should a girl with CRAZY nice legs be forced to wear a floor length skirt, while the rest of us with mediocre legs can wear the church-approved knee-length ones? No, of course not. But her legs might make men think "things." And then what? She's responsible for their thoughts about her? Hardly. I don't think that's a fair analysis at all.

But the church leaders seem to push this on women so frequently. We are responsible not only for our own thoughts and actions, but the thoughts of the boys as well. Well, here's a shocking idea that the church leaders may not have ever contemplated--I love a guy in a suit. Most women do. Men in suits are HOT. SUPER HOT! Really, who doesn't like a well-dressed man in a suit? Yum! However, if I'm sitting there in Sacrament meeting, lusting away at all the men in suits, is that their problem? Not hardly. Would anyone say it is? Not at all.

Men are hot in a lot of different contexts. And women like to look at them in these contexts. But, the same lessons do not seem to be drilled so much into young boys's heads. I was never told as a young woman that boys might dress in such a way as to make me think "things." But you know what? The way men dress DOES make women think things. Whether it's discussed or not, women like to look at men just as much as men like to look at women. So why is there such a responsibility placed on women to control men's thoughts? If I'm lusting away after some guy in a fanstastic pair of jeans and a slim fitting T-shirt (drool), that's MY problem. I've got to check my own thoughts, don't I? Isn't it my responsibility to control my mind? Why is this not the case with men and men's thoughts?

We make young girls feel even more self-conscious and awful about their bodies at a time when they are already at war with them. I hated my body. I hated, hated, hated my chest. In fact, I still do, precisely because of all the problems I had with it as a youth. So why such a wicked backlash against the girls?

As I pointed out before, it's a slippery slope in my mind, leading to the eventual, "Well, she was asking for it" about rape victims. Because she was wearing a mini-skirt and a tank top, she deserves to be raped? Because she somehow was controlling the thoughts of the rapist? It seems like a ridiculous argument. And I think that this is where we are heading if we continue to force young girls to somehow take on the responsibility of controlling the boys' thoughts.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Ebb and The Flow

Maybe it's just me.

But maybe it's not.

I'm an ebber and a flow-er (I didn't want that to read as "flower." You get it).

I'm in church and then I'm out.

I love it (mostly) and then, not so much.

I commit, fail, recommit, fail, get the idea.

And before anyone waxes Mormon on me and says, "Well no one's perfect! We all do that, EVERY DAY!" I'm not talking about like, I forgot to pray. Or I had bad thoughts about my neighbor. I mean, I stop going to church for a loooooong time. I don't "stand in holy places." Etc. Etc. I'm not talking about little things here. I'm a serious tidal wave on the shore or a complete and utter drought on the coast. I'm ALL in or I'm ALL out.

I can't seem to make it work for me all the time. I haven't figured out why. A part of it, it's my nature. I always get really into things and then bore with them quickly. Maybe that's how it is with the church.

Maybe it's because I grew up in a lackluster Mormon home. My mom still teaches Sunday school and then kicks back with a Mike's Hard Lemonade at the end of the day. She was pregnant with me before marriage. She's never expressed to me that chastity is a huge deal in her home. Nor is drinking. (Drugs however, is another story. Illegality isn't cool).

Maybe it's because most of my friends aren't Mormon, so it's hard to reconcile what the church teaches with what I see all around me.

There are a million maybes. Maybe I don't fit in. Maybe I don't like waking up that early. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I ebb away and stop going. I engage in all the things I said I wouldn't do anymore, but I do them again anyway. I don't read my scriptures, I don't take sacrament, I don't maximize my callings...I completely pull away and go 100% inactive.

And then I flow. I come back. I'm repentant and hopeful and happy to be there. I give 100% of myself. I long for callings and talks, love to go to class, love to discuss the church, love FHE and all the activities.

But, inevitably, I stop going again. I don't know why. It just happens. And then inevitably, I start going again.

It's a dichotomy within me--all or nothing.

I never "give it up" in the sense that I don't believe or I don't want to practice or I don't still say I'm Mormon or that I would deny God and what I know. I just don't do the things I know I'm supposed to do.

Why is it that people like me can't keep it together? I wouldn't say I'm any less faithful than others. Believe me, I've seen the church work in my life in spellbinding ways. I can't deny what I know because I've SEEN it. I wouldn't say it's a lack of faith. It's really not. I do believe that if I needed a mountain to move and believed in the Lord enough, it would move. My belief or faith isn't the question.

Is it my committment? I want all the same things I always have...temple marriage, exaltation...
Is it because I'm lazy? I tend to be that way in a lot of things. I really don't think I was ever in the front lines of the Lord's army. I was probably in the tent, drinking a pop and watching VH1 marathons of "The Surreal Life."

What are the secrets of those people who keep it together? How do people keep going? How do people, like myself who haven't lost faith or disbelieve or even have a problem with the church at all, keep it together? This isn't a thing of "You just need to know that HF loves you" because I do know that. I can't explain it.

So how do you all out in the world do it?
How do you keep going?
How do you stay on the ball all the time?
And I mean it--I don't mean "on the ball" as perfect. No stories about how sometimes you really feel you aren't humble enough or grateful enough. I don't mean to downplay those as trials, but they are soooo not the same thing as I don't want to go to church anymore. I mean, how do you actually stay as committed as possible. I'm sure not that.

How do we prevent the ebb and just keep on flowing?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Uhhhlllllleeeet's get ready to RUUUUM-BULL!!!

It's been awhile since I've been able to post, and for that, I apologize. A lack of internet access has bogged down my ability to blog, as has the tremendous effort it takes to be in law school. However, I have some time now and so, here I am.

This week, I have been seriously ruminating over the Patriot Act II. Many people don't know a lot about this, and I'll admit that, until relatively recently, I didn't know too much about it. I am still no where near an expert on the whole issue. However, from what I have read and learned from speakers at school, I have begun to be really apalled at the PAII. It seems to be to be a gross and terrible jumble of our rights as American.

What does this have to do with a Mormon blog? Well, here's my train of thought. As usual, I'm sure that not everyone (or most people) will agree with me, but it's been rumbling around in my head, so I might as well get it out there.

We believe that the founders were divinely inspired, if my knowledge is correct, and that the Constitution and the rights therein are set up by people that were inspired by God to make sure that people in America would be free, especially in a religious sense so that the Church could develop freely in this country. So, since we believe that the principles that this country was founded on were divinely inspired, what effort are we required to put forth the protect those rights?

The time will come when the ever-terrifying end of the world will come. It seems lately like the signs of that impending day are blossoming up with a frighteningly rapid pace--with a year we've seen a killer tsunami, a landslide in CA, flooding in the upper East Coast, two hurricanes ravage the Southern states, and most recently, an enormous earthquake. So, it seems like there are rapid and unfortunate signs of what is prophecied about. So, if we believe that the end is coming, do we have the right to sit back and wait for it? Should we fight against Satan in more than just our personal lives, but on a largeer scale?

The Patriot Act II, in my opinion, is a turn for the worst in America. Some pieces of it include language that would allow persons suspected of a crime (not actually charged with, simply suspected) to be taken into custody without notifying anyone and without allowing that person to contact anyone. Your "one phone call" is no longer. Nor does the gov't, according to the PAII, have to allow you access to legal counsel or even charge you with a crime within any reasonable amount of time. Right now, the police must charge someone within 48 hours of arrest (it might be 72, but either way, it's a very short number of days) or release them. The new PAII doesn't have to follow that rule, at least with respect for persons suspected of being terrorists. The PAII also has stipulations that would allow any American citizen practicing civil disobedience to be stripped of his/her citizenship.

What is the point of this discussion on the PAII? Here's how I see it...legislation such as this makes it easier for people to be denied their due process rights. We have been forewarned that there will be a time when the Anti-Christ will come into power. We don't know for sure that it will be over America, but assuming that it is... So, before the AC comes into power, imagine that we, the American people and we, members of the church, have allowed legislation to pass that will make it easier to persecute us in the end times. Arguably, the definition of "terrorist" is quite loose, according to governmental standards. When normal people think of "terrorist" we think of someone trying to blow up people. But, the gov't doesn't have that narrow view of what constitutes a terrorist. Perhaps the definition will someday be those who are radically outside of the norm of society or those who won't conform. We, as members of the church, knowingly and proudly don't conform to the norm. We may some day be at peril for that.

As for civil disobedience, in a previous post I mentioned a website that I had found that said the church did not approve of civil disobedience. But, arguably, we may need to practice it ourselves some day. When the days come that all the ideas about the end times come, when we are apparently going to have to have the mark of the beast to get food, water, etc., we are church members will not do this. We will resist. We will practice civil disobedience, and if the PAII gets passed, risk having our citizenship revoked. And if we aren't citizens, we are no longer allowed due process.

Do we fight against things on a larger scale? Do we keep Satan at bay for as long as we can? Do we have an obligation to keep our ears and eyes sharp for things such as not only the bottle of beer in the fridge and the heavy petting in the backseat of a car, but also the legislation and the leaders that put us in future, but very real, peril? Do we have a requirement to protect not only ourselves but the lives of those outside of our little realm and those that will come after us? What is our obligation to a larger scale fight?

I have heard that we were saved for the end times--that valiant souls were needed to fight in the end. What does that mean, exactly? Are we valiant enough to withstand the offer for pot at a party? The temptation to cheat on our taxes or to not pay tithing? Or are we valiant in that we need to fight on a larger scale, to be the 10,000 stripling warriors in a different realm. Rather than arms, we take up political power and protest, the pen and the bullhorn, the ballot and the keyboard, to fight against the tide of Satan. Are we the ones responsible for fighting? Or do we sit back and let it happen, because it's an inevitabilty? What is our focus in this life?

The point isn't the rally against the PAII (although I really hate it myself). The point is to question what our responsibility is when we see things such as the PAII in my case, things that ruffle our feathers and create unrest. Things that put us in future precariou situations. Sure, we may not now feel the effects of some of that political power and maneuvering, but do we want to risk doing nothing and wait until we are in a troublesome spot?

The Church, to my knowledge, doesn't have anything to say about our responsibility to defend on a large scale. The Church doesn't tell us to vote one way or another, but to be informed citizens and active participants. So, what exactly does that mean?

In my opinion, it means I will be writing to my Congresspersons and letting them know that I think the PAII is deplorable. And I will keep writing in when things are good and when things are bad. I will protest when necessary. I will fight and be forward thinking. I think we are the 10,000 stripling warriors of our time, held back to keep things from deteriorating as rapidly as they could. We are here, in my opinion, to fight on a scale that the world hasn't seen yet. We are a powerful bunch, a large bloc. We are the ones sent here to fight.

So let's fight.