Monday, December 29, 2014

Watching Conflicts Between Well-Intentioned People Who Really Want to Do the Right Thing

We start by accusing the other, either verbally or silently, of that which we perceive as a wrong-doing, using that wrong-doing as an excuse to justify as reasonable and acceptable our (certainly not virtuous) act of distrustful  accusation.

Because we wish to maintain our perception of ourselves as in the right, we try to hide or deny our dismissive, judgmental attitudes towards those we accuse, playing polite and trying to behave outwardly in a civilized manner, but we cannot fool those we've accused.  Our attitude and feelings towards them are definitely clear to them.

Feeling obviously accused and judged, even though we may have never verbalized our accusations, they take a defensive stance, and, in turn, either silently or verbally accuse us as the ones perpetrating offence and antagonism, seeing themselves as innocent, wrapping their responses in polite phrases while seething inside, denying in turn the error of their own accusatory feelings and responses to us.

We in turn perceive their response to us and feel just as offended by it as they were by ours.  In our minds their defensiveness and accusations give us "proof" that we are acting on the higher moral ground and that we are justified in judging and accusing them of failure to do what is right.

Because we are so absorbed in our own feelings about the conflict and our feelings in response to their accusations we do not see what is going on.  We do not see that instead of trying to hurt us they feel mistreated and intentionally disregarded.  We do not see that in their response to us they are trying to deal with the judgmental person we have become; that they are only responding to the kind of person we've given them to respond to.

In sum: We concentrate on what we perceive as their misdeeds in order to find proof  and reassure ourselves that they are to blame, that they are the reason we're in this conflict, not us.  And they focus on our misdeeds to for the same reason.  And round and round it goes, tying us tightly  to our responses to each other into an endless, edgy conflict in which each blames the other and exonerates self.

It is the antithesis of dialogue and comprehension, masquerading as civilized discourse.

Adapted from C. Terry Warner's book "The Bonds that Make Us Free".

Monday, December 15, 2014

This quote reminds me of something said at the veil

"Recently I reviewed this Primary song. You’re familiar with it. It says, “Mine is a home where ev’ry hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood pow’r, With father and mother leading the way.” Mine is a home where every hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power.... It isn’t just when Dad is there. It’s not just when Mom is there. It’s not just when a priesthood ordinance or blessing is being performed. It’s every hour as covenants are kept."
Julie Beck, BYU Women's Conference 2011

Priesthood power, the power of God, given to his children,  is real.  It is real in the lives of women and men of God.  I have seen it, felt it, watched it, and been humbled to be a vehicle for its healing (both physical and spiritual) and enlightening effect in the lives of my brothers and sisters in ways that I feel are too profound to articulate.  And I have been aided, healed, enlightened and comforted by that same power of God conducted via the words, actions and ordinances of brothers and sisters who served as conduits of priesthood power as well.

There is 'power in the priesthood'.  And it's not just when an ordinance or a blessing is being performed, though we talk mostly about those since they are so clearly recognized by the ceremonial actions involved. And it's certainly not just when a church leader, male or female, oversees a meeting or counsels with others  or a decision is made, another time when people may see it, or think they are supposed to see it.  Those are the times where function makes us notice.  Those are the times that any even disinterested person watching will assume that "priesthood" is being "exercised".

But priesthood power, like an iceberg, has 10% of it visible to an uninformed observer, while 90% of power in the priesthood moves slowly and powerfully, observed only by those who submerge themselves enough to look and experience it and recognize it for what it is.

Throughout the ages different subgroups of people have been  ordained to take responsibility for the the visible 10% of priesthood work..  Instructions as to which groups should be called to do that and how many of them have changed multiple times even in the last 180 years, not to mention the changes in previous eras.  And since that seems to be a pattern it makes sense to me to assume that they will change again, perhaps many more times.

However, we sell ourselves short when we, men or women, so focus on the 10% of priesthood work that involves ordination that we ignore or fail to see or dismiss as irrelevant, or never employ or recognize the amazing 90% that is not tied to administration or ordinances but wields the power of God in amazing, healing ways.. And my experience is that way too many of us, both men and women, do exactly that.

" [F]or man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart," said the Lord to the prophet, Samuel.  And we think, sure, we understand that, it's about people.  But I believe it's not just about people.  Way too many of us are fully aware of the "outward appearance", the formal manifestations, of priesthood and are so very blind to the heart of what priesthood power, given by God to his sons and daughters, really is. 

Yes, that 10% is beautiful. Yes it is a blessing.  Yes, the people who do that 10% are often listened to (and also anathematized) more than others and, by some, are believed to have more "clout".  But it strikes me as ironic and sad when we don't see or understand or live or experience the power of the 90% that is more far-reaching than we even allow ourselves to imagine, and when we think that all there is to priesthood is that 10% of priesthood responsibility that is, for now, given to some 3% (if you live in the Philippines) to 27% (if you live in Utah) of members of the church.  We sell priesthood short when we believe that that 10%  of evident function is what priesthood entails..

I believe that in heaven priesthood is shared and employed regardless of gender.  I believe that celestial life is, as the Doctrine and Covenants clearly explains, one of fully and equally shared light, power, and divinity and glory.  It is clear to me that inspired telestial and terrestrial patterns of organization (one of which we live with now) are simply that, inspired telestial and terrestrial patterns.  And I believe that we, as individual members of the church, including us women, don't even live up to those terrestrial patterns as they are given to us today..  

I have always believed that a child surrounded by 9 Christmas gifts that he refuses to unwrap in his frustration at not having, right now, the one his brother is currently opening is missing something important, not only in the presents that surround him but also in his understanding of what is possible and in his relationship with his sibling.  A child so responding is demonstrating juvenile behavior.

I believe it is good to rejoice in a gift that a sibling receives.  I believe it is good for each child to truly embrace and study and employ the gifts of power of healing, light, revelation, inspired leadership; the godly power: priesthood, that is given to God's children when they seek to understand it and wield it with light and truth.

"Yet, for different reasons, many of us live far below, or are unaware of, our privileges!" ~Neal A Maxwell  [The Promise of Discipleship, pp. 92-93] 

In my lifetime I have witnessed women in the church heal others, both physically and spiritually, through the power of God.  I have witnessed them guide and lead under unmistakably divine inspiration and watched God's power flow through them.  I have also witnessed women and men who have no idea that is possible, that think that such is only for those who do the 10% of priesthood work that is visible to the casual observer.  That is not so. But as long as we only see or experience the 10%, we will easily experience the frustration and sense of powerless that comes with that perspective.

To focus on what is not currently our prerogative without taking the time to fully learn about that priesthood power which is, in all it's glory (and I'm not talking about childbearing or childrearing or performing ordinances or overseeing meetings, or "presiding" in case you are wondering) available to us, is I think, short-sighted.  

"What has been your past experience or attitude when you have listened to or taught a lesson on the  priesthood? Be honest. Was your first reaction something like, “This doesn’t apply to me. This is for the men and boys over 12.” Or when you have read your scriptures and come to a part that mentions  priesthood, have you thought to yourself, “I’ll just skip this part. I don’t need to know this”? In the recent 2013 Worldwide Leadership Training, Elder Oaks emphatically stated: “Men are not the priesthood!” To me, that is a wake-up call as well as an invitation to all of us to study, ponder, and come to better understand the priesthood. Sisters, we cannot stand up and teach those things we do not understand and know for ourselves."
Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society President, BYU Womens' Conference 2013

As I said, I believe that priesthood power, the power of God, is freely and equally shared among God's children in celestial realms of glory.  And I also have come to believe that many of us, both men and women, are far from understanding or experiencing or recognizing or having faith to pursue and learn and know how that power, that huge, magnificent 90%,  is available to each of us, to work miracles through us, here on earth in its current, terrestrial, temporary earthly configuration.

If we cannot live up to our privileges and stretch and grow enough to "abide the law of a terrestrial glory" (Doc. & Cov. 88:23) how can we presume to think we are ready to abide a celestial?  Changing the law about the 10% will make things look better.  It may make some people feel better and some people feel worse.  But if we have only changed the outward, publicly observed 10% and do not seek to know and understand, as individuals, and look upon "the heart" of priesthood power available to work through us, that part which so many of us just barely know or which we feel is beyond our ken, we will continue to miss all that God hopes for us both now and in the eternities.  Changing the outward appearance is not what is needed.  We need to come to understand the heart.

I agree with Linda Burton.  We've been given a wake-up call.  We should not be shirking. We are called, as disciples, to study, ponder, understand and live the power of God.  The men and women I know who have done so are amazing, humble, powerful saints.  

Monday, December 08, 2014

S.R. asked "What do you do when your faith and your reality are in opposition?"

I thought about that for a while, looking at my understanding of "faith" and my understanding of "reality".

It turns out that I figure that probably neither my faith nor my perception of reality are 100% accurate.  And because of that, I try to live gracefully with that understanding of my own imperfect faith and perception,  which imperfection, I believe, is part of the life of every person whether they know it or not. So I have learned to primarily focus on trying to act according to the principles and qualities of life and interaction that I am learning are most essential to approximating my understanding of the teachings of Jesus in the books I believe are divinely inspired and the guidance I imperfectly receive through prayer. 

I believe that my (or anyone else's) understanding of what is, and what will be, or what we hope will be will always, to one extent or another, be "through a glass darkly" throughout my life. And I believe that faith ultimately consists not in what I expect, nor what others declare, nor what I hope will happen now or any time in the next 1000+ years, but rather in my determination to live and act, as best I understand, according principles that I understand to be of God, and according to whatever divine, loving inspiration I think I personally have (imperfectly) received up to that point in regards to my own interaction with others, regardless of my circumstances, the perceptions or understanding of others, or the contradictions surrounding me or my perceptions. 

In other words, living by faith in a contradictory world is, for me, choosing to live according to the light I have received so far, knowing that my perception of the light (and anyone else's) is imperfect, and continuing in spite of that. 

And I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that in order to live such a life charity and patience and gentle forbearance towards myself and others are as completely essential as is my commitment to light and seeking to walk with God.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Complementarianism in marriage.

 It is not so much differing roles we play, but, rather, individual strengths that we bring to the relationship.  And as we express those strengths we can, via consideration and kindness and respect, mutually nurture the development and growth of each other as well.  Two different groups of strengths and inclinations coming together not simply to improve and complete the new family unit they create, but also to tenderly nurture and expand the capacities and understanding of both individuals.

“I have become a better person as I have loved and lived with [my wife]. We have been complementary beyond anything I could have imagined. Her capacity to nurture others grew in me as we became one. My capacity to plan, direct, and lead in our family grew in her as we became united in marriage. I realize now that we grew together into one—slowly lifting and shaping each other, year by year. As we absorbed strength from each other, it did not diminish our personal gifts.”    
~Henry Eyring, Remarks at the Humanum Colloquiem at the Vatican, November 2014

"Adam blessed God...and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying, 'Blessed be the name of God for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again, in the flesh I shall see God.'  Adam was thinking about his responsibilities.  He was trying to align his performance with the desires of the Lord.  Eve said, 'Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.'   Eve...embraced all, wanted to make sure that everyone was considered.  One response was not more correct than the other... The Lord intends that we use those differences to fulfill His plan for happiness, personal growth and development.
"By counseling together they arrived a a broader, more correct understanding of truth.
~Richard G. Scott, "The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness", General Conference, October 1996

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Eastern Way or the Western Way, particularly in regards to church life

Earlier this week I had a discussion with a friend from Vietnam about the customs of obedience to authority and the sense that expressing contrary opinions or feelings is deleterious to community or family cohesiveness.  Then, later, I read a piece on the value that modern Westerners, particularly Americans, place upon individuality and authenticity  when interacting with authority and posed the question of which is better, the Asian way of thinking about personal response to community and authority or the Western one?

 For me it is not a question of choosing to be authentic or choosing to acquiesce to authority. It is a question of a) being fully at peace with who I am and where I stand regardless of the views of those whose approval or lack thereof may be perceived as “important” and b) being fully aware not only of my own thoughts on any given subject but also fully aware of the timeliness, effectiveness, or lack thereof of my expressing those in any given situation.

Why? Because the measure of authenticity is not verbal expression nor how one is perceived by others. My authenticity is my personal commitment to being a person who knows her own ideas and lives and speaks according to them. And one of those ideas is my personal commitment to building light and understanding in the most effective ways I can conceive. Which idea plays wisely into my words and daily life.

I never express support for ideas that I think are wrong or which I feel are misguided. That kind of “support for authority” would be contrary to my own integrity. And I reject the notion that I must meet certain unwritten expectations order to be a “good mormon”. 

As a parent, I also understand that there are teaching/communication moments and there are moments when it is wise to wait a bit for a more mutually helpful time for communication and receptivity. Waiting for a better time, choosing to be quiet now and genuinely kindly vocal in a different setting the next day, is not inauthenticity. Choosing to do that is authentic to both my values of being true to myself and my value of creating understanding rather than fear or confusion.

I have Asian friends in Asia who talk about the damage to relationships that comes from acting entirely as acquiescent supporters. As an American I see the damage to relationships that comes from speaking and acting exclusively as “authentic” without regard to the receptivity or preparedness of coworkers or other members of a congregation.

I believe that it is extremely important to be authentic but that to do so only focused on your own authenticity is inconsiderate of others and hinders communication. I believe that taking into consideration the state of mind and heart of those you are with is important and that choosing to be silent about your own thoughts out of consideration for another’s level of receptivity at that particular moment is not inauthenticity, but is rather an authentic expression of an authentic commitment to the value of respecting the state of mind and receptivity of another.

My experience is that people can feel trapped and alienated from others when they feel like they must always “tow the line” of an organization or that they must act in accordance with a preconceived notion of what is acceptable. And it is also my experience that practicing “authenticity” (always saying exactly and doing exactly what you think in every situation regardless of the sensibilities of those around you) can destroy trust and seriously diminish a person’s ability to effectuate good change and can also seriously hinder others’ efforts effectively express their own authentic selves.

Neither the western nor the eastern modus operandi works well when it becomes the ultimate measurement of successful interaction. I believe that a wise blending of both, guided by consideration for the readiness of others, a gentle and confident self-acceptance of your own beliefs, and the Spirit of Truth is needed in order to both free yourself and also to free others to create true community, one that is both mutually supportive and individually authentic, together.