Thursday, December 31, 2015

book review: Sheri Dew's "Women and the Priesthood"

Every time I walked into Deseret Book in Rexburg the last month or so, which was quite frequent because I actually just love walking around inside Deseret Book for some reason, something stuck out to me. I'm not talking about the Florence's chocolates that are super duper tasty that they have on display at the registers, though that is often the most difficult temptation to overcome in that store. It was a book by Sheri Dew titled Women and the Priesthood.

I'm a young woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church that gets a lot of attention from the world for being full of peculiar people. Issues about homosexuality and women's rights within the church are particularly heard about and very very much misunderstood. I'll have to bypass the homosexuality topic today, though you should know that your perception of how the church views homosexuality is probably incorrect and you are welcome to send me an email or something and we can talk about it. Women and the Priesthood is a book that explores the essential, vital, and incredibly divine role of women in God's restored church on the earth today. It was completely worth reading and better established how I feel about being a woman in the Mormon church.

What shaped my view of this book was knowing who the author was. Sheri Dew is 62 years old, has served in Relief Society at the stake level and as the second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, meaning she oversaw the Relief Society organization over the whole church, which is the gathering place, alongside priesthood quorums for men, for all the adult women of the church. But what stuck out to me most in her personal and very spiritual writings about women, marriage, motherhood, callings, and everything else was that she has never been given the opportunity to marry and have children in her life here on Earth. That's right; a working woman who never mothered children of her own wrote a deeply inspired book about women in a church deemed sexist, patriarchal, and unfair by the world. In fact, from the start, she talks about how she doesn't understand such claims and tears them down with her own arguments.

Now, on to Women and the Priesthood itself. Sister Dew organized this book into eight chapters, and it's a reasonably short one, too, under 200 pages. The first chapter, "The Question of Perception", discusses how the perception the world has of the role of women in the LDS church is completely wrong. She clears up any misunderstandings the reader may have about the church. From there, she moves on to discuss the divine errand women have without telling us what that is, because each woman on Earth has a different one. We each have personal purposes from God, and she discusses how we are each tasked with discovering what ours is, and the help we have been given in that task. She segues right into "God Expects Women to Receive Revelation", which is essential to finding our divine errand and performing it, but also writes about the importance of this in auxiliary callings and how women are blessed to be naturally receptive to the spirit. The next chapter details the perfection of God and His Son, which gives us security in following the revelation we receive. Chapter 5 discusses the sincere importance of women in the Lord's church and how it would never be successful without our participation. In chapter 6, Sister Dew talks about how men and women have access to the greatest blessings God has offered us, really focusing on the temple ordinances in a sacred way. She describes how no man or woman alone can receive the greatest ordinance of temple marriage; it requires one man and one woman together in unity. Chapter 7, for me, was the most touching chapter; Sister Dew writes about motherhood from her own unique perspective and how God has given us as women His greatest gift, which is to be co-creators with Him to give His children bodies of their own. She is not insensitive to those who have not had motherhood in its literal sense made available to them in this life, either. Sister Dew concludes the book with a chapter all about how "Converted Women Can Change the World".

I feel that there are some great aspects to this book. First, Sister Dew wrote using some personal anecdotes, but most of her writing referenced a few stories from women around the world and a great wealth of doctrine given by apostles and prophets from all dispensations of the Earth. She backed all of her writing with proof and included in the beginning that she had sections checked many times by scholars and leaders in the church. Second, this book was not written to a single specific particular audience, but rather it applies to men and women and it applies no matter where the reader is in their journey of developing a testimony. She described things with detail to make sure you understand things exactly the way they are, which is so important when it comes to talking about the priesthood and related things. She teaches you, whether you are building knowledge or whether you may have had some misunderstandings that needed clearing up.

Women and the Priesthood was such an awesome read. I felt empowered as a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while also recognizing the broad spectrum of how much work I have to do to improve myself! And at the same time, I don't feel abandoned in my work. I understand the importance of Relief Society, the greatness of my personal purpose on Earth (whatever that is), and I feel even more on equal ground with priesthood-holding Latter-day Saint men. The way Sister Dew explained the Priesthood itself cleared up questions I never knew I had. Her description of divine errands and motherhood and the temple make me want to learn so much more about why Heavenly Father has me on Earth at this very moment. I better understand the kind of person God would have me be. 

I have learned from this book, and I have a place to go back and reference when things look confusing. I could write about this book for hours, but then there wouldn't be a point in having you read it too, would there? So if you're looking for a good book to read, whether male or female, whether your testimony is huge and strong or (especially) if it's small and barely growing, I recommend this book.

Friday, December 18, 2015

they don't make scholarships for me

My math professor was saying to a classmate that companies more and more won't hire people who had a 4.0 GPA.

That those who had a 4.0 GPA are conformists. They don't challenge authority to make improvements to the system. They go with it. They're sheep, followers, 1984, doing what they're told.

That morning, I was stressing over final exams wondering if I'd make my 4.0 GPA. Wondering if I'd keep my school-given scholarship because of grades. I was thinking about how my sweetheart and I would live in an apartment at all if we had to pay for my school too.

But that's just because they don't make scholarships for me.

When I say "they", I mean all the groups and brotherhoods and corporations and and .coms and .govs and .orgs whose charitable works involve paying for their future patrons' educations. I mean the national honor societies, the groups of recognition, the kindly rich folks who give and give. They don't make scholarships for me.

I'm a woman, I'm studying physics, but the thing is, my future in science and innovation and furthering humankind deals less with government-sponsored projects and state-college research papers and more to do with nurturing children and driving a minivan and making dinner and supporting my husband. My husband's future is making money to put bacon on the table and give us a roof over their heads. They don't make scholarships for us.

They don't make scholarships for the 40-hour "part-time" worker who sacrifices his grades and gets Cs in all his classes to work enough minimum-wage hours to afford rent because the company won't give him benefits. They don't make scholarships for the women who write about their goals to inspire their own children to achieve anything. They don't make scholarships because they think we are average, mediocre, and a bad investment.

They don't make scholarships for me because my alms in secret don't qualify when they ask for all the service I've done in front of others' eyes. They don't make scholarships for me because my education is for inspiration and not for making them rich and famous. They don't make scholarships because I'm not a sheep, because I'm not a follower, because I know where my worth lies and I know I don't need to be rich and famous and I know I don't need to spend my life on a single math problem and die miserable because I never figured it out and got my Nobel prize.

I know who I am, and I know why I'm here. I am getting my education because I want my children to know that whatever they want to achieve in their life is doable. I want my children to know that they are never too small, too silly, too slow, and absolutely never too stupid to make their dreams reality. I want them to know that I never gave up what I stood for, that they always came first, and that they are my greatest accomplishment. If I someday get to teach high school science, then I will teach those young men and women the same things I taught my own. Their worth has nothing to do with their grades, and it has nothing to do with what other people see them as. It has everything to do with who they are, and they are absolutely beautiful children of an almighty and all-loving Father in Heaven.

They don't make scholarships for me, but I don't need them at all.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

the house of the Lord

I am going to take as much care as I possibly can when I write this post, because the temple is a sacred place where sacred things are taught and it's an incredible blessing to be able to go.

On November 21st, I had the blessed opportunity to go through the temple to take out my endowment. I made the 2.5 hour drive to Twin Falls so I could meet up with my parents for the first time in 2.5 months. It was great to see them. Ben came with me, and we were all there at a Jamba Juice to get some food (I had hardly eaten at home because of anticipation but my appetite was in full force by the time we got there, an hour early) in our Sunday best.

The experience that followed was incredible and life-changing. But I won't talk much about it at all. Other than the fact that it was very overwhelming and probably 98% of what happened there went right over my head.

The thing about the temple that I will say is that what goes on inside is not of the world at all. We do not discuss it outside of the temple because it is sacred (not secret). I've said this three or four times by now, but what does it mean? Because the learning and the ordinances that we participate in the temple are so important and of God, we cannot allow the world to tarnish them. They are the greatest gifts we can receive on this earth and they are the key to the kingdom of heaven. So when you go for the very first time, you have no idea what you're going to do. When you're there, you really aren't 100% sure what is going on. When you leave, you aren't entirely sure what to think of it. But although it felt overwhelming and unfamiliar, so many of the truths I found there were little more than what we learn on Sunday and what we read in the scriptures. It all felt true, and as I have pondered on the temple since, I have come to understand bits and pieces and I anticipate every opportunity I have for the rest of my life to go back and learn more.

The temple is a great place of peace and solace. I felt welcome there, I felt like I was at home, when in actuality I was in a place that I have driven through twice in my life. It was beautiful and I felt the spirit so strongly. I could really feel the love of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. It came through in every word spoken. Having my mother by my side was a blessing. I will always cherish the memory of my first visit.

Unfortunately, I must also give this post with a warning. There are plenty of things you can find out on the internet about the temple. Keep in mind that those who understand how sacred it is will not reveal it to those who are unprepared, because that gives an unfair accountability to that person. Those who do not understand its sacred nature have no moral obligation to avoid lying about what is taught. They defile what is most precious to us on this earth and seek to confuse and turn away our hearts from the things of God. So if you have a desire to learn more, stick to and the members of the church you know. Ask questions but understand there can only be so much answering with something as special and holy as the temple. Above all else, pray with a heart seeking truth and light to know whether temples really are the house of the Lord, whether or not you are LDS yourself. Pray about the sacredness of what is inside. Visit a temple, walk on the grounds, if there's a visitor center, go inside. There is such incredible peace to be found at the temple, whether you are inside or not. I promise this to you.

I testify that temples are God's houses, and that they are pieces of heaven on earth. They bring peace to troubled souls, comfort to those in need, and blessings to all who come as they are and as they can.