Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I Know Where I Stand As a Woman In My Faith and With God

 I was at Missy's Uptown Art in our little slice of heaven, to sit and paint demo while the annual Oregon Mountain Cruise Car show was happening right on our main street here in Joseph. A young mom came into the gallery with her adorable six year old daughter. The first thing I heard this mom say to her daughter was, "look for a painting that depicts either abstract, impressionism or realism." "Impressive!" I thought to myself, so when they wandered my way, I struck up a conversation with her. I told this mom I heard what she instructed her daughter and asked her if she home schooled. She beamed a yes, and proceeded to tell me about the classical music and art units she had been working on with her daughter. It did my heart good to see and meet a mom who took her role as mother seriously, in the way she knew best to do it. I know several young moms who home school, and the results are amazing. These moms all happen to be members of my faith, but I don't know if this mom was religious or not. She sure was dedicated to her little family though, and seemed very content in her role as mom and wife as I watched her interact with her husband and toddler son.

The next day I saw a Facebook post that linked to an article by former President Jimmy Carter. In the article he tells why he left his faith of sixty years because the leaders had done this, "quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service."

He goes on to talk about the way women are treated in various religions and countries, and yes, he's right,  there's a lot that needs to be changed in the way women are treated around the world. I would like to share my thoughts on all of this, as the difference in what I live in my faith, and what others experience, and how they look at leadership roles within religion is striking.

Sunday night as I lay in bed, I was thinking about what I had read, in contrast to what I've been through and done at church and elsewhere. Here's some of the things that came to mind.

1. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we start very young in speaking at the pulpit in church. My first talk in Primary was when I was about six or seven and it was two and a half minutes long. Do you know how long that seems when you are a little child? Eons, no centuries!!!! Primary is our children's organization for those who don't know.  I trembled,  I balked, but no I wasn't forced to give the talk. I was asked that I at least give it a try. I so wanted to do the right thing so I spoke, but I shook the whole way through. To this day I sometimes still tremble when public speaking, but that hasn't stopped me from trying. Some would say it's probably because I'm opinionated and like to share my opinions too much. My family didn't take the opportunity, but each week except for Fast Sunday, we have different families or leaders giving talks from the pulpit in sacrament meeting. Think about that! We don't hear from our bishop every week, everyone has a turn. On Fast Sunday we have the opportunity to share our testimonies with the congregation and that applies to everyone. So our children get leadership training from an early age, both male and female. We are often assigned topics, but are never told what to say, as that is left to us to seek divine guidance on what the Lord would have the congregation hear from us.

2. I can be and have been a valued leader in the congregations I have lived in. As a woman I can be a Relief Society president, Primary President, Young Women president, ward missionary, Family History consultant, or Center director, and more. I can teach Gospel Doctrine to the adult Sunday school class as well. Do I or will I hold the priesthood? No, but I believe in order, and organization. Does this mean I'm any less valued? Heavens no! I have served as a president in all the organizations listed, and have been sought out many a time by my priesthood leaders on my opinion or thoughts on dealing with certain issues or people, as well as how I would implement or organize an event or activity. There have been times when I didn't agree with what local leaders did, but I stood my ground based on church policy and was respected for that stand. In most cases the priesthood men know that if something is to be done, and done right, they ask the women to handle it. Are there priesthood holders who are top down, or micro managers? You bet! They are human, and flawed like us all, but they aren't picked to be in those positions because they are necessarily great leaders. We are all given opportunities to grow through the callings we serve in within our church, and the Lord knows what we need to grow and progress.

3. In our youth organizations the young men and young women have responsibilities as class leaders. They have a president and two counselors in most cases, and counsel with the bishop monthly on activities, as well as goals for the youth. The boys and girls are split up during this time, but they have plenty of opportunities to interact and work together.

4. We as women play a critical role in the plan of salvation. Without us, the spirits waiting to come to earth and gain their mortal bodies would never get that chance. Without Eve, Adam couldn't have fulfilled his mission here on earth. Without our mother Eve, none of us would be here today. We have been divinely gifted with the opportunity to directly work with our heavenly parents in a way that men will never be able to. For them to be the priesthood holders and not women is okay, because we are equal and yet different in the roles we play in God's plan. Our influence for good is immeasurable if we choose to be leaders, and not follow the ways of the world. That may mean different things to different women, but here's one thing I know, and that's that women are valued and cherished in my faith and by our Heavenly Father, and our Savior Jesus Christ.

I'm glad that I know where I stand. I so wish that all women of the world could have this blessing.

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