The Beginning of my Nightmare...
I was sitting, lost in my thoughts in the last class in church, what we call Relief society. (A class of all the women in our ward) I had heard in the first meeting of the day, a talk on Truth and standing up for it, and was pondering those thoughts.
Today, I was meeting with the Bishop and Stake President because a church member decided to tell my Bishop about my writing on Facebook my feelings on women and the Priesthood.
That was the beginning of the nightmare.
I thought everything was ok as my bishop had interviewed me once and said that He didn't see a problem "as he did not see anything I did was apostate and that he didn't know if women having the Priesthood would ever happen or if it wouldn't, but through revelation".
I was relieved I didn't have to deal with it anymore and that I could just go to church and be left alone to Worship without being harassed.
Then I got asked by the Bishop to meet again regarding the 2nd temple recommend question… "Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or *individual* whose teachings or *practices* are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"
That question, one that was written up in the time that there were members who were a part of unions or masons as well as Mormons and Polygamy…that is what that question had to do with then, if I understand it correctly.
Everyone else I have talked to and especially, I have asked the Ordain Woman organization if anyone has specifically lost their temple recommend over being involved with Ordain Women.
No one had.
No one person in my church has had their temple recommend taken away over being involved with Ordain women…even as far up as Utah… but I was told mine would be taken by my Bishop (I will not disclose his name here) if I answered yes to this second Temple recommend question.
I am worthy in every other way to go to the Temple, but I believe that women should hold the Priesthood and I am a part of a group "Ordain Women" who have been nothing but respectful in their cause, and the group themselves tell us to be nothing BUT respectful.
I have felt nothing but immense love and support from these women. These women even asked me if they could fast for me on the day I was to have this interview asking me that second question.
The interesting thing is, amazing things, even surprising things have happened to me leading up to this meeting. God was giving me a message, and letting me know in NO uncertain terms, that he was with me, just as he always has been.
I am NOT alone. I never was.
For a month now, I have had interviews with my Bishop. It had literally given me severe, horrible stomachaches, making me wonder if an ulcer is next.
I just want to be left alone to worship.
Again…The first interview, seemingly, at least to me, went well. I really felt we had a good talk on my feelings and that we understood each other. Maybe not completely agreed, but understood.
Then a week or two later he mentioned that he wanted to meet with me over the 2nd temple question (The one above ")
Then almost 2 weeks went by, with my getting anxious wondering why I hadn't met with him yet, so just so he would know I wasn't trying to avoid him, I went to his office and asked him if he still wanted to meet and talk. He said yes…So we agreed that we would meet at my house.
I had really thought about this 2nd temple worthiness question… pertaining to this question (Remember, again, the question was started with Polygamy, Masons and unions in mind, with the Masons and unions being changed to not hurt members for being involved (I read up on it) though of course Polygamy is not ok…
If you look at it, my best friend, who is a 70 year old Atheist/Agnostic could be considered that, heck, if your married to a non-member, it could be considered that, hell, if you have a husband or friend who looks at porn,(I don't look at it and am not into it but if someone's not Mormon, it kinda fits into the FREE AGENCY side of things that Mormons are supposedly so fervently for (I know I am like that at least) then that is none of my business! I know 2 friends at least who are into porn, as they have told me they are, but does that make me unworthy, because I know them and love them? I don't think so! If you have a friend who drinks coffee, A friend who is of ANY other religion, you could answer yes. In my mind the very question makes it so you avoid non- members like the plague. How is that right? I certainly don't believe I should avoid ANYONE just because they have different beliefs than me, and I NEVER will!
Some of my best friends aren't Mormon.
Gay, Straight, lesbian, a 70 year old Atheist friend-Who is a VERY good friend by the way! Am I going to be asked to give her up too? She is one of my most treasured friends. I would rather be like Jesus than the pretended pious people who killed him. He hung out with the sinners, the people who were HUMBLE, the salt of the earth.
And he LOVED them.
This little Ordain Women group, they have been nothing but respectful, are NOT against the church, they say all kinds of things on the site but you can pick and choose what you want to believe yourself…they are not forcing it down my throat…
My 70 year old friend fits the description, and she is no shrinking violet, but don't we ALL know people who have different beliefs that we affiliate with? Shouldn't that be ok???
Precurser to the Meeting.
That week before the meeting with the Bishop I went to the Temple.
Especially when things are hard and I need inspiration. I go there to BEG for peace.
I was sitting in what we call the Celestial room after what we call a session. It's beautiful. All white, a big chandelier in the middle…beautiful tables and couches, all white…
But...I had sat through the session in tears...begging, PLEADING even for divine guidance and to know he was there.
I grabbed the Scriptures, sat down and said a long, heartfelt prayer pleading for help, pleading and trying not to cry, asking for knowledge… that I would know what I need to do.
Then I do what I always do when I am there.
I close my eyes, I open the scriptures to wherever they fall, and see if God has a message for me.
I closed my eyes, opened them, and right in front of my eyes was the word "Progress" That made me catch my breath.
On the other side of that was the word "Profanity".
Now THAT almost made me laugh out loud.
Right after the Bishop called to make sure on the second appointment, I was swearing like a sailor.
I guess God wants me to curb my mouth.
That also proves that God has a sense of humor.
Thank you God. ;p
Second meeting with the Bishop
We met at my house and as usual, he seemed pleasant, but very polite.
We went over the thoughts he and I both had, me talking about how Joseph Smith himself had given the Priesthood to women, and that from what I understood, that had been taken away in the 1800s (It started by the Relief Society that had been run by women starting out, getting disbanded, then to turning Relief Society over to men being over the women in it by Brigham Young: then later Joseph F Smith had completely taken the Priesthood away from women , as women used to bless each other… if I am understanding it right. It is another parallel to my African American brothers, as the Priesthood was also unfairly taken away from my African American brothers by Brigham young ) which meant to me that the Ordain Women Group was NOT going against the church because our FOUNDER of the religion himself ordained his wife Emma as a Priestess, (If that is true- and from what I read and studied, it IS in Mormon History) but the Bishop told me that what modern Prophets teach is what matters now, Not Joseph Smith, which hits me as odd because our whole religion is based off of Joseph Smiths first vision… and the Ordain Women group is not going against the church in my mind…are they teaching against the church?
No… they are just asking our Prophet to pray about it.
I told Bishop I didn't know how to answer that second question because as of right now they don't teach women's ordination…By now I was getting angry.
So he asked for my Temple recommend, and I told him I wanted to talk to the Stake President (One up from him) it was getting later and later, so we parted ways and he said we would meet the next week. BY now I was completely drained and just exhausted, feeling completely misunderstood.
Lesson in a Christmas tree
We put our Christmas tree up the 1st week of November... I was sitting on our couch thinking about what had just happened and how wronged I felt, pleading for help...I was looking at the tree when something told me pay attention.. there is a lesson in your tree... when it hit me... that tree gets taken down every year, yet every year its built back up to where it is something beautiful again... Then the thought came... people, circumstances and things can tear us down... our tree (really) is taken down every year... it gets torn down (or in mine or anyone's case, things can humble you) yet God builds you back up despite everything done to you and you become something beautiful again...
Kind of a cool message.
The next week was a whirlwind of thoughts, and things that happened that led me even MORE to believe that I needed to do what was right, to stand up for my convictions.
One of the women from Ordain women asked if she could fast for me that day of the interview and asked if she could set up a fast day with others. I said, of course, I need all the help I can get.
One day as I was standing in the kitchen, I was encompassed by such an enormous feeling of love that I started crying, and felt it so strongly I had to go upstairs bawling to tell my husband about it… I was still a mess, but that love carried me through to the next day, and the next.
I was looking up some things when Joe (My huz) and I came upon this http://byustudies.byu.edu/PDFLibrary/47.2KimballSpencerb0a083df-b26b-430b-9ce2-3efec584dcd9.pdf
It was as if it was given to me to prepare for EVERYTHING that was talked about in the interview. I read about how a group of my African American Brothers and sisters in the church had a group they put together called the "Genesis group" a group put together to see what they needed to do and petition the church on African Americans and the Priesthood
Their Genesis group walked to the Church Office building to ask for the Priesthood.
This last October, my group, Ordain Women, walked to the Priesthood session to ask to be admitted.
The Genesis group had 300
My little Ordain Women group had almost 200 the first time they were at temple square.The second time there were over 500! (If you look on Facebook there are almost 1500…)
I started to see a Parallel.
They were told they were separate but equal
Women are told we are separate but equal.
They were told they were not valiant in the pre-existence (Our church believes we were in heaven before we came down here) and that they weren't spiritual enough (Which is RIDICULOUS- not spiritual enough? Not valiant enough??? Everything we teach goes against that!!!)
We women are told that we are TOO spiritual and don't need it.
That Sunday I was to meet with the Bishop, I woke up feeling completely peaceful, calm. Like I had been put inside this bubble and I was protected, like God just took his arms and wrapped them around me.
As I was sitting in the kitchen, something told me that my Temple recommend was something that would be required, (for now) as a sacrifice that I had to make at this moment. I shook that off, I didn't want to have to think about something I hold most dear being taken away unfairly…yet, I still felt peaceful.
That day of the interview (Sunday) I woke up and checked out an email from my Bishop, (later I found out that I was protected even from that email.)
I read it, but it didn't register. Later on I was going to church when the thought came that I wanted to look at that email again…something told me, don't look at it until after your interviews are over, so I waited.
The talks and lesson that day was on Truth and standing up for Truth, not only that, but the closing song in Relief Society RIGHT before I was to go and have my interview with the Bishop was the song
"Do What Is Right"
Only the first verse...
Do what is right; the day-dawn is breaking,
Hailing a future of freedom and light.
Angels above us are silent notes taking
Of ev'ry action; then do what is right!
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!
(I remembered the other verses after class, and my mouth just dropped.)
Do what is right; the shackles are falling.
Chains of the bondsmen no longer are bright;
Lightened by hope, soon they'll cease to be galling.
Truth goeth onward; then do what is right!
Do what is right; be faithful and fearless.
Onward, press onward, the goal is in sight.
Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless.
Blessings await you in doing what's right!
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!
THAT was my answer. I had felt it, I THOUGHT knew it, now, without a doubt,
I KNEW what I needed to do. I had to stand for the Truth.
I couldn't not deny it. I would NOT deny it. For my sisters, for my daughter, for their daughters, for generations of women who frankly, deserve better.
It's as if EVERY word in that song that day was written for me.
I knew what I needed to do before, but THIS cemented even more my resolve. THIS was a direct answer to WEEKS of praying.
I realize how much clarity I had when I could have been a mess. That in itself is a miracle. ESPECIALLY because in my past is a VERY abusive father who would cut me down and any time I talked to him, or anyone in my family… I was stressed out, I would freeze up and my mind would go blank (In my OLD LDS home life, my dad was the epitome of unrighteous dominion, beating me unconscious many times.) When I finally got out of the house I would be talking to people and when I realized they were actually LISTENING to me it would freak me out! THEN my mind would go blank again.
In this meeting, My REAL, LOVING heavenly father was telling me that MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE VALID…that I don't have to be afraid of my mind going blank anymore.
That feeling, thankfully, is GONE...HE IS WITH ME.
I had an incredible peace the whole time I was talking to my Bishop and Stake President...(I had asked my Bishop for the Stake Presidents email and phone # numerous times and no matter how many times I asked, he wouldn't give it to me. I finally found a way to find it myself on LDS.org and I got in touch with him. The Stake President said we could meet that same day.)
All that day of those meetings I just got a feeling I was being protected, like I was in a big bubble the whole time...I didn't get angry, and EVERYTHING that I said felt right and good.
I had a feeling the men I talked to were just doing the best with what they were given.
I went in to talk to the Bishop completely calm.
As I talked to the Bishop I let him know what I believed, I wasn't angry, and I took some of the thoughts I had found from Edward Kimballs document on the Priesthood, which were incredible and had many parallels to the Ordain women movement.
Suddenly it seemed the Bishop was getting VERY angry with me. He said. "I'm just going to be blunt with you…I think you are being deceived".(That I thought was more than a little over the top.) to which I said "I have my truth and you have yours"... Even though he was angry, I still felt calm which was amazing under the circumstances.
He asked for my Temple recommend right then, but it felt more like he demanded it and wasn't asking. I just thought he sounded very, VERY angry.
So, I gave it to him. (Sigh)
Despite that, I know that I am not in the wrong, and that God knows I am worthy. I sincerely believe that EVERYTHING I have prayed and pleaded about I got answers to.
I am sad, but I feel my temple recommend is a sacrifice that is required for me for NOW. I don't know why, but through whatever I am required to do, I have been shown in more ways that I am saying here that God IS with me.
I hope the decision the Bishop made to take away my temple recommend will be turned around at some point.
I have heard dozens upon dozens of people say that they got their temple recommends despite saying yes to the second question that I talked to him about as people are married to non LDS members, and have friends who have different beliefs… I DO believe the time will come when it is right and things will change. Whether it is in this life or the next I believe the day will come that women hold the Priesthood
( To find out why I believe so strongly read here) http://songsofaletheia.blogspot.com/2013/09/why-i-believe-women-of-every-faith.html
I am at peace with what happened, though I hope in my lifetime things change. .
I am just amazed at the peacefulness of it all, despite all the anger towards me and accusations...
This last 3 weeks, it has felt like a witch hunt.
This whole time I have felt like I have been covered by his grace.... (I attribute a HUGE part of it to those who were fasting and praying for me that day…)
That wasn't the end of the appointments, as I had also made an appointment with the Stake President that day.
Right away when I walked in, I set down my highlighted papers on his desk, scooted the chair up to his desk and asked him if I could read what I had underlined…he said no, that he would rather we just talk. Then he started talking very fast, which surprised me, as at first he wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise until I think he realized that I wasn't purposefully trying to cause contention. Then he slowed down and we had a good meaningful conversation. He told me that there isn't any way I could answer no to the 2nd temple recommend question...(Which I thought was quite unfair. As it is supposed to be up to ME how to answer the questions.)
With THAT said, he wasn't as hardcore with me as the Bishop. I felt more love coming from him despite what he was saying. He then said he has seen temple recommend questions change three times during his Presidency and that if someday that happened that I would have my recommend back. I think he realized that I was sincerely asking questions, unlike when I talked to the Bishop, I just felt condemnation.
The Stake President also brought up, that in the Temple the women do the same things the men do THEMSELVES, (Which I won't go into) but he said they do it without the Priesthood…which I have ALWAYS believed they have done under the authority of the Priesthood as I have seen it…It's all about this amazing spirit and power that comes from God. (My husband has said that he believes that men don't HAVE the Priesthood, the Priesthood has them- I believe that, and I also believe that God is the one who decides who has the Priesthood, who is worthy, and who is NOT, despite men saying someone does or doesn't. GOD decides. )
To me, how could it NOT be the same thing? It IS the SAME!
But I didn't tell him that.
The Stake President then said to me "If the men had half the desire you have to hold the priesthood and bless others, as I can see you have, you wouldn't need to do this...
Which made me sad to think that he was missing the point…
I asked him then, what about single women, then he said something about separate but equal...and I said, (placing my hand on that stack of papers that I had highlighted and wanted to talk about) that was the exact wording that was used when it came to my African Americans brothers and its being used with Women...
The other point is, that women who are in the military who are out in the middle of nowhere, at times without male Priesthood holders can't have a meeting, or take the Sacrament. How is that ok?
The thing above all that was amazing to me was that it was as if everything I had read was in preparation for this moment…it was as if it was given to me EXACTLY what I was supposed to say.
At the beginning of the day, something told me I needed to ask the Stake President and Bishop to give me a Blessing…At the end of the interview, I asked for a blessing from them, which in my church they do by laying their hands on a person's head and say what they believe God wants them to say…what I remember is that the Stake President told me that "Heavenly father knows the desires of my heart".
Yes, he does.
Through everything, I REALLY felt, the ENTIRE time, that I had this sense of peace...that there was this shield over me, a protection if you will, and a feeling of intense love that told me everything is ok, that God loves me, and that it was going to take a sacrifice on my part when it came to this moment…
I don't know why, but sometimes in this life, sadly, there is no answer.
At least not for now.
I more I have thought about it, I believe the reason I am here, at THIS time is for THIS moment. This, above all else, is the stand I have been called to make.
I am at peace with it. (Sort Of) I'll admit, it is unfair, BUT I KNOW I am worthy, I know God knows I am worthy, and THAT is all that matters.
That I lost my Temple recommend for something as small as being involved in a group of like-minded, GOOD, peaceful women who have been nothing but a support to me feels like a slap in the face after everything I have been through in my life, (Those of you who read my blogs know what a miracle it literally is that I am alive, as my LDS home life was so violently abusive) but somehow, I am at peace..
I know that I am worthy in every other way to enter the Temple, and God knows it. I KNOW it.
With all that said something else miraculous happened that day.
I was literally protected that day from an email that the Bishop sent...I had looked at it that morning but the amazing thing is what he was saying didn't register...it's bizarre. On the way to church I thought about looking at it again…something told me; wait till after your interview. So I did.
I realize that if I would have really "seen" it I may not have been so calm talking to him. I would have been FURIOUS! (It's funny though, I look at the email now and realize what he was saying, and it is hurtful...I wonder if he was angry when he sent it.)
This is the Email...
"You don't have to go any further than the name of the group "Ordain Women" to know that they promote (and therefore teach) a doctrine that is contrary to that accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A quick visit to their website confirms that. (I don't believe he looked close enough)
I think that you are spiritual danger. The danger is not from me--to the contrary, I am trying to keep you safe if you will allow it. "
I said that I had such a peace when I was talking to the Bishop and Stake President...I believe that protection I was talking about feeling… that "shield "I felt, was literal...
The email basically tells me that I he fears I am in "danger of losing my SOUL".
THAT is quite a BIG statement and VERY judgmental.
I think if I would have gone into his office to talk to him yesterday with that actually registering, I would have gone in there angry with more of a 'HOW DARE YOU!" attitude instead of with the peace I felt…I cannot even wrap my head around the idea that he may believe that I am actually losing my soul just for being involved with a bunch of good, honest women with the desire to bless others, a righteous desire that is no less righteous than a boy that is given the Priesthood by our church, when we women, some single, some who want to bless our children, husband, friends when they are hurting, only want to be of service.
I have women friends who I know are hurting, could we not give a blessing of comfort as they may not be as willing to tell a man they barely know about it? Why would I lose my soul for wanting to bless my hurting loved ones???
If I would have realized that he was saying I may lose my soul for such a thing…
I may not have been as calm and collected as I was when I talked to him.
EVERYTHING, from the talks in Sacrament (On TRUTH!) to the music, ( The song we sang in Relief Society- "Do What Is Right" ) Tells me God is with me, even as I am writing this, I feel him with me still.
As I was writing this, The Road Less Traveled popped into my mind.
I think my whole life has been a search for Truth. A search for the good and right and honest road. It is not always a road that is an easy one.
It may be bumpy, I may fall and get scraped up and wear out the soles of my shoes (Not to be confused with my actual soul. HAHA! I ) My whole life I have been true to myself and those around me, despite what anyone thinks. The only thing that will EVER matter to me, is NOT what men or women think of me, but what GOD thinks of me. And his message of love to me is enough to carry me down ANY road to my final destination.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.