A daily social media prayer

Dear Heavenly Mother and Father,

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, Twitter, and the blogposts I love to read I feel that I must apologize to both of you.

I’m sorry I’m not as perfect as Jeni or as optimistic as Alexa.

I’m sorry I’m not a wonderful wife and mother like Jocelyn, Chandra, and Brooke.

I’m sorry I’m not as famous or widely acclaimed as Taylor or Mindy. 

I’m sorry for not being more outspoken for what I believe in like Thaina or as fun as Megan. 

I’m sorry for not being as kind as Sara, as empathetic as Beth, or as loving as Karen.

I’m sorry that I don’t love animals as much as Kacie or as athletic as Chelsey and Ashley.

I’m sorry I’m not more successful and that I don’t take pretty pictures of my daily life.

I’m sorry I’m not as smart, as funny, as pretty, as charismatic, as career driven or as adventurous as my many friends, family, acquaintances, and Internet strangers I have come to know. 

I’m sorry that I don’t write as well or as often as I sometimes think I should.

I’m sorry I post anything at all.

I’m sorry I spend so much time scrolling through these lists, hoping to calm my anxiety and loneliness.

I’m sorry that sometimes my social anxiety gets the best of me and I am slow to respond to messages and posts.

I’m sorry that I get so caught up in myself.

I’m sorry I am so addicted to social media.

I hope dearest Mother and Father that you will see fit to impart some of Thy Son’s atonement and grace upon me and upon all my Facebook friends, Twitter followers and bloggers. Please forgive me for my weakness and be patient with me and my struggle.

Love Thy unworthy daughter
Heavenly Mother and Fathers response:

Our Dearest Kelsi,

We love you just as you are right now. With every weakness, insecurity, and imperfection. Don’t forget that just like we created Jeni, Alexa, Jocelyn, Chandra, Brooke,Taylor, Mindy, Thaina, Megan, Sara, Beth, Karen, Kacie, Chelsey, Ashley, and everyone else that you come in contact with in our image and likeness we also created you to be like and look like your Heavenly Mother. You are okay. You are more than okay. You are you. And that is all we ever wanted for you.

Your ever loving Heavenly Parents

Heavenly Mother and Feminism

Confession: I am a feminist.

I haven’t always been a feminist.  This has actually been a recent change and a slow change.  And it’s a change that has made me nervous because Mormon’s and feminist’s haven’t always gotten a long.  And I care what my family and my Mormon community think about me.  So I’ve stayed quiet and haven’t shared the struggle within my heart.  Because I don’t want them to think I am crazy.   I haven’t blogged in almost a year and I have been tempted to give up blogging all together.  But I’ve been praying to be able to find my voice again and to find the courage to share it.  And last night I couldn’t sleep.  I felt so strongly that this is a story that I need to share.  What I am about to share is my experience and I do not speak for all of the LDS church.

2014 was an awful year for me.  I was overcome with a deep fear of the future and failure.  My dad got transferred to a new store, my mom got sick and I missed my brother on his mission.  Everything was changing and it didn’t seem to be changing for the better.  I realized that my health was going to be more of an issue for me than it had in years pass for the rest of my life. I was paralyzed by my fear, anxiety, and a deep-seated depression.  And I faced failure for the first time in my life.  All of this culminated to make me really, really ticked off at God.  I ended up yelling at him a lot.  Going to church every week made me feel even angrier.

I have always believed in God and I have always had a good relationship with him.  It is something that came naturally since I was a little girl singing I am a Child of God and A Child’s Prayer.  And I have worked really hard on my relationship with Jesus Christ.  As Mormon’s we believe that God is the Father of our Spirits (we often call him Heavenly Father) and that Jesus Christ is our elder brother.  This has often been comforting to me because it reflects the relationships I have on this earth with my own father and (younger) brother.  I love them both dearly and I know they both love me so it has always been easy to picture God and my Savior Jesus Christ loving me like a father and a brother.  That is part of the reason I feel like I could get so mad at God.  I get mad at my dad sometimes and it’s because I care about him and my relationship with him and that is the same way that I feel about God.  and I know that even when I get mad at my dad that he still loves me and I had confidence God would be the same way.

But the thing is I also have a mother.  And just like I love and have a good relationship with my dad and brother, I have a good relationship with her .  I can’t imagine my life without her.  Her illness was one of the hardest things about 2014 because I had to face her mortality and the fact that she may not always be here on earth with me.  That was so difficult.  We Mormons believe that we have a Heavenly Mother as well.

“In the heaven’s are parent’s single?

No the thought makes reason stare!

Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.”

O My Father – Eliza R. Snow (emphasis added by me)

The thing is though that we don’t know much about Her and besides this one hymn we don’t talk about Her much. I have been told since I was little that we don’t talk about Her because Heavenly Father loves Her so much He doesn’t want people to take Her name in vain so He doesn’t let most people know She even exists and doesn’t let the rest of us talk about Her. I accepted this for most of my life but for some reason in October this stopped making sense to me.  I don’t know if it was because life was so hard and I was angry with God or if realizing that my mom will die someday caused it not to make sense anymore but I just couldn’t understand it.   If my dad decided to keep my mom away from my brother and I and told us she’s out there in the world somewhere and loves us but we are not allowed to think about, talk about, or talk to her I think it would be more abusive than loving. And I can’t believe that God is an abusive husband. It doesn’t make sense. And I can’t believe that Heavenly Mother is that fragile.  She must be strong because women are strong.

I felt this longing to know my Heavenly Mother well up inside of me. It is the closest I have ever had to an experience like the one Joseph smith describes in Joseph Smith History when he wants to know what church is true. I couldn’t think of anything else.  I felt this whole in my heart that I couldn’t believe had been there for 23 years and I had never noticed before.  But I knew that like Joseph, if I lacked wisdom I could ask of God.  So I began praying. And I began searching LDS.org, BYU studies, The Sunstone, The Exponent, amotherhere.com, and anything else I could find. I learned that She is referenced more than I knew., although many of these references are more general “Heavenly Parent’s” references but I could still find Her. I couldn’t find anything supporting the don’t talk about Her rule although we have been asked not to pray to her. I learned she is a co-creator with God. I confirmed the knowledge that She loves and cares about me and my life. Still I was left with some questions like:

  • Does Heavenly Father practice polygamy? If so what does that mean to who we are as his children and in relation to each other?
  • What is Her relationship to the Godhead?
  • What is She doing now? What role does She play in our daily lives?
  • Why must we be so disconnected from Her?
  • If She is a Goddess and has the same attributes of God, all-knowing and all-powerful than doesn’t She hold the priesthood? Because the priesthood is the power of God. What does that mean for women on earth today?
  • Why do we talk so little about Her? Why has so little been revealed?

I don’t know when answers to these questions will come. I do know that if they aren’t answered while I am alive they are the first things I will ask her when I die. But everyday I have been praying to Heavenly Father to come closer to her and to see her hand in my life. This has been the beginning of a beautiful relationship with a mother I longed for and didn’t even realize I was missing. As I have searched for her I have been promoted to begin studying all of the scriptures in search of the stories of women there. I haven been touched by the stories of these women. Some I was already familiar with like the stories of Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth, and Hannah but I now feel a closer kinship with them. Some I just began to learn about like Hagar, Asenath, Puah and Shapirah, the daughters of Zelophad, and the concubine in Judges 19 and I am amazed I didn’t know their stories before. This is my first time reading the bible all the way through and it has been wonderful to find these heroines to look up to. Their stories have taught me that Heavenly Father and Mother love their daughters and have a great work for them. I believe no one cries harder than Heavenly Mother when women are abused and oppressed.

I have also felt impressed to search out the women from church history. I had no idea that relief society had such a history of feminism, often brought about by polygamy. As I have read the stories of Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells and other sisters my heart has been moved by the work of the women who came before me who paved the way for me to be able to vote, get an education, and have a career.

My mother, grandmothers, and aunts have also paved the way for me. As I have searched for heavenly mother I have been struck by the influence of the women in my family. Because my mother got a college degree I knew from a young age I would as well. Because my mother, my aunts, and my grandmothers have worked so hard inside and outside the home I know it is possible for me to do both as well. They have shown me the joy that can come from motherhood and a career. I long for the chance to be a mother and I hope to be able to start a meaningful career I can give my heart to as well soon. And I know it’s possible because they have paved the way for me.

As I have searched for Heavenly Mother I have pondered my future responsibility as a mother. I long to be a mother like my both my earthly mother and my Heavenly Mother. I pray for the chance every day. I feel pangs of jealousy as I see my friends step up to the sacred role and i pray to have that jealousy to be turned to happiness for their good fortune. As I think about the future I hope I have both sons and daughters. I want my children to know their Heavenly Mother. I want them to feel her love and influence. I believe the most feminist thing a woman can do is raise their daughters to know their worth and their sons to respect women and treat them as equals. A blogger once said that when men are wicked women suffer. And I believe that whole heartedly.

I believe that Heavenly Mother wants all of us as women to support each other and love each other. Nothing must pain her more than to see us tear each other down. She must have had a hand in the writing of As Sisters in Zion.  And I believe Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ must all be feminists. “God is no respecter of persons” and as I have searched for Heavenly Mother I have felt the need to claim feminism for myself. My search for Heavenly Mother has changed my perspective on modesty and loving my body. I don’t think any girl or woman would struggle with body image issues if she realized that she was made in the image of the most powerful and beautiful woman ever. No woman or girl would struggle with confidence either. This search for heavenly mother has made me realize that one of the greatest truths I have ever been taught is that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Because I will not “grow up” to become live Heavenly Father in the eternities. I will be like Heavenly Mother.

I long for my Mother in Heaven. I long to remember her beauty, love, kindness, compassion, strength, courage, and wisdom. She must possess every divine and Godly attribute. I wonder what she is doing now and what I will be doing like her in the eternities. I know she hasn’t forgotten me.

This search has forever changed my understanding of who I am and who I have the potential to become. I still long for the answers to the questions about Heavenly Mother. They feel so important to my understanding of who I have the potential to be after this life and who I can be today. But I will pray for patience until the revelation comes and look to the women who came before me in my family, in my church, and in the scriptures for glimpses of my Heavenly Mother’s face. I will search for glimpses of Her face in my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. And I will pray that I will portray glimpses of my Heavenly Mother and the divine feminine in my face for my children and all those who I interact with to see.

That is why I am a feminist. Because I have a Heavenly Mother who loves me. And I love Her. And I will stand as a witness of Her and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at all times and in all things and in all places. My full family.

And if Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are equal in heaven and are co-creators and working together towards the same goal shouldn’t men and women be equal and work towards the same goal on earth as well? Shouldn’t men and women work as equals at work, at home, and at church? I hope and pray that all is equal in heaven. I hope and pray that all is equal on earth as well.

I am a feminist not in spite of being a Mormon but because I am a Mormon.

LDS Women and the Priesthood

It’s that time again.  Time for General Conference. And time for the Ordain Women group to begin protesting for the church to give women the priesthood and for most other church members to defend the church’s stand on women and the priesthood.  I have tried to study both sides of the debate prayerfully and am writing this post to figure out exactly where I stand on the issue.

The discussion to me boils down to two things: Desires and Revelations.

“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.” –  Elder Dallin H. Oaks 

Ordain Women basically boils down to a desire of some women, both inside and outside of the church, for women to receive the priesthood.  Good, bad, or indifferent that is what it is. This desire for the priesthood has become a priority for some women, and led to the choices and actions that these women feel will be most likely to bring about change that will help them become priesthood holders.  I honestly feel that the basic desire for women to hold the priesthood is not a bad desire.  

While I see no reason why women can’t hold the priesthood and understand the desire to hold the priesthood, I feel that the choices and actions of Ordain Woman organization show that they are too caught up in their desire.  To the rest of the church that does not desire women to have the priesthood the Ordain Women program appears to just be a loud cry of “I want the priesthood! I WANT the priesthood! I WANT THE PRIESTHOOD! And I want it now.”   Because of this loud outcry I have heard many women in the church who don’t support Ordain Women say the exact opposite “I don’t even WANT the priesthood. Why would I WANT the priesthood?”  And as long as the majority of women don’t desire the priesthood, no matter how loudly the women who want the priesthood protest, Heavenly Father isn’t going to force the priesthood on women who don’t desire it.  While desires are incredibly important as far as determining our priorities, choices, and actions, our desires aren’t as important as the Heavenly Father’s desires.  That the lesson I learn over and over again whenever I study Jesus Christ in the Garden, “Not my will, but thine be done.”  It’s probably the hardest lesson on so many levels.  It’s so easy to lose track of the fact that it doesn’t matter what I want, Ordain Women wants, or women in the church in general want.  It’s about what the Lord wants.  

 “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Article of Faith 9

I’m no expert, but from my basic understanding of the history of the church and the scriptures, I see no indication that women can never ever hold the priesthood.  The priesthood has always been restricted from some people for whatever reason. In the Old Testament the priesthood was only to the tribe of Levi and only the first born sons of Aaron were able to lead the priesthood.  In the New Testament the Gentiles were not given the priesthood until after Christ left the earth.  And in the early days of the church “black males of African descent” were not given the priesthood.  I don’t know why these groups of people were not given the priesthood throughout history, but I do know that each of these groups, through revelation, have eventually been able to receive the fullness of the gospel, and the priesthood, when they were ready for it. I know that there have been examples of righteous women throughout the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the history of the church doing miracles, even without the priesthood.  I also know that through covenants, some which I have not yet received nor do I fully understand yet, we as women are already able to receive the fullness of the gospel and the blessing of the priesthood, even though we don’t actually “hold” the priesthood. 

 So far it appears pretty clear that through revelation to His prophets, Heavenly Father has said “No” when it comes to women holding the priesthood.  Or maybe it’s a “not yet”.  I honestly don’t know.  I don’t know what the future will hold. And I definitely don’t receive revelation for the whole church.  I do know that I because I believe in the 9th Article of Faith, I can accept the current revelation concerning women and the priesthood and be open to future revelation as well. If at some future date the president of the church says “The Lord has revealed that women should receive the priesthood” I’ll say “Awesome!” and if that never happens I’ll be ok too.  But I know that revelation won’t come as a result of a protest and it won’t come until we as a church are ready.  I imagine it would be more like the recent missionary age change.

Ultimately whether or not women receive the priesthood doesn’t matter to me.  What does matter to me is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. The Book of Mormon is true.  We are led by a living prophet who continues to receive revelations from God.  And that is enough for me.  

Life is busy and beautiful and lovely until I’ve stopped writing. Because I’ve stopped writing?  In spite of the fact I’ve stopped writing?  And that’s why I’ve stopped writing? I can feel the effects deep down in my soul. As I fight off this cold and try to motivate myself to do the mounds of homework piling up and the therapeutic cleaning needed, my soul is longing for a story to tell.  My life doesn’t make sense if it’s not in writing.  My thoughts jumble, jostle, and reoccur over and over and over again until they are poured onto a page or a screen.  Not for anyone else to read unless they want to.  Just for me to make sense.  And ask questions.  And ponder.  And understand. And escape.  And face head on. And recover.  And recuperate.  My story longs to be told but as I live my story I tell it less.  I need more quiet moments of written self reflection.  Then it all makes sense.

This move across the country all by myself has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  It’s right up there with EFY. SUU.  My loving parents. Brother. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins.  FRIENDS who have come and gone from my life. A good laugh. Ice cream and chocolate. A good song with a catchy tune, a good beat and a lyric that describes my simply complicated life.  I feel so blessed.

If you had told me I would move to middle of nowhere Pennsylvania on my own for a nonpaying internship five years ago, I would have thought you were crazy.  I would have thought you were crazy two years ago, one year ago, six months ago, for different reasons.  This was not part of my plan but it was a part of the Lords plan.  And it is beautiful.

This distance has been clarifying.  I have had no one to turn to but to the Lord.  My prayers have taken on deeper meaning, my scripture study brings answers I didn’t even know I was looking for. I have more time to ponder, more time in my own thoughts.  

I live simply, wake prepare for the day, go to my internship, soak in my environment and every experience and word of advice that is offered, come home, work on homework, get ready for bed, sleep, and repeat it all the next day.  There is a beauty in the simplicity.  I’m taking better care of myself than I ever have, eating healthy, exercising a little everyday, sleeping 8+ hours a day. And I feel better.  I have more energy and I like myself more.  I’m cleaning up after myself more and am relishing in the peace of a clean home.  I listen to uplifting music at home. 

I am learning who I am on my own.  I’m learning what I want out of life.

I’m comparing myself to everyone I know less.  I’m realizing that I am a beginner.  I am a beginner at my job.  I’m a beginner at being an adult. I’m a beginner at love.  And it’s ok to be a beginner.  Everyone has to start out as a beginner.

Quote

I’ve got my tic…

I’ve got my ticket for the long way round
The one with the prettiest of views
It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers
It’s got sights to make you shiver
But it sure would be prettier with you.

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.