Sister Missionaries: The Respect They Deserve

Now That I’ve sent my little brother on a mission, I’m thinking of all sorts of things that I wish I told him before he left. Some of them, I’m positive He knows or will figure out quickly. Others will probably take a while. This is one of those things that I’m sure he knows, but that I saw a lot of Elders in my own mission never figure out:

Sister Missionaries are the best. That’s right, I said it. They rock. During my first few months as a missionary, I unfortunately heard from several Elders that sister missionaries were basically all out there to vacation. They were lazy, and they all thought that they were more worthy of the priesthood than the Elders. First of all, FALSE. Second of all, numbers do not lie. On my BEST weeks and transfers, I could usually count on the sister missionaries in my district or zone doubling my numbers. All of them. Yes, that includes baptisms. Sister missionaries are machines. They know what they teach, they believe it, and they’re dang good at teaching it. These courageous and talented young women are out for the right reasons.

Now lets turn the tables for a moment. I didn’t meet a single sister missionary on my mission who was a slacker, or who didn’t give it her all. But Elders! I don’t know how many of them I met that were vacationing, or who were lazy, and some who had no idea why they were out. The sad part was, these were the missionaries who were complaining about sister missionaries.

Now, I am not saying that ALL sister missionaries are flippin awesome. I’m sure there are exceptions. I just never met one. And only a few elders were out for the wrong reasons, or because they had to be, or because they were “‘posed to.” It will happen, since there are just more Elders than Sisters. And LDS men have more pressure on them to serve a mission- but this isn’t an excuse to slack off.

To all you prospective Sister Missionaries, and to all those currently serving or who have since returned, you are, and ought to be held in the highest regard. For those of you who choose to serve because you want to, and because your testimony is burning bright, I commend you, and hold you in the highest regards. I know that you got or will get push-back for wanting to go, or while you’re out, or even after you get back. You don’t deserve to be looked down upon. You deserve to be honored.

To all you wonderful women who have NOT served missions, you also should be held in the highest regard. If you choose to start a family, or pursue your education and a career, you will likely receive push-back no matter which path you choose. You are no less strong or grounded than those who have the opportunity to serve a mission, and equally deserving of respect.

So to all you prospective Elders, and to all you who are serving or have served, remember this: Sister Missionaries can do it as well as you can. They work hard, they receive inspiration, and they see miracles, and ARE miracles every day. There are people out there that only THEY can reach. And those people are just as common as the people that only YOU can reach. So give Sister Missionaries some respect. They deserve it.

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I originally wrote this for my personal blog, which deals with a much more broad variety of topics, including missionary work, and has all of my emails home from my 2 years of service. If you would like to read any of these, this post, and the blog itself can be found Here:  http://paravillatiniay.blogspot.com/2013/09/sister-missionaries-respect-they-deserve.html

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The Marriage Triangle- Who REALLY Presides?

Many within the Church, including myself, have wondered how father and mother are equal before God when the father presides. I admit, that although I have known that men and women are equal, and husband and wife are equal before God, I didn’t actually understood how that worked. I’ve given it much thought and prayer, and though I believe that my feelings are accurate, the conclusions that I have come to are my own and don’t reflect the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Everyone has seen a diagram similar to this one in a Sunday school:

This diagram illustrates the bond and covenant of marriage. Obviously, it is not only between man and wife, but also God. Most any LDS couple will say that God is at the head of their marriage, as He is. Another diagram that many have seen is this one:

It was the comparison of these two triangles that helped me understand how father and mother were equal, even with the father “presiding.”

Perhaps an explanation would be helpful here. In meetings in the church, if the President is absent, the 1st counselor assumes responsibility, or for our purposes, Presidency of the meeting. His (or her) job is to make the meetings run smoothly. In the case of a decision to be made, the 1st counselor really has no more actual decision making power than the second counselor. They will attempt to contact the president, and in the case where he cannot be reached, or decides to leave it up to them, they talk it over and come to a consensus. That is how the church is organized.

In a similar way, a sealing covenant puts God as the actual presiding authority in the family, with the parents as counselors. He is not physically here, and has called the husband to be the first counselor. This means that the husband is to make sure that the family has all that it needs, physically, and makes sure that they do what God, or the President of the family, would have them do. In the case of a decision needing to be made, the husband and wife, or the counselors, importune God, and seek his guidance. They both are entitled to direction and revelation from God, and should be unified in every decision. Neither has the authority to make decisions without the consent of the other. The husband presides only in that he sees that the decision made is carried out. The mother also is responsible for putting the decision into effect. They each have different responsibilities in carrying out the decision, and both are accountable to the other to follow through. This is how the family is organized. The father presides, but he is NOT the president.

Unrighteous Dominion

This post is directed at men. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about equality and how guys aren’t all power-hungry patriarchs, and try to apologize for the “few” that are,  but the fact is, too many of us men actually are power-hungry, and like to call ourselves “patriarchs.” So I will attempt here to address the issue without sugarcoating it, but without offending anyone. Guys, I invite you to take this with a grain of salt. I do not wish to accuse anyone of anything. I do wish to bring attention to an issue that we have complete control over, and if we can control it, we will not offend or hurt those special women in our lives.

I have strong faith in the power of the priesthood. It is the reason we call ourselves the only true church. We have many wonderful priesthood leaders who use their priesthood for blessing the lives of many. However, we have an unfortunate number who believe that this priesthood power gives them authority outside of the prescribed bounds. That they somehow are over women. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency says, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

Now, if there are any men who read this and think, “there you go! ‘Fathers are to preside over their families…’ that means I make the decisions, and I am solely responsible for receiving revelation for my family, and my family is obligated to follow my direction and counsel,” then I urge you to re-think what it means to preside. A president is not a king. He is not a dictator. Every president has councilors, or a vice president who council him, debate ideas, and who have an equal say in each matter. In a presidency with 2 councilors, a decision cannot be made without a unanimous vote. Not a 2/3 or 1/3 vote. Unanimous. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve make decisions in a like manner. Every vote to the contrary is treated with gravity and is given much respect as long as it can be backed by valid argument. Those who are “entitled” to receive revelation on behalf of others are also subject to council. Councilors are also entitled to this revelation, and if they don’t receive it, the president has no right to force the issue.

I have a very good friend whom I am quite protective of. She helped me through a hard time after my mission, and has always been the most genuine friend a person could ask for. She recently broke off an engagement, all of which was a living hell for her. She gave me permission to tell her story, in part. Her ex-fiancé attempted to control her on very levels. On their second date, he quoted scripture to her and said that they were commanded to replenish the earth, and forced her to kiss him. Something that I know for a fact she does not do on second dates, or eighth dates for that matter. Later, when he proposed, he again quoted scripture, and took her on a major guilt trip before asking her to marry him, such that she felt that if she said ‘no’ she would go to hell. He forbade her from speaking to any of her male friends, asked her to cut contact with friends that she had had since childhood, and etc. Eventually, to her, and many others’ relief, she got out. However, the damage had been done emotionally. She doesn’t trust men, and who can blame her? She was controlled and used by a man who said he loved her. When she told him of a health problem, and used it as an excuse to break off the engagement, he actually accepted it.

I have another friend, who also has an ex-fiancé. When they were dating, they read the book that listed questions LDS couples should ask before marrying. One asked whether they believed the patriarchal system, and what this meant to them. He immediately answered in the affirmative, and she pressed for details. He answered that if they ever had an argument, that he got the final say, because he held the priesthood and was entitled to that revelation.

I would direct those men to Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-39

And they wonder why the relationship ended. Now I must admit, I once held this type of thinking. I did not completely understand what it meant to preside in the home. Luckily, I was young, and I had an exemplary father who treated my mother as his absolute equal. He did not make any decisions alone, and neither did She. THEY made decisions together, and they are happy, and their six children are happy. This is what the first presidency was getting at when they said “equal partners.” My parents are about as opposite as it gets- the athletic math and science guy married the “danceletic” (as my mom puts it) music and English woman. They complete each other as husband and wife ought. They each shine in different areas, as they should. It gives them identity, but they are completely equal in the governing of the family, of their understanding of the gospel, and most importantly, in their standing before God. One is not in front or behind. They are side-by-side. Equal in all things eternal.

My point is, a father’s responsibility is to make sure he does everything he can to make sure his family follows the Plan of Happiness, but, his responsibility is not to enforce it he is also to assist in any way he can, his wife in all of her responsibilities. Mothers’ responsibilities are to nurture children, and to support and help her husband with his responsibilities.

If one receives revelation, the other will also receive it. If it isn’t, the couple ought to keep praying and asking for guidance until they can both feel good about a decision.

To wrap up and sum up- your priesthood is to be used to bless the lives of others, and to serve them. It is not to be used to get what you want, or force anyone to do anything. If you use your authority and power properly, it will bless you and your family’s lives infinitely. If not, “…it is withdrawn, [and] Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

Reconciling the Priesthood and Women in the Church

Why are women not ordained? Does their lack of ordination make them an oppressed population?

I have been thinking about this topic for some time now, even before I decided to start this blog. I’ve been from one end of the spectrum to the other, puzzling it out in my mind. Before I delve into my thoughts and things that I’ve learned in the past months but especially the past week, let me first say that I don’t know. I don’t know why women do not hold priesthood keys or authority. That being said, let me share what I have learned on this topic, especially in regards to equality.

I should begin by saying that much of what I will say was at least influenced by one or both of two sources, though in some cases they simply put into words what I was already thinking. The first, is my older sister, who has done a lot of research and discussion with the Lord. The other source is a talk given by Sheri Dew at Time Out For Women 2012.

I said before that I do not know why women do not hold priesthood keys or authority. It should be noted that I did not say “the priesthood.” Women have every bit as much access to priesthood power as men, especially those who are endowed. Women are barred from no spiritual gift that men can enjoy. The power of the priesthood is no exception. The only requirement for using this power is that you be righteous. Gender does not matter. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it this way: “Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness…-in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord.” Despite this truth, many men and women fail to properly recognize it. Men sometimes can feel that they are in a position of superiority, and women sometimes believe them. Not so.

What I say now, I offer as my opinion, and is not Church doctrine. The rest of the priesthood- specifically keys and authority- are meant to help men get to where women already are. Think about this. Why is it that men must hold the priesthood in order to enter the temple, while women need only be worthy to enter? What does that tell us about the role of the priesthood for men? I’ll tell you that for me, priesthood keys and authority have never made feel superior to women. However, they have made feel like I might be able accomplish as much as women. All the women in my life are naturally organized, charitable, and willing to give of their time and talents. They are some of the best people I know. I and I daresay most men, lack these qualities naturally. They can be obtained learned, and one doesn’t necessarily need the priesthood to learn them. However, when I was serving in my home ward in the presidency of the various quorums (understand, I am not tooting my own horn here- these were not positions that I aspired to), I, and my fellow presidency members often were shown what the presidencies of the young women classes were doing. Often I would see these presidencies reaching out to other young women, and loving them. We had a really hard time doing this with our young men. I had a really hard time doing this. I had a hard time caring. I found that by the time I was a priest, I had learned, though not quite enough yet, how to reach out to other young men and… fellowship them. I could at least help them feel wanted, which is more than I could say when I was a deacon. But I did, and still have a long way to go to get to where my female contemporaries were when we were 12.

What I’m saying is that the priesthood is a means for men to learn how to do things and BE things that women inherently are. It forces us to look beyond ourselves, since we can only use it to benefit others. It forces us to learn how to love and how to organize, how to look for the needs of others, and do what we can to help them. Women, you are born with these traits! Yes, they still have to be developed, just as all talents and traits have to be, but it is a gift that you are given. I’m not suggesting that women have it better than men, or that men are victims of some sort. No, men also have their strengths that they are born with. We just need a little more help it our quest to have Christlike love, and achieve exaltation. The priesthood is not to make men better- its to help us be equal with women.

Okay, that all was definitely my opinion, not Church doctrine. I struggled to find the right words there, and none of it was meant to offend anyone. My opinion has been influenced by many people, and I’ve had the above opinion for some time, though my sister and the talk by Sheri Dew helped to put it into words.

Sheri Dew used a quote in her talk that I thought was particularly relevant.

“The blessings of the priesthood are not confined to men alone. These blessings are also poured out upon…all the faithful women of the Church…The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by His sons.” -President Joseph Fielding Smith

I thought that these quotes were excellent and informative. Both of these men who are prophets, seers, and revelators, are prime examples of how the Priesthood of God views women: Equal.

In conclusion, I will reiterate in short terms what I’ve been getting at with this whole post- men and women are equal in God’s eyes, and in the eyes of the Church, and the priesthood is what makes it possible for men to be on equal footing with women.

Trying to Understand Feminism and Patriarchy

To many in the world, “feminism” refers to fanatical women who hate men, who have no sense of humor, and enjoy braiding their leg hair. To many LDS men, any LDS woman who considers herself a feminist wants the priesthood, and wants to wear the pants, preferring the husband to stay at home with the kids. This is sad, and definitely not true of most feminists. On the flip side, you have a culture in most of the world based on a twisted form of patriarchy. Men dominate the world. Fact. Is it right? No. But are all men domineering and power-hungry, wishing to control women and put them in positions of inferiority, viewing them as a commodity instead of as humans? No. Both philosophies at their core are good, and righteous. When put together righteously, patriarchy and feminism compliment and advance each other. A true patriarch recognizes the worth and equality of his wife (and all women), and a true feminist recognizes the worth and equality of her husband (and all men). The clincher here, is that they BOTH recognize their need for the other. My faith teaches me that while salvation is a personal matter, exaltation is family matter, and no one is exalted without their spouse. No one. Therefore, there must be equality in a marriage relationship, or exaltation cannot be realized by either party.

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So, now that you understand where I stand on equality, lets talk about feminism and patriarchy.

Who is a feminist? When I first heard about feminism, I thought to myself that never in a million years would I be, or even be friends with, a feminist. I held the above mentioned assumptions about them, and looked upon the whole movement with a certain degree of disgust. Then my sister asked me a few questions that caught me off guard and left me completely unprepared for her immediate conclusion (which was premeditated). The conversation went something like this:

“Do you think women should have an equal opportunity as men in the workplace?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women working the exact same job with the same credentials should receive the same pay?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women in a marriage relationship are equal partners?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women should enjoy all the same rights that men do?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women are born with the same capacity for intellect that men are?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that a woman should have control over her own body?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re a feminist.”

“…What?”

Needless to say, I’ve revised my thinking somewhat since that time. If you look up the definition of feminism in the dictionary you’ll find something along the lines of, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of women to men.” So, while this is a very simple way of defining it, its true. If you can agree with the above statements, you are a feminist. If you need a little more convincing, this article is great: Yes, You Are.

So whats wrong with being a feminist? Short answer, nothing. In fact, if you believe that men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially, you are one.

That all being said, if you believe in gender equality at all, you subscribe to patriarchy. Now, before you get all up in arms saying that patriarchy is all about male dominance, let me explain what I mean. Patriarchy started with Adam. Eve was his equal. Adam was a patriarch and Eve was a feminist. Neither exercised control over the other. They even made the decision to leave the garden of Eden together, and neither forced the other to stay or go. Patriarchy, in its original, and God-given sense, had nothing to do with male dominance, and had more to do with being a good husband and father. Eve, in her feminism, was also taught how to be a good wife and mother, and together they were united in teaching their children about God, and about life in general. Were they perfect? Of course not. Were their children? No, and some of them were about as far from it as you can get. Thus, patriarchy began to be twisted.

The sad truth today is that we still live in a male-dominated society. The sad truth today is that even within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are men who think that their priesthood means they have some authority over their wife, or women in general. The sad truth is that men abuse women way more than women abuse men, and the atrocities are countless. Is there a problem with patriarchy today? You bet. There are several problems with it. But those problems have been caused by the world’s definition of patriarchy, not God’s, and not the Church’s either. All people are equal in God’s eyes. He does not care if you are a man or a woman.  He doesn’t care if you’re homosexual or straight.  He doesn’t care if you’re black, white, green, blue, or orange. He favors no one above anyone.

I claim to follow God, and I strive to be like him, just like most people in the church. I believe that to become like God, I have to stop having prejudices. I have the greatest respect for women, and I will even go so far as to say that I am a feminist. But I am not perfect, and I do not love everyone like I should. I’m working on it. As I continue to study the equality of the sexes and then the equality of all human beings, I hope to break down some of my own barriers, and hopefully help anyone willing to listen break down some of theirs.

Hopefully, I’ve answered the question as to what feminism and patriarchy are. Hopefully, I’ve effectively portrayed what they ought to, and can be. I intend to refer to them in their perfect sense, while discussing the flaws that the world has added to them.

If you have anything you would like me address, answer or research, please let me know! I’m still learning, and I always love to learn more!

A man commenting on Feminism, Patriarchy, and trying to reconcile the two.

I’m Posting a disclaimer right off the bat- I am a MAN. I am not claiming to know what it’s like to be a woman, nor trying to tell women anything about themselves, or trying to educate them on feminism. I myself am learning about it as I go, having been introduced to it by my oldest sister. I have had many discussions with her about it, and am in the midst of my own research. My purpose here is not to disparage feminism, and it is not to glorify patriarchy. I have the utmost respect for women, as well as the priesthood. I don’t hold myself above women because I am a priesthood holder. I hold the firm belief that men and women are equal, but not the same. Nor should they be. We are different, and that is the way God intended it. So the purpose of this Blog is to talk about both feminism and patriarchy, and study how they might be reconciled within the framework of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both can exist within the Gospel of Jesus Christ and even build on each other, but both also can be twisted and become something evil. I’m hoping to generate a discussion between men and women so that we can understand each other, and hopefully move toward more equality between men and women.