Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Completely True, Doctrinally Accurate Story of How I Inadvertently Created Donald Trump

Archangel, holding a clipboard: "All right, everyone, for today's brainstorming session Michael has assigned our group the topic of 'Minor Inconveniences of a Fallen World.' He would like them to be as ironic as possible, so let's start throwing out ideas!"

Angel 1: "Not getting enough sleep makes you tired, but sleeping too much also makes you tired!"

Angel 2: "All the tasty foods are unhealthy, and all the healthy foods are especially hard to get children to eat."

Archangel: "Good, good, keep them coming."

Angel 3: "Spiders control the population of all the other gross bugs, but they are the most disgusting and fear-inducing of them all."

Me: "Wait...guys..."

Angel 2: "Avocados and bananas are healthy and delicious, but they stay unripe for two weeks, are ripe for half a day, and promptly become disgusting."

Angel 3: "The more often you clean your hair, the faster your hair gets dirty."

Angel 2: "Actually, let's just make that true for the entire body."

Me: "Guys..."

Angel 1: "How about a disease that makes you need to pee more frequently, but also makes peeing really painful?"

Archangel: "I don't know, that seems like it would fall under the 'Illnesses and Afflictions' group. Is there any way you can tone it down a little?"

Angel 1: "What if it mainly affected women?"

Archangel: "Sounds good to me."

Me: "Wait, how does making it mainly affect women suddenly downgrade it to a 'minor inconvenience'?"

Archangel: ", if you're not going to contribute any of your own ideas, you can't criticize ours. Do you have a better idea?"

Me: "Gee, I don't about 'people thinking they're right when they're clearly wrong'?"

Angel 1: "Hey, great idea, how'd you come up with that?"

Me: "I have no clue..."

Archangel: "All right, let's put it down. Our next topic..."

Me: "Wait, I wasn't serious!"

*no response*

Me: "I have a bad feeling about this."

Donald Trump: "I'm here to make America great again!"

Friday, November 6, 2015

I Didn't Think This Would Be My First Post

So I've had this blog hiding on the Interwebs for the past few weeks, trying to come up with a good blog post and the motivation to write it. I started this blog because I wanted somewhere I could talk about ideas and interesting stuff in addition to my personal life (which is often less interesting), but the first post felt like a lot of pressure because I didn't want people to pigeonhole my blog into one category or another based on what I talked about first.

I guess the fact that I wasn't planning on blogging about this freed me from that self-imposed problem.

(Spoiler alert: I'm not having a crisis of faith or making any big drastic changes in my life, so all of my relatives who are already getting nervous can start breathing again.)

But you see, I am bisexual.

(Cue heart attacks starting again.)

That's not the point of this post; I just wanted to get it out of the way. (If you want to know the point, scroll down to the bolded phrase "the point is this".) While it's a big struggle for a lot of people, for me personally, it hasn't affected my life a lot. This is partly because I was in denial about it until well after I'd decided I wanted to marry my husband, so the most difficult part has been answering his question about whether Anna Kendrick or Emma Watson is more attractive. 

And that wasn't very difficult, because the answer is obviously Anna Kendrick. 

In fact, I probably would have been comfortable telling almost any of you in the right moment; I just wanted it to be relevant to something, because I didn't feel it warranted a big "coming out" moment all on its own for me.

I just didn't expect it to become relevant to something quite so soon.

Unless your Internet has been down, you've probably heard about the Church's new policies regarding same-sex marriage by now; namely, that same-sex marriage is considered to be a form of apostasy, and that children of same-sex couples must wait until they've turned 18 and moved out of their parents' house before being baptized, and must denounce the practice of same-sex marriage and obtain First Presidency permission before doing so.

I was surprised by the news, as a lot of people were. Well, the first policy wasn't too surprising – "apostasy" is a really strong word, which I think hurt a lot of people, but the idea that participating in a same-sex marriage is grounds for excommunication wasn't exactly new. In fact, I'd been expecting a clarification of this sort ever since the Supreme Court decision, since I had heard some people express the idea that perhaps a legally wed same-sex couple wouldn't be breaking the law of chastity. I expected the Church to eventually comment one way or the other, and again, while "apostasy" is a strong way to say it, the policy hasn't actually changed and if that was all it is, I feel like it would blow over.

The policy about children was a little different. I had a lot of questions about it immediately. At the same time, though, while I was surprised by the policy, I wasn't surprised that I had questions. There have been a lot of hard things in the Church that have caused people to question – persecution of the early Saints, starting polygamy, moving to Utah, ending polygamy, making the Word of Wisdom a requirement for a temple recommend, blacks not being able to hold the priesthood even after the civil rights movement, blacks being allowed to hold the priesthood in 1978, the Church's response to some aspects of second-wave feminism, the September Six, Proposition 8, the Ordain Women movement, and hundreds upon hundreds of issues that are more local in scope that I haven't even heard of before. 

People have questioned these things. Heck, even though I have a lot of potential answers to some of these issues, I don't know if those answers are the right ones and how to explain it in some sort of conclusive, all-encompassing way that would defy any objection or criticism. What I do know is that I've had enough spiritual witnesses of the Church and enough glimmerings of possible answers for these issues that I have faith that someday in the eternities, I'll be able to look at God and say, "So...what was that about?" and He'll be able to provide me with an explanation that makes everything clear. As Paul says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 

I'd reached the conclusion on my mission that it was virtually impossible for me to live my entire life in the Church without arriving at an issue of similar weight and importance. So when I heard the policy announcement, while part of me was confused, a part of me was like, well...there it is! (The first one, at least.)

As Mason and I talked about it, the conclusion we arrived at was that we can't see the eternal perspective. Because of this, our sense of what's right and wrong often depends on preventing people from hurt in the short-term. We don't always have the ability to judge whether or not something hurtful will be better for us in the long term. God does have that ability, and therefore, He is able to make different decisions than we can. (If you want an article by a non-LDS philosopher on that point, email me or use the contact link on the FAQ page.) We can try to look for possible answers (some can be found here, although there are definitely objections that could be raised to that article), but in the end, all we can know is the peace of God that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). 

As we talked together, as we prayed and read the scriptures, I felt that confirmation. I was reminded of times when I felt the Spirit witness to me that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, restoring their Church upon the earth with a promise that it would never again be taken away from us. I felt a reminder of the love of God that He has for all His children, and a knowledge that He wants to give every single one of them the best possible opportunity to return to Him. He has a plan, and I don't know it, and I don't know exactly how or why this plays into it, but in the very least, I knew that it was going to be all right.

Despite how much time I've spent talking about that, though, that's not the point of my first post any more than me being bisexual is. The point is this:

Everyone has to arrive at this spiritual witness individually, and that doesn't always happen right away even when you want it to. So far on the Internet, I've seen a lot of people argue that it can't be right, and I've seen a lot of people argue that it is right and that anyone who disagrees isn't sustaining the prophets, or doesn't have enough faith, or isn't humble enough to accept the answer, or is too concerned about what the world thinks, or any number of things. Even when people don't necessarily mean to imply that about those who are troubled by this issue, that's often the message that people can hear.

The thing is, whether straight or gay or somewhere in between, a lot of people who are upset by this issue are responding from a place of hurt. It's tremendously difficult to be LGBT in the Church, or to be friends or family with someone who is LGBT. I've been lucky that my life and beliefs ended up dovetailing relatively easily with the Church's teachings, and I've avoided a lot of that difficulty as a result. Despite this, upon hearing the policy change, I felt hurt. I felt uncomfortable with a sexuality that I had come to terms with; I felt worried for people who were more affected by it than me; I felt ashamed of anything I had ever said about LGBT issues ever because suddenly I was doubting my ability to balance tolerance and doctrine. And I felt confused. This isn't because of a lack of faith in the prophets or humility or anything like that. I think it's a pretty normal response. 

I started seeing people post the number for the National Suicide Hotline on Facebook in connection with this, though, and on the other hand I started seeing people get all feisty about anyone who even questioned what was going on, and that probably made me the saddest of all – knowing that somewhere out there, people were feeling exactly that bad, and some people were responding by saying they didn't have enough faith. Elder Holland's recent talk and Elder Oaks' remark on Kim Davis were tremendously inclusive, and when you're facing a long and seemingly endless struggle, feeling hope only to have it crushed again sometimes feels worse than not feeling it at all.

So I guess what I'm saying is, right now I'm fine. Don't worry about me. Seriously – Heavenly Father and I have worked it out on a personal level. But when you talk about this issue, remember that questions are not a sign of sin. Remember that people are hurting. Remember that somewhere in the world, some child or teenager has already learned they can't be baptized for years to come and they feel crushed or angry. Remember that LGBT members who are anticipating a lifetime of loneliness are feeling discouraged and alienated. Remember not to judge people's reasons for struggling with this policy, or any other issue for that matter.

Remember to be kind.

Remember to pray.

Remember to hold to what you know to be true and not be ashamed to stand up for your beliefs.

And remember to extend compassion to others as you do so.