In Which a Disheartened Mormon Woman Almost Breaks a Culture of Silence by Writing an Email She Will Probably Never Send

AKA: Mormon Monday on a Tuesday

Dear Bishopric,

I’m writing to let you know that I think I’m going to turn down that calling the bishop extended to me a few days ago.  This is a first for me.  I’ve never turned down a calling before, and I feel I need to explain why I’m doing it this time.  Also?  I’m sending this email to all of you because, in the past, the Bishop has manufactured completely false narratives about me and my family and then shared them with others (specifically: in bishopric meetings with his original counselors, one of whom was my husband, and with the previous stake president).  I don’t want him to have the opportunity to create a false narrative to share with you, or anyone else, about me and why I’m declining this calling.

First, I want to say that I love the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have a testimony of it and have had ever since my mother joined the church when I was six (thereby making me a convert, according to the Bishop).  I remember, as a six-year-old, loving the gospel so much that I wanted to have even more faith than I already did, and so, alone in my bed at night, I would pray and ask Heavenly Father to bless me with it.  At the age of nine, I made a list of sisters I would call on for rides to church in case my mother ever decided to stop going for some strange reason (she never did stop going, nor did she ever consider it, but I was prepared nonetheless).  I know the gospel is true.  Part of the gospel being true means that this is the Lord’s church.  This means that our ward is, along with all the others, the Lord’s ward.  It is not the Bishop’s ward, not in the sense that he is the grand potentate of all thing spiritual.

After the calling was extended to me Wednesday evening, I texted the president, who is entitled to the inspiration and personal revelation needed to organize, staff, and run that auxiliary.  I wanted to know if she had followed inspiration and submitted my name for the calling or if she had been informed I was being called to that auxiliary.  I assume you all know the answer to that question already, but in case you don’t:  she didn’t submit my name.

For the eight years we’ve been in this ward I have watched as sisters have been shuffled from calling, to calling, to calling at an alarming rate.  Six Relief Society presidents, six Young Women’s presidents, and six Primary presidents in eight years (only three of those changes being necessitated by sisters moving) sends a loud and clear message to the sisters:  you aren’t leaders, your spiritual insights and abilities aren’t valued, and you’re neither expected nor wanted to accomplish anything of any import; you’re playthings for the men.  I grew up in a stake and wards that were heavily populated with very mobile military families, yet the turnover in those wards never came close to the turnover among the sisters, and to a lesser extent the brethren, here.  What I am saying is this:  I am a daughter of God, and as such I am an integral part of the organizing, running, and building of the Kingdom of God.  I am not a game piece to be shoved around according to the errant thoughts and whims of men.  I am not chattel to be loaded and moved according to which cows the Bishop wants to see when he looks out his window on a given day.

I realize that my most recent calling was phased out by the church and, therefore, I had to be released.  It happens.  No biggie.  Callings come, and callings go.  However, if the Lord wants me in the auxiliary in question, then the president, along with her counselors, should have received that inspiration and submitted my name to the bishopric for approval.  A good bishop not only recognizes that auxiliary presidents should prayerfully seek for guidance and inspiration in staffing and leading their organizations, he encourages them to do it and provides training when necessary so that they feel comfortable and confident in doing it.  A good Bishop realizes that ward leaders are just that:  leaders.  They are not figure heads, nor are they spiritual grunts who are only to do the “manual” labor with whatever human capital the Bishopric deigns to give them.  I am not your human capital.  I am the Lord’s.

When every leader’s, including the bishopric’s, primary and sincere concern in extending callings is that the calling comes from the Lord, then the callings will, for the most part, come from the Lord.  And when callings come from the Lord?  Everybody involved, with rare exception, will have a testimony that the calling is from the Lord, because the Spirit will testify of it.  When a bishopric member has a testimony that a calling is from the Lord, then he will testify of that fact as he is extending the calling.  He won’t, instead, say things like, “Sis. So-and-so says you seem to enjoy being in there when you’ve subbed in the past.”  My emotional response to subbing, whether real or imagined, is irrelevant if a calling is truly from the Lord.

I am willing to serve wherever the Lord wants me.  Maybe he does want me in that auxiliary, but at this time I have not gotten confirmation of that.  I would faithfully walk into the darkness, as it were, without confirmation, were it not for the fact that the auxiliary president had nothing to do with this decision other than to just go along with what she was told, and I’ve seen clearly un-inspired decisions made time and time again. Third counselor in the Elders’ Quorum presidency?  Really?  Yes, I realize that is technically from the stake, but we all know the stake acted based on the Bishop’s recommendation.  Imagine, Bishop, if the stake presidency sought no input from you on such matters but, instead, just told you who you were getting as you seem to do to your auxiliary presidents (who are really the Lord’s auxiliary presidents).

So, to be clear:  I am not declining this calling because I don’t want a calling or because I don’t want to serve in that auxiliary.  I am willing to serve wherever the Lord wants me.  I am declining this calling because, based on what I know of how the decision to extend it to me was reached, and based on my own promptings after praying about it, it is not at this time an inspired calling; and this email needed to be written, because you need to know that there are women who know who they are and who they have always been, and I won’t be treated as dross.

I look forward to sitting down with either counselor when someone has figured out where the Lord wants me.  I would rather not meet with the Bishop again.  While I sustain him as David sustained Saul, I also know, as did David, that sustaining a priesthood leader does not mean putting oneself in the line of fire, either literally or figuratively.  And?  I really don’t need to hear any more of his claptrap about apostrophes and white privilege.  As the mother of minority sons, I assure  you that white privilege does, to at least some extent, exist (even in “your” ward), and my English major daughter is not out to preserve our *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* white privilege by preserving our language.

Sincerely,

E.

Another Monday Mish-Mash: Groundhogs, Mormon Stuff, & Co-Sleeping

First, let’s just get it out of the way:

IMG_1108 Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa!  I can’t take it.  I can’t take EXTRA winter.  I may just have to slit my wrists long-ways.

Maybe were he not so under-employed these days, Mr. Fill would have been amenable to emerging in the front yard, which has a nice big shadow from the house, rather than the backyard which is bathed in morning light and peed-on snow (the dogs, people, not the husband and kids, and certainly not me).  But Mr. Fill was being all crotchety and hell-bent on maintaining his groundhoged integrity.

“It’s ^&*#&#@ sunny everywhere out there!” he said.  “I’m not going to hide the *#&#!*@ truth behind some artificially manufactured &$*%!@ shadow!”

He is so lovely that way.  Talk about raining on my parade (or my mental health).

Now for the Mormon Monday portion of today’s mish mash:

I have been asked to speak in church this coming Sunday.  They were sure to point out that I would be the first speaker this time, not the last, necessitating that stay within my 10 minute time limit, so I’m not sure if they appreciated my 30-minute clean up talk the last time or were irritated by it.  Generally they appreciate clean up speakers who can fill time as needed because that saves them from having to improvise, but maybe these guys like to improvise for the last 20 minutes of church.  Who knows?

Anyway, I’ve been asked to speak for 10 minutes about the importance of love at home.  I pretty much have it all written in my head already, but I’m curious to hear from you, my non-LDS readers.  If you were asked to talk about the importance of love at home, what would you say?  Clog my comments, I don’t mind.

Okay, so not actually very Mormon-Mondayish since I’m asking for your thoughts rather than sharing some with you.  Maybe I’ll post the talk after I’ve actually put it down on paper.

Now for Something Completely Different

I keep thinking I’m going to unsubscribe from the adoption Yahoo groups, but I haven’t.  I don’t know why.  I mean, I skim through the daily digests, I never comment on any of them, and I generally find them either boring or contentious, yet I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe.  I guess it is because they have been helpful in the past and I don’t want to miss out in case something pertinent or helpful comes up again in the future.

So, bottom line, I just skim and delete and move on with my day.

But recently?  Recently there has been a discussion about co-sleeping.  I haven’t read the entire thread, but I’ve read enough to once again be amazed at how quick people are to be critical of something with which they have no personal experience.

As a mother of five, I have co-slept with some of my children and not with others.  I have watched and listened and tried to be in tune with each of their needs, as well as my own needs, and made the decision based on that.  The children who did co-sleep with us were out of our bed by the time they were two years old, or sooner.

To cart blanche say that co-sleeping leads to kids being in their parents’ bed for the next five years, or next ten years, or whatever, is to give advice based on faulty logic.  If one person has co-slept and their child is still in their bed eight years later, that does not mean every child will be.

And?  Quite frankly, co-sleeping does not cause older children to regularly sleep in their parents’ bed.  Spineless parenting or the desire to have that older child in your bed do.

When babies are babies they don’t understand much about the world around them and we, even as parents, can’t explain it to them.  They don’t have the skills necessary to understand what we are saying.  So if one of my babies needs the extra comfort of being in bed with me, I let them sleep in bed with me.  But by the time they are two?  All of my kids have had a pretty good mastery of the English language (at least on a receptive level) by the time they were two, so I could say, “Sorry, I know you want to be in my bed, but you don’t need to be in my bed any more.  I will still be here, and I will get you out of your bed in the morning.  You will be fine here in your bed.”

Do they like hearing that?  Are they “ready” to hear that?  No.  But they are “ready enough.”

Are any of us ever “ready” for the life lessons that bring growth?  No, not really.  They are usually painful and something we want to avoid no matter how old we are.  But when they come, we are generally “ready enough” to somehow get through them.

I am not saying everyone should co-sleep.  I don’t believe that is the case, nor do I care what you or the next mom decides to do.  I do, however, take umbrage at the idea that, just because one mother can’t get her school-aged child out of her bed, all co-sleeping families are setting themselves up for that type of situation.

If you want your kid in bed that long, fine.  More power to you, I guess.

If you think your baby would be better off sleeping in your bed now but you are worried about him/her still being there a decade from now?  Grow a pair and be the parent.  If it is best for your baby now, and you want to co-sleep now, do it now.  But in a year or two or three?  When you know the child doesn’t need to be there, and can understand what you are saying to him/her, even if s/he doesn’t like what s/he is hearing?   Be the parent.  Tell the child the way it is going to be and then make. it. be. that. way.  It really isn’t that difficult.

Our society has been T. Barry Brazalton-ized.  Remember the Pampers commercials he used to do?  “Let it be your child’s decision!” or whatever it was he used to say.  The commercial was for a new XXXXXL sized diapers, so it was really beneficial for the Pampers people to have us all believe that it’s okay for five-year-olds to still be running around in diapers while they try to “decide” they are “ready.”

You know what?  Potty training, like other growth experiences, is often something the child is “ready enough” to do, but won’t want to do.  We do it anyway.  Had I let some of my kids “decide” when they were “ready” they would still be in diapers.  Let’s face it, is is much more convenient for a child to just wet his/her pants than it is to stop what s/he is doing and run to the bathroom. 

There is a difference, of course, between signs of “readiness” and a kid deciding s/he is “ready.”  Signs of readiness indicate a child is ready to learn the art of being potty-trained, whether they want to or not.  A child deciding s/he is ready means you don’t make them learn until they want to learn, which, quite frankly, is insane.  The same applies to co-sleeping.  There are signs of readiness, which does not mean a child thinks s/he is actually ready to leave the parental bed.  But, just like the mother bird, we push them out of the nest anyway.  That is how they learn to fly, or sleep on their own.

So, to sum up, please don’t take co-sleeping advice from people who know someone who know someone who know someone who has a 15-year-old kid still sleeping in their bed all because they co-slept when the child was a baby.

Do what you feel is best for you and your baby now.  And?  While you’re at it?  Grow a spine for later.

And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt hates Phullabaloney Fill.

Mormon Monday: And Attitude of Gratitude

This is a wonderful time to be living here on earth. Our opportunities are limitless. While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right, such as teachers who teach, ministers who minister, marriages that make it, parents who sacrifice, and friends who help.

We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.

A favorite hymn always lifts our spirits, kindles our faith, and inspires our thoughts:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. …

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
(Hymns, 1985, no. 241.)

Well could we reflect upon our lives as individuals. We will soon discover much to prompt our personal gratitude.

First, there is gratitude for our mothers.

Mother, who willingly made that personal journey into the valley of the shadow of death to take us by the hand and introduce us to birth—even to mortal life—deserves our undying gratitude. One writer summed up our love for mother when he declared, “God could not be everywhere, and so He gave us mothers.”

Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, May 1992, 54

I’m trying to focus on gratitude today.  Tomorrow we are supposed to have a blizzard, so I’ll whine then.  Okay?

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Mormon Monday and a Merry Christmas

Since today is Christmas Eve and I am very (happily) busy, and it is Christmas Eve (I think I already mentioned that?) I’m just going to give you a link with some instructions, should you be interested.  If not, I’ll like you anyway.

One of our family Christmas Eve traditions is to listen to the CD of Walter Cronkite narrating the story One Silent Night.  We also have the book, so we follow along.  It is a profoundly touching World War I Christmas story and not only is it narrated by Walter Cronkite, but the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provides music to go along with it.  I can’t listen to it, or watch it, without being moved to tears.

And guess what?  If you don’t have the book and the accompanying CD?  You can watch it on the internet!  So, here is the link: http://www.byutv.org/

Now for the instructions:

When you go to that link, click on the Tune In Now button on the left side of the screen.  Once it takes you where you need to go, you will see two options: Windows Media Player and Move Networks.  Choose Move Networks (for the simple reason that it is like internet tivo and you can choose programs that have been on earlier in the day or on days before).  It will want to download something onto your computer which doesn’t take long and will not give you a virus, put you on a mailing list, or make 19-year-olds in suits come knocking on your door to share a message.  Once you are ready to rock and roll with Move Networks (ha!  I typed Newtworks accidentally) you will see a menu on the right side of the screen.  You can choose what day’s programming you want to view and you can grab the little arrow button and drag it up and down to scroll through everything and choose what you want.  How cool is that?

Now here are my viewing recommendations for Christmas Eve Mormon Monday:

1.  If you want something more doctrinal that will give you a good LDS perspective on Christmas then look for the program called First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  The first presidency consists of the the Prophet, or president of the church (kind of like the Pope, but in a normal suit) and his two counselors (like assistant Popes, if you will).

2.  If you don’t want anything particularly doctrinal from an LDS standpoint but want a really touching Christmas story with a famous broadcaster backed up by the legendary MoTab, look for One Silent Night.  I believe it isn’t on until 9:30 mountain time 11:30 eastern time) today, but you can probably find it on yesterday’s programming or the day before’s.  Really, it is good.  It is worth the half hour.  Trust me.

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate Christmas, and happy holidays to those who celebrate other holidays.

And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says Merry Christmas!