Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Have I been duped?

Tap, tap, tap...Is this thing on?

I'm dusting off this old blog of mine, because I have another essay floating around in my head that needs an outlet.  Maybe there are more...I don't know.

First of all, let me say that I am writing my experience only.  I do not wish to negate or diminish anyone else's experiences, beliefs, doubts or concerns.  I do not wish to imply that I am right, so therefore, you must be wrong.  I only wish to give my perspective and my reasons for living the way I do.  I recognize that I am looking through one set of lenses--one paradigm--that might be different from yours, and that is just fine.  Will you try my lenses on for a minute or two and see what you see?  You might understand me--just one Mormon woman--better, and maybe it will be easier to understand how others could want to believe the same things I do.

Much has been said in the media as of late about Joseph Smith, as the LDS Church has published a couple of essays with historical information about his practice of plural marriage (polygamy).  Some people find this information to be disturbing and faith-shaking.  Others see it as proof that Joseph Smith was more than just a fraud.  There has always been much sentiment surrounding Joseph Smith, implying that he was a liar, an impostor and a charlatan, who duped a bunch of people into believing some crazy stories, making them willing to sacrifice everything to follow him.  It's nothing new.  He himself, early in his ministry, claimed that an angel told him at age 17 that his name "should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people."  I think that's a pretty presumptuous thing for anyone to say about himself, let alone an uneducated farm kid in 1823.

In any case, when I do hear people speaking evil of Joseph Smith, sometimes I wonder if I have been duped.  How could an educated, intelligent woman such as myself believe such outlandish stories as he told?  In fact, I have asked myself many times if what has been presented to me from the LDS Church is the truth.  There have been many times when I haven't understood fully what I was taught, and there have been times when things have not sat well with me initially.  I have wondered if it has been worth it to live this religious life when it looks so very different from the lives of my friends outside the Church, and when it requires so very much of me.

Those are the times when I really take a good look what I have learned because of Joseph Smith and what he claimed to restore.  Those are the times when I not only ask myself what is true, but also when I go to God Himself in prayer and ask Him.  Are the things I am hearing just some good things, or are they actual truth with a capital T?  If I am to believe what Joseph Smith claims to have revealed (and by extension, what the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach), then I have been taught (or duped) to internalize the following unique doctrines, which are by no means a comprehensive list:

God is the father of every single person on this earth.  He is the actual father of our spirits and creator of our bodies.  I am a daughter of God, created in His image--meaning I look like Him.  So are you.  Well, you might actually be a son, if you are a boy, but you know what I mean.  When I pray, I am talking to an actual living being.  He will answer me.

Because He is our father, every single person on the earth is my actual, spiritual brother or sister, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, or anything else that might make us different.

The worth of souls--each and every soul--is great in the sight of God.  He loves us and knows each one of us by name.  God wants to reward us as much as possible.  He does not wish to punish us as much as possible.  God wants us to have joy.  His greatest glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  Every person matters to Him--even those who break His commandments or who don't believe He exists at all.

The heavens are not closed.

My body is a gift.  It is not a curse or something to hope to escape.  Adam and Eve did not ruin the entire plan for the earth.  They actually helped to set the plan in motion by opening the door for choice between good and evil to be a part of our earthly existence.  As a daughter of God, I have as much worth as His sons.  Women are not cursed or less-than because of Eve's choice.

Not only did Jesus Christ pay the debt for our sins, He also bore our griefs, heartaches, sicknesses and everything we experience that is unfair or painful.  His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane was as much a part of our redemption as was His death on the cross.  His resurrection opened the door for all of us to be resurrected--meaning our spirits and our bodies will be eternally reunited.  Every single last one of us--good, bad or in-between.

God will not force anyone to follow Him.  Everyone has freedom of choice.  His gospel should not be forced upon anyone.  God is fair and merciful, and everyone will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ and decide whether to accept or reject Him.  Those many billions of people who have lived on the earth without any knowledge of a Savior are not automatically sent to hell.  People who belong to the "wrong" religion will not automatically be sent to hell.  Little children who die without being baptized are saved in the kingdom of God.  Little children don't need to be baptized at all, until they are old enough to understand, because baptism is a desired result of repentance, which requires the ability to choose and be accountable.

The Book of Mormon clarifies the Old Testament and explains how and why the House of Israel will literally be gathered in the last days.  Anti-Semitism has no place in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ's church should bear His name.

I know exactly who I am.  I know where I came from--we all lived with God before we were born.  I know why I am here on earth--we are all here to be tested and tried, to use our God-given power to choose to return to Him.  I know what happens after we die--our spirits return to God, and eventually, our spirits will reunite with our bodies forever.  We will have the opportunity to live with our friends and families forever.

The gospel of Jesus Christ has been taught since the days of Adam.  Every Old Testament prophet testified of Christ.

I have the privilege, the right and the responsibility to find out for myself if these things are true.

I have tried my best to do so, time and time again.  And time and time again, I have felt peace in my heart and understanding in my mind, in quiet, sure ways that I cannot deny.

If I did not believe that Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet of God, I must divest myself of all of these things.  How do I go about doing that?  Where am I to turn?   When Jesus was teaching his disciples, and many people walked away because they didn't like what He said, He asked the twelve, "Will ye also go away?  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."

To whom shall I go?

So...what about Joseph Smith and this polygamy business?

What about it?  He's not the only person whom God commanded to marry more than one wife. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon...

If you knew for sure that God asked you to do something, would you do it?  Would it matter if it went against social mores?  Would it matter if you really didn't want to?  Would it matter if other people told you not to?

I'm still answering those questions for myself every single day.  What I do know is that God has often asked His prophets and His people to do extraordinarily difficult and seemingly impossible things.  The thing itself doesn't really matter.  The willingness to obey does.

So Joseph Smith was commanded to marry more than one woman.  I don't understand everything about it, and that's okay.  I have known about it for many, many years.  It was never hidden from me, and I never felt it necessary to learn all of the details, because I understood the basic doctrine behind it.  What I do know is that he was a man who lived his entire life with the intent to serve God in the face of incredible hardships.  He boldly lived his entire adult life alongside people who were quite literally trying to kill him and his followers because of their beliefs.

Eventually they succeeded.

But so did Joseph Smith's work--because it really was the work of Jesus Christ, Himself.  If it weren't, it would've died with him, and ultimately, the fruits of Smith's labors would be very bad, and yet they are not.

What happens when I learn information that might be troubling to me?

I remember what I already know.  I remember that God spoke peace to my mind and heart before, and He can do it again.  I remember that I can't see everything, but God can.  I remember this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."

Learning truth (with a capital T) is like putting together a beautiful puzzle.  Sometimes we are able to see the picture quite clearly, and it goes together easily.  Other times, there are pieces that just don't seem to fit--but we are sure they came out of the same box.  Instead of discarding everything we have built, we lay those pieces aside for a while until something connects--until the picture becomes clearer.  One day it will.

I am grateful to know that I can ask God for peace when I don't understand.  Ultimately, this peace is the very reason I happily remain a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 So have I been duped?  Nope.  I know for myself, because I have asked God.  And it really is worth it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Which would you choose?

Which would you choose...emotional health or physical health?  For you?  What about for your child?

This is the question we've been asking ourselves regarding our almost 13-YO Spicy Boy.  In the past year he has gained 25 pounds, without growing taller.  9 of those pounds have come in the last 2 months while on Abilify, known to cause weight gain, but which has done a remarkable job of keeping a lid on his "brief, reactive psychoses" (yes, that's the term from the psychiatrist to describe his horrendous meltdowns).  He is also on 3 other medications daily.

He also has a ridiculous obsession with food and has been known to pilfer, steal, beg, hide and cajole others into giving him food.  One of our 72 hour kits is now bereft of three days' worth of Chef Boyardee.  I even got a call from the assistant principal at the middle school, asking would I PLEASE put money on his lunch card?   The lunch ladies can only be so kind, you know, to let him slide and get a free lunch a couple, three, four times.   We really don't want him to go hungry.  Okaaaay.  Could I please have known after the first time?

I pack him a lunch every. single. day.  There is no money on his lunch card on purpose.

Mrs. P. just said, "oh."

It is frustrating to repeatedly attempt to accurately portray to others (especially school officials) that we are doing the best we can with him, and we actually know what we're talking about most of the time.  We get it.  We really do.  He is hard.  And no, nothing is going on at home.  We told you that before.

So we decided to take Abilify out of the picture this last week.  The result has been awful.  Glasses broken on purpose (not the first, or even the second pair to have such a fate), yelling, crying, and my favorite...being suspended today for hitting three of his favorite teachers...in the teachers' lounge...while having a special lunch with one of them...all because he was told he couldn't have candy.

So...which would you choose?

Fat and happy looks pretty good right about now.  What am I supposed to do with him?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Parenting 505

"A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?" Lynn G. Robbins from this speech

Had a Parenting 505 moment today.  And last night.  And last week.  And last month.  I'm about spiced out.  I told a friend today in a very different context that when I realized that the work I was doing was not my work--it was the Lord's work--I could handle it better and be more effective.  It dawned on me that this parenting thing is the Lord's work, too.  I need to let go of my own agenda and let Him in to handle it.  He's the professor of Parenting 505 anyway...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do Good Anyway

I have needed to hear these things all week.  Thank you, Beth, for your wonderful blog post.  Sometimes people are just mean, and I don't get it.  The good news is that I don't have to worry about it!

*I found out this is not actually a quote from Mother Teresa.  I would love to know who said it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 Christmas Letter

A little late, but here's the latest installment of the silliness that is our Christmas letter. Yes, I am aware that I copied my own copy...I am also aware that we were not the first to fashion this pic. It was just too perfect to pass up.

If you give the [insert family name here] a Christmas card, they’ll want a letter to go with it. Seeing the Christmas letter will remind them that they should write one also, in the silliest way possible, mentioning the Jewkes family along the way (since 2003!). Cheryl will sit down to write the letter and nothing silly will come to mind. So she’ll look for some mojo. She’ll sift through this year’s Facebook statuses, where all important moments are recorded, which will reveal how unintentionally funny A is, which will remind Cheryl of her mom.

Thinking of her mom will remind her of the trip everyone took to California this summer to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins. She’ll remind G that the Happiest Place on Earth is not the freezer aisle at Costco, but is, in fact, Disneyland. Thinking of Disneyland will remind the kids of Cheryl’s requirement (it is an actual requirement, you know) to skip down Main Street—which they did.

Skipping will remind R of her feelings when she earned her Young Women Medallion this spring, and weaving in and out of crowds at Disneyland will remind her of learning to drive and getting her driver’s license in September. Cheryl will remember teaching R how to drive, which was always a reminder of her own mortality. She’ll want a seat belt to go with that. She’ll wonder, “Which is better…potty training or driver’s training?” Thinking of potty training will remind her how glorious it is that R #2 no longer needs diapers or a stroller, especially at Disneyland or on a rainy day in Baltimore at the museum during spring break. He’d rather tear it up on his bike, weaving back and forth and skidding to abrupt stops. But this is just an excuse to mention Disneyland again.

Mentioning Disneyland again will remind Cheryl of another summer vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains for G’s parents’ first family reunion and how fun it was to see so many [family name]'s in one place. Thinking of the Great Smoky Mountains will remind them of driving next to the stream close to the trail head. Seeing the stream will inspire A to say, “Wow, that river is really polluted. Wait…those are just rocks.” Poor suburban girl. Thinking of poor urban areas will remind Cheryl and G of the irony of J’s Eagle Scout project, which was to paint an entire two-bedroom apartment in Washington, DC. They’ll remember that in 1994 a pact was made that the two should never paint together for the sake of their marriage. They’ll break the pact for the day and keep the marriage intact. Phew, that was close.

Keeping things intact will remind Cheryl of S’s inability to keep teeth in his head. Cheryl and G try to remind S that all he wants for Christmas is his two front teeth, but he’s not buying it. No one needs reminding that the tooth fairy should be fired for not showing up on time. Being on time is something Cheryl reminds R and J (every single day) as they leave to attend seminary which starts at 6:00 am. This will remind Cheryl that she will have a child in seminary every single school day until 2025. She’ll need tissues to go with those tears (uh, of joy).

Tears are what are usually expected from A, also known as Weeping Whiskers of the Cry-Me-A-River Clan (Warrior Cats reference, if you’re not a 9 yr old girl). Thinking of warriors will remind everyone of the time when G interviewed R’s date while sharpening his machete. R is reminded that the embarrassment has only just begun. Beginning things will remind B of his new responsibility to pass the sacrament at church. He’ll take it very seriously and understand its importance. He will not, however, take seriously the orthodontist’s advice to not eat chips with his new braces. Neither will J. This could quite possibly be the only area where those two agree.

Agreement between brothers will remind Cheryl of the sweet relationship R #2 and S have. They’ll want to play Pokemon and the Wii together. Playing Pokemon will inspire S to plaster the hallway with more than 100 hand-drawn evolutions of Pokemon characters. Thinking of characters will remind S of all those people in the Harry Potter books he has been reading this year, mostly before bed. Cheryl will remind him to turn out his light and go to sleep, which is also something she reminds R and J every day, so they can get up on time.

When R and J get up on time, they drive to seminary in LaFawnDuh (the new-to-[family name] little truck) which reminds them of how J dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite for Halloween. And dressing up reminds them how J’s friend, Landon, dressed up on Halloween as “Brother So and So on a Sunday”, complete with iPad, suit and glasses.
G in a suit holding an iPad reminds Cheryl of G’s smiles as fellow church members relate how Brother So and So roped them into speaking in Sacrament Meeting. Thinking of church will remind G how important faith and prayer became when his business partner and close friend died suddenly at the end of August, leaving him the sole “vir” in charge at work. Thinking of prayer reminds G, Cheryl and all of the kids that God is always there to help us, and He wants us to have joy, which is why He sent Jesus to earth. Thinking of Jesus and joy will remind Cheryl of Christmas. She’ll need to finish her Christmas letter. And chances are, if she finishes the letter, she’ll want a Christmas card to go with it.

Love, G, Cheryl, R (16), J (14), B (12), A (9), S (7), and R #2 (4)
*Please apologize to Laura Numeroff and her Mouse, Pig, and Moose for us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Act Two

I don't like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don't like any fantasy for that matter, with the exception of the X-Men, which hold a special place in my heart. I know, it's silly. Just don't come running after me with pitchforks. I promise this is going somewhere.

I have been a good wife and seen the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, one by one, in the theater. The first one was all fine and good. I got the story line, and the characters were laid out. I could follow it just fine. But after seeing the second one, I felt like I just couldn't take it. All that death and destruction, all those names and places that sound the same but must be pronounced with great earnest--blah blah MORDOR, blah blah LEGOLAS (really? Lego-lass?), HOBBITS, blah blah. Am I right? Almost three hours of darkness and fighting with no resolution, and then it just ends.

What the heck?

What I didn't know, and what I had to wait a year to find out, was that the good guys really do win. The fighting wasn't for nothing. I have really no recollection of what actually happens, but I was so very glad to find out that The Two Towers wasn't for naught. It was a necessary part of the story arc, and without it, the heroes would not be proven heroes, and the villains would not be vanquished. It was necessary, even if I didn't like it.

But what if I had walked in during the middle of The Two Towers, without having seen The Fellowship of the Ring, or even the groovy '70s animated version of The Hobbit (which my husband has memorized, by the way. He had the record.)? What if I never saw any resolution in The Return of the King? I would have felt completely gypped.

We are living our own versions of The Two Towers here on earth. We are plunked down, smack dab in the middle of an unfair story, and sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all.

Why did my friend Katie Renz have to battle with cancer for nearly a year and pass away yesterday morning, leaving a loving husband and three young sons?

Why did my husband's business partner of eight years and friend of eleven have a heart attack and die suddenly two months ago, leaving behind a beautiful wife and six kids?

Did I mention that Katie was 40 and Britt was 47?

I just don't know why.

I try my hardest not to ask why. It's a moot question.

A better question is, "What am I supposed to learn?" or even "How am I supposed to grow?", because I do know some things for sure.

Life here on earth is the second act in a three-act play. We can't remember the first act, before we came to earth, but I believe we lived with God. We are His children, and before we came here, we were spirits, anxiously waiting to come to earth to get bodies, so we could gain experience, choose for ourselves, and one day return to live with God again. I believe we agreed to a few things, even though we understood they would be difficult. We just didn't know how difficult.

Now here we are in that second act, having forgotten the first. Another kicker is that we haven't seen the third. We know that our loved ones have, who have gone before us. We may catch glimpses of the other side for ourselves or from others' experiences, but largely, we must rely on faith that everything will turn out okay.

Boy, that's hard.

My dad used to walk into the family room when we were watching TV and ask "So, did the good guys win yet?" Well, Dad, some of them have, but some of them haven't. Not yet. But I have faith that they will.

I have to have faith that they will. God is in charge of that third act. He has it all under control, whether we see it yet or not, and we are right in the very middle of our own hero quests. I have so much more in my heart that is difficult to express, but I feel it very deeply, and it brings me so much peace, even amidst the sadness.

God loves us and wants us to have joy. I know He will give us beauty for ashes and everything will work out for our good. Everything.

I hope and pray Katie's and Britt's families can find the peace they need to carry them through. My heart is still breaking for them.

I still don't like The Lord of the Rings, but I can appreciate it even more now. (Especially when someone with far too much time on their hands makes something like this. I laughed so hard, I cried.)

To help the Renz family, check things out here.

And I'll end with a great song:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

There are several obligatory and celebratory rituals and supposedly "fun family time" jobs that I very much dislike. Making sugar cookies and egg dyeing are a couple of them. But my very most reviled holiday extravaganza has got to be pumpkin carving.

I know, I am a horrible mother.

Everything always starts out like a lovely Norman Rockwell painting--the choosing of the pumpkins, followed by a doughnut dessert. Fun. Choosing the designs for the pumpkins--also fun. This year we have Phineas, Ferb and Perry, Thomas the Tank Engine and Tinkerbell, and some silly creatures from a 14-YO's ridiculously dumb obsession, "The Regular Show". One of them looks like Swiper the Fox from Dora, which sort of makes up for it, only because it bothers the 14-YO that we say that. Score 1 for Mom and Dad.

Then the actual carving starts. It's all fine and good. We draw circles around the bottoms of the pumpkins, so they sit flat, and no one has to reach their hand into the bowels to light the candles. Most especially it is so we can do this:

We cut them off, and let the gutting begin. That lasts all of 30 seconds before someone complains about how gross it is. "Keep digging" we say. Halloween fervor quickly dissipates in the face of actual hand-to-gourd guts contact.

Then comes the design making. Once again we realize that we have failed. Not enough safety knives. The lines are far too thin. Every child under 14 (which now is 4 of them) is ridiculously incapable of making the actual cuts into the pumpkin, so responsibility falls to Mom or Dad. Yay for family fun activities!

The children disappear one by one. What's left is a grumbling set of parents cursing the paper templates, and a 14-YO who is convinced that user error has nothing to do with Swiper's eyes falling out. "Stupid template," he says.

Every. Single. Year.

BUT, I realized why we do this each and every Halloween. We get to hear conversations like the following, which actually occurred this morning in our kitchen:

4-YO: "Did you know that pumpkins are FRUIT?"

All: "Yes, we know!"

4-YO: "Because you can make pumpkin PIE, and it tastes FRUUUU-TEE."

Spicy Boy: "They are gourds." [commences singing "Follow the Drinking Gourd"]

14-YO: "Ugh. They always taught us that in elementary school."

Spicy Boy: "It's about how they went to drink alcohol."

Mom (laughing): "NO! Oh my goodness. It's about the Big Dipper, and how the runaway slaves followed it, because it points to the North Star. They wanted to go north to freedom."

Spicy Boy: "Harriet Tubman got shot."

Lava Girl (9-YO): "Wait. I thought she rode on the subway."

Subway/Underground Railroad? Potayto/Potahto.

Join us in the spring for Easter egg dyeing, when we tackle another tough subject: euthanasia. Just what is up with those kids in China, anyway?