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Women and the Priesthood

The divine nature of men and women is the most wonderful and complimentary feature I have found on earth. Richard G. Scott has said: “Indeed, a husband and wife are not two identical halves, but a wondrous, divinely determined combination of complementary capacities and characteristics. “ It is Satan who seeks to eliminate that which is most precious in this world: the family. And he seeks to do that by destroying the divine nature of the man and the woman. Satan introduces sophistry into our homes, he tells us that women giving up their divine natures to strive and be like man is simply the way the world is headed and we should get with the times. But the family is the way of God, and as such women are to be the nurturers of that family while the man is the head; and this eternal truth transcends current fads and trends.

When I was fairly young, I had some problems with the young men in my ward. We had grown up together, and as such we had seen each other at our worst and for some reason could not get over the mistakes and faults of the others past. On multiple occasions I complained to my dad how these young men didn’t deserve the priesthood, how they were immature, hurtful and well, pretty dumb. I vowed that I was never going to be married and that I was going to be like my mother who had a successful business career as the CFO of a major company.
As I started down that path I thought I had it all figured out. My first year at college I declared my major as Biology with a minor in Genetics. I looked up internships with the WHO and was planning on dedicating my life helping to cure genetic diseases in Fetuses. All of that changed however when, after my first semester, I went and lived with my sister to be her nanny. My sister is seven years older than me, the oldest child in my family. She had gotten married when I was twelve and didn’t understand the appeal boys held yet. For four years, she tried to have a child and then decided to adopt her first: a boy. Four more years of trying and my sister became a foster parent. To those children I would nanny.
It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life, being around such little spirits who had known such confusion and hurt in their lives. They didn’t have a stable family home, they did not have a mother and father who honored their divine roles; and as such, the children’s personality, and behaviors suffered much because of this. I had gone through similar trials when we had introduced my little brothers into our home. My brothers who suffered from severe aggressive outbursts, to bed wetting, to lying. But here, I was with these children all day long and I had to not only teach them that watching pornography was bad, that swearing was bad, that hitting was bad, that all the behaviors they had seen from the adults in their life was bad; I had to be an example of how a mother should be to them.

By the time I had to leave for college again, a sudden tenderness filled my heart. Those sweet, little spirits had filled me with more joy than all the contemplation about helping this world had. I realized then that by vowing to never be married and start a family I was setting aside my divine nature for a nature that the world would have me want. A nature that was popular, but would never fulfill me the way my divine nature would. Richard G. Scott has said “Be certain, each day, that you are not being led ‘carefully’ from the main track to happiness onto a sidetrack that can, in time, result in the loss of that which is most precious.” I was giving up my divine nature as a mother, as a caretaker, as a nurturer for a career more accepted by the world, a career that the world told me was my new nature. I had seen my mother live a career life, but what I didn’t understand yet was that she was my mother first. Every day of her life, no matter how many hours she worked, how many meetings she attended, how many trips she had to take she was always my mother first. Always taking care of the needs of her family above the needs of her career, always caring for her children more than her employees, always honoring her husband’s position as head of the house more than honoring her high title in her company. My mother was a mother first.
The priesthood power is a power that is fit for the nature of men. It is the power wielded by the Heavenly Father himself and His son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Arguing against the holder of that priesthood is arguing against the divine roles our Father in Heaven created for us. How can we, imperfect, un-knowning beings, seek to understand the ways of a perfect, all knowing God. Women seeking for the priesthood, or even for the responsibilities of the priesthood is like a person seeking for every calling within this church. It simply cannot be done. If I desire to be called as a Sunday school teacher, and a music leader, and a visiting teacher, and a primary leader, and a Relief Society teacher, and a scout adviser, and a Priesthood leader I’m asking for trouble. The work must be spread. Men are just as capable as the women and it is their divine nature to be leaders, to be providers, to be priesthood bearers.
These roles not only apply in the church and the priesthood alone but also in the home where the priesthood should be the guiding factor. Yes. Women are more than capable of protecting for, providing for and leading a home. Yes. Men are more than capable of nurturing, teaching and rearing children. No. These are not our divine roles, and as such the children suffer from the false identity of swapped gender roles. The world seeks to eliminate all the differences between the masculine and the feminine. Understand your gender. It takes a man and a woman to form a whole; the woman to be a mother and the man to honor his Priesthood. One cannot happen without the other. Women cannot have children without the man, and the man cannot receive the highest priesthood ordinance in mortality which is only given to a man and a woman together. We cannot fulfill our divine roles without the other. And we cannot achieve true joy in this life without fulfilling those divine roles.

Spencer W. Kimball has said: “Our Father made men and women dependent on each other for the full flowering of their potential.” And Boyd K. Pack has added. “In the home and in the Church, sisters should be esteemed for their very nature. Be careful lest you unknowingly foster influences and activities which tend to erase the masculine and feminine differences nature has established. Whatever disturbs or weakens or tends to erase the differences erodes the family and reduces the probability of happiness for all concerned.” “By competing in this world of men women, of necessity, become aggressive and competitive. Thus their godly attributes are diminished and they acquire a quality of sameness with man.” Sisters, this is not our divine nature. This is not our divine potential. This competitiveness we have in the work force, this competitiveness we have in the church is the work of the Devil who seeks to destroy our divine role in the home as a mother and a caregiver. The role of women is to nurture, uplift, and serve.
For a mother to work is not a sin, far from it. For a mother to have a career is not a sin. For a mother to be ambitious is not a sin either. But, for a woman to give up her divine role as a mother and neglect her family to enter into the competitive world of men is a sin against her family and her divine nature. Women’s role is essential and needed in the home. “When you observe kind and gentle mothers in action, you see women of great strength. Their families can feel a spirit of love and respect and safety when they are near her as she seeks the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the guidance of His Spirit. They are blessed by her wisdom and good judgment. The husbands and children, whose lives they bless, will contribute to the stability of societies all over this world.”

One of my favorite quotes is by Margrete D. Nadauld and it says: “Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”
Women. Honor the priesthood of the men in your life. Honor that our Heavenly Father and Savior are also men who hold the priesthood and that then men in our lives are divinely meant to have this great power and authority. Honor our Heavenly mother, who nurtures her children. Desire to become like her. Honor the great gift you have as mothers and do not let Satan corrupt that ideal by telling you it is not enough to simple be a mother in this world. To be a mother is the most rewarding achievement of mankind, not only on this earth but also in the life to come. Though there be multiple kingdoms, and though there be multiple realms in the highest kingdom. Only those who achieve the highest degree of glory in the highest kingdom of God have the potential to continue and rear children in the hereafter. This should show the value God places on parenthood. You can work for eternity no matter what realm or kingdom you have earned, but you can only have children if you earn the right to.

Healing

For 18 months, I was in an abusive marriage. I’m not going to talk about the details but I would have you know the impact it had on me. The marriage was so bad that 3 months into it I was already admitting to myself that I wanted a divorce. But I stayed. The reason was because of a deep respect and love for my God and the covenants I had made in the temple.

Everyday, little by little, my armor was chipped away at until I was in the depths of depression. I withdrew from everyone, I repressed all the pain, my self-worth was in shambles and my happiness was a light in the distant past I could no longer reach. I had never felt so alone in my life and the hole in my soul kept, painfully, ripping wider and wider with each passing day.

My only comfort in all of this was that I remained temple worthy and one day, after I was wrestling with my covenants again, my friend invited me to attend a session with her. Throughout the session I was at war with myself. I couldn’t stay in my marriage. I couldn’t break my covenants. Then, a presence brightened my dark thoughts and told me “it’s okay, really, I don’t want to see you hurt anymore.” Heavenly Father gave me the gift of His spirit then. He hugged and enveloped me in it and warmed and comforted my broken heart. He stayed with me longer than He ever had before and let me know that covenants were not one person’s responsibility. It took two.  The next day I planned on how I was going to leave my situation.

Now let me interject here by saying, the Atonement isn’t a cure-all. We still have our agency. It took a lot of work for me, and I personally believe it took 15 months to feel okay about leaving because Heavenly Father waited until I had tried everything and given my very best effort to stay and make it work. If you are in a trial that seems unending, ask yourself: what more can I give to this? What haven’t I tried yet? God doesn’t do this to be cruel. For me, it was to teach me what I could endure. I am stronger as a person and in my faith because of it. There is effort that is required of us. But the atonement gives us the strength to make those efforts and the comfort to heal from our circumstances.

Leaving my marriage wasn’t easy. In fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But thanks to a loving Heavenly Father I escaped the situation and started mending my wounded soul. The wounds were hard to heal. Though I was no longer in that situation, flashbacks of the abuse I suffered haunted me. And every time the flashbacks occurred, my heart would ache as if experiencing the 18 months in one moment. I would become nearly incapacitated with fear and pain. I was afraid of everything, I trusted no one. I was a down right hot mess.

And then came that most precious voice again. “I don’t want to see you hurt anymore.” And then it continued. “I took this pain upon me too. Let me alone bare it.” According to Alma speaking of Christ, “He shall go forth suffering pain and affliction of every kind” Dalling H. Oaks in his latest talk asks the question why? Why would He do this? Weren’t our sins enough? Now He is taking the rest of our sorrows too. Why? Here was his answer: “Our Savior experienced and suffered the fullness of all mortal challenges according to the flesh so that he would know how to succor (which means to give relief or aid to) His people according to their infirmities. He therefore knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, and our suffering, for He willingly experienced them all as an essential part of the atonement. And because of this, His atonement empowers Him to succor us – to give us the strength to bear it all.”

My Savior knows perfectly every hurt I bore, every tear I cried, and every battle I fought because He bore those same wounds, He cried those same tears and he fought those same battles, and He’s done it for you as well. He suffered in Gethsemane so that He would know perfectly. If anyone has compassion on us and our daily and yearly struggles it is our elder brother Jesus Christ.

With time, and especially with the atonement of Christ I was able to rise above my circumstances and give myself a new inner strength I didn’t know I was capable of. I’m not 100 percent. I still have the memories and I always will, but I don’t feel the pain anymore. And that gift has been priceless in my life and for my future happiness. Our Savior loves us. He will never abandon us by the wayside to shrink. Always He is trying to lift us on His shoulders so we can stand tall. Always He is pleading with us to turn to Him so that He can heal us and make us whole. Not patched up and hanging in there, but whole and thriving. “Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.” “What cures us is our Savior and the atonement.”

In my profession, I work with children who are taken away from their parents because they have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, have suffered extreme neglect or are not having their basic needs met such as food, clean water, or a place to sleep. Everyday I pray that the atonement can, at some point, enter into their lives because I know, the Atonement of Christ has the power to heal a soul that has suffered through the most traumatic of circumstances. For example: my little brothers.

My two little brothers were adopted into my family out of the foster care system. They were taken into care because their parents were selling them for sexual favors in order to finance their drug problem. I don’t know everything that they had to go through, but I do know that without the atonement the problems that they had when they first came into my family would still be plaguing them. Now, in my eyes, they are perfect. You couldn’t tell anything about their horrible past because of the sweet, whole spirits they are today. I see the difference the atonement has made in their lives compared to the lives of the children who I work with who have yet to learn of it and therefore feel they must bare their pain alone. I testify that the atonement is real and that it works. Another example is my angel sister who lost her precious child, my lovely niece, just 3 months ago. The atonement is there for that pain too.

The Savior’s grace is endless and His power is sure. We can’t always help our circumstances, but we don’t have to live with the pain some circumstances cause us. A lot of circumstances can cause us pain, not only the extreme ones I’ve mentioned. The daily pains of a mortal life add up over time. As well as the pain of a deteriorating human body. The Savior is there for those pains too.

We need the Savior’s comfort often and frequently, but we have to ask for it. From Dallin H. Oaks, “Because of His atoning experience in mortality, our Savior is able to comfort, heal, and strengthen all men and women everywhere, but I believe He does so only for those who seek Him and ask for His help. The Apostle James taught ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up.’ We qualify for that blessing when we believe in Him and pray for His help.”

If you are struggling with some pain, some unseen wound, go to the Savior, for he doesn’t want to see you hurting anymore. We should be using His atonement weekly if not daily, for He suffered and died so that He could bare all things. Not just the big stuff. He bore our pains so we wouldn’t have to. He took upon us more than just our sins. He knows us perfectly. He is our dearest confidant and our most loyal friend. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet,” though your wounds be wide, “they shall be as white as snow,” they shall be whole.

My testimony of Christ can be heard in the words of my favorite hymn: “Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace when other sources cease to make me whole? When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice I draw myself apart searching my soul?

Where when my aching grows? Where when I languish? Where is my need to know, where can I run? Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only one.

He answers privately, reaches my reaching in MY Gethsemane, Savior and Friend. Gentle the peace he friends for my beseeching. Constant he is and kind, love without end.

Vocalize

There is a disease running rampant through the whole of humanity. It is a disease that has gone unnoticed and unattended to. The disease of apathy toward others suffering will be the contagion that is and has been slowly disintegrating our world. People have become more and more content with solitary satisfaction and hope that it reaches their family’s and loved ones as well. Sometimes not even that.

We are bound together in unity, for a week, when world countries, including our own, face devastating attacks that kill dozens, hundreds, thousands of people. In the meantime we argue over Starbucks cups and the death toll becomes less and less of a social problem, and becomes more of a private matter for those unlucky souls who have to live through it and with it.

We forget that our reality isn’t everyone’s. Our reality of shelter, clothing, food—even most of the time. We forget the little girl whose reality of rape is greater than her reality of food.

We forget the little boy whose reality of a life of gun and violence is greater than his reality of shoes.

We forget the two parents whose reality of losing one of their children is greater than their reality of getting an education so they can find a job to support their family and create a better life. That reality has yet to even be a dream for them.

Our society has developed this egotistical theme “it’s not happening to me so why should I care? I have my own problems.” This self-centered, selfish methodology creates opportunities for violence, unfairness, poverty, exploitation, and opportunities for those people who are running the show and keeping it this way, to stay in power. Like the rich 1% of the 1% who own more money than the rest of American’s combined, and yet can deduct or cut taxes because of government favors due to incumbency laws. Like the person who’s suffering, and wants their suffering to extend to all so they go to a gun shop, purchase a weapon and use it on an unsuspecting crowd because a store owner is too cheap to run a background check, or decides he needs to carry military grade automatic weapons and sell them to civilians. Like the refugees who are fleeing to this land, a land of opportunity, a land of freedom. Trying to escape the violent reality of their home. A home they would prefer to stay in, and have until now. A home that is being ravaged by war, bigoted laws,  and loss, who we close our boarders to because we’re too concerned with personal opportunities, personal gain, and what these ‘free-loaders’ might deprive of us, what privileges they might ‘steal’ from us. We who are supposed to have learned the value of hard work, we who have the opportunities for education, we who have a growing sense of entitlement that is blocking our progress at every front.

That is who we have become! The people who justify and praise different ways to abuse our rights and call it a healthy outlook on life, a way to accept our circumstances instead of fighting for better ones.  We gloss over our real realities, and the real realities of those who share our world and settle for what realities we’ve allowed ourselves and others to believe. Our county is still #1, our obesity isn’t a problem, education is one path to success instead of the root of it, our middle class isn’t shrinking, our pride isn’t more about states than country now, the American flag still means what it used to. Our fantasy mentality that keeps us from viewing ourselves, our nation, and our world as a reality is crippling our ability for progress, and, more importantly, our sense of duty to help.

Take a stand. Whatever it is, whatever it may be. Don’t settle for an apathetic life of egotism while there is a world of suffering out there. Don’t let another shooting become another statistic without riots, marches, protests, action of any kind to stop the violence. Don’t let hopeful victims flee to the land of opportunity as their last chance for safety become life lessons about how they are doomed to a fate we ourselves don’t have to endure, a life lesson that brotherly kindness and empathy has turned into self-interest and pride. A false pride that is based in entitlement instead of productiveness and usefulness to more than just yourself. So take a stand. Pick a side and fight for it. Choose a cause and raise your voice for a world of more, not less. For a world of freedom, not growing captivity. For a world of opportunity, not decline. For a world united.

You are the voice that can change the world. Don’t quit before you start because you’re afraid you’ll fail. Look at all the people in the world who had that option and changed the world because they refused to heed that deprecating voice in their head that tells them their fight doesn’t matter. Find a reason. Find a cause. Find a fight. Choose to believe in it. Choose to embrace it. Choose to add a voice for it, a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves in a world that has dealt them far worse cards than you’ll ever have. Be an advocate for those who can’t even imagine there are people like you out there who care if they live or die let alone how they live and die. Be a believer in the goodness this world has to offer and then help that goodness grow. Believe in the goodness of people again and what they have to give to this world.

Be a believer in more than just yourself, ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

The Hunted

Before I wasn’t in a healthy enough place to talk about any of this. It was the worst experience of my life. More so than my first marriage even. This singular experience has scarred me worse than any other trauma I have gone through in life. And it wasn’t even as bad as it could have been.

When I was 19 I went to work at a Bookstore. I love books and there was a cute little store on a popular street in Spokane. I was pretty much in Heaven. Any overtime I worked I got paid in books. I never wanted to leave.

One day an older man came up to me as I was shelving books and just started talking to me, he told me a little later that he was the owner of the store and he had been impressed with my work ethic. He offered me a higher paying job at his home where the majority of his book collection resided. I would be organizing and shelving the books there. It seemed too good to be true, I would be working with another girl my age and had more steady hours.

Despite an overpowering smell of cat urine the job was going great. The books were a mess at first, but thanks to my small stint of OCD I had a knack for organizing chaos. Every weekday I would show up, wait for him to answer the door, say hello to the other girl I worked with who helped the man with house work, then descend to the basement, turn on music, and organize the bookshelves, reading some of the back covers as I went and making a list of all the books I wanted to read. After a few hours I either went out to lunch or ate the lunch I had packed, and got back to it. Once the day was finished I would go upstairs, the man would pay me in cash and I would leave for the day.

That’s the way it went for a couple weeks. My boss seemed a nice man,  a little odd, but nice. He would often talk to me before and after I worked and found out I was LDS, or Mormon, and talked about all the nice Mormon girls he had worked with. It turned out he owned more businesses than just the Bookshop, he owned a clothing store downtown, he dabbled in professional photography catalogs that sold pantie-hoes and lingerie and was trying to get licensed as a massage therapist. He would often talk to me about the good Mormon girls who posed for him, commenting that it was perfectly okay for them to do so despite the standards we had been taught. He asked me to pose for him, offering me a pay raise, I declined.

I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time. I didn’t realize he was grooming me, he was relaxing my defenses. Finding something I connect to and then easing me into complacency. Using those Mormon girls and saying if they thought it was okay, I should too. I didn’t realize he was making me feel guilty about my “strict standards” and making me eager to prove LDS girls weren’t like the world said they were: Superior. He was very subtle. A practiced hunter.

Soon he started buying me lunch and taking me with him on daily errands. I didn’t really think anything of that either. I was nineteen, he was in his late sixties. I had two loving grandfathers, and I had a history of taking care of older people. I trusted them. I trusted him.

Still we talked, and still he made me feel worse about my standards and the protected way I lived my life. Still he made it seem like posing for the catalog wasn’t a big deal, still he made it seem like just because girls stripped down to their underwear and let people take pictures of them they weren’t bad people, they just appreciated their own beauty. I found myself wanting to be that girl. Wanting to be so comfortable with myself and who I was I could be proud of my body. He also told me the reason why he had never asked the other girl I worked with to pose was because he knew her mother and he thought it would create an awkward situation. He made it seem like such an obvious thing that he wouldn’t ask her, he made it seem so easy to trust that he didn’t want to hurt me, that he wasn’t preparing me for something far worse than taking pictures for a lingerie catalog.

Soon he also started talking to me about another employee that he had had, who had claimed to the authorities that she had been sexually abused at his hands. He made it seem like she was so silly and ignorant to have reported him. He said that he had settled with her before she took him to court because he felt bad for her. He often complained about the type of girl she was to use him so just because his multiple businesses had made him successful in life. He made it seem like she had fabricated everything just to get money out of him. He made me feel sorry for him. He made me feel angry at the girl for using him like that…The practiced hunter…

Soon he started saying he needed to practice for his massage therapy classes he was taking so he could get certified. Before I could hardly think about what would happen he had me agreeing to let him practice on me. I was to come over the next day.

I had assumed that the practice was to take place at his school. Bear in mind I was only 19 at the time and still had no idea that I was being hunted. Or if not at his school then in the living room and at least the other girl I worked with would be there. So imagine my surprise when he mentioned the other girl was taking a day off today and started to lead me not to his car, but to his bedroom.

I’m not going to go into any more detail about it because honestly it’s still something I’m working through. But he…well, even with what he did, it could have been so much worse.

When I got home from work that day, I proceeded to curl up under a spray of scalding hot water in the shower and cried. I was so completely confused in my feelings, so terrified and alarmed. I couldn’t put together what had happened with my imagine of the kind elderly boss I thought I had been working with.

The next day I didn’t go in to work. In fact, I didn’t go in all that week. When he called me I let it go straight to voicemail, and then I listened to the message of him firing me and not giving me my last paycheck. I didn’t feel anything about it. I was numb.

A day or so after this happened my mom had brought me into her office and had showed me an article about a girl who claimed to be sexually abused at the hands of her employer. Her employers name was the same as mine: Hal Moose. The girl had tried to press charges but it had never gone to court. She claimed that Hal had convinced her to let him give her a massage which turned out to be in his bedroom. There’s no better hunter than the one who continues to use the technique that has a history of being successful.

I didn’t talk to anyone about what happened. I never told my parents, my best friend, anyone. Because of the terror I felt I had repressed it so much that I even repressed it from myself, until I was living with my sister three years later and she asked if I would go to the massage session she had scheduled because she wasn’t going to make it and didn’t want to pay the cancellation fee. I didn’t understand why, but I vehemently refused to go. She asked me why, and I didn’t understand myself, I didn’t understand why my pulse was suddenly racing, I didn’t understand why I suddenly became anxious and nervous, I didn’t understand why my skin suddenly became ultra-sensitive, I didn’t understand until after thinking about it, and  wondering, I began seeing a deformed clawed hand reaching down to me and I remembered what had happened.

I had many repercussions as a consequence of what happened that day. I started wearing baggy clothes, I couldn’t show any cleavage, I became standoffish and distant to people I didn’t know, being uncomfortable giving hugs to people I had just met, most especially older men. And my self-worth…well that had vanished almost entirely. I am convinced that because of this experience and how it led me to feel about myself, it was the thing that did the most to lead me to my first marriage with a husband who was so negligent and manipulative. I was accepting the love I thought I deserved, and because of Hal, I unconsciously thought I deserved the abuse for what had happened to me.

This story isn’t as bad as the thousands that take place each year in our country. Girls my age, younger and older, who are sexually abused, or raped at the hands of men in their lives. Because of my fear and shame, I couldn’t come forward about this experience until now. And I have felt the guilt like a knife at the thought that because of my silence what happened to me could have happened to the next girl who was employed under Hal Moose.

Despite the lack of severity, this situation is still the most terrifying that has ever occurred. It’s still the one that gives me nightmares, it’s still the one that causes me the most fear, it’s still the one that I have the hardest time talking about, I still consider it to be the worst experience I have ever had.

We need to have more sympathy for those men and women who suffer abuse like I have and abuse worse than I have. We need to stop making victims feel like the victimized, but help them feel strong again.

Women, especially LDS women, are so sympathetic to the people around us. I hate that Hal made me question people’s motives now. I hate that instead of the trust I used to have in people there is now an ever present layer of skepticism. I hate that I get uncomfortable if I’m around a guy I don’t know, in a room by myself. I hate that I tense up when an older man at church wants to give me a hug. I hate that I look at someone I don’t know and think ‘what will I do if they try to hurt me?’ I hate that it’s taken me so long and I’ve fought so hard to believe in the goodness of people again instead of only seeing the crime rate and the corruption.

But I do. I do believe in the goodness of people. I do believe there is more good in this world than bad. I do believe that the good in this world will conquer the evil if we have the courage to take a stand and have faith in ourselves and our cause. I do believe in a merciful Heavenly Father who will someday hold Hal accountable for his actions. I do have the strength to forgive Hal if someday he were to change his heart. I do give thanks everyday for a loving elder brother, even Jesus Christ who suffered my pain and fear, who took upon himself my pain and fear, and who is healing the hole inside me. I am so grateful for the mercy of God, I am so grateful to him for sending his son, who knows perfectly everything I have been through in this life. I am so grateful for his perfect love, his perfect knowledge, his perfect companionship. I am so grateful for Heavenly Father for giving me the strength, and for allowing me to heal from this experience enough to share it with others who could be suffering like I was. I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Please raise awareness, please be vigilant of those people in your children’s lives, please strengthen the victims, don’t hold them down in their experiences, please understand that there is only one who can understand, and that is our all-loving, all-knowing Savior. Teach your girls to be strong, kind yes, but strong. And help them to know their worth is above what others say it is. Their worth is divine, and only the Father who created them should effect how they feel about themselves.

My Knight

Something one of my bishops said to me has always bothered me. I don’t remember which bishop or when, but I do remember the circumstances. I was talking to my bishop about the emotional neglect and verbal abuse I was suffering from at the hands of my, then, husband. I was telling him how hard I was trying to stay, how therapy wasn’t working because he had a habit of lying and manipulating the situation so he was the victim, and how I couldn’t keep allowing him to treat me like he was.

After bishop calmed me down and talked to me about marriage problems, statistics, and the covenants I made in the temple, the very last thing he told me was “remember, your children in Heaven are rooting for you.”

Those words have always stuck with me.

Instead of filling me with peace, hope, and comfort, they filled me with guilt, and an unhealthy sense of duty and obligation. Enough so that I started to convince myself that if I just had kids, I could stay in my marriage for them, I could live for them and I would get the love I so craved from my husband from them.

It took me a long time to reason through the wrongness of what bishop said. Now, I am in absolutely no way suggesting he himself was wrong or was a bad man, I have nothing but love and respect for hard-working bishops who try so hard to help their ward come to God and remain close to him. It’s no easy job, made even harder by the fact that they have to take upon them the trials and troubles of their ward. So, exempting my bishop of any fault, I just think he could have chosen his words with slightly more care when talking to an impressionable youth desperately trying to do what was right and so willing to listen to the counsel of her priesthood leader.

If I just had children I could do God’s will and stay married. I could live for my kids. But we could barely afford food some months, and we couldn’t even afford food others. There was no way we could afford the monetary needs of a precious child. So then, it became if I could only work hard enough to make us financially stable, I could have kids and then stay married.

But financial security was an unattainable goal since I was going to school full-time while working and he wasn’t working at all and had inappropriate spending habits he liked to keep hidden from me.

I soon realized I was never going to be able to work hard enough, and even if I could, I would never be home to see my children and get their love because I would be too busy providing for them.

After I realized this, I slowly started to have other realizations as well. Why would my loving children want me to stay in this kind of marriage/situation? If they loved me as much as I was proving I loved them, wouldn’t they want better for me? They who had yet to cross the veil and knew everything I was going through and knew exactly how hard I was working to stay.

More than even that thought, I realized my kids deserved a mom who thinks she’s worth more than an abusive relationship. My kids deserved a mom who wouldn’t settle, a mom who was emotionally, physically, and financially able to meet their needs in life, who would be there to raise them, love them, and give them comfort and security in this life; something I wouldn’t have been able to do for them since I couldn’t even do that for myself at the time.

Just as important, my kids deserved the happiness and joy of having a righteous dad. A dad who would love and respect his wife. A dad who would teach his sons how to treat women, and who would teach his daughters how they should expect to be treated. A dad that would put the Lord first and his family second. A dad that would uphold and honor his priesthood and helps the home to be a protected sanctuary because of the divine power he held. A dad who would truly be a knight for his family. They deserved a dad who would teach them the ways of the Lord, not in word only, but also in deed. A dad worthy to bless them, to baptize them, to take them to the temple. My kids deserved a man of God.

I have a chance to give them that now, when I couldn’t before. They aren’t going to fault me for leaving, especially since I painstakingly waited until I KNEW it was the right thing and that I had done absolutely everything I could to make it work. I left for a better chance of life and happiness for myself as well as for them. I don’t believe God faults me for this or requires me to repent. I’ve stayed temple worthy and I’ve stayed close to God throughout all of this experience. If Heavenly Father hadn’t given me the confirmation that it was okay to leave I would have stayed and made it work somehow because I truly believe He wants the best for me and wants me to be happy. If I do His will, He’s going to lead me down the path that will allow me the most happiness in life. I would have been happy eventually if it was the will of the Lord for me to stay. But it wasn’t, and I’m convinced it wasn’t His will because my husband was so set in his ways, so determined not to realize his problems, and so unconvinced of his need to change. He would have continued to abuse me, and my kids would have grown up in a broken home.

I am so grateful for the mercy of a loving Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for the confirming witness He gave me that day that let me have the confidence to leave my situation. I am so grateful for the love He gave me as I was healing from that great wound. I am so grateful for the atonement of the Savior, that it is all encompassing and extends not only to our sins, but to our sorrows as well. I am so grateful that He is giving me a chance for a better future, with a man willing to do the will of God more than the will of himself, I am so grateful for the opportunity to raise children in a righteous and loving home, and I am so grateful for the chance to be treated like a daughter of God should be treated in this life. I am so grateful for His mercy, I am so grateful for His love, I am so grateful for the knowledge I have and for the temple, I am so grateful for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To Encourage Others

I was reading in Deuteronomy the other day (one of my many attempts to read the old testament all the way through), and I came across a scripture that really hit me. It was when Moses was before the Lord again, asking him if he could just set a foot in the promised land and see it, and then the Lord could take him up to Heaven. I think it must have been hard for the Lord to not give Moses his request, after everything Moses had done for the children of Israel; but what the Lord did for Moses then was, in my opinion, even better.

The Lord responded “for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.”

Sometimes, our task isn’t to be the leader, sometimes our task is to encourage the leader. Sometimes the Lord’s plans for us aren’t to act as the primary point, but the secondary support. The key stone could not stand without the entire arch in place.

The Lord has a work for all of us to do, and when that work is finished we aren’t supposed to sit back and think on what’s passed, we are supposed to encourage others who still have their work to finish. It must have been hard for Moses to turn over his great task to Joshua, it must have been hard letting Joshua finish the task he had painstakingly been trudging for the past 80+ years. And yet, the Lord knew Joshua needed encouragement, the Lord knew Joshua needed Moses’s support and his experience to help guide him and strengthen him.

So too the Lord needs us to use our experience and our knowledge to strengthen others who still have tasks to do. How much of a relief would it be if, when released from a calling, we sat down with the new people who took over for us and talked to them about what we tried, what worked and what didn’t, what we know about those we are serving and where we wished we could have improved? And then back it up with encouragement. I believe it would dramatically release the stress of receiving a new calling in church. Some people have bitter feelings towards those who take over their calling, or who receive a job equal to theirs even though they the lack same experience. Instead of being bitter, the Lord calls us to encourage. Though we may want something as deeply as Moses wanted to see the Promised Land, to defy the new order that has been called is to defy the Lord. We need to appreciate the Lord’s plan for us as well as His plan for others. As we have been blessed we should seek to extend the blessing to others.

Each of us has a primary role to play in this life, but let us not forget the equally important secondary role we should be playing in the lives of others.

BEautiful Woman

After getting back from a Sheri Dew conference, my soul is inspired in the sanctity, the beauty, and the divine nature of women.

“A full blown blitz is happening in the world today, because women are so vitally necessary to a family and to society. The adversary absolutely hates us because of the breadth and depth of our influence.” Satan knows that in order to destroy the family, he needs to destroy women’s divine nature about their role in the family. In a world that is striving for gender neutrality, gender sameness, I am striving to differentiate between men and women, to lift each other up because of our differences, and to support and embrace our differences because they are what make us divine beings.

Studies show that women are naturally more graceful, gentler, more patient, and more tender than men. What are these gifts for if they are not for service? Both in our families and in our societies. For a woman to abandon her family in order to fight against the stigma of a ‘stay-at-home mom’, or to prove a point to society about her necessary presence, abilities, or worth, is to give in to the adversaries most recent plans to destroy the family by sophistry.

“No one can do what you have been sent here to do. No one can take your place or fill your shoes. God needs you to gather your courage and do your part.” Perhaps the more courageous part for a woman to fulfill in this world, is not to prove that she is equal to it, but that she is set and firm in her convictions that she has been called to live about it. To live in the world but not to be apart of the world.

Studies have shown that nothing is more important to a successful society than the success of the family. Mothers are absolutely vital and necessary for that families success. And yet, as women of this modern world we are told that simply being a mother is not enough, it is the easy way out, it sets us back in our modern rights, it diminishes us, it hinders us, it weakens us, and it is inconvenient. To those accusations, I ask this question. Which is of more worth, your earthly career and status, or your eternal family? Do you serve the world, or do you serve God? Where does your heart truly lie for you cannot serve two masters? I am all for women to have jobs and ambitions and be set above as leaders and exemplars, but only after their duties to their families are fulfilled; otherwise, as their careers find success, their families suffer, and nothing is more important to God than for a woman to fulfill her divine nature if she is given the chance to.

“Wherefore, I say unto thee, that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for a better.”

Have the strength to stand against the masses telling you who to be in order to have worth in this world. Build your worth upon God’s thoughts of you, not the worlds. For with God is true happiness and purpose found. With God there is ultimate peace, and with God there is ultimate progression.

Doubt Your Fear

On a recent road trip with a dear, darling friend, I was asked what I thought the difference between doubt and fear was. I have known these emotions well over the course of my life, but I had never contemplated their difference. After thinking about it, I recalled in my head the last chapter in the Book of Mormon, and I had my answer.

Moroni 10:

20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.

21 And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.

22 And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.

For me-meaning my reasoning may not be for everyone-the absence of hope is doubt, but fear is the presence of hope and the absence of faith.

When I have been beset by fear in this world I’ve still had hope. Although the fear wounds my faith, the hope allows me to eventually build up the strength to propel my faith beyond my fears. My thoughts of “I can’t” or “I don’t” are often replaced by more confidence as my faith roots out my fears.

But when I have been beset by doubt in this world, I turn negative, angry, and hopeless. My thoughts are often plagued by “why even bother” or “is this even worth it?” and I find myself stuck in this rut of self-centered-ness until I am forced out of it by having to lean one way or the other on the decision I have been doubting. These decisions are often agonizing and counter-productive to my spiritual health as I can’t rely on my faith to see me through.

When I have fear, I have to work on my faith, but when I have doubt, I have to work on my hope; because “…and if there be faith there must also be hope.”  I believe hope to be a precursor to faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) In order to have faith, one must first have hope. And if one is doubting, faith often isn’t present.

I don’t think that faith and fear are mutually exclusive concepts. I think that the more fear we have, the less faith, but still they are compatible with each other because we are imperfect beings, and our faith isn’t always as strong as we should like it to be. But doubt is what gets me hung up. Nothing brings me closer to a depression-like state than doubt. Whether its doubting myself, the people around me, my purpose, or blessings yet to come, whether my efforts and sacrifices will truly be worth it. Because of the absence of hope caused by doubting, my faith cannot propel me beyond the feeling until I address my doubts and change my thoughts. Once my thoughts are changed, hope can set in, and the doubt can turn to a fear which my faith can then fight against. But doubt is much harder to combat than fear.

I believe it was profound council when President Uchtdorf pleaded for us to “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” When we have a fear for our testimonies in this gospel, we still have a hope. We have a hope that we’ll be right, it’s just hard to try to find the answers. But when we doubt, those tender feelings brought about by fear often harden, and with our feelings our hearts as well. With hardened hearts and feelings our tender hope evaporates into feelings of bitterness, betrayal, entitlement, and self-righteousness. God cannot touch our hearts when they are hardened against Him, and in my experience nothing hardens a heart more than doubt. This then becomes a bitter cycle, as we harden our hearts in doubt, we cannot feel the presence of God, and the more we are without God’s presence, the more conviction we gain of His nonexistence; choosing to overlook those subtle signs of His constant presence in this world and in our lives because doubting is easier than faith. Faith is hard to grow and doubt is hard to turn away from.

Because of the adversaries eternal fight against God’s children, once he has us doubting, and our hearts hardened, its easy for him to propel us quickly and effectively away from those things and people who would reintroduce us to the small but powerful influence of the spirit. The more he can get us to turn away from that atmosphere of faith, the more confidence he can have that we will never leave our doubts to pursue our faith again.

I liken doubt and fear to two scriptural individuals; namely: Peter and Judas. Peter, who was Jesus’ chosen apostle, became so afraid of the world, we was willing to allow his fear to over-run his faith, and deny his faith in order to appease his fear when the situation was set upon him. And yet, his faith still persisted, and eventually his faith rooted out his fear so much so that he was willing to be murdered for the cause of Christ. Judas, chosen and selected, and yet doubting. His doubts propelled him to such ugly emotions as anger, greed, entitlement, and deception. It wasn’t until the spirit left him, and he realized what his doubts were preventing him from seeing, that in his agony he took his own life. Judas’ desire for more money, less effort, and more acceptance caused him to doubt Jesus’ power and purpose here on earth. He left the things of the spirit, in order to pursue the things of the world; and after his heart was hardened, not even the presence of the savior could sway him from his course.

Our doubts are dangerous things, doubts destroy our faith by creating an atmosphere void of hope. Fear, though often not talked about in the church, is a healthier option than doubt; because fear still allows for a presence of hope. When we have a fear, it needs to be addressed. Ignored, it creates an atmosphere of bitterness, and anger; which Satan uses to fuel doubt and harden our hearts.

Our faith isn’t going to be perfect, but God will reward our efforts. If our efforts match our desires, He will see your faith in Him perfected. If our fears prevent our efforts, we will slip,  and fall, and the climb back up is so much harder than the attempts it would have taken to stay on the ledge.

Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith, fuel your faith so it’ll be strong enough to overcome your fear; and seek for hope, to know your faith will be worth the efforts.

Blessings of Faith

After my first marriage ended in a severely unfortunate way, I had few hopes remaining in the institution… I had just suffered through 18 months of neglect, verbal abuse, denial, and threats. My brother had just gone through a rough divorce himself and experience and the world told me that happiness in marriage was a rare and lucky thing to happen upon, only meant for those people who didn’t have as much to learn in this life, and that didn’t have as far to grow in order to become a woman of God as I felt I did.

You could say that after this experience I was angry with marriage.

I grew up fantasizing about weddings, my husband coming home from work and helping me with the kids, summer backpacking trips, and adorable date-nights. I would write the last names of my latest crush next to my name to see how well they fit together, I would imagine every boy I dated as my husband and see what it would be like to share my life with them. But then, to discover this disappointing reality that my marriage had failed, and had failed in a disastrously devastating way that left me scarred, I was angry. To add insult to injury at the time, I was never a girl without admirers, and the attention given by my admirers more often than not was not welcomed-especially after the painful divorce-and left me even more bitter and angry. I would accept the dates because I felt like I owed it to them to give them a shot, but I would come home feeling empty, more determined than ever that I wasn’t going to get married again until I was older, or if ever, and my hope had been restored in the institution.

You know that saying, ‘when we make a plan God just laughs?’ He must have been laughing pretty good when I decided that, because not even a year after my divorce was finalized, he brought my current husband in to my life.

On the first date my husband took me on, I didn’t see the potential. I probably wouldn’t have agreed to a second date had I not experienced an unmistakable sign from the spirit that I needed to give him one. A week into dating, my husband was realizing in happiness what I started realizing in horror, that this relationship was meant to progress. I didn’t know how I felt about marriage yet, but I didn’t feel ready for it so soon, or even to combat my feelings of doubt so soon.

Our first major argument as a couple was over getting married. I wanted to continue dating, getting to know each other, maybe talk about marriage in a year or so. He was more interested in a much quicker affair, as in getting married that summer, just a few months away.

For two weeks, I had a storm of thoughts run through my head. Everything from continuing on with the argument, to ending the relationship, but I couldn’t see myself getting married that summer, I wasn’t ready. I loved him, I could see myself being with him forever, but marriage wasn’t a friend of mine, it was more like an intimidating mountain top I had attempted to summit before, and after an excruciating climb, the hardest of my life, where I had given all my efforts and blood, sweat, and tears, I had still fallen from it. My broken bones were still healing and I wasn’t anxious to attempt a re-summit.

Finally, I got myself to the temple. I knew in my heart what my husband was wanting was right, but how to let go of my fear and reinstate myself into the institute of marriage that had disappointed me so fully? I didn’t know.

Nothing but the witness I received in the temple from Heavenly Father that day would have persuaded me into giving marriage another shot just a year and a half after my first marriage ended, and after just 6 months of knowing my husband.

Even though I had a new conviction that I would follow God and say yes when my husband asked me to marry him after just 2 months of dating, I was still scared. I was sure about him, I was sure it was God’s will, but I wasn’t looking forward to all the hard and hurt that marriage naturally comes with. I still remembered how hard it was to climb the mountain, I still had a remembrance of all the injuries I had accumulated along the way. I stood there for a long time looking up at the summit and even as I took my first step up it’s slope, I was wishing all the while I could run away.

Little did I know…

It’s taken me experiencing a great marriage to get over my fears that a horrible marriage had given me. It’s taken me experiencing it for myself, to have the knowledge that happiness in marriage is the norm, not the exception. And that unhappiness in marriage is not the rule. My views on marriage have changed dramatically. After the failure of a first marriage, Satan had me doubting the entire institution and my ability to be successful in it. God had designed marriage, and yes the world has created flaws within it, but anything designed by God you can be sure is for our ultimate health and happiness. Marriage to my husband now has been the most beneficial, uplifting and worth while thing I have ever been apart of. I would not wish to have never known his companionship, his kindness, his strength and his help. He makes it easier to choose the right, easier to keep my covenants, easier to attend my meetings and sacrifice the things of the world for the things of God. And I am absolutely convinced that only marriage could do that for me.

I used my faith in God to get me to the alter the second time, and God has rewarded that faith. Though hard and imperfect, marriage to the man God intended for me has brought me more happiness, security, comfort and feelings of worth than I have ever felt in my life.

My first marriage tore me down, it broke my heart and my convictions. Satan knew I would never leave God, but he also knows I have trouble trusting once that trust is broken. However, if you trust God more than you trust yourself, He will never let you walk down a path of unhappiness. In every trial, there is a lesson, and every lesson brings us closer to God if we choose to let it. I could have closed myself off in misery and bitterness, the world would have understood why and I wouldn’t have had to open myself up again to that kind of pain. Instead though, I did myself the best kindness I ever could have. I opened myself up to God and He has paid my efforts back in blessings three times what I paid. Now, the climb to the summit isn’t a free climb with no belay. It’s a leisurely stroll through a sheltered path, and although we have inclines and switchbacks, I’m holding the hand of something who helps pull me along when my legs start to shake, and who helps lift me up when there’s a ledge I can’t quite reach.

I love my husband. I love my God. His mercy, and His forgiveness have been extreme in my life, but I am so grateful for every sacrifice I have made so far to keep Him in my life. The blessings have far outweighed the price.

Faith Versus Fear

A harsh reality of Foster Care is terror.

You will be terrorized.

And not only by the children.

By the stories you hear from extended friends and family the longer you visit them and the more you stick around. By forcing yourself to not believe everything you hear without evidence. By behaviors that crop up in the children that support these stories – or at least a part of them. By doctors explaining why certain behaviors aren’t normal and what it could potentially mean. By putting the pieces together in your overly dramatic mind. By your mind and heart doing battle daily trying to be protective because of the things you know, and the things you don’t, while still being friendly will all parties. By the fact, that you have no power to protect them – not when it really comes down to it.

The day my Foster daughter has an unsupervised visit with her biological father, will be a day I don’t know I’ll get through.

I’ve pushed through a lot. But I don’t think I could push through this.

With evidence of sexual abuse piling up, with friends and family coming forward with reasons why they “know he is unsafe to be around children”, with doctors observations, with my own observations.

How can she feel like mine but be his?

How can she feel like mine, and yet, I am not her mom and have no rights to her. I still have to love her just the same. Its the only way she’ll heal. It’s the only way she’ll break the cycle of generational abuse and actually be somebody someday.

How do I love her perfectly, when I’m so afraid to?

How do I not love her perfectly – this sweet, innocent, adorable child who loves being loved more than anything in this world. Who took 4 months of consistency, security, and normalcy to bond with me. Who eats bananas like they’re candy, and shivers when she first wakes up and has to be snuggled into my warm arms.

I live in a state of terror because of how much I love this child.

I live in a state of terror because of the realities that the state pursues reunification almost at any cost, and as a Foster parent, I signed a contract to be support of that reunification and to encourage biological parents to be safe for their children. Its a contract I want to break everyday. As I’m asking friends and family to talk to the Social Worker about the stories they told me they witnessed that were inappropriate, am I breaking the contract? Am I doing enough or too much?

Will the parents find out I’m doing this and suddenly turn on me?

Will the friends and family I’m asking suddenly stop talking to me and break of that relationship because they are afraid of what I’m asking?

Will the Social Worker someday think I’m only trying to discredit the parent so that I can adopt her and keep her safe?

Will this lose me my kid in the end?

How to keep kids safe and still support reunification? Sometimes those concepts are mutually exclusive. A lot of times those concepts are mutually exclusive. Most of the time….

And yet. And yet. And yet (it’s become my least favorite phrase).

To keep my kids I have to at least pretend I’m a fan of reunification. To keep my kids I have to be unbiased despite knowing the truth otherwise the Judge won’t let me talk in court – because I have no right to without his expressed invitation. To keep my kids I have to play by the rules of the system that favors the criminal over the victim.

I try not to break down.

I try to love the bio parents.

I try to be supportive of my social worker

I try to give the kids in my care what they need.

Four concepts. Mutually exclusive. All of them.

I’m fighting a fight just to fight. I don’t know if I’ll win. The odds are stacked against me, against them. But still I fight. It’s gotten so dark I’m not sure what I’m swinging at, only that I have a picture in my mind of a bruised and battered little girl who needs me and that’s why I keep punching.

Foster parents travel through the dark in the hopes of bringing light to the children in their care. Lights are blocked by so many forces in this system it is like fighting a losing battle. And yet.

And yet.

And yet, the battle rages for these children if I don’t step in the ring and take the punches for them.

I supervise visits so I can make sure she’s safe.

I calmly, rationally, and kindly respond to all correspondence with family members because being friends with them is so much easier than being their enemy, and it increases my chances of keeping the kids if I can prove to the judge I’ll remain in good contact with family members.

I try not to overwhelm or overburden the Social Worker with my fears until I have evidence to back them up so she’ll believe in my ability to be unbiased and keep inviting me to court dates.

I explain the facts, not my feelings, not my fears, not what my instincts as a mother are screaming at me, because then the Judge will keep inviting me to speak.

I speak without saying the words I want to.

But at least I’m talking.

And punching.

The day I stop, will be the day she loses.

I’m terrified of stopping.

I’m terrified of still punching.