Archive for May, 2010

What does it mean to ‘honor’ mothers?

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Yesterday I went to church with Jay.  I “went to church” but I didn’t get much out of it.  Sam, who is 1, wanted to MOVE.  I spent the second half of Sacrament Meeting following him as he crawled down the hall and in and out of open classrooms.  Two weeks ago I attended Stake Conference, because Jay specifically asked me to attend so I could feel the spirit of Elder Anderson, who was visiting.  I spent Elder Anderson’s talk in the hall, following Sam as he tried to escape the building.  In between these two meetings we attended a special Sacrament Meeting during which four wards and a branch were re-organized into six wards.  I would have spent this meeting chasing Sam as well, but, since there were no regular meetings going on, I was able to move our circus into the nursery where I was able to listen to the conference and Sam and Rose were able to play.  And I began to think.  This church is all about family, right?  I do not know how many talks, lessons, quotes, and opinions have been given to proclaim the honor we give to mothers, but this is all lip service.  Where is the real respect and honor shown in action to mothers in the church.  What help does the church offer to make a woman and a mother’s path easier?  The more I think about it the more it seems to me that the men who run things don’t give much thought to us mothers, and us mothers have no way of expressing our needs or wants to the men up top. One example:  the mother’s room.  Every building has one.  If you are a man you have probably never been in one, especially not while it is in use.  The rooms vary, but many are small, sometimes housing just one rocking chair.  Some have nice furniture (nice, meaning it is clean and in one piece and a relatively attractive color), many have an assortment of odd, old, and uncomfortable chairs.  The location of these rooms varies, but I have never found one conveniently located to both the chapel and the Relief Society Room.  In my current building the mother’s room sits in the spot exactly opposite the Relief Society on the other side of the church.    Ours is actually a very nice room, having been painted and decorated by a group of mothers who were told that it wasn’t allowed, but that the church leaders wouldn’t be going into that room much and what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.  (Imagine a church where it is a subversive act to decorate a nursing mother’s room with paint, three pictures and a lamp.)  We have three rocking chairs, which may seem plenty, but the year I gave birth to my first child seven other babies were born within six months.  There were times when every chair was filled and a couple of mothers were on the floor.  Can it really be so surprising in a church where members are encouraged to have children that there may be many mothers nursing at once?  Taking a tour of the Community of Christ building, I was floored to see that they had a room, encased in one-way glass, in the main worship space so that mothers can care for their children and participate in the worship at the same time.  Why couldn’t we do that.  While we are at it why couldn’t we have a nursery during Sacrament Meeting?  Or a corner of the chapel filled with toys, and paper and coloring crayons so that we could let our children be children and worship and feel the spirit and not send one parent or the other out into the hall for most of the meeting?  One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is found in Numbers chapters 26 and 27.  Five daughters of a man by the name of Zelophehad come to Moses to complain that it isn’t right that their uncles should be the heirs of their father just because they are female.  They ask Moses to inquire of the Lord, which he does, and the Lord tells Moses that the daughters are right.  the inheritance should be theirs.  I first discovered this story because my name, Tierza, is a variant of one of those daughters: Tirzah, and I love being named after one of the bible’s first feminists!  But I also love this story because it shows how our relationship with the prophet ought to be.  We ought to be able to raise questions about our culture and our practices.  We ought to expect that the prophet would speak to the Lord on our behalf and that he would come back to us with answers to those questions — and for simple questions, like how we could provide a better nursing room for our mothers, it seems bizarre that we should go to the prophet, or even anyone beyond the local congregation at all.  Why couldn’t we mothers find a solution and implement it without reference to any other authority?  It baffles me.

An Other Sunday

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

It is Sunday.  Upstairs Jay is feeding the kids their breakfast while fasting himself.  Downstairs I have quiet hymns playing.  In an hour or so we will get dressed and, together, we will go to church. There is nothing so remarkable about this.  Mormons (and others) do it every week.  But this week is different.  To me.  I am born-and-bred  Mormon.  I can count my family membership back at least 5 generations on every side.  We are Nauvoo Mormons and polygamy Mormons and mission Mormons and crossing-the-plains Mormons and, with one very glaring exception, for the three generations I know, we are ALL Mormons.  But, in the very deepest place that is me, in my heart and in my head, I am NOT.  I own the culture, kind-of.  I have a fondness for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and hymns in general.  I don’t drink, or smoke, or cavort in any way.  I was a virgin until the day I married in the temple, at the age of 31.  I loved my most recent calling as Relief Society teacher.  And I haven’t been to church in two months.  Ward members assume, I imagine, that my absence is a result of the mental crisis that recently sent me to two weeks of intense psychiatric care.  They don’t imagine that the leaving came first.  The crisis — that was second.  And now that the crisis is over it is time for me to put my life back together.  How I do that, however, I have yet to determine.  Do I leave the church for good?  And if I leave, what do I do then?  Do I become a practicing but not believing member?  Is there a place in-between? I fear for the friendships I will lose and reach for the peace of knowing and speaking what I believe.  It is my emigration, my falling away, that I hope to capture as I write — and as I write, I hope to capture the bits of faith and hope I have left.  I don’t know who I will be in a month, or a year.  But I am interested to find out.  I hope you will find out with me.  Meanwhile, I have to get the children dressed.  We are going to church together today.