Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rs of Repentance

As children and youth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are often taught a list of things that must be done in order to accomplish true repentance.  They are known as the Rs of Repentance, and there are usually about four to seven of them, depending on the teacher.  They include things like recognition, remorse, restitution, reformation, resolution, etc.  I rather dislike this method of teaching repentance, and here's why:

1. It makes repentance seem too hard.  Think of all the bad things you've ever done.  Imagine going through this extensive list for every one of them.  Life is just too short!  You'd never finish!  And what about all the sins you don't remember committing?  If the Rs are really the only way to go, we're all damned.

2. It makes repentance seem too easy.  Any of us who have undergone real repentance laugh at the thought of repentance as a checklist.  "Oh yeah, that was bad, I shouldn't have done that.  I feel bad that I did that.  I apologize for doing that.  I won't do it again.  I feel better now.  Let's go get smoothies."  If repentance were that easy, I sure would have sinned a lot more!  Boiling such a deep and meaningful experience as repentance down to a catchy list trivializes it.

3. And what about Jesus?  I don't hear anything about the Savior in this list.  It paints repentance as something you can accomplish by yourself.  For the record, there is no repentance without Christ; without Him we would all be damned.  In the end, He is the one who fixes us, who throws out that old woman of sin and makes us a new creature . . . in Christ.

I propose a different, in my opinion better, way to teach repentance.

Confess and forsake.  Confessing involves coming to God with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, humbling ourselves, acknowledging that God's ways are higher than our ways.  It means asking, begging, pleading for forgiveness, for the mercy and atonement of Jesus Christ to be applied to our faults.  Forsaking our sins means having a mighty change of heart, a complete turning away from our sins.  Forsaking is having no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually.  It is covenanting with God to do better.  It is accepting that we are no longer the person who committed the sin, but that we are made anew through Christ's atonement.  To me, this part is the most difficult.  It is so easy to continue to beat ourselves up about what we did and what losers we are.  We have to have enough faith in the atonement to realize that the people who sinned are not the people we are now.  We have to accept that we have been forgiven.  Then, if we live in a constant state of confessing, forsaking, striving to align our hearts with The Good, we live in a state of justification.  The sacrament itself does not cleanse us from our sins; partaking of the sacrament signifies that we are living in a justified state.  And eventually, after going through this process over and over, we will become sanctified; we will be made holy.

Now, tell me, which lesson on repentance would you rather have?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The "Spiritual" Sex

I recently discovered I have a teeth grinding problem.  I got a night guard and all that, but that doesn't treat the cause, and I can't wear it all the time.  Do you know what would stop me from grinding my teeth down to nothing morning, noon, and night?  I believe this bad habit would cease if all the sexism in the world would also cease.  So it looks like my straight, white, dazzling smile will be a toothless grin by the time I turn thirty-five.

One sexist "doctrine" that really frosts my cookies is that women are naturally more spiritual than men.  Let us have a little chat about benevolent sexism.  Benevolent sexism stems from the interdependence of the sexes.  It consists of ideas that women need to be cherished and protected by men, that men depend on women to fulfill the "essential" roles of parenting and homemaking, and that men need women (to be romantic sexual objects) to feel complete.  It is different from hostile sexism, which branch is more familiar to most people.  Benevolent sexism is a hot topic in sex and gender scientific literature right now because, more and more, studies are showing that it is just as harmful as hostile sexism.  People who embrace benevolent sexism are more likely to also embrace hostile sexism.  Studies have shown that benevolent sexism is a more subtle and cunning way to subjugate women.  As men treat women in a benevolently sexist manner, women often begin to accept male dominance.  This then propagates the cycle of inequality.

Back to women's "innate" spirituality.  This common sentiment in Mormanity (my word for the culture entwined in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is a form of benevolent sexism.  Many members, including general authorities, use this sentiment to justify every instance of differential treatment of the sexes.  It is often said that women don't need the priesthood because they're naturally more spiritual, while men need the opportunity to serve and grow.  Another common one is that a woman must nurture the children because she innately walks closer to God.  Sometimes I wonder if these dogmas are spouted off so frequently as a way to keep women complacent in their places of lesser power in Church authority.  The fact is, women are more active in religion the world over.  Why the difference, you ask?  I have come to the conclusion that, since women have historically been held in inferiority and powerlessness by men, they have become more humble.  This, then, has become a societal norm, and the social differences still present today continue the trend.  As we all know, humility begets faith in God.  Those who have less have greater need to believe in and rely on a higher spiritual power; they hope that this divine being will give them their just reward in time.  Therefore, the humbled women throughout history have turned to God for comfort.

Some other benevolently sexist attitudes common in the Church:
  • We don't talk about Heavenly Mother because Heavenly Father is protecting her name from the abuse and slander of the world (if that is the case, then maybe I don't want to be a Heavenly Mother someday.  This paints a picture of a rather weak and inconsequential divine feminine, don't you think?  By the way, this was initially said by a primary teacher.  Also, there is no doctrine that says that the topic of Heavenly Mother is taboo and should not be discussed.  In my opinion, we should be a little wary when discussing her in a formal church setting only because there is so little doctrine on her).
  • Men have the priesthood and women, instead of the priesthood, have motherhood (as if fatherhood can in no way compare to motherhood.  Granted, only women can give birth and nurse.  But men can bottle feed, hold, nurture, and show just as much love as women can.  Cultural bounds lead us to believe this is not true, but it is).
  • Whereas in the priesthood session of conference men get the third degree, women in the relief society session are patted and praised and coddled for how good they are (in my opinion, women are just as intrinsically bad as men are; culture has just taught them to be more subtle about it.  Any differences in bad conduct is the product of societal norms and not of innate goodness).
In summary, all sexism is bad.  Whether you're telling a woman she's too emotional to work in a high-pressure environment, telling a girl that someday her knight in shining armor will come and whisk her away to the temple, or even telling a boy that he can't cry or a man that he can't love his own child as well as his wife can, it's all sexism, and it's all hurtful.  So don't do it, people.  My teeth are begging you.

To find out how much sexism you espouse, take this quiz.