Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Enduring Power of Charity

Q:  What does it mean, in practical terms, that Charity endureth forever?

A:  I think that to understand what Mormon meant when he told Moroni that "Charity...endureth forever" as it applies to us, we need to back up a few verses and look at the attributes of charity:

Moroni 7:45  And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

When Mormon describes these attributes, he is not just describing the characteristics of an abstract principle, nor is he solely describing the attributes of Christ and His life.  Mormon details the components of the pure love of Christ to the end that we can learn what it takes to shape our lives and our selves to resemble the life and person of Jesus Christ.

Moroni 7:47  But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

The whole point of the gospel is to help us to become like Christ so that we can gain eternal life.  The crowning principle of the gospel, and the most enduring attribute and quality of Christ's life is charity, and unless charity becomes our most defining attribute and quality as well we cannot truly become like Christ.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Is the Church Sexist? Are Men and Women Equal in the Church?

My friend K.M. sent me this thought-provoking question.

Q:  How come there aren't women in higher callings of the church?  I suppose I'm somewhat already convinced that the church is sexist. Based both on what I've observed and experiences I've had.

A:  The article that I have included, and which follows this brief preface, is the revised and somewhat shorter version of one that I wrote in 2010 to address a more general question about sexism in the church.  But as far as higher callings go: the young women and relief society and primary general presidencies are some of the highest callings in the church, and all of them are filled by women.

One other thing that is not in the attached article that I feel that I should point out is the person who asked me the question that prompted the article was a woman who was an elder in the Presbyterian church when I met her.  Obviously she was somewhat disconcerted to find that she could not be an elder in our church.  She asked many questions on the subject, but it was only through attending our church that she came to see that women do many things in our church that nobody but the ordained pastor, or special people whom he (or the congregation) appoints, do in many other churches (Those special people may include people like the youth pastor, or deacons (which is a position which is typically accorded greater prestige in other churches), or the church elders, etc, depending on the church).

Women teach church classes, both in relief society as well as to mixed groups such as sunday school, youth classes, and primary.

Women address the congregation: in prepared sermons and also in witnessing (what we call bearing our testimony) and prayers given over the pulpit.

Women hold all manner of callings, from ward librarian to Stake geneaology specialist (or whatever they call it), and everything in between.  Some of these callings involve leadership on the ward or stake level with the youth, with the women's organization of the church, the children's primary, etc.

Women who are leaders are a major component of ward councils (which meet at least monthly to make decisions and assignments that effect the good and the progress of the ward), and in this capacity they are to act and serve as one among equals.

Women are entitled to all of the blessings of temple worship and covenants, and in the temple they usually participate in ordinances alongside with, or at least parallel to, men.

In the final analysis, this friend of mine found that she could do more things as a simple member of our church than she was allowed to do as an elder in her old church. In the following video, Sheri Dew, who is president and CEO of the Church-owned Deseret Book Company, and a former counselor in the general Relief Society Presidency (that means for the whole church), explains quite eloquently the contrast between LDS women and women of other faiths when it comes to opportunities to serve and to lead in the church.

By comparison, many Christian churches are much less progressive in their treatment of women, especially those that conform to groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention (for example), which "ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service."  (Jimmy Carter, "Losing my religion for equality", National Times, July 15, 2009).  In fact it was after hearing about controversy over this question that my friend asked me the question that initially prompted me to write the attached article for my blog.

A woman who follows my facebook page (Studying The Scriptures) posted this insightful comment in response to this article (the one you are reading), and I felt that it applied so well to the subject that I needed to go back and incorporate what she said into my article (I do so with her permission).  After all, when discussing gender equality in the church, it would probably be wise to consult an actual Latter-day Saint woman on the issue.

"There is no calling greater than Mother, in my personal beliefs.   Not even the Prophet can carry and bear children.  And for those women who are unable to have children in this life; the innate characteristics of nurturing, compassion, organization and unconditional love are as powerful an influence as any calling. The General Presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary are influential, carry great responsibility and spiritual power. I do not believe there is any sexism in the organization of the Church, but I do believe there are men AND women within the Church that are selfish and do not have any idea what "Christ-like" is all about."  (Michelle Lenz)

Someday I plan to write an entry on my blog about the divide between the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ (in any age) and what I call "mormon culture" which usually bears little resemblance to actual church doctrine.  I do not deny that some mormons persist in a culture of sexism, but you will find that those that do so are acting contrary to the teachings and practices of the Church.  I think that if you will examine the evidence that I have provided below you will see that if someone is actually living according to the Gospel, and according to the teachings of prophets both ancient and modern, then they will know and understand that to place women in a 'subservient' role is to come out in bitter opposition to the truth and the will of God.

Here is where the edited and slightly shorter revised version of my blog article begins.  HERE is a link to my original article.

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