Is evil really a test?

By JenJ

Because I just wrote a really long comment to this post at Feminist Mormon Housewives, and because I have been negligent in my duties as a BCC blogger and haven’t posted in months, I’m posting my comment here for your reading pleasure or displeasure.

Here is an excerpt from Lisa’s post:

What kind of mortal test is it for 2,500 children A DAY who get kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. So that they can be raped 45 times a day, held in cells, then die of AIDS. Die in misery and fear after living through years of torture. WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MORTAL TEST IS THIS?

It’s easy to see something like that and question God. And to wonder what possible good can come from such evil.

We are told that the problems we face in this life are for our own good and serve as trials. We like to shroud ourselves in the comfort of that belief. I think it’s true but only in a very general way. To believe otherwise is to make God the author of all evil.

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I love the gospel but hate going to church

There I said it. I finally admitted it. It has been 6 weeks or so since I’ve been to church. I’m in a new ward somewhere. So I don’t have a calling and dread going to a brand new ward where I don’t know anyone. The questions alone: ‘And who are you?’ “Are you married?” “Where are you from?” “where did you serve a mission?” “And what brought you to New York?”

It’s not just going to a new ward, I’ve always hated going to church. When I was a little kid it was 5 hours of torture (we lived and hour away), of course children find it boring. But I didn’t grow out of that, as an adult I also find myself counting the minutes until I can escape the crowded rooms with fluorescent flashing lights, screaming kids, the smiling and shaking hands. My favorite part of church is singing the hymns. I’ve been an adult now for 10 years, I use the term ‘adult’ loosely, meaning I was no longer a minor. But whenever I don’t have a calling that forces me to be at church I always stop going. I set the alarm every Saturday night but turn it off Sunday morning, promising to go next week.

I never think of myself as an ‘inactive’ but I’ve ended up on that list a few times. The first happened in college when the missionaries started coming to visit me. Just to hang out. It took awhile before I figured out they were trying to re-activate me, actually it was the day they took me out for ice cream and paid. I knew it should have happened the other way around. Then last year the branch president paid me a home visit and asked what it would take to get me back to church. I told him I needed a calling, so he gave me one.

When I begin gliding into an inactive phase, my spirituality drops. If I start swearing then I know I’ve been away too long. And everything in my life feels more difficult during these periods and my mood drops. Without fail, whenever I find myself thinking that everything is going wrong, I remember I haven’t been to church in a few weeks or months. So I drag myself back and once my attendance resumes, life gets easier and happier. I’ve now hit the point where I’m swearing and everything is falling apart. Time to go back to church. Yuck.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a strong testimony. I keep most of the commandments. But the most difficult one for me is gathering together oft at meetings. Why is that? That seems very wrong. Is it just me or does going to church stink? I know I need it, but does it have to be so painful? And so early in the morning? I do have agoraphobia and extreme difficulty waking up in the mornings which adds to my abhorrance, but that’s not the whole of it. I know I should suck it up, stop complaining and get my rear-end back to church. But does anyone else out there feel the same way I do? Is there something we can do to make church less painful? There must be something I could do to make it better for myself at least, any suggestions?

Jen J

Fear and Loathing in New York City

It’s frightening. Walking around Manhattan has become scary. There are groups of police on every corner in Midtown. Subway entrances are blocked (hope there aren’t any fires), some streets are closed off so pedestrians can’t even cross them. People are afraid and confused. Look at the view here.

Most Americans probably aren’t getting the ‘real’ news about what is happening so I want to share some links and info. More than 900 protestors were arrested on Tuesday. Check out Union Square arrest photos here. Metro buses have been turned into police vans to cart people away. Police are photographing ALL the protestors. Isn’t that illegal? I believe the ACLU is working on it but of course it’ll all be over by the time anything happens in the courts. Photos of police arrests and civil rights monitors at the library here. Can you spot the undercover biker cops here? (Hint: scroll down a few photos.) Read about this photo-blogger’s illegal arrest here. Another blogger tells her story of escaping arrest after 3 hours detention on the street here. She is more sympathetic with the police and blames the big guns for the arrests.

The blogosphere has a lot of eyewitness stories and photos of events both in and out of the RNC. For a good list of links check out The Gothamist.

Our president’s sole claim to success is his protection of our nation from terror, so why is he generating so much terror here? I imagine Osama laughing at the arrests of protesting, patriotic American citizens.

Jen J

Liberate me! I’m repressed?

A few weeks ago, while traveling, I met an American woman with whom I had a lengthy conversation. She was in her late 50s or early 60s. She wanted to know about my work so we discussed philosophy for awhile among other things. I quite enjoyed talking to her. But later that evening I mentioned that I had met people at church who let me stay in their homes for free. She immediately asked me what church I attend. When I told her I am Mormon she was quite shocked. She asked me how I could be so educated and part of such a sexist church, thus allowing myself to be repressed. I said, “Women are encouraged to get as much education as they can and I’m not repressed.” She told me that yes, I am repressed. When I asked her how I am repressed she just said, “Well, you have to admit that you belong to a sexist church.” I said, “the church is patriarchal, yes. But that doesn’t make me repressed. How am I repressed?” Our exchange continued in this way as she got increasingly more distressed and insistent. She never explained to me in what ways I am repressed. She simply insisted that patriarchy and conservative religion necessitate my repression.

She asked me how I could be politically liberal and belong to a conservative religion. I told her there were many liberal mormons, that one could be socially and politically liberal while being religious. This is the point at which she lost control of herself. She said “How can you be so educated and a philosopher and believe in such superstitions? Yours is a superstitious religion. Are you a true believer? Do you really believe that God spoke to Joseph Smith and all of that?” I responded, “Yes, I do believe it. I’ve questioned the doctrine and studied it and don’t find it contrary to reason. So there is no conflict between my religion and my academic work.” Her face got red and she screamed, “That’s scary. I find that truly scary!” Then she stormed out of the hostel kitchen.

This whole exchange lasted about 30 minutes. Every time I challenged one of her assumptions she changed the subject instead of answering my questions. By the time she left, I found myself extremely angry and insulted. Though I kept my cool with her the whole time. I sat down at the table to finish my meal and smiled at the smirking German. Then the woman came crashing back into the kitchen saying, “The sad thing is that they are truly beautiful people, the mormons. So are most fundamentalist Christians.” I smiled at her and then walked out.

In order to resolve my anger I had to recognize that she had issues with herself, not with me. Even though I felt insulted, she really fought against her own fears. My faith threatened and scared her. At one point she mentioned that she grew up in the Church of Christ and knows what it’s like for fundamentalist women to be repressed. So at some time in her life she turned her back on her family’s traditions. The fact that an intelligent, educated, liberal woman could believe in a religion like mormonism, which she obviously equated with all fundamental Christianity, rocked her worldview. She must hold a fundamental belief that religion is only for the ignorant women. Once I realized this, my anger turned to sadness for her.

There are at least two issues for discussion here. Are Mormon women repressed? And if so, then in what ways? I don’t feel repressed but maybe, as the woman insisted, I am repressed and just don’t realize it. I’m also single and childless so maybe I have escaped the repression that comes with having a family. Wives and mothers, are you repressed by your families?

The other issue is the perceived conflict with intellectualism and faith/religion. This woman could not accept the existence of a religious and educated woman. She obviously absorbed the Enlightenment ideals of rationalism over ‘superstition’ or faith. Our popular culture is similarly steeped in such ideals. So, lets explain away this false conflict or justify it as a real problem or rant about it or whatever else your hearts desire.

Jennifer J

The Identity Crisis of Ulster Converts

Mormons are neither Catholic nor Protestant, so what happens to a convert in Northern Ireland, when their class, their identity, their traditions and their politics are tied to one of these two religions? It’s not easy for them as you can imagine. I went to church at the branch in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Asking around I found out most of the converts were protestants who lived in Waterside, the protestant side of the river. [Read more…]

“We could’ve really freaked her out”

For those of you experienced with budget travelling, the hostel culture should be familiar. Most dorm rooms have 4 + beds and the polite and friendly thing to do is introduce yourself to nearby bunk-mates. Introductions include obligatory answers to the following: where are you from, where have you been, where are you going, how long have you been here… and when things are really friendly bunkmates will often share tales of the things they’ve seen in town or good tours they went on. [Read more…]

It’s a small world afterall, if you’re LDS

The mormon world is very small. We’ve all had experiences of re-meeting someone from an old ward or someone who knows people in your family or who used to know your best friend, etc. [Read more…]

Temple sacredness as secrecy: Am I swine?

The Manhattan temple opens imminently and has brought many things to mind. I have yet to be endowed. Not because of worthiness issues, but lack of desire. I’m not married and did not serve a mission, so I was never in a position to ‘have to’ get endowed. [Read more…]

Articles of Faith: Commandments or Admonitions?

My mother lectured me on the phone recently. It might’ve been cute in a nostalgic way if it hadn’t annoyed me so much. What prompted this trip down childhood lane? I told her that I have no intention of ever paying my parking tickets. I now owe the city more than my car is worth. I’m basically waiting for the city to tow it so I don’t have to move it for alternate side street parking anymore. My mother found this appalling. [Read more…]

When families aren’t forever

Steve has asked me to guest blog for a bit. I think I’m supposed to be the voice of young single women in the church. I don’t think I can speak for all of them, but I have a voice. By way of introduction, my name is Jennifer, I don’t do anything special like run a magazine. I’m just trying to finish my graduate degree and I work in the primary presidency of my branch.

For my first post, I’d like to discuss the way we teach our children about families. There is an absence of material in the primary manuals for the many children who come from broken homes. This silence translates into insensitivity. My family had a lot of problems when I was growing up. My parents lived at opposite ends of the house and there was constant contention. I hated the primary song, “Families Can be Together Forever”. Some Sundays it made me cry. I didn’t want my family to be forever, not the way we were. I probably knew instinctually that our family would break up before we all died.
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