02 November 2011

Reconciling the Past and Present

As an LDS woman, I belong to a group known as the Relief Society. Like any good society, we have a president, two counselors, and a secretary. For my local group, I am the 1st Counselor. This means that I am in charge of making sure lessons get taught each Sunday.

I'm currently working on a lesson for this coming Sunday. Being that it is November, I'd tentatively planned on doing a lesson on "Thanksgiving." Lame, I know. After talking with my friend, Cinderella*, I decided to modify my lesson and title it "Being Thankful for Me!" I think too many of the women in my Church see their life as a formula, or a checklist. Then if we don't check off the items in the right order, or on some right time table, we feel frustration and like something is wrong.**

I'm in the researching stages. I could live in the research forever, those who know me understand that I just love to do the research and see where it takes me and then when the research is deemed done (it's never really done), I love talking about the research and spreading the knowledge around.

I did a preliminary search of General Conference talks for titles that seemed to fit my need. I pulled up several and made a list. Now, I'm carefully reading each and then marking it off my list. (Taking copious notes, and gleaning ideas along the way.)

I don't make any apologies for my lack of connection with the current General President*** of the Relief Society. I have never been able to make a connection with her or what she teaches us when she talks. I do have a connection to one of the counselors, but that was made independent of her talks. She's an amazing woman. I'm sure the president is as well, but I can't bring myself to like her.

In the past, we've had some great presidencies. I don't always remember their names or their teachings with clarity, but I remember feeling like they loved me and that they wanted me to know that God loved me and that our life plans were so interesting and unique that no one could have a simple checklist to mark off. Checklists don't exist. Not tidy ones at least...

I lamented to a friend, that I miss the leaders of the past. I cited Sister Sheri L. Dew as one that I particularly missed. I remember listening to her speak and I KNEW that I could do anything and be anything and that a checklist for my life would be a silly means to gauge my success and failures. She talked about living the Gospel, about not being ashamed to be different. She embraced being a people that were meant to stand out from the crowd. She was a progressive, forward-thinking individual....like many who taught along side her.

Our current president seems more concerned with a 1950s ideal for womanhood, than actually teaching me anything useful for MY life. She speaks to a specific demographic, and I feel left out and like I don't belong in her worldview.

I can honestly say that I had not felt that way until the last few years. I can honestly say she has greatly influenced me and my feelings of discontent. I can honestly say I will not be sad when she is released. (I do understand, that I am the only one responsible for how I feel, but she doesn't help the situation.)

How do you reconcile the past that seemed to speak of a bright and beautiful future, with a present that leaves you feeling like you're left out of that once bright and beautiful future?

*My friend, Cinderella, is the author of Cinderella's Pear. She blogs about food issues and dealing with living gluten-free, allergy-free, and the like. Check her out!

**Please note, this is not a criticism of my faith or my Church. This checklist issue is bigger than any one demographic. I guarantee you ask anybody about what they thought their life would be, they would have a list of things. Whether they accomplish their goals or not, everyone has a checklist.

***In the LDS faith, each level of leadership is mirrored up a ladder. The local level has wards, and each ward has a mirrored copy of the highest level of organization. We call that level the "General" level since it covers the whole Church. Those of us on the ground-level are often referred to as "local leaders" haha. There are several levels between the local level and the general level. Much like the Catholic organization has churches (or parishes); a dioceses (over several parishes); and so on up to the Pope.


Rick Smith said...

May I be the first to request a copy of said research upon completion..for peer-review, of course ;). Seriously agree that more needs to be done to guide women (and men) of the Church to live the life of a latter-day saint rather than meet some ridiculous context-dependent ideal. No such thing actually exists, so preaching to it only helps to confuse those who are struggling and blind those who are already part of the "choir"

Confuzzled said...

I don't know if it's the best reaction, but I tend to sort of mentally shove aside the talks I feel clearly aren't being directed at my demographic. And these days, interestingly enough, I feel as though I get more valuable and pragmatic talks about being a woman in the church from select men in the church. (Ahem, President Uchtdorft, anyone?)

Newt said...

I cannot help with your questions about being a woman in the church because to be honest I've sort of given up on that. However, I am learning actually that checklists can be good for some people some of the time (i.e. me, when I'm a mess, helps me to get myself together and think straight to make a little list for myself - haha).