Quick followup thought on General Conference

I’ll write more on this later in the week when the official remarks are published, but I think that Elder Dallin H. Oaks talk from General Priesthood Session on Saturday night with well worth some brief comments.

As I was following conference on Twitter (in all honesty, General Conference is pretty much the only time I ever use Twitter) and I was disappointed in the responses that his talk seemed to be generating.

The first group were predominately men, and in general the comments were: “Boom! #ElderOaks just schools #Ordainwomen, #dropsmic”  This, in my opinion, totally mischaracterizes his talk, and is a completely inappropriate way to deal with members of the church who have publicly stated that feel marginalized and misunderstood.  The reality is that this talk schools all of us.  This talk took existing information and presented it in a way that reiterates what the priesthood is, while opening our eyes to a grander vision of the potential for the priesthood in our church and lives.

The second group were supporters of Ordain Women who seemed to quickly dismiss his remarks thinking he was digging in and arguing for the status quo (although, I’ve noticed this morning that many seem to have stepped back from that). This talk was not about maintaining the status quo, if anything it was laying the groundwork for a changes and shifts that are likely coming.

I think that Elder Oaks talk should come as an assurance to those women who feel marginalized and underutilized in the Church.  It shows that those in positions of control are thinking about this issue and discussing it at depth.  I expect this is the first of many talks that will trigger a paradigm shift (I know, I know, it’s a cliched buzzword, but I couldn’t find an adequate synonym) in how we as a Church look at the priesthood and the roles women fulfill through their priesthood authority.  I believe we will discover that through priesthood keys there are a great many roles that women can fulfill when that authority is delegated to them.  This talk certainly justifies an expansion of areas where women can fulfill priesthood opportunities.  I think this list of considerations is a good place to start.

I know that the Lord cares about each and every one of us, especially those who sit in our pews and silently feel ostracized either by ideology or socialization.  Our church structure and culture are NOT perfect.  Our organization is simply the best that His chosen servants have come up with based on guidelines in the scriptures coupled with ongoing revelation.  Our culture is comprised of imperfect people, so of course it is imperfect.  I think that changes will come in a manner the Lord sees fit, and will probably look very different from many people’s expectations.  It will probably happen too slow for some and too fast for others, but the result will be a church that operates in a more Celestial manner in relation to the roles of men and women.

I hope to be able to delve in more deeply when the talk is published later this week.

 

The blessing to me, that was blessing my daughter.

I read something this morning that pierced my soul when I read it.  It literally caused my heart to race and my hands to begin to tremble.  This emotional reaction came on so suddenly and strongly that my cognitive processes were unable to keep up and I didn’t immediately know why this short paragraph had effected me so dramatically.  To put this feeling into context, it was basically a mini-panic attack.  Now, being a advocate for mindfulness, I recognized that I needed to process this experience and get to the root cause of why I felt so attacked by what I read.  So, here is what I learned about myself through my internal reflection.

I’ll start with what triggered this.  It was a testimonial from a man named Adam on the Ordain Women website that was shared on Facebook.  Here is the link, but I’ll also share Adam’s entire testimonial here:

About three years ago I remember standing in a circle, surrounded by men (some important to me, some not so much). We were about to take part in one of the more significant events of a child’s life. In this instance, that child happened to be my own. I remember looking straight ahead through a gap between my uncle in-law and an old friend of mine, who more or less invited himself into the circle. What I saw was a face that stared back at me with a handful of emotions painted on it. Admiration, appreciation, a sense of parental pride, perhaps. Yet there she was, sitting on a bench, a mere spectator. Some of the men in the circle couldn’t tell you the full name of my infant, let alone did they sacrifice their bodies to keep her alive for 9 months. And they certainly had never spent one sleepless night ensuring the comfort of my little girl, amidst incessant cries. I remember thinking, “Something isn’t right here. She should be the one to do this.”

This is simply a small example among countless others that make it crystal clear to me.

I believe women should be ordained.

Now, in full disclosure I am not a supporter of the Ordain Women movement, but I am not a detractor either.  I do think there are equality issues within the Church and culture that need to be addressed, and I think that this movement is shining a light on areas of inequality.  However, my own personal opinion is to have patience with the Lord’s revelatory process and look at the way the system now works and search for the good that exists because of the current sex-segregated priesthood system while not putting blinders on to any gross inequalities and injustices.

Back to Adam’s story though and my personal reaction to it.  As I came to grips with my immediate emotional response, I began to realize that I reacted so strongly to this story because had my wife blessed our first daughter instead of me, irreparable damage may have happened to my family.  Not some imaginary damage, but real, lasting, devastating damage that may have ended my relationship with my wife and daughter.  The fact that I was able to bless my daughter provided me with a measure of protection from forces that were trying to destroy me shortly after my daughter was born.

One seriously under-reported mental health problem among men is male-postpartum depression and anxiety.  I came down with this very swiftly and severely following my daughter’s birth.  Even though I had been through battles with depression prior to this, this time it hit so quickly and so unexpectedly I couldn’t even consider disclosing what I was going through to anyone.  My internal thoughts and my supposed implications of becoming depressed right after the birth of my first-born were too horrific to let anyone who could have helped me know what was going on in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.  I kept a smiling face publicly, but within myself was a torment too great to put into words.  Too often, the only balm that I felt could have ended my torment was to run, to leave me wife and daughter; after all, if this was how bad I felt simply because my daughter had been born, what good was I to them?

Yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom has decreed that fathers should bless their children.  So, in the midst of being racked in my mind with continual torment, I knew that on an upcoming Sunday I would need to stand before a congregation of fellow members, my family, and my wife and allow myself to be a vessel of the Lord and a conduit for revelation.  I needed to spend time in prayer and fasting so I could be the person who the Lord, my daughter, and my wife needed me to be when that blessing was given, and that’s what happened.  Giving my daughter her blessing connected her to me, it renewed within me a strength and commitment to her and to her mother.  Now it was not a complete fix, I did eventually need both therapy and medication to overcome this challenge, but the act of giving my daughter a blessing was a great protection.  It was the first step of many that saved my family from the brink of destruction.

Let me conclude my remarks by speaking directly to you, Adam.  Do not discount your role in the rearing of your child and the importance of the fact that YOU were the person responsible for his/her blessing.  Yes, your wife sacrificed 9 months and the health of her body to bring this child into the world, and she will continue to sacrifice for the care and well-being of this child, but those 9 months also gave her a 9 month advantage in getting to know your child and his/her personality.  As a father, you need every opportunity given to you to connect to your children and understand them, and still you will never catch up with your wife in being able to sense when something is wrong, when they need help, and how to succor and care for them.  She had 9 months of pregnancy followed my months of breastfeeding and cuddling.  You need your time too to get to know this child, and the blessing is a wonderful opportunity to do so.  It is a few minutes where if you can prepare yourself, you can feel the touch of revelation and see the same potential in this child that Heavenly Father does.  These are revelations your wife has likely already received during her months of pregnancy and her first moments with her newborn.

If you feel your wife was a mere spectator during the blessing, take corrective action when your next child is born or during future ordinances.  Be more selective and intentional about who is in the circle beforehand.  Have a family gathering before the service with all invited members of the circle and have your wife offer a prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide your words in the blessing.  In your prayer as a couple the night before, as your wife to say that prayer and ask her to seek for things in that prayer that you ought to include in your blessing the next morning.  Go out of your way to include your wife in this blessing within the Lord’s guidelines as we currently understand them.

I simply want to share that in this specific regard I hope that the Child’s Blessing remains the father’s responsibility.  It was a necessary and protective blessing to me in my family, because if I had witnessed my wife blessing our daughter when I felt so disconnected to this newborn, I may have given in to the horrific thoughts in my mind to take off because clearly my wife wouldn’t have needed me.  She had carried her, she had delivered her, she was now feeding and caring for her.  If she had also blessed her, that what good was I?  I hate to think what I might have done if I can succumbed to such thoughts.  I hope that as we pursue opportunities to increase women’s equality in the Church, we do not eliminate traditions that bring blessings to fathers in our relationships with our children.  This goes so far beyond and deeper than the “women have children; men have the priesthood” platitude, this is about advocating an equality in the father/child and the mother/child relationship.  Something that is vital for both fathers and children.