Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm a Mormon- And I'm Staying That Way

So I haven't written in forever, which is bad. Shame on me. I wish I had a good reason, but I really just have the lame excuse that I've been too "busy" which really means I've been lazy. There are a lot of topics I've wanted to write about recently- the terrorism attacks in Paris, the wide (and ignorant) acceptance of pornography in our culture today, and of course, the Church's stand on children of LGBT couples (and children of those couples) joining the church.

I'm sure by now you've heard that last Sunday thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally resigned from the church in protest of it's policy on LGBT marriages. According to Handbook 1, a handbook that is given to church leaders that outlines the policies of the church, children of LGBT couples will not be allowed to join the church until they have reached the legal adult age determined by their country.

First of all, this isn't old news. The belief that same-sex marriage is a sin has always been known in the LDS church. I don't want to get on that topic right now though. I have heard every reason why we are terrible people for not agreeing with same-sex marriage. The bottom line is that we believe it is a sin, it has always been a sin, and God does not change His mind about sins. I have heard people say the Bible talks about certain policies that are outdated now- of course I don't want to stone people, for example. But God did not say we had to stone people if they committed a sin. That was simply a custom of the day. You have to separate customs from commandments. I have heard people say "Well, God said adultery was a sin in the Bible, and that's not true now." Are you kidding me? Of course cheating on your spouse is a sin. How could you possibly think that having sex with someone other than your spouse, the person you vowed to love and cherish and respect for the rest of your life, is OK? I have heard that because we believe gay marriage is a sin, it means we hate every LGBT person on the planet and think they will burn in Hell. Absolutely not true. Just because someone doesn't believe the same things as you doesn't mean they hate you. Don't tell me you've never disagreed with someone before. Does it mean you never speak to them again? God told us to love everyone, and that is what we believe. Tolerance vs. Acceptance. We will love you as a person, but we cannot accept your sin. One of my friends in middle school was gay, and he was one of the nicest, most uplifting people I have ever met. I have seen countless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the media do incredible things. They have been inspirations for others struggling with their sexuality. I am never one to complain for a little more happiness in this world. But this does not mean I will change my beliefs.

I could go on and on, but honestly, if you think Mormons are terrible people for not agreeing with gay marriage, you're not going to change your mind anytime soon. No matter what I say.

What I really wanted to talk about was the church's policy. People are furious that the LDS church will deny children their right to join. But what people are forgetting to mention is that this is honestly for the good of the entire family involved. Joining the LDS church is a HUGE commitment. (If you are or have been a member, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, don't try to argue until you have.) I have visited several other churches before. I have friends who are part of many different religions. We are not like them. Not to say we are better or worse, but simply we are different. Here is an outline of what it is like to be a member of the LDS church: (On a side note, I have absolutely nothing against these policies. I just want to give everyone a very real idea of what being a member of the church is like.)

1. No one is paid. Every single thing done in the church on a local level is on a volunteer basis. We actually pay the church (10% of all our income is donated in tithing). Not the people, the church.

2. The time commitment is very intense. Leaders of the church spend hours and hours of their personal time preparing lessons, conducting interviews, visiting the sick and needy, attending church meetings, attending church functions, doing paperwork, and much, much more. This is all on top of their full-time job, their family life, and their personal extracurricular activities. My dad was the bishop of two of my wards for ten years total. That meant he was the leader of about 250 people in my area, and he did everything I mentioned above and more. It was like he was working two full-time jobs. Young men are strongly encouraged to serve a mission for the church at age 18 (or whatever age is appropriate for them). This mission is two years long, with limited contact with family and friends. Young women can also serve a mission if they wish, which is a year and a half long.

3. Everyone will have a calling at one point in their life. Being bishop is one of the more time-consuming callings, but even smaller ones are hard. I have been in the presidency of my young women's group several times and in charge of activities while I was attending church at college. It is a big deal. You often have weekly meetings, monthly activities (or more frequent), phone calls to make, people to visit, supplies to buy, and more.

4. Even if you don't have a calling, the time commitment is still intense. Church is three hours long every Sunday. If you are a teenager, youth night is held every week for two hours. High school students attend seminary every school day, sometimes as early as 5:30 am. General Conference is held twice a year, and it consists of ten hours of talks to watch. Institutes and other scripture studies are held weekly. Activities are usually held monthly. We are encouraged to attend the temple as often as possible. We are also encouraged to participate in service activities and welfare programs, which can take much more of our time.

5. We are held to a high standard. Members of the church are told to refrain from coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and smoking. If we are able, we do not participate in activities on Sunday that are not spiritual. This means sporting events, parties, shopping, working, and the like. We do not watch movies or T.V. shows that contain vulgarities, immorality, excessive language, nudity, etc. We do not use swear words or take the Lord's name in vain. We dress modestly, which means covering more of our body than is typical of the world today, unless swimming or competing in sporting events. (On a side note- I know everyone out there has a Mormon friend or friends who break these standards. That does not mean they are not true and should not be followed. No one is perfect. Everyone has areas in their life they can improve. I can definitely improve in following the standards, but I'm trying my best, which is what matters.) We refrain from any sexual activity before marriage, and after that only with our spouse. One of our ultimate goals is to get married in the temple, which means family members that are too young or are not members of the church will not be able to witness the marriage. My mom's parents were not able to see her sealed in the temple to my father.

6. We are made fun of. A lot. This lifestyle is not something people are used to. I have been teased and ridiculed countless times about my membership in the church.The church's beliefs and standards over the years have not changed to fit the world's changing standards. A lot of people don't like that. Currently, it's mostly the LGBT community and their supporters. Guess how many people that is? A lot. I sometimes read comments on social media that people make regarding the church. I also am often on the verge of tears after reading them because they are so hateful. People can be incredibly cruel. I have never liked it when people disagree with me, so hearing things like 'I need to go to Hell' or 'I should kill myself because I'm a member of such a terrible cult' are very painful to me. A big reason we are persecuted so much is people just don't understand everything about our church. Which makes sense, honestly. There is a lot involved and a lot to learn. You can't learn it by reading biased articles on the internet. But that doesn't make the taunts and insults any less hurtful.

Now. Picture all of this as part of a child's future. Do you really think it wouldn't be a big deal for a child of an LGBT parent to join the church? This has happened in the church before, and the result is usually the parents being overwhelmed by the demands and commitments of the church their child has joined. Remember the time commitment points? If the child is under 16, who has to drive him or her to all of these meetings and activities? It is almost impossible for parents to not be involved at least a little bit if their child is a member of the LDS church, and it can be very difficult if the parents themselves are not members. The church is honestly just trying to keep unity within the family, which is a topic we are very adamant about. An important note is that children are still free to participate in any church meetings or activities if they want to and are able to. AND there can be exceptions to the rule- it is a long process and involves First-Presidency approval, but if both the parents and the child are willing, it is possible for the child to be baptized into the church. AND once the child becomes a legal adult, he or she is free to join the church. And seriously, 18 is very young. You still have your entire life ahead of you after that. If it's that important to you, you can wait. I have heard many stories of people not being able to join until 18 because their parents wouldn't allow it. They waited, joined when able, and have never regretted their decision.

I'm sad about so many people leaving the church over this. I really am. I'm sad because I know how happy this church makes me and I am eternally grateful to have it in my life, and those people leaving are going to miss out on a lot of blessings that it offers. But besides that, I'm fine with them leaving. The bottom line of this whole situation is if you had a true testimony of the church, you wouldn't leave. It's not if you agree with gay marriage, it's if you believe Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of the church. It's not if you agree with the policy, it's if you believe the Prophet and Apostles are called of God. Because if you believe they are, you know they are not wrong. God does not make mistakes. God would not have let the church make this stance if He believed it was wrong.

It really frustrates when people say they believe in the church, but this is the last straw. I read an opinion article where a member of the church said "the cost of obedience has become too great". Seriously? Well, you might as well leave because it's not going to get any easier. It gets harder to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints every day. The world is accepting more and more things we do not believe in, and it is not going to go the other direction. But I will never leave. I know this church is true. The peace I feel every Sunday at church is very real and very powerful. I know there is a God, and I know He loves me and He loves everyone. I also know that loving someone doesn't mean you agree with everything they do. I know He loves sinners because we are all sinners. I also know that He does not tolerate sin and expects us to repent of our misdoings. I know He is a forgiving and merciful God, and He wants nothing more than for all of us to choose the right and be happy. He wants us to find true happiness and true joy. I have found that in the LDS church. People will call me brainwashed and crazy, but I know the church is true. I can't deny the spirit I feel. I can't deny the comfort I get from saying my prayers. I can't deny how happy I am about life, even though terrible things are happening in the world. I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. I know Heavenly Father still speaks to His children, we just have to be willing to listen. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I will never deny that.



I you want to read more about the policy, here are some links.

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson

https://www.lds.org/church/news/elder-christofferson-says-handbook-changes-regarding-same-sex-marriages-help-protect-children?lang=eng

https://www.lds.org/pages/church-handbook-changes?lang=eng

Almost every article I have read besides these three have skewed the church in some negative light and will not be completely accurate.   

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You Are a Beautiful Woman



 If you know me, or have at least read my "About Me" tab, you know that I love Slam Poetry. Slam Poetry is a very passionate form of poetry that is just as important verbally as it is in writing. You perform the poem out loud on a stage without any props, music, etc. I first discovered slam poetry (is it supposed to be capitalized every time?) my freshman year of high school when my English teacher, Mrs. Messick, told us we were going to have a school-wide slam poetry competition. She showed us a few sample videos and after watching "The Distance" by Danny Sherrard, I was hooked. My first few attempts were...hmm...not my best work, but I think by my junior year I finally got the hang of the style that is so unique to slam poetry. 

I think I fell in love with slam poetry because it was both in and out of my comfort zone. I have always loved to write, and I've been writing poetry for a long time. But I have never been someone who likes to get in front of people and speak. I don't think I was any less nervous performing my senior year than I was my freshman year. (One time my leg started shaking so bad in the middle of a performance that I had to physically grab it to hold it steady.) Slam poetry brought something out of me I didn't know I had- the ability to move people with words. Writing is wonderful, but you don't get to see people's reactions in the moment. Most of the time I don't want to, to be honest. But slam poetry changes that fear in me, and I love seeing how people react to my words and how I can express so clearly how I feel about something. It is really an amazing feeling.

I've been meaning to record myself performing some of my poems to put them on here, but obviously that hasn't happened yet. It will. One day. For now, here is a poem I wrote last year about the issue I am probably the most passionate about: women knowing how beautiful and wonderful they are. My last post was about this too, so you can read more about my feelings on the subject here. I just think there are too many women out there, myself included, who are too hard on themselves when it comes to looks and beauty. This poem is more powerful when performed and I will let you know when I film myself reading it, but for now I think the words will suffice.



You are a beautiful woman.

This is a poem, but that’s not a metaphor. I’m trying to convey a message, but that doesn’t make it a hyperbole.

And it’s not a simile and it’s not an analogy or an archetype or a euphemism or irony or a symbol or anything in between. It’s a fact and I just wanted to tell you.

You are a beautiful woman.

You: Pronoun, possessive, used of the person being addressed. I’m talking to you. Please listen, because you really need to hear this. I know how hard it is to believe sometimes. Everyday you are told in some way that your song isn’t quite the one they want to play. That your rhythms and tempos aren’t really ok, and that it’s never going to be a symphony if it stays that way. But you know what? Who. Cares. It’s your life, not theirs.

How many times can they change their minds? How many times can they redefine what we should bring to the table and what we should leave behind? In how many instances can Photoshop erase individualism, replacing it instead with unattainable concepts and improbable comparisons, convincing us that the only way we will ever be considered beautiful is if we look like her, if only we looked like her.  And how many times are we going to keep telling them they’re right?

You are a beautiful woman. Are: the present indicative plural and 2nd person singular of be. Be: to exist or live, to take place, to happen, to occur, to belong.

You are a beautiful woman. The beauty belongs to you, it is yours and no one else’s. Out of 7 billion, 209 million, 54 thousand, and 315 people on the earth right now, there is one and only one you.

Why would you want to be anyone else?

You aren’t her and she isn’t you, but I wish with all my heart that you knew being you is a gift. As said by one Dr. Seuss, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

You are a beautiful woman.

Beautiful: Delighting the senses or mind; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, or think about; excellent; wonderful.

You are beautiful when you smile like that, you are beautiful when you laugh until tears come to your eyes, you are beautiful when you stand up for truth among the lies, you are beautiful when you try on a new pair of jeans, you are beautiful when you follow your dreams. You are beautiful from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, and every moment in between. You are beautiful when you breathe, you are beautiful when you see, you are even beautiful when you eat. You are beautiful, and as long as you stay beautiful inside you will never stop being beautiful.

You are a beautiful woman.

Woman: The female human being. You’re not a man, and as much as I like some of them, they’re not as beautiful as you.

Twenty times today I’ve told you you’re beautiful, and it may take a hundred until you believe it, but I hope and pray that someday you do.

It’s a fact and I just wanted to tell you.

You are a beautiful woman.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reflection

I was going through some of my old assignments from my Creative Writing class I took last semester, and I came across the documents from our poetry section. For our first poem, we were told to write about an inanimate object. This is what I wrote:




Checking my reflection in the morning I expect it to be honest about what I look like.
I never question its motives or eye it suspiciously to see if it’s lying.
It has no feelings, no brain, no emotion.
So silently, day after day, it reports my appearance from the back of my bedroom door.

But I can’t help but wonder if the whole truth is being represented.

I know it’s science and all, but
how accurate can a piece of glass be to expressing
the longing I have to become something great?

Can a silver coating show the fire in my eyes
as I tell them to stop picking on the girl who sits alone in the hallway?
Can it catch every sparkle that dances across my pupils
when I hold the puppy we just took home?

It cannot cry with me as I mourn for my friend, it cannot laugh until its stomach aches from the pure joy felt around the best of company, it cannot hope, fantasize, smile, frown, giggle, wince, or scream.

It has no feeling, yet it is expected to show me all of mine.

Broken can be fixed, but being misrepresented in a single moment can never be redone
so what are seven years to an eternity of thinking I’m one thing,
but never actually seeing what everyone else gets to see?



It's definitely not my favorite poem I've ever written, but I'm sharing it because I like the message. (I know, that's super vain, right? I had such a brilliant thought about how we perceive ourselves and since I'm so mature I thought you all needed to learn from my wisdom. Hopefully that's not what it sounds like. Usually when I like an 'idea' of mine it's because other people have shared that idea over and over again and I just finally got it.) 

Anyways, I think the poem is pretty straightforward, but basically I was talking about how we can't judge ourselves by what we see in the mirror. Our reflection is just one tiny piece of who we are. With running the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, what's inside us really does matter so much more. Think about someone in your life you really admire. Do physical flaws ever come to mind when they pop into your head? No. (If they do, there's another lesson you need to learn here.) You don't care if they have acne or crooked teeth or frizzy hair, and those are things you probably wouldn't notice on any random person who you saw. So why do you expect every person you pass to notice every little flaw you see in yourself? We are so hard on ourselves, so critical of our appearances that we can ruin our entire day before we even leave the house. 

My point is: Don't judge yourself by what you see in the mirror. Your physical features are literally only skin deep, and while those "flaws" are really what make you unique and beautiful, please please please don't think they are what defines you. 

When I was in middle school, and even early high school, I would look at myself in the mirror every single morning and immediately begin critiquing myself. My acne is so gross. People probably think I never wash my face. These braces look terrible. My nose is too big. I wish my stomach was flatter. My ears stick out too much. My hair is always frizzy. Other girls don't look like this. And it went on and on. And everyday for those years of my life I left the house wishing I looked other than the way I did. How sad is that??? Do you know how much more fun I would have had if I had learned to love myself? I mean, I have some really great memories from that time in my life because I grew up with an amazing group of friends and an awesome family, but honestly I have about the same amount of memories that involve me trying to be someone I wasn't. 
I am by no means perfect at this right now. I still find myself critiquing my figure or my face at least once or twice a day. But the difference I've found in my happiness is that now I stop myself when I'm doing it. I think as a woman in today's society, there is no way we can go a full day without finding someone "prettier, thinner, or more athletic" to compare ourselves to. But we can stop those comparisons as soon as they start. That has made SUCH a huge difference for me. I can't stress enough how much happier and more relaxed I am now that I've decided that I might not be perfect, but I'm doing my best and I'm beautiful for that reason alone. 

This is a much longer post than I had intended, and I hope I haven't bored anyone to death at this point. I've honestly had a pretty easy life, so there aren't many big issues that I can relate to, like bullying, abuse, or depression, so it's hard for me to feel justified writing about them. But body image, especially in teenage girls, is one thing I absolutely can relate to and I know how much it can affect people, so it's something I am very passionate about. You are so beautiful and so special. Please don't let a mirror define you. There is so much of you that a mirror will never be able to reflect, and those are the things that make you who you are. 

I know I'm not a qualified counselor or anything, but if you or anyone you know is struggling with body image, I am always willing and available to talk about it. You can message me, comment on this post, Facebook me, email me, whatever. Sometimes talking is all you need to feel better.
 

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Am I Doing With My Life?

You know, I get really frustrated with myself every time I look at this blog. What am I doing? No one is reading it. No one is getting anything out of it. No one cares, Anne.

I find myself, especially at this point in my life, thinking like this a lot. I am 20, and if you're 20 now or you've ever been 20, I think you'll understand what a crazy time of life it is. Some of the most important decisions of our lives are being made right now or will be in the next few years: Where to go to school, what to study, where to work, who to marry, where to live...the list goes on.

I think the hardest part for me is finding the balance between wanting to just get somewhere in life, but first figuring out exactly where that is.

As I mentioned a while ago, I'm taking some time off of school to travel and volunteer. I am incredibly excited and I know it's a really great thing for me to do, but as I see all my friends head off to school again, I can't help but feel a little lazy. (The fact that I can't find a decent job right now and am currently unemployed is a significant factor in those feelings, but still.) I'm taking an entire year off of school- is that a good idea? It's going to put me a whole year behind where I could be. I'm so lazy. Right now I am sitting on my bed in my sweatpants, cuddling with my cat and writing this post.

 
I wasn't kidding. Anyways...don't you think I could be doing something better with my time? (And so the thoughts go.)

At least that's what I keep telling myself. And you know what, it's not really motivating me. If anything, it's making me feel worse about myself. All I want to do now is keep cuddling with my cat and turn on "Criminal Minds" and eat the brownies my mom made yesterday. So, after much thought, deliberation, and conversations with other friends (I'm looking at you Anne V.), here's the conclusion I've come to:


Don't think you need to have your whole life planned out before you start living it. 

Yes, I am taking a year off of school. But you know what? I'm teaching English to underprivileged children, I'm gaining valuable experience I can use later in my career, and I'm beginning to fulfill and life-long dream of traveling the world! I think that's worth it, right? 

You may look at my situation and think I have no reason to complain or beat myself up. But if you're my age and feel a little nervous or uneasy about a decision you're making, take a moment to really think about it. Are you taking a risk that could result in a worthwhile reward? Are you doing something that is going to make you a better person? Are you taking steps to live your dream? When you look back a year from now, are you going to be happy you did this or mad that you didn't even try?

No matter your age, don't be afraid to do something with your life. Take risks. Challenge yourself. Be OK with failing. I am probably the worst person to attest to that because I absolutely hate failure, but I know it's true. Life is an amazing adventure and we only have so long to live it. So live it!