Monday, June 23, 2014

The Glory of God

he first time I ever saw this painting by Alfons Mucha, it was a very small icon and I thought "The Morning Star" was of a woman holding a book. The image spoke to me. It whispered the phrase I heard growing up in my Mormon household, "The glory of God is intelligence." A phrase which appears on the walls of Mormon temples where the secrets of heaven are revealed, a phrase which is written on the doors of universities, the entrance to the secrets of earth and the universe, a phrase written upon my heart. I jokingly tell my parents that the way I turned out is all their fault. I think that most of the time they don't find it as amusing as I do. But I really do look up to and admire them. My dad attended school where he earned an MBA and a JD while providing for his wife and two young girls. My mom always took an interest in my schooling and often helped me with my homework (sometimes doing it all by herself! I remember one beautifully written paper declaring freedom from the summer heat which my junior english teacher hailed as "perfect"). She took my education on as her job for two years in middle school. She still enjoys learning about anatomy, art, religion and more. During my teenage and early college years, I loved talking with them both about religion, politics, and economics. And then I changed. They didn't. They've been the same kind and supportive people who love learning as much as I do. Sometimes I forget that. I just stopped agreeing with their ideas on religion, politics, and even economics. I changed. They didn't. I focus on the things that they don't agree with me about. (I really am a narcissist.) I forget all the things on which I do still agree with them. Shame on me. We all still believe the glory of god is intelligence. We all still agree the kindness and love are what Jesus taught. We all still agree family is important and even the fundamental unit of society. We all still agree that my kids are the cutest and best of all their grandkids. And really, that's the most important.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My name is Charmaine and I am a Mormon...

Mormon by heritage and culture, but not belief. Make no mistake that this opinion is coming from one who does not believe nor practice Mormonism. With that said, I am so incredibly disappointed with the religion of my heritage. I spent many years reciting a theme that included beautiful values that I have carried into adulthood and even out of religion. These values have stuck with me because they are good and valuable and universal.

Faith. I no longer have faith in a god I can't see and don't feel, but I do have faith in the beauty of humankind. I have faith that within each and every person there is a bit of divinity. That human beings can be astonishingly kind and creative and just beautiful.

I was also taught about the divine nature and the individual worth of all of "God's creations" which is why I still believe in that divinity in everyone. It's also why I try to implement in myself and my kids a respect for all of creation, because whether God created this universe or it's an evolution of elements, it is still glorious and beautiful to behold.

"The glory of God is intelligence." A statement written on the walls of Mormon temples. Knowledge and learning are important and valued. I grew up in an area where some of the best and most interesting Sunday School teachers were women. When I started college, I fell in love with learning. When I took my first religion class in a secular setting, I finally knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be like those teachers at church, Jacque Awerkamp, Vanis Bartlett, LeIsle Jacobson, Ravae Johnson, Cathy Chamberlain, and many more. I wanted to be a scriptorian. I never served a mission for the church, but I studied as hard and often as any missionary. And that same zeal as continued. Intelligence and knowledge and learning are just as glorious as they ever were. I still want to become like god, except now it's the gods of learning and science and logic and reason.

Choice and accountability. What a good lesson to each all young people. Every one makes choices and there are consequences to all our choices. I have spoken in the past about our little family's reminder of the weight of our choices - the scale of good and bad. Where do I put my choices? Are they contributing to good and beauty or not?

Good works. Service. Helping others. That's one thing that I actually miss about my church attendance and participation - the weekly opportunities for service, whether it's teaching sunday school to teenagers or working with young girls on activities. Now I have to look a little harder and be a little more conscious about opportunities to serve.

And finally integrity. My greatest fulfillment comes from being authentic, from living an authentic life without pretense. I'm not perfect at it, but it feels great to be authentic - to be a person of integrity. And it's also the reason why I have been open and honest with my family and friends about my disaffection and disbelief with the church. It's also why I have written 2 different blog posts about this subject but did not publish them.

I have heard my whole entire that "the church is true and perfect, the members aren't." But the thing is... you can tell a tree by its fruit. Since I have questioned and subsequently left the church I have had some beautiful and loving interactions with members of the church, most of my family and friends have been loving and accepting. Right before I decided I was done, I met with Elder Child - a general leader. He was kind and compassionate and when I told him my questions, he was honest and loving and took time to express his feelings. But I have also heard some the most hateful and mean things from members of this church - some family and friends and even from the very highest of general leaders. Which leads me to what is happening right now. John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, and Rock Waterman, all members of the church with varying degrees of belief and activity, were facing church discipline and possible excommunication from the church for what is being called apostasy. John's leaders have downgraded from a church court for apostasy to a meeting with leaders to discuss options and feelings. But I don't want to take the time to speak about all of them; I will take a moment to speak about Ms Kelly, because for me, hers is the most disgusting and appalling of the three.

Kate Kelly is an active and believing Mormon. She believes all the truth claims of the church and has never spoken ill of the church's rocky history or even of its leaders, all she has done is founded the Ordain Women movement, which asks that the church leadership ask god in faith to extend the priesthood to women. She is asking for more opportunities to serve and her bishop and stake president are threatening her with excommunication. She cannot speak up in church. She cannot so much as read a scripture in a church meeting, let alone pray or offer an opinion. She served a mission for this church and she is being silenced. I, as a Mormon in culture and heritage and even still on paper, think this is a gross abuse of power and authority. It has been stated that this is coming from her local leaders and not from the general church leadership, but Salt Lake can and should stop this. I am a nobody within this worldwide church of millions of members, but it is important to still talk about it and voice that I will stand with Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman. I don't care about my church membership or association, but they do. And Elder Uchtdorf said, there is room for everyone in this church. Prove it.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Ihave created an echo chamber for myself. I don't think it's healthy. Most of the people with whom I surround myself agree with me and validate me. It feels good. I enjoy it. But again, I don't know if it's the right way to go. I don't know if that's the way to grow. On Facebook I have unfriended or stopped following most of the people who I know don't agree with me. And I can give you all the reasons why that was the "right" thing to do. I try to avoid certain conversations with my family because they inevitably turn to fighting and crying. And I am just as guilty as anyone else when I say that it's hard to respectfully disagree with someone. We want to be validated. We want hear people who agree with us. But sometimes we need to hear people who disagree. We need to listen to other side of the argument and do so without fear or anger.

I wrote a big long post all about why I and my righteous indignation are right. And I am still upset. All those same feelings are there, but I am trying really hard to breath deep and find the strength to be humble. It's not easy, but I'm trying.

Life is Grand

This life is grand. And it's also kind of shitty. As I've gone from hardcore religious person to less than that, I've gone introspective to redefine the things in which I do believe. And this is my conclusion: I believe in people. Human beings. What it means to BE. Be human. This is a an observational belief. I observe, I make judgements, I modify, I take note, and then I hope. I hope for greatness from people - and from myself. I hope to see the divine in the way people interact with each other and with the world around them. And I hope more than anything to be able to reflect divinity myself. But sometimes... I'm the shitty one.

Once I tried to explain to my son to concept of "turn the other cheek" or karma or whatever it is that a person calls the higher law of not adding to ugliness and hate in the universe. We talked about a scale where weights are added to one side when you do something good or kind. And when you do something mean or hurtful, then weights are added to the other side.

The concept has stuck and it has been one that we have used over and over again to remind all of us to add goodness and kindness to the world. And one that I have tried to live by.

But. And here it is... I made a choice that has brought me some amazing and beautiful moments, but it hurt someone else. It hurt them a lot. And they are viciously holding on to that hurt and pain. And they are hurting other people around them because of this. And it all started with a questionable decision.

Now this is not the first questionable decision I have made, nor will it be the last. And this post was going to be a passive aggressive attack on all those who blame other people for their problems. (And even saying that is sort of passive aggressive... but I'm not perfect!) But what I really want to say is that I'm trying. And I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to the girls that I grew up with and excluded. I was stupid and oblivious. I actually really wish we could be friends now because I bet you are probably the most interesting adults.

And there is a whole long long list of apologies that I probably need to make, but those girls I grew up with... and this most recent one, are the big ones that are almost always with me.