Friday, October 19, 2012

Unknowable God

I've been having a conversation with a friend, started by All Are Alike Unto God. The conversation has gone all over the place, and recently hit on the notion of eternal gender. My friend had this to say about it: "But, I do believe that our spirit's gender is what it has always been. Can our body's sex be different than our spirit's gender? Would God allow a spirit woman to be born in a man's body? I would doubt it."

That struck me as a very strange statement, reminiscent of a statement made by Boyd Packer about gay people. He said that a loving God would never create a gay person. (This statement was removed from the official version of the talk.) Both of these men seem very sure they know the mind of God. Both are convinced that God would never do something they do not understand.

These men can accept that a loving God would create a child with a disability so severe they cannot walk, speak, eat or take care of themselves. They can accept a loving God would create a person with cancer, would allow people to be born into war zones and famines, would allow children to be born from rapes and addicted to drugs. All of this is okay for a loving God to do, but someone who is gay or someone who feels that they are a different sex then their body is not something God would do.

I realized that this has nothing to do with the love of God, but the need to make God make sense. I'm having flashes to the Joker in the Dark Knight (go with me on this) when he tells Dent that people can accept all kinds of horrible things as long as it is part of a plan they understand. Mormons have been taught that disease and tragedy is part of God's plan, so they accept that a loving God can allow these things to happen. But homosexuality and transgender are not a part of their plan, so in their minds God could not have been involved. So God becomes an excuse for their own belief system, rather than something outside of themselves. And since they define God, their God tells them that their opinions are doctrine. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I understand the need to explain God, to claim to know God's mind. It's a way to make the world make sense. If we know exactly who God is, that makes the world simpler; we can know exactly what we are supposed to do in any given situation. I don't begrudge anyone that desire, or the desire to provide knowledge of God to others. But I've found that the more I try to define God, the less divine God is. If God can be broken down into a list of do's and don'ts, God feels less like God.

While reading She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson, her discussion of the Trinity spoke to me. The Trinity is a concept many Mormons struggle with, even mock, because it cannot be easily explained. They laugh or shrug because it doesn't make easy sense, while their God does. But Johnson believes is that the lack of clarity is the point. God in unknowable, that is what makes God divine. God cannot, and should not, be easy to explain or God would cease to be God. The Trinity serves that purpose. It makes God difficult to define so that we don't fall into the trap of thinking we now the mind of God.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

This is Not a Triumph for Mormon Feminists

Yesterday the LDS church made a big announcement in General Conference. The age of LDS missionaries has been lowered. Men can serve at 18 and women at 19. While this is an interesting change, many in the bloggernacle are treating it as a triumph for Mormon feminists. I see how they can see it that way, I can't. I can't see this as anything but another slap in the face to Mormon women.

The problem that many Mormon feminists had with the previous missionary set up was that there was an age gap for no apparent reason, and well as a difference in length of time served, again for not apparent reason. Both of these differences still exist. Women are still serving at a different age than men and for a different length of time. That status quo has not changed at all.

The reason given for this change was that it would make getting an education easier. In many places, you cannot start school than leave for two years or eighteen months. You lose credits, your place in school and even your chance to attend school in some cases. When men left at 19, they had a year to either screw around in school or waste time before going on a mission because they couldn't or didn't want to start school. Now, they wont' have that year, and will be able to start school easily when they return if they wish. Now it's the sisters who get put in that position. They are the ones whose education is in jeopardy just as the men's used to be.  So it's not okay for men to hang around or mess up their education, but it's fine that the women have to do that. How is that any kind of equality?

What makes this worse to me is the fact that church leaders had a chance to make things right. They had a chance to prove that they do in fact value women in the same way the value men. And the intentionally chose to keep the status quo to keep men and women different. It would have been so easy to make the age the same in this instance, but they CHOSE not to. The pain of this is incredible for me It's not just old policy or unexamined tradition. It is a deliberate choice in brand new policy.

I"m tired of this. I'm tired of this church not giving a crap about the women who are members. I'm tired of fighting and hoping for change just to have garbage like this happen. To me this is not a step forward; it is proof that the church does not think women are as good as men and has no intention of making changes to give women more of a voice.