Personal Relationships and Equality

rose at the H, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

For October at Quaker Meeting the topic for the queries was "personal relationships." Some of the questions that were offered as a catalyst for meditation:

For individuals:

Do I make my home a place of friendliness, joy, and peace, where residents and visitors feel God’s presence?

Are my sexual practices consistent with my spiritual beliefs and free of manipulation and exploitation?

What barriers keep me from responding openly and lovingly to each person?

For the Meeting community:

Do we open our thoughts, beliefs, and deep understandings to our children and others who share our lives and our hospitality?

Do we provide our children and young adults with a framework for active, ongoing participation in the Meeting?

With the polarization of the political factions in our country the past few weeks, I've found myself cynically responding to those who believe differently than I do. However a few times I was able to step away from my own dogmatism and have a conversation about the issues with another person who believed differently than me. I found that when I did this I could find a space of common ground and that it fostered tolerance and kindness between us, rather than a feeling of hostility. I am grateful for those bridge-building moments. They've buoyed me through the morass of negativity that's coming from the media right now.

I had the interesting experience of clerking a Quaker committee meeting on Sunday, where we learned about and debated the merits of the various California ballot Propositions. By happenstance the attendees of the meeting were all men who were about 20 years older than me. We had a vigorous and enjoyable discussion. I felt that everyone's opinions were valued even if we completely disagreed on many of the measures. What the attendees of that meeting probably didn't realize, was that I was totally reeling with the experience--because in a Mormon context I would never have had the opportunity or the responsibility to conduct a meeting of older men. Nor would I have asserted my opinion as one of equal weight as those of men (because all LDS men who are over the age of 12 hold the priesthood and are therefore given the role of mouthpiece for God--I'm simplifying it a bit, but my teenage son could say prayers and administer rituals that no Mormon woman ever could, at any age).

When I consider the last query above about how the Meeting offers opportunities for everyone to participate...and I think about my having led a church meeting in a manner that so clearly emphasized the equality of gender and age, I feel happy that I worship with Friends. Because equality is important to me.


Anonymous said...

This is the most beautiful thing I've read today.

Now I get to go to sleep with that image, with those thoughts, and with this resulting smile in my spirit.

Thank you.

Unknown said...

That is such an interesting perspective and epiphany experience! While I personally do not know a whole lot about either the LDS church or Quakers, it's neat to hear about the differences you have noticed between the two.

God's peace to you, sister!

Craig said...

That must be a wonderful experience. Actually feeling that you're equal and respected as an equal is an amazingly wonderful feeling, especially for anyone who has been disenfranchised or discriminated against.

Elissa Minor Rust said...

And this is exactly what led me to Quakerism after Mormonism, too.

What a beautiful post today. Thank you for this--I needed it.


Allison Easley said...

I read you daily. I agree with you just as often as I disagree, but that's why I like coming here, you're intelligent and to be quite honest, I enjoy hearing a different opinion from someone who was raised similarly to my own up bringing. That being said, I was just remarking to my friends at work how during gospel doctrine class last week, it was awesome to see a beautiful 30 something woman teaching all those people, many of them older men. I find lots of opportunity in the LDS faith for women to speak, lead and even conduct lessons and discussions. I'm sad that you never had the experience of seeing a woman teacher leading a discussion of men in your years in the church. That hasn't been my experience ever...maybe I'm fortunate?

Craig said...

It does happen that a women gets to teach a gospel doctrine class, but that is literally the extent of a woman's ability to have anything close to what a man just gets in the church. And regardless of what the woman says, she can be trumped by any male because he's got the priesthood/authority. The structure of the Mormon church (especially as viewed from the outside) is inherently sexist, as are many, many other religions. In fact, I think there are very few religions where women are 100% equal to men, and I think that is really, really sad.

jana said...

Of course women do teach men sometimes in LDS settings. But I did say "conduct meetings" and I meant that term specifically (because it connotes a certain authority). There are very few situations where a woman would _conduct_ an LDS meeting that included was all men.

But thanks for making your point in the comments--other readers have called me on this via email as well.

belleshpgrl said...

Thank you for posting those questions. Those are some of the things I need to ask myself daily. It puts things in perspective for me and helps me create a peaceful presence for myself and therefore my home.