Saturday, March 5, 2016

In search of 'thin places' . . .

2016, thus far, has been then year of soul food for me.  I started the year with the need to focus on my head and my heart.  This has been effortless. I've let myself be drawn to what speaks to me, without judgment or fear, and the results have been awakening.  I can write more about what might motivate this strive for wholeness later, but today I just want to acknowledge a new 'category' (the lack of which I bemoaned in my last post) or 'space' for me right now.

In the past month I've read about the goings-on in the religion of my birth:  Mormonism.  I've been to some mind- and heart-filling talks at the local Community of Christ, I've watched with awe as my daughter chanted her bat mitzvah Torah portion with our Cantor, I've sat with my sisters in the home and company of Carol Lynn Pearson to discuss Mormon Feminism, and I've shared some of all of this with my own mother (this is something I would've never done before).

I find that i have been eating this stuff up like candy:  especially the more intellectual stuff.  Recently I was moved by a piece by Gina Colvin wherein she referenced Eric Weiner's concept of 'thin places' where we find 'God' vs. 'thick places' where our access to the divine is thwarted.  In a place where i can't seem to move toward conversion to Judaism, where I still connect with my Mormon sisters but do not believe a whip of the LDS doctrine . . . in my post-religious state. . . . 'thin places' is where i find the divine.  Some of these experiences have led me to this holy, thin place.  I'd like to be closer to that place if I could.  But the path is not clear, nor, I suppose, should it ever be.  The path is different for each one of us.  Discovering these thin places, for me, is where I turn my attention.

Gina Colvin, 2016.  Reflections on the New Zealand/Australia Special Conference:  Finding Mormonism's Thin Places.   Available at

Eric Weiner, 2012.  Where Heave and Earth Come Closer.  Available at

Sunday, January 10, 2016

All the things I love

I'm frustrated by my lack of 'category' right now.  Currently reading about Joseph Smith, registered for a local Mormon intellectual conference at the end of the month, organizing a secular community for the area, and - even as we speak! - participating in an online/video conference 'Intro to Judaism' class.  But I love it.  It's all food for my soul.  People, learning, and listening.  All the things I love.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Straddling two worlds and forging a new internal world all my own.

I'm back.  It's been a while.

Some things have changed.  A year ago I felt determined to convert to Reform Judaism.

Months later I found my feeling of 'home' among a group of ex/post/progressive Mormons.  This helped me with the concept of owning my personal Mormon heritage and accepting the things I loved about it while also feeling comfortable with rejecting what I dislike about the religion.  I chose to leave the church many years ago but it was a 'falling away' without much conscious thought or decision.  It felt good to find a place where I felt comfortable, felt seen.   It felt good to consciously choose this.

But it also feels good knowing what being Jewish means.  I love Judaism.

So, this was confusing.

Who am I?  Am I Mormon?  Am I an atheist?  Am I Jewish?  What is religion anyway?  What does it do?  What does it really mean to convert?  Is feeling like I belong and finding a home conversion enough?  Do I need a membership card?

All of these existential questions I've been mulling about in my mind for the past few months.  I think this probably reflects what many feel in these modern times.  As science explains much of what we used to ponder or misunderstand in the past, what purpose does religion serve for us now?

I've found myself never static with this question.  I've felt moved and morphed and stretched by my involvement in all three worlds:  the Mormon world, the Jewish world, and the secular world.   Our urge to define ourselves is sometimes strong.  But it feels too definitive.  So, I am going to keep exploring knowing that I may never come up with a perfect home.  Unless I find others out here who are also JewishMormon(Secular)Feminist.  Know any?

This year I want to experiment with living a Jewish life as much as I can.  And by this I mean a Jewish sense of time, seasons, the calendar.  Today is a new day on the 2016 calendar but, for Jews, this time of renewal and new beginnings happened months ago at Rosh Hoshanah.

To be honest, I like the Jewish new year better - it follows a period of deep reflection and fasting:  a time to really turn inward and evaluate who you are and who you want to be.  Secular New Year borrows some of that with 'resolutions', but the focus on simply shedding the past year without too much reflection doesn't appeal to me.   It's not a proper good-bye to the old self.  How can one really feel ready to move forward with the new self?

My wish is that by Rosh Hoshanah 2016 I'll be really prepared for some reflection.  I hope I can share that with you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ordain Women and the movement toward women's ordination

It's impossible to grow up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and not be schooled about the divine roles of men and women.

In 1995, the church's own proclamation to the world on the family spelled out these roles: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.  Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."  Some members of the church regard this proclamation as doctrine.

As a child of the 1970s, these roles were reiterated to me directly and indirectly at church and at home.  For one thing, although the men and women worshiped together during sacrament meeting, men went to priesthood meetings, women to relief society.  On Tuesday nights women participated in 'homemaking' nights where they learned how to bake bread, craft, parent, and many things that might help the home and family run smoothly.  As teens we were groomed for marriage while men were encouraged to prepare for their mission.

Even while sitting in sacrament meeting, it was evident to me who was in charge:  while the women played the music (my Grandmother was the organist) or sang musical selections or gave talks to the congregation, it was only men who sat at the head of the church as the church leaders.  It was the men who blessed the bread and water for sacrament.  It was the young men who passed it.

It was men who inhabited the church office after services - who counted the tithing money and maintained the church records.

There were many times that I bumped up against this gender division.  I'll save those nuggets for later.  But, let's just say that I never felt like I quite belonged.  I wouldn't say that I disagreed with what I was being taught.  I don't think I had the maturity or cognitive-emotional development to really understand my own thoughts or perspective on the matter at the time.  I just always felt uncomfortable.  And a bit sad that I didn't seem to fit in as everyone else seemed to.  The people around me seemed so comfortable with how things were.  What was wrong with me?

Many years later I stumbled across a blog 'Feminist Mormon Housewives'.  I sent an email and asked a question that I'm sure they were asked thousands of times.  How can you be feminist AND a Mormon?  (It really was a sincere question.).

Years after that I read Joanna Brooks' fabulous book 'The Book of Mormon Girl'.  I was elated and inspired that such a story existed.  She talked about joy AND despair, faith AND doubt, good AND bad!  Complexity!  What joy - complexity at last!

Then comes Ordain Women:  women with the bravery to ask the question "Can we participate as priesthood leaders too?"

I hope they can.  I hope this church is changing.  I see the culture already changing.  I wish it not so much for myself and my own satisfaction but for all the young girls in the church right now who are just like I was 30 years ago.  Let them dream bigger dreams for themselves, let them own their spiritual experiences and know that their spiritual leadership counts.  It matters so much.  It matters for all of us.

Monday, July 20, 2015

. . . and here I am . . .

Why am I here?

Why this blog?

It's either an interesting  or a mundane story, actually.  I don't quite know what to call it.

It's my life.

I guess my life is only interesting to me. . .  at times, that is.  Most of the time it's not that interesting at all.   I go through the motions of everyday existence:  work, family, gassing up the car, picking up the milk and bananas. . . I have interests, activities, and social commitments.

But, always in the background, is the issue of faith.  Of religion.  Of identity and belonging.  It's an interest, for sure.  It's a current in my life - but a quiet undercurrent.  Sometimes it carries me to new places.  Sometimes it's violent and strong.  Sometimes I can barely feel it.

At this point in my life, I'm learning to see all the moments that I've experience in church, in temple, in quaker meetings, at conferences, in conversations with family and friends, as moments that have lead in a circuitous way to where I am today.  And the current keeps moving.

Recently, I've found myself at a place I never thought I'd be:  planning a trip to Utah to meet other like-minded Mormons at a conference.   And I'm actually excited about it!   When I stopped 'being Mormon' long ago, it was because, in part, I did not see a place for me in the LDS church.  I still don't think there really is a place for me in that institution but, what's different now, is that at least I know there are people LIKE ME:  questioning, imperfect, uncomfortable with following, with rules, with order, a thinker, an 'envelope-pusher'.  That was me.  There was no place for that me.  Twenty years later have I found my tribe?

OR, is my tribe at the synagogue: where I take me kids to Hebrew school, where my son had his bar mitzvah. The synagogue with the powerful and thoughtful female rabbi and the deeply spiritual cantor with the beautiful voice;  A place founded on the ideals of true community, striving to be the best spiritual 'home' for it's members.  This was never a goal of my LDS church.

The title of my blog is Jewish Mormon Feminist.  Am I more Jewish?  More Mormon?  More Feminist.  Taking my pulse today, feminist should really come first.  But Mormon is where I've come from.  It's the language I know.  It's the language I often dislike, I admit.  Jewish was where I thought I was going:  working toward conversion but not knowing what the road map really was.  Feeling lost, feeling lonely.

I find that I have had so many thoughts (sometimes intrusive!) in my head as I learn about Judaism, about a new perspective on Mormonism.  I'm interested in them all.  There is so much to learn.  So. Much.

I've decided to start this blog to help me write down and sort out my own thoughts, feelings, and goals.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, reactions, comments on my journey too.  Welcome.