Have you ever had someone cross your path who you know has been put into your life by God?
Sue is one of those people for me.
I’ve been a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a “Mormon“) all of my life. I have been surrounded by strong, diligent people who have shared their convictions of the reality of God as a loving Father, and of a Savior who has power to heal hearts and change lives. I have heard people talk about the power of prayer. I myself am no stranger to the power of prayer and the reality of God. I have felt God’s Spirit penetrate my heart on more occasions than I can recount. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the faith I have, and for people who have helped strengthen that faith in word, deed, and quiet example.
But Sue has helped bring truth to my life in ways unlike anyone else. I’ve never felt quite the way I do when she talks about talking with – and getting answers from – God, when she testifies of His character and His love.
Perhaps it is because of where she’s been, what’s she’s been through. I don’t even know all of the details, but I know she has experienced a lot of pain in her life. When she joined the Mormon Church as an adult, she came with a lot of questions — questions that women who identify themselves as feminists might ask as they learn about (or participate in) our Church. “Why are men the ones who hold the priesthood? Why do men hold many of the leadership positions in the LDS Church?” She wondered and worried. Did God not care about, or trust, women as much as He did men? Did He think women were second-class citizens?
Even with these questions that troubled her, she continued on, diligently holding to this faith she had embraced. She had a conviction that she needed to be a member of the Church. She had spent years searching for something to fill her deep needs for meaning and purpose in life, and this Church provided many answers for her.
Still, these questions raged like fire in her mind and heart.
But rather than let them fester, she turned to God in earnestness.
Sue has shared glimpses of some of the conversations she had with God in prayer. Her pleas were raw, full of the pain and emotion that seared her soul. She held nothing back.
And God answered.
The answers didn’t come all at once. They didn’t necessarily come as she expected them to (and they weren’t always what she was expecting!). But they came.
An image of Sue that is burned into my memory is of a time she spoke (as she often does) with passionate wonder and intense gratitude. She had just related one of these tender, powerful moments when Heavenly Father distilled truth into her mind and heart, piercing the darkness she had felt. As she shared with me, she threw herself against her chair, arms and head flung back, as though she had been blown over by a strong gust of wind. She exclaimed: “How can we not have faith in such a Being as this?”
The absolute confidence she has in God is remarkable. She will often describe God as a “phenomenal Man” — perfect in His character, perfect in His love, perfect in His knowledge of us and our lives. And oh-so-desirous to free us from misperceptions and misunderstandings – distortions that keep us from understanding Him and His truths.
A part of me wishes that I could package her answers somehow for women who also have questions about how to manage that mental, emotional, and spiritual space where Mormonism and feminism may seem to irreconcilably collide.
But in the end, I realize that no human answers will be sufficient for the deepest questions and struggles that come with this journey called mortality.
My struggles are different from Sue’s, but the power of her example and conviction has left an indelible mark on my soul. Her experiences with God have strengthened my confidence in the process of prayer, and have increased my desire to seek — and find — Him.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
You can read more First Person essays here.
As a postscript to this piece, I share a link to an article that intrigued me. The article was on honesty, and how often we may be *too* honest at inappropriate times. But the author of the article, Darla Isackson, says the following:
She goes on to quote a man by the name of Michael Card, who talks about the lament as an important spiritual process, even something that is evident in the Bible (Darla Isackson adds a few examples of her own from other scriptural works as well).
Darla summarizes his words by saying that “the process of voicing our laments to the Lord is not only desirable, but necessary in order for the Lord to be able to cleanse our hearts of bad feelings, and replace them with better ones.” As we “open our hearts to the Lord and tell Him our most painful feelings, we open ourselves too to His comfort, to His guidance, to having our thoughts and feelings changed—to having the Spirit turn us away from false perceptions to light and truth.”
This is the pattern that I am learning from Sue, and I appreciated seeing it described in another place in such a solid way. I hope we can all consider being more honest with the Lord, allowing Him to help us peel away layers of doubt, fear, false perceptions, and misunderstandings. I believe that process is an important element toward mental, emotional, and spiritual progress in our journey, and a key part of developing a strong and faithful relationship with God.
When I was 14 or 15, I wondered about the role of women in the church. I decided to search the scriptures. I read every story and verse that included women. I was most impressed by the women of the New Testament. Which Mary do I love the most? I cannot tell. They are all so wonderful. But after doing this exercise I went to the Lord in prayer. I told Him about my concerns and He answered me with a warm feeling of peace. I’ve relied on that answer several more times in my life.
Just last week something I read in a lesson I was preparing for Church made me have these feelings about women in the Church again. We are commanded to pray always or always have a prayer in our hearts. I extended my question to the Lord in an informal prayer of the heart. Immediately two images entered my mind. The first was the circle of women who surrounded Christ at the crucifix. And this reminded me that the Lord knows how faithful the women of the Church are. Second was the Lord appearing to Mary in the Garden prior to His ascension to His Father. This image forced upon me the honor it was that Christ showed himself first to a woman after His resurrection. During this experience, I felt the same peace wash over me as I had when I was 14.
In the young women’s program for girls ages 12-18 in our church they recite a Young Women’s motto each Sunday. It begins, We are Daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us and we love Him. I feel that love, and it gives me the strength to go to Him when I have questions.
Beautifully said Janelle. I think because of the priesthood, many people perceive women in the church to be concidered less significant, but my experience is almost the opposite. I am made to feel equally significant and important at the very least. And the preisthood supports that. Through the teachings of the gospel, it’s easy to see that the Lord cares about his Sisters very deeply and he expects great things of us.
I feel like society puts women into two catagories: objects; here for the pleasure of man, weak, helpless, and dependent, or Feminists; proving that we can do anything a man can do, making them the enemy. In the church I feel empowered by faith. I feel my devine nature and know that the things that make me different than a man do not make me less. I know that Heavenly Father created me this way on purpose and wants me to feel significant and powerful and to use that to bless the world around me the way only a woman can.
I am also grateful that our husbands and sons are taught that 🙂