Monday, April 25, 2016

Gender in Modern Society...and Why Are We Talking About Bathrooms?!

I'm taking a few college classes right now, and one thing I've noticed is that the courses can vary greatly in quality and organization. One class will be well organized with clearly defined objectives and assignments, while another will be a clustered mess of tasks that aren't presented in a way that makes sense. I could look at the disorganized class and automatically jump to the conclusion that the subject matter doesn't makes sense and is unlearn-able because of the way the class is set up. To me, it feels like it's wrong and like I should be put in a different kind of class because of it. If I just went with what I feel, I would be inclined to drop the class, give up, and move on to something more comfortable. But...I know from experience that a disorganized class can be successfully navigated and completed. I am mature enough to realize that some of the people who set up these classes are more skilled and talented at it than others, and that sometimes I have to suffer through what feels uncomfortable to me and have to put in more effort because it doesn't agree with what I think it should be like.

I think that this whole transgender issue is kind of like my classes. I'm not discounting that there are people who truly feel that they were born into the wrong body gender-wise and I feel for their struggle, but I think that there are many who identify themselves this way because they feel like they don't fit in with society's expectations of a certain gender. It seems to me that they are like me with my classes- their experience in their body isn't making sense to them and makes them feel uncomfortable, so they think that the best option is to deny their gender and try to change it. That's awfully similar to me thinking that the class is wrong because I'm uncomfortable with how it's set up. What they (and society at large, at this point) don't realize is that just because something makes you uncomfortable, doesn't make it false or wrong. My classes aren't wrong just because the way they are administered doesn't make sense to me. The core curriculum is solid and if I push past the discomfort of the chaos, I end up learning. Couldn't the same happen to those who think they are in the wrong body? Couldn't it also be true that the core truth of their body (their biological gender) is something they can accept and learn from, even if their current experience in it isn't making much sense?

It makes me sad that our society has come to a point where even basic truths are pushed off as bigoted ideas that restrict the freedom to choose. It's not enough to accept that others feel differently than us, or have different sexual attractions. It's not even enough to let them live their life however they choose to. No, we are being forced to swallow the idea that because they feel a certain way, their feelings must be truth.

I know there are plenty of people who will disagree with me on this, but I truly believe that God created us as males or females, and He did so with purpose. That purpose is to perpetuate the human family. We need a male and a female body to create another life. That's fact. It doesn't matter if science has been able to manipulate the process to make it possible for a woman to be impregnated without intercourse with a man. The fact is that it still takes male and female contributions to create a new body. When society starts to push the idea that gender is fluid and that it's more a state of mind and feeling than one of biology, it's pushing against the entire collective human experience. None of the transgender persons would be here on this earth if their parents had followed the same path they want to choose. It's just another way Satan has found to create confusion and to try to thwart God's plan to have His children form families and multiply and replenish the earth.

I don't even pretend to understand why some people feel the way they do about their bodies, their gender, or their sexuality. I do believe that they are uncomfortable with what is considered to be "normal" gender and sexual roles, but I couldn't begin to tell you why  they feel that way. Could it be environmental? Something that has skewed hormonal balances? Is it societal, and the bombardment of messages pushing these ideas? Is it something that happened early in their childhood or teen years to push them in a certain direction? Is it just the way they've felt for as long as they can remember? I don't know the answers to these questions. What I know is that God knows, and that He understands and loves them regardless. I know that God has told us to love one another and to leave judgement to Him. And I'm happy to do that. Just quit trying to push your ideology on me. Let me believe what I believe and I'll let you believe what you believe, and we can all live our lives.

It's when these ideologies are pushed to the point that common sense is thrown out the window that I start to get upset. I cannot believe that there is serious discussion, and even court cases, about who should use which restroom. Why is this even an issue? And why is it being crammed down our throats? Here's the way I see it: if a person is truly transgender, to the point that they look the part, dress the part, and act the part, then they would naturally use the restroom that is associated with the gender they are identifying as. If a transgender woman walked into a restroom I was using, I wouldn't know it. I'm not checking under the stalls to make sure the other ladies in there have the right equipment! I'm also not generally looking to start up a conversation or have much interaction with anyone else in the restroom- I'm in there to do my business and get out. I can see where it might be a bit harder for a transgender man to use the men's restroom if they haven't completed a sex change, seeing as how it's much harder for a person with a vagina to use a urinal, but if they're fighting to have the right to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, that would be their problem. They're welcome to use the stall in the men's room. And I'm sure there are those who already do. Again, most men aren't checking out everyone else's equipment, and certainly aren't peeking under the stall to double-check that it's a biological man taking a dump rather than a transgender who finds it more comfortable to sit to urinate. So why is this issue even an issue??! It's just one more way to try to force society in general to accept the alternate lifestyles of those who want to feel more comfortable by changing the culture around them to favor them, rather than to support the God-given truth that He created us as males and females for a reason. If what they feel doesn't agree with God's plan, they can choose what to do about that, just like I can choose whether or not to believe any of God's commandments and what to do if I don't agree with Him on any of them.

Live and let live. That goes both ways. I'm not out to change, hurt, belittle, bully, or judge anyone else and I ask that they show the same consideration for me. Quit trying to change and belittle my beliefs, quit bullying to get your own way, and quit judging me, thinking that you know what I'm thinking or feeling.

Use whatever restroom you look like you should be using, just know that if you're a man who looks like a man and is using this craziness as an excuse to get in to a women's restroom...there are plenty of ladies with concealed carry permits nowadays so watch out. And to all the ladies out there- band together and actively protest this move and work together to ensure each others' safety. (And that includes transgender women.)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Christ Leads All to Do Good

Ether 4:11-12 reads "But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good. And whatsoever persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me -- that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world."

And in Galatians 5:6-7 we read: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."

I think that as we come unto Christ and seek to know His will for us, we are led to incorporate the fruits of the Spirit into our lives because Christ persuades all men to do good, and the fruits of the Spirit are the outward manifestations of that good.

If we are true followers of Christ we will have love for others, be at peace within ourselves and with those around us, be gentle, meek, and long-suffering. There are just as many ways to be good as there are ways to be bad, and thankfully Jesus has enumerated them in His word.

I am thankful for the Bible and the Book of Mormon in my life. I have learned that good is not just an outward show of behavior, but is a manifestation of my deeply held inner beliefs. I love that the scriptures give us plenty of warnings against what we shouldn't do, but also give us counsel on what we should do. After all, who wants to focus entirely on the negative in life? And how would that really help us to develop the positive? Just another proof that God is good, that He is all-knowing, and that He loves us and wants us to be not just a "good" people, but also a happy people.

I Believe in Christ, and I Am a Christian

It seems strange to me that some people feel the need to attack my religious beliefs and argue that I am not a Christian just because I don't share all the same beliefs that they do. My husband's son posts things on Facebook on a regular basis that people should beware of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses because they are all deceivers who aren't true Christians. I know it would do no good to try to point out how and why we ARE Christians, because his mind is closed to even the idea of it. Our beliefs don't fit with his comfortable vision of what Christianity is, so we must be rejected and consigned to hell for believing differently than him. That seems like an interesting take on what Jesus Himself teaches. I guess it all depends on your interpretation. I read verses like Matthew 7:14-20 (Beware of false prophets, you'll know them by their fruits, a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit, and a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit) and think about all of the really wonderful Mormon (and Jehovah's Witness) brothers and sisters whose fruits are love, kindness, selflessness, humility, and faithfulness. I think of the leaders within the Mormon church and all of the countless hours I've listened to their counsel and how not a single line of it has been anything that I would be ashamed to tell Jesus that I've been listening to. I haven't met a people more dedicated to actually living what Jesus Christ teaches, and yet somehow we aren't Christians? So what if we have some beliefs that seem strange and unbelievable to mainstream Christianity? Didn't Jesus and the apostles face the same prejudice against the "strange" religion they were preaching? Many of Jesus' own people wouldn't and couldn't accept His teachings because they didn't align with their long-held religious beliefs and customs. He said and did things that shocked non-believers and that forced His listeners to search deeply within themselves to determine whether or not they could accept Him as the Messiah, or whether the religion He was preaching was just another strange offshoot of their own "one and only true religion."

I'm not trying to convince anyone that Mormonism is true. No amount of arguing, persuasion, or "proofs" can do that. The only thing that can change someone's heart is for them to go to God with an open heart and sincerely ask about it. Not to ask "hey, God, the Mormons are all wrong, right?" but to really open themselves up to say to God "could this really be true? Are Mormons also Christians? Do you really speak to them and love them also?" It seems to me that most people whose minds are already poisoned against Mormon beliefs will never be able to look at it objectively enough to even ask those questions, much less to sit down and read the Book of Mormon and look for truth within it, or to recognize the good "fruit" that so many Mormons produce day in and day out. They can't see the love and dedication that we have for the Bible and the teachings of our Savior. And that's okay. I can respect that others don't see things the way I do. I can respect that they live their religion they way they understand it, and I can respect the fact that they worry that I'll be consigned to hell because of my beliefs. I'm okay with that. I know where I stand with God, and no amount of harassment by another human is going to undo what God has done in my life.

All I can say is: show me where I am not doing my best to live what Christ taught. Show me where my "other beliefs" have done anything to keep me from accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Show me how my study of His word has negatively influenced me and led me astray. Show me my sins and me errors...and I'll repent and ask for mercy from Jesus Christ. But don't judge me or my religion just because it's uncomfortable for you, or because you have a different way of interpreting what Jesus taught. Let's face it- if everyone agreed on what the Bible says, there would be no need for the multitude of denominations and churches that exist.

Jesus taught to love even those we saw as our enemies, so why not also love those whose beliefs differ from ours? That doesn't make me your enemy, so surely you can follow your own Savior's preaching and show mercy and love even if you can't agree with my beliefs. That's what "my" Jesus would do. What would yours do?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Blessings of Tithing

Tithing seems to be an outdated custom for most Christians nowadays. It seems that at best some consider a tithe paid if they place $20 in the collection plate or give $50 to a charity. Although these are nice gestures, they don't come close to what paying tithing really is. To understand why tithing is more than just giving what you can "afford" or what you feel like giving on any given day, it's important to look at the actual definition of tithe. Dictionary.com defines a tithe as "the tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like." So to pay tithing is actually a lot more than just a minuscule donation equal to a couple cups of coffee at Starbucks. It's a full tenth of your income. I daresay that hearing that you're supposed to give 10% of your income is shocking and hard to swallow. Who can afford to give up that much of their income nowadays?! Won't God be just as satisfied if we just do good works, give to a couple charities, and help support our local church? If only it was that painless.

But God requires sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice hits humans right where it hurts- our bank accounts. Think about how hard it is to earn the money you have, and how attached we become to it. We feel (rightfully) entitled to enjoy the fruits of our labors and balk at the idea that anyone, even God, has a right to any portion of it. But that's exactly how it is. If we step back and think about tithing not as God taking away 10% of what we have, but as us giving back only 10% of all that He has blessed us with, that amount starts to look a lot smaller. After all, we wouldn't have the other 90% to enjoy without His having given it to us in the first place!

In my personal experience, it has been amazing to pay tithing and to see the blessings that it brings. Before my husband and I became active in church we didn't give a second thought to paying tithing, or really to following very many of God's commandments. We were wanderers in this world, not understanding our true purpose or God's desires for us. When we started attending church and learning more about Heavenly Father and His plan for us, we started taking steps to get right with Him. One of those steps was starting to pay tithing. It wasn't easy. We were literally living paycheck to paycheck, with no health insurance or savings, no safety net in case of emergencies- just small paychecks and the hope that we'd have enough to pay the rent, put gas in the car, and buy some food. To think of further reducing our income by giving away 10% of it was scary. We finally made the commitment to be obedient to this commandment, though, and we found that God rewards faith. It wasn't immediate, but we could look back and see how God started guiding our finances. Somehow our income was enough to meet our basic needs, or help was offered just when we needed it. Then my husband found a better job and our income (and the amount of tithing) increased. Soon it became habit to just write out that tithing check as the first "debt" to be paid, and we didn't even miss it. We found that as we continued to pay tithing and tried to live faithfully, God blessed us with increased knowledge and wisdom. He guided us to opportunities to learn how to better manage our finances and to training that increased my husband's employability. We still struggled and it required faith to continue paying tithing from unemployment or disability checks, but God saw us through every trial and challenge. Every need was met and each time we were able to come through the bouts of unemployment or serious illness/surgery with renewed confidence that the Lord will provide.

All that God asks of us is to trust Him by giving back 10% of what He's blessed us with. Think about it- everything we have, all that we are, is because of God. We don't technically "own" anything but our self-will. He could have asked for 20, 30, even 50% of what He's given us, but He doesn't. (Heck, our government asks for more of our money than God Himself does!) I feel that it's only right to show my gratitude to God by paying our tithing. I know that what we give goes to help build up His kingdom- it helps to spread the good news of the gospel and to enable our congregation and thousands of others to meet together each Sabbath day. He takes our little tenth, combines it with many others' tenths, and turns it into a wonderful way to provide for the needs of His flock. I think about what an amazing world this could be if everyone understood the law of the tithe and followed it. It would help to root out greed, selfishness, and idolatry while increasing faith, generosity, and love. It's another of God's laws that seems contradictory- give in order to receive- but it works. He is faithful and true, and He blesses those who follow His commandments.