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Kerry AndersonToday I’m featuring a guest post from one of the most amazing women I know – Kerry Anderson.  Kerry is a meteorologist and the mother of five children.  Oh, and the oldest of those children is me 😉  Growing up I remember being really proud of my mom as a feminist.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s in meteorology and is currently pursuing her master’s degree.  She often talked about how hard it was being the only woman in her science classes and pursuing a route that not many women took at that time.  This was certainly an inspiration to me later in life as I pursued computer programming.  I remember my mom always sticking up for women and particularly for their position within the church.  I always thought of her as being super progressive.  It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that my mom didn’t exactly fit the ultra-feminist mold.  While she worked outside the home in my younger years, she always made sure to find a schedule that would allow her to be with her children and support my dad in his church callings.  When we moved to the west coast she gave up that career and opted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Not exactly a bra-burning feminist.  However, I still think of her as a role model of a feminist in their truest form – one who is fighting for women’s opportunities, recognition of women’s abilities to contribute and, women’s place in society, particularly in the most feminine role of all – that of a mother.  She shared this essay with me and I thought it was brilliant, so I asked for her permission to post it on my blog.  Enjoy 🙂

Peaceful agitation?

As General Conference approaches there seems to be a lot of talk about the Ordain Women Movement.  A friend told me that she has been reading blogs from other LDS women that discuss the movement and the list of privileges that they know are being withheld from LDS women.   She seemed restless and agitated and wanted my opinion on whether it was worthwhile reading them.  Many in the movement say that they are “agitating peacefully” but it has been my experience that agitating does not bring peace.

As she commented on how she felt it made me reflect on my own experience in this church as someone who has struggled with feelings that church leadership did not fully empower women.  I have attended many Young Women’s meetings where we have been told that we are daughters of a “King”.  I know that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father but as a woman I yearn to hear that I am a daughter of a “Queen” and to have a Heavenly female role model.  In my search for greater understanding of the female role I have spent time reading papers written by others who were agitating for change.  The more I read the more certain I was that the prevailing view of the female role in the LDS church was not fully enlightened and that there were more privileges and powers available to women.  This caused me to feel agitated and frustrated with my current status.  At the same time my husband and I were increasingly called to positions of greater responsibility within the church.  I came to a point that I was so frustrated and agitated that I no longer thought that I could continue attending.

This was a very private and difficult struggle.  While going through this a family member mentioned something that made me stop and think.  They related an experience where someone else was struggling with a different doctrine and that they had been told that “Heavenly Father would never create a doctrine to make us unhappy.”  At this point in my life I felt conflicted and unhappy.  The more I read and dwelt on the supposed injustices the more unhappy I felt.  I decided to listen to this piece of advice and to act in faith and start believing that by fulfilling my role as a wife, mother and woman in this church that I could be happy.  I laid aside the literature that I was reading and got back to focusing on scripture reading and serving.

As I acted in faith and stopped agitating I have found the most profound happiness.  I have actively sought to find understanding of my role by attending the temple, praying and trusting in my Heavenly Father and my church leaders.  Instead of reading and finding faults, I recognize that our church has imperfections because the church is led and built by humans. I know I haven’t always got it right when I have been called to lead.  But with compassion and humility we can listen to one another and build together.

My husband has a poem that he learned on his mission that has made me think about how criticism of church leadership can hurt our church.

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a side wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
Men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles do I try to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Shaping my deeds with a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?

I am grateful for the privilege of being a part of “Building” the Kingdom of God.  I live at a time where I have access to the exalting ordinances of the Priesthood through the Temple. My ancestors did not have that privilege.  I want to spend my time building this Kingdom rather than tearing down this church.  There is so much work to do and as I work I find greater peace and joy.  Having complete faith and supporting church leadership has brought me that joy.

Do I still think and feel that there is more to be revealed about the role of women in the eternities? Absolutely.  But what I have found is that I have gained a greater understanding about those roles as I have fully participated in Temple Ordinances and as I have faith that the Lord would never create an organization that would make me unhappy. I pray for the day that we will have a greater understanding of the female role in the Eternities. What I have found though is that agitation and criticism of church leaders brings me discontent and unhappiness. Conversely I have found that prayer, focused effort on building the Kingdom of God and temple attendance have a greater ability to bring change. I want to be known as one who has spent my time and energy here on this earth building the Kingdom of God not one who did anything to tear it down.