Monday, May 6, 2013

What It Means to Be a Saint

I recently read an article about partisanship in Mormon perspectives on female leadership. Like in many issues, I pride myself on taking a creative middle ground that, I believe, combines the best elements of both sides. I believe that women do need more leadership, using the power they've already been given by God, as mothers and through the endowment. Much if this leadership will come in the community, but outside the Church.

I believe that with all my heart, but that's not what it means to be a Saint.

A Saint is someone who gives their life to God. Therefore, as required by him, they must recognize the gifts, knowledge, and wisdom he provides through their friends and neighbors. In the words of Paul:

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

 3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

 14 For the body is not one member, but many.

 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Of course, the "more excellent way" is charity, the pure love of Christ, which endures forever and overcomes all things. It is this love that motivates the members of the body of Christ to be respectful of each others' gifts. I spoke of this in another post, where I wrote:
One hundred eighty-two years ago this Spring, a child of God knelt in sincere prayer to ask God a simple question, intending to do whatever he was commanded.

And Satan went berserk. That boy wrote: "immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak." Satan did everything he could to silence the boy whose testimony would enlighten tens of thousands in his lifetime. Millions have now grown because of Joseph Smith's testimony.

But God delivered Joseph! He gave the boy prophet protection from Satan, work to do, and power to do it. Soon, under the new Prophet's direction, other children of God began to be called to serve:
And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen.

The Lord never intended for one child to do his whole work. Jesus Christ leads the work and ensures that all our mistakes are made up, sooner or later. He promises that everyone can be a part of what he is doing:

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

Every person has a gift. Your gifts may include the ability to share knowledge, or to share wisdom, or to be comforting. The scriptures guarantee that you have at least one. The Lord used astronomy as a metaphor in D&C 88 and in the book of Abraham. D&C 88:44 could be describing how our gifts all complement each other in God's work:

They give light to each other in their times and in their seasons.

We all benefit from each other in different ways. I believe that some promptings are more likely to come to men, while others are more likely to come to women. The poor seem to get more revelation about taking care of each other, while the rich seem to have more light on spending their money efficiently. And the scriptures are clear that our own interests and questions have a huge impact on what revelations we get:

Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Like with Joseph Smith, Satan wants to silence each of us. Of course the light we have is incomplete, there's no way we're going to save the world on our own, but Satan wants us to believe that our gifts, ideas, and interests are irrelevant. He wants us to close our mouths. He will tell us whatever lies are necessary: that women can't be leaders, that men can't be loving, that children can't be wise. Even well-meaning people may believe some of Satan's lies and tell you to be silent. But could the Lord be any clearer?

Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness.

Yea, open your mouths and spare not, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your backs, for lo, I am with you.

Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Again, most of us know we all have limitations on our authority over others. We don't have the right to declare new commandments, to judge others' worthiness, or to become angry. We do, however, have the right to speak as we are guided by the Holy Ghost. We all have the right to ask hard questions of others, to point out important deficits in what the Lord has revealed so far, and to propose possible solutions until the Lord reveals more on the subject. We can pray with all our hearts for revelation, and we can receive it.

If we open our mouths, we can literally become like Nephi. His father, the authoritative Prophet in the story, saw a vision of a tree and an iron rod leading to it. After Lehi explained the vision to his family, Nephi desired to see the same vision.

And he did.

Nephi learned some different things from the same vision, things more applicable to his own perspective and needs. And when his brethren were arguing about what the vision meant, Nephi could explain with confidence.

I plead with you, don't wait for someone else to be Nephi (who could explain the vision so clearly), or Esther (who saved Israel by lifting up her voice), or Emma (who got us the Word of Wisdom by objecting to church leaders' tobacco use). Don't let anyone tell you that your gifts are worthless. Their light does not invalidate yours.

After all, you are a child of heavenly parents. Is there anything you can't do, if they are behind you?

One of the most sacred and powerful pieces of writing I've found recently was by Melissa Inouye, who wrote about her experiences with the recent Mormon feminist movement. Motivated by a desire to be spiritual equals with men, a minority of Mormon women have begun pushing for wider leadership and recognition. They have sponsored the "Wear Pants to Church Day," the "Let Women Pray" petition, and have written many blogs.

But it's possible for this push to go too far. I consider myself a feminist, and as such, I believe God will hold me responsible for whether I continue to be respectful of traditional female roles. Some of those traditional roles--namely, the ones in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World"--are divinely ordained.

I believe that all truth is contained and wrapped together in our Lord, Jesus Christ, as it is in our heavenly parents. Therefore, we can rely on them and on their word. We can expect the Prophet to receive any revelation necessary for what is truly right. We can exercise our faith and see miracles.

So why push someone into believing? In the stories, the greatest dragons knew that a wise tongue was more powerful than breath or claw. And we have more than wisdom: we have an Advocate in the heavens.

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