Sunday morning I walk through the chapel doors, greeted by Brother Jones who hands me a program. I find my usual pew and sit with my children and my dad who's visiting. We hear a beautiful prelude hymn, “O My Father” being played by the organist. I open my Book of Mormon to prepare for my lesson and read through the story of Alma and the sons of Mosiah. My daughter asks me who I'm reading about, and then she asks who my favorite women in the Book of Mormon are. I struggle to think of any, but I assure her there must be some. The meeting begins, and I listen intently to the words of the opening prayer, “Our dear Father in Heaven…” ending with “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” The bishop’s first counselor, Brother Smith, stands and conducts the meeting, announcing the individuals who accepted new callings by the bishop. He announces the presence of our High Councilman, who gets up and reads a message from the men of the Stake Presidency.
We sing the hymn, “Praise to the Man” after which the bishop stands and invites 16 year old Chad Duncan to the podium, to announce that he has interviewed Chad and found him worthy to be ordained to the office of a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. Big smiles and handshakes ensue. Chad's twin sister sits in front of me with her mother, watching her brother be congratulated for his achievement.
I see Brother Harris slowly walk up the aisle, counting the number of people in attendance. My daughter asks me if she can get up and go get a drink. I tell her we don't walk around during sacrament meeting, it's not reverent. She stares at Brother Harris with a glare.
Next we sing the sacrament hymn, “O God, the Eternal Father” after which I watch as the Aaronic-priesthood-bearing boys prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament. During the quiet time of the passing of the sacrament, my father leans over my 7 year old daughter and whispers to my 11 year old son, “That’ll be YOU in a year, son, passing the sacrament and holding the priesthood so well like those boys. See how reverently they perform their sacred duty?” Proud smiles for my son while Grandpa reaches behind my daughter's head to pat him on the back.
Next comes a talk by Brother Green on the subject of fathers taken from “The Family, a Proclamation to the World.” He explains how fathers are to preside over their families using their priesthood as a sacred power to act in God’s name, which should not be taken lightly, it is That Important. He tells us all that abusing this awesome power and exercising unrighteous dominion over women and children is not pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. Men are instead supposed to use their power to help and serve others, and treat their women as if they are equal to men. As head of the household and having the holy priesthood power bestowed upon you, you men must remember you have a grave responsibility to make sure that you don’t abuse the special power you hold. You must remember that women are daughters of God. They have worth in God’s eyes, and you must always remember to grant them respect and equality and treat them as if they have worth. God has given you your sweet wife as a helpmeet and a friend, so treat her well! If you don't then you have forgotten what the Priesthood Power means! I see the bishop smile and nod. Brother Green ends his talk in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. I'm expected to say "Amen."
The next speaker teaches that if we follow God’s plan for us, we can become gods and goddesses someday over our own worlds. I find myself wondering what it means to be a goddess ~ considering I’ve never heard about my Heavenly Mother at all, beyond learning that there is one, even though we know nothing about her. But for some reason it was set up by God so I can only learn about God and only know what He is like from all the scriptures and the conference talks and doctrine that focus on just Him. I wonder to myself, does this mean that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom and become a Goddess with my husband as God, I could also be as unmentionable as our Heavenly Mother is? Will our children be taught by Him to pray to Him only and never think of me? Will they be told to worship Him in all they do, and strive to be like Jesus (if that’s how our world plays out), but not encouraged to strive to be more like my girls, who are rarely mentioned in holy scripture? Will my spirit children be taught by my husband that He is all-knowing and will be the final judge of their hearts and lives in the end?
Apparently I am supposed to strive in this life to be like Jesus. For some reason I’ve been given a male as my standard of who to emulate...why don’t I have a woman as my standard if gender differences and gender roles are truly such an important part of God's Plan?
Do the men in charge of the church honestly think that becoming an unmentionable goddess is a dream come true for women??? I stand all amazed.
I sit there contemplating this while looking at all the men sitting in their places of power over the congregation.
The meeting ends with the closing hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” followed by Brother Tallmadge saying a closing prayer to our Heavenly Father, ending in the name of Jesus Christ.
I rush to get to the nursery before parents start delivering their children into my care for the next two hours.
. . . . .
When I hear my daughter later that day telling her brother he’s lucky to be a boy, I cry.