The Dissident Daughter: Truth and Havoc

Jan 21, 2008 by

I’ve had a marvelous weekend. In fact, I might call it “perfect.” It was filled with friends, family, Spirit, meditation, reading, and chocolate. Can it get better than that? There was a breathtaking moment yesterday around my kitchen table, when my children and several friends were all gathered and we were laughing. I thought to myself, “This is a moment I will remember forever. I will forever call this house blessed for the love that has manifest here.”

I am reading a book that I picked up about two years ago, but I wasn’t ready for it then. It is called “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd. She has also written “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Mermaid Chair”. Reading this book is a little like eating a pint of Haagen Daaz Chocolate Ice Cream. It is delicious and smooth, and makes me feel good.

The subtitle of the book is “A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.” She is describing the journey I have been on for the last five years. How I got where I am today is still a mystery to me, but I feel I am being led. I know there are many who still believe in the orthodoxy from which I came who would say, “Yeah, you’re being led all right. Led straight to hell.” Well, so be it. For the first time in years I am feeling like myself again.

As I have been reading all weekend I came to realize that I have purposely avoided writing about the greatest journey I’ve taken in the last year or two on this blog. I have avoided it for the very reason that the comments on one of my previous posts engendered. I don’t want people to feel I am making their choices wrong or bad, any more than I want them to feel my choices are wrong and bad.

For those of you who live outside of the Mormon community, what I am about to describe may be so foreign that you will think I am nuts. But please, if you will, read the comments on my post a few days ago where I described the salt in the coffee situation. My sweet friend John made a comment about how drinking coffee is a lifestyle. Only in a Mormon community would that be considered so. So, what I am about to write is about me, and my choices, and is in no way a criticism of John.

In the Mormon community drinking coffee is a sin. It is a sin against something called “The Word of Wisdom” which is a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith when his wife Emma complained that she was sick and tired of cleaning up after the men who missed the spittoon and got rather rowdy drunk when they came to the house. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 158) The Word of Wisdom, when it was given, was a guideline… a recommendation. However, the LDS church now makes it one the chief measurement of your worthiness to serve in the church or attend the temple. Basically, if you drink coffee, you’re going to hell (or, in fairness, you are not going to the “highest” kingdom of glory. It is a smoke-free, coffee-free, alcohol-free arena)

Now that we have established that hell is a very overheated Starbucks, let me go on to say this: Never, ever in the thirty plus years as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would I have ever imagined that I would be on the outside, much less choose to be on the outside. As Sue Monk Kidd says in her book:

I’d pursued a spiritual journey of depth and meaning, but – and this was the big realization for me – I’d done so safely within the circle of Christian orthodoxy (or in my case, the LDS Church). I would no more have veered out of that circle than a child would have purposely drawn outside the lines in her coloring book.

But I began to realize that I was translating certain doctrines in my head to fit my beliefs. I would hear stories in Sunday School about a judgmental, angry God who punished sinners and condemned them by sending trials into their lives. (I believe this is taught in most Christian Sunday Schools). I would listen, read the accompanying scripture, but in my head I was saying, “Wow, God is a God of love, but he is really angry.” It didn’t feel right to me. Then five minutes later we would hear lessons about how God is love. It was a conundrum for me.

I think one of the biggest turning points for me was reading something that one of the authorities of the LDS church had said.

While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional. Before citing examples, it is well to recognize various forms of conditional expression in the scriptures.

We have to “earn” God’s love through obedience.. through not drinking coffee or any other sin. God loves those who don’t drink coffee more than those who do. (Yes, I am belaboring a point) (And as an aside, I posted about that quote, and was called in by my Bishop for speaking “against” the brethren. That was another turning point for me.)

Well, boys and girls, I don’t buy it. Not for one second do I buy that. I believe that is a construct of a group of people who desire to create rules. Rules that say “thou shalt not pierce your ears more than once” or “thou shalt not grow thy hair out longer than your ears if you are a man”.

There are also rules that say this: “Man presides. He presides in the Church, and he presides in the home. Woman, who was second created, was first to sin.” If I cease to buy into this premise, and believe me, the Church tries to spin it in the best way it can, I’m in the wrong. I’ve been taught the entire time I was in the LDS faith that Eve was so wonderful because she chose into this life… yet, she holds no authority and her punishment for partaking of the fruit was to answer to Adam. I’ve been taught that men and women are equal in the sight of God, but God’s church only gives leadership of the Church (and I’m not talking women’s organizations or children) to the men.

There is a principle taught in the LDS faith that there is a Father and Mother in Heaven. But there is a rule about Mother in Heaven: Thou shalt not talk about her, pray to her, or even seek to know her. How can I, as a woman, fulfill the measure of my creation as a woman in a world where there is no female authority, where I am defined by my relationship to a man: daughter, wife, and mother? All these things have left me in a quandary.

I have made some choices lately that I feel are coming from my inner guidance, from a personal authority.

We’ve (women) have been led to believe that leaving the circle of orthodoxy means leaving the realm of truth. Typically the church has considerable stake in our staying in the orthodox circle. It knows if we claim ultimate authority as something in ourselves, as some inchoate voice in our own souls, it has lost all power over us. We have rendered ourselves independent, outside its control. We have stepped out onto our own path. For some reason, this scares people senseless. (Sue Monk Kidd)

I have made choices involving my religious commitment that caused the demise of a marriage, the disassociation of friends, and the community of Latter-day Saints that I have relied on for the last 30 years of my life.

But through it all I have felt this:

When you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward and you can’t stay where you are without killing off what is deep and vital in yourself, you are on the edge of creation.

What I am creating for myself at this moment in my life is a reunion with myself. I have reclaimed my voice, my truth, and my personal authority. I have left behind the black and white world of orthodoxy, and I have stepped into a world where God is guiding me to see the beauty of the greys in this world.

But writing this and posting it, I am opening myself up to disapproval, lectures, and a review of the doctrine of the LDS faith by the valiant souls who cling to that belief. What I hope they understand that is that I am not making the Church wrong, it is just wrong for me. And that is a belief that my black and white friends cannot grasp. And that is okay.

I am happy. I am connected to God. I am absolutely on a spiritual path and involved in an intricate spiritual process. I came into the world wanting more. More knowledge. More experiences. More.. more.. more. And as a Christian, as a memeber of the LDS faith, I always wanted more.

The more I was seeking was my own authority. As a woman. As a believer. As a wanderer on this earth.  As a dissident daughter.

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  1. I think that was one of the most beautiful and perfect things I’ve ever read. (Not to mention that I will be picking up that book TOMORROW; it sounds like it applies to my journey too). You are a magnificent woman. You are a woman with a beautiful heart and such a wonderful spirit. You’ve taught me so much and I admire you so deeply for the strength you’ve shown on your journey. Thank you so much for sharing this and for being such an inspiring force in the lives that you touch.

  2. John

    My deepest desire after reading this post is that you know inside that your choices, your new journey, your life, will NOT affect my love for you and our friendship. That relationship (I hope) will always last.

    You know where I stand, and now I now where you stand, but that difference cannot and will not change our friendship.

  3. I loved “The Secret Life of Bees.” I’m anxious to read “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.”

    This post is not unexpected, as you have hinted at this step for some time now. You mention the things you believe you are opening yourself up to from those in the LDS faith. I also hope you are still open to those who will simply extend the same hand of friendship they have always extended to you without condition. As always, I wish you well.

  4. glo

    Of course, I wish you happiness and am not surprised, either. I only hope that you extend back the same hand of love to those of us who choose to remain on a more “orthodox” path – since even that word is awash in judgment and belittling to religious persons.

  5. oh my lianne, my lianne…what courage it took to write those words and how eloquently you did so…I too have questioned my faith as a Catholic; so many things I disagree with, so many things that my gut tells me are just not right for me…I believe this — our creator loves us so very much, he/she delights in seeing us do good, live healthy happy lives, care for eachother, embrace eachother and not speak, think or act in any way to crush anothers spirit.
    I love you and support you and believe that the creator is so very proud of you and your works as a mother, friend, healer, teacher…you are such a bright light that warms me…thank you for sharing and being an example of a strong woman.

  6. Oh, Liane, I SO appreciate that you’ve written about this. I acknowledge your courage and your alignment with yourself, and how you are honoring what is best for you.

    I have been on a similar journey over the past few years, and it is so helpful to read about other’s experiences with this.

    Many blessings to you!

    :) Jenny

  7. Deb

    You are brave, and powerful, and incredibly amazing for taking these steps. To stay stuck and carrying that boat is crazy-making, and that way lies hell. Your world will be rocked, certainly, and there may be more relationships that fall away because of your acting on your soul’s decision, but you are not the first, and you are not alone. There is a contentment in your words here that is priceless. By not making anyone else wrong, you are so right. Enjoy the journey!

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