Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Not A Piece of Chewed Gum...and Happy Day to Heavenly Mother

Mother’s Day is coming up. I am fortunate to be able to call, speak with and try to honor several mothers on this day.
My own mother, who is a saint, even though she doesn’t want anyone to help her even in her 80th year, and that drives me nuts. But I am so grateful for her, who she is, what she teaches me, and that she is such a huge part of my life, and those of countless others.
My mother-in-law, who has always been loving, kind, generous and very accepting of me. I am most grateful to her for her part in raising such a wonderful person as my husband.
And I always think on and send extra communication to my Heavenly Mother. I am grateful that I have been taught, and known of her since teenage years, and sensed her even longer. I have always embraced the part of LDS doctrine, and yes, it has been a part of our doctrine since the early days of the church, that lets us know we come from Heavenly Parents, who are as much a part of each other as a couple can be.
Even though church members are all over the place in our ability to acknowledge and appreciate her as an equal partner with Heavenly Father, I think that has more to do with our own cultural traditions, and is something we need to look beyond in order to receive greater light and knowledge. I especially appreciate actions such as a recent historical survey done by “BYU Studies” that found over 600 references to Heavenly Mother by church leaders. Here is a link if you want to download the survey…
I highly recommend it.
I love this part of the introduction…
Contrary to criticism in some quarters, Church leaders have not relegated this deity to a confined role. Statements from the late 1840s onward show that leaders and influential Latter-day Saints have explored her roles as a fully divine being, a creator of worlds with the Father, a coframer of the plan of salvation, and a concerned and involved parent of her children on earth.”

So I look for ways to honor my Heavenly Mother, especially at this time. This is a tough time for me as a mother. My mother’s heart aches and rejoices as I see my children try to find their way in a world that can be dangerous and painful, as well as wonderful and thrilling and joyful. I have learned from my Heavenly Parents that, no matter how much I love and reach out to my children, no matter how precious they are to me, they are infinitely more precious to Them.
I think every mother goes through a time when she needs to let go of all the ways she imagined her childrens’ lives would look, then acknowledge the ways they are making their own life journey, and love them wherever they are. I have looked to my Heavenly Parents as I learn to do this. 
I imagine how Heavenly Mother’s heart aches when she sees any of us turn away from Her, or doubt ourselves, and how She and Heavenly Father will never give up on reaching out to each of us, and wanting us to return, and that She loves us, no matter where we are on that journey. She loves us now.

So when I read about Elizabeth Smart speaking about why she did not try to run after being kidnapped and repeatedly raped, my mother’s heart ached, and I can only imagine how Heavenly Mother must have felt seeing her daughter Elizabeth struggle with these feelings in the midst of the most horrific circumstances.

Here is a quote from a Salt Lake Tribune article by Peggy Fletcher Stack about Elizabeth Smart…
“Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart made national headlines this week by saying that she didn’t try to escape from her captors because she felt like a "chewed-up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away."
Having been repeatedly raped, Smart told a Johns Hopkins human-trafficking forum, it was "easy ... to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value."

She said she had heard the chewed gum analogy from a school teacher. I was fortunate to have never had that kind of object lesson thrown in my face, but I heard similar analogies from many sources – school, church, friends, movies and T.V., advertisements. These need to end.
And the scriptural references that equate virtue with virginity, and suggest that rape or assault can rob you of your virtue are hard to sort into the realm of cultural phrases and ignorance if there isn’t an immediate discussion about it.
Virtue is about personal choice and agency, about our ability to turn towards God, and about being Christlike. No one can rob anyone of that. Do not confuse it, or encourage anyone else to confuse it with the abuse that can occur due to circumstance or the actions of others. Ever.
Here is more from Stack’s article about Elizabeth Smart…

“For Smart, comfort came partly in the form of a "blessing," or healing prayer, by the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who assured her that she was not responsible for anything that had happened to her when she was being controlled by her captors.
That is in line with LDS teachings, according to church spokeswoman Ruth Todd.
"Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you," reads a church pamphlet, For the Strength of Youth.”

I am glad Elizabeth was able to receive that comfort, and return to parents who had never stopped searching for her. My heart aches for those who have not found comfort, or loving arms.

I was sexually assaulted by a stranger when I was a child, before I had heard any type of “chewed gum” analogy. I still struggled with feelings of shame. I was also comforted by the unconditional love and acceptance of my parents. And I found comfort and healing in many moments of divine grace over the years. I have come to realize that whatever evil happened at the hands of that stranger, it would be a greater evil for anyone to see me as damaged and unwanted. It would also be evil to assume that the stranger was beyond help as well.

What about those who have chosen to do things that turn them away from God, or through choice have been promiscuous, or manipulative, or judgmental, or abusive, or controlling, or destructive?
In other words, all of us.
Are any of us any less precious, of any less worth? What is the redemptive power of the Atonement for, if not to heal us from all pain and sin, whether our own or someone else’s? Who did Christ come for, and offer his loving act of oneness, if not for each of us?

I love this quote from Chieko Okazaki about Christ…
“He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save us in our imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and in our grief.”

Healing, and forgiveness, and recovery might take time and effort, but it is there for us all if we will receive it.

Here is one way I honor Heavenly Mother this Mother’s Day. I ask that if any of you hear anyone, anywhere suggest that anyone can become damaged and without value for any reason, please have the courage to say, “Nobody will ever be unwanted by God. There is no healing that is beyond the power of Christ’s Atonement.”
If it is too difficult for you to do that, please find me, or someone who will help you remember that you are precious, and have infinite worth.

And if you ask and listen, your Mother will remind you as well.
Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day.


Kristine said...

Love this, Jody! I'm taping an interview for Michel Martin's NPR show about this tomorrow, and this is the perfect devotional/spiritually calming reading as I prepare. Thank you!!

Yvonne said...

Jody, thanks for this heartfelt blog post. I am so glad you are my cousin.

Lisa!! said...

As always, as real as it gets. I love you for that. You are a very special lady and a great example of strength, conviction and charity. Love you bunches!

Tyler said...

Jody thank you for sharing, very heart felt!

Tyler said...

Jody-the above comment stating from Elder Tyler is from Sandy, somehow I did not log in on my account. Although from half way around the world I am sure Ty would find it heart felt as well. Thank you again for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Jody, Being the parent of someone who was sexually assaulted, being the victim of sexual assault myself, I completely understand how someone can feel "less than" in the wreckage that follows that sort of crime. I whole-heartedly agree that our virtue comes, as you said, from our relationship with God, not from any outside source. If virginity were synonymous with virtue, any married woman could no longer be considered virtuous! I appreciate your comments. I love you.

Katie Joyce said...

Very interesting view on the Elizabeth Smart case. I was glad to see you correctly represented her comment about the chewed gum as coming from her school teacher, as it seems some of the media are assigning it to church leaders. (Not that that circumstance may not have happened.)

I appreciate you bringing your own personal story into it as well. It takes a lot of guts to put that out there.

Melanie said...

Extra love to you, my friend. Sad for your previous pain. Thanks for making these important points.

Anne said...

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. <3

Melody said...

Somehow I missed this post last year. So glad you gave me the chance to find it now.

This is wonderful and moving. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and your wisdom. Beautiful. My favorite part: "Happy Heavenly Mother's Day." I love the sound of that. It's like music. God bless you.