Monday, December 9, 2013

For Mr. Lenton Herring, my favorite school teacher of all time

So I decided after chewing on this a few days that I deserve to post my heart. Again. And again and again and again.

 I grew up in Melrose Florida as an almost lone Mormon girl. There were a few other Mormon women who consisted of my Mother, my sisters and the Drapers. We had Dads and brothers too:) I am taking note at how that all just flowed out on the page. There was loneliness.

I attended Hawthorne Jr. Senior High school. It was a half hour bus ride. On those bus rides I learned alot of important information about succeeding in life.  Its probably half that time if you drive it yourself. I am smiling again as I think on the literal route and how  I am  so going to RUN that route my next trip home. It will be a VICTORY RUN! I made it through those years xxooxx.

 In the 7th grade I was honored to be taught Social Studies by a life hero who happened to be Africian American. Lenton Herring. He was a Vietnam Vet. I'm sad I couldn't grab a picture of him off the can see the love and wisdom in his eyes.  He loved us. He loved me. He could shine a light that helped me to see the GOOD in me when I didn't think there was much good there. 

 I will NEVER forget the day in I am in the 8th grade... It was spring and revival time  and some of the kids were giving me a hard time about being Mormon. He turned it around for me. I was too immature and not smart enough.  He asked me tell the class about the word of wisdom. He told the class he thought the word of wisdom was great...that we have to worry about our bodies just as much as our souls.  After class he called me up. In the most sincere and inquisitive way asked me why it was that a black man could not hold the priesthood in our church. I told him I was sure he had heard wrong. No one would keep the priesthood of God from him. He said he KNEW he must have misunderstood.  The next day I got to come back and tell this man I LOVED that he WAS RIGHT about what he had heard. This man had championed me and I could NOT champion him.

 I hadn't even known.  When I told my parents about it they told me HOW RIGHT HE WAS. I was hurt. i was sure they were WRONG. I asked WHY he couldn't, they told me it was because it had been revealed to a prophet of God that they were cursed with black skin for making poor choices and that we were not to inter marry and they would NEVER be given that blessing. Then they sent me to this book called Mormon Doctrine. In it I read in more detail. You can go read it for yourself if you want. Its all there. 

I was confused.  My LOVE"DAR" was aligned perfectly but my head/religion "dar" was freaking out and I could not get the signals to harmonize. I didn't like being Mormon that day. I HATED being Mormon the next morning when I sought him out to tell him.  As I apologized for my church with tears he hugged me and told me that I didn't have to worry because he didn't believe in the Mormon Church, and it just made him sad that other people would believe that God would curse him for something he did in some other life. He also said he thought Mormons didn't believe in other lives. (ZINGO) He told me that I had a lot of life to live and that I would always get to choose what I believed in. 

I put that mess on that SHELF just like I was told. There is this ETERNAL and INCREDIBLY  HUMONGOUS shelf in the Mormon church where people with unresolved questions are sent to place and store those questions UNTIL.


UNTIL AN AUTHORITY with the PRIESTHOOD tells you HOW IT IS. Until they PRINT OUT  their now known change of Gods heart?  So now...just a few days ago AUTHORITY has disavowed DOCTRINE in the name of outdated theory.   AGAIN.   Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.  And PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say I am THRILLED for the PROGRESS. 

 Until this?

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.23

SO does that mean that a man screwed up somewhere and was HUMAN and that a Prophet of God misunderstood his GOD and that the blacks could have had the Priesthood the WHOLE TIME????

Take a minute to breathe for those who need it. Please. Take another breath. Now look into my LOVE MANIFESTO heart. The church has changed God's stand on Polygamy, the temple ceremony, on Africian American's holding the Priestood, now on WHY they withheld the Priesthood, on birth control, oral sex, dating standards and ages, temple garments, on women working outside the home, who and what ages should serve missions,...and even in their views on women and their roles in the church.  They are gratefully softening on the gays. I fully expect to one day have a written change for them as well.

The happy news for me is that the church allows God to change. As I have grown my God has changed.  Isn't it perfect that Gods truth is revealed through imperfection? And so is mine. Through absolute imperfection.

 I have children who I taught to look to that authority-- who are in a place of pain with their LOVE 'DAR"-- because of their head/religion"dar". You can imagine the funk of trying to get those signals to harmonize.  And whether they put it on that shelf or like me, blow up the shelf, --it could be 30 plus years before they KNOW what to do with "IT" and my leaving.  Could it be 30 plus years before AUTHORITY comes out and lets my baby KNOW, that oops.....that doctrine of ONLY BEING TOGETHER FOREVER IS FOR THOSE WHO OBEY THE AUTHORITY AND HOW THEY SAY IT IS  was really a theroy that we now believe to be a mistake...but hey...NOW we know that you really DO get to share the rest of eternity with that Momma you LOVE and who LOVES YOU!!  With that Momma who charged out into living in a space were finally her LOVE 'dar" was all she chose to use to LIVE her life offering. Realizing fully the imperfections that will lead her to her perfections. Taking accountability for being human and up front saying "Hey...mistake zone here...many in process...I speak only my current knowing and that it is on a moving scale."

Lovies. I am always nervous with the written word because the flavors of sarcasm, anger, and negativity can be read into the words when it is NOT there. They are not here. Hear my voice. It is LOVE. I am OVER THE MOON that these changes are coming. Over the moon that LOVE WINS!!!!

That is a life rule I can testify to. This is one you can write down...don't worry. I will post it for us in the pool area. LOVE WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I also beg each of us to listen to our inner voice and call out the LOVE we know.

Mr. Lenton Herring, forgive me my youth. Forgive me my clinging to what I knew FELT BAD and WRONG. You were so right...I have a whole life to live and choose what I believe. I KNOW that YOU are one of the finest teachers I've ever known. Thank you.

After writing this I was sent 2 links anonymously taking me to the facebook page of  John Dehlin and what he posted on his facebook. They touched me. They gave me EMPATHY. So I'm adding them here:

Respectfully, I submit that a pattern has now officially been established. 

1) LDS church teaches that Independence, MO is zion, and that this will be the gathering place.....the public objects for several years....eventually (after much pain and suffering) the teaching is abandoned/redfined,

2) LDS church teaches that polygamy is of God.....the public objects for decades...eventually (after much pain and suffering) the teaching is denounced,

3) LDS church teaches that dark skinned people were cursed and the blacks should not have the priesthood.....the public objects for decades....eventually (after much pain and suffering) the teaching is denounced,

4) LDS church teaches that being LGBT and same-sex marriage are evil, and that women should not co-lead the church/have the priesthood.....the public objects for decades....eventually (after much pain and suffering)..........______________

You fill in the blank here.

 John's next blurb:

After 10-20 years of thinking about this, and trying to make all the puzzle pieces fit -- here is what it all comes down to for me:

- It's not that the LDS church is "bad." In my view, the LDS church is a "net good" for so, so many people. Granted -- it can be incredibly harmful (i.e., toxic/fatal) to some marginalized minorities (e.g., many LGBT folks, many feminists, many intellectuals, many lovers-of-science, etc.) -- but overall, the good that occurs within the LDS context for many members cannot be denied (from my perspective)..

- It's not that LDS church leaders are "bad." Overall, these are generally good men, trying their best to do what is right with limited light and knowledge, and with a heavy heap of bias/baggage (which we ALL have).

And we are ALL flawed (myself especially).

But if we continue to direct the lion's share of our focus on specialized issues (such as racial, LGBT, feminist, or intellectual issues) -- I believe that we are missing the central problem we face as LDS church members (and instead, are playing historical "whack-a-mole" if we have another 30 years to wait for a new PR statement/revelation about LGBT issues or feminism).

- THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS in the LDS church/culture -- from 1830 to present -- are (a) leader-worship, (b) unquestioning member obedience to LDS authority, (c) the explicit taboo/covenant prohibiting the criticizing of LDS church leaders, and (d) the history of LDS church leadership and LDS apologists (e.g., FAIR, FARMS) maligning/marginalizing/punishing those who question/dissent/criticize church doctrine, policy, and leadership (e.g., B.H. Roberts, Juanita Brooks, Leonard Arrington, Lowell Bennion, Lester Bush, Eugene England, September 6, thousands of other lesser-known people, etc.).

Polygamy and racism were the previous battles du jour (though we still have a ways to go on both).

LGBT and feminist issues appear to be the current battles.

But I believe that the central issues that cause the most pain/suffering within the LDS church are the issues surrounding the misuse, and occasional abuse, of leadership authority.

And permit me to be blunt. When we refuse to speak openly about abuses in LDS authority....I believe that we become silently complicit in the abuse/pain/suffering....because it is our $$$, and our time/energy (as active members) that empower the church to harm itself and others (when it harms itself with Proposition 8).

If substantive, non-piecemeal, structural, meaningful, lasting change is ever going to be brought about within the LDS church -- it will be:

1) When LDS church leaders allow themselves to be exposed to the healing sunshine of genuine feedback/criticism, and

2) When we (the members) muster the courage to speak out when we see/hear/witness the abuse of authority.

And to this, Natalie says AMEN.

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