Friday, November 9, 2012

My thoughts on the female mission age change (a month later)

I considered posting something about this subject earlier when it was first announced at general conference but I found so many other posts that expressed my feelings much more eloquently than I ever could. I thought that would suffice, but as I stand here on the subway trying to swallow the tears that just want to come, while I read President Monson's announcement, I realize I need to share.

Do I know if this revelation had come a decade before if I would serve? No. I don't know if that would have been my path, but my hear breaks a bit that I never got the chance to decide. At 19 I was full of life and a sincere desire to understand the gospel. It's not that I lack that desire now, but some of my life experiences have ruined my child like faith a bit.

I keep thinking what if.

What if I went on a mission at 19?

I know one of the worst things that ever happened to me would not be part of my past because I never would have been in Florida. On that note though, if I had never been in Florida my whole life would be different. If I hadn't experienced the trial I did in Florida I would not be as sensitive to some people's plights as I am now and I would have a much more shallow testimony of the atonement principle of Christ suffering all pains and afflictions so "he  may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.(Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 7)"

In a temporal sense my time in Florida was a blessing as well. It has opened many doors to me career wise that I never thought it would. It has truly blessed me. I would not have any of the jobs I do today without that internship. It opened the door to my job at Disney Online which has in turn opened many doors for me.

Anyway, I digress as usual. I don't know if I would have gone, but I do know that I was incredibly touched by this announcement. As most of you know I am a "3rd wave feminist" and since I was little I struggled a bit with some of the statements and policies the LDS church has made in regards to women and their role.

I still vividly remember wondering why I couldn't pass the sacrament when I was little, all my brothers (4!) got to! Or the conversation I had with my mom when I was 10 trying to understand why I should stay home and "pop out babies". I asked, "but what if all my husband does is bag groceries and I'm fancy commercial maker ( I was 10) with lots of money? Why does that makes sense? I would be able to support the family better." And then feeling a jealousy I couldn't describe when, my freshman year, my guy friends all were getting to spend 2 years devoted to the gospel and all I could do was be a "member missionary" (Which really isn't easy in Logan, UT) and keep working on my degree. I wanted to go!

I felt the call to serve, but my temporal age was stopping me. All my life I sought truths and a better understanding of the gospel- often I had a stronger grasp on doctrine and scriptures than many of my male peers, why was I being denied this blessing when I could stand my own feet because of my personal desire to seek?

Some of these things, (sacrament, priesthood etc.) through personal revelation and wise mentors I have received answers about and I am satisfied with it, my heart is at peace.

Some I have decided to be faithful and trust without understanding and modify it in a way that doesn't sacrifice my happiness or what I believe is part of God's plan for me which may be different from what we are taught is the ideal.

And now, the one thing that has always eaten away at me has been changed. I know it's easy to think, well if you really wanted to go on a mission why didn't you go when you were 21? Well, when I was 21 I was a semester away from graduating. I was signed up to do a full summer of EFY as a counselor, and then I needed to get started on figuring out my life past college and I had student loans that needed to be paid. Most importantly, it wasn't the right time anymore, I had changed and it was not my turn.

One thing that has hung on my soul for so long was expressing my desire to serve to my freshman year bishop and having him tell me he felt strongly that I wasn't going to go, that I will be married. Words like that can haunt a young girl. You feel like a failure when you're 21 and still very single. You then feel that pain again 18 months later when really nothing in your life has changed. You could have gone! You question every decision you've made. You question yourself. Was I not faithful? Did I make a wrong turn? Did I mess it up by not giving that one guy another chance? Did I miss my chance? Will I ever be loved?It weighed on me.

It's bitter-sweet for me. I am so happy for my younger friends they have a greater chance to go. They will feel more like peers to the young men they know. That more women will get to go and share their spirit with the world.

I also hope that the horrible stigma I had to endure won't be such a thing anymore. It really is a humbling and horrible experience to live in Utah and be 21 and not married and say you're not going on a mission. People act like there is something wrong with you. Why should I share my personal revelation with a stranger and let them know that a mission is not my path right now? Why do they think that I only have 2 options in my life? It is rough. It is why I rushed to leave Utah behind and why I felt so strongly that I would never move back.

My hope is that with a change like this the "marriage deadline" won't haunt others like it did me. That there will be fewer girls who question every choice or be made to feel like a failure because they aren't going down one of the two standard paths and will feel empowered, supported and strong enough to know that they can forge their own path.

Anyway, I'm going to do what one of my heroes, Joanna Brooks advised, to take heart that even though I struggled, it will be better for the next generation and isn't that what most people want to do? Leave a world behind that is better for the next group? I'm excited for all of you that are going to go now at a younger age, I know you'll do fantastic and I can't wait to see what happens now, because this changes everything!

Sorry for such a long post and kudos to you all who got to the end. Anyway, maybe I'll wait a month now to write about the election just to keep up with the old news theme....