Women and the Priesthood

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded upon one young person’s sincere questions about faith. Articulating personal questions for the benefit of personal spiritual development is absolutely encouraged. However, while gathering signatures, petitioning and protesting may be historical patterns for obtaining civil rights from oppressive and restrictive governments, such behavior has no bearing in an egalitarian community in which all have the same rights, privileges and blessings regardless of gender or the differing adminstrations of those privileges. In fact, the effect of such behavior in a spiritual setting is divisive and subversive, causing contention and calling attention to false doctrine.

Controversy

Publicly teaching false doctrine is neither effective in creating positive change nor helpful in demonstrating a capacity to live authentically and with integrity according to true principles. While presented as being punished for having ideas or questions, the real issue confronted is preaching personal opinion based on misunderstanding of doctrine as if it should be true doctrine. This happened way back in Alma 1, with all the mess Nehor caused.

Nehor was a good guy, really, and most everyone liked him. He was eloquent, smart and clever, and really had a good desire to preach. The problem? He was preaching contrary to church doctrine. His complaint was about leadership, and he really stirred up some contention. His was a false priesthood that evangelized by confronting instead of inviting, and his message led to dissension instead of peace. That’s how Alma knew it was not of God, even though Nehor “pled for himself with much boldness” (verse 11). Yet the damage had been done, and priestcraft began to spread through the land “for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor” (verse 16).

These followers that kept Nehor-ism going were very careful to follow the law and present themselves well. They were very “good” people, but spread false doctrine and contention. This created enough of a separation that those not of the church began to persecute the believers (verse 19), “and afflict them with all manner of words” (verse 20), mocking them for how they lived by covenant-keeping (verse 21). Contention always destroys, “and it was a cause of much affliction to the church” (verse 23) because “many hearts were hardened” (verse 24), which led to people leaving the church. It became very hard to endure, very hard not to get sucked into contention, and very hard not to give up in the face of mocking and persecution.

“Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them” (verse 25). But the church members worked hard at it, and “they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learning; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength” (verse 26). That’s becoming a people of the covenant, a people of Holiness, where all are equal.

Priesthood

As a minor correction to a March 2014 New York Times article, Mormons do not believe the priesthood is just the power of God, or that such power is available only to men. Those are half-truths. Also, the priesthood is not something a person can have for themselves, use for themselves, or something tangible a person can hold. It is only for ministering to others, and women are called to minister as well as men.

In its fullness, the Priesthood is both “the power and authority of God”, and that same Priesthood is available to all covenant-keeping people. Elder Ballard said that, “Men and women have different but equally valued roles… the priesthood power (is) shared by husband and wife.” It is the power “by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection.” It is an error to state that a woman has no priesthood power, or no access to it, as it comes to all of us by personal righteousness developed by the Holy Spirit and is only possible for any of us because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Elder Ballard also said that “the power of the priesthood is a sacred and essential gift of God. ][But] it is different from priesthood authority, which is the authorization to act in God’s name.” The question about ordaining women is a question about the authority of the priesthood, not a question of power. In itself, it is a fair question, but the answers easily come by understanding what the priesthood is and what purpose it serves. A true understanding brings confidence in who we are as women, as well as deep peace about our role in serving others with great priesthood power appropriately and effectively administered.

Chapter 2 of the book, Daughters of My Kingdom, tells how the priesthood power was restored to women through proper priesthood authority. “Joseph Smith held all the keys of priesthood authority on the earth. Therefore, when he organized the Relief Society to function under his overall direction, he unlocked opportunities for the women of the Church to play vital roles in the work of the Lord’s kingdom. They now served under the authority of the priesthood and were promised blessings beyond those they had already received. These blessings would come to them according to their faithfulness and diligence. Knowledge and intelligence would flow to them as they received a fulness of priesthood blessings in the temple. They would receive ordinances and make sacred covenants that would help them prepare themselves and their families for eternal life.” Chapter 8 also clarifies that the priesthood is both “the eternal power and authority of God by which He blesses, redeems, and exalts His children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man.” With this, “the Lord has given unto us garments of the holy priesthood” (President Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era, August 1906, 813). These priestly garments – like the clothing of priests in other religions – remind all of us, men and women, of the covenants we have made and the priesthood power we receive through covenant keeping.

Ordination is the transfer of that power to a specific priesthood office. Each office has specific duties with specific responsibilities. Those duties may be temporal or spiritual. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as ‘the priesthood,’ we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike.” Elder Oaks then quoted Elder John A. Widtsoe, who also served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve: “Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood…”

Chapter 8 of Daughters of my Kingdom quotes the 2001 conference talk by Sheri L. Dew saying, “Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.” Further, it quotes President Joseph Smith as stating “It is within the privilege of the sisters of this Church to receive exaltation in the kingdom of God and receive authority and power as queens and priestesses.”

Priestesses

Real Intent blogger Heather used healing as an example of priesthood power being administered differently by men and women. A man may lay hands on the sick and give a blessing, while a woman will also pray and minister with her hands directly, with hugs, kisses, meals, healing touch, writing notes, meeting needs, and caring for the one who is sick. She quotes Eliza R. Snow’s record of what Joseph Smith said: “Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick… there could be no evil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administrations (History of the Church, volume 4, pg. 604).” She continues, pointing out that it “is important to note that Joseph Smith clarified that women had the gift to heal and administer because of their faith and not because of their priesthood authority. Joseph reiterated what Jesus taught in Mark 16:17 that “these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name… they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” The spiritual gift of healing or ministering has no less power, she writes, than a priesthood blessing, because it is done by the same power, in the name of the same Christ. “The gift is the same, it is only the method of administration that is different.” It is how we, as women, by the power of the priesthood, do participate in miracles of God.

We do, as one unit in marriage with our spouse, have the ability and capacity to bless our children and those around us. Through the assignments we are called to by our Bishop, or small promptings given us by the Spirit, we can minister to those around us. In Spring 2014 General Conference, Elder Oaks said:

“Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men… A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the men who hold the Priesthood… President Smith said again and again that women have been given authority. To the women he said, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” And, of course, the Church work done by women or men, whether in the temple or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus, speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “[The Lord] has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally. Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood… We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.”

Apostasy

The priesthood is about ministering and blessing, and women already do that.The question, then, is not really about why women can’t have the priesthood, as if it were an object to posses. In fact, we have seen that pattern before, when someone tries wants to have for themselves the “power” of others, as if it were something that could be owned, like a crown that could be held in your hands. The twist comes in (falsely) perceiving the priesthood as something that endows one with externally validated superiority, which really is about kingship rather than priesthood. Who in the scriptures was one who wanted to be king? Amalekiah.

Amalekiah’s story starts in Alma 46, and his context begins in a society that was not living and behaving like the people of holiness should be living and behaving – which is one more reason we cannot blame one apostate for community issues. Alma has just prophesied that contention is coming because they are not behaving like covenent keepers, and that it would destroy them. Helaman sees it begin to happen immediately, when he distributes the priesthood amongst the people as the church is established in the land – but the priesthood holders do not do the work to develop the power, and misuse their authority. They will not listen to the words of the prophet or the counsel of the apostles, and so are in opposition against those who do (verse 1).

These people are so proud that they are determined to take for themselves what is God’s to give out, and they want to do it for their own sake rather than the sake of the people. They want to establish their own dominion, rather than lead the people righteously, and the leader of the false-priesthood rebels was Amalickiah. His group tries to win over the people through flattery (verse 5), which means even the believers were filling themselves full of pride instead of repentance, or flattery would not have been an effective tactic. His words are cunning, instead of wise like Alma’s. His teachings were flattering, to make the people feel good, instead of truth-telling to make the people do right. Instead of building up the church, he worked to destroy it “and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them” (verse 10).

The warrior prophet Moroni calls the people to repentance, and Amalickiah runs away when he sees that his flattered people have begun to re-think what was going on and which side they were choosing (verse 29). Where did he run? To other groups of people who also were hating on the believers, hoping to gain strength as minorities combined in efforts to regain popularity again. Years pass while Amalickiah prepares for war (Alma 47:1), and is even made the leader of the rebels (verse 3). This was exactly what Amalickiah wanted, to be set up as a leader and then steal even more power for himself for he was “a very subtle man to do evil” and had a “plan in his heart to dethrone the king of the Lamanites” (verse 4) by gaining the favor of the people (verse 5).

The people were protected only by their temple covenants (“gathered up on a mountain for safety”, verse 7), but Amalickiah continued to pursue the people’s favor by fighting in grey areas (verse 9) and demanding dialogue (verse 10). Leaders were harmed when trying to meet them halfway in compromise (verse 13). Worse, the slippery Amalickiah continues with his flattery and deal-making, trying to change the rules and distract the people from covenant keeping. The people later see they are being used, and feel betrayed, and so they repent and return to the church (verse 29).

To live outside those boundaries of covenant keeping, to refuse correction, and to reject living prophets and the Savior they serve, that is apostasy. Apostasy is a falling away from truth, and a teaching of false doctrine to others. An article for NPR, stated that Kate Kelley was recently excommunicated “for advocating in favor of female priests”, which is a half truth, as the issue (as published by Kelley herself) was about apostasy, or teaching false doctrine.

The church defines apostasy as “when individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel”. During apostasy, people do not respond to “divine direction from living prophets” or “lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ”. It states that “we must each guard against personal apostasy by keeping covenants, obeying the commandments, following Church leaders, partaking of the sacrament, and constantly strengthening our testimonies through daily scripture study, prayer, and service.” In their June 2014 statement regarding apostasy, the First Presidency stated clarified, “Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”

Another recent article, this one for New York Times, referred to apostasy charges as a “sudden move”, as if disciplinary council was called out of the blue with no warning, and it was described as unexpected and as final. However, disciplinary councils are provided long into the process, after much dialogue with bishops and other leaders, as a vehicle for repentance and correction and healing. It is not unexpected, and only final for those who choose to reject the help offered them. It is intended as an opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning, an invitation to heal.

Response

Buzzfeed recently reported that this was the end of “the Mormon moment” because our moment did not start with the kind of anger and sadness that has ended it. Anger and sadness never stopped Mormons before! We have endured much worse, and by priesthood power will continue to endure. We mourn the loss of strong women in our community, and grieve the lack of understanding of who they truly are as daughters of God, even queens and priestesses. We pray for their return, and will rejoice in the peace and unity we can still feel once again.

When we truly understand that this is the Lord’s church, and how much we are loved, we know it is to Him we respond as we live within the bounds He has set. Just as we cannot have a happy marriage without doing the work that goes into it, we cannot have the blessings of a righteous life without actually living a righteous life. We cannot want the externals without doing the work of the internals, and is a heavy thing to lose who one is in exchange for demanding what one already has – even if it is adminstered in different but complimentary ways than the men.

Once, when my husband was working in the temple in New York, the matron came to him and told him a story that she said was important for all couples getting sealed together for time and all eternity. She said that in ancient times, men were the hunters and women were the gatherers. The men and women traveled in the same direction as a couple while they journeyed, and that this was their life together. However, men were focused on the hunt and traveled straight from one point to the next by tracking a single set of footprints, while women had to gather medicine and herbs and food along the way, a little over here and a little over there. So while they were traveling together in the same direction, and having the same job of getting their families to where they were going while providing for them along the way, they had different roles and duties in how they accomplished this.

This means that our becoming has both a “doing” aspect to it, and a “being” aspect. The priesthood is very clearly structured to teach us to care for other people. The men must learn to be both kings and priests, and we women must learn to be both queens and priestesses. When my husband and I were being sealed in the temple, we were told that most men are kings and most women are priestesses. The problem, he said, was when men are bad kings and not priests, or women are evil queens but not priestesses. Our work, he said, was for my husband to learn to be both a king and a priest, and for me to become both a queen and a priestess. We both, individually and together, must learn to govern ourselves according to the covenants we have made, and to consecrate our lives to His service.

The power of the priesthood is structured in such a way as to be accessible to someone who thinks they are a good king (or queen), but is actually all about being a priest (or priestess). It is ministering to others, rescuing them, and lifting them up. It takes practice, and requires a constant worthiness, and demands an ever improving preparedness and fulfilling of what is asked. It begins small, and then is added upon, a little more and a little more. Regardless of how much authority one has been given, there is no power without the righteousness that comes through obedience and covenant-keeping. The power cannot be wielded without the Holy Ghost, and that righteousness is prerequisite to having him as companion.

In the transcript of the recent interview of the Relief Society Presidency, the women shared their thoughts about the priesthood. Sister Wixom stated that she sees access to the priesthood in three ways: “I see the priesthood blessing me through the covenants that I’ve made personally. It happens for all of us in baptism and in the temple. And then I see it with my husband as we really complete each other and stand together as parents and counsel together. We couldn’t do it alone; we need each other. And then I see it in my service in the Church.” Sister Dalton stated that “the power of the priesthood — there’s a distinction between the authority of the priesthood and the power of the priesthood. And I think sometimes people don’t understand that. …the authority can be conferred upon a man, but the power can only be exercised in purity.” Sister Burton confirmed this, stating that “the same way we receive the power of it is the way they receive the power of it.”

It is enough to know that it is Jesus Christ who holds all the keys to His church, and that the keys of this dispensation have been restored and are held by living prophets. If I understand that it is His church, then I also understand that it will be through His keys that I will receive my assignments, roles, promptings, instruction, correction, and direction. If I choose Heavenly Father’s plan, then I choose to respond to that instruction, correction, and direction so that I might fulfill my assignments, roles, and promptings as one tiny effort at accomplishing His work.

These are the things that make up our Mormon identities: knowing that Jesus Christ has restored the priesthood through living prophets, and living according to those teachings by obeying commandments and keeping covenants. This is our Mormon identity: to sustain our leaders, to attend the temple, to wear our priestly garments, and to heed counsel received through personal study, prayer, and priesthood leaders. This is our Mormon identity: to follow the prophet, who, just as in the time of Moses, is led by the Lord through this wilderness of mortality. This is our Mormon identity: to return to our Heavenly Parents, together, as a family.

For further information about the Priesthood, see the 2013 worldwide leadership training videos, as well as Enrichment M and Enrichment N in the institute manuals online.

Green and Brown

A friend figured out our blender is the wrong kind for pulverizing kale, and so we got creative! I juiced the kale, cucumber, and celery base, and poured if into ice cube trays! Now I have kale as ice that I can use in the smoothies and still make them but without the floating salad. It will maintain the nutrition as long as I don’t heat them up.

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In other news, I got this medicine I have to drink every afternoon, and it is nasty! It’s worth it, though, because if I can get it down then I get a Popsicle. That’s the deal. Ugh!

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This is seeming like a whole lot of work just to avoid some chemo.

But chemo is really, really bad stuff.

Except when it saves lives.

So I am not a chemo hater, really. My cancer was removable, so it changes the cards for us. It’s the same as the head shaving: if it were Five who had cancer, I would totally shave my head along with him losing his hair. But I’m the grownup, so me being sick isn’t his problem – other than the natural lessons in problem solving and dealing with emotions and working as a team. So he doesn’t need to shave his head for me, even though I would shave my head for him.

But mostly I just want to be well again, and am trying my best, I promise.

Two Announcements

Five was the first one to school today, so he sat on the top of the steps waiting for the doors to open.

As the kids and parents arrived, I think he thought they were coming to see him.

“Mom! This is the best kindergarten party I ever had!”

When kids arrived, Five greeted them by name, and they smiled and shyly replied with “hey, (Five).” I couldn’t believe how many knew his name, or how many kids he knew by name. He hugged them, and moms took his picture with their kids. That’s when I started crying.

But then, once a good crowd was gathered, he ran back to the top of the stairs and shouted:

Attention, everybody!
Please give me your attention!
I have two announcements!
Number one: Your summer vacation is OVERrrrrrrr.
Sorry to tell you that, you guys.
Number two: I have a new backpack AND IT IS AWESOOOOMMMME!”

And then everybody cheered and laughed and clapped.

And I laughed and cried.

And the lady opened the doors, and the kids started running in.

Except for Five, who bounced back outside long enough to look over his shoulders and say, “Bye, mommy! Have a good day! I love you! Tell daddy I am doing great, and don’t worry because everything is fine.”

And then he disappeared.

While I was able to walk Five to school, Nathan brought the car around to drive me home, and I cried the whole way.

I really love that boy.

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Artichokes

Tomorrow is Five’s first day of kindergarten. That is very important.

We also have court, a pre-trial to be exact.

A pretrial means either the parent signs over rights and the adoption date is set… Or, they don’t and a jury trial date is set.

Either way, it’s a big day of waiting just to go into the courtroom to set a date.

But if it’s a date, then I definitely need hair!

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Nathan and I will both be going, because it’s a big day.

Also because I am coming off a hard weekend, and might need help. I think my fevers have finally stopped (again), and I am mostly holding down my food, and the pain is eased off back to mostly surgery-pain-as-long-as-I-don’t-move.

I am so very tired, and frustratingly weak, and trying hard not to whine or complain but being really tired of just sitting here. My brain did have enough clarity by the end of the day that I was able to do a little Hebrew, and I hope getting out tomorrow will lift my spirits a bit, even just to be outside. Maybe by the end of the week I can go on walks again. A girl can dream, right?

Tomorrow is also a practice run. I need to go back to work in two weeks. The plan for chemo would be to work hard to have my work finished by Friday morning, do chemo Friday afternoon, Sunday would be the evil day three, Monday would be off for recovery, and go back to work on Tuesday. I need to know before I am working with kids, how feasible the plan is and what kind of precautions to take (or how much Tylenol to take).

Also, because my job is home and school based counseling, I am in and out of my car all day. So I need to know I can make it in the car all day without collapsing like I did the day we went to Tulsa to get my wig. If I can do well, Nathan and I will both be less anxious about me going back to work. If I don’t, we know to give it more time. I do have permission from the doctor to try, and Nathan can drive us home at anytime if I can’t make it.

Just to be sure I am ready to try tomorrow, I take myself for a short drive to feel the wind through my hair (Oh. Wait..). I roll down the windows and fling out my arm and taste the air. I need it to breathe, and the night air feels like magic in me. I pretend to breathe out any germs I picked up from forgetting to wear my mask to Five’s school. What I breathe in, here at the park, though, is life to me.

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The night stars make me long for the temple. It smells like the night before I received my endowment, and the song I ran to that morning is playing in my cochlear implant headphones. I take a deep breath, slowly, as if I can draw power from the stars shining over that place and me.

I would sleep outside tonight, kids or not, if I thought my body could handle it.

I drive home again before Nathan worries, and tell him I want to sit outside and write something coherent, except I am afraid there is no seat outside I can get down into and back up again.

He smiles at me, takes me to the front room, sits me in the big chair that is so cozy, and opens all the windows.

I love him for that.

I tell him I don’t want to say anymore that I have cancer, because the doctor says it was dead, and they scraped it all out.

He hugs me and tells me we can call it “artichoke” from now on.

We are anxious about tomorrow. Not in an afraid way, just in a we-have-no-idea-what-is-going-to-happen kind of way. Anything could happen in court, and unlike all the drama for other kids that come and go, this one has been here a really long time (a year next week) and doesn’t want to leave.

I confess to Nathan that I hope it isn’t another miscarriage, the grief that drowns you when you think a child is coming to stay and then they don’t.

Also, to distract me from any court anxiety, there’s the hair.

I am so nervous of it! I am not yet confident in fixing it right, am not sure I can make it all day with it on, and am not sure it won’t just blow away in the Oklahoma wind. I guess it will be a practice run for my hair as much as anything.

I feel a little better tonight, and almost hate to sleep and miss anything while feeling strong(er) and alert. Except tomorrow is court. And hair.

And, most importantly, and regardless of the rest, tomorrow is the first day of kindergarten.

And they say that only happens once.

So no matter how jam packed tomorrow is while he isn’t looking, or how good or bad the news is, or how sick it makes me, or how painful it feels, tomorrow is all about Five.

Not even artichokes can take that away.

Endure and Enjoy

Last night’s juice was nasty.

I got it down, but it was nasty!

Really, it was a texture issue. It was a smoothie rather than a juicing. I think in my fevered state I did not get it all blended, so chunks of fruit and kale were floating around. I did not like that!

The leftovers this morning were much better, after I strained it again!

I am still stuck at home, in my chair, since Friday. At least I am awake some now! I had fevers and chills yesterday, and fever last night, and chills this morning. I think it has finally broken, and I am grateful.

They say day three is always the worst.

This morning was my first day to start with the green juice I will be having every morning now. It is made of cucumber, kale, broccoli, celery, apple, lemon, and ginger root. It is my favorite juice so far, and that’s a relief since it is prescribed daily for now. The toddler loved hers, and five liked his enough once he got over the initial shock. Nathan is being a sport and drinking along with me, encouraging me every step.

I have vague memories of him in night hours or with the sun coming through the window, hovering over me with wet cloths or tucking extra blankets around me or kissing my bald head. It’s all a blur, but I know it is his kindness that has made me strong.

Guess what! We got more of the training done on our new prescribed eating program, and we love it, I think! My favorite part is that breakfast every day is big and yummy, whatever we want, long as it has both a protein and a carb and a green juice. Every day. Portions matter, of course, but I love the flexibility and big breakfast because that’s my favorite.

Plus, we are supposed to eat every three hours after that, like clockwork, and so I don’t think we will have a chance to get hungry! Three meals and two hearty snacks, that’s the deal. Every two days our snacks and meals (except breakfast) will focus on protein and double vegetables (plus juicing), and every third day we add healthy carbs back in (rice, quinoa, gf grains, fruits, potatoes, peas, corn, and root vegetables, fruit smoothies). Portions are still important, but we can pretty much eat the things we are already eating – it’s just organized into a way focused on timing what we eat.

Essentially, the goal is to depriving any remaining cancer cells of what it eats (sugar and processed bad carbs), and to feed my healthy cells what they need to function at their best and make more good cells.

A lot of this happens through carbs, because they play such a big role in how things are metabolized in our bodies. Simple carbs (fruits, corn, peas, and sugar) get broken down quickly. Complex carbs (vegetables, root vegetables, and beans, and whole grains) get broken down slowly.

Breaking down carbs slowly is important because carbs get turned into sugar. Cancer loves sugar! Simple carbs cause spikes in blood sugar that make the cancer feed itself instead of me, and slows my metabolism so medicine doesn’t work properly, and leaves me feeling more sick with lower energy. Complex carbs keep the metabolism and sugars steady, so I have more energy and it’s my good cells that are getting fed instead of cancer.

Some simple carbs – like fruit – is good because they are packed with nutrients that I need, like vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s important to add them in once in a while, and to surprise my metabolism and keeping things working efficiently. That’s why we will add extra doses of simple carbs (not table sugar) every couple of days.

This will also manipulate my insulin to keep my muscles healthy, and so keep me healthy, by telling my body it is healthy so keep focusing on muscles instead of storing fat (thank you, steroid and estrogen) or handing over all my nutrients to the cancer.

A hormone called leptin works with the hypothalamus and other hormones to also regulate metabolism and tell the cells what to do (and how fast to do it). If underfed (because cancer is eating everything) or over fed (from unhealthy or too much food), then the leptin switch turns off and the body doesn’t know what to do or whether to feel full or not (or whether to store fat or not). That’s the other reason for mixing up the days and timing of what we eat when. It’s also important because there are leptin receptors on the ovaries, which I no longer have, which is another reason many women gain weight after hysterectomy or menopause.

Also, without enough carbs, serotonin levels get too low. That can cause cravings for food that’s bad for cancer, or even depression. Keeping this level in check by mixing up my days will help me stick with the plan. It also affects cortisol (the stress hormone that gives Americans big tummies!), which needs be reset frequently to keep working properly so I maintain what health I have – or even get healthier – instead of muscle waste or getting more sick.

That, I think, is how it works.

So it means this morning I had eggs and toast for breakfast, with a glass of green juice. Three hours later, I had a snack of some nuts and some fruit smoothie – because we don’t yet have any more protein powder that’s supposed to go in the smoothie, so I had to have some nuts on the side. Three hours later, the family had a white bean casserole with salad on the side.

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We even made a double batch to have a frozen meal ready the way relief society taught us to do!

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A snack later was a handful of a different kind of nut, with some snap peas. Dinner was chicken and red potatoes with more salad. Easy peasy, most of it all stuff we would have had anyway. We are just doing better about portions and timing of when we eat.

One more smoothie (almond milk, banana, orange, pineapple, and spinach) finished the day. Oh, plus the supplements to help everything, especially my immune system. I take capsules by the handful now, and drink a ton of water in between. I am trying.

This is what we do, because our family is fighting cancer.

Even though I do not have it any cancer, because they got it all, and it was already dead.

The doctor said so.

I am glad to wake out of my fog, but these are hard hours. It’s one thing for my body to fight hard when I am out of it, and another thing for the battle to become mental and emotional. I sleep for days, wake for moments, and miss so much.

The toddler is talking now, full on talking, constantly. I hear her babble in my dreams. Five starts kindergarten on Tuesday, and I cannot cannot cannot miss it.

I dreamed of my father, whether in the day or in the night I cannot tell you. He was happy to see me, and I glowed to be with him. I was shy and did not know what to say, and was so worried about offending him or breaking the spell that I almost couldn’t breathe. He told me of things he has learned, the peace he has found, and his happiness for me. Something washes over me so that I believe him, and I smile, and so many around us are celebrating with us.

I stir, because even in my dreams, mortality tugs at me as my core feels as if it has been sliced in half, and I pull against the pain, and push it away, to stay in my dream.

But he is gone.

I can still feel him, though, and hear his voice.

There is nothing about past shame, refusing to forgive, or old family dramas.

It is just him and me, like when I was a girl, and he is pleased with me again, and proud of me, and remembers that he loves me, and the miracle is that I can feel all this happening in him, maybe because I can feel it happening in me, too.

That’s when I hear his voice before it all fades away and my body clutches at me with pain and fevers. He says,

You are choosing to stay, and we have promised your body its healing. But what is in your spirit that you will not let heal? Let it go. It is okay to heal; it is okay to be well. Go be well.

I smile as I feel his “let it go” joke, with his love for my kids and their silly songs flooding over me, and in that moment I am overwhelmed with his love for me and my new family.

But his question also stings, and I cry to answer him. My tears come for his death, and the trauma that it was. My tears come for my mother, because I did not drive her that day. My tears come for my brother, a million miles away. My tears come for babies lost before they were born, and my tears come for children not yet mine. My tears come for the “sins that do so easily beset me”, the natural consequences that nearly destroyed me, and the redemption that has come.

I cry because everything, everything was to make things okay with them again, and now they are gone, both of them, and I am still here, without them.

I cry because I know he has come to set me free.

We all ended well, I think. As well as we could.

I have endured, I think. As well as I could.

There has been so much grief and so much loss, deaths every year I haven’t been in the hospital or very sick. I am so worn out, so exhausted, so tired of being sick. It has been six years of one thing or another in my body, and I just want to be well.

So do it, he says, go. Be well. Other seasons of grief will come and pass, but you are released from yours. Go now, and be healthy, and happy, and enjoy this life you have created and chosen. Enjoy, not just endure.

I know what he is referencing.

It’s the President Hinckley quote on the wall on my side of the bed:

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I hold on to those words, because life has required a lot of enduring.

Initially, I understood it was a matter of penance, a playing out of consequences I had brought on myself.

But then I understood the enduring required as a necessary step in being prepared to be able to endure even more.

And life kept happening.

And kept getting harder.

So I was grateful, and it seemed true, though not confining because there were miracles to match, like finding Nathan.

That’s how I knew it wasn’t just punitive.

It was about transformation.

I myself chose to be baptized and prayed for all the old things to be scraped out of me, and He has faithfully obliged, one surgery at a time, squeezing the trauma-drama out of me grief by grief.

I know, because I am a smarty pants therapist, that these things are swirling around in me only because I am sick and in pain and so very tired. I know that’s the trigger. A girl needs her parents when she is deathly ill, even if she hasn’t got any.

Except I am not deathly ill.

My father said so.

I will be well. I am recovering. I will enjoy my life, besides just enduring it.

I hear Nathan’s whisper from far away:

You are safe. You are loved.
You are not alone.
You are going to be okay.

I am starting to believe him.

That’s when I wake again, and send my children to bed. The day is gone before me, and I have missed it all together. But the pain in my bones is less, and the fever is gone, and the chills have stopped, and I am queasy but almost hungry.

It’s sacrament that Nathan brings me, before my dinner. I am grateful. It seems right for such a dreamy day of setting free and letting go. I tell him about my dream and seeing my dad, and I tell him the things I need to let go. He knows. I have worked through the pieces of them, I say, but I need to just let them go.

Because everything is going to be okay, he says.

Because everything is going to be okay.

You know why? Because I drew a line in the sand. I refuse to drink any more salad. That’s stupid and it’s gross. I will drink all the juiced veggies they want, and make all the fruit smoothies they want. I love salad so can eat as much volume of that as they want. But drink chunks of greens that float around in my awesome shakes?

No, It’s not happening.

Because I can eat salad to save my life, and endure that just fine.

But drinking it? No, I do not enjoy that.

It only matters that I get it in me, and I would rather crunch it than try to drink it, if I can get away with it.

But it’s not a kale crisis.

There are bigger things to wrestle with, eternal things.

This will only last a certain time, and I can only last a certain time; but the chief thing with me is, how to hold on to my faith, and maintain my integrity… and continue to grow in all intelligence, knowledge, faith, perseverance, power, and exaltation; that is a matter of some importance to me.

I would hate, after struggling, and trying to master the evil around me, and to conquer the evil disposition that besets me, to let some little thing upset me, and root me up, and cause me to lose my high calling’s glorious hope, and make a shipwreck of my faith.

~ John Taylor, 1854 (JoD 1:365)

Fever Juice

We can feel my fever starting to come back. I had a good two hours of consciousness! Now trying to fight it off with some medicine and some juice. Wearing a hat because I am freezing, even though I am hot.

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