Sunday, November 6, 2011

My new blog

I decided I needed to simplify and streamline my personal blogging. Please take note of the new blog address:

(I've pulled all the posts from this blog into my new blog.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Celebrate Family "Blog Hops"

If you haven't had a chance to check out the blogs doing the Celebrate Family series -- focusing on The Family: A Proclamation to the World, you should. :) I love how these women are bringing together so many people for such a great purpose.

Here is a list of the blogs that are hosting this event:

Today, I hopped onto one of the blogs of a guest writer and discovered that there is more to the Celebration than I knew! I'm just going to quote her here:
In addition to guest bloggers on each site, there will be blog hops each Monday and Thursday. Now, I've actually never done a blog hop (this is where my new-ness to the bloggy world becomes apparent, aye?), but apparently you write a post about a specific assigned topic and link to it on the official blog hop page.

Here are the assigned topics for the blog hops:
Monday, Sept. 12th – Family Mission Statements – Do you have a family mission statement? Share it with us! How did you come up with your mission statement?
Thursday, Sept. 15th - Photo Essay: Photos that "say" something about the Family Proclamation. For example, a picture of your family playing a game with the caption from the proclamation that says, "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on . . .wholesome recreational activities."
Monday, Sept. 19th – Family Home Evening (FHE) Lessons pertaining to some part of the Proclamation.
Thursday, Sept. 22nd – How the Proclamation has impacted your family personally.

I think you can just find the Linky tool at any one of the sites. For example, I found this explanation at Welcome to the Madness:

Do you have a family mission statement?  Write a blog post telling us about it, then link it here. You don't just have to link about a mission statement though...we would love to read about any part of the Family Proclamation, so feel free to link up anything you have written on it.   Please be sure to use the link to your post not to your blog's home page. This linky will be up on all four blogs but you only have to enter your post once. It will automatically show up on the other blogs as well.  Super easy!
 I'm thrilled to see so many people working together to celebrate family and the Proclamation. And, if you think the Proclamation doesn't apply to you because you don't currently have a family of your own, this post is for you.

The Family Proclamation Includes Everyone by Jenna Eakins

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Celebrate Family 2011

Several Mormon women bloggers are working together on the second annual Celebrate Family blog event. Different guest writers address different topics in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

In addition to Chocolate on My Cranium, other bloggers posting content include The Red Headed HostessWelcome to the Madness, and We Talk of Christ.

I wrote a little something about teaching children about sexuality using the Proclamation. It will be posted tomorrow, Sunday, September 11.

[edited to add]
Here's the link to my Family Proclamation post: The Proclamation as Powerful Primer on Procreation
I believe that teaching children about sex is an ongoing thing, and must be based on true doctrine to really be understood. The Spirit helped me one night teach my children about the law of chastity and the place of sex in God's plan, using the Proclamation as the foundation. It was an amazing experience.

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” -Boyd K. Packer

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Men are that they might have joy." But....

I think maybe someone needed to hear the message today about the joy of the gospel, because it came up an awful a several comments in Relief Society.

I had an interesting experience with those messages, though. I didn't feel the Spirit when I heard them.

But I know that isn't because what was said isn't truth. The gospel IS a message of joy. And I do think we can often benefit so much by looking for the joy in life. In fact, it's something I've been deliberately working on during the past few weeks as I've been struggling with some really bad days physically (which has led to some really hard days emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). I've made lists in my journal of the little things that have brought me moments of joy. But there's also been a lot of pain, fear, and exhaustion.

I can't even articulate what a blessing Relief Society was. I feel the lesson was an answer to prayer. The message was on adversity. I told the Relief Society president that she was God's mouth for me today. She quoted from numerous talks that have been anchor talks for me during the past several years of health issues. Elder Bednar has said that the timing of things can help us recognize tender mercies. I know that the lesson was a tender mercy for me today.

But when those comments about choosing joy were flying around, it was like my heart and spirit shut down. And at first, I thought it was a defensive reaction, and maybe part of it was.

But as I left the building, I had a quiet feeling that maybe it's simply because that particular message about joy wasn't the one God had for me today. I had the sense that He knew where I was, and what I needed. I needed to feel something before I could connect with the message about joy. And the Spirit let me know what *was* for me. I felt as though my soul was cleansed and renewed. I cried through most of the meeting (why do I keep forgetting to put tissues in my purse?), but that itself was part of the cleansing. A peace settled on me.

Still, the contrast I felt when the focus changed a little during the class was really striking. I could look across the room at another woman who was clearly not connecting with the joy message, either.

The reality is that sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Sometimes it's all we can do to just show up, to not give up. Sometimes it's hard to actually feel joy when you are in survival mode.

And I think that is ok. One of the talks that was quoted today was Elder Wirthlin's "Come What May and Love it." This was one of those talks that came at one of those times when I was feeling weary and battle-worn. I'm ashamed to say I resisted the message, thinking it was a bee-boppy kind of talk that was for those optimists out there who never seem to struggle. (Why do we resist the simple truths when we are hurting? Maybe it's because that's just not the message we need right now?)

But oh, was I wrong. Listen to these tender words:

How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.
If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.
Yes, we are that we might have joy. But that joy is something that often comes as we learn to weather the storms with faith. Joy can come through the process of learning to see the growth that comes of struggle. Joy can come from becoming acquainted with God in our grief. And sometimes we don't quite see that all in the middle of it all.

Another quote that came to mind for me today was this from Elder Holland:

[I]t is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them.
(Oh, how I love our dear leaders!)

But I also love this reminder about how to stay on the path to joy. That deep kind of joy that comes of enduring trials, and enduring them with faith.
But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!
Just in my prayers last night, I cried out, "Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief."

He helped me, and I am grateful.

And because of that, I'm able to feel a little more joy tonight.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dancing in the tension: You're doing better than you think you are, and you can do better

I've long been thinking about how often God is found in the tensions we feel in our lives, our doctrine, etc. I wanted to sort through one of those tensions that came across my spiritual and mental space today. This is long and probably rambling, but I'm sorting as I write, so take it all for what it's worth. 


"You worry too much."

These were the kind (and correct) words of a wise and loving person today after Relief Society. It's too hard to try to capture the dynamic of the Relief Society lesson, but if I were to sum up the message we received, it was to not let anxiety drive our actions or thoughts or determinations about our spirituality or about our decisions. The idea was, "Look, if you hold a current temple recommend and you didn't lie to get it and you are trying to be a kind, loving, service-oriented person, then you are doing ok. So stop worrying about this decision or that decision. Live your life. Relax and enjoy the ride a little more."

And boy howdy, is that a message I need. 

I feel like this validates something Elder Bednar taught in General Conference in April.
I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3)....
In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).

As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (
Isaiah 2:52 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:732:28), and direct and protect you and your family. 

This is something I need to keep pondering on. I sense that there is a lot of healing truth there for many of us. I KNOW there is healing power in those words for me.

But I still struggle with a very real tension that I think exists in all of this.

The scripture that was shared in Relief Society to show how merciful God is to us was from Helaman 10. This is where Nephi is given the sealing power, where he is told that God would give him everything he asked for. I think the message was to show how loving and merciful God is. That He's not limiting blessings He will grant us (the comparison was made to the Aladdin model of three wishes only). And I understand that I don't understand the fullness of God's love and mercy. I know that understanding that more is central to me in my personal journey and particular mortal weaknesses I have.

But there's a caveat to that binding promise that, in my view, is the source of the anxiety many of us (or perhaps I should just say I) feel in the first place: God was able to covenant to grant anything Nephi asked for, because he knew that Nephi would not ask for anything contrary to His will. (I also tend to think this was tied to his calling and keys as a prophet, but I could be mistaken about that.) I don't think most of us are at that point where we (or God) have THAT kind of confidence in our ability to KNOW God's will.

Another scripture was Nephi when he was trying to get the plates from Laban. The notion is the idea of line upon line - that Nephi didn't know what the next steps were.

But there again, he DID lean on the Spirit to guide him. And there again, that is where the anxiety comes for me. Sometimes I simply don't know if the Spirit is guiding me or not. So I don't find the comfort I probably should in these scriptures. They just reinforce the very weakness that gives me anxiety in the first place.

I think this is Elder Bednar's point...that we can grow line upon line in developing and growing in that way, and we can take confidence in the mercy that comes of sincerely trying to do our best. But that isn't the same as having confidence in ourselves to know what we need to do in the first place. And sometimes we do hear about that kind of confidence, and it's hard not to think that I have to be at THAT level to not be anxious about my decisions. We hear, for example, about President Monson's unbending loyalty to the promptings of the Spirit. But I think a good majority of us are still trying to figure out what those promptings are. To me, that seems like a key part of why we are learn to recognize how the Spirit works in our lives.

Also, while I know that the voices in my head that go to self-criticism and fear are not from God, that doesn't mean that I'm always going to make the right choices, nor does it mean that I won't have things I need to work on and improve, even if I'm doing better than I think I am.

The title of this post paraphrases something Sister Beck said in a regional conference a while back. She recognized the trap many of us get into when we doubt and criticize ourselves. I'm learning to challenge those voices and recognize that they don't produce good fruits. But then in the same breath, she also invites us to realize how and where we can do better. And I know that is also true!

Sooooo, how I come to peace with this tension is to realize (or remind myself of) something I know the Spirit has taught me in moments of clarity: God's voice is not one that paints me into a corner of hopelessness. I do think that was probably the main message of the lesson. And I extend to remind myself that His invitations to improve and repent come with a feeling of hope. That doesn't mean His invitations will be comfortable or easy or convenient or even wanted. But they won't leave me feeling despair like the critical, anxious voices in my head do.

I don't worry so much about the final judgment kind of effects of my inability to discern the Spirit in my life. That comes from the confidence I have in the Atonement and in the power of covenants and the reality that God really does know our hearts. I feel confidence in the power grace to cover that gap for me.

But I think the anxiety really comes in worrying about the consequences of dumb choices that come of the whole (very messy) learning-by-experience thing. And that's a whole other kind of fear that requires a deep acceptance of the nature of this mortal existence...something else I'm trying to process.

Something I'll likely explore another day. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is how I approach it

It's time for my midnight snack, and I admit that I've been staring at the bag of unopened Doritos on my table for a while. That, and the chocolate cupcake that my daughter brought home for me from ward choir practice.

But I'm resisting the temptation. It's not because they are bad for me (because we all know they are). No, it's because of how I approach fasting.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints typically fast once a month (usually on the first Sunday of the month). Because of my chronic health issues, fasting is something I can't easily do. We've been counseled to be wise as it relates to fasting and health. But I've struggled with what to do. Do I push myself and fast anyway? Do I just give myself a 'pass' on this one? Do I come up with an alternative "sacrifice"?

For me, the latter made sense. So -- as silly as it may sound -- I don't do treats/snacks/sweets on Sundays. I actually begin this process every Saturday evening and continue it until Monday (which may sound arbitrary, but to me, it makes it feel more deliberate). And since weekends are often family gathering times, there *is* an element of sacrifice to it. (I enjoy joining my family for a good treat!)

More than anything, it's a conscious something to try to remind myself of the law of the fast. It may not be much, but it does help me remember this law and the principles behind it, which include developing self-control, building spiritual strength, and helping the poor. (Along with the process of fasting, we contribute fast offerings every month, which are used to help those in need.)

Do any of you Mormon folk out there have health issues? If you do, what do you do regarding the fast?

Monday, May 16, 2011

"What if equality isn't the end point?" Thoughts on gender and work/family issues

I wanted to share and discuss a few articles on the topics of women and the dynamic of sorting through education, career, and family goals. These articles/posts address these topics with a focus on gender issues. I've been involved in the topic of women and education and women in business for years, and so these articles are of interest to me.

First is this article by Casey Hurley: What If “Plan A” Doesn’t Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course. I think she has done an excellent job of addressing the tension that exists for LDS women when considering the prophetic counsel on motherhood as well as the counsel on education, and the teachings in the Proclamation to the World on the Family.

I enjoyed this article on Empowering LDS Women. I think the concept of personal revelation being essential to these issues is, well, essential.

That article points to a Square Two article by Kaylie Clark: Giving Women a Voice Without Sacrificing Faith or Family: The Changes Needed to Create an Egalitarian Society". Let  me start by saying that I really like the idea of brainstorming different policy ideas to have more a more family-oriented culture in government and business. As was mentioned in both of these last two articles, Elder Cook recently talked about this idea in General Conference. We were invited to “be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents."

And yet, there are elements of Clark's article that don't quite sit with me. I don't pretend to have it all figured out (and I invite respectful dialogue here), because I think part of what Elder Cook's counsel invites us to do is to counsel with others to sort through how best to encourage and create family-friendly policies and business practices.

OK, so I like that she is thinking about some possible ways to do this. That is good. Thumb up there. 

At this point, here are some of my thoughts, however, that keep me from giving her article a double-thumbs up.

First of all, I don't agree with a pure egalitarian model as she seems to. I know that is going to be misunderstood as saying that I don't believe in women being equal to men, or in the blessing of equal opportunity. I do. (Yes, I still have posts to post on my thoughts on equality in Mormon vernacular.)

Here's a preview: To me, equality should not be confused with parity. I think she is not acknowledging the fact that the Proclamation still delineates primary roles based on gender. As such, I feel like her ideas are a bit forced on the "This is spiritually valid" side of things.

I think if we are going to brainstorm, we have to keep those gender roles on the table, and dance in the tension a bit more. To me, it's not as simple as just creating an "egalitarian society" -- that feels too structured and too dismissive of potential gender differences (and/or at least the primary gender roles that we have in our LDS teachings).

This is why I like Casey Hurley's article. She doesn't shy away from the tension but rather engages it. I think it's in such tension that personal revelation becomes all the more valuable and necessary.

So, to me, there is a complexity here that a purely egalitarian model, with its associated numbers-based measures, could very likely gloss over. My concern is that equal opportunity efforts often end up toward a mandated equality that could put both individuals/families and private/public organizations into a hard spot.

For example, I am not convinced this kind of policy (as explained in Clark's article) is a good solution:

After seeing the strong economic benefits of including women several European nations have already passed legislation requiring a specific level of women’s participation in the highest management levels of businesses, (Buzek 2011).
I have always had concerns that prescribed employment/selection rules based on gender (or race) can have a serious downside, including organizations feeling coerced to hire for a profiled characteristic rather than honest-to-goodness skill, need, and 'this-makes-sense'-ness. I also worry about the impact this could have on our culture at large.

This article, The End of Men, explores some trends that concern me that seem to be a result of the push for "equality." The fact that many governments have caught on that women are capable and that their involvement has economic value has led to the fact that there are "political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes" (emphasis mine).

The author of The Atlantic article, Hanna Rosin, poses this question:
[W]hat if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
Clark insists that "psychological studies testing the assumption that women are better nurturers yields ambiguous findings due to cultural influences, so the argument that women are naturally better equipped for the work in the home is weak with little scientific backing."

The scientific backing may be lacking, but there are still trends and issues (and, for Latter-day Saints, our LDS teachings) that I think deserve more attention as the dialogue about gender issues and work/family policy continues.

There are questions that remain. Is it just "natural" ability or drive that should determine the balance of who stays home and who brings home the bacon for how much of the time? (For example, I've seen too many examples of women who don't feel like 'natural' mothers who feel inspired to stay home. I'm one of them.) Does the idea of "equal partners" mean "equal roles" or "equal parsing of tasks"? (I don't think it does.) Can or should "equality" be mandated by governments in ways that could force families to choose something that isn't right for them?

Perhaps I could best sum up many of my questions by echoing the question posed by Hanna Rosin:

"What if equality isn't the end point?"

I know I don't have all the answers, but I think this is a valid question.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

On the theme of waiting

Our friends' niece/cousin passed away on Friday. I was reading her blog and found this poem.

It's hard to hear of others' trials that didn't turn out as they had hoped, and yet it's clear that this family had great faith.

And this poem was timely for me.

Take a minute or two and go read it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Waiting on the Lord

The last several weeks have been difficult. I go through phases with my chronic health issues, and this has been a down phase for me.

I have a goal to listen to or read a General Conference talk every night. Last night, the thought came to focus on Elder Kent Richards' talk, "The Atonement Covers All Pain." It was one of my favorites, and re-reading it only strengthened my feelings of gratitude for his wise and loving words.

I appreciated the quotes and scriptures he used. This one struck me, as I am definitely in 'waiting' mode.

President Henry B. Eyring taught: “It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. … And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience. 14
 I've thought often about the people who were healed by Christ's power. Sometimes I have envied them, wondering why He has not healed me yet. But then I realize that those people, too, had to wait -- the blind man waited since birth; the woman with the issue of blood was sick for over a decade.

Sometimes in the depth of pain, we are tempted to ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” 7 I testify the answer is yes, there is a physician. The Atonement of Jesus Christ covers all these conditions and purposes of mortality.
 Elder Richards quoted something from Elder Oaks that has brought me much comfort over the years since he gave this talk.

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.” 17

And then Elder Richards testifies:
Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.
I think this is going to be another one of my anchor talks in this journey with chronic illness. Thank you, Elder Richards, for helping be an instrument for the Savior's healing power.

Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.” 1

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eternal Perspective

While doing physical therapy last night, I listened to Elder Russell M. Nelson's talk, Face the Future with Faith. I hadn't noticed this the first time I heard his talk (emphasis mine).

Unfailing faith is fortified through prayer. Your heartfelt pleadings are important to Him. Think of the intense and impassioned prayers of the Prophet Joseph Smith during his dreadful days of incarceration in Liberty Jail. The Lord responded by changing the Prophet’s perspective.
How often might the answers to our prayers come in such a way? Perhaps that is one reason why we are told to pray -- if we exercise our spirits in this way, we are more able to see, with God's help, with an eternal perspective.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Mormon Woman's Thoughts On Faith, Feminism, Gender Equality: Thoughts on Equality, part 1

A Mormon Woman's Thoughts On Faith, Feminism, Gender Equality: Thoughts on Equality, part 1: The Gestalt Gospel 
(See introduction to this series here.)

In a Church press release (it’s now been a couple of years ago), it was stated that “certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions.” I think this is also true about some words that have different meanings and connotations than in other contexts, such as the social sciences and even the culture at large. 

Take the word “equality,” for example. When we talk about equality, particularly of the sexes, all sorts of thoughts and emotions and definitions and biases and baggage are already present before a discussion even begins. Accusations of sexism in Mormonism automatically cast the Church or its supporters into a negative light -- because how on earth could anything that isn't "equal" for both genders be a good thing? This is an understandable question if measures such as those used in "equal rights" movements are used. However, I believe such measures are inadequate for understanding why people like me are not upset about the different gender roles and responsibilities (e.g., women don't have the priesthood, different primary roles outlined for men and women in family life).

For my purposes here, I begin with a couple of quotes that will help frame my thoughts on this topic. And I need to begin the post with the disclaimer that, of course, I cannot and do not speak for the Church. This reflects some of my personal study and pondering on this subject.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
Free and open doctrinal discussion is important in gospel scholarship, but remember that most things have been put into place by God and simply are not subject to change. The doctrines and principles of the Church are established only through revelation, not legislation. This is God’s plan; we do not have the prerogative to alter or tamper with it.

Our task is to integrate the principles of the gospel into our lives so that our lives will be in balance. When our lives are in balance, before you realize it your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm that your Heavenly Father loves you and that His plan is fair and true and we should strive to understand it and enjoy living it.

I like to call this idea of the gospel being an integration of many different principles "the Gestalt Gospel." (You'll see in this post that I like alliteration!) This reflects some of my background in studying Psychology back in the day. I believe it's simply impossible to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ by analyzing it or critiquing it through one kind of lens or measuring stick or philosophy. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, more than any -ism can possibly capture in its tenets. Even Mormonism as a culture can fall short of true understanding. This is why I believe it's important to look for patterns in teachings we have, and, above all, seek for the Spirit's help to see the bigger picture. 

Of course, there is no way for me to capture the big picture in words (in part because I am, of course, like anyone else with limited vision as a fallen mortal), but I can share what kinds of concepts help me to see and feel glimpses of that picture, and peace with the ways things are and are taught.

Neal A. Maxwell (then assistant to the Council of the Twelve) shared some thoughts that reinforce this idea of a Gestalt Gospel, and he even addresses how focusing only on equality can leave us falling short of the wonder of the whole: 

[There is a danger and approach that] seizes upon a single, true principle and elevates it above its peer principles. This act of isolation does not make the principle seized any less true, but it strips that principle of its supporting principles. One can be incarcerated within the prison of one principle.
For instance, “peacemakers” are precious commodities, but peace-making must be tied to other principles or it can easily become peace-making at any price. Candor is an important attribute, but it must not be separated from genuine concern for those who will feel the consequences of candor. Paul’s counsel is to be sure that we are “speaking the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15.) Love and truth need each other.

Charles Frankel observed of those who would … subordinate everything else to "equality.”:
 “The fallacies of … egalitarianism come largely from having ripped the notion of equality loose from its context. The result is to turn it into a principle vagrant and homeless, and identifiable in fact only if a quasi-theological context is unconsciously imported. ("The New Egalitarianism and the Old," Commentary, Sept. 1973, p. 61.)
Elevating any correct principle to the plane of religion is poor policy. Just as one person makes a poor church, one principle makes a poor religion!

The doctrines of Christ need each other, just as the disciples of Christ need each other. It is the orthodox orchestration in applying the gospel of Jesus Christ that keeps us happy and helps us to avoid falling off the straight and narrow path, for on the one side there is harsh legalism and on the other syrupy sensualism. Little wonder that man needs careful and precise help, the guidance of the Spirit, in order to navigate under such stressful circumstances.

Little wonder we so need those eternal perspectives which come from looking at life through the lens of the gospel!
My purpose in the next few posts is to try to explore the concept of equality through the lens of the gospel, in light of a greater whole. I like to call this concept Eternal Equality.While I understand that I certainly don’t have a corner on truth, I have seen clear patterns in what we are taught, and these teachings cross generations and also come from both male and female leaders. I believe that one way we can know if prophets and other leaders are teaching truth is when we see consistency and repetition in and across what is taught.

I will attempt to define more what I mean by Eternal Equality in my next post.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ the Lord is Risen! Alleluia!

I think this hymn captures the glory and majesty of the message of Easter. There are so many thoughts in my mind about what the Atonement and Resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ, mean to me. For now, I'll let the music say it.

I also liked this view of Easter through the lens of social media. It causes me to pause and ask myself what I would have done. (The Christmas video from Igniter Media is even more amazing, imo.)

Would we have followed Him then? Will we follow Him now?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Mormon Woman's Thoughts On Faith, Feminism, Gender Equality: Introduction

I'm a Mormon woman who has spent a lot of time over the past decade and a half thinking and writing about and discussing "women's issues" in Mormonism, how feminism and Mormonism might intersect (or not). This is always a challenge, because feminism means different things to different people...and, for that matter, so does Mormonism. And then you bring in the word "equality" and things get even more tricky, because I do think that different people define or approach equality differently.

I think it's safe to say that a typical (and simple) feminist definition of gender equality would be something like "equal opportunity" or "equal treatment" in an organization. Therefore, many feminists conclude, the Mormon church is not equal because it's a patriarchal organization -- led by men, where women can't hold all the possible positions men can.

I honestly can understand this position. I mean, I can't imagine anyone looking at the structure of the Church and not thinking, at least for a minute, "Hm. Why is it that men hold the priesthood and women don't? Why is it that the men hold the highest leadership positions in the general and local Church structures?" I think this question becomes all the more pointed the more that we see civil rights' movements, equal opportunity employment efforts, and so forth in our culture.

And so, the obvious follow-up question that is understandable is "Why would any woman choose to be Mormon?" I recently heard a commenter on a newspaper article basically say, "I would never be part of an organization like this, because it turns women into second-class citizens."

In the next while, I will attempt to share some of my thoughts on this, on why I don't feel like a second-class citizen as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I take a different approach when defining equality (which means I'm either not a feminist or I'm pointing out yet another definition of feminism). This different approach is a key reason why I am fine with the functional differences of men's and women's responsibilities in the Church.

A few caveats on this little blog mini-series include the following:

- I make no promises about the frequency of my posts. ;)
- I am most definitely not any sort of authoritative voice. I am simply sharing my personal thoughts and perspectives on this topic.
- As is often the case with a blog, some of what may be recorded here may be work-in-progress thinking. Which also means that I don't pretend to understand it all, but I do have some strong feelings about these topics.
- I'm still not sure what to do about comments. I might turn moderation on. I might turn comments off altogether. I might not do anything different. My life is pretty insane right now, so I don't have a ton of time to engage in a lot of detailed discussion. (And I know from experience how much time such discussion can take.)

So there you go. See you on Part 1, "A Mormon Woman's Thoughts On Faith, Feminism, Gender Equality" -- whenever I get to it. ;)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Themes in the April 2011 General Conference

This weekend was General Conference weekend for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I absolutely love Conference weekend. At the end of the two days, I found myself feeling sad...sort of like you can feel with post-Christmas letdown. Conference is like Christmas around here -- we anticipate it for weeks, we savor spending time together as a family, we eat fun food, we stop regular life for a couple of days, and we wish it could last longer. (My children always yell "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" as the last session ends.)

And it's another time to focus on and renew our faith in Jesus Christ and in our Heavenly Father's eternal plan for His children. It's a time when we seek to feel God's Holy Spirit in our hearts to help us refocus on what matters most.

Whenever I listen to General Conference, I like to look for themes. I'm reminded of what Elder Neil L. Andersen said last April in General Conference:

There are no assigned subjects, no collaboration of themes. The Lord’s way, of course, is always the best way. He takes the individual prayerful efforts of each speaker and orchestrates a spiritual symphony full of revelation and power. Repeated themes, principle building upon principle, prophetic warnings, uplifting promises—the divine harmony is a miracle! I testify that in this conference we have heard and felt the mind and will of the Lord.

I still want to mull over all the messages a little more (and given my weird sleep issues, I still have a couple of messages to listen to that I missed while sleeping). But here are some themes I noticed [edited to add that I'll be editing this list as I think of other themes]:

-The healing power of Christ
-Helping the poor and needy / Giving service
-The centrality of marriage and family in Mormon doctrine
-Life is a test
-Discipleship takes work, discipline, commitment, willingness to sacrifice, willingness to change/grow/receive (and even seek) correction
-We believe in angels
-Doing vs. becoming
-Small and simple things
-Revelation and personal testimony/answers

What did you notice? What talks stood out to you?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Illusion of Control and the Need for Spiritual Preparation

As human beings, we work hard to be in control. We plan our schedules and our lives, we save our money for a rainy day. We (try to) exercise regularly eat our fruits and vegetables to maximize health and prevent disease. We wear our seat belts. And the list can go on.... We do myriad things because we believe they can protect us from harm, prolong our lives, reduce our pain.

And sometimes, they can.

But sometimes, nothing we do can protect us from horrible, painful, difficult things that can and do happen. The recent events in Japan are a deeply sobering reminder of that fact.

It's unnerving to realize that at any given moment, any number of things could change -- or end -- our lives.

As such, it's easy to feel fear. I know it is for me, anyway.

How grateful I am for my faith in such times -- reminding me that there is a purpose to life, and it goes beyond temporal, temporary protection and comfort. Opposition and trials and even death are part of a larger plan of God for our growth and salvation.

I don't mean in any way to minimize the horror of things like this tragedy in Japan. We should never stop caring about the proximate problems that face us, never stop seeking to serve those in need, never stop doing our part to do good and make our world better. But in the midst of all of this, I think it's important to remember our mortal limitations and remember our ultimate reliance on God. For me, times like this are times to regroup and assess my spiritual storehouse and preparations for whatever life may throw my way.

I love this from President Henry B. Eyring:

“Most of us have thought about how to prepare for storms. We have seen and felt the suffering of women, men, and children, and of the aged and the weak, caught in hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, and droughts. One reaction is to ask, ‘How can I be prepared?’

“And there is a rush to buy and put away whatever people think they might need for the day they might face such calamities.

“But there is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can’t be bought. It can’t be borrowed. It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.

“What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

High Priests' Group Social

I love being with the people in my ward congregation. I am missing them a lot right now because I'm currently attending a ward that meets later in the day. (My health problems make mornings very difficult, so I got permission to attend another ward.)

So I was glad to get together with many of them last night at our ward's high priest social. We ate a yummy dinner and then played a game around our tables. Each of us wrote a "little known fact" about ourselves, and then people at the table tried to guess who wrote what.

I wrote about making 24 points in a school basketball game when I was a teenager. (What would you have shared?) At the end of the evening, each table shared what everyone said. It was both interesting and amusing to hear what people chose to share. I think my favorite was one of the women who said that she once raised ticks and had the largest tick colony in the nation. (I can't remember why she did that, but it stuck in my mind.) I also remember the story of the man who was scuba diving at night and had an electric eel charge him and knock the mask off his face. This was the same man who was nearly crushed while working on his '59 whatever-it-was. His brother heard his screams for help and lifted the car enough for him to get out from under it.

Anyway, I'm grateful for good friends and for opportunities to "hang out" with some of them at activities like this.

A Favorite Mormon Video

The Mormon Church has created a lot of great videos. They can be found on YouTube at the Mormon Channel and elsewhere, such as on the Church's website for youth. I've enjoyed the profiles as well (also available at the Mormon Channel) -- it's fun to "meet" different members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But I think the following video of the youth at the Kiev Ukraine temple dedication time (talking about their youth celebration) is one of my all-time favorites.

For those not of our faith, this post that features the youth cultural celebration video explains a little about why temples are so important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Can broken (even offended) hearts help us knit our hearts?

I've been thinking about this post over at Segullah. It's pretty amazing when you hear the stories of the questions that people are willing to ask -- about dating, marriage, pregnancy -- things that are pretty personal and definitely charged. They evoke some of our strongest feelings, both spiritual and emotional. They reflect the many challenges that come with mortality and the messiness that comes with the gift of agency.

And so on one hand, I really understand the frustration about personal questions being asked on a dime. I doubt there are many women who haven't experienced this, and we've probably all experienced it multiple times.

And yet.

I can't stop thinking about the fact that even such insensitive questions could be springboards for more hearts-knit-together-like sisterhood if we would let them. Yes, people should probably mind their own business, but where is the harm of gently sharing a bit of our lives with each other? Couldn't we help others have more compassion by sharing some of our difficulties in these areas of our lives?

I definitely have my horror stories with these things. "Why aren't you married yet?" was a question I got when I was single. I was criticized (or pitied) openly for having three children so close together. And then when we didn't have any more, questions came about why we weren't having more.

But as I noted over in the comments, I have found that a simple answer that helps people understand my life and heart a little more typically goes a long way -- AND it helps me keep from getting frustrated or feeling offended. After all, it's hard to feel love for each other if we are harboring grudges.

I didn't want to pontificate too much in the thread because I really do see both sides and I don't want to trample on tender feelings. And yet, it's those very tender feelings that I think could help people understand more about how complicated life can be, and give opportunities for those in pain to actually receive some support. I think most people really don't mean to be insensitive. Maybe we can give them a chance?

Maybe it's in part because I'm afraid of being that person at times (sometimes we all say and do dumb things) and I would sure appreciate some mercy and an opportunity to repent and try again -- with that person I may have inadvertently offended!

Whaddya think?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On Beauty and Truth

You'll see I've got beauty on the brain. And bodies. And the battle to accept our mortality. The battle is real for me. It's not so much the beauty thing (I've sort of accepted that I'm more a plain Jane, and my stint with an eating disorder is thankfully in my past), but the chronic illness and aging thing really does get to me sometimes. Read more of my reflections on the struggle on my other blog. (Why do I have two blogs again? I'm really thinking that wasn't the best decision. Ah, well.) Read more of my thoughts on the solution at Mormon Women: Who We Are. (Hint - there's more than one reason I picked that name for the Mormon Women website.)

One talk I wish I had included but forgot to (the post was already too long anyway) was this by Elder Holland. It is entitled To Young Women, but I think we as adults also need the message as much as our young women do. Besides, the young women often follow our lead. What kind of example are we giving them?

More than ever before, I think we need the power of truth to be able to combat all the voices and forces that would seek to undermine the power and worth of women in God's plan. (This is true for me, too, but for the given topics, my focus is more on women.)

Thoughts? What does true beauty mean to you? What helps you feel your worth as a daughter of God? What truths are powerful weapons in your battles against the voices (both "out there" and within) that seek to undermine your sense of worth, hope, and potential?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fruit and Wild Honey in My Wilderness

Things have been kinda tough this week. It all sort of came to a head today...broken dishwasher, piles of dishes that I'm too weary to clean (diagnosed w/ strep), no energy to rally the troops to clean....[ok I lied, I do care enough to edit out some of my ramblings which I did here]

As I lay on the floor in the midst of the mess tonite trying to get my weary body and soul some rest, I listened to my precious little girl read one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. This verse -- not usually one that I notice -- grabbed my attention.

I Nephi 17:4
And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.

Tears immediately sprang to my eyes as I realized it's been eight years. Eight years this month since my chronic health stuff started. It was hard not to feel that this was a little nod from heaven with an accompanying message:

"I know. It's been eight years. And I know. It's hard."

The next verse also spoke to me.

"And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish."

There's more than one reason this verse is meaningful, but I was struck by the phrase about things being "prepared of the Lord that we might not perish."

And I thought about some of the things in the last week that may be my fruit and wild honey.

I think of the prompting (now I know it was a prompting because of my positive strep test) that I got last Friday to get a doctor's appointment. I really wasn't sick enough to do that on my own; I really didn't feel that much different (if at all) than I feel on just a bad health day.

As I became concerned that maybe I had argued with that prompting too long, and maybe something terrible will go wrong because I delayed, I listened to the words of the blessing my husband gave me as he laid his hands on my head. He spoke a message of peace. I have to hold onto that, and hope that God knew me well enough to know that going to a doctor without symptoms was not going to happen in a day. I hope He prepared against my weakness. Nephi and his arguing with the Spirit about Laban also came to mind. Sometimes promptings just don't "make sense."

But I feel I learned a little better what a prompting feels like for me (I'm always working to refine my ear to hear God's voice). It was a quiet, out-of-the-blue thought, one I would not have come up with myself, not in a moment of worry or fear. It was in pondering that that I finally decided I needed to act on it, even if nothing were to come of it.

Another tender mercy in all of the mess is that because of the crazy leak, I finally called to make some claims on our homeowner's insurance -- and found out about that fact that our premium had not been paid. We would have found out anyway, but it got the ball rolling and also got me to make the other claims for water problems we've had elsewhere.

And the broken dishwasher? Well, it's just made me grateful for dishwashers. And for the counsel to have food storage. My storage includes a supply of paper and plastic goods that are now stocked where clean dishes usually go.

I know I'm rambling, but I'm too tired to do much about it. I just wanted to record some of the blessings I am seeing in the midst of my little wilderness right now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One day at a time. Manna. Daily Bread. = Truth from heaven for me today

The recent CES fireside talk by Elder Christofferson was fan.tas.tic. I always like listening to these, but this post by "Gay Mormon Guy" inspired me to watch it tonite: "One Today at a Time."

I encourage you to find the time to listen. Be sure to read the post, too -- such perspective, whatever our challenges may be.

I'll never hear about manna or the line in the Lord's prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread" without thinking of the perspective Elder Christofferson brought to these scriptural experiences and teachings.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm back to blogging, I think. I've had so much swimming through my brain and life as of late. So much that I want to capture but haven't taken the time to write in my journal (yes, I'm still in pen-and-paper mode with my personal journal). So I may be doing more here again.

These past few months have been really hard in some ways. We had some unexpected things happen that threw our lives for a loop, drained our financial reserve, and sapped my physical and mental and spiritual energy as well. I look back and still am sort of befuddled about it all. I like it when I can make sense of things that happen, but this one? Just doesn't make sense. But strangely, I'm still at peace (at least most of the time), and life has gone on. Here's some of my Mormon life as of late:

-#1 turned 12. In the world of Mormon life, that is a big deal. (Read more about my reflections here.) He received the Aaronic Priesthood. He now gets to pass the sacrament. He was in the temple doing baptisms for the dead the first day he could go. He went around last week to help collect fast offerings. He is beaming with joy about doing these things. He came home from church on Sunday ready to share all that he had learned and thought about. This weekend, he goes on his first winter campout (oh, heaven help my mother heart).

(While I'm on the topic of scouts, I have to say for all the world to hear that I think I'm finally getting how scouts works. It only took me four years, but I no longer feel so much like a fish out of water, and I am enjoying working with my boy to help him work through his merit badges. You have to understand as a woman coming from a family of all girls where my mom did not have a scout calling that I can recall, I had zerozilchonada in terms of exposure to scouting. And it felt like learning a whole new language. But now, I speak Scoutish.)

-I got a new calling at church. I get to help with the Activity Days for the 10-11-year-old girls, which includes one of my darling daughters. It looks like it will likely be temporary until the other leader can get back into it all -- she just had a baby. I love the chance to serve in this way and to be involved with my girl.

-My other calling presents a challenge -- the new presents much for me to navigate and learn as the ward congregation website manager. But I really like where the new tools are going.

-We're nearing the third birthday of this project. I'm really excited about the new series that we just started, called "Forward with Faith." It was perfectly summarized on Mormon Times, as a "series about how faith helps people get through trials and overcome challenges." The first piece seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. It's so interesting to watch how things unfold and work together. I have definitely felt tender mercies with this particular series. Next week, we'll be featuring the story of an elderly Mormon woman who is legally blind and who does more family history work than just about anyone I know. She's been an inspiration to me and I can't wait for people to meet her!

And now for the most important parts of my life:

-I cannot express how much I love my children. Being LDS has given me an even deeper appreciation for my role as a mother than I think I ever would have had on my own. A mother loves her children -- it's almost a biological fact for most moms. But to understand the doctrine of motherhood and, over time, to feel that doctrine distill on my's life-changing. I remember when they were little and I was so. very. frazzled and struggling with post-partum yuck and who knows what else, and then dealing with the chronic physical illness that hit -- I felt like they deserved better. And I still feel that way sometimes, but through all of that, I have felt God's Spirit remind me that this matters. *I* matter, because I am *their* mother. And what's more -- being their mother has changed ME. The process of growing into this role has changed me, and they and their amazing spirits have blessed my life in countless ways.

-Hubby and I celebrated the unlucky number 13 this past year. But we don't feel it's an unlucky number for us. I have a feeling 2011 will be our best year yet.

Here's to hoping it will be yours, too.