Monday, May 28, 2012

GCBC Week 9: “Abide in the Lord’s Territory” & “To Hold Sacred”

Elder Ulisses Soares was my husband’s mission president in the Portugal Porto Mission (which has since been combined with the Portugal Lisbon Mission), so hearing him speak in General Conference is always a treat. My husband speaks very highly of him, and loves him like a father (as I imagine many missionaries view their mission presidents). I met him once at a mission reunion several years ago when we were newlyweds, and the talk he gave at the fireside has stuck with me ever since. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about it some day.

I was bummed that my husband didn’t get to hear President Soares speak (he was on a flight back from Paris), but I am grateful for the Ensign and the videos made available online so my husband can sort of have the chance to hear his president speak again.

Abide in the Lord’s Territory – By Elder Ulisses Soares

Jesus Christ established the perfect behavior pattern by which we can build upon our attitudes to be able to fulfill these sacred covenants. The Savior banished from His life any influence that might take His focus away from His divine mission, especially when He was tempted by the enemy or by his followers while He ministered here on earth. Although He never sinned, He had a broken heart and a contrite spirit, full of love for our Heavenly Father and for all men. He humbled Himself before our Father in Heaven, denying His own will to fulfill what the Father had asked of Him in all things until the end. Even at that moment of extreme physical and spiritual pain, carrying the burden of the sins of all mankind on His shoulders and shedding blood through His pores, He told the Father, “Nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt”

“You can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right.”

I love this little saying Elder Soares quoted from President Monson. I am sure it has been made into many printables out there, and I’d even bet that several Relief Society sisters already have it in vinyl lettering on a tile or wood block. And they should. It is absolutely true.

To Hold Sacred – By Elder Paul B. Pieper

Today the struggle continues. Secular voices are growing in volume and intensity. They increasingly urge believers to abandon beliefs the world considers irrational and unreasonable.

The sacred cannot be selectively surrendered. Those who choose to abandon even one sacred thing will have their minds darkened, and unless they repent, the light they have shall be taken from them. Unanchored by the sacred, they will find themselves morally adrift on a secular sea.

Elder Paul B. Pieper’s talk really hit me, especially the last several paragraphs. I reread his talk one day after worrying about all the pulls of the secular world, and the discussion about “Mormonism Lite” (or “unorthodox” Mormonism) and all the people who are pulled apart by the secular voices all around us. His talk was very timely for me, and I am trying to hold sacred the truths that I have received, so that my mind won’t be darkened. What a scary thought!

What struck you in these talks?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Voices All Around

Yesterday I was talking with my friend about the increasingly secular views of the world. In particular, we were talking about homosexuality and how the response to people “coming out” is often “Cool!” or “Good for you!” Not only is homosexuality accepted in today’s world as normal – it is becoming increasingly viewed as “cool” or “good”.

A few nights ago I was reading my conference issue of the Ensign and I read this quote from a talk by Elder Paul B. Piper of the Seventy.

Today the struggle continues. Secular voices are growing in volume and intensity. They increasingly urge believers to abandon beliefs the world considers irrational and unreasonable. Because “we see through a glass, darkly” and “do not know the meaning of all things”, at times we may feel vulnerable and in need of greater spiritual assurances. The Lord told Oliver Cowdery:

“If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”.

The Lord reminded Oliver and us to rely on sacred personal witnesses already received when our faith is challenged. Like Moses’s, Alma’s and Joseph’s before, these divine encounters serve as spiritual anchors to keep us safe and on course in times of trial.

The sacred cannot be selectively surrendered. Those who choose to abandon even one sacred thing will have their minds darkened, and unless they repent, the light they have shall be taken from them. Unanchored by the sacred, they will find themselves morally adrift on a secular sea. In contrast, those who hold sacred things sacred receive promises: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”.

I was struck by his statement that “Secular voices are growing in volume and intensity.” I definitely see this happening. I believe that it is our responsibility as disciples of Christ to make sure that our voices are growing in volume and intensity. Those of the world would stamp out, mute, and deny the voices of those who proclaim to follow Christ.

As if the one witness wasn’t enough, the very next talk was Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk where he said

President Thomas S. Monson has described our day as moving away “from that which is spiritual … [with] the winds of change [swirling] around us and the moral fiber of society [continuing] to disintegrate before our very eyes.” It is a time of growing disbelief in and disregard for Christ and His teachings.

In this turbulent environment, we rejoice in being disciples of Jesus Christ. We see the Lord’s hand all around us. Our destination is beautifully set before us. “This is life eternal,” Jesus prayed, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Being a disciple in these days of destiny will be a badge of honor throughout the eternities.

I am so grateful for the words of the prophets in General Conference, which Elder Andersen referred to as “guideposts from the Lord on our journey of discipleship.” If we will listen to these messengers of Christ and try our best to follow their counsel, we will be able to stand strong in the face of the “winds of change” as the secular voices grow louder in every direction.


My only fear is for my children. I have faith that my testimony will carry me, but I am sometimes so afraid that my children will not have the testimony that I have and they will not be able to stand strong. I worry that my children will grow up in this secular world and will be distracted from the sacred and focus instead on the secular.

As I have been struggling with his fear in the past several days, I have been trying to have faith and take my fears to the Lord in prayer. I have poured out my heart to Him, and I am learning to trust Him to teach me and help me teach my children.

And some days all I can do is cry out to the Savior in tears and say,
“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Do you ever doubt your abilities as a mother to raise children who will have unwavering testimonies? How do you increase your faith? How do you feel better about the increasing secular world? How do you make it? How do you keep your children safe?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Proving the Coming of Christ

I realized that there has been a bit of an intense or deep feeling on the blog lately, and it has been making me a little crazy. I have been thinking of something a little "lighter" to post about - but really, is there any part of the gospel that really is "lite" (yes, that was kind of a snarky comment about the "Mormonism Lite" review - if you don't know what I am talking about, go look it up. But it's not light reading, just consider yourself forewarned).

I am learning the balance between boldly declaring Christ'a gospel and not coming across as condescending. I appreciate those folks who stick around on the blog here and let me practice on them. I have a lot to learn about the gospel and I think I have just as much to learn about sharing it with people.

A few nights ago I started 2 Nephi 11 and I read the phrase "my soul delighteth" a couple of times, so I figured I should definitely write about it.

I especially loved this, "my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ" - perhaps that is one of the main reasons I write on this blog - because my soul delights in that same thing.

Like I said - I am trying to be bold without being overbearing (see Alma 38:12). I am really not good at that (ask my husband! And pretty much anyone who has met me "offline"... yikes. I am pretty bad). Well, we all have strengths and weaknesses, and if the Lord can really turn my weakness in this into a strength (see Ether 12:27) then perhaps some day I will indeed be bold without being overbearing.

Do you delight in proving the truth of Christ to "your people"? Do you struggle to be bold without being overbearing?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

To Understand With Your Heart

Book of Mormon Papers - a series of posts
containing papers I wrote for a
BYU Religion class my freshman year of college.

(Note: I enjoyed re-reading this post because it reminded me that I need to study the words of Isaiah more! It’s interesting how many people talk about how hard it is to understand Isaiah. His words really are plain and precious. The symbolism is sometimes hard to understand, but only if you aren’t familiar with symbols. I had great teachers (both religious teachers and secular teachers) who really helped me to understand symbolism. One of my favorite classes in high school was Art History, and we learned a lot about symbolism in that class.)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophets quote Isaiah several times and often will give their own interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecies.  Nephi is not only no exception, but he alone quoted Isaiah more often than any other writer in the Book of Mormon.  Nephi explained himself several times, often stating how he read Isaiah to “more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer,” (1 Nephi 19:23) or for the “proving unto [his] people that save Christ should come all men must perish.”  The words of Isaiah are often hard to comprehend and can cause frustration instead of enlightenment.  How, then, is one supposed to read the words of Isaiah so that he may believe more fully in Christ?  Isaiah himself states that man must “understand with their hearts” (2 Nephi 16:10) in order to understand and be converted.  After one has begun to understand with his heart, the treasures of Isaiah may be enjoyed and stored up in burning testimony.

In a vision described by Isaiah, he is called to testify and prophesy of Christ.  After overcoming feelings of self doubt, removed by the atonement of Christ, Isaiah offers himself as a witness. (2 Nephi 16:5-8)  However, Isaiah was informed that, although men would hear his words, they would misunderstand and perceive not. (2 Nephi 16:9)  The things of Isaiah are simple and plain truths of the gospel; they are words which, if received in the correct spirit and mind, can enlighten and enlarge the soul.  Man is continuously instructed throughout the scriptures to experiment on the word and plant the words in their heart with faith. (Alma 32)  If one will but follow that counsel, the plain and precious truths contained in Isaiah will begin to change the lives of those they touch.

Isaiah was called as a special witness of Christ.  Words which testify of Christ are important to one’s own understanding of the Redeemer, and there is no better way to come to know the character of Christ than to read of Him through the prophesies and witnesses of those called to testify of Him.  The words of Isaiah may be hard to understand, but if approached in the correct spirit and mind, within Isaiah’s words may be found plain and precious truths that will strengthen and enlarge the testimonies of those who read them.

How do you approach the words of Isaiah?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where Did I Come From?

I love science. Especially physics. My best friend and roommate from Brigham Young University was an astrophysics major when we were going through school, and I was studying physics for my minor, so we had a lot of physics classes together. When she got home from her mission and I was just married we attended a lecture about dark matter. The Wikipedia article starts out, “In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is a currently unknown type of matter hypothesized to account for a large part of the total mass in the universe.” The lecture was fascinating, and the conclusion was, “We still have no clue what dark matter is.” Which is kind of fun in the math and science world, because that means there is more to learn and discover!

As a mathematician and lover of science (I wouldn’t dare call myself a scientist), and a very religious person, I find things like dark matter fascinating. It is not hard for me to reconcile my belief in science with my faith in God. When I come across something that science can’t explain (right now) it is usually a great faith builder for me – partly because I have to have faith that there is an explanation, and partly because when science can’t explain something it humbles me to remember just how little we do know about God and His creations.

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine shared this video with me. It was amazing. As I said, I am a lover of science, but also a lover of the gospel. Many of the topics discussed in this video brought a lot of light and truth to me as I pondered them in relation to things that I have learned about the gospel. I should probably stop being surprised that science makes so much sense. And especially that true science always fits in with the gospel.

I especially love when he says “Quantum mechanics would be intuitive to their toddlers. Whole symphonies would be written by their children…” Yup.

What do you think?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Women and the Priesthood

There seems to be a big conflict about women and the priesthood. A lot of women (and men) seem to think it is the same as the ban on blacks having the priesthood. They are waiting for a revelation that will extend the priesthood to all women, as well as men.

I don’t think this will ever happen. Not because I don’t think women won’t or shouldn’t have the priesthood. I don’t think it will ever happen because women already possess every power of the priesthood, and are not excluded from priesthood service. And because the women are already organized after the pattern of the priesthood, and all we need to do is wake up and fulfill our potential that has already been given us.

Women have Priesthood Power

In a post at By Common Consent a few months ago, the post author pointed out that ordination to a priesthood office does not necessarily mean the priesthood “holder” has any kind of priesthood power.

So if ordination to priesthood office does not give someone priesthood power, then what does?

When a man (or a woman) enters the waters of baptism and receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, they are entitled to priesthood power from those gifts (repentance and revelation) based on their worthiness. In the temple, women are endowed with all the same gifts and powers as a man. There is not separate ceremony for men, there is no separate blessing. Both men and women have the same blessings given to them in the temple. These powers and blessings are also contingent on their worthiness.

So how do we get priesthood power? By our worthiness.

In a Mormon Channel episode, Sister Julie B. Beck said,

I think that there is a great confusion about this, and some of it came about through the sifting of the scriptures and when plain and precious things were removed from the scriptures, but there is confusion about priesthood and how we talk about it…sometimes [we imply] that the men who hold the priesthood are the priesthood… [but] the priesthood is the power of God… it is His power… and in His plan He has give certain responsibilities to men and to women to utilize that power he’s made available to bless His children. Some of that power comes to us through the gifts and blessings of the priesthood…some of that power comes to us through ordinances. For instance, when we are baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Everybody gets that power if they’re worthy… that is God’s power speaking to us through the power of revelation... There are authorizations to perform ordinances.

Sometimes we say “Well, the men have it and the women don’t.” I hear that argument a lot. That isn’t even the right question. The question we should be having in our lives is “How can I access every ordinance that’s available to me to walk back to my Heavenly Father. How can I access the gifts and the blessings he’s made available to every one of His children.” And those blessings and ordinances are not gender specific, those saving ordnances that will exalt us. Now, men have been given the assignment to hold in trust the priesthood. To really understand this you would have to do a study of the family of Abraham and go all the way back to Adam and “Why did the the Lord give Adam to give the Priesthood to hold in trust?” It was so that every child of Adam’s family would have access to the ordinances that would save them. That was Adam’s assignment. To hold in trust that authority to perform those ordinances to bless his family. Now Eve was his sealed wife. That was a priesthood ordinance that sealed them. So the power of that ordinance was effective in her life. She also had assignments in her family. To teach her children, to nurture her children, to create the life of that child. And by whose power does that happen? That is God’s power. Women don’t need to be ordained to an office to perform that… The Lord can bless us in many many ways through the gifts of the priesthood…

This is Satan's way of confusing all of us, so that the men don’t understand what they have and value it, and the women don’t understand what they have and value it, and that neither values what the other has. If we can get into a polarizing, combative frame of mind then neither of us values really what the Lord has blessed us with in His priesthood.

This polarizing, combative frame of mind is what I see all around in the discussion about women and the priesthood. Why? Because Satan wants to confuse us so that none of us can enjoy the blessings of the power of God. I wish that we could get beyond this frame of mind and open up a real dialogue about how women can use the power of the priesthood in their lives and to bless the lives of others (which, really, when we get right down to it is the purpose of the priesthood – to bless the lives of others).

Priesthood Organization and Authority

Women will (and do and have) absolutely perform(ed) priesthood ordinances. In the post at By Common Consent a commenter suggested that women perform ordinances in the temple for “practical” reasons. I do not think that is so.

In the most recent (April 2012) General Conference, Sister Julie B. Beck echoed President Spencer W. Kimball’s call for the sisters of the Church to “catch the vision of Relief Society.” In a BYU Devotional address earlier in 2012, Sister Beck said that the Relief Society is like a priesthood quorum. “A priesthood quorum is a group of men with the same office of priesthood who are to perform a special labor.” The prophet Joseph Smith
“organiz[ed] the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” The Relief Society, then, is a priesthood quorum for women. Sister Beck quoted a talk given by President Boyd K. Packer about quorums, stating that the words “quorum vos unum” mean “of whom we will that you be one”. She then said, “The word society has a meaning nearly identical to that of quorum. It connotes “an enduring and cooperating … group” distinguished by its commons aims and beliefs.”

Sister Beck went on to point out all the patterns of the priesthood that include women as well, such as the calling of Relief Society presidencies, sustaining our Relief Society leaders and teachers, receiving personal revelation over our stewardships, among other patterns.

When will we, as sisters of the Church, realize that our Relief Society is part of the priesthood? The Church was not fully organized until the Relief Society was formed in the pattern of the priesthood.

Equal Partners with Different Responsibilities

By divine design, men and women have different roles – both in the family and in the Church. This does not mean that we are not equal (different =/= unequal). It does not mean that men are somehow “over” women. “By divine design, [the brethren] are to preside over [the Church] in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for [the Church]. [The sisters of the Church] are primarily responsible for the nurture of [the members of the Church]. In these sacred responsibilities, [brethren and sisters] are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World – edited to apply to the Church broadly) If the purpose of the Church is to strengthen home and family then it makes sense that the Church is patterned after the family. The basic unit of the Church is not actually the ward, it is the family. So here we have it – men have different roles in the Church than women do. But, they “are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” So just as fathers are to preside in their families in love and righteousness, men are supposed to preside in the Church in love and righteousness.

Some questions to think about that may help this be more clear: Should men have wombs and carry children just as women do? Should Adam and Eve both simultaneously partaken of the fruit of the tree, rather than Even partaking first, then offering to Adam? Should there have been a male and a female Christ?

Could mortality be possible with out Eve (female)? Could immortality be possible without Christ (male)? Is one more significant than the other? Was Eve’s act any less noble, any less vital to our eternal salvation?

A Woman’s Right

It is a woman’s right to posses and exercise every power of the priesthood (based on her worthiness). The roles in exercising that power are different from men and women, but the power is the same. I do not feel any less significant in God’s plan for being a woman, nor do I feel that the doctrines (or policies) for the Church demean me as a woman. In fact, I feel that they empower me.

I feel like this is what Sister Beck has been trying to drill into our stubborn woman brains the past several years – that women have so much more potential than we even recognize. That women spend so much time worrying about why women aren’t ordained to priesthood offices they are wasting precious time they could be using to perform the priesthood duties they have already been given. Why are we sitting around arguing and complaining about why women “don’t have the priesthood” when we know and can be taught by the gospel of Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit that we indeed do have every blessing and power of the priesthood, that we, as women, are organized after the pattern of the priesthood? Why don’t we get up and go to work, exercising the priesthood power that is ours to exercise, doing good in God’s kingdom in the way we are called to?

Let us rise up and catch the vision of Relief Society and be the women God wants us to be.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

GCBC Week 8: “Coming to Ourselves”

This was one of those talks for me where the principles are ones I don’t struggle with. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an important talk – after all, President Holland reminded last year that at General Conference,

“we understand not everyone is viewing pornography or shirking marriage or having illicit sexual relationships. We know not everyone is violating the Sabbath or bearing false witness or abusing a spouse. We know that most in our audience are not guilty of such things, but we are under a solemn charge to issue warning calls to those who are—wherever they may be in the world. So if you are trying to do the best you can—if, for example, you keep trying to hold family home evening in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a houseful of little bedlamites—then give yourself high marks and, when we come to that subject, listen for another which addresses a topic where you may be lacking. If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.”

So this talk hasn’t had a big impact on me, but I am anxious to hear what impact is has had on your life and your spirituality.

“Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service”
by Elder Rober D. Hales

Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide.

We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants—through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.

How did this talk touch your life?

If you are new to General Conference Book Club, find out more here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Equality and the War on Gender

I went through a few different titles for this post, thinking about what I was going to write: Women and the Priesthood, Women and Equality, Culture vs Doctrine, Feminist or Disciple of Christ? I hope this title describes the post accurately.

My mind has been really full lately. This post, I think, is really just me trying to sort out all those thoughts.

I am not sure what piqued my interest in the Mormon feminist movement, but I am pretty sure it had something to do with all the talk about Joanna Brooks’ book and Ralph Hancock’s responses and critiques of the book. It may have been a post I read on Segullah about the “war on womanhood”. Regardless, a few months ago I started doing a lot of thinking about equality, gender, and the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I also started thinking about the way women (and men) in the Church seem to misunderstand the fundamental doctrines of Jesus Christ.

Manhood/Womanhood vs Discipleship

A commenter on the Segullah post said, “I don’t think in terms of womanhood and manhood. We are all children of God with eternal potential. There is nothing uniquely female about the godly characteristics I am asked to develop.” I agree with this in a major way. In the Church’s handbook for parents there is a section that talks about teaching children to accept and understand their gender roles. If you are unfamiliar with the A Parent’s Guide, I will point out that it was published in 1985 and has not been revised since. When I read this section yesterday I was fully expecting to read about how the Church encourages stereotypical gender roles, such as cooking and russ_comfort_vincentecleaning for women, and college and job skills for men. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Church has been teaching equality of the genders at least since the mid-80s, but obviously the doctrine of Jesus Christ has been around for longer than that, and as “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33), this doctrine of equality has been part of the gospel since before any women’s movements.

A quote from the book that supports the commenter at Segullah says, “There are many patterns of behavior that are appropriate for all people. Everyone, male and female, is invited to examine the character of Jesus Christ and emulate him … Among the traits Christ revealed as proper for men and women alike are faith, hope, charity, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, kindness, godliness, humility, diligence, and love. These virtues transcend gender. They are Christlike attributes to which both sexes should aspire … Spiritual gifts, as described in Doctrine and Covenants 46, are not restricted to one gender either. Included are gifts of knowledge, belief, administration, organization, healing, and discernment.” There is more of the same through the section, including statements such as, “You should provide opportunities for your children to develop talents in various directions unhindered by improper stereotypes … Teach your daughters and your sons to seek opportunities to learn and to exploit every such opportunity fully … Boys must learn basic domestic skills, and girls must be able to earn a living if necessary.”

Gender as an Eternal Characteristic

However, the same guide says, “members of the Church must not be deceived about one immutable truth: there is eternal significance in being a man or a woman.” And recall that in The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” So, if gender is so important, but each gender is equally expected (by Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father) to develop all of the characteristics of Christ (many of which, ironically, are “naturally” attribute to women) and any of the spiritual gifts available to God’s children, then what is the difference between the genders?

The same commenter at Segullah pointed out this problem we often encounter in trying to learn and teach about the significance of gender, “Our efforts to teach women of their spiritual equality often overreach into expressions of otherness, specialness, or even betterness [than men]. If we truly believed we were equal in God’s eyes we wouldn’t need to find ways to feel set apart or special.”

So, how do you teach the importance of gender and identity while staying away from expressions of “otherness” and “betterness”?

When Equality Gets in the Way

Equality is a hard principle. What does it really mean? Does equality mean that we should all be the same? Does it mean that everyone should have the exact some opportunities in this life? Does it mean that we should all be treated the exact same? Children should be treated like adults, young adults should be treated like mature adults, the elderly should be treated like young adults?

What does equality really mean? What do we really want when we say we want “equality for women”?

Men today are pressured to be worldly. They are pressured to neglect their families for their jobs, often using their families as an excuse for how much they work. They are pressured to provide the luxuries of the world for their families.


Image Credit: Alex E. Proimos

Families are used by the world as an excuse for men to focus on their jobs and careers, rather than focus on their family. It seems like the opinion of women is, “Why do we only pressure men to be worldly? I want pressure to be worldly, too!” That’s not what they say, but think about it – as women we are not fighting for men to come home, man up, and protect and lead their families. Instead we are fighting for women to be pressured to do more outside the home. We want equality, but we want it in the wrong direction. We are sick of the stereotype of women being housewives and staying at home and doing the laundry while our husbands are out smoking cigars and going to bars with their coworkers and bosses. Should we instead be sick of the stereotype of men being workaholics, spending more time pursuing their careers than spending time with their families?

Is our fight for equality perhaps pushing all of us in the wrong direction?

Manhood/Womanhood and Discipleship

Although there are cultural stereotypes for gender roles which, as members of Christ’s Church we should not espouse, gender is still a significant part of our creation.

In the world today I think that some would like to remove all distinction between the genders. In fact, we are moving at an alarming rate toward a society where you can choose your gender. You can choose to marry someone of the same gender, as if there isn’t a reason why we were created male and female. It was just chance, or it was a mistake nature or God made. If you don’t like it, don’t be that gender, don’t follow the “gender roles” of that gender (and I don’t mean the stereotypical ones here, I mean the we-need-a-man’s-reproductive-organs-and-a-woman’s-reproductive-organs-to-make-babies roles).

Why would we be created the way we are if there wasn’t a reason for it? There is a reason for it. Gender is essential to our identity as children of God. I am just still learning exactly what that means.

From the proclamation again, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

What does this really mean, though? I do not think it means what a lot of people think it means. I do not think it means that men or women are necessarily more naturally inclined to perform their divinely appointed roles. I take this as more of a commandment. Rather than God saying, “Women, you are more naturally predisposed to nurturing, so you guys nurture. Men, you are more predisposed to protecting your families and earning a living, so you guys do that.” I think what God is saying is more like, “Regardless of what your ‘natural’ tendencies are, I want you, women, to nurture children. Men, I want you to provide a safe environment for women to do that, and make sure women and children are clothed and fed and sheltered, and help her out in the nurturing.”

My husband and I have talked at length about this. As far as providing for a family goes, I could make probably two or three times my husband’s income. But my husband has been commanded to provide for his family, and we feel that it is really important for him to do that. Staying home with kids and being nurturing is hard for me, even though I know a lot about raising kids (from a research stand point – not from experience). I can deal with workplace stress a lot easier than I can deal with children-induced stress. But we feel that it is really important that I learn how to nurture our children, even though I would rather provide for our family than nurture our family, and my husband would rather have it be that way, too.

I am aware that there are individual circumstances, but as with every other area in the gospel where there is an “ideal” we should not be looking for reasons to not live the ideal. Nor should we judge others who are not living the ideal for whatever reason.

Questions Without Answers

I’ve been asking a lot of questions in the past few months, and I don’t have all the answers yet – and I was hoping that I would have more answers as I wrote this post, but they seem to elude me. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings, and especially quotes from talks or scripture passages that help you answer these questions. Maybe I can find some more answers, too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Does it Feel?

The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation
is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.
~ Sister Julie B. Beck May 2010 ~

My husband and I attend the Marriage and Family Sunday School class in our ward. Well, I should say we attended the class – today was the last day, and I have to say I am going to miss it. I am passionate about two things, really: the gospel, and parenting. And really, isn’t parenting the gospel anyway?

The Marriage and Family class is always my favorite. I enjoy talking with other parents about the principles of the gospel and how to align our lives with the teachings of the Savior. I guess I’ll have to start trying to have more gospel/parenting discussions at park day. I wonder if the other moms will mind.

Today in our class we talked a little bit about how the most important thing that we can teach our children is how to recognize the Spirit. As I sat in class and thought about it, the weight of theIMG_0998 importance of teaching that principle settled on me in a way that it hadn’t previously, and I started thinking “Do I really know how to teach my children to recognize the Spirit? Am I doing a good enough job teaching them?”

Obviously our children will not be able to learn to recognize the Spirit without being exposed to situations and environments where the Spirit can be present. I think we do a pretty good job of providing those opportunities for our children, at home as well as at Church. But how do we teach them to recognize what they are feeling in those situations?

We need to teach them how to recognize when a thought or impression comes from the Spirit. For example, when my daughter notices that her brother really wants to play with the toy she has, and she shares it with him without prompting on my part I can say to her, “You saw that he wanted to play with that toy, and you felt like you would like to share with him. That was an inspired thought from the Holy Ghost!”

We must also teach them to recognize how the Spirit makes them feel, physically. In a Church News article, Julie Eddington said, “I have learned that [recognizing the Spirit] is something that needs to be taught…” and she will say something like, “Do you feel that? My arms are tingling. My heart is beating extra fast.” She describes the actual physical feeling she has when she is feeling the Spirit. Sister Eddington went on to say, “Children need to be taught what that feeling is. I think that sometimes they have the Spirit witness to them, but they don’t recognize it as the Spirit.”

I have been reading Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child and one of the major principles in “emotional intelligence” is to help children recognize, name, and accept their emotions. I think that this principle can be used to teach children how to recognize the Spirit (which has a lot to do with our emotions).

My goal this week is to help my children recognize and understand the spirit. I will help them name the thoughts, ideas, emotions, and physical feelings they experience as they feel the Spirit. I hope that I can have the Spirit with me as I strive to be a better parent this week and as I strive

How do you teach your children to recognize the Spirit?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

GCBC Week 7: “Laborers in the Vineyard”

Ack! I totally dropped the ball this week! I am going to blame it on Mothers’ Day. I was being pampered too much.

Laborers in the Vineyard – by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Ready? Discuss!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Search, Ponder, and Pray

I have been doing a lot of searching and pondering lately – but probably not as much praying as I should.

My mind has been full of thoughts in the past several weeks, which may be why I have postponed writing anything for the blog. photoI guess I just feel like there is too much to write, I don’t know where to begin. There is so much confusion in this world that I believe could be resolved with a clear understanding of the doctrines of Christ – an understanding it seems some very public members of the Church are lacking.

Ironically, one of the other problems with much of the public discussion I have found involves members of the Church either making claims of doctrinal issues with the Church when the actual doctrine says nothing of the sort, or making a statement about perceived attitudes and behaviors that “the members” of the Church or “the culture” of the Church produces. It just seems as if the most vocal members of the Church are those who are dissatisfied. And that is anyone is fully satisfied with the Church, they are considered to be “unintellectual” or somehow brainwashed, or chauvinistic, or otherwise criticized. But those who would criticize Church culture and speak negatively about Church doctrine, or suggest that the general membership of the Church does not understand Church doctrine are lauded as “intellectuals” and has somehow having a point.

I think there is significance in asking questions. After all, the pattern of revelation is that we ask questions. However, I feel that far too often the members in the public eye who are asking questions are not seeking revelation, but are rather seeking change in doctrine, or they simply want to complain about how wrong they thing the Church is… yet they still want to claim they are faithful members of the Church.

As I have been exposed to these influences (those who would criticize the Church while claiming to remain faithful to it) I have asked similar questions to the ones they have posed, yet in a spirit of seeking revelation and inspiration – and the beautiful thing is that I have received personal revelation about gospel principles. I feel as if my understanding has been enlarged in a substantial way in the past several months, and I am grateful for that opportunity.

At the same time, my soul is still in a little turmoil wondering how I can reach out to those who seem confused or those who lack faith. How do we encourage those who are not exercising faith to do so? When Elder Perry asked us to follow the spirit as we decide to add our voice to an online discussion, I didn’t think it would be so heartbreaking to refrain when required. I have added my voice to a few discussions in the online world where I have felt prompted to do so, yet even in doing so I remain in a state of turmoil, wondering what I can do to help those around me see what I see.

How do we help people see what we see? How do we help them have what we have? Can we ever do it?

I feel so blessed with the understanding of the gospel and testimony that I have, and my greatest desire is that others can have the same understand and testimony. I do not know everything, but I feel like what I have helps me understand even more complex principles of the gospel – which are all actually very basic, once you get over looking at them through a mortal lens.

I don’t really even know if this post made any sense beyond just me rambling – I just felt like I needed to get some of this out of me and on paper where it mattered (not that it really matters on this blog – but maybe someone will find this and read it and maybe they will be able to help me, or maybe this will help them, or maybe a comment one of you will make will help someone – who knows).

So I guess my point is that in all of these questions and issues that have been coming up in the public forum I have done a lot of searching (the scriptures, books, articles, websites, etc) and a lot of pondering on these subjects, and yet in spite of my feelings of testimony and understand I still feel disquieted.


And as I thought of a title for this post, I realized that the missing key is prayer. I have not prayed about all these things that have been a whirlwind in my mind. Perhaps as I take my turmoil to the Father in prayer He can help quiet my soul and put me at peace and help me find a way to express these thoughts that are laying deep inside me, waiting for something.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Gospel Conversation

I consider myself an intellectual. I studied math and physics at the university level, I read more than just fiction, and I love a good debate.

My favorite topic of discussion, however, is the gospel. I believe that the gospel encompasses everything about our world, in particular, I believe that all truth comes from God, and I also believe that we will not be taught every true thing from the pulpit at Church. At Church we are taught the most important thing - we are taught about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, and we are taught about the gift of the Holy Ghost and how to use it. Everything else, to me, is second in importance. If you do not understand the significance of the plan of salvation and the atonement of Jesus Christ, then it doesn't matter how smart you are, I don't care how many PhD's you have or what your IQ is - to me, you are missing the most fundamental knowledge there is.

However, I believe that the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of all things unto us (see Moroni 10:5). And that means that we can use the Holy Ghost to discern what is true and what is simply one person's interpretation or experience or inspiration. I am grateful for personal revelation because I believe that Heavenly Father uses revelation to touch us on an individual level.

Lately I have noticed that it is hard to have a real gospel conversation with people. I hope that I do not offend any of my readers when I describe my problem, but this is just the way I see it.

There is a a place I would call "safe gospel inquiry". This is a place where faithful members of the Church (and earnest seekers of truth) can ask hard questions in faith, and fully expect and then act upon an answer. This is the place I like to be when I discuss the Church, the gospel, and really any principle at all.

To the "left" of the "safe gospel inquiry" zone is the "doubting dissenters" zone. This is where people go to ask the "hard questions" about the gospel, but they are not really seeking light and truth, but are rather trying to change the truth, or simply trying to cause a ruckus. This is a lot of what I find going on in the online world - doubting dissenters.

To the right of the "safe gospel inquiry" zone we get the "ignorant dogmatist". This is where you get people who won't even talk about something like evolution because that is obviously anti-religious. I would also lump people who give erroneous or speculative assertions about doctrine AS actual doctrine. This is a lot of what I see mostly in older members of the Church.

Now, I don't like labels, so wouldn't actually use these terms as such, but I think they do a good job of describing why I feel out of place as an intellectual who isn't hung up on all the things that intellectuals seem to be hung up on these days, and why I also feel a little out of place as a believer who likes to ask (and find answers to) hard questions.

So I try to find the conversations that fit in the grounds of "safe gospel inquiry" and sometimes it is harder than others. I recently found a community of women who seem a lot like me, and I am very grateful for their friendship and the ability I have to associate with them and have those good gospel conversations that end up being very enlightening and really help me gain more light and knowledge.

Do you feel like you are a misunderstood intellectual believer?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 10, 2012

General Conference 101–What to do when it’s over

I know this post is a little (okay, a lot) late. I have been procrastinating writing anything on the blog lately. More about that later.

So if you’ve been following the General Conference 101 series this season I imagine you partook of the goodness that is General Conference back on March 31 and April 1, 2012. You probably had a bunch of activities to help your little ones get through the sessions without too much fighting and whining, and if you’re like me, you took lots of notes.

So, now what?

General Conference isn’t meant to be one big meal that you eat once and then don’t taste anything like it for six months. It’s more like Thanksgiving – you know, with its big dinner where you overeat, followed by weeks of seemingly endless leftovers. The only difference?

I never get sick of General Conference “leftovers” -  in fact, part of the excitement for me is finding things in the talks during the “break”  between conferences that didn’t stand out to me during conference. So here are some ideas for how to partake of General Conference for six whole months.

First, set goals from counsel you received at General Conference. Write your goals out on a sheet of paper and tape them up somewhere you will see them every day. Mine are by my mirror in my bathroom. My goals are usually similar, and most of the time they aren’t actually goals – the are more habits that I want to develop. In fact, this past General Conference I actually divided the counsel I received into two lists: habits, and goals. The habits were things I wanted to develop – like being a better mom, praying more regularly, attending the temple more regularly, teaching my children spontaneously, being kinder to those around me, etc. Some of the goals I made after last General Conference were to read the gospels before this General Conference to learn more about the character of Christ (didn’t quite happen, but I’m okay with that, and I’m still working on it), finish the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, and write down what I want my children to say about me when they are grown. Those are just a few. Yours should be based on the inspirations that you received at General Conference.

Second, listen to the conference talks over and over again during the next six months. You can access downloadable audio files of General Conference either on the Church’s website or on iTunes. I like to run and instead of listening to music I will usually listen to the General Conference talks on my iPhone while I run. It gives me a great opportunity to listen to the words of the prophets over and over again to become really familiar with them. President Uchtdorf shared a story in the Ensign last fall before General Conference about a member of our faith who couldn’t think of anything a prophet had said recently. I want to know what the prophets are saying – it is amazing to me that we have living prophets who can give us the counsel God wants us to have right now. But what good is that counsel if we are ignorant of it?

Third, study the conference talks in depth after Conference. I do this twice, in effect. I get my Conference issue of the Ensign and get started right away reading through the talks, marking it up and writing notes in the margins. Then I participate in General Conference Book Club (GCBC) and I read the talks on using my LDS Account and My Study Notebook (I can underline and highlight and write notes, etc – and it syncs all the highlights and stuff to my iPhone Gospel Library! Cool, eh?!). Whatever you do – whether it’s online, in your Ensign, or your mobile device, find a way to read and study the words of the prophets. It will bless your life between conferences.

What do you do with the words of the prophets after General Conference?

Monday, May 7, 2012

GCBC Week 6: “Mountains to Climb”

Image Credit: Maltesen

I wrote in my journal a while ago about how I have wanted to have spiritual strength and spiritual knowledge in spite of a relative lack of adversity in my life. While wondering why I have been experiencing some recent adversity which has been kind of on going, I received some personal revelation of sorts.

We cannot become like God without experiencing adversity – and sometimes very hard adversity. Each person’s experiences are different – for some their adversity comes through physical ailments and disability, for some it comes through effects of the sins of others, for some it comes through our own sins. Some mountains are spiritual, some are temporal, some are physical, some are mental – there are many varieties of ‘mountains’ but we all must climb a few in order to really understand what it is to be like our Heavenly Father.

I realized that while my life had been generally adversity-free, this was now my time to experience a refiner’s fire. It was my time to climb what looked like an insurmountable mountain – a mountain so big, so scary looking that often I just wanted to turn back and find another way. There is no other way. We have to face adversity, and we don’t always get to choose what adversity we face.

Heavenly Father was giving me this adversity not to punish me, not to put a stumbling block in my way, but to really refine me and make me better than I was before. But Heavenly Father wanted to make sure that I had a sure foundation before He gave me my mountains to climb, and so my relatively “adversity-free” childhood and young adulthood. He knew what was coming, He knew I needed it, and He knew how to prepare me.

How grateful I am now for that foundation!

Mountains to Climb - by President Henry B. Eyring

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

“Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”

What struck you from President Eyring’s talk?

PS – I am so sorry for this being late!
I will repent and do better next week, promise!
Thank you to everyone for participating so far.

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