Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Key to Understanding Isaiah

... because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy.

How do we get the spirit of prophecy? I am sure there are some great conference talks and lesson manuals that talk about it.

I know that there are times when Isaiah makes more sense to me. Those times are probably when I am filled with the spirit of prophecy.

How do you understand Isaiah? How to you invite the spirit of prophecy so that you can understand Isaiah?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Brother Beyond the Veil

Today is my brother’s birthday.

That normally wouldn’t be significant enough to post on a public blog for the entire world – after all, you’re probably only interested in my siblings’ birthdays if you know them. photo (1)But for him, it’s different.

This is my brother’s 30th birthday. That isn’t really what makes this different. What makes this birthday different is that two years ago on August 14, 2010, my brother passed away after a nine month battle with cancer. I guess the first year after someone dies every day is like their birthday. I don’t remember feeling any significantly poignant feelings on his birthday last year, but I do remember being an emotional wreck for a year after his death.

Today was hard. I woke up thinking about him. I did my yoga thinking about him. I posted on Facebook thinking about him. My sister called and we talked about him, then we talked about life. I made breakfast thinking about him. I ate breakfast thinking about him.

And I cried.

Then I texted my husband and told him we need to make a cake for my brother today. And then I decided I needed to write this post. For me. And for anyone else who feels like their opportunity to build a relationship with someone they love was cut short.


At General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott talked about revelation – but something slightly unrelated to revelation stuck with me from his talk. Elder Scott said,

“Relationships can be strengthened
through the veil
with people we know and love.”

I didn’t know my brother super well. He was 4 years older than me and left for college just after his junior year of high school (yup, he was that smart). I had always looked up to him, and I still do. I miss him a lot.

My first thought when we received the news that his cancer was terminal was that I wasn’t going to have the next 60-70 years to get to know him. I always imagined us siblings living til we were 100 and having family reunions and just enjoying each other. My siblings are all so very smart and it’s always a good time when we’re together.

The loss of my brother was a loss of hopes and dreams for our relationship.

So Elder Scott’s promise that our relationships can be strengthened through the veil made my ears perk up. I definitely hope that is true. I feel like it is true. I still pray for my brother, all the time, even though he is gone from this mortal life.


Rather than write a bunch about my brother, I am just going to repost here a piece I wrote for my brother just before he passed away, a piece I never got the chance to read to him. I am going to take it to the temple with me next time I go – I always feel close to him in the temple – and read it to him in the celestial room. Do you think he would hear it?


Ross passed away Saturday, August 14, 2010
in the presence of his wife, father, sister Christy, brother-in-law Adam,
and other friends and family.
His passing leaves a very large hole in my heart,
and I am aching with the desire
to say more, do more, and be more to and for him.

I am actually writing this on Friday, August 6, 2010.

Two weeks before it will post. (I was originally intending to post this the day I left for Seattle -which was going to be August 20.)

I’m not ready to face what is coming, and so... like anyone else, I’m denying it will happen, and pretending it won’t, until it’s too late.

Yesterday we talked with my oldest brother, Ross, on Skype.

He beat brain tumors, and swelling from a fall, and is getting stronger every day in rehab.

Meanwhile, the tumors in his chest are growing and growing.

The doctors have given him a timeline – weeks, maybe a few months. Probably more like weeks.

They gave him a choice to do some more chemo, but it won’t help, they say.

So, I’ve booked a flight to Seattle to see my brother. Probably for the last time.

I would like to tell you my story about my brother.

Ross from my perspective

Growing up, I loved my brother. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted his stuff. I wanted his friends. I wanted his talents (he is so talented!). In fact, when I started junior high – I wanted to even dress just like him. Big baggy pants and big baggy shirts (what was I thinking? I got a little smarter the next year, and realized that I could be like my brother without sacrificing fashion).

Ross played the violin. Really well. I wanted to play the violin just as well as him. So I practiced every day until my fingers were raw. I even tried to get into the BYU Music School. No one made me love music more than Ross (except maybe my mother – but he got it from her, too). Ross played the piano. Really well. I wanted to play the piano really well, too. I didn’t practice all the time. Piano and I have never really gotten along, as far as practicing-to-get-good goes. But I do enjoy playing. Then Ross learned how to play the guitar and got good. I wanted to play the guitar, too. So I practiced every now and then.

Ross is great with computers. He even taught me about RAM once when I was in high school, or maybe college. He showed me how to install new RAM in a computer. I developed a new level of admiration for my brother. He is so smart! My interest in computers at all is because of Ross. I wanted to learn some programming languages. I wanted to learn how to build my own websites. I wanted to learn how to fix computers and mess with them and stuff. I even wanted to learn how to use Linux (which I did, sort of, for a while... but then I got lazy... er, had kids).

Ross loves to read. He loves music. He loves to learn. He loves to play games (my love of European board games? From Ross). My love of reading? Ross. My intense desire to Google anything that I don’t understand? Ross. Probably the only things Ross didn’t inspire me to do is read my scriptures, pray regularly, run, and eat healthy.

That was Janie (his wife).

I hold him on this pedestal (and Janie goes right beside him on it). And I don’t think he knows that.

Really, all I want to be I want to be because of my brother. Because he is such a great example of hard work, honesty, learning, knowledge, having fun, and being a good person. I plan on telling him all these things (and more) when I get to see him in person. I hope it doesn’t sound too cliché – making amends with him as he’s dying.

I would have said these things before, but I never knew the right words to say, and I worried that he wouldn’t want to hear it. But now it doesn’t matter if he wants to hear it. There are no bridges to be burned. There won’t be another chance. If I want him to hear it, I need to tell him now.

That is my story about how much I love my brother.

Read more about my brother and my feelings about his death here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

GCBC Week 13: The Why of Priesthood Service


It has been a long week around here – pretty much everyone in our house has strep. Antibiotics all around! Woohoo! I was looking forward to Sunday and then I remembered that with all the strep around our house I probably shouldn’t send my kids to Primary/nursery. We had to go to Church for sacrament meeting because we had choir practice before Church and the Elders’ Quorum sang a special musical number in the meeting, which I had to conduct (it was amazing, by the way). We shouldn’t be contagious anymore (we’ve been on antibiotics for a few days) but just in case, I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

President Ucthdorf’s talk from Sunday morning session of General Conference was so amazing that I got kind of excited when I saw that today’s talk was his talk from Priesthood session. Who else is excited?

Well, let’s do this, then.

The Why of Priesthood Service by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

We need to be constantly reminded of the eternal reasons behind the things we are commanded to do. The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life’s fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again. That doesn’t mean that this process should be rote or boring. Rather, when we teach the foundational principles in our homes or in church, let the flame of enthusiasm for the gospel and the fire of testimony bring light, warmth, and joy to the hearts of those we teach.

The what is important in our work, and we need to attend to it. But it is in the why of priesthood service that we discover the fire, passion, and power of the priesthood.

I really really liked this talk from President Uchtdorf. I have mentioned the “Mission-Motherhood” parallel before, and I think there is also a Relief Society/Priesthood Quroum parallel. In fact, I don’t just think there is, there is. (Sister Beck said so!) Any talk that is delivered to the brethren in the priesthood quorums is equally applicable to the sisters in Relief Society, and the same is true the other way around – any talk delivered to the sisters of the Relief Societies is equally applicable to the brethren who hold the priesthood.

Now, obviously there are some exceptions, but as I read this talk my testimony was strengthened that women have priesthood duties and responsibilities, and as members of Relief Societies we are equally accountable for the work of “the priesthood”. We are equal partners in the work of the Lord. This is one reason I love reading and listening to the talks from the Priesthood session. At first I thought it was so that I can support my husband and teach my son(s), but now I realize that it is because the lessons taught are equally applicable to me!

I really loved all the principles of understanding purpose in this talk.

Like a fruit tree with an abundance of branches and leaves, our lives need regular pruning to ensure that we use our energy and time to accomplish our real purpose—to “bring forth good fruit”!

This was my absolute favorite quote from President Uchtdorf’s talk. I couldn’t help making a printable of it. How often have I needed this advice in my own life. His counsel was so appropriate for our day of “do everything” mentalities. I struggle with this attitude myself.

What stood out to you in President Uchtdorf’s talk?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Plan of Salvation

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

(Note: I don’t have much to say about this paper today… maybe because it’s pretty straight forward, and maybe because I have strep. Probably the latter.)

Isaiah’s main prophecies were concerning the first and second comings of Christ. Nephi loved the words of Isaiah, and because he did he wrote about them even when he was not directly quoting them. One of the most important points of Nephi’s discourse on Isaiah is the plan of salvation which he outlines in this discussion. How does Nephi describe the plan of salvation and what things does he emphasize? Nephi speaks almost entirely of Christ’s atonement and enduring to the end, two vital points of the plan of happiness.

Nephi testifies of the awesome power of the atonement as he describes it as “infinite for all man.” (2 Nephi 25:16) The plan of happiness hangs on the atonement. There can be neither salvation nor eternal life without the amazing sacrifice of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For “there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ… whereby man can be saved.” (2 Nephi 25:20) The salvation that Nephi speaks about is the first condition of the atonement. By Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection all men are saved from the bonds of physical death which “he hath given… free for all men.” (2 Nephi 26:27)

However, Nephi continues and speaks of the second kind of salvation made possible by the atonement. This salvation is dependant upon man’s individual conversion and devotion. Nephi states this as his reason for speaking and teaching so much of Christ so that “our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”( 2 Nephi 25:26) Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice redeems men from spiritual death on the condition of their belief and steadfastness. Christ’s grace will save man “after all [they] can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) Man must believe in Christ and be reconciled to God. In order to help man become this reconciled being, Christ gave man His spirit to stay on earth after His ascension into heaven. This spirit is to aid in man’s conversion, allowing him to be saved by the grace of God. However, “the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man.” (2 Nephi 26:11) Nephi reminds man that the companionship of the Holy Spirit is also conditional upon man’s worthiness.

Nephi’s discourse on the first coming of Christ teach man “line upon line” and “precept upon precept” of the sacrifice of the Lord that makes the plan of salvation possible. Christ’s “infinite atonement” and the gift of the Holy Spirit which He left for man after his ascension are those tools and keys that the Lord has given to man for him to be saved, according to his steadfastness and faith.

What does the plan of salvation mean to you?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pride Cometh Before the Fall

I have officially finished the bulk of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. That means (hopefully) the rest will be an easy(er) read. I love Isaiah, but I hate reading things that I don't fully understand without being able to do the appropriate research to understand what I am reading... Does that make sense?

I just finished reading about Lucifer being cast out of heaven.

"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! ... For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God..."
(2 Nephi 24:12-23)

I, too, have wondered how Lucifer, who knew God's plan just as well as Jesus Christ knew the plan, could fall. And the answer comes as this, "Pride."

Lucifer fell because he wanted to be greater than God. He wanted glory and honor that wasn't his to take.

This same sentiment carried over into the tempting of Adam and Eve in the garden. If Lucifer, now Satan, knew the plan of God, he had to have know that God's plan would be ruined if Adam and Eve stayed in the garden. So why did he tempt Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit, which Satan had to know was all part of the plan? Here comes his pride again. Satan must have thought that his banished spirits (the hosts of heaven who were cast out with him) would be able to obtain bodies. His pride wouldn't let him accept defeat. He still wanted a body, and thought he knew better than God.

But God said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed". (Genesis 3:15)

Satan's biggest mistake has always been pride.

So it is that pride leads to destruction. And I have a feeling that is why our leaders have boldly warned us of pride and entreat us to be humble and submissive.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
(2 Nephi 24:15)

What dangers do you see in pride? Do you think
Lucifer's biggest weakness was pride?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance and the Church

Image Credit: Mark Klotz

I became interested in this term, cognitive dissonance, when I read an article in Psychology Today that discussed the results of a study that showed parenting does not actually make people happier. Rather, parents simply convince themselves that they are happier/healthier/etc with children, when in fact they are not happier/healthier/etc.

Now, we could have a nice little debate about what criteria they used for “happiness” and the varying experiences that people will have, and that would be fine, but I want to delve a little deeper into what cognitive dissonance really means.

The Church, and its members, are often criticized by this theory of cognitive dissonance. Most recently I heard the term applied to Josh Weed, a gay Mormon man who is in a straight marriage (married to a woman). The comment was from a gay ex-Mormon who said he didn’t really want to read the piece because, “I'm worried that I won't be able to deal with reading about the cognitive dissonance required to be in this guy's head.”

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

It had been a while since I had heard the term used, and so I read a little more about cognitive dissonance. The Wikipedia article about cognitive dissonance says that it is a “discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.” First of all, this should mean that there wouldn’t have to be cognitive dissonance in Josh Weed’s life, because, to him, the cognitions are not “conflicting”. In fact, who is the judge of what cognitions are conflicting? Wouldn’t that be the person holding the cognitions? So I guess the only determiner of cognitive dissonance would be the person himself. If he is experiencing discomfort, and that discomfort is caused by what he believes to be conflicting cognitions, then that would be cognitive dissonance.

Later in the Wikipedia article we read, “Dissonance is aroused when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one’s belief, the dissonance can result in misperception or rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others to restore consonance.”

This is the part that I want to talk about in an analysis of how cognitive dissonance plays a role in our lives as members of the Church.

Cognitive Dissonance for a More Perfect Understanding

Due to what I believe is an incomplete understanding of the gospel, members of the Church, when confronted with information that is inconsistent with our beliefs (i.e., Joseph Smith was sealed to women who were already married, blacks were denied the priesthood until 1978, etc) feel a discomfort, or a dissonance of sorts. I have at times felt that dissonance when confronted by something that I didn’t understand, or something that was inconsistent with my imperfect understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Wikipedia article suggests that in such a situation, when there is discomfort and dissonance, there are a few  things that may happen to reduce that dissonance:

1) change one’s beliefs
2) misperceive, reject, or refute the information
3) seek support from others who share beliefs
4) attempt to persuade others

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15; emphasis added)

Ironically, the solution I have found to the problem of discomfort when something is inconsistent with my “beliefs” is to change my beliefs. That may sounds as if I am being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but I was not born knowing everything. I was not born with (nor do I yet possess) a perfect knowledge of the gospel. My faith, my beliefs, have “not grown up to a perfect knowledge.” (see Alma 32:29) It is my goal to feed my faith, and to find the seeds that swell, sprout, and grow – the good seeds. And only after I have found out that it is a good seed will my knowledge be perfect “in that thing” and my faith will be dormant (in that thing). But will my knowledge of all things be perfect? No, I am still growing and learning, by the help of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who are helping to perfect me until I come in the unity of the faith. It’s a process.

A more accurate description of this process, rather than describing it as changing my beliefs is, rather, changing my understanding of my beliefs. I claim the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and more specifically, I claim the beliefs of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes my understanding of those beliefs is not perfect, and so comes the cognitive dissonance as something is placed in my way that seems inconsistent with “my beliefs”. Rather than being inconsistent with my beliefs, that something is usually inconsistent with my understanding of my beliefs.

In the Wikipedia article about cognitive dissonance it references the cognitive developmental theory of Jean Piaget: “the inevitable conflicts a child experiences between current beliefs and new information will lead to disequilibrium, which in turn motivates the child’s progress through the various stages of development.” As we are all children in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe that this dissonance between our understanding of our belief system and what is reality plays a similar role. The disequilibrium that is experienced by us in our journey in gospel learning motivates us through the various stages of development of our testimonies.

Cognitive Dissonance and a Retreat from the World or a Retreat into the World

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:15-16)

Going back to the options for resolving cognitive dissonance, I wanted to look at the last three options:

2) misperceive, reject, or refute the information
3) seek support from others who share beliefs
4) attempt to persuade others

Option #2 happens all the time in the Church. This is the one where people say “Oh, there’s no way Joseph Smith had all those wives.” “The Church would never do ___.” “Joseph Smith never married women who were already married, that’s just a story some anti-Mormon made up to discredit him.” These are examples of rejecting, misperceiving, or refuting information that sounds inconsistent with one’s beliefs.

Option #3 happens just as frequently. This is where members who don’t believe that unsavory things ever happened in the Church stick together and stay away from all the “heretics” who accept that there are unsavory aspects about every person and every organization. (Let me add here that unsavory aspects of our character make us human, not evil).

Option #4 is a little more subtle. I think this method of decreasing cognitive dissonance is found when members of the Church criticize those who are asking questions with the intent of gaining a better understanding of their beliefs (option #1). Members who are using option #4 will claim those using option #1 to gain a deeper understanding of their beliefs are headed down a “slippery slope”. There are those who will, in using option #1, rather than coming to a better understanding of their beliefs will abandon their misunderstood beliefs altogether, in effect becoming apostate, but not all members who ask questions in the face of cognitive dissonance are on slippery territory.

I frequently question my understanding of a belief, for example, the doctrine of gender identity is a doctrine I struggle with immensely – due to cognitive dissonance. However, I take the approach of “true until proven false” with gospel teachings, and what I usually find is that my understanding may be proven false, but the truth, or the doctrine, stands firm. It is a kind of refiners fire, where my imperfect, human perspective and understanding is burned off through these “hard” questions until only the pure doctrine remains.

Cognitive Dissonance – Hard Things and Joy

Going back to the article about parental love being merely cognitive dissonance takes me back to option #1 – changing our beliefs, or rather, having a more clear understanding of our beliefs.

The article may seem to contradict what the prophets have taught us – that families are important and that families bring us joy.

The truth of the matter is, things that bring us the greatest joy are often the hardest things to do. Ask anyone who has run a marathon, or climbed Mt. Everest, or walked again after a stroke. They won’t beat around the bush and say, “Oh yeah, those 26.2 miles, they were awesome!” or “My favorite part was the last mile to the peak. It was cake! I practically sailed up that mountain!” or “My legs felt light as feathers! I just stood up and I could walk!” More likely you will hear, “When I crossed that finish line felt like I had done something really amazing!” or “The view from the peak was breathtaking. Totally worth the climb!” or “Running in the yard with my grandkids again made me feel like a million bucks!”

When presented with the less pleasant, physically and emotionally draining, costly tasks associated with raising parents, this may seems to be inconsistent with our belief that children and families bring us joy.

The answer isn’t to refute the claims that parenting is hard (it is), or hang out more with other people who think parenting is all roses and candy (it isn’t), or attempt to convince other people that parenting really is fun all the time (it definitely isn’t) we can just deepen our understand of what joy really means.

Joy is s a feeling that we experience intermittently in parenting (when we see our children becoming kind, independent, functional human beings), and also in our gospel lives (when we have a glimpse of God in our lives). It’s that feeling you get at the finish line where you just know that you have done something really amazing.

How has cognitive dissonance played a role in the formation (or destruction) of your testimony? How do you respond to cognitive dissonance?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

GCBC Week 12: "The Powers of Heaven"

It's Fathers' Day here in the United States and I am visiting family so I won't be writing much about this here, but I look forwad to discussing this talk in the comments with you.

This is Elder Bednar's talk from Priesthood Session. We all love Elder Bednar, and since he only spoke in Priesthood Session we wouldn't be able to study his talk if we didn't study the Priesthood Session talks.

"The Powers of Heaven" - by Elder David A. Bednar

What were your thoughts about Elder Bednar's talk?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Girly Men and Manly Girls

I have a three year old little girl who absolutely loves the color pink. I am sure we influenced that in some way because we buy her a lot of pink clothes. We don’t do it on purpose, I think it has more to do with what’s available than with what we would prefer for her to wear. I don’t think we have a preference for what color she wears.

I also have a five year old little boy who up until a few weeks ago refused to use the pink plates, cups, and bowls because “Pink is a girl color.”

Now, I don’t think those words have ever come out of my mouth, and I definitely do not feel that way. I am pretty sure he came to that conclusion on his own. He is very aware that there is a significant and inherent difference between girls and boys, and he knows that his little sister is very much a girl (a fact she, at three years old, is also acutely aware of). I think he just put two and two together – J wears pink, J is a girl, therefore pink must be a girl color.

Every time he says “Pink is a girl color.” We say, “Pink is a great color. Boys can use pink things. Boys can even wear pink clothes!” or something of the sort.

I think it has started paying off. A few weeks ago my son picked a pink cup out of the drawer for his drink and proudly proclaimed, “I’m going to pick the pink cup!” It was as if he had realized how silly he was being for refusing to use pink dishes and was pleased with himself for being man enough to pick the pink cup. He also has a best (boy) friend whose favorite colors are pink and purple, and I think the exposure to his friend has helped, too.

On Sunday night my husband and I were having a great conversation about various topics, including gender roles and homosexuality. We were talking about the stereotype that men who like “girl things” must be gay. There is a term I have been hearing a lot lately -

ef·fem·i·nate    /iˈfemənit/

Adjective:   derogatory. (of a man) Having or showing characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; unmanly.

I am glad that this definition points out that it is a derogatory term. But I have seen people use it who were simply using it to describe how they are (in a non derogatory way). In fact, most recently was in a post by Josh Weed, a gay Mormon who is married to a woman and came out on his blog a few days ago. He said (emphasis is mine)

*Why did a girl ask me that question in junior high? Because a bully actively spread a rumor around the entire school that I was a “woman trapped in a man’s body.” This was unbelievably horrific and traumatizing, and I was harassed every single day about it, often by perfect strangers. I was more effeminate, played the violin, didn’t play sports, was never interested in girls and didn’t hang out with guys, and so people glommed onto that rumor and ruthlessly harassed me for the entire year, culminating in a yearbook filled with breathtakingly insensitive taunts. Being the gay kid is really, really hard in junior high. If you know a gay kid in junior high, give them a hug and tell them you love them. I assure you they could use it.

I was startled when I read that he described himself as effeminate, because he was LDS, and the gospel doesn’t really support the stereotypical gender roles of the world. The gospel, in fact, encourages all men to be “effeminate” – submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, etc. (Please note that I am fully aware of the fact that there is a difference between the gospel and the Church, and there is an even bigger difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and Church culture).

The Wikipedia article for “Effeminacy” states

Effeminacy describes traits in a human male, that are more often associated with traditional feminine nature, behavior, mannerisms, style or gender roles rather than masculine nature, behavior, mannerisms, style or roles.

It is a term frequently applied to womanly behavior, demeanor, style and appearance displayed by a male, typically used implying criticism or ridicule of this behavior (as opposed to, for example, merely describing a male as feminine, which is non-judgmental). The term effeminate is most often used by people who subscribe to the conventional view that males should conform to traditional masculine traits and behaviors.

I acknowledge that this term can be used non-derogatorily and that it gets the point across when you are describing a man who, by the world’s standards, does “girly” things or is “girly”. But, notice that the article also mentions that “merely describing a male as feminine … is non-judgmental”. I think that both descriptions of men are judgmental and offensive.

I think that the world’s (and members of the Church’s) gender stereotypes are hogwash. Malarkey.

In a previous post about gender I mentioned that the Church’s Parent’s Guide is a great resource to help us understand that our divine gender identity is not founded on the world’s stereotypes of what men and women should act like.

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.

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. (emphasis mine)

We should be and should raise our children to be unhindered by improper stereotypes. I believe these improper stereotypes are a way that Satan confuses us about our divine gender identity. Either he tells us that “gender doesn’t matter” and we can “choose” our gender identity, or, using the stereotypes, Satan would have us believe that if a man “acts like a girl” or a girl “acts like a man” they must be homosexual, or they must not really be a man or a woman – as if how a person acts somehow changes who they actually are. Even someone who lives contrary to the commandments of God can never change the fact that they are, indeed, a child of God.

As parents I think that we have a very significant role in shaping our children’s perspective of what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman. I am still figuring out exactly what it means to be a woman, but I can tell you that I know what being a man/being a woman doesn’t mean.

Being a man does not mean being able to change a tire, having huge muscles, being able to bench your weight (or more than it). It does not mean being able to “take someone” in a fight. It definitely does not mean “controlling your woman” or being “in charge” at your house and in your family in an unrighteous-dominion kind of way. It absolutely does not mean loving football (or any sport for that matter), or not ever crying, or being able to “take it” (physical OR emotional pain). It in no way means that you have to ignore your children, that you can never sing a lullaby, or kiss a boo-boo. It does not mean that you cannot be in a play, do ballet, play the flute, or paint.

Being a woman does not mean that you are tender hearted and sweet. It does not mean that you adore children and babies. It doesn’t mean that you like the color pink or purple or some variation of the two. It definitely doesn’t mean that you like scrapbooking, or that you like to cook, or clean, or blog. It absolutely does not mean that you “submit” to every thing your husband ever wants you to do. It in no way means that you can’t like monster truck rallies, the rodeo, or fixing cars. It does not mean that you keep out of the wood shop and stay in the kitchen. It in no way means that you can’t play the tuba or the double bass or sing tenor. It doesn’t mean you have to wear makeup or a dress or never have a job or not get an education. There is nothing about being a woman that says you can’t clean 200 lbs or bench more than your own weight. Being a woman does not mean that you cry over every sad movie or love story. It doesn’t even mean you like love stories.

Manhood and womanhood are not defined in these ways. Right now I can’t tell you exactly what defines manhood and womanhood, but I am absolutely certain that it isn’t those things.

All of the things I mentioned are characteristics, personality traits, and hobbies that are not gender specific, no matter how badly the world wants to claim they are. There is nothing innately feminine about being meek and submissive or crying. There is nothing innately manly about being strong and charismatic or fighting. Nor do those things make you a man or a woman. In fact, except in very rare and extreme circumstances, the only thing that really does make you a man or woman is the second chromosome in your body.

There are Christ-like characteristics and there are non-Christ-like characteristics. We should all, men and women, be seeking to develop Christ-like qualities. We should not make men feel like “less of a man” because they are developing those qualities, or make women feel less womanly because they don’t innately have Christ-like qualities.

What improper gender stereotypes do you see around you? Were improper stereotypes embraced in your family? In your ward? By your friends? What problems do you see developing from gender stereotyping?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

True to the Faith

The Church published a great little book around the time I was a senior in High School called “True to the Faith: a gospel reference”. It’s a hand little book, purse sized, that I carried around with me a lot as a teenager and young adult, for quick reference to gospel topics. I used it in talks, lessons, and gospel discussions with friends.

I have to admit, however, that I have not read through the entire book. It’s mostly basic information, but the basics really are what matters most. In an attempt to really go “back to the basics” in some parts of my study I am committing myself to reading through this book. I enjoyed the “Gospel Principles” lessons last year in Relief Society for exactly this reason – it took me back to the basics, which really are the most important parts of the gospel.

The First Presidency message in the front of the book says:

This book is designed as a companion to your study of the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. We encourage you to refer to it as you study and apply gospel principles. Use it as a resource when you prepare talks, teach classes, and answer questions about the Church.

As you learn gospel truths, you will increase in your understanding of Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. With this understanding as a foundation for your life, you will be able to make wise choices, live in harmony with God’s will, and find joy in living. Your testimony will grow stronger. You will remain true to the faith.

We are especially mindful of youth, young single adults, and new converts. We promise you that through regular personal prayer and study of the scriptures and the doctrines of the gospel you will be prepared to withstand evil influences that would deceive you and harm you.

May this book strengthen you in your efforts to draw near to the Savior and follow His example.

If you don’t have a copy of this book you can purchase one at the Church Distribution store, either in a physical store or online (free shipping) for $3.25. Or you can access it on the Church’s website here.

Have you read True to the Faith? Have you used it as a resource? What do you think about it? How do you feel about understanding gospel principles and the basics?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Christ’s Millennial Reign

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

Winslow-Lion-Lamb(Note: It’s ironic that I just wrote about how Isaiah has been on my mind – since I’ve been trying to slog through Isaiah in the Book of Mormon – and then here I come to post the next Book of Mormon paper and it’s about Isaiah. Maybe I need to pull out my Old Testament seminary manual or institute manual and have it by my bedside so I can get something out of Isaiah this time around. I actually love Isaiah, but I don’t always understand it without having to do tons of research, which is time consuming, and I read my Book of Mormon right before bed which doesn’t leave time for a lot of research. I usually read a page or two and write my thoughts in the margins. My scripture study usually comes during the day, and that’s when I do some major researching. But I keep feeling bugged to study Isaiah, so I think I’m going to have to start sooner rather than later… I’ve been putting it off so that I can finish my study of the Character of Christ in the gospels, so either I need to hurry up and finish my study of the gospels, or I need to postpone that and jump head first into Isaiah… )


The words of Isaiah are valuable sources of plain and precious truths of the gospel. When Nephi quoted Isaiah he included many prophesies of Christ’s first and second comings. What are some of the important things that Isaiah prophesied concerning the coming of Christ and what do these things mean? Isaiah prophesied of the destruction that would come to the wicked and the saving of the righteous and the peace that would come from Christ’s reign.

The fate of the wicked, or those members of the great and abominable church, has been compared by prophets to several tragic historical incidences. Isaiah relates the destruction of Assyria as a type for the destruction of the wicked during the second coming. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would “punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.”(2 Nephi 20:12) Assyria was destroyed because of the worldliness of its people, and so shall the members of the great and abominable church be destroyed at the second coming of Christ.

When Isaiah prophesied of Christ’s birth he prophesied that Christ should be called “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (2 Nephi 19:12) The peace that will come from the Savior is everlasting and will dwell upon those who are righteous at the day of his coming. The Lord said “O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid…” (2 Nephi 20:24) The Lord will destroy those who contend against His people, and he will leave them with an everlasting peace. The state of the earth during the reign of Christ will be peaceful and righteous when “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together and a little child shall lead them.” (2 Nephi 21:6)

Innocence, peace, and righteousness will characterize the world while Christ reigns, and those who are righteous at His coming will be spared to live at that time, while the wicked will be destroyed according to the prophesies of Isaiah and the word of the Lord.

What do the prophecies of Isaiah mean to you? How do you “liken” Isaiah to yourself?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Isaiah on My Mind

So here I am slogging through Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.

I was originally going to take it slow and really try to soak up the symbolism and meaning of all the words.

But then I got kind of lazy and now I am just trying to get through them ASAP. I make myself feel better by telling myself that I will be studying Isaiah in depth next year. This year I am studying the character of Christ in the New Testament. It's bee great so far, although I should really write a few blog posts about what I have been learning.

In the meantime, Does anyone have any good resources on Isaiah for when I do try to break it down next year? I imagine the Church has a manual for institute or religion, but I am anxious to find more good resources.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 11, 2012

Relief Society - catch the vision

One of my favorite quotes about Relief Society is from President Spencer W Kimball. He said,
"There is a power in this organization that has not yet been fully exercised to strengthen the homes of Zion and build the Kingdom of God - nor will it until both the sisters and the priesthood catch the vision of Relief Society."

I don't know about you, but most days I feel like I could use a little extra of God's power. I believe Satan is trying to keep us from fully experiencing all the power God has for us to use. He attacks women from every side. We think men have all the temptations - but women are not exempt from the attacks of Satan and his followers.

One of the ways that I believe we are attacked is by the voices who claim that lack of ordination to a priesthood office in some way diminishes a woman's significance and ability in God's plan. I frequently hear people talk about how blacks did not have the priesthood, and then came the revelation - and many are "waiting" (some more... actively... than others) for a similar revelation extending ordination to priesthood offices to women.

What those women (and men) fail to realize is that while black women and men were actually kept from obtaining all of the saving priesthood ordinances - for example, black men could not be endowed or sealed in the temple - women can receive every priesthood ordinance. In my mind there is no comparison between the two circumstances. Moreover, women are already eligible for every priesthood ordinance and power.

But I have written that post. I just feel like it needs to be said again. Satan keeps us from the power God would bestow upon us by distracting us with feelings of inferiority or indignation due to a perceived "lack". (I will add a disclaimer here to say that I believe men - and women - in the Church cause a lot of the misconceptions and bitter feelings about the priesthood - from women who are oppressed and don't care to men who exercise unrighteous dominion, there are those in the Church who misuse and misunderstand priesthood authority (which is different from priesthood power).)

If we can allow ourselves to get past the feelings of maltreatment and really focus on what the priesthood really is then I think we will see the power of the sisters in Relief Society grow in ways that will be surprising to all of us.

Another way Satan attacks is women is by attacking and diminishing motherhood.

If we thought of our Heavenly Mother as a co-creator with God and if we understood her divine role as nurturer of our eternal souls, would we not crave to be like her?

Society and the world would reduce motherhood down to the drudgery of changing diapers and doing laundry. But God's mothers have a divine, dignified role. We are not simply nannies or child care professionals. Our purpose is much higher. It is God's purpose - "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

We are preparing covenant keeping Saints who are ready and willing to enter the waters of baptism and the doors of the temple. This is no small task, nor is it menial or dreary (although some of the mortal aspects can seem that way). I have been getting a lot more enjoyment out of the drudgery as I have come to more fully understand the sanctity of motherhood and what it really means to be a woman.

I have felt overwhelmed and inadequate as I have come to better understand my responsibility and role as a mother. To be honest, I have been scared quite out of my mind.

And then I fall to my knees and beg for help with these precious spirits. The atonement covers all pain. Including the pain of motherhood, and it covers the gaps between the mother we should be and the mother we are.

These are the two major ways I see Satan attacking women and distracting us from "catch[ing] the vision of Relief Society". Men have p*rnography and work, women have priesthood-confusion and mother-demeaning. Satan will do whatever he can to destroy God's plan.

This talk I have been studying by President Julie B Beck about quorums and Relief Societies has been really great. I especially loved this quote about quorums and Relief Societies:
We are not in the entertainment business; we are in the salvation business.

I hope that we can all remember that we do have all the blessings and powers available through the priesthood, and that we can remember how sacred motherhood is and view it with the significance and importance it deserves, and not be caught up in the drudgery.

Have you caught the vision of Relief Society? What is the vision of Relief Society to you? In what ways do you see Satan distracting women from the vision of Relief Society?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, June 10, 2012

GCBC Week 11: “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life”

I mentioned before that I participated in TwitterStake this year for General Conference, and it was a really interesting and exciting experience. My first tweet of Elder Scott’s talk?

Elder Scott's first words? Appreciation for his wife.
He sure loves her! #ldsconf #TwitterStake #marriage

I am always struck by Elder Scott’s love for his wife. He has mentioned her in at least his last three or four General Conference talks. Last October conference I decided that I want to be just like Sister Scott.

I loved the distinction between revelation and inspiration that Elder Scott gives in his opening remarks.

The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey. When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation. When it is a series of promptings we often have to guide us step by step to a worthy objective, for the purpose of this message, it is inspiration.

From this I got:

revelation – crisp, clear, and essential
inspiration – a series of promptings leading us to a worty objective

There was a lot more that stood out to me in this talk, and I can’t wait to discuss it with you!

What stood out to you in this talk?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mother in Danger

(Image Credit: veni markovski)

What does it mean to be a woman?

This is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. I was talking to a friend the other day about how I believe things are black and white, but I am not very sure that I know what is black and what is white, if you know what I mean. This question about what it means to be a woman is a manifestation of that problem I have – not knowing what is black or white, but believing there must be a black and white.

I believe in God’s absolute truth (as opposed to relative truth) and I believe in prophets and I believe in agency. Sometimes I can’t always figure out how those three things work together.

But I digress.

In my heart of hearts I know that there is something to gender. There is a reason that we are male and female, beyond simple genetics and “chance” of nature. I believe there is something about men and women that is more than just our physical and biological attributes.

The prophets have said, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” and that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World) But that isn’t very clear, and while it does give the “primary responsibility” for mothers, it doesn’t really come right out and say what it means to be a woman, although I think the implication is maybe there.

As I have been studying and praying and asking Heavenly Father for more wisdom and understanding, I think I can say (with at least some conviction) that being a woman means being a mother. *

I have been reluctant to say it that way because of the women I know (and admire) who either have not had the opportunity to be married (like my great aunt Lavina) or who have not had the opportunity to have children (my neighbor and wonderful sister in our ward, Amy). As I have studied gender identity and womanhood, I kept resisting this notion, that being a woman means being a mother. I felt that it wasn’t a fair explanation. That by linking the two we leave out millions of women who will never be “mothers”.

And then as I was running with my husband the other day I realized that it doesn’t matter.

In God’s plan, the imperfections of this world do not matter. I don’t want to minimize the trial or heartache that I am sure is felt by those who never marry or never have children when that is the greatest desire of their hearts. That is hard, and it does matter – both to the person experiencing the heartache, and to God. He cares. He really does. And it is important to Him.

But all the imperfections of this world will never change eternal truth. And I feel like the eternal truth is that women are to be mothers.

IMG_1038If this explanation suddenly conjures up images of ignorant, oppressed women bearing child after child after child let me interject that there is no honor or glory in that, and that image is not God’s plan. After all, the glory of God is intelligence (Doctrine & Covenants 93:36).

This explanation is simply to give us somewhere to go – if being a woman means being a mother, then the real question is not “What does it mean to be a woman?” but rather “What does it mean to be a mother?” – which question is almost as difficult to answer as the first one. But we have something significant telling us what I means to be a mother, and that is the line from the proclamation I quoted earlier: “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

I would go into more detail about how I arrived at the conclusion that woman means mother but I will save that for another post. Suffice it to say that I have done a lot of searching, pondering, and praying about the priesthood, women and men in the Church, Eve, and mothers and fathers, and somehow from the middle of all the words and thoughts and feelings, this thought emerged, almost like silver from a refiners’ fire.

I want to go back to the image of the ignorant, oppressed, womanized, eternally pregnant woman.

That is not what God wants a woman to be.

What does God want a woman to be?


I believe He wants a woman to be intelligent and educated.

We want our women to be well educated,
for children may not recover from the ignorance of their mothers.

                                           Spencer W. Kimball

I believe He wants a woman to be strong, steadfast, and immoveable.

In order to do our part as women under the Lord’s plan,
we must stand strong and immovable in faith,
strong and immovable in
and strong and immovable in relief.

                                            Julie B. Beck

I believe He wants a woman to be a leader in her home and in the world.

It is not for you to be led by the women of the world;
it is for you to lead the … women of the world,
in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like,
everything that is uplifting and … purifying to the children of men.

                                           Joseph F. Smith

I believe He wants a woman to have the power of the Priesthood.

The Prophet Joseph Smith put the sisters in the position to receive all the gifts, blessings, and privileges of the priesthood. We need never confuse the idea of those who hold the priesthood in trust, with the priesthood. The priesthood is God’s power. It is His power to create, to bless, to lead, to serve as He does.

                                           Julie B. Beck (emphasis added)

Most importantly, I believe that God wants women to be mothers.

I will say the priesthood duty of sisters
is to create life, to nurture it,
to prepare it for covenants of the Lord.

                                           Julie B. Beck

Why do I say “most importantly”? Because that is the most important role we have as women. I love how President Beck put it – that the priesthood duty of sisters is to create life. It’s interesting that she did not say “to bear children.” It may seem ironic that our primary role as women is to be mothers, and yet President Beck did not include bearing children as our priesthood duty. She said our duty is “to create life.” Does bearing a child mean you are creating life? Certainly, in the sense that there is a spirit in a body and there is a heartbeat and all that. But let me take you to the orphanages in Romania and other parts of the world where lives sit in cribs their entire lives and become almost zombie-like. Is that a life? Is that life? Did the man and the woman who created that child physically also create that child’s life? I don’t think so. Creating life is so much more than bearing children (although I will add here that I do believe bearing children is important – and part of the duty to create life). Creating life is something that any caring, loving person can do, but it is specifically the duty of women.

I love that President Beck didn’t stop at “creating life”. Being eternally pregnant is not one of our duties as women. President Beck continues saying that our duty is to nurture life and prepare it for covenants of the Lord.

Being a woman means being a mother. And mother is in danger.

Mother is being attacked from every side in the world today. She is being attacked from the economy – a woman “has to” work to make ends meet (i.e. in order to keep up with the Jonses – I want to add that I do believe in some circumstances it is necessary for the mother to be in the workplace). She is being attacked from the “intellectual” community – a woman should travel, gain success in a career, and “live a life” before she “settles down”, gets married and has babies. She is being attacked from within her own home – it is so hard to be a mother, children are a bother, children are boring, children are ____ (fill in the blank with your favorite complaint – I already listed mine).

As I was running with my husband and feeling this impression that yes, being a woman means being a mother, I realized that the reason for all the confusion was because I didn’t want my identity to be defined by motherhood. But I am gaining a completely new perspective of motherhood. It is my priesthood duty “to create life, to nurture it, and to prepare it for covenants of the Lord.” Yesterday as I was doing chores with my little ones (five and three) and thinking about how difficult it is to teach them to work and help out around the house I was hit with a realization that I am raising people. I don’t know why I didn’t really get it before – back when I whined a complained about motherhood (it’s hard, it’s boring, I’m isolated, my children are whiney, etc etc). But I am starting to really gain a testimony of the sanctity of motherhood. I have always known that motherhood was sacred and that what I am doing in my home is the absolute most important thing anyone anywhere can ever do. But I just didn’t feel it. I dreaded it.

When I asked myself why? I realized that it is because mother is in danger. I grew up being loved and nurtured by a great mother who never complained about motherhood. In fact, right this minute I could not tell you her least favorite part of motherhood. Probably because she doesn’t have one. But the world attacked me. The world yelled at me from every side. Careers enticed me, media hypnotized me, my fellow mothers’ voices echoed “It’s SO hard. Children are SO hard. They are SO whiney.” Their bad attitudes and negative remarks slowly ate away at my soul.

In my heart I still knew what motherhood really meant, but my actions we contrary to my beliefs, and motherhood was hard. It still is. But a mission is hard too, right? Did you spend your whole mission complaining about every last little thing? Probably not. You just served the Lord and taught people the gospel. I have talked before about the Mission-Motherhood Parallel.

We’re doing the Lord’s work here in the trenches of motherhood, and it is hard work. But this work is God’s work.

And Satan hates it when God’s work goes forward.

So rise up women, mother.

Let’s fight the good fight.


* I would say the answer to the question “What does it mean to be a man?” is “It means to be a father.” So this isn’t about women and the priesthood, this is about how our most vital roles as children of God is to be parents to other children of God.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

GCBC Week 10: “In Tune with the Music of Faith”

I’m ahead today! I might have something to do with the fact that my husband is off playing soldier today, and the kids are still asleep. Either way, I am excited for GCBC this week.

4939624151_65d3d1cc3b_bImage Credit: BFS Man

I am a musician. I was raised to be a musician (my mother is one of the most sought-after piano teachers in central Arkansas). So I feel like I understand what Elder Quentin L. Cook is saying when he talks about “the music of faith.” I think we had the discussion a few weeks ago that the way an apostle speaks doesn’t always resonate with every person, so don’t be worried if Elder Cook’s “music of faith” metaphor doesn’t do the trick for you. There are 14 other prophets and apostles who probably said something just the way you needed it!

Incidentally, at our Stake Conference a few weeks ago, one of the counselors in our Stake Presidency used a musical metaphor that I thought I would share because it was just so good. If you have ever been to a symphony performance, you know that a symphony tunes their instruments to the same A (440 Hz) usually given by an oboe before the concert begins. If you’ve heard this “tuning” you know that it is not in any way comparable to the beauty of the music that will follow. In fact, most of the time for the average listener it’s pretty annoying to listen to. The counselor then commented on how, after the intermission, the orchestra tunes again. He thought, “These people are professionals. Why do they need to tune again?” And then he realized that they are professionals, and they want to make sure that even the slightest error is corrected before they move on to the actual masterpieces they are there to perform.

Repentance for us should be like that – we should “tune” (repent) even when it seems like there is no fault or no error. Because even the slightest error can damage the sound of a beautiful symphony.

In Tune with the Music of Faith – by Elder Quentin L. Cook

Obsessive focus on things not yet fully revealed, such as how the virgin birth or the Resurrection of the Savior could have occurred or exactly how Joseph Smith translated our scriptures, will not be efficacious or yield spiritual progress. These are matters of faith.

… when we inculcate into our lives scriptural imperatives and live the gospel, we are blessed with the Spirit and taste of His goodness with feelings of joy, happiness, and especially peace.

These quotes really stuck out to me because I have been concerned about this attitude among those members who would pretend to be “intellectuals”. There is that “obsessive focus” on those things for which there is no official revelation or doctrine. I do not mean to say that there is no place for thoughtful, faithful inquiry on such subjects, but in my experience, personal revelation on “fringe” subjects comes when I “inculcate into [my life] scriptural imperatives and live the gospel”. Ironically, it is when I focus on the basics that my understanding of complex ideas and doctrines is increased.

I guess that isn’t quite so ironic when you consider the scripture Elder Pieper shared in his talk:

“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” (D&C 50:24)

What thoughts did you have while studying Elder Cook’s talk from conference?

If you are new to General Conference Book Club check out the About GCBC page and join in the discussion!

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