Saturday, December 22, 2012

Patriarchal Order

(Note: these are mostly my raw notes from a class I attended at BYU Education Week. I haven’t included much of my own insights and feelings, so feel free to chime in with some of your own observations, and quotes, etc from other sources I haven’t mentioned)

(EDIT 1/20/2013: A fellow blogger, Heather @ Women in the Scriptures recently posted an excellent piece about what it means to "preside" which I think goes hand in hand with the ideas in this post, and would be an excellent read if you are looking for more of what that means: find the post here

The priesthood structure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is patriarchal. That is exactly what it is, and it is designed to be that way by God. But what that means is sometimes confusing, and leads a lot of men (and women) to think that men are somehow superior to, more important than, or the “ruler” of some kind – basically that men should lead and women should follow. This understanding is an inaccurate understanding of what patriarchal order means in the Church.

Last summer I attended BYU Education Week and attended a class about the patriarchal order and leadership in marriage. I haven’t typed up my notes for the blog yet, and I figured I should since I learned a lot of good things.

The instructor talked about three doctrines involved in the understanding of patriarchal order. We talked a little bit about other doctrines that have to be taken together to get the whole picture – for example, grace and works, justice and mercy, etc. If you look at only one of the doctrines, then you miss the picture and you get an incomplete understand of the full doctrine.

In order to understand the patriarchal order in the Church, we have to look at three doctrines:

1.) Men Preside
2.) Men and Women are Absolute Equals
3.) Gospel Leadership Means Service

Men Preside

The first doctrine, “Men Preside” at first sounds like men are in some way above women. The Merriam-Webster definition of preside states “to exercise guidance, direction, or control.” I think the first two are the most suitable in this situation – that a father presides to exercise guidance and direction, not necessarily control. The definition also includes “to occupy the place of authority.”

Elder Deal L. Larsen said, “In the Lord’s system of government, every organization unit must have a presiding officer. He has decreed that in the family organization the father assumes this role. He bears the priesthood ordination. He is accountable before the Lord for this leadership.”

Our instructor also mentioned that the patriarchal order has its divine spirit and purpose. We may not know exactly what that is in this life. We may know ever really know why men preside and not women, but we know that’s the way the Lord has instructed us to do it, and I do not think that it takes something away from women to not preside. I think it’s more about order.

Some responsibilities associated with presiding are
- lead with love, gentleness, and kindness
- preside at family prayer, family meals, and family home evening
- teach correct principles
- give father’s blessings
- conduct father’s interviews
- participate in children’s discipline
- sacrifice for the well being of the family
- set a good example
- live a family centered life

I don’t see anything in this list that would suggest that a man is “above” a woman in presiding. It is simply the order of things. And just because something is in this list does not mean that women cannot also do it. Even presiding at family prayer, family meals, and family home evening – at times a mother may preside in these instances.

Presiding implies taking initiative. The husband, in presiding, initiates gospel living in the home. He should not be the one dragged along by his wife or children.

Satan takes a lot of divine things and twists them around. He takes things that are sacred and beautiful and makes them profane and obscene. He has done the same thing with the patriarchal order and convinced men (and women) that since a man presides over his family that somehow means that he is more important than his wife, or he has the final say, or his wife’s input is not as important.

If we look only at the doctrine that men preside, our doctrine certainly appears chauvinistic and oppressive. We can’t stop here, we have to look at the other very important doctrines.

Men and Women are Absolute Equals

The second doctrine in the patriarchal order is “Men and Women are Absolute Equals”.

Elder L. Tom Perry said,

Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. As President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught: “In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.”  Since the beginning, God has instructed mankind that marriage should unite husband and wife together in unity. Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.

While the husband may preside spiritually over the family (which really just means that he has a responsibility to guide and direct his family – basically show his family how to live the gospel and how to return to Heavenly Father), the wife stands by his side at the head of the family. She is not like the husband’s child. She is to stand with him, united “as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit.”

We talked about a few different kinds of “leaders” in a family.

The Dictator – there are actually two different types of dictators. There is a tyrant, who terrorizes his wife into doing what he wants her to do. “You will do this.” And then there is what our teacher called the “benevolent dictator”. This is the man who comes to his wife when it is time to make a decision on something, such as buying a new car, and says “Honey, what kind of car do you think we should buy?”, listens politely, and then goes out and buys whatever he wants to buy.

Reluctant Leader – this is the man who doesn’t really want to lead a family. He would rather let his wife take care of everything while he goes out to play (or stays in to play, as the case may be). The wife has to step up and lead the family because her husband won’t.

Figurehead – this is the leader who gets pushed out of the way by her wife. He appears to be the leader in the family, but the wife takes everything over without even consulting him (this, I might add, would be when the wife is the dictator). This man may want to be the leader in the home, and when questioned the wife may actually say he is the leader, but in reality she does it all. A lot of times this comes because the wife has an attitude of “I can do it better than you” rather than letting the husband lead the way he knows how, and encouraging him. In Father, Consider Your Ways, the twelve apostles counseled husbands (and wives) that fatherhood and the associated leadership “is not a matter of whether you are most worthy or best qualified, but it is a matter of law and [divine] appointment.” I think a lot of women might do well to remember that. It’s not about our husband’s being the best at being a husband or father, it’s about them being called. Just like it’s not about the Relief Society President being the best for the job – it’s about the Bishop having called her to be the president, and us sustaining her in that calling.

But none of these types of leaders are in harmony with gospel doctrine. The doctrine says that we should be equal partners. So what does that look like?

Equal Partners – both partners have veto power. Decisions are unanimous. If husband and wife don’t both agree, then the issue is tabled until they can agree. Honestly this is hard because sometimes it means that nothing gets done. Look at the United States Congress – and they don’t even have to have a unanimous vote! But that doesn’t change the fact that in order to be equal partners you must both agree. And sometimes that involved compromise (which is not a bad thing). Marion G. Romney reminded us that “Neither [husband nor wife] should plan or follow an independent course of action. They should consult, pray, and decide together.”

Another example our instructor used was that of two signatures on a check. Every decision requires two signatures – the husband’s, and the wife’s. He also mentioned that this is how the quorum of the twelve apostles works – all decisions have to be unanimous before the decision is official.

Gospel Leadership Means Service

The third doctrine we have to consider is that “Gospel Leadership Means Service”. “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Christ presides over His Church this way – as our servant. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught us that we should be a “leader-servant”. The question a gospel leader should ask is “How can I help?” rather than “How can I help myself?” The father, as the leader of the family, is this “leader-servant”.

It’s almost important to remember that the presiding done by a father in the home is a spiritual leadership, rather than a governmental or political leadership. That is what Elder Perry meant when he said there is no “president” in the family. There is a man who is a spiritual leader, which means he is a “leader-servant”.

Joseph F. Smith taught men how to treat their wives, “Parents … should love and respect each other, and treat each other with respectful decorum and kindly regard, all the time. The husband should treat his wife with the utmost courtesy and respect. The husband should never insult her; he should never speak slightly of her, but should always hold her in the highest esteem in the home, in the presence of their children.”

President Boyd K. Packer also taught men about serving their wives and children.

It was not meant that the woman alone accommodate herself to the priesthood duties of her husband or her sons. She is of course to sustain and support and encourage them.

Holders of the priesthood, in turn, must accommodate themselves to the needs and responsibilities of the wife and mother. Her physical and emotional and intellectual and cultural well-being and her spiritual development must stand first among his priesthood duties.

There is no task, however menial, connected with the care of babies, the nurturing of children, or with the maintenance of the home that is not his equal obligation. The tasks which come with parenthood, which many consider to be below other tasks, are simply above them.

Those outside the Church think that ordination to the Priesthood means “power” in the worldly sense. The true meaning of the Priesthood in the Church means service and protection. President David O. McKay described Priesthood power like the power of a reservoir of water,

We can conceive of the power of the priesthood as being potentially existent as an impounded reservoir of water. Such power becomes dynamic and productive of good only when the liberated force becomes active in valleys, fields, gardens, and happy homes. So the priesthood, as related to humanity, is a principle of power only as it becomes active in the lives of men, turning their hearts and desires toward God and prompting service to their fellowmen.

…I say that because the priesthood you hold means that you are to serve others.

The Priesthood has no power until it is used to serve others.


How have you seen the principle of patriarchal leadership twisted by Satan? What blessings come to families when patriarchal leadership is practiced correctly, when husbands and father are servant-leaders and equal partners with their wives? Do you feel like patriarchal leadership is practiced correctly in your home? In your ward?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Waiting for More Light and Knowledge

I was re-reading Sister Burton's talk from the most recent General Relief Society meeting and I loved what she said here:

The part that stood out to me, especially in light of recent events, was her final concern, "we feel [Heavenly Father] would have us work in unity with the other auxiliaries and with our priesthood leaders, striving to seek out and help those in need to progress along the path."
I remember sitting in the meeting and feeling as if Sister Burton understand and sees the struggle some wards have with counseling together, and specifically counseling with the sisters in the ward.
Her topic for the rest of the meeting was fantastic, absolutely needed, and of course the perfect foundation for discussing covenants and unity. But I found myself anxious to hear her speak more. That was when I realized that I hadn't even studied her first talk. How can I want more when I am not appreciating what I have?
So I am going to study Sister Burton's talk multiple times so that I will be prepared for the next time I hear her speak. I think she is going to have some inspiring things to say. I just wish I didn't have to wait so long for her counsel!
Patience. That thing I struggle with.
What are you excited to hear Sister Burton discuss? Have you studied her talk from September? If you could hear more from Sister Burton what format would you like to see? A podcast? A blog? Articles in the Ensign?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over

photo (7)Remember the Lie of Perfection? I read an excellent post about the same principle written by Kathryn over at Daring Young Mom called Drops of Awesome. It was really beautiful. I especially loved her story about walking her son to the bus stop. You’ll have to head over to her blog to read that and more of her Drops of Awesome.

As an object lesson … I gave [each girl] each a small dropper and I put a 2-quart bowl on the table. I told them that throughout the lesson they would get the chance to put drops in the bucket for every Drop of Awesome they could think of that they’d done. I promised them that we would fill the bowl to overflowing by the end of the lesson.

With about 5 minutes to go, we had barely begun to fill the bowl and the girls were looking around at each other nervously. The promised overflow did not look likely. Were they not awesome enough?

At that point, I pulled out a large pitcher labeled ATONEMENT and poured water into the glass bowl until it was spilling out all over the table and the towel the bowl was resting on. The class went silent.

Read the whole post here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Separating Culture from Doctrine: The Lesson Handout

This is the first post in a new series called “Separating Culture from Doctrine”, where we talk about places where culture has been mistaken as doctrine among the members of the Church. I wanted to start with the dress code myth, but I decided to let that issue cool off a bit before I tackled it again. So I’m starting with something a little less controversial (I hope!) and somewhat lighthearted, but I would like to eventually tackle some things that are harder to separate. Do you know of a part of Mormon culture that many members of the Church mistake as doctrine? Have you heard of something in the Church that people make out to be doctrinal, and you’re not sure if it is? Let me know in the comments, or drop me an email or a post on Facebook (see “Subscribe and Connect” on the sidebar for links) and I will do the research and find out how much is doctrine, and how much is culture.

When I was in the Young Women program (the Church’s youth program for 12-18 year old girls) I kept a binder with a bunch of pages inside of sheet protectors. Whenever I would get a handout in Young Women or Sunday imageSchool I would glue it to one of the pages in this binder. I kept the for years, but I never used it, and eventually I scanned all the pages into my computer (which I haven’t look at since – until today when I was writing this post and wanted to include a picture of one of the pages).

Obviously those handouts had a huge impact on my life. Or not.

In fact, I don’t even remember the lessons they went to (not specifically). The lessons did make an impact in my life, and in the building of my testimony, but I don’t associate the handouts with those lessons. In fact, I remember every one of my YW and Sunday School teachers from my time as a youth, but I couldn’t tell you what any of them taught me. What I could tell you is that each one of them was an amazing example to me and the fire of their testimonies lit a fire in me.

They didn’t need the handouts to do that.

And neither do you.

Mormon Myth #1Handouts are an integral, and even necessary, part of a lesson. They help the class members remember the lesson, and are part of your calling as a teacher.

Truth: Preparing handouts can take precious time away from study and prayer that is an integral and necessary part of a lesson. The Holy Ghost teaches class members, and the Holy Ghost helps class members remember the lesson – not you, and not your handouts. As a teacher your focus should be on prayerfully studying the lesson material and listening for inspiration to know what questions will elicit the most beneficial discussion for your class members.

Our Church Web site now provides access to all of the general conference addresses and other contents of Church magazines for the past 30 years. Teachers can download bales of information on any subject. When highly focused, a handout can enrich. But a bale of handouts can detract from our attempt to teach gospel principles with clarity and testimony. Stacks of supplementary material can impoverish rather than enrich, because they can blur students’ focus on the assigned principles and draw them away from prayerfully seeking to apply those principles in their own lives. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Focus and Priorities, April 2001 General Conference)

I hear women say that their callings are wearing them out or that they don’t have time to serve. But magnifying our callings does not mean staying up all night preparing handouts and elaborate table decorations. It does not mean that each time we do our visiting teaching we have to take something to our sisters. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Let’s simplify. The message of a good lesson comes through spiritual preparation. Let’s put our focus on the principles of the gospel and on the material in our study guides. Let’s prepare to create an interesting exchange of ideas through discussion, not through extra, invented work that makes us so weary we come to resent the time we spend in fulfilling our callings. (Sister Kathleen H. Hughes, Out of Small Things, October 2004 General Conference)

Dedicating some of our time to studying the scriptures or preparing to teach a lesson is a good sacrifice. Spending many hours stitching the title of the lesson into homemade pot holders for each member of your class perhaps may not be. (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Forget Me Not, 2011 General Relief Society Broadcast)

Mother was a great teacher who was diligent and thorough in her preparation. I have distinct memories of the days preceding her lessons. The dining room table would be covered with reference materials and the notes she was preparing for her lesson. There was so much material prepared that I’m sure only a small portion of it was ever used during the class, but I’m just as sure that none of her preparation was ever wasted. …What she didn’t use in her class she used to teach her children. (Elder L. Tom Perry, Mothers Teaching Children in the Home, April 2010 General Conference)

I’m sure no one’s soul was damaged in the preparation of the handouts my teachers made for me in Young Women and Sunday School, and I am not passing judgment on them and neither should you. This isn’t about judging people. It’s about talking about what is culture, and what is doctrine.

The Mormon culture encourages us to spend a little time on the praying and studying part, and then a lot of time on the handout part. This same principle can be applied to Young Women and Relief Society programs that get so involved the spirit is missed, and the only thing people remember are the cute decorations and handouts. They don’t remember the spirit they felt (if they felt the spirit at all) and they don’t remember the lesson taught.

We should be so careful to focus on what really matters.

I want to tell you about our Ward Christmas dinner. The dinner was fantastic, homecooked, gourmet food, and the decorations were intricate and handmade. The cultural hall felt like a winter wonderland. The atmosphere was lovely, the music was touching, and the company was wonderful, as usual. If I didn’t know the sister who was in charge I may have been tempted to think it was a little over done. But I know this sister and I know that she took great pleasure and joy in creating a beautiful environment for us to enjoy a delicious meal. She was very good at it, and I know that she didn’t stress out about it at all. In fact, I bet planning and preparing for that ward party was the most relaxing thing she has done in a while.

I related this story so that you can know that we should not be judgmental of sisters who make elaborate handouts for Relief Society lessons. Nor should we be judgmental of sisters who don’t make elaborate handouts for lessons.

(as a side note – if you give me a non-edible handout in Relief Society I will probably dispose of it in my recycling bin as soon as I get home – I do not like paper, and I despise clutter – handouts, in my opinion, are frequently clutter – and I do not want your little decoration you made for me. It probably doesn’t fit into my décor. These are things to think about as well when you are thinking about preparing a handout. If the handout is edible I will most definitely eat it.)

Let us please keep in mind that the Spirit is the real teacher when we “teach” a class. The handouts are cute, but most of them end up in the trash anyway. Save a tree – use the Spirit.

For more instruction on teaching the gospel, see the Church’s handbook, Teaching, No Greater Call. There are no handouts – just in case you were wondering.

How do you use the Spirit to teach your class? Do you use handouts? Have you ever spent too much time on the handout and not enough time on your lesson? Can you think of ways when a handout might be appropriate?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Of Action Groups and Sunday Pants

When I first read through the Facebook event description of the Wear Pants to Church Day event sponsored by the action group All Enlisted, I wasn’t particularly alarmed. imageReally, I agreed with most of their intentions. In fact, just last night I was talking with my husband about how most members of the Church frequently mistake Church culture for Church doctrine.

I have said before (simply echoing Church leaders) that the doctrine of the Church is actually very limited. Anything beyond the true doctrine is policy, policy we believe is based on an understanding of doctrine and revelation. Policy we sustain in General Conference twice a year as we sustain the leaders who we trust to make the policies Heavenly Father feels are best for our time (which means they – the policies – do change).

The Fight Against Cultural Myths: A War Worth Fighting

Back to my first impressions of the Wear Pants to Church Day event. I loved much of what the sisters said on the Facebook page. I think what tempered the whole description for me was their first paragraph, the reading of which almost caused me to shout “Amen! Hallelujah!”

Did you know that church leaders have not discouraged women from wearing pants since 1971? … After many reports of overt or silent judgment, a group of LDS women decided it was time to stop the perpetuation of the cultural myth that there is something wrong with women wearing pants. (emphasis added)

I felt that they were actually acknowledging that the problem in the Church (judgment over women wearing pants/people wearing jeans/tennis shoes/colored shirts/etc to Church) is a cultural myth, rather than some Church policy. And before you start tossing out quotes from General Authorities counseling us to wear this or wear that, let me remind you of Elder Christofferson’s most excellent and timely talk in April 2012 General Conference during which he appropriately reminded us,

…it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.

So you can erase your comment with a quote from some apostle or prophet that said you should wear a white shirt while passing the sacrament. That’s great, if you have a white shirt. If you want to wear a white shirt. Owning a white shirt or having a desire to wear a white shirt is not a prerequisite to being ordained to any priesthood office, or performing any priesthood duty. If you feel like you should wear a white shirt to perform your priesthood duties, great for you. If you don’t think it matters, good for you. What matters is that you are worthy to perform those duties – which has more to do with the heart than the outward appearance.

The sisters describing their demonstration kept getting more and more points with me as the description went on –

“The Church has not attempted to indicate just how long women’s or girls’ dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing.”--LDS Church Presidency (1971)

“Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. Generally, church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the savior, but we don't counsel people beyond that.” –official church statement December 12, 2012

Why, this is most excellent! Someone is helping educate the masses about how dumb we all are for thinking that cultural norms (even Church culture ones) are somehow what the doctrine of the Church mandates. Or even Church policy. Obviously, women wearing skirts is not Church policy, and I thought these great women did an excellent job explaining that.

The Bait-and-Switch

I must have skimmed through the rest of the description because no red flags went off until I read the post a second time.

This event is the first act of All Enlisted, a direct action group for Mormon women to advocate for equality within our faith. … we do want the LDS Church and its members to acknowledge the similarities [between men and women]. We believe that much of the cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS church today stems from the church's reliance on – and enforcement of – rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality.

Wait a minute! You just told me that your goal was to correct a cultural myth, but you’ve just pulled a bait-and-switch on me! Now you’re telling me that you want “equality within our faith” and you see “doctrinal inequalit[ies]” in the Church, perpetuated by “the church’s … enforcement of … rigid gender roles.”

I had so much hope – this was almost a group I could stand behind. I was excited that someone was trying to address the cultural myths that seems to be endlessly perpetuated in the Church. These cultural myths are not perpetuated by the General Authorities, or by Church policy. On the contrary, I have heard the prophets and apostles constantly hounding us in General Conference, urging us to give up the culture and live the doctrine. It’s the members of the Church falling short of the counsel of the prophets that perpetuates cultural myths.

Stoning People for Their Sins

My thoughts went immediately to the new Church website, Love One Another. Nothing found on that website is news. There are some great personal stories, which I think are very effective in breaking down culture – when people can see what happens in cultures outside their little bubbles, they are more appropriately armed to take down the culture in their own bubbles. None of the doctrine on the Church’s new website is different from anything that has been preached previously. Since Christ walked the earth we have been counseled to love one another regardless of our differences, regardless of the sins of others. It was Christ himself who said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, the adulterer.

It is not our place to stone people to death, literally or figuratively, for their sins.

A Misguided Discussion

The purpose of the Wear Pants to Church Day demonstration was not the only thing that bothered me about the entire situation. The comments that have been elicited have been equally as disturbing. Comments such as,

“What if these women have received revelation that this change needed to be enacted?”

“I'm offended you would ask me to wear a colored shirt, one that I shouldn't be wearing while performing priesthood ordinances.”

“maybe … the ones that have left will come back knowing that the church is finally putting action towards attitudes”

“the Lord has told us that dresses are a sign of reverence and he has asked us to wear them..its not a commandment … but we are to listen to the Lord and to our prophets”

“I feel sadness for the sisters that feel hurt and confused enough to feel they need to participate in this, because it means that they have not yet gained a true testimony of the divinity of womanhood in the Lord's plan of happiness, and how ESSENTIAL we are to that plan”

“To me, their reasons are that they don't understand the basics of the gospel. They don't understand the priesthood and womanhood. And that this is the Lord's church. They don't understand the symbolism of the temple.”

I have problems with all of these comments. People are either continuing to perpetuate the cultural myths by spouting their misguided understandings of Church policy (the colored shirt comment) or they are confusing culture with doctrine.

People who are helping to perpetuate cultural myths need to stop it, and people who are confusing culture with doctrine need to stop it.

And all of us need to stop judging each other. I said to my husband that it seems like the people who think you should only wear dresses are judging the women who would like to wear pants, and the women who would like to wear pants without being judged are judging the very women they accuse of judging them.

Let us please apply Uchdorf’s Hammer: STOP IT!

An Action Group For Cultural Change

Where does this leave me?

Wanting to form an action group for women who want to promote charity and the doctrine of the Church. Women who want to break down the cultural myths and replace them with kindness, love unfeigned, boundless compassion, and non-judgmental attitudes.

So I thought to myself “Why not form one?” An action group – dedicated to these very things.

Our motto would be “Charity never faileth.”

And then I remembered – there is already an action group for that.

It’s called Relief Society.

The Savior Himself has organized the women of the Church into an action group. One that should be at the forefront of breaking down cultural myths. A group that should be at the forefront of compassionate outreach to women who feel marginalized and pushed aside.

It is a worldwide sisterhood, but at the same time, it is a grassroots movement. Each ward has a Relief Society specifically and specially equipped to deal with the issues in that particular ward. Why? In my ward, the women in my Relief Society, the women who need my help, are my neighbors. I live, work, and play in the same places as them. I see them on a regular basis. If I am doing my job as a disciple of Christ, I am listening to the pain in their hearts. I can see if they are being ostracized by judgmental skirt-wearers. I should be observant and recognize when they feel left out because their husband is blessing their baby and no one gives them the accolades they deserve for gestating, laboring, and delivering that beautiful baby. If I am doing my duty as a real Christian, I will be reaching out to include the broken hearted, those who are different in whatever way – whether it be homosexuality, divorce, single motherhood, whatever makes them different, I can be the one who reaches out and helps them feel unity and love under the umbrella of compassion and charity.

So I have no need to start an action group. The Savior did that already. But I am renewing my membership. I am gearing up to be the best member of this action group I can be.

Who’s with me?

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Heavy Load

I met with the bishop last night. I will be back in a few weeks, and we set up a regular visit every few weeks to help me figure out how to be happy. I’m really grateful for such an amazing bishop. mormonadunloadHe’s a really good friend of ours as well, and I am confident that between his help and my efforts, if I can muster some motivation, I will be able to heal and work through all that is going on. Bishop said I am suffering from battle fatigue. I think that is a great way to put it.

This week I am going to work at being more motivated. More motivated to pray, study the gospel, take care of myself and the house and the kids.

I’m taking it a step at a time, and if all I can manage one day is feeling motivated enough to do the laundry and play with the kids, well, that’s better than vegging in front of the TV, right?

I prayed earnestly for the first time in a while last night.

It felt good.

I think I’m going to be okay.

Tiffany at an ensign, waving posted this video on her blog today for her 5 things for Friday post. She’s a wise woman. After listening to the acoustic version a few times on my phone I realized that I needed to own this song. This might be my theme song for the next several months. Or maybe just for the rest of my life.

If you had some heartache that made you cry a thousand tears
Then let me tell you now I know just how you feel
And that heavy weight of sorrow that you've carried for so long
Will soon be gone

'Cause I believe that there is something more than I can see
I believe that there is someone holding onto me
Sometimes I won't feel it, but that don't change a thing
'Cause it's by faith that I believe

Thanks, Tiffany – I needed that today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Letting myself be happy has turned out to be harder than I thought.

I’ve been thinking about the atonement for the past few days, after we had our Teachings for Our Times lesson on Sunday about President Uchtdorf’s message (which ironically was the General Conference Book Club talk for last week).

For some reason my testimony of the atonement and my understanding and conviction that it is the key to happiness and can help me bear pain and disappointment doesn’t seem to translate into something doable. I can’t figure out how to use the atonement to help assuage the pain.

Something I thought about on Sunday was how I healed (am healing) from the loss of my brother. For a while I didn’t heal – I was too busy to deal with the grief – but once I faced the grief head on, and allowed the atonement to work in me, I felt the healing. I still feel it every day (for that trial). The loss of my brother will always be a hole in my heart, but it is much less painful now than it was two years ago.  I feel like I was able to heal because nothing was ongoing. Once the initial shock was gone, there was not much left to do other than heal. There are always little moments when it’s harder – like when we’re taking family pictures, or on his birthday, or on the anniversary of his death, or when I watch someone else deal with the loss of a loved one. But in general, the pain is past. The trial is, for the most part, over.

This trial is different.

It may never be over. It may never end. Things may never, in this life, get better – at least not the way I want them to.

And I think accepting that is hard for me. Learning how to live with the situation how it is feels like giving up. It feels like being okay with things the way they are is failure. Accepting that I don’t have any power over this situation is like accepting defeat.

I guess I just don’t want to endure pain for the rest of my life. This is a spiritual and emotional pain, rather than a physical one – but I think the concept is the same. I can’t imagine living in chronic pain. I know there are people who do it. A good sister in my ward is in constant pain and confined to a wheelchair. There are actually two sisters in our ward in that condition. How do they stand it? How do they find happiness? It wasn’t their choice to be in that situation.

I think deep down I feel a little bit like this trial is my fault. I feel as if there is something I could have done. If only I had made this decision, or that decision, I wouldn’t be in this position.

Sometime in the past year I remember thinking to myself that Heavenly Father wanted me to be in this position. He knew before I did the pain I would be in. He knew it a long time ago, before I even saw it coming. He knew when He told me to make the decision I made that would lead me to this place. He knew this was the only way I would learn the things I needed to learn.

I read this quote from Orson F. Whitney earlier today in a General Conference talk by Elder Robert D. Hales,

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.

I loved what Bonnie said about tanning leather on my most recent post at Real Intent:

You would think that the strongest leather comes from hides with lots of flesh left on them, nice and thick, that haven't been treated too badly. In fact, the strongest leather comes from well-scraped hides that have been acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun, then acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun, and acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun. Unworked leather cracks under pressure. Well-worked leather is soft and supple, water-proof and flexible. We don't grow strong by being left alone.

Tender. How do you tenderize something? Usually by beating it repeatedly. Ever seen a meat tenderizer? They come in different varieties, but almost always they have some kind of prongs or texturized surface. Ours is a very scary looking hammer. If you want to cook some really tender meat, you beat the meat repeatedly with the scary hammer. How do we become tender? By being beating, spiritually, emotionally, sometimes physically. By undergoing trials and adversity.

I once wrote about the three sources of trials and adversity in this life. Suffering is usually caused either by our own sins, the sins of others, or just by the natural conditions of this world. The suffering I experienced when my brother passed away was part of the natural conditions of this world. No one made him get cancer. His cancer wasn’t a result of some sin he committed. It just happened. It was tragic and painful, but it just happened. This trial is hard for me because I can’t help feeling like I am suffering it because of a sin I committed. I keep wanting to simply repent and make it better – but I can’t because it isn’t my sin to repent of.

Elder Hales said, “In this mortal life, each of us is going to experience pain in one form or another… It often comes as a result of our disobedience to the commandments of God, but it also comes to those who are doing all they can to keep their lives in line with the example of the Savior.” I have been spending all this time thinking that this kind of pain shouldn’t come to me because of the way I was living my life. I made good choices, so I shouldn’t have to experience this trial. But life doesn’t work that way. All the good choices I could ever make can’t stop others from making bad choices.

I really liked the last part of Elder Hales’ talk where he talked about how important caregivers are as we are experiencing pain. “There are times when, no matter how independent we may be, we must entrust others with our care. We must surrender ourselves to them. Our caregivers are those who assist in the healing process.”

If you know anything about me, you know that I am fiercely independent, strong willed, and incredibly head strong. In fact, earlier this year when my husband was gone on frequent business trips a member of our Relief Society presidency called me and asked if I needed anything. She commented that she wasn’t too worried about me because she could tell how independent I am, but she wanted me to know that they were there if I needed anything. I told her that she’s right, I can take care of everything, but it was nice to know they were thinking about me (and it was – it always helps me take care of myself when I know people are thinking of me).

So “surrendering” to outside help is something I would not consider doing. Last fall when I was having some emotional issues my husband made me see a therapist a few times. I would never have made the appointments on my own. A few months ago I finally broke down and talked to the bishop. It felt good to talk to him and get counsel, but I didn’t go back, thinking I could take care of it from there.

This week I am going to work on finding some caregivers. A person in chronic pain probably sees a doctor regularly. I think I should probably learn to surrender to some caregivers.

Surrendering to the ultimate Caregiver is probably going to be the hardest thing for me. Elder Hales said,

The Lord is our ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to the Lord. In doing so, we give up whatever is causing our pain and turn everything over to Him. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee”. “And then may God grand unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son”. Through faith and trust in the Lord and obedience to His counsel, we make ourselves eligible to be partakers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that one day we may return to live with Him.

Giving up the thing that is causing me pain is going to feel like defeat. I don’t know how not to feel like it is. I don’t know how not to feel like I have somehow failed. I don’t know how to do it, and I am pretty sure that is the thing causing me the most pain.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Letting Myself Be Happy

(Of Regrets and Resolutions – by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

I haven’t been participating in General Conference Book Club so far, although before conference I had every intention of doing so. Then disaster (or Satan) struck and I was left with not much desire for spiritual things. But I am learning a little more about patience and endurance, and although I don’t feel completely back to “normal”, or fully engaged spiritually, I do feel as if some healing as been going on, and I’m ready to jump back in – especially when there is a conference talk that speaks so much to my predicament.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, “I thought that living the gospel was supposed to make me happy. But for the past several years a sustained happiness has been elusive.”

I walked on the treadmill this morning to President Uchtdorf’s words of wisdom speaking to me from my desktop computer. He so wisely said,

So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial.

Ask my husband and he will tell you that I am constantly getting onto him for saying things like, “Well, when I’m done with my undergraduate degree I will be happier.” Or “When I’m only going to school and not working and going to school, I will be happier.” Or “When I get promoted I will be happier.” Or “When we are living in another country I will be happier.” I tell him all the time, “If you’re not happy now, you won’t be then!”

So this wasn’t completely new advice to me – I’ve been spouting it at my husband for years. But when President Uchtdorf added “the end of a challenging trial” my jaw dropped just a little bit.

Brothers and sisters, no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.

So isn’t it better to see with our eyes and hearts even the small things we can be thankful for,rather than magnifying the negative in our current condition?

This can be a very hard thing to do, especially when the negative is literally a huge rain cloud covering us. I have tried to find the good things in each day, but the challenges and trials have seemed to outweigh even all the good I could find in the world.

But I am learning that the good doesn’t make the bad go away.

Just because there are beautiful things in life – new babies, rainbows, kind people, the gospel – it doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad things. People are still murdering and robbing and there are still tornadoes and floods and earthquakes.


So being happy isn’t so much about life being all sunshine and roses. It’s not about not feeling pain. It’s about deciding to be happy regardless of the pain. I guess I am still learning exactly how to do that.

I think a lot of my recent emotional roller coaster is due to pregnancy hormones. I am definitely aware that chemical imbalances can keep a person from choosing to be happy, and I think that in the past few months that has definitely been a contributing factor. But I am still not quite sure that is all. I am certain that there are things that I am supposed to be learning from this trial. Maybe focusing on those lessons and learning to be grateful for them will help me find happiness.

How do you let yourself be happy? Have you ever had times in your life when you didn’t feel able to make that choice? What was helpful for you?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Vessel Without a Sail

Today in Sunday School we are talking about how Mormon felt about the Nephites as he watched them decline in their spirituality.

He likened them to a vessel with no sail or anchor or any way to steer.

When we read this scripture it reminded me of another kind of vessel that didn't have a way to steer, but rather than being blown about by satan, it was guided carefully toward the promised land.

When the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to build barges to take his people across the ocean to the promised land, there was not a way to steer them - no sail, no anchor, no rudder.

The brother of Jared asked the Lord:

The Lord's answer is instructive:

The Lord comforts the brother of Jared and instructs him - they do not have to worry about steering the vessels because God will steer them.

The difference between the ill-equipped vessels of the Jaredites and the ill-equipped figurative vessels of Mormon's people is the connection with God.

Mormons people had hardened their hearts and were not influenced by the Savior anymore, which left them to be influence by satan.

The brother of Jared and his people were humble, seeking the Lord, and so they were guided by His hand - their vessels were steered by Him.

Have you ever felt as if the Lord was guiding you even though you may not have had the resources to steer?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Lie of Perfection

Earlier this summer I wrote about spending “some” time in the scriptures every day. Today I was thinking about that again.

I know you all have been missing me on the blog (don’t tell me if you haven’t – I like to pretend I am important), and if you read my most recent post on Real Intent you might understand why I have been out of commission for a while. It’s hard to write about spiritual things when you feel utterly non-spiritual.

In short, my soul has not been doing a lot of delighting lately.

Part of that is pregnancy hormones (antepartum depression, anyone?), and part of it is a lack of patience and accepting God’s will. Cheryl wrote recently about how she always thought curve balls would come in a certain way, and the curve balls actually came in different forms than she had anticipated. I think part of my failure to endure is because the trials and adversity that I am experiencing are exactly the last thing I thought I would ever have to endure. I thought that because of choices I had made that I would be protected somehow from these trials.


God can’t/won’t/doesn’t (not sure which one) usually protect us from any trials. He gives them to us maybe a little too willingly for our tastes, but He knows that we can handle it. And He provides a way for us to overcome or bear them. Every time.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

You’d think I had failed seminary with all the scripture mastery verses I seem to be forgetting these days.

You’re probably wondering at this point what on earth the title of this post has to do with the actual post. Well, nothing, yet. I got distracted.

This post has to do with me learning (again … funny how Heavenly Father has to teach us the same lessons over and over and over again … if only I would learn it the first time!) that I do not have to do everything all the time every day.

What does that mean?

It means that I do not have to study the scriptures for four hours a day. One verse, even reading my favorite verse is sufficient, and if I have time one day to study for an hour or so, then great. But forgoing scripture study because I can’t study the way I want to or think I should is a dumb reason not to study the scriptures.

“Spend some time in the scriptures each day.” – Sister Beck

It means that I do not have to clean all three bathrooms in my house all the way in one day. There is no way I can feed my children, dress my children, eat healthy food myself, and keep the house reasonably clean, plus have a little time to read or do something relaxing/recreational and clean all the bathrooms all the way in one day. It’s just not possible. Even if I think to myself “I have no plans today, I can do the bathrooms today.” Ha. Not likely, and I am probably just setting myself up for failure. However, not being able to clean every corner of the bathrooms every day does not mean I should never clean the bathrooms at all.

The other day I wiped down the counters and called it good. And guess what? I felt like I had done something! I didn’t need to be perfect. Today I cleaned all of one bathroom, (the counter was already wiped – ha!) and mopped the kitchen floor. There are still dishes to be done, but the floor is clean.

I don’t have to do it all, all at once.

“Oh, please. Just let the Savior cover this day.
Let Him cover my inability to do and be everything I need to be and can’t be today.
Please let the atonement cover it.”
Becca Riding, Cover Me, I’m Going In

The lie of perfection is that it is required of us to be 100% perfect 100% of the time, or we are complete and utter failures.

Hello – we are, by virtue of our mortal state, imperfect, and thereby “failures” (through this lens of this lie of perfection).

The hope comes in the atonement, and in doing the best we can.

Yes, I am applying the atonement to cleaning bathrooms.

Because of the atonement, I can wash the toilet in one of my bathrooms and feel like I have done enough. Some days it might be an entire bathroom, and some days it might be all three bathrooms but not the kitchen floor. Some days it might be one load of laundry and we eat frozen corn dogs for dinner.

The atonement covers all that. (if you haven’t read Becca Riding’s post about that over at Diapers and Divinity, you should. It is excellent).

One of the commenters on that post said, “As a mother I tend to put things off til the moment when all is well and no one needs me” But someone or something will always need us, and we cannot do it all, all at the same time, perfectly.

Thank heavens for the atonement.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of “perfection”? Or do you rely on the Savior’s atonement to perfect you, rather than your own works? Do you do nothing, for fear of coming up short? Or do you realize that no matter how much you do, you will always come up short, and then do as much as you can and let the atonement cover everything else?

Image Credit: Heath Robbins

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

By the Voice of The People - FHE


Today is election day in the United States of America. In our country, the voice of the people rules (well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s basically true). In our country, we get to choose our governing officials, and then we get to tell them how we want things done.

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. (Mosiah 29:26)

Last night at Family Home Evening, we talked about what it means to vote, and why it is so important. Talking to a kindergartener and a preschooler about political responsibility was fun – and a bit of a challenge.

We talked about the President of the United States of America (who my son knew was Barack Obama – I’m such a proud mama!). Then we talked about how every four years we get to decide who will be the president. V was very much convinced that we should elect Mitt Romney because “Barack Obama has already been the president!” Makes sense, right? Everybody gets a turn! Gotta love 5 year old logic.

Of course, then we talked about how if the president has only been president for four years, we get to decide if he has been doing a good job, and if we want to have him be president for another four years. Then we talked about how to choose a president (or other officer – we stuck with president because senators and state and city governments are probably a little complex for kindergarten/preschool citizens to grasp).

We asked our kids things like, “Should we vote for a president because we like his tie? What about because we like his haircut?” Our kids were pretty smart and knew that we shouldn’t vote for a president just because we like how he/she looks.

Then, how should we choose a president? (the kids didn’t have any quick answers, which was fine, because that’s what the lesson was all about).

To answer my own question, I decided to share with our kids the First Presidency’s statement from 2008 (which they read now around every election time) about participating in the political process.

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A lot of the words were too big for our kids to understand, and if you have small children you know that losing a child’s interest is basically a death sentence for FHE, so I had to paraphrase a lot of things in child-friendly terms.

We focused on a few things from the statement:

1.) “the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy” – we talked about our responsibility to vote. I also explained “public policy” – how things like funding schools is a public policy. We also talked about fiscal responsibility. We talked about how we give the government money (taxes) and then the government spends the money on things that should benefit us as a society. A lesson in economics was a little beyond our kids, but they understand the basic – that it’s better for the government to spend our money on food for hungry people rather than toys. They also understood that it is good for the government to help other countries, but we can’t spend money that we don’t have.

2.) “Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest.” All we did was read this sentence, and my five year old knew how to choose a president: “Choose a president who is wise, good, and honest!” Smart kid. Because partisanship is a little more complex, rather than talking about political neutrality, we simply talked about how both President Obama and Mitt Romney are good people. It’s a little over simplified, but I think it provides a good basis for political neutrality. And we’ll have this FHE every two years – building blocks. We’re just laying the foundation right now.

3.) “study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully” We really focused on the “prayerfully” part. We talked about how my husband and I have been studying the issues and candidates, but that we pray for help to make good decisions in the election. After our mock presidential election, my husband and I talked about a few of the issues with the kids.

4.) “then vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.” The “actively support” part is what I have never been particularly good at. I don’t like campaigning, and I don’t care for party politics. It’s my goal to be more actively supportive in the next few years of the people/persons I support in government. I hope that our Election Day FHEs will become a safe place for our children to learn how to be politically active.

IMG_2601After our discussion, we had a mock election. I made up some simple presidential election ballots. I had a picture of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and next to each picture a little box for the kids to mark. I wish I had made a polling booth because it would have made the experience a little more real.

As our children mature, we will add things to the ballot – propositions, senators, etc. My hope is that by the time our kids are in high school we will be holding FHE mock elections with actual sample ballots from our area.

We talked about how in an election we are not required to share our vote with anyone. We don’t have to tell anybody how we voted, but if we want to tell people how we are going to, or how we did vote, we can.

We tried really hard not to influence our children’s choices on their ballots, but the winner won by a landslide. (okay, it was unanimous)

Our kindergartener had a fun time counting the ballots, and I told them I would take them to the real polls today and let them help me vote.

This morning the first thing they asked me when I woke up was “When are we going to the pool?!” (last night they were saying “pool” and we made sure to clarify – not the pool where you swim, the poll where you vote. Didn’t make a difference, they still say it “pool”

This morning they were telling my friend that they were going to the “pool” today. Her response, “ I hope it’s an indoor pool! It’s too cold to go swimming outside!” My kids stared at her blankly, wondering what on earth swimming has to do with the election! I explained that they meant the polls.

I hope my children aren’t utterly disappointed with their (and my!) first experience voting. (I’ve only ever voted via absentee ballot! So I am excited for my first “real” voting experience!)

How are you teaching your children to be responsible citizens? How do you teach them about the political process and political participation?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

GCBC Week 27: "Believe, Obey, Endure"

Who was thoroughly impressed by our new General Relief Society presidency last night? I definitely was. If you missed the broadcast you can watch it here. I have a lot to say about it, but that will probably come later this week. I just have to say that I felt as if Sister Burton accomplished the seemingly impossible task of filling Sister Beck's shoes - in just one night. That is a testimony to me that her call came from God and that she is the woman for the job today.

This week is the last week of General Conference Book Club! I have been honored with this privilege of hosting GCBC while Stephanie took a sabbatical, but I am excited to give her baby back. GCBC belongs with Stephanie. I can't wait to discuss the October General Conference talks over at Diapers and Divinity, so make sure you head over there next Sunday!

Believe, Obey, Endure - by President Thomas S. Monson

President Monson's counsel to the youth was excellent. I appreciated that he discussed with them the exciting opportunities that come to them as teens. When I was a teenager I hated it. I hated the stereotype and stigma that came attached to being a "teen". In fact, one of my essays for my scholarship application to Brigham Young University was focused on how I was not "just a teenager". I never felt like I wanted to be a teenager. The world thinks teenagers are lost and messed up and society kind of leaves teenagers "out to dry" most of the time. Where did this limbo land come from for teenagers? Why don't we expect much much more of our teenagers?

Well, apparently President Monson expects more of our teenagers, and I appreciate that. Children (including teenagers) will live up to our expectations of them. There is no need for children to suffer through this limbo stage of "teenage-dom". Why don't we just expect our children to become adults? The teen years should be a training ground for our children to learn how to be adults, not a time for our teens to make every mistake imaginable and potentially ruin their chances at a successful adulthood.

President Monson gave the young women a clear road map for learning how to become faithful adults - believe, obey, endure.
For this purpose have you come into mortality, my young friends. There is nothing more important than the goal you strive to attain—even eternal life in the kingdom of your Father.
What were your thoughts and impressions about President Monson's talk?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I write with Real Intent

Behind the scenes for the past several weeks, I have been working with a wonderful group of bloggers getting ready for the launch of a new blog – Real Intent.

Since you are probably a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have been dissatisfied with the gospel conversation lately. It seems that most of the gospel conversation online is critical of the Church, fault-finding, and focused everywhere but on the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the power that atonement can have in our lives. Unfortunately, a lot of the gospel conversation offline is shallow, often close-minded, and shies away from the hard questions.

Until today, the only place to discuss hard questions and gospel principles in a meaningful way was online in the “bloggernacle” – but finding people asking questions with real intent was hit and miss. Occasionally you could find a good post or two, and frequently there were parts of posts that were faithful and encouraging, but for the most part it seems like the entire world is dissatisfied with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or, at least, the entire blogging world).

Well, thanks to the amazing hard work and dedication of fellow blogger Bonnie, there is now a place for the hard questions to help us develop our faith, rather than tear it down.

RI Author Button 300

Announcing the new blog, Real Intent

from the blog:

We, the authors at Real Intent, are interested in promoting a journey of discovery through the experimentation of faith, aiding one another by sharing insights and solutions regarding issues that face individuals, families, and communities in an increasingly divided world.

We hope that you will join in the conversation and help to create a community where we can ask hard questions with real intent, and hopefully find answers and strengthened faith and renewed commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

See you there!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GCBC Week 26: Young Women General Meeting

Each spring, the young women of the world have the privilege of hearing from all of their leaders, and the prophet, in a special broadcast tailored specifically to them. I remember after I turned twelve and entered the Young Women program the thing I looked forward to the most was being able to attend the General Young Women’s Broadcast.

I can’t wait until my daughter is twelve and she gets to attend these meeting as well.

But thanks to the Ensign and other church publications and websites, the messages from the Young Women’s broadcast are available to everyone and the messages are excellent and pertinent to any member of the Church, not just the Young Women.

I felt like it was important to study the YW broadcast talks this year in GCBC. I have been listening to them along with the other General Conference talks, and I really felt the messages from the broadcast speak to me. They are timely messages for all Latter-day Saints, and we should all be studying them.

This week we will be studying the messages from the General Young Women presidency. Next week we will study President Monson’s talk to the YW, and the next week will be October General Conference and the start of the next round of GCBC! (which will be held back at Diapers and Divinity! Make sure after next week you head over there for the posts and discussion)

Arise and Shine Forth - Sister Ann M. Dibb
Now Is the Time to Arise and Shine! - Sister Elaine S. Dalton

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Little, Young and Tender Branches

As promised – more on Zenos’ Allegory of the olive tree. I wrote last week about a little connection I made between the house of Israel and the lifespan of an olive tree. I promised myself that I would use that connection to make my study of the allegory more meaningful this go around.

My first step was to look up the pertinent chapters to the allegory in the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine manual, the Institute manual, the seminary manual on the allegory, and then any talks/Ensign articles/etc. Most of them had one thing in common – they started with the part where the master of the vineyard starts grafting in the branches of the wild olive tree.

But I had noticed that the master of the vineyard did not resort to grafting at the very beginning. In fact, in verse 4-6 we discover that the master “pruned it, and digged about it, and nourished it” – and as a result, “after many days it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches.”

The only place I found a reference to these verses was a fun little graphic in the Institute manual.

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So what was the pruning, digging about, and nourishing that the Lord did? And who were the “somewhat a little, young and tender branches” that began to grow? Well, I went back to the timeline of the Old Testament (the seminary bookmark) and checked out what went on before the house of Israel was scattered.

We know that after the time of Moses, the House of Israel started going downhill fast (this was about 900 years or so after the beginning of the House of Israel – or the birth of Jacob). In fact, even Moses had to deal with a lot of issues due to the House of Israel’s hard headedness. From the time of Moses until the scattering of Israel (when Lehi went to America and the rest of the Jews were carried off by the Babylonians) was about 600 years.

Image Credit: Bruce Okkema

The Lord pruned, dug, and nourished the dying house of Israel for nearly 600 years. During that time, several “young and tender” branches came forward. The Old Testament bookmark lists several of those “young and tender” branches – Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Deborah, Ruth, Solomon, David, Saul, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos, Lehi, Isaiah, Jeremiah.

The description of the branches being “young and tender” makes me think of something delicate and easily damaged. Some of these “young and tender branches” were easily damaged. The good kings that were raised up in this time – many from their youth (young and tender branches) – Solomon, David, Saul – they were delicate, and those “young and tender branches” ended up dying off. They didn’t make it.

But there were other branches that, though young, became stronger and were able to be grafted into other tress. For example, Joshua was born in Egypt before the Exodus and was basically raised under Moses and became his successor. Then there is Samuel, who was called by God while he was still a child. We also have Elisha, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, who were raised in mostly righteous environments – young and tender branches that grew strong and stayed strong. , who was adopted into the house of , became a very strong branch – in fact, through her branch would eventually come the Savior of the world. And finally Lehi, who was spiritually young, although physically he was old became one of the strongest of the new young and tender branches, through his sons, Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph.

However, even when all of these “young and tender branches” were growing, “the main top thereof began to perish.” During this whole time the the Lord was furiously taking care of the house of Israel, trying to save it, the house of Israel was becoming apostate, regardless of the new branches that were growing.

It was at this time that the master of the vineyard finally decided to cut his losses, burn the dying branches, and begin the process of grafting his young and tender branches into other wild olive trees, hoping to create more tame olive trees that would bring him good fruit.

Image Credit: khraishi.sameer

The gospel doctrine manual points out that “For a wild olive tree to become tame and productive, its main stem must be cut back completely, and a branch from a tame olive tree must be grafted into the stem of the wild one.” The master’s plan was to tame the wild olive trees with the young and tender branches from his beloved, ancient olive tree.

It might seem odd that the master would graft wild branches into the roots of the tame olive tree, but he didn’t want to lose the roots of the old tree. The gospel doctrine manual also points out that “the root of the [olive] tree may go on producing new trees and fruit for thousands of years” through grafting the new shoots that can potentially grow from the roots of the old, dying tree into other wild olive trees (this is probably where the young and tender branches came from originally). Because the master of the vineyard took all the young and tender branches and grafted them into the wild trees around the vineyard, he put some of the wild branches into the old tree to help preserve the roots, probably hoping that the roots would keep sending out new young and tender branches.

This post would not be complete if we didn’t have a little discussion about what this all means. The most significant part of the beginning of the allegory of the olive tree, and a theme that is constant throughout the allegory (and throughout our lives) is the love of Jesus Christ for His people. He experiences grief when His people are lost. “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree” – that sounds like a loving Savior to me. He always does all He can to save us, to protect us, and take care of us. We still have our agency, and as seen by this first part of the allegory, despite everything the Lord is willing to do for us, He cannot save us against our will. But He will definitely do everything in His power to help us.

I also can’t help thinking about the young and tender branches in my own life. I want my children to grow to be strong branches of our family tree, and so I need to treat my family tree the way the Savior treated the olive tree, by pruning and digging and nourishing. Ruth is one of my favorite examples of a strong branch – she was a convert, but her branch became so strong it was through her lineage that the Savior was born. That’s the kind of strength I want in the branches of my family tree.

What doctrinal principles do you see in the allegory of the olive tree?

Monday, September 17, 2012

GCBC Week 25: “What Thinks Christ of Me?”

Only two more weeks until October General Conference. I love General Conference. I’ve said it multiple times, and I’m sure the number of posts around here about Conference, referring to conference, or quoting conference talks proves it. I am a General Conference junkie. I can’t get enough. I even downloaded every General Conference that is available (back to 1974 I believe) on my iPhone so that I can have General Conference at my finger tips.

That also means that after this week there are only two more weeks of General Conference book Club before the new session starts up in October. And, much as I have loved hosting GCBC, due to Stephanie’s return from sabbatical General Conference Book Club will be returning to Diapers and Divinity after October Conference. I told Stephanie that honestly I was excited for her return, because while I have really enjoyed hosting General Conference Book Club, I much prefer being a participant on her blog. I like writing lengthy posts and linking to them in the comment section on her blog. What can I say, I like being long winded. I also like not having to remember to blog every Sunday (and if you’ve been around you’ll know that I don’t remember to blog every Sunday… and this post is no exception).

So, without further ado, here is Elder Neil L. Andersen’s conference talk -

What Thinks Christ of Me? - by Elder Neil L. Andersen

What were your thoughts about Elder Andersen’s talk?

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