Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Time for Personal Prayer and Study

A few days ago I read this post and was very inspired by this mother's morning routine for personal prayer and scripture study. I've also been reading several journals and autobiographies of early LDS women and have been impressed that many of them all tried to wake up earlier than their families in order to have time for personal study, prayers and educational pursuits. That is impressive to me because this is one area of my life that really needs improvement lately.

I used to (before I had kids) be diligent about getting up early to study, pray and exercise but since I've had kids I've really let that slip. Lately I've been REALLY lazy in my personal prayers, to the point where I now count a hurried "chat" with God in the shower and a mumbled prayer into my pillow as I drift off to sleep to be sufficient. Yet I know, from experience, that if I want to be the type of woman I envision for myself, and the type of wife and mother I want to be, then I NEED to put my relationship with my Heavenly Father first in my life.

God won't give me the attention I want unless I give him the attention he deserves.

So I'm wondering... how do you find time for personal study and prayers? When do you do it? Do you have a routine? How do you discipline yourself? How do you stay focused? What sort of things have helped you?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Letter to the Mother of the Girl Who Will Someday Marry My Son

I don't know who you are yet, and seeing as our children are still under the age of three (yours might not even be born yet), it may seem pre-mature to start thinking about you.

Still, the last few months I haven't been able to get you off my mind.

You could be anyone one, live anywhere and be doing anything.... who knows perhaps I've already met you. Sometimes I try to imagine you rocking a little girl in your arms, the little girl who will one day be the woman my son hold in his arms. I imagine you taking pictures of her and putting them in a scrapbook that one day my son will show me when when he asks me who I think new grandchild looks like.

I see a mother pushing her daughter on the swings at the park and I can't help but wonder if that is you... if that is her. I decide to love them anyway, just in case.

It seems strange that even though we don't know each other we are already "star-crossed mothers" whose lives are destined to one day be intertwined through our children's love. We are in a partnership you and I... I'm preparing my son for your daughter and you are preparing her for my son.

I love you already.

A few months ago I came upon this article and haven't been able to stop thinking about this part...

The period of life from birth to approximately three years of age is the time when a child becomes aware of gender—of being a boy or girl... Children are privileged to be males or females by divine creation. Help them feel that whichever gender they are, they are of great worth. ... The relationships that you build with your children during their early years will have a tremendous influence on the way they feel later about developing their own intimate relationships. While your children are very young, you can teach them the value of loving and being loved. During this period, you should also be careful to react properly to your young children’s discoveries of their bodies.

...It is in this early stage of life, as the roles of male and female are acquired, that the foundation of sexual health is laid or sexual distress begins. By age three most children should have firmly accepted their identity as male or female. When family unhappiness has led them to feel unaccepted, they may become confused about their self-esteem and their gender role. Loving, consistent parenting helps children accept themselves and their gender identity during these three years. Unkind parenting can plant seeds of self-doubt and even confusion about the gender role. These seeds can germinate into personal problems in the following years unless parents change and show increased affection and acceptance.

I just want to remind you that these first few years we have with our children, even though it seems like they never listen and behave like wild baboons, are not a waste of our time. We are laying the foundation, the very core, of who these children are going to become. Through our consistent and unconditional love we are teaching them that who they are, male and female, is divine and wonderful; through our relationships with our husbands we are teaching them that relationships between men and women are beautiful; and through our daily actions we are showing them that loving and being loved is possible.

I just want you to know that I am trying my hardest to be a good mother. I'm trying my hardest to fill this little boy up with love, knowledge, and integrity so that he will be the man you want for your daughter. I am doing everything I can to teach him about who he is, what his mission is on earth, and how to treat women with love and respect. I want him to be the type of man who will cherish your daughter and nurture your... our... grandchildren.

I'm hoping in about 20 years from now he will be ready for her.

Lets pray for each other... because I know that sometimes I could use it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meeting My Hero

I had an incredible experience yesterday.

I got to meet Sister Julie Beck.

It was amazing. She is one of the most incredible women I've ever met. She just radiates love from her... pure and genuine.

For those of you who aren't LDS Julie Beck is the General President of the Relief Society, the women's organization of the LDS church. She has been the General President for a good portion of my adult life and she has been such an influential person in my life. It seems like every time she opens her mouth to speak she says something that heals a hole in my heart.

I went to go talk to her about the book, The Gift of Giving Life:Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth, that I am working on. The other authors all live out of State and so it was just me who went. We'd been feeling prompted for months to contact Sister Beck and let her know about our project but kept brushing the thought away because it seemed ridiculous. I mean really you don't just call up and invite yourself to talk with Sister Beck! But when a another highly respectable person suggested that Sister Beck might really like to know about it... we figured it wouldn't hurt to just try.

I was really surprised when her secretary contacted me a week or so ago and told me that Sister Beck had read my email and really wanted to connect with us. So yesterday I went to the Relief Society building on Temple Square which, for all of you who haven't been inside it before, feels like a palace. It really is stunning inside. I had to wait for her for awhile because the RS Presidency was in another meeting. When they came out I got to meet them all and shake their hands! Then Sister Beck took me aside and I got to go talk with her for about 20 minutes about the project and what we are trying hoping do. She was so kind and gave me a lot of really wonderful stories, ideas and, suggestions for the book. She told me to keep doing what we are doing and to go forward with inspiration... and to keep loving my babies.

Then she gave me a hug.

Wow. I could have floated away right then.

She truly in my hero. I don't think there would be anyone else on this earth I'd rather have met (okay the prophet would have been pretty good too). This morning I was thinking about the scripture in Alma 48:17 about how if all men were like Captain Moroni the very powers of hell would been shaken forever. I think that it would be fair to re-write that scripture and say, " Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all [WOMEN] had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [SISTER BECK] behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."

Really what an amazing woman. When I look at the picture it just feels surreal that I was even there. I feel so incredibly humble that she took time out of her busy schedule to talk with little ole unimportant me. God works in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Take My Poll and Enjoy a Little Bit of Junk Food

I'm sorry I have been missing in action the last few weeks. It has been a busy summer and since I've procrastinated doing all the projects I told myself I would do this summer till the very end... I've been really busy. You think I would learn:)

So, lately I've been thinking that I would like to expand the scope of the blog. In the past I've mostly focused on highlighting the stories of the women in the scriptures but I am wondering if my readers would mind me branching out into other women/religion/motherhood related topics as well. Don't worry I will still talk A LOT about the women in the scripture-- that is the name of my blog-- but my hope is to make this blog appeal to people who wouldn't normally be interested in scriptural sorts of things. Once they are here then maybe they will fall in love with the scripture sand the women in them. I'm out to convert as many people into scripture nerds as I can! Muwahahahaha (that is suppose to be an evil laugh).

So please take the poll that I've posted on the left hand side-- you can vote for as many things as you like-- or leave me a comment with suggestions about how I can improve this blog. I really would love some constructive feedback. Please, pretty please.

Oh, and if anyone does web design or knows someone who might be interested in re-designing my blog in return for their name and information posted on the sidebar of the blog, let me know. I get pretty good traffic and it could be a good way for someone to get some easy advertising.

In the meantime I think you should watch this. It has nothing to do with women in the scriptures, and besides being beautiful isn't even really inspirational, I just really love it. This is the way my little boy and I compromise... he gets Elmo and I get Andrea Bocelli's amazing voice. He can come sing me to sleep any night!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Elect Lady

"Episcopa Theodora", 9th century mosaic in the St. Zeno Chapel of the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome. Image source

2 John


The LDS Bible Dictionary says this about the three epistles of John:
" In none of these three epistles does the writer mention himself by name; but tradition assigns them to John, while the similarity of the language of these epistles and that of the fourth Gospel is strongly marked...The second epistle is closely connected with the first in the character of the false teaching it condemns. The “elect lady” addressed in it is nameless. The writer of the letter styles himself the “Elder.”
Facts About Her:
  • She was a mother (vs 1);
  • John (the beloved) wrote an epistle directly to her. It is the only epistle in the New Testament written to a woman (vs 1);
  • She was loved by John as well as "...all they that have known the truth" (vs. 1);
  • Her children were walking in faith;
  • John blessed her to "love one another" and to beware of deceivers and antichrists and not to receive any into her house, nor bid him "God speed" who professed that doctrine (vs. 6-7);
  • John has more to say to her but tells her that he will come visit her and tell her more that they may, "...speak face to face, that our joy may be full." (vs. 12)
  • She has a sister who is also "elect" and John tells her that, "The children of thy elect sister greet thee" (vs. 13).
Speculations About Her:
  • We don't know if the "sister" John mentions in vs. 13 is her real sister or a sister in the gospel. It could be either;
  • Some Christians interpret phrase "the elect lady and her children" as an analogy for the Church of Christ. They feel that John wasn't writing to a specific person but rather to a group of Christians whom he addressed this way, much in the same way that Christ talks about the Church being "his bride" (John 3:29).
My Thoughts:

I've been thinking a lot about this unnamed woman in the New Testament the last few months. As lots of my readers know a few months ago our Relief Society re-enacted the first meeting of the Relief Society using a script that I wrote from Eliza R. Snow's original notes of the 1st meeting in Nauvoo.

As I was putting together our re-enactment Joseph Smith's comparison of Emma Smith to the "elect lady" in 2 John really got me excited.

According to Eliza's notes after Emma Smith was elected and sustained as president of the Relief Society Joseph Smith stood and read the entire 25th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants (which is a revelation addressed specifically to Emma Smith) and then he told the women this (these quotes are word for word from Eliza's notes):

"This revelation was given to me in July of 1830, not long after the church was first organized. Emma was ordained at that time to expound the scriptures to all and to teach the female part of the community. She is not alone in this but others may also obtain to the same blessings."

Joseph then opened the New Testament and read all of 2 John (which is the epistle directed to the "elect lady") after which he told the women:

"I read this verse to you to show that respect is had to the same thing and that why she was called an elect lady is because she was elected to preside."

He then asks if Elder John Taylor would, "... set apart the elect lady [referring to Emma] and her counselors..."

Organization of the Relief Society, by Nadine Barton

It was really powerful to me that Joseph explained that the reason a woman is called "elect" is because she is elected and has been set apart to preside, in this case over the women of the church. It makes me wonder if perhaps this "elect lady" mentioned in 2 John might not have been the New Testament version of a General Relief Society president. Perhaps the reason why Joseph Smith compares Emma to this elect lady is because, as he said, "respect is had to the same thing..." and that in being called and set apart as the Relief Society president for the restored church Emma was filling the same role that the elect lady filled in the New Testament church.

In her talk, "Fulfilling the Purpose of Relief Society" Julie Beck explains that such a thing could have been possible. She says:

Since its organization, Relief Society has spread throughout the world and has been called “the largest, and by all measure, the greatest women’s organization on earth.”4 We know through the Prophet Joseph Smith that Relief Society was a formal part of the Restoration and that a similar organization for women existed in the Church anciently.5The Prophet Joseph taught that Relief Society was “divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God,”6 “according to the law of heaven”7 to help the Lord “bring to pass the . . . eternal life of man.”8

I've mentioned before about how powerful it is to me to know that the Relief Society (or something similar) was organized in Christ's day. To know that the women were organized and had a specific role and work to do Christ's work completely changes how I read the New Testament. It thills me to think about there being an ancient relief society, with a president who was elected and given power to preside and "expound the scriptures" to the women of the church. I can't help wonder about her who her counselors would have been (maybe the other "elect" sister John mentions)? What would her jobs have been? What were the needs of the saints in her day? How did she met them? What sort of interaction did she have with the prophets and apostles? Did she personally know Christ? Could she possibly have been one of the women at the empty tomb?

I have a thousand questions I'd like to ask about her... but I guess they will just have to wait.

It is also interesting to note that the only epistle we have in the New Testament that was written to a woman was the one to the "elect lady" and that the only section in the Doctrine and Covenants that was written to a woman is section 25 which was written to Emma Smith, another "elect lady."

Does that give anyone else little tingles down their spine?

Questions to Think About:
  • Who do you think she was that she warranted her own special epistle from an apostle?
  • What else did John have to tell her that could only be said "face to face"?
  • Why would he warn her about accepting people into her home? Could it be that she was sought out by those who needed relief? Or that the church met at her home?
  • How does knowing that the Relief Society was organized in Christ's day alter your understanding of the New Testament, especially the women in it?
  • Who are the "elect ladies" today?
  • What do you think Joseph Smith meant when he said, "Emma was ordained at that time to expound the scriptures to all and to teach the female part of the community. She is not alone in this but others may also obtain to the same blessings."?