Monday, February 28, 2011

My Worth as a Woman is Not Dependent Upon How My Children Behave in Church

My three-year-old has been having a tough week. Yesterday was our first day back to church after a week and a half of being sick. I guess a straight week of movies, sore throats, coughs, and grumpy parents took a big toll on him because church yesterday was a roller coaster. Both of my children were out of control again during Sacrament meeting and we eventually ended up out in the foyer again because they were screaming and being distracting. Then my three-year-old didn't want to go to Primary (the children's class) and threw a mega tantrum, complete with screaming, banging doors, and yelling at other adults. I finally got him to sit in the Primary room but when I had to leave he threw another tantrum and ended up going to play in the nursery (the class for the babies). I was mortified.

That afternoon when I got home I let myself slip into a depression. I felt totally crushed that my children had been so awful at church. I felt like somehow their bad behavior was a reflection of me and that my worth as a woman and as a mother was diminished. "Obviously", my depressed mind told me, "if my children make bad choices then I must be a bad mother and if I am a bad mother then I must be a bad woman, and if I'm a bad woman then I might as well give up now." I sat for a good two hours stewing and wallowing in my misery-- slowly feeling my self worth draining away.

Then after a few hours, a light of truth penetrated my depression and a still small voice whispered to me, "Heather, your worth in my eyes is not dependent upon how your children behave. Your worth is eternal." Then my mind turned to the story of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, and her husband Elkenah. I remembered how, when Hannah was so depressed over her inability to have children that she refused to eat and was constantly weeping, Elekenah asked her,
"Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?" (1 Samuel 1:8)
Before I'd always thought of Elekenah's statement as very egocentric, that he thought he was so important that he was worth ten other men. Yet this time when I thought about the story I realized that what Elekenah is telling Hannah is,
"Hannah...why is thy heart grieved? Your worth is my eyes is not dependent upon how many children you have or don't have."
Elekenah is trying to remind Hannah that even though she feels great cultural and personal pressure to be a mother that in his eyes she has intrinsic worth; worth that won't change based on how many children she bears or doesn't bear.

It is ironic to me how as women we often feel so much of our worth is dependent upon our children. If we are unable to bear children we feel somehow like we lack intrinsic value as women. If our children behave well, excel, and make good choices we feel like we have succeeded as women and as mothers. On the other hand if our children behave badly, struggle and make bad choices then we feel our worth as women and as mothers is less. Personally I've fallen into this same mindset time and time again. Yet yesterday it occurred to me that if I was to use that same sort of standard (judging ones worth on how well ones children behave) to judge the worth of my Heavenly Parents I would be disappointed. Even our Heavenly Parents, who are literally "perfect" parents, were unable to save 1/3rd of their spirit children. Through no fault of their own 1/3rd of their children made bad choices and are lost to them... irretrievably. I can't even being to fathom how their hearts ache for those lost children. Yet despite having wayward children our Heavenly Parents eternal worth is not diminished... they did all they could.

This reminder of my intrinsic worth penetrated my soul powerfully. I realized that just like Elkenah God did not base Hannah's worth as a woman on how many children she was able to bear. The same is true for me. God does not base my worth as a woman and as a mother by how well behaved my children are. True, He expects me to fulfill the mission he has given me on this earth and to work my hardest to do it well, but in the end He is merciful and understanding. He knows that my children will always have their agency and that I won't be able to coerce them or force them to make the right choices. All I can do is nurture, love, and guide them... little by little... day by day... and hope and pray that they choose to walk in truth and righteousness. If for some reason they don't make good choices-- or if they choose to scream through church for the next 15 years-- I know that my worth as a mother and as a woman is not dependent upon their choices.

Like Hannah... my worth is intrinsic.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Women Giving Blessings in the Early Days of the LDS Church

On the first Sunday of the month there is no an assigned lesson topic for Relief Society. Instead it is up to the prayerful discretion of the Relief Society Presidency to choose a message their sisters need to hear. This month it was my turn to teach (I am the first counselor in our presidency) and as I was praying about what the Lord wanted me to teach I felt strongly that I should teach on healing. There are several women in our church who are going through hard physical challenges and it seemed like this would be a good topic to address. Yet as I was preparing my lesson Sister Beck's words came back to me that
"... the sisters of the Church should know and learn from the history of the Relief Society. Understanding the history of Relief Society strengthens the foundational identity and worth of faithful women."
I realized that in my lesson about healing I should talk about the history of women giving blessings in the LDS church.

I have to admit that I was nervous about talking about this part of Relief Society history. It is a topic that most women have never heard of and if they have they either feel nervous or angry about it because they don't understand it. I was worried someone would misunderstand me and think I was teaching false doctrine. Yet as I pondered and prepared my lesson the spirit kept nudging me that the women in my ward really needed to understand this part of their heritage. So I fasted and prayed that the Lord would be able to convey my lesson so that women would feel the spirit and understand the principles behind it. I shouldn't have been nervous... the spirit did a great job of teaching and the meeting was amazing.

I started my lesson by splitting the chalkboard in half and writing "Priesthood Administration to the Sick" on one side and "The Gift of Healing" on the other half. I then told the women that my lesson would be on these two types of healing and we would talk about how they were different and how they were the same. I wanted to make it clear that these are two different types of administrations. I started by focusing on Priesthood Administration and I invited a member of Elder's Quorum presidency to come in and talk to us about priesthood blessings-- how they are given, rules and procedures they follow, how it feels to give one, how they prepare for them, and some of his personal experiences giving blessings. He did a wonderful job and really taught us many things that we didn't know about how priesthood blessings are given. He just reinforced my gratitude for the amazing power of the priesthood in my life.

After he was finished I then had the sisters turn their attention to the other type of healing "The Gift of Healing" and had them read D&C 84: 64-68 which says,
"Therefore, as I said unto my apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who beleiveth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick...."
The gift to heal is a gift given to all the followers of Christ, male and female. Women in the early days of the church often participated in healing as demonstrations of faith. Women most commonly administered by laying on of hands to their children but were sometimes called to administer to those outside of their families. One of the most common uses of women's blessings were to wash, anoint, and bless a woman's body before childbirth. Women who gave blessings never claimed priesthood power but always closed their blessings in the name of Jesus Christ. It is also important to note that these blessings were not related to temple ordinances and women were cautioned not to use language learned in the temple.

The practice of women giving blessings originated with Joseph Smith and the first Relief Society in Nauvoo. At the 6th meeting of the Relief Society on April 28th, 1843 Joseph instructed the sisters about the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and stated that the gift to heal was a gift of the spirit, one that followed all the believers whether they were male or female. Eliza R. Snow recorded that Joseph said,
“Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick… there could be no evil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administrations.” (History of the Church, volume 4, pg. 604)
It is important to note that Joseph Smith clarified that women had the gift to heal and administer because of their faith and not because of their priesthood authority. Joseph reiterated what Jesus taught in Mark 16:17 that “ these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name… they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

There are several beautiful stories of women administering to each other. One of my favorites is that of Sister Persis Young who administered to nineteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball Whitney who had recently lost her first child is death and the birthing had left her weak with infection. Fasting, several of the sisters had met at Helen’s mother’s house to pray for her return to health, but the meeting had ended abruptly. Helen remembered,
“I, being very weary and sad in spirit at the close of the day, had lain down, and I fell asleep… I was quite young, and not having been healed as I had been told I should be, my faith was considerably shaken.” Morning came, and with it, Persis Young. “She had been impressed by the Spirit to come and administer to me,” wrote Helen, “ and I would be healed; that she could not sleep, and she had come there in obedience to that Spirit. She had been so long under its influence that she shook as though palsied when she laid her hands upon my head with my mother. She rebuked my weakness, and every disease that had been, or was then, afflicting me, and commanded me to be made whole, pronouncing health and many other blessings upon me… From that morning I went about to work as though nothing had been the matter. Thus did the Lord remember one if His unworthy handmaidens and fulfill the promise that had been given by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.” (Women of Covenant: The Story of the Relief Society" , pg 67)
Betsy Jane Tenny Loose Simons, a widow living in Quincy, Illinois, once recorded how when her son was very ill she "longed for an Elder or someone holding the Priesthood, that the disease might be rebuked." She had no one and as her son's condition got worse and worse she recorded that,
"All at once as distinct as though someone had spoken to me, [a voice said] "Why don't you administer to him yourself?" I was anxious for my lady friend to depart that I might administer as the spirit directed. In a few moments she left... Alone I could unburden my heart and pour out my soul in earnest prayer to my Father in heaven. Kneeling by the bed on which lay my dying child, it should be an evidence to me that it was my duty to sell my home and come to the valley... I administered to him and he was healed." (Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah, pg 23)
Blessings like these were given fairly commonly up until the 1920’s when the practice began to get confused with temple ordinances and priesthood authority. Many women felt confusion over the purpose of these blessings and so the practiced slowly started to die out. Then in 1946 Joseph Fielding Smith circulated a letter to Relief Societies which said,
“While the authorities of the Church have ruled that it is permissible, under certain conditions and with the approval of the priesthood, for sisters to wash and anoint other sisters, yet they feel that it is far better to follow the plan the Lord has given us and send for the Elders of the Church to come and minister to the sick and afflicted.” (Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah, pg 18)
President Smith was referring to section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is where the Lord outlined the “law of the church”. In D&C 42:43 the Lord instructed Joseph Smith in the preferred way to administer to the sick, He said, “And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name…” Today this pattern is still followed and calling in the elders to give a blessings by the laying on of hands is still the Lord’s preferred way of blessings the sick.

While it is not encouraged today for LDS women to lay their hands on each other’s heads or give blessings that mimic priesthood administrations we can still utilize the gift of to heal on each other’s behalf. This gift of the spirit has never been taken away from women, the only thing that has changed is the method of administration. In all three places where the gifts of the spirit are listed it is mentioned how the administration (the outward physical application) of these gifts can change over time but how they gift remains the same.
Moroni 10:8 says, "And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all..."

1 Corinthians 12:5 says, "...there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord."

D&C 46:15 says, "And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men."
Women in the LDS church no longer administer the gift of healing by the laying on hands but instead adminster in many diverse ways. In Women of Covenant: The Story of the Relief Society" the authors explain how since the 1940’s women have still administered to one another. They said,
“Individually and collectively, Latter-day Saint women…continue to draw upon other gifts of the Spirit- faith, hope, wisdom and knowledge- to provide in another form the same “blessing of one sister to another” and to extend that blessing to men, women, and children outside of their sisterhood. The greatest of these gifts, charity…endure[s] as the essence of Relief Society.”
As I discussed the gift of healing with the women in my ward we realized that women in the church are still administering to each other and to our families every day. Women administer this gift when they use their faith, prayers and fasting on someone's behalf, when they give loving words, hugs, kisses, provide meals for a family, care for children, share their wisdom and knowledge, give healing touch, meet material needs, listen to the spirit to understand unique needs, write words of blessing and encouragement, and physically be with people through their trials. These gifts of the spirit, these methods of administration, are not any less powerful or meaningful than the washings and anointings that the women in the early church performed. It was beautiful to hear the women in my ward testify of ways in which they had ministered healing to people or ways in which they had been ministered to by other women.

The gift is the same, it is only the method of administration that is different.

How do women in your life administer the gift of healing? How have you been the recipient of that gift?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quiet Book Swap

So after my post about my Very Simple Quiet Book one of my friends from college, Mommy D, emailed me with the perfect solution to my crafting handicap. She suggested that I host a "Quiet Book Swap". The idea behind this is to break up the massive work that the average quiet book requires. Instead of making 15 different pages each woman just makes 15 of the same page. Then we will compile all the different pages women make and send everyone a book that will have one of your pages in it and 14 others made by other women. I think it is a great idea and we are looking for about 15 women (or men) who are committed to doing this.

Mommy D is willing to do the organizational and coordination work. Here are the details she sent me:

1. First, you must have access to a sewing machine and have basic sewing skills. Most of the pages are fairly simple, but require basic sewing, stitching, and cutting.

2. Next, decide whether you want a fabulous quiet book! We’d like to have 10-15 participants. You must be absolutely serious about participating, because we want everyone who participates to have a nice “Quiet Book” at the end of the swap!

3. Look at quiet book pages and decide what you’d like to do. Here are a few options:

Go to and check out her pages, or any of the links. Here are some simple one-page options:

Button-on flowers and vase

Traffic Light


Bead counting page


Weave a tower

Teddy bear tie


Apple tree

Coconut Tree (counting coconuts)

Matching cupcake numbers (

Write a letter


Tic Tac Toe Page

Memory game page (

4. When you’ve decided what you want to do, email Crystal at with your top 3 options of pages you’d like to do. I will try and let you have the first choice of page you’d like to do, but we need everyone to do a different page, so that is why you need to choose a few that you’d be able to make.

5. Make 10-15 copies of the page you chose. I will mail you the felt to sew the quiet book on, but you will be responsible for all the other materials for your quiet book. Once we have everything organized, we will contact you further with dates and deadlines. We will have plenty of time to complete the quiet pages, about 2 months.

6. When your pages are done, send them to me in the mail! I will take care of sewing the pages together and binding them.

7. The cost for the background felt/sewing/binding, and shipping to you when the book is complete will be $10. I estimate it will cost $15-$25 for your materials for the pages you make, which makes the book around $25-$35. MUCH cheaper than buying a quiet book anywhere else! You can mail me cash when you send the finished pages, or use paypal if you’d feel more comfortable. Details on that will be given when we have organized everything and gotten ready to send out the felt for the background of the pages.

So , to sum up: We’re having a quiet book swap. Each participant will duplicate 10-15 copies of the SAME page. Stick to the deadline, do your best work, have fun, and get excited for the super-cute quiet book your little ones will enjoy for years to come!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bilhah and Zilpah's Birth Stories: The Old Testament's Form of Adoption

Bilhah and Zilpah were the handmaidens (servants) of the patriarch Jacob's wives, Leah and Rachel. Rachel, who was Jacob's favorite wife, had not been blessed with children. While Leah, Rachel's older sister, had given birth to four sons. Genesis 30 records that,

"...when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her."

In her desperation for children Rachel followed the example of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and married her maid Bilhah to her husband so that she could have children through her. In Old Testament times this was an acceptable way for a married woman who was barren to gain children. In an ancient Nuzi marriage contract it stipulated that a woman whose servant bore the children of her husband "should have full authority over the offspring." (Source) This adoption ceremony was often conducted by placing the son or daughter on the knees of the mistress and declaring it her child. This may have been what Rachel meant when she said that Bilhah "shall bear upon my knees."

Alternatively she may have just been referring to the way in which ancient women commonly gave birth. Women in labor were surrounded by female companions who encouraged them to labor upright and dance and sway during contractions (belly dancing is actually an ancient fertility dance that women were taught a young age to help with conception and labor). During the final stage of labor a woman would squat and be supported under the arms by one or two other women. Often times bricks were placed under her to give her more support and the midwife knelt in front of her. This image of a woman being supported in a squat by other women is the most common image of women giving birth throughout history and around the world. So when Rachel meant that Bilhah would bear upon her knees she may have been referring to the actual position in which she would give birth.

Image Source

Either way it is almost certain that Rachel would have been with Bilhah during the births of her two sons. Also, the scriptural text seems to indicate that the sons Bilhah bore were considered to be Rachel's and that she would have raised them as her own. This is reinforced by the fact that Rachel named both of the sons Bilhah bore. The first son Rachel named Dan saying, "God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son." The second son Bilhah bore she named Naphtali and said, "With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed."

After Bilhah bore Rachel two sons Leah found that even though she already had four sons she was no longer able to have children. So following the example of her sister Leah gave her maid, Zilpah, to Jacob as a wife so that she could have more children. Zilpah bore Leah two sons. Leah named the first son Gad and declared, "A troop cometh." The second son Zilpah bore Leah named Asher and said, "Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed." Like Rachel, the sons that Zilpah bore would have been considered to be Leah's and she would have raised them as her own sons. Nonetheless Bilhah and Zilpah would have been able to see their sons every day and their sons would have know that they were their birth mothers. In the official record given of Jacob's children in Genesis 46 Dan and Naphtali are listed as the children of Bilhah and Asher and Gad are listed as the children of Zilpah. These women may not have had legal claim to their children but they still played a large part in their upbringing and in their daily lives.

As I've thought about these two great women and reflected on their sacrifices I can't help but marvel at what amazing women these two handmaidens must have been. It makes me wonder what sort of relationship Rachel and Leah had with them. What did it take for them to share their husband with two other women? What did it take for Bilhah and Zilpah to share their children with two other women? It must have been hard, really hard. Yet they did it and through them came the 12 tribes of Israel... the covenant family of the whole earth.

These two handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah, made great sacrifices. Probably the greatest sacrifice that any mother could ever make. Yet they did it out of love--love for Rachel and Leah, knowing that they could given them something they could not get themselves. Love for their sons, knowing that they were giving them the best position, name, and quality of life possible in their situation. Their sacrifice reminds me of all the women who make similar sacrifices around the world today. All the Bilhahs and the Zilpahs who still selflessly give of themselves to bring children to women who are unable to have them any other way... and all the Rachels and the Leahs who will never be able to repay the gift.

Questions To Think About:

  • How is this ancient form of adoption similar or different from today's form? Do you think it would be harder or easier?
  • Why do you think it is that both Rachel and Leah go on to have their own children after they gain sons, by adoption, through Bilhah and Zilpah? Do you think that they just got impatient and that they would have eventually had their own children, or do you think that this was the way God intended for His children to come?
  • What is significant about the names Rachel and Leah give their sons?
  • How do you think that this story might be valuable to women making the choice to adopt a child or to put a child up for adoption?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Five Things For Friday, 4th Edition

1. I thought I'd alert you to the fact that Elspeth Young's 2011 calender "Women in the New Testament "is now discounted online for only $4.00! Granted we are already two months into the new year but if you haven't got a calender for the year this would be a good idea! Even if you already do have a calender you could get it just for the pictures. My brother-in-law got me one a few months ago and it is really beautiful. If you haven't discovered Elspeth's work you need to. The only thing to be aware of is that the pictures are only half pages... I was sort of disappointed by that... but they are still big enough that you could cut them out and frame them in smaller frames. And for $4 that is a good deal.

2. So I guess I stretched the truth a bit when I said that I don't ever make New Year's resolutions, because this year I did make one. Not to get any more fines at the library. Lets just say that last year we "invested" quite a bit of money into our local library system. This year I'd like to actually have it be a FREE service. So far I'm doing good. We are two months and 7 or 8 library visits into the year and still NO FINES. Lets hope I can keep this up.

3. Next week my hubby and I are going down to BYU's Museum of Art to see the Carl Bloch exhibit. In addition to the original copy of "Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda" that BYU owns they currently have four of Bloch's original altar paintings that have been gathered from churches in Denmark and Sweden. This is the first time these painting have been removed from their original spots since the late 1800's. I am really excited to go see them!

We are also going to drive down to Manti, Utah to go to the temple. Minerva Teichert, another fabulous LDS woman artist, painted the murals in the Manti temple. I've always wanted to go see them. This seemed like as good a time as ever. Is that a bad reason for going to the temple... wanting to see the art work?

4. I loved this article called "Motherhood: Not Only a Childbearing Task" by Kels at Empowering LDS Women. I love this quote she shared by Patrica Holland,
"I believe mother is one of those very carefully chosen words, one of those rich words—with meaning after meaning after meaning. We must not, at all costs, let that word divide us. I believe with all my heart that it is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children."
Take a minute to go over and read the rest. I am really impressed with this blog as well. I'm excited to see what else these ladies have to say.

5. After my post about how I study my scriptures one of my readers, Mariesa, led me to The Red Headed Hostess and her post about how she does her scripture journals. It is very inspiring. Even though I don't think there is any way in 1,000 years my handwriting will ever look like hers. She also has tons of wonderful ideas on how to improve your scripture study. This lady is a PRO at scripture study.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Five Years Ago

To echo the words that Marjorie Pay Hinckley once said to her husband,

"You have always given me wings to fly and I have loved you for it."

Nothing better sums up how I feel.

I love you sir.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Hair Shirt

I didn't have a single pimple until I was senior in High School. All those years of Jr. High and High School I counted my lucky stars and inwardly gloated at all the other adolescents whose faces broke out like patches of raspberries. I guess I got punished for my teenage cockiness because I started to get bad acne when I was a sophomore in college. Over the last several years my face has gone through various stages of better, almost better, semi-horrible, and time to wear a paper bag over your head horrible. I've tried everything, short of Acutane, multiple times. Currently I'm approaching the bag over my head stage and I have "leprosy" all over my face.

I've really been struggling with this lately and sometimes it wears on my soul. I know that I shouldn't let it bother me as much as it does, but I can't help but notice other women's beautiful, clear, even colored skin. It makes me want to scream when I hear them complaining about having one or two zits. I wish sometimes they could understand how lucky they are...that they don't have days when they can't kiss their children because their face is too painful or won't use public restrooms because it means they'd have to look at themselves in the large, brightly lit mirror. I would trade them in a heart beat.

Yesterday, just out of curiosity, I picked up the "Oprah Magazine" in the checkout line and I counted 20 ads-- yes 20 (including the back cover ad)-- for products designed give you beautiful, younger skin. In addition there were three of four articles in the magazine dealing with how to have better, younger skin and how to apply your make up so it would make you look better. How does someone like me, who would just be happy if her skin wasn't painful, compete with an ideal like that? Ugg.

I think what is hardest about my "leprosy" is that I am embarrassed to have it at this stage of my life. Acne is something for Jr. High kids and teenagers, not adult women who have two children and a husband. I know that I am more self conscious about it than I should be. Some people don't even notice and I know my husband doesn't care. Once, when we were dating, I asked him if my acne bothered him or if he was embarrassed by it. He looked at me with a confused look and asked, "What acne?". I could tell he wasn't pretending. He honestly had never noticed, even though it was really bad at the time, and didn't know what I was making a big deal about. He told me that even if I really did get leprosy (the real type) one day and my face was covered in boils and my nose fell off, he would still think I was beautiful. I knew then that I could love him forever.

As I've struggled with this on going trial in my life I've tried to figure out why God might have given it to me. Sometimes I read the book of Job, the part where he gets boils, just to remind myself that God sometimes gives us trials to make us stronger and to bring our hearts closer to his. A few days ago, on a particularly bad face day, I was reminded of the tradition that some mid-evil Christians had of wearing cilices, or hair shirts, under their clothing. These shirts were often made of scratchy goats hair and were worn directly against a person's skin. They were very uncomfortable and sometimes even rubbed sores into wearer's skin. They were worn as symbols of penance, humility, and bodily mortification. They were worn by priests, monks, common people, and kings (under their royal garments) as constant reminders of their dependence upon the Lord.

Mary Magdalene wrapped in a cilice, or hair shirt. (Image source)

I can't help but feel that my acne is my own form of a "hair shirt", something that constantly rubs at me and reminds me to be humble and to depend on the Lord. On my better days I am sometimes able to look at my acne as a blessing because it has really humbled me and given my sympathy for other people. I have to admit that I was quite the vain teenager and was really judgmental about other people's looks. Now I am quite the opposite. I try my hardest to look past a person's physical appearance and see their heart. When I see someone with a hard physical challenge-- whether it be acne, scars, extra weight, facial hair, paralysis, a birth defect, or whatever-- instead of judging I feel my heart pour out love to them. I know what it feels like to cringe when you look in the meet someone new and feel like the only thing that they notice about you is your flaws.... to feel like you don't fit in... and to have those days when you wish that it was realistic for you to wear a paper bag over your head and not crash your car.

Eventually, slowly and surely, my "hair shirt" has changed my soul. I know now, more than I have at any other point in my life, that my worth is not dependent upon my outer appearance. I know, even when other people don't, that God looks on the heart. I know that what my face looks like doesn't determine the quality of my soul.

Why is that so hard to remember some days?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Very Simple Quiet Book

When I was young my mother made my siblings and I these fantastic quiet books full of fun simple activities like lacing up a football, putting earings on a lamb, hanging clothes on a tiny clothesline, matching shapes, putting cherries in a bucket and writing notes on miniature note pad. They were handmade, beautiful, and so creative. They must have taken her hours to make.

I've always intended to make some thing similar for my children, but I have to admit crafting is not my strong point. The idea of making a quiet book seems really overwhelming to me. Yet I desperately need something to keep my kids occupied and somewhat quiet during church. This was very apparent to me two weeks ago when I was "flying solo" at church and both my little rascals decided to take off running in opposite directions in the chapel... screeching. By the time I chased them down and go them into the foyer I wanted to crawl into a corner, die, and never go back to church... in that order.

So a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out our desk I came across our pile of Ensigns (the religious magazine for the LDS church). It was huge. My husband won't let me throw them away so we had about three years worth of magazines. As I was flipping through them I realized that they had beautiful pictures in them that would be wonderful to cut out and save. I finally convinced my husband to let me cut up the old magazines and then I pasted the pictures onto card stock to make a .... quiet book!

I just punched holes in the card stock and put the pasted pictures in a binder. I tried to arrange the pictures in chronological-ish order.. Old testament stories, New Testament Stories, Book of Mormon stories, and LDS Church History.

I love this painting of Mary and Joseph on the right. Love, love, love.
My sister-in-law's aunt painted it.
Really I love it.

The best part about this quiet book is that the Ensign is always publishing paintings of women in the scriptures. I'd say about 1/3rd of our book consists of painting of different stories on women in the scriptures and in LDS church history. Awesome.

This has really been a great thing for my little three-year-old. He loves to look at the pictures and I love to tell him the stories.

I'd thought I'd pass this idea along just in case there is anyone else out there who struggles in the crafting arena....and who has a huge pile of old Ensigns.

How do you keep your children occupied ( ie. not screeching and running down the aisles) during church?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Goddess Archetypes

This post is sort of the second half of my Archetypes Instead of Stereotypes post. It will be beneficial for you if you have read that post first before this one. I wanted to continue my conversation about archetypes by discussing how understanding and recognizing female archetypes in the scriptures and in the world around us can revolutionize women's understanding of who they are.

I have a book called "The Goddess Within: A Guide to the Eternal Myths that Shape Women's Lives" that I studied in a women's literature class at BYU. When our teacher first assigned us the book I thought she was nuts. Really, Goddesses? Yet studying it was so enlightening and learning about different archetypes of womanhood really impacted my study of the scriptures and understanding of what it means to be a woman.

The book is based (loosely) off the work the psychologist Carl Jung. Jung believed that there were archetypes that controlled human behavior and that any deviations from these archetypes resulted in complexes of human behavior. Much of his work centered around the archetypal images of the Greek and Roman God and Goddess stories. It is really interesting that each of the Greek and Roman Goddess are powerful archetypal figures of womanhood-- even thousands of years later.

The Goddess/ Archetypes that the book focuses on are:

Hera- the Queen of Heaven, the Matriarch

Athena- the Giver of Wisdom and Goddess of Civilization

Aphrodite- the Goddess of Love and the Arts

Persephone- the Queen of Spirit, Death and Healing

Demeter- Goddess of Fertility, Childbirth and the Mother of all

Artemis- Goddess of Nature

From "The Goddess Within" page 36

It is such a fascinating book and talks more in depth about each of these archetypes and how they relate to each other. In the back of the book is a quiz (I also found a similar one online here) that you can take to see which archetype dominates your life at the time. Most women are a mixture of all of the Goddesses, but identify strongly with different archetypes at different times of their lives. When I took the quiz in college I was strongly an Artemis archetype, closely followed by an Athena archetype. It would be interesting for me to take it again and see if that is still the archetype that I identify strongly with. I'm sort of inclined to think that I would still be an Artemis, but with more of a Demeter thrown in now.

Please realize that I don't agree 100% with Jung's psychology nor am I advocating Goddess worship or trying to pass these thoughts off as doctrine. It is just that I think understanding and recognizing these archetypes can be a powerful tool for coming to understand what the Divine Feminine, the female side of God, looks and acts like. Perhaps by better searching out her nature women will be able to break free of Satan's stereotypes and strive towards their divine archetype.

I know that for me having an awareness of female archetypes has made the scriptures come alive for me in a particularly feminine way. For example, in the scriptures concepts like wisdom and charity are often referred to as a "shes", cities like Jerusalem, Zion and Babylon are referred to as female, Christ refers to his church as his "bride", Revelations 12 talks about the church of Christ as a woman, and the earth is also called a "she". These aren't just coincidences. They are, like God states in D&C 77:2, "... that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal."

When we begin to see that God uses temporal, or earthy, images and likeness to teach us deep eternal truths the world suddenly becomes alive with meaning. We begin to see things like trees, families, the sacrament, clouds, childbirth, the book of Isaiah, marriage, the temple, the book of Revelations, menstruation, the sun, the moon, and the stars... basically everything... as ways to learn more about the nature of God, especially the female nature.

In Moses 6:63 God says,
"... all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me."
I want to add my testimony to that and just reiterate that all things... temporal and spiritual bear record of God's power and nature. Understanding God's nature better helps us understand our own nature because we have been created in God's image... male and female. Truths are not hidden... not in the least... we just have to know what to look for and pay attention to what we are reading or seeing.

I'd encourage those of you who are taking the Women in the Scriptures challenge to not omit keeping track of all the times concepts, places or things are referred to as "shes". They bear testimony of one of the greatest of all the women in the scriptures.

Finding her is beautiful.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Archetypes Instead of Stereotypes

Not long ago I was listening to a conversation and I heard the speakers talking about the "stereotypical woman". Some women in the group were adamantly stating that they weren't her and didn't want to be her, others said that they felt pressure to be her, while several women said they'd been spending most of their lives trying to be her. There was real pain, anger, confusion and frustration in theses women's voices. Yet after about the eighth or ninth time they mentioned this "stereotypical woman" I wanted to stop the conversation and ask these women what in the world they were talking about.

I wanted to ask them why they were wasting their time obsessing over an illusionary woman. I wanted to ask them if they knew that each person's ideal is based off their own experience, their culture, their situation in life, the judgments they make, and how they perceive themselves viewed by other people. In truth, none of those women were talking about the same "stereotypical woman"; they each had a different stereotype constructed within their own head and it probably was not the same as the other women's. No wonder they were miserable.

Stereotypes are illusions.... dangerous ones...and are not based on truth. In all their forms stereotypes destroy creativity, individuality, perpetuate injustice, and infringe upon agency. They are Satan's counterfeit for the real thing... archetypes.
Stereotype: An unvarying form or pattern; specifically a fixed or conventional notion or conception, as of a person, group, idea, etc. held by a number of people and allowing for not individuality, critical judgment, etc.

Archetype: The original pattern, or model from which all other things of the same kind are made.
Can you see the big difference between these two words? A stereotype aims for things to be the same. Much like Satan wants us to all be the same-- no agency, no individuality, no deviations from what he wants. He tries to teach us that we need to fit into a certain rigid form. He makes us believe that if we aren't doing everything the man next door is, if we aren't as "good" as the people in our church, or if we don't dress or look like the woman down the street then our value decreases. Hell is paved with stereotypes, which is why no one likes being stereotyped.

God on the other hand glories in diversity. You only have to take a brief glance at the world and it's millions of types of insects, plants, and animals to discover that fact. Not one of God's creations is exactly the same, they are each unique. Yet each monkey, tree, beetle, snowflake or person is derived from a divine archetype and possess unique characteristics that make it what it is.

God has told us that for each thing he has created he has an original pattern. In D&C 29:31-32 we read that,
" the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal-First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—"
and in Exodus 25: 9 and 1 Chronicles 28:11-12 that both Moses and Solomon were given divine patterns to follow as they constructed the tabernacle and the the temple. Also in Hebrews 8:5 Paul explains that priests who serve in the temple "... serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things."

Everything-- no matter how diverse it may appear-- is made or fashioned after a divine pattern.

For example, there are 350,000 different species of beetles on the earth. When scientists discover a "new " type of beetle they look at certain archetypal characteristics it has that make it a beetle. In the case of a beetle scientists are looking for a sheathed wing and several other physical characteristics and traits. This means that the variety in beetles is huge, but that each one is unified by certain characteristics that fit the "pattern" scientists have defined for beetles.

By way of illustration, here is a rhino beetle

and a lady bug

they look totally different, are much different sizes, behave very differently, live in totally different parts of the world, and have totally different life experiences... but they are both beetles.

In a similar sense all men and women are created in archetypal images as well... the image of God. In Genesis 1:26-27 it reads,

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness..."
It is significant that God says that he makes man in "our" own image, implying that God is not a singular title but rather plural. We get further clarification on this a verse later when we read that,

"God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

So right in the first verse of Genesis we learn three important facts. We learn that "God" is a plural title, that God is both male and female, and that man (also a plural title) is created in the image of God, male and female. It is also interesting to not that in Hebrew the word for God used in Genesis is "Elohim" which is the plural form of "eloah" which means "God." Almost always when the title of "God" is used in the Bible it is the plural form of the word.

Each human being is created in the image of God, which is male and female. Our masculinity and femininity originates with God and is patterned after a divine archetype. Understanding and discovering that archetypes is the work of a lifetime and one for which all men and women are searching-- whether they realize it or not.

I think the frustration and insecurities the women I was listening to were expressing was the feeling of being judged by, or feeling they had to fit into, one of Satan's stereotypes. They were trying to pattern their lives after flawed worldly principles and seeking after illusions of happiness and fulfillment. Instead they should have been seeking to discover their archetypal qualities, discover in whose image they were created, and pattern their lives after eternal principles.

I think Jeffery R. Holland also illuminated this concept well with his "Parable of the Homemade Shirt." He said

"... My mother, bless her, was a marvelous seamstress. In my childhood years, when money was short and new clothing hard to come by, she would sometimes make clothing for us to wear to school. I would see a shirt in a store window or in a mail-order catalogue, and my mother would say, “I think I can make that.” By looking at the shirt as closely as she could, she would then cut cloth and put in seams to a degree that was close to the expensive original.

I pay her the tribute of being both willing and able to do that. But she didn’t like to do it that way. While she could study the commercial product and come close, what she really wanted was a pattern. A pattern helped her anticipate angles and corners and seams and stitches that were otherwise hard to recognize. Furthermore, if she went back for a second or a third shirt, she was always working from a perfect original pattern, not repeating or multiplying the imperfections of a replica.

I think you can see my point and hers. We are bound to be in trouble if a shirt is made from a shirt that was made from a shirt. A mistake or two in the first product—inevitable without a pattern—gets repeated and exaggerated, intensified, more awkward, the more repetitions we make, until finally this thing I’m to wear to school just doesn’t fit. One sleeve’s too long. The other’s too short. One shoulder seam runs down my chest. The other runs down my back. And the front collar button fastens behind my neck. I can tell you right now that such a look is not going to go over well in the seventh grade."

When we try to patten our lives or our perceptions of masculinity or femininity on worldly or stereotypical images we find ourselves unhappy with the finally product, because like Elder Holland said we've tried to make our shirt from a shirt that was made of a shirt that was made of a shirt. God has given us an original pattern to follow and He said, "I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived." (D&C 52:14). Archetypes or divine patterns are given to us to know the true way in which we should construct our lives, our families, and our understanding of manhood and womanhood. Yet just because something is created out of the same pattern doesn't mean that each one has to be the exactly the same.

When we free ourselves from the trap of stereotypical judgments then we no longer force ourselves to live in the world Satan has designed-- a world that is bland and ugly. Instead when we begin to focus on the divine pattern and see our similarities rather than our differences we begin to see as God sees. We enter into a whole new world-- a world full of colors, sizes, smells, shapes, opinions, passions, talents, faces, and choices...

all glorious...

because it is patterned after the divine.