Monday, January 31, 2011

"Honoring Eve" by Marilyn Hull

I discovered this narrative written by one of the older women at my church. She has given me permission to share it with you. I can't tell you how moved I am by her depiction of Eve. Marilyn has brought Eve to life in a beautiful way and reading this makes me even more eager for the day when I will get to meet Eve face to face. What incredible love she must have had for each one of us.


"The Mother of All Living" by Al Young

I am Eve. Adam gave me that name because I am the mother of all living...does that sound singular? It filled me with wonder, but not all at first. In the early years it was enough just to be a mother, along with working and discovering beside Adam.

When I lost our son, Abel, I felt wasted... I missed his caring, whether it was for his sheep or his brothers and sisters... how I missed Abel. But for Cain I grieved more. Cain didn't loose his life suddenly... gradually he lost his soul. When he was about to part as a vagabond I couldn't see the light in his eyes... I grieve for Cain still.

Yes I had others. You've heard of Seth... just like his father was Seth... but a mother doesn't divide her love, but adores each child with whole heart. To lose Abel on earth and Cain in the eternities agonized my heart. With other sons and daughters I carried on... Mothers do... and there was much to learn and do so we could survive.

What did I feel about being the mother of humankind? On blessed Sabbaths when I could rest some and when our Creator kindly talked with Adam and me, and also at times when I was alone gathering food I found time to reflect on the meaning of my name, Eve, Mother of all living... matriarch of those spirits in heaven to be born into bodies on earth... you. In his mercy God gave peace to my soul concerning you.

The knowledge came gradually that though I had forgotten much, including you in the pre-existence, I was the same personality. Mine was a caring disposition... I think I was concerned for you in the spirit world and thus chosen to be Adam's help meet. We all have gifts from God, our Father; mine was compassion. I must have wanted your spirits to be housed in a body too... a wondrous gift! Is that part of the wisdom I sought in the Garden? Is that what caused me to partake of the forbidden fruit or was it weakness?

This is a sideline thought, and perhaps merely wistful, but I didn't have the privilege of knowing and earthy mother... and, you know, I didn't realize how lovely Eden was until stones blistered my feet and gathering wood calloused my hands. I cried in pain with every child's birth... but when I looked into each baby's face and saw innocent light shining through those eyes... looking at me, dependent on me... that was the beauty I most desired. You understand.

Was it worth it, my taking the fruit forbidden? Look at yourselves, my children... was it? I would never go back on my decision in the Garden. And when we see your return to our Father here in heaven I am filled with gratitude to Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and with love and joy for you... my dear child.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Eating Chickens

This post was originally posted on my personal blog back in January 2010. I thought I would share it on this blog because once again-- almost exactly a year later-- my husband and I just spent the afternoon butchering chickens. All the same emotions I had the first time we butchered a chicken came flooding back to me and I didn't think I could say it any better than I did the first time... so here is again.

I've known for awhile that we had too many roosters (3) and too few hens (7) and that I would probably have to do something, eventually, before my boys started fighting each other or stressing the ladies out with their friskiness. I really didn't want to get rid of any of them and I guess I was hoping that they would all find a way to coexist in peace.

But alas, my dreams of chicken coop peace were shattered several days ago when my husband came back from the chicken coop with a bloodied up rooster. I guess there had been quite the cockfight in our little coop because the other rooster was pretty cut up as well. So we had to get rid of a rooster. I was all for selling him on craigslist but my husband was pretty adamant that we should eat him.

We'd half joked about eating our chickens when the time came but weren't really sure if we could do it. When the time finally came my husband said that if we couldn't kill and eat our own chicken then we had NO business being able to buy it nicely saran wrapped at the grocery store. He said that we only had two choices that wouldn't make us hypocrites... we'd either have to kill and eat the chicken or become vegetarians. He was dead serious about both.

So we ate the rooster.

My husband killed it and did most of the cleaning. I offered to help, cleaning birds doesn't really phase me much because in High School I had my falconry license, but I think he really needed to do it by himself. I think he was kind of testing himself. I really believe that if he couldn't have done it or if it had been too traumatizing for him that we would have become a vegetarians on the spot.

My husband said the experience was emotionally draining but that it wasn't as bad as he expected. The only weird part was that the chicken's skin was blue. I guess Silkie chickens are an exotic breed that have blue skin under their feathers and are considered to be a real delicacy in China. It kind of weirded him out but I didn't really mind.



It was actually a really humbling experience to eat our chicken. When I said the prayer over the food, for one of the first times in my life, I sincerely felt grateful. I was deeply grateful to this chicken who gave its life for us and grateful for the privileged to have food. Seeing first hand the sacrifice that went into my meal, and all the hard work involved to get it to the table, really changed the whole eating experience for me. Instead of being a blob of saran wrapped flesh at the grocery store that I was totally disconnected to, this was a living creature that I owed something to. I found myself less willing to let any of the chicken go to waste. We ate as much as we needed and then we boiled down the rest to make chicken soup with. Throwing the left overs in the garbage somehow seemed completely and utterly wrong. I think that if I was to be this connected to all my food, especially my meat, that I would eat less and be better at eating all things in moderation. The verse in D&C 89:12 keeps coming to mind:
"Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly."[emphasis added]
When our other chickens reach the end of their laying days (usually about 2 or 3 years old) we will probably eat them too. It really isn't the most fun job or one that we really look forward to but it seems like the right thing to do. This experience has really changed how I feel and look at my food and I don't think that I will ever be able to eat chicken, from the grocery store or my own yard, the same way again. I just feel so much more grateful and aware of the sacrifice animals make and our responsibility to be wise stewards over the earth and the animals God has given to us. This experience put the value of life into perspective for me and reminded me that I am a steward of the earth and not its master. It reminded me to be genuinely grateful for every mouthful of food I take... especially if that food sacrificed its life so that I could live.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Which I Vent

Last night my husband and I started watching the movie "Young Victoria". I'd heard such wonderful things about this movie and was so excited to see it. I drilled several of my friends who'd seen it about if it was clean... really, clean. They know that my husband and I have really strong standards about what we will watch and what we won't. They assured me that it was rated PG and didn't have anything dirty in it. I was loving the movie and was just starting to thinking how wonderful it was until the honeymoon scenes started! Granted the actors were partially clothed, but they were still participating in movements, actions and situations that were highly sexualized and intimate.

We have a zero tolerance policy in our home concerning pornography (pornography is anything that is intended to sexually arouse) and since these scenes definitely fit into the definition of pornography we turned the movie off.

Part of me wanted to justify it away because the rest had been so good, but I couldn't. I know the damage that watching even "soft" pornography has on the soul. It had been so good. Why, why, why did they have to ruin it with pornographic scenes?

IT MADE ME SO ANGRY!

It even has a PG rating! Does that mean anything any more? Obviously not.

Ugg.

Am I the only one is the world who sees something so incredibly wrong with the fact that as a society we think it is okay for two actors to pretend to participate in one of the most sacred events on this earth? Why do we think that just because they aren't totally naked or that they don't show "too much" that it is still okay to show men and women in these sort of situations? We would never want a video camera in our bedrooms, nor would we want a glimpse into the bedrooms of our neighbors, so what makes us so willing to watch it in videos? Is it just because it is pretend? Isn't there something even MORE wrong about watching two unmarried actors participate in actions and emotions that should be sacred and intimate?

Are we so desensitized to sexuality in movies and TV that we no longer consider intimacy sacred? It it just entertainment or a quick and easy way for movie makers to get the point across that the characters are in love? Why do we have to equate love with sexuality? Really, I think most of us understand that if a couple gets married and that a baby follows a few months later... that something happened in between. Do we REALLY need to SEE it. NO, NO, NO, NO!

Now I realize that by most worldly standards and compared to other PG-13 and R movies this movie was really "clean." That still doesn't make it okay. Seeing these sort of things breaks down our ability to see such acts as sacred and beautiful. I know that if I could go back in my life and erase all the sexualized scenes I've seen I would do it in a heartbeat. They slowly eat away at parts of my soul.

Really I can't tell you how disturbed I was that this movie was rated PG, meaning that they-- whoever "they" is-- feel that sexuality-- or as they put it "mild sensuality" is okay for children to be watching.

Ugg.

Ugg.

Ugg.

I'm loosing my faith in movies and media. There are so few movies that don't have something sexual, violent or crude in them. It seems like all of them have some portion of scum in them.

Can you renew my faith? What movies out there that are really and truly "clean"... squeaky, squeaky clean? No sex. No violence. No bad language. No crudeness. Do such movies exist?

Please realize this is an emotional rant and you don't have to be offended or justify it if you liked this movie or have different standards then me. I just needed to get this off my chest.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Daughters of Shallum


Nehemiah 3:12

Background: 444-445 BC

Nehemiah, who was King Artaxerxes's (the same king who is in Esther's story) cupbearer, was feeling much sorrow over the scattered condition of the Jews and prayed to God on their behalf. One day the King noticed that Nehemiah was distressed and asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah then told him how he wished to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it for the Jews. Artaxerxes's gave him permission to return and, amidst much opposition, Nehemiah began to oversee the rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls which had been destroyed by fire when the Babylonians had invaded a generation before. (Nehemiah 1-3)

Facts About Them:
  • They were the daughters of Shallum, the son of Halohesh who was the "ruler of half of Jerusalem";
  • They helped their father repair a portion of the old gate of Jerusalem;
  • They were the only women Nehemiah mentioned among those who helped re-build the walls of Jerusalem;
  • It took Nehemiah and his workers 53 days to re-build the Jerusalem walls (Nehemiah 6:15).
Speculations About Them:
  • The Jews who rebuilt the temple faced much opposition from surrounding people who did not want to see the city rebuilt and did not want the Jews to return to their former power. In Nehemiah 4: 14-23 it mentions how those who worked on the gates carried weapons with them and took turns standing guard while the other half of the workers worked. Nehemiah described that, "...everyone with one of his hands wrought in the work and with the other hand held a weapon." It is probable that the daughters of Shallum also carried weapons and participated in defending the workers because Nehemiah emphasized that "For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so he builded (Nehemiah 4:17, emphasis added)."
  • In Nehemiah 7:45 a list of all the Jewish families who returned to Jerusalem is given. Among them is listed the children of Shallum, whose occupation was given as a porter. It is unclear but this might be the same Shallum whose daughters helped with the rebuilding. If that is the case then his daughters may have assisted with the building by porting the supplies and material for the temple. On the other hand, this might not be the same Shallum seeing as he was referred to as the "ruler of half of Jerusalem" indicating that may have already been living in Jerusalem when Nehemiah returned.
  • Most Old Testament scholars feel that the word "daughters" is the correct translation. Yet some scholars, who don't feel like it would have been feasible for Old Testament women to have assisted in the re-building, say that it is common for hamlets which grow up around cities to be called "daughters" and that this may have been what was meant in reference to Shallum and his daughters. Source
My Thoughts:

It constantly amazes me how many stories there are in the Bible of women who don't fit into traditional stereotypes!

I love the image of these women working along side their father and other men to build the fortifications needed to keep their families, their livestock and their temple (which had already been rebuilt) safe. These women wanted to see Jerusalem rebuilt and they were willing to do the physical labor required. They may have been especially skilled in their work, or they might just have been moved by a need to build and protect their families, their community and their faith. They remind me of all the women who have stepped into help build fortifications and fill needs in times of war and disaster--- like the pioneer women who pulled handcarts across the wilderness by themselves... the women in World War II who took over factories... the women in communities beset upon by natural disasters who sand bag and rebuild ... and women all over the world who do the hard physical work needed to keep homes, families, communities and nations moving.

As I've thought these unnamed daughters I see the value in teaching girls and young women how to work and build with their hands. The daughters of Shallum had learned and developed their building skills years before Nehemiah ever began his work on the Jerusalem walls. Their father, and possibly their mother, had taught them and trained them so well that when the time came they were able to contribute in a meaningful and important way to the re-building of Jerusalem. I can't help but feel that the young women of the future are going to be facing a hard world, one in which they will face physical as well as spiritual trials. Will the women of the future be prepared, like the daughters of Shallum were, to handle the trials that come? Will they be prepared with a good work ethic and valuable skills? Will they be ready to rebuild?

It seems to me that if it is important to teach young men nurturing skills when they are young so that they will be able to contribute meaningfully to their families then it is also important to teach young women the life skills that will help them as they build their families and communities. I know that my husband would really appreciate it if I knew how to change a flat tire or fix the toilet when it breaks! I still have a lot to learn ;)

Questions to Think About:
  • What spiritual significance do you see in women being included in the re-building of Jerusalem?
  • What was it about the daughters of Shallum that impressed Nehemiah enough that he mentioned them specifically in his text? Was it just because their presence was unusual? Or because they performed their work especially well or were a valuable addition to the work force?
  • Who is the "handy" one at your house? Husband or wife? Daughter or son? How were those skills developed or recognized?
  • In Nehemiah 2:6 Nehemiah mentioned that when we was speaking with the King about returning to rebuild Jerusalem that the queen was also sitting by him. This queen is probably Queen Vashti, since this would have been before Esther's time. Why do you think he mentions her? Do you think perhaps she said something that influenced the King on his behalf?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Five Things For Friday, 2nd Edition

1. For the last year I've been dancing with a Modern Dance group and this year I get to perform with them! We have our first performance tomorrow and I am really excited-- and nervous-- about it. Each dancer got to choreograph her own movement and I am really proud of mine. It has been a long time since I've been on stage and it is sort of fun to have butterflies in my stomach again. Wish me luck!

2. This is an interesting article about how some Mormon mommy blogs have a huge followings of single, career oriented, non-religious, childless, feminist, urban 20-30 year-old women readers. I have to admit I was pretty irritated by the author's stereotypes and assumptions about Mormon women. Her article reminded me of Jules Verne description of Mormon women in "Around the World in 80 days" and Mark Twain's description in "Roughing it". It seems like all through our history people have been confused and fascinated by Mormons... and that we've always been hopelessly misunderstood. I hope one day we can dispel all the myths.

3. I think my little girl might have a milk allergy but I'm not sure. I looked up the symptoms and she seems to fit most of them--- she has a constant runny, always has loose stools, throws up often, etc. Has anyone else ever dealt with a child with a milk allergy? How could you tell they had it and how did you manage it? It seems really overwhelming to me but it would be nice if she could start feeling better.

4. I've been re-reading Dante's Inferno. I can't believe that when I read it in college I thought it was dull and slow moving. This time I am devouring it. It would be the coolest thing in the world to do a haunted house that was all based off the levels of Hell Dante describes. You could have the visitors move through them -- each one getting more awful and awful-- and then you could have the angels of redemption at the end. It would be a haunted house with an uplifting message, imagine that. Maybe when my kids are older I might have to undertake this!

5. I have a guest post this week on The Gift of Giving Life blog (the official blog for our book) all about the Relief Society's Legacy of Maternal Care. In my research on early LDS birth practices I found a lot of fascinating history about the Relief Society's involvement in maternal and child health. Here is a little teaser to get to you to go over and read the whole thing.
"In October Conference 1921 Relief Society President Clarissa Williams announced a plan “to establish a maternity home in Salt Lake as a sort of experiment, and later, if this is successful, to extend the work by establishing similar homes in various centers.” She wanted “to encourage motherhood and to make it possible for women in child-birth to have good care at reasonable rates.”


Relief Society Leadership, 1916

...In addition to the “birth centers” and the “maternity chests” Relief Society sisters also participated in a variety of public health events, conferences and campaigns to increase the number of breastfeeding mothers, to educate women on the proper ways to clean baby bottles, hand washing, and proper infant care. In 1924, Johns Wells of the Presiding Bishopric credited the Relief Society for a decreased death rate among LDS children under the age of five—500 lives saved in one year. Historian Thomas G. Alexander also stated that, “Cooperation between the Relief Society and public agencies produced in Utah the greatest reduction in the maternal death and infant mortality rates in the nation. By 1931 Utah ranked with five other states in the lowest group.”
Go here to read the rest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How I Study My Scriptures

A few months ago I got an email from a reader who asked,
"I'd like to know if you have a scripture reading system. I ask a lot of people and I'm always so excited to hear what works for them. Do you have a method to your study, or do you just read and apply? I'd love to hear your thoughts."
It has taken me awhile to respond to her question because I really had to sit down and think about what my scripture reading system is... exactly. As I thought about it I realized that while my scripture study has gone through many different phases it has really been influenced by a talk called "A Reservoir of Living Water" I heard David A. Bednar give several years ago at BYU.

He began his talk by saying how important water is in our lives and how life would be impossible with out it. He likened our need for water to our need for the Savior, the "living water", and how we could drink of that water by studying the scriptures. He then laid out three different ways to study the scriptures that teach how to not just sip at the living water but to take deep life sustaining gulps. He said,
"I now want to review with you three basic ways or methods of obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir: (1) reading the scriptures from beginning to end, (2) studying the scriptures by topic, and (3) searching the scriptures for connections, patterns, and themes. Each of these approaches can help satisfy our spiritual thirst if we invite the companionship and assistance of the Holy Ghost as we read, study, and search."
Over the last several years my daily scripture study has become a conglomeration of all three of these things. I'll just take a minute and share how I've incorporated each of them into my personal study.

Reading the Scriptures from Beginning to End

Reading the standard works straight through is how I first started gaining my love of the scriptures. Here is what Elder Bednar said about it,
"Reading a book of scripture from beginning to end initiates the flow of living water into our lives by introducing us to important stories, gospel doctrines, and timeless principles. This approach also enables us to learn about major characters in the scriptures and the sequence, timing, and context of events and teachings. Reading the written word in this way exposes us to the breadth of a volume of scripture. This is the first and most fundamental way of obtaining living water."
Since I was 14 years-old I've been continuously cycling through the books in the standard works. I started with the Old Testament, then moved on to the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and when I finished the Pearl of Great Price I started back on the Old Testament. I think that in my life time I've probably completed this complete cycle about 4 or 5 times. One of my bishops once told me that he puts a mark in the back cover of his bible every time he finishes it so that he can keep track of how many times he had read it. I think that I am going to start doing that, because I honestly don't know how many times I've done this cycle. All I know is that it has been enough that finally the stories in the Old Testament are starting to make sense to me. The first time I read through it I remember having no clue what was going on.

I am always working my way through one of the books in the standard works. On days when I don't have much time for scripture study or don't have any burning questions that need answers I just read to enjoy the story. My all time favorite way to read through the scriptures is to look specifically for women and their stories. This is my women in the scripture journal in which I've kept track of all the times women are mentioned in the scriptures... it has been very well loved.





I really need a new one.

Studying the Scriptures by Topic

The second way to drink deeply at the living waters is to study by topic. Elder Bednar said,
"Studying by topic typically follows, grows out of, and builds upon our reading of the scriptures from beginning to end. For example, as we read the Book of Mormon we may identify and seek to find answers to important doctrinal and practical questions such as these:
• What is faith in the Savior?
• Why is faith in Jesus Christ the first principle of the gospel?
• Why and how does faith in the Redeemer lead to repentance?
• How does the Atonement strengthen me to do things in my daily life that I could never do with my own limited capacity and in my own strength?

Focusing upon such questions and studying by topic, using the Topical Guide and index to the triple combination, allow us to dig into and explore the depth of the scriptures and obtain a much richer spiritual knowledge. This approach increases the rate at which living water flows into our lives."

Often when I am reading through the scriptures I will get a question about something I've read. If the question is of a spiritual nature then I usually stop my regular reading to focus on understanding it. Usually the first thing I do before I start studying a topic in depth is to offer a prayer for guidance and understanding. I've learned that the Holy Spirit will teach me quicker and faster if I invite him into my study.

Then I write the question or the topic I am studying at the top of one of the pages in my scripture journal and then look up the topic in the Topical Guide and list them all underneath it. I find it is easier for me to have all the references on one page rather than having to keep flipping back to the Topical Guide. In his talk Elder Bednar said that sometimes when he is doing a topic search he will use the on-line scriptures and actually print out a copy of all the scriptures dealing with that topic.



After I have all the verses listed I then start reading carefully through each listed verse. If a verse has something in it that answers my question then I write the reference down and any thoughts or questions I have about it. If there isn't anything in that verse that interests me then I will sometimes go back are read the previous verse or chapter to put the verse in context and to make sure I'm not missing something. Once I've gotten what I need from the verse then I cross the reference off my list. That ensures that if I get interrupted in my study-- which happens 99% of the time-- then I will be able to pick it right back up. I try to keep all my topic studies in the same notebook so that I can go back and reference them later on.

When I am researching a specific woman in the scriptures I use this same pattern. There are several topics or stories that I've done many, many times because I always seem to have questions. Yet it is amazing how the more I've studied one topic or story the clearer it has become to me.

Search the Scriptures for Connections, Patterns and Themes.

The last way Elder Bednar says to fill your soul with the living waters of the scriptures is to search the scriptures for connections, patterns and themes. Here is what he says,

"Both reading from beginning to end and studying by topic are prerequisites to the third basic method of obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir. Whereas reading a book of scripture from beginning to end provides a basic breadth of knowledge, studying by topic increases the depth of our knowledge. Searching in the revelations for connections, patterns, and themes builds upon and adds to our spiritual knowledge by bringing together and expanding these first two methods; it broadens our perspective and understanding of the plan of salvation.

In my judgment, diligently searching to discover connections, patterns, and themes is in part what it means to “feast” upon the words of Christ. This approach can open the floodgates of the spiritual reservoir, enlighten our understanding through His Spirit, and produce a depth of gratitude for the holy scriptures and a degree of spiritual commitment that can be received in no other way. Such searching enables us to build upon the rock of our Redeemer and to withstand the winds of wickedness in these latter days."

I've noticed that this last step often come very naturally for me when I am reading straight through and doing prayerful and intensive topical studies. It seems like the patterns and connections just jump right out at me and often times they take my breath away, boggle my mind, and just create more questions. It is so exiting and those are the times that I fall in love, again and again, with the scriptures. There is no end to the depth of knowledge and truth they contain and discovering it is exhilarating and some what addicting. These are the times when I really feel like I have feasted on the word and drank of the living water...

...and it fills me totally and completely.

If you've never gotten to this point in your scripture study... make it a goal. It is so very, very worth it and will forever change your relationship with your scriptures and with your Savior. It takes work, time and dedication but it so worth it.

I hope that this some what answers the questions and gives you a little glimpse into my scripture study habits. I don't think my method is perfect... and it isn't always as consistent as it should be... but I hope that over the years it will just get better and better.

Despite popular belief... I am really not a scriptorian. I don't have a degree in theology, I am not an expert on ancient civilizations, I don't read Greek or Hebrew, and aside from Sunday School, Seminary and Institute I've only taken a handful of classes on religion and scripture. I've just cultivated a love for the scriptures and they are a priority in my life. I've found that when I put the time into diligently search, ponder and pray on topic the Lord opens my eyes and lays out beautiful eternal truths for me. It is often hard work... but anyone who is dedicated can do it. Elder Bednar also mentioned this in his talk, he said,
"You might initially assume that a person must have extensive formal education to use the methods I am describing. This assumption simply is not correct. Any honest seeker of truth, regardless of educational background, can successfully employ these simple approaches. You and I do not need sophisticated study aids and should not rely extensively upon the spiritual knowledge of others. We simply need to have a sincere desire to learn, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the holy scriptures, and an active and inquiring mind."
Amen to that. I couldn't say it any better.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Practicing Fatherhood

It has been really sweet that my rough and tumble, cars and trains, mud and dirt little boy has been very interested in baby dolls lately. We've spent the last few mornings dressing babies, changing their diapers, being "daddies", taking them to the park, feeding them, playing "Christmas" and snuggling them. Here he is putting them to bed and turning on the night light for them so the "bad guys won't get um". Can you see his little house he constructed? So cute.


I've really been encouraging him in this because I think it is really important for little boys to develop nurturing skills. In a world where boys and men are often taught to suppress their nurturing instincts I want him to know that righteous men of God are nurtures. I'd love to see him be a man who honored the title of "father" above all others, who valued life, and had the skills to raise his children in love and security. I'm glad he loves his babies.

It melted my heart when a few days ago I came downstairs and found his dolls all ready to go in the car.


I think he will make a good father... one of these days.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Things For Friday

I've been debating about how much of my "real life" I want to post on this blog. I know that I don't like it when you read a blog and feel like you don't get to "know" the author, but I also want the focus of this blog to be on understanding women's roles and not just about me. In addition I also have lots of links and stuff I want to share that don't deserve their own post and am not quite sure to do with. So I decided that every once in awhile I will do a conglomeration post on Fridays with five things about my week or that I've discovered. This one is really quite random, but I guess that is the point.

1. I know Christmas is long over, but check out my sweet little Mary.


I wish I could have gotten a picture of her cuddling the baby Jesus, throwing it over her shoulder and then trying to climb in the manger. We might need to work on her nurturing skills one of these days.

2. One of my lovely readers sent me this great article about Motherhood in the Old Testament. Bet you didn't know the word "mother" is used 384 times in the Old Testament and that 84 of them are mentioned by name!

3. At the gym I go to they have complimentary spray bottles of hair spray and deodorant in the women's locker room. I usually use the hairspray one but I swear that last time someone must have gotten the labels mixed up. I'm pretty certain I sprayed deodorant in my hair. Not a good way to start out the morning.

4. I just found out this week that I won a free membership to join American Mothers. I went to a local conference they hosted a few months ago and was so impressed with the organization. I'm excited to get involved with them. Are any of you, or women you know, active with them?

5. If you haven't heard Deseret Book is compiling a new series called "Women of Faith in the Latter Days." They are asking for contributors to write the stories of LDS women throughout history. Here is what their website says,
" Although roughly half the people in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been women, their lives of faith and dedication have not always received the attention they deserve. This series aims to enhance awareness of these women through inspirational vignettes that point to works dealing more fully with their lives.

Please visit our Series Overview page for the basic plan of this multi-year, multi-volume project. We are accepting submissions for all volumes, with a focus on Volume 2 of the series. With a planned publication in 2011, Volume 1 will detail the lives of Latter-day Saint women born before or in 1820. If you would like to contribute to this project, please review our Anatomy of a Chapter and Submitting a Proposal pages.

The proposal submission period for Volume 1 has ended, but we are accepting proposals for subsequent volumes on a rolling basis.

Proposals for Volume 2 are due April 15, 2011."

Volume 2 is focusing on women born between 1821 and 1845. This sounds like an incredible project. It is so important for women's stories to be written down. The reason we don't have more of them in the scriptures is because women couldn't and didn't write them. If something like this interests you I'd really encourage you to discover a women in your heritage that you could write about. You'd be preserving her story for future generations.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

LDS Church's Stance on Tubal Ligations, Vasectomies, and Hysterectomies

A few weeks ago I finished writing the family planning section for the book I am working on. In preparation for it I did a lot of research on the LDS church's teachings on birth control and family planning. I rounded up dozens and dozens of quotes from church leaders throughout the years. It was an eye opening experience for me and has really changed the way I view my family. One of the things I learned that I wasn't aware of before is the church's stance on sterilization as a form of birth control (this includes tubal ligation, vasectomies, and hysterectomies performed for non-medical reasons).

In the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions (which has recently been put online) it says this about surgical sterilization as a form of birth control:
"The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if 1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or 2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgement and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer. " Source
I also found that many leaders have made strong statements and warnings about sterilization and birth control. Here are just a few of the ones I found:

Prophet Spencer W. Kimball said,
"We marry for eternity. We are serious about this. We become parents and bring wanted children into the world and rear and train them to righteousness. We are aghast as the reports of young people going to surgery to limit their families and the reputed number of parents who encourage this vasectomy. Remember that the coming of the Lord approaches, and some difficult-to-answer questions will be asked by a divine Judge who will be hard to satisfy with silly explanations and rationalizations. He will judge justly, you may be sure." (General Conference, October 1974)

Prophet Ezra Taft Benson said,
"'Consider these words seriously when you think of those political leaders who are promoting birth control and abortion: "O my people they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." (Isaiah 3:12). Let me warn the sisters in all seriousness that you who submit yourselves to an abortion or to an operation that precludes you from safely having additional healthy children are jeopardizing your exaltation and your future membership in the kingdom of God." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.541)
Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said,
"Now I wish to ask a question: How will a young married couple feel when they come to the judgement and discover that there were certain spirits assigned to them and they refused to have them? Moreover, what will be their punishment when they discover that they have failed to keep a solemn covenant and spirits awaiting this mortal life were forced to come elsewhere when they were assigned to this particular couple?" (Conference Report, Oct. 1965, p. 29)
"I regret that so many young couples are thinking today more of successful contraceptives than of having a posterity. They will have to answer for their sin when the proper time comes and actually may be denied the glorious celestial kingdom." (Conference Report, October 1943, p. 30)
and Elder J. Ballard Washburn said,
".. in marriage, a husband and wife enter into an order of the priesthood called the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. This covenant includes a willingness to have children and to teach them the gospel. Many problems of the world today are brought about when parents do not accept the responsibilities of this covenant. It is contradictory to this covenant to prevent the birth of children if the parents are in good health.
Thirty-five years ago when I first started practicing medicine, it was a rare thing for a married woman to seek advice about how she could keep from having babies. When I finished practicing medicine, it was a rare thing, except for some faithful Latter-day Saint women, for a married woman to want to have more than one or two children, and some did not want any children. We in the Church must not be caught up in the false doctrines of the world that would cause us to break sacred temple covenants." ("The Temple is a Family Affair", General Conference, April 1995)
These are just a few of the quotes I found about sterilization and birth control. There are many, many more, some of which are stronger and more powerful than these ones. These quotes were so interesting to me because I know so many active LDS women and men, whom I would still consider to be fairly young, who have already been surgically sterilized. It is actually quite common among the LDS couples I associate with (I live in a conservative Utah town) and many couples are public with the fact that they are "done" having children. It is not my place to judge another person's choices-- and I won't. I understand that I don't live in another person's body, life, or marriage and such important eternal decisions aren't mine to make. I also realize that many times sterilization isn't a choice and that because of health problems, c-section complications, cancer, and various other reasons women and men have to have such procedures done. There are circumstances that are beyond our control and God understands that.

Still, finding this information brought up some questions for me:

Are most LDS couples aware that this is the church's stance on sterilization and that the only time elective sterilization is acceptable, from a spiritual standpoint, is because of health problems or mental incompetence? Does this, or would it, influence their decisions?

Why do you think purposely choosing to close your gateway from heaven is something which has eternal consequences and is serious enough that one should consult with priesthood authority before doing it?

If you, or someone you know, has gone through sterilization how was the choice made? What guidance or spiritual insight would you give to someone thinking about one of these procedures?

I'm genuinely interested in your thoughts. Yet as you leave comments please remember that not everyone has the same marriage, body, testimony or is in the the same stage of life or situation you are. Please be kind and considerate of other people when you comment.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eunice



Background: 1 Century AD

Paul went to preach the gospel in Lystra after persecution drove him from Iconium(Acts 14:2-7). There he performed many miracles, such as healing a lame man and surviving a stoning (Acts 14:8, 19). It is likely that Lystra was the first time in Paul's missionary work that he was teaching Gentiles the gospel of Christ without approaching them through the common ground of Judaism. There were some gentiles who believed on his words, and he organized them, but then had to leave because of persecution. He encouraged them to be steadfast. On his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1) he returned to Lystra and met Timothy, a young disciple who became his and Silas's companion on the rest of the second missionary journey.

Facts About Her:
  • She was the mother of the Timothy;
  • She was a Jewess who was married to a Greek man;
  • She lived in Derbe and Lystra, which is now part of modern day Turkey (see map);
  • She was converted to Christianity on Paul's first trip to Lystra (Acts 14) and would have been subject to many of the same persecutions and challenges that Paul and the other Christians in the area faced;
  • She had taught her son about the scriptures from a young age. In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul says this to Timothy, "...from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
  • She, along with her Timothy's grandmother Lois, were the first in their family to convert to Christianity. In speaking to Timothy Paul mentions "...the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also" (2 Timothy 1:5).
Speculations About Her:
  • We don't know whose mother Lois was, it may have been Eunice's mother or her mother-in-law. All we know is that Lois was Timothy's grandmother.
  • We don't know if her husband converted to Christianity but from Paul's wording in Acts 16:1 it seems unlikely that he did. In speaking about Timothy Paul described him as, "the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek." If Eunice's husband had also converted to Christianity it seems strange that Paul would specify that " a Jewess" believed but then make reference to the husband separately, indicating perhaps that he didn't share his wife's belief. In fact, we don't even know if he was alive at the time or not.
  • She may have faced family disapproval from her inter-faith marriage. In Deuteronomy 7:1-3 it the Lord commands, "You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughter to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For your children will turn away from me to worship other gods." In Orthodox Judaism people who intermarried (a Jew marrying a Gentile) were considered "dead" to a family. One website I found said that "intermarriage... was viewed as an act of rebellion, a rejection of Judaism. Jews who intermarried were essentially excommunicated." This meant that if Jew chose to intermarry that they may have been totally cut off from their family, having no interaction with them, and even having their name taken off of the family record. The greatest fear behind intermarriage was that a couple's children would not be raised Jewish. This fear was somewhat founded because in Biblical times (and even today) most Jews from inter-faith marriages did not identify themselves as Jewish. This can be seen with Timothy who was not circumcised which may be evidence that he was not raised in a Jewish home. Furthermore, before he is able to travel with Paul he has to be circumcised in order for the Jews in the area to listen to him. This is more more evidence that Timothy may have been identified as a Gentile by those around him.
My Thoughts:

We don't know much about why Eunice was in the marriage she was in. Part of me likes to imagine that hers is a highly romantic story-- a young Jewish girl falls madly in love with a dashing Greek man and forsakes her family, her country and her religion to run off with him to Turkey.

Probably not even remotely close to the truth... but it would make for a good novel.

No matter what her story she was in an unusual postion for a 1 century Jewish woman and her circumstances would have been different from the women around her. I think in view of this, her story is a valuable one for women who are in relationships where their partner is of a different faith than theirs, or one in which their partner has lost his faith or become "inactive" in the gospel.

Even though she didn't have the support or guidance of her husband Eunice still taught her son, Timothy, the scriptures and instilled in him the ability to recognize and feel the spirit. Modern women, who have the scriptures at their fingertips, may not comprehend the significance of her accomplishment. In Eunice's day scripture reading was a purely male activity. The scriptures, or the Torah, were kept in the synagogue and scripture reading was a male's privilege and responsibility. The only time women would have heard the scriptures was when it was read to them in synagogue or recited to them by men who had memorized them. Most women would also have been illiterate and so even if they had scriptures they would have been unable to read them. Some Jews even believed that it was improper and obscene to teach women the scriptures. In view of this it is remarkable that Eunice was able to teach her son the scriptures well enough that Paul would remark "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures." Most likely she taught her son from her memory, reciting the the scriptures and the stories she had learned in her youth. It is possible that she might have been in a situation to have a copy of the scriptures and the ability to read them, but such a situation would have been very unusual.

In addition to teaching her son by herself she also she found way to nurture her spirit and to keep herself spiritually awake so that when Paul came with the good news of the gospel she was prepared to hear and accept it. It was her example, combined with Lois's, that inspired Timothy and prepared him become the great missionary that he was.

Her story is a reminder of the importance women have in teaching the rising generation and brings to mind the words of L. Tom Perry in his talk "Mother's Teaching in the Home". He said,

"Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time. They know that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily parenting is among the most powerful and sustaining forces for good in the world. The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find common roots in the teaching of children in the home...
While circumstances do vary and the ideal isn’t always possible, I believe it is by divine design that the role of motherhood emphasizes the nurturing and teaching of the next generation. We see so many challenges today from distracting and destructive influences intended to mislead God’s children. We are seeing many young people who lack the deep spiritual roots necessary to remain standing in faith as storms of unbelief and despair swirl around them. Too many of our Father in Heaven’s children are being overcome by worldly desires. The onslaught of wickedness against our children is at once more subtle and more brazen than it has ever been. Teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in the home adds another layer of insulation to protect our children from worldly influences...
God bless you wonderful mothers and fathers in Zion. He has entrusted to your care His eternal children. As parents we partner, even join, with God in bringing to pass His work and glory among His children. It is our sacred duty to do our very best."
Eunice may not have been in the "ideal" situation but it was where the Lord had placed her and she did the very best she could. I think she is such an example for all women, no matter what their situation, who are struggling day by day to raise and nurture children in the gospel and to love and sustain their husbands. She teaches us that the influence of a righteous woman, who loves the Lord, and who dos the best she can will accomplish great things...even if sometimes she has to do them by herself.

Questions to Think About:
  • What was it about her life and her personality that prepared her to hear and accept the gospel of Christ when so many around her didn't?
  • What challenges would she have faced in a inter-faith marriage? How did she raise her son so that he too would be prepared to hear the words of Christ?
  • How do you, or a couples you know, who have inter-faith marriages make it work? What sort of benefits/disadvantages do such marriages have?
  • Aren't you glad you live in a day and age when we have the scriptures so readily available and women are allowed to read them? I don't think we realize how different women's lives are today than they were 400, 200 or even a 100 years ago. Count your lucky stars ladies.