Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Barbie Dilemma


The original Barbie doll, introduced in 1959
(Image Source)


I was a HUGE fan of Barbie when I was younger. I easily had two dozen Barbies who between them all owned enough dresses, shoes, and accessories to clothe a small city. My friends and I played Barbies well into Jr. High and then, when it became too socially unacceptable to keep playing them, I started collecting them instead. I amassed a fairly impressive collection of "Special Edition" and "Collector" Barbie dolls and proudly displayed them on the shelves of my room. My infatuation with Barbie even continued into college and I actually had two of my collector edition Barbies sitting on my desk in my freshman dorm room!

Barbie and I were really good friends.

When I left home all of my collector Barbies went into a box and they have been in my basement for the last few years waiting for a little girl to grow up enough to play with them. Well my little girl just turned two, and I was gearing up to give her one of my Barbies for her birthday. Then, unexpectedly, I had several experiences that made me question whether or not I really wanted to introduce her to my little girl.

One of my readers sent me this interesting article "Why I Banned Barbie" about a mother whose school-aged son, just after having had a family talk about pornography, announced that he thought Barbie was an inappropriate toy to have in their home. The mother talks about how they decided that, for them, it was best not to allow Barbie in their home. The article reminded me of a book I have called "The Barbie Chronicles" that has long been hibernating on my bookshelf. It was given to me by one of my Freshman dorm-mates who thought it was ironic that a girl who was studying Women's Studies and had such strong ideas about women and femininity had two Barbie dolls sitting on her desk. She said she couldn't make heads or tails of it and she when she saw the book, which is a collection of essays for and against Barbie, she immediately thought of me. It had been years since I'd read the book and I decided to pick it up again.

The book brought up two main ideas about Barbie that, despite my great love for her, have really made me question whether or not I want her in my home. The first one is Barbie's undeniable sex appeal. A brief glance at her history shows that from the very start Barbie was intended to be a sexually loaded toy. In her essay in the "The Barbie Chronicles" Carol Ockman explains,
"Barbie was invented by a woman, Ruth Handler. Handler, a director at Mattel, together with her husband Elliot... had watched her daughter, Barbara (she also has a son named Ken), play with adult paper dolls and wanted to make a female adult doll in three dimensions. On a trip to Germany, Handler supposedly saw a doll called Bild Lilli, sold principally in smoke shops as a kind of three-dimensional pinup. Based on a comic-strip character that appeared in the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, Bild Lilli had a ponytail, feet molded into high heels, and clothes for all occasions. The principal narrative of the comic shows, Lilli, scantily clad, in situations where she is taking money from a man. Unlike Barbie, Bild Lilli was not made for children but for men... Handler decided to reinvent this pornographic caricature as the all-American girl... such a blatant sign of sexuality almost scuttled the doll when it was first introduced. Had it been up to the toy buyers at the toy fair, the ex-pinup/supermissle might never have been catapulted to stardom. Sears, Mattel's biggest client, categorically refused to buy Barbie, objecting to her too-overt sensuality. It was the consumers who launched Barbie's impressive career... Unlike her pro-type Barbie gives the appearance of sexuality without sex itself." (pg. 78-79)


The original Bild Lilli doll, Germany.
(Image source)

Now granted, I don't think that parents who buy Barbie for their kids, or the girls who play with her, would classify her as a "sexualized" toy. Yet I know, from years and years of playing with her, that Barbie often gets played with in ways that aren't always appropriate. In fact, I remember quite clearly that my first lesson about the "birds and the bees" was taught to me by one of my little six-year-old friends when we were playing with Barbie and Ken. Everything about Barbie, from her wardrobe, her nude body, her relationship with Ken, and the lack of any other "adult" supervision in her world invites a little girl to fantasize. When it comes right down to one of the biggest appeals of my Barbie dolls were that they could wear all the clothes that I wasn't allowed to, they could do the things I wasn't suppose to do, they could go places I couldn't, and be things I wasn't able to be. Barbie was a great creative and imaginative toy but she often tempted my little girl heart to play with her in ways I know my mother wouldn't have been proud of.

The other thing that really stood out to me in the book was the way in which Barbie embodies our culture's obsession with women's bodies and physical appearance. In her essay in "The Barbie Chronicles" Wendy Singer Jones says that,
"Barbie is a "body project" girl, she is, as others have observed, part of a complex of widespread and destructive messages directed towards women: being tall and thin is crucial, being white is the norm against which others are defined, ones character and career are always less important that one's looks, and consumerism is essential for keeping up appearances." (pg. 104).
Jones also compares what the world of Barbie teaches young girls about what it means to be a young woman as compared to what another popular toy the "Fisher-Price Dream Doll House" (which comes with a father, a mother, baby twins and some furniture) teaches them. She says,
"Despite the presence of friends and sisters, the Barbie line stresses individuals rather than relationships, and it does so in a highly narcissistic mode, since "body work" is a prerequisite to any form of social interaction. In the Dream Doll House, the family is greater than the sum of its parts; with Barbie, it's always the parts...When your project is your house rather than your body, you're already thinking in communal rather than solipsistic terms." (pg.101)
Another essayist pointed out that,
"The biggest difference between Barbie's aisle and the others can be summed up in one word: babies. In the other aisle, baby dolls were everywhere; in Barbie's aisle, babies were almost non-existent. Paleontologist Barbie or Pilot Barbie would be hard pressed to drag along a baby to the workplace. Even when Barbie is getting dressed for a night on the town with Ken, she obviously doesn't want to lug a baby long. (pg. 179)"
Looking back I can see how what I played and fantasized about with Barbie really affected my perceptions of adolescence and adulthood. Granted, I played with Barbie unceasingly when I was younger and I turned out okay, but I'm not sure if that is something I want my little girl to have access to in my home. As one essayist in "The Barbie Chronicles" pointed out the toys that parents allow in their home really send important messages to children, she said:
"You might still assume that dolls and other toys simply don't matter. A girl can play with any doll she wants, and it will not make a difference to her when she is older. But toys do matter, and they do convey ideas about how adult life should be run... toys convey a great deal about how adults wish children to grow up, and... toys prepare us for the roles we wish children to think of as "natural". What roles do we wish girls to grow up and assume are "natural'?" (pg. 181)
I'd never really thought about the message that Barbie dolls send young girls about what it means to be a teenager and what it means to be an adult woman. Yet as I really began to think about it I realized that Barbie sends the exact opposite message about womanhood and femininity than the one I want my daughter learning. Barbie teaches that how you dress determines your worth, that sexual appeal is what is valuable in a woman, that a relationship with "Ken" is the most important thing and that babies and family are afterthoughts, that breast are for appearances and not for function (her breasts have no nipples, so obviously there is no breastfeeding going on there!), and that shopping is the answer to all of life's woes.

She really isn't a very good role model.

And yet... I still really love her.

My husband can't understand it for the life of him, but the thought of getting rid of the box of Barbie dolls sitting in my basement makes me sad. For good or bad, Barbie was a big part of my childhood and it is hard, now that I see her with grown-up and critical eyes, to realize that I might not want my daughter playing with her.

Can you see my dilemma?

What would you do?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Five Things For Friday, 13th Edition

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Some of you may have noticed but my "Five Things for Friday" is a shameless imitation of the "7 Quick Takes Friday" that Conversion Diary hosts each Friday. Several months ago I was struggling with knowing what direction to take this blog. I was discovering that it is difficult to write a blog that is so specifically focused on one topic and still find a way to include a personal and familiar tone. I was impressed with how Jennifer's Conversion Diary blog is such a wonderful mix of the spiritual, the factual, and the personal and so I thought I'd copy her. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery right?

So in what is another shameless imitation I want to open my "Five Things for Friday" post up for other people to link to. This means that I am going to be regularly posting my "Five Things for Friday" posts and that each week there will be a linky tool at the bottom of each post so that you can write your own version of "Five Things for Friday" on your blog and then link to it here. I am hoping that this will be a fun way for me to get to know some of you better and for my readers to get to know each other better. That is really what makes blogging so much fun... creating new relationships with people all over the world. So please take advantage of this. I'd love to meet more of you!


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Finally, after months of waiting, Julie Beck's 2011 BYU Women's Conference talk has been transcribed (you can access the PDF here)! I was dying to read this (she is after all my hero) and it doesn't disappoint. It is long--12 pages-- but so worth the time. She gives so many beautiful insights into women's roles and responsibilities. Here is one of my favorite parts:

I’ve learned through studying the history of Relief Society that we have and live with an inseparable connection to the priesthood. The Prophet Joseph Smith put the sisters in the position to receive all the gifts, blessings, and privileges of the priesthood. We need never confuse the idea of those who hold the priesthood in trust, with the priesthood. The priesthood is God’s power. It is His power to create, to bless, to lead, to serve as He does. The priesthood duty of every righteous man is to qualify for the blessing of holding that priesthood and trust for the Lord so that he can bless his family and those around him. And I will say the priesthood duty of sisters is to create life, to nurture it, to prepare it for covenants of the Lord. Don’t confuse the power with the keys and the offices of the priesthood. God’s power is limitless and it is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what the brothers have and the sisters don’t have. This is Satan’s way of confusing both men and women so neither understands what they really have. Sisters and brothers each have every ordinance, every gift, and every blessing available to them to get back to our Father in Heaven, and no one, male or female, is left outside of those blessings to qualify for exaltation. There is a unity in the council and the covenant that is required us to get there. Neither the man nor the woman can ascend without the other. We are inseparably connected in that way. And I understand how special women are. I understand how special men are. And together we’re more special. We become what the Lord wants us to become.
I also loved her insights about Mary and Martha's story and the "bread crumbs" of women's history that can be found in the scriptures. It is such a good talk. Make sure you take the time to read it!

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We have chosen not to find out the gender of our baby this time around. We found out with both of our others but this time we thought it would be fun to try it the other way. Even though we had our 20 week ultrasound months ago ( I am 28 weeks) it still drives me crazy knowing that the ultrasound lady knows what our baby is but I don't! I haven't had any premonitions about the gender and sometimes I just wish this little child would let me know if it is a "he" or a "she"!

Still, it has also been a very profound experience for me to not know the gender. I've learned to listen a little more closely to my body and to this baby's spirit. It has taught me that my ability to love is stronger and deeper than I ever imagined. This time around, because I don't know the gender, I've realized that I love this baby not because it is a boy and not because it is a girl but because it is a new LIFE. I love this baby because it is a unique and ancient soul who has put their trust in me to bring them to earth and help them gain a body. Knowing the gender of that soul makes NO difference in my willingness to love and welcome him/her into my home or my ability to love and nurture. I know that no matter how this baby comes-- boy, girl, with physical limitations, health challenges, or learning struggles-- I will love him/her just the same. I have learned that lesson in a much more powerful way this pregnancy and it has really changed my perspective. I can already feel my heart expanding to make room and it has got me super excited to meet this person who is kicking my insides!

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Speaking of meeting this little one... I know that there are some of you who are interest in what our birth plans are going to be. As of right now we are planning to have this baby at home with a certified and licensed midwife. We've had both of our other two at home (you can read their birth stories here and here) and the experiences have been really wonderful.

My husband and I after the birth of our son

With every pregnancy my husband and I always put a lot of prayer and fasting into which care provider to see and where to give birth. Initially we both thought that I might be having this
baby at the hospital because my first trimester was a little rough. Yet things are looking really good and both my doctor and my midwife consider me low-risk. Granted, birth plans can always change but as my husband and I have prayed about this child we feel a lot of peace about welcoming him/her into our home in the same way we have the others. I am just hoping that this one doesn't come as fast as Rose did. Her labor was only 3 hours from my first contraction to holding her in my arms and WOW was it a roller coaster ride! Fast labors are much more intense and I couldn't relax or cope with the contractions like I had been able to with Asher (his labor was about 10 hours)-- I just had to bellow my way through it and it was hard. I'm thinking a 5 or 6 hour labor would be just about right, not too long and not too fast. Are you hearing that little one? I know you have your own plans but if it is at all possible...

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You are cordially invited to attend my Usborne Book e-party this week and enter for a chance to win $50 in free books! If you haven't seen the Usborne books before they are really a treat. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their non-fiction books. I am especially excited about their books on world religions and history for young kids. It is so hard to find good resources to teach those topics to children and these books are beautiful... and not too expensive. I spent hours drooling over their catalog... my wish list is pretty long!

If this is something you might be interested in-- or if you were going to order books from Usborne anyway-- PLEASE go and check out my e-party. The more people who buy books through my party the more free books I get. I know, this really is a selfish invitation.... but there is always the chance you might win the $50 in free books!

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Now it is your turn! Below is a linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own Five Things for Friday post. (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog (2) Include a link back here.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Family Scripture Study with Young Children


My husband reading scriptures with our two-year-old

For the last few months my husband and I have really been struggling with family scripture study. We don't have a problem remembering to do it. Our problem is how to keep it from degenerating into total chaos and mayhem which ends with someone throwing a tantrum in the middle of the floor... and it isn't always a child. It is hard for me to admit that I dread family scripture "study" and every morning I wonder why in the world we keep doing it if no one ever pays the least amount of attention.

When I went to the LDS Holistic Living Conference several weeks ago I went to a lecture about how to have an effective family devotional given by Diann Jeppson, one of the authors of "A Thomas Jefferson Home Companion". After her lecture I realized that my husband and I had been going about family scripture study in completely the wrong way. When we first got married our routine was to read a chapter together every day from the Book of Mormon and then discuss what we had read. After we had children we still held to the same pattern and each morning would read, wrestle, bellow, and time-out our way through at least a column of verses.

Yet in her lecture Diann Jeppson said that since children love stories the best way to read the scriptures with them is to focus on understanding the significant stories instead of trying to read straight though a book of scripture. She suggested getting a large print version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon (like the ones sold here) and then going through and marking the main stories in them. She has even made a list of biblical highlights for young children so that it is easy to go through your Bible and Book of Mormon and mark the stories. Then she suggested that each day during family scripture study you just read the next highlighted story, focusing on talking about what is going on, what lessons are being taught by the story and how the young children can apply the story. She also suggested using the gospel art kit as a supplement so that when you read a story you have a picture to go along with it.

She also emphasized the need to read the ACTUAL scriptures with children and not just to read them the scripture readers or other books that summarize the stories. She said that it is so important that young children become familiar with the language of the scriptures. If children don't learn how to understand and read the language of scriptures it handicaps them as teenagers and adults. They aren't able to understand the doctrine behind the passage because they can't get past the unusual language and rhythm of the scriptures. She said that while the scripture readers are good supplements they shouldn't replace the actual scriptures.

After hearing Diane Jeppson's lecture my husband and I drastically changed how we did family scripture study and it has been a MIRACLE at how wonderful it has been going. The first thing we did was to pull out this book that my sister gave us for Christmas a few years ago.



It is a large print version of the Book of Mormon that already has the stories broken down into short easy to read sections (the perfect length for 3-year-olds!) and has lots of pictures to go along with the stories. Here is what the inside looks like:



Every morning I just skip ahead to the next page in the book that has a picture or a good story on it. Then we read a section of scriptures and talk about what is happening in the story. Since my kids can't read yet we just have them repeat back to us one verse. This book has really been wonderful for our family and there are other ones for the Old Testament and the New Testament which I think we might get in the future. I also think that I am going to take Diann Jeppson's suggestion and get large print versions of the scriptures and then go through and mark all the stories of women in the scriptures in them. That would sure be a fun way to do family scripture study!

The other thing we did that has helped our mornings was to change our morning "scripture study" to our morning "devotional". We realized that we had already created such a negative connotation with the term scripture study in our house that we needed a whole new word. The day we started our new approach to reading the scriptures with the kids we started calling it "devotional" and it has really helped our morning morale.

I am sure that our routine and approach to scripture study will change as our children get older, but for right now this has been a huge improvement for us! I feel like now we are actually "studying" the scriptures with our children on their level and having significant spiritual conversations rather than just reading a whole bunch of words. And it has been weeks since anyone has thrown a tantrum in the middle of the floor!

But I am curious... What has worked for family scripture study in your house.... with little kids, big kids, or anyone in between?

Gomer and Lo-ruhamah


"Hosea and Gomer" by Cody F. Miller

Hosea 1: 2-9
Hosea 2
Hosea 3: 1-3

Background: About 730 BC

Hosea, or Hoshea, was a prophet at the time of King Jeroboam II. He preached during a time when the house of Israel was in a state of great wickedness and decline. His primary message was the power of God's love for His people. God used Hosea's marriage to Gomer and their family as analogy of His undying love for the house of Israel and His willingness to gather them back into His house even after they had gone astray. Hosea's writings and preaching greatly influenced the prophets who followed after him including Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (see Isa. 40–66; Jer. 2; 3; Ezek. 16; 33).

Facts About Them:
  • Hosea was commanded to "take thee a wife of whoredoms... for the land hath committed a great whoredom, departing from the Lord" (1:2);
  • Hosea did as God commanded and married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim (1: 3);
  • Gomer bore a son and the Lord commanded that his name be Jezreel, which was prophetic of the fact that the Lord would destroy the kingdom of Israel in the valley of Jezreel (1: 4-5);
  • Gomer bore another child, a girl, whom the Lord commanded to be named Lo-ruhamah, meaning "not having obtained mercy". Lo-ruhamah's name was a prophetic statement of God's displeasure with the house of Israel and a warning that He would destroy them but spare the house of Judah (1:6-7);
  • When Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah she conceived again and bore a son whom God commanded should be named Lo-ammi, meaning "not my people". For God told Israel that " ye are not my people, and I will not be your God" (1:9) Even so, He goes on to say that though Israel is no longer His people He will one day gather them back in (1:10-11);
  • After giving birth to Lo-ammi Gomer left Hosea for other lovers and Hosea chapter 2 gives a long list of actions that are symbolic of the house of Israel's wickedness but also appear to be things that Gomer did as well:
- She was unfaithful to Hosea and conceived children by other men (2:2-4);
- She "played the harlot" and sought after lovers who could give her bread, water, wool, flax, oil and drink (2: 5);
- Unknown to her, Hosea continued to supply her with corn, wine, oil, gold and silver, even though she was running around with other men and making offerings to Baal, a false idol (2:8);
- She was lewd (2: 10);
- She participated in rituals relating to idol and goddess worship such as feast days, new moons, sabbaths (different from the Jewish one), and solemn feasts (2:11);
- She had vines and fig trees (symbols of goddess worship) that she claimed were rewards from her lovers (2:12);
- She burned incense to Baalim and decked herself in earrings and jewels to go after her lovers (2:13);
  • After a period of time, we don't know how long, Gomer hit rock bottom. She had been deserted by her lovers and was up for auction to be sold as a slave. Hosea was told by God to go to her and to buy her back and love her again "according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel" (3: 1);
  • Hosea bought Gomer back for "fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and an half homer of barley" and took her back into his house where he promised her "Thou shalt abide with me many days... thou shalt not be for another man: so I will also be for thee." ( 3:3).
Speculations About Them:
  • We don't know if Gomer was a harlot before Hosea married her of if she just had the heart of a harlot. Either way, it appears that Hosea knew enough of her character when he married her to know that she would not be faithful to him and that she fell into God's category of taking a "wife of whoredoms" (1:2);
  • Chapter 2:5 indicates that both Lo-ruhuamah and Lo-ammi were conceived in adultery and that they weren't really the children of Hosea. Lo- ammi's name which means "not my people" may be an indication that Hosea knew that he was not his biological father. Yet in 2: 1 Hosea calls his children "Ammi" and "Ruhamah" taking away the "lo" part of their name which means "not". This changes his son's name from "not my people" to "my people" and his daughter's name from "not having obtained mercy" to "having obtained mercy". This is symbolic of God's relationship with Israel but also indicates that even though they were not his biological children Hosea had adopted them and considered them to be his.
  • It is possible that Hosea may have divorced Gomer once she left him after the birth of Lo-ammi. For in Chapter 2:2 Hosea begs his children to, "Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight and her adulteries from between her breasts" (2:2).
  • Some scholars also think that Gomer may have become a cult prostitute for one of the fertility goddesses which would explain the many references to goddess and idol worship found in her story.
  • While there is some dispute amongst scholars about how the words in Chapter 3: 2 should be should be translated it appears that in paying "fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and an half homer of barley" Hosea payed for Gomer more than twice the normal amount for a slave.

My Thoughts:


The story of Hosea and Gomer is one of the most tragically romantic stories in the whole standard works. Not only is their story a powerful allegory of God's infinite capacity to love and to forgive but it also teaches us important lessons about the sort of love and forgiveness the Lord expects from each one of us.

It seems strange that God would command a man as good and righteous as Hosea to marry a woman that he knew would not stay faithful to him. Perhaps it was because God had important lessons for Hosea to learn or because God loved Gomer and wanted to give her the best possible opportunity. No matter the reason Hosea married her it is apparent that he loved her deeply and that he never stopped loving her, even when she treated him poorly. Gomer had been very blessed but she failed to recognize it and threw away happiness by seeking after illusions and self-fulfillment.

As I read her story I realized that, just like Gomer, I often don't realize how good I have things and am apt to take my blessings for granted. In fact one of the parts of Hosea and Gomer's story that touches me the most is the way in which, even when Gomer was running around with other men and worshiping idols, Hosea still took care of her and made sure that she had the food and money she needed to survive... all without her ever knowing who it was who was giving it to her. I know that that is the way that God often works in my life; even though I do things that hurt Him or disappoint Him he still supplies me with the food, the air, the shelter, the body, and the strength I need to keep living. His love for me is so great that He grants me blessings even when I don't deserve them.

It is also interesting that in many ways Gomer's story is similar to that of the Prodigal son, found in Luke 15. Both she and the Prodigal son didn't realize the blessings that they had until they had exhausted all their resources and were as low as low could go. In the end, Gomer made huge mistakes and Hosea had every reason to abandon her and to be angry with her. Yet he didn't. In what was symbolic of Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us, Hosea paid a great price for Gomer, saving her from a life of servitude, and brought her back into his house as his wife. Each and everyone of us is in some way a "Gomer". We have each made mistakes and trespassed against our Lord and it is only because of His infinite love for us that He paid the high price and saved us from the bonds of slavery. Yet, not only did he save us but, like Hosea did for Gomer, he offers us a place of honor in His house and promises us all that He has.

Gomer's story is such a powerful testimony of God's love. It bears testimony that God never stops loving us
... no matter what we have done have done... and that we can always come home.

And on a completely unrelated note:

Can I also say that I LOVE it that we get this little tidbit about Gomer's life that, "when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived" (1:8). It is these little tidbits of personal information in women's stories that I LOVE finding. It helps me remember that these were real women and that they weren't all that different from you and I. I wish we had more personal details about women's lives in the scriptures but it is always a treat to me when they are there!

Questions to Think About:

  • If God expected Hosea to forgive Gomer for all her sins and trespasses against him what does that say about the type of forgiveness the Lord expects from us? Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive?
  • Why would God command Hosea to marry someone He knew would be unfaithful to him? What was it that God wanted Him to learn? What did He want Gomer to learn?
  • It is interesting to me that Lo-ruhamah is one of the only women in the scriptures who is given a prophetic name. Hosea's sons and, later on, Isaiah's sons are also given prophetic names. Why do you think God would command prophets to give their children such unusual names?
  • Why do you think the Lord uses marriage analogies so often when speaking about his relationships to Israel?
  • If you could write the next chapter in Gomer's life how would it go?

For teachers:
I found this lesson plan and thought it might be a good resource for teachers wanting to use this story in their classes. This is a little known story, but it is such a powerful one, and it would be nice to see it taught more often.

Friday, August 12, 2011

FIve Things for Friday, 12th Edition

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My husband and I went out on a rare date night and saw the movie
"17 Miracles" which is about the Martin and Willie handcart companies, a group of Mormon English immigrants who got caught in the snow during their trip to the Salt Lake Valley and suffered unbelievable hardships. I've been taught about this history my whole life but it was so powerful to see it re-enacted. The movie was very well done and to my surprise my husband cried more than I did! Which if you know my husband is just another testament to how good this movie is.



The last few days I've kept thinking about the movie and I've been filled with such gratitude for all I have. Gratitude at having enough food to eat, to have warmth, to have a car, to my health, to have a good man, and to have the gospel in my life. It makes me want to pull my family in close and not take anything for granted. If you haven't seen this movie it is so worth it. Especially when you compare it to what else is playing at the theater!

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I am happy to announce that Heidi and The Price Family are the winners of the copies of The Nashville Tribute Band's new CD! Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. I LOVED LOVED LOVED reading your missionary stories! Thanks for sharing them with me. I wish that I had CDs to give everyone.

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I got lots of wonderful comments about my "Getting Adam to Partake" piece and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate all the insights my readers share. You are wonderful. Becca directed me to this really powerful article about an American woman whose young daughter chose to wear a hijab (headscarf) even though her mother doesn't. I especially thought this paragraph about the mother's first time wearing a bikini really reinforced what I was trying to say in my essay about how women can misuse their divine power and how that hurts them more than they realize. I think she also does a great job at illustrating how different Muslim ideas about modesty are compared to Western ideas. The author writes about buying and then changing into the bikini and then she writes:
"Goose bumps spread across my chubby white tummy and the downy white hairs on my thighs stood on end—I felt as raw and exposed as a turtle stripped of its shell. And when I left the bathroom, the stares of men seemed to pin me in one spot even as I walked by.

In spite of a strange and mounting sense of shame, I was riveted by their smirking faces; in their suggestive expressions I thought I glimpsed some vital clue to the mystery of myself. What did these men see in me—what was this strange power surging between us, this rapidly shifting current that one moment made me feel powerful and the next unspeakably vulnerable?
I imagined Aliya in a string bikini in a few years. Then I imagined her draped in Muslim attire. It was hard to say which image was more unsettling. I thought then of something a Sufi Muslim friend had told me: that Sufis believe our essence radiates beyond our physical bodies—that we have a sort of energetic second skin, which is extremely sensitive and permeable to everyone we encounter. Muslim men and women wear modest clothing, she said, to protect this charged space between them and the world.

Growing up in the '70s in Southern California, I had learned that freedom for women meant, among other things, fewer clothes, and that women could be anything—and still look good in a bikini. Exploring my physical freedom had been an important part of my process of self-discovery, but the exposure had come at a price.
Since that day in Venice Beach, I'd spent years learning to swim in the turbulent currents of attraction—wanting to be desired, resisting others' unwelcome advances, plumbing the mysterious depths of my own longing. I'd spent countless hours studying my reflection in the mirror—admiring it, hating it, wondering what others thought of it—and it sometimes seemed to me that if I had applied the same relentless scrutiny to another subject I could have become enlightened, written a novel, or at least figured out how to grow an organic vegetable garden."

You can read the whole article here.

-4-

On Saturday we had a door-to-door salesman come to our door selling a cleaning spray. Salesmen from this particular cleaning supply company come every summer and every summer I politely turn them away. Well this year the young man selling the spray was good... really good. He somehow maneuvered himself into my kitchen and used his spray to clean the NASTY grout on my kitchen floor that I had given up all hope of ever getting clean. Needless to say my husband and I were impressed and we bought a bottle. We put the bottle on the counter and then spent the next ten minutes telling each other about all the great things we would do with our $40 bottle of cleaning spray and trying to reassure ourselves that we hadn't just gotten ripped off by a smooth talking 20-year-old. Well, we were starting to feel pretty good about our purchase and then I heard my husband yell, "Oh, children, oh, children! You did NOT just pour $20 worth of cleaner onto the carpet!" I ran into the dining room and found our two little ragamuffins hiding under the table with a half empty bottle of the expensive cleaner and Rose wiping her mouth. Apparently they had somehow they had opened the lid, popped the safety seal, both taken a drink of it, decided it was gross, and then dumped it out on the carpet! I spent the rest of the night talking on the phone with poison control (luckily the spray was very non-toxic), chasing two wild misbehaving children around the house, and frantically using all of the cleaner I could mop up out of the carpet to clean my couch and the spots on my floor. Needless to say it was not how I had planned to spend my Saturday night. Yet, I guess if there is a silver lining to the whole experience it is that it forced me to clean my house MUCH sooner than I would have otherwise! Crazy children.

-5-

Did you know that the Mormon Channel (the LDS online radio) now has a Relief Society station? Well it does! Women from all over the world can send in questions and each month the General Relief Society Presidency answers them. Isn't that a great idea?

I know that I am a hopeless Julie Beck groupie but I LOVED this interview with her called "Our Spiritual Gifts and Our Connection to the Priesthood." Sister Beck has such a wonderful way of explaining things and I loved hearing about her experiences with the gift of tongues! You can tell that she has asked herself all the hard questions about women in the gospel and that she has received answers. Her testimony is so powerful to me because it encourages me to keep learning and keep searching. Now if only I could think up a really good question to send in to ask the General Relief Society Presidency. What sort of things would YOU want to ask them?


Have a beautiful weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Women in the Image of the Son: Being Female and Being Like Christ"

Several months ago one of my readers sent me this article and I thought it was so enlightening and appropriate for this blog. I was going to link to it but I just found that the link where it was posted no longer works. Since this one is too good to miss I am re-posting it in its entirety here. The emphasis added at the end is my own.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this!


"Women in the Image of the Son: Being Female and Being Like Christ" by Kathryn H. Shirt in LDS Women’s Treasury: Insights and Inspiration for Today’s Woman [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 53.

In the popular children's book The Neverending Story, by German author Michael Ende, a young boy reading in an attic is magically drawn into the story and becomes one of the characters. The appeal is irresistible. What reader has not wanted, at some time or another, to pass from observer into participant and to share the adventures and friendships of a new world.

Of course, the experience of entering into the story depends upon finding a magic book, connected with powers beyond the printed page. In fantasy tales such books are never advertised publicly. They always seem to be hidden on dusty library shelves, waiting for the right person, with the proper sensitivity and imagination, to come along and discover their worth.

At first glance such stories strike us as delightful but utterly fantastic. We need to remember, however, that some fairy-tale makers have written their stories not for escapist reading but as metaphors for spiritual reality. As the professor in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia tells the skeptical children when they ask about the possibility of doors into other worlds, "Nothing is more probable."

Lucy Smith recalled that her son Joseph was not the child in the family who read the most but he was the one who pondered most deeply what he had read. When the familiar passage from James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God" (James 1:5), struck Joseph with uncommon force, he took the initiative and asked, thus moving into the world of the Spirit, which beckoned from the pages of the Bible. What made Joseph Smith unusual was the extent of his willingness to enter into the real "neverending story" by being receptive to messages and messengers from another world.

Not only could Joseph communicate with ancient prophets but he could also identify with them. As he dictated the Book of Mormon under inspiration, he learned of parallels between the Joseph who was sold into Egypt, Joseph the youngest son of Lehi, and a future Joseph who would be the son of another Joseph. (2 Ne. 3.) Thus while preparing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was faced with a remarkable invitation to liken the scriptures unto himself.

In a fascinating paper on the book of Abraham, Machicko Takayama demonstrates some of the ways Joseph became involved in the experiences of earlier prophets. The scriptural narratives revealed through Joseph are presented in the first person, "I, Mormon," "I, Moses," "I, Abraham." Each of the narratives traces the genealogy of the author to earlier inspired writers, and each story refers to earlier stories. The narratives have a nesting structure, like the layers in the skin of an onion or like a series of Russian dolls, one inside the other. As Takayama writes, "The Book of Moses is the book of Noah is the book of Enoch is the book of Adam is the copy of the Book of Remembrance of God." The endowment ceremony that Joseph introduced to the Saints in Nauvoo carried the story back to the very beginning of time where, in dramatic form, he reenacted the experiences of the creation as if he were Adam.

Although Joseph understood that his prophetic calling was unique, he also realized that, like Moses, his mission was to lead all the children of Israel into the presence of God. He delegated to others the authority that he received under the hands of heavenly messengers. He extended temple ordinances to ever-widening circles of followers. He inspired others to ask God and receive their own answers, to seek their own spiritual gifts, and to see the fulfillment of ancient prophecy in their own lives.

As the historian Richard Bushman has observed, when Joseph presented the ancient city of Enoch as a model for a new Zion society gathered from all the earth, "the sacred history of the past . . . flowed into the Mormon present." Bushman maintains that even today, "the sacred stories of Enoch, Moses, Nephi, Mormon, and Joseph Smith envelop Mormons in the realities of divine power and the redemption of Christ. . . . In the final analysis, the power of Joseph Smith to breathe new life into the ancient sacred stories, and to make a sacred story out of his own life, was the source of his extraordinary influence."

How are we as a people responding to Joseph's challenge to enter into the sacred stories and transform our own lives? What about us as women? Do the scriptures invite women to participate in the realm of the Spirit as powerfully as they invite men? Is it more difficult for women to relate to the scriptures than it is for men? An experience in my own family made me realize how much more difficult it might be.

In a family home evening lesson several years ago, I brought up the story of Nephi's going to the Lord for instructions on how to build a ship. I asked our children if they thought that the Lord could help them do something practical like that, if they had a special need. My eight-year-old daughter's response was immediate: "No, because I'm a girl." She could not identify with Nephi nor relate to his experience, and the reason was gender.

What was behind her thinking? Perhaps it was that the scriptures record so few experiences of women. Although the Book of Mormon insists that God imparts his word by angels unto women as well as unto men (Alma 32:23), those angelic visits are "off the record." Since the sacred texts are written by male leaders of the spiritual community, it is their experiences that are recorded as scriptural, sometimes giving the impression that they have a monopoly on such experiences.

What else was behind my daughter's thought? Perhaps it was the form of our scriptural language. The revelatory language of Joseph Smith's day was Elizabethan English, as represented in the King James Version of the Bible. One of the features of our literary heritage is that when we refer to men and women together, we use masculine nouns and pronouns. To a certain extent, this convention need not be a problem. As Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "I am female, of the species, man. Genesis is very explicit that it takes both male and female to make the image of God, and that the generic word, man, includes both. . . . When mankind was referred to it never occurred to me that I was not part of it." On the other hand, while the word man can refer generically to a man or to a woman, there are instances where man refers only to a male. There are times when it is not appropriate to expand words such as man to include a feminine counterpart. Our family learned that when we attempted to read the scriptures together, substituting "man and woman" for "man" or "son and daughter" for "son." We always had to make decisions about whether the inclusive language was appropriate in the context of the passage. Sometimes we found other scriptures that were similar and obviously inclusive to help us decide. Sometimes we found theological arguments. Sometimes we used clues from the passage itself. One of our sons loved to deliberately misuse inclusive language, referring to sizable armies coming down upon the Nephites as "the hosts and the hostesses."

As we tried to determine when inclusive language was appropriate, we became aware of a significant difference in the religious perspectives of men and women. Where men can freely assume the scriptures are speaking to them personally, women must ponder and weigh the evidence. As they read the scriptures, women must constantly make decisions about whether or not to include themselves in the text.

Is there any way to clarify the ambiguities—to affirm the spiritual potential of women and to demonstrate that the gospel, all of it, really does apply to them? Is there anyone with whom women can identify to make them full participants in the story?

What about the concept of a divine Woman, a Heavenly Mother? Joseph Smith suggested that the logic of the revealed gospel requires a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father. It is not surprising that Mormon women cherish the concept. A divine Mother represents a final destination for daughters, someone with whom they can identify fully and without ambiguity.

But even though we have the idea of a Heavenly Mother to whom women can relate without ambiguity, we still have a problem. Our concept of the divine Woman is itself ambiguous. Our scriptural stories give no accounts of her activities, no clues to her personality. Our theology contains no doctrine about how to relate to her.

We are tempted to fill the vacuum with images of a heavenly woman drawn from the earthly condition of women. We envision, perhaps, a nurturing figure devoted to innumerable spirit children but withdrawn from the wider realm of cosmic government. I remember a Primary class, in which someone asked the teacher, "If we have a Mother in Heaven, how come we never hear about her?" The teacher's reply was that God was protecting her name from the kinds of slander that human beings direct toward the names of the Father and the Son. It was a clever reply, and, at the time, we all thought it was quite satisfying. None of us realized then that this answer described a lady not quite up to taking care of herself in a tough world, an image drawn purely from certain human conventions and not from divine reality.

There have been attempts to fill out our idea of Heavenly Mother by borrowing from descriptions of goddesses in ancient cultures. Many of these societies revered powerful female figures who were thought to control fertility and the rhythm of the seasons, representing the giving and nurturing of life. As appealing as we might find the concept of dynamic female deities, however, from the perspective of overall morality, the pagan goddesses are ultimately no better role models than are the pagan gods.

So how do we handle the absence of information about our Heavenly Mother, the divine being who could embody the spiritual identity of women? Perhaps it is easier to understand this absence when we realize that we lack a detailed description of our Heavenly Father as well. The Savior spoke of the Father at every turn, but when Philip asked to be shown the Father, Jesus replied that the Father was made manifest through the Son. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:9.)

When we ask about the Mother, might not the Lord give us a similar reply? "He that hath seen me hath seen the Mother." We think of the Godhead as united in purpose and similar in character. If we as Mormons are going to assert the existence of a female Deity, shouldn't we assume that her Son mirrors her perfection as well as that of the Father?

When we take this approach, we see that both men and women can enter into the scriptural story and understand their spiritual potential by identifying with the Savior as "the way, the truth, and the life," the divine ideal and the divine mentor. (John 14:6.) But wait, we might ask. Isn't it important for women to have female role models? Can women learn about their own spiritual potential from a male? And can women be as much like Christ as can men?

In answering these questions, we need to consider the scriptural insistence that Jesus was not a man like other men. One of the limitations of human existence is to be locked into one's narrow perspective, based on one's nationality, social status, education, and gender. With perfect compassion the Savior transcended those limitations, descending below all things to be in all things and through all things the light of truth. (D&C 88:6.)

The Gospels record his ability to step outside the perspective of a Jewish male to see women simply as individuals. In a society where women were not allowed to study the scriptures, he taught the Samaritan women at the well and he excused Mary from serving with Martha in order to study things of more value. Women were not permitted to function as legal witnesses, yet he allowed women to be the first witnesses to the resurrection. His parables balanced the shepherd hunting for the lost sheep with the woman hunting for the lost coin. As Dorothy Sayers wrote, "Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them . . . who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend."There have been many questions about whether Jesus was married. Without going into a detailed analysis of the issue, the writers of the gospel portray him as having no mortal wife or child. He is not limited to the role of an earthly husband. He is the bridegroom to the Church. (Matt. 9:14-15; D&C 88:92.) But then again he is the mother hen who would gather her chicks under her wing. (Matt. 23:37; 3 Ne. 10:4-6; D&C 10:65.) The Savior used many images to describe the Atonement—the image of grain being buried in the ground to ensure a harvest, the image of a building being destroyed and rebuilt, the image of a man laying down his life for his friends. (John 12:23-24, 2:19, 15:13.) He also used the image of a woman in labor. (John 16:20-22.)

It is this image of Christ's spiritual suffering to bring forth spiritual life, as a woman suffers physically to bring forth physical life, that reverberates throughout the scriptures. "Inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul," God tells Adam, as recorded in the book of Moses, "Even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (Moses 6:59.) King Benjamin declares that because the hearts of his people have been changed through faith in Christ, they have become "the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters." (Mosiah 5:7.) King Benjamin uses dual imagery. Christ has spiritually begotten them—in other words, he has become their father—and they are born of him, in essence making him their mother as well.

Just as the scriptures describe the Savior using both male and female imagery, the scriptures insist that God is serious about women identifying with Christ. In Genesis, we learn that God created man in his own image, male and female. (Gen. 1:27.) The book of Moses adds "in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them" and also "in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them." (Moses 6:9, 2:27.) There are important differences between the Savior and ourselves to be overcome during our mortal existence, but gender is not one of them. Being female is not something we have to repent of.

According to the book of Moses account, God brings Moses up into a high mountain to speak with him face to face. In that exalted interview, he declares, "I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth." Moses is profoundly impressed to hear that he is "in the similitude" of Christ. When the presence of God withdraws from Moses and he is left to confront Satan, he asks the adversary, "Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?" And Moses insists a second time, "Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten." (Moses 1:6, 13, 16.)

Since all human beings are created in the image of the Savior, as the book of Moses explicitly states (Moses 6:9, 2:27), we can envision God's saying to all of us as he said to Moses: "Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten." Women may thus enter into the story themselves, identifying with the Savior and acknowledging their relationship with him: "For behold, I am a daughter of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten."

There are other suggestions in the scriptures that, since we can all relate to the Savior, we can all relate to the crucial stories detailing the process of salvation, regardless of whether the stories are told about men or women. The same verse which declares that God created male and female in the image of his own body also states that when God created male and female he called their name Adam. This usage reflects the Hebrew 'adam, which can refer to humanity or mankind in general.

With this collective meaning in mind, we see the story of Adam's baptism in the book of Moses as the story of Eve's baptism as well and therefore as the example for all human beings that it is clearly intended to be. After God has explained the plan of salvation to Adam, Adam is carried away by the Spirit of the Lord and immersed in water. When he has been baptized, the Spirit of God descends upon him and he is born of the Spirit. A voice from heaven then declares: "Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever; And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity. Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons." (Moses 6:66-68.)

What God says about Adam as his son, and thus about Eve as his daughter, at the time of baptism parallels the identifying characteristics of those who receive eternal life as defined in D&C 76.

•In Moses 6:68 Adam is declared a "son of God." D&C 76:58 calls those who endure to the end "gods, even the sons of God."

•After his baptism by the water and by the Spirit, God tells Adam, "thou art one in me." (Moses 6:68.) D&C 76:59 says of those who overcome by faith, "all things are theirs . . . and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

•God informs Adam that "he is baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost," implying that a member of the Godhead is present with him representing, or bearing record, of the Father and the Son. (Moses 6:66.) Those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, according to D&C 76:62, "dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever."

•After his baptism, God tells Adam, "Thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity." (Moses 6:67.) D&C 76:57 explains that the inhabitants of the celestial world "are after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son."

To go through the process of salvation, therefore, is to assume a series of identities in relationship to the Savior by obedience to the first principles of the gospel. We are born into the world as children of God, in the image of his Only Begotten Son. When we are born of the water and of the Spirit, we become sons and daughters of Christ through his atonement. Those who endure to the end in the divine tutorial complete the identification. In the words of John, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is." (John 3:2.)

It does not yet appear what we shall be because we are in process, but to be in process at all is to have gone beyond the pages of the scriptures and entered into the story. The Savior becomes not only an ideal but a sustaining presence, not only the text but the interpreter of the text, not only an exemplar but a companion. Thus to read the scriptures is to be open to a divine dialogue, to be speaking with another Character in the story.

In his earthly life, the Savior himself entered into this kind of dialogue as a child growing from grace to grace in the image of a parent. He was instructed in the Law and the Prophets and immersed in the traditions of the Jews, yet it was through his close relationship to the Father that the Savior was able to recognize himself in the scriptures and carry out his divine mission. The role of the Messiah, his own special role, was always present in the scriptures, but it was comprehended through personal inspiration.

As women we have several options in dealing with our own scriptural heritage. One alternative is to object to the male language and male culture saturating the scriptures and reject the scriptures as irrelevant to our needs as women. Another option is, as obedient daughters of God, to accept the scriptures but be overwhelmed by their predominantly male perspective and underestimate our own spiritual potential. Relying on the Savior as a model and as a mentor, however, we have yet another approach. We can immerse ourselves in the scriptures and, at the same time, by being open to the influence of his Spirit, relate them to our own lives and circumstances. In the intercessory prayer recorded in 3 Nephi, the resurrected Lord prays that those who believe in him might be purified, "that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me." (19:29.) The intimacy of that relationship overcomes the distance that can be created by any particular form of scriptural language and brings women as well as men into the very center of the story.

NOTES

1. C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: Macmillan, 1981), p. 46.

2. Machiko Takayama, "The Book of Abraham—A Grammatological Analysis," presented at the Sunstone Symposium. Salt Lake City, Utah, August, 1990, p. 19; copy in possession of author.

3. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 186, 188.

4. Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980), p. 36.

5. "An interesting sidelight is given to this time through a possible glimpse of the thought-kernel which grew into such fragrant bloom in the full-voiced poem of Sister Snow. It was told by Aunt Zina D. Young to the writer as to many others during her life. Father Huntington lost his wife under the most trying circumstances. Her children were left desolate. One day, when her daughter Zina was speaking with the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the loss of her mother and her intense grief, she asked the question:

"`Will I know my mother as my mother when I get over on the Other Side?'

"`Certainly you will,' was the instant reply of the Prophet. `More than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.'

"`And have I then a Mother in Heaven?' exclaimed the astonished girl.

"`You assuredly have. How could a Father claim His title unless there were also a Mother to share that parenthood?'

"It was about this time that Sister Snow learned the same glorious truth from the same inspired lips, and at once she was moved to express her own great joy and gratitude in the moving words of the hymn, `O my Father.'" Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from November 1869 to June 1910 (Salt Lake City: General Board of the Y.L.M.I.A., 1911), p. 16, footnote.

6. Jolene Edmunds Rockwood, "Jesus and Judaism," 1987 Sunstone New Testament Symposium, 11 August 1987.

7. Dorothy Sayers, Are Women Human? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 47.

8. Jolene Edmunds Rockwood, "Eve's Role in the Creation and the Fall to Mortality," in Women and the Power Within: To See Life Steadily and See It Whole, ed. Dawn Hall Anderson and Marie Cornwall (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991), p. 50.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Getting Adam to Partake

When we were first married my husband and I spent a summer living in Amman, Jordan. I was doing research for school and he got to tag along. I'd always considered myself to be a modest dresser--I don't wear sleeveless shirts, short shorts, low-cut tops, bikinis or things that reveal my middle-- and in the United States this way of dressing often set me apart from my peers. Yet in Jordan I was surrounded by Muslim women my own age who always wore hijabs (headscarves), long sleeves, and long pants in public (Muslim women don't veil when they are around family or close friends). Dressed in my knee length shorts, 3/4 length shirt, and scooped necked shirt I felt like I might of well have been running around in a tube top and hot pants by the looks I got. I told one of my friends that sometimes I felt like a prostitute among nuns. It was a really unsettling feeling for me.

I had several opportunities to talk to two of my Muslim friends, both of whom wore the hijab by choice, about why they wore it and why they dressed so modestly. One friend explained to me that the reason she wore a hijab wasn't because she was expected to or because she thought men couldn't control themselves it was because she knew she possessed sacred power. She covered herself because her beauty was for her husband and she didn't want to misuse her power or to waste it on any man walking by. She also liked it that the veil drew men's attention to her face and not to her body. Another friend explained to me that she wore a hijab because she had made promises with God and that her veil was an outward symbol of her inward commitment to Him.

Their answers really surprised me. I'd been taught about modesty my whole life but never had I seen women who internalized it like these young women did. They didn't just dress modestly, they were modest-- in their actions, their speech, and their treatment of others. They knew that possessed great worth and that within their bodies they housed divine power which they had promised God not to misuse. Not only did the young women understand this about themselves but so did the young men. One afternoon one of the Muslim girls we worked with took several of the girls in our group out hijab shopping and taught us how to tie and wear them in the fashionable way. Just for fun I decided to wear mine for the rest of the day and I was so surprised when both of the young men who ran the front desk at the hotel we were living at kept telling me that I looked so much more beautiful in it. Women are good at knowing when men think they are beautiful and I could tell that both of these young men honestly thought that being covered made me more beautiful. In their eyes wearing a hijab indicated that a woman understood her worth and that she expected the men around her to respect it as well--and that was infinitely more attractive to them than short sleeves and cute hair-dos.


My husband and I on my hijab wearing day

I do understand that not all men and women in the Middle East understand the veil like this and that in many places it is used as a symbol of oppression and disregard for women's rights and voices. Even in Jordan there were various degrees of veiling and some of them were obviously done out of force and oppression. Yet, I'd say that many of the young Muslim women I associated with who wore the hijab wore it for reasons similar to my two friends. It was a really life changing experience for me to be surrounded day in and day out by women who were so outwardly committed to their religion and their promises to God. I realized that my Muslim friends understood something that, at that time in my life, I was only beginning to comprehend. They knew that because they were women they had real POWER housed within their souls. They knew that they had the power to love men and to attract them to them-- hopefully for life. They knew that within their bodies lay the ability to bestow life and that how they chose to use that power would affect future generations. They fully comprehended the importance and divinity of that power and as a result they protected it and refused to misuse it.

This doesn't mean that these women weren't as preoccupied with boys, clothes, make-up and accessories as American women... they were. Like most young women the world over they were very concerned about fulfilling one of the roles women have fulfilled ever since Eve, that of "getting Adam to partake." Valerie Hudson Cassler explained more about this when she wrote:
"There is an additional role played by Eve that is often overlooked... getting Adam to partake [of the tree of knowledge]. In this act, Eve persuades Adam that the realization of the fullness of life for himself is inseparable from the perpetuation of the fullness of life through future generations. To his credit, Adam hearkens to his wife, and by partaking, commits to life, to love, and to perpetuation of life and love...Eve's love for Adam, his love for her, and the fruit of that love... is the catalyst from which recognition of and desire for the light and its law is built in every civilization... Capturing Adam's attention, softening his heart, stimulating his commitment, and enlisting him in the cause of love and family preoccupy most women during their young adulthood. Our culture frivolizes this endeavor claiming that women are selfishly and narrowly absorbed in "landing a man". Doubtless sometimes the enterprise does seem frivolous, and at times it is conducted unrighteously, but at its heart this female preoccupation with relationship to a male is not frivolous at all. It is profound and important, and if conducted for righteous intent through righteous means, it is sacred. Eve must get Adam to partake, must turn him towards the light, or the plan of salvation and exaltation will be frustrated." (Women in Eternity, Women of Zion, pg. 114)
"Partaking" doesn't just refer to sexual intimacy but means that a man has accepted the responsibility to move the plan of salvation forward by covenanting to a woman that he will create an eternal family and that he will bring, protect, and care for the children she brings through the first veil and help them prepare to go through the second veil. Young women, no matter where they live, will always be preoccupied with trying to get Adam to "partake" because the creation of families and the perpetuation of life is the foundation of the plan of salvation and one of women's main responsibilities on the earth. Nonetheless there is a huge difference in how my young Muslim friends were taught to approach the task of getting their Adam's to "partake" versus how young women in the United States are often taught to approach the task.

The power that my Muslim friend called "sacred and divine" and that she chose to cover and respect is what the world and the media would call "sex appeal" and in America women are encourage to flaunt it, use it, exploit it, and even sell it to get what they need or what they want. Our young women are encouraged to use their bodies to get attention and are often led to believe that their worth in society is dependent upon how beautiful or attractive they are. Very few young women truly comprehend that, regardless of their physical appearance, they have real, tangible power housed within their souls and that this power-- the power to get Adam to partake-- needs to be used with wisdom and virtue. They need to know that it is VERY possible for a woman to misuse this power, just like a man might misuse his priesthood power. When a woman uses her body as a way to get attention, when she uses her sexuality to gain a feeling of power, when she stimulates powerful feelings and emotions in men, when she allows herself to be touched or talked about in inappropriate ways, when her desire to be seen as attractive or appealing is stronger than her desire to be modest, or when a married woman tries to attract the attention of men besides her husband she may be using her power in an unrighteous way. Women need to understand that misusing this power has far reaching consequences because it tampers with the very headwaters of life and effects future generations.

In addition we need to be teaching our young men to honor and respect this power as well. They, like the young men at our hotel in Jordan, need to be the ones encouraging young women to dress modestly by helping them understand that their worth has nothing to do with their outward appearance. Young men need to know that it is important for them to be modest as well, especially in the way they interact with young women and the way in which they talk about them. We also need more young men who understand the divine roles of women and are willing to support and help them in their responsibilities. There are far too many men, married and unmarried, who are unwilling to partake of what Eve offers-- an eternal commitment to marriage, children, and the responsibility to guide those children towards the light. It is a big responsibility but if Adam refuses to "partake" then the work of God can not progress.

Now please don't get me wrong, I am not advocating for all women to veil like Muslim women do, but I do think that we need to re-evaluate our definition of modesty and examine the way in which we teach modesty to our young women and young men. Because in the end what we want is young people (and adults) who don't just dress modestly but who are modest. We want them to fully understand the divine power that lies within their bodies and to act in ways that honors and respects it. When a person has a testimony of their divine nature they, like my Muslim friends, will act and dress in ways that demonstrate to God that they comprehend the gift they have been given. For in the end modesty is truly the outward expression of an inward commitment to God and learning to be modest, not only in dress but in all areas of your life, is something that has to be developed and learned line upon line, piece upon piece until you fully come to comprehend your worth and access the power of your divine nature.