Sunday, December 23, 2012

All Things Testify of Him

Image: lds.org

[Note:  If you'll be offended that we don't do Santa, you might not want to read this post.]

If you know me well, you probably know that we don't "do" Santa at our house.  However, this year, to not be so abrupt about it, I've tried to focus on Santa as being someone who reminds us to watch out for and care for others. So, every time we see a Santa, we try and think, what can we do for someone else?  How can we help?

This not doing Santa really has its pro's and con's for very much the same con's as doing that Elf on the Shelf.  One of the most difficult things about not doing Santa is trying to get our kids to not tell other kids, at least when they're little.  Although we've not emphasized Santa at all, the funny thing this year is that our three year old asks every day when Santa is coming.  Rather than saying he's not coming, I've been saying, "Christmas is in three days.  We'll get some presents then, but Santa reminds us to watch out for others."  Honestly, I don't appreciate that others have indoctrinated her with Santa, but I'm glad I can give her not such a disappointing answer that Santa's not real.

I realized the other day, though, a flaw in me telling her that Santa is a reminder to do nice things.  It's great he's a reminder, but why don't I just tell her to think of other people when she thinks of Jesus?  Simply put, we don't need Santa to remind us of that; Christ has already done it.  I guess it's not PC to dress up as Jesus and walk around town, though.  There's a reason it's called Christmas (Christ Mass => Christ Celebration) and not Santamas.

So, I'd love to not have to deal with Santa at all, but since I can't beat the Modern-day Commercial Santa Machine, I guess I'll just have to continue pushing the caring for others idea. As I pondered this, I realized there are A LOT of Christmas traditions that have nothing to do with Christ.  Ironically, we've attached new meanings to these ideas to take them back to Christ.  I'd prefer we use more stars, sheep, angels, shepherds, light, etc. to help us celebrate Christmas, but I suppose I can ditch my desire for historical accuracy and take these new symbols along with their invented stories to help remind me and my family of Christ.

Along with Santa Claus being a symbol of Christ, other invented symbols include,


Tonight we read "Teach the Children" from Especially for Mormons, Vol 2, a story about Santa going to someone's house pleading with the parent to teach the children the true meaning of Christmas.  Here are a few more ideas on how to integrate modern symbols into the the actual past.

  • Red ornament - first color of Christmas; reminds of blood of the Savior; greatest color of all; symbol of the gift of God.
  • Tree - deep green a perfect background for the red ornament; second color of Christmas; symbolizes everlasting hope of mankind; youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature; needles point heavenward (man's return toward heaven).
  • Bell - reminder to return to the fold; guidance & return.
  • Candle - shows thanks for the star long ago; mirrors starlight
  • Bow - spirit of brotherhood of man; we should be tied with the bonds of good will
  • Wreath - eternal nature of love; continuous round of affection; reminds us of all the things of Christmas.
Some of the above symbols may actually be "real," but I haven't researched them yet.  For now I'll try to make these modern symbols also testify of Him, but I guess I'm just more of an Alonzo Gaskill kind of girl.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Part of Life We Call Death

Saying goodbye to mom

After the tragedy yesterday in Connecticut, of course my first reaction was to hide, keep my children inside forever, and even homeschool them.  I also again had the thought that is's a wonder that we actually live each day, rather than die.  I'm serious.  This will sound really pessimistic, but there are so many things that could kill us.  I think the first time I thought of that concept was a few years ago when I'd heard of some car accident.  Just the other day on the Today show there was a story about when someone is threatening to drive home drunk, most people let him or her.  Women protest it more than men, but in the end, the drunk drives.  In addition to the shooting, there was a stabbing of 22 children and their teacher in China yesterday. A couple weeks ago my not-yet-retired neighbor died of a massive heart attack.  He was healthy and fit.  Any one of us could get cancer or some other disease and die.  In so many ways, it's a miracle we're alive every day.

So how do we not fear death?  I think the first thing we need is an understanding of the Plan of Salvation and specifically that there is life after death; we need a testimony that we will live again.  We need to know that death is merely a passage to the other side, just as birth was a doorway to come here.  Perhaps we were just as nervous of birth before we experienced it as we are of death.  Maybe once we die, we'll realize it's not such a bad thing after all.  If we thought of death as a baptism where going down under the water might be a little bit scary, but coming up out of the water was the most beautiful cleansing thing, we might not be so fearful.

I'm again recommitted to teach my children the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they will be prepared when their time comes.  I'm determined to help them not fear death, and as a mortician's wife once told me, to make it a part of life.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The State of Working-Class Men

I almost just "pinned" this, but thought I'd better save a few of the quotes from The No Good, Very Bad Outlook for the Working-Class American Man:


  • Work, for men, means more than money: It connects them to their communities, makes them more attractive as mates and more successful as spouses, and is a linchpin of their self-esteem. When they don’t work, their role in the community tends to wither, harming the places where they live as well as themselves. Their family lives suffer, too. More and more often, less-educated men are strangers to marriage.
  • Both men and women have suffered from the disappearance of well-paying mid-skilled jobs in factories and offices. But they have responded very differently. “Women have been up-skilling very rapidly,” said MIT’s Autor, “whereas men have been much, much less successful in adapting.” Women have responded to the labor market’s increased preference for brains over brawn by streaming through college and into the workforce—one of the great successes of the U.S. economy. Men’s rate of completing college has barely budged since the late 1970s.
  • To women, men who either can’t or don’t earn a decent living are less necessary and desirable as mates; they’re just another mouth to feed. This helps to explain why rates of out-of-wedlock childbirth have risen to hitherto unimaginable heights among the less educated. Causality also flows in the opposite direction. The very fact of being married brings men a premium in their earnings, research shows, and makes them steadier workers, presumably because they have more stability at home. “Marriage is an institution that makes men more responsible in their pursuit of work and in their work-related duties,”
  • Low-earning men are decreasingly able to form stable families. That, in turn, harms their children and communities. “Social capital disintegrates as you have a combination of drop in participation in the labor force and the disintegration of marriage,
  • In 1970, more than three-fourths of men, no matter how much they earned, had wives; men at the bottom of the earnings scale were only slightly more likely to be single than were men at the top. Today, nearly half of the low-earning men are single, versus only a seventh of highly paid men.
  • Family structure, in short, has become both a leading cause and a primary casualty of an emerging class divide. At the top are families with two married earners, two college degrees, and kids who never question that their future includes a college degree and a good job; at the bottom, families with one (female) earner, no college, no marriage, and kids who grow up isolated from the world of work and higher education. And the two worlds are drifting apart.


This is really sobering, not just the economic side of it, but what it's doing to the family.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Altruism

Photo: Slate

We recently watched part one of Atlas Shrugged on Netflix.  I noticed afterward that there was a related  program entitled Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged and thought that might also be interesting.  I started watching it and was fascinated by Rand's life and the background of her writings.  As I watched, I found myself being convinced that individuals should be equal, and that one individual shouldn't have to sacrifice for the comfort of others.  I was buying into the idea that alturism was bad.

Then it hit me as I recalled getting up at 6:00 each morning with the baby, being bitten while nursing, cooking, cooking, cleaning, and cleaning, that individual equality -- equal give and take -- is not like that at all in a family, especially a young one.  I don't think a family could function if everything were equal.  My kids and house would be a wreck if I didn't disregard my personal comfort and take care of them.  We'd also be destitute if my husband didn't personally sacrifice "his" income for the benefit of the family.

So, it's nice in theory that we should all be equal, and it should be possible with adults, but with a family, altruism must rule or the family falls apart.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Half the Sky

Last night my husband and I finished watching Half the Sky on Netflix.  Although in college (in the mid 1990s at BYU) I studied the topics presented in the film, I was heartbroken that some things are still so awful for some women.  I was especially struck with the beautiful faces that were put with the horrible stories; I couldn't believe that these children of God have such terrible experiences.

The film addresses six topics and their impact on, or how they're related to, women -- mainly in Asia and Africa.

1.  Rape
2.  Sex Trafficking (sex slavery)
3.  Education
4.  Maternal Mortality/Female Genital Cutting
5.  Intergenerational Prostitution
6.  Microcredit

As I watched the film, I couldn't but think of some of the parallels to our own country 150 years ago.  For example, some women TODAY have a 1:12 childbirth mortality rate.  If I remember correctly around the time of the Civil War in our country, it was 1:8 (I need to pull out the book at my mom's house that the statistic is in -- I could be wrong).  The mortality rate of a soldier was 1:20.  Can you believe your chances of survival were better as a soldier than as a woman?

Also, as mentioned in the film, males are more educated because traditional female work is more needed in the home.  The girls themselves may not be very valued, yet their care of the children and household is, so they parents keep their girls home.  Is that not the same way it was in our country a century and a half ago?  Additionally, some men don't want an educated wife, so if a girl is educated, she limits her opportunity for marriage.  I loved one quote in the film:  "Being smart lasts a lot longer than being pretty."


[graphic] The portion of the video that was completely infuriating was female genital mutilation.  Apparently, most men do not want to marry a woman who is "uncircumcised," and women who are not cut are considered unruly.  If an uncircumcised women bears a child, the child will be killed.  Not only is there an immediate risk to this practice (infection) which is done around ages 7-13?, but it interferes with childbirth.  Scar tissue is not at stretchy as un-scarred flesh and sometimes will create an obstruction to an imminent birth!  If the women happen to be in a hospital and this occurs, medical personnel can't even give a C-section without the approval of the husband, and many women and babies are lost.

[graphic] I did not know exactly what was done in a "female circumcision" and I don't care to describe it here, but you can liken it to having a mole on one's nose.  You could leave it there and not worry about it, or if you are a male in this comparison, you would cut just the mole off.  If you are a female, however, you wouldn't just remove the mole, you would remove the entire nose and stitch up the area leaving just a small opening at the bottom to let air in and mucous out.  You would not be able to experience the pleasure of smell anymore.

My husband found it interesting that to be considered marriageable, a woman had to be cut.  You could say that in that culture, it makes her more "attractive" to men.  How ironic that women in our own country feel that they, too, have to alter their appearance through breast implants, tummy tucks, and other surgeries to be attractive to men.  Really, is it that different in that regard?

It was apparent in the film that there is major conflict between and there are major discrepancies in the rights of men and women all over the world.  What I still wondered, though, was what are the feelings from one woman to another?  Do they generally look at each other as equals (equally lower class?), or is there a looking down upon one another, too?  When I did my student teaching in Western Samoa, I realized that there is quite a bond between siblings, yet not that connection from child to parent.  I believe it was because it was common for a parent to beat a child and assumed children did not want a close bond with someone who beat them?  If women are such the underdog, do they stick together?

I felt the film did a good job respecting differences in culture and not judging individuals.  I don't think after an interview, the interviewee felt he/she was made the bad guy (even when his/her life choices were obviously opposite the views of the film).  There were also a few remarks which implied the lack of respect for mothering/women's work in favor of careers and money.  Considering the circumstances, these women really could use the stability, yet I wouldn't want them to think of traditional women's work as a bad thing, either.

After studying and studying the LDS Church's Proclamation to the World on the family and trying to apply it to my life where I'm encouraged to be the primary nurturer and my husband is encouraged to provide and protect, I can see how the counsel can be even more beneficial in cultures where women are so marginalized.  The Proclamation clearly brings women and men to equal standing.  It encourages all to be educated.  It identifies women's and men's natural strengths and calls us to use those strengths together in raising a family.  It encourages us to kindly care for our children.

One of the last thoughts in the film was that like a bird, a family cannot fly if a wing is broken. I believe it was referring to the female half being broken, but I think you can also apply it to males.  If the men are not accepting of the women or are irresponsible for their spouse and offspring, then they are broken, too.  This is going to sound like a testimony meeting, but I must say that I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and living prophets who give us modern revelation on the family.  It is through this that we are empowered to be whole and complete.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

National Council of Women

Belle Spafford at an International Council of Women convention
Image from lds.org

When I read Chapter 6 of Daughters in My Kingdom, I quite enjoyed the story about Belle Spafford and the National Council of Women.  According to DIMK, after being involved in the organization for some time, she (and the other Church ladies) weren't getting anything out of it anymore and wanted to discontinue their association.

Today I was reading chapter 24 of the George Albert Smith book, which gave another little detail about the situation. Apparently certain "members of the council had been antagonistic toward the Church and had embarrassed Latter-day Saint delegates at its meetings" (GAS, 257).  Wow!  I love learning about when there's more to the story!

So, if you put the two sources together, this is the story you get (highlighted text is from GAS, other text is from DIMK):

Sister Spafford learned a great lesson from President George Albert Smith about sharing the Church’s values with the women of the world. Soon after she was sustained as Relief Society general president, “a letter came from the National Council of Women, announcing their annual meeting to be held in New York City.
“Sister Spafford had attended those meetings before, and in view of her previous experience, she and her counselors carefully considered the invitation for several weeks.
“They decided to recommend to the President of the Church that the Relief Society terminate its membership in those councils. They prepared a statement of recommendation, listing all of the reasons for so doing.
Sister Belle S. Spafford, general president of the Relief Society, shared an experience in which President Smith taught her this principle. Shortly after being called to her position, Sister Spafford was notified of a meeting to be held in New York City by the National Council of Women. The Relief Society had been a member of that council for many years, but recently several other members of the council had been antagonistic toward the Church and had embarrassed Latter-day Saint delegates at its meetings. Because of this, Sister Spafford and her counselors felt that the Relief Society should terminate its membership in the council, and they drafted a recommendation expressing their views.
“Trembling and uncertain, Sister Spafford placed the paper on the desk of President George Albert Smith, saying, ‘The Relief Society Presidency wishes to recommend that the General Board terminate its membership in the National Council and in the International Council of Women, for the reasons listed on this paper.’
“President Smith carefully read the paper. Had they not held membership for well over half a century? he inquired.
“Sister Spafford explained how costly it was to go to New York, the time it took, and described the humiliation they occasionally experienced. She recommended that they withdraw because ‘we don’t get a thing from these councils.’
“This wise, old prophet tipped back in his chair and looked at her with a disturbed expression. ‘You want to withdraw because you don’t get anything out of it?’ he questioned.
“‘That is our feeling,’ she replied.
“‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘what is it that you are putting into it?
“‘Sister Spafford,’ he continued, ‘you surprise me. Do you always think in terms of what you get? Don’t you think also in terms of what you have to give?’
“He returned that paper to her and extended his hand. With considerable firmness he said, ‘You continue your membership in these councils and make your influence felt.’”12
 Sister Spafford later recounted:
“By appointment one morning, I went alone to see President George Albert Smith, taking the recommendation with me, together with a list of the reasons why the recommendation was being made. The President carefully read the typed material. Then he inquired, ‘Isn’t this the organization which the sisters joined before the turn of the century?’
“I said, ‘Yes, sir.’
“He said, ‘Am I then to understand that you now wish to terminate that membership?’
“I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ Then I added, ‘You know, President Smith, we don’t get anything from the Council.’
“The President looked at me with surprise. He said, ‘Sister Spafford, do you always think in terms of what you get? Don’t you think it is well at times to think in terms of what you have to give? I believe,’ he continued, ‘that Mormon women have something to give to the women of the world, and that they may also learn from them. Rather than have you terminate your membership, I suggest that you take several of your ablest board members and go back to this meeting.’
“Then he said with emphasis, ‘Make your influence felt.’”

She did make her influence felt. She participated in the National Council of Women and the International Council of Women and held leadership positions in those organizations for years. She stood strong for the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the purposes of Relief Society.
Sister Spafford obeyed this counsel and was later appointed to leadership positions in the National Council of Women, eventually being elected its president.

Every time Sister Spafford went to the International Council of Women (ICW), she was assigned to the “social and moral welfare” session. She recounted:
“At one time I protested going back into the social and moral welfare [session], and I was very friendly at that time with the ICW president. … I said, ‘I go all the time to this session, and it’s just getting so sordid that I’d like a change.’ She said, ‘Well, you’re certainly entitled to one, and I’ll see that you get it.’
“Then she came back and said, ‘We can’t grant your request because your own council insists that you remain in the social and moral welfare.’ She said, ‘It may be of interest to you to know the reason. Your national president says you always stand by the position of your Church in these matters and they know the position of the Mormon Church and they feel there is safety in having you there.’”13
Women in these organizations knew that their friend Belle Spafford would stand by the Church’s principles, and they needed that kind of wisdom and strength. In 1954 she was chosen as the leader of the United States delegation at the International Council of Women in Helsinki, Finland. As she led a grand march at the opening of the conference, her thoughts went back in time:
“As I looked out at the glittering audience made up of people of many nations … , my mind suddenly flashed back to the words of our pioneer [Relief Society] leaders … ‘standing as we do at the head of the women of the world,’ … ‘for the rights of the women of Zion and the rights of the women of all nations.’ … I knew that our pioneer women leaders had been given by divine insight a knowledge of the destiny of Relief Society. … It is my conviction that the time had come for Relief Society’s influence to be felt worldwide among womankind.”14
In 1987 the First Presidency counseled the Relief Society to withdraw from the National Council of Women and the International Council of Women. The time had come for the Relief Society general presidency to focus more energy on their rapidly growing worldwide organization rather than on other nationwide and worldwide causes. But as the Church has grown, Latter-day Saint women have continued to make their influence felt all over the world—in their communities, schools, and worthy local organizations. They have followed the pattern established by President Smith and Sister Spafford, thinking in terms of what they can give, not what they might get.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cleaning Strategy

This was my friend's Facebook status -- I had to save it for future reference!

Contest with the kids: I clean the entire upstairs (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, office, kitchen, living room, laundry room). They clean the entire basement (2 bedrooms, play room, family room, 1 bathroom). First one to finish wins their choice of treat and movie. You would think I have the short end of the stick, but you have not seen our basement. We have paused for dinner . . . , but they are soooo excited about the fact that they are winning. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Non-Cognitive Development

Image from This American Life/Theo Takes the Marshmallow Test on YouTube

I just re-listened to part of a This American Life entitled "Back to School."  I actually started it during the week, didn't finish it, left it open on the computer, it disappeared (imagine that), then I found my notes on the desk and had to think and think what they were from.  Finally I figured it out, couldn't find the link to the broadcast on Facebook, but then just Googled it, got it, listened to it, then actually remembered that I had actually listened to it.  Oh, the life of a mother -- in one ear and out the other!  I suppose that's why I write things down:  I just know it's not going to stick for long.

Anyway, "Back to School" was quite fascinating.  It was inspired by a new book called How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.  I wanted to jot down a few of the highlights.


  • Do teachers really make a difference?
  • What should kids be learning in school?
  • Is passing the GED really equivalent to actually earning a high school diploma?  If so, all 8th graders should take the GED -- if they pass, it would sure save a lot of time (32 hours to prep for the GED and over 1000 hours/year of HS) and money (it was kind of a joke).  They wondered if people who passed the GED were really as successful as people who graduated from high school.  They were more successful at life than high school dropouts who did not take & pass the GED, but they were far less successful than HS graduates.  GED-passers were more prone to drop out of anything:  jobs, marriage, military, etc.  So, the GED shows people are just as (book) smart as HS grads, but they're still missing something.  I wonder if college grads are even more successful at life.  I'm assuming yes.  What about college dropouts?
  • So should we be teaching non-cognitive skills (character, behavior, personality etc.) in addition to cognitive (book smarts) in school?
  • We may not be able to change a person's cognitive ability/IQ, but we can improve their non-cognitive skills at any age.
  • People who struggled the most with non-cognitive skills were those who suffered major stressors when they were young, such as extreme violence.
  • People with adverse childhood experiences had worse health as an adult, and were 2-4 times more likely to have heart disease, depression, suicidal, hepatitis, and other problems.
  • Because as young children they suffered great stress, the stress pathways were ingrained in their brains.  The development of the pre-frontal cortex, where the non-cognitive skills are controlled, did not develop like it should.
  • If a person had more than 4 adverse childhood experiences, they were 32 times more likely to have problems in school.
  • What can we do to help people who struggle with non-cognitive behavior/skills?  They can be coached/mentored at any age.
  • A child born into poverty or a bad neighborhood or whatever can be guarded against delinquency if he/she has at least one adult/person who shows care and concern for him/her.  Good parenting can revers the negative effects of stress/trauma.
  • In rat studies, baby rats that had more attention in the first few weeks of life had more secure attachment (were happier, more well adjusted?) than baby rats that didn't.
  • 2/3 of children are identified as having a secure attachment to a parent/parents; whereas, 1/3 are not.
I think this reminds me of how important it is to have a loving, caring, nurturing parent, especially in the early years of life.  It also tells me book smarts aren't the only thing that bring us success.  We also need good character and personalities.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Mom Gene?

Becca shared a link to Discovery of "Mom Gene" . . ., a very brief summary (more a mention) of a study at Rockefeller University suggesting (as mentioned in another article) that there actually is a gene that leads women to:
be responsible for motivating mothers to protect, feed and raise their young.
“The novelty of this study is that it shows that silencing this gene in one specific area of the brain abolishes many aspects of maternal behavior,” . . . 
. . . as early as the 1970’s, scientists discovered the preoptic area of the brain is involved in certain behaviors in mice including aggression, sexual receptivity and maternal care. 
In this study, researchers took it one step further, suppressing the gene by lowering the ER alpha levels found in the preoptic area to observe how female mice would behave with the lower levels.
They noticed mice with lower ER alpha levels spent less time licking, nurturing and caring for their young, but their levels of aggression didn’t change.
"Our studies certainly show that the type of receptor, or the total lack thereof, alters the ability to be a ‘good’ mother,” Ribeiro said.
The findings could help uncover genetic links to good parenting in humans as well.
Researchers also found decreasing the ER alpha levels significantly decreased sexual behavior in female mice as well. 
How interesting!  Now I don't feel so bad about my lack of natural motherliness.   I'm probably just a bit weak in the mom gene area!

This brings up so many questions.  Do men have the gene?  Is it more suppressed somehow?  If women who lack the gene are less interested in sex, do we assume they'll reproduce less; therefore, those who have the gene will reproduce more, thus being more likely to pass on the gene? If we naturally lack it, but have children anyway, are we increasing the odds that our children will be less nurturing?

This line stuck out to me in the first article, "But the bottom line is that some women know it's what they want from the start, others realize the wonders of it once it happens and for many others, it's just not part of their makeup. . . ." I'm glad that even if I did have a hard time taking the plunge into motherhood, that I did it because had I not, I would have never known the great joy that comes with being a mother.  

I'm curious to know how many women feel naturally nurturing or not.  Before kids, I thought I was the weird one to not be so baby hungry, but after talking to more women now, I don't think that's so uncommon.  The amazing thing is, many of these women who weren't so crazy about kids have ended up having 6, 7, 9, or 10!  They put off their more selfish desires and did what was asked of them and found they could handle it and even enjoy it.  What great examples to me.

More synopsis.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Parent's Guide

A while back, we finished reading A Parent's Guide, the LDS Church's 1985 guidebook on how to talk to your kids about the body and sex.  Although it was so old, I'd never heard about it until maybe year ago.  At first I figured it would be a nice, well-balanced approach to human development, then after hearing so much negativity online toward so many things that the LDS Church does, I worried that it might have some non-PC stuff in it, but when I read it, I was pleasantly surprised and learned some good things.  (See, don't trust what you read online. Don't even trust me.  Go find out for yourself.)

I thought I'd jot down a few quotes I liked (I admit, it ends up being waaaay more than a few).
Intimacy does not occur in a vacuum, isolated from other human relationships, from values, or from our perceptions of ourselves and others. It is only one part—although a very important part—of our relationships with others (5).
Amen to that.  I think we're trained in our culture to think that intimacy/sex is this focal point of our lives, but it's just a part of a whole picture.

***
If we are to emulate the love of Christ, we must have the same objective: “I do what I do because I love you, not because I have any selfish gain in mind or any anticipation that credit shall come to me.
This one reminded me of a story my husband told me from when he was in an institute class.  In some dating discussion, another student commented that if he took a girl on a date and bought her dinner, he expected something in return at the end of the date, namely, a kiss.  Really?  Entitlement, hmmm.  What if she didn't like him?  Why is this all about him and his desires?  Isn't dating about getting to know another person?

***
While many of the responsibilities of men and women are the same, the Lord has assigned to his sons the responsibilities of holding the priesthood, of providing for their families, and of presiding in righteousness over them. The Lord has assigned to his daughters the responsibilities of helping to create earthly bodies for his spirit children, of nurturing and caring for those children, and of sustaining and counseling with her husband (8).
The predecessor to The Family: A Proclamation to the World?

***

Help your young children understand that being a man or a woman is part of a pattern of life established and approved by their eternal Creator. You teach your children to be proud of being a boy or a girl primarily by being secure and happy yourself with your masculinity or femininity and by demonstrating love for your spouse. As a child interacts with parents who are secure in these ways, he learns that men and women have a natural and complementary affection for each other and that each parent contributes in unique ways to his or her comfort and security. The child learns that both masculinity and femininity have value and develops a sense of happiness and security in being a boy or a girl.
The following ideas may help you understand the weighty assignments the Lord has given to his sons. He has given them the priesthood, which is his power given to men to act in his name. But this power is not given to men merely to give them authority. On the contrary, the Lord makes clear that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). The purpose of having the priesthood in the home is to bring the powers of heaven into the lives of the family members. Through his priesthood, the father is able to receive revelation, inspiration, and understanding in behalf of his family. He can perform sacred ordinances for his family and bless them in many ways he could not if he did not hold the priesthood. He has been given this power so that he can bless his family (8).
It goes on to say that a woman's greatest assignment is to give "mortal tabernacles to the spirit children of God," which complements, as quoted above, men's responsibility to "bring the powers of heaven into the lives of the family members." This reminds me of and fits well with Kels's post recently.

***
A mother, when without a husband, presides. In the absence of a father, she is the head of the family. She must make every effort to magnify her role as mother and head of the home and fulfill her responsibility to teach her children (11).
I've known some women who have lost husbands who were unsure what their leadership role was if there wasn't a father/priesthood holder in the home.  One wondered if she should allow her teenage-priesthood-holding son to lead the family.  That didn't make sense to me, so I was glad to see right there, that no, she's the mom, she's the head of the family.

***
“As important as our many programs and organizational efforts are, these should not supplant the home but support the home” (address delivered at Regional Representatives’ seminar, 1 Oct. 1970) (15).
I've heard a lot of argument on whether or not YM/YW activities are really mandatory.  I know I was strongly urged to go as a youth, and I admit, I did pass (unrighteous) judgment on others who were not there.  But, bam, here you have it, these activities should "support the home."  So if you have a family event that is more important, then, it's more important.

***
Teach them that their gender influences their goals and that, depending upon their gender, their goals are to become effective fathers or mothers. . . .
In homes where the mother feels good about her role as a family builder, she will make the child feel well accepted. The mother and child are constant companions [birth to 3 years]. Mother is a coach and tutor, involved in the numberless trials, errors, and successes of this developmental period. The father, on the other hand, comes home from his employment and tends to interrupt the routine. Often he interrupts with play, sometimes with duties, and on occasion with discipline. . . . .
“Keep the mother of your home at the ‘cross roads’ of the home. There is a great danger today of homes breaking down because of allurements to entice mothers to neglect their being at home as the family are coming or going from the home. Now I recognize the necessity of some mothers being required to earn sustenance for their family. I am recognizing that, but [we all] should take care lest [we] fail to lend all aid possible to permit the mother of small children to be with them, if possible, in planning the nature of work or the schedule of time” (“Woman’s Glorious Purpose,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1968, pp. 12–13) (20).

I know that those paragraphs could potentially offend some, but nevertheless, I'm still trying to do them for the most part.  I think my parents very much lived this -- even down to when dad comes home, he may interrupt with discipline.  My mom did what she could, but my dad was definitely more of the discipliner.  In our home, I think it's pretty even.

***
Teach your children to accept and understand that basic differences between men and women are complementary in nature. To understand their role identity, children need to understand that each gender completes the purpose of the other’s creation (23).
Love it.  What a great starting point in teaching our body differences.

***

Among the traits Christ revealed as proper for men and women alike are faith, hope, charity, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, kindness, godliness, humility, diligence, and love. These virtues transcend gender. They are Christlike attributes to which both sexes should aspire. (See D&C 4.)
Spiritual gifts, as described in Doctrine and Covenants 46, are not restricted to one gender either. Included are gifts of knowledge, belief, administration, organization, healing, and discernment. Some females are gifted organizers, some are not. Some males are gifted teachers, some are not. There are all manner of character traits for boys and girls, men and women, to develop if they are to become righteous in all they do, in both their intent and performance (25).
I love that the booklet points out these traits and gifts that apply to both men and women.  So often we label one sex one way and the other, another.  I need this reminder.  I fall into the stereotyping, too.

***
You should provide opportunities for your children to develop talents in various directions unhindered by improper stereotypes. But you should respect the divinely mandated roles special to the respective sexes. . . .
Girls ought to be taught the arts and sciences of housekeeping, domestic finances, sewing, and cooking. Boys need to learn home repair, career preparation, and the protection of women. Both girls and boys should know how to take care of themselves and how to help each other. By example and by discussion, both sexes need to learn about being male or female, which, in summary, means becoming husbands and fathers or wives and mothers, here or hereafter.
There are, of course, realities to face also. Boys must learn basic domestic skills, and girls must be able to earn a living if necessary. In this imperfect world there are the widowed and divorced and those without the opportunity to marry. Their lives need to be as secure and complete as anyone else’s. But for all of the children of God, this life is primarily a probationary existence designed to prepare them for the eternal roles of husband and father, wife and mother. . . .
Sometimes we focus on how boys and girls should be taught differently, but I deliberately emphasized the things that we're taught to teach both sexes.  I need to learn from this one.  I admit that sometimes I've let my son slide in his table-setting duties because he's a boy; but, I'm more persistent in getting my daughter to set the table.  I've felt guilty about that (my mother would have never allowed for such behavior), so I've kind of stopped pushing anyone to set the table.  I just set the dishes on the table and they eventually get distributed.
Parents, by aspiring too much outside the home or through too much self-focused achievement, risk teaching their children that the roles of father and mother are not very desirable-desirable—or less so than the attainment of material goods, the honors of men, or even educational diplomas. . . . (26)  
I absolutely loved that last one.  I have the tendency to long for that grass that's greener on the other side, but I don't want to give my kids the wrong impression, either.


Mothers work along with daughters to bake bread, sew, and plan family menus and budgets. Mothers perform compassionate services with their daughters as companions. And mothers and daughters engage in various mutually enjoyable activities. They sing, play musical instruments, compose music, write poems, and develop artistic talents in all their varieties with their daughters.
Fathers work with sons in repairing things around the house, maintaining the yard or car, and planning the budget. Fathers invite sons to help them perform service and let them observe priesthood blessings. And fathers hike or play ball or engage in other mutually satisfying activities with their sons.
Of course, mothers also teach sons and fathers teach their daughters. If a girl is intrigued with a saw and hammer, the father should help her become proficient. If a boy enjoys cooking, the mother should teach him to be a good cook. Parents should organize all these experiences around the child’s future role as either a mother or a father and should help their children develop their gifts to the highest degree, whatever those gifts may be (29).

***
The future ability to adhere to eternal roles depends on how well the child learns to be Christlike with others. A child should learn to be courteous to all people, affectionate with many, and intimate with a special few, all the while being true and reliable. Future social and emotional security depends on how clearly the child learns a gender role. True role definitions teach the girl that she is a daughter of God, working toward the roles of wife and mother here or hereafter. The boy learns that he is a son of God, working toward the roles of husband and father here or hereafter. These gender-based roles provide the perspective for successful future sexual intimacy (33).
I don't know that I fully understood this one, but it sounded good.

***
Parents can mistakenly attribute adult characteristics to adolescents who look like adults but are largely children. They need more time and experience before being expected to act and think completely as adults.

You can say that again.  So very often we think teens are more mature, but they're just big kids who are starting to understand all this!

***
Ideally, you should use the first eight to twelve years of a child’s life to prepare him for his teenage years. If you wait until adolescence to teach your children about the changes of puberty and about intimate relationships, you may not be able to influence them as easily. Children often retain their basic character traits through their teenage years. The kind, self-respecting child usually becomes a kind, self-respecting, and sexually well-adjusted young adult. The self-focused, unkind, self-indulgent child will often express these character traits in a sexual fashion during the teen years.
If this is true, I'm really excited for my 9 year old to be a teen!  This also boosts me in my resolve to be at home while my kids are young -- when I can have so much influence.

***
A girl who enjoys self-respect based upon development of a talent and esteem for her various womanly roles will be more inclined to appreciate spiritual truths. She will be less likely to desperately seek the attentions of lustful boys or accept the viewpoint of those who oppose marriage and the family (37).
We need our girls to have that self-respect!  (Here's even a recent article on the influence moms can have in helping their daughters not feel like they have to be sexy.)

***
Set the example of virtuous behavior in every aspect of your life. Obey the traffic laws, live within your income, keep your house and yard neat and attractive, be moderate in dress and in consumption of material goods, serve faithfully in Church callings, vote in each election, give regular service in Church welfare efforts, read the scriptures daily, hold family prayer, speak courteously, be modestly but openly affectionate, and be chaste in dress and language. Have daily prayers, give blessings to your children, fast, and bear your testimony (39).
I think that's a great way to live for anyone!

***
The intimate relationship between husband and wife realizes its greatest value when it is based on loving kindness and tenderness between the marriage partners. This fact, supported by valid research data, helps newly married couples recognize that the so-called sex drive is mostly myth. Sexual intimacy is not an involuntary, strictly biological necessity for survival, like breathing and eating. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife can be delayed or even suspended for long periods of time with no negative effect (for example, when the health of one or the other requires it). Husbands and wives are not compelled to mate because their genes or hormones order them to do so. Sexual powers are voluntary and controllable; the heart and mind do rule. While sex drive is a myth, husbands and wives do have physical and emotional needs that are fulfilled through sexual union. . . . (49)
Honestly, I didn't expect to see that in writing anywhere.  Anything these days revolves around sex drive, so I'd love to have some backup data on this.  I like that it emphasizes again the emotional wholeness of a relationship, not just the part about sex.

Well, this ended up being a HUGE post, but it's fun to remember my thoughts and review this booklet. I can see why I procrastinated writing about it.  Definitely worth a read, though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I now blog with . . . Real Intent

If you're like me, you may have gotten occasionally irritated with the feel of certain "LDS" sites out there.  Well, I have a new place for you to to read and be inspired by something uplifting and share your thoughts!  Real Intent was just launched and there's already some good content there, with LOTS more to come.

Real Intent a place of faithfulness online, where we address issues of personal faith, 
strengthening families, and engaging in our communities with real intent - with an assumption that our talking will help each of us to be better, to do better, and to help one another in our discipleship.

It's my friend Bonnie's brainchild, and I felt like a fish out of water when she invited me to blog over there, too, but I thought I'd give it a try.  Come check it out!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just say, "YES"!

On Sunday, a new young mother in the ward got called to teach Primary.  Honestly, I felt a little bad for her.  How is she supposed to meet anyone now that she's stuck down in the Primary*?  Then it struck me, Primary is HUGE!  Not only in importance, but in relative size to run compared to the other auxiliaries.  It should be a great place to meet people.

I e-mailed the Primary president to see how many people actually do serve in our Primary.  To fill all the Primary positions including music, Nursery, Cub Scouts, and Activity days, it takes 38 people give or take.  I also asked the Young Women's president how many people she needs:  9;  Sunday School:  around 9; Young Men's: around 11; and Relief Society:  around 10+**.  It takes approximately 4 times as many people to run the Primary than any other organization.  So, anyone who thinks that "someone else can do it" or "someone else needs a turn" is really just fooling themselves.  The Primary really does need you!

I began to wonder why it seems a bit harder for some to serve in the Primary.  Of course there's the child factor.  Some people are just done dealing with kids and want a break.  Some people get tired of hearing the Gospel basics again.  I wonder if part of it is also that there's not the social aspect like there is in Young Men's, Young Women's, and Relief Society.  Maybe there's a lack of communication between the RS and the sisters serving in Primary, so Primary sisters tend to segregate themselves.

What do you think?  Why do some people feel alienated when serving in Primary?  What can we do differently to help them feel more connected?  Do you have a ward with good cohesion?  What works? How much of it is an individual issue vs. an organizational/communication one?



*I know not everyone feels that they're "stuck" in the Primary.  Some people, probably lots of people really love it, but I know many who feel a bit trapped there both physically and intellectually.  Plus, ask any Primary president how many people won't accept a Primary/Nursery calling.

**Obviously these numbers aren't representative of all wards, but they are at least a small slice of the whole pie.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Most Sincere Apologies!

A long time ago I set up an e-mail for this blog. I checked it a few times and didn't have any e-mails, so I stopped going to it.  Besides that, I thought I also had forwarded it to my more-used account, but apparently it hadn't worked.  I went to check the e-mail yesterday and there were all sorts of interesting and action needed items in there.  I was so embarrassed that those e-mails had gone unseen.  I think I replied to them all, but if I missed yours, I do apologize!  The forwarding should be working now, so I should really get your message if you send one.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol. 1


I finally borrowed a copy of Women of Faith in the Latter Days edited by Turley & Chapman.  I knew it would be good, but I didn't know it would be this good!  I like it so much that I'm getting my own copy for Christmas -- and around here, that's a big thing.  We don't really buy books; there's no place to put them!  I'm not done with the book, but I need to get it back to its owner.

One of my favorite things so far in the book is learning about how women in pioneer days actually felt about polygamy.  I had several ancestors enter into the practice, and I wondered what they thought. In college I read A Mormon Mother, and if I remember right, Annie Tanner didn't like it all that much.  But, how did other Mormon women feel?

I've been writing down what women said about polygamy in Volume 1.  Rather than saving my paper notes, I'll type them here:

73:  "Tis rather trying to a womans feelings not to be acknowledged by the man she has given herself to, and desires to love with all her heart."  Martha Heywood
74:  "My husband had a long conversation with me last night counselling me to if possible to assist in the housework sufficient [Martha was expecting] to avoid the hiring of a girl during Mrs. Heywood's [the other wife] expected confinement."  Martha Heywood (I'm glad to know that even in polygamy with more women around, they still needed help with the housework!)
78: "After my husband and his wife Sarepta left me, I felt a spirit of peace. . ."  Martha Heywood
79:  "Joseph came as far as Provo [close to where Martha was living] and did not send me one single word which hurt my feelings and taught me to think that I was not much cared for."  Martha Heywood
98:  "Plural marriage destroys the oneness of course. . . .  'no one can feel the full weight of the curse till she enters into polygamy; it is a great trial of feelings, but not of faith.'  It is a great trial, no one would deny that; but she was willing because it was a duty her religion demanded.  For years, she says, she was so bound and so united to her husband that she could do nothing without him. . . ."  Mary Isabella Horne
99:  "Mary Isabella lived the law of plural marriage without complaint.  In looking back, she also later recognized the benefits of plurality, at least for her own development and independent growth. . . . 'Since his plural marriage, she could see some advantages, now she feels better; she is freer and can do herself individually things she never could have attempted before; and work out her individual character as separate from her husband."  Mary Isabella Horne
153: "'Well, after living in Plurality and getting the experience you desired how do you like it and what is your belief now?'  I will say I like it first rate. . . .  I do believe it is a principle that if not abused will purify and exalt those that enter in to it with purity and purpose and abide there in."  Lydia Knight

I really enjoyed the first hand experiences of Amanda Barnes Smith (327) at Haun's Mill.  She's the one whose little boy had his hip blown out in the massacre.  I've heard the story so many times, it was just more powerful to read it in the first person.

This was also interesting from Amanda Smith (342):  "I have borne six children since receiving the Gospel, and of these five were born without pain through the power of the priesthood. . . ."  Wow. I think I need to exercise more faith.

I also LOVED reading about Emma Smith (p. 343).  She's got to be one of the most wonderful, charitable, forgiving women EVER.  The chapter identified how Emma assisted in the translation of the first 116 pages of The Book of Mormon while she was expecting, and how her knowledge was so important in explaining things, like geography, to Joseph.  In time, she had the baby, but it was stillborn, and then she got really sick, and then the pages were lost!  I had so many questions about this experience.

If her knowledge was so important, why did she even have to be pregnant?  Why didn't God just prevent the pregnancy?  It would have made her life a lot easier. She wouldn't have been so sick and tired while she was trying to assist.  She could have possibly had more impact.  Then, after that, to lose the baby?  That seems so unfair!  Then, to know that the 116 pages of translation were LOST?  How devastating.  It must have been a labor of love for her to serve and then have it lost.  No baby, no pages, and sick?  Life is so unfair.  I also wondered, maybe her knowledge wasn't as important as her pregnancy.  But maybe it was, maybe biology reigns over knowledge.  Maybe that pregnancy was an answer to her prayers.

I'd love to know why things did turn out the way they did, and surely she grew from her loss and her trial of sickness afterward.  Emma is a woman I do want to meet someday.  I DO recommend this book!


Motherhood & Fatherhood

Oh wow.  I just read this beautiful piece by Kels at Empowering LDS Women entitled:  Motherhood is the Equivalent of the Priesthood?  I'm kind of over my concern and am settled about women's and men's roles in the Church, but this was so well thought out, I'm glad I took the time to read it.  I even got all teared up reading it because it was that good!

Kels drew a little chart making Motherhood & Fatherhood parallel, and then identified certain responsibilities of each underneath.  Mothers and fathers both create, nurture, and provide, but women are the only ones who birth.  What about the men?  What's their equivalent?  That's where the priesthood comes in -- it allows for Spiritual birth/rebirth.  Therefore, both mothers and fathers do provide a certain type of birth.

I liked this:
. . . So I began asking him these questions, and have been receiving the answer for years now. There are so many layers to the answer, but one important element is this: birth is an ordinance, an important gift that is the stewardship of God's daughters. This was confirmed to me by the fact that a woman who is sealed in the Temple, and who is living worthily, can give birth to her children in the covenant. By virtue of her covenant, her children are born within the covenant too. However when children are born outside the covenant, a Priesthood ordinance has to occur to replace it-- children are sealed to their parents in the Temple, as though they were born in the covenant. In other words, not being born in the covenant requires a Priesthood ordinance to replace it. It's that important.
Now go read the rest!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Caffeine Experiment


I wasn't even going to write a post on this because I didn't see it as a big deal, but I've seen several other forums discussing the issue of what really is the Church's stance on caffeine after the airing of Mormon in America as well as the subsequent response from the Church clarifying its position on caffeinated beverages.

Just so you know where I'm coming from, I grew up in a non-caffeine-drinking family in Utah.  Up until 4th grade I don't really remember my friends' families drinking caffeinated beverages either, until Melissa's family.  I think I was a little surprised that they did as they were an active Mormon family also, but I must have somehow realized (maybe through a conversation with my parents?) it was okay and their choice if they wanted to drink it -- we just didn't in our family.

One day, as Melissa and I knew I'd never had a caffeinated beverage to my knowledge, we decided I should try some.  I felt okay about it as I knew it actually wouldn't banish me from the Saints.  Oh the anticipation to try a Pepsi!!  I took a sip, and it was okay.  I still preferred my root beer.

In fifth grade, after walking to the park, I had my first Dr. Pepper.  Wow, was that awesome or what.  I may have had one more Dr. Pepper some time in high school (ok, maybe more), but I really can't remember.  When I did my student teaching in Western Samoa, I did have a few Dr. Fia fia's (loosely translated:  Dr. Party) as there wasn't another drink option -- may as well enjoy it, right?

When I met the man I was to marry, I noticed he didn't tend to avoid caffeinated beverages like I did.  Although I was okay with others drinking them, I wasn't so sure how I'd feel about actually marrying someone who drank caffeine.  What kind of influence would that have on our children!!?  I'm sure we talked about it, and he seemed to not drink as much of it as he had because he saw it was important to me.

A few years later when we were at his company Christmas party, more than one person commented on his daily Dr. Pepper or his Dr. Pepper addiction.  What?!  My husband is addicted to Dr. Pepper!? Honestly, I was a little ticked and we had a talk in the car on the way home.  I told him he was probably addicted to the stuff.  He said he just liked the flavor.  I challenged him to a taste test.

We picked up some regular Dr. Pepper and some caffeine-free Dr. Pepper and went to work.  Guess what?  He liked the TASTE of the caffeine-free Dr. Pepper BETTER!  He couldn't believe it.  He stocked up on the stuff and kept it at work.  However, ironically, the cravings eventually went away and so did the caffeine-free Dr. Pepper because it just wasn't the same. After he realized how much power a bit of caffeine had over his thinking, he decided to drop caffeine altogether. He'll occasionally have a caffeinated drink now, but never frequently enough to cause addiction.

So I don't really know why I shared this story, other than it's kind of funny and now some of you know that there is another Mormon out there who (almost) never drinks caffeine.  I suppose I could add that I feel that if it's implied that Mormons don't drink caffeine, why try and find loopholes, why not try and actually not drink it?  (I guess its a little like the law of chastity.  For the Strength of Youth says to not lie down on a member of the opposite sex if you're not married to him/her, so why not try and not do it?  Why play how close can you go?)  I could also say, if you drink caffeinated beverages for the flavor, you may just be fooling yourself.  Go try a blind taste test.

And lastly, yes, I know the Word of Wisdom doesn't say a thing about caffeinated sodas or chocolate or  t.v. or the internet, or whatever else could be addictive, but I, too, probably like a lot of others am trying to live the principle taught of avoiding addictive things.  The important thing is that I'm working on the the Lord's short list appropriate for me.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Great Welfare Plan

In my pre-mom life I worked for the Welfare Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in several of the divisions over the years (Production & Distribution/Bishops' Storehouse Services, LDS Employment, Humanitarian Service/s, administration). I forget that probably most people don't know that the Church reaches out to help people ALL over the world -- and not just members of our church.

I was delighted to see this great summary of what services the church offers.  Check out this link to get a better understanding:

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/humanitarian-aid-welfare-services-breakdown-donations-costs-resources

I also loved the segment on the welfare program of the church on NBCs recent Mormon in America production.  In fact, I used to work with the guy driving the interviewer around in the golf cart!



Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Sometimes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gets criticized for being so big and so centralized.  I realized a while back that this actually is the reason we can have such a huge impact around the world, and in such short time.  It's an exciting thing to be a part of.

What touched my heart the most, was that after watching the welfare segment, my 9 year old son said, "Mom can we do that?  Can we go to Welfare Square and volunteer?  I really want to do that."  You bet we can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beauty & Insecurity

I've really been enjoying the food for thought about women's bodies & shame over at Women in the Scriptures.  There are also many great comments.  Basically, yes, there are times when we may not be clothed in public, like in a locker room at a pool, but why the insecurity about our bodies in those situations?  Apparently, men don't seem to be all worried about being nude -- especially in a locker room.

I began wondering how beauty is expressed in the rest of the world.  I wish I had more global experience or studied more anthropology about now!

We know that in the US/Westernized countries, there's a general ideal for beauty. I won't go into what it is, but you can figure it out -- just look at the billboards/magazines. We also
 know there's this drive among (some) women to want to look like those images. Why? Is it because it makes her feel good about herself? Is it because it attracts men? Does it provide a feeling of power? Is it a combination of some of the above?

Is this tendency to want to be the most attractive also true in other countries, particularly the non-Westernized ones? Do women still try and be beautiful? Do they do it for themselves? Do they do it to attract a mate?

In other countries, what defines beauty? Are some characteristics the same things as we see here?

In countries where there are arranged marriages, is there still this attractiveness competition between women? In countries where women are covered, is there also a competition for beauty?

In European countries where are the nude/nearly nude beaches, where people seem comfortable with their shape, is there still seeking to be the most beautiful/perfect body the rest of the time?