Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Womanhood, motherhood, feminism, priorities, and roles

My friend, Becca, at My Soul Delighteth, made some profound statements on Facebook the other day concerning the divinity of womanhood, feminism, and the opposition we face in mortality, particularly in regards to women who want to be married, but aren't, and those who want children, but can't.  She also shared some thoughts she's had about respect toward working moms. She said it was ok if I wrote a post about it because she didn't have time to. I won't really expound on what she said, I just wanted to save it for future reference.

On womanhood & motherhood:
I believe that the divinity of womanhood is expressly linked to motherhood. . . . 
For a little while, in the past year or so, I started getting a little sympathetic towards Mormon feminists. Not, "They are right" but "I don't understand them, and I want to understand them" sympathetic. I started talking to a lot of different people with different ideas, etc, and I found myself slowly starting to wonder if motherhood really was the definition of womanhood. 2-3 years ago I would have said "Asbolutely", a year ago I would have said, "I'm not 100% sure", but now I am back to "Absolutely."
I was called to be an assistant primary chorister back in April, and the song they are learning this year is called The Family is of God, and at first I was unsure of the words (they basically say the same thing as the Proclamation") but as I have taught those words to the primary I have gained a sure testimony that they are true. Absolutely true. The Proclamation to the World is true. Every word of it. Every single word. I don't think that it was written erroneously, I don't think that it matters that it was written entirely by men - because I don't believe that it was written by "men" - it was written by prophets of God who receive revelation for our day.

On why we can't always have it the way we want it:
I also believe that this life is imperfect, our bodies are imperfect, and life just sucks sometimes. That is the way this mortal probation is meant to be.
When Adam and Eve were in the garden, Heavenly Father gave them two commandments that seemed to be conflicting - multiply and replenish the earth, but don't eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I feel like He gives us similar commandments today (what? You mean God is the same yesterday, today, and forever?!). The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is still in full force, but we must, as Adam and Eve, in a way partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and live a corrupted mortal existence. Basically God is commanding us to do something that WE HAVE NO POWER TO GUARANTEE. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to have children, yet to bear children IS a commandment. And I think that God doesn't withhold marriage and offspring [as a punishment?] from His children. That would be nonsense. Rather, the condition of our mortality at times prevents us from doing what God wants us to do.
Those who ARE able to multiply and replenish the earth should not feel that they are somehow better, or more blessed than those who cannot. We are blessed in different ways.

On working moms, feminism, family priorities, and roles:
I have done both the SAHM thing and the workplace thing, and I have to say I feel like people respect me 100 times more as a working mom than they did as a SAHM. I don't care one whit what other people think of me, so my point isn't to point out how hurt I was (because I wasn't - I honestly didn't care. I do what I feel is right for my family and no one besides me and my husband and maybe my bishop and parents - at times - could possibly have any insight into what is right for MY family) but my point IS to show that SAHMs DO seem to be less respected. [I thought this was really interesting to hear Becca say this as she's lived both the SAHM life and the working mom life. Personally, as a SAHM, I don't think I'm in too many situations to be able to notice any lack of respect, but I find her dual-perspective fascinating.]

I have not felt that feminism says "equality of opportunity" but rather says "women who put children above education and career goals have their priorities screwed up and are damaging opportunities for women everywhere". As a math teacher I definitely feel that. We are no longer pressuring our daughters to grow up to be good mothers, we are pressuring them to grow up and go to school for 6-7 years to chase the corporate ladder, or to work long hours as an engineer, or otherwise chase goals and dreams OUTSIDE the home. And those goals are fine. As long as they come second to raising children (for MEN as well as women - my husband is a fantastic provider, but his #1 career goal is to be able to provide for his family without having to spend a lot of TIME away from his family - something I admire very much in him).
I want to encourage my daughters to get an education - my parents encouraged both me and my sister. I have a degree in math and physics and I am working on a Masters of Education, with a goal to pursue a PhD in education. My sister has a degree in clinical lab science and has plans to go back to school to become a pathologist.

HOWEVER, for BOTH of us, our #1 priority is having babies and raising them. The education and career paths we want to pursue come SECOND.

Which means our earning potential will never be as great as a man who's #1 priority is probably providing for a family. But that's okay, because neither of us have "providing for a family" as a priority. I'm cool with that.

I am NOT cool with a woman who does as much (or more) work as(than) a man having less earning potential or respect or advancement opportunity simply because she is a woman. I believe that is absolutely ridiculous. . . . And I don't agree with it, and it's absolutely abhorrent.
While I do believe that bearing and raising children should be a woman's (and a man's) #1 priority in life, I DO believe that women who don't have that opportunity should not be punished by our society for it.
Thanks Becca for your "guest post." Ha.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Godly Parenting Advice

I've been meaning to write this down for over a week now, and it's taking getting a baby sitter to be able to do it. How ironic is that? I need a babysitter so I can write something about parenting?

1. My husband and I have started attending the Gospel Principles class in our ward.  The lesson a couple Sundays ago was on the nature of our Heavenly Father.   I was impressed when the teacher brought up God's response to Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit.  God didn't yell at them and immediately kick them out of the garden for making a mistake, but he asked them what they'd done and why.  It struck me that when my kids make mistakes, rather than losing it with them, I should stay calm, ask them what's happened, to get the full picture of the situation, then give the consequence.  I loved it. That's some of the best parenting advice I've ever gotten from the scriptures.

2. I wish I'd written it down, but I heard (or read probably on Facebook) recently somewhere that when a child is put in time out, the reaction in the brain is the same as when the child is spanked, so really, I guess it doesn't matter how you punish because the child will feel the same isolation.  This reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Gina.  She said that when her little girl acts up, rather than having a "time out," they have a "time in," where they talk about what happened and try to figure out what went wrong.  I bet with a "time in" the child doesn't experience that same negative brain activity as he or she would because of a spank or a time out.  More good advice, and it also parallels Heavenly Father's questioning reaction to Adam and Eve.

3.  As I've been studying about domestic violence for a post I'm preparing to write, I came across this wonderful advice from Joseph F. Smith in 1939 from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual:

… If you will keep your boys close to your heart, within the clasp of your arms; if you will make them to feel that you love them, that you are their parents, that they are your children, and keep them near to you, they will not go very far from you, and they will not commit any very great sin. But it is when you turn them out of the home, turn them out of your affection—out into the darkness of the night into the society of the depraved or degraded; it is when they become tiresome to you, or you are tired of their innocent noise and prattle at home, and you say, “Go off somewhere else,” it is this sort of treatment of your children that drives them from you.

You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be. The man that will be angry at his boy, and try to correct him while he is in anger, is in the greatest fault; he is more to be pitied and more to be condemned than the child who has done wrong. You can only correct your children by love, in kindness, by love unfeigned, by persuasion, and reason.
Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys—however wayward they might be, or one or the other might be, when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger, do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; get them down and weep with them if necessary and get them to shed tears with you if possible. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence, but … approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What would happen if we really respected people?

The other day I was talking to a friend about domestic violence.  We were discussing men and how they talk about the women in their lives when the women are not around.  If men speak negatively of the women in their lives, that's a huge indicator of a man's behavior toward her when she is around.  My friend suggested we could use more lessons in church on relationships and how to treat people, and it doesn't really matter if it's marriage relationships or friend relationships, we just need to know what are healthy interactions and what are not.

I began to wonder, what if we did really did treat people the way we should?  What if we didn't put ourselves and our selfish desires first, what would happen?  What if we actually did unto others as we would have others do unto us?  Well, for one, men wouldn't beat their wives.  They'd respect them and listen to them and be a partner.  People wouldn't abuse children.  Enron wouldn't have happened.  The housing crisis wouldn't have happened.  Perhaps even Ordain Women wouldn't have happened because women would feel represented and listened to?  Maybe.

I guess this isn't a very coherent post, but these two quotes came to mind:

"One of the most radical things you can do is believe women when they talk about their experiences."-Jen Bekman
"The Mormon people teach the American religion; their principles teach the people not only of Heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teachings of this Church, nothing can stop their progress — it will be limitless. There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known.’”-Leo Tolstoy
So what do Mormons teach?  They teach the ways of Christ which are anything but violent.  They teach integrity and forgiveness.  They teach mercy and kindness and. . . .  I think we learn these things, but we fail when we don't put them to practice (which is why we need a Savior).  I still keep thinking that one of Heavenly Father's goals must be to have all his children get along.  When we do live His commandments and live like Christ, we will get along and won't have to deal with all the junk that happens.  I guess actually living the way they should is what happened in the city of Enoch.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Hope in the World

Diane, Dawn, Me, Jan, Kembe
So it's slightly weird to me, too, that I'd go to a premier of a movie and a prescreening of a different movie within the same week! That just hasn't been my thing in life.  Today I was invited via Mormon Women Stand to see Meet the Mormons.

Let me be honest, I wasn't super excited about Meet the Mormons because why would I need to meet any more?  I also was indeed surprised that the LDS Church was going to release a film in theaters.  By the way, this particular movie was originally created to be shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, but had such positive reviews at other prescreenings, that they decided to take it to THE big screen, not just one big screen.

If you are a Latter-day Saint you will enjoy the film and might even cry.  If you are not a Latter-day Saint and are curious about Mormons and what they're really like, this will give you a feel for what they are trying to accomplish in life.  If you don't like Mormons and don't want to know anything about them, but for some weird reason see the movie anyway, if you take the Mormon element out of the film, you are left with stories of humanity where people are trying to better their own lives and the lives of people around them.  You realize there is goodness left in the world.  Some people are drawn to that goodness, and the people in this film happen to be tied together after the pattern of Christ because of their religion.  No matter your feelings about Mormons, you won't go away from the film feeling yucky.

Now, because this was a prescreening, those of us there had some little perks.  For one, I got to meet and sit by Kembe Sullivan from Atlanta who is the wife of the bishop in the movie.  During the question and answer period after the film, we learned that she was born in Kenya, lived in South Africa, immigrated to California, and now lives in Georgia.  Her cute kids are now 10, 8, and 4, I think, which is really close in age to my kids!  Someone asked if there were any "I wishes" after the filming. Kembe said she wished she wouldn't have sounded so whiney getting the kids ready for church. At the time of filming she said she was working at a "brick and mortar" school, so her husband actually got the kids ready for the day most of the time, so I guess she didn't feel justified complaining when she only had to do it one day a week.  Either way, though, for whomever gets the kids ready, it is hard work!  Another funny thing Kembe shared was that her husband asked the public affairs person in their ward to find someone to be interviewed for the documentary.  She tried, but returned to him without luck and asked, "why don't you do it?" and he said ok.

I was also able to meet Dawn Armstrong, "The Missionary Mom" from Utah.  Again, I have to be honest: I knew her story was last, so it had to be good, but I seriously wondered how the story of a mom from Utah could warrant the finale of the film?  I don't know how much I want to spoil it, but her story did not disappoint.  She has overcome really hard things, but because of good choices, she is in a great spot now.  She's had eight children, and her oldest son, now returned from his mission, encouraged their family to participate in this project.  I don't think Dawn thinks she has such a powerful story, so it's wonderful that her son pushed for it.  She said she only wishes that there could have been more of an introduction to her family in the film.

The story of the football coach was great, as was the boxer, and the humanitarian, but I have to say always one of my favorites is that of Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber.  I cried through most all of his.  Maybe it's black and white pictures that make me cry.  We'll blame it on that.  I just love how he gave so many people hope in such a dreadful time of history.  I think I also get emotional because he came in 2012 to the Christmas Concert at Temple Square where they shared his story and dropped candy parachutes from the Conference Center ceiling and it was magical.

I was impressed with the spread of women bloggers represented at this prescreening.  There were women from Feminist Mormon Housewives, Exponent II, WAVE, Juvenile Instructor, The Small Seed, Holly on the Hill, LDS Women, LDS Women of God, Sistas in Zion, Mormon Women Stand, and others who I can't remember.  I admit, because we wore name tags with which blogs we represented, I was less likely to talk to some of the others in the beginning, but afterward, when feelings were so good, I think the tone had changed, or maybe it was just my attitude.  I think we realized we're here to spread Christ's goodness, and not to argue with one another, and maybe that was Public Affair's intent of inviting us.

I've always wanted to meet a Sista!  Wow I'm pale!

Q&A with Jessica Moody, Kembe, and Dawn

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Heart of the Matter Movie Premier

Tonight I was able to go to the premier of The Heart of the Matter, a non-denominational Christian documentary that brings HOPE to the pornography problem. It was so well done and leaves you with this wonderful feeling of reliance on Christ.

Obviously, because most people will feel dumb going to a theater to watch a film about overcoming pornography, it will not be released in theaters, but will be available October 1 at  You can also buy the DVD with additional footage. The producers will additioally be working with churches and recovery groups to license the film for use.

The goal of the film is to get people talking about the pornography problem because once it's out in the light, that's when people can start to heal.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Statistically Speaking: Differences Between Males and Females

The other night my husband and I got to go to a funny stake fireside with "relationship coach" Matt Townsend. I learned some new things about communication, but I specifically wanted to share and ultimately save some of what he said were differences, statistically speaking, between men and women.

  • Women communicate to bond and build rapport
  • Men communicate to convey information (share data) and report (my husband leaned over and asked if that's why so many men were software engineers, which he is)
  • Women talk to create feelings and create bonding
  • Men "act" to create bonding (Townsend felt that perhaps men hold the priesthood to "act" in God's name because of this trait: it creates bonding; if they just talk, it won't work.  This concept would be a very interesting discussion to continue.
  • Because fathers tend to "rough house" kids more than moms do, it gets kids' emotions really high, then they settle; this leads to their ability to better stabilize their emotions as adults; they're finding adults raised without fathers have a more difficult time controlling their emotions
  • When men speak, only one side of the brain is used, the side that conveys data
  • When women speak, both sides of the brain are used, the data side AND the emotion side
  • When a little girl is about to do something naughty, she looks to her caregiver first, almost asking permission before she does it
  • When a little boy is about to do something naughty, he just does it
  • Men tend to look at life through a hierarchy; they don't like to communicate anything that may decrease their sense of hierarchy (that actually explains a lot)
  • Little boys and little girls are 98% the same (or was it 98.5%?)
  • Men's brains are 11% bigger than women's (so are men on average 11% bigger than women?), but men and women have the same amount of activity in their brains
  • Women's brains do shrink during pregnancy, but return to their normal size after
He also talked a bit about the Mind, Body, Spirit connection and how we need to be aware of what is driving us. Is it our mind that creates shame, competition, body image problems..., our body that makes us hungry or tired..., or our spirit influencing us to act and feel certain ways?  I thought it was an interesting concept.  It seemed that Townsend suggested our mind drives us to some negative feelings, but our Spirit led us to more positive feelings and actions. I question, though, can't our mind lead us to compassion and other good traits, or would that always be the spirit and our light of Christ?  Would that fall into spirit? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

LDS Abuse Survivor Support Group (LASS)

A friend of mine asked me to share about an online support community for victims of domestic violence/abuse (not a site about church abuse as you could mistakenly assume from the name). Before I had kids, I was a Visiting Teacher to a gal in an abusive relationship. I had no idea what was going on until she ran away from home with her baby. Before that, I honestly thought society had progressed enough that there was no longer domestic violence against women. Obviously I was too optimistic in that assumption.

Quoting from my friend, the group is "LDS Abuse Survivor Support (LASS), for victims of domestic abuse of all kinds. All of the contributors are anonymous because of the nature of the site and that makes it difficult to publicize. Part of the need for publicity is also to emphasize that this is a site about members who have been abused, NOT a site about church abuse. We are faithful women trying to solve the issues of abuse in our lives while retaining our faith in the Savior and his gospel.
"There are women you know right now who need this site, you probably would never suspect their need, but it is there and desperate. Please help me help our sisters in need. . . ." 
"It is my intention that this site be a long standing place of refuge, understanding, and support for women who need it, that it will be there when they search for it. . . . I also hope that by reaching more people with the site and its messages that we will inform the public about domestic violence so that they can provide good and healthy support when someone goes to them in need, including educating priesthood leaders."

Please share.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm . . . just a mom?

Today I went to a collaboration meeting in Salt Lake with several professionals.  We were asked to introduce ourselves, so people went around and said, "I'm so and so, and I work (or volunteer) for such and such." Then, as I was to introduce myself, I thought, what am I to say? I'm a mom, I do mom stuff. I know one time as I introduced myself directly to someone I said the word "just" and another time I deliberately avoided it. However, both times, I was semi (but kindly and supportively) reprimanded for belittling myself to the "only a mother" mindset, but I really didn't know what to say or how to describe myself.

I thought about it throughout the meeting and began brainstorming things I've been involved with over the years of my mom life.  It could go like this:

"Hi, I'm Emily. I'm a mom of 4, 1 boy and 3 girls. I've served on the PTA board a couple times, volunteered in Mrs. Rafferty's class, Mrs. Shorts' class, Mrs. Savage's class, Mrs. Lawrence's class, Ms. Trease's class (...) organized Ribbon Week, Mountain Man Rendezvous, helped with Patriot Day, volunteered at This Is the Place Heritage Park, like to recreate historic clothing, do my Visiting Teaching, teach Relief Society, help a little with Mormon Women Stand, blogged at Real Intent, have a chapter in Women of Faith in the Latter Days, blog a little (tiny bit here), make the Sacrament meeting programs, and helped with Cub Scouts."

And that is why we often say, "Hi, I'm Emily, and I'm, uh, just a mom." I think most moms have a list like this unless they have a company or organization to tie themselves to which is much easier to explain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I wanted to write a longer review of Sharon Eubank's Fair Conference Address entitled, "This is a Woman's Church," (which, btw, is worth a read. Sharon is fantastic, in fact, I used to be her secretary!) but I don't think I'll take the time now because in the next few minutes I want to focus on Goddesses, of which she mentions one in her talk.  I'd actually like to take the time to do my own research and make this sound all scholarly, but for now, I'll just post some notes for future use, which is pretty much all I can do anymore.


Sharon said:
Now just as a complete side-note, the Romans had the goddess Hestia or Vesta. She’s a very interesting goddess. She’s a virgin goddess. She doesn’t have family, but she is in charge of all family relationships. And her symbol is the fire on the hearth and it symbolizes life and she is guarding that life. And she’s also the patron goddess of civilization. She’s the mother of Rome. And so her role is to connect all family relationships into a family unity and a local unity and a community and a civilization. So her work is all about weaving things together. And I think that that’s a nice symbolic representation of the role of women.
She continues:
In our scriptures, although we often talk about this scripture in terms of the temple . . ., this is Doctrine and Covenants 88 verse 119. . .  It says: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house…” I don’t think it’s talking about a physical house or even the temple. I think it’s talking about a generation of life. It’s talking about a house in the same way that the Lord promised Jeroboam or David a house. It says: “…establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order…” It’s a house of God. And that’s what I think women have stewardship, to establish that house. They have a particular, gender-based role to establish that house. And men have a corresponding gender-based role to establish that house or that generation of life.
I've started at least one blog post exploring men's duties as organizers of church/es and women as organizers of home and family. I didn't get to develop it very far and never posted it, but perhaps there is some truth to it. Women, by biology and duty and connection to children organize the home and pass on traditions. Yes, men do it too, but I'm not sure that bond to children, home, and family is as strong. Maybe I've mentioned it before, but one time I found a list of who organized churches throughout time in the world, and nearly all the examples were men.  I think that list (wherever it was) showed only one or two women as ever organizing churches.


So our Sunday School classes get a bit away from doctrine sometimes (ok, often), and on Sunday we were talking about how some scholars believe that Heavenly Father's wife's name was Asherah.  However, as it goes, her nature of true Goddess got perverted and she became the female counterpart to the false-god Baal.  The teacher mentioned something about her being associated with wisdom, though. And that's about all I know about that, but it would be interesting to research.


I should probably ask my friend Mary if I can share this, but she posted the idea on Facebook, so I give her all the credit for bringing it up.  Apparently, Egyptians had a strong belief that women were essential to male progression and power.

Mary wrote:
 "For example- the throne that this king (Osiris) is sitting on is Queen Isis's name or glyph. Meaning he derives his authority to rule as pharo, from her. But it get's better, the glyph of "the throne" with the little square in it, is a reference to the fact that her body creates life or "houses" life, so it's a drawing of a house inside the throne. . . . In the story Osiris (king and "father of all") is killed by the serpent, but Isis (queen and "mother of all living") saves the day by giving birth to his son (the kings son) So that Osiris is king of the underworld, and his son, Horus, is prince in the mortal sphere.  Meaning a woman's super power is to create life. It's not a virtue that the western world values, since we measure women on our ability to be as good as a man. . . .  So "Ma'at" is the (female) persona of wisdom justice and truth- all that keeps the earth in order. In this picture she accompanies the man into the presence of the Divine—Isis and Osiris. Her presence signifies that he is worthy to enter heaven. That was my question. Is she a symbol of righteousness like an endorsement? Or is she a real role/person? Michael Rhodes says both and pointed to similar rendering of the scene for many coffins, where the dead man was painted holding his wife's hand as though she was "ma'at."
What strikes me is that the man is only worthy WITH the woman.  I think of abuse cases where the husband is in no way worthy of the wife he abuses.  At the gates of Heaven will he be counted among the faithful with the stains of abuse on his heart?  My mortal view says no: he needed to live a life in harmony and unison with his wife, not of dominance.

D&C 131:
2 And in order to obtain the highest [degree of Glory], a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

It's also interesting that the idea of wisdom is also associated with ma'at as with Asherah.

Heavenly Mother

Another friend, JT, and I can't find her original post, recently shared that while attending BYU's Education Week that she felt very much taught about Heavenly Mother, although the speakers weren't directly speaking of Her, it was more of a Spiritual thing.  I can't wait to hear JT's impressions and what spurred them on when/if she feels to share them.

As Eliza R. Snow said, "truth is reason; truth eternal tells me I've a mother there" and I believe we will come to know her better in time.

Boy Scout Values

Our son recently turned 11 and is now officially a BOY SCOUT! I have a few slight issues with Scouting and its deep-rooted connection with the LDS Church, but I really liked parts of their "Information for Parents" on the application form:

1. "The unit leader must be a good role model because our children's values and lives will be influenced by that leader."  You can say that again. You can't say the kids won't be influenced by the types of leaders the kids have.  They will know.  They will be influenced and I know what and what I don't want my kid influenced by.

2.  "BSA adult registration is restricted to qualified people who subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle. . ."  So what is the Declaration of Religious Principle?

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.  Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.  Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle. . . shall be entitled to . . . membership."  Loved it.  It reminds me of the Masons, how anyone of any faith can join, but it is to foster brotherhood.  Was Robert Baden-Powell a Mason?

Monday, June 30, 2014

The evolution of modern Aaronic Priesthood duties, such as passing the sacrament

Seven or eight years ago or more my husband and I had an interesting discussion with our bishop on the priesthood (he's a personal friend, so it was easy just talking about this stuff). Apparently our bishop had studied a lot about the priesthood and how the structure had changed over the years. He ended up giving me about an inch high stack of papers to read. I got through maybe half of the documents, then life got busy, and my priesthood study pile got stuck in the file drawer until the excitement as of late.

The other night I was reading a page from the Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History on the Aaronic Priesthood. I don't know why, but knowing the history of how things came to be just helps my understanding usually, and I wanted to share. It's like when the ward leadership makes a decision and you think, what a weird decision, but then you learn later why what was done was done, and it all makes sense. Then, the next time your church leaders make a "weird" decision, you just think, aw, ok, there's probably some story behind that. 

Anyway, the encyclopedia first summarizes the offices of the Aaronic priesthood and the duties of each from D&C 20, 84, & 107:

Deacon: assist Teachers 

Teacher: watch over church members, prevent iniquity, lying, backbiting, evil speaking, see that members attend meetings and do their duties, conduct meetings, expound, exhort, teach, invite people to come to Christ.

Priest: preach, teach, expound, exhort, baptize, administer the sacrament, visit, teach member to pray and fulfill family duties, conduct meetings, ordain priests, teachers, and deacons.

Bishop: President of the Aaronic Priesthood

It's important to note that, "Through most of the nineteenth century, male adults filled the Aaronic Priesthood offices, assisted by a few youths."  I remember learning about the priesthood in seminary and thinking that Deacons, Teachers, and Priests did the things mentioned above; however, as an adult, those responsibilities just seem a little, well, too much to handle for such young kids.

The article then points out that there were actually four distinct periods of Aaronic Priesthood history, which really makes a lot of sense getting us from priesthood duties in the 1800s to priesthood duties now.

1. 1829-1845, pre-endowment: "Aaronic Priesthood bearers were adults (except for a few outstanding youths). Their primary duty was to visit members in their homes...."

2. 1846-1877, post-endowment leads to "acting" Aaronic Priesthood bearers: Since men who went on missions or got married received their endowment after the introduction of it in 1845, and a prerequisite to the endowment for men was the Melchizedek Priesthood, few adult men were left to fulfill Aaronic Priesthood duties, so they were called to serve as "acting priests, teachers, and deacons. Some boys received priesthood ordinations...."

3. 1877-1908, ordinations broaden to worthy young men from ages 11-18: "most became deacons and stayed such until becoming elders. Few boys blessed or passed the sacrament or did what is now called home teaching."

4. 1908-Present, Aaronic Priesthood restructured "to be a priesthood for boys. They approved that worthy boys be ordained at set ages and advance through each office: deacons at age 12, teachers at 15, priests at 18, and elders at 21. Church headquarters produced lesson manuals and assigned duties geared to these age levels. For ward teaching, ordained teachers and priests served as junior companion-apprentices to Melchizedek Priesthood holders. . ." (emphasis added to show that the boys were given age-appropriate duties; i.e., the duties have changed a bit from the early days of the Church).

"In 1928 the ages of 12, 15, and 18 were changed to 12, 15, and 17 . . . with the elders' age set at 20. That age was reduced to 18 in October 1934, but by December it was raised to 19. In 1954 the teachers' age became 14, and the priests' age was changed to 16, . . . and elders were ordained at age 20 (now 18)."

It seems to me that the Church wanted to maintain someone in the Aaronic priesthood, and boys would fit the bill, plus, it was the perfect training ground for their future Melchizedek Priesthood service.

I think changes happen so infrequently these days, that it seems nearly utterly shocking when things do change, such as the relatively recent changes to missionary age. Also, duties themselves can change, as they have over the years as mentioned above. One interesting example of duties changing actually involved girls in 1945! The Church News from April 21, 1945 reports that in the SLC 24th ward that there was a shortage of men/boys to collect fast offerings, so the Beehives were assigned to do it for two years. This tells me there's nothing inherently tied to boys collecting fast offerings, it's merely an age-appropriate assignment that helps prepare them for future responsibilities.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thoughts on Holland's "Exclusion or God's Plan"

I quite enjoyed David Holland's thoughts on "Exclusion or God's Plan."

Specifically I liked this contrast, "The idea is that just as men become fathers through a woman’s divinely endowed maternal capacity, so women become endowed with priesthood power through that same divine marriage. Through such a marriage, men and women can both be parents and they can both be priests—and thus through that relationship they both progress toward godliness—even as each retains certain complementary functional distinctions, such as the fact that men are responsible to hold priesthood office.  Mormons that make this case recognize that not all humans will have such a marriage in this life, but LDS theology provides for the fulfillment of such a union in the next. Latter-day Saints of this persuasion are inclined to quote St. Paul: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." 

There was one little sentence that rubbed me just a little wrong, and I wonder if it's because the thought was not completely developed? "Mormon priesthood isn’t just the right to lead a congregation or officiate over sacramental ceremonies. It's a deeply sacerdotal endowment that empowers its holders to speak, act, and heal in the name of God. It alters one’s relationship to the divine."

I felt a bit like he was saying that priesthood holders get to speak, act, and heal, and it makes them closer to God, and if you don't have it, you can't have those things. I don't know if that's really what he was saying, but that's how I interpreted it as I read.  As I mentioned in my recent post on the RS lesson I taught on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, we DO speak and act for God (under priesthood authority) when we serve in our callings or when we serve missions. Additionally, some of us DO have the ability to heal if it is one of our spiritual gifts. I agree that we don't lead congregations in the same way as priesthood holders, nor do we officiate in sacramental ceremonies, and I'm perfectly okay with that. I also don't feel that by not holding the priesthood am I held back from my relationship with God.  Perhaps all Holland was saying, though, was that by having the priesthood, men are more able to do those things mentioned above? I suppose we could look at the flip side  of the last sentence and say child bearing and birth alters one's relationship to the divine, which it does, and I don't think men would be jealous. Anyway, I just wanted to put out there, that I don't feel held back by not holding the priesthood, whether that's what he was saying or not.

Update 6/30: You'll never believe who I got an e-mail from this morning, Brother Holland! It just goes to say, someone might actually read what you write! Ha! He expressed concern for the impression I took away and clarified that he meant that men and women share these duties because of the temple endowment, which if you read the first paragraph I posted, it says just that (which said paragraph actually did come AFTER the paragraph I posted second). So, I think my problem was taking the sentence out of context (as it was not yet completely developed yet), and not tying it into the overall message in the particular section of Holland's interview, which is what I did enjoy. So thank you, Brother Holland!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spiritual Gifts, the Priesthood, and Faith like Potatoes

On Sunday I had the opportunity to teach the Joseph Fielding Smith Chapter 12 lesson on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Of women I've talked to, I don't think many were excited to teach such a lesson, but I was excited for the challenge as the priesthood is something I'm always trying to better understand. This lesson gave me the opportunity to really begin studying again some things I started studying a while ago.

As I began studying, I first needed to remember what the offices of the priesthood were. Then, I needed to figure out do all offices/officers hold keys? Are all offices part of a quorum?  What exactly are priesthood keys?  I wanted everyone to be on the same page with our basic understanding of priesthood organization.  After a lot of research, and coming up with more questions, and even more completely realizing the overlap and layers of the priesthood organization, I came up with the following chart/handout. I believe the information on it is accurate; however, I cannot confirm that it is complete.

Teaching the class was a SUPER experience. I received at least three answers to questions I had while teaching the lesson. I also realized that probably most people are just as confused as I am about the priesthood, which is why so many people are so intimidated when it comes to teaching a lesson about it.

Probably the most significant thing I learned, or at least I need to look into more, is concerning spiritual gifts. We read a quote in the lesson regarding what priesthood holders are to do; it mentioned 5 things:

1.  Preach the gospel
2.  Perform ordinances
3.  Bless mankind
4.  Heal the sick
5.  Perform miracles

I pointed out that we, as women also do these things, and we talked about examples. I wanted to be sure that women were comfortable with particularly the "heal the sick" point as it's not something we see a lot of in our day.  I mentioned how in Moroni (10:11) healing is a spiritual gift and if it is your gift you can use it. We clarified it is not a priesthood blessing with the laying on of hands, but an act and prayer of faith. One gal raised her hand (who told me later that she feels she has the spiritual gift of healing) and mentioned that the priesthood gives men the right to call upon whatever spiritual gift they need when they need it, thus, giving people more access to God's power more of the time (I added that last part).

That is when the lightbulb went on in my head. A few years ago we watched Faith like Potatoes. In the film, the main character raises someone from the dead. I experienced some cognitive dissonance because how could a non-priesthood holder heal or raise someone from the dead?  However, now I realized that if that is his personal spiritual gift from God, and all people have spiritual gifts, then of course it's possible. But, the priesthood allows more access to those spiritual gifts that may not be bestowed upon an individual. Now, I've never read anything that confirms this, it just made a lot of sense and I want to look into it further.

Because of the lesson, I want to study more about the different dispensations and what keys were present during those dispensations. There were more questions, but I'm too tired to remember.

The main points I wanted to leave with the sisters were that the priesthood is the power of God on the earth for the salvation of mankind. It's not just His power, it's His specific method to get his sons and daughters back. After doing initiatories the night before at the SL Temple, I also felt impressed to emphasize that we women act with authority in our callings and in the ordinances we perform.  Also, our goals and purposes are the same as priesthood holders: we are in the business of saving souls. I didn't say it, but I don't know why women don't need to be ordained because we already do, for the most part, the same things as men.*

Like I said, the lesson went really well, better than expected. It was one of those times when I felt guided in what I said; it all came out more smoothly than I would have thought. I hope it inspires more women to go out and learn more about the priesthood, too, and I hope I'll continue to learn.

*My speculations are that according to some, as men thrive in hierarchies like the priesthood, it's a good way to get men to do what they're supposed to. Additionally, I've toyed around with the idea that women are loosely "called" to organize home and family on the earth and men are loosely "called" to organize churches on the earth, with a lot of overlap between the two. One time I looked up how many women organized churches throughout recorded history and of all the religions, I think two had been started by women, although I can't find the source right now.  I read Mormonism, Feminsm, and Being Snarky today, and that's pretty much how I feel about it all, too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Little Gems in the Original Woman's Exponent

Oh you guys, I have so much to write about and too little time. I'd like to expound on this, but for now will just leave some primary sources for later use.

When Joseph Smith originally organized the Relief Society, he said "that he would ordain them to preside over the Society..." (note: not to a priesthood office) but there's strong evidence that he used that word for lack of a better term. If you go to the Women's Exponent from September 1, 1880 vol. 9 no. 7 (I think page 53-54; it's in the Relief Society Reports section, just search for "reports"), it states:

"President Taylor having arrived and being invited to address the sisters … I understand that one of the objects of this meeting is the ordination of officers of the Relief Society who Were elected at our Conference held on Saturday June 19, 1880 at the Salt Lake Assembly Hall.

"On the occasion of the organization of the Relief Society by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, I was present. Sister Emma Smith was elected president and sisters Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland her Counselors. The Prophet Joseph then said that Sister Emma was named in the revelation recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants concerning the Elect Lady and furthermore that she had been ordained to expound the Scriptures. By my request my Secretary Elder L. John Nuttall read to you relative to this meeting from the “Book of the Law of the Lord” at your Conference held June 19th, ult., which explained what was then done.

"The ordination then given did not mean the conferring of the Priesthood upon those sisters yet the sisters hold a portion of thq Priesthood in connection with their husbands. (Sisters Eliza R. Snow and Bathsheba W. Smith, stated that they so understood it in Nauvoo and have looked upon it always in that light.)

"As I stated, at that meeting, that I was called upon by the Prophet Joseph and I did then ordain Sisters Whitney and Cleveland, and blessed Sister Emma and set her apart. I could not ordain these sisters to anything more or to greater powers than had been conferred upon Sister Emma who had previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures, and that Joseph said at that time, that being an elect lady had its significance, and that the revelation was then fulfilled in Sister Emma being thus elected to preside of the Relief Society."

After reading that interesting part, I learned about how Emma actually felt about polygamy and later why the RS was discontinued for a time. These are always things I've wondered, but didn't have a primary source! Well, here they are! Right in The Woman's Exponent.  Perhaps in a few years I can go read all the old issues. Maybe.

"However after this organization at Nauvoo, much disturbance arose among the sisters. I do not wish to be personal especially as Sister Emma is now dead, but think that some of those circumstances should be known. Sister Emma got severely tried in her mind about the doctrine of Plural Marriage and she made use of the position she held to try to pervert the minds of the sisters in relation to that doctrine. She tried to influence my first wife and to make her believe that the revelation was not correct. Sister Taylor was very much troubled thereat and asked me what it meant. Soon after, the prophet Joseph was in my house and I spoke to him in my wife's presence, in relation to what sister Emma had said, and Joseph replied, "Sister Emma would dethrone Jehovah to accomplish her purpose if she could." Some of you sisters are acquainted with what I refer to and of the prejudice that then existed.

"After the death of the Prophet Joseph, in consequence of the confusion then introduced, President B. Young thought it best to defer the operations of this organization---and the labors of the Society ceased, until he organized the sisters again here in this City.

"Those influences then introduced and then operating were not right, for the sisters in the various organization since have accomplished much good and should not be deprived of their rights and privileges because others have done wrong."


For more on the organization of the RS check out this Des News article by Eliza R. Snow.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I finally figured out how to make dinner!

I have struggled for YEARS, especially the last two, with making dinner because it's so chaotic during that time of night when I need to be cooking. Since about Christmas, I've been making freezer meals, and that has helped, but I'm back to the same old problem once the freezer meals run out. However, I've realized my kids lately LOVE to play on the computer. I do let them, but I feel like a horrible mom because I let them. I realized being the mom, though, I can make this computer thing work for me.

I really prefer the kids play no more than 30 minutes on a school night on the computer (but believe me, they've gotten waaaay more than that at times), so I thought, why don't I make them earn their computer time by playing with the two-year old? So, the last couple afternoons/evenings, I've said, you can have 30 minutes of computer time IF you will play with your little sister for 15 minutes. Then, if you want more computer time, you can earn more minute for minute.

I even let the kids go into debt with computer time: they can get on the computer for 30 minutes right after school because I need them shortly after that during cooking time. The timing is actually not as helpful if they tend first.  There are advantages to having your kids in debt to you, I've learned. (I begin to wonder the parallels of having your own kids in debt to you just as we are all indebted to our Heavenly Father and Savior).

I cannot tell you how much less stressful my evenings have been because the older kids are playing with the two year old. The bonus is that our 8-year old daughter is especially enjoying it and is tending extra time, and has said twice now it is the highlight of her day! Even our 10-year old son has tended extra because he's having fun.

I'm really grateful to have figured this out and hope it lasts.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Women and the Priesthood by Sheri Dew Review

I have absolutely LOVED Women and the Priesthood by Sheri Dew. I finished it last night. I've heard that it hasn't been a big seller (source?), but I expect that's due to most LDS women being comfortable with their roles in the LDS church and in relation to the priesthood. Even though the book is directed toward women, ANYONE will benefit from this book! I love how Sheri Dew made me feel just so good and important and powerful as a human being in God's Plan!

I liked her subtitle, "What One Mormon Woman Believes," as that indicates not all LDS women feel this way, nor do they need to; this is merely her understanding of the topic.

The only thing I did not like was the format of the pages. When I read a book, I write all over the pages, but because there were big pop out quotes on a majority of the pages, they took up my writing space! There are several pages at the end of the book for journaling, but I prefer to write my thoughts on the pages where they came to mind. I know, silly thing to be bothered by.

I honestly have underlining on nearly very page, notes on most pages, and some pages took 30 minutes to read because they led to discussion with my husband. I have notes on what to study more, questions I have, and stars by things I love.  I'd like to write out pages and pages of notes here to easily refer back to, but due to insufficient time, I'll just write about my favorite chapter and then share some favorite quotes from the book.

One of my favorite chapters was chapter 3, "Goed Expects Women to Receive Revelation." If you've forgotten how to receive personal revelation, read this chapter; it's a great summary.
The only limitations on our communications with our Heavenly Father are those we impose on ourselves. We impose those limitations by not seeking, not asking, and not learning how to receive answers, gifts, and information. 53
Another favorite chapter was chapter 7: "God Reserved the High Privilege of Motherhood for Women." I didn't know how Sheri Dew would present the whole priesthood vs. motherhood thing, and I guess I didn't sense that the "battle" really even came up in the book, but I do know that I did feel really good about my role as a woman/mother after reading this chapter.

Basically, I realized that women, because they have even the potential to create life that they need to be utterly protected and cherished by others (men). Men play a small role in that creation, but women grow the life inside them. They are the gatekeepers of the future; without women, there is no future. How ironic that those who hold the future have been so often abused throughout history.

Killer Quotes
". . . Questions are good.  Questions lead to answers, as demonstrated by the Prophet Joseph Smith and countless others. The crucial issue is not about asking questions, it is the spirit in which questions are asked.  A question posed against a backdrop of doubt and criticism---i.e., 'I don't understand thus and such, so the Church must not be true'---can be debilitating, as it negates faith and leaves a person unable to be guided by the Spirit to learn. On the other hand, the same question asked in an environment of faith---'I don't understand thus and such, and I wonder what the Lord will teach me about that question'---demonstrates faith in the Lord and the hope that at some point an answer will be made clear. . . ." 8

"I've had far too many witnesses that the gospel is true and that the keys, power, and authority of the Savior's kingdom have been restored to let [LDS Church] organizational issues discourage me." 9

"Those who believe they have no need of revelation are increasingly left to themselves, and regardless of how bright, educated or accomplished they are, eventually the adversary will outwit, outfox, and outmaneuver them." 52

Quoting Bruce R. McConkie, "From an eternal perspective, what each of us needs is a Ph.D. in faith and righteousness. The things that will profit us everlastingly are not the power to reason, but the ability to receive revelation." 58

"There are many things about the priesthood and the division of responsibilities between men and women that I don't yet understand. This does not concern me, however, because wrestling with spiritual questions is a fundamental element of a religious life. It is an exercise that not only increases knowledge but strengthens faith." 133

". . . the things I don't yet understand do not negate what I do know." 133

"We have not been asked to store wheat, as were our sisters of yesteryear. We have not been required to pull handcarts over Rocky Ridge. But we have been asked to store faith. . . ." 173

I hope to find time to go back and re-read and further ponder and get answers to the questions that have come into my mind while reading this book; it was truly enlightening.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Car Keys and the Priesthood

I'm working on a summary of Women and the Priesthood by Sheri Dew, but wanted to jot down a little analogy now that popped into my head when I was reading Chapter 6: "Both Women and Men Have Access to God's Highest Spiritual Blessings."

When I first heard the analogy of the priesthood being like an umbrella, where the man holds the umbrella, but its blessings cover both men and women, I liked it, but I think this car analogy may work even better.

Which part of the car is most important? The engine, the brakes, the steering, the separate and little and oh so losable key? Can we even say? I don't think we can say which part is most important. Each part serves its function, and none can properly function without other connected parts. It is the key, however, that activates the car; it is not most important at it serves as part of a whole system, but it is absolutely necessary.
Can we compare the car key and its function with the rest of car to the priesthood and its function for all humankind?  Just as a key is a part of a larger system, men, who hold the priesthood (including priesthood keys) are also part of the larger system of humankind and have a specific duty in God's Plan of Happiness.  Does this make them more important than women and children? No, but they are necessary to fulfill a specific purpose: to hold the key (or the priesthood). The key turns to activate the Relief Society, the stakes, the patriarchs, the temples, and so forth.

I think you can extend the analogy to making women the key in the roles they play, particularly regarding growing babies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oh man, this totally made me cry. World's Toughest Job

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spiritual Gifts and Personal Revelation

For Christmas I got Sheri Dew's Women and The Priesthood and have been SO IMPRESSED with it. I hope I'll be able to blog more about the entire book later, but I can't get a certain section out of my mind regarding spiritual gifts and personal revelation. I thought it's certainly applicable to receiving personal revelation at General Conference and in discerning some of the current social trends.  From page 64:

President George Q. Cannon encouraged us to pray for gifts of the Spirit that would countermand and eradicate our weaknesses: "If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. . . ."
Spiritual gifts are given to those who seek after them, and they are given to those whom the Lord can trust to use them to bless others.
If some of the prevailing social winds run counter to gospel doctrine, and that conflict concerns or confuses you, search the scriptures and the teachings of living prophets, seers, and revelators [Conference] and seek to understand the Lord's way and to recognize how and why the Lord's way differs from man's. As you study, pray for the gifts of wisdom and discernment.
If you're not sure if you're feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost, or you wonder if you are accurately translating the impressions you're receiving, ask the Lord to tutor you through the ministering of the Spirit.  Ask him to lead you to scriptures and to teachings of the living prophets [Conference] that will help you grow in the spirit of revelation.  Look for every evidence in the scriptures of direct communication between heaven and mortals on earth, because in those accounts lie instructions for learning the language of revelation.
Isn't that WONDERFUL?

I just have to jot down a little note about that very last sentence of looking to the scriptures for "direct communication between heaven and mortals."  At our last stake conference, we were encouraged to read the Book of Mormon three times with three different emphases, one of which was to see how God dealt with his children.  I've totally missed the one month deadline, but it's really neat to see how God does deal with His children---how he talks to us!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Effects of Culture on Behavior

Someone posted a link to We Aren't the World recently on Facebook. Being about culture, I was intrigued even though it took me probably a week to getting around to reading it. It was so fascinating, it deserved a blog post rather than merely a Pin! I was actually going to make this short, but after trying to write it, I've just had to copy out a bunch of quotes from the article then interject just a few of my own thoughts.

It's been a few days now since I read it, but it started out in 1995, when an anthropologist went to study some indigenous people to "prove" that fairness is an inherent trait. What he found was the opposite! He found that culture shaped people's view of fairness rather than it being universal!

[Now I'm just going to quote a lot.  Please pardon my massive lack of summarizing.]

[He wondered] What other certainties about “human nature” in social science research would need to be reconsidered when tested across diverse populations?

[He also found that in regards to economy, it] hadn’t been shaped by our sense of fairness; it was the other way around.

Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. . . .96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.

Henrich’s work with the ultimatum game was an example of a small but growing countertrend in the social sciences, one in which researchers look straight at the question of how deeply culture shapes human cognition.

It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world, it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors.

Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations.

Studies show that Western urban children grow up so closed off in man-made environments that their brains never form a deep or complex connection to the natural world. While studying children from the U.S., researchers have suggested a developmental timeline for what is called “folkbiological reasoning.” These studies posit that it is not until children are around 7 years old that they stop projecting human qualities onto animals and begin to understand that humans are one animal among many. Compared to Yucatec Maya communities in Mexico, however, Western urban children appear to be developmentally delayed in this regard. Children who grow up constantly interacting with the natural world are much less likely to anthropomorphize other living things into late childhood.

Recent research has shown that people in “tight” cultures, those with strong norms and low tolerance for deviant behavior (think India, Malaysia, and Pakistan), develop higher impulse control and more self-monitoring abilities than those from other places. Men raised in the honor culture of the American South have been shown to experience much larger surges of testosterone after insults than do Northerners. Research published late last year suggested psychological differences at the city level too. Compared to San Franciscans, Bostonians’ internal sense of self-worth is more dependent on community status and financial and educational achievement.

...if human cognition is shaped by cultural ideas and behavior, it can’t be studied without taking into account what those ideas and behaviors are and how they are different from place to place.

This new approach suggests the possibility of reverse-engineering psychological research: look at cultural content first; cognition and behavior second.

When Norenzayan became a student of psychology in 1994, four years after his family had moved from Lebanon to America, he was excited to study the effect of religion on human psychology. “I remember opening textbook after textbook and turning to the index and looking for the word ‘religion,’ ” he told me, “Again and again the very word wouldn’t be listed. This was shocking. How could psychology be the science of human behavior and have nothing to say about religion? Where I grew up you’d have to be in a coma not to notice the importance of religion on how people perceive themselves and the world around them.”

If religion was necessary in the development of large-scale societies, can large-scale societies survive without religion? Norenzayan points to parts of Scandinavia with atheist majorities that seem to be doing just fine. They may have climbed the ladder of religion and effectively kicked it away. Or perhaps, after a thousand years of religious belief, the idea of an unseen entity always watching your behavior remains in our culturally shaped thinking even after the belief in God dissipates or disappears.

90 percent of neuroimaging studies were performed in Western countries. Researchers in motor development similarly suggestedthat their discipline’s body of research ignored how different child-rearing practices around the world can dramatically influence states of development. Two psycholinguistics professors suggested that their colleagues had also made the same mistake: blithely assuming human homogeneity while focusing their research primarily on one rather small slice of humanity.

the amount of knowledge in any culture is far greater than the capacity of individuals to learn or figure it all out on their own. He suggests that individuals tap that cultural storehouse of knowledge simply by mimicking (often unconsciously) the behavior and ways of thinking of those around them.

[What does this imply regarding the tone of conversations online? That we see others behaving badly, so we do it, too? What does this imply regarding people whining and complaining about church doctrine and policy? That they see others do it, the culture changes, and they do it, too? What does this say about homosexuality and the acceptance of SSM and on and on? That the culture changes and these things become more acceptable.]

We shape a tool in a certain manner, adhere to a food taboo, or think about fairness in a particular way, not because we individually have figured out that behavior’s adaptive value, but because we instinctively trust our culture to show us the way.

Those trying to use economic incentives to encourage sustainable land use will similarly need to understand local notions of fairness to have any chance of influencing behavior in predictable ways.

Because of our peculiarly Western way of thinking of ourselves as independent of others, this idea of the culturally shaped mind doesn’t go down very easily.

different cultures foster strikingly different views of the self, particularly along one axis: some cultures regard the self as independent from others; others see the self as interdependent.

we in the West develop brains that are wired to see ourselves as separate from others may also be connected to differences in how we reason

[Why do you think some parents are so upset at little league? They want their kid to stand out from among the rest, to be the exception, rather than part of the group. Sorry, baseball was invented in a time when we were more interdependent, so we've got to play as a team. If you want an individualistic sport, go find a more modern one. Why do I struggle so much with wanting "me time"? Because I've been trained to be individualistic through my culture. Why put myself out to serve others all the time when it should just be all about me? Why even have kids? It's all about me.]

Whether you think of yourself as interdependent or independent may depend on whether your distant ancestors farmed rice (which required a great deal of shared labor and group cooperation) or herded animals (which rewarded individualism and aggression).

4/8/14 addition/continuation of the thought:  Today I was talking to my friend, Polly, explaining my journey to figure out how to better enjoy motherhood (as documented in this blog).  I told her that it wasn't that I wanted to be a career woman or not have kids, I just didn't want to be so selfless and have to serve everyone else all the time!  We live in this very individualistic culture, would this whole motherhood thing have been easier had I lived in a culture that values the group and self-sacrifice?  I guess it probably would.  I think an advantage we do have, though, is the culture of the gospel, where we are taught to give and serve.  Imagine how much  more difficult this whole motherhood journey would be even without that background.

Articles I'd like to read

I thought I'd jot these down here before I lose them in my e-mail!  Originally posted 11/14/10

A Woman of Faith, Nadauld:

Teaching the Doctrine of the Family, Beck
Incredible article, one of the best I've ever read.

Focus and Priorities, Oaks

Joy in the Journey, Monson
This is the talk where President Monson reminds us to appreciate each season of life because it will pass away.  We should tell our family members we love them.  We should remember what is important.  Fill our days with the things that matter most.

The Joy of Womanhood, Nadauld
Lots of good quotes.

The Women of God, Maxwell 5/1978
Very good; classic quotes.

Marriage is Essential to His Eternal Plan, Bednar
Similar to "Teaching the Doctrine on the Family" by Julie Beck

Families Can Be Eternal, Kimball

Lessons from Eve, Nelson
The one thing that really stood out to me in this article is near the end when Elder Nelson is talking about teaching our children "honesty, self-reliance, avoidance of unnecessary debt."  It struck me that to be a productive member of society, we need those skills.  If we're not self-reliant when something goes wrong in the world, we're kind of useless.  It's like Maslow's Hierarchy of needs:  We need basic needs met first before we can do other things -- make sure the temporal needs are in place and other things will fall into place.

A "Mother Heart" Beck
A favorite quote:  "She gains as much education as her circumstances will allow, improving her mind and spirit with the desire to teach what she learns to the generations who follow her."  And:  "Oh, that every girl and woman would have a testimony of her potential for eternal motherhood as she keeps her earthly covenants. “Each is a beloved … daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine … destiny” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”). As spirit daughters of God, women “received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth” (D&C 138:56) on the earth. They were among the “noble and great ones” (D&C 138:55) who “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) at the creation of the earth because they would be given a physical body with the opportunity to be proven in a mortal sphere (see Abr. 3:25). They wished to work side by side with righteous men to accomplish eternal goals that neither can attain independently."

My friend Bridget sent most of the above to me.

3/24/14: On Facebook, Jocelyn Christensen was looking for talks on womanhood.  I thought I'd read a lot, but there were so many more!  So, to add to the list, many from Stephanie Sorensen and Chocolate on my Cranium, and others:

“And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit”, Beck

To Young Women - Ensign Nov. 2005, Holland

The Moral Force of Women - general-conference, Christofferson

How women can help build the kingdom
" woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is. I like to think of us as the Lord’s secret weapon. If we did have name tags, I would want mine to read: “Sheri Dew, Woman of God, Busy Building the Kingdom of God.”
I"what would happen in this Church if every morning 4.5 million of us got on our knees and asked our Father who He needed us to reach out to that day. And then imagine if we did it!'

Pondering Mormon Women and Priesthood, (list at Mormon Women)

And I scraped up the ones I've blogged about here: