Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Desiderata

I was raised by parents who grew up in California in the 1960's, and a parent who attended Berkeley at the height of the hippy movement in 1968, so its no surprise that the Desiderata was displayed on the wall in our home. Growing up, I was impressed by the simple wisdom of its words, and how the truth contained in that document could guide my family for good. Later when my father passed away, my mother and I felt it was very fitting to print the text on the back of his memorial service program. It is my new project to memorize it in its entirety. I'm doing pretty well so far.

This means of course that I was successful in memorizing Doctrine and Covenants 121:42-45. I feel that these two spiritual thoughts are connected, in this way:

Both offer guidance for interacting with others in many life situations: parenting, marriage, peers, business associates, advocacy efforts. It is these situations that I encounter most frequently, and where I feel that I need to improve. There is much I want to accomplish and it almost always requires cooperating with others to accomplish that goal. I need this direction most, I believe, in my parenting as I strive to treat my children with love and kindness and teach them the lessons that are important in life.

Of course, as I lament frequently, getting advice and direction on what to do in any given situation is easier than finding the "how-to." The How to is so often situation specific, nuanced and subtle that the how to much be felt out and be personal to the one figuring it out. I pray frequently to have the insights to do just that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Honor thy father and thy mother

Exodus 20:12
"12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

So would the converse of that be:

If you don't honor your father and mother, your days won't be long upon the land??

Is this a case for filicide?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Re-birthday to Me!

For our Family Home Evening tonight, I decided we would celebrate as a family my baptism 8 years ago tomorrow. It was the first time that I told Willem about my conversion story (in very simplified language). My message was basically: "I know Heavenly Father in my father in heaven, and that he loves me. For a long time, I didn't know that. And there was a time I was really sad and Heavenly Father helped me feel better and because of that I decided to live his commandments and do what he told me was right. So I got baptized. Do you know what baptism is? Its when I went all the way under the water when a man said "I baptize you...." and when I came out I was clean and was given a new life to live. Its how I promised Heavenly Father that I would do what he wants me to do. When you are eight years old, you can get baptized too if you want to and you can promise the same thing to Heavenly Father. "

Willem's response, well interruptions:

"Heavenly Father is you dad? I know Heavenly Father is my dad too."

"I know Heavenly Father loves me too!"

"When I was baptized, I was washed-ed!"

When we asked him how old he would be when he gets baptized he said "Eight!"

Even a two year old can testify of the truthfulness of certain aspects of the gospel. I am amazed and joyful to see him beginning to understand some of those basic and profound truths.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reproving Betimes with Sharpness

The scripture that has offered me the most day-to-day guidance in my life is D&C 121: 41-44. Although it may be the recipe for properly using priesthood authority, I also view it as the proper behavior for parenting. Perhaps, the role of mother is actually an office of the priesthood too?

The topic of guidance and discipline is one of the hardest for me to implement with a typical 2 year old. The scripture provides insight in how to do so yet I have been most confused by how does one "reprov[e] betimes with sharpness?" The footnote offers some more clarity (how's that for a pun) as it states that sharpness in this case refers more to the concept of clarity used in photography. The opposite of clarity in that sense is blur. When reproving, the directions we give or chastising ought not to be unclear, muddy or incomprehensible.

I have tried to do this in my parenting and I'm pleased to report a success it in. Like usual, the two year old and I were struggling about naptime. He doesn't like but he needs it. That day I was able to gently, without getting frustrated or losing patience, get him to his room for a nap and clearly stated the purpose of his time in there. When he awoke (or when a sufficient time had passed and I heard him making noise again), I greeted him. We talked briefly and he happily got up to continue his play. As I walked down the stairs behind him, I wondered, "Did I do the scripture? Did I reprove with sharpness (clarity) without maintaining power by the virtue of my status as "the parent? And then show an increase of love?" I felt the comforting assurance from the Spirit that I had. I need to feel that more often in relation to my efforts at parenting.

That experience has led me to want to memorize that scripture. Here I am going to attempt to state it from memory and as I continue to work on it, hopefully there will be some improvement.

Oct 6, 1am:
"No power or dominion ought to be maintained by the power of the priesthood, only by persuasion, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned. Reproving betimes with sharpness and afterwards showing an increase in love."

--Close, but missing verse 42 and 44 completely.

"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by the virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by gentleness and meekness and love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge that greatly enlargeth the soul without guile. Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost and afterwards showing forth an increase in love so he does not esteem thee as his enemy."

--Still missing verse 44. Missing long suffering, without hypocrisy, and to him you have reproved.

Oct 7 11:04 pm (I found I need to create blank space between so I can't see the previous attempt)
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by the virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by gentleness and meekness and by love unfeigned. By kindness and by pure truth without guile. Reproving betimes with sharpness and showing afterward an increase of love to him who you have reproved so he does not esteem thee to he his enemy, but that you will be faithful until the end of your days."

11:20 pm
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by the virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by gentleness and meekness and by love unfeigned. By kindness and pure knowledge which doth greatly enlarge the soul with _______ and without guile. Reproving betimes with sharpness, being moved upon by the Holy Ghost and afterwards showing forth an increase of love to him who have reproved so he doth not esteem thee to be his enemy so that he may know that they faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death."

Closer, I'll try again tomorrow night.

Oct 9
I think I have it:
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by the virtue of the priesthood, but only be persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness and love unfeigned. By kindness and pure knowledge which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile. Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love to him {whom} thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy {-so} that he may know thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death."

Missing one word and adding another. Not too bad. Should I also work on memorizing the correct punctuation? Maybe tomorrow night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mormons and Social the same sentence!?


Mormons for Equality and Social Justice

I was raised Unitarian Universalist, and still have a fondness for the true and gospelly-sound principles found in that theological system. The UUs are very involved with social justice concerns. That sense of social awareness never left me as a converted to LDS theology. In fact, my desire to help others and my "love of God and for all men" was increased. So I got all excited about the good that Latter-day Saints could do with the impressive resources of the Church on social justice issues. And then I got confused because I didn't see it happening. Sure, I knew that some LDS somewhere were engaged in certain social justice issues. But as an activist I know that there is strength in numbers, that people cooperating and working together in a common cause is more effective than individuals working separately.

So glad to come across MESJ. I hope there will be others around me that I can connect with. I'll likely be posting more about this exciting line of involvement.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sharing the gospel line upon line

"The plan of happiness is available to all of his children. If the world would embrace and live it, peace, joy, and plenty would abound on the earth. Much of the suffering we know today would be eliminated if people throughout the world would understand and live the gospel” -M. Russell Ballard, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I know this to be true, but how arrogant, presumptuous is this to people who do not share this belief? How off-putting would that be?

I have struggled to find out to share this truth with the friends and family members in my life.

Tonight the Spirit whispered in response to that query "Line upon line." That of course is from the verses in Isaiah.

This has been the approach I have been taking as a ward missionary in our ward mission activities. We have started doing semi-regular Family Home Evenings for the community and for Latter-day Saints to invite their friends. The lessons that we are starting with are pretty secular at first look. Yet, it is starting with one line of gospel truth.

This last Monday night, the truth was spending time with your family brings greater happiness to your family.

Most would agree with that, some practical ideas were suggested on ways to enjoy spending time together as a family. My two year old contributed to the conversation with "Eat food!" Very good, son. Eating meals together is an excellent way to strengthen family bonds.

I am hoping this approach is a gentle, non-intrusive introduction to the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am vary of putting out there at first deep topics that can be off-putting to those who believe differently. For an atheist (which I once was), a lesson on Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer of the world would not help, invite or encourage that individual to return. Building on common grounds: simple gospel truths that most agree with, I hope is a way to invite community members to learn more about the more profound and overtly religious truths of the gospel.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Who created the earth?

According to Willem, Nana did.

This was during a family home evening lesson. After the prayer and song, he testified that he is a child of God.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

But I want to get married!

This is a conversation that Willem and I had today:

Me: Willem, we need to go visit the temple sometime soon.

Willem: We go to the temple with Julia?

Me: You still want to marry Julia in the temple?

Willem: Yup.

Me: Do you know how long it will be until you can get married? You aren't legally old enough to get married. As Latter-day Saints, we believe that we are subject to the laws of the land and we uphold and obey them. That means you can't get married until you are 18, or 16 if you have our permission as your parents.

Willem: But I want to get married! (and cries a little)

This is a continuation of a conversation that Willem and I started a few months ago when I told him that his daddy and I were married in the temple. He said that he wanted to get married in the temple too. When I asked him who he named a little boy who lived next door first. When I said that we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that he would have to think of a girl to marry, he picked a friends' little girl: Julia. He apparently remembers that's who he wants to marry.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wise Stewards over the Earth

I have been searching out the scriptural principles of responsibility towards the earth and how to sustain optimal health. I have found that the scriptures--some included below (at least in my estimation of things) coincide with the following "secular" works. I have begun to subscribe to many of these practices as best as I am able. Often its not very much, but I feel that I benefit from the awareness.

Food Matters: A guide to conscious eating by Mark Bittman
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Having Faith: An Ecologists Guide to Motherhood
The Body Toxic

cloth diapering
sustainable food, body care products, household items, clothing, toys
avoiding dangerous chemicals, poisons, environmental contaminants

D&C 104: 13-15, 17
3 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.
14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.
15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

D&C 59: 16-20
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

D&C 89: 10-16
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

Daniel 1:11-17
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse (IE foods made of seeds, grains, etc.) to eat, and water to drink.
13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

2 Samuel 17:27-29
27 And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,
28 Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,
29 And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.

D&C 93:35
35 The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple

1 Cor. 6: 19
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

Blessings of
D&C 89: 18-21
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm working on two projects right now: a letter writing campaign to the Presidential Advisor on Violence Against Women (an office of the Department of Justice) describing the violations of civil rights and federal law that frequently occur to women during the births of their children and applying to a PhD program for next year.

I have felt led to do both of these and so have continued in the faith that it was the right thing to do. I have also been seeking confirmation along the way. This is how I have received confirmation for both activities. Its either confirmation or coincidence.

The Visiting Teaching Lesson in the Ensign this month is "Seek Education and Lifelong Learning." Interesting that this topic would be published in the Church magazine and I would read it just after the decision to apply for continued education was made.

The Sunday School less this week D&C:124 where the Prophet Joseph Smith is counseled by the Lord to petition the President of the United States regarding the injustices occurring to the early Latter-day Saints in frontier Missouri and Illinois (during the 1840's). Isn't that an interesting parallel to the letter that I am writing as part of my non-profit?

Could this be coincidence? Sure, it could be. Or one could take into account the belief that "all things are spiritual unto the Lord."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Can Latter-day Saints believe in evolution?

My short answer is yes.

Hugh Nibley lends support:
"It takes us back to the earliest drama of Adam and the animals. He lives with them on intimate terms. He must have because he called them all by name, and they were all around him in overwhelming force. He was living in another world then, and we don't know how long it lasted since "as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning" (Abraham 5:13). This was before he entered with Eve into the garden and the covenant of marriage. It was the earth's turn to bring forth new types of "beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey" (Abraham 4:25). Again the moment of testing; it is as if new ideas were being tried out in the new world."

--source: from the Neal A Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

The length of time to create the animals of the earth could be (and based on the preponderance of evidence indicating evolution of species has taken place) long enough for animals to evolution and adapt based on natural processes. If one were to recall the commonly stated belief that extinct animals were "God's mistakes," it would be easy to reframe a mistake as a "test;" as species developed, adapted and changed to suit their environments, and as the earth itself changed over the course of time. Quite possibly the millions of years needed for those natural processes to occur. We can remember that God's time is not man's time--"in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these are one year with God, but not with man" (D&C 88:44).

I have in the past read other works that also lend credence to the idea that the periods of the creation allowed enough time--millions of years--before man came onto the world scene. The scriptures refer to each "day" of creation but the same could be understood as "creative periods." If I come across more evidence of this, I will edit and repost.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Study Notes- Covenants

I have thrown myself back into a study of the gospel. I'm now turning my studies into topical research that I hope will illuminate my study of the scriptures so when I go back to read them, I can have an increased understanding from a more scholarly point of view. Its an experiment on my part to see if I can be more engaged in spiritual study.

My newest resource is a dosier of documents compiled by my husband's mission president. I have begun reading through it and find that I want an electronic place to keep notes, especially lists of references of which I would like to obtain and read more.

In an article about covenants and their place in religion throughout history, I want to read the books: Temple and Cosmos by Hugh Nibley, Sinai and Zion by Jon Levenson and The Sacred and Profane by Mircea Eliade. Of course they are not available through my local library system. Maybe I will have to get over my desire to be cheap and actually invest money and not just time to my studies...

I will tag this and other posts about my notes as "notes" and maybe keep track of them that way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stumbling into an answer to prayer

A pondering of mine from the last few months is on the topic of social programs offered by the LDS Church. My scholastic and religious education and work experience have instilled in me a belief in social programs. Growing up outside of the LDS Church, I was very familiar with churches which offered social services to their communities. I speculate that one of the reasons for these services was to attract people to learn about and hopefully become members of their churches.

In my home stake, I saw a similar program instituted: the Tell Me About Your Family Program that was piloted in Northern California. It was a service that was offered to all members of the community. People would fill out a card with birth and death date information for their parents and grandparents and LDS volunteers and family history researchers would compile whatever genealogical information they could find for that individual in a span of 6 hours.

While a Marriage, Family and Human Development Major at BYU, I was a research assistant for the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. BYU was one of the grantee institutions for the center and it was our job to synthesize academic research regarding marriage and family functioning into easy to read briefs which were then posted onto the resource center website as a public service.

My first "real" job out of college was working for a non-profit where my grant required me to provide workshops and trainings to child care providers in my community in an attempt to improve care and early learning experiences and promote school readiness for young children.

In my graduate studies, I learned about the many (surprisingly many!) publicly funded social services programs that can be found in communities around the country. I was most familiar with those funded by the Healthy Marriage Initiative which granted churches, community based organizations, and schools money to provide marriage education and promotion services to communities.

My thoughts of course immediately turned to the LDS church. Couldn't a stake or ward seek after a grant (or use tithing money) to provide marriage and family life education programs to community members? The LDS Church already teaches the Marriage and Family Relations Class to members of the church during Sunday School. But I was thinking of adapting that curriculum to teach it to non-members of the church. The LDS beliefs and teaching about marriage, parenting and families would be incorporated into that so non-members would have the opportunity to learn about LDS doctrines. It could be used as a missionary tool.

I have wondered why the church doesn't engage in this sort of activity. Has it been because no one has tried? Is it because it wouldn't be approved? So far, I've just complained about what I perceive of as a lack and felt discouraged by any (very weak) attempts I've made to inquire about the possibility of it.

Then one night last week, I ran into something that addressed some of my questions. If I had sought out the answers on my own, I wouldn't have come across this document because the search terms I would have thought of and used wouldn't have brought it up. I was actually searching for church published material on spanking in my gospel study of parenting practices. What I found was this article: I Have A Question Sep. 1982.

I love how the article basically says in response to the question, "Why doesn’t the Church launch campaigns to end world hunger and ease the sufferings of the needy?" We do. And you should. And the gospel has the power to solve every social ill. So people should join the church and much suffering will be relieved.

I find encouraging the application of the scripture: "be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27). When discussing this idea with my Relief Society president, I was counseled to do this outside of my membership of the church and as a community member, that it was not within the role of the local church unit to forge relationships with other entities to provide services of any sort (outside the humanitarian efforts). In my personal life, I have been deeply involved with a couple of volunteer organizations so I feel that I'm doing as she counseled, but I have felt a draw (I don't know by which spirit) to engage the church and my ward in something that provides a service and attracts people to the church.

So finding that article was an answer to prayer that I didn't expect to find and wasn't looking for at the time, but it has spoken to some of my feelings and thoughts of the last few months. As I have continued to ponder, I have more to pray over; particularly how I can be involved in services that would help strengthen families and communities by putting my education and training to use; and whether it is through involvement with the church or professionally.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Celebrating the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ

Historical accounts widely accept that it is very unlikely that Christ was born on December 25. There is much discussion and writings into why this is, which I'm not going to include here. At this point, I'm relying on teachings that I have learned aurally in the past.

From what I was taught, Christmas was placed on December 25 in an attempt by the leaders of the early Christian religion to eclipse the pagan holiday celebrations of the Winter Solstice. This is evidenced by the many pagan traditions that have become part of the Christian celebration of the holiday. But when scholars have looked to corroborate the date of Christ's birth, they find that it was randomly placed there. Historical records from the time point to other times of the year. The one that I have learned about with most certainty would be in early Spring time as it coincides with the time of year when Galilee was taxed (remember that the reason why Mary and Joseph were traveling was because law decreed that they must go and be taxed). Also from what I've learned, the solar eclipse that was reported around the time of his birth occurred in Spring rather than midwinter.

Most modern Christian churches recognize that Christmas is not truly Christ's birthday, and continue to believe that they cannot know the true date of his birth without it being revealed by God, which in their belief will not occur until after death and being reunited with God. I have heard my Protestant Christian friends say its one of their questions on their list to ask God when they get there--meaning to his presence. Contrast that belief to teachings of the LDS Church which teach that the answer to that unknowable question has been revealed through revelation to modern-day prophets.

The scriptural citation to evidence the actual day of Christ's birthday can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 20:1
THE rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—

That verse teaches that the LDS Church was officially organized on April 6, 1830 and that day happened to correspond to the birth of Jesus Christ. Later a prophet of the early restored church stated:
"As to the season of the year in which Christ was born, there is among the learned as great a diversity of opinion as that relating to the year itself. It is claimed by many Biblical scholars that December 25th, the day celebrated in Christendom as Christmas, cannot be the correct date. We believe April 6th to be the birthday of Jesus Christ as indicated in a revelation of the present dispensation already cited in which that day is made without qualification the completion of the one thousand eight hundred and thirtieth year since the coming of the Lord in the flesh. This acceptance is admittedly based on faith in modern revelation, and in no wise is set forth as the result of chronological research or analysis. We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, 1 B.C." 7 Online source

Even though this is believed to be true by LDS people, that date offers some inconveniences for celebrations. It is the day of the organization of the Church, every few years coincides with the semiannual General Conference of the church, sometimes Easter or the celebrations of his death and resurrection. Its certainly easier to celebrate his birth on a different day than the "true" one. And while LDS people strive to be a "peculiar people" they don't aim to be so peculiar as to move their Christmas celebrations to April.

Except maybe me.

I'm still undecided but I feel very odd celebrating Christmas in December knowing all the pagentry is a sham. The intent and heartfelt devotion may be genuine so much to the point that it doesn't matter when the holiday is celebrated, but I find it feels hallow to me.

This year on April 6, my two year old heard me mention to my husband that day was Jesus's birthday. The toddler's next request was to watch a video of Jesus. That was the first time he had requested that, but he knows all about watching videos of cars and animals, so why not about Jesus? Thankfully we did have videos produced by the Church in our video library. The one I could find easiest was called The Nativity which depicts the events surrounding Christ's birth. I was very excited to be able to share the story of Christ's birth with my young child on Christ's birthday.

That is how we celebrated April 6 this year, and maybe it will be a family tradition. I think that I would certainly like it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jenneology and the Spirit of Elijah

I was asked to submit my experiences with family history and temple work for an article in the ward newsletter, and this is what I wrote:

My conversion to the gospel was very dependent on understanding and knowing about the temple. I was looking for the way that I could be reunited with my father who had died when I was 15. The doctrine of sealing ordinances was a joyful relevation for me. After I joined the church, I had to learn how to do family history in order to get my dad's name ready to go to the temple. That was when I was introduced to the Family History Centers and genealogy. I started looking up ancestors and got hooked really quickly. As the first latter-day saint in my family, I was really excited to put together the family information that relatives had shared with me.

Growing up, my family had been very proud of their Swedish and Italian ancestry so I knew some information. One of my friends realized how interested I was in genealogy and one time wrote me a note that joked that my name could be "Jenneology." I loved it and it became my screen name, email address, etc. My family history has truly become part of my identity.

Once I transfered to BYU, I felt like I was in the Vatican City of family history research and one semester I was very lucky to be able to spend 6+ hours a day collecting family history in the BYU Family History Library. I loved living 10 minutes from a temple and attending once a week, sometimes more. I loved calling home and telling my mother the information I discovered. I had a relative on the Mayflower, soldiers who fought in the Revolution and the Civil War for both the Union and Confederacy. One ancestor was a contemporary and friend of John Calvin and immigrated to Switzerland with him. I found a connection to a Danish prince from Shakespeare and traced one line back to 457 in France. It was truly fascinating and exciting work. I was proud to have been swept up by the Spirit of Elijah.

It was during that time that I learned that I really like to research and data entry is relaxing to me (strange, I know!). I became skilled at using Personal Ancestral File, Temple Ready,,, census records, requesting records from vital statistics and reading microfiche. As a product of the technological revolution and the information age, I loved all the digital resources the LDS Church had compiled and how easy it was to find out so much using the internet.

Although I loved the work I was doing, I also realized that it is an imperfect system and I began wishing that Temple Ready could be done using the internet instead of going into the Family History Center. I heard rumors that the Church was working on that project. When the new Family Search was announced in church last year, I almost jumped out of seat and yelled for joy because I have been looking forward to it for so long.

I'm at a different stage of my life now so I don't have as much time as I once did to work on my family history. I have checked out the new Family Search and it is really nice to be able to submit names to the temple from home. The system works well, especially for a stay at home mother and graduate student. I have had some frustrations with the new system; like when I discovered that you can't delete a mistake. I accidently transcribe the wrong wife for an ancestor and found I couldn't delete it. So it is different that using the old PAF program. It is a welcome adjustment for me to make, but like learning most new things, there is a learning curve. I think there will probably be improvements made to the system as more people use it, but right now I'm excited to learn how to use it and help others as they learn too.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feminist Views on God

I recently got into reading feminist theories on mothering after finding a reference to a book entitled "Mothering: Essays on Feminist Theory" in the BYU textbook "Strengthening Our Families." Interesting to find the two connected, isn't it? After I placed the request for the feminist theory book, I saw what other things came up on the search for it and I discovered The Journal for the Association for Research on Mothering. I requested a couple of the issues one on the process of becoming a mother: socially, physically, emotionally and politically, the other spirituality and mothering; both topics interesting to me.

One of the articles discussed the goddess worship and the antiquated views of deity as a patriarchal, controlling male presence. The author, Trudelle Thomas, discussed the history of goddess worship and why it has resurfaced in the last 40 years. She proposes a new paradigm for viewing diety: in the female form as Mother, Guide and Friend to take the place of the Father, Warrior, King.

Of each, she says:
"Whether we imagine God holding us in her lap, braiding our hair, rocking us to sleep, or tenderly feeding us, the effect is to affirm God's personal love and nearness....By affirming our connections with God as Mother, mothers can help children also believe in an intimate, powerful and benevolent God."

"Whether we speak in terms of coach, teacher, doula, or mentor, a guide is a powerful image of God because it connotes caring, helpfulness, and generosity....Like a mother, a guide offers encouragement and support, but she also invites us to grow into more; she "tests and challenges us."

"Think of the ten-year old who is discovering the difference between a buddy and a true friend, the college student who finds her kindred spirit in a new place, the spouse who grows into a trusted friend, the widow who enjoys traveling with dear friends.

Latter-day Saints are not opposed to recognizing that there are divine females (Hymn #292, O My Father). And while viewing God in the feminine appeals to me, I feel its unnecessary. I truly believe that God is my Father and that his fatherly attributes are kind, loving, compassionate and gentle. He is also my friend and guide. Latter-day Saint culture teaches males to be fathers who are not the your typical authoritarian, domineering 1950's father, but to cultivate Christlike attributes that are more culturally seen as feminine: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, ggentleness, goodness, hfaith, Meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Through my prayers and efforts to establish a relationship with my Heavenly Father, I have come to know God as the perfect father--exactly the type of father who would best support and encourage my development as his daughter.

I also recognize and believe that God is all-knowing. In my logic, that means He also knows how to be the perfect mother and it is through that infinite knowledge and understanding that he possesses that I can learn to be a "perfect mother" or in essence, a goddess.

Latter-day Saints believe in the doctrine of eternal progression where we continue to learn and grow throughout eternity until eventually we possess all the knowledge that God possesses and through obtaining all that he has, as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), we "shall be gods" (D&C 132: 20).

Therefore, in my belief, God, then not only knows how to be a father to me, but He also knows how to mother me, more perfectly than any earthly mother. He is a friend to me, and provides me the Holy Spirit to be my Guide (Hymn #143, "Let the Holy Spirit Guide").

There are so many other scriptures I could cite to tie all these together. It may even be enough to write a book or a chapter of a book, which would be a worthy goal... But for right now, I with let what I have already expressed suffice.