Saturday, December 1, 2012

Celebrating Hanukkah

This year, my family is planning to celebrate Hanukkah, largely because of our study of the Book of Mormon that teaches us that we are of the House of Israel so in a sense the story of the Jewish people is the story of our people since the people of God are one family. In teaching children about culture, history and religion, Hanukkah is a great hands on way of learning a Bible story and honoring miracles, God, prayer, temples and covenant-keeping people.

Here is our plan:
Night 1: Open the Menorah and Light the first candle, listen to the prayers.
Night 2: Read a story introducing Hanukkah and its origins: The Story of Hanukkah
Night 3: Read a story introducing Hanukkah and its traditions: Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah
Night 4: Gift Dreidels and play the dreidel game
Night 5: Gift small sacks of chocolate gold coins
Night 6: Gift small bags of money
Night 7: Gift Hanukkah cookie cutters
Night 8: Gift books about the next holidays we will celebrate: Winter Solstice and Christmas.

Obviously, each night the appropriate candle will be lit and the prayers will be played.

For our daily storytimes, I found a couple of books of Jewish folklore at the library and will read a short story a day.

Hanukkah starts on Dec 8th this year. In Sammy Spider's book, there are recipes for latkes and jelly filled rolls so we will experiment with those recipes, and of course bake cookies with the cookie cutters.

Last year, on the fourth night of Hanukkah, I had the privilege and blessing to attend a birth of a baby to a Jewish father. The mother was in labor at the traditional time to light the candle, but it was not too late after the baby was born and the midwives (myself included) were packing up to go. We all gathered together; while the father knelt with his new baby in his arms and said the prayers and lit the candles. It was beautiful and I felt the profound sweetness of the moment.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bedtime story

There was once a young ballerina who loved to dance. She knew many techniques and steps and could do them quite well. When she danced, the techniques flowed from one to another with such ease it was like body was telling a story. She could dance her emotions and feelings with such grace and when she danced, she felt very joyful. However, this was her experience when she danced alone, with no one looking. Whenever there was anyone around her, she got very shy and she found it very difficult to dance with the ease, grace and confidence she felt when she was by herself. Her stage fright caused her a great deal of stress, especially when it came to performing with her dance school or when demonstrating her skill to her teachers. Even her parents watching caused her to feel quite shy.

One day, she decided to pray for help overcoming her shyness. She prayed to her Father and Mother in Heaven and asked them to help her dance in front of other people the way she knew could when she was alone. As she listened in stillness at the end of her prayer, she felt the words come into her mind, "You have a talent that should not be hidden. This is your gift to share with the world and you are called to this work. Your dance will be an instrument of joy to others."

With that, she realized her purpose to dance and perform, to share her talent with others and in this particular way, she would bring joy and add something lovely to the lives of those who watched her perform. In time, her dance flowed just as easily from her body when she danced in front of an audience as when she was dancing alone.

As she matured and her acclaim grew, she also felt called to teach others to dance in the way that came so naturally to her. She realized providing a beautiful display of artistry was nice but that teaching others to develop the skills for them to feel the joy she felt while dancing was even more meaningful.

She became well-known for not only her own joyous and beautiful performances, but as a kind and wise teacher of dance to her community.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Be Unafraid to Dissent--If We Are Well-Informed

"We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to
dissent -- if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression." ...

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts." 

"Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We should all be interested in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue to explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration.

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts."

-Hugh B Brown  Brigham Young University, March 29, 1958.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The missing symbol

"[I]n fairy tales, to loosen the girdle, undo the knot means to begin to understand something previously closed to us, to understand its applications and uses, to become mage-like, a knowing soul."

When it comes to aspects of the temple, there are many symbols that I have pondered over for years. I was first endowed in 2004 and have gone back to the temple to do proxy-work but also because I have enjoyed the process of pondering and figuring out the symbols there. Recently, I posted about insights regarding the veil worn by women as well as the hearken covenant. As I was reading WWRWW, I came across the meaning of a symbol that I had been missing an explanation for--that of the girdle. Right there on page 156.

I have to think that this symbol might have been more easily understood of nineteenth century Latter-day Saints who were likely more versed in fairy tales than their current day counterparts. Another reason to educate people from the classics rather than textbooks...

Of particular interest is the concept of becoming "mage-like, a knowing soul" because that is the purpose of the temple ceremony: to know God, in fact to know so much about the nature of God that one is prepared to be like God, priests and priestesses, kings and queens. When tying the girdle on the second time in the temple, it then becomes a symbol of advancing light and knowledge, moving from one level of understanding and ability to another. Once that change has been made, one is prepared to enter into the presence of God.

I love that I am at a place in my spirituality where I am unlocking these symbols and ideas. I had always wondered how it had been done. My approach may be unconventional but I'm so glad that it is working for me. 

Welcoming the New Girl

I am remiss that I did not post this here earlier but it has come up in recent days. I heard that there is going to be a gathering of LDS women to talk about ways to plan and execute a blessing ceremony like the one I did and then the topic came up again over at the Exponent about ways that LDS women can be priestesses in their homes and lives. Here on my blog I tell a more personal journey to priestesshood that is separate from the church. The opportunity to welcoming a my new baby girl into my family was one of the first I've had since I started walking that path.

Originally, her blessing party was supposed to happen with her still inside me and it was going to be a mother's blessing for me in preparation to childbirth. Alas, she was born a little earlier than I anticipated. I was pleased to still have the party and with the help of some wonderful friends, I did very little in preparation for it (i.e. I showered and fed a baby, and made a phone call or two to order things for the party).

The prayer circle was so touching that I wanted a way to record it and share the words spoken with Elizabeth as she grew up. Click on the link below to view the book I look forward to sharing it with her as she grows older.

Welcoming the New Girl: a Photo Book and Slideshow

Thank you for being a part of welcoming my newest daughter as a reader of my blog. I hope you will add a hope/prayer/blessing/wish for her in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Evidenced by my earlier post, I am reading the book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. The author of it says, "Because the work cannot be read in a week or a month, it lends itself to being studied. Take your time reading it. Most people read it the way it was written. A little at a time, then go away, think about it and come back again."

Much like scripture, I dare to say. Due to the nature of the book, I am finding that I am indeed reading it like a great influential work that requires note taking, reflection and recording quotes. This what I intend this post to be, much like I did with the Book of Jenne and Carolyn--I will record thoughts and feelings I wish to retain. I will also be able to use the link here to share my thoughts with the book club I'll be participating in.

The book is structured as a compilation of stories  followed by the author's analysis and interpretation of the symbols in the story. For this reason I will put a bolded heading with the name of the story at the top, followed by links to posts with my reflections on that story and quotes that inspire those reflections.


An uncomfortable parallel
The dark man

Gnashing of Teeth
Witchy Women
Life and Death Natures


Skeleton Woman
The missing symbol

Life and Death natures

One of the aspects of observing the moon that I like to investigate is the symbolism of the dark and light phases of the moon. Just as there is a wild and a tame side to women, there are dark and light aspects of ourselves as well. In magic or mystical thought, one can meditate on the dark aspects of themselves around the new moon or on the light aspects around the full moon.

Of course, when it came to page 107 in Women Who Run With the Wolves, I geeked out when it came to the description of the life and death natures of the colors used symbolically in the story depicting the horsemen in the story of Vasalisa.

The black, red and white horsemen symbolize the ancient colors connoting birth, life and death. These colors also represent old ideas of descent, death and rebirth--the black or dissolving one's old values, the red for the sacrifice of one's preciously held illusions, and the white as the new light, the new knowing that comes from having experienced the first two.
First off, baptism symbolism= cool. Secondly, the connection between more Eastern thought of enlightenment being attained through a spiritual journey= also cool.

Continuing on with page 107,

The colors in the tale are extremely precious, for each has its death nature and its life nature. Black is the color of mud, the fertile, the basic stuff into which ideas are sewn. Yet black is also the color of death, the blackening of the light. And black has even a third aspect. it is also the color associated with the world between the world which La Loba [who you will remember from Chapter 1] stands upon--for black is the color of descent. Black is the promise that you will soon know something you did not know before.
She goes on to describe red as the color of spilled blood and the draining of life from a body, but on the light side, it is the color of arousal, sensuality and desire.

My favorite aspect of the color red she describes is the red mother, "She is the watcher of "things coming through" She is especially propitiated by those who are about to give birth, for whosoever leaves this world or comes into this world has to pass through her red river. Red is the promise that a rising up or a borning is soon too come."

For this aspiring midwife and birth geek, yes. Yes. Red is sacred, red is life. Its for that reason that I incorporated the color into the first quilt I made for my son. It is also why I love this verse from the Pearl of Great Price so much, "inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten (Moses 6:59)." It is seen that birth symbolized by our mother Eve is the balance or foil of our re-birth through Christ. That together, the male and and female bring us to eternal life (as the verse goes onto state). Together, both are worthy of honor and remembrance.

To round it out, the light side of white is likely the most familiar. From WWRWW,

"It is the pure, the pristine. But it is also the color of soul free from the body, the spirit unencumbered by the physical . It is the color of essential nourishment, mother's milk. Conversely, it is the color of the dead, of things that have lost their rosiness, their flush of vitality. When there is white, everything is, for the moment, tabula rasa, unwritten upon...."

I learned the dark side of the color white when I was a youth and I was asked what my initial impressions are of being in a white room with blank walls and no windows. While others around me named peace, comfort as their response, mine was panic. The white felt oppressive, blank and like death. White made me think of nothing, non-attachment and the thought was terrifying. While Eastern thought would say that the goal is non-attachment, I'm still not sold on the idea. I believe too fiercly that life is about forming attachments through love, with spouse, with children, with friends, with family. Otherwise, life is a waste of loneliness. I do not see how coming to earth to be unattached makes any sense. If anything it is a distinctly male perception that cannot hold true for the women those men relied upon  to perpetuate their existence.

The author also states the colors red, black and white are elemental colors, used in alchemy. It makes curious to learn of other light/dark dualities for other colors. Green's dark nature isn't coming to me quickly, though blue does. The sky evidences to me of the light blue of day and the dark blue of night and all the attendant symbols associated with night and day.

Witchy women

In the story of Vasalisa, Baba Yaga is a witch the young girl encounters in the woods. I'm a fan of witches (big surprise!) In fact, when I saw the movie Brave, I was very happy to see the witch character as an archetype of wisdom with the power to lead a naive young person to greater awareness. Pixar is getting deep in the wild woman lore....

In the chapter from Women Who Run with the Wolves, I especially like this description of witches:

Baba Yaga is instinctive nature in the guise of the witch. Like the word wild, the word witch has come to be understood as a pejorative, but long ago it was an appellation given to both old and young women healers, the word witch deriving from the word wit, meaning wise."

Just as many translations of the word midwife mean wise woman (e.g. French is sage-femme), witch is a concept that I have aspired to since I was a young girl. I was 13 years old that I felt the truth within me speak that I am here on this earth to become a wise woman. No wonder that years down the road, midwifery and herbalism would speak to me.

I truly believe that I have a witch ancestor in my family tree and she whispers to me that anger that comes from centuries of oppression of women's wildish natures. Still midwifery is an oppressed religion. It almost disappeared in the United States and still has a tenuous hold on not even 2% of birth attendance in this country and the medical establishment is still seeking to eliminated midwives, when the medical literature, common sense, history and other countries point to the fact that midwives could be the primary care providers for healthy pregnant women.

A similar kind of rant can be made for plant medicine, another area that I am very drawn to. So if today, you take a woman who is drawn to birth and herbs (and death if you keep looking close enough--and then read Chapter 5), you can look back 500 years and find the witches of the day who were stoned, drowned and burned for being true to themselves.

Its no wonder that women today do not feel safe being themselves. History has shown them that they cannot. Yet, I have faith that the time is coming when the full power and abilities of women will be understood, accepted and put to work by the human race. I believe that good will come out of it. And it will be the witchy women who bring it pass.

Gnashing of Teeth

I couldn't help by be impressed by this chapter. The analysis and exposition on a simple story was very adept and insightful. Its amazing to me that so many symbols with so much meaning could be woven into what I was familiar with as a childhood tale. On my children's bookshelf even, we have a beautifully illustrated version of the story of Vasalisa. Without Dr. Estes and this book, I doubt I ever would have been able to find that much meaning on my own.

The story once understood as a type of parable illucidates nine essential tasks in developing one's intuition or inner guide.

They are as follows:
  1. Allowing the Too-Good Mother to Die
  2. Exposing the Crude Shadow
  3. Navigating in the Dark
  4. Facing the Wild Hag
  5. Serving the Non-rational
  6. Separating This from That
  7. Asking the Mysteries
  8. Standing on All Fours
  9. Recasting the Shadows
In my personal life, I am currently facing a situation where like Vasalisa I am trying to break free from whatever is holding me back and bringing a degree of unhappiness and damnation (as in feeling dammed, unable to progress, stuck in patterns I want to escape). Already, on my own, I find that I am somewhere between stage 4 and 5 of the above outline.

To me, serving the non-rational is one way to say what I find myself having to go through in order to find freedom and peace.  No matter how hard I try or may wish, emotions are not rational or logical. The best I can come up with is appealing once again to my left brain which constantly asks, "What does the research say?" Well, the research says that its perfectly normal and understandable for various emotions to manifest after various life experiences. Therefore, if my emotions are following a rather well established pattern, then its obviously okay to feel completely irrational in that moment of need. This line of reasoning has actually helped me to accept and embrace my emotional needs, to connect with whatever action that I would typically consider non-essential for its lack of logic. As I am able to embrace those needs, I find that can ride the wave of whatever is needed at the time. Just going with it helps me now that I won't always be in that place and that something better is on the other side. Like the experience of giving birth, there's a paradox of "relax into the pain and the pain will go away." On the surface that makes no sense. But it works. So I go with it.

I say that there is a big part of my in stage 4 here because it was many lines from that stage in the chapter that I found myself receiving insights into my own pysche. This one in particular did that for me:

"Many women are in recovery from their Nice-Nice complexes wherein no matter how they felt, no matter what assailed them, they responded so sweetly as to be positively fattening." [My thoughts inserted here, I was never very good at that though I may have tried....] Though they may have smiled kindly during the day, at night they gnashed their teeth like brutes--the Yaga in their psyches were fighting for expression."

That could explain one of the my last trips to the dentist. He asked me when I ground my teeth. I told that I didn't or didn't know that I did. He explained that he saw evidence on my teeth that I frequently clamped my jaw. It was after that point that I realized that at night, when I'm unaware, I tend to tightly clamp my jaw so that my teeth press against each other all night. I'm hoping that I as go on a year and day quest to find freedom from what is plaguing me that the jaw clamping will improve as well. Its a simple wish that would speak volumes to me if it were to happen.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I know a number of women who are put off by the sexism in the temple ceremony. I didn't give it much thought for many years.

That was my coping mechanism for a number of years in the church--I experienced a type of spiritual paralysis due to constraints I felt were placed on my religious practice. It was a process of deciding how orthodox I would be. Would I believe that scripture study only comprised reading and annotating the scriptures, church magazines and writings of church leaders? I tried to be obedient to that but got very frustrated by the closed feedback loop. I was hearing the same thing over and over again and not gaining any new insights. After that stage, I entered a phase of becoming apathetic. I knew I was done studying repetition but I did not where to turn to study next. It felt like I was spinning my wheels. In 2009, eight years after I joined the church, that all changed when I found the alternative Mormon community. Not only did I find a wealth of study opportunities to give me new insights and perspectives into correlated gospel material, I learned the skill of listening to the heartaches of others. In some ways, their burdens became my own as I listened (or read as the case may be) how aspects of the church caused them to mourn and be burdened with concerns about the morality of certain characteristics.

Due to this willing absorption of whatever new perspectives I could take in, I began to look at aspects of church culture and practice that would have bothered me if I had given myself permission to look critically. On my blog, my readers have watched me puzzle through obedience to church leaders, the cultural silence on Heavenly Mother. Recently my attentions have turned to making sense of the temple in regards to its apparent sexism.

When it came to the hearken covenant in the temple, where Eve is commanded to covenant to listen to the counsels of her husband and all women in the temple by extension make the same covenant for themselves, I mentally reworded the implied "and Adam will hearken to the counsel of his wife."

The more I listened to the upset from those who cried that the missing implication was a glaring issue, I too realized how mentally writing it in was unsatisfactory.

It was with interest that I listened to the Mormon Matters episode on Ritual In Mormonism. I knew that Chelsea Shields Strayer would articulate the position of the injustice of making women hearken to men without reciprocity. I then learned that Chelsea Robarge Fife had given serious consideration to the issue for many months, zealously attending the temple to make sense of the hearken covenant. She came to an impression that stripped Adam and Eve of their genders and put them as mystical symbols of something else--symbols of the body and the spirit--the two essential parts of the human soul, which are both necessary for a person (regardless of gender) to enter into the presence of God as an exalted being.

I have pondered on that perspective and I get it in the context of Mormonism and its belief that the "natural man must yield to the enticing of the spirit"(Mosiah 3:19) and become subject to it. Its pretty appalling, as well as contradictory to the honor heaped upon Eve for her choice made in Eden, to see Eve equated as "an enemy to God" since by extension the temple context would then say all women were seen as enemies of God. That's just not acceptable to me.

This idea is further debunked by church leaders such as Dallin H. Oaks who is quoted as saying:

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.

Furthermore, the scriptures make clear that there are times in a person's life when it is not wise to give wholly over to the spirit and to ignore the needs and abilities of the body (Mosiah 4:27). Therefore, it seems that reciprocity is still lacking to state that the human family must completely subject the body to the spirit when there are needful times when the spirit must hearken to the body.

Due to these objections, I continued searching for meaning in the symbols of Adam and Eve. Reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, I stumbled across another possible interpretation.

Copied from my previous post:

In the story of Bluebeard, the older sister plays the role of Eve, awakening her naive counterpart (the wife and Adam respectively) to the danger of staying naive and unknowing of the true nature of the situation in which they find themselves. In this way, Eve portrays the Wild Woman.

"Whatever dilemma [the pysche] finds [itself] in, the voices of the older sister in [the] psyche urge [one] to consciousness and to be wise in [ones] choices. They represent those voices in the back of the mind that whisper the truths that [one] may wish to [seek]" (p.49-50) in order to escape the false Paradise Found and to find the true Paradise available to the wise and aware.

As one continues the epic journey to the celestial kingdom, the people of the world are called to "re-surface from their naivete" and as they do so, "they draw with them and to themselves something unexplored." Life, you could say. Eve through her choice made in Eden  is now a wiser woman who draws an internal masculine energy to her aid (p. 63) which Dr. Estes defines as the Jungian concept of the animus

In the Garden of Eden, Eve is now established as the masculine energy of the story and Adam the young maiden filled with naivete who, one could say, needs "someone older and wiser telling [him] what to do."

Which then, kind of turns on the whole Eve hearkening covenant on its head, doesn't it? If you follow, what I am saying is this: when Eve covenants to listen to the counsels of her husband Adam, it is actually the male, older, wiser part of oneself who is hearkening to the newly aware stereotypical maiden who is discovering the world, making innovative inferences to understand the world in novel and fresh ways. Thus, in the temple one can choose to believe in a scenario where the male energy hearkens to female energy just as one sees the female hearken to the male. Perhaps there is reciprocity where people have struggled to find it, after all.
As I continued pondering on that vein, the metaphor can be extended to further--after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden to enter the lone and dreary world, Eve once again takes on her assigned gender as woman in the story. However, it must be remembered that the hearken covenant is made before Adam and Eve leave the Garden, so she is still portrayed as the masculine energy and Adam still exhibits the female energy. When Eve hearkens to listen to the masculine energy of her husband (in preparation for the ejection from the Garden), she can also, by extension, be covenanting to hearken to her internal masculine energy, the animus, the part of her psyche that led her to make the choice made in Eden. 

In this way, as we revert to viewing Eve as a woman, we can see that through that dual covenant--both to a mortal male and Elohim (and please remember every time I think of that word as the name of God that I necessarily draw on the translation which includes Mother God with Father God--Elohim is not singular) that she is actually covenanting in three ways. Listing them in order of importance, she covenants firstly to follow the Spirit of her Parents in Heaven, then to follow the counsel of her inner wise woman who manifests then stereotypical male behavior of the animus and then finally, to her life partner.

On that wise, Adam is both himself and Eve until they leave the Garden when he once again assumes the male gender. Before that point, the hearken covenant is made and he covenants to hearken to the inner newly initiated, eyes wide open maiden that he is himself, which then also extends to listening to his life partner who (as evidenced by the leadership role Eve portrayed in Garden) at times takes on the role of the older and wiser leader of the partnership.

I must say that I find this sort of study much more enriching than the study I felt compelled to do in past years and it leaves me wondering how would I have ever continued progressing spiritually without discovering a broader world of interacting with gospel truths?

Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Not only am I working on learning this to myself, but also to my children.  

An uncomfortable parallel

As I read the chapter analyzing the tale of Bluebeard in WWRWW, my mind drew an uncomfortable parallel between the Bluebeard scenario and the Garden of Eden mythos.

The two stories have one thing in common: an external power who states a rule that invites the rule being broken. Its a classic tale: "You can do whatever you want. Except this."

And always, the response of the characters given the direction is to do exactly what they were told not to do. Its the classic story of curiosity killed the cat, yet Dr. Estes interprets the symbols in the story of Bluebeard differently.
"The problem posed in the Bluebeard tale is that rather than empowering the light of the young feminine forces of the psyche, he is instead filled with hatred and desires to kill the lights of the psyche." (p. 45)
That there is the main difference between Bluebeard and Elohim (remember that every time I think of that word as the name of God that I necessarily draw on the translation which includes Mother God with Father God--Elohim is not singular). In the Garden of Eden, the purpose of the ultimatum is not to destroy the psyche but to give the psyche the opportunity to move out of naivete and into awareness and knowledge.

Why it had to be structured as a transgression, I still don't understand. I have to believe though that an Eternally Loving God would not seek to destroy their creation through threatening them with death for seeking that which is "virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy." While the process of maturity and gaining awareness necessarily required the people of the world to experience death as part of the natural order, the end goal in the whole scenario is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of people"--"black and white, bond and free, male and female."

Bluebeard is a predator yet Elohim (our Father and Mother in Heaven) act as gatekeepers who initiate us into an epic journey leading to eternity and the realization of our fullest-selves--godhood, in fact.

In the story of Bluebeard, the older sister plays the role of Eve, awakening her naive counterpart (the wife and Adam respectively) to the danger of staying naive and unknowing of the true nature of the situation in which they find themselves. In this way, Eve portrays the Wild Woman.

"Whatever dilemma [the pysche] finds [itself] in, the voices of the older sister in [the] psyche urge [one] to consciousness and to be wise in [ones] choices. They represent those voices in the back of the mind that whisper the truths that [one] may wish to [seek]" (p.49-50) in order to escape the false Paradise Found and to find the true Paradise available to the wise and aware.

As one continues the epic journey to the celestial kingdom, the people of the world are called to "re-surface from their naivete" and as they do so, "they draw with them and to themselves something unexplored." Life, you could say. Eve through her choice made in Eden  is now a wiser woman who draws an internal masculine energy to her aid (p. 63) which Dr. Estes defines as the Jungian concept of the animus.

The author goes on to say,

"This psychic figure is particularly valuable because it is invested with qualities that are traditionally bred out of women, aggression being one of the more common...The stronger and more integrally vast the animus (think of the animus as a bridge) the more able, easily and with style the [person] manifests ones' ideas and ones' creative work in the outer world in a concrete way. A [person] with a poorly defined animus has lots of ideas and thoughts but is unable to manifest them in the outer world. One always stops short of the organization or implementation of ones' wonderful images."

This can go in two different ways, so first I will take it here:

In the Garden of Eden, Eve is now established as the masculine energy of the story and Adam the young maiden filled with naivete who, one could say, needs "someone older and wiser telling [him] what to do."

Which then, kind of turns on the whole Eve hearkening covenant on its head, doesn't it? If you follow, what I am saying is this: when Eve covenants to listen to the counsels of her husband Adam, it is actually the male, older, wiser part of oneself who is hearkening to the newly aware stereotypical maiden who is discovering the world, making innovative inferences to understand the world in novel and fresh ways. Thus, in the temple one can choose to believe in a scenario where the male energy hearkens to female energy just as one sees the female hearken to the male. Perhaps there is reciprocity where people have struggled to find it, after all.

I will have to come back to get to the other part. Its not as cool as the first, let me tell you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Turn Up the Volume: Adjusting Sound Levels in Temple Phraseology

I sat next to my mother in the instruction room as I escorted her through the temple for the first time and listened to the assistant to the matron say, “Some women are put off by the phrasing ‘queen and priestess unto your husband’.”

That was the closest thing to validation of a major feminist objection to LDS temple rites that I had ever heard from an official source. It felt good for this feminist, I will admit.

I joined the church in 2001 as a senior in high school and spent the next 10 years with the hope of converting my widowed mother so my fairy tale could come true. I dreamed of the day when she would be sealed to my deceased father in the temple and I would be sealed to them. I was heartbroken when I stood in the undedicated sealing room of the Sacramento temple with my mother in 2006. By that time, I had given up on her joining the church in my lifetime and had become resigned to performing her temple ordinances for her after her death. At least I had her permission for that.

After my own feminist awakening during which I broke from orthodoxy, I understood better than ever before some of the reasons why she showed little interest in being affiliated with the LDS church. During what I call my crisis of culture, I turned to my mother and she consoled me when I discovered that LDS women had once enjoyed the freedom of anointing and blessing others. She heard my anger and frustration at the sense of betrayal I felt when I learned that Goddess-loving feminists had been excommunicated for writing and speaking about Mother in Heaven.

At that time, I would have been more likely to guess that I would encounter church discipline before I saw the day of her baptism.

Interestingly, it was partly my culture crisis that led her to seriously entertain thoughts of being baptized LDS. Through organizations like WAVE, Sunstone and Mormon Stories she encountered Mormons like her—feminist, liberal and non-literal believers.  Along with me, she also encountered Dialogue, The Exponent II, Daughters of Mormonism and Feminist Mormon Housewives.  She saw me flourish in a way she had never seen before. In May of last year she was baptized. In preparation for the temple she read Packer’s The Holy Temple and the temple prep manual and also Maxine Hank’s Women and Authority.

As her date of eligibility to attend the temple approached, I had no idea how I would help her prepare or how I was even supposed to feel. With my awareness of the troublesome parts of the temple, I vacillated between warning her about what she would find objectionable there and letting her discover things for herself.

And yet, we still found ourselves sitting side by side in the temple as she pondered her initiatory. The assistant to the matron gave us pause. Her statement was more than I had ever hoped to hear regarding the troublesome subordination of women under their husbands. The matron then went on to stress the supreme importance of women having a strong personal relationship with God.

As she spoke, it was like she was showing me a control panel with levers to adjust sound levels. Language does not come with scales illustrating how certain phrases are more important than others. If the words of the temple were laid down likes tracks of a song, I began to sense that “unto your husband” would be laid down much softer in volume than “hearken to the counsel of God.”

To our ears, it sounds as if the phrases are equal in importance or maybe that hearkening to one’s husband is more important because it is stated first. Maybe it follows the academic tradition of the most important being placed last and the emphasis is really on our relationship with our heavenly parents.  Perhaps the phrasing implies that hearkening to one’s spouse is just as important as hearkening to God. In any case, the statements themselves seem to indicate that it is very much open to personal interpretation when determining the relationship between the two.

I went through the rest of the session thinking of the sound volumes on each phrase and thinking that my responsibility was to remember the primacy of my personal relationship with divinity.

I still wish to someday hear men counseled in the temple to hearken to their wives. Until then, the personal nature of temple attendance allows each person in attendance to determine how loud certain tracks will be when laid down for the final cut. I cannot all together reject outright the value of being a team player and counseling with my husband, but I can choose for myself how loudly I will hear it when I play the message of the temple in my mind.

Thanks to the wise counsel of a temple matron, I choose to turn up the volume of the counsel and direction of God so that the Holy Spirit will be my guide.

The dark man

Clarissa Estes in Women Who Run With the Wolves tells the story of Bluebeard and uses Jungian psychological analysis to draw a parallel between the character of Bluebeard and a common theme in women's dreams--that of the dark man preying on them.

As I read her analysis, I recalled a vivid dream that I had of a man preying on me. It occurred within the last year after my feminist awakening and I became aware of the pitfalls of patriarchy in my church culture. While the patriarchy I most often experience is of the benevolent kind, this dream was my subconscious hitting against the more threatening aspects of a patriarchal church culture.

The dream took place in an LDS church building during an evening activity. The main group of people were in the chapel listening to the speaker. There were some men milling around the foyer talking. I began to sense that I was the only female in the chapel and it was a frightening realization to find that I was not wearing a baby at that moment. I often feel that babywearing is a protection to me as I feel that no man would attempt to assault me if I have a baby attached to me.

The bishop of one of the wards in the building caught me eye and I knew in that instant the malevolent look he was giving me. He started to advance to me and I began to walk away briskly. I began aware that he was actually herding me into a unpopulated area of the church towards a room where he could get me alone. I began to panic and quickly turned down another hallway that had an exit to the outside on it. As I was about to leave the church building, I found my anger and sense of injustice. I turned to face the bishop and defended myself. I ran back toward the men in the lobby, felt the grasping hands of the bishop on my clothes and my body. I yelled that the bishop was attacking me and saw the men run googly-eyed to the scene where I kicked and hit the bishop.

After the dream, I remember waking up feeling satisfied that I had defended myself and that I had it within me to stand and fight against the patriarchal grip symbolized by a man in power.

It was very interesting to read the Jungian analysis of my dream. Based on Dr. Estes description, my dream had all the elements of a dark man dream.

She writes:
"Dreams are portales, entrances, preparations and practices for the next step in consciousness , the "next day" in the individuation process. So, a woman might have a dream of the predator when her psychic circumstances are too quiescent or complacent. We could say that this occurs in order to raise a storm in the psyche so that an energetic work can be done. But also a dream like this affirms that a woman's life needs to change, that the woman dreamer has gotten caught in some hiatus ennui as regards a difficult choice, that she is reluctant to take the next step, go the next distance, that she is shying away from wresting her own power away from the predator, that she is not used to being/acting/striving at full bore, in all-out capacity.'

'Additionally, dark man dreams are also wake-up calls. They say: Pay attention! Something has gone radically amiss in the outer world, in personal life, or in the outer collective culture."
She continues to on to say that, "...when women dream of the natural predator, it is not always or solely a message about the interior life. Sometimes it is a message about the threatening aspects of the culture one lives in....We find this destructive process exacerbated when the culture surrounding the woman touts, nourishes and protects destructive attitudes toward the deep instinctual and soulful nature. Thusly, these destructive cultural values--to which the predator avidly agrees--grow stronger within the collective psyche of all its members. When a society exhorts its people to be distrustful of and to shun the deep instinctual life, then an auto-predatory element in each individual psyche is strengthened and accelerated."

The answer, then, is for the wild woman within to be allowed to recognize these cultural forces, ask the key questions regarding what is being lost to this cultural predation so she can then "take the world into one's arms and act in a soul-filled and soul-strengthening manner."

Perhaps my favorite line in her essay on the dark man is this:

Wild Woman teaches women when not to act 'nice' about protecting their soulful lives. The wildish nature knows that being 'sweet' in these instances will only make the predator smile." 
As it has been many months since this dream occurred, I can look back and see where I have let my Wild Woman instinct guide me--and how it has preserved for me some powerful moments. It was my Wild Woman that inspired finding analogous ceremonies to honor, bless and sustain myself and my daughters as females at various life stages. While the boys and men of the church receive their many honors, the wild woman within created these ceremonies outside of church culture, draws on traditions that are meaningful to me and not tainted by patriarchal culture. I found sisters who too accept their wild woman within and see the wild woman in our church mothers.  

Even then, while I am pleased for this bastions in a time out of church culture, I know that the predator of patriarchy cannot be allowed to keep infiltrating the lives of LDS church members. There may be a time when the preying will cease and it begins with the bloggers, Sunday school attendees, Relief Society sisters, Young Women's leaders and Primary teachers who are honest and bald-faced in the face of patriarchy, who recognize and see to minimize and where possible remove the patriarchal grip from the classes they teach and the audiences they reach.

There is an online book club being hosted for Women Who Run With the Wolves, or as my friends affectionately refer to as WWRWW (sounds like a growl), by a couple of Mormon feminist women. They have opened up the club to any Mormon woman, who someone sympathetic to Mormon women, to participate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Veil symbology

A statue covered in a black veil was erected on the presumed tomb of Isis, close to Memphis. On the statue’s pedestal was engraved the following inscription: “I am everything that was, [QUID FUIT], everything that is [QUID EST], that will be [QUID ERIT] and no mortal has yet dared to lift my veil. ”  Beneath this veil are hidden all the mysteries and the knowledge of the past… Pulling back Isis’ veil represents the revelation of the light, and to succeed in doing so is to become immortal.
Evidently one of the most famous instances of a veil being worn in religious mysticism is the Egyptian goddess Isis being veiled. Not only do I find that interesting because I have chosen Isis as my matron goddess, but because of the connection between Mormonism and Egyptian culture (language in the Book of Mormon, papyrus). It seems possible that Joseph Smith might have been awareness of this symbolism and incorporated it into the temple clothing. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

What have I missed?

I realized that I have not posted about a number of fun, exciting and uplifting things I've had the pleasure and honor to participate in the past months.

Mormon Moon Circle
Each month on the new moon, a group of feminist Mormon Goddess lovers have been getting together to fellowship and share in a prayer circle. It was inspired by a group of friends of mine who wanted to create a community to share women's spiritual experiences relating to nature and the feminine divine. We call it Mormon Moon Circle and invite anyone who cares to join us. The group has been growing slowly and its been so lovely to find other maidens of Heavenly Mother who share our inclinations.

Daughters of Mormonism
I had the pleasure of participating in the podcast series called Daughters of Mormonism as a panelist. I was interviewed and invited to tell my story in a two part episode. Then I participated in a couple of panel discussions on topics that I am familiar with. I participated in the discussion on depression and a discussion on pagan interpretations of the Mormon temple garments and Godhead. Sadly, the podcast ended and will not be producing new episodes going forward. The gates however have been opened for independent podcasts produced by Mormon women and I anticipate that there will be others that come into existence. I also anticipate that I will participate where I can.

Likely the biggest accomplishment of this last year for me (aside from the new life I birthed into this world) was my first publication in print!  The Motherhood issue was published with my article on the history of midwifery in the LDS church. I absolutely adore the issue because of the cover art that was commissioned for it. Its a homage to the relief of God reaching towards Adam in the Sistine Chapel, but instead of Adam and God, the cover depicts Eve and the Goddess. I loved it so much that I bought the t-shirt and a print to hang on my wall.

Service Mission
In my role as Women's Service Mission Director with LDS WAVE, I blogged about a novel idea that I had to address the needs of the poor and the needy in the United States. I was inspired by online charity programs and projects and posted a proposal that I couldn't shake from my head. It seemed worth pursuing and at the encouragement of a friend, I scheduled a visit with my Sentator's office staff. I was encouraged by the staffer I met with to continue pursuing the idea and will be working over the next few months to network with the right people to see about how it might be implemented on a federal level.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blessed Daughters

*cross-posted from my birth and parenting blog*

I have daughters now. Two of them. The reality is just starting to set in. With my first daughter, I've basically spent the last two years wondering how in the heck am I going to raise a girl in this world? At first, I didn't feel like I had many answers and more than anything I was feeling intense responsibility mixed with confusion and a healthy dose of anxiety. I've come a long way and since Beth's birth a couple of weeks ago, I've had some breakthroughs. I feel more prepared, grounded and capable of raising daughters than I have before.

The reason for the breakthrough is probably brought on by my recent reflections on the phases of womanhood and how to honor and celebrate not just pregnancy and birth but womanhood in general. I had planned a blessingway/mother's blessing and prayer circle with a friend to honor and celebrate becoming a mother to my third baby, but that baby had a different plan and she was born before we could have the party. It was going to be a fun party so I didn't want to cancel it all together so I figured it was a special opportunity to adapt the blessingway into a welcoming celebration for a new girl into her matriarchal community. Since I had already thought of two different times to honor a woman (both during pregnancy and at birth), I starting thinking of times in between those times when a woman could be honored in a rite of passage ceremony and blessed by the women in her life.

I came up with a list of a number of times when a girl could be initiated into various stages of development. They are adapted for girls who belong to the LDS community and culture. You can read about them here if you are interested.

Its interesting that the one that I've been thinking about most lately is menarche, or the transition to menstruation which has symbolically been linked to the beginning of womanhood and is literally linked to the beginning of fertility. I know a number of friends who have asked about how to honor menarche for their daughters. It even came up at Beth's welcoming party. Another friend told me about these books: Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls into Womanhood and The Diva's Guide to Getting Your Period both written by Deanna Lam. Since I'm babymooning and in need of reading material, I got both of them to add to my library in preparation for a few years from now when my daughters will be experiencing menarche.

Now I'm thinking about how I will want to teach my children, not just my daughters but my son also, about sexuality and the biology of their bodies. One of the first questions I had to settle for myself was to define when I believed womanhood began and when a girl becomes a maiden.

In the Maiden Mother Crone model used by Deanna L'am, a girl is a maiden until menarche when she becomes a woman. Another traditional view is that maidenhood ended when a girl lost her virginity which I just find troubling, especially in a world with a history of arranged and forced marriages and a rape culture. However, I seem to have a slightly different take on maidenhood. In my mind, maidenhood is a distinct stage after childhood and it starts at puberty. Then it ends at taking on adult responsibility either through choosing marriage, setting out on one's own or becoming a mother (and hopefully for my children, becoming a parent will come after marriage).

I see the span of time between menarche to motherhood as a preparatory period, like an initiation to fertility. This time offers the opportunity for a young woman to understand her cycle and her sexuality before she can be burned by participating in sex not knowing the implications or being ill-prepared to handle the consequences of such participation. With mentoring and education, she can know the risks she is taking with her life (thinking STIs, unplanned pregnancy) and she will be prepared to deal with whatever consequences she experiences if she makes that that choice can bring. Hindsight being so reliable, I like to think if I had known to think of it that way when I got my period, I would not have had sex for the first time at 14.

My theory for my own daughters is that I will teach my daughters about fertility signs soon before or soon after menarche and gift a book like Cycle Savvy (written by the author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

Preferably, my daughters can experience a phase between maidenhood and motherhood which I like to call priestesshood. This is a period of time when a young woman can dedicate her life to an important work, apprenticeship or service. Many young women serve missions for their churches, but many also study, go into military, or the Peace Corps. I consider this a time for young women to gain experience, skills and knowledge that will give her life experience that will serve her in each phase of the rest of her life. I also hope that in this phase, my daughters will learn their responsibility to serve and protect others throughout their community and world. In my teaching to my children, you bet I will be talking up all the things that can be enjoyed by putting off potential childbearing.

Hopefully my daughters will experience a good long while between the time of menarche and their first experience of sex. During this time, I will try to teach them about their fertility or encourage them to learn about it on their own. In borrowing from pagan traditions, I can imagine conducting a series of full moon mysteries mother/daughter circles through the teenage years where each full moon, we will explore a different aspect of becoming a woman and maturing into the women they hope to become.

During this time I also plan to encourage them not to repress their sexuality but to deal with it in healthy ways, and encourage them to understand their physiology and what feels good to them. I greatly appreciate that some marriage and family therapists (including the author of And They Were Not Ashamed)recognize that solitary sexual exploration is good preparation for marriage. I will however include the encouragement to remember balance and not over do it since it can be quite easy for that activity to turn into an obsession. If its a short-lived phased, great, and I anticipate in most cases, that will be the case for most young people. This is one area where strict prohibitions do not serve well and moderation and balance is key.

If a daughter of mine were to choose to have sex before marriage, I do not plan to shame or condemn her. I would hope that it was her choice and that she did not experience rape. If it were her choice, I would expect that she is prepared to accept whatever consequences come out of it and embrace their new phase, whether it is priestesshood or motherhood. If she were to become a mother as a result, awesome. I do not personally believe that teenagers are ill equipped to be parents and that with community and parental love and support, they can be empowered to become excellent parents. So if I faced teen parenthood with one of my children, I plan to support and love them and teach them everything I can about parenthood (there are analogous phases to manhood as well and you bet my son will get similarly appropriate education). If my teens are sexually active and they are lucky like I was, then I teach them repentance and moving into priestesshood/priesthood.

I sound so prepared and like I have so many answers, don't I? We shall see about that. I hope that this preparation will prove helpful to me when the time comes to begin teaching these things to my children. If anything, I'll have this post to remind me of my conceptions!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thoughts on Honoring Female Life Stages

(copied and pasted from a Sisters Speak question over at Exponent)

"Lately I have been pondering women’s life cycles and how each phase of a woman’s life can be related to ceremony and celebration. I’ve been exploring traditions from other cultures and religions and toying with the creation of some of my own. Since I have two small daughters (one just born earlier this week), I recognize the opportunity to honor their life stages as they grow up and to think of ways to honor the life stages that I will continue through. Brainstorming is always fun because the world is wide open. I had planned what I had hoped would be a beautiful mother’s blessing ceremony at the end of my pregnancy but my daughter surprised me by showing up two weeks before the party!

I had planned for one of my wise woman friends to lead a circle of women in a prayer circle where each person would have an opportunity to state their hopes/wishes/positive visualization/affirmation for a healthy birth and strong transition to motherhood. The party was going to get started with henna and I was going to have my belly painted with henna as well. Plans have changed but I am still planning on having the party, just with my daughter outside rather than in.

Instead of the blessing ceremony on my pregnancy, now the focus has shifted to a presentation of my daughter to her circle of wise women. My plan is to present her, introduce her through describing her ancestresses (complete with matriarchal lineage!) and then write down the blessings/wishes/hopes/dreams/wisdom that each person in the circle wishes to impart to her. Having this type of a ceremony helps me not resent the patriarchal presenation and blessing that she’ll experience with her name and a blessing ceremony done by my husband and his circle of men. I’m happy to have both done in this way and appreciate the balance it provides. I’m not feeling troubled about separate but equal because I recognize just how good it feels to be surrounded by women at various times.

That ceremony is what is in the works for now, but I’m looking forward to the time when I can honor the next life stages of my daughters. I’m thinking of doing a variation of the Child Woman Crone ceremony done by traditional Mexican cultures when my daughter is preparing for baptism. Maybe it could include presenting her to Mother in Heaven with encouragement to seek her as she covenants to seek Father through her baptism. Then there’s menarche, another opportunity to honor female life transitions. Next a coming of age as an older teenager, then something in prepartion for marriage. I’m looking forward to bringing back my ideas from the mother’s blessing I had planned for myself and coordinate that for my daughters and daughters in law. It seems so much better than the conventional baby shower.

For myself, I might just be able to have another mother’s blessing or two before I’m done bearing children and I will participate in the role of woman in my daughter’s Child Woman Crone ceremony. We’ll also be able to honor my mother in that as well."

The last couple of years have brought the development of a circle of women in my life who offer so many blessings to me. I feel connected to my gender in a way that I never felt growing up and there are times when I yearn for my wise women to offer their experience, guidance and support. My daughter's birth just recently was one example of a time where it felt so good to be surrounded by some of my wise women. My midwife and her two assistants (who also my colleagues) were present along with my mother. My husband was present and it just felt so good to chat and laugh between contractions and to hear their reassurance and be supported by them when it was needed. There have to be more opportunities to experience that connection and to have female spirituality existing in harmony with spirituality mediated by men. Maybe the day will come when church culture will not be primarily patriarchal, yet even then, there will be times when women surrounded by women will be what feels right.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Following up with "What I Wish I Heard"

After a few months of following the "What I Wish I Heard" format, I found that I was able to move away from it. Even my readers noticed that after a while, I often started saying what I wished I was hearing and so I found that I didn't need to take notes anymore or feel like my viewpoint wasn't welcomed. I think it helps that I found a way to take emotion out of my responses and offer a more observational perspective. I try to indentify and be prepared for each opportunity to state the "minority view" just so it is present and acknowledged. I often speak in the third person talking about issues or people I am aware of and not from my own experience. Sometimes its a matter of picking and choosing what I will take the risk to respond to but my general rule is to try to respond at every opportunity where I can bring in a perspective that I know is often missing from church meetings.

For example, there was a lesson on the temple one day and the question was asked, "What makes it hard for us to go to the temple sometimes?" I saw that as an opportunity to say, "I know for some women its a challenge to attend the temple where they are taught things that that make them feel they are second class citizens to God and make them question whether they can directly convenant and relate to God." I didn't say it was my struggle. I didn't say how I felt about it. I didn't say I disagreed with these women, I just brough their perspective in. Of course, that's not the answer the teacher was looking for and she had NO clue how to respond, but the Stake President was present and I heard him murmur, "Those are good points."

I try to take every opportunity I can to present thoughts like that. I guess I consider myself the voice of the marginalized and disenfranchised in the church. I kick myself when I miss opportunities too. The other week, the lesson was on "the scriptures are true." The teacher asked the question "Do we all agree here that the scriptures are true?" That was my opportunity to speak up and say "When we say true, what do you mean?? Do you mean that the Book of Mormon is truly a book of scripture to guide and direct our lives or that everything in it is a factual historical record? And how important is it for the Book of Mormon to be a factual historical record? I know many people who are troubled with issues with historicity and that makes them question the spiritual truths in the book as well. For me, I can safely say that I believe the Book of Mormon to truly be a book of scripture but I can't quite as confidently say its a historical record."

I would love to see a day when more people in the church feel safe to speak in that manner and respectfully address the issues that people really struggle with. I try to be the voice for single women in the church, women/people who have experienced postpartum depression, mental illness, people who have experienced faith crises, struggles with doctrine, people who have a more liberal view of the gospel, etc. It definitely make church more interesting and at this point, my RS has no idea what I'm going to be saying next. Its fun.

I just started experimenting with what I can get away with in Gospel Doctrine. For the first year in my ward, I attended Gospel Essentials with my mother since she was an investigating/new member. When she had gone through the whole book once, she graduated to Gospel Doctrine. We only attended that class a couple of times before she started the Temple Prep class so I will have to get back to Gospel Doctrine in a few months.

One recent experience in Gospel Doctrine I did not feel comfortable expressing my view. Mostly because it was highly critical of church practice and I was unable to edit my emotions out of my comment. The topic was caring for the poor or the needy. That's a big frustration of mine that I have a testimony of tithing but I do disagree with the church practices in how tithing money is used and how little actually goes to relieving poverty. At that time, the healthiest response I could make was to write out my thoughts into my iPad notes and share it with my mother who was sitting next to me. A couple of times, I have done that and she and I have typed notes back and forth to one another. I do this in order to make sure that responses are respectful and not emotional in nature because that's when people are much more prone to act defensively and emotionally. I just don't want that drama.

The only place that I don't feel like there is a forum to represent minority view is in sacrament meeting. It usually takes me an entire fast and testimony meeting to outline my thoughts and I'm often too late to get it before the end, but I do have the opportunity once a month to do so. I'm trying to prepare myself before hand to be ready for testimony meeting so I don't keep miss the opportunity. I will say that I'm itching for an opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting again but until then I rely on the counsel given by President Eyring's father. He tells this story in his book "To Draw Closer to God:"

“Years ago I was sitting in a sacrament meeting with my father. He seemed to be enjoying what I thought was a dull talk, given by a member of the stake high council. I watched my father, and to my amazement his face was beaming as the speaker droned on. I kept stealing looks back at him, and sure enough, through the whole thing he had this beatific smile.”

“Our home was near enough to the ward meetinghouse that we walked home. I remember walking with my father on the shoulder of the road, which at that time wasn’t paved. I kicked a stone ahead of me as I plotted what I would do next. I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting. He said it was wonderful.”

“Now I really had a problem. My father had a wonderful sense of humor, but you didn’t want to push it too far. I was puzzled. I was trying to summon up enough courage to ask him how I could have such a different opinion of that meeting and that speaker.”

“Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind, because he started to laugh. He said: “Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then, once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.” He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along. Then, with that special self-deprecating chuckle of his, he said, “Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting.”

I've been doing just that lately and I find that I really enjoy sacrament meeting. I believe its worthwhile to write down those thoughts and blog them. You might see those posts showing up here...