Blogging the Book of Mormon – Dude in Distress – 1 Nephi 7:17-20

Read today’s assignment 1 Nephi 7:17-20 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi, tied up by his brothers Laman and Lemuel, prays to God for deliverance. He asks for strength.
  • The Lord blesses Nephi – the bands are loosed, and he stands before his brethren.
  • Laman and Lemuel see that Nephi is free and they are angry again!
  • One of Ishmael’s daughters, her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael plead with Laman and Lemuel for Nephi.
Damsel in Distress
St. George and the Dragon, by Paolo Uccello – modify this so that the chick is on the horse and the dude is behind the dragon – and you have Nephi and his future bride. 🙂

Nephi – A Dude in Distress

This has got to be one of my favorite moments in the Book of Mormon. Probably because I’m a woman. I don’t know.  Anyway – let’s get on with it and you’ll see why.

One – Nephi is Bound

Yesterday, when we left off, Nephi had been bound by his brothers Laman and Lemuel because they were angry with him. They wanted to leave him for dead.

Two – Nephi Prays for Deliverance

In verse 17, we read:

“But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.” – 1 Nephi 7:17

Nephi is a “do-it-yourself” kind of guy. He doesn’t ask the Lord to free him, He asks the Lord for the strength to be able to free himself.

This is such a good example to me. I have a tendency to be a little bit lazy in my prayers and life in general. I always forget that God isn’t “magic.” He operates under a set of universal laws, and while He does offer grace, and He is a God of miracles, first and foremost, He is a parent. With that in mind, I think that He wants to give us opportunities to grow and stretch ourselves, rather than to just do stuff for us anytime we ask.

Nephi seems to understand this about Heavenly Father. He doesn’t say, “Please get me out of these ropes.” Instead, Nephi prays for increased strength so that he can burst the bounds. Nephi isn’t afraid of a little bit of work.

Because of his faith and willingness to do whatever it takes to receive what God is willing to give Him, Nephi’s prayer is answered.

Nephi’s Prayer is Answered – Differently than We Might Expect

We read:

“And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.” – 1 Nephi 7:18

Though Nephi had prayed for the strength to break the bands, this isn’t how God blessed Him. Nephi was willing to do the work, but instead, God did all of the work in this miracle.

Though large in stature, Nephi didn’t need to flex his muscles.

So – let’s get into this a little bit more…why? Why didn’t the Lord grant according to Nephi’s desire? Why didn’t the Lord infuse Nephi with extra strength? Why did Heavenly Father simply liberate Nephi instead of allow Nephi to work?

Of course, we don’t know the mind of God, so no one can say for sure, but we can think about the situation, and maybe learn something.

So far, in 7 chapters of the Book of Mormon, we have heard at least twice that Nephi was “large in stature.” (See 1 Nephi 2:16, and 1 Nephi 4:31.) Even though I sometimes think that this detail is kind of funny (in an “I Nephi, being swole” kind of way), I think that he was simply trying to help us to understand the situation. It’s easier to believe that he was able to physically accomplish some of the things he did despite his young age because he was large in stature.

For this reason, it would be natural for him to pray for more strength. In fact it had happened before:

“And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.” – 1 Nephi 4:31

This verse is very interesting, in fact. Nephi, when procuring the plates of brass Nephi had received strength of the Lord.

It fits that Nephi would pray to be strengthened to be able to break the cords that bound him. He knew that the Lord was capable of blessing him this way. He knew that the Lord could empower him, physically, to do very difficult physical feats.

I think that his brothers might have known it, too.

Now, this time, instead of Nephi getting pumped up with super-human strength, the bands simply loosen and fall right off of him.

Four – A Potential Lesson for Everyone

The bands that bound Nephi were loosed from off of Nephi’s hands and feet. I don’t know how this looked. And I don’t know how Laman and Lemuel responded to this miracle – other than with more anger. Maybe they saw that the bands simply fell off of Nephi. Then again, maybe the bands loosened just enough for Nephi to wriggle free – which would have made it look like Nephi escape on his own.

This miracle could be a potential lesson for Laman and Lemuel. By Nephi’s miraculous deliverance, Laman and Lemuel could have made the choice to see – that the Lord delivered him. That the Lord’s power was real and it was with Nephi. That they ought to get on the right side of the Lord.

We don’t need to know the details of how this miracle occurred because Nephi knows that he wasn’t blessed with strength. Nor did he come up with an ingenious plan to get free. The Lord freed him. This is a testimony building experience for Nephi – Heavenly Father has the power to deliver us.

Five – Dude in Distress…A Damsel Saves the Day

Laman and Lemuel, upon seeing Nephi freed, get angrier. So what do they do? Go after Nephi again.

But, enter in one of my favorite moments in the Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that they were angry with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life.” – 1 Nephi 7:19

Again, the Lord doesn’t strengthen Nephi. Instead, it is a sweet young woman and her mother that are able to soften the hearts of Laman and Lemuel.

This young woman and her mother and one of the sons of Ishmael plead with Laman and Lemuel. Instead of forceful words – constrained by the Spirit, I imagine that they were more diplomatic to Laman and Lemuel. “Pleading” connotes a more diminuitive and less aggressive approach than Nephi’s.

I’m not suggesting that Nephi was too aggressive. I think that Nephi did exactly what he was supposed to do. Nephi was supposed to warn his brothers. He was supposed to lead in strength. And he was supposed to learn that there are ebbs and flows in life – yins and yangs – so to speak.

I have always figured that this woman was the woman that Nephi would eventually marry (that was probably a great “how we met” story…)*

Nephi: How we met…Well, we were in the wilderness, and my brothers had tied me up. I’m large in stature, so I thought that maybe I’d have the strength to break free, but…
Nephi’s Wife [interrupting]: I had to save him.
Nephi [Smiling, admiring his wife while also a bit sheepishly shrugging]: yeah. She did.

I’m so grateful that the Lord didn’t help Nephi in the way that Nephi asked. Instead, Nephi was able to learn two important lessons. 1) The Lord will Deliver 2) Sometimes Brute Strength Will not Work.

I don’t mean this in a derogatory way. I think that Nephi was doing the best he could. And then, the Lord taught him something new. I’m sure that this experience contributed to his own ‘arsenal’ of experiences that taught him how to solve problems in his life – sometimes with strength attacking the situation head-on. Sometimes relying only on God and His grace. Sometimes through a back door being held open by a strong but sweet woman.

Personal Application

For myself, I think that I can learn two major things from Nephi:

One – Pray with a Solution in Mind

One of Nephi’s strengths is that he is action oriented. When he prays, he prays with real intent – meaning that he intends to do whatever it is that God will have him do. And he’s not lazy about it either. In this situation, he comes up with a plan.

I don’t think that we can always have a solution in mind. In fact, we have already seen when Nephi went into Jerusalem only with the Spirit – not knowing beforehand the things which he would do. Though we may not always have a solution in mind, willingness is a key here! Either our solution will be the right one, or it will qualify us for a blessing we need from God, or, perhaps it will help us to find the right solution.

Two – Be Open for Another Solution

Even though Nephi has a solution in mind, he isn’t stubborn about it! The Lord gives him another solution, and Nephi gladly goes along with it.

I have a feeling that there are times when I get in my own way. Sometimes I have my mind so set on what I perceive to be a solution to my problems – that I can’t even see the problem with my solution! Nephi is a great example of having the right amount of willingness and tenacity with submission and humility.

***

* There is no evidence that the woman who “saved” Nephi became His wife. It is just my personal guess. I’m sure that there are other arguments that could be made that this was Laman’s, Lemuel’s, or Sam’s wife. I still like thinking that it was Nephi’s future wife, though…and I like my little made-up “how I met” vignette…so it stays for now. 🙂

Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the Priesthood Session of the April 1999 General Conference.

Okay…blast from the past time…😁…I don’t remember this talk – as I am a woman and do not attend Priesthood Session (which I’m okay with! I don’t particularly love meetings!) It is interesting to read this talk and then think about my life at that time. I was married at the time to a man who did not honor me or anyone else (including himself…only his appetites, which is actually too bad). And now, I’m grateful to be married to a man who does honor me, our children, his parents, himself, and God. What a difference being married to a good person can make!!!

ANYWAY.

For the most part, when I read or listen to a General Conference talk from the Priesthood Session, I don’t feel much application. Perhaps it is because these talks are directed to a different audience. So, I’ll list a few quotes that I liked from this talk. Though much of it didn’t apply to me directly, it is still a nice talk.

One

President Nelson stated:

“Hence, I warn against pornography. It is degrading of women. It is evil. It is infectious, destructive, and addictive.” – Russell M. Nelson

If you were a member of the church during the 90s, I’m sure you can remember a litany of conference talks warning of the dangers of pornography. It’s interesting – this was before the Internet really became what we know now. Pornography, of course, was available then, but these warnings were prophetic. We are beginning to see now how a culture-wide acceptance of pornography has been problematic and has contributed to other culture-wide problems.

So, I guess what I’m saying is – I like what President Nelson taught here. I know that what he is saying is true. It is destructive, infections, addictive, and degrading. In fact, I think that I’ll take it a step further. It not only degrades the women that President Nelson mentions in his quote. It also degrades those who consume it. And, because it has become so wide spread, I think it also degrades those who don’t consume it because it comes with a lot of collateral damage.

I don’t really want to get into all that detail in this post…other than to say that I found it interesting to read what President Nelson said – nearly 20 years ago. The apostles and prophets to give us warnings that are pertinent to our physical and spiritual salvation – even if we don’t completely understand them at the time.

Two

Another statement from President Nelson:

“An ideal marriage is a true partnership between two imperfect people, each striving to complement the other, to keep the commandments, and to do the will of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I really love this.

wedding
Homey and Me

There was a time when I guess I liked hearing the Apostles and general authorities say things like women are the best…men you need to appreciate your women. At the time (years ago) I was in a bad relationship – hoping it would get better. I don’t know. I was just into hearing those kinds of “rah-rah” things – hoping that they would have a positive effect on my family at the time.

But over the years, I have wearied of these “women are the best and we need to treat them right” talks. Not that I want to be mistreated. But a few things:

One – Did they do any Good?
Did those talks actually do any good. I could argue both sides (which is usually the case). I think about it like parenting, though. It doesn’t matter if I lecture my children until I’m blue in the face. If the systems I have in place in my family don’t match what I’m saying, then the changes I desire really won’t happen. If I’m just talking, but not changing systems or culture, then it seems like I’m just talking to talk. I can pat myself on the back. And then get back to business as usual.

All of that being said, I think that the apostles meant it. As we have already seen, they are often giving talks that are prophetic in nature – which means that maybe they’re preparing us for changes in the future. Maybe the talks will plant seed that will be the catalyst for future behavioral, cultural, and systemic changes.

That’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Two – It Works both Ways
The real reason I have gotten sick of these sentiments is because I feel like it really works both ways. My favorite quote:

Be excellent to each other. – Bill and Ted.

It’s all pretty simple, really.

Back to the talk, though. I love President Nelson’s quote because it isn’t a prescriptive list of things men and/or women should do. (Yes, there is a list at other points in this talk of ideas on how some men might be able to support the women in their lives…but this quote is just pure!). Instead of this being a checklist, it is the correct and divine principle that should drive our actions as we govern ourselves.

We need to be partners with one another. We need to strive to complement one another. We need to love one another. We need to be excellent to one another. As we do so, as we strive to work together (WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM!!!) and bring joy to one another, we will succeed. And we will be happy.

Three

President Nelson taught:

“The home is the great laboratory of love. There the raw chemicals of selfishness and greed are melded in the crucible of cooperation to yield compassionate concern and love one for another.” – Russell M. Nelson

People like me like quotes like this. I love metaphors, symbols, and illustrations. I love taking an abstract concept like “home” or “love” and then relating them to something we understand – so that the abstract concept becomes tangible.

home is where the heart is

Not only that, but I love what this quote actually says. Home is the laboratory of love! Our world aches for it. All you need is love! It’s true. So then, we must ask ourselves – how do we get love? How do we create love in our hearts and lives? The Beatles didn’t answer that question for us.

But our Father in Heaven has.

We create loves in our hearts and lives by following God’s plan and commandments. As we turn to Him, we will feel His love. This love will overflow and then turn our hearts to others – His children – our brothers and sisters.

Heavenly Father has also given us an institution – the family – to help us cultivate this love that we need. It may not always be shiny and exciting. The deep love that is cultivated in a family may not be earth shattering like the attraction you feel as you are falling in love with someone new.

No – it isn’t that dramatic.

But, the love cultivated in the home is the kind of love that will make you jump in front of a bus to save that person. It is the kind of love that will change this world. It is the kind of love that gives way to safety, peace, and joy.

***
Okay. I feel like I did a lot of preaching in this blog post. I’ll probably regret it nearly instantly. I hope that you found something you liked here.

Otherwise – I want to say that I know that President Nelson is a prophet of God. Talks like this paved the way to where we are now. If those to whom he spoke (Priesthood members) heeded his words in 1999, then they were safe from some temptations and evils that would become commonplace only a few years later. I’m grateful to be led by a prophet. I know that the apostles and prophets aren’t perfect, but I also know that they are trying their best. It is good for us to pray for them – to pray that God’s message to all of us will make it to their hearts so they can lead us in righteousness.

Woman – Of Infinite Worth – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Woman – of Infinite Worth, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1989 General Conference.

I actually read this talk first on Mother’s Day. It was so appropriate!

Grandma and Me
Grandma and Me – My Grandma is one of the women I most admire.

I hate to admit this, but sometimes I’m a little ambivalent when I hear “women” talks. I don’t know if I can totally express what I feel. In some ways I love them. In other ways, I wonder why we need these kinds of talks. Can’t we all just be more confident in our purpose on this earth – without worrying so much about what the world around us might say? In some ways I like the recognition of my importance as a woman from a church leader. Yet, in some ways I feel like, why do they feel like they need to stroke our ego.

I guess it is important to remember that these talks are given by inspiration, and there is a lot of misunderstanding about the roles of mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, women, men. These reminders help us to focus on our purpose so that we can have joy.

So the point is – sometimes I’m ambivalent. I hope that with this knowledge, you will read the rest of what I write with an open mind. Today, I’m just going to pick out a quote and then make an observation. So – maybe not the most organized…Sorry…and Thanks!

Quote One

“At a recent news conference in an Eastern European country, I was asked about the potential for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I replied that perhaps the Church does more to enlighten understanding about and to lift the cause of women than any other institution on earth. It provides the path to her eternal destiny.” – Russell M. Nelson

Okay – so with this quote, I have ambivalence. On the one hand, in a way I kind of feel uncomfortable that a man is being asked that question, and that a man is answering it. I know that I’d feel differently if it was Sharon Eubank, or Julie B. Beck, or maybe Sheri Dew answering that question. But I can’t help the scenario someone asked a man not a woman, so I need to simply be more humble because the fact is:

I totally agree with President Nelson.

I’ll share an experience I had several years ago.

I was a single working mom, and was caught up in an annoying swirl of office politics. I was naive. This was my first “real job.” I had only been working for a few months, so I think that there were some people at my company that were trying to figure out what kind of person I was. In fact, there was a woman (not my boss, but in my department), that – I think – was ready to mentor me. (I see this looking back on it).

Anyway – the details don’t matter, but there was some confusion between my boss and this other woman with whom I had a dotted-line relationship. There was a little bit of turmoil, in fact. I, this young malleable woman, was in the cross-hairs of this little political charade, and I was naive enough to have no idea what was going on.

Ultimately, as I started to gain insight on what was happening (thanks to my patient and kind boss), I decided to stay loyal to my boss, the woman to whom I reported directly. I figured that this was just a job. I had two kids at home. I didn’t have a husband. I knew that I would need to be smart about how I behaved at work because I had no idea how long I’d need to work. This might need to be a career for me, and I wanted to build bridges rather than burn them.

I felt comforted by the Spirit as I walked away from some opportunities that my “dotted line” boss was offering me – even though these opportunities included going to France and perhaps some upward movement in my company. Instead, I resolved to simply bloom where I was planted and work hard so I could go home happy and assured that I was living in a Christ-like way.

Okay… So, here’s where it relates to the quote above.

One day, while my boss was out, the other woman in my department wanted to talk to me. I still had projects I worked with her on, so this wasn’t out of the ordinary. We talked about our project, then she kind of put the pressure on about how this whole mess – and where I stood. She was still kind of offering me a way to go under her wing – she could create a position for me because she was leaving the department to head up another department it would be a big opportunity for me.

And I told her I wasn’t sure that I was interested. The situation I was in was good for me and for my family.

And then I left her office.

About half an hour later, she stopped by my cube and said simply, “What a disappointment, Catania. I thought you had ambition.”

It was kind of a blow, but before I had the chance to really feel upset by what she said, I felt something else in my heart, I DO have ambitions, but they are eternal.

It was such a freedom for me to realize this! In fact, I’m grateful for the humiliating situation. From that point on, I never felt unsure about any decision that I have made – as long as I’ve made it with the Spirit. My ambitions are eternal, and though they may not make sense or garner much praise in this world, I don’t really care. I’m willing to pay the price now for something far greater in the future.

All of this to say, I agree with President Nelson. The gospel of Jesus Christ, within the context of His Church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has helped me as a woman more than anything I’ve ever experienced. More than women’s studies classes. More than jobs. The gospel has provided me with an understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of. It has provided me the path to my eternal destiny.

Quote Two

“Blessings of the priesthood are shared by men and women. All may qualify for baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. All may take upon themselves the name of the Lord and partake of the sacrament. All may pray and receive answers to their prayers. Gifts of the Spirit and testimonies of the truth are bestowed regardless of gender. Men and women receive the highest ordinance in the house of the Lord together and equally, or not at all (see D&C 131:1–3).” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote and I believe it.

There is a lot of talk about “women and the priesthood.” There are even some people who accuse the LDS church of being sexist against women because of the priesthood. I’ve never really been able to completely understand these complaints because women are blessed by the priesthood. It is not a “boys only” club. The Priesthood is God’s power that He has decided to share with us.

And we are all blessed by it.

Quote Three

“Opportunities for development of spiritual and intellectual potential are equal. Masculinity has no monopoly on the mind, and femininity has no exclusive dominion over the heart. The highest titles of human achievement—teacher, educated professional, loyal employee, faithful friend, student of the scriptures, child of God, disciple of Christ, trusted companion, loving parent—are earned under a uniform requirement of worthiness.” – Russell M. Nelson

Sometimes it can be easy to be skeptical of anyone and everyone in a leadership position (of any kind). I think that our current society has taught us that. We are skeptical of our politicians, teachers, church leaders and more.

I’m not saying that we have to trust people willy-nilly, but I can see how some of this skepticism has extended into my life. When I read talks about women, like this one, I have more skepticism about the speaker than might be fair.

But we have to remember something. There is nothing particularly noble about being skeptical.

Now this doesn’t man that we must be gullible either.

Instead, if we live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, we can be discerning. The Holy Ghost will help us to be able to discern between truth and error. So then, we will know when to be skeptical and when to be trusting.

As I read this talk, I feel the comfort of the Holy Ghost. I feel peace in my soul, and I know that the words that President Nelson speaks are true. He isn’t giving this talk to pay some kind of lip service to women – half of the population of the church and world. I believe that he believes what he is preaching.

And what a beautiful truth.

Men don’t have more access to intelligence. Women don’t have more access to kindness. We each are required to develop the matters of the mind and of the heart, and the requirement for worthiness in developing these attributes is the same.

Quote Four

“A wise woman renews herself. In proper season, she develops her talents and continues her education. She musters the discipline to reach her goals. She dispels darkness and opens windows of truth to light her way.” – Russell M. Nelson

I will admit that I love this quote because I have a bit of confirmation bias.

I tend to consider myself a “Jack of many trades, master of none.” And I don’t really care about that. I’m not the kind of person to say, “I don’t have any talents.” (And I hate it when other people say it, too…we all have talents!) But I also know that I’m not the best at anything I do.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s just the process of developing a talent. It’s the process of learning. It’s the process of exercising discipline. We don’t have to be a master to “dispel darkness and open windows of truth.” We simply need to be hungry and to search.

I also love this quote because there are so many women who put off their own renewal and development for everyone around them. This may seem like a noble, Christlike thing to do, but we misunderstand. As the old object lesson goes – if you don’t fill your pitcher first, then you will have nothing to share with others.

I know that when I renew myself as President Nelson suggest – in proper season – then I have more to share and give to my children. My 15 year old daughter wrote me a mother’s day card. In it she said, “Thank you for teaching me everything you know.” That stood out to me, and made me feel satisfied that I have spent so much time running down rabbit holes of curiosity. I’m grateful that I have developed so many talents and interests. I’m aware of the fact that many of my “talents” are not fully developed. Some will never really “develop,” but in the chase I’ve learned more about the process of learning and I’ve come to appreciate said talents even more – because they are so hard!

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned and teach it to my children. I can’t imagine this life without curiosity, wonder, and learning. And I’m so grateful that an apostle (now prophet) has encouraged women to renew herself, develop talents, and continue her education.

Quote Five

“A righteous woman is a student of the scriptures.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love the scriptures! I love this quote!

You don’t need to be a “priesthood holder” to be a student of the scriptures. You don’t need to serve a mission to be a student of the scriptures. You don’t need study guides to be a student of the scriptures. You don’t need to go to BYU to be a student of the scriptures.

All you need are some scriptures and the Spirit of God.

I love what President Nelson follows up with “Many apply uniquely to her life.” In the transcript of this talk is a list of scriptures:  Gen. 27:46; Ps. 113:9; Prov. 31:10–31; Eph. 5:22–33; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:3–5; Jacob 3:7; Mosiah 4:14—16; D&C 25.

Now, this is when I get a little ambivalent. There are times when I truly ache for more records of women. I don’t just mean stories about women either. I mean, their words, their thoughts, their journals! How I would love to read Sariah’s story as she supported Lehi in traveling in the wilderness. She had so much faith! She didn’t have a vision to leave, she just trusted her husband!

How I wish I could read the story of Nephi’s wife (we don’t even know her name) – and how she was always saving him from his nutty brothers.

How I would love to read the words of the mothers of the stripling warriors. I know that they knew God and that they trusted Him. I know that they taught their sons. But how I would love to read about their experiences – being converted to the gospel, the change that the gospel must have made in their family life, how there were so many who became widowed (how did they deal with that?!), and how they taught their sons.

How I wish I could read the records of Mary – not only when she found out that she would bear Christ, but while she raised Him.

So – I’m ambivalent sometimes when I hear a man say that the scriptures apply uniquely to my life. How can he understand what it feels like as a woman to go to the scriptures and find the stories of man after man?

I don’t want to put words into President Nelson’s mouth, but I think that he would say, he can’t.

And even though President Nelson is a man, I would echo and confirm exactly what he said: Many apply uniquely to her life.” I have experienced this. Every time I’ve opened the scriptures, I’ve felt uplifted and edified – not only in a general sense but in a specific sense.

The scriptures aren’t about men or women. They are about disciples of Christ. The example we see from a man like Nephi – courageous, obedient, fully puts his trust in God – is an example that benefits men and women alike.

I’m not a man. I’m not a man living in the middle east 600 years before Christ. But through the scriptures – whether the scripture is the story of a man or a woman – I have understood more about my divine identity and destiny. On more than one occasion the scriptures have applied directly to my life. The scriptures have taught me the kind of person I need to be in order to have joy and fulfillment in my life.

So – even though I may want to be ambivalent when I hear a man say Many apply uniquely to her life – in the end I’m not because I unequivocally believe and agree with it.

Quote Six

“Her self-esteem cannot be based on physical features, possession or lack of a particular talent, or comparative quantities of anything. Her self-esteem is earned by individual righteousness and a close relationship with God.” – Russell M. Nelson

I think that I could write an entire blog post just on this single quote.

I’m not much of a big believer of the idea of “self-esteem.” I know that it’s something we say a lot. We talk about developing our children’s self-esteem. But the problem I have with self-esteem is that so often it is conflated with what others do and say.

Instead of using the term “self-esteem” I prefer – confidence.

Even though President Nelson uses the term “self-esteem” (It was the late 80s after all!), I actually agree with him. Instead of getting our self-esteem from the validation of others, we can get confidence from a relationship with God.

When we choose to gain confidence in ourselves through the interactions that we have with our Heavenly Father – then nothing anyone does or says to us will deflate it. I learned this in my first marriage. I had let my whole identity get wrapped up in the acceptance and validation of my first husband.

Problem: he was unfaithful! He did things to systematically destroy my confidence! Yikes!

After my divorce, I drew closer to the Lord than ever, and I had many experiences that gave me confidence – without any validation from outside sources. And I learned that if I go to God – my loving Heavenly Father – for a sense of validation, esteem, and identity – than nothing anyone else does can destroy that.

I agree wholeheartedly with what President Nelson teaches here. Though he is a man and doesn’t understand the social pressure put on women (especially physically – by men!), he speaks the truth.

Quote Seven

“The Good Shepherd said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15.) So a woman feeds her loved ones, providing succor and sustenance just as the Savior would do. Her divine gift is to nurture, to help the young, to care for the poor, to lift the brokenhearted.” – Russell M. Nelson

I suppose I could feel a bit ambivalent about this scripture. Twenty years ago, I would have, actually. Twenty years ago, I might have thought that it would be just like a man to say that a woman’s gift is to nurture.

In fact, I think that I did say something like that twenty or so years ago – thankfully I’ve been blessed with a personality that is always questioning everything – even what I think. Why is this a bad thing? Why has the idea of “nurturing” get such a bad rap in our world? Is nurturing others simply a way to keep women subservient? Or is being nurturing, perhaps, something else?

Usually, within the context of the gospel, the answer to the question why (if you keep asking it over and over and over again) will boil down to one scripture:

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

Why is it a woman’s gift to be nurturing? Well, Heavenly Father has a big, important work to do – to bring to pass OUR immortality and OUR eternal life. In order for this to happen, we have several needs – both temporal and physical. We need care both body and spirit.

Heavenly Father taught us how it would get done – he gave us families. He created men and women that could fulfill certain duties that would help to accomplish His great work.

This blog post isn’t about the nitty-gritty of those roles, but as I’ve come to understand why we women have been given a gift to nurture, I’ve become more honored to have such a gift and a role.

I’m not subservient. I’m essential.

To nurture – is to nourish. Imagine trying to raise a tender plant without nourishing it! Impossible.

President Nelson continues:

“To help another human being reach one’s celestial potential is part of the divine mission of woman. As mother, teacher, or nurturing saint, she molds living clay to the shape of her hopes. In partnership with God, her divine mission is to help spirits live and souls be lifted. This is the measure of her creation. It is ennobling, edifying, and exalting.” – Russell M. Nelson

So – now instead of ambivalence – I rejoice in statements like the one made by President Nelson! I want to nurture everyone within my reach – not only my children. I want to be the type of woman who builds up everyone around her. This is a subtle art, and I have so much to learn. But I think we all know a woman like that – who is smart, loving, kind, but quietly nurtures all who come in contact with her.

Quote Eight

“A woman’s richest rewards will come as she rises to fulfill her destiny as a devoted daughter of God. To all faithful Saints He has promised thrones, kingdoms, principalities, glory, immortality, and eternal lives. (See Rom. 2:7; D&C 75:5; D&C 128:12, 23; D&C 132:19.) That is the potential for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is exalting, everlasting, and divine.” – Russell M. Nelson, emphasis added

I could raise my “ambivalence” concerns, but this blog post is already long. My “ambivalence” doesn’t matter because like every other concern I’ve listed, the Spirit has given way for me to feel confident and unequivocal – rather than ambivalent and skeptical.

So instead, I’ll just share my excitement for the truth that is shared here by President Nelson.

I have learned for myself that Heavenly Father dreams bigger for me than I can. I have learned that I can trust Him completely. Though my earthly life may not leave much of an impact on others – I will not be powerful or famous or whatever – this doesn’t mean that my life has been a waste! Heavenly Father’s dreams for us include “thrones, kingdoms, principalities, glory, and eternal lives.” I can’t even wrap my head around that!

But I trust Him.

So even though what I do may be small. Even though I may be a “stay at home mom” and I’ll never have an important or high paying job, even though I may not gain worldly recognition, even though I may not “accomplish much,” when I live simply and faithfully, then I will do what I was sent to this earth to do. I will feel joy. And I will qualify for all that God delights in blessing me with.

***

I’m so grateful for a Prophet who guides this church and will speak the truth even if it garners ambivalent and skeptical thoughts from others. I’m grateful that President Nelson is brave enough to speak the truth even if he may feel unqualified to do so. I’m grateful that President Nelson is worthy of the Spirit so that He can deliver a message that we need to hear. And I know, because the Spirit, that President Nelson speaks the truth.

 

I’m the Canoe

canoe

I’ve been trying to figure out an analogy for a few days.

Imagine a canoe. There are people in it. One person is seated toward the front of the canoe, with a paddle. This person is strong. He/she is primarily required to paddle.

There is a person in the back of the canoe. This person is the most experienced of all in the canoe, but not necessarily the strongest, physically. This person is in charge of steering the canoe, and must be able to diplomatically lead the rest of the people in the canoe while directing their little boat.

Though not pictured, imagine that there is a person in the middle of the canoe. This person also has a paddle, but isn’t quite as strong as the person seated in the front, nor is this person as experienced as the paddler in the back of the canoe. The middle-person is learning about canoeing. As far as propelling the canoe goes, he may not be the most important canoe-er, but he is there.

I’ve been thinking about people in a canoe – in terms of family. In thinking about this, the question is, who is the paddler in the bow? In the stern? In the hull?

Well, it’s obvious to me that children are the paddlers in the hull. They are part of this team, they paddle from time to time, they help, but are not of critical importance…yet. They are training and gaining experience for when they will one day sit at the stern or the bow.

So. That leaves us with the person sitting in the front of the canoe and the person in the back. I’ve been wondering, which one am I?

There are days when I feel like I’m steering this ship. You know what I mean. I remember in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the mother explains to the daughter:
man is the head

Even though this is funny, and I admit that I can act somewhat “neck-like” at times (without being manipulative, of course!), I don’t know if I’m the one on the back of the canoe. We don’t always move according to my direction. Maybe I’m actually in front.

I’ll also admit that there are days, many days, when I feel like that I’m in the bow. I’m paddling, paddling, and paddling. I wake up, feed the kids, exercise, start homeschool (which is quite a list in and of itself), feed the kids lunch, keep them from fighting/destroying the house/general chaos, throw a load of laundry in, talk to my husband about the business, take the kids to the library, make dinner, … you get the idea. We all do this.

I’ll say that again. We all do this. As in, not only are mothers paddlers, but fathers are, too. I know that my husband has a billion things going on in his life: he has to paddle, paddle, paddle.

I don’t think I’m steering. I’m not sure if I’m the primary paddler either. But I know that I’m something in this little analogy that I’ve got swirling in my head.

***

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated. It was Saturday, I had been looking forward to some time just sitting, breathing, and catching up. But, the whole day flashed before my eyes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but my expectations for the day weren’t quite met, and I needed a little encouragement. A little buoying up.

I was thinking and praying about my frustrations of the day when I realized the solution to my analogy. I’m not steering the ship, nor am I powering it forward. I’m not sitting idly in the hull. I’m not any of the oarsmen.

I’m the canoe.

I bear up my family, support them, stabilize them. My role isn’t particularly glorious, neither is it obscure. I’m simultaneously a part of the action yet partially submerged under water.

Sometimes I feel tired and “waterlogged.” And then the question comes to my mind, who ever really takes time to appreciate the boat? I might spring a leak, which causes panic and maybe even a fair amount of cursing. 😉 Despite everything else that is going right, those paddlers in the boat can only see the one small fissure. Of course, that fissure is letting in water, so I can’t blame them. I just wish they could see how often everything goes right.

This line of thinking isn’t necessarily helpful as it usually leads to further temptation – It’s a temptation for me to imagine life without them for a moment. No burden to bear. No dirty feet, no rocking back and forth. No bickering about who is paddling, about who splashed whom. I’m tempted to think of a life other than carrying my people, their needs, their worries, their weight back and forth – all done without much of a thought of that vessel that carried them.

It’s tempting to imagine life in the middle of a peaceful lake, with me just floating aimlessly.

Yet, the truth is, I am the canoe, and when you see a canoe in the middle of the lake, empty, it’s a problem. Typically, an empty canoe looks like this:

docked canoe

An empty canoe is docked. It’s going nowhere. While it’s not useless, you could say that an empty canoe doesn’t have much of a purpose. A canoe’s purpose comes into play with every person that boards it: Children, spouse, friends, siblings, students, and more. While it can be tiring to bear the weight of these people, I must admit that I’m honored. I don’t mind being partially submerged, stepped on, sat upon. I don’t mind being weighed down and directed. Without them, I’m going nowhere.

And I also know that without me, they aren’t going anywhere, either.

***
This morning, still a little down, I decided to re-read the talk, Behold Thy Mother, by Jeffery R. Holland, one of the current Twelve Apostles.

Anyone who is familiar with General Conference (A meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where we hear from a living prophet and apostles) knows that there are talks for women or about women/motherhood from time to time. I have to admit that I’ve always liked these talks. They encourage me. They motivate and inspire me.

However, I will admit that I’ve had this sneaking suspicion from time to time – are these talks just “pep talks?” Are they obligatory, “keep the women happy” talks?

This morning, I re-read Elder Holland’s talk, and I was reminded, this isn’t just some pep talk to tide me over until next conference. No. These talks are messages from God. The Lord knows that I am a canoe, and He is grateful for my decision to be this kind of a woman.

Elder Holland taught:

“Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. “My Father sent me,” He said, “that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that as I have been lifted up … even so should men be lifted up … to … me.”

But can you hear in this language another arena of human endeavor in which we use words like bear and borne, carry and lift, labor and deliver? As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, ‘Behold thy mother!'” – Jeffrey R. Holland

We women are all “canoes.” I don’t mean only mothers, either. I know other women who have born others up, strengthened them, and even delivered them. I’ve had these types of women in my life. Of course my own mother, I’ve had others, too. Kerri, Stephanie, Kara, Sister Chisholm, Vanessa, Chandra, Donna, Jocelyn, Hillary, Janay, Rachelle, Krista, Niki, Celeste, and sooo many more women. They have helped to bear me up and deliver me along when I’ve needed some support. At times, I’ve been a willing paddler, while they have acted as my canoe.

Elder Holland continues:

“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.

A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: “How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’” – Jeffrey R. Holland

At first, last night, when I realized I was “the canoe,” I felt a quiet sadness wash over me. I thought of my roles as a woman: as someone who has given herself to her husband and children. Though I have done so willingly, last night I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering when it will be my turn to fulfill my own dreams and chart my own course. When will they support me?

Heavenly Father heard my frustrated prayer, and I was comforted in my heart, but I also felt a confirmation from the Spirit: Yes. You are a canoe. Yes, I’ve made sacrifices, and I will continue to do so. But the Lord would help me to understand more in the future.

As I said, I felt comfort wash over me, even though I was still a bit troubled at the thought of being a canoe. I decided I’d just be patient, go to sleep, and that I’d figure this out later.

***

This morning, as I read Elder Holland’s talk I felt confirmation of my thought last night. I am indeed a “canoe.” We women, who are choosing to righteously nurture those in our lives – our families, friends, and even strangers – we are canoes. It’s not particularly glamorous, but to the Lord and to the people in that boat it is valuable.

I am the canoe.

What is the Relief Society?

Sorry I haven’t written on the blog for a couple of weeks. We’ve had spring break, and I’ve actually started teaching for the Pathway program, so I feel like I’m on the computer all the time. ANYWAY…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mormon Women lately. Here is a list of reasons why:

  • The Ordain Women group has been gaining traction in the media. While I don’t agree with their movement, they have been making me think about being a woman in the LDS church including my roles, rights, and blessings.
  • In what seems to be a reaction to the Ordain Women movement, another Movement has sprung up – Mormon Women Stand
  • I often get overwhelmed by my duties and the challenges of this world. I crave a sisterhood with like-minded women who are noble, nurturing, and strong.

As these three things swirl in my brain, I find that there is one common solution to them, and that is The Relief Society.

What is the Relief Society?

First of all, it is important to understand what the Relief Society is. According to mormon.org, the Relief Society is defined as follows:

“The Relief Society is the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. Relief Society was established in 1842 for women 18 years of age and older. Its purpose is to build faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need.”

Now – onto how the Relief Society has been able to be the solution to the mind-swirling I’ve been having lately.

The Ordain Women Movement

According to the Ordain Women Group, their purpose is:

“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

First, and foremost, I don’t necessarily agree with the assertion made by the Ordain Women group. I don’t agree that there is an issue of gender inequality in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither do I think that the Family Proclamation perpetuates antiquated ideas or inequality between men and women.

This being said, I don’t deny the fact that some women might feel marginalized in the Church. I understand this. I have experienced being in counsels with men who won’t listen. I don’t personally believe that if I held the Priesthood I would have been seen as any kind of authority. I just think that some dudes are like that a little chauvinistic and kind of jerky – even if they don’t mean to be.

For some reason, this kind of attitude has prevailed over the millennia. I think that men have a hard time understanding why the women think that the way they do. Straight away, I think of Peter and Mary Magdalene:

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.” – Mark 16:9-11

To be fair: these apostles didn’t believe the disciples who saw Christ on the Road to Emmaus. And Thomas didn’t believe all of the apostles that had seen the resurrected Lord.

But I’ve always found this striking: Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She didn’t hold any kind of Priesthood authority, but He came to her and revealed himself to her. And the apostles didn’t believe her.

Sometimes I think that all of this misunderstanding between men and women comes only because men have a hard time understanding women, and it may seem that they tend to belittle and downplay women. I hate making this blanket statement because I have met and known many open minded men. But let’s just say that I have had discussions with men about women and emotions.

Really quickly – so – some men seem to downplay women because we can be a little more emotional or intuitive. Some men seem to only be able to respond to logic and reason. I totally understand this. And I say, It is totally illogical and unreasonable to ignore our intuition, emotions, and spirits! We are people, we aren’t robots. We have emotions and unique Spirits how would it be logical to discount this side of who we are when making any kind of decision in life???

(Oh, and I have also found that men have an especially hard time with women who react emotionally. I, too, find that it is best to not react, but this isn’t because I want to deny my woman-ness. Instead, it is because I want to make a wise decision. AND BESIDES, sometimes I think that men forget that anger is an emotion, and reacting in anger is often more illogical than a woman’s weeping…Interestingly enough, in the General Relief Society Broadcasts, I have experienced listening to prophets compliment and comfort the women. My opinion – it just takes some men, even good men, about 80 years to really understand the value of a woman’s emotions, opinions, and intuitive nature).

anyway!!!

I just want to say that while I don’t necessarily agree with the Ordain Women women, I don’t doubt that they honestly feel the way that they do. Additionally, I don’t think that it is necessarily wrong to feel confused, belittled, or unequal. That happens sometimes! And sometimes that happens for a good reason.

However, there is one thing that I do disagree with – and that is the way that the Ordain Women group has gone about their purposes. I believe that the best way to take an issue up with God is by taking it up with Himand praying! I know that God answers our prayers. I know that He listens to us. I know that He will influence our prophet and apostles if it is the right thing to do/pray about.

I mean, think about it this way – when members of the church desire to have a temple built in an area we are taught to pray, we are taught to pay our tithing, we are taught to attend the temple. We are not taught to write a letter Salt Lake and petition the prophet to have a temple. He isn’t in charge of the Church, the Lord is. Priesthood or not, every woman, every man, every child has access to our Heavenly Father. We just have to get on our knees. Heck, we don’t even have to get on our knees! Just Pray!

And now – to the Relief Society, I think that the Relief Society is the answer to this problem. When we understand our role in the church and in our family, and when we understand the blessing and honor it is to be a member of the Relief Society, we will understand what we need to do in order to have our concerns addressed.

The motto of the Relief Society is charity never faileth. Can you come up with anything more inspired, more enabling, more beautiful, more Christlike? As members of the Relief Society, we will seek to understand Charity more. We will be cognizant of the fact that Charity is a lot more than quilt tying and giving service. And as members of the Relief Society that understand the meaning of charity, we will also remember that Christ’s love never fails. Mormon teaches us about Charity:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” – Moroni 7:45-47

It just seems to me that if we, members of the Relief Society, understand what Charity is, then, when we have questions about the church – legitimate questions, when we have qualms, when we are wronged, when we have issues that come from our hearts, then we will address them with faith and with charity.

Relief Society can help us when we struggle.

Mormon Women Stand

I was invited to be a part of Mormon Women Stand. This is a group that seems to have sprung up in reaction to the Ordain Women movement. Here is their mission:

“Mormon Women Stand is a collaborative online effort to join like-minded female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who share a desire to make a public stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ and in support of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’. We believe standing together will reflect the divine nature and power that LDS women are endowed with to influence others for good. We unequivocally sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—commissioned by God and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. We support how the Lord has delegated priesthood authority to organize and administer the gospel among all of His children.” – Mormon Women Stand

Like the Ordain Women movement, I believe that this group is thoughtful. They want to stand up for their beliefs at a time when they believe that their beliefs are being assailed.

Initially, I went ahead and “liked” the Facebook group. I, essentially, agree with them. I believe in standing as a witness of Jesus Christ. I have promised to do so …in all times, and in all things, and in all places [I am in] even unto death.” (See Mosiah 18:10.)

But I started to think about this group. And I wondered, Why isn’t my membership in the Relief Society and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enough. As I just mentioned, because I’ve been baptized and have covenanted with Christ, then I have already committed myself to being His witness.

Additionally, as a member of the Relief Society, I have also decided to live up to it’s motto – that Charity never faileth, which means that I wouldn’t really be provoked or threatened by other groups or adversity – whether it comes from an external or internal source.

My membership in the Church and in the Relief Society is enough, and instead of singling myself out (whether with the Ordain Women group or with Mormon Women Stand), I ought to simply seek sisterhood with all saints in the gospel. I feel like Satan is trying to destroy us by dividing us, and even if our intentions are good, if we aren’t careful, then we might stop being charitable. And if we aren’t charitable, then we will fail.

I Crave Sisterhood

This leads me to my last point, and why I love the Relief Society, and why I need the Relief Society.

Yesterday, I read an article about Peter Lanza and Sandy Hook in the New Yorker. It was sad, terrifying, horrible, depressing, you name it. I also read An article about the rising generation and problems with p*rnography. It was sad, terrifying, horrible, depressing, you name it.

Both of these articles, read within hours of one another, had me wondering, how do I do it? I have four little children. I have three beautiful girls, and one delightful son. I see the good in them, and I want that to shine throughout their lives. I want them to know the good in themselves. I want them to know God, and to know the truth.

But there are so many lies. So many difficulties. What do I do???

And, I realized, the answer is The Relief Society.

Through the Relief Society, I have been able to meet like-minded sisters who also are striving. Some of the sisters are young, married mothers; some of these sisters are women who have never married; some sisters are women in the middle of their lives like me. Some are old, some are divorced, some are tall, some are short, some are thin, some are blonde, some are white, some are black, some are from Mexico, some are from Croatia, some are just like me, some are nothing like me. but we are all sisters, and we are all striving to obtain charity – that pure love of Christ which never fails.

This Saturday evening at 6PM MDT, the General Women’s Broadcast will be aired. We will be meeting as women – as sisters – ages 8 and up – to be taught by our leaders, the apostles, and prophets. We will be able to attend this meeting, for the first time, with our mothers and young daughters. All together!!! We will be reminded of our work, we will be edified, and we will be able to leave the meeting resolved to keep striving and overcome the sad, terrifying, horrible things that the world is trying to throw at us.

***

Moi, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and the Relief Society.
Moi, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and the Relief Society.

I am so grateful for my membership in the Relief Society. Ironically, the longest I’ve ever been in Relief Society was when I was a teacher for about three or four months. Otherwise, I have served with the children or youth. But this doesn’t nullify my membership in this divine group of women. I love knowing that anywhere I go, I will find women that I can call my sisters. I’m convinced that we, members of the Relief Society, can change the world – little by little. I don’t think my claim is outrageous, either. After all, the Relief Society claims that Charity never faileth, and we have the opportunity to live up to this standard.

Through my membership in the Relief Society, I have become a better woman. I have come closer to my Heavenly Father. I have been able to better understand the meaning and purpose of my life, personally. At Relief Society, I have felt camaraderie, I have laughed, I have cried, and I have been elevated.

***
Are you a member of the Relief Society? How do you feel about being a member of this sisterhood? What can you do to commit yourself to it’s motto – that Charity never faileth? What are your feelings of Relief Society and being a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

If you are not Mormon, what are the questions that you have about the Relief Society and about women in the LDS church. I am open to a kind and honest dialogue, so ask away!

We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father

Don't You Love Her?!
Don’t You Love Her?!

As you may know, my oldest daughter turns twelve next month. I’ve been thinking about it a lot for well over a year, now. I’m feeling excited, scared, worried, happy…a little bit of everything. Last week, Tiger went to girl’s camp. I’ve been working feverishly on her Gospel Art Book (more updates to come on that very soon). I’ve been thinking about her testimony, how I’m pretty much handing everything over to her now. Of course, I know that I still have a profound impact and influence on her life, but I also know that she is going to have to rely less on “borrowed light” and begin to cultivate a testimony of her own. This scares me. Not in an I don’t trust her way, or even in an I don’t trust God way. But in a did I do enough? way.

Oh…and I don’t want to forget to mention…18 months after Tiger turns 12, Panda will be 12. I feel like it’s showtime.

So, they’re maturation and upcoming exposure to new temptations, experimentation, and soul-searching has got me thinking. What am I teaching them now? What do I need to impart above and beyond everything else? If there is only one thing that they really learn in the next six years, what should it be?

I think that Sister Dalton’s talk from this last General Conference (“We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father”) is the best place to start. If there is anything I want my children to know, it is that they are beloved Daughters of God.

Our Identity: Daughters of God

Regarding the statement made by young women each Sunday: That we are daughters of Heavenly Father- who loves us- and we love Him, Sister Dalton says:

“It is not only an affirmation of our identity—who we are—but also an acknowledgment of whose we are. We are daughters of an exalted being!”

I love this idea: Who we are and whose we are.

You may already be aware that there are times when I’ve got a bit of this whole “identity crisis” thing going. For the first 31 years of my life, I didn’t know my biological father. Although I was raised by a good man, a great father, I still didn’t really know who I was. The knowledge of my biological father remained a mystery for me. I didn’t want to replace my dad (who had adopted me). I love him. But there is something about not knowing your physical parent.

Because of this experience (and a few other experiences that I don’t really want to get into here), I found myself going to my Heavenly Father. Though I felt confused by my physical situation of fathers, step-fathers, and adopted fathers, I knew that there was no confusion in regards to my spiritual ancestry. I knew, and I know that I’m a daughter of God. This knowledge buoyed me up during times of difficulty and depression.

So much hope and peace comes from this simple fact: that we are daughters of Heavenly Father who loves us.

From Identity to Purpose

I have found that when I become more sure of my own identity–especially spiritual identity, then I also become more aware of my purpose as a daughter of God. In fact, I’m solidly sure of my divine nature: I know that I have a Heavenly Father, and I know that he loves me. Because I know this, I know that my creation and coming to this earth was not an accident. As a bi-product of this knowledge, I know that I have a divine purpose, and that He expects me to do the work that I was sent here to do. I feel that the same is true for all of us.

And, this is my personal belief, but I also think that as we grow closer to the Lord, His Spirit inspires our desire to do the work that we have been sent here to do.

I love what Sister Dalton teaches:

“As daughters of God we are each unique and different in our circumstances and experiences. And yet our part matters—because we matter. Our daily contributions of nurturing, teaching, and caring for others may seem mundane, diminished, difficult, and demeaning at times, and yet as we remember that first line in the Young Women theme—“We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us”—it will make all the difference in our relationships and our responses.”

We do have a divine purpose and work to complete. Yet, we are not all expected to do the same thing. We have unique circumstances and unique expectations.

The thing I love about this quote by Sister Dalton is that she recognizes the importance of the “little things” that we do–how these “little things” matter to Heavenly Father precisely because we matter.

This is so hard for me to remember. As I spend my life changing diapers, wiping noses, saying things like, “please don’t lick the carpet”, driving to activities, stopping fights, cooking, cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning, I have to remember that what I’m doing matters. It matters that we live in a clean home, that my kids are clean, that they are developing, getting along, and eating. Though what I do may not seem powerful or important, I’m changing lives, one at a time.

Last night, T-Rex was in a crazy mood. (Cute but Crazy!) Homey wasn’t feeling well, and I wanted to help keep the T-Rex out of Homey’s hair. We made brownies. Then he was back to harassing his dad. So, I scooped this little two-year-old boy up into my arms and took him to the piano. We started playing and singing all of his favorite primary songs. Song after song. He patiently sat on my lap as we sang. It was one of rare those moments where I was able to recognize the blessing as it was occurring. I loved listening to the T-Rex’s voice quietly sing along with me (using his extra-cute-hard-to-decipher words).

What I was doing wasn’t really important–in a worldly way. It lasted only a few minutes. We didn’t sing particularly well or to practice for some upcoming event. The dishes still needed to be done, and the dinner needed cooking. But the T-Rex and I sat, singing, and spending time together. And though it wasn’t important in a worldly way, I knew it mattered. It mattered to me. It mattered to T-Rex. It mattered to Homey. Above all, It mattered to God. Though I can’t quantify my experience in dollars, I know it was more valuable than most material things.

I write this because it’s hard for me to remember that what I’m doing matters. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Sometimes I forget that singing a few songs, happily together, is more important than checking instagram (again).

From Identity to Purpose to Power

Some people have this mistaken notion that the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are unempowered, belittled, and side-lined. Of course, the idea that women are marginalized in the church is nothing more than a fallacy.

Sister Dalton recounts her mother’s experience:

“She kept her covenants, and because she did, she called down the powers of heaven to bless our home and to send miracles. She relied on the power of prayer, priesthood, and covenant promises.”

We see a pattern here: When we keep our covenants, we receive power. This is how it works. The power of the Lord–the Power of the Priesthood–infuses our lives when we make and keep covenants. Sister Julie B. Beck reminded us: “Don’t confuse the power with the keys and the offices of the priesthood..” She continues to explain:

“God’s power is limitless and it is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what the brothers have and the sisters don’t have. This is Satan’s way of confusing both men and women so neither understands what they really have. Sisters and brothers each have every ordinance, every gift, and every blessing available to them to get back to our Father in Heaven, and no one, male or female, is left outside of those blessings to qualify for exaltation.” Julie B. Beck (2011 BYU Women’s Conference

The Lord empowers us through the covenants we make. I think that another name for this power that the Lord blesses us with is virtue.

Sister Dalton states, “Virtue is the strength and power of daughters of God.” This power is within us because we are daughters of God. When we understand our identity and begin to fulfill our purpose, we are blessed with an enabling power. Virtue garnishes our thoughts, words, and actions, and we become the kind of woman whose value is “far above rubies.” As we become virtuous, powerful women, we learn more of our identity and purpose, which strengthens our power for good.

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This is a long blog post…sorry about that…but it is what I want my daughter to understand. It is what I’m still seeking to understand and put into effect in my own life. We are daughters of God. We have a divine purpose and responsibility. As we make and keep covenants, and as we do our duty, we are blessed with power and virtue. And the best part of all: this procession will make us happy.

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Check out sister Dalton’s talk here. What stood out to you? What do you think about the identity of women as daughters of God? Their purpose? Their power?

Also, click here to learn more about women in the Church.

The Patterns of the Creation: the Plan of Salvation and Personal Application

Click here for today’s assignment.

The Creation of the Earth, by Wenzel Hollar (click image for source).

The next part of our study on The Plan of Salvation is the creation. Before we could be sent to this earth, it needed to be created!

The creation story is amazing. You can study it for a lifetime and still learn something new. Many people are also pretty familiar with the basics of the creation, so I will not go into them here. Instead, I will just share a few things that stuck out to me – especially when thinking about the Creation in conjunction with the Plan of Salvation.

Patterns taught in the Creation Story
Planning and Execution
The Pattern: When it came to the creation, Heavenly Father didn’t create the Earth on a whim. He took time to carefully plan. In Moses, we learn:

“…For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth…” – Moses 3:5

The Plan of Salvation: I think that we can learn that how the Lord handled the Creation is also how the Lord handled the Plan of Salvation. It was carefully considered before it was put into action. We can trust in the Lord and in His plan.

Personal Application: We can learn from the pattern of the Lord’s in planning our lives spiritually before physical execution. We can take time to counsel (in our callings or with our families) and discuss what will happen in the future. We can prepare our lives in such a way that we live deliberately. Obviously, we can’t plan every single event or situation in our lives – as there is much that happens that is out of our control. But I think that the point here, that I learn with the creation, is that I can live more deliberately and plan before I create.

Additionally, I think that we can apply this pattern to other things that we learn in the gospel. For example, in this very context – of the creation the earth. After creating the Earth and man, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. In Moses 3:15, it explains a reason why:

“And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.” – Moses 3:15

When pondering this point – why did Heavenly Father put Adam in the Garden of Eden, it is helpful to approach it, and any question, knowing that everything that Heavenly Father does is carefully planned. Everything He does has a purpose. Knowing that the Lord works in this way helps us to trust Him.

Evaluation
The Pattern: Not only did God plan and then physically create the world, but he also evaluated what he did. And he evaluated fairly. After each creative period, the lord looked over what he had done, and after each creative period he saw that what he had done was good.

The Plan of Salvation: As far as this pattern applies to the Plan of Salvation, I think that, again, knowing that Heavenly Father operates this way will help us to trust in His plan. Good comes from God. If we want to experience good in our lives, then we can look to the source of all good: Heavenly Father.

Personal Application: Again, this is a pattern that can be followed. It helps to evaluate what we do, and it is also okay to recognize that the work we do is good. Heavenly Father did not gloat. He also didn’t put on an air of false humility. He simply recognized His creation for what it was: good.

This reminds me of a scripture in Proverbs:

“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good:…” – Proverbs 31:18

This scripture is about the virtuous woman. I love that she perceives that her merchandise is good. God does the same thing! Often, I find that I berate and belittle my best efforts. Sometimes it is because I don’t understand my worth or offering. Other times, I wonder if I do it under the pretense of humility. Either way, I’m not following the god-like pattern of evaluating fairly.

Marriage
The Pattern: Adam and Eve were married. Marriage, family is not a social construct.

“And Adam said: This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” – Moses 3:23-25

The Plan of Salvation: Though salvation is a personal and individual experience, a crucial part of our eternal happiness will be experienced in our family relationships. We cannot ignore the importance of marriage and family.

Personal Application: I feel like this has a few applications. One – Marriage is divinely instituted, and worth every effort. We need to cleave unto one another. Two – as a woman, this is especially interesting to me. Some people feel like women are treated as “second-class” beings in the Mormon church. I do not believe this is true. I haven’t felt this in the church. While I may not hold the priesthood, I know that I am still of great worth.

Woman wasn’t created to be man’s slave. She was created as an equal. She was created of Adam’s own flesh. They are supposed to be one. This implies love, interdependence, and equality. It doesn’t necessarily mean each person has the same duties/roles, but it does mean that we, both men and woman, are important. The pattern set forth in the Creation – how God created woman, and placed both Adam and Eve in a marriage – can teach us our true worth and role as women.

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There are so many more things that the Creation teaches us. Through the creation, we can feel more of God’s love and recognize His infinite power. What are some of the things that you learn – about your life, about the Plan of Salvation, or about God as you study the Creation?

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Click here for tomorrow’s assignment.