Friday, December 21, 2007

If the rest of it really doesn't matter, why do I want to do it all?

I was on the phone with a friend today. She asked how Christmas preparations were coming, and I shared with her that my body had basically hit bottom. I spent essentially all day horizontal. Many of the things I have wanted to do, including for family, have either been put on the back burner (our family members living out of state won't receive their gifts until after the holiday) or will just fall off the plate.

My friend kindly offered her help, and then reminded me that when I look back, the stuff that didn't get done won't matter anyway.

As I lay on the couch, playing games with my daughter, basking in that sweet time together, I wondered: "If most of the trappings and the extras really don't matter, why do we do them all?" And I wonder how much of that might apply to my day-to-day life. Am I so consumed with stuff that really won't matter that I am sometimes (often?) missing what does?

But then again, how does one decide what 'doesn't matter'? I suppose each of our plates can carry different amounts at different times, and I think each day will probably be a little different. But this week when I have felt so rotten, and throughout the course of my struggle with chronic illness, I have struggled to figure out how to balance. Where is that line between diligently striving to be "anxiously engaged" in "many things" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27) and running faster than I have strength?

I know there is no pat answer to it, and that we need the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help us. But as my husband and I have had to work to just keep the bare minimum going, we have realized how often we really don't seek the Spirit and instead just sort of let life live us. It's so easy to let the good things keep us from the most important things.

Although my obvious wish is to have more strength to do more of what I want and feel I need to do. However, I can't help but wonder how much of that stuff along the way is really that important. I feel I am learning a lot, especially the past while (and with the help of several talks at this last General Conference), about the importance of proactively seeking to have my priorities in place, every day.

Truth be told, I felt more joy today lying on the couch playing with my daughter than I would have felt doing almost anything else on my "list" even with how much I love Christmas. Might this be a lesson the Lord wants me to learn through all of this?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them....

Last night, BB (age 6) had the Family Home Evening lesson. She was gone all day, and yet she had an idea that she wanted to run with. By the time she got home, I couldn't help her because I had to get dinner ready. So she tackled it on her own.

We sat down to a lesson that touched my heart. It was on the Book of Mormon. One key message she wanted to get across was that reading the Book of Mormon [reading scriptures] was more important than reading other books. [She meant this in terms of priorities -- that we should read the scriptures first before reading other things.] She had her brother come up and pretend to be reading a different book, and then had Dad come up to remind him that he should read his scriptures first.

Once she had this little 'skit' she had us each draw a picture of the Book of Mormon or the gold plates. She then asked to use my cell phone to take a picture of us all holding our pictures.

In our family prayer, she later asked that we would remember to read the Book of Mormon before we read other books.

Do I even need to say which book I started my day with today? :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Awesome Household Tips

I just ran across this page that has a huge variety of household tips using things like vinegar, baking soda, yogurt, club soda, and powdered milk. (Did you know you can make paint from powdered milk! At last I have a backup plan for using all of my milk I never use up from my food storage!) :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Join Team Bloggernacle in Donating to Heifer International!

I've always been impressed with the concepts behind this organization, and now we have a chance to join together to make an impact in a significant way. I know there are lots of opportunities and choices at this time of year, but if you have even a few dollars, please consider joining this awesome effort. To contribute, click on the "General Team Donation" link.

Thanks to Janet Garrard-Willis for organizing this effort!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Words Matter, but Grace and the Spirit Matter More

I have been mulling over something today, while participating in a discussion about the challenge of language. (The particular discussion was about the concepts of presiding/patriarchy and partnership, although I'm sure we could find others where words and concepts seem to collide.)

It may seem at the outset that these are conflicting concepts, and, perhaps in the dictionary sense, that may be true. What do we do when this happens? Do we dismiss efforts to explain them? I think doing so is a serious mistake.

Words do matter. And it's difficult when words seem to get in the way of our understanding or communication. But when we are using words in the gospel (or even in relationships), we are seeking to explain and understand concepts that have an eternal (or at least a concealed) dimension (in relationships, we rarely know all that is behind the words said or written (experience, upbringing, pain, motives, etc.). As such, words themselves will usually not be sufficient to truly understand gospel concepts, or to understand each other. If we limit ourselves to only words, and react only at the level of dictionary definitions (or our limited, I believe we will miss significant opportunities for meaning and understanding, and also for compassion.

In fact, I believe we have a solemn responsibility to receive words with more than just dictionary in hand. We must receive by the Spirit.

I was reminded today of Moroni in Ether 12. Imagine the weight of knowing your words would be passed down for generations, and would be an anchor for gospel teaching. He laments the limitations of language, of his words. He goes to the Lord in fear and concern:

"[W]hen we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words" (v. 25).

The Lord comforts him by letting him know that the listeners (readers) have a responsibility to receive the words in the right spirit.

"And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness..." (v. 26).

Do we ever take advantage of the apparent weakness of others' words? I fear that too often we do, be they words from prophets or even just from those around us in our day-to-day lives. We insist that the way we understand what they said is correct. We hold up dictionaries and worldly learning and our own experiences alone, and thus too often feel justified in criticizing or dismissing or undermining or reacting unkindly to what their words. (Misunderstandings, after all, are just about misunderstanding words, right? We all know this happens far too often in our lives and relationships. We know it also happens in the Church.)

It seems to me that the Lord expects more of us, however. This is evident in these verses in Ether 12. I think we also find warnings against such reactions to words in 2 Nephi 28:

...And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God--he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this

Other scriptures also recognize the limitations of language (see, for example, 3 Nephi 5:18)

I think of a wonderful talk by A. Roger Merrill in last year's October General Conference. He talked about receiving by the Spirit. I believe that as we receive by the Spirit, with meekness and charity, the Lord will magnify seemingly weak words and help us understand things that our minds alone cannot understand. He will also overcome our weak tendency to take advantage of others because of their words, or their weakness. The Lord's grace is sufficient for us, and for them. It is our opportunity and responsibility to tap into that grace or I believe we will mourn as we someday discover that we have missed opportunities for spiritual understanding and experiences with gift of charity.

Indeed, words matter, but I believe grace and charity matter more.

Monday, November 19, 2007

New LDS Site for Teens

Here's the link.

Here's a story talking about it.

Environmental Benefits of Keeping the Sabbath?

Whaddya think?

Missionary Meme

BiV, I'm finally getting to that meme! (And I'm doing it because I love you...even though I'm not a huge fan of these things. This is one with some good purpose, so on we go....)

Here are the rules--
1. Answer the three missionary questions

1. Did you serve a mission, and where?
Yes, I served in South America.

2. What was your best missionary experience?
One I wrote about recently...talking for hours with a women who had read the whole Book of Mormon and bombarded us with questions, and finally breaking through to help her understand about authority and ordinances. The other was watching Roberto get baptized, about a week before I left. (That's a funny story, too, because we had to bail out the baptismal font...someone had left it undrained. Yuck.)

3. Who is the most missionary-oriented leader you have ever had?
Hm. Hard one to answer. I think Elder Lynn Mickelsen is one who had the greatest impact on my view of missionary work -- open your mouth, all of the time! Teach in every opportunity! He helped me understand the power of the Spirit when we teach the gospel. His teaching changed my mission and my life, because as I taught more, I received a specific testimony of Joseph Smith's divine calling, something I had desired for a long time.

2. Do the missionary activity and return and report.
Ask a random stranger if they have ever heard about the Mormon Church, and if they would like to know more (Golden Question)
(I'll report when I actually do it!)

3. Tag 5 of your friends.

I tag Eric, Connor, Téa, and Tanya. (Having a mental block for #5)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keeping Children Safe in our Church Buildings

Parents, don't assume that just because your kids are in the church building, they are safe. This is a sobering story that has me thinking about times my kids were in the hall when I was somewhere with some adults, even just chatting after a ward something-or-another.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Birth Control at School?

Wow. I am writing a lot this week.

This will be a short one...just a link to a news story that has me still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Busy Youth: Clarifying my T&S comment

I made a comment in a T&S conversation last night, but comments are closed and I never got a chance to explain what I was thinking, and some of the comments left me feeling like people might misunderstand me.

The conversation was about Seminary and the busy-ness of youth with the many programs they have. I said, more in a musing mode:
I can’t help but wonder if the repetition in the youth programs is on purpose. If they weren’t busy with good church stuff, isn’t it likely that they’d be busy with other stuff that might not be as wholesome? I think getting youth together to strengthen each other often takes more than once a week. I dunno…I’m not at that stage yet, but I can’t help but think that it’s not redundancy without some intent.

Julie says:
It sounds like you don’t have much confidence in LDS families. I imagine some youth (like those in Adam’s ward) are better off at another YM/YW activity than at home, but others . . . I was thinking of Pres. Packer’s (and others) comments before Mark IV even posted them. Church leaders warn repeatedly that the church isn’t supposed to take the place of the primary unit: the family.

It's not that I don't have confidence in LDS families, it's just that youth are easily pulled into a variety of activities. If they are going to be socializing and busy, why not be doing it with youth in the Church who share their values? I'm NOT advocating useless activities, or overcramming to the point of trying to take over the family's role. This is something Elder Oaks also just talked about, and I think it's obvious that we still don't fully "get it" since our leaders keep repeating this counsel. But at the same time, our leaders haven't removed Seminary, or weekly activities, or BYC, or Scouts, or.... And so I trust that the problem isn't in the structure, its in the implementation.

I also was going off of something my sister has said. She has six children, and holds a busy leadership calling. She expressed to me how she was feeling that things were a bit crazy with all the different activities of all her children, many of them Church-related. In the penultimate Conference, she felt some perspective and felt that it was a good thing that our youth are kept busy with Church activities. There is so much that youth can get busy with that isn't as useful (again NOT to suggest that activities are more important than family; I'm saying something different).

Like I said in my comment, though, I am not at that stage yet, so all of what I said was sort of thinking out loud. I just wanted to be sure that people understood that I am not trying to say the Church should take over the family. That said, our leaders have acknowledged that:

We need both Church activities and family activities. If all families were complete and perfect, the Church could sponsor fewer activities. But in a world where many of our youth grow up in homes where one parent is missing, not a member, or otherwise inactive in gospel leadership, there is a special need for Church activities to fill in the gaps (Dallin H. Oaks, “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church,” Liahona, Nov 2005, 24–27).

Again, though, his most recent Conference talk really came down hard on church activities that are not focused and purposeful. How we spend our time in our families and in the Church needs to be tightened.

I think Elder Oaks talks about both keeping Church activities tight but also the risk that is there if the Church were to reduce activity time.

Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their "divinely appointed duties."

But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments. Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.

It cuts both ways. We need to be sure that Church activities count, but also that whatever time we don't spend involved with Church stuff is not spent on good-but-not-essential stuff. A hard balance all around, no?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Latter-day Saint Women Should be the Very Best..."

There has been much ado about Sister Beck's recent talks. One element of her talks that has gotten a lot of attention is reflected in the title of this post. She asserts that Latter-day Saint women should be the "very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families."

Many people have interpreted this as a statement of either self-righteousness or competition -- as if we are somehow to compare ourselves to the world and come out on top. I would like to consider her words in a different light, because I think such interpretations may be misrepresenting her message.

First of all, in all but one of her comments that I could see, Sister Beck didn't say that we are the best. She said that we should be the best. I hear this as an invitation to consider who we are and what we are here to do.

I hear her call to us as being similar to what the Savior said to His followers:

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16; see also 3 Nephi 12:14-16; 15:12)

We are a covenant people. As such, we are supposed to be different. The Lord expects something from us. We are asked by the Lord to be a light to the world. I think Sister Beck is calling to us in a similar way. At the end of her Relief Society broadcast talk, she said the following:

Our prophet, whom I sustain with all my heart, has said that there is a better way than the way of the world.

I think Sister Beck is trying to remind us of the need for us to rise above the philosophies and practices of the world. We should understand the importance of faith, family and relief better than anyone because we have the knowledge the restored gospel and continuing revelation give us. There are those outside our faith who are doing MUCH good in these regards, but they don't have the fullness of the gospel to frame what they do and believe. They don't know of temple covenants that bind families together. They may not fully understand the "doctrine of the family" to which Sister Beck refers. But we do (or we should), and it is on our shoulders to put that light on a candlestick and "be the very best" so that, among other things, others can know that there is a better way. There is more light and knowledge about the family than the world knows. How will they know if we don't live what we know?

Does this mean other people can't be or aren't excellent parents, loving Christians, deeply good and God-fearing people? Of course not. Does this mean that we reject the good that others do? Absolutely not. We rejoice in the good others outside the Church do. We stand together with good people all over the world to serve, to defend marriage and to strengthen the family, and to try to make the world a better place. We are deeply grateful for those who respond to the light of Christ in their lives and recognize the importance of God and family above all else.

But we are the only people in the world bound by priesthood covenants to do these things. We are the only group of people led by prophets called as mouthpieces for the Lord Himself. That gives us not a reason to boast, but rather a sobering responsibility.

For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation (D&C 82:3).

I hear Sister Beck expressing hope that we will rise to the duty that is ours to respond to the light that is ours by nature of the blessings of the Restoration. And seek to share that light in word and action. We should be living lives consistent with gospel principles better than anyone, not in a spirit of competition, but simply because we are the ones who know and have them. We can always do better, and I hear our leaders (all of them!) inviting us to do just that.

An Example of Why "Two-deep Leadership" is a Good Idea

This story reiterates to me the importance of always having two adults when a man is working with children: to have an adult witness in case accusations are made. If this man is truly innocent, this is a horrible tragedy in his life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thoughts on Sister Becks' Talk

I finally have a moment to write (and not long). So I'll try to follow through on a promise I made to BiV to share my thoughts on Sister Beck's talk.

I listened to it again and took copious notes, so I could not simply be going on first impressions, but focusing more on the specific things she said.

After listening to the talk again, and paying particular attention to what got so much attention, I was struck by how much it seemed people missed in their first impressions. Her talk was about so much more than just housekeeping, or about ironed clothes on Sunday. It was about having a spiritual and eternal perspective in our most important roles and responsibilities.

Everything she addressed in my mind came back to one main thing -- that we need more than ever to be vigilant in focusing on creating an environment in the home where children can best grow spiritually and temporally. We need to prepare them for the future. What comes to mind is what then-Elder Eyring said:

The prophets of God have foreseen the times in which we live. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” Anyone with eyes to see the signs of the times and ears to hear the words of prophets knows that the peril is great. The peril comes from the forces of wickedness. Those forces are increasing. And so it will become harder, not easier, to keep the covenants we must make to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sister Beck also talked about our perilous times, and how much vigilance we need as parents to make sure our children can face the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead. If it will be harder as we go along to keep our covenants, that would suggest that we need to raise the bar in what we are doing in our spiritual lives and in our homes. That is what I see Sister Beck doing -- giving guidance on what mothers can do to make sure that they are doing 'all we can do' as leaders in our homes. I hear her reminding us that NOTHING else matters more. This is not new...we constantly hear that family responsibilities come first.

(Important to note is that she talked about being equal partners with our husbands in leading a 'great and eternal organization.')

BiV asked me specifically what my thoughts were on a few specific points, so I'll focus on those specifics first.

Education: Sister Beck said that education is not really worthwhile if we don't use our knowledge to create a climate for spiritual growth. In other words, I hear her saying that education is not an end, it is a means. Too often, I think we approach our goals as ends rather than means to help us help God fulfill His purposes. And too often, we put good things above what is essential. I think that is what she is driving at.

My impression with her words, especially when taken in context with other counsel we have received, is that if we pursue education for the sake of education and primarily for position, prestige and influence outside the home, we are missing the mark. All that we do should come back to God's work and glory, and that is focused on saving souls, particularly those in our families.

The prophets have also encouraged education in large measure as part of welfare principles of preparedness, not simply for personal fulfillment. (Sister Beck addressed the false doctrine of personal fulfillment in her RS talk as well.)

I believe an educated mother can benefit her children and her home in significant ways. The more educated we are, the more education will matter to our children, and the more prepared they will be for their future. Women will also be better able to provide (or help provide) for basic needs if necessary. And they will be better positioned to serve elsewhere (in the community, etc.) as guided by the Spirit. But Sister Beck's ordering of priorities is consistent with prophetic counsel. And it's clear she is inviting us to do more in our homes, which requires doing less elsewhere.

Nurturing, homemaking, etc.: Sister Beck defined nurturing more broadly than what has been focused on by many. She first defined nurturing as cultivating, caring for and making grow. She admonished us to 'create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth.' I think that is the backdrop for her comment that another word for nurturing is homemaking. But note that homemaking doesn't just mean housecleaning. It's making a home -- what I think she defined as a place for spiritual and temporal growth.

PART of helping children grow is being good examples of people who work, people who care about their surroundings. It also includes caring for the physical needs of our families, which means that we cook and clean. She in no way limited nurturing to only housekeeping chores, however. She also never said that men could never help with these things. (Did anyone notice that the picture shown when she mentioned the cooking, cleaning and such showed a DAD helping the children do dishes? I can't believe that was an accident. Again, equal partners work together to make sure these things happen. They work together to make a home. But the Proclamation teaches the rule that mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture and care of the children, because they are the ones who are counseled to be home during the day.)

She also made clear that keeping an orderly home isn't just about physical needs, or temporal training of our children (teaching them how to work), even though those things are important. An orderly home can help with spiritual growth as well.

I should say that perhaps my weakest point in mothering is housekeeping. That is made worse by chronic illness issues. Keeping a spotless house is nearly impossible for me, given my limited energy and my lack of ability in that area. So, sometimes when I hear counsel given to keep a clean house, I feel inadequate and overwhelmed, even depressed. I started down that path with her talk, but as I talked with my husband, I realized, as I am trying to remind myself constantly, that motherhood is a process. And I am trying to make improvements in our home so that we can have more order. I'm trying to rally the troops to do more to help with that. We are working together more in our family toward more cleanliness. Is not the process part of the counsel? Is there not much to be gained in trying to improve, even if the end result isn't perfect? Of course there is. Gospel living is always a process. And there is an Atonement to make up the difference when we have done the "very best we can" (quoting Pres. Hinckley).

I also will add something that brought a great deal of peace and perspective to me. Sister Beck talked about how the value we place on motherhood and attaining attributes of motherhood (even if we don't have children of our own!) will rise with us in the resurrection. Motherhood is about becoming. It is what MATTERS to us that matters to God. None of us will be perfect in what we do, in any facet of our lives. But if we are striving to be better, caring about what matters most, focusing on the 'best' (channeling Elder Oaks) things, the needful things, we will be blessed for our desires. God knows that I care about these things, and I'm trying to make changes toward making my mothering matter more. Isn't that what it's all about? We aren't being given END goals, we are being given guidance on the MEANS to eternally-important ends -- a spiritual home and an eternal family.

As to the Sunday best issue, there is another example of where I fall short, so my natural woman wanted to hide (or be frustrated) when she shared an example of children with pressed dresses and perfect hair.

But then I pondered the principle she was trying to teach. Was it really about appearances? NO. She was sharing an example of the way a woman can teach her children respect and honor for sacred ordinances and covenants. How many of us will get our children primped to perfection for a family photo, or impressing an important somebody (even Grandma) who is coming to dinner, or...(you get the drift). On the flip side, are you ever like me, trying to catch that extra 10 minutes of sleep on Sunday morning (because you stayed up too late Saturday night), and thus rush about, getting after (read: sometimes yelling at) your kids to hurry, only to get to church (frazzled) and look over at children with bed-head or mismatched clothes? If not, kudos to you. But I saw in what she was saying an invitation to give my best to the Lord, and to teach my children that NOTHING else matters more than our relationship with Him.

Immediately after talking about honoring sacred covenants and ordinances, Sister Beck talked about pointing our children to the temple. Would we go wrinkly and messy-haired to the temple? Probably not. (If we do, we probably shouldn't.) But is all this shallow stuff about appearances? No, I believe it's about heart. It's about respect. It's about a spirit of sacrifice and humility. Doesn't the Lord deserve our best efforts? Our best clothes? Our best teaching? Our best example?

This isn't about fodder for criticizing others, either. I'm grateful for kind ward members who understand that mornings are hard for me. But even so, can't I do a little better? Of course I can. And I should do it because I care about doing my best for God and teaching my children that the firstfruits of my life should be God's -- not because I care about what others think of me or my kids, but because I care about giving my best to the Lord...not because He needs it but because I do.

So there are some specific thoughts. I also just wanted to note all of the things that she mentioned that can help create a home that can foster spiritual and temporal growth. Since I'm a visual person, I like to SEE all that she said, to see all the meat that was in her talk.

- Know God, know who we are, make and honor covenants
- Welcome children into our home - it's a commandment that is 'still in force'! (Too many cultures have devalued children. MANY of our leaders have talked about this. As Latter-day Saints, we believe in having children, and that family goals come first.)
- We place value on motherhood and strive to develop the traits of divine motherhood. (That was in my words, but think of that.)
- Point children to the temple.
- Prepare children for missions (have a home as a pre-MTC).
- Help them plan for their ETERNAL FUTURE.
- Teach by example.
- Use our skills and knowledge toward our eternal goals.
- Foster an environment of organization (disorganization is a distraction and an energy drain...ask me, I know!), patience, love and work.
- Work beside children, teach and model qualities that we want our children to emulate (I would add that they will NEED to face the future).
- Work as equal partners in this 'great and eternal organization' -- the family!
- Realize that we are never off-duty. We are teachers, not merely babysitters. (The thought I had is that I should be spent at the end of a day like I was on my mission -- because there I gave ALL I had to that role. I sometimes don't do that as a mom. I hear her inviting me to give more of my heart to this role. As I do, I believe I will be giving more of my heart to the Lord.)
- Help our children prepare to be the future fathers and mothers and church leaders for the next generation; teach them to follow the Lord's pattern, not worldly patterns and social pressures. Teach them to be leaders by being leaders ourselves. (This implies the importance of being spiritually and temporally grounded ourselves.)
- Family home evening, family prayer, family scripture study, meal times are all times when we can teach. (We should be constantly teaching! This reminds of another then-Elder Eyring quote:
We have the greatest opportunity with the young. The best time to teach is early, while children are still immune to the temptations of their mortal enemy, and long before the words of truth may be harder for them to hear in the noise of their personal struggles.
A wise parent would never miss a chance to gather children together to learn of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Such moments are so rare in comparison with the efforts of the enemy. For every hour the power of doctrine is introduced into a child’s life, there may be hundreds of hours of messages and images denying or ignoring the saving truths.
The question should not be whether we are too tired to prepare to teach doctrine or whether it wouldn’t be better to draw a child closer by just having fun or whether the child isn’t beginning to think that we preach too much. The question must be, “With so little time and so few opportunities, what words of doctrine from me will fortify them against the attacks on their faith which are sure to come?” The words you speak today may be the ones they remember. And today will soon be gone.

- Do less; focus on what will bear fruit eternally and reduce that which will not (this includes less media, less distraction, less activities that pull children out of the home)
- Live on less and consume less. (This isn't a save-the-environment plea, although that is a side benefit) -- this was direction given to spend more time with our children.
- We should spend more time eating together, working together, talking, laughing, singing, reading.
- Choose carefully what to do -- don't try to do it all. (Can't remember if she said this here or in the RS broadcast, but we should make sure that we are conserving our energy to focus on the things that matter eternally.)
- We should excel as members of the Church in upholding, nourishing and protecting families. She expresses her confidence that we will rise to this challenge!

There is SO much there!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Discussion-Induced Disappointment Disorder

Update: Julie M. Smith provides a useful remedy for my troubles today, by adding some reason and perspective to the reactions to Sister Beck that dominated discussions today. Yeah for Julie.

Yeah for Keryn, too, who really, really captured the blessings that can come from catching the spirit of what Sister Beck said. Thanks, Keryn!!!!


I just jumped on to check into the pulse of things after Conference. I went from a spiritual high to feeling sick to my stomach. I am deeply disappointed in much of the discussion I saw. I was feeling some of that yesterday, as it seemed that people were just too quick to complain or criticize instead of just soak in the wonder that is Conference weekend.

I love the benefits of discussion. It's why I blog. I love interacting with people and sharing ideas back and forth. But sometimes I think people take things too far. The negativity I have seen today is bordering on shocking to me. I don't want to take away the way discussion can help people sort through thoughts, but there has to be a better way that can keep the spirit of what we heard alive. Much of what I read -- criticism, nitpicking, complaining -- took away from that spirit. It saddened me to hear the people I have grown to care about in the bloggernacle tear apart talks from some of the people I respect and sustain as my leaders.

Our leaders have expressed confidence in us. I'm particularly thinking of Sister Beck and the confidence she has expressed in us as women -- that we will be united, one voice, together behind what she taught as true and correct. I was amazed at how people would pick and choose what they liked and didn't like from last week's Relief Society broadcast (they are a united front, a united presidency -- do we really think that they don't support what the other says, that they haven't talked about what they were going to share?) And today, it's been even worse.

Our leaders aren't simply a bunch of individuals just out to push their individual agendas. I believe they speak as a united group. They spend weeks, if not months, seeking the Lord's guidance and seeking to find what HE would have them say.

I can't imagine that presenting their messages is easy; they speak to a worldwide audience whose individual lives vary in many ways. They only have a few minutes to try to cover deep and crucial topics. Are they perfect? They would be the first to admit that they are not.

And yet, our prophet recommended ALL of Conference to us for our review and pondering. He made no qualification of that recommendation. I am astounded at the level of negativity I have seen. I understand wanting to sort through ideas, but again, there has to be a better way than what I have seen today. Can't we do better?

If there is something we struggle with, something that didn't sit quite right, Elder Eyring gave us the key to what we could do (from the press conference). It was the counsel Pres. Faust gave him -- to go to God. Public criticism and fault-finding and negative hyper-analysis seems wholly inappropriate to me, and distracting from the amazing spirit that was present during this wonderful weekend.

I also think that if we struggle with something one person has said, almost surely someone else will have addressed our concern in another talk. The way I see it, their talks are interconnected, and part of a larger picture that no one person could capture in a 15-minute address. No one talk will be able to cover the vastness of the gospel message, nor of the many ways we could improve living it and enjoying its blessings. I think it is completely unfair to expect one person to say everything we want to hear, or to say something that applies to every single person all of the time, or to cover even all the bases that that person surely wants to cover. Try to imagine it!

I would have hoped for more testimony-building discussion. I leave my computer tonight stunned and disappointed. I will say thanks to those who did report and discuss in positive ways. I will try to read more of your words later. But for now, I am hurting that there could be as much discord and criticism as there was, and the (what feels to me) cavalier assumptions and discussions that somehow seem to imply that any of us could know better than our heaven-called leaders about what should have been said.

Addendum: I want to reiterate that I am not anti-discussion. I just think there are ways we can engage each other without being critical of our leaders and negative in our approach.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lights Out!

This is great.

The story I read earlier today said that the Church was planning on turning off lights on Temple Square.

Reading some numbers about what a difference five light bulbs can make multiplied by lots of people gives me more motivation to be more careful about turning off lights. You know, sometimes it feels like our little efforts aren't really a drop in the bucket, but if we all do a little....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Money Isn't Everything

I thought this story was worth passing on.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Utah Pandemic Plan -- Input Needed

For all you Utahns, if you haven't heard about this, it's worth a read. I'm thrilled that they are asking for public input. Here's a chance to get involved directly with something that could potentially impact us all personally.

Gotta Love Pres. Hinckley

Pres. Hinckley just received an award. This story captures his delightful personality, his sharp mind, and the impact he has had on many people. I was moved by the prayer given by bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Salt Lake.

It's a story well worth the read.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thoughts on Church History

The internet has been abuzz with discussions about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all the more so since the PBS special that aired a while back, and now the talk about the movie "September Dawn." Surveys have even been conducted, asking Church members how much history they think the Church should share. Discussions such as this one show up not infrequently.

This is a topic on which there is obviously a range of opinions. It's one I have mulled over for months. Several weeks ago, I decided to turn to the Book of Mormon to see if I could find some insight on this topic of history. I searched on the word "history" and was surprised to find only six occurrences of the word. Interestingly, all of them are found within the first three books. I studied those six verses in addition to other related verses, and discovered what I think is a profound scriptural model for handling history.

LDS General Conference Scriptural Index Now Has Talks from 1942-1970!

I was thrilled to see this!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some Brief Reviews of "September Dawn"

This is probably not new to anyone keeping track of responses to the film, but for those who are interested in a brief story on some of the reviews, you can go here.

Monday, August 20, 2007


And to think that I have myriad temples within a half-day's drive! Check this out! It's an older blog, but I still think it was worth a look.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thoughts on the Bloggernacle, Panel

There has been much discussion about the much-discussed panel (and about the bloggernacle as a result -- after seeing a link to this blog post, I wanted to point out that the comma in the title was deliberate!), and I want to throw in my few cents' worth.

First of all, I listened to the recording, and thought the panelists all did a good job. Although I think Kaimi greatly overstated the fraction of the church elephant that the bloggernacle represents, I thought he came up with an interesting analogy. I loved Kristine's more personal approach; she read some powerful blog posts and interesting comments. And for all that Russell said he would be boring, he wasn't. I thought his analysis was well done and well presented. I particularly liked that he recognized the limitations of blogging, but recognized its strengths (conversation and interaction).

And then there was Lisa.

Anyone who has ever listened to her will know that she is funny, fun, and real. She's really a delight to listen to, personable and honest. (I will say that she needs to stop apologizing for who she is or what she think she is not.. She doesn't need a Ph.D. to communicate and to communicate well. :) )

Her honesty is something I appreciated in this panel. When the topic of the panel came up at DMI Dave's blog, I agreed with something said C Jones said about conservatives being somewhat excluded from the bloggernacle. I have seen this dynamic multiple times, and have repeatedly experienced it first hand in the year+ I have been blogging. I have close friends who have also felt this exclusion, to the point of essentially retreating and more or less giving up on commenting, particularly on the "big blogs." Just because some very, very small conservative blogs exist doesn't mean that the bloggernacle is fundamentally a welcoming place for conservatives. It's often not.

And yet, Lisa is possibly the first person I have heard who has so publicly and clearly admitted and recognized this. I read comments and emails from people who say that they care about community (and I believe they do) but few seem to really acknowledge the fact that there is a serious rift in this community or express a desire to do something about it. (I do remember reading a couple of good posts on BCC, one that was fairly recent, that tried to address the potential lack of community. I also have appreciated watching Deborah and Kathryn Lynard Soper recently try to build a bridge of understanding and camaraderie. I'd love to see more of this!)

I'm not saying the rift exists 100% of the time, and I do know that there are those who care deeply about this divide, but it seems there is often a sense of denial and/or defensiveness when the subject is broached. And the rift exists enough to make conservatives sometimes feel unwelcome, hesitant, even driven out. Unless this changes (getting to the question the panel set out to address), I don't see how we could think of the bloggernacle as really representative of Mormonism if it tends to exclude some of the very voices that are more typical of mainstream Mormonism.

So, back to Lisa. I actually couldn't decide whether to cheer or to cry when she quipped that (paraphrasing): "We berate conservatives/orthodox [her words] folks because we don't want to hear what we hear at church" and "we nudge some people like that out, because after all, if they want to talk churchy stuff, they can go somewhere else and do it in their own space." (For now, I'll try to ignore the fact that those in attendance laughed when she joked about berating conservative folks. Imagine if the tables were turned at church. Is berating or nudging someone out ever funny?)

Now, before you go all wonky on me (loved that word; I'm stealing it from Lisa), please don't misunderstand. I totally recognize and appreciate the fact that some people need a place where they can go to sort through their mind vomit (another one of Lisa's clever terms) and to come to grips with dissonance they might feel between the church and some of their personal perspectives. I understand that some people have had bad experiences with people in their family or in their church circle totally dismissing their questions and concerns, and/or unkindly "calling them to repentance." This should not be. Wherever we are, we need to feel loved and listened to, in spite of our questions or concerns or weaknesses. I feel saddened that people like Lisa feel excluded at church and have turned to the bloggernacle for a feeling of acceptance and support. And I am glad that some people have found reasons to stay, thanks to the bloggernacle. I tend to agree that a lot of these discussions really can't happen in a 30-minute Sunday-school lesson.

I do think, though, that we need to somehow learn to talk more freely with fellow church members in our real lives about our struggles. But, alas, I'm getting ahead of myself.

My blogging experience has given me a greater appreciation for the fact that we are all at different places in our journey of faith, and if we turn to God, however and wherever we can, He can bless us and help us move forward. I feel that I have learned better how to listen (even if people don't believe that's true), and I have gained more understanding of different points of view. This is extremely important to me, and it's a big reason why I blog.

But, to be honest, I think that "liberals" don't often take the time to really understand "conservatives'" point of view. Perhaps because conservative points of view have added to people's pain and struggle, I feel sometimes these perspectives are too easily and quickly dismissed. The "I get that at church" mindset often seems to create a barrier to listening and seeking to understand.

So if I may, I want to say this: Just because you hear similar thoughts at church doesn't mean that you really understand those like me who blog, and it doesn't mean our motives are the same as those who may have caused you pain (if their motives were truly malignant). We wouldn't be blogging if we weren't interested in discussion beyond what happens at church as well, so perhaps it's NOT all like what you get at church. :)

And please, please, don't assume that by sharing church-like thoughts, someone's intentions are to self-righteously call someone to repentance, to call someone else an apostate, or to try to shut down discussion. (These are all arguments I have seen repeatedly and usually unfairly used to shut down (nudge out) commenters like me.) Most of the time, people like me are also trying to work through our own thoughts, to understand others' points of view, and sometimes, yes, to represent the oft-underrepresented and -unspoken mainstream point of view. After all, people ARE turning to the bloggernacle more and more for understanding of Mormonism. If we don't allow for mainstream points of view, what kind of disservice might we be doing to the Church and to those who want to understand it?

I've talked about the problem of exclusion of conservatives, and addressed concerns about the public face of the bloggernacle. I have another bloggernacle concern that relates to all of this.

I think that as long as there are divisions -- "ites" if you will -- like liberal and conservative, orthodox and new order (don't know if those are actual opposites, but you get where I'm going), feminist and not-so-feminist, mainstream and closer-to-the-edge, we (either on- or off-line) won't truly be able to be a community. Of course, as Elder Holland recently explained, the blessings of church membership come with a price, and we cannot simply remove the price tag at will, even for the sake of community. But so often, we have rifts between those of us who are striving to pay the price, those for whom church membership is a precious element of life. In fact, I feel that sometimes more effort is made to reach out to those not of or formerly of our faith, rather than to those who might be different from us within the faith.

If all we do is find our corner of the internet to simply be comfortable without sometime, somehow learning to come together in spite of our differences, I think we are missing the full meaning and purpose of our membership. It's not just about personal peace. It's about being one in a community, united in Christ.

I think J. Daniel Crawford said it well in the post I linked to above:

If we were one in Christ, I believe that we would be encouraged to treat everyone as a whole person, not simply as an amalgam of desirable and undesirable characteristics [might I add points of view?].... If we have [the love of Christ] I don’t believe our goal would be to create and reinforce the divisions among us. Instead, we would be bound in one great whole.

I hope that especially those who have power and influence in the bloggernacle will give some consideration to these wise words. Actually, though, I think it is something we all need to consider. I think too often, we allow ourselves to stay stuck in mindsets and modes of interaction that reinforce and facilitate the divisions and contentions that the Lord has asked us to leave behind. I think that only through a love and a unity that binds us together in spite of insecurities, struggles, frustrations, and even misunderstandings will we hope to come close to representing what the gospel and the church are about. Because ultimately, the gospel and church are about the Savior and His saving grace and about coming unto Him, and doing it together -- not about polygamy, or the Word of Wisdom, or politics, or most of the other comment-driving, conversation-producing, controversial topics we may discuss. I think we need to do better about helping people see that side of our faith that so far, the press has largely missed.

Actually, sometimes I think we miss it, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Circle of Life

I said good-bye to Grandma today, probably for the last time.

Grandpa may be losing his mind, but his body is strong, so I might see him again.

But probably not Grandma.

I wasn't really prepared for it all. I came to the family reunion specifically knowing that it might be the last time I see them. I knew they weren't doing well, but....

I had the privilege of sitting next to Grandma. Of holding her soft hand. Of feeding her spoonfuls of yogurt. Of giving her glimpses of who and what she couldn't see. She would break into a huge grin when she would hear the sweet sound of the small children's laughter and chatter.

She kept talking of how much she wished she could see all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who had gathered to honor her and Grandpa. I tried to communicate the love and honor that we feel. Tears came to my eyes as she simply turned the glory to God. Her humility in her suffering touched me.

Indeed, God has been so good to us. And how can I be anything but grateful to have had loving grandparents who have lived for this long, and to have so many wonderful, wonderful memories?

But with the gratitude, of course, comes great sadness. I finally had to take a walk to let the tears flow. They flowed again as Dad wheeled Grandma away toward the car. The realization of the temporary finality of it all was too much for me.

The emotion is draining, and I also find myself in a reflective mood. How strange it was to be at Grandma and Grandpa's house, but not to be the one splashing in the pool. I and my cousins and siblings are the parents now, and our parents are now the grandparents. I watched my dad holding one of my nephews and wondered what the next couple of decades will bring for us all as the circle of life continues.

This process of birth, life and death is a rich and fulfilling one. But it's also sobering. Time passes, and it passes quickly. Moments like these cause me to reflect on the importance of savoring life's stages, of making memories that can last, of putting God and family first.

Someday my children will sit by the side of their grandparents as they prepare to pass on. I hope they will feel the joy that I have felt that comes of sweet memories, of fun, of love, of the treasure that is family.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Couple More Links

In a recent conversation elsewhere, I said that I'm not sure that the Founding Fathers would have wanted decisions made (such as what to do about marriage in our nation) without the consideration of moral -- even religious -- principles. I just wanted to provide a couple of links (here and here) that expound a bit more (better than I could) on the topic.

I could add here that two of my "non-religious" concerns with gay marriage relate to Constitutional rights: religious rights (see this article for an interesting discussion of this topic) and free speech rights. I am concerned that these rights could be threatened if gay rights prevail.

Please note that what I said earlier when I posted on this topic applies to these posts as well:

I realize this is an issue many people are tired of discussing. If that describes you, please feel free to ignore what I have said. It might be better if you do. :) I also realize how strongly people can feel about this topic. I respectfully ask that any comments be about the information, issues, and concerns that have been brought up, and not include personal attacks (or attacks on my faith or my Church) or bullying. If you have evidence to counter my concerns, by all means, feel free to share. I don't pretend to have a full understanding of this issue.

I do moderate comments. Inflammatory, attacking comments will either be edited or left out entirely. I don't expect that everyone will agree, and I'm open to listening to any point of view as long as it keeps on the topic at hand and I feel it remains respectful. Thank you.

"The Social Value of Traditional Marriage"

Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke at the World Congress on Families in May of this year. Here is a link to his talk.

I include this in part because some people have asked what some of my more "non-religious" concerns are with gay marriage. This talk reflects some of them. (For example, note his extensive comments about the problems that have (and continue to) come as individual rights are put before the welfare of society as a whole; the concerns about less-than-ideal situations for children (where the ideal is to be raised by biological parents); and the potential threat to democratic society if marriage is undermined (although my concerns regarding democracy take a different road than his).)

While I realize that some will want to take issue with some of his points (I think I can predict which ones will get the most reaction), I think he makes a good case for leaving marriage as it has always been defined: between a man and a woman.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Learning a bit About Minerva Teichert

This was a fun story. Maybe you knew more about her than I did, but I learned something. (I never knew there was such a thing as an art mission. Did you?)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sex Offenders on MySpace

I found this news story frightening.. 29,000 is a big number. Parents, be aware.

Home Teaching Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Just when you thought you had heard it all....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Forgiving My Husband and My Children

Saturday, my hubby and children were gone all day. And they had the One Harry Potter Book that we had agreed to limit ourselves to. Not really wanting to wait for them to get home, having recently had major headaches that make it harder to read, and feeling like pampering myself a little, I bought the CD version of the book at Costco (one of the last copies in the whole city, I dare say). I got a good four or five hours of housework done, cooked dinner for the family that ended up eating elsewhere (no, that's not what I need to forgive them for), and of course, was entranced by Book 7 as I have been with the entire series. (And if you haven't heard the narration by Jim Dale, you must find a copy just to hear how he does the different voices. Simply fabulous!)

Anyway, I found out that during the day, hubby asked his sister how the book ended. Realizing that he has his agency, but still incredulous, I made it clear in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that I wanted to know NOTHING about what happens. I made sure he told our son, who also wanted to know the ending. (C'mon, what's the point of reading if you know how it ends???) I thought I made it abundantly clear. (Incidentally, busy hubby claimed that since he knew, he felt no need to read the book. Famous last words. My non-night-person husband stayed up until 4:00 the other morning to finish it. :) )

Anyway, not that I'm surprised, but little ears and little mouths can not easily be stopped, and little minds have short memories, especially when it comes to having secret information that must carry with it a sense of power. When family got home Saturday, I doubt there was much after a brief greeting before my two youngest blurted out how the book ends! The next day, they added more that they learned as their brother had read and shared more.

Alas, my sense of forgiveness is tested to the limit!

(The CDs take longer than reading, so I'm still lagging behind most of you. Don't test my limits any more, please. DON'T TELL! :) :) )

A Night to Remember

For one of his Faith in God requirements, our son, JJ, gave our Family Home Evening lesson tonight. He kept the topic a secret (as we read over the options in the Faith in God booklet, I left it up to him to choose). He was clearly excited to give the lesson, and prepared it completely on his own.

We sat on the couch. He asked us all to go find our scriptures, which we did. He pulled out a tray (the kind with legs that you use when you have more guests than table room), which he used as his pulpit. And he began a review of scriptures on the Holy Ghost. He asked us to share what these scriptures meant, and shared his own thoughts.

If I wasn't moved and impressed alraedy, then he did something that surprised and thrilled me. He said, "I have one other scripture to share. I wasn't planning on doing this, but...." He asked us to turn to Matthew 11, verses 28 through 30, verses he had shared just last night during family scripture study. I was impressed with his ability to lead us through these verses, asking Dad to read the first, me to read the second, and RS to read the third. He then asked us to share what we thought these verses had to do with the lesson.

And then he shared his thoughts. "I wasn't planning on sharing these scriptures. I thought, 'But I just shared them last night' (which he had; he's excited about the New Testament right now and is reading it). But I felt like I should share them. And I think that it means that we can feel the rest of the Lord through the Holy Ghost."

Of course, I can't remember his exact words, but the maturity and depth that he showed tonight was almost more than a mother of an eight-year-old could hope for. He had an impression and acted on it, even as it didn't make sense to his mind. He saw the connection between this scripture he has grown to love and the topic he had chosen tonight. And he concluded his lesson by bearing his testimony, a testimony that brought a calm to the room that was palpable.

It was definitely a night to remember!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

When Children Ask Hard Questions

When children ask hard questions, I believe they are opportunities. I also realize that they can be very, very difficult moments when the questions our children ask hit on the very questions we have ourselves. These in my mind are pivotal mini-crossroads moments. It's important not to sweep their questions under the rug (and FWIW, I hope it's clear that I'm not advocating this). We can acknowledge their concerns (even commisurate with them as appropriate). The fact that they care and are asking questions is a good thing, and we want them to always feel they can. But I think the opportunity comes in helping them look and live beyond their questions. Rather than leave them with their questions hovering in their minds, we can add a "but" to our "I don't know" or "I have the same questions sometimes."

"But do you know that God cares about your questions and you can talk to Him about them anytime?"
"But can I share what I do know?"
"But even though I don't understand everything and sometimes wish I knew more, I do feel peace about...."

Our children are so observant with what they see, but without our teaching and guidance, they may not know to what Source to look for help in their moments of confusion, fear, pain, sorrow or questioning.

I guess for me I know of no other satisfactory way to approach ANY of the hard questions of life -- the ones my childrens have, or the ones I have. When they come to me with questions (even those that I myself have, and this has happened), I try to explore faith with them, to teach what I hope for and believe in in the eternal scheme of things, and to hope that the Spirit will help them (and me!!) find peace and reconciliation in spite of the pain and struggle and unfairness, real or perceived. (Sometimes it's in the teaching that the Spirit can help us as parents increase our own faith in our own questioning and struggles!) God cares about our pain and questions (I'm learning this more and more and believing it more and more)and I think we need to help our children learn that turning to Him is always the best answer, no matter what the question.

(The following was added after the original post went up because I think this talk is relevant. Besides, I want the reminder and think it's a good one for any parent!)

Elder Holland's talk reminds us that we can't speak enough of our faith to our children, even if it's solid and firm (and especially, I would suppose) if we struggle a bit along the way. The whole talk is well worth a read.

I think some parents may not understand that even when they feel secure in their own minds regarding matters of personal testimony, they can nevertheless make that faith too difficult for their children to detect. We can be reasonably active, meeting-going Latter-day Saints, but if we do not live lives of gospel integrity and convey to our children powerful heartfelt convictions regarding the truthfulness of the Restoration and the divine guidance of the Church from the First Vision to this very hour, then those children may, to our regret but not surprise, turn out not to be visibly active, meeting-going Latter-day Saints or sometimes anything close to it.... [YIKES!]

Live the gospel as conspicuously as you can....And bear your testimony! Don’t just assume your children will somehow get the drift of your beliefs on their own....

[M]ight we ask ourselves what our children know? From us? Personally? [Read through his list of what they should know and see and feel from us...testimony of scriptures, prayer and fasting (for them as well as for other things), temple, prophets, and especially of God and His Son.]

...Brothers and sisters, our children take their flight into the future with our thrust and with our aim. And even as we anxiously watch that arrow in flight and know all the evils that can deflect its course after it has left our hand, nevertheless we take courage in remembering that the most important mortal factor in determining that arrow’s destination will be the stability, strength, and unwavering certainty of the holder of the bow.

When I read this talk several months ago (and again refresh my mind on these sobering teachings), I realized that I can - indeed, must - do better. And I once again resolve to take moments when my children ask hard questions (and even when they don' find every opportunity I can) to testify with "powerful heartfelt convictions" so that there is NO question in their minds how I feel about the gospel, and so their tender seeds of faith (and my growing tree) can be fed at every possible opportunity.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

ipod Intro Video

It's a little goofy, but interesting to see it all at work (if you haven't already). Go to the bottom of this page for the YouTube video.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Church Milestones: 1 Million Missionaries, 13 Million Members!

This was a fun story to read! The work continues to move forward!

Update: This story contains more information, including "snapshots" of "new missionaries sent out" since the Church was restored.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

New Hinckley Building Dedication to be Broadcast Live from BYU

If you are interested in this, you can find more information here.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

On Multiplying and Replenishing:
A compilation of counsel

(Note: It was recently brought to my attention that compilations of quotes such as I had could be violating copyright laws. Therefore, I have taken down most of the quotes and left the links of the talks where the quotes were found.)

Over the past several years, in many different settings, I have had some interesting discussions about the topic of birth control and/or the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. (Note that these are not necessarily the same topic!) Over the past hundred years, and even in my lifetime, we have seen some difference in the way these topics are addressed. In particular, we rarely hear anything specifically about birth control per se. We also hear that the decisions about family size and planning are personal, between a couple and the Lord.

I want to suggest that even as specific directives related to birth control might not be as plentiful as they used to be, the doctrine related to the commandment to multiply and replenish has basically remained the same through the course of the past century. Our leaders have never stopped talking about the importance of having children and how "multiply and replenish" is a commandment, part of our covenant responsibility. They have repeatedly expressed concern about the ways the adversary is undermining the family, including falling birth rates and changing attitudes about having children. They have also talked about the blessings that come from having children, and also the consequences, both on a general and individual level, when the plan is not followed as designed and taught. I think a lot of these concerns were those that underpinned past teachings by Church leaders as well.

I think our leaders leave it up to us to listen carefully and prayerfully consider their counsel and concerns. I see a lot of teaching correct principles and trusting us to govern ourselves. We are not "command[ed] in all things" with regard to specifics (the "how"), and we shouldn't expect to be. But we are taught repeatedly about the "what" and "why." I believe the Lord wants married couples to learn to have ears to hear and discern truth in prophetic and scriptural counsel, and to then work together and with Him to make specific decisions. (This process obviously would apply to individuals as well with most other topics.) Therefore, our leaders have given us general counsel and direction and it is up to each couple to prayerfully consider what to do about that counsel. Paraphrasing President Packer, "True doctrine, understood" is what ultimately influences and "changes behavior."

Let me be clear that I firmly believe that God will not simply play a headcount game in the judgment day; rather, I believe He will consider our hearts, motives, desires, and priorities. Counsel about multiplying and replenishing is not simply about family size or headcount, because there are factors (such as fertility issues or health problems) that can sometimes be outside of our control and affect our ability to choose how or when children come. When prophets speak of those who, through no fault of their own, will receive the fulness of God's blessings, they not only speak to those who don't have the chance to marry and have children, but also to those who face physical or other limitations that limit the number of children they can have, even as they wish they could have more. The Atonement can cover what we cannot do if our desires and hearts are in line with the commandments we have been given. (On a personal note, as someone who, because of health issues (and after prayer and fasting) has (with her husband) felt that she should not at this point have more children, I find this to be extremely comforting. I keep hoping my situation will change, but....)

I also believe that part of the purpose of life is to learn how to exercise our agency for good and for God's glory. As such, it is imperative that we remember that no one can decide specifically for another what the "right approach" is to implementing prophetic and scriptural counsel. We cannot tell someone else when to have children or how many to have. All we can do is consider the counsel and the principles together.

Therefore, the purpose of this post is basically to review counsel that has been given in a variety of contexts by a variety of leaders. The post also includes general information from the Church website and/or Church manuals and other materials. I have sought to include only counsel given during the past 15 years from those leaders who are currently living (and/or similarly current statements in our magazines and manuals, and on the website). I do this both because this will be long enough as it is (!!) and also because I'm interested in what is being said in our time by our current leaders, even though there has been much doctrinal consistency throughout the decades with the ideas discussed herein. The exception to this approach will be when current materials such as manuals or talks quote earlier statements, which in essences bring earlier statements to a place of current relevance.

As you review these things, I think that Elder Eyring's counsel is worth keeping in mind:

"In our own time, we have been warned with counsel of where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated. For instance, more than once in these general conferences, you have heard our prophet say that he would quote a preceding prophet and would therefore be a second witness and sometimes even a third.... The Apostle Paul wrote that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1). One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention and fill our hearts with gratitude to live in such a blessed time" (emphasis added).

Note that some of the following counsel deals directly and specifically with the commandment to multiply and replenish, other counsel deals with concerning trends, and still other counsel was included (e.g., on covenants, the adversary's efforts to undermine God's plan, on decision-making) because I think it could be applicable to the topics at hand. (I have noticed that often there are gems of wisdom and insight embedded in a talk that appears to be on one topic but also teaches about other topics as well. I'm sure there are plenty of these types of statements that I didn't find.)

Oh, and did you note the warning that this will be LONG? I've tried to organize in a way that makes the post visually accessible so you can skim and skip as desired, but there is only so much I could do. I wanted this to be fairly comprehensive. (That said, I'm sure I have missed quotes; I finally reached a point where I needed to just post this! If you find one missing, please let me know.)

I'll begin with some general information as given in Church resources, not specifically tied to any particular leader.

(One last thing: A request for this post is not to shoot the messenger. If you don't like what is said here, don't take it up with me, and don't make any attacks on the leaders or the Church. Remember, in the end, this issue is between you and your spouse and the Lord so take it up with Him. :) This post is also not intended to send someone into a tizzy of guilt (to which I am personally prone); again, it's a topic that in the end can only be fully explored with one's spouse and with the Lord. The compilation of counsel is meant to be as an aid in that process.)

General Information
First of all, let's just consider what one would find if searching in the index of topics on on the topic of birth control.

Some similar concepts are discussed in the True to the Faith entry on birth control.

Note again the emphasis on doctrine that can help couples prepare to make appropriate decisions about family planning.

In an Ensign article on this topic, we read:

Bringing children into the world is certainly not convenient. Most often it involves physical pain followed by great sacrifice and selflessness. But the blessings of keeping God’s command to rear children are some of the sweetest blessings He offers. Indeed, in many ways parenthood gives us a foretaste of

Marriage and Family Relations study guide (copyright 2000):

(From a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer.

From the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Note the preface that President Gordon B. Hinckley gave when he read the Proclamation for the first time.

President Hinckley said: “Of all the joys of life, none other equals that of happy parenthood. Of all the responsibilities with which we struggle, none other is so serious. To rear children in an atmosphere of love, security, and faith is the most rewarding of all challenges. The good result from such efforts becomes life’s most satisfying compensation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 74; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 54).

President Hinckley, as quoted by Elder Oaks (original talk by Pres. Hinckley is: “If I Were You, What Would I Do?” Brigham Young University 1983–84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, Provo, Utah: University Publications, 1984, p. 11). [In his quote, there is the trust and tone that I think our leaders in general have taken. They focus on the doctrine and trust that we will prayerfully ask the Lord how He would have us implement that doctrine.]

President Gordon B. Hinckley: "You have nothing in this world more precious than your children."

President Thomas S. Monson: "No sacrifice is too great, no pain too severe, no waiting too long....
It is our solemn duty, our precious privilege—even our sacred opportunity—to welcome to our homes and to our hearts the children who grace our lives."

President James E. Faust was quoted in this article about concerning trends.

President James E. Faust talks about his views on attitudes that some have that we need to control the population to save the earth.

President James E. Faust talks of the happiness that comes from marriage and parenthood.

President James E. Faust talks about how parenthood is a covenantal responsibility.

President James E. Faust talks about decision-making and serving the Lord with our decisions.

President James E. Faust talks about being co-creators with God.

President James E. Faust speaks again on covenants.

President Boyd K. Packer: "Do not be afraid to bring children into the world. We are under covenant to provide physical bodies so that spirits may enter mortality (see Gen. 1:28; Moses 2:28). Children are the future of the restored Church."

President Boyd K. Packer speaks on the importance of parenthood.

President Boyd K. Packer said that the words in the Proclamation on this subject have "taken on the status of scripture." He also expresses concern about trends such as declining birthrates and how such trends bring consequences. Here he talks of the consequences to the Lord's work. He also mentions that having children is the "paramount purpose" of marriage.

Pres. Boyd K. Packer talks about how we shouldn't have to ask what the Church's position is on this topic and others.

President Boyd K. Packer talks about how marriage and parenthood are key to receiving the fulness of joy mentioned in the scriptures (he lists the following: 2 Ne. 2:25; 2 Ne. 9:18; D&C 11:13; D&C 42:61; D&C 101:36).

Elder Boyd K. Packer talks about how having children is a key part of the great plan of happiness, and that they must speak about this plan in boldness even when not everyone's life fits the ideal. (FYI, in this talk, he mentions contraception.) He also speaks of teaching rules, not exceptions.

Elder L. Tom Perry: "Families lie at the center of our Heavenly Father’s plan."

Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder Russell M. Nelson talks of how the adversary seeks to undermine parenthood.

Elder Russell M. Nelson talks about priorities, about faith in our family life, and that bringing children to the world is heeding prophetic counsel -- and brings great blessings! He also speaks about concerning social trends such as declining birth rates.

Elder Russell M. Nelson (this is a little older, but to me reflects the
recognition that we can receive personal revelation about how to obey the

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: To the first man and woman on earth, the Lord said, “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Moses 2:28; see also Gen. 1:28; Abr. 4:28). This commandment was first in sequence and first in importance. It was essential that God’s spirit children have mortal birth and an opportunity to progress toward eternal life. Consequently, all things related to procreation are prime targets for the adversary’s efforts to thwart the plan of God.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks on priorities and putting God's work first, which includes the "birth, nurturing, teaching, and sealing of our Heavenly Father’s children. Everything else is lower in priority." We should consider the eternal impact of the decisions we make.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks talks of laying up treasures in heaven, our children and posterity. He also quotes Pres. Kimball who said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). We should have as many children as we can care for (in every way).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks gives his talk about the importance of making life decisions. He quotes Elder Earl C. Tingey who talks of concerning social trends, and Elder Oaks speaks of these himself, talking of the adversary's opposition to the plan.

[In this address, not fully reprinted in the Ensign, Elder Oaks also mentioned Elder Nelson's talk on "Faith and Families" which is linked above. He mentioned particularly the fact that he and his wife followed prophetic counsel to have [five!] children even while he was pursuing his extensive education. He also mentioned that talks prepared under the inspiration of the Spirit and given by our leaders are not to be "enjoyed" but to "inspire, edify, challenge, or direct." We should not "trifle" with the words spoken but should open our ears to hear, as King Benjamin counseled (Mosiah 2:9). He also reiterated what has been said before about prophets teaching the general rule, not the exception. I think all of these concepts are relevant to this post.]

Elder M. Russell Ballard talks of how the Proclamation came in the midst of concern that the Brethren had for the many ways the family was being attacked. The Proclamation was created through the divinely-inspired council system. He also reminds us that "the family is the basic unit of eternity." He expresses the concern that marriage is too often seen as a relationship for adults, not an "institution for rearing children. Children are considered a choice rather than a blessing."

Elder M. Russell Ballard says that the main purpose of the earth is so children can come and progress and the commandment to multiply and replenish is still in force.

Elder Richard G. Scott says that we have the responsibility to bear and raise children as part of the plan. Study Adam and Eve to see how they lived according to the plan, even when it was difficult.

Elder Robert D. Hales says that Satan attacks the family and discourages childbearing as one of our highest priorities in marriage.

Elder Henry B. Eyring talks of the commandment to multiply and replenish and disagrees with theories that concerns about poverty overpopulation are not a reason to not have children.

Elder David A. Bednar talks of the plan and the commandment to multiply and replenish.

From Seventies and other General Leaders (in no particular order):

Elder Merrill J. Bateman gave a powerful talk about the important years between ages 18-30 and how decisions we make during those years can affect us eternally. He spoke particularly of the gift of procreation and how whether or not that gift will rise with us in the resurrection depends on how we receive and exercise that gift on earth.

Elder Douglas W. Shumway talks of the adversary's attacks on the family, including encouraging couples to avoid parenthood.

Elder Charles Didier: A key purpose of marriage is procreation, key to the plan.

Elder F. Burton Howard says that we are one with the Creator when we fulfill the commandment to multiply and replenish.

Sister Susan Tanner says that many miss the blessing of parenthood by seeing it as an inconvenience.

Elder L. Aldin Porter talks about the sacred doctrines in the Proclamation and how they should be carefully considered as we build our homes and families (and/or as we seek marriage companions). He talks of the world's trends to see parenthood as a barrier to personal fulfillment. The Proclamation teaches us otherwise.

Elder J. Ballard Washburn says that the covenant of marriage includes a willingness to have children. As a doctor, he expresses concern about "false doctrines of the world" that could cause us to break covenants. (Here he basically spoke against deliberately limiting families.)

Elder Ben B. Banks: We cannot overemphasize the importance of parenthood and the family.

Other places for more quotes, from our manuals:

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor