Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dealing with Differences with Compassion and Love

Recently, Elder Marlin K. Jensen talked in a regional conference about how our Church culture is sometimes not very accepting of those whose lives don't conform to doctrinal ideals. For example, there are those who are single or divorced; there are those who struggle with same-sex attraction; others deal with depression or other mental illness. The list of ways that people may feel 'different' can go on and on. Truth be told, we are all different in one way or another, and we all need compassion where our lives don't meet the ideal.

But at the same time, Elder Jensen reminded us that our mortal weaknesses and differences do not change the ideal, the doctrine.

I want to use this as a springboard for something I have been thinking about. There is an interesting dynamic that I have seen repeatedly on the internet. When a person takes a position on a topic, it's not uncommon for others who disagree to then assume or assert that that person is uncaring, unloving, or insensitive. Sometimes that may be true (again, our culture falls short of the ideal sometimes), but often, such judgments themselves are unfair and unkind.

This is on my mind for various reasons. One is that I have clearly taken a position on Proposition 8. It wasn't too long ago in a discussion elsewhere on this topic that a gay Mormon basically said that it was members like me (people who support Proposition 8, for example) who somehow make it harder for gay Mormons to want to live.

The heartache evident in this person's comment (and others that I have read elsewhere) tore at my own heart. I cannot adequately express the concern and compassion I have for gay Mormons who feel caught between their attractions and their needs/desires for companionship and family on one hand, and their desires to be members of the Church on the other. I have *very* strong feelings about the urgent need to have our culture be a place where people struggling with this or other less-than-ideal issues can feel more safe, more able to reach out for help in sharing their load.

As Elder Jensen noted, our culture is not yet there. I hope that talks like his will continue, and will prick our hearts so that we can all be more willing to reach out to those who struggle (with any number of things from homosexuality to addiction to less-than-ideal family situations to even different opinions).

But there is that other side of this coin. Ideals, doctrine, prophetic counsel all do exist. As much as people want to have it be otherwise, these things are really not up for grabs. We can each choose how we respond to these things, but we don't have the authority to change or dismiss what prophets teach.

In addition, a problem I have seen is that sometimes in the broader culture, and even in the Church, people want to demand that the only way to show compassion is to change or renounce position or belief. But this cannot be. We cannot expect others to 'prove' their love, concern, and compassion by expecting them to change their beliefs to match or validate our own.

I realize that in our mortal state, we all have to figure out (through study, prayer, experience, pondering) what we believe to be right, good, and true. Also, because of our mortality, we will all fall short of the ideal in one way or another. That means that there will be differences in both opinion about, and execution of, various teachings, counsel, and doctrine.

But please, let's be sure that we don't equate difference (or even personal definitiveness or decision) with disdain. I believe it is possible to hold to ideals -- and also to have and maintain different opinions -- and still have compassion and love in our hearts.

I believe the closer we come to and follow the Savior, and the more we trust in His love for us, the more that is possible. He is the perfect example of that balance between unbending devotion to truth and doctrine, and unending ability to love, forgive, and succor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Prop 8 Links

I remembered tonite about these articles (LOTS!) from a BYU Law Conference (again I haven't read them all, but again, I like to have resources all in one place for my own sake...hoping they might be of interest to others who are interested in considering reasons why Proposition 8 is a good idea):

Articles in text

This is an article I have linked to before, but I thought I would bring it up again. It was cited in the Church's document ("The Divine Institution of Marriage")

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Digging Deep

Everything within screams for rest, for solitude, even for escape. The headache that began a week and a half ago continues, not wanting to loosen its C-clamp-like grasp on my brain. The dizziness is sometimes almost unbearable. And yet, as single momma for the month while hubby is away, I must stay plugged in. (I will say that having hubby out of town makes me appreciate single moms so much. I don't know what to say except I don't know how you do it, and you have my respect and heartfelt love for what you do. And I'm sorry you are having to do this alone, because I know, I am reminded lately, that it is so very hard.)

Even when my husband is home, motherhood and homemaking is work. Hard work. For me, there is often much that is not 'natural' about it. I'm not a natural housekeeper. I'm not really a natural with young children. My 'natural' self wants to be out working, or curled up in my bed devouring a book, or lying on the couch with my laptop, or connecting with people and just talking about life and the gospel until I'm hoarse.

Or, on nights like tonight, my natural self wants to curl up in a ball and cry, simply from sheer exhaustion, from wanting and needing someone to nurture me. But my children need me. And so I press forward.

Lately, I've been quite flabbergasted by how much it takes to coordinate my children's little lives (and we work to keep life simple!), to keep them fed and clothed and on top of their homework enough that they don't completely embarrass themselves (or me...yes, I'm still working on not having my ego tied up in my children's lives), and to try keep my house from always looking like a tornado hit it. (From a recent discussion with my children (OK, it was more like a mini-lecture): "Please, guys, just don't play in the living room. Just give me one room in the house that isn't a disaster! I'm starting to lose it!")

But there's more than that that has the potential to overwhelm me. My role as mother and nurturer demands much more than just keeping us all going physically. (Much more, actually.) Those little moments when they need help with this and I'm wanting to do that are often the most difficult parts of my days. There are times when I feel like I will drown if I don't stay on top of my to-dos (or that I will die if I don't have a moment of solitude), but I sense that they need me now. Those little moments can mean the world to them; the cumulative effect of lots of little moments is what can help shape their perception of my love for them and of their value as individuals.

Don't get me wrong. I'm so often not good at seizing those little moments. And I am not saying that moms can't or shouldn't ever have a break. But I am really feeling the need to do more of the "little moments" work that is so easy to dismiss. And just as with all the other elements of homemaking, nurturing is work. Even as I love my children with a fierceness that sometimes hurts, I struggle in my humanness to give them what they deserve and need. (A post for another day could be about how it seems that in a way, the older they get, the more they need me.)

I stood tonight, yet again, over the sink, rinsing dinner dishes while trying to orchestrate the children's remaining evening tasks. Within, I could feel the the seeds of an eruption bubbling beneath the surface. I fought that part of my natural self, fought it hard. I exerted all I had to try to speak with kindness, love, gentleness, patience, and attentiveness. As I did so, it was as if I could feel the roots of my soul digging a little deeper. I could feel just a few more rough notches on my character losing some of their edginess.

I was reminded tonight that I am doing this motherhood thing -- giving so much of my life and self and time and energy -- not just because the children need me (which they do, imperfect as I am), but because I need them. I need to be their mom, to learn to overcome my natural self. This role is teaching me new depths of faith and love and sacrifice and endurance, and helping me feel new depths of God's love and grace and refining power.

From one of my favorite talks on motherhood, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

One young mother wrote to me recently that her anxiety tended to come on three fronts. One was that whenever she heard talks on LDS motherhood, she worried because she felt she didn't measure up or somehow wasn't going to be equal to the task. Secondly, she felt like the world expected her to teach her children reading, writing, interior design, Latin, calculus, and the Internet--all before the baby said something terribly ordinary, like "goo goo." Thirdly, she often felt people were sometimes patronizing, almost always without meaning to be, because the advice she got or even the compliments she received seemed to reflect nothing of the mental investment, the spiritual and emotional exertion, the long-night, long-day, stretched-to-the-limit demands that sometimes are required in trying to be and wanting to be the mother God hopes she will be.

But one thing, she said, keeps her going: "Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God's work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him. I am deeply moved that God finds His ultimate purpose and meaning in being a parent, even if some of His children make Him weep.

"It is this realization," she says, "that I try to recall on those inevitably difficult days when all of this can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe it is precisely our inability and anxiousness that urge us to reach out to Him and enhance His ability to reach back to us. Maybe He secretly hopes we will be anxious," she said, "and will plead for His help. Then, I believe, He can teach these children directly, through us, but with no resistance offered. I like that idea," she concludes. "It gives me hope. If I can be right before my Father in Heaven, perhaps His guidance to our children can be unimpeded. Maybe then it can be His work and His glory in a very literal sense."

And one more from Pres. Packer that has always stayed with me:

A sister may finally come to see why we stress the importance of mothers staying at home with their children. She understands that no service equals the exalting refinement which comes through unselfish motherhood. Nor does she need to forgo intellectual or cultural or social refinement. Those things are fitted in—in proper time—for they attend the everlasting virtue which comes from teaching children.

No teaching is equal, more spiritually rewarding, or more exalting than that of a mother teaching her children.

Supporting Traditional Marriage/Proposition 8: Links and Resources

I wanted to keep track of the different resources of which I have become aware, and figured this would be a good place to do it so that others can have access to them, too. If you know of more good resources, please let me know. (Edit: Disclaimer -- I haven't read all of the links, so I'm not necessarily saying I advocate every thing that is said in the posts below. Even still, I think it is valuable to consider the thoughts of different people who support the proposition. I have added some of my thoughts about ones I have read below.)

I've already written about this article, which talks about how those not in California can help by making phone calls to assess voter sentiment.

The folks over at Millennial Star are compiling a list of articles, videos, websites, personal experiences, etc. * on this topic. Thanks, all!

Following are links that people have sent me:

Website created by people in CA which includes links to editorials, court cases, social science studies, etc.

LA Times Op-Ed piece: "Protecting Marriage to Protect Children" (written by a liberal Democrat, no less -- this to me is one of the best articles I have read in terms of how it explores the importance of traditional marriage for children)

A detailed analysis of the issue, complete with talking points (to be honest, this one is a bit too strident/confrontational for my liking, but it still brings up some important points)

Website created by those working on Proposition 8 in the Poway area
(includes forms, presentations by local people involved in the effort, a PDF to the pamphlet created for the campaign, talking points, and more)

There may be more, but for now, that's a start.

*I thought I would reproduce the list here, too.

Statements from the LDS Church:

The Divine Institution of Marriage

LDS Church Expresses Disappointment in California Gay Marriage Decision

General Information:

Townhall Meetings Turn Out Supporters Statewide

Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality

New Study Shows Polling Significantly Understates Support for Traditional Marriage

Couple fight gender-neutral language in wedding license


Proposition 8


Prop 8 supporters go door-to-door

Church members leading the fight for Prop 8

Cal. polls understate support for Prop. 8

Liberal Democrat opposes SSM, supports Prop. 8

The California Supreme Court decision is arrogant and confused

“We have banished morality from serious public discourse”

Judicial overreach

Destroying the institution of marriage is only the beginning

Gay marriage opponents are not giving up

The “discrimination” claim is completely bogus

It is extremely clear that children do best when raised by a mother and a father

More children being raised by a mother and a father lowers the crime rate

There is very little long-term demand for marriage among gays and lesbians

Divorce is much more common among same-sex couples

Evidence from northern Europe (which has had SSM the longest) shows that legalized SSM leads to an overall destruction of marriage as an institution in general. There is a direct correlation between the prevalence of SSM and co-habitation, the rise of legal polyamory, an increase of children born out of wedlock and a slippery slope of moral decay.

Personal experience:

The My Girl Bill

California Saints are Heeding the Call

Why we are involved in Prop. 8

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pics of the Nemo Wall

I figured it out! Firefox wasn't letting me do pics, but Explorer did! are a couple of pics of the playroom wall (hard to get a good angle since the room is small). She has done whole walls before, too. But this can give you an idea of her talent. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see the gift idea post here). And be sure to check out more samples of her work can be found on her blog.)

Christmas Gift Idea!

It's getting close to that time -- time to think about what to give the people on your list. (There are also lots of weddings that come up at the end of the year, too.)

What do you give someone who has everything? Have you ever considered custom art and portraits as an option?

fit your house with a certain color scheme or subject. you can give the priceless lifelong gift of turning your loved ones into a work of art. capturing your children wheMelissa specializes in portraiture and turning your favorite photo (people or scenery or places or objects) into a work of art, either color or black and white. If you choose color, she can customize the colors to match your d├ęcor.

But she can do just about anything. She does murals (I have an underwater Nemo scene on my kids' playroom wall -- you wouldn't believe it, and I'd show you if I could get Blogger to let me upload pics. Email me if you want to see it.) She's done logos. She's done the cover of a technical journal. She even personalized a pair of leather shoes!

If you are wondering what to get that person in your life who has everything, or what kind of wedding gift you could give that will last a lifetime and beyond (and wouldn't be returned!), or what to give yourself to capture your memories or your children or something else precious to you, contact Melissa. You won't be disappointed.

(And as the wife of a busy dental student who just lost his on-the-side job and SAHM of two little kids, she'd be grateful.)

*Mention this blog post and you will get either 10% off the total or free shipping! And anyone you refer will get the same deal! Spread the word!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Even if you don't live in CA, you can help with Prop 8

As you are well aware, many people in California are walking precincts and making phone calls to help assess voter sentiment about Proposition 8, and to talk to those who may not know much about it.

This effort is NOT intended to change anyone's mind or opinion. It is simply to find out how people are feeling about the issue, to answer questions if someone has them, and to invite those who support Proposition 8 to get involved and to vote when the time comes in November.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have asked its members to do what they can to support Proposition 8. (Some reasons for the Church's position on this can be found here.)

How can we do this if we don't live in CA?

One thing we can do, of course, is donate to the coalition the Church has joined. You can do so here.

Did you also know that people outside of California can actually get involved in the assessment and communication process by making phone calls? If you are interested in joining in this effort, you can find out more here. [Edited to keep a focus on pointing others somewhere where the effort is organized on a larger scale.]

And I will say this: I will admit it; there was a part of me that breathed a sigh of relief with the fact that I don't live in California. (I walked precincts in 2000. It was hard.) But since I believe this is an issue that affects us all, and that the decision in CA will have a significant impact on the rest of the nation, I feel it's important for me to get involved. I invite you to consider getting involved, too.

One last note: Proposition 8 is not an anti-gay effort. It is a pro-marriage effort. Please respect my choice to support the effort to keep marriage between a man and a woman. I respect your choice to do something different. But don't misinterpret or misrepresent my choice (or the Church's position) as a lack of love or concern for gay people, because that is simply not true.

You are free to share your thoughts about this topic here, but I do moderate comments, so please keep comments respectful and relevant.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Family History, You Can Do-oo It!

Sing this to the tune of "Family History, I am Doing It" --

Family history, you can do-oo it,
Your family history.
Cuz Ardis, on her blog, Keepapitchinin, has made it
Easy as can be!
She's giving lessons there, teaching basic tips,
Read lesson one, two, and three.
She's an expert and she'll help you
Start your family history!

Seriously, getting this kind of step-by-step help from someone like Ardis is an amazing thing! Feel free to ask her questions, and give her feedback, so she knows how this information is helping people.

And I believe there will be more lessons to come, so stay tuned. Thanks, Ardis!