Relief Society Lesson 15: The Sacred Callings of Fathers and Mothers

Capítulo 15: Los llamamientos sagrados de los padres y las madres, Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

This is a LONG lesson ( text is here). I do not think you will be able to cover all of the material in the lesson, or in this lesson plan. But because teaching typical/gendered model-based lessons is difficult, I tried to be inclusive of all women, including childless women, those who are in a mixed faith marriage or those who are single parents. So- let’s get into it:

Introduce the term, “Family.” I have written about the term previously here, and highlight this quote as a way to model inclusiveness:


Family is a rubbery term at best; even within the church, the black-and-white-paper-cutout-men-standing-holding-hands-together_9777700definition of family comes in varied terms of a mortal family, an eternal family, a heavenly family, a ward family (wherein the bishop is the father of a ward) and for those in University wards, you may get “assigned” membership in FHE family groups. Even at work or in sports, a branch or a team can be described as a family unit. In consideration of this, you can see why I prefer the mathematical definition of the term “family”: a group of curves whose equations differ from a given equation in the values assigned to constraints in each curve. In applying this concept to the more common definition of family, I am comfortable in defining family like this: A group of individuals who share values assigned to and within the constraints of a common group.



Print out some of these quotes as relate to the women in your class. ( I have added descriptors in italics at the front of each quote, you are not obligated to read or include these) . Have members of the class each read one. I would not encourage discussion at this stage (timing!), but rather, invite the women to adapt the idea of mothers and fathers to be inclusive of all church members in all walks of life:


(widows or divorcees) A woman in the role of single parent, whether widowed or divorced, has a very special calling, and she will be held accountable before the Lord for what she does with her stewardship. Although her spouse is absent, she stands nonetheless commissioned by the Lord to perform the charge he issued to all parents: “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” She may feel at times that she carries a disproportionate share of that responsibility, yet she has the Lord’s assurance that he will prepare a way for her to accomplish her task.  –  Maren Eccles Hardy, This You Can Count On, Ensign, September 1990.



(Mixed Faith Marriages): The fact is, many of us will never see our spouses join the Church. But we must continue to follow what we know to be true. We will not be held accountable for their salvation, but we will be held accountable for our own actions—how brightly we let our own light shine. Understanding this truth has relieved us of a great burden; in a very real way it has set us free to find contentment, joy, and growth in our part-member marriages. – Kristin Sandoval and Susan Heumphreus, When Your Spouse Isn’t a Member, Ensign, March 1990.

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“My entire belief system has shifted”

My name is Sherry. Forty-eight. Mom of three with four bonus children! Happy, fun with a liberal heart and mind. I live in Utah, with my husband, our two cats (Prince Jerry and Princess Madeline). I’m constantly creating, looking for inspiration, and always up for an adventure.

Andy Carter/flickr/Creative Commons

At the young age of 8 years old, I was baptized into the Mormon Church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I didn’t really know much about the church or religion other than I knew it was expected of me to be baptized and my parents were members.

I think I realized around age 10 or 11 that my family was exclusively different from other families in the church. By this, I mean the way other families behaved versus the way my family (parents) behaved.

My friend’s parents would hold weekly Monday night family nights. My parents didn’t do that. My friend’s families would pray together, pray at meals and read scriptures. My parents didn’t do that either.

I learned the word hypocrite at a fairly young age. One morning after a Sunday school class I was called a hypocrite by another young girl. At that moment, I didn’t know what the word meant but I learned later on and it devastated me. I began to dread going to church because of the other children and I always felt like my family was different. I mean, my family had never even been to the temple, let alone, sealed for time and eternity. Nevertheless, I had to go to church every Sunday, Wednesday and any other afternoon or night that an activity took place. My childhood and preteen social life revolved around the Mormon Church, which at the time didn’t seem too awfully bad.

I didn’t learn about the church history or what Mormons truly believe until just a few years ago. Of course I had heard rumors about Joseph Smith and his mystical and enchanting behavior and obviously I knew about Brigham Young’s polygamy. At any rate, I didn’t give any of it much thought and continued on with my “beliefs” and developed a rather judgmental attitude towards anyone who didn’t believe the way that I did or practice Mormonism.

Here is an example: after my husband I were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 2006 our son (my stepson) had recently returned home from his mission. He met a girl who was not a member of the church and asked her to marry him. I was furious! I was mean to his fiancée and talked behind her back. It breaks my heart now just knowing how mean and closed minded I was. I have since, apologized for my behavior and we are close and I love her unconditionally.

A few years ago, I read a book by Rebecca Musser called The Witness Wore Red. It’s a story about the woman who brought Warren Jeffs, the “prophet” from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), to justice. While reading her book I noticed quite a few similarities between the FLDS and the LDS churches. In fact, almost everything was the same except for the polygamous relationships. It really bothered me. I couldn’t shake the feeling off and decided that I needed to do more research on the Mormon Church’s history.

With that said, after a full year of research, reading and studying I made the decision to be fully authentic with myself. What this meant was that I could no longer subscribe to an organization that had more flawed history than what I was willing to put my trust and faith into.

It has been a journey and a huge eye opener for me. I have some family who continue to accept me and some who do not. It’s taken a toll on my marriage and we have had some tough times. We are still together though. I have learned not to discuss or bring up religion with my husband. I accept him as a person and love him. His beliefs are not my beliefs. My thoughts are that we don’t have to share the same beliefs in order to be a couple. It’s still uncertain to me if he would agree with that statement. We just don’t “go there.”

I no longer believe in patriarchy or that men are the only ones worthy to hold higher positions than women. I no longer believe that “God” only wants straight people or members of the Mormon Church in heaven, or in Mormon terms, the “Celestial Kingdom.

My entire belief system has shifted. I went from certainty to uncertainty in a very short time. I believe I’m a good person and I don’t feel a need to belong to an organized religion to prove that to myself or anyone else and if there is a God, I don’t think he/she cares either.

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What I love about Mormonism


Recently I had a friend ask me what my favorite thing is about Mormonism.  I was surprised by how touched I was by the question; frankly, I’m much more used to getting the question of, “Why don’t you just leave Mormonism?”, which always stings a little and puts me on the defensive.  However, being asked about my favorite parts of Mormonism gave me the opportunity to really think (and then be effusive) about what I really love about my faith and my community.  And since talking with her, I’ve been able to really ponder further and come up with even more things that I cherish.

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To Ordain or Not to Ordain

In my recent podcast with Bill Reel on Mormon Discussions, I state that I believe ordination is imperative for women.  Among others, my reasons are

  • Allows for a saving ordinance (ordination) to be given to women – for our salvation
  • Brings parity in church governance
  • Legitimizes the priesthood power women already possess and use
  • Gives greater opportunity for the use of spiritual gifts

The discussion goes on to discuss what priesthood for women might look like in the church.  An egalitarian priesthood where women are plugged in to the existing structure? Or a separate quorum brought directly to women from the feminine divine.

I’m wondering where you, dear readers, fall on this issue:

Ordination is necessary for women?
Yes?  No?

What type of ordination resinates most with you?
Egalitarian Priesthood
Separate Quorums?
Something Else?

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Honoring Strong and Courageous Women for Pioneer Day

Hedwig Woff as a baby with her mother.

Hedwig Woff as a baby with her mother.

By Jenny

Pioneer Day takes me back to the log cabins my grandma used to build with my cousin and me in the forest when we were camping. We would gather rocks and branches, build beds of leaves, and even equip our pretend kitchen with bowls made out of bark and utensils made of sticks. Once we made a “covered wagon” out of a fallen tree. It was a warm summer afternoon with birds chirping and bugs buzzing in the tall weeds.   I sat next to my grandma and listened intently as she told us pioneer stories. But my favorite pioneer story of all is the story lived by my grandma herself.  She inspires me with the strength and faith she had to move forward into the unknown of her life.
Hedwig Elisabeth Wolff lived in East Germany during World War II. She had grown up in a very poor family and had even been placed in an orphanage by her father at age seven. As she grew older, Hedwig worked extra jobs and saved so that she could rise above her impoverished condition. But then the war hit and took everything from her. Her younger brother who was also her closest friend was killed on the Russian front when he was only eighteen years old. The Russians were closing in, food was scarce, and no one knew where they would be safest. Hedwig decided to leave her mother and go out to the country with some good friends. As she sat on a train heading toward the countryside and an uncertain future, she looked back to see the city on fire.
As the Russians came through the town she was in, her friend’s father hid all of the young girls in a pile of hay. Hedwig lay in the hay praying with her friends that they wouldn’t be caught  The Russian soldiers stabbed their bayonets into the hay, but they didn’t find the girls.   Later however,  Hedwig and another of her closest friends Gerda, were captured by the Russians and ordered to tend the chickens. Gerda and Hedwig knew what would happen to them later that night after the soldiers started drinking so they ran away. They ran for hours in the pouring rain and Gerda, who had a heart condition, later died of the exposure. During this time, Hedwig was also informed that her mother had died of starvation in the city. She hadn’t heard from her father who was a POW in Russia.
Having lost everything, Hedwig travelled with Gerda’s mother. They fled with the other refugees to the west where they stayed in a refugee home set up by the LDS Church. As I have read her journals from this time, it’s interesting to me that even in the midst of all this upheaval, the members of her branch there still had the normal squabbles of a faith community. Though they had suffered so much and were struggling just to find food to eat, people complained about Hedwig’s appearance when she showed up at the refugee home. She had lost everything but the rags she was wearing. But Hedwig threw herself into the work of trying to raise morale in the refugee home with music evenings and talent shows.
When Hedwig was trying to figure out how to rebuild her life, she decided to serve a mission in Hamburg. From there she took the great leap of faith to come to America and start a new life. Later she also sponsored her father who had survived the POW camp and his wife and children to come to America. In her thirties, she married and had three children. Later in her life she took yet another leap of faith to leave behind a marriage that was failing to allow her to be fully herself and to fulfill her purpose in life.  She went on another mission and gave her life to God.  That life was shortened as she suffered and eventually died from Alzheimer’s disease. I watched and loved her as she relived all of her horrific experiences during the war.
My grandmother was a strong woman of faith and courage. This carried her through some of the most horrendous things that people can do to each other. Despite her sorrow and loss, she found so much joy in the beautiful things in life. She found joy in music and nature and she shared that joy with me. She found joy in sharing stories with me about strong pioneer women who did courageous things. But her story was not one that I heard that day in our covered wagon.   In fact Grandma rarely talked about her story.   I don’t know if she ever knew that she was also a strong, courageous pioneer woman herself.  I didn’t fully understand then what an amazing woman I was spending that summer afternoon with.
Do you have a favorite pioneer story about a strong, courageous woman? Feel free to share in the comments.

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Dear Sister Sassy: Visiting Teaching Dilemma

adbf0f6196d792210049c0cd48fc3f0eSister Sassy is The Exponent’s resident Agony Aunt. Her previous excellent advice can be found here.

Dear Sister Sassy,
My ward just rearranged the Visiting Teaching Assignments, and my list now includes a woman with whom I am not acquainted. I’ve heard she is hostile to us, but the president has made it clear that everyone should receive at least one visit. What do I do?!
Beleaguered in Biloxi

Dear Beleaguered,
There is actually a very simple solution to this problem. Set up a time to go with your companion, and make sure that you travel in the same vehicle. If you live where people drive on the right, try to be the passenger – you’ll want to be as close to the curb as possible. When you arrive at the home, suggest a prayer in the car. This serves two purposes: First, it invites the Spirit and is a good idea. More importantly, from a cowardly point of view, it ensures that you have a reasonably equal starting pistol. As soon as you say “Amen,” spring from the car and march with great speed to the door. I know, you’re thinking this is crazy talk just because I radiate self-confidence and quiet dignity. Hear me out!

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Just Ask or the Most Important Thing I Learned During My Time as an Exponent II Editor

fmh coverI’ve learned much during the past 6 years working as an editor for Exponent II, but I wanted to share the skill that I felt has been most important for me.

I learned to just ask. Ask for help, ask for essays, ask for people to do permanent difficult positions for free, just ask because when they say, “no,” at least I knew I had done my best, and when they said “yes” wonderful things came about.

I believe that there is a part of Mormon culture, at least in the United States, that teaches women not to ask. Mormon women are taught to wait.

  • We wait for callings.
  • We wait for a man to call for a date…or to ask us to marry them.
  • We wait to see if we’ll need that career since stay-at-home motherhood is the ideal.

What happens if we’re not attracted to men? If we aren’t given the opportunity to serve in callings that help us grow and satisfy us? What if we want careers in addition to or instead of motherhood?

I don’t think that waiting is an explicit message we are being given at church. It’s insidious side effect of patriarchy in our institution, and it is something we need to push away.

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