Un-SexyModest: Or, What A Pope Can Teach Us About Modesty

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

Pope Francis’ obvious decency appeals to me as a human.  His discourse and homilies appeal to me as a Christian.

But his humble actions appeal to me as a Mormon woman who is weary of witnessing, over and over, how we culturally misuse the term “modesty” and reduce it to base rules governing the attire of (primarily) teenage girls.

Pope Francis gives me hope for the future of our modesty discourse because in five months, he has somehow managed to make humility and  modesty cool again.

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Tilling the Earth

Tilling the Earth

Tomorrow is her first birthday, and she hasn’t gotten a fire ant bite yet.  That’s something of a miracle given the menacing mounds that keep popping up in our backyard.

We’ve been away from home for most of July, and though the neighbor boy did a great job watering, I have skeletal sunflowers to hack down, tomatoes to trim back, weeds to pull, over-sized cucumbers to pick, and fire ants to kill.  And mosquitos.  One of our flowerboxes didn’t drain properly, leaving a breeding pool for the blood-suckers.  The baby (almost toddler) is dotted with red bumps.

It’s 7am, and we have already been to the park and back, pushing out the door before sunrise to enjoy a couple of hours of fresh air before the heat puts us on house arrest.  I’m stuffing dead leaves into the composter, and she’s crawling off her blanket toward the flower bed.  She won’t touch a cucumber, but she’ll devour handfuls on dirt and munch on full flowers.

I started the herb and flower garden the month before she was born, digging out a rocky bed (and keeping that detail away from my doctor).  The first vegetables went in the raised beds when she was one month old.  It was late August, and for the first time since age 4, I was not starting school.  That’s 17 years as a student and 13 years as a teacher.  I wanted this child, I needed this child, but it was painful to let go of the structure of my entire conscious life.  She kicked in her bouncy seat while I planted lavender beneath the pear tree and thinned the irises.  She watched as we took out two diseased peach trees and replaced them with roses. She teethed on fresh carrots and chard.

When the first frost hit, she watched me from her blanket bundle as I draped the tomatoes in flannel sheets, desperate to save hundreds of green tomatoes that had felt my post-partum nurturing. I may have cried when some did not survive the night.

We started seedlings together inside in January: Spring peas. Spinach. Radishes. Dill.  By the time we placed them in the earth in early March, she was crawling and smearing her face with soil.  At the garden store, I would show her two flowers let her point.  She favors purples and yellows, just like her mama.

When the mystery tree turned out to be an apricot tree, we sang that great Mormon song: spring had brought us such a nice surprise. I made my first jam — the kind that can sit on a pantry shelf! — and we eat it in our yogurt every morning.

I like to think I’ve tamed this yard, but everytime I plant something new, I add to its wildness.  The squash becomes a home for potato bugs.  The tomatoes attract masses of birds that stalk me as I drape foil and netting. The composter draws flies. And now the mosquitos and fire ants, which come out to play in the hours when it is cool enough to sit on a blanket playing with sticks.

I like that my daughter has spent her first year this way.  I like that we both have constant dirt beneath our nails.  I don’t garden out of any sense of “should.” There are plenty of “should’s” that haunt me.  This was an invitation.

Something in this little plot of earth asked me if it could be a part of my family and invited me to be a part of hers.  Sometimes I think mother earth was looking out for a new mom, inviting me to learn about something about how things grow up.

Happy birthday, baby girl. Your mothers love you.

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Love Bug, Revisited

I was feeling nostalgic this weekend, and my mind wandered back to young love, in the form of a person and a bright blue bug. I published this to the blog almost exactly 6 years ago. I still miss her.

This is a love story.

February 2002. I was the new assistant head of school, working 16-hour days. I was slowly resurrecting my social life after a couple of emotionally exhausting years. And after several months of perseverant courtship, I had finally, warily agreed to date a co-worker: Mr. M. Interfaith. Inter-office. Doomed. I was much too practical to give it a real chance.

On March 4, 2002, during the height of rush hour traffic, my trusty Saturn hit a patch of ice in the left hand lane of a major freeway. My car spun twice, crossed three lanes – somehow dancing between cars – and became wedged under the shoulder guard. I walked away, but the car was loaded in chunks onto a flatbed as the snow picked up speed. M met up at the towing office, bearing blankets and hot chocolate. I accepted both in a stupor.

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RS Lesson #9: Open Your Soul to the Lord In Prayer

Opening Reflection

Prayer.   It’s the earliest lesson in primary (“Fold your arms and close your eyes”) and yet as we grow older, the conversation grows richer, deeper — or perhaps more painful and confusing. How do we speak to God? How does God speak to us?

Spencer W. Kimball said, “The Lord answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”  That someone can be a Relief Society teacher. I am a teacher by trade, and if I have ever felt God’s guidance in my life, it has been in finding ways to reach my students. “Help me be sensitive to the unspoken needs of my students . . . help me say or do something that will reach someone who is seeking today . . . ” These are prayers I believe in.

From the Life of George Albert Smith

Since learning more about President Smith’s life-long struggle with depression, fatigue, and anxiety, I have developed a particularly tender spot for him.  I read his personal anecdotes with this additional lens of understanding.

Take the warmth of this memory — which recognizes his mother’s spiritual power — retold in the autumn of his life.

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All Are Alike: Priesthood Restrictions and the Doctrine of Equality

When BYU professor Randy Bott used “folk doctrine” to justify why black LDS men were not ordained to the priesthood before 1978, his statements were swiftly condemned. The Church’s official response included the following:

The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church . . .

The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation . . . [and] do not represent Church doctrine.

In other words, the only acceptable theological explanation we can offer is, “We don’t have all the answers; however, we do know racism is wrong.”

The church’s statement has implications for the rhetoric members use to explain why women are currently restricted from priesthood ordination.

This is not a post arguing that women should be ordained to the priesthood here and now. This is a post about language, about how our ubiquitous justifications perpetuate pseudo-doctrines, damage the body of the church, and ultimately undermine our life-changing doctrine about God and the eternal nature of our souls.    

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