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!

Read More

Relief Society Lesson 14: Marriage and Family — Ordained of God

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation
portrait-mother-children-argentina-1080296-galleryWhen I realized that I was in charge of the write-up for this lesson, given current events in the United States, I admit that I cringed. I was really happily surprised to read the content, which is full of helpful suggestions on how to strengthen your relationships with those you love. I’ve gotten so used to the phrase “Ordained of God” being a prelude to a discussion of same-sex marriage that I was surprised to see a lesson on the family that wasn’t a political stance.

Consider setting conversational parameters from the outset, particularly if you live in the United States or have many Americans in your class. Specifically asking people to refrain from expressing political opinions or referring to the Supreme Court decision could deter unnecessary side tracking. Alternatively, this lesson could be a good jumping off point to address ways to be more Christlike in our interactions with others, including responses to gay friends and family members. Set the tone for the discussion by acknowledging that, at least in the United States right now, this topic can easily drift off course and you’d like to set off in a specific direction.

Empty Chairs

From the beginning of their marriage, Ezra and Flora Benson made their home and family their top priority. When their children were young, they began emphasizing that they wanted their family to have no “empty chairs” in the eternities . . . May He bless us to strengthen our homes and the lives of each family member so that in due time we can report to our Heavenly Father in His celestial home that we are all there—father, mother, sister, brother, all who hold each other dear. Each chair is filled. We are all back home.

We cannot control what happens to other people in the eternities, but we have often been taught that our homes can be a little piece of heaven on earth. Think about who would sit around your table at a big holiday, if everyone could come.

Why might a family member not feel welcome or comfortable in your home/your company?

How can we make sure that all family members feel fully loved and accepted? How can you show love and acceptance of a person when their choices deeply concern you?

If you have ever felt rejected, were you able to make peace within yourself or with the other person? How?

Read More

#VisibleWomen: Women in Church Art

relief-society-general-presidency-2012-busath-1031310-gallery-noticeThis week I decided to do an informal survey of the representation of women in my ward building.  I had the general impression that there were few women, but I decided to actually go through and count.  The numbers are a little imperfect, for several reasons.  First, I did not have access to any of the male-only rooms which were locked, including two Bishop’s offices, the Stake offices, the High Council Room and the Clerk’s office.  Second, many paintings and posters feature images that include very small or indistinct figures that can’t really be counted one way or the other.  A few paintings include androgynous angelic figures that I decided not to count either way.  As part of my survey I included both framed paintings and images on bulletin boards, but excluded any snapshots or local images.

In my ward the various auxiliaries are assigned bulletin boards to decorate as they choose, but most feature pictures taken  from church magazines, lesson manuals or the Gospel art kit.  A few have posters produced by the church or affiliated organizations promoting conferences and programs. I figured since I was doing the survey I might as well keep track of ethnic representation as well, since most church art tends to depict the people of the Americas or the Fertile Crescent as looking like they are from northern Europe.  Accordingly, my stat numbers of non-white people reflect only individuals who are clearly represented as not having pale skin or light hair, rather than people who are supposedly of a non-white ethnicity (the Nephites) but actually look like Vikings. Here are my findings.

Representation of people with special needs or disabilities: 1 boy with Down syndrome on a pass-along card tacked to a board.

Number of non-white women depicted: 2

Number of non-white men depicted: 11

Total number of women depicted: 48

Total number of men: 245

Read More

Valentine’s Day: Women of the Bible Edition

It is that time of year again…that last minute scramble to find the ideal way to tell someone you love how much they mean to you.  You want that perfect card: something visually beautiful that can be displayed with pride on a desk or at home but also with the message that perfectly captures the feelings of your heart.  Last year The Exponent Blog proudly (reluctantly? unwittingly until it was too late?) introduced a line of tasteful and timeless Church history Valentines, featuring your favorite friends from Nauvoo.  If that theme better fits your Valentine’s style, check them out here!

This year we’re thrilled to offer a new collection of Valentines featuring the ladies of the Bible.  Print them off on cheap copier paper, scrawl your name, and show someone how much you care!  Bonus points if you tape candy on — everyone knows the best Valentines have sweets.  Candy not included.

Full disclosure:  Every Monday night I check my feminism at the family room door and watch The Bachelor for two beautiful, glorious hours.  What can I say, I love the journey of true love.  I drew these while watching and ran out of time to finish.  Needless to say, I accept no criticism of the quality of the art…because there is nothing here you could possibly criticize.

Read More

Religious Freedom and Discrimination

PregnantWomanLast week I listened to the church’s press conference about balancing LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.  One thing stood out in particular that really troubled me.  Giving examples of when religious freedom should come first, Elder Holland said:

For example, a Latter-Day Saint physician who objects to performing abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple should not be forced against his or her conscience to do so, especially when others are readily available to perform that function.

I feel concerned by this because I think there is a fundamental divide between the two examples he gave.  I agree that physicians who believe abortion is wrong should have the right to say they will not perform them.  However, in that case the problem is the procedure itself, and so doctors who object refuse the service to everyone equally.  Other doctors may draw the line elsewhere — perhaps he or she is comfortable performing abortions when the fetus has no chance of survival, or when the mother’s life is endangered, but not when those conditions are not met.  Again, I think this is fair because the line of when the doctor will perform an abortion is defined by medical circumstances and is applied equally.

The decision, however, to refuse artificial insemination to lesbians is not in the same category. In such a case the doctor would be making the decision not in terms of medical necessity, or objections to the procedure itself, but out of an objection to the perceived sin of the patient.  Where then is the line? If the doctor has the right to deny medical attention based on a belief that the person has sinned or is actively sinning, should all sins be subject to such penalties? Could that possibly be just?

Read More