The Shelf

448px-PreservedFood1 Friday, 1 July 2000

At dinner today we listened to the radio, and in particular to a story about homosexual marriage.  I have to say, I’m a little confused about what to think.  The LDS church is not in favor of homosexuality, but I feel that that’s only because they [gay people] have extra-marital sex.  But how can it be anything but extra-marital?! Marriage is not allowed in such cases.  Yet I’m fairly sure the church isn’t in favor of gay marriage either.  What a pickle.  Makes me glad I’m straigt!!!! [sic]

I wrote that journal entry when I was sixteen.  I was on vacation with my family and I remember thinking a lot about gay marriage and homosexuality more generally, trying to figure out how the pieces fit together with what I understood of the Gospel.  Reading the entry now, I am struck by several things.  First, I seem hopelessly naive and unclear about the church’s stance in a way I am sure the youth of today could not be.  Having firmly understood that I was not to have sex outside of marriage, I naively assumed that was the main objection that the church had to homosexuality.  Gay marriage would, in that understanding, be the perfect solution.  So why was the church against gay marriage? Or was it? Seemingly I was unsure even of that.

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Church Games

800px-ChildrenI’m glad I ceded my usual spot to our guest post this morning because what she had to say about mediation was I think very valuable.  I am not part of the Ordain Women movement and did not attend the walk to the priesthood session.  I do believe that the ordination of women would be a good thing for many reasons.  I hope that it happens in my lifetime.  This week it has been very hard to witness the open conflict between church members online.  It seems that every time I log in I see something that upsets me and my response has been to withdraw and refuse to engage.

When I am unhappy, stressed or depressed often my response is to defuse the tension with humor, often inappropriately timed and unappreciated by others.  Maybe that will be the case today as well. However, I’ve decided to go for it anyway and make a post about the silly games my mother and I used to play in church meetings when we got bored or antsy.  After a week like this, we could all use a good laugh.  Lest you think I don’t have a speck of reverence in my body I will say that in general I pay attention and get things out of my meetings, but we all have our days.  Next time you’re at the back of stake conference sitting on the hard chairs for what feels like eternity, why not play one of the following little gems?

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Valentine’s Day

Today I went to ShopKo to buy Valentines. Once I got there I thought “why should I pay four dollars for a card I barely even like?” I love Valentine’s Day but I resent the gouging that goes on as we’re pressured to celebrate in a specific way.  I decided to help out my Exponent sisters by providing you with some Exponent-y Valentines.  I’d had this idea for about two weeks but realized that I have neither the programs nor the ability to do some fancy-shmancy photoshop.  So this is the product of me, Paintbrush and an evening in my jammies watching the Olympics.

Eliza R. Snow:

Eliza R. Snow valentine






You, single? The thought makes reason stare!


Emma Hale Smith:

emma valentine






I elect me to be your lady!


Lucy Mack Smith:

lucy mack val






Sitting next to you is always heaven to me!


From the Exponent II:

Exponent valentine






My love for you grows Exponent-ially!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my sisters!

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Sacred Music: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

One of my favorite pieces of sacred music is called Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.  I associate it with Christmas because it usually appears on seasonal albums but in fact nothing about the lyrics link it to the Nativity.  I like the imagery of Christ as a fruitful tree, perhaps because the tree image in our faith is so often associated with sin and in particular female sin.  The idea that a fruit tree is in fact a symbol of Christ is something that I find very sweet and comforting, particularly as my home valley is filled with orchards.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
by Elizabeth Poston


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Relief Society Lesson 3: The Plan of Salvation

In our ward we have spent the last month in Sunday School discussing the Plan of Salvation.  For this reason, I think simply going through it from start to finish might not be the most compelling approach.  However, if your ward has many investigators, new converts, or others who are not familiar with the doctrine, it might be better to do that instead.


In reading through the lesson manual I will admit that no quotes or anecdotes leapt out at me.  This seems to me to be a fairly basic and clear-cut dissection of the Plan of Salvation.  For this reason I think it would be very easy to simply read off a few lines and then jump into a broader discussion about personal experiences or testimonies.

The hardest part of a good lesson plan in my book is coming up with open-ended questions that might spur discussion, so that is what I’m trying to supply here.



Finding meaning in the Plan of Salvation

What is your favorite part of the Plan of Salvation?

What part of the Plan of Salvation do you wish we had more answers about?

What big questions do you feel the Plan of Salvation answers?


Using the Plan of Salvation to share and understand the Gospel

Have you ever had the opportunity to use the Plan of Salvation to share the Gospel with someone?

If you had to explain the pre-earth life/Spirit World/Agency to a friend, how would you do it?

Joseph Fielding Smith refers to earth life as “the great gift of mortality.” In what sense have you felt this to be a gift to you? Have you ever consciously felt grateful to be subject to what he calls “the vicissitudes of mortality?” When/why?


Dealing with doubt and uncertainty

Has knowing the Plan of Happiness ever actually made you happy? When/why?

When in your life have you struggled to understand/believe/trust the Plan of Salvation?

How can we distinguish between popular belief within the LDS community and actual doctrine about the Plan of Salvation?


Finally I wanted to include two quotes that I found meaningful as I thought about this lesson, which I think could be applied if you decided to discuss these specific principles.


On Agency:

(Bear in mind that this is from The Screwtape Letters, so the perspective is from a senior tempter to a junior tempter; it is intentionally diabolical).

“One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.  He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons . . . [He] wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.

“Merely to override a human will . . . would be for Him useless.  He cannot ravish.  He can only woo.  For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve.” [C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Harper Collins, 2001) 38-39]


On the Atonement:


It’s our faith that he experienced everything – absolutely everything.  Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief.  We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family.  But we don’t experience pain in generalities.  We experience it individually.  That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you.  He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election.  He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid.

Let me go further.  There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize.  On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy.  He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy.  He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause.  He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. He knows all that He’s been there.  He’s been lower than all that.  He’s not waiting for us to be perfect.  Perfect people don’t need a Savior.  He came to save his people in their imperfections.  He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes.  He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked.  He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.

(Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up, Preface, p 174.)


My own feeling is that we have a strong tendency to try to cover the whole Plan in one lesson.  It isn’t possible to do such an enormous topic justice with an overview, and as a result the topic can see cliché and tedious.  I think just picking a few aspects of the plan to really go in depth might yield more meaningful participation.  I personally find discussing the moments in life when we confront doubt or fear to be some of the most powerful lessons we have.
While the suggestions I offer here do not pull very much from the manual, I think the tidy organization of this lesson lends itself to easily pulling quotes about specific principles that will not seem out-of-context or need any extra explanation.



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