A Book Review (Of Sorts): Way Below the Angels

Craig Harline

Not very long ago, I read this post, that made me want to read this book, Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. Even shorter ago, I did.

While it isn’t a woman’s story, I still feel that it is worth reviewing here, in this women’s story space for two reasons. 1) The author, Craig Harline, does a fairly good job pointing out when women’s stories, voices, and presence are forgotten.

One example of this is when his Salt Lake Mission Home President tells a mixed group of Elders and Sisters that they are to dress like “local businessmen.” Another is when his going-Belgium group was moved to the Rexburg, Idaho LTM, and they held a nightly devotional with the older going-Belgium missionaries, that fully excluded the Sisters because it was in an Elder’s dorm room. The saddest examples took place in Belgium. The first question they asked women who answered the door was if they could speak to their husband. Not because they weren’t allowed to speak to women, but because they were taught that they should focus on the man. A woman named Lieve demanded focus, because she had a dream and a wish to be baptized. She also had a husband who did not share that dream or wish. He was required to sign a permission slip, which he did. But then he took it back. Lieve learned that if her husband had the dream and wish, her signature would not be needed.*

2) Harline’s ofttimes funny/ofttimes insightful words created a space for me to remember my own mission story.

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September 2014 General Women’s Meeting: Sister Neill F. Marriott

Sister MarriottThis past Saturday eve, Sister Neill F. Marriott, represented the Young Women General Presidency. She began her remarks by suggesting that there are “two responsibilities we carry: adding gospel light and truth to our lives, and sharing that light and truth with others.” Then she asked if we know how important we are, and shared a quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard affirming that “we need more distinct voices of women.” She addressed us as “Sisters,” and told us, “You strengthen my faith. You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go.”

Shortly thereafter, she shared a quote from everyone’s favorite, President Deiter F. Uchtdorf that I wish I would have recorded more in full. What I did record touched upon “a darkening world” and the gospel as “a joyous message.” Sister Marriott emphasized the light. “If you want to give your light to others, you have to glow.

Where there is a temple, it pushes back the darkness. As an earlier General Authority, President George Q. Cannon expressed “Every temple completed… lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness.” Sister Marriott asked, “Isn’t our purpose similar to these houses of the Lord, to push back darkness in people’s lives?”

There was one moment in her life, when she prayed in the temple, and “was given a painful truth about herself.”

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On Mental Illness, Revisited.

RobinThe world lost a great man yesterday, to an illness that is great in its scope and power. I am acquainted with that illness and some of the frightening thoughts that come, though I am less acquainted with what makes some persons suffering from those thoughts act on them so completely.

My very first Exponent post was on the differences between mental and physical illness. I feel impressed to share it again, here, with a few additions and thoughts. Near the end of the original piece, I mentioned mostly being better and feeling better, but that there were still moments. There were and are. I am very bravely and very vulnerably going to be honest about them here, because I believe in the power of honesty, and in the power of bringing dark things to light.

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Blessed Be the Mentors

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Saturday was a special day. It was the day Claudia Bushman was celebrated via the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Symposium. I was not able to attend, but I was able to sit in a seminar with Claudia and her husband, Richard, almost every day for six weeks, just a tiny bit earlier this summer through BYU’s Maxwell Institute. It was a deeply enriching experience, as I thought it might be.

Claudia added her wisdom and knowledge, her strong and honest voice, and her pleas to tell our own stories, as well as precious bits from her own. Once she shared the price of her gold wedding band ($5!). Another time she pinpointed a doctrine (magnifying your calling) that she perceived to be pernicious, with quite good, and quite funny reasons. My favorite (class) moment of all occurred after we discussed the significance of Eliza’s hymn, “O My Father.” Claudia quipped that we should all write poems about Heavenly Mother, because then they can become theology.

My favorite non-class moments were different. They were about the fact that I was in an intensive class, while caring for a (still nursing) infant in a state far away from where I live, and where my husband would be. 

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Relief Society Lesson 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Gift of the Holy GhostLe don du Saint-Esprit / 

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

Near the beginning of this lesson, President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “every faithful member of the Church ‘has a right to receive the revelations that are expedient and necessary for his [or her] guidance individually.’” He tried to receive this individual revelation himself, particularly in his endeavors to guide his children.

The Holy Ghost has many names: Comforter, Holy Spirit of Promise, Holy Spirit, The Spirit of God, and so forth. The Holy Ghost has many roles. Just one is to bear record of God, Christ, and “all truth.” If teaching, I might ask class members to share how they have personally experienced the Holy Ghost as these names and roles. Women’s voices are essential, and in this case, rather than seeking them out from Church leaders, I would let the women present speak their truths and experiences. Then I would go on.

As a member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost “partakes of the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to those who serve the Lord in faithfulness.”

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