Australian Father’s Day, of Things to Wax Poetic, and Me

In Australia, Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. Because of this, the day falls victim to the international church standard of every first Sunday being a fast and testimony (“F&T”) meeting. Many people bear particular testimony of fathers on this day, and some bishops allow for special primary presentations during the Priesthood lesson hour of church. But for the most part, Father’s Day is not institutionally celebrated within the Australian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The absence of the institutional adaptation within Australian culture with a simple “F&T Sunday swap” has always bothered me, in many ways more than it bothers my husband. To me, it is a glaring example of the Americanization of the correlated church; it is also an example of sexism.

 

My husband is a good father, and I love him for many reasons, including his fathering skills and loving father’s heart. I find joy in recognising and celebrating him as the father of my children; for me, it is an egalitarian recognition of shared parenting within the walls of my home. I like having my children select gifts for him, and help me make and decorate his favourite kind of chocolate cake.

 

In preparation for this, I took one of my daughters shopping for Father’s Day a week ago. It was a lovely spring day (seasons here are opposite to the northern hemisphere), and I enjoyed having one-on-one time with her. She mentioned knowing about something that her dad had looked at on the previous weekend when he had taken her to do the shopping, so she and I were on an easy hunt. We found the items she recalled he wanted, and happily went to the checkout counter. The checkout counter had a display of Father’s Day cards on it—and these cards were just up my alley. The cards were sold by a charity that raises money for low-income families to use for school supplies and uniforms. For us, school fees, requisite books and supplies as well as school uniforms cost something in the market of $500 per child at the start of the school year. This is not an optional fee; it is required. The aim of this charity was to help provide funds to low income families to get these necessary school supplies for children to attend school. Not only that, the charity also helps low-income students to attend and participate in extra curricular arts and sports. Yes, it was just the kind of business I love to support.

 

Next awesome thing: Embedded in the cards were seeds. So, father and child would plant the card from whence flowers would grow. Be still my heart! So much beautiful symbolism! Father’s seeds being planted with celebration in mother earth in Australian spring! Oh! and then the long term relationship symbolically shared between father and child watering and caring for the plants— well, it all just made me want to wax poetic!

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Anxiety in Speaking in Sacrament Meeting

Years ago, in preparing for a Young Women “Values” themed sacrament meeting, I mentioned to a member of the Young Women presidency that I was not sure what to speak about. “It doesn’t really matter,” she assured me. You know what the value is that you’ve been assigned to present, so just tell us a story about it. You’ll do great anyway. We start children giving talks in primary, so by the time you are a (14 year old) Mia Maid, you’ve been speaking in public for a decade! This is why Mormons are great public speakers. You’ll do fine!”

 

At the time, her words did calm me. I thought, “I can do this! I’ve been giving talks for 10 years!” I had not been afraid of giving speeches on the debate team or in English class, and as a rule, wasn’t nervous but for that last burst of excited anticipwoman-podiumation that strikes me just before the words came out. But church talks were and are different. To be clear, I could do them. But they made me more nervous than addressing almost every other kind of audience.

 

As the years passed, and even to this day, when I speak in public- (the thing that is listed as the greatest fear, even over death)  I remind myself that I can do this because “I learned to not be afraid of speaking when I was in primary.” I’ve presented at conferences and meetings and even been disappointed at the smallness of the audience upon occasion; I am a good public speaker and I know it. But. When church speaking assignments came…. the butterflies and anxiety started. I became cranky and argue with my family. I fret and fast and pray for calm. No matter the topic, no matter how well I know it or how many hours I spent in preparation, I became anxiety-ridden. So why is that?

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August 2015 Visiting Teaching: Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ—Meek and Humble

Jesus said, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26–27).

 

One of the first times I can recall that I really learned about the term, “meek,” was when I was in Young Women. I was a Mia Maid, and a Laurel gave a talk about the epistemology of the terms “meek” and “humble.” Like me, she had previously thought of the term meaning weak and quiet, maybe even a person who is frightened. But she had discovered that the term really meant more, especially in a religious sense. Sure, one of the thesaurus.com synonyms is “weak.”  But we don’t think of Christ as weak. Indeed, as Christ sweat blood and experienced all He did in His life, He was the epitome of strength as much as He was the epitome of meekness and humility. So it is a mistake to think of ourselves as weak. We are not weak when we are being humble. We are powerful when we are meek and humble, because we have the force of God with us.

 

But then I had a problem. You see, I thought *I* was meek. I thought this because I was and am, Mormon. I thought somehow because I knew that meekness meant more, that I was among the meek. But I wasn’t. Not really. Not then, and not even now. You see, although this month’s message is aimed at being meek and humble, I still felt it lacked because its attribution of these characteristics was focused on doing as God would have us, perhaps because so often, as Mormons, we think we are doing what God asks us to when we are really doing what we, or what church culture, tells us is most important.

 

For me as a youth, and well into adulthood, I attributed ‘Mormon meekness’ to myself because of my faith, my sacrifice of time inc doing church callings, my paying tithing on a pinched budget, and in a general sense, my membership in the church. I convinced myself that because testimony was strong, and because I was suffering through a number of problems (death of a parent at 18, dating woes at 20, mac-n-cheese AGAIN for dinner, etc.)– I had great meekness and humility. I began to see myself in Matthew 20:16, as chosen—and I believed I would be the first in the next life to obtain all the righteous desires of my heart. In my heart of hearts, I believed myself to be suffering, and I was. Life is not easy for anyone, and some of the obstacles in my life were and are— too complicated and personal to even think about.

 

But that all changed for me in India.

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August Young Women Lesson: How can I prepare now to become a righteous wife and mother?

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

This is a very tricky lesson to teach! Be sure to be mindful of those who do not fit the cookie-cutter mould in your branch, ward and/or stake so that the lesson does not border on the offensive or appear to be making judgement of others’ lives, circumstances and choices (to so do this would only undermine the concept of marriage, making the lesson an anti-marriage lesson).

 

To start, I went and reviewed both the lesson for Young Women (YW) and Young Men (YM)girls leadIt was surprising to me how vastly different the lesson materials were. The YW lessons were in a passive voice, and even included a subsection titled, “Share Experiences,” which heavily contrasts the YM’s “Let the Young Men Lead.” Now, I think sharing experiences is a good thing, but I also think that having the Young Women lead the lesson is also important. When I was a Young Woman, my Mia Maid (MM) teacher always had the MM President begin the meeting. She had the MM President assign someone to conduct, lead, and then turn the time over to her, as the teacher. Her example in this is still one of the most important in my life, because it taught me that I was allowed to be a leader (to peers, at home, etc.). I recommend you do the same in your classes so the YW gain confidence in how to manage people (a very important skill to learn in managing a family, roommates, etc!)

 

Teacher Preparation:

By this age, (at least for any of the youth classes I have taught in the church) the students already “know” the rote answers they are “supposed to know.” I am a huge fan of digging deeper after they give me the rote answer, by asking them if they agree or disagree with the rote answer that they have been taught and have them supplement their thoughts by asking them “why do you think this is the answer?” and “why might this not be the right answer”. I suggest doing this with the Young Women in your class, thereby encouraging them to think about the answer they are giving. Then ask them if they agree or disagree, and challenge them to develop a testimony of the answer they are giving.

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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

Some of the format on this page can hard to read. Please click on this link for a pdf of this lesson plan: Lesson 15 ETB.Exponent.

This is a LONG lesson (lds.org 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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