Book Review: Fresh Courage Take

Fresh Courage Take

I can’t remember when I first heard about Fresh Courage Take, but can remember when I first knew that I would read it. It was earlier this summer, sitting beside a Provo splash-pad with one of the contributors, Ashley Mae, listening to her talk about renaming her faith crisis, and watching our children play. Ashley’s is such a clear, thoughtful voice. I suspected (correctly) that if it was included, the book would be clear and thoughtful, too.

She is joined by eleven other authors–eleven other women–who wrote down their truths and handed them to us, bravely, vulnerably, and strongly. Each one tells the smallest (slash biggest) part of what it means for her to be a Mormon women, as well as some of the courageous choices she has made in claiming ownership of her actions, beliefs, and story.

As we might expect from a group of twelve women, those stories and truths do not always look the same, and sometimes look quite different. This is as it should be. This is the strength of the book.

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Compromises, An Update

In my last post when mentioning the state of my church belief and testimony, I wrote:

“My testimony, though strong, is at its basic level–– my recommend expires in seven days and I have no plans to renew it, nor do I plan on paying tithing (wedding season is coming up, however, so I may have to revisit this topic….)”

Well, wedding season has arrived. Two of my very best friends are getting married in August within a week of each other out west. And I’m a bridesmaid for one of them (the other isn’t having bridesmaids, but she mentioned that if she did have them, I would be one of them–– so, honorary bridesmaid?). I already requested time off of work. I’m going. I’m also going to their sealings.

I renewed my temple recommend.

temple

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Retreat Forward

treesRecently I attended one of the several Mormon Feminist retreats that happen around the US. I have been to different retreats off and on for twenty five years now, placing me somewhere in the middle of women who pioneered such programs and women who are just discovering them. In each, the first guideline is to keep the details of what is shared in trust, drawing a kind of sacred circle around the discussions and personal moments. This allows everyone to participate with openness in a safe environment. I have no intention of breaking this promise, but I do want to share some general reflections on why I love these experiences and how I believe they propel me forward throughout the year, at least to the next one when I get filled with energy once again.

Telling people I am going – For many of you, telling people you have signed up for one of these retreats can result in the “tut-tut” of disapproval and fear for your wayward soul. For me, it is an opportunity to share a part of myself that I don’t express very often. I do have to endure the inevitable “Mormon Feminist” oxymoron joke (I weather this with the patience of a girl who has lived with the juxtaposition of “Pandora” and “Box” for fifty years), but after this ritual of obligatory chuckling, we often begin a more multi-dimensional conversation than we may have had before. I reveal my continued affiliation with remarkable women and my desire for spiritual connection. The other person will often open up about their religious activity and their desire to participate in more meaningful ways. Sharing my plans invites additional layers to the relationship and to our understanding of each other.

Seeing old friends – I have friends that I only see at retreats. After the whoops of excitement and hugs and marveling at how beautiful we remain year after year, we pick up the narrative exactly where we left off. I feel closer to the women I spend forty-two hours with each year than those I see every day. There is an intensity to our bond that telescopes a universe of affection into a walk to and from the cabin. These are the people who know me best and hold my history and love me anyway.  

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New Series: #VisibleWomen: You can’t be What You can’t See

My years in the Young Women’s organization were rough on me. Part of it was just teenage awkwardness and the rest was teenage cliquishness. As soon as I turned 18, I switched to Relief Society. I have a December birthday, so I spent the last half of my senior year out of Young Women’s. For me, Relief Society was a level playing field filled with a rich history of strong women. Age didn’t matter, we were all women together.

I was called as the Relief Society pianist and paired with one of my seminary teachers as visiting teaching partners. We were assigned to teach one of the other seminary teachers. I’ll let you all imagine how odd it is to refer to your seminary teachers as Sister So-and-so on the weekdays and by first names on Sunday.

Very quickly I learned that all was not well in Relief Society Land, either. The seminary teacher I was supposed to visit teach didn’t like the visiting teaching program and requested that we not visit her. My companion would do lunch with her (and obviously was in constant contact because of sharing the job of teaching seminary) and that was my extent of visiting teaching.

It was both shocking and good for me to learn that a person that I looked up to as a spiritual leader didn’t follow all the programs of the Church exactly. I think it has helped me be more compassionate with people whose needs must to be addressed differently. I still very much believe in Relief Society and its attempt at its expansive mission, but it’s obvious that it isn’t reaching everyone. From Ordain Women to Mormon Women Stand, Mormon women are creating organizations to fill the gaps that the church programs are leaving behind. Of course, Relief Society can’t be everything to everyone, but I believe it, and in turn the Church, can be more to more people.

This Sunday is International Women’s Day and for this, the Exponent is starting a new blog series: #VisibleWomen: you can’t be what you can’t see. In addition to personal stories of Mormon women, this series will come with calls to ask the Church, “Would you please consider…” ways to make women more visible in the Church and feel more include. Hopefully a few of these suggestions will speak to you and you’ll participate in your own ways.

Friendship

 

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Relief Society Lesson 20: Love and Concern For All of Our Father’s Children

Relief Society Lesson  20: Love and Concern For All of Our Father’s Children

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Lesson 20: Love and Concern For All Our Father’s Children

rosegardenstatue  “I believe it is our solemn duty to love one another, to believe in each other, to have faith in each other, that it is our duty to overlook the faults and the failings of each other, and not to magnify them in our own eyes nor before the eyes of the world.  There should be no faultfinding, no back-biting, no evil speaking, one against another, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  We should be true to each other and to every principle of our religion and not be envious one of another.  We should not be jealous one of another, nor angry with each other, and there should not arise in our hearts a feeling that we will not forgive one another our trespasses.  There should be no feeling in the hearts of the children of God of unforgiveness against any man, no matter who he may be.” (Joseph Fielding Smith – lesson manual)

When I read this lesson, this quote alone spoke to me as being the message I would share with my sisters in Relief Society.  I have chosen to break it down into the many bits of counsel that Joseph Fielding Smith offered, supplemented by other quotes from sisters in leadership callings.  A good companion talk for this lesson is Sister Oscarson’s April 2014 address “Sisterhood: Oh how we need each other.”

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