Learning to Follow My Heart


By Jenny

I trudged slowly up the hill.  I guess you could say I was running, but really I wasn’t moving very fast.  Despite the hour that I had already been running, my legs were still stiff.  I was hoping that the sun would rise soon.  The sunrise was usually a good boost to my motivation.  I had left my passion for running at home that morning.  All I had running through my head was self-doubt.  I had all these great plans for my life.  Yes, I was just crazy enough to have running a marathon on that list.  But here I was, simply trudging up a hill, looking at the top and wondering if I would actually get there.

Like the boy Santiago, in the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Cohelo, my heart was deceiving me.

“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” the boy asked, when they had made camp that day.

“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

“But my heart is agitated,” the boy said. “It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it’s become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I’m thinking about her.”

“Well, that’s good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say.” The Alchemist pg. 128

Santiago goes on the have a conversation with his heart that I think anyone who follows their personal legend can relate to. I have had many similar conversations with my own heart lately.  His heart tells him:

“Even though I complain sometimes…it’s because I’m the heart of a person, and people’s hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.” The Alchemist, pg. 130

I was nearing the top of the hill I was running on and it started to flatten out.  As I emerged at the top, I looked up to see the street sign above me: Sunrise.  At that moment, the rays of the morning light began to peek over the tops of the mountains.  I was suddenly wrapped in the sun’s warm glow.  It was so small and simple really.  If I hadn’t looked up I wouldn’t have even seen the sign.  But to me it was everything.  It meant that my worries and concerns were important even to God.  My sunrise had come, along with an omen from a powerful, loving universe that knows the language of my heart, my heart that was treacherously trying to deflate my dreams.  I felt overwhelmingly that there is a God, who knows me, knows what I am capable of, and knows what my life can mean.

Thinking about personal legends, omens, and the universe conspiring for my good is fairly new to me.  Most of my adult life was spent in a safe and simple mold of a specific role that I was culturally conditioned to accept.  I was sleepwalking through my life.  And when I awakened, this hill lay before me.  It was steep and daunting, filled with pain and struggle that has helped me to discover my own power and develop a deeper connection to a loving God.

As a Mormon woman, I was influenced by a consciousness that told me I had one role to fulfill in life.  Multiply and replenish the earth.  It was the same role that every woman was “commanded” to fulfill.  Commanded….the word causes a churning in my stomach now.  It is a word that doesn’t belong in a universe that I now view as infinitely good and loving.  I don’t believe in a God who commands, because I have met a God who pushes me toward my greatness through love and compassion, rather than coercion.

As a budding feminist in college, I began right away to follow my heart and my dreams.  During my first week at BYU I collected a handful of papers about study abroad programs and began working on a plan to travel.  A year later, I arrived back at BYU after an intense internship in Southern Bavaria.  My bishop asked me to meet with him.  He quickly asked me about my travels and then turned the conversation to the fact that a guy I had been dating before I left was now dating someone else in the ward.  When I told him that the guy had dumped me while I was gone, my bishop blamed me.  He told me that I needed to be more focused on getting married because that was my main priority.  Travelling and fulfilling my dreams was not as important.

Back then I was more accustomed to listening to my leaders than listening to my heart.  When I think back on this conversation with my bishop, I don’t think that his counsel changed the course of my life too much.  I don’t think the bishop’s counsel affected my choices, so much as it affected the relationship I had to those choices.  Over the last thirteen years since I sat in his office, I have spent most of my time and energy in marriage and family.  Getting married and having a large family was one of my biggest dreams.  The problem was not that I had a family and chose to stay home and raise them.  The problem was how I viewed myself as a wife and mother.  I saw myself as a martyr.  I was sacrificing my dreams for my family.  I needed to give up who I was as an individual and recreate my identity around my family.  In essence, I became my family, inseparable from my husband and children.  For a time, I lost some vital aspects of myself.

It wasn’t just the bishop’s counsel on that fateful day that caused me to feel like my dreams and passions needed to be subsumed.  It was years of cultural conditioning that told me that motherhood would be everything I would ever have or need.  It was a cultural mindset that told me life was about fear, sacrifice, obedience, commandments, and authority that existed outside of me.  I was never taught about following my heart and claiming authority to live my own life of authenticity.  Even now, as I am rediscovering those vital parts of myself and doing things that I love outside of motherhood, I am finding many harsh critics of my choices.  They say that I just don’t understand how important I am as a mother.  They say that I’m being selfish.  They say that I’m on the wrong path.

“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” The Alchemist, Pg. 16

Maybe it scares them to see the change of course my life has taken.  Sometimes it scares me too.  Once I travelled the straight and narrow, and now I scale a winding hill, sometimes barely trudging.  Once I was sleepwalking through my life and now I am wide awake, following my heart, my all-too-often-treacherous-heart.  Listening to my heart has made me vulnerable and open to failure.  Even as I write this blog post and open up my vulnerable self to the world, I wonder if it will be a failure.  But like Santiago, I am on the path to discovering my personal legend.  I have seen failure, but I have also seen the universe moving me in a powerful direction.  I have seen beautiful omens placed strategically just for me.  Omens that I would have missed had I not looked up, had I not awakened from the sleep of following cultural norms, had I not pushed through my struggles and my self-doubt, had I not chosen to listen to my heart over outside influences.  Yes, following my heart, however much it hurts, makes my life more enjoyable.  It makes my relationship with my choices more empowering and uplifting.  And like Santiago:

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting,” he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and hurried his pace.” The Alchemist, pg. 11
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Ordination and Excommunication Sunday

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone

Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone

As the procession of women entered the church I swallowed a gasp. I knew I was attending the ordination of Clare Julian Carbone to the Roman Catholic priesthood (unsanctioned by the Vatican). I knew that those ordaining the first female Catholic priest in Salt Lake City would be women, previously ordained through a priesthood lineage they trace back to Jesus Christ. But I didn’t know. I only imagined what it would be like to have women presiding and officiating in ordination rite. The surprise of women dressed in robes of service and devotion, leading in a holy space overwhelmed me with joy.  Tears spilled out as I looked up at a stand and podium presided over by women (with a talented man playing the piano).  

I marveled at how different the scene before me was compared to the LDS Sacrament service I attended a few hours earlier. In my LDS ward I looked up at a stand full of men in suits with a woman leading the music and a woman at the organ. The LDS scene communicated to me that women are the accompaniment. Men are the main story. The opening hymn for my LDS Sacrament meeting was Hymn 59, Come O Thou King if Kings. I choked as I sang verse four:

Hail! Prince of life and peace!

Thrice  welcome to thy throne!

While all the chosen race

Their Lord and Savior own,

The heathen nations bow the knee,

And ev’ry tongue sounds praise to thee.

Was I the chosen race that owns their Lord and Savior? Or am I of the heathen nation bowing the knee? I felt keenly, “I do not belong here. This is a space for white men. Not me.” No more sound came out of me after the word “race.” I could not sing the words, “Heathen nation.”

In contrast, the sight of male and female congregants smiling in fellowship as we looked up to female presiding leaders astonished me with feelings of peace and well being. As I looked at female bodies, dressed in white robes that remind me of my temple clothes, I felt like I belonged. Then we sang an opening hymn:

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Claim your blessing!


Because children are baptized at age 8 rather than as infants, the Mormon version of a baby’s christening (blessing) is not considered a saving ordinance on their behalf. The LDS interpretation of this ritual is found in D&C 20:70:

“Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.”

We’ve all seen how it goes: dad, grandpa or some other worthy Melchizedek priesthood holder brings the baby to the front of the chapel, a few other men surround them in a circle, they collectively bounce the baby like she’s on a trampoline to keep her from fussing during the blessing, a deacon holds a microphone in front of the speaker’s mouth as the child is given “a name, by which she will be known on the records of the church and throughout her life,” followed by a brief blessing. Funny thing is, she’ll still get her name on the records of the church with or without a blessing, so it’s not even a required ritual for entrance on our attendance rolls.

And some of us wonder….”Where’s her mother?” We think that all too-often, don’t we? Oh, there she is! A few pews back, arms reverently folded as she strains to hear the man’s blessing on her child while other shrieks and squeaks punctuate the sacred silence, the same plight afforded to a father only when he is deemed “unworthy.”  Is she also unworthy?

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Gatekeepers Anonymous


By Jenny

Hi, my name is Jenny, and I am a recovering gatekeeper. A little while ago I had to leave for work at 4:00 pm and my husband wasn’t going to be home until 4:30 pm. I didn’t have time to make dinner for my family to heat up while I was gone and I’m afraid to say that I felt guilty about that.  Later that evening I came home to a nice dinner still warm in the oven for me.  I started being a gatekeeper the day I got married and it has gotten progressively worse with each baby that I have had.  I began to realize just how big my problem was when my fourth child was born three years ago.  I was facing burn out of an astronomical proportion, guilt mounting on top of guilt, and I barely had time to sit and breathe for a moment during the day.  Luckily for me I had a feminist intervention and now I only fall back into gatekeeping every once in awhile, like the other day when I started to ask my husband if I could go to book group and then caught myself midsentence and said, “I have book group on Friday.”

Do you have a gatekeeping problem?  You might not even know you have one.  I didn’t know for a long time, but now it’s a lot easier for me to recognize the symptoms.  For instance, one of the biggest arguments I hear against women holding the priesthood is this: “I don’t want the priesthood.  I have way too much to do as it is. I don’t need one more responsibility!”  Some might wholeheartedly agree with this statement, some might say that this woman is being selfish, but what I see is a mindset that I fully understand and am trying to recover from myself.  You see, I made this argument myself only five years ago.

I grew up in a culture that creates amazing gatekeepers in its women.  We are taught at such a young age, that the home is our main responsibility.  Not only that, but the home is the most important institution on the earth.  The home is the place where Mormon women gain most of their power and recognition within the culture.  This gives us the propensity to grab every ounce of responsibility we can get our hands on and not relinquish any of it.  My great responsibility in the home was instilled so deeply in me that I literally felt I was single-handedly holding up a house, and if I let go even just a little bit to grab something else my house would collapse.  So of course the priesthood did not appeal to me.  Neither did a job or anything else that wasn’t part of my home.  I was being crushed under a heavy load to the point where I couldn’t handle anything else.  If I reached out to grab the priesthood, my house would fall.   But at the same time I felt a sense of pride in my ability to hold my house up by myself without help.  I felt powerful, so I thought women who wanted more of the men’s responsibility must feel powerless.  They must not understand how powerful a woman holding a house can be.  I understood…or so I thought.

But I didn’t know then how much more powerful I could be by sharing the load.  I didn’t realize that if women reach to help hold up the church, then men can reach to help hold up the house.  If Mormon women could just understand that their house is not going to fall if they let go of a little bit of their responsibility, I think the priesthood and other life callings outside the home would feel more appealing to them.  I love being a stay at home mom, but I don’t love every minute of it.  I’m good at it, but I’m good at other things too.  Lately I have worked harder to try those other things that I am good at.  In doing so, I am finding that my husband is really good at doing things in the home.  These were things that used to be my responsibility, things that, due to the sheer volume of them, prohibited me from doing other things I loved.  I also discovered that my kids are much better than I thought they were, at being independent and helping out.  In fact, it’s my husband who brings that out of them.

Now that I am giving up gatekeeping, we have twelve hands to hold up our house.  Some of those hands are little and not so helpful yet, but nonetheless, our house feels more balanced and stable.  Now if I want to leave, I know I can leave my house in good hands.  I can spend time teaching yoga and writing, travelling, going to trainings and retreats, running races, working to bring money into our home(something that I never fully grasped the value of until I realized how much confidence it gives me).  If I was allowed to, I could sit on the stand at church while my husband handles the kids on his own.  It wasn’t something I ever considered before, but now I see the potential.  Lately I have noticed many women who would make amazing bishops or leaders in other priesthood capacities, and would greatly benefit their wards with their service.  The only thing holding them back is the fear that we have as Mormons to let men reach that hand out to help in the home while the woman reaches a hand into the men’s world of serving in the church.  I’ve been there.  I understand the fear, but now I see only the benefits.

It takes coordination and effort to keep that balance.  It may even require hiring extra hands for support or enlisting friends, grandparents, neighbors.  Some women don’t have an equal partner for support.  I think it’s important to build a community of support to help all women to feel that freedom of knowing that they can relinquish their responsibilities at times to find themselves and to express the other beautiful things that they have to offer the world.  The first step is to acknowledge that we have a problem.  Then we can help each other.  If you want a community of support to help you overcome your gatekeeping addiction, feel free to comment below with an acknowledgment that you have a problem.

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Guest Post: To Hearken

By Tessa

Porcelain Doll

FreeImages.com/constantin jurcut

“Now don’t talk too much,”
he preaches from that unreachable pulpit,
dark suit and tie.

After all,
why would I need to say anything?
My needs are only so-called–
not valid, not important, not even real.
I have no real concerns.
Or, at least
the perfect porcelain doll who wears my face,
smiling with silent Stepford grace
from her polished marble pedestal
She embraces her
highest and holiest calling,
does not shrink back from
nine months of body swollen, stolen, possessed,
does not seek to leave the gilded walls of home
where women are incredible yet cannot preside.
The milky thoughts spoon-fed her each week are sufficient.
She does not ache to understand
the heavens and earths
and nations and peoples
and pasts and futures,
does not yearn to stretch, to grow,
to feed that seed of divinity planted in me by Mother above;
a mother I barely know;
a mother she does not remember.

But she is not me
I have climbed down from that pedestal,
have found solid earth beneath my feet.
And though I may have skinned
and scraped my hands on the way down,
the sting rekindles my voice.
First a cry of pain,
then words,
words I do not remember forgetting from suppressing them so long,
but now the dam is burst, I cannot hold back the flood
though it brands me Heretic.
So I speak now with my foremothers–
Emma, Eliza, Mary, Martha, Deborah, Miriam, Eve, and
Standing in a circle we declare our truth,
noble, bold, and independent of the expectations of a suit.

“Shhh. Shhh.”
he whispers, returning me to my proper place,
that display case pedestal.
“You’re happy.”

And in that moment I almost believe him,
almost don’t feel the duct tape being pressed firmly, but oh so gently across
my lips.

After all,
to hearken never required a voice.


Tessa lives in Utah Valley with her husband and whiny but cuddly cat.  She reads more than is probably good for her, knits her way through church, and teaches middle school.

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Comfort Food


Table for Ladies

“…..and please bless the refreshments that they will nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good that we need……”

I smirk silently, roll my eyes beneath piously closed lids and envision brownies, cookies and lemonade transfigured into fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, organic something-or-other, packed with protein and vitamins, all contingent on our scripted gratitude for the hands who prepared it.

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