General Women’s Session: Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I love that President Uchtdorf addressed us as “dear friends,” and that he said, “I always look forward to this session of Conference.”

I’m glad someone looks forward to it. I usually dread it, and up until this point in the evening I’d roundly disliked the session. My stake had put together a heartfelt and meaningful service project beforehand, which was the only reason I’d left my cozy living room, and I was reconsidering ever taking my daughters to a Women’s Session again. Already I’d had to apologize to my 8-year-old for the dead mother/starving infant story in President Wixom’s talk, and had suppressed giggles when Sister McConkie said, re temptation, “Turn it off!” (Trust me, it’s very funny if you’ve seen the Book of Mormon musical.)

The story President Uchtdorf told was about a young girl, Ava, and her Great-Aunt Rose. But it was really about the joy and hope that Rose felt as she studied the gospel, and about being happy in the work we’re all doing, whether it’s the work we expected to be doing or not. Within the story was a stark contrast to Sister McConkie’s talk,  in which she told young women and girl-children that the most divine thing they can do is prepare for marriage and a family: an example of a single woman who was happy with her life, who had done and continued to do good and great works, and who had learned that faith and hope generate love.

It was a wonderful parable, and a wonderful talk. I’m just disappointed that it hadn’t been given by one of the women. When are we going to stop telling girls that their worth lies in their ability to be wives and mothers? When are we going to start encouraging girls to plan for meaningful careers? When are we going to take it upon ourselves to tell powerful stories about women, rather than wait for male leaders to interject them at the end of our meetings?

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Poetry Sundays: Spirit Flowers


Spirit Flowers

By Della Burt

Spirit flowers are our lives,

We move in the

promise of the future.

We watch the ones

born unto us

walk, talk, dance, sing


into the futures we’ve dreamed.

Sometimes losing faith

we bemoan

the wind which blows too strongly

losing our perfection.

We berate the sun

which shines too brightly

baking us black.

We deny love

tormenting our waking hours.

We kill the dream

leaving goals unattended.

But then the gentle breeze blows;

The sun breaks open our smiles;

The dream is reborn

Our love blossoms and

we are fulfilled.

The blue sky and warm sunshine

caress our shoulders

and wrap us in security

making us believers again.

We create

and what we create

is our future.

Spirit flowers we are.

This poem found me a few months ago when I was losing hope and faith.  I remember how it felt when the “dream” first came alive for me.  The energy and power I felt in fighting for a better future for my children.  But this year, especially in Mormon Feminism, it feels like the elements have raged against us.  Like the flowers, we have been scorched and beaten by the sun and wind until we feel like withered, lifeless forms.  It’s hard not to lose ourselves, not to become hardened in this harsh climate.  It’s hard not to become angry at the institution that has hurt us.  It becomes hard to love, especially to love those who don’t agree with us.  I have even felt that a loving bond that was created between us as feminists through our acts of courage to fight the patriarchy has cooled somewhat.  The stress of the harsh elements has caused fighting and division among us.  It’s true, as the poem says, “We deny love tormenting our waking ours.”  That is how it feels to deny love.  It’s torment.  But it happens, understandably, when we feel beaten.

But I found a renewed hope in this poem because seasons come and seasons go.  Even now in the middle of a cold dark winter when I feel sad and hopeless, there is hope.  There is hope that spring will come again and life will be renewed.  And the very elements that once beat us down will one day be less harsh, will be more moderate, will be the very life-giving energy that will bring us back to ourselves.  Will open up our smiles, fill us again with love, “wrap us in security making us believers again.”    What a beautiful, hopeful thought.  And we will continue to create our future.  That’s what we are doing, creating our future, creating our children’s future.  Let’s not forget that, not even when it’s hard.

This poem feels even more meaningful to me when I think about the fact that it was written by a black women, Della Burt.  I have been unsuccessful in learning anything about Della Burt, other than a small glimpse of her life through three different poems published in an anthology called, “Black Sister: Poetry by Black American Women, 1746-1980.”  But I can imagine what her experience in life was, living and raising her children as a black women in mid-twentieth century America.  So grateful I am for the women and men of the past who dreamed and who created a future that is better than what they had.  This poem has reminded me to work to keep that dream alive and to continue to create a better future for the next generation, even when it’s hard.

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A Spiritual Hiatus

“Will you be moving your records into the branch?”


The YSA Branch Relief Society President was happy and cheerful enough–– not yet jaded by New York City (for now). With a pleasant grin on her face and sincerity in her voice, she asked if I would be joining their motley YSA crew here in New York. I told her an honest “maybe”. I attended my local Young Single Adult branch this past Sunday, made new friends, and felt pretty much at home. It didn’t hurt that the Relief Society lesson was not from the Ezra Taft Benson manual, but instead, on supporting and encouraging ourselves and other women. I also took comfort in the fact that the aforementioned Relief Society President said things like, “Welcome to Brooklyn! Where you can wear pants to church and no one will blog about it!” and then cursed in her lesson–– without the sister missionaries, senior sister missionary, or branch president’s wife blinking an eye. It was the most subversive and uplifting church experience I’ve ever had in recent memory. It felt so good being in church that day.


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Christmas Series: We Are The Sound Of Water

Image by Jenna von Benedikt used with permission


Eddies of light twirl in silence when a star passes between us.

Mary does her work. Joseph keeps his word. Jesus comes against odds.

Daybreak moves through dust-laden air, but we’re not there to see the stable,

or feel the straw. We’ve made our way to a time and place where nothing

magic seems to happen anymore. Caught in the current, we are swaddled

in mystery. [But we were before the stars.] We are the sound of water


beneath grass on a hillside where shepherds watch their flocks.

We are eddies of redemption flowing around sand and rocks,

down the Kidron, to a basin where Jesus washes feet.

We are clouds and thunder, a prayer in the rent sky.

We are the noise in darkened heavens, each her own lullaby,

while the baby sheds His tears, cries midnight out of this world.


Art: Distillation of Matter by Jenna von Benedikt.

*Kidron valley, Kidron brook.


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September 2014 General Women’s Meeting – Jean A. Stevens

September 2014 General Women’s Meeting – Jean A. Stevens

Jean A. StevensIt seems that the theme for this women’s meeting is covenants and the temple. Sister Jean A. Stevens, first counselor in the Primary Presidency focused on the covenants, starting with the baptismal covenant and leading up to the temple. She used her own mother as the central example saying she had a “remarkable connection to heaven” and later used quotes from many women of differing ages and their examples of looking to the temple. I loved that she used regular Church members and especially women as examples and multiple times emphasized that we all have different paths. We have so few in the scriptures and often go through whole Sunday School or RS lessons without any quotes from women. I also liked her story of her parents getting married before her father’s mission- it’s a great example of how our current practices aren’t doctrine and that there is a lot of leeway in how we practice the gospel. I really enjoyed her talk and I don’t have much to add to it, so I will share some of my favorite quotes from her talk.

“We are known and loved individually by Him.”

“As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple.”

“Tonight we gather as covenant women of God. Our ages, circumstances & personalities cannot separate us. ”

“Temples are an expression of God’s love”

“Every mighty change of heart matters to the Lord and it will make all the difference to you, for as we go to his holy house, we can be armed with his power, his name upon us, his glory round about us, and his angels have charge over us.”

I am really looking forward to re-reading the talks from this meeting when they become available. I hope you all can find something for yourselves in at least one of these talks.

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“There is Room for You” / “Il y a une place pour vous”

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

This was the theme of the regional YSA conference here in the northeast. Hosted in New York City, it was a two-day conference, however I was only able to attend the Sunday session, which is just as well.

While the Sacrament meeting service was lackluster and disappointing, the evening fireside (presented by the always fabulous, Sistas in Zion) was spectacular and uplifting.  They talked extensively on the conference’s theme and reiterated how “there is room for you”.

Unsurprisingly, as a feminist young single black Mormon convert from New York, the number of times I felt that there hasn’t been room for me is too many to count. Even now, I recently made the decision to stop attending church services on a regular basis. However, my testimony of the Gospel is still strong. I read the Book of Mormon, I pray when I feel inspired or prompted, I believe in the Plan of Happiness, etc. I can even believe the idea that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri! It is my testimony of the Church that is weak and failing (that is a post for another time).

So… is there room for me? For us?

President Uchtdorf says there is. In his October General Conference address, he speaks, “If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!”

I’d still like to think that when I am ready to return, there will be room for me. If not, I’ll make room. I know it’s there. I just have to find it and carve it out. There wasn’t room for Christ while he went about His ministry–– He was rejected and despised and considered a radical. But nonetheless, He went about His Father’s business and He made room. And his disciples  and friends followed and supported Him, while gaining new supporters and friends. Heck, there wasn’t even room for Mary at the inn, but that didn’t stop the Savior from being born! Mary made room for Him! Now, not only is there room for Christ, there are mansions dedicated to His name! And He tells us today there is room for us. And I believe it.

Now, I’m not trying to compare myself to Christ in any way shape or form. Nor am I about to start my own denomination in the name of making room. I’m simply noting the example He sets in creating a place for those who felt there was no place for them before. And His story proves that there are always friends to be found and be there for you. And that they will hold your place in the room for when you return.


That’s what I’m hoping for. As I take this much needed step away from the institutional Church, I am counting on dear friends to save a seat for me. I am counting on friends to tell me they are there for me on my journey. If there is to be room, not only I, but others must make room as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. For many, once they leave, others shut the door and claim the seat they once had is gone. Nothing is farther from the truth. I echo the theme of the regional conference and of President Uchtdorf: There is room for you.

Regardless of whether or not you return, there is room for you. Either in the church building or in the hearts of your fellow Saints. At the very least, there is room for you with me.


“Il y a une place pour vous”

Voilà le thème de la conférence régionale des JA du nord-est des Etats-Unis qui a eu lieu à New York City pendant deux jours. Je n’ai assisté qu’à la session du dimanche.

Même si le service de Sainte-Cène a été décevant, le coin de feu de la soirée (présenté par le groupe Sistas in Zion) était spectaculaire et édifiant. On a beaucoup parlé du thème en insistant qu’il y a bien « une place pour vous. »

En tant que convertie jeune, célibataire, féministe et noire, je ne peux pas compter le nombre de fois où j’ai senti qu’il n’y avait aucune place pour moi. Récemment, j’ai décidé d’arrêter de venir à l’Eglise régulièrement. J’ai pourtant un témoignage fort de l’Evangile. Je lis le Livre de Mormon, je prie quand je me sens inspirée, je crois au Plan de Salut. J’arrive même à croire que le Jardin d’Eden se trouvait en Missouri ! Mais j’ai aussi un témoignage que l’Eglise est faible et est en train d’échouer (ce qui est tout un billet pour un autre moment).

Alors…y a-t-il une place pour moi? Pour nous ?

Président Uchtdorf dit que oui. Dans son discours de la conférence générale d’octobre 2013, il dit, « Si c’est ce que vous désirez, alors, quelles que soient votre situation, votre histoire personnelle ou la force de votre témoignage, il y a de la place pour vous dans l’Église. Venez nous rejoindre ! »

J’aimerais croire que quand je serai prête à revenir, il y aura une place pour moi. Sinon j’en créerai une. Je sais qu’elle est là, je dois la trouver. Il n’y avait pas de place pour le Christ : on l’a rejeté et l’a haï et l’a traité de radical. Mais malgré tout il faisait l’œuvre de son Père et il faisait de la place pour lui. Et ses disciples et ses amis le suivaient, ce qui attirait d’autres disciples et amis. Il n’y avait même pas de place pour Marie à l’auberge, mais cela n’a pas empêché au Christ de venir au monde. Marie a fait une place pour lui. Maintenant, non seulement il y a de la place pour le Christ, il y a même des châteaux dédiés à son nom! Il nous dit qu’il y a une place pour nous, et je le crois.

Je ne me compare pas du tout au Christ. Je ne vais pas non plus créer ma propre réligion. Je note l’exemple qu’il nous donne de créer une place pour ceux qui n’en avaient pas une avant. Son histoire prouve qu’il y aura toujours des amis à trouver, et qu’il garderont votre place pour quand vous reviendrez.

Voilà ce que j’espère. Pendant cette pause de l’Eglise institutionnelle, je compte sur mes amis de garder une place pour moi. Malheureusement, ce n’est pas le cas pour tout le monde. Pour beaucoup d’entre nous, une fois partis, d’autres ferment la porte sur eux et prennent la place que nous avons quittée. Rien ne peut être plus loin de la vérité. Comme le dit Président Uchtdorf : il y a de la place pour vous, qu’elle soit dans l’Eglise ou dans les cœurs des saints. Au moins, il y a de la place pour vous avec moi.

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