So You Have to Teach YW the Sunday After a Major Policy Change that Hurts Your Heart

I’m sorry, I got nothing.

No, I owe you more than that. I owe my YW more than that. I don’t know if it’d be ok to share everything I want to share with my YW this Sunday, so I’ll post it here and the tech-savvy ones can read it. I owe the girls a scavenger hunt on the temple grounds where we go to church. Maybe we’ll do that. I don’t know.

There was only one other girl my age at church when I was a teenager. There was a group of girls a couple of years older than me and a group a couple of years younger than me. The other girl was my best friend at church. The very first Sunday I met her, I was 9 years old; I learned we were born just days apart and my middle name was her first name. In the course of our growing up years, our ward boundaries changed and our ward was split and then brought together again a few years later. We were lucky to stay with each other the whole time. I went to her homecoming dance when were were sophomores. We hung out at mutual and in Sunday School and YW.

By the time we were seniors in high school, though, I knew she was doing things that didn’t align with the standards set by the Church and she eventually stopped coming. When I turned 18, I was still in high school (my birthday is in December), but I had no friends in YW, so I moved up to Relief Society. I didn’t know why my friend stopped coming; I never asked. I do remember judgmentally remarking to my mom that my friend was doing things she should see the bishop about. That was the first time a friend of mine went “inactive.”

There was a time in my senior year when my mom stopped coming to church. She had anxiety attacks at church around certain people. At the time, I was very judgmental of my mom for not coming to church like you’re “supposed to.” She comes to church now that they’ve moved far away from that ward, but that was the first time someone in my family had to take a break from church for their health.

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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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Send us a Guest Post!

Woman Writing a Letter by Kaigetsudō Doshin

Woman Writing a Letter
by Kaigetsudō Doshin

The Exponent has always been a safe place for new voices to share their thoughts about Mormonism and feminism. We have just added a new guest post submission form to make it even easier. Do you have something to say and you’re looking for a supportive, empathetic community to say it to?  Submit a guest post!  Guest posting is a great option if you like to write but don’t want the time commitment of maintaining your own blog, so submit a guest post! On the other hand, if you are actually looking for more of a long-term gig, the first step to becoming a permablogger at the Exponent  is to submit a guest post.  We are always looking for new people to join our ranks!

In celebration of our new guest post submission form, I am re-posting the story of how I became an Exponent permablogger.  Yes, I began by submitting a guest post back in 2011!

Finding My Voice was originally published in April 2012 here:

There was a point in my life when I started experiencing a great deal of religious angst.  I was desperate for an open environment where I could blab about all of my questions and concerns without someone interrupting to tell me that I would probably go to Hell.  Most of my more liberal friends lived far away and I felt like I was wearing out my poor husband, since he was my only sounding board left.  I was not at all interested in talking to a male authority figure, such as a bishop, because many of my concerns centered on religious patriarchy.

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How many times?

joanI sat on the floor with my legs crossed, leaning against a console stereo, my ear pressed to the textured side. I listened, intently and for hours, to the music emanating from the speaker. My mother carefully placed records on the spindle inside and from the outside I learned how to live in the world. Peter, Paul and Mary sang the questions of “Blowing in the Wind;” Bob Dylan’s poetry woven with their plaintive and impassioned harmonies. “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see? How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? How many deaths will it take ’til he knows that too many people have died?” The answers were elusive and elemental, but in the questions we were urged to look in our own heart. It was the questions that taught me the woman I wanted to be.

With this soundtrack, I went out into a world where war was on television, where kids got teased, where people with difference were made to feel that way. I fought back, cried, worried, wrote poems, and listened to the music that gave me courage. I read voraciously about rebels and holy people who stood for what was right amid challenging circumstances. Every quest began with a question that defied an established order. I read passages over and over, memorizing the words and actions of change. I internalized their stories and looked for how to enact them in my tiny, suburban sphere.

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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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Where None shall Come to Hurt or Make Afraid

Last month, my family was in Nauvoo for a family reunion. One night we watched the Nauvoo pageant. As Joseph Smith is headed to Carthage, we are told that he goes there on “trumped up” and “false” charges. This was not entirely true; he was there for his connection to the Nauvoo Council’s decision to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor’s printing press. The few days we were in Nauvoo, we also went to Carthage and heard the story of the martyrdom multiple times at various historical sites. And I looked at my kids and thought, “Please, please, please, do not absorb the Mormon persecution complex. Please, please, pStatue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo Illinois lease.” I know what it does and it is not good.

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