Exponent Book Review Series: Papa’s Book of Mormon Christmas

Papa's Book of Mormon ChristmasGuest Post by Nicola

Nicola is a UK-born (currently) Gospel Doctrine teacher, who lives in Australia. She likes sleeping when possible, and spending time at the beach, and is the mother of 7 children– with another on the way!

Now, if I’m being honest, I was a little put off by the title. I thought it sounded a little like it would contain yet another reprimand for not having enough ” Christ in Christmas” – you know the people that freely rebuke the buyers of Christmas trees, tinsel, cookies and presents and treat them as signs of apostasy? I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t at all preachy, in fact it was the opposite. (sample page here: Papas sample pages (1))I felt it was sincere and gentle and motivated by love. I realise, however,  that this title might make it more appealing to an LDS audience and that maybe I am in a minority of people who get overly sensitive about it around this time of year 😉. Now for the rest of it:

This Christmas story is a wonderfully sweet rendition of a beloved volume of scripture being tenderly shared between a doting grandfather and his adoring granddaughter. My favourite part of the story was the ease with which the love for the Book of Mormon was conveyed across the pages by the grandfather. It was great to see a volume of scripture being revered and held dear by someone at Christmas rather than a few traditional verses of scripture.

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The Lock







The Lock

Every evening I brush one damp curl from my baby’s forehead
And in its place leave a long, mama kiss

My sweet strawberry of a boy is heavy now–
All cheeks, tummy, and leg rolls
To me, though, he is still tiny

A little lump laying under white sheets and grey cotton blanket


His fingers rise up to his displaced curl
Thumb and forefinger searching for that precious peach lock

And then they twirl
Root to end…
Root to end…

A ritual performed since babehood, sucking at my breast


I watch, waiting for the next step in our little dance

Then it’s his turn to wait
For me to shake my head and whisper
‘Daddy is at church.’

He knows the routine by heart


My strawberry boy is still small enough that our family nights
Spent reciting our theme–

         Do all the Good you can
         In all the Ways you can
         To all the People you can

–Words meant to soothe the hearts of our children in the absence of their father–
Are a jumble of nonsense to him
Who needs a theme when you can have a daddy?

He sighs, debating whether to go on


The choreography is rote and he dutifully moves forward

The next step is mine
I’m supposed to say something about Jesus
But I stumble

I am tired–and hurt


Jesus listened and wept with the woman
Jesus comforted and healed the outcast

Telling my boy that his daddy has gone to church to help Jesus feels like a half truth
When the church his daddy serves builds idols on top of the pain
Of the lost sheep Jesus sought

‘I don’t know.’


It is all I have to give
A worthless, heartbroken utterance

But my strawberry boy nods
Perhaps grateful for an honest change in our routine
And turns to lay on his side, finger still twirling his favorite lock

Root to end…


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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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Walking with the boys

boy and mom 2About 4:00 pm I start watching my phone. I turn it face up and switch from silent to a low hum. Just in case. And again at 6:00 ish. I know their schedules. This is when my sons might call. One is walking home from school in the afternoon and the other from work at night. The windows of opportunity are from five to twenty minutes and if I miss them, it might be a few days before the walking and the inspiration align again.

I have no illusions where I fall in a twenty-something’s order of priorities. Evening plans have been texted, playlists played, messages called back and messages left. But when all other forms of entertainment have been exhausted, and if they are walking, they will call mom.

One tells me about his ideas. We discuss concepts like disruption and narrative world building and color and heteronormative bias. I ask questions and connect images and stretch beyond my day of spreadsheets and slides to keep up with his whirling, brilliant mind. One tells me about his day. We discuss strategies like workload management and incremental development and facilitation and change response. I ask questions and connect phrases and stretch beyond my day of egos and politics to marvel at his openness and ability to read and manage people. To both I agree that life is indeed hard, but also full of wonder, and that they are extraordinary and will make meaningful change in the world. Then they arrive somewhere and hang up.

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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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One More Example of ETB Lesson 15 (AKA: What Motherhood Looks Like For Me)

Connecticut, Family

I said this to my Relief Society sisters Sunday, more or less. (Not included are the beautiful, thoughtful answers they said back.) (If you happen to still be teaching Lesson 15, please check out Spunky’s inclusive and thorough plan.)

Divinity of Parenthood

What I hope that you will get from this lesson is that both fatherhood and motherhood are godly, and that cooperative parenting is the most godly of all.

Benson said, “A mother’s role is ordained by God. [Mothers] are, or should be, the very heart and soul of the family. No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother.”

Our Differences

Before I go further, I want to acknowledge that this topic can be sensitive. While we are all daughters of God and sisters in the gospel, we have different lived experiences. Some of us have never married, and never had children. Some of us have married, but now carry the load of parenthood by ourselves. Some of us are stepmothers. Some of us are adoptive or foster mothers. Some of us who do not have children, desperately wish to. Some of us who have children, at times desperately wish not to. Some of us are expectant mothers. Some of us are new, new mothers. Some of us are just pretty new. Some of us are seasoned. Some of us are empty nesters. Some of us are grandmothers. Some of us have difficult relationships with our own mothers. Some of us have no desire to be mothers. Some of us are mothers to everyone we meet.

I honor these differences. My hope is that we can draw upon them, and speak honestly and openly from our own experiences, to better learn from each other, and increase in charity and understanding.

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