Book Review: Baptism & Boomerangs

baptisms and boomerangs

Oh, Baptism & Boomerangs is just so sweet, and colorful, and made me cry the good kind of tears. I hope each of you can read it, too.

For now, I will just tell you this:

It is about little girl named Amara, who just arrived in Sidney, Australia, with her mom, dad, and brother Jack, to celebrate her eighth birthday with her grandparents and delicious baptism cake(!), and of course, to get baptized.

But there is a small, but significant, problem. Amara is excited to get baptized, but is also nervous. And what’s more, she is nervous to say that she’s nervous. Thankfully, her perceptive mother thinks to ask her what she’s thinking about, and a number of really lovely, heartfelt discussions ensue. The first one happens at the kitchen table, over Amara’s special cake, but those butterfly feelings are still there!

The next one happens in a park, with Amara’s granddad, brother, and a boomerang. It is both the soul of the story and, as you can imagine, the reason for the book’s title. This is also where I tell you that I came to this book with the tiniest understanding of boomerangs’ seemingly magical property of returning, and was more than a little curious what they might have to do with baptism.

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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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August 2015 Visiting Teaching: Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ—Meek and Humble

Jesus said, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26–27).

 

One of the first times I can recall that I really learned about the term, “meek,” was when I was in Young Women. I was a Mia Maid, and a Laurel gave a talk about the epistemology of the terms “meek” and “humble.” Like me, she had previously thought of the term meaning weak and quiet, maybe even a person who is frightened. But she had discovered that the term really meant more, especially in a religious sense. Sure, one of the thesaurus.com synonyms is “weak.”  But we don’t think of Christ as weak. Indeed, as Christ sweat blood and experienced all He did in His life, He was the epitome of strength as much as He was the epitome of meekness and humility. So it is a mistake to think of ourselves as weak. We are not weak when we are being humble. We are powerful when we are meek and humble, because we have the force of God with us.

 

But then I had a problem. You see, I thought *I* was meek. I thought this because I was and am, Mormon. I thought somehow because I knew that meekness meant more, that I was among the meek. But I wasn’t. Not really. Not then, and not even now. You see, although this month’s message is aimed at being meek and humble, I still felt it lacked because its attribution of these characteristics was focused on doing as God would have us, perhaps because so often, as Mormons, we think we are doing what God asks us to when we are really doing what we, or what church culture, tells us is most important.

 

For me as a youth, and well into adulthood, I attributed ‘Mormon meekness’ to myself because of my faith, my sacrifice of time inc doing church callings, my paying tithing on a pinched budget, and in a general sense, my membership in the church. I convinced myself that because testimony was strong, and because I was suffering through a number of problems (death of a parent at 18, dating woes at 20, mac-n-cheese AGAIN for dinner, etc.)– I had great meekness and humility. I began to see myself in Matthew 20:16, as chosen—and I believed I would be the first in the next life to obtain all the righteous desires of my heart. In my heart of hearts, I believed myself to be suffering, and I was. Life is not easy for anyone, and some of the obstacles in my life were and are— too complicated and personal to even think about.

 

But that all changed for me in India.

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Announcement: Exponent II Mormon Feminist Midrash Short Story Contest

Deborah under the palm tree “Deborah Under the Palm Tree” by Adriene Cruz. adriencruz.com

Exponent II is excited to announce a short story contest of Mormon feminist midrash. Midrash is a Jewish tradition of spinning out a new story based on scripture, filling in narrative gaps or retelling the scripture from a new point of view. Stories can help resolve tension or evoke questions as they ask the reader to consider possible meanings, even as the fictionalized accounts are not meant to be taken literally.

For our short story contest, we are inviting writers to tell us the missing stories of women from the scriptures. Give us the perspective of Deborah, Huldah, Dinah, Miriam, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, Sariah, Laman’s wife, or Emma Smith. We want to hear their voices. We want to know how they came to hear the voice of God and how they made choices in their lives. What were their childhoods like? How were they personally influenced by the great and terrible things that happened to them in the scripture stories? What did they think about in private moments? Let your imagination reveal new interpretations and meanings of scriptural stories and help us to hear the women of the scriptures.

Many of the stories we receive will be printed in our Winter 2015 issue of Exponent II and the winner of the contest will receive $150. Submissions should be between 800-3000 words and the deadline is November 2. Please send them to editor@exponentii.org. We look forward to reading your stories.

“I want midrash to give a voice to women in the Bible who have had nearly none. To be an advocate for biblical figures over whom the ages have kicked considerable dust, and to imagine their lives.”
– Rosen, Norma. Biblical Women Unbound: Counter-Tales. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.

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Finding God in Community

"Lightning on Columbus River" by Ian Boggs

“Lightning on Columbus River”
by Ian Boggs

By Jenny

The spring thunderstorms have set my mind back to my youth.  I watch the misty greyness creep in as the rolling thunder awakens in me a sense that a powerful universal force exists.  Lightning pierces the melancholy clouds and lacerates the sky with its fierce power.  It’s as if God is raging in the heavens above, until the clouds open and the fierceness turns to a cleansing grace which flows freely to earth allowing life and beauty to thrive.

My teenage years also flowed with grace that allowed life and beauty to thrive in me.  I was nurtured by community and by dedicated leaders.  I lived in a world filled with scripture stories, faith, and miracles.  On a Book of Mormon Trek the summer after I turned sixteen, these scripture stories surrounded me in the form of handcarts and liahonas helping my youth group through the wilderness like Lehi’s family.  Prophets appeared to tell their stories and miracles surrounded us at every bend.  My leaders had put their heart and souls into planning a three-day trek that they hoped would be life-changing for those in their charge.  And it was.

I sat in the forest alone after the prophet Enos had appeared.  He sent us to pray and meditate on our own in the woods as he had done.  My scriptures lay open on my lap as the thunder began to roll in.  I looked up at the sky and smiled.  I could feel raindrops slowly kissing my face.  The smell of newness filled the air.  Thunder crept closer to me, as if warning me of what was coming.  Suddenly a boom shook the earth and the forest was consumed with fire.  A sharp pain shot through my back and I fell to the ground.  Through the chaos of people running down the mountain, I stumbled and was carried to a tent.  The doctor came quickly and looked at my back.  When he decided I was fine (just experiencing acute shock), he couldn’t hide his excitement over seeing an actual mark left by a lightning strike.  He took a picture.

The Stake President and Bishop came in then to give me a blessing.  Everyone in the tent could feel the power at that moment.  I don’t remember exactly what my bishop said.  It wasn’t so much a power of words, as it was a power of love and belief shared among humans.  When they left the doctor checked my back, but the mark was gone.  As a community, we felt the miracle in this event.  No one else on that mountain was hurt.  Through the storm, God had showed us power and grace.  I spent my teenage years feeling wrapped in that blanket of grace, safe and secure.

From that environment of communal nurturing and growth came a strong and powerful faith.  Over the years my faith has become more complex.  I have gained a deeper understanding of experiences beyond my own.  I have found knowledge that extends beyond my cultural conditioning.  I see now that things aren’t as they always seemed to me when I was younger.  Some might call the complexities of my faith “doubt,” but that word doesn’t describe it.

I have frequently been asked over the last few years, “So what do you believe?”  I don’t have the words, or maybe the words are meaningless to someone who hasn’t experienced my journey.  How do you describe what lightning feels like to someone who has never been hit by lightning?  If I could just show you my faith.  If you could see it, feel it, hear it, taste it…like running out into a thunderstorm, arms out, feeling energy flashing in the sky, the rain streaming down your face.  If you could only know my faith the way I do.  But you are in your safe shelter, watching the storm from a distance.  All it is to you is a disturbance to your plans, a tempest when you want sunshine.

I don’t claim to know the form of God.  Male, female, an old man with a beard, a king, a spirit, energy, embodied being, the evolutionary perfection of the human race, Elohim, Allah, Krishna…it doesn’t matter to me.  God is perfect love.  God is brightest light which opens the mind and fills it with knowledge and wisdom.  God is energy to move in a positive and powerful way.  God is grace.

I felt that grace as a young girl.  I felt it through family, friends, and leaders.  It kept me in the light.  It moved me in a positive direction.  It surrounded me with the power of love.  I don’t feel like I am wrapped in a blanket of grace anymore.  So I must generate grace within my own soul.  God is in me.  God is in the way I love, forgive, and connect with other people.  God is in the way I accept my imperfect faith and move forward.  God is in the way my heart tries to understand those who don’t understand me.  I believe God’s power and grace can be found in lightning and miracles.  God’s power and grace are in communities that nurture, build, and support each other.  God’s power and grace are in a heart that is open to love.     As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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Heavenly Mothers Day: BYU Heavenly Mother Art Show, May 8, 2015

Guest Post by Katie Payne

Katie just graduated with an MFA from Brigham Young University, and is about to move across the continent to start a new adventure with her
husband. She loves art, dill pickle dip, and long walks. Her personal website is www.katie-payne.com

 

My art over the last few years has tended to focus on my experience as a woman, especially as a Mormon woman. Most recently, I have created a large exhibition focusing on Heavenly Mother. The whole project started soon after I got married and moved to a foreign country with my husband. Unable to talk to my own mother on a regular basis, I felt that something was lacking. I started thinking more about my relationship with my mother, and since I had recently gone to the temple for the first time, about my relationship to the divine.

 

This thinking left me wondering about my Mother in Heaven. Where was she? Why didn’t we ever talk about her? I remembered a lesson in seminary where I was told that the reason we don’t talk about her is that she is so special and sacred. Just as we don’t talk about the sacred ceremonies of the temple, we should also refrain from giving too much attention to our sacred Mother in Heaven. I also heard that God didn’t want us to take her name in vain, so we couldn’t ever know her name.

DSC_0184 (2)

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