Conference Talk Makeover (Thanks a lot, Ensign)

Uh oh! Someone deleted the prophetic words!What is the most important information to glean from a conference talk by an apostle? Is it what he actually said or is it information that he excluded from the talk? Which part of the talk should we focus on–the talk’s thesis statement or the talk’s endnotes? And what can you do if you don’t like a talk by an apostle? Maybe you think that he should have said something else? Can you just go ahead and rewrite the talk? And if you want to critique an apostle’s talk, is it necessary to sign your name? Is it okay to hide your critique in an official church publication and pretend that you’re just summarizing the talk, not critiquing it?

An anonymous staff person at the Ensign answers all of these questions with a new series titled, October 2013 Conference Notebook,  in which he/she takes talks from General Conference that he/she apparently did not approve of, deletes out the objectionable parts, and replaces them with items from the endnotes that the anonymous staff person likes better. The first installment of this new series includes this creative rewrite of Power in the Priesthood by Elder Neil L. Andersen. 

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Less Obnoxious Interpretations of Adam and Eve

Adam and EveLet’s talk about Adam and Eve. So, God created Adam first because he was the most important. Then God realized Adam would need an assistant, so he created Eve expressly for this purpose. He made her from Adam’s rib because she was kind of an afterthought and He was out of other materials. God told Adam and Eve not to eat a certain fruit but Eve was naughty and disobeyed God. Then she peer-pressured Adam into sinning as well. They were both kicked out of their garden for this bad behavior but since Eve started the whole thing, she was cursed with some extra punishments, including having Adam rule over her forever after. Like Eve, modern wives are also expected to let their husbands rule over them.

In a few weeks, we will start studying the book of Genesis in Sunday School. I have never had a Sunday School lesson about Eve and Adam that was quite as bad as my opening paragraph to this post. However, it is not uncommon for something to be said during an Eve and Adam discussion that hurts my feminist ears.

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Nursing Madonna as God’s Love

Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18

Mary nursing in a Nativity scene
I am sharing these pictures and scriptures, inspired by the Pope’s recent comments on breastfeeding, which led to a revisitation of this Huffington Post article:

“Ask anybody in the street what’s the primary Christian symbol and they would say the crucifixion,” said Margaret Miles, author of “A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750,” a book that traces the disappearance of the image of the breast-feeding Mary after the Renaissance.

“It was the takeover of the crucifixion as the major symbol of God’s love for humanity” that supplanted the breast-feeding icon, she said. And that was a decisive shift from the earliest days of Christianity when “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity.”

We know God loves us because God nurses us, has birthed us. I love the use of Mary as God’s love and it reminds me of all that Heavenly Mother has done for us.

Our Lady nursing the Infant Jesus

His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow. Job 21:24

Louvre-Breastfeeding Jesus

Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Numbers 11:12

The Virgin Mother feeding the Infant Jesus

That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. Isaiah 66:11

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When Teacher and Text Aren’t on the Same Page

When Teacher and Text Aren’t on the Same Page

I would consider it unethical to advocate spiritual principles that I didn’t believe or hope to be true.  At the same time, I recognize that when I teach at church, I am serving as a representative of the institution.  People do not come to church to hear my personal opinions. It would be inappropriate for me to contradict the text I am supposed to teach.

Stepping down, either by seeking a substitute or by asking for a release from a calling, may be a justified strategy to avoid teaching material that rubs the wrong way, but I have never used this option.  Frankly, I appreciate the opportunity to teach when the subject matter is sketchy because then I can frame the message to be less offensive.

Here are some of the more difficult lesson plans I have taught at church and the strategies I used to balance my personal, feminist ideals and my obligation to represent the institutional church.

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Children’s Nativity Script

Children’s Nativity Script

Here is a simple, readers theater nativity I wrote for my Primary Sharing Time.  I also used it for a Family Home Evening.  Other than Joseph and Mary, all parts are gender-neutral. You may increase the number of parts by having two shepherds, two angels and two wise men/women, as each role has two speaking parts.

 

Song: Away in a Manger

Children’s Songbook 42

 

Mary

One day, when I was engaged to Joseph but not married yet, an angel came to see me. The angel told me not to be afraid. He said that God had chosen me to have a son named Jesus, who would be the son of God. He told me that with God nothing is impossible. I told the angel that I was willing to do what God wanted me to.

 

Song: Mary’s lullaby

Children’s Songbook 44

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