We have to tell our stories

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Just over a year ago, I sat in a cabin with some of my dearest friends.  They were women that I had gotten to know over the years when we had all lived near each other, but most of us had since moved away to different locations.  We had kept in touch via email – we had actually spent most of a year discussing various issues in Mormonism (particularly women’s issues), and we had enjoyed such a rich conversation that we decided to meet up for a weekend retreat.  We left 47 of our 50 combined children at home, packed our favorite treats and games, and met up in the mountains – away from the routine demands of life.  After a day of playing games, gorging on cupcakes, and catching up, we broke into small groups.

And we started to tell our stories.

As a background, I had heard about the Mormon Women’s Oral History Project through a podcast I had listened to – Caroline Kline and Claudia Bushman spoke with Dan Wotherspoon about their book “Mormon Women Have Their Say” (reviewed here by Rachel), and they talked about the project.  As my friend Melissa Mason and I planned our informal friends’ retreat, we talked about it and thought that we could use the Oral History Project as the central activity of the weekend – we thought it would be neat to hear everybody talk about their lives and hear some more background.  So we got some basic information from Claudia, included some USB recording sticks in our packing gear, and sat down to listen to one another.

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Are we not bonded?

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My grandmother passed away a few days ago.

I wrote before of the tender acts of service she received before she passed – the pots of soup, the flowers that kept her home cheery and beautiful, the visits from family members and friends who were touched by her life.  The final weeks of her life were filled with even more tender watchcare - her husband, her children, and her grandchildren were able to show their love for her by tenderly washing her body, rubbing her feet, sitting with her, holding her hand, administering medicine, helping her walk – literally sustaining her all the way through her final breaths on earth.  She was so loved by her family – it was simultaneously a time of holy ministry and tremendous grief.

I’ve thought a lot about those final months – how we were all desperate to see her one last time, to give her one last hug or to say one last “I love you.”  We knew that our mortal separation was imminent, and so it seemed like we were all frantic to make sure that we crammed in as many experiences and loving words as we possibly could.  We didn’t know the day or hour that she would die, but we knew it would be soon, and the impending separation drove us to her bedside.

I’ve heard before that the threat of separation is what bonds us – we would have no incentive to get to know one another or spend time with each other if there were no risk of it ever being over.  

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Created in Their Image

Soon after graduating from BYU and leaving Utah, I left for a study abroad in Denmark, hence my prolonged absence from the comment section (I took Danish for two years at BYU and since being in Denmark, my Danish has become–– according to the locals–– better than the majority of missionaries there and those who’ve lived in the country for several years, almost equivalent to a native speaker, American accent notwithstanding). So far, I’ve been here for three weeks and I’ll be here for close to another four weeks. It is the most magical land and I am close to burning my American passport and living secretly in what is now my favorite country.

During the study abroad, our group has also organized trips to other countries, including Sweden and Germany. And just recently, I returned from a trip in Oslo, Norway. Oslo is a modern city and home to the friendliest people. Oslo is also home to Frogner Park that houses the Vigeland Installation by Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures there are magnificence and worth a trip out to Frogner. Not only for their aesthetic and unique nature of the statues (they are all nude), but for the thoughts and intellectual stimulation they provoke.

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Each of the sculptures in the Vigeland Installation were nude and anatomically correct and full figured. As members of the LDS Church, we are programmed to treat nudity and nakedness as “other”, taboo, or strange. In other words, unacceptable. So to be confronted with this public display of artistic nudity instilled in me the question of vulnerability. It made me question why we as Latter-day Saints afraid of the naked human form. I saw nothing offensive. Is it because of the vulnerability and insecurity it rouses in us? As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, nudity does sometimes leave me feeling vulnerable and insecure. So it was refreshing and challenging to have the park confront me with what is naturally uncomfortable and taboo for most others, and sometimes myself. We believe that our bodies are holy temples, created in the image of the most power Being in the universe. How did we go to being uncomfortable with it?

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My body was, indeed, created in the image of my Heavenly Parents, so it’s sad that sometimes myself and others feel uncomfortable with it. I am learning to be empowered by my body–– something I once believe was disgusting and broken because of the abuse in my past. I am trying to love all my imperfections and curves and embrace normal sexuality. But lessons in church teach us that we must control our bodies in every form and function. We must cover up. We must be modest. We must not express the fulness of our sexuality. We are merely aesthetically pleasing objects. In the same breath, we teach that our bodies must be hidden and are shameful while simultaneously saying that our bodies are holy and to be embraced.

It is confusing and unhealthy.

Our bodies are modeled after Gods. And we are ashamed of that?

We are created in Their image.

Embrace it. Love it.

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Virtual Oases

by Violadiva
Another roundup of some must-read articles shared on the Internet this week.
  • Evolving conversations between Traditionalists and Feminists – an excellent piece by Andrea Radke-Moss (I love her paragraph of paradoxes on page 2!) And be sure to check out her essay/teaching on basic feminist terminology and theory. Feminism 101 for everyone!
  • Be sure to click over to this article showing the progression of women’s voices in our community, from the old days of the original Exponent up to today!
  • Lots of opinions and interpretations about Women and the Priesthood out there recently.  Fiona Givens writes a piece about Joseph Smith and the early Relief Society. Valerie Hudson describes ways to rid our church of non-doctrinal cultural hindrances regarding what women can/cannot do.  The Church of England votes to allow women Bishops (like a 70 Authority)
  •  Kate Kelly reflects on her excommunication and asserts what’s next for Ordain Women: Carrying on!
  • Bloggers, feminists, and allys chime in about current events, some to great positive receptions, others at the cost of church discipline. Popular Blogger Cjane Kendrick directs her words of support of OW to her young daughters. MikeC describes how he offered words of support in a testimony meeting and how his ward family responded.  Brother Jake makes a hilarious yet poignant “Instructional video” about church discipline.  Kiwimormon shares positive experiences with her local leaders and gives suggestions for building Zion. fMh bloggers and readers discuss Missionary efforts affected by feminism, share personal experiences of discipline, and offer hope about what happens after that. Our Jewish sister, Eden Farber, talks about what it’s like to stay active in her Orthodox faith.
  • an important piece by Nancy Ross, chronicling the rise in feminism, particularly in its rapid ascent due to digital accessibility.  And another  from Ozy with some great interviews.
  • Some surprising details about Mormon women’s issues on the Global scale, particularly of note is how women are used in higher levels of ward leadership in Hong Kong (labeled a special case of local need by the larger church). Read this for sure!
  • recent study of talks given by General Authorities shows very little change in the talking points about gender roles in the church over the last 40 years. And the Mormon Therapist postulates that gender roles are bad for mental health.
  • The church responds to the recent SCOTUS ruling about birth control health coverage (read Joanna’s older piece about the church not covering birth control to its employees) and you’ve got to click over to watch this guy’s song. He turned Justice Ginsburg’s dissent into an awesome feminist anthem which includes the hilarious addition of “slut-shaming geezers” to the tirade.
  • Though not LDS specific, this article about the “anti-feminist” is worth reading. I challenge someone from the Bloggernacle to write an LDS version of this article!
  • And finally, the piece that impacted my heart the most this week was a poignant yet still slightly funny article by Robert Kirby about how our most loving relationships are sometimes sacrificed on the alter of theology. Read this, then call your brother/sister/friend/aunt/cousin and tell them you love them.
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Last Call! Subscriptions for Women and the Priesthood Issue Closing at Noon PST

We at Exponent II are overwhelmed–and happily so!–by the flood of subscription orders to the magazine in the last month and a half. Thank you, everyone, for joining us on this journey and reading what your sisters have written about their Mormon experiences.

But we’ve just about run through our printing of this issue, and the summer 2014 issue is coming up soon. Starting at noon PST (3pm EST), any new subscriptions we receive at http://exponent.hyperingenuity.com/store.cgi/ will begin with our <i>next</i> issue. We have a whole team of devoted writers, readers, artists, and editors working on it as I type this, and we’re sure you’re going to love it.

Onward, sisters! (And if it’s before noon PST on July 22nd, 2014, you can still get the spring issue as your first issue.

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Relief Society Lesson 16: Bringing Up Children in Light and Truth

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Kyrie Elaison by Soichi Watanabe

 

Click for Spanish Translation/Traducción en español

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

 

Introduction: As with any lesson that focuses on parenthood or marriage, it may be helpful to remind the class that these lessons can be difficult for those who do not have children, whose children have left the Church, or whose families do not represent the “norm” of LDS culture. Let us keep these things in mind as we discuss a sensitive topic and remember to extend love and grace to all of our sisters in the class and their families. Song suggestion: Teach me to Walk in the Light Opening question: Think of the families you have known, either in or out of the Church, that seem truly happy. What are some of the characteristics you note that are common among those families?  I would share that all of the families I have known, the ones who seem sincerely happy are the ones where love and grace are extended unconditionally, where the children know that they are always welcomed and wanted, even when they make mistakes. I would share the story of the prodigal son and the father who welcomed his son back with open arms, even after the son had done much that likely displeased him. I would also share this section of a talk given by  Elder Jack H. Goaslind, Jr:

“A good friend shared this story about how she learned the deeper meaning of love. Their family has always been active in the Church, trying their best to live the commandments. They were shocked and disappointed, however, when the daughter became engaged to a nonmember. The next day the mother was telling a good friend about her feelings. She knew her daughter’s fiance was a fine young man, but she felt angry, hurt, betrayed, and numb and did not want to give her daughter a wedding or even see her. She said that the Lord must have guided her to talk to her friend because she received this reply:

“‘What kind of mother are you that you only love her when she does what you want her to do? That is selfish, self-centered, qualified love. It’s easy to love our children when they are god; but when they make mistakes, they need our love even more. We should love and care for them no matter what they do. It doesn’t mena we condone or approve of the errors, but we help, not condemn; love, not hate; forgive, not judge. We build them up rather than tear them down; we lead them, not desert them. We love when they are most unloveable…” “With tears streaming down her face, the mother asked her friend how she could ever thank her. The friend answered, ‘Do it for someone else when the need arises. Someone did it for me, and I will be eternally grateful.’” (April 1981)

I find it interesting that study after study has shown that it is children who *feel* loved and cherished exactly as they are, are the ones who thrive throughout life. Our responsibility is to not just love our children, but to express our love in ways they understand and recognize, regardless of their decisions or mistakes.

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