“Many stories matter.”

Liz_Heather_Botswana

I recently returned from a trip to Botswana, where I joined a group of scholars (including three other Exponent bloggers!) in collecting oral histories from women of faith from several different faith backgrounds, including Mormonism.  As a group, we were able to talk to dozens of women and hear about their struggles, successes, hopes, fears, and how their faith informs their choices and the lives that they live.  As I talked to these women (and particularly Mormon women), I admit being surprised by their answers, because they didn’t always reflect my biases.  As African women, shouldn’t they resent the church’s priesthood/temple ban that wasn’t lifted until 1978?  As most women I talked to were working women, shouldn’t they resist or resent the church’s culture/teachings about mothers staying home with their children?  Shouldn’t they find great joy in Relief Society as a way to bind women together and promote sisterhood?

Over and over again, I was reminded that my story is not their story, and really, even their story isn’t their story.  The women I interviewed were so completely unique – none of their stories matched up to my expectations, and none of them even matched up to each other.  I kept expecting to find a theme – I wanted to be able to walk out of 5 or 6 interviews with a clear picture of what Batswana Mormon women think and feel.  But what I found is that their faith and their lives are as varied and multifaceted as any other group of Mormon women.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author, speaks about the danger of this “single story” in her TED talk (embedded below).  She says, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  When we expect a single story from a person or group of people, we don’t allow for nuance, complexity, or the possibility “to connect as human equals.”

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Aspiring Mormon Women Events

written by Naomi Watkins

Awhile back we featured the origin story of the awesome group Aspiring Mormon Women, a non-profit organization that supports and encourages LDS women’s educational and professional endeavors. This month, AMW will host its first events outside of Utah—in Boston and D.C./Northern Virginia.  (Registration Links and Details below.)

One aspiring Mormon woman shared her experience attending AMW events:

“I have found a sisterhood of motivated, talented women who thoughtfully and passionately pursue personal excellence. I enjoy mingling, networking, and having spirited conversations with my AMW sisters. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to attend three Aspiring Mormon Women events. On February 25, at the AMW networking event in Provo, Utah, I enjoyed meeting and reconnecting with many inspiring women living in Utah County. In addition to the formal events arranged by Aspiring Mormon Women, the organization encourages women to organize meet-up groups in their area. I helped arrange a small AMW meetup in Provo on May 1; we had a delicious dinner at Guru’s Cafe and spent the evening strolling around downtown Provo, talking about our families, education, careers, frustrations, and successes. Finally, on June 4, I attended the Aspiring Mormon Women event with Ruth Todd, the VP of Public Affairs for Nu Skin International, and former news anchor and spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For me, one highlight of the evening was the group’s discussion about the importance of teaching young women to avoid limiting themselves with narrow notions about what women can or should do, and instead, helping young women pursue goals that match their individual strengths, talents, and interests. I love the fantastic discussions and delightful connections that always take place at AMW events!”

Sound awesome to you, too? Then, please, will you…

  • Share this post with your friends to spread the word
  • Join us at this month’s events if you’re in the Boston or D.C. area (see details below)
  • Connect with AMW online via our blog and Facebook discussion forum

 

Boston | Friday, June 19, 7–9 p.m.

AMW Boston Event

A Panel Discussion + Networking Event

We’ve assembled a panel of women from various careers, life stages, and paths to provide a stimulating, supportive, and enriching conversation about education and career as an LDS woman. Our first event outside of the Wasatch Front, this evening will provide a great opportunity to meet other Aspiring Mormon Women in the Boston area.

Register here.

 

D.C. | Saturday, June 27, 7–9 p.m.

AMW DC Event

A Night Out with Aspiring Mormon Women D.C.

Meet like-minded LDS women pursuing educational and professional goals. Come for an evening of support, encouragement, and networking.

The first hour will be an unstructured mixer. The second hour will include structured networking activities, including speed networking and discussion groups about career planning, nurturing the aspirations of young women, and other related topics.

Register here.

 

 

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Church Ball: An Essay by My 12-Year-Old Self

april middle school photo smallNow that I am an adult with a public health degree and a passion for women’s rights, I have developed a heartfelt appreciation for competitive sports opportunities for girls.

That doesn’t change the fact that when I was a young girl myself, I was exceptionally small for my age, clumsy and bookwormish, so competitive sports were pretty much torture to me. (As an adult, I am still a small, clumsy bookworm, but competitive sports no longer torment me because no one makes me play them any more.)

Since I was so completely devoid of athletic talent, I did not participate in school or community sports teams as a kid, so my only experiences with competitive sports were in gym class and at church. My stake had annual Young Women’s softball, volleyball and basketball competitions and my ward members successfully peer-pressured me into participating, not because I was any good (I wasn’t) but because the Young Women in my ward had an intense fear of forfeiting.

I recently found this essay I wrote about church basketball when I was twelve years old. I have invited twelve-year-old me to share the essay as a guest post. The writing is rather immature because the author was immature. (Sometimes, I still am.)  But I see this essay as evidence that my time spent playing church ball (or watching it from the bench) was worthwhile. I never developed any athletic skills but I did develop early signs of a talent for snark, which has served me well ever since.

Church Ball

by April Young, age 12

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What is Home?

 

family In the last three weeks, I have moved, and two people who are very close to me have also moved. That includes my mother, who is moving out of the home I grew up in and getting remarried. All of this shifting and changing has got me thinking about what ‘home’ even means.

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Relief Society Lesson 12: Seek the Spirit in All You Do

Baltimore Sunrise by Aimee HickmanGuest Post by Trudy Rushforth

I was excited when I was asked to write this lesson plan. Seeking and living by the Spirit is one of the parts of the gospel that I really love. I think that it’s remarkable that we each have a direct line to the Almighty, unimpeded by any human intermediary.

With all of the varied expectations (family, friends, ourselves, our employers, church culture, etc.) pulling us in different directions, seeking the Spirit is essential. Also essential is allowing others the space to seek the Spirit for direction in their lives. Joyce Meyer, a pastor in the Midwest, has this to say on the subject: “Many people feel so pressured by the expectations of others that it causes them to be frustrated, miserable and confused about what they should do. But there is a way to live a simple, joy-filled, peaceful life, and the key is learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, not the traditions or expectations of man.” [1]

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Relief Society Lesson 11: Follow the Living Prophet

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation

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President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

Learn to keep your eye on the prophet. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece and the only man who can speak for the Lord today.

Some of my favorite scriptures about following the prophet are found in the book of Exodus and center around the experiences of the prophet Moses.

Moses’ people were at war with the people of Amalek.  Moses went up to a hill to watch the battle and brought his rod with him, the same one he had used when he cursed the Nile while persuading Pharaoh to free the Israelites, and that he had also used to strike the rock of Horeb so that it gushed water for the Israelites when they were in the desert and thirsty.

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Sacred Music Sunday: Healing with Hildegard Von Bingen

Sacred Music Sunday: Healing with Hildegard Von Bingen

Guest Post by Lisi Youngberg

Lisi Youngberg is a piano teacher and vocal performance coach that loves empowering others to express themselves through music. The only human female in a male household, Lisi is raising her boys to be feminist allies. Her cat, Gigi, is naturally a feminist.


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Hildegard von Bingen (b.1098 – d. 1179) was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. She referred to herself as a member of the “weaker sex,” claimed she was unlearned and incapable of biblical exegesis.

Hildegard explained that the inspiration and intelligence behind her writings and music came from visions of the Divine. Presenting herself this way, gave her authority to speak in a time and place where few women were permitted a voice. Early feminists used Hildegard’s reputation as a medicinal writer and healer to argue for a woman’s right to attend medical school.
The intelligence, creativity and spirituality of Hildegard are beautifully captured in her music. As I listen to this recording of O Frondens Virga I feel my own primal soul yearning to transcend my body and connect with the Divine.

O Frondens Virga

O branch coming into leaf,
standing in your nobility
as the dawn breaks forth:
now rejoice and be glad
and deign to set us frail ones
free from evil habits
and stretch forth your hand
to lift us up.

I chose the Chanticleer recording because I enjoy watching a group of robust-looking men expressing themselves with a voice that is so deeply feminine. The masculine and feminine are at one in this ethereal expression of Hildegard’s divine visions.
Hildegard’s music is ideal for meditation. This longer group of recordings could be the setting for your next quiet time.

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