Not asking Permission: Reflections on the 40th Anniversary Exponent II Issue

“Ecstasy” by Maxfield Parrish

What I say is that women should not ask permission, they should just act.”  – Claudia Bushman in the upcoming anniversary Exponent II magazine

I love this idea that Claudia Bushman articulates in her article in the coming 40th anniversary issue of Exponent II. In one of the very first conferences I participated in with Claudia Bushman seven years ago, she hosted a discussion about women in the church. One of the points she made at that conference was similar — that women should come up with ideas and carry them out, working outside of church-sponsored forums. Think that the church should be more involved in humanitarian work, Claudia asked? Then start a humanitarian organization. Think that we need more books that highlight Mormon women’s voices? Write them yourself. Stop looking to the institutional church to carry out these projects and do them yourself. Make your own opportunities for leadership, vision, and community.

This advice resonates with me. While I would love the institutional church to change its ways and create more inclusive practices for women — and I have certainly picked my battles to create more visible roles for women in my ward  and the church at large– I also love this liberating vision that Claudia sets forth. That we act on our consciences, without always seeing the need to ask for permission from church leaders.

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A Tale of Two Churches

st. johns bellefonte  A few weeks ago, on Easter, I attended an Episcopalian church service with my boyfriend and his family. It was a very High service with lots of reciting, standing, kneeling, standing, and sitting. The priest sang almost all the prayers. The chapel was very ornate with high, decorative ceilings and stained glass windows. The altar at the front of the church was beautifully decorated with lilies and daffodils. The priest and deacons wore white and gold robes. There was a (I’m pretty sure) professional organist who played beautifully; the organ itself was set in one corner of the church. The building was probably 200 years old so it was a pipe organ, beautifully carved. When it was played you could feel the air vibrate. There was incense and candles.

It was basically the opposite of what Sunday services are like in my small YSA branch. We meet in a renovated post office on folding chairs. The only prayer that is the same every week is the blessing on the sacrament. Services are much more relaxed and much less liturgical. My branch president generally wears dark suits; they are nice suits, don’t get me wrong, but they are not embroidered with gold thread. I am the pianist (we don’t have an organ), and between you and me, I fake my way through most of the songs. We don’t even have a real piano; it is an electric keyboard.

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Exponent II: A Journey of Discovery

Fall Winter 2015 coverExciting news! The double issue for Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 is in production and will be mailed on April 30th. You don’t want to miss this 68-page celebration of Exponent II’s 40 years in publication with writings from so many beloved Mormon feminists like Gina Colvin and Lavina Fielding Anderson (not to mention the ones listed on the cover)!

Our Letter from the Editor comes from former assistant editor and Exponent permablogger, Heather Sundahl. Heather is entering her 20th year of Exponent II involvement, and there’s no one better to introduce this issue, the last piece of our 40th anniversary celebration.

Whenever people talk about Exponent II’s origin story, the word “discover” is always used. In 1972 Susan Kohler “discovered” a stack of original Woman’s Exponents published a century earlier whose purpose was to advocate for “the Rights of the Women of Zion, and the Rights of the Women of all Nations.” And as you can read in the retrospective essays of Claudia Bushman, Laurel Ulrich and Judy Dushku, within two years of that unearthing a brave group of women in Cambridge would decide that the time was right to start anew.

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Sacred Music: The Word Was God



Allow me to acquaint, or reacquaint you with Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell, one of America’s premier female composers of choral music.  She is a Professor of Voice at Auburn University and has created choral works for women’s, men’s, children’s and mixed voices in a variety of genres, including spiritual and secular.

This work, The Word was God, is a sacred choral anthem for unaccompanied mixed voices and was written in 1996. It is a setting of John 1:1-3

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

As you listen, take note of the 6 iterations of “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God…” – each time with increasing dynamic intensity, from piano to fortissimo. Symbolically, the 7th iteration is replaced by a rest (a rhythmic pause of music).  You’ll notice that the various voice groups, Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass, seem to chase one another around on the text — not just an ordinary, every day “round”, but a 3-part canon with the Bass part droning on perfect 5ths.

This exquisite recording by the St. Olaf choir is a near-perfect rendering of the markings in Dr. Powell’s score. The nuance of every small dynamic marking, from phrase shape to arch crescendos and decrescendos, are executed flawlessly by this experienced choral group. You’ll hear every word with crystal clear diction and the tone is just beautiful.

Dr. Powell’s piece begins at the 1:00 minute mark. I love the energy of the piece and the performance done by this choir! Enjoy!



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May Young Women Lesson: How can I strengthen my testimony?

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation

For the lesson plan, click here.


Introduce the doctrine

To get a baseline of what we’re talking about, I would ask the girls to give a definition of “testimony.” What does it mean when we say we have a testimony? According to “True to the Faith,” a testimony is “a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost.”  Explain to the girls that we often have a testimony of things that we cannot see, but know in our hearts to be true.

Depending on the group of youth you’re teaching, it could be useful to discuss testimony as it relates to truth.  Is having a testimony the same thing as knowing a scientific fact?  Do we need to have a testimony of gravity, when there is evidence abounding that gravity exists?  Do we only need to have a testimony of things that aren’t scientifically or empirically measurable, or does a testimony include both things of science and faith?

I love Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk from April 2014 General Conference, where he talks about how he used to fly airplanes (of course!) and marvel at the expanse of the universe.  He talks about how our understanding of the universe has expanded over time with additional understanding and tools.  There is a video of his remarks here:

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Relief Society Lesson 8: The Power of the Word of God

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation
Saturday April 4, 1986 marked the first day of the first General Conference that Ezra Taft Benson served as President and Prophet of the LDS Church. Our present lesson comes from the remarks he gave that evening in the Priesthood Session. It is also quick to affirm while the words were first spoken to “priesthood leaders” the principles taught “apply to all members of the Church.”

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