My Moral Force

“Women bring with them into the world a certain virtue, a divine gift that makes them adept at instilling such qualities as faith, courage, empathy, and refinement in relationships and in cultures.”

–D. Todd Christopherson, October 2013 general conference, “The Moral Force of Women”

 

When I heard this quote in conference, it just confirmed to me what I already knew. I was better. I was better than my brothers, I was better than my father, I was better than half the world’s population. I was even better than myself.

 

I know that the Mormon tendency to put women on a pedestal can be empowering to some, but to me it has been imprisoning. At one point in my life I became nearly paralyzed with the pressure to be the perfect Daughter of God: virtuous, attractive (but not too attractive), industrious, crafty, soft spoken (but influential), a leader (but not too assertive), feminine, smart (but not too ambitious), nurturing, kind, patient…the list of attributes went on and on. Some of them were me, and some were not. But it didn’t matter; I had to be it all. And in the end, because I was trying to be everything, I ended up being nothing.

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Summer 2015 Issue of Exponent II Going to Print–Subscribe Now!

what would you do

The following is the Letter From the Editor from the about-to-be-released Summer 2015 issue of Exponent II. If you’d like to receive a copy of this issue, subscribe now here.

While writing a fundraising appeal letter for Exponent II in 2012, I looked up some older essays by Exponent II founding mothers about the organization. I found this quote from Carrel Hilton Sheldon, describing the process of preparing manuscripts in the early years of the paper:

“One scene, firmly etched in my mind, is of me sitting at the end of the table typing up submissions to the paper with baby #3 balanced on my knees, in such a position that he could nurse while I typed. Children #1& #2 happily raced around our big old kitchen. At that moment I was awed by my commitment to get the job done and felt powerful in my ability to accomplish it. It was an amazing contrast to my usual feeling that taking care of three little children was so difficult that adding anything–like getting the laundry done–was almost beyond me. Somehow in the process of working on Exponent II, I became someone who could do an awful lot more than I had previously realized I could. ”

I immediately loved this quote, and used it in that letter, but I never dreamed in that moment that my life would soon mirror Carrel’s description. In February of this year, my husband and I welcomed our third baby into our family. In March, Pandora and I began work as the incoming editors of Exponent II. And in June, my family moved to a new state and my husband started a new job. Little baby Theo has spent much of his nursing hours “balanced on my knees” while I have read essays, edited, and corresponded with authors.

The cover of this issue features the art of Emily McPhie, one of my favorite artists I discovered while working as Art Editor for Exponent II. Her art weaves together whimsy and internal struggle and often features women mixing domestic work with heroism and elements of fantasy. In this piece, a woman in a blue dress and red sash stares confidently at the viewer. Interlaced through her ears and head is a slip of paper reading, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

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The Church of the Nuclear Family of Latter-day Saints?

Lately I’ve felt like I’m hearing too much about “the family” at church, so I was pleased to see the topic of Sabbath observance during the 3rd hour at the ward I attended on August 9.  Something basic about living the gospel and focusing on spiritual development was just what I wanted to hear.  The lesson was part video from Salt Lake City, and part discussion facilitated by the ward’s bishop.  In the video a few apostles made brief remarks, followed by a slide with a question, which the bishop encouraged the class to discuss.

I liked that the material presented was about principles and not about specifics on what to do and not to do on the Sabbath – they seem to trust church members to use the spirit to guide their Sabbath observance.  Elder Ballard remarked that the reason for a lesson on this topic was to make the Sabbath a time when people can have spiritual experiences to strengthen their faith.  Yes!  I am on board with that.

However, Elder Bednar took the discussion in a direction I did not expect.  He said the whole point of the gospel is for a man and woman to be sealed and happy at home, using a quote from Elder Packer to support this.  He presented the following graphic:

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Relief Society Lesson #16: The Elderly in the Church

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

In all stages of our lifes there are joys and difficulties – and the older years are no different.

I’ve listed some of the joys here for class discussion. Some are in the lesson manual and some are my own.

  • Continued association with a spouse or other close family member.
  • Children: great nieces and nephews, grandchildren, friends and ward members.
  • Peace: there can be times of rest and peace in later years. A great blessing.
  • Time: often there is more time in later years – to be used for interesting travel, new hobbies, renewed friendships, etc.

Here I’ve listed difficulties in the same way.

  • Unresolved past problems: relational, spiritual, or temporal – these problems can weigh on the mind and heart.
  • Financial difficulties. Financial problems can come in many forms and are not always the result of poor planning. These can be difficult to resolve in later years.
  • Health Concerns – Illness and Pain. As we age, our bodies break down and the elderly can be plagued with many illnesses and also chronic pain. Poor vision and hearing loss can also create frustration.
  • Losing loved ones – including spouses. Many close friends and family members pass away as we age. This can be emotionally painful and lonely.
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Spinning Along for the Ride

SpinningBy Trisha Kc Buel Wheeldon.

“I’m so glad you were here,” one EMT says to another.
“When we got there, the tires were still spinning.”
I don’t understand what happened,
But inside the ambulance behind them,
A woman sobs.
Bless her, Father. I pray right now.
And I was on my way to buy a car seat for my unborn daughter
When I passed a crunched car, behind it
A man’s legs by the curb,
Worn jeans and brown work boots.
So my husband doesn’t ask why my eyes fill up
As my hands hold his thighs, knees, then calves
Because he thinks it is only love, not fear.
And I think of death again as I hug my son goodnight.
And I think of starvation as I push broccoli stems down the disposal.
If I’m at Disneyland spinning in a teacup,
Am I ungrateful if I’m not thanking God
That I’m not sitting in the back of an ambulance?
Or is part of gratitude just leaning into the ride
And recognizing that, right now, this is the happiest place on earth?

Trisha Kc Buel Wheeldon studied creative writing at Brigham Young University-Idaho. When she’s not wordprocessing or looking for her son and daughter’s missing shoes, Trisha watches K-dramas, practices yoga, and attempts to play a tune on her red guitar. Read more of her poetry here: www.buelwheeldon.tk

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Modesty, Shmodesty

Amy.Hoyt.2015

Amy Hoyt is an awesome mother of five and teaches religious studies in northern California at a small liberal arts college.

A few weeks ago I received an email asking if I would speak to the Young Women in our Stake about modesty. Ugh. Modesty discussions usually make my blood boil. Like many religious traditions, Mormonism uses the female body, and how it is adorned, to signify our boundaries with the outside world. LDS modesty discussions explicitly and implicitly use females as “gatekeepers” for the thoughts and actions of boys and men. The assumption, of course, is that females do not have sexual urges.

Modesty is a small part of a much bigger issue, mainly the hyper sexualized state of our society and the “pornification” of our culture. Sexuality, which is an important and healthy part of our subjectivity, becomes central within a society that privileges sex above all else. This skews our world view and distracts many people, myself included, from living a Christ centered life. In our bid to attain or maintain beauty norms we spend endless hours consuming and conforming to unrealistic and unhealthy ideals. Most of us are trying to fit some type of standard that is generally about our physical body and how it is adorned.

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One More Example of ETB Lesson 15 (AKA: What Motherhood Looks Like For Me)

Connecticut, Family

I said this to my Relief Society sisters Sunday, more or less. (Not included are the beautiful, thoughtful answers they said back.) (If you happen to still be teaching Lesson 15, please check out Spunky’s inclusive and thorough plan.)

Divinity of Parenthood

What I hope that you will get from this lesson is that both fatherhood and motherhood are godly, and that cooperative parenting is the most godly of all.

Benson said, “A mother’s role is ordained by God. [Mothers] are, or should be, the very heart and soul of the family. No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother.”

Our Differences

Before I go further, I want to acknowledge that this topic can be sensitive. While we are all daughters of God and sisters in the gospel, we have different lived experiences. Some of us have never married, and never had children. Some of us have married, but now carry the load of parenthood by ourselves. Some of us are stepmothers. Some of us are adoptive or foster mothers. Some of us who do not have children, desperately wish to. Some of us who have children, at times desperately wish not to. Some of us are expectant mothers. Some of us are new, new mothers. Some of us are just pretty new. Some of us are seasoned. Some of us are empty nesters. Some of us are grandmothers. Some of us have difficult relationships with our own mothers. Some of us have no desire to be mothers. Some of us are mothers to everyone we meet.

I honor these differences. My hope is that we can draw upon them, and speak honestly and openly from our own experiences, to better learn from each other, and increase in charity and understanding.

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