Poetry Sundays: Who The Meek Are Not



Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome

Who The Meek Are Not

By Mary Karr

          Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
          in the rice-paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
          make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
          nun says we misread 
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them. 
          To understand the meek 
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
          in a meadow, who—
at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned
          but instant halt. 
So with the strain of holding that great power
          in check, the muscles 
along the arched neck keep eddying,
          and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order. 



Among my favorite religious poems, Who the Meek Are Not, has stayed with me since I first read it. It is one a few jewels I pull from a treasure box of inspirational writing when I become confused or wonder if my particular variety of discipleship is worthy of God’s grace.

I understand this version of meekness, the ears pricked forward, the sudden awareness of a call, the subsequent redirection of energy. Meekness can be a quiet yet powerful force running through our veins. Mary Karr and her Franciscan nun gave me permission to be a strong, courageous, vocal woman who is a humble servant of Christ. My agency–the power to choose, and to have an effect on the world–is only as useful as my willingness to surrender that power to God, to seek his will. I pray for strength and meekness every day.

How do you feel about meekness? What does this poem say to you? 

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Young Women Lesson: How can I be in the world but not of the world?

Kathy is a writer living with her family in Phoenix, Arizona.
Click for French Translation/Traduction en français


Photo Credit: MartinaK15 Flikr

Photo Credit: MartinaK15 Flikr

1. “We should be in the world but not of the world.” The lesson suggests asking the young women if they’ve ever heard this phrase and what it means to them.  Because I’ve heard this phrase used so often in non-constructive ways at church, I would take the time to define and discuss specific words in it (below) before asking the young women their perspective on the entire phrase.  By getting their input on individual words, I would try to build a class definition in a concrete, constructive way.

2. The lesson also suggests showing “Dare to Stand Alone,” the video of a story by Thomas S. Monson.  The story itself is nice (President Monson standing alone as a Mormon in the Navy and then realizing he wasn’t alone). But I personally wouldn’t show the video — partly to avoid  starting the lesson with the possible message that Mormons are the only good people in the world, and mostly to avoid the vignette of the teenage girl looking disdainfully at friends who suggest she wear a sleeveless dress, which I feel could derail the deeper possibilities in this lesson.



“We should be in the world, but not of the world.” Throughout my years in the church, I’ve heard this phrase so many times. Discussing it at church is challenging for me because most (but not all) class discussions about it tend toward the antagonistic, the self-righteous, or the vague.

I would take the time needed to clarify what I personally see in the phrase, as well as invite the young women’s input and insight.

Defining In & Of

  • In: reference to a place where you are located
  • Of: indicating origin, source, also denotes ownership or composition; expressing the relationship between the part and the whole.

In is pretty clear.  It’s a location, as in: We are in this world.

But of is a little less obvious at first glance.  How do you not be “of” the world? The word’s main definitions express origin or permanently belonging to in some way: “the daughter of Sister and Brother _____.” “the plays of Shakespeare,” or “the sleeve of her dress. . .”

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Virtual Oases

Catching up on the week’s news, here’s a few posts to add to your weekend reading list!

  • The Sunstone Symposium wrapped up just as the FAIR Mormon conference got going this week. Women’s issues in the church were at the forefront of both events. From Sunstone, a panel about “tone and the patriarchy” was a highlight. Peggy Fletcher Stack recaps a FAIR address by Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, that includes this great quote: “we need a way to describe the female contribution to priesthood. We are a faith community of priests and priestesses. We need a way to talk about that.”  This seems an astonishing assertion to be made publicly by a Church leader/employee! If a full transcript of her talk becomes available, I’ll link it here later. I’m curious! Edit: Here’s a link to the video of her speech.
  • In a commentary about “tone” and “Primary voice”, Jana Reiss makes some fascinating observations about women speaking in church. Read this one for sure! And then sound off in the comments about how you feel about speaking in church.
  • Harvard Divinity School grad Ashley Isaccson Woolley has laid out several counter-arguments to the Ordain Women movement and actions. Using very assertive language, she writes that OW “takes quotes out of context“, “gets it wrong“, and “isn’t the answer“.  Her piece about taking quotes out of context causes me to ponder the difference between “taking something out of context” versus “personal interpretation”. How do you perceive her points?
  • How well do you recognize sexism? This article lists 10 ways we can make ourselves more aware of sexism when we encounter it and what to do about it. Number 1 on the list? Religious sexism and discrimination.
  • Hilary Clinton discusses encountering sexism in politics. I include this article because of a great quote she gave: [I] think that for many women in the public eye, it just seems that the burden is so heavy. We’re doing a job that is not a celebrity job or an entertainment or fashion job.… In a professional setting, treat us as professionals.… [And] it takes a lot of time. I’ve often laughed with my male colleagues, like, ’What did you do? You took a shower, you combed your hair, you put your clothes on. I couldn’t do that.”   Disappointing, indeed, that our capable female professionals are so often seen as celebrities to be judged by their appearances rather than accomplishments.  By contrast, here is an article about Becky Hammon, the 2nd woman to coach in the NBA, and not a word about her appearance — only her skills, leadership and  work ethic. Way to go, basketball! 
  • A very interesting article about how children are harmed when forced to behave according to their gender role stereotypes. I found her examples of how some athletic girls avoid sports so they don’t seem “unfeminine” and how boys engage in “low-level violence” (slapping, hitting one another, inflicting pain on other boys’ genitals) very eye-opening.
  • And finally, Julie de Azevedo Hanks sings an anthem chock full of every unrealistic expectation and toxic perfectionism Mormon Mommies sometimes place upon themselves….and bids them farewell in this one year anniversary of the Death of Molly Mormon. Watch the video, it has great lines like:   “buried alive under vinyl quotes”, “she felt sick when hubby wasn’t called into the bishopric”,  “her superstar son got his call….stateside” “Someone spiked her punch with a diet coke”

Discuss your observations and thoughts in the comments!

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Relief Society Lesson 18: Living by Every Word that Proceeds from the Mouth of God


Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

Dear Relief Society Sisters,
I have strong beliefs on adult learning. Long term learning is attached to emotion and connected to the experiences of the learning. It appeals to a variety of learning modes. A teacher reading the manual or lecturing with no opportunities for discussion is my idea of the worst lesson ever. Inspiration/revelation only enters the room through one voice, the instructor. Conversely, a great lesson is discussion oriented with many voices providing comment and opportunity for inspiration/revelation to enter the room. The objective of the following lesson plan is to create opportunities for meaningful discussion, inspiration, and revelation.

Introduction: From the Life of Joseph Fielding Smith
Write on the board: “Why should we obey Gospel laws?” with numbers 1-5 listed below the question. This is our focus question. Throughout the lesson stop and ask the focus question and add new answers.
Assign sisters to read the watchtower quote and Word of Wisdom anecdote from President Smith.
The man in the humorous anecdote had already repented. He isn’t offended by a call to repentance because he has already chosen to change.

Ask the Sisters: When you listen to a call to repentance what makes you want to change? Is it feeling scared of consequences and fear driven? Is it feeling loved and understood? Does an emotional plea to your heart or logical reasoning directed to your mind work best for you?

Participation helps to increase learning! Have each sister turn to a sister next to her and take 2-5 minutes to share with each other what kind of appeal for change helps them the most and why it works best.
Call the group to order and have the sisters raise their hands to vote for which type of call to repentance they like best.

Ask the Sisters: What are some positive and negative aspects of each approach? Are there times when it might be best to scare someone into obedience? When might an emotional plea not be the best fit?

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I Hope You Stay

It’s not very politically correct these days in the feminist or progressive Mormon community to make a plea like this. We’re expected to honor every woman in the place she stands, to wish her well wherever she goes. And I do. I also want to be able to say what’s in my heart and on my mind.

Political correctness has never been my strong suit. And I’m not sure how to say this except in very simple words. I could say I’m asking out of love, but that may not be entirely true. Except that I love this church. With all its sexist, puritanical, hierarchical insanity, I love it. And I love you too. People like you are making Mormonism better, so even if it’s selfish of me to expect you to listen, I’m going to come out and say it anyway:

I hope you stay.crazyquiltjanicevaine


Please stay.

Please don’t go.

Can I help you?

How can I help you?

What can I do to help you stay?

If you’re thinking of leaving Mormonism, please reconsider.

Maybe none of this matters to you anymore. Maybe you’ve reached the breaking point or your therapist has advised you to go. Maybe your wounded heart or your guardian angels are leading you away for your own good. And what can I say to that?

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Voices From the Backlist: Finding the Balance

Recently one of our permabloggers emailed a question to our Exponent backlist on how to find balance between motherhood responsibilities and other pursuits. A lot of great responses followed. Here is a snapshot of some of our emails.


I don’t have to tell you all that the greatest response to why feminism isn’t need in the church is the trope of the glory of motherhood.

I have two beautiful children who capture my heart, bring me to tears, and also make me want to punch walls sometimes. I would never suggest that I don’t love being a mother.

But I must confess that this past year and a half as I have embarked on this faith transition/shift and feminist awakening, I realize that my family really HAS suffered. So much of my time is spent trying to sort through my own ghosts/dark places/questions/pain, that I haven’t devoted as much time to my children or my home.

This kills me because I really want to be both so badly. I want to be that stereotypical Mormon mother with the lovely home and well-tended children while also asserting my “role” is to be Amy–fierce, sensitive, unwavering in my convictions, and ever-faithful in forging a way for women in the future.

Balance. I have no idea how to find it.


I have a lot of different feelings about this, but my short answer is this: your kids are more likely to have dreams of their own if they see you pursuing yours.

Jess R:

I don’t have kids, but I do study them academically. I know it’s not the same AT ALL. But if it helps, research has shown that mothers who are involved in stuff outside the home (whether that is working or volunteering or something like The Exponent…as long as she finds it fulfilling or meaningful) tend to experience fewer mental health problems when their kids are at home but especially when their children grow up, are happier about being a mother, and have greater life satisfaction. Children of those mothers, in turn, are better adjusted, more successful, and happier across their life course. This pattern of findings has been replicated many times.

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Visiting Teaching Message August 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Messiah

The Virgin with the Grapes

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français
Each one of these visiting teaching messages, including this month’s,  comes with a question or questions at the end of the message, probably meant to encourage discussion. I often disregard them as too “preachy” for a Visiting Teaching conversation, however, the single query at the end of this month’s message made me think. And wonder, and….as always, consider how and why this is important to women.

So I start this post in asking that question:

“Why is it important to understand the Savior’s role as the Messiah?”

First, I think it is important to differentiate between the terms: Savior/ Saviour and Messiah. The term savior is defined  as someone who saves, rescues, or delivers. The term Messiah is more antiquated as per its Hebrew origin (māshīach), and means “anointed one.” In combination, the Savior who is also Messiah is one who is anointed to save.

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