Relief Society Lesson 14: Marriage and Family — Ordained of God

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation
portrait-mother-children-argentina-1080296-galleryWhen I realized that I was in charge of the write-up for this lesson, given current events in the United States, I admit that I cringed. I was really happily surprised to read the content, which is full of helpful suggestions on how to strengthen your relationships with those you love. I’ve gotten so used to the phrase “Ordained of God” being a prelude to a discussion of same-sex marriage that I was surprised to see a lesson on the family that wasn’t a political stance.

Consider setting conversational parameters from the outset, particularly if you live in the United States or have many Americans in your class. Specifically asking people to refrain from expressing political opinions or referring to the Supreme Court decision could deter unnecessary side tracking. Alternatively, this lesson could be a good jumping off point to address ways to be more Christlike in our interactions with others, including responses to gay friends and family members. Set the tone for the discussion by acknowledging that, at least in the United States right now, this topic can easily drift off course and you’d like to set off in a specific direction.

Empty Chairs

From the beginning of their marriage, Ezra and Flora Benson made their home and family their top priority. When their children were young, they began emphasizing that they wanted their family to have no “empty chairs” in the eternities . . . May He bless us to strengthen our homes and the lives of each family member so that in due time we can report to our Heavenly Father in His celestial home that we are all there—father, mother, sister, brother, all who hold each other dear. Each chair is filled. We are all back home.

We cannot control what happens to other people in the eternities, but we have often been taught that our homes can be a little piece of heaven on earth. Think about who would sit around your table at a big holiday, if everyone could come.

Why might a family member not feel welcome or comfortable in your home/your company?

How can we make sure that all family members feel fully loved and accepted? How can you show love and acceptance of a person when their choices deeply concern you?

If you have ever felt rejected, were you able to make peace within yourself or with the other person? How?

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“What’s your plan when you get home?”

Girl with Books

I always ask missionaries about their schooling. Did they attend college or trade school before serving a mission? Are they planning to go back? What are they planning to study and why? I know that’s a lot of pressure for a young person who’s supposed to be 100 percent dedicated to service for 18 to 24 months, but it’s the luck of the draw, kid: I prep students for the SAT, and my husband is a college professor.

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Poop Happens

poopThis past week we took the youth of our stake on a three-day trek in New Hampshire, complete with handcarts and pioneer garb.  Our first day out was a near disaster. It poured rain and there were severe thunderstorms. We pushed back the bus schedule, switched activities around, had teams go set up tarps, and tried to salvage the day. It was a giant pain but unsuspected blessings ensued. In the end we agreed we gained more than we lost. Which got me thinking about how we react when stuff hits the fan. Because I’d been called as “Trail Boss,” I had the chance to share a few devotionals.  Here is a version of one the kids are calling the “Poop Testimony.”

As a mom of four kids, two birds, and one cat, I want to talk to you about something with which I am intimately acquainted: poop. The truth is life is going to give us lots of experiences that are foul, unpleasant, messy. Yes, poop happens. Today I will share three stories that show that each of us has the power to take these experiences and transform them into something wonderful.

First, my grandpa Oscar. He was a great man and a hard worker who married a nasty woman after my grandma died. And she had a nasty son. Oscar had horses, and one day he and this stepson were shoveling manure, some of which was spread over the gardens. Jay turned to my 70 year old Grandpa and said, “When I’m an old man, I promise you I won’t still be shoveling sh*t .” To which my Grandpa said, “You know, I HOPE I’m still shoveling sh*t at 80, and at 90. Wouldn’t that be something!”

Story number two. I was recently in Botswana and we visited a cultural center that featured traditional villages. We approached a beautiful hut with a golden colored entry whose floors were smooth and lovely. A middle-aged woman was on her hands and knees spreading a rich dark substance around on the surfaces of the floor and walls. We were informed it was cattle dung. It helps to insulate the walls, repel mosquitoes, and keep snakes away. Holy crap, that’s awesome, I thought.

Three: my favorite pioneer story is of my great something grandpa George Burnham. When he and his older brother Wallace were eight and ten, their widowed mother sent them west from Nauvoo in the company of a man named Wood. They walked the entire way with a single set of clothes. At the rivers and streams they grabbed the tails of the oxen and hung on for dear life. They earned their keep by herding the livestock and collecting buffalo chips to cook their meager meals on each night. Once they reached the Valley, Mr. Wood said goodbye and they were on their own. It was 5 years before their mother & sisters would join them.

What do these three stories have in common, excrement aside? You may think this is a life gives you lemons speech, which it sort of is. But lets face it. Even in their non-sugar enhanced state, lemons are beautiful, fragrant, and useful. Maybe a little sour but still pretty great. Poop? Not so much. But I believe if we are determined, we can always find ways to take the turds life throws at us, and find opportunities for transformation and growth. My Grandpa not only used manure as fertilizer for his garden, he also saw his ability to shovel it as a sign of good health. For him, work was a blessing not a curse. In Botswana the people found ways to take what is abundant and make it a valuable resource to beautify and protect their homes. And for my pioneer ancestors, it meant fuel and ultimately food. The Savior is the best example of transforming one thing into another: water into wine; temptation into triumph, maladies into miracles. Through His atonement we can turn our sins and pain into wisdom. Through His grace we can turn thunderstorms into opportunities for adaptation. We cannot choose what we are given, but we can choose what we do with it. I know that as we turn our hearts to Christ we will be given the insight and strength to make all things work for our good.  

 

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Call for submissions- Fall 2015

This is a reminder that submissions for the fall issue of Exponent II are due August 3. The summer issue will come out next month and if you still don’t have a subscription, you should get one here right now. The fall issue will not have a theme so we welcome your personal essays, poetry, and art on any subject. Please don’t be intimidated if you are a new writer; we have staff members who can work one-on-one with you to prepare your essay for publication.

We also have recurring columns featuring writing on the following topics:

Sabbath Pastorals: exceptional Sacrament Meeting talks from women
Flannel Board: ideas you’ve used in Sunday School, Primary, Young Women’s, compassionate service, or any other area of the church
Women’s Theology: essays which employ close readings of scripture, doctrine and theology
Global Zion: reflections on Mormonism from outside the United States

If you have something you would like to submit, please send it to editor@exponentii.org.
Join the conversation! We hope to hear from you soon.

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Coping through Imaginary Friends

(warning, this post contains Inside Out spoilers)Bing Bong

I cried while watching the new Pixar film, Inside Out. It’s a tearjerker, full of childhood nostalgia and coming-of-age emotions. But there’s one part that I didn’t cry at and I’ve discovered from reading others’ reactions is that I must have a cold, hard heart.

I didn’t cry about Bing Bong. Bing Bong’s demise didn’t tug at my heartstrings. I mean, I know what it’s like to have imaginary friends. But the thing is, they haven’t disappeared into a “Memory Dump.” I still interact with them, probably every 1-2 days.

Now, they aren’t what you’d think of as a stereotypical “imaginary friend.” In fact, I didn’t really think of them as “imaginary friends” until after I was trying to figure out why I didn’t like Bing Bong in the movie. He’s not representative of the sample of the characters I talk to in my head. He’s a caricature of what adults thinks children’s imaginary friends look like, not what they really are.

So how does an adult end up with “imaginary friends?” Mine started in books I read in my early teen years. As a form of escapism, I would try to imagine myself in the books I read, interacting with the characters, having conversations. The ones I enjoyed most turned got turned into various story lines and I’d “act” them out or speak the conversations in my head while walking home from school or driving to work. My favorites suck with me and now I have a few regular characters in a story that I play in my head when I want to: while commuting to/from work, while doing dishes, while falling asleep at night.

I kind of imagine this is how people write fanfic, though these little story lines in my head aren’t anything that would be publishable. Mostly they are self-indulgent and escapist. As a teen, whenever something big happened that I couldn’t handle such as 9-11 or major family emergencies, the story lines and characters would change. They change less often now, but if there is something coming up in my life that I anticipate be stressful, I’ll imagine the characters showing up dramatically in the middle of that future event and asking me to run off with them and saving the world. There are other stories, but that’s the main one.

So it’s absolutely a coping mechanism. Maybe it’s not healthy, but I figure it’s more healthy than other coping mechanisms. And I know they aren’t “real” and they are just characters in my mind. But I like having them around. I can’t imagine not having them around.

It was only recently that I told my husband about my “imaginary friends.” It’s not something you really talk about! When I was in my late teens, I tried asking my mom if she ever “imagined things” and she said no. I felt like an anomaly because even at that age, I couldn’t imagine “growing out” of imagining these characters. And so far, I haven’t.

In an effort to make myself feel more normal, I found this Ted Talk titled “Adults Need More Imaginary Friends.”

And in an effort to make the rest of you adult-imaginary-friend-havers feel more comfortable, I wrote this post.

 

Do you have “imaginary friends?” Do you use escapism to cope with the unmanageable parts of life?

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July 2015 Visiting Teaching: Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ: Forgiving and Merciful

Guest Post by Hope. Read a previous guest post by her here

 

I’ve been exploring the language game surrounding the word “mercy”.mercy

 

Last month a member of my family died after battling a very painful disease. My grandmother called us while he was on his deathbed, and all I can really remember is her saying, repeatedly, that we should all pray for mercy. We should pray that God would have mercy on him, and take him home; he was ready to die. He had had a difficult life, and though he was a good man, he made controversial decisions and some might believe that he did not deserve any such clemency. But she called the next day to tell us that God had indeed extended mercy, and he had passed peacefully with his family. 

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Who are these children?

SaturdaysWarriorORIGINALCOVER“Mom, you have to hear this.” I lean closer to my son’s phone as he turns the volume up on a song. He and I like similar music only his is about forty years more cool. Luckily he shares. “What does that sound like?” It sounds familiar but I can’t place it. He looks at me expectantly. I shake my head. No idea. “The chorus sounds just like ‘Who are these children coming down . . .’ that Saturday’s Warrior song.” It totally does. “Is it a sample?” He often plays music that combines parts of other songs. But no, it is simply one of those cosmic moments when an indie band reaches out into the universe for inspiration and channels Lex de Azevedo.

Flashback to 1974. I was eleven or twelve when my family moved to San Jose, California from the Midwest. We were recent converts, in our first real Ward, and the members lovingly adopted and shepherded us through the newness of being Mormon, Californian and Suburban. As part of this tutelage, we were swept up in a church field trip to see the original traveling production of Saturday’s Warrior. I had never been to a live musical before and the stage and orchestra alone were transporting. Then the play started. In the two years since being baptized, I had listened to every missionary lesson, read every church book I could find and steeped in the grand scope of the Plan of Salvation. Yet, watching it depicted in story and song was like having a vision. A personal glimpse into heaven. Nothing had prepared me for this complete and perfect version of tween theology. My parents bought me the record album and my sisters and I reenacted every scene, sang every song, for hours and days and years. It shaped my view of the world and like many of my peers, I showed up at BYU humming “I take some paper in my hand . . .” and scanning the crowd for my Tod.

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