God Doesn’t Make Deaf Children

Recently, an acquaintance (hearing about Kisan’s hearing loss) said to me, “You know, God sent him to you because He knew you could handle it.” I smiled, and the conversation moved on; but underneath, I burned a little at his comment.  Somehow, without ever having been directly involved with our family, he knew that Kisan’s hearing loss was part of God’s plan.

I’m not sure what God’s plan is for anyone; not for me, and certainly not for Kisan. But I’m pretty darn sure Kisan’s hearing loss was not a part of that plan. Having a child with a hearing loss has been hard; it affects us, and Kisan, in ways that sadden me and continue to sadden me.

Finding out about Kisan’s hearing loss was a hard pill to swallow.  When you’re pregnant, you expect your baby will come out whole, and perfect, and camera-worthy.  And while Kisan is whole, perfect & camera-worthy, his ability to hear is decidedly less-than-perfect. I was so sad and frightened when I first heard the diagnosis. I didn’t know what a future for such a child would entail.  Would he have problems learning to speak? Be different in other ways (mentally) from the kids around him? Would he be teased and rejected by his peers? Childhood can be hard enough without the added burden of being, in a very obvious way, physically different from your peers. And believe me, Kisan’s hearing aids do get noticed—at daycare, at the store, and at the park. Occasionally, a poorly-trained child will point at him and whisper. Others (always strangers) just stare. Since Kisan doesn’t notice, I let it roll off my back.

I feel very lucky, in that Kisan is “just like the other kids”—a bright, friendly toddler who is developing on par with his hearing peers. He most enjoys playing with his friends in the neighborhood and at daycare; and the kids he plays with don’t even seem to notice his hearing aids. To Jang and I, his hearing loss is now just a part of the package that is our wonderful little boy.  It’s more than I could have hoped for. But it was a hard road to get to this point.

For a solid year, Kisan would pull the hearing aids out at nearly every opportunity. We battled him every day. I didn’t put him in daycare for a long time because of this, and I tried my best to work at home. When he finally entered daycare, I’d suffer bouts of anxiety worrying if he would throw his hearing aids, rip them out, or put them in his mouth.

Over the past two years we’ve spent countless hours working with Kisan on exercises designed to help him listen and speak; modeled phrases, over and over, for him to repeat; urged him to point out words, locations, actions…and so many other things, all geared towards helping him develop properly. On top of this, there are regular evaluations and testing he has to take, all part of Utah’s Early Intervention program for children with hearing loss. In truth, this program has been a Godsend to us. Part motivational coaches and part drill sergeants, their employees make sure we’re held accountable for Kisan’s development. And I hold myself accountable for this development, every…single…day.

Parenthood has been hard.  I knew this stage in life would take commitment, dedication, and time. But, ultimately, I thought a child was a pretty self-sufficient entity, capable of walking and talking with only moderate parental intervention. I’m so glad we have been able to stretch ourselves to meet Kisan’s needs—but, in some respects, I do feel that I never got to simply enjoy his infancy. I was always too focused on his progression to the next thing, worried that if he lost momentum we’d quickly fall behind the other children. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever feel complacent about his development, not for a long time.

So, back to the beginning. When this man told me that these many, many struggles (both past and future), were inflicted by God himself on an innocent child and his family, you can understand why I bristled inside.  He, like most people who make insensitive comments, probably didn’t think through the connotations of what he said. But that doesn’t make what he said any less hurtful, or false. And this isn’t the first time someone has made a comment like that about my son. 

I wish I could say to my well-intentioned acquaintance,  “I know you made this comment with the best intent. But what you’ve said isn’t true, and it’s hurtful. In the future, please, please don’t try to opine on why we go through this, or any other hardship.  You just don’t know why.”

Only the individual can decide how God interacts in his or her life. Not even I fully have the right to determine if Kisan’s condition is God-given or not—only he does.

Sincere beliefs do not excuse thoughtless remarks. I shudder to think of this man saying something similar to an impressionable child, like my son, rather than well-informed adult parents.  God did not pre-ordain Jang and I to have one (or possibly several) hearing-impaired children. Kisan was not part of a crop of spirits in heaven marked “to be deaf or hearing impaired”, just waiting to be assigned to families on earth. Kisan has a hearing loss because two people with recessive genes for hearing loss decided to marry and have children. Children are born every day with mental impairments, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, paralysis, congenital heart defects—not always because God intended them to be that way, but because people with imperfect genes, or living in polluted environments, or with poor nutrition and medical care, decide to have children.

Here’s where I see God in all of this.  I see God in the dedicated individuals of Early Intervention who work to provide us with education, motivation and training. God may have even inspired people to set up these state-run programs in the first place. I see God directing me and Jang, from time to time, to know how to best care for our son. I see God in the kindness in other people, because I believe we all have a special light from God that helps us feel love and empathy towards one another.

I do not believe God made my child hearing-impaired.  I only believe He is here to help our family as we raise this precious little boy.  And what right does anyone have to say otherwise?

 

July 3 Blog Post: References

LDS Church Public Affairs Statements on Ordain Women & Disciplinary Actions:

May 29, 2014 statement: http://www.millennialstar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Context-Missing-From-Womens-Discussion-May-29-2014.pdf

June 11, 2014 statement: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-responds-to-church-discipline-questions

June 17, 2014 Radio West Interview of Ally Isom: http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/latter-day-saints-and-excommunication-part-ii (partially summarized at http://www.wheatandtares.org/14487/at-their-own-word-the-mormon-newsroom-on-church-discipline/)

June 19, 2014 statement: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765655450/LDS-Church-responds-to-concerns-over-member-questions.html?pg=all

June 22, 2014 statement: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-says-everyone-welcome-room-for-questions

First Presidency Statement on Apostacy (June 28, 2014):

https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/june-first-presidency-statement?lang=eng

 LDS Church Newsroom Commentary, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine” (May 4, 2007):

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

Kate Kelly Disciplinary Letters:

May 22, 2014: http://ordainwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014-05-22-Informal-Probation-Letter-to-Kate-Kelly.pdf

June 8, 2014: http://ordainwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/K.-Kelly-Letter1-1.pdf

Recent Disciplinary Actions Against Mormons:

Huffington Post Article (July 2, 2014): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neil-j-young/kate-kelly-the-lds-church_b_5547809.html

Askamormongirl (June 22, 2014): https://askmormongirl.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/the-real-mormon-moment-is-now/

Salt Lake Tribune Article (June 19, 2014): http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58089335-78/church-leaders-local-bishop.html.csp

NY Times Articles (June 12, 2014 and June 19, 2014): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/us/two-activists-within-mormon-church-threatened-with-excommunication.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/us/critical-online-comments-put-church-status-at-risk-mormons-say.html

John Dehlin:
http://www.towleroad.com/2014/07/no-decision-on-excommunication-of-mormon-gay-rights-advocate-john-dehlin.html

http://mormonstories.org/why-do-you-believe-that-you-are-being-considered-for-disciplinary-action/

Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.: http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2013/08/dont-call-me-yes-that-means-you-too_23.html

http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2013/09/yesterday.html

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/56861798-180/church-snuffer-book-lds.html.csp

http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/search?q=publication

Alan Rock Waterman:
http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/

http://mormonstories.org/rock-waterman-and-pure-mormonism/

 

 

 

 

 

Apostasy: What is it Again?

I was glad to have the First Presidency issue a statement on recent events. The excommunication of Ordain Women co-founder, Kate Kelly (along with pending disciplinary actions against other Mormon individuals) has thrown the Mormon world, not to mention my world, into a furor.


The First Presidency’s statement reads:

In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.

The Council of
The First Presidency and
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


This statement is, to my knowledge, the first time the LDS Church has publicly disclosed the definition of “apostasy” as provided in the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions (Vol.1).  Volume 1 of the Church Handbook outlines the responsibilities of Church leaders and provides detailed information about Church policies and procedures, including how disciplinary councils are held (i.e.,  ecclesiastical trials during which a member of the Church is tried for alleged violations of Church standards). Coincidentally, this particular Handbook is only available to certain ecclesiastical leaders in the Church, and so the procedure of disciplinary councils, and even what constitutes an ex-communicable offense, is often a mystery to the average LDS lay member.

Why is apostasy such an important word here? Generally, it is the reason why members are currently being excommunicated from the Church. In the end, apostasy is the charge by which, if proven at a disciplinary council, the Church revokes an individual’s membership and temple covenants.

Oh snap. That’s clear, isn’t it?  The Church says its okay to ask questions.  It’s sad the First Presidency even has to iterate this point, but if my recent Facebook discussions have taught me anything, it’s that this point actually needs to be made. So, for the record, ASKING QUESTIONS = OKAY.

In asking these questions, you’re only in danger of committing apostasy if you do one of two things:  1) Repeatedly act in clear, deliberate and open public (CDOP) opposition to the Church or it’s faithful leaders; or 2) Persist, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine. First, acting in CDOP opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders. That obviously means you can ask questions if the answers correspond with Church doctrine, but you can’t ask questions in a way that opposes the Church leaders…doctrine…practices…customs…culture….wait, have I gone too far afield here?


1. Repeatedly Acting in Clear, Deliberate and Open Public Opposition to the Church or its Faithful Leaders.

What is the right way to ask controversial questions, without acting in opposition to the Church? Should we not talk about topics that might make the Church or its leaders look bad, or un-clarified doctrine? Are we allowed to regularly disagree with our Sunday School teachers? Write opinions that differ from the Mormon mainstream on a blog post?

Acting “in clear, deliberate and open public opposition” may seem like a sufficiently restrictive term; but it can actually be applied to a wide range of behavior and discourse, whose characterization as CDOP opposition would be almost entirely based, not on how the agitator feels about his or her actions, but on how the recipient of the agitation  perceives this opposition.  The Science magazine offers a wonderful analysis of this behavior: simply put, we judge others’ behavior primarily by what we observe (their actions), but we judge our own behavior by our actions, thoughts, feelings and intentions. So we can often misperceive the intentions and feelings behind others’ actions.

Ally Isom and the Church Public Affairs department have a real problem with improper tone. However, if our brief foray into psychology has taught us anything, it is that we don’t all measure impropriety the same way. Therefore, behavior that may seem like deliberate antagonism and rebellion to an institution, may be perceived as necessary agitation and debate to the actors. Without defending their actions, I believe this is the disconnect that exists between some Ordain Women members and their ecclesiastical leaders.

In a June 19, 2014 press statement, Jessica Moody, from the Church Public Affairs department, emphasized just how important an individual’s perceived intent is when the Church analyzes his or her behavior: “How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking.”

Ms. Moody continues, “What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion, and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.”

So, sharing your opinions in local Sunday School meetings is okay.  Asking questions in chat rooms, on Facebook, and on a blog seems to be okay too.  It’s the tone and the persuasiveness of your arguments that could get you into trouble. And your tone will be judged by what the Church, as your ultimate judge, perceives your intentions and motivations to be.

On the one hand, I feel like the Church spokeswoman is saying, “You will know if you have proper intentions in asking your questions. If you publicly air controversial views, make sure you’re not trying to persuade others to take that winding path. Learn from Ordain Women.  Don’t petition, demonstrate, or put out informative pamphlets trying to change Church doctrine or structure.”

On the other hand, my cynical mind would add the following interpretation to Ms. Moody’s Public Affairs statement: “If you advocate for a position that isn’t strictly in keeping with Church practice, feel free to express your opinions—just don’t oppose current Church practice/doctrine/policy. And if you do, act alone; don’t make your arguments too persuasive, so that other people follow you.”

Following this logical trail leaves me with several concerns. How effective an examination of Church doctrine/practice/policy can we make, before running the risk of a disciplinary council? Should we just keep the difficult questions a private matter as Kate Kelly’s leaders counseled her? I want to voice my questions and opinions and have a sounding board for these thoughts.

There’s merit in public discussion: when you publicly discuss and develop your ideas, you get to see if they make sense.  If your ideas are logically sound, won’t others be attracted to your ideas, and start to share them, then possibly follow them…and is this wrong, even if the ideas are controversial?

It seems, with Kate Kelly’s excommunication, the Church is trying to set some clear boundaries about what its members cannot do—recruit others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure (that’s an interesting one); organize into groups; stage public events to further a cause [to change doctrines or structure]; or create literature for members to share in their local congregations. All of which Ordain Women has done. To this list, Elder Whitney Clayton would unofficially add that public advocacy for the ordination of women is apostasy, advice which Kate Kelly’s local leaders took all-too literally.

At this point, I feel I should mention that neither the Church Public Affairs statements, nor Elder Clayton’s private remarks, are doctrine. I’m not sure if, under the strict meaning of the word, even the First Presidency Statement is doctrine. However, at the very least, these comments reflect current Church culture, practice, and the standards by which questioning minds will be judged today.


2. Persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine. The First Presidency press release also cautions against statements that contain “false teachings” or which mislead other members. This corresponds with the second part of the definition of apostasy provided by the First Presidency: persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.  Clearly, Kate Kelly’s local leaders felt impelled to correct false doctrinal teachings about women and the priesthood. To that end, Ms. Kelly’s stake president asked her to take down her website, disassociate herself from Ordain Women and publicly repent. Her refusal to do so led to her excommunication.

Putting aside for a moment that women’s ordination to the priesthood is neither fully supported nor contradicted within Mormon doctrine, it’s difficult for us on the blogosphere, who are interested in this topic, to know from this ecclesiastical counsel exactly what we can and cannot say on the subject.

Let’s just say we won’t advocate for the ordination of women. Then we’ll be safe from charges of apostasy, right?  Unfortunately, Kate Kelly is only one of several Mormon activists facing disciplinary action for airing their opinions: those facing charges of apostasy include John Dehlin, gay rights advocate and founder of the Mormon Stories podcast; Alan Rock Waterman, founder of the Pure Mormonism blog; and now-excommunicated Denver Snuffer, Jr., author and founder of the Denver Snuffer blog. Their writings analyze, and advocate, the writers’ beliefs about a diverse range of subjects—same-sex marriage and attraction; church history and theology; the corporate arm of the Church; and doctrinal topics like priestcraft, the Word of Wisdom, current tithing practices, and polygamy.

I can only assume their local leaders relied on the definition of apostasy provided in Church Handbook of Instructions (Vol. 1), in deciding to charge these members with apostasy. And the truth is, each and every one of these individuals could be found guilty of the charge—because, in the end, the definition of apostasy is, well… so darn broad.

Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.

To be fair, the local LDS leaders did instruct these individuals (I’ll call them the Foursome) what they could do to avoid excommunication.  However, these leaders did not always iterate what specific beliefs got the Foursome into trouble in the first place, or why these beliefs contradicted Church doctrine. This concerns me, a blogger, because in some instances the individuals were actually excommunicated, without knowing why their beliefs were false.

What’s more, local leaders have a lot of discretion in deciding whether individual has taught false doctrine, or acted in opposition to the Church and its faithful leaders.  Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody recently commented on this subject, “[The] standard procedural handbook says: ‘Local presiding officers should not expect General Authorities to tell them how to decide difficult matters. Decisions on Church discipline are within the discretion and authority of local presiding officers as they prayerfully seek guidance from the Lord.’ ”

So, even if the Foursome’s ecclesiastical leaders had clarified the false doctrinal teachings for these individuals, their leaders’ explanations would not apply to any interpretations my bishop or stake president might have of Church doctrine.

There are undoubtedly positive results from giving local Church leaders discretion in convening disciplinary councils and defining apostate behavior and beliefs. Disciplinary councils are at times referred to as “councils of love” because they can offer a repentance process based on that member’s particular sins (and there are a multitude of ways to sin). Many leaders who have participated in these councils will say they have felt the presence of the Lord’s Spirit attending them during the process.

But even with all those positive accounts, there is no member of the Church who wants to be in front of a disciplinary council. And, unfortunately, even with recent statements by Church Public Affairs and the Office of the First Presidency outlining some unacceptable behavior, I’m not sure a critical thinker and writer within the Church will know how to clearly avoid prohibitive Church actions in the future.

The New York Times and the Huffington Post report at least dozen Mormons in the U.S. are facing discipline for expressing criticisms of the Church or support for same-sex marriage or women’s ordination on-line, with several more unofficial reports of disciplinary action coming in across the blogosphere.

I’d hope an LDS member with questions finds his or her Church leaders to be a generally tolerant group; but our leaders’ current scrutiny of social media is troubling. And there is still a lot of gray area when it comes to defining what makes an online discussion acceptable or unacceptable; not only because apostasy is so broadly defined, but because our local leaders have great discretion when disciplining the members in their jurisdiction.

I’ve heard a fair number of stories where local Church leaders responded to questions about LDS doctrine and practice with acceptance, respect and even support. I’ve also heard several accounts when the individuals were very surprised their bishops had taken exception to their online comments. It’s important to note here that no disciplinary action takes place in a vacuum. I’d like to think it takes more than just one online comment, Facebook post or discussion group to violate Church policy and irk your local leaders.

For good or for ill, the Church disciplinary process is a very localized affair that relies on subjective interpretations of, not only doctrine, but also an individual’s behavior, intentions, and beliefs. Done under the perfect guidance of the Holy Spirit, I actually believe this can be a good implementation of ecclesiastical judgment.

However, when such an active community of bloggers, writers, chatters and Facebook posters is given only general guidelines, and varying implementation of those guidelines, it’s also hard to know when we risk Church discipline for an expressed thought. As someone who explores her faith through questioning, exploring and discussing her ideas, I’d like to know before I’m in danger of the judgment; facing the great unknown of the disciplinary council is a gamble I just don’t want to make.


For a list of references used in this post, click here. This is not an official web site of the LDS Church.

LDS Church Separating Temple & Civil Ceremonies?

Salt Lake City Temple

A big change is likely coming to temple sealing ceremonies this year in the United States and Canada. A posting last Saturday in The Mormon Hub discussion group caught my interest right away.  I’ve included the relevant portions of it here:

“Interesting HAPPY news today from a friend […] [his relative is] an area auditor for the church […] They shared with him that the church is getting out of the “wedding business”. They will be separating the civil marriage from the temple sealing. This is far enough along that they are disseminating this information now to regional area leadership. Basically preparing and letting leaders know it’s happening.”

While I consider this group a pretty decent resource, the Internet has been known to spread false information at times. So I decided to do some additional investigating. I quickly found a Salt Lake Tribune article from February 12, 2014, Is change coming to Mormon temple wedding policy?  The article discusses the Church “may” remove the one-year waiting period between civil marriage ceremonies and a temple marriage. Under current Church policy, if LDS couples have any type of civil ceremony outside of the temple, they cannot be sealed in a temple for a year.  After the change, faithful LDS members would now be able to have a civil wedding ceremony and their temple wedding, making it a more “inclusive” ceremony for those whose family members cannot enter the LDS temple sealing.

Putting the article in a completely different light, the LDS Church may have found it to be prudent to no longer perform civil wedding ceremonies. The obvious context is, of course, the legalization of homosexual marriage in many states, either through legislation or judicial decision. With Utah being only one of many states whose laws prohibiting  same-sex marriage are embroiled in judicial proceedings, it seems like only a matter of time before the Church took some action on this subject. Already in Canada, an area where the Church would reportedly implement its new policy, religious institutions and clerics have been charged before human rights commissions and in courts because they have refused to participate in homosexual marriages, or have expressed ideological differences with the practice. Look for a future blog post about the legal challenges that have been brought in other countries, most notably England, Denmark and Canada.

So when will this change happen? According to another posting in The Mormon Hub, a couple with a September 2014 wedding date was told the change would happen before then.

Until then, we’ll wait with bated breath.

[Update 1/22/2015: As of this posting, the LDS Church has not announced any change that would bifurcate the civil and temple ceremonies.  Hmmm.  I think I’ll have to revisit this issue with my friends at the Mormon Hub].

Father’s Day Discourses

In light of recent events in the LDS Church, I was very interested in the Father’s Day sermons that would be given in various wards. Reading the stories on the Mormon message boards provided me with moments of hilarity but also hope. Here’s a wonderful story (re-posted with the author’s permission):

Exploring Sainthood Father's Day post

Why the LDS Church Needs Feminists

I’d like to reflect on my upbringing in the Church. To me, the Church’s relationship towards women alternates between benign patriarchy and austere rigidity. This was demonstrated to me from a young age, as I heard from my leaders about the woman I was supposed to be.

This lesson came from the top-down, most notably during General Conference. In the dearth of female speakers, we listened to the aged men before us tell us about their saintly mothers, persevering wives, and angelic daughters. They taught us to be ministering angels, selfless spouses, and gentle advocates for Christ. We were their better halves, with a divine nature that was to be both celebrated and protected, at all costs.

These spiritual giants told us that we were the true examples of Christ like behavior to the men and children under our care, but in the same breath upheld the divine mandate that men were to preside over us in family and Church life. If a woman should ever wish to leave her divinely appointed role as a stay at home mother, she was in some way going against the mandate of God. The ideal woman supported and upheld the men in her life, from infancy to adulthood, never asking for a thank you or recognition in return. For her entire life, she would be a silent witness as her man achieved prestige and recognition, both professionally and in the Church.

The majority of lessons and activities for LDS girls seemed focused on molding each of us into this “ideal” woman. Our virtue was one of our most important assets, and so in conduct, thought, and language, we had to be pure. Upholding this rigid standard was even more imperative because, owing to our more spiritual natures, we had to protect the men in our lives from transgressing the law of chastity, either in thought or in deed. Cultivating the Spirit was essential to this end; and so we had to regulate our music, television, movies, conversation, and, most importantly, our dress.  We were repeatedly counseled that Christ had said if a man looked on a woman to lust after her, he was committing adultery already in his heart.  We would literally be leading the young men down the path to hellfire if we did not scrupulously moderate our dress, the most easily identifiable way of controlling the men’s nearly uncontrollable sexual libido.  For the modest young woman, wearing sleeveless dresses or short skirts was anathema. A glimpse of shoulder or thigh could easily cause a young man to have sinful thoughts. In that case, the sin was equally ours.

If, Heaven forbid, we were to transgress sexually, we would be forever tainted by that act. In pointed analogies, we were told we would be broken vessels, or chewed up gum, should we commit this sin. Losing our virginity before marriage would be a scar that would mar our souls, and we would forever know that we hadn’t remained true and faithful to our commitments.

Every Wednesday, we would hold activities (often involving crafting or cooking) and socialize with the young men, who we knew were being molded to become strong, confident providers for us. In Sunday lessons, when we were divided into our all-girls meeting, we would hear stories about the spiritual promptings that shaped our leaders’ lives: when they knew their husband was “the one”; the many times they’d had to rely on the sensitive whisperings of the Spirit to perform their roles as housewives and mothers. Never were we encouraged to work outside the home; this was only a last resort, if our husbands turned out to be unable to provide. I remember feeling a secret shame for that archetypal, incapable husband. Correspondingly, we were encouraged to pursue higher education, but it was only to complement our future roles as spouses and mothers. Education was, at its heart, a contingency plan. I can only remember a single lesson, in the five years that I was in this youth program, when the girls had a career night—one of the highlighted careers being a stay at home mom.

During the summers, while the young men went on grueling 3-day bike rides, white water rafting trips, and camped out in primitive conditions (all to bond them to one another and to develop the inner strength needed to confront the hard world) we had  “Girls Camp”. Our Camp emphasized spiritual, as opposed to physical, development, and so for five days we would recline in comfortable cabins, eat prepared meals and have activities designed for our enjoyment. We would do crafts, cook foil-wrapped dinners, play volleyball, and have testimony meetings on the well-manicured grass at nights. At all times, women and priesthood leaders supervised us; and at night, the men would take shifts to patrol the camp, scaring girls who ventured out after bedtime by rustling the bushes, making us shriek with fear and run back to the safety of our locked cabins.

Every significant role in Church was, and still is, held by men. The Bishop served as a spiritual guide to the ward. He and his male counselors always sat at the front pulpit on Sundays, directing the meetings, calling upon speakers, and supervising the administration of the sacrament. He collected our tithing, gave regular addresses to the congregation, and we confessed our sins (even those of a sensitive nature) to him. His counselors supervised the running of the ward as well—overseeing activities, conducting interviews, and handling all monetary transactions in the ward. Ultimately, all planned activities, all callings, and all Church meetings needed the approval of this man, the Bishop, before they could proceed.

Our male counterparts, the young men, carried out the sacrament. For a few moments every Sunday, these goofy boys would transform into solemn priesthood holders as they meticulously repeated the words of the sacrament prayers and blessed the bread and water. Then, in a uniform, white-shirted column, they passed the sacrament to the congregation. In this way, the entire sacrament became, not only a moment to remember Christ, but an opportunity to see the overriding patriarchy of God’s Church in action.

As a youth, I struggled against this institutional inequality; from my insistence on wearing pants (so I could somehow feel equal to the men) to my failed attempts to organize the first-ever white water rafting trip for young women.  When I went to college at BYU, there was less of a division between men and women in our youth wards—we were similar ages and had shared activities—but the structure of the Church was the same. In addition, I was also surrounded with adult byproducts of this youth training program. The consequences for not conforming to Church norms would be social rejection.

As I finished my undergraduate studies, then an LDS mission, I found myself an unmarried and working adult. The only option for me then was graduate school—this would serve the dual purpose of buying me more time to get married, and better equipping me for a rewarding job if I could not find a spouse.

In the rigorous intellectual environment of BYU Law School, I began to consciously address the pain from my LDS upbringing for the first time.  I realized my childhood in the Church had some positive, as well as negative, results. My upbringing had cultivated in me a feeling of worth as a child of God, a strong sense of right and wrong, and an enquiring mind. However, one of the reasons I even attended law school was because I had graduated college with no career plans. No one in my Church experience had prepared me for the “what ifs” of life as a single adult. I was terrified of being a working adult with only an undergraduate education, because my degree did not guarantee me a rewarding and satisfying job. Only through the gentle prodding of my parents did I begin to study law.

Then, as a lawyer, I found myself confronting this same anxiety. Why, I wondered, as a well-educated adult, would I still feel ill equipped and frightened of going out into the work force? Goodness knows my parents had always encouraged me to have a prestigious career. I can only point to the messages I received from the Church, both stated and un-stated, as the root of this anxiety. By differentiating us at a young age, often with separate activities and separate doctrinal lessons, I was taught that I was different from the young men. The General Authorities and local leaders then answered the question of how I was different. At heart, I was a foil to them—more sensitive, tenderer, more spiritually inclined. I was not to compete with the men in my life—I was to complement them. My highest calling in life would be to raise and nurture children, and so any vocational aspirations would take away from fulfilling this goal. Ultimately, I was at no loss to explain my inadequate and fearful feelings of being a career woman—it’s a wonder I contemplated pursuing a legal career at all!

I support the doctrine of the family and the priesthood; but I am troubled by the control that men have in nearly all aspects of Church administration, both temporal and spiritual.  Does it take having the priesthood to manage the finances of a ward; to conduct a sacrament meeting; to organize ourselves as women and young women; even to pass the sacrament? Why is there this overriding need of the men in the Church to elevate women on a pedestal while denying them full expression as human beings? I am not a foil to you men. I am not a complement to you, your other half, or your ideal spiritual being. I am a child of God, and the standard I should be held to is how my character emulates Christ’s—not your sainted mother, your silent wife, or your revered pioneer ancestress.

I hope, as men and women of my generation assume leadership roles in their wards, stakes and areas of the Church, this cultural inflexibility towards women’s roles will change. The young women of today need us to be their examples, need so-called “feminist” women to speak up, assume more leadership roles, and prepare for futures outside of the roles of mother and homemaker. Let us grow and develop as individuals, not to be viewed as lesser or greater than you men. In the end, we are all equal before God.

 

Be Cool

I did something I’m pretty ashamed of this weekend. I yelled at a kid.  I made him cry. I thought I was a better adult than this.

Let me backtrack; on Friday, Jang, Kisan and I went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity, at Thanksgiving Point. Now, while it is very cool and has a lot of interactive exhibits, it is also very busy; and there is no employee supervision or crowd control in the busy exhibits. But Jang and I would be watching Kisan carefully, so I thought he would be safe with us. Boy, was I wrong.

One of the first rooms we visited in the new Museum contained large piles of foam blocks. Older and younger kids played side-by-side, building houses, towers and walls.  Then, after a while, someone would usually come over and use their hands to knock the buildings down.  It was busy, but the kids around us generally seemed well behaved.  Kisan was happily playing beside me with foam blocks. Jang was standing a couple of feet away from me, talking with his friend.  Losing interest in the blocks he had been playing with, Kisan walked over to a large foam brick wall, and I followed behind to make sure it was okay for him to knock it down.

Then, without warning, this a large, lanky kid crashes through the wall, propelling my baby backwards in a shower of foam bricks. The room was so loud, I didn’t hear Kisan hit the cement floor, but I saw him land on his back—hard—and heard his scream.  If you’ve ever seen your baby get hurt, you’ll understand the feelings of panic I experienced. Jang and I rushed over right away (like I said, I was only a foot away!) and while I tried to pick him up my mind raced with worry for my little boy. Was he okay? Was he bleeding? Jang quickly scooped him up in his arms, leaving me standing there with my fear and growing anger.

Then I saw the boy standing there.  He was almost as tall as me (no large feat there) and must have been 10 or 11 years old.  Bottom line, he had no place running through a block wall in a room crowded with small children. I turned to him with all the fury of a mama bear whose cub has just been hurt.

“What the heck are you doing?! Watch where you’re going!” I yelled at him, then turned back to examine my baby again.  Jang was cradling Kisan to his chest, so I had a moment to look over again at the offending boy again. He was only few feet away, talking to his mom.  I saw her ask him what had happened, and I saw his jaw quiver when he answered. You could tell he was pretty upset.  As he was talking, he looked over at Kisan and me and quickly looked away, misery evident on his face.

And just like that, my heart broke. I couldn’t be angry with this boy anymore; and I probably shouldn’t have been angry with him in the first place. I walked over to him, with his mom standing by, and I said (looking directly into his face), “I’m sorry. He’s all right. I’m sorry.” And I gave him a hug. He nodded his head and tears welled up in his eyes. I saw tears in his mother’s eyes too.  I felt like the most rotten adult—ever.  I’d scared this child and made him cry. I’d made his mom cry. In short, I’d been a big bully.

My fear for my baby did not give me the right to terrorize others. With my shame burning a hole in my chest, I quickly took Kisan from Jang and carried him (still screaming) into the other room to comfort him—which is what I should have been doing all along. He ended up being fine, just like he’s been fine after other tumbles.

As I thought about what had happened that night in bed, I realized my behavior was totally unjustifiable.  Yes, that boy’s mother should have been watching him better. But just like I had tried my best to watch my little boy, hadn’t that mom probably tried her best as well?  Sometimes, accidents just happen when kids play together.

What’s worse, I never would have acted that way if one of my friend’s kids had run into Kisan. It just wouldn’t be appropriate to yell at a friend’s child. But why was it okay, in my mind, to yell at a complete stranger?  Oh, I’d sniped at strangers before—on the road; when someone took my parking spot; when a receptionist had mis-calendared my appointment.  There’d always been some excuse why it was their fault; and since they’d been adults, my behavior hadn’t seemed so bad at the time. But now I’d yelled at a kid—someone who, even though he was a stranger to me, deserved to be treated gently by the adults in his life, not to be belittled and frightened. The truth is, in that moment I yelled at him, he wasn’t a little boy to me; I wasn’t thinking about him as a person; I didn’t care about his feelings. He was someone who had hurt Kisan.  That was all that went through my mind.

Just in case you think I have rage issues, I did moderate my behavior at the time. Somehow, lacking the presence of mind to act my best, I didn’t act my worst. I hadn’t tried to terrify the boy—I’d yelled, but not roared. I hadn’t gotten in his face. And I’d never dream of trying to physically bully a child. But I hadn’t moderated my behavior enough.

The truth is, I should have been my best self. Kisan had gotten hurt while playing before and recovered. The logical part of my brain should have told me he’d be fine again this time. But it just didn’t, not in the moment.  Even with my emotions taking over, I should have had the presence of mind to calm myself. If logic had failed, my morality should have restrained me.  After all, am I not a Christian? An adult? A mother? How would I have felt if someone had yelled at Kisan the way I yelled at this little boy?

If nothing else, this experience has been a wake-up call for me. You see, none of the incidents I described earlier were okay behavior for me. I should never yell at other drivers, make snippy remarks to a receptionist, or speak so harshly to another child. It’s just not right to behave badly and privately repent later. When bad behavior becomes a habit, it becomes your character. And I just don’t want my character to be this way—angry, mean, or hurtful to others. So starting this week, I have a new goal: to keep my cool, at all costs. I hope I can follow through, because I want my character and behavior to reflect all the best parts of me, not the worst.

 

Apostacy and the Facebook Debate

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I hope you find this Facebook exchange as dumbfounding as I do.  It all started because I RSVP’d to the “Ordain Women’s Six Discussions Launch!” on May 15th. That same day, someone I don’t know posted below my RSVP saying, “Since Paul warned against hanging out with apostates, we are not going!” Something you should know about me—I don’t like it when people make snap judgments; and I hate bullying, especially ideological bullying. In LDS culture, apostate is a loaded term—even implying someone is apostate can be very offensive. I didn’t see why that person would feel the need to use that term, just because I’d said I was going to listen to the first OW Discussion.  So my immediate thought was, “Oh no you didn’t!

Then I took the next logical step and checked out this person’s FB profile—what do you know, he* spends his time perusing Ordain Women and feminist blogs, “correcting flawed reasoning and false doctrines.” In fact, he’d posted the same “apostate” comment below another woman’s RSVP to the OW event! And with that, it was on. This person had made it their mission to go around making inflammatory statements on the Internet, and, whether he knew it or not, he had just picked a fight with me.  Thus began the following Facebook exchange.

    • Jackie Ball I’m sorry, but there are few authorized messengers of God. I’d check with Church authorities before making that kind of statement. And you don’t seem qualified, either personally or by proper Church authority, to be a judge of your fellow men.
      May 11 at 8:13am · Edited · Like · 1
    •  Adam K. Allred True To The Faith: “Sometimes people feel that it is wrong to judge others in any way. While it is true that you should not condemn others or judge them unrighteously, you will need to make judgments of ideas, situations, and people throughout your life.”
    • Jackie Ball You can try to judge as regards yourself and your relationships Adam K. Allred- but calling someone apostate means you’ve made a judgment on their relationship with God and the Church. Sounds like overstepping one’s bounds (as few judges in Israel can make the determination of one’s worthiness and standing in the LDS Church) and therefore unrighteous judgment to me.
    •  Nina AndKeith Shurtleff Actually Christ taught that we are able to, and should judge, others under the direction of the spirit. That is how we can know who to preach to, and as Paul directed, who we should avoid having communion with. Each individual is entitled to know by personal revelation where apostasy lies, so they can avoid organizations that support it and people who teach it. Sharing those spiritual impressions may not be binding on others, but it does put them on notice to beware, and thus fulfills the command to warn our neighbors.
    •  Jackie Ball I disagree; your words and unjustified judgment do not denote the presence of the Spirit. Moreover, if you truly read the scriptures, such as the Sermon on the Mount, you would know that a disciple of Christ is repeatedly cautioned against fallen man’s natural tendencies to judge your fellow men unrighteously. You’ve admitted your impression may not be binding on others, but even in applying the term “apostates” to an ENTIRE group of people, you’re overreaching your spiritual stewardship as a member of the LDS church and as a disciple of Christ.
    • Nina AndKeith Shurtleff Disagreement is expected. The Pharisees thought Jesus was the apostate, not them, the brethren who sought to overthrow Joseph in Kirtland, thought Joseph was apostate not them. Apostate persons or organization rarely ever admit their status as such. It is the Holy Spirit that will verify that the OW movement is an apostate movement. Here is what the scriptures really teach: Matthew 7:1-2 JST a clear command to judge righteously. Matthew 7:15-17 you can judge false prophets to be false by their fruits. Moroni 7:16 one purpose we have the spirit is to judge. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, requires judgment to determine our associations. There are hundreds more. Bottom line, before anyone participates in or supports this movement they should seek the spirit, which will warn them of the movement’s true nature and founder. God commands us to love all our neighbors and love means we seek to warn them all. Thus warning all and sharing what the spirit has taught us is completely within the bounds of our spiritual stewardship.
    • Jackie Ball You read these scriptures about people wrongly judging Christ and Joseph Smith as apostates, and see no caution to yourself to avoid unrighteous judgment? My B.S. detector goes off when I hear someone say “here is what the scriptures ‘really’ teach”, and then use them to gratify their self-serving ideas. What qualifies you to judge the OW members’ hearts, and judge the leaders of this group to be apostate? How is your judgment of other people’s moral worthiness (people whom you do not seem to know personally) righteous and within your stewardship? When have you studied what OW advocates? Have you spoken and gotten to know them? Can’t you see a clear admonition to you in Matthew 7:1-2, Moroni 7:16 to make sure you be truly informed and know the people you are judging? The scriptures actually uniformly urge restraint in judging others, most notably those you cited in Matthew and Moroni, and clarify Christ is the only person who can truly judge a person’s heart. Isa. 11:3-4; Rom. 2:1.
      May 11 at 9:20pm · Edited · Like · 2
    • Kristy Money Hi Brother and Sister Shurtleff, Kristy Money here, from SC. I’m so glad you are passionate about the gospel, just like OW supporters are, hopefully we can respectfully dialogue and refrain from throwing around the word apostate. Because we are all just doing our best to follow the Spirit and be good members of the church, even when we disagree.
    • Nina AndKeith Shurtleff Jackie: It is hypocritical to chide others for “twisting the scriptures to gratify their self serving idea” and to do so by twisting the scriptures to gratify one’s own self serving ideas. The scriptures when read in spiritual context, teach that all of God’s children, every living soul, is entitled to know by revelation from God, if an organization and its supporters are true followers of Jesus or are teaching apostate doctrines. God is qualified to judge OW and its supporters, AND if the perfect God then reveals to me or others that OW is laboring under apostasy, it is God’s judgement and not the persons that you must take issue with. God wants us to know truth and to avoid deception, and so will guide each soul to avoid organizations, movements and their supporters whose actions are contrary to God’s will. Thus the only issue that really remains is whether God has revealed to me the true nature of the OW movement, and if he has, others should take the warning and likewise go to Him to know the truth. Since you admit that Christ is the only one who can judge, then however, he judges you, me and the OW movement, you should be willing to accept it.
      13 hours ago · Like · 1
    • Adam K. Allred Kristy: What are they supposed to call this group, if not apostate? People who profess love for the gospel but just happen to advocate positions that are contrary to it? The reference to this group as apostate is not an effort to provoke, but rather to give a warning of what it truly is. They would not be calling it apostate if it were not so obviously rebelling against the church.
      13 hours ago · Like · 1
    • Jackie Ball Not so Nina/Keith Shurtleff; my ideas are not self-serving, and I find it interesting you upbraid me for something you yourself are doing! You have judged and insulted me without any basis–according to you, I am a hypocrite AND an apostate. Your spiritual meter is clearly off. If there is hypocrisy, it is in someone who claims to know the “spiritual context” of the scriptures yet ignores the basic admonition to avoid unrighteous judgment and to love your fellow men. I don’t claim to be perfect enough to know God’s judgment of an entire group of people, like OW- yet you do. Your actions are not consistent with someone who could receive such a revelation. And your refusal to acknowledge that the ability to judge someone’s standing in the Church (whether they are apostate) is outside of your sphere of stewardship, astounds me. I see a person with single-minded views, who claims to know the will of God but does not have the spiritual acumen or insight to be able to know His will. Leave such grand proclamations of moral worthiness to the appropriate person–Christ.
      11 hrs · Edited · Like
    • Nina AndKeith Shurtleff Restating flawed arguments and misapplication of scripture does not make them any more valid. Our polarized positions are clear for sincere truth seekers to consider. Either Christ, the appropriate judge, has revealed to me by his Holy Spirit that the OW movement and its supporters are suffering under apostasy, or he has not. For obvious reasons Jackie does not believe it, but that does not change my assertions. So now the choice lies with the uncommitted, sincere truth seekers to read both positions and then to prayerfully seek to know the truth of the matter by revelation from God. That is the only real value of such exchanges as this.
    • Adam K. Allred You claim that he has judged and insulted you. I don’t believe that either is actually the case, especially the latter. He has simply seen what you are supporting and has told you what the Spirit has revealed unto him – that the OW group is not in good standing with God. You claim that he has insulted you. I may be mistaken, but I do not see an objective to insult by him. His only comment that I feel could be considered insulting is when he call the OW movement apostate. If you are offended by this then perhaps you are one who “taketh the truth to be hard.
      You claim that he is a hypocrite because he claims to know spiritual context while exercising unrighteous judgement towards others as well as not loving them. I would argue that it is because he loves you and the OW members that he spends time to dispel false doctrine and malcontent towards God’s current Church here on Earth. It is because he, along with many others, feels the spirit manifest truth that his judgments are not unrighteous. You can claim that he does not feel the Spirit concerning this topic which will slightly discount his words, but this does not make it true. You state that it requires a perfect person to judge the merits of this group. I cannot restrain myself from saying that this is ridiculous. We came here to gain a body, to know good from evil, and to prove our allegiance to that which is good. If someone could not so much as determine whether a group is correct in its doctrinal views then they would surely be unfit to be tested on their choices.“Your actions are not consistent with someone who could receive such a revelation” I don’t know how well you know Bishop Shurtleff, but I personally have found him to be a very charitable man. He isn’t boastful of his righteous actions nor of his service for Christ but instead he lives, as I have seen, as a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. If there is any person that I know personally who’s actions merit the blessings of revelation, that person would be Bishop Shurtleff.”I see a person with single-minded views, who claims to know the will of God but does not have the spiritual acumen or insight to be able to know His will.” I don’t want to appear to pretend to know how God thinks, but it seems to me that He also has, by your definition, a singleness in mind when it comes to the Gospel. That is, doctrine that is correct, that He has revealed to His prophets here on Earth, and doctrine that is incorrect. I do not believe that He sees the OW’s cause as viable dependent on the number of times He is asked for it to be. He is the enforcer of truth. “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away”(Doctrine and Covenants 1:38) According to this, He has doctrine that is already in place, and it can not be changed by any person who feels “open-minded” enough to challenge it. Continuing on to the next verse: “For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.” Notice that it is the Spirit that is bearing record to men concerning the truth.”Leave such grand proclamations of moral worthiness to the appropriate person–Christ.” What would Christ have us do? He is not currently residing on the Earth, for reasons that should be evident. Yet, I believe that He has made proclamations through those who do listen to the Spirit and through his apostles here on Earth.
      9 hrs · Edited · Like · 1
    • Jackie Ball Of course I don’t believe your assertions Keith/Nina Shurtleff, because your attitudes and unfamiliarity with the people in this group prove you could not have received this revelation. I am not saying they are inspired, chosen by God, or any other such grand statement. I only took exception to your high-handed, uninformed judgment of the ENTIRE group as apostate. Now I also take exception to your belief that someone who does not believe you are an inspired messenger, must be misapplying scripture. Please carefully choose the labels you apply to people before trolling the internet to make your views known. Thank you for the detailed analysis of my words Adam K. Allred, I’ll do you the respect of disproving your arguments in order. First point: you cannot claim Keith Shurtleff didn’t have an objective to insult me when he has applied the labels of “hypocrite” and “apostate” to me, solely as a supporter of OW and someone who doesn’t agree with Keith’s self-serving interpretation of the scriptures. Example: “God is qualified to judge OW and its supporters, AND if the perfect God then reveals to me or others that OW is laboring under apostasy, it is God’s judgement and not the persons that you must take issue with.” Silly Keith- not only am I not a member of Ordain Women, I don’t advocate for women to have the priesthood (although I believe they could someday); if such views are “apostate” then here is proof he has sadly, sadly misjudged me. How could I take the “truth” to be hard when his words are not true, and based on false beliefs about me and my character? I don’t feel OW to be apostate, but we’ll move on to your next point: I can’t know Keith Shurtleff does not feel the Spirit concerning this topic. How can he receive a spiritual revelation that is outside of the sphere of his stewardship, and of people whom he does not know personally? The General Authorities have repeatedly cautioned against making judgments based on limited information. Keith Shurtleff has not given any evidence, other than his feelings, that he can know this group is apostate. How can you judge someone you don’t know? That is patently obvious to me, which brings me to your third point: I claimed it takes a perfect person to judge this group. You misstated me; I specifically said Keith should leave judgments to Christ, but my main point was Keith Shurtleff was not qualified to make that judgment. Dallin H. Oaks gave a wonderful talk about judgments, “Judge Not and Judging”. I agree with Elder Oaks’ talk, and never took exception to Keith’s idea that we can be inspired by the Spirit in making judgments about how to direct our own lives. But Dallin Oaks specifically cautions, “we should not presume to exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities” and we should “refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts”. Bishop or not, “charitable” or not, Keith is not entitled to label a group or a person apostate; I’m not within his stewardship, neither are the OW leaders. He has not proved to have adequate knowledge of the people or positions to be able to judge. And none of his actions on this post have showed any of that charity or humility you claim for him (point four). Point five: don’t quote scriptures and ignore their context. God constantly gives our leaders revelation to direct the Church. If his doctrine was already fully & correctly established, why, only through questioning by LDS leaders, did we subsequently receive the vision of the three degrees of glory (D&C 76) and the EXTENSION of the priesthood to members of African descent (Official Declaration 2). If anything, these experiences show me OW’s cause can be as viable as others; which is why I say, again, the priesthood can be extended to women, even if I don’t advocate the change right now. Look back again at my posts, you will see I originally only took exception to Keith Shurtleff’s broad misstatement of OW and their supporters as “apostate”. His subsequent comments only re-confirmed my opinion that Keith Shurtleff cannot have received a mandate from God to tell the world his ill-formed judgment.
      17 mins · Edited · Like
      [*If you’ve made it to the end of this FB exchange, you know why I believe this was the husband writing; although either spouse, or both, could have chimed in.]
      I know I should’ve turned the other cheek; I clearly did nothing to convince him he was wrong in labeling me and Ordain Women apostate.  But something inside of me just feels so good at standing up to him.

Mothers, Mothers

To be honest, Mother’s Day makes me feel kind of embarrassed. Living in Utah where having large families is common, I sometimes wonder if, with my one child, I have the street cred that the moms around me do.  Yes, we’ve had some unique challenges with Kisan, but overall he’s a well-mannered and affectionate baby. What about the moms I know who have three, four, five, even eight (yes, eight) children? How do my experiences compare with theirs, and how can I possibly merit the same recognition today that they do?

Sure, being a mom has been challenging.  There have been days I’ve been so glad to leave Kisan with the sitter, while I work for a few hours. Or I’ve counted the minutes till nap time.  But you know what?  I always love it when he can be with me again. Funny how even a few hours away from your baby can make you miss him so much. And he is always so, so happy to see me. That unconditional love is like a drug. You can’t help but want to be around your baby when he shows you that much affection and love.

But I get the feeling that, with more kids, your free time shrinks. You don’t get the chance to miss your kids, because they’re always around. As your kids get older, they don’t love you quite as unconditionally.  Sometimes they might think they hate you. If you’re a mom of multiples, there’s so many demands on your time, so many needs to meet, you don’t have any time for yourself. And yet, through it all, you keep giving of your time and  yourself—through sleepless nights, frustration, and sickness—because that’s what moms do.

See, I’m still at the early stages of parenting, when my husband can really help share the load.  If I’m tired or sick, I can take long naps on the weekends (and sometimes during the week).  If I ever get too frustrated, I can bundle my little guy into the car and take him somewhere, because you can do that with just one kid. And since Kisan still naps, I have up to two hours of free time during the day to work on projects, or to rest.  Life has gotten harder since becoming a mom, but it’s still pretty good. I admire you moms who have taken the plunge and had larger families. My friends all seem to do it so well.

My college friends and their adorable families.
My college friends and their adorable children.  We’ve since added more to the bunch!

Having a kid seems like a very irreversible step to me; and I’d hate to get to the point where I have four or five kids and realize, “Holy crap! I can’t handle this!” What if they don’t feel loved and don’t feel important? What if I can’t be a good mom to them, and my kids then hate me forever? (This is the scenario that plays out in my head. Just planning for all contingencies).

You moms—particularly stay-at-home moms—what an immense responsibility you have. You’re the first person who teaches your children to love. Who helps them feel a sense of self-worth. You’re the first line of defense against a sometimes all-too-cruel world, full of bullies and peer pressure and negative media. You make them feel special, simply because they’re your child. That is a huge role to fill, and one I’m only just learning about.

If you have a good partnership, your husband will also rear and influence your children. But since moms are often the full-time caretakers of your children, you’re the ones with the most influence. You’re the ones who internalize every disappointment or hurt your child experiences. Multiply that times however many children you have; it’s no wonder the world feels like they need to honor you, for a day at least.

So, to all my friends and family out there, Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope you’re managing motherhood as well as I think you are. Maybe in a few years I’ll have earned a place beside you.

Orson Scott Card Blasts Mormon Writers, Offers Hope

Orson Scott Card gave an incredibly memorable speech at the LDS Storymakers Conference last week. Like many at the Conference, I was eagerly anticipating Mr. Scott Card’s keynote speech. In our collective minds, getting writing tips from the person who not only wrote the Enders Game series, but also scripted the Hill Cumorah pageant and the Living Scriptures, was going to be a real treat, comparable only to singing with Gladys Knight, or tossing the pigskin with Steve Young.

My friend and I arrived early and found seats close to the podium. We chatted easily with the ladies near us as we watched the other tables quickly fill up with attendees. Laughter and conversation drifted across the packed room. There was a palpable feeling of excitement, a feeling that we were in for a real treat.

And it was a treat—a wickedly, wickedly delicious treat. After some preliminary advice, Mr. Scott Card wasted no time in blasting, not only some ideas the attendees may have had about writing, but aspects of LDS culture itself.

He started by saying an LDS writer should not try and preach the Gospel through writing. His advice? “If you find yourself preaching, break the pen”. At this, I sat up a little. I noticed a few women around me perk up as well, but their faces weren’t full of unbridled interest, like mine; they were clouded with doubt. A preeminent LDS writer, telling other writers not to preach? Mr. Scott Card went on to explain (paraphrased), “If you are a faithful LDS member, your beliefs should come through in your writing, without trying to preach.”

Orson Scott Card continued to state one should never ask if the work is inspired. A lot of times, writers will try to write with “the Spirit,” a colloquial LDS term describing when someone is under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He abruptly told the audience he often finds “a direct correlation between people saying their work is inspired, and how crappy it is.” At this comment, I saw the women at an adjacent table turn to each other, murmuring and glancing repeatedly at the speaker with slight disbelief on their faces. A few audience members chuckled, but I could see the worry beginning to ripple around the room. Not have the Spirit when writing your book, 100 Uses for Lard at Relief Society Luncheons? Unthinkable.

I, however, was highly amused, and continued to listen as Mr. Scott Card went on to eviscerate what he deems to be the LDS Church’s tendency to push away members who are “highly verbal readers”, particularly the youth members. He related the exclusionary activities of the “spiteful, anti-intellectual [Church] youth program,” such as participation in the Boy Scouts, with its non-literary merit badges, and basketball. It was very obvious that his experiences in the LDS youth program had negatively impacted him as a teenage intellectual. But honestly, as much as I admire his guts for saying this to a predominantly LDS crowd, I had to roll my eyes at this point—or, I would have, if I weren’t assessing the shocked faces of my co-attendees. At this point, it was obvious that Orson Scott Card had fully deflated all their hopes for a testimony-building, fireside-type address—and the hushed countenances of nearly all the women around me reflected their disillusionment.

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Mr. Scott Card did offer some final comforting words for the audience. Along with advising LDS authors to avoid salacious scenes and offensive language in their writing, Orson Scott Card offered this golden counsel: if you LDS writers are the outskirts of your less-literate wards, then find your value in the Church—not as a writer, but as a volunteer. His suggestions, from personal experience, were to join the choir; set up chairs; and take out trash. This makes you part of the LDS community, and they will think you are “one of them”. Ultimately, this inclusion allows you to express yourself more freely as a writer, and you won’t be shunned for having slightly different opinions from the general group.

So this is a faithful re-telling of my experience at the keynote address for LDS Storymakers. And to be honest, it was pretty darn amusing. But do you think Orson Scott Card was right? Does the Church alienate its highly verbal readers and intellectuals? If so, why?