Mormon Life

Five Tips for Talks

Posted on May 26, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life, Mormon women, Sacrament talks, spirituality, Women in the Scriptures |

photo by LHK If I were giving 5 tips on how to give a good sacrament meeting talk this is what I’d say… (more…)

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Easter’s Promise

Posted on March 31, 2010. Filed under: Belief, Changes, faith, hope, Jesus, Mormon Life |

by Heather

One of my favorite writers is the very irreverent David Sedaris. Because I taught English as a second language, I get a big kick out of his tales of studying French–especially the story about the difficulty Easter.  “What is an Easter?” asks a Muslim student.  As Sedaris and some of his fellow Christians attempt to explain the crucifixion, the atonement and resurrection of Jesus, they find their vocabulary sadly inadequate (and indeed absurd).   A Polish student says Easter is “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus.”  Another chimes in, “He die one day and then go above my head to be with my father.  He nice the Jesus.” So, as Sedaris puts it, “Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, [they] did what any self-respecting group of people might do.  [They] talked about food.” 

Even as a native speaker, I can relate to the difficulties of explaining abstract religious concepts.  If I examine my own Easter vocabulary, phrases like “solid dark chocolate,” “lovely decoupage eggs,” “marshmallow Peeps”, and “funeral potatoes” are more common than  phrases like “only begotten son,” “atoned for our suffereing,” and “He is risen.”   One set denotes Easter as holiday, the other, Easter as holy day. 

My earliest memories of Easter reflect this dichotomy. 

When I was a little girl, we knew Easter was coming when my mom did two things. First, she took my sister and me to Sears to get new dresses.  It was so exciting to try on fancy pastel frocks with scratchy lace and skirts that swung out when we’d twirl. Sometimes Angela and I matched. Sometimes not. We never got hats or gloves. New dresses were sufficient–anything more was just showing off. 

The other marker of Easter was the visit to my Grandma Jessie’s grave.   I enjoyed those visits.  The grass was velvety to lie on, the air smelled of roses, and the grooved letters of my grandma’s name carved into stone were fun to trace.  I never knew Jessie. I was 2 when she passed.  Perhaps my parents used the opportunity to speak of the resurrection. I don’t remember. My mother has never been one to sermonize. Yet a connection was made for me that Easter was a time to look forward to reunions.  My mother mourned her loss each April; Jessie was born on Easter Sunday in 1903.  But I also think my mom chose early spring as the time to visit because she cherished Easter’s promise of resurrection, the holy day reminded her that she would indeed embrace her mother again. 

Something else I have observed of my mom in the spring is that her heart turns to the soil.   When I had gone through a particularly hard time a few years ago, some dear friends sent me 4 dozen mixed bulbs. Life in a box.  I don’t share my mother’s green thumb and had never planted anything before and feared nothing would grow for me.  I read and reread the instructions before tentatively planting the first bulb that fall.  I found I enjoyed planting things and imagined the beautiful flowers that would grow.  But a few days later I went outside and saw that my garden was pock marked with hole after hole where squirrels had dug up and stolen my floral treasures.  I cursed those rodents and sobbed my heart out.  It was as if the squirrels had taken my hope from me along with the daffodils and crocuses. But to my surprise, come spring, I had the loveliest flowers in my front yard.  It was a little miracle. Flowers and faith can survive decimation.  

Last spring the kids helped me bury bulbs.  One of us would scoop out dirt with a little shovel, one would plop in a bulb, one would sprinkle it with Tabasco or “spicey wicey” to keep away the critters, and one would replace and pack the dirt.  I can’t describe the joy I feel when the first little green sprouts show themselves.  And these beautiful flowers keep coming back.  Sometimes in winter, when my sweet flower beds are buried under 3 feet of packed, salty snow, I just know nothing can survive. But not too long ago, when it seemed winter would never end, I went out my front door and saw little purple crocuses poking their heads out of the ground.  It called to mind a favorite primary song that beautifully parallels gardens and the resurrection:

 On a golden springtime, underneath the ground,
A tiny seedling lay asleep until the sun shone down.
Awake, awake, O little seed!
Push upward to the light!
The day is bright. With all your might,
push upward to the light!

On a golden springtime, Jesus Christ awoke
And left the tomb where he had lain; the bands of death he broke.
Awake, awake, O sleeping world!
Look upward to the light,
For now all men may live again.
Look upward to the light!

On that first Easter Sunday, that holy day, women came to Christ’s tomb, found it empty, and were heart broken.  Our hearts too are broken by our losses, large and small,  tangible and intangible. Yet that empty space can be filled with hope. Faith can survive a dormant season.  Easter means that the tomb is empty, because He is risen. He is risen. He is risen.

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Cutting back

Posted on March 26, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life |

By Starfoxy
I am very adept at spotting when my kids need haircuts. I’m somewhat less adept at spotting when the grass needs cutting, or when trees need to be thinned. I do pretty well at culling old documents from the filing cabinet. Like hair, and grass, and trees it sometimes seems like the stuff in my closet, cabinets, shelves and drawers are growing and need to be cut back. (more…)

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Rocky Mountain Retreat

Posted on March 25, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: |

Feeling the need for a break in the routine? It’s not too late to register for the 2010 Rocky Mountain Retreat. The retreat has been going strong for seventeen years, and this year promises another great experience.

Jana Riess, author of  Mormonism for Dummies and What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide, will speak.  Phyllis Barber will read from her new memoir. There will also be a panel discussion of Mormon women writers, get-acquainted activities, and music. The retreat is held June 4-6 this year, in a spectacular mountain setting, about 1.5 hours outside of Denver, Colorado.

Speakers, panel discussions, and presentations are an important part of the retreat. Equally important activities include spending Saturday afternoon in mountain hot springs, talking and playing games late into the night, and savoring an array of chocolate products available 24/7. It’s a chance to share with other women. Topics run the gamut from work woes and boring Relief Society lessons to great books and exciting travel options. Nothing is off-limits, including sex and politics (though  political preferences are definitely diverse). At times we find ourselves discussing topics that may not be brought up in Relief Society, but just as often swap ideas for great Young Women activities and Relief Society service projects. You can also hike, swim, ride horses, or just take a good nap.

If this sounds good, check out our website:  http://rockymountainretreat.org/.

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Dreaming About Women Exercising the Priesthood

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: |

Dreamcatchers

by Kelly Ann

I am a dreamer.  My mind imagines many things.  Flying.  Achieving Goals.  Sci Fi Characters.  Family Drama.  Being an animal.  Science experiments.  Time Travel.  Church-related themes.

Triggered perhaps by recently participating in the Catholic Eucharist at a family funeral, as described in my post last month,

Being asked minutes before the start of the Mass, I did not have time to think about the honor of carrying the bread and wine forward for Communion. As my brother and I walked to the front of the chapel with the bread and wine in hand, I welled with emotion to offer this sacrifice to the Priest. And yet, the irony struck me that I would never have had such an opportunity to do this in my own church.

or by reading blog entries about how a feminist feels about baby blessings, questioning authority, mormon feminist activism, and blessings administered by women, I have had several odd dreams that I still vividly recall wide awake.

The first: After tripping while passing the sacrament, I see myself passionately conducting the sacrament meeting (imagine fire and brimstone) with a mix of men and women sitting on the stand.

The second: I have a bird’s eye view of a circle of people in the chapel.  I can’t see any faces but it becomes evident they are half way through giving a blessing to a baby.  No one seems phased that the tight circle alternates men and women and that the mother and father are kneeled in the middle together jointly giving the blessing.

The third: I am called to be a special representative of the high council assigned to be a female voice in a disciplinary council for a woman that I know.  In the bird’s eye view of the sea of short male haircuts, while I appreciate the possibility of a woman’s voice in the decision, something not part of the current structure, it pains me that an even number of men and women aren’t counciling together or that better yet, there is no all women’s council for such a sensitive trial of a woman.

Apparently, my subconscious, and elements of my conscious, envisions a completely different Mormon world then the one I am re-immersing myself into.  I don’t claim that my dreams are inspired (and would rather state that they are not), but I do wonder how what the church would be like if there was more gender equality in various church affairs.

Even as a little kid, I had much tamer dreams about passing the sacrament or being a minister but knowing that those ideas were preposterous for a good Mormon and still are, I’ve always dismissed them.  As my mind has become alerted to a number of other issues, I now consciously imagine more balance and even some of the luxuries that early sisters in the church had blessing others.

My subconscious goes for the extreme but even minor changes would make me really happy.

Although the recent guest post regarding how women still participate in blessings, helped me remember some of my own experience’s that I treasure.

On my mission, as a way to find families, the mission president encouraged us to offer a “bendicion de hogar” on the house with the whole family present before we invited them to listen to the first discussion. This way the introduction to the church included everyone in a non-threatening manner. A lot of people wanted a blessing on their home even if they didn’t want to learn about the Book of Mormon. He emphasized that it was more than a prayer, that the elders should use their priesthood to pronounce the blessing. This begged the question from the sisters (a quarter of my mission) as to what they should do. He told us that as missionaries we had the power to bless the house and families just the same. And not to worry about that we couldn’t say “by the authority of the priesthood which we hold.” I am not sure how effective these “bendiciones de hogar” were in terms of finding families to teach but the sisters were blessing many in so doing. Thinking about it now, I am grateful for the experience. I felt like I could offer them something on the principle of faith that could bless their lives and give them a good impression of the church.

That is probably my most pronounced experience I have had (other than also loving the initiatory and temple as described by G).

So I just try to cling to my simple testimony, the peace I have found returning to church, and not get so fed up between the difference between my expectations and reality that I leave.

So I’ll continue to dream.

What do you dream?  Or how do you think we can achieve balance in the church now?

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Music and the Church III: On music education

Posted on March 20, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life |

by mr. mraynes

In the two previous installments of this music and church series, several commenters mentioned the lack of musical education among church members. This third post will consider how adding a musical curriculum could improve not only the musicality of our congregations, but also their spirituality.

Although the answers may seem fairly obvious, we must consider where our general musical knowledge is lacking (and whether that even matters), how broad should the curriculum be, and whether or not there is room in the already-busy Sunday School hour for such a course.

First, what are the significant gaps in musical knowledge that limit the effectiveness of our sacred music? The most obvious concerns for many wards is a lack of keyboard players and proficient conductors. I doubt the keyboard issue could be dealt with during Sunday School. If each ward had a small keyboard lab and a competent keyboard teacher it could work. But that is simply unrealistic to expect, even for a healthy ward. Keyboard lessons, however, could be organized by the stake, teaching two to four students at a time, with only one or two keyboard instruments in a room (say, the chapel). These lessons would have to be given during the week or on Saturdays, perhaps over the course of three or four months.

Conducting is an entirely different matter. Every member needs to know how conducting works–not necessarily to make conductors out of them, but so they can interpret what conductors tell them with their motions. These lessons can certainly be offered in any ward during the Sunday School hour. When I mention conducting, I should clarify that I do not refer to learning conducting patterns. Those are adequately explained in the back of the hymnal and anyone can at least pick up a two, three, or four pattern by reading about them there. The critical issues that need to be covered in a Sunday School music class are feeling strong beats (especially the down beat), how to keep a steady tempo, how to start the music, and how to stop it. No one ever discusses this stuff, but that’s where the conducting work really happens.

What kind of a curriculum teaches that stuff? Well, honestly it would be a curriculum that more closely resembles that of Nursery rather than Gospel Doctrine. Movement would be absolutely necessary to feel rhythm: dance, clapping, toe tapping, etc. Also, body movements would be explored to understand what each gesture communicates to the group watching them. No doubt this class would feel alien and silly to many Mormons today. That doesn’t really bother or deter me, though.

Leadership of music is another important question that needs to be visited in individual congregations. Being both a pianist (slash faking-organist) and conductor, I know very well that the real musical power in church lies with the keyboard player. They are the ones who actually establish tempo, tell people when to start and stop, and determine how much time the singing congregation gets to take a breath before starting the next verse. In this ubiquitous musical power arrangement, the conductor is actually superfluous and really should just sit down. Tomorrow, take a look around your congregation. See how many people actually look at and try to follow the conductor. You’ll be the only one not staring at your hymnal in a “If You Could Hie to Kolob”-induced stupor. (I know there is some wonderful allegory for how the greater organization of the Church works here, but I won’t even try to formulate that today.)

So this brings up  a philosophical question: Do we need a conductor in Sacrament Meeting? Can’t we just let the organist guide as along our slow slog through the sacrament hymn? I would vehemently argue that we do need a conductor (and not just because it is my profession!). Congregational singing is all about unification of many people in heart and mind. Listen in sacrament meeting, and you will find the music is rarely unified at all. Typically two hundred people are singing to themselves, the general result being a mumbly, barely-passable hymn sound. No one even tries to unify in the mood and character of the music, let alone enunciating words and singing pitches in unison. But if the congregation knew how to follow a conductor, and the conductor knew how to lead a group of amateur singers, I contend our singing could reach a much higher level of spiritual effectiveness while achieving true congregational unity.

Other musical topics that could be usefully added to a Sunday School musical course could be some basic music theory to aid member’s music reading (probably focusing mostly on rhythm and pitch-gesture direction [i.e. this part goes up, this part goes down, here it stays the same]), and basic vocal skills. Again, covering basic vocal skills would push many far out of their comfort zones. But I have no doubt that if President Monson gave a talk about the spiritual imperative behind congregational music skills, members would get over their shyness.

So are such skills truly necessary for the spirituality of our congregations? Since music is so basic to our worship traditions, I must conclude that it is. Bad singing is not going to strengthen anyone’s testimony, but unified, committed hymn singing will certainly bless the lives of all who attend our meetings.

Now it is your turn. How would the music curriculum look if you were charged with creating it? How would you fit it into the traditional Sunday School lineup? (My solution is to have a twelve lesson curriculum and assign maybe thirty members to take the class at a time. Within a year or two most active members will have been through the course and are ready to take it again. As President Hinkley wisely stated, repetition is the law of learning.)

What have I overlooked (lots, no doubt), and where might you disagree with my assertions?

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The WE canvas

Posted on March 18, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life |

Posted by Dora

There are two rules when you come to visit my home. First, take off your shoes and store them in the hall closet. If your socks are holey, there are some clean ones in the bag on the door handle. Second, sign the WE canvas before you leave.

What is the WE canvas? Hmmm. I wish I had a two word answer. But it takes a few more than that to explain this amalgamation of an old tradition with several new ideas. (more…)

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The Platinum Rule

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: ethics, Mormon Life, Mormon women, religion, spirituality | Tags: , , |

by Alisa

“Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” – George Bernard Shaw

“The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by.” – Karl Popper

“If the cat were you, and you were the cat, would you like that to be smashed flat, flat as a mat by a great big cat? The Golden Rule says no!” – Carol Lynn Pearson, My Turn on Earth

Ever since I was a little girl singing along to the My Turn on Earth records, I’ve loved the Golden Rule. But recently I’ve been thinking about how the Golden Rule alone can be misguided and produce less-than-desirable results. Two recent experiences illustrate this.

1. My visiting teaching companion loves to be challenged. She wakes up every morning and runs a couple of miles through rain, snow, or below-freezing temperatures. She eats up General Conference addresses and is always refining her list of goals. At one visit to a sister who is married to a member of the Catholic faith, my companion surprised me by challenging the sister to go to the temple and get her endowment. She then proceeded to ask this sister if she hadn’t done so before because her husband might not like the garment. This sister seemed caught off guard by the challenge and didn’t want to discuss the underwear issue. She was always much more guarded with us on subsequent visits.

2. This same companion later challenged another one of our sisters to pay a generous fast offering, telling her that there really is no sufficient tithe that is not accompanied by a substantial sacrifice in fast offerings. This might be an OK message for many members of the Church, but this sister had previously confided to us that she earned less that $15,000 a year and was the sole provider for her family of six. The sister quietly responded to my companion that she wasn’t ready to pay a generous fast offering yet, and that her goal was to eventually stop taking fast offering funds to support her family and to be able to pay tithing so she could regain her temple recommend. This sister replied with much more confidence than the first sister and seemed to forgive us right away, but I still ached that she was put in the situation to explain such private needs to us in her defense of rejecting the initial misplaced but well-meaning challenge.

I don’t bring these up to criticize my companion (and therefore thwart the Golden Rule as I write this). She is an amazing woman and good friend. I believe both of these instances occurred because she was following the Golden Rule and treating our sisters how she would want to be treated, challenging them how she would want to be challenged. These instances are just examples of something I observe from time to time in the Church, where the standards we set for ourselves might not be right at the time for someone else.

People are different. They are in different places in their lives and they have different circumstances. Treating them like ourselves without adding in the element of empathy and accounting for personality differences can take something that started with good intentions but eventually ends up causing awkwardness, pain, or offense. What’s that they say about good intentions anyway? To an extrovert, being asked to skooch in and sit closer to everyone else in the room may help her feel like part of a group, but to an introvert who likes to take the back row in Relief Society, the physical proximity to so many others can be, ironically, more alienating than allowing her to sit where she chooses.

Some non-extensive research on Wikipedia introduced me to the Platinum Rule, which is essentially taking the Golden Rule but instead of treating others how you want to be treated, you treat others how they want to be treated.

I have seen many Church members acting in accordance with the Platinum Rule. For example, my father has been involved in missionary-related callings for almost as long as I can remember. When I was younger, he was involved in huge reactivation efforts that were very stats driven, and I remember him making a difference in the lives of several people our Utah ward. Now he’s serving as ward mission leader again, but I was surprised to see that his approach has changed over the years. He recently showed me his current ward mission plan. The first item read, “Reach out in friendship to all those living within our ward boundaries with no other agenda.” I think he’s on to something. Living in Utah can sometimes be a socially isolating experience for those who are not LDS, and he wants to focus on letting all of his neighbors have a positive experience with the Mormons they live with. His second point was also amazing: “Allow those of other faiths to teach us about their beliefs. Be humble and willing to learn from their beliefs.”

Don’t mistake my dad’s testimony. If he were to strictly do unto others as he would have done unto him, he’d definitely be more forceful in sharing the gospel that he treasures and believes is the only road to salvation, exaltation, and eternal families. But that kind of zealousness from “knowing the truth” and wanting everyone else to see it your way can be off-putting, and I respect his willingness to pause and listen to his friends of other faiths. Remember that scripture in Alma 38:12 on bridling one’s passions? I find it interesting that it pertains to not being too overbearing with one’s own certainty of the truth.

So, here’s my case for adding empathy to the Golden Rule. While we’re at it, a dash of personal revelation might help us meditate on what others want. Personal revelation and discernment allow us to find what’s best for a given situation, and sometimes what is right for your situation is not right for others. Giving them that right to be different from you might be the most ethical treatment of all.

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Relief Society Lesson 6: The Fall of Adam and Eve

Posted on March 10, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life, Relief Society Lessons | Tags: |

by mraynes

One of the things I truly love about Mormonism is our doctrine surrounding the fall of Adam and Eve. I would start my lesson by highlighting  our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and how it allows us to see the beauty and love in a story that is vilified by so many others. (note: my thoughts and questions will appear in italics.)

Adam and Eve were the first to come to Earth

I  like the suggestion in the manual to use questions to start a discussion that will lead class members to the text of the scriptures. To get the class comfortable and involved, I would ask questions like:

  • Who were our first parents?

God prepared this earth as a home for His children. Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first people to live on the earth (see Moses 1:34; 4:26). Their part in our Father’s plan was to bring mortality into the world. They were to be the first parents. (See D&C 107:54–56.)

  • What do we know about them?

Adam and Eve were among our Father’s noblest children. In the spirit world Adam was called Michael the archangel (see D&C 27:11; Jude 1:9). He was chosen by our Heavenly Father to lead the righteous in the battle against Satan (see Revelation 12:7–9). Adam and Eve were foreordained to become our first parents. The Lord promised Adam great blessings: “I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever” (D&C 107:55).

Eve was “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26). God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage because “it was not good that the man should be alone” (Moses 3:18; see also 1 Corinthians 11:11). She shared Adam’s responsibility and will also share his eternal blessings.

You might want to stress this last point. There is certainly a disparity between what we know about Adam and what we know about Eve but we have to assume that our first mother did many noble and great things, including opening up mortality for all of us, and will be blessed for those things in her own right.

  • What scriptural evidence helps us know that Adam and Eve were valiant spirits? (Abraham 3:22-23)
  • What can we learn from the examples of Eve and Adam?

The Garden of Eden

  • Under what conditions did Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden?

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). There was no death. They had physical life because their spirits were housed in physical bodies made from the dust of the earth (see Moses 6:59; Abraham 5:7). They had spiritual life because they were in the presence of God. They had not yet made a choice between good and evil.

  • What were the commandments God gave Adam and Eve?

God commanded them to have children. He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over … every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Moses 2:28). God told them they could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17).

You might want to have a conversation with your class about why God would give two seemingly contradictory commandments. Direct the class to 2nd Nephi 2:22-24. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law. This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose.” I love that in Moses 4:6, we are told that Satan played right into God’s hand by beguiling Eve. This backs up what Lehi tells us, that all thing were done in the “wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”

I would also spend some time talking about Eve, especially if you are preparing this lesson for Relief Society. Many Christian religions have reviled Eve for her choice but through modern day revelation, we know that Eve made a righteous and noble choice. Have somebody read this quote from Dallin H. Oak’s talk, “The Great Plan of Happiness“:

“Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it. Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!”

I also love this quote by Sheri Dew:

“Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.”

If time permits, you could share this beautiful poem by Mormon poet, Elizabeth Cranford.

Adam and Eve’s Separation from God

  • What physical and spiritual changes occurred in Adam and Eve as a result of their transgression?

Because Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Lord sent them out of the Garden of Eden into the world. Their physical condition changed as a result of their eating the forbidden fruit. As God had promised, they became mortal. They and their children would experience sickness, pain, and physical death.

Because of their transgression, Adam and Eve also suffered spiritual death. This meant they and their children could not walk and talk face to face with God. Adam and Eve and their children were separated from God both physically and spiritually.

I don’t think you need to spend a lot of time in this section, briefly make the point that with mortality comes with all the ills of the human condition: pain, death and separation from God.

Great Blessings Resulted from Transgression

Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, latter-day scriptures help us understand that their Fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.

After the Fall, Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed [children], and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).

  • How does the Fall provide opportunities for us to become like our Heavenly Father?
  • Why do you think it is important to know about the Fall and how it influences us?

I would end this lesson by testifying of the beauty of the Plan of Salvation. That by entering mortality, not only do we have the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Parents, we also have the ability to be like Them. The Fall provided each of us with the opportunity to have a physical body, to know good from evil and exercise our agency. But most importantly, our Heavenly Parents and our First Parents gave us the opportunity to experience joy. (2nd Nephi 2:25).

(Additional Resource: As a teacher, I like to have as much context as possible for the subject I am teaching. Yale University provides a wonderful service in that they make several courses available for viewing online. One of those courses is an introduction to the Old Testament taught by Dr. Christine Hayes. In sessions 3 and 4, Dr. Hayes covers in detail the story of Adam and Eve and provides context, insight and superior translations of scripture. I would highly recommend looking at them if you have time. You can view a recording of those classes or read a transcript here.)


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Mormon Feminist Activism

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life |

by Jessawhy

While at Counterpoint conference sponsored by the Mormon Women’s Forum last fall, I began thinking about Mormon feminism in a new way. My presentation was about the way Mormon feminist blogs have affected my life and my spiritual journey. Truthfully, I can’t overstate how much the relationships I’ve created with these women from blogs and from my local Mormon feminist community have changed my life.

Thus, I don’t want my post to be mistaken as a critique of current network of Mormon feminists. Perhaps I’m not aware of the past or current attempts to activate Mormon feminists. Here, though, I’d like to examine the possibilities of the future of Mormon feminism as a movement.

The turning point for me at Counterpoint conference was when I began to ask myself these questions: What if there is more to Mormon feminism than isolated blogs like Exponent and ZD and fMh), retreats like DAM, Exponent, Sophia Gathering, and Pilgrimage, and women getting together for book groups and lunch groups? What if Mormon feminism stopped being just a casual thing that many of us have in common, a place to lay our burdens on the breasts of those who care and understand?

What if Mormon feminism could actually DO something?

All of the Mormon feminists I know are ambitious, brilliant, and brave. What is stopping us from doing something to create awareness and cohesion among others like us?

I don’t know exactly what it would look like, but a Mormon feminist movement would have to be well-branded and catchy, pleasant in it’s critiques, and calm in it’s requests. A Mormon feminist movement would be capable of informing people, creating a dialogue, calling attentions to injustices past and present, with aim to improve the rights of women in the church around the world.

Here are my lame attempts at slogans, stolen from modern branding geniuses:

Mormon Feminism- Think Outside the Patriarchy

OR

Mormon Feminism- Got Equality? (I’d love to hear your ideas for branding or slogans)

I’d like to think that a Mormon feminist movement has incredible potential. So many women identify with issues of gender equality, distribution of power within the church and at home, struggles with balancing self and family responsibilities, and even teachings of the church that neglect the divine feminine.

The closest thing I’ve seen to this kind of activism was the What Women Know site in response to Julie Beck’s conference talk. A well written document, it attracted a variety of signers and responses.

Below is my first draft of a name, mission statement, and vision for a Mormon Feminist Movement. I welcome your suggestions or critiques.

Mormon Women of Action

Mission Statement:
Our mission is to share the virtues of feminism with members of the Mormon church.

Vision:
To accomplish this, we invite women to share their personal stories, advocate for change of hurtful policies or practices, find support for alternative opinions or interpretations of church doctrine, and pursue a relationship with divine feminine.

The next part of the process towards activism would have to be organizing and creating consensus for a specific platform. This would be very tricky because of the diversity of beliefs within the group. On one end of the spectrum is the Radical Feminist Manifesto , and on the other end those who are in favor of equality but troubled by any references to requesting change. My hope is that we could find enough issues in the middle to find some compromise.

A unity of groups, and a common umbrella is what I am most interested in. How do we create a popular and positive brand that women are proud to be a part of that still advocates for Mormon Feminism? How do we unite women from all over the world who read and comment on Mormon feminist blogs?

Perhaps I am way off base with this post. I’ve considered that some readers may think that trying to change anything within the church is fruitless either because it just WON’T happen because of currently patriarchal power structures, or SHOULDN’T happen because the way things are is God’s will.

Others may agree with me that changes should and could be made, but don’t see Mormon feminism as a vehicle to do so. Perhaps these readers see Mormon feminism as more of a phenomenon to study or watch with interest, instead of a movement aiming for institutional change.

Lastly, I can imagine a group that may agree with all of these ideas and yet be too scared to sign their name to anything that remotely dissents from the church, regardless of how gentle or well aimed.

In conclusion, activism for things that we care about is part of our daily lives. Last week, I went to Washington D.C. to discuss my sons’ health care needs with our Senators and Congressmen/women. Advocating for equality and women’s voices in the church isn’t substantively different. Perhaps it’s just a matter of changing from an internal dialogue to and external dialogue, of changing our perspective.

I’m interested in your thoughts on the potential for a Mormon Feminist Movement.

Could it work? Would you want it to? Why or why not?

What issues would include in a MFM platform?

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