Monday, November 5, 2007

"Wanna-Be" Woman Who Knows

Alternate Post Title: Still Whining

I may be a complainer and a whiner, but I have now read our illustrious RS President's talk 2,049 times and can quote large sections of it, so that must count for something!

The thing is, I want to be a woman who knows. I've spent a great portion of my life trying to discover the doctrines of the gospel and searching after the face of the Divine. And I want so badly to know as I am known.

So here's my latest on Julie's talk. Halloween night we spent some time with another LDS family, and "Sister Suzy" engaged me in discussing the talk. She asked me, "Have you ever heard of Feminist Mormon Housewives?" :) and then proceeded to scold those who were speaking ill of their leaders and refusing to take the counsel of the speakers as if from the Lord's own mouth. Now, in my previous incarnation, I would have meekly listened while seething inside. But a year of blogging and being honest with the latent liberal Mormon inside emboldened me, and I indulged in a bit of ranting (regretting it later, of course.) "Sister Suzy" was taken aback and I felt a chasm as wide as eternity open up between myself and one of the few people here who has been truly kind and generous to me and my family. Later in the evening, Sister Suzy's husband brought the subject up again, urging me to try to find some pearl of wisdom from the talk that would apply to me. These people have such a different perspective of Julie Beck's talk it's like we live in an alternate universe. Yet the strange thing is, my Molly Mormon head can see things exactly the way they do.

Dear Readers, so far I have considered this talk as completely ineffective in creating a people who know God. I mean, seriously, bringing your son to Church in a starched white shirt? Spending the day housecleaning? I'd much rather sit at the feet of Blake Ostler and discuss Atonement theory, something Julie Beck didn't even mention!

But...what if, Naaman-like, I'm simply being told to dip myself 7 times into the River Jordan? What then, readers? What does this bode for your tormented BiV?

I'll tell you--if I truly value the family, and desire children as a woman who knows I will not hesitate to bring yet another small spirit down here to live with me. At age 47, I find myself still gravid. We have the financial resources, the space. I've never had that enviable revelation that I was finished childbearing. Yes, people, of course I've prayed about this. But in the absence of any reply, it seems that Beck's talk places the default position as being----pregnancy. So. A 9th child, and I'd be 48 years old at it's birth.

The scary thing is I'm such a fanatic that I'm seriously considering all this. After 15 years of non-stop pregnancy and nursing; 25 years of devoting myself to home and family, I've begun to step out into the world and attend conferences, women's retreats, get back into coaching, reenter the workforce and find personal stimulation. Now I'm ready to quit my job, cut out those unnecessary activities and turn my eyes back to the home, cleaning and polishing and "nurturing," never off duty. Perhaps I've been gaining the world and losing my soul.

As a wanna-be woman who knows, can I turn my back on this counsel? In the absence of a sure voice from On High, do I listen to my own worldly wisdom, or the words of my church leader, speaking for the Lord and approved by His prophet? Shall I take the step of faith that will bring me the blessings of eternity? Or am I poised on the brink of a quagmire of depression, guilt, and loneliness????


Anonymous said...

BiV, since Julie Beck isn't technically a "leader", I don't think we need to give her opinion that superior housecleaning = superior spirtuality much weight.

Now if Pres. Hinckley gave a talk reminiscent of Pres. Benson's 1987 speech, then I might agree that some serious soul searching (and ironing of white shirts) is in order.

Bored in Vernal said...

Anon, I was told by Sister Suzy that everything spoken in conference is the Word of the Lord. It also seems to be the opinion of many bloggers that her words were approved by the Prophet, and are binding. In addition, as women's hierarchical leader it could be said that she has the right to receive revelation for the women of the Church. This might be an interesting topic for a blog post in itself.

Jonathan, Mandy & the girls said...

Julie B. Becks comments are not to intimidate, depress, or impart judgment. We are each allowed the opportunity to seek the Lord for understanding and application of words delivered by his chosen leaders. If you truly doubt the validity of Julie's calling or the the Lord's endorsement and even revelation to deliver those words, why not just pray about it rather than cast seeds of doubt in the hearts of others. Alma the younger discounted the validity of his father's words and those of Mosiah and freely shared his disdain for them. He later experienced anguish and remorese and was racked with torment for the damage that had been done in his own life and the lives of countless others.

SilverRain said...

BiV - I think the most important thing to remember is that, even if every word of Conference is inspired and desired by the Lord, not every word will apply to you.

Sometimes guilt can be a Spirit-spawned motivator, but often it is simply guilt. When I was little and had a question like yours, I prayed about what I should do, and then I randomly opened my scriptures. Sometimes a clear answer came this way, sometimes not, but I always gained a better feeling of peace.

I would advise focusing on how God wants you to come to Christ while you ask Him these questions.

ambrosia ananas said...

First, thanks for posting about this. I'm having a hard time with the role of women in the Church lately, and it's nice to hear from others who do, too. I appreciate that you are willing to both discuss things that you find troubling and to do so respectfully.

As for women who know bearing children. . . . On the one hand, I feel like our society has become more selfish and many of us are more interested in having fun and buying more things than in having a family and in nurturing them, teaching them to be good people. People are the most important thing in life, which makes having children pretty crucial. On the other hand, I strongly feel that it is not any woman's duty to have children and more children so long as she's fertile and financially able to provide. There are so many other factors that impact a person's ability to be a good parent, like physical health and emotional ability.

Also, thanks--you inspired me to revisit P. Beck's talk, and while I hated it the first go-around, I did find some things that will be helpful to me this time.

Ann said...

I can think of little to say that wouldn't be overstepping. I will say, though, that Sister Suzy is dead wrong. Also, the idea that if you have questions or problems or concerns about what is said that you should keep your mouth shut is anathema to a mature, robust faith.

As far as what you should do, I have opinions about just about everything. I will say that your engagement with the greater world has made the world a better place, and you have positive impact beyond the walls of your home. Maybe you shouldn't "desire" such, but there it is.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Emily M. said...

I posted a comment earlier but it never made it up. Anyway, the General Handbook of Instructions has not changed with Sister Beck's talk. It says, in essence, that we are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, and that the number of children and their timing is a personal matter that couples should pray about. Members of the church should not judge each other in such personal matters.

I suspect that Sister Beck's counsel applies more to a twenty-something couple looking to postpone having kids so they can have more years of childless freedom than it does to a faithful 47-year old woman who has already raised a family of several children. If you feel the Spirit direct you to have more kids, then that's great. But it should be the Spirit that leads, and the General Handbook's instructions make that clear.

Anonymous said...

BiV, I'd love to hear more about your thoughts that our female leaders have the "right" to receive revelation for the women in the Church. I don't think the Church recognizes this "right" for women. The Church doesn't allow women to "receive" revelation for others, especially if receive means, "act on" or "enforce" such revelation.

woundedhart said...

BiV I've had some emotional and spiritual trauma over the talk too, but I just glossed over the "women who know desire children" part. I have three, and I have no reason to have any more. I desired them, but I don't feel compelled to desire any more. I also didn't take from the talk that it was "counsel" to have more children so much as encouragement that having them (present or future) is a good thing. Emotionally, I could never have any more. I'm already a bad enough mom.

I've gotten slammed for my opinion, but I still think that Beck and other church leaders are products of their culture. They address things in their talks that really don't matter to salvation, but more to the overall image of the church. Clean, happy, white, blah, blah, blah. For me, it's more important to focus on kindness than on pressed shirts. Maybe that's the rebellious side of me.

Also, I'm just weary of people telling me how evil I am for thinking this through, and for engaging in discussion about it. The comment above that says you're casting seeds of doubt makes me want to spit nails. I don't need people calling me to repentance. I need love, understanding, acceptance. I need to know what people think about stuff. Without that, I feel more lost and alone.

Jonathan said...

"if they did not doubt, God would deliver them..."

I have no authority to speak at all on this subject, but I just thought I'd approach this discussion with they way they teach in seminary... Chuck it if you like :)

Anyway, if the soldiers were remembering a truth about God they were told from their mothers, all a mother today can take away from this passage would be to tell her children this truth, and possibly to live that truth out in her life in a visible way to more further illustrate the principle and impress it upon her children. Any more insight into what a mother should do with her life and how she should live cannot be extracted from this verse alone, and would be pure conjecture altogether outside the authority of this text.

If you did this anyway, this is referred to as eisogesis- the process of inserting your own culture or outside-scripture opinion into a text for the purposes of adding authority to them or legitimizing them when they are in reality no more than just a personal opinion.

Take it for what it's worth! :)

Bored in Vernal said...

First, to Jonathan et al--
I fail to understand how, even at my most devout, when I am striving with all my heart to see a possible way to bend my will to God's, that I can still get this kind of criticism from my fellow Mormons.
1. Julie's remarks did not intimidate me or depress me. I know they are not meant to pass judgment. I intended this post to share the ways in which I am striving to "seek the Lord for understanding and application of words delivered by his chosen leaders." Was this not evident to you?
2. My words were not meant to cast seeds of doubt in the hearts of others, nor to cast doubt on the validity of Julie's calling or the Lord's endorsement, etc. What is the point of the Alma reference? Are you comparing what I am saying to Alma's disdain for the words of his father? Are you prophesying anguish, remorse and torment for me? What have I said to deserve such a harsh judgment???

Bored in Vernal said...

Thanks for coming here. I'm not so sure that we can say that not every conference talk applies to individuals. I think conference is meant to speak to everyone. Perusing the other talks, I cannot find advice that would not apply to someone. They speak of doctrine, of general principles. Even the words of caution apply to all. Of course, if you are already doing it, you don't have to change anything. Don't you think there is a danger in picking and choosing what applies to you and what doesn't?

Also--I love doing "scriptural Urim and Thummim" and haven't done it in a while! I'll try it tonight and see what comes up!

Bored in Vernal said...

hmmm, maybe I can get out of this on the emotional instability excuse... :)
It would have been nice if Julie had recognized some of the other factors. I hope as time goes on she will soften her approach as she realizes that one size does not fit all.

Bored in Vernal said...

Ann, thank you dear. I think I really am much more healthy when I can voice my opinions.
I hesitate to say this, but I find that the more closely I attempt to engage with the church the less free I feel to speak my true feelings and concerns. I guess that's why I careen around wildly--drawing close and then flying madly away from unity with the saints.

Bored in Vernal said...

Emily, I agree that it should be the spirit that leads. I wish, I wish with all my heart that I could get the spirit's direction on every aspect of my life. But it comes so infrequently, though I yearn after it and seek it fervently. So many times I must rely on my own wisdom. In this case, Julie makes no distinction that a woman be young or old or inbetween but that to be a mother who knows you must desire children. And she really is not mentioning the spirit's guidance in these matters, but just that all good members should feel this way.

Bored in Vernal said...

Anon, I haven't yet thought through the right of women leaders to receive revelation for their constituents. I need to do this.

But here I am just repeating what is being promoted by the mainstream membership who are defending Beck's talk. They say that if it was correlated through General Conference, it is binding.

Bored in Vernal said...

Wounded, yes, yes, yes. It's hard for me to understand why, of all the Christian virtues and subjects that could be discussed by a woman speaking to a worldwide audience, she would choose to focus on what she did. That's why I mentioned Naaman. The only way I could accept this would be the way he did--i.e. it doesn't make sense, but it's your leader and you'd better just have faith and do it.

And I'm far from knowing if I actually have that kind of faith.

Bored in Vernal said...

Jonathan! you are awesome! I'm so impressed that you looked up this story so you could comment on it in such an insightful manner! You are absolutely right, this is as far from exegesis as it could possibly be. Describing what Julie is doing here is very helpful to me. Indeed she is drawing upon the scripture record for the purposes of advancing her own understanding of a woman's role.

As a believing Latter-day Saint, this does not exactly let us off the hook, so to speak. If indeed she has authority over the women's organization to identify women's roles and prescribe our behavior, we have the choice to listen and obey, or rebel and find ourselves outside the pale of orthodox membership. A sticky spot to be in.

Jonathan said...

She has the "authority" to eisogete scripture?! That's like saying she has the "authority" granted by the church to be intellectually dishonest. Oh well :) - not that it is uncommon in my own circles as well, and its likely she doesn't see it as dishonest either.

I think this is commonly done by people who have a good heart but don't realize what they are doing. :)

Bored in Vernal said...

I don't know, Jonathan--I think in LDS thought it is regarded more as a pesher where the scripture is lifted out of its context and applied to modern Latter-day Saints. It's considered perfectly acceptable by those who have religious authority and revelation by the Holy Spirit.

DPC said...


I don't think you're whining or complaining. I think that if you have been thinking about the talk so much, the Spirit is working on you. I wouldn't see your questions concerning Sister Beck's talk as bad. In fact, I would think that it a very positive thing. When I have really wondered about certain things, it's always been a sign that God wants me to really understand the principles being taught. God wants to bless us with knowledge, but if we weren't concerned about His teachings and we didn't have doubts, we would never investigate and learn more.

MCQ said...

I think there's no question that women have the right (and the obligation) to receive revelation applicable to their stewardships. This is not a controversial concept in most situations.

an illustration: A few years ago my bishop asked the new primary president (a woman) in our ward to come up with names for counselors. She chose my wife as one. The bishop responded that he didn't want to call my wife to that position because she works full time. The PP responded that she had specifically been told by the spirit that my wife should receive that call. The bishop made the call, and told us this story as an example of how you should always follow the spirit, especially when it is directing a person in the carrying out of their calling.

MCQ said...

"In this case, Julie makes no distinction that a woman be young or old or inbetween but that to be a mother who knows you must desire children. And she really is not mentioning the spirit's guidance in these matters, but just that all good members should feel this way."

I don't agree that that's what she said, or rather, yes, she said mothers who know "desire" children. She did not say mothers who know never stop having children until they are menopausal or dead. Need I repeat that Julie Beck herself has only three kids?

SilverRain said...

BiV - You're right. CONFERENCE is meant to speak to everyone. But it is like the scriptures - not every word of conference will apply to you in the same way and at the same time. There will be nuggets of truth that inspire you, personally, in every conference, perhaps inspire you to change. But just as the scriptures grow and change as you grow and change - without changing a single word printed on paper - different talks in Conference apply to you at different times and in different ways depending on your spiritual needs.

It's not a matter, in the sense I'm trying to convey, of "picking and choosing." It's a matter of being a receptacle for the will of the Lord - of preparing yourself for that *ZING* from the Spirit that says "YES! THIS is what I need to do these six months." All things are to be done in moderation. It is not meet that a man run faster than he has strength or that a woman do everything at every moment in her life. That isn't the way of the Lord, that is the way of Satan telling you that you will never be good enough, no matter how hard you try or how much you do.

I'm probably overstepping my bounds, but I feel a kinship with you that has nothing to do with our surface opinions. ('Tis why I lurk your blog, though rarely comment.) I am not authorized to receive revelation for you, but I do feel that the things going through your mind about this are not of God. Ask Him if they are. Ask Him if He loves you and is happy with you. Pour out your heart (I'm sure you already are.) Keep doing it. Sometimes, we women are Rachels and Hannahs about more than just asking for children. Sometimes it takes the Lord a bit of time to answer us. Sometimes it takes a lot of prayer to become the sort of people who can understand His answer when it comes.

Ann said...

Sometimes, God does not answer, and all we can do is give it our best shot.