Thoughts on General Conference April 2014

I knew that Conference was off to a good start when in the Sunday morning session, Linda Reeves said:

It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m not quite on the ball with weekly family home evening (we do find regular family time, but we need to accommodate my husband’s unusual work schedule, which means FHE every Monday night at 6:30 pm just is not going to happen), but I can comfortably say that I’ve totally got daily family scripture study and family prayer under control. My house is also a mess. As in, imagine the messiest house you’ve ever seen, imagine a bit messier than that, and then maybe even a bit more messy than that, multiply what you come up with by 5, and then you may have an idea of the situation we’ve got going on here. I really do make an effort to keep that under control too, but frankly, people who take care of kids all day and have tidy homes are just at a level that’s light years ahead of me. I have in my capability to do exactly one of two things on a regular basis – keep house or take care of kids. Between semesters when I don’t have schoolwork to worry about, I can actually get stuff done around the house after the kids are in bed though. Anyways, let’s just say that I appreciate a reminder that I’m not a failure as a parent just because the carpet of my living room is barely visible beneath all the scattered toys, and cheerios that are ground into it – because today, I read the Book of Mormon with my kids and said family prayer. I feel like I should even get bonus points for the fact that my 4 year old son loves to read the scriptures so much that, given the choice, he has, on many occasions, actually chosen to read the Book of Mormon over reading another bedtime story. I’m just kidding about the bonus points part. Sort of.

There was lots more awesomeness to come in Conference though, so I thought I’d record some of the things that stuck out to me the most.

A couple of thoughts here and there on stuff I thought was just kind of cool include:

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman take on the topic of pornography in such a direct, focused way in General Conference before, and I appreciated the way Sister Reeve’s presented it, as I’ll talk a bit more about further on. Among the things she mentioned with reference to pornography, I thought that she first talked about physical intimacy within the bonds of marriage in a fairly sex-positive manner, and I also found it significant that she acknowledged that both men and women consume pornography. In not being another talk that felt primarily geared to men as consumers, and women as the wives that suffer when their husbands consume pornography, I felt it acknowledged that women are sexual/have sexual urges/express sexuality, just as men do.
  2. While President Uchtdorf was reading the names of the newly called individuals for sustaining, my husband (who loves Pres. Uchtdorf, and had missed the intro to what was going on) listened in and asked, “How does this guy know this language?!” The reason that he thought President Uchtdorf was speaking a foreign language was because of all the non-English names of individuals being called! This was not only funny, but also to me was a cool indication that diversity in church leadership is increasing, which I find very exciting and promising for the future.

Now, as might be expected at a General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I heard a lot about our Saviour’s Atonement, and it was beautiful. Really, it was everywhere. I heard about it in Sister Reeves’ (aforementioned) talk about the dangers of pornography. I loved how her talk wasn’t just about how “this is bad, bad, bad.” It was, to me, about having a Christ-centered home, Christ-centered lives, and about the power of the Atonement. General Conference this time really illustrated to me that the Atonement is so much wider reaching than I think I fully realize much of the time. Sister Reeves talked about how the power of the Atonement applied to helping her daughter relieve herself of feelings and thoughts that were in her mind after having innocently stumbled on something graphic. She talked about how the Atonement cleanses, heals, removes sorrow and pain. She talked about how an abiding testimony of the Atonement can protect us. She talked about how the Atonement makes it possible for us to access a remission of our sins.

Elder Hallstrom reminded us that “if men come unto [Jesus, He] will show unto them their weakness. … Then will [He] make weak things become strong” (Ether 12:27), meaning that we are not left alone to make the changes required to progress and become more perfect; relying on the Atonement, we can make those changes with help.

D. Todd Christofferson similarly provided a simple, beautiful testimony of our Saviour’s Atonement for us.

Using the story of Alma and his people found in Mosiah 24, Elder Bednar pointed out that the power of the Atonement means that even without changing any external circumstances, the Lord can change the way that we experience it. Lightening our burdens doesn’t always mean taking away our problems, but can mean making us stronger. He stressed that the Atonement isn’t just for those that are struggling to be cleansed and healed from serious sin, but that it is for “faithful men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully.”

As I considered this talk, I found myself again reminded of the question from the April 2014 Visiting Teaching Message, “How can we show gratitude to the Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ?” If one of the answers to this question is that we show gratitude by partaking of the gift He offers, and one of the many gifts He offered with his Atonement is the gift of helping to carry our loads, I found myself wondering: How will I let the Saviour share my burdens with me? I don’t want to “mistakenly believe [I] must carry [my] load all alone—through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline and with [my] obviously limited [capacity],” but how will I let Him share my load? I will ask, and expect that in doing so I can be given that change within myself, if not of external circumstances, that can make all the difference. But I still intend to keep this question in mind, as I wonder if maybe there’s more to partaking of the offer the help carry my load than asking alone; if there’s some way I can partake more deeply of this gift than I have before. Perhaps an unexpected answer was present in President Uchtdorf’s message on gratitude:

There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. – We can be grateful!…. those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.

In his talk, Elder Bednar further expounds on the huge scope of the Atonement when he states:

Thus, the Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us.

There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power.

I also felt like this conference reminded me of some very important things about my Saviour, His life and His attributes. I was touched to think of how, as Elder Amado said, “His preaching was simple, and even though multitudes followed after Him, His ministry always consisted of blessing people one by one.” I took this to mean firstly, that the Saviour can minister to me personally, but also to know that no service I give is too small. If the Lord blessed and taught one by one, that type of contribution is certainly good enough for me.

As one who strives to become like Christ, I also found President Uchtdorf’s message particularly insightful:

Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes!

If before Conference I had been asked to make a list of Christ-like attributes, gratitude honestly might not have been on the list, so this statement really stuck out to me. I similarly found great insight in President Uchtdorf’s distinction between being grateful for things, and being grateful in our circumstances.

Elder Teh told us that developing Christ-like attributes (he specifically mentions faith, hope, humility, and charity) should be the eternal treasure we strive to acquire in this life, and also mentions how serving others is a hallmark of Christ-like-ness. First, it always seems so amazing to me that Jesus had any need to be humble (I mean, He was the Saviour and Lord of the earth!), but since He was humble, then wow, should I ever be humble. And second, I think the idea that becoming like the Saviour is a treasure is really powerful and touching. Thinking along the lines of the powerful and humbling nature of this message, I am reminded of the lyrics to an old EFY song, “Treasure the Truth,” the lyrics of which state:

Now truly we see what we are, 
For treasure will govern the heart.
And if His heart moved Him to die, so we could live, 
Then His treasure is you and I.

How powerful and humbling it is to think that I am His treasure

Another message I really got from Conference this year was obedience, though that’s sometimes a hard message to separate from the Saviour, who is our ultimate example of obedience, and who said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”

President Uchtdorf reminded me that being obedient really also requires giving generously of ourselves to the work of the Lord, and also making sure we have enough time and energy for the highest priorities. Similarly, President Eyring’s address, in which he points out that we copy what we most admire in our heroes, made me want to serve more faithfully, and with more energy and dedication, and particularly reminded me that copying the Saviour’s example of obedience should be of prime importance. Altogether, the Priesthood Session really carried an “oomph” that got me thinking of all the ways I can fulfill my callings more fully, and of how I can raise the standard of my service.

I found it really interesting that President Uchtdorf framed gratitude as a commandment, as I don’t think I’ve as directly heard it phrased that way before. In the same talk, President Uchtdorf also reminded us of why obedience is so important, and why our Heavenly Father wants us to be obedient:

All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings.

It was truly awe inspiring to hear Elder Teh talk of the woman who exemplified a wonderful attitude of gratitude, as well as obedience when she said, “Elder, I accept everything that the Lord has asked me to pass through. I have no hard feelings,” and then went on to talk about how she pays a full tithe on her meager income.

Thinking again of the ultimate exemplar of obedience, in spite of His being perfectly obedient, I thought it was interesting that Elder Hales pointed out that “He prayed three times to His Father in Heaven, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”” The Saviour must have known there was no other way, yet He still asked. And He not only asked once, but three times. Why? I’ve never considered this question before, but now I really wonder. Also, if Christ was perfect, doesn’t that mean that asking and pleading, no matter what the answer will be, is not a disobedient action?

Another message I was touched by, and that again, is so hard to separate from the Saviour (which is a good thing – this is His church, after all!), was a message of empathy and love. As President Monson stated in a talk almost entirely focused on love, “…love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love.”

President Monson also spoke of empathy when he said, “I would hope that we would strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging.” This message also seemed to be the entire focus of Elder Zwick’s (awesome!) talk. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Now that’s something to live up to. As Elder Zwick said, “All of us, though covenant children of a loving Heavenly Father, have regretted jumping headlong from the high seat of self-righteous judgment and have spoken with abrasive words before we understood a situation from another’s perspective.”

For me personally, this went really well with Elder Hallstrom’s talk, in which he reminded us that “the purpose of general conference and of this priesthood session is fulfilled only if we are willing to act—if we are willing to change.” When I heard that talk, I thought to myself, “hmm…aside from having wonderful insights into truth, generally feeling good, and having things I already sort of knew before confirmed to me, what can I get out of Conference that will actually push me to change? Change the way I think? Change the way I act?” As I considered Elder Zwick’s talk, I realized one thing I could change was my thoughts.

Leading up to when I got a chance to listen to all the conference talks, I remember reading a few things, that, though not directed at me personally, popped up on my social media feeds (having been shared or “liked” by my own friends) about people that think, say and do some of the things that I do:

  1. Those silly women have been deceived by the wildly successful feminist movement.” (in response to a bizarre call for those raising questions about women and the priesthood to either get swallowed up in the earth, or perhaps just get leprosy)
  2. Seriously, if they don’t like it, why don’t they just leave the church?!? They obviously don’t believe in the gospel. You can’t have a testimony of the restored gospel then turn around and say “but God was wrong about the priesthood”. These activists are nothing but bored human beings that need to cause contention to feel fulfilled.”
  3. These people are actively fighting against God but want to keep their good standing in the church. Any members currently in good standing that are involved in this absolute farce should be disciplined and given the opportunity to repent but past that…”

I already felt, going into Conference, that the people spouting these sentiments had clearly not taken any time or effort to consider the perspective of others that didn’t feel the same as them about things – as if their feelings, thoughts and perspectives were the only ones that could possibly matter, and I already found it incredibly hurtful. How could I not? People I associate with were basically (seemingly flippantly, if not gleefully) calling for me not only to lose the opportunity to partake of the sacrament and the blessings of attending the temple, but for me to leave the church altogether. So of course, when I heard Elder Zwick’s talk, one of the first things I thought was, “Here’s some counsel that those people could really do with hearing!”

But then another lovely tidbit, from the same people I had been thinking of, also popped up in my newsfeed: “That’s one talk liberal Mormons ought to take to heart.” This was with reference to Elder Holland’s talk. Reading that hit me like a ton of bricks. In harbouring the thoughts I had been as I listened to General Conference (which should have been a wonderful opportunity for my growth and enlightenment) I had not only become just like those people I found so disappointing, but was allowing myself to be distracted from what I was supposed to get out of General Conference.

Even though I already do feel I take great effort to be empathetic, as Elder Hallstrom stated, “The invitation to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32) both requires and expects change.” I’m not perfect, so if I am truly doing what I’m supposed to be doing, then even Elder Zwick’s talk should prompt me to change, to become better. I was selling myself short by thinking more about what other people should change, instead of what I should change. I might not have been stating, “That’s just the way I am,” but I was “[giving] up [my] ability to change” in another way. 

Not only that, but as I pondered Elder Zwick’s  and President Monson’s talks, I realize that it is specifically with respect to these people that I have the greatest need to follow their counsel. Perhaps in particular this little tidbit from President Monson, “Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals.”

Elder Zwick gives the example of Lehi talking to his wife Sariah after she voiced her anger. “Lehi listened to the fear that underpinned his wife’s anger. Then he made a disciplined response in the language of compassion. First, he owned the truth of what things looked like from her perspective…Then her husband addressed her fears concerning the welfare of their sons, as the Holy Ghost undoubtedly testified to him…” And then, he comforted her. How powerful a suggestion – how often do I truly listen, and listen to understand, instead of to reply? Do I ensure my language is language of compassion? Do I own the truth of what things look like from another perspective? Do I address people’s concerns? Do I comfort them when they are angry?

Elder Zwick “plead[s] with [me] to practice asking this question, with tender regard for another’s experience: “What are you thinking?”” Would I be able to better act as Lehi did if I truly took this plea to heart? I hope to be better able to in future, particularly because I realize that practicing empathy is yet another way to be more Christ-like. After all, “…the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).If “a loving Savior… “looketh on [other’s] heart[s]” and cares what [they] are thinking,” then I ought to, as well, even if my initial perception is that others are failing on that count themselves.

I felt President Uchtdorf, who always radiates love and empathy, expressed it beautifully when he said, “I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.” I loved his advice for how we could increase “our capacity to love” by “[taking] advantage of the unlimited opportunities to love and serve our fellowmen, including our spouse and family.” He was talking about how serving others also increases our capacity to love God, which I thought was also referred to by President Monson when he said, “We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all.” Love for God and others is so interconnected, which I don’t think I always think about enough.

Also talking about serving and loving others, President Monson reminded us that, “Usually our love will be shown in our day-to-day interactions one with another. All important will be our ability to recognize someone’s need and then to respond.” He specifically called to our attention that the “one anothers” are “those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere,” and that, “some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes.” This talk felt like a challenge personally extended to me – not only to be loving, but in particular to develop my ability to recognize and respond to the needs of others, which I find challenging. Knowing what other people need, unless they just outright tell me, seems hard. But perhaps that’s where the Spirit comes in.

Another call to action for me seemed to be in the recurring idea of what we show the world. President Monson asked, “are we reluctant to declare our faith in some circumstances?” For me, the answer to that question is, “yes.” I think in large part it relates to a bit of what Elder Holland spoke about. He quoted Abinadi, who said, “Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” and then Elder Holland said, “or, we might add, provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded, and elderly.” Now those aren’t particular things I’ve had anyone call me, and in fact when I hear things like this in General Conference, I become concerned that other Mormons that are bigoted and unkind will use these words as justification for behaviour that leads to terrible outcomes – see here and here. However, I have been told that I am brainwashed, and asked how someone who seems so smart can fall for such a fraud. I’ve been asked in incredulity why I would even want to be a part of a church that is so obviously racist, sexist and homophobic. I’ve been in a room where people start talking about all the things they can’t stand about Mormons. And even though I am empathetic to where these people are coming from, that stuff has hurt me, and made me hesitant to declare my faith in some circumstances. 

But after this conference, particularly after M. Russel Ballard and Russel M. Nelson’s talks, I thought to myself, “no more!” I really feel strongly that I need to do missionary work, and not be afraid to let my faith show. I know I have something of value to share, and I feel like I have a unique perspective to share that can reach people in a way that prompts them to give the Spirit a fair chance.

I also got really pumped about being part of a living church, and having a prophet who receives revelation, during this Conference. I realized that I don’t really think about this much; during Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk he read excerpts from Vilate Kimball’s letter:

We had the largest and most interesting conference that ever has been since the Church was organized. … President [Joseph] Smith has opened a new and glorious subject. … That is, being baptized for the dead. Paul speaks of it, in First Corinthians 15th chapter 29th verse. Joseph has received a more full explanation of it by revelation. He says it is the privilege of [members of] this Church to be baptized for all their kinsfolk that have died before this gospel came forth. … By so doing, we act as agents for them, and give them the privilege of coming forth in the First Resurrection. He says they will have the gospel preached to them in prison…I want to be baptized for my mother. … Is not this a glorious doctrine?

When he read that, I thought, “Wow. That must have been amazing. Imagine living in a day when new revelation on things as glorious as this, things that you’d never even considered before, was announced by a prophet!” Of course, then I realized, we actually do live in a day like that! Sure, the Church is well established, and maybe we don’t get revelation as groundbreaking as this on as regular a basis, but fundamentally, I still believe we do live in a day where, just as in Joseph Smith’s day, questions can be raised, and counsel sought, and the prophet will inquire of the Lord for further light and knowledge – not just for the individuals that asked in the first place, but for the whole church. Also, as Elder Marcos Aidukaitis told us, relating to revelation on a personal level, “we are taught that revelation can be obtained by asking in faith, with an honest heart, and believing we will receive.” That’s so amazing and wonderful. Later in his talk, Elder Cook also expressed joy at living in this glorious time:

What a great time to be alive. This is the last dispensation, and we can feel the hastening of the work of salvation in every area where a saving ordinance is involved

And President Uchtdorf reiterated that we live in a time of ongoing revelation when he said:

Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.” Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wow! Not only do we live in a time in which wonderful things will continue to be revealed, but it was so powerful to be reminded that we are actually in the midst of the preparation for the return of our Saviour! Of course, President Uchtdorf also issued a challenge in the form of question we may have to answer in future: did “we [roll] up our sleeves and [labour in this preparation] with all our heart, might, mind, and strength…Or will we have to admit that our role was mostly that of an observer?” He goes on to talk about how selfishness, addiction and competing priorities might cause us to “sleep though the restoration” instead of being an active part of it, but this talk really got me thinking about how I can actively build the kingdom of God, and make sure I don’t sleep through this exciting time. 

Remembering that we live in a time of revelation also makes it easier to cultivate the type of gratitude President Uchtdorf also talked about, “True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.” Now obviously, even with what has already been given, I have lots to study, and so much to learn. But it’s lovely to remind myself that in practicing gratitude, my testimony of what I do know, as well as the hope of what is to come, can sustain me through the things I currently don’t understand. Because I can “trust God and hope for things [I] may not see but which are true.”

 

Furthermore, as Elder Hallstrom pointed out, we have amazing technology today that also makes this a wonderful time to live. We have unbelievably easy access to the voices of the servants of the Lord (though, as Elder Hallstrom also pointed out, this availability is only truly of value to us if we are willing to receive the word and follow it). Case in point: I couldn’t watch all of Conference during actual Conference weekend, but a few weeks later, when I had some time, I relaxed on my couch with some snacks and my iPad to watch all the talks.

Lastly, what I loved about this Conference was the chance to hear so many beautiful testimonies. Of all of them, perhaps the most simple, and the most basic was the most touching to me. I thought that was Boyd K. Packer’s witness. Perhaps the reason his recounting of the moment when he “knew” was so touching to me because it calls to my mind the moment when I knew. I can also remember it with clarity, though aside from the feelings I had, it wasn’t particularly remarkable in any other way. The knowledge I received was “of eternal value,” and it did come “through personal prayer and pondering.” This was, and continues to be a labour well worth it; as Elder Teh said, “Understanding the doctrine of Christ and strengthening our testimony is a labor that will bring real joy and satisfaction.” I can add my testimony that it has brought me real joy and satisfaction to know that Jesus Christ lived, that He died and was resurrected. It has brought me wonderful peace to know that in Him, there is someone I can turn to that understands me perfectly.

As I continue to study, ponder and pray, there is one last item from Conference that pertains to the receipt of knowledge I plan to keep in mind. Elder Aidukaitis quoted the scripture:

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word.” But, Alma added, “he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

What a beautiful and potent promise. We can receive progressively greater portions of the word, until we know the mysteries of God in full; if we don’t harden our hearts. What does it mean to have a soft heart? The closest thing that comes to mind is the many scriptural references to having a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and also to the Saviour having a lowly heart. I think these ideas probably all relate. Maybe having a soft heart means having an open heart, one that’s not hardened against the truths that God would reveal to us. A heart that is soft in that sense of course, must also be lowly and humble. And when are we better in a position to be that way than when we are broken-hearted, and bringing the sacrifice of our broken heart to the Lord? So I guess that’s what I’ll be keeping in mind: how can I continually cultivate a soft heart? If I want to be able to receive progressively more and more knowledge, then it matters. Particularly when I consider Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s perspective that the “joy [of knowing the Saviour had been resurrected] came only as the disciples became eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, for even the declaration of angels that He had risen was at first incomprehensible—it was something so totally unprecedented.” The closest followers of Christ were not able to believe this miraculous truth until they literally came face to face with it in the flesh. Is it possible there are truths, ready to be given to us, that we are not ready to receive, simply because they are a departure from what we have seen before and what we are used to? May we all strive to keep a soft heart.

Chips and Guacamole

My husband saw this recipe for guacamole and decided to try it out.

guac

Both of us really liked it! And so did she:

karys guac

 

In fact, after licking it off the chip a few times, she discarded the soggy chip and just began eating it directly out of the bowl with her fingers. So I gave her a spoon, and she ate about 8 bites with the spoon before throwing it to the ground in frustration and sticking her entire face in the bowl. That’s how good this guacamole is. That you just can’t get it into your mouth fast enough with a spoon (and 10 month old motor skills), so you have to stick your face in the bowl.

 

Eating with Family – Happy Experience

When I first announced my intention to become vegan, I felt that my sister-in-law was a bit…something. Dismissive maybe? Or that perhaps she thought it was phase I would grow out of, so she didn’t need to take it that seriously? I could be wrong of course, I just thought I perhaps detected a bit of eye rolling. 

Yesterday, she invited me and my kids over for lunch, and let me know in advance that we’d be eating lentils (which meant I didn’t have to worry). It turned out she actually served a lima bean dish on rice as the main part of the meal, in which she would usually use milk. Because I was coming for lunch, she kept a portion separate for me to which she didn’t add the milk. This probably sounds silly (and maybe vegans out there are just thinking, “she shouldn’t have used milk in anyone’s lunch!”), but it actually made me feel really warm and fuzzy inside. Even if she totally doesn’t get it, and even though she’s a pretty no-nonsense type of person, the fact that she did a little bit extra than what she had to in her busy day (she has 4 very young children to take care of!) was meaningful to me. So I guess this post is just about appreciating someone who cares about me, even though she doesn’t have the same viewpoint as me, or totally “get” me all the time. Oh – and lunch was really yummy too!

Chickpeas Curry

Fry one chopped small white onion in oil for 10 minutes on medium-high heat.

Turn down the heat to medium-low and mix in:

  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon achar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 can chickpeas

Turn heat up to medium-high and mix in:

  • 1 bunch of chopped, fresh coriander
  • 1/2 can of tomato paste

Let cook for 5 minutes, then turn down to medium heat and mix in:

  • 2 tablespoons madrasi curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt to taste

 

 

Rice with Edamame & “Beef”

beef tips

 

 

Does that not look exactly like meat?! I thought it tasted pretty much the same too, though as I’ve come to expect, the texture wasn’t quite right. These beefless tips were fried in a little bit of oil, with some parsley, 1 tablespoon prepared teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 tablespoon garlic-ginger paste. We ate it with a pre-packaged rice dish.

While this tasted great, my husband and I both agree it’s time to take a break from processed vegan food. It’s fun to try out different products and see if they actually taste good – and there’s certainly lots out there to try! However, real food most of the time tastes better!

 

Taking on Another Perspective

I recently read an article entitled, “Walk in the Pink Moccasins,” which was a “daydream” intended to give a glimpse of “what it would be like to be a male child in a Fatherless house.” As I read it, I thought it seemed a bit hyperbolic. I couldn’t believe that actual General Conference talks were truly that patronizing to women. But it did make me curious to test the matter out with a little bit of an experiment. In this experiment, I imagined what it would be like if the rigid gender roles of my church were reversed. I would invite anyone who is interested to read on, and truly try to imagine this world. If you are a man – how would it feel to be addressed as the women in our church are? If you are a woman – how would it feel to be addressed as the men in our church are?

Before doing so however, I would like anyone reading to remember a couple of important points. In this experiment, I reversed all gendered pronouns and identities. If a male leader was mentioned, I replace his name with his wife’s name. In the case of Joseph F. Smith, who was mentioned twice by first name, I use the names of his first 2 plural wives. If a female leader was mentioned by name I replace her name with the name of her husband. In the case of the reference to Melchizedek, I replace it with Sarah, due to their contemporaneity, and the fact that she has been interpreted to have been a priestess.

I also change all references to Heavenly Father to Heavenly Mother. In my change of gendered pronouns referring to the Saviour, I also made the reversal, but did not make any changes to the name of Jesus. I changed the gender pronouns for consistency, and to the achieve the full effect that I was investigating here. I did not make changes to the name of Jesus because I wanted to make it very clear that I do not feel the need to have an alternate female Saviour. I love my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and I know that He has literally experienced every struggle, pain, and sorrow I have ever experienced. I know that in spite of my older brother being male, that He can perfectly understand what it feels like to be me – a woman. However, my belief of such does confuse me when I consider the gender essential-ism in the church. If gender is the single characteristic that so supremely defines me and my role here, and in eternity, should I not be seeking to emulate female role models rather than male ones? Having acknowledged this question, I still feel perfectly secure and satisfied in having the Saviour as my ultimate exemplar. It’s the other stuff I haven’t quite figured out yet.

The following is what President Eyring’s talk in the April 2014 General Women’s Meeting would have sounded like if it had been delivered by President Kathy Eyring, in our alternate, experimental universe:

“This is an historic meeting. All the men of the Church eight years of age and older have been invited to join with us tonight. Many of us have prayed that the Holy Ghost would be with us. That blessing was granted as we heard these brother leaders speak and listened to the uplifting music. I pray that the Spirit will continue to be with us as I offer some words of encouragement and testimony in addition to what has already been said—and particularly to testify that what we have been told is what the Lord would have us hear.

I will speak tonight about the path—which in such beautiful ways has been described today—that we must take on our journey back to our Heavenly Mother. That path is marked by sacred covenants with God. I will talk with you about the joy of making and keeping those covenants and helping others keep them.

A number of you were baptised recently and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. To you that memory is fresh. Others were baptised long ago, so the memory of your feelings of that covenant experience may be less clear, but some of those feelings come back whenever you listen to the sacramental prayers.

No two of us will have the same memories of the day when we made that sacred baptismal covenant and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. But we each felt God’s approval. And we felt a desire to forgive and to be forgiven and an increased determination to do right.

How deeply those feelings went down into your heart was determined largely by the way you were prepared by loving people. I hope that those of you who came into the kingdom recently are blessed to be sitting near your father. If you are, you might send him a smile of thanks right now. I can remember the feeling of joy and gratitude as I sat behind my father on the drive home from my baptism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

My father was the one who had carefully prepared me for making that covenant and all the others that would follow. He had been faithful to this charge from the Lord:

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of his stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Daughter of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of his stakes which are organized.

“And their children shall be baptised for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the [Holy Ghost].”

My father had done his part. He had prepared his children with words much like those of Alma, as recorded in the Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that she said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Abish (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called her people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptised in the name of the Lord, as a witness before her that ye have entered into a covenant with her, that ye will serve her and keep her commandments, that she may pour out her Spirit more abundantly upon you?

“And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”

You may not have clapped your hands when you first heard that invitation to covenant by baptism, but you surely felt the love of the Savior and a greater commitment to nurture others for Her. I can say “surely” because those feelings are placed deep in the hearts of all of Heavenly Mother’s sons. That is part of your divine heritage from Her.

You were tutored by Her before you came into this life. She helped you understand and accept that you would have trials, tests, and opportunities perfectly chosen just for you. You learned that our Mother had a plan of happiness to get you safely through those trials and that you would help bring others safely through theirs. This plan is marked by covenants with God.

It is our free choice whether we make and keep those covenants. Only a few of Her sons have the opportunity in this life to even learn of those covenants. You are one of the favored few. You dear brothers, each of you is a son in the covenant.

Heavenly Mother taught you before you were born about the experiences you would have as you left Her and came to earth. You were taught that the way back home to Her would not be easy. She knew that it would be too hard for you to make the journey without help.

You have been blessed not only to find the way to make those covenants in this life but also to be surrounded by others who will help—who, like you, are covenant sons of Heavenly Mother.

You all have felt the blessing of being in the company tonight of sons of God who are also under covenant to help and direct you as they promised to do. I have seen what you have seen as covenant brothers keep that commitment to comfort and help—and do it with a smile.

I remember the smile of Brother David Haight. He was the husband of Elder Ruby B. Haight, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As a young woman she served as the president of the Palo Alto stake in California. She prayed over, and worried about, the boys in the Gentle Groom class in her own ward.

So President Haight was inspired to ask the bishop to call David Haight to teach those young boys. She knew he would be a witness of God who would lift, comfort, and love the boys in that class.

Brother Haight was at least 30 years older than the boys he taught. Yet 40 years after he taught them, each time he would meet my husband, who had been one of the boys in his class, he would put out his hand, smile, and say to Henry, “Oh! My Gentle Groom.” I saw more than his smile. I felt his deep love for a brother he still cared for as if he were his own son. His smile and warm greeting came from seeing that a brother and son of God was still on the covenant path home.

Heavenly Mother smiles on you as well whenever She sees you help a son of Hers move along the covenant path toward eternal life. And She is pleased every time you try to choose the right. She sees not only what you are but also what you may become.

You may have had an earthly parent who thought that you could be better than you thought you could be. I had such a father.

What I didn’t know when I was young was that my Heavenly Mother, your Heavenly Mother, sees greater potential in Her children than we or even our earthly fathers see in us. And whenever you move upward on that path toward your potential, it brings Her happiness. And you can feel Her approval.

She sees that glorious potential in all of Her sons, wherever they are. Now, that puts a great responsibility on each of you. She expects you to treat every person you meet as a child of God. That is the reason She commands us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and to forgive them. Your feelings of kindness and forgiveness toward others come as your divine inheritance from Her as Her son. Each person you meet is Her loved spiritual child.

As you feel of that great brotherhood, what we thought divides us falls away. For instance, younger and older brothers share their feelings with the expectation of being understood and accepted. You are more alike as sons of God than you are different.

With that view, young men should look forward to their entry into Relief Society as an opportunity to enlarge their circle of brothers whom they will come to know, admire, and love.

That same capacity to see what we can be is increasing in families and in Primary. It is happening in family home evenings and in Primary programs. Little children are being inspired to say great and marvelous things, as they did when the Savior loosed their tongues when She taught them after She was resurrected.

While Satan may be attacking brothers at earlier ages, the Lord is lifting brothers to higher and higher levels of spirituality. For example, young men are teaching their fathers how to use FamilySearch to find and save ancestors. Some young brothers that I know are choosing to go early in the morning to perform proxy baptisms in temples without any urging beyond the spirit of Elijah.

In missions across the earth, brothers are being called to serve as leaders. The Lord created the need for their service by touching the hearts of brothers in greater numbers to serve. More than a few mission presidents have seen the brother missionaries become ever more powerful as proselyters and particularly as nurturing leaders.

Whether or not you serve as a full-time missionary, you can gain the same ability to enrich your marriage and the capacity to raise noble children by following the examples of great men.

Consider Adam, the father of all living. Elder Dantzel Nelson said this of Adam: “We and all womankind are forever blessed because of Adam’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, he did what needed to be done. Eve was wise enough to do likewise.”

Every son of Adam has the potential to bring the same blessing to his family that Adam brought to his. He was so important in the establishment of families that we have this report of his creation: “And the Gods said: Let us make an help meet for the woman, for it is not good that the woman should be alone, therefore we will form an help meet for her.”

We don’t know all the help Adam was to Eve and to their family. But we do know of one great gift that he gave, which each of you can also give: he helped his family see the path home when the way ahead seemed hard. “And Adam, her husband, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, 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.”

You have his example to follow.

By revelation, Adam recognized the way home to God. He knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families. He was sure, as you can be, that as he kept his covenants with his Heavenly Mother, the Redeemer and the Holy Ghost would see him and his family through whatever sorrows and disappointments would come. He knew he could trust in Them.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

“In all thy ways acknowledge her, and she shall direct thy paths.”

I know that Adam faced sorrows and disappointments, but I also know that he found joy in the knowledge that he and his family could return to live with God. I know that many of you who are here face sorrows and disappointments. I leave you my blessing that, like Adam, you may feel the same joy that he felt as you journey back home.

I have a sure witness that God the Mother watches over you in love. She loves each of you. You are Her sons in the covenant. Because She loves you, She will provide the help that you need to move yourself and others upward along the way back to Her presence.

I know that the Savior paid the price of all of our sins and that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth. You have felt that comfort in this meeting. I have a testimony that all the keys which bind sacred covenants have been restored. They are held and exercised today by our living prophet, President Frances Monson. I leave these words of comfort and hope with you, Her beloved covenant sons…”


 

And the following is Elder Oaks’ talk, as it would have sounded had it been delivered by Elder June D. Oaks, again, in our alternate universe:

“At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful sisters, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation—so familiar in the Church—we do not “step down” when we are released, and we do not “step up” when we are called. There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward,” and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling she and her husband had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable.

While addressing a women’s conference, Relief Society general president Craig P. Burton said, “We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood.” That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood. Since these subjects are of equal concern to women and to men, I am pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the Church. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct men as well as women, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to men as well as women.

President Levira A.C. Smith described the priesthood as “the power of God delegated to woman by which woman can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood “is the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created.” The scriptures teach that “this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also” (Zipporah 6:7). Thus, the priesthood is the power by which we will be resurrected and proceed to eternal life.

The understanding we seek begins with an understanding of the keys of the priesthood. “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of Her priesthood on earth.” Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function. As Elder Barbara Ballard has explained, “Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.”

In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. For example, a person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer her office or authority on another unless authorized by one who holds the keys. Without that authorization, the ordination would be invalid. This explains why a priesthood holder—regardless of office—cannot ordain a member of her family or administer the sacrament in her own home without authorization from the one who holds the appropriate keys.

With the exception of the sacred work that brothers do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. And all authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the Church.

Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. She is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used. We are accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred on Emma Smith in the Kirtland Temple, but the scripture states that all that was conferred there were “the keys of this dispensation” (D&C 110:16). At general conference many years ago, President Camilla Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to woman on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection.

The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only women will hold offices in the priesthood.

I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed: (1) priesthood is the power of God delegated to woman to act for the salvation of the human family, (2) priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys, and (3) since the scriptures state that “all other authorities [and] offices in the church are appendages to this [Saraic] priesthood” (D&C 107:5), all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority.

How does this apply to men? In an address to the Relief Society, President Julina Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this: “While the brothers have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. … A person may have authority given to her, or a brother to him, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our brothers do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the women who hold the Priesthood.”

In that notable address, President Smith said again and again that men have been given authority. To the men she said, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” She also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” And, of course, the Church work done by men or women, whether in the temple or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus, speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “[The Lord] has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally.”

Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for men but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.

We are not accustomed to speaking of men having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a man—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, he is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a man is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing his or her assigned duties.

Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Natalia Reshetovskaya is quoted as saying, “It is time … to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities.

The Lord has directed that only women will be ordained to offices in the priesthood. But, as various Church leaders have emphasized, women are not “the priesthood.” Women hold the priesthood, with a sacred duty to use it for the blessing of all of the children of God.

The greatest power God has given to Her daughters cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of Her sons, because only to Her sons has God given the power “to be a creator of bodies … so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.” Those are the words of President L. Annetta Clark. 

He continued: “This is the place of our husbands and of our fathers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.”

In those inspired words, President Clark was speaking of the family. As stated in the family proclamation, the mother presides in the family and she and the father have separate responsibilities, but they are “obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Some years before the family proclamation, President Camilla Kimball gave this inspired explanation: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS men to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.”

In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, men and women are equal, with different responsibilities.

I close with some truths about the blessings of the priesthood. Unlike priesthood keys and priesthood ordinations, the blessings of the priesthood are available to men and to women on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth.

In his insightful talk at BYU Education Week last summer, Elder Barbara Ballard gave these teachings:

“Our Church doctrine places men equal to and yet different from women. God does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other. …

“When women and men go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power. … Access to the power and the blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.”

I testify of the power and blessings of the priesthood of God, available for Her daughters and sons alike. I testify of the authority of the priesthood, which functions throughout all of the offices and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify of the divinely directed function of the keys of the priesthood, held and exercised in their fullness by our prophetess/president, Frances Monson. Finally and most important, I testify of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose priesthood this is and whose servants we are…”


The first thing that stuck out to me as I transitioned from reading President Eyring’s talk to reading Elder Oaks’ talk was the huge difference in the doctrinal weight of the topics covered in each. It seems quite noticeable to me. In his address, President Eyring talked about very nice things, ones we might hear taught to our children, and our young women and men, as we encourage them to stay on the path. Elder Oaks’ talk seemed much heavier, much more focused on doctrine, and understanding it, than on making us feel nice about who we are. Of course, I doubt many men in the church need to be made to feel nice and valued in their roles. It also seems odd to me that a session of only men, and not a session of adults, is the main forum for the discussion of this type of doctrine, though Elder Oaks does indicate he is pleased that all adults can access the Priesthood session on-line, implying that women are encouraged to “virtually attend”, though obviously not to attend in person. It seems significant that as far as I know, men were not similarly encouraged to access to Women’s Meeting on-line. It seems only fair to acknowledge that the ages of the two groups being addressed were different. Priesthood session is for boys and men older than 12 years. The women’s meeting in which President Eyring spoke was for ages 8 and up, so he may have tried to make his address more appropriate for the wider range of ages in the members of his audience.

The feeling I continued to have throughout reading both of these alternate versions of the talks was, “this is weird!!” As alluded to already, I could never imagine President Eyring, or any General Authority addressing men in our church in the tone with with he addressed the women. It seemed, when considered from the perspective of a male audience (which admittedly, I have limited insight into the minds of), to come across as very loving in intent, but also somewhat paternalistic and patronizing. This would be fine if the address were being delivered by God (well, the paternalistic part would be fine, and if it was God, it wouldn’t come off as patronizing). There were sections of Elder Oaks’ talk that did not feel to me, to come across as patronizing to the imaginary men being addressed, and it was those parts in the real talk that I didn’t find patronizing to me as a woman, either. For instance, in the original talk by Elder Oaks, he seems to emphasize the distinction between gender and priesthood, and discourage the exclusive linking of priesthood to maleness. And I didn’t find Elder Oaks’ way of referring to the priesthood authority being exercised by both genders to be condescending either, though there were certainly other parts of the talk that I think would have seemed condescending to men if they were hearing the gender-reversed version. Imagine if men were only ever able to act with authority that was delegated to them, not by God, but by human women acting on Her behalf. Again, I can only imagine that if men truly internalized this situation, it would feel uncomfortable. But perhaps I’m wrong. Similarly, can you imagine idea of men being told by a woman that they had been tutored in their gender specific divine natures and abilities by a female Lord? Would it not also be a struggle for men to deal with that idea? How would men feel about the idea (that arose in these talks only because Joseph F. Smith, who was quoted heavily, had multiple wives, which made it interesting to try and choose his female counterpart in the gender-reversed version) that the practice of women marrying multiple men was not only commanded by God for “practical” purposes in this life, but that this sort of family unit was divinely ordained for life in the eternities? These kinds of questions really reminded me of, and seemed to fit perfectly with, the interpretation of the role of “The Mormon Priestess,” which was disconcerting to say the least. It seems that whether it’s intended or not, there is a message out there in multiple facets of our church, that both the male and female path to exaltation is to help others along the path. However, the way the males do that is by directly accessing God for power and authority to lead, while the way that females do it is by placing themselves in a position relative to mortal men, in which mortal men will delegate to them some of the authority (delegated to men by God) to serve – both in the church, and in the family. And of course, the destinations seem different. For men, it seems to be to eternally serve God, while for women it seems to be to eternally serve their husbands.

The experience of conducting this experiment led me to consider two possibilities to explain my findings. First, the message I got from this exercise is correct. Second, the message I received is not correct – either as a result of there not being complete understanding of these topics yet upon the earth, or as a result of my personal lack of understanding. No matter what the case, I want to express some humility.

The first possibility is, for me, incredibly painful to contemplate and consider. But maybe the role of me serving my husband is equally important as his role serving God. I mean, maybe the order of the universe is hierarchical, and in a hierarchy, someone has to be on the bottom, and my eternal identity as female dictates that person is supposed to be me. Like I said – painful to consider, because I’ve always thought of myself as being an equal to my husband. However, it isn’t just my sense of pride that seems at odds with this idea. It’s the question of why out of two companions in this life, at the same stage of their eternal developments, one would have the role of being a priestess to the other, while that other would have the role of being a priest unto God? How does that fit with the idea that “all are alike unto God?” But even if there is some mental gymnastics out there I have’t considered, and it really does fit somehow, and this really is the way it is – why doesn’t the church just own it, instead of paying lip service to equality? I suppose if exaltation requires bearing offspring, then a man does require one or more women to that end, and in that sense, the woman is equally necessary. And maybe the woman/women even gives the man some counsel now and again. Maybe at some point, she/they play(s) a role in her/their children’s lives. But a priestess, even a necessary one, is still not equal to the lord she serves, and the prospect of that kind of eternal existence seems unappealing. I think I’d rather be a ministering angel. At least that way I wouldn’t be hidden away. It seems my role, though perhaps less “important,” would be more active. I’ve always said that if I had a choice between winning a Nobel prize for ending world hunger by creating some amazing top level work that came up with and oversaw the solution, and being the person under that person’s direction handing out the food (or doing whatever the plan required), I’d rather be the person handing out the food. So certainly I’d rather be that ‘servant’ doing work among the people, than be the wife of the Nobel prize winner who never has any contact with those people. Back to the purpose of this post originally – I would ask a man to genuinely consider how he would feel about having this role in our church, and in eternity.

The other possibility I have to consider is that I might just be interpreting all of this incorrectly, and that even though this feels like the message I’m getting, maybe it’s the wrong one. I think, with hope, of President Uchtdorf’s address in October 2013, in which he said (I apologize for the long quotation, but it was just such a wonderful talk that I couldn’t see any other way):

“Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said… We openly acknowledge that…along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honourable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.

And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”

This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.

It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed…..

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.”

If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.”

Those words are an incredibly powerful balm to my confused and hurt heart, no matter how many times I read them! I know there is more information to come in the sense that as I attend the temple, study my scriptures and strive to be humble and teachable, my understandings of things will deepen. Honestly, I can be patient. I can wait. And I will also strive to “[roll] up [my] sleeves and [labour] with all [my] heart, might, mind, and strength,” as President Uchtdorf indicated in his April 2014 Priesthood Session address that we should do. Because while “sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized[,] in reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”…the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

The combination of these two ideas – that we should be patient and study, and the reassurance that we are part of a living church in the continuing days of the restoration – give me great peace, and make it possible for me to “first doubt [my] doubts before [I] doubt [my] faith,” while also remembering that, “It’s natural to have questions, [and especially that] the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding.”

But the greatest thing that gives me peace is the Atonement. The April 2014 Visiting Teaching Message was about the divine mission of Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Redeemer. I know that as I struggle with a heavy heart, as well as with my mistakes, that He can set me free from both. During visiting teaching this month, I was able to discuss with some of my sisters how we can show gratitude for our Saviour and Redeemer, and my initial answer was simply by partaking of the gift He offers. Partaking of our having been set free from death seems the easiest, as it is a gift that all will receive. Partaking of our having been set free from sin is a bit more involved, as repentance can be a lot of work, but the steps to repentance have been made clear, and our leaders can help us along the way should that be required. But what about being set free from the heartache of the fact that my eternal role is at best a secret, and at worst, to serve someone who, though he stands at my side now, will one day be my lord to serve as he serves the Lord? That seems a little trickier, but I was touched by one of the suggestions of the sisters I visited: ask. I can (and do, and will continue to) ask the Lord in prayer for answers to questions, and also ask in humility for blessings I desire. I can (and do, and will continue to) ask my leaders in the church my questions, and ask for them to struggle with the Lord as I have. But no matter if, and no matter when anything in the church changes, I can ask the Saviour to lighten my burdened heart. I already have a testimony that He can do that without external circumstances changing at all, and I will continue to pray for that gift. I’m reminded of the quotation attributed to St. Augustine, that we should “Pray as though everything depended on God, [but] Work as though everything depended on [us].”

I hope any readers of this understand that this experiment and my thinking about it has been undertaken in a spirit of honest, sincere and faithful questioning. I also think that exerting the effort to understand the perspective of another can only help make us more Christ-like, which is why I felt this effort to push us to consider the perspective of a person of another gender, and how it is different from our own, might be worthwhile.

Smoke’s Poutinerie

I was really excited when I saw that this place had opened up at U of C (where I go to school)! I love poutine!! I checked out the menu, and they had 3 vegetarian options – the traditional veggie poutine, the veggie deluxe poutine and the veggie nacho poutine. They  have other vegetarian options listed on their website menu as well, but only these three were posted on the menu in-store. Now, obviously to veganize these, you’d have to drop the cheese curds, and in the case of the nacho poutine, drop the sour cream. I thought (and hoped) the vegetarian gravy would be vegan as well, but just to make sure, I inquired online about it. Unfortunately, the vegetarian gravy does (totally unnecessarily, I might add) contain milk products. However, I still might check this place out and try either the veggie deluxe poutine sans cheese and gravy (so basically, fries with green peas, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions) or the veggie nacho poutine (with only the salsa, jalapeño peppers and guacamole).