Thursday, August 28, 2008

listening to Sister Julie Beck.

I don't know what I think. The Relief Society General President came to speak to our ward Enrichment last night. Just our ward. Her daughter (who is a kind neighbor) is our enrichment leader. The original topic was to be teaching children to enjoy the scriptures. And I felt ridiculous when I realized that I had forgotten my scriptures. But she decided to switch the topic - and spoke to us about the definition of Relief Society. What is it? And why do we have it?

So - I thought that I would include my notes for anyone interested. I came away with questions. And I should have spoken up at the meeting, since it was meant to be a discussion - one for comments, one for questions. But I was scared. I'm not articulate when it comes to some of my thoughts about faith; unless I prepare them ahead of time. And I had so much going on in my head. Circling. And I didn't want to say something that came out wrong - which we all know that in my current state it totally would have come out wrong. So I kept quiet. And I thought. I'll include some of my thoughts in parentheses and in this color. Everything in black are my notes from the meeting - they are not Sister Beck's exact words. Just what I could paraphrase.

Sister Beck's daughter missed 40-50 days of kindergarten because they would have so much fun playing in the morning that they would forget to go to the afternoon scheduled time.

General Presidency has been asking what is Relief Society? Have taken it apart - looked at the history, searching.

In India - One woman, who is in an abusive marriage, wanted more than anything to prepare her 14 year old for a mission. She was not born in the gospel, they have no examples of how to do this. How is she supposed to do this? For enrichment night, the women painted pots for a windowsill that this woman doesn't have.

Ghana - Relief Society means wearing a dress with the name of the church on it and a large picture of Joseph Smith. Women need dental, medical, money to eat. But they save up for a dress.

Websites - People in the states think that they need to go to websites with lists of ideas of activities and things to make for enrichment.

None of these are what Relief Society is about.

Power of R.S. won't be fully exercised until "both sisters and Priesthood catch vision of Relief Society." Spencer W. Kimball.

What are you doing with your time?
Gatekeeper - we the women are the gatekeepers of the home. What are you letting into your house?
Spiritual leader of the home. Ask yourself, "Am I going to be the spiritual leader? How am I going to do it?"

We know that wards are doing book groups for enrichment. How do we know? We go to the ward and see it advertised on the programs. Groups of sisters are getting together to read Twilight. Why would a group of sisters who made covenants in the temple want to get together to read something wrong?

Is the goal of Relief Society a book group? Isn't it to bond with other sisters?

Other sisters watch Oprah every day. An hour with Oprah. Oprah doesn't believe in family. Oprah's reading a book that says women are depressed because they've been taught that there is sin. Without this teaching, they won't be depressed says the book.

(I'm afraid that the comments about book groups and Oprah will be what people remember more than anything. And wasn't the point of book groups to bond with other sisters? Isn't this type of thing what was counseled in the past? I realize change is coming, but how can wards know to change if they don't know that this is not what is wanted? And I didn't know Oprah was anti family? Although I haven't seen or read the book that was being referred to. She didn't say. So I can't judge this.)

Alma 30 - no sin, no righteousness, no point to life.

Job of women is to bear the children.

Moses 5:10 - Eve's job was to teach children.

What other duties do women have?

1. Support husband

What's a patriarch?
Priesthood holder. Families are created when a sealing occurs - becomes an eternal, Priesthood organization. Sealed together. Authority comes to both man and woman. Blessed together.

In a meeting the other day and Elder Nelson said how he wanted something done. There was some discussion and by the end he had changed his mind. And he said "I am repenting from what I said." He didn't do anything wrong but he repented in the sense that he changed. Changed what he was planning.

(But he didn't sin. I don't get why he would say this if he did nothing wrong. It seems so harsh. I didn't understand why this stood out to Sister Beck. Does this also mean that reading, taking time for oneself is sin? probably not is my assumption - but I don't know.)

R.S. created to strengthen other women. Immovable. Be stronger in your faith. How are you going to do this? I don't know. We have to pray to know and how to help others. Make us strong in our families and to defend doctrine of the family.

We need to all strengthen each other. Our influence is as important as the Priesthood.

Idea of ideal Relief Society:

  • Serve all
  • Help everyone
  • Pray to know who and how to help
  • Only goal to teach kids to serve missions
  • No exact way
  • No practical plan

Organized to help women stand strong and immovable to help others. If do this as a ward, our influence will grow to the ward and stake. More people will come to church, more will become involved, etc.

Only ward in Utah that she's teaching this to. Will follow up with our Bishop. Like an experiment.

(Is it possible? I don't know. I'm a bit sceptical. Some can and will do this. But everyone? I have doubt. Like the law of consecration - nice in principle, but in our current imperfect state? Extremely difficult.)

I always come away from things like this feeling that I should have been a man. I have ambition, and I am awful at homemaking. I don't desire to play with my kids all the time and there is no way that I would forget Kindergarten. I count the minutes until nap time so that I can have a break. And I'm just too selfish.


Sherry Carpet said...

i think you are superb. as a mom, as a chick (or woman, if you prefer), as a friend and all-around person. i like your questions and i like how you take time to write them down.

i don't really do that. but i wish it did. here's what i think about your visit from beckster: it's really, really hard to organize a giant church under the same banner. it's risky too, because some people find it easier to swallow everything without thinking first. others risk losing their individuality as they try really had to conform.

that's why i like to be a little...out there. i think relief society needs us for who we are (and who we could be if we keep progressing), not for how much we look like "ideal" sisters. your ambition is what makes you outstanding. and (excuse me but) what mom really doesn't get tired of mothering sometimes?

Bryan Summers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan Summers said...

1. She's correct that Twilight is wrong. All fiction is. But I don't think Twilight is false. It has a lot of truth in it. (At least the first half of the first book. I never got past that. Maybe it goes bad later.)

2. I have no opinion on Oprah (except that she's a bit of a blowhard) but I did see about fifteen minutes of an episode on wife swapping that made me want to throw up. Oprah kept making the point that this is how families are now. This huge. These are our neighbors and friends. It was creepy.

3. It's pretty cool being a guy, I'll be the first to admit, but I don't know, I think you're doing a grass is greener sort of thing. It's really cool being a guy with ambitions but I'm not that. It's just OK to be a lazy guy.

Jacks said...

Hey - nice to hear back from you two. I didn't know that anyone would post read this post because it was so lengthy.

Krista - I like how you said, R.S. needs us for who we are and could be. And that we need that individuality. I don't think that we could help one another without it. Which is why I'm okay if someone wants to take time to read...

Bryan - I've thought a lot about her comment about book group. I don't know if she was saying that it was wrong to spend time as a book group, rather than using our resources into action and helping others. Or if it was wrong to read that book. My first thought was perhaps she was just saying it was wrong to read that book as a church group - waste of resources. And I can see that. (as for book going bad - hmmm, I don't know. The last one was interesting in that respect. It definitely went bad as far as writing/choices go - oops tangent.)

Okay, Oprah has some strange things on sometimes and yes we shouldn't worship her. And yes there are better things to do with our time. But she has put her money and resources to some great use and I'm all for that over others things that I could be wasting my time on.

I never wanted to be a guy (oh, I take that back, everytime I have my period I want to be a guy.) I do realize the grass probably isn't all that greener in guydom, but I wouldn't have guilt for my thoughts and feelings.

alanaeaton said...

We have got to talk in person about this meeting. I'm glad you took notes and wrote down questions, too.
There's not one correct model for being a good mom--we're all different and have different strengths--and you're doing a good job, Jackie.

I think we'll change our book group to a neighborhood venture, rather than an enrichment group, and then we can discuss Twilight without shame.

Carole said...

Just so you know who I am - I am the aunt of Mary Deardeuff. I found your post very interesting.

I wonder if Julie Beck was trying to express the thought that maybe we waste too much time on things that don't matter and need to spend some more time on things that do.
Unfortunately it appears that she was passing judgements on what she thought mattered vs did not matter much like Martha in the New Testament did.
I understood, as did you, that these Relief Society "groups" were the answer to the old enrichment meetings where all we did were crafts. These new groups were meant to group women of common interest together so that women could make friends with each other.
They were meant as a time to entertain and play (which is needed as much as work is). There are a lot of people in the world who don't define playing as reading church doctrine (although there are also people who DO define it that way and for them it is) - that means that books such as Twilight will be read. To some women perhaps reading Twilight is the only play time they get.
I still don't get the comment about reading a teenage love story being wrong because I have been through the temple - but I was not there and did not hear exactly what she said so I will let it go.

Was Julie saying that they are finding these groups aren't working like they hoped?
(I would conjecture they are not...I don't go to any of mine....none of them interest me).

I have read the current Oprah book club book that Julie Beck is referring to. It is a philosophical book and is rather "new age". The author states more than once that God is within ourselves. Jesus is a mere prophet. I would not recommend it to my friends because it bored me. The author announces in the first 50 pages that this is the book that will change the world and if you don't believe that then you aren't spiritually enlightened enough yet to be ready for the book. I personally don't buy into that type of manipulation. That
said, there were a few interesting thoughts in it that caused me to ponder.

Oprah follows the current sociological trends. She changes her mind as fast as those trends change. Many of those trends are incorrect. However, I do go through periods of time that I do
watch her - I like to stay abreast of what the current trends are. I find it fascinating to watch how much they have changed over the course of my life.

Another thought - perhaps a reason why Julie was concerned about watching Oprah and reading love stories is her fear that many women will struggle with what they are hearing and lose their testimonies.
I am almost 50 years old. I have seen this happen more frequently that I would have expected when I was younger. Many people would rather not think. They just want to follow. I have also drawn the conclusion that many people cannot think and can only follow. If you can only follow or if you choose only to follow and you spend a lot of time watching shows like Oprah you are going to become quite confused.

I am not a follower. I am the type of person that examines everything.
Some of the people that I hear on TV or on the radio or on programs like Oprah have some very convincing arguments. Some of the books I have read have had some very convincing arguments.
If I had never examined the things I hear on these shows or even those things I hear in talks at church week after week and compared that to what I hear in General Conference and what I read in the scriptures I would have left the church long ago.

Also,I have never married. I am a software engineer and enjoy extreme outdoor sports such as kayaking and rock climbing. I enjoy fishing. I guess the good news is that it is hard for me to relate, then, to the whole we all must be good wives and mothers.....

On more that one occasion in my life I have felt the same way you do - I feel more at ease around men then around women.
This may sound odd but I eventually had to ask myself the questions "Why was I born female? What does it mean to be female?
And I did come up with answers for myself.
The answers WEREN'T that I needed to conform to whatever the current idea is of the perfect Relief Society Mormon woman.
I agree with Sherry Carpet.I think God knows who we are. I think God needs us to be who we are. I think we will do the most good in this world if we quit trying to fit into the "crowd" whatever that crowd is.

One more comment - there were more women than you might imagine sitting in that Relief Society room thinking similar thoughts like yours and they all left with questions just like you did. We hear a whole lot of you should.... and you are bad if... and you are not righteous if... in Relief Society and we all go home feeling confused and bad and not righteous and many times the people saying those things ARE WRONG! And there are women who quit going to Relief Society because it is too hard to be there and hear those things all the time.
While Julie Beck is the General Relief Society President she is also human and not perfect. From your comments she was looking for a discussion - it sounds to me like she is looking for answers - she doesn't have them yet - she is in the problem solving phase - she is not in the solution phase - so whatever she was saying was where her mind was at the moment and she was open to thoughts, suggestions, corrections - perhaps in her position she should not have done what she did - most people will be intimidated by the fact she is the general president and will not dare to question her - she is their leader after all....but I am not sure that is what she wanted.
My encouragement is to figure out how to speak up and start doing it.

Jacks said...

Wow Carole - Thank you for your post. There is a lot of information here that is well written, and well thought out. I appreciate your thoughts and additional information more than you know.

I haven't read Oprah's latest book club book, and I'm glad that you added details to this. It clarified her comments on this topic for me.

You are right, I completely need to learn how to speak up. I have a hard time organizing my thoughts without writing them down. And it is something I need to work on.

And I didn't think about this until now, but I think you are right. I'll bet Sister Beck would have appreciated my comments.

I left quickly that night. I didn't talk to other's about the talk. I was deep in thought and a bit down after hearing everything. On Sunday, we spent the entire Young Women's lesson (the YW came to the discussion as well) discussing our thoughts. The girls really got into the discussion and what was going to be a 5 minute group discuss turned into 40 minutes. It was nice. And I learned that many of the others left feeling down, as if they were being called to repentance.

So you are right, many of us were having similar thoughts. Which made me feel better. And being able to speak about it has helped me put it into perspective.

The YW took her Twilight comment as bashing - but many of the adults didn't take it as that. They took it as getting together as a church group to read Twilight was wrong. Which was my original impression.

Sister Beck asked the sisters to give her feedback, and tell her what we were hearing. One woman raised her hand and said, "I've learned that I shouldn't have read Twilight." We all laughed. Sister Beck said, "Now why was that the first thing that you said?" It seemed that Sister Beck was trying to get us to put our own thoughts on these comments, not hers. To turn this comment back to the person who said it for analysis. The woman said, "I could be doing better things with my time." But perhaps someone else would have said something different and that would have been correct too.

I wish that you had been there, and we could chat about this. I wish I had taken better notes. I loved the part when she discussed other women from throughout the world. And I liked how it was obvious that Sister Beck really believed in what she was saying. It was obvious in her manners and tone.

Thank you for the insight. Mary is awesome - and I can tell it runs in the family.

e.e. comings said...

Fascinating Jackie. I'm so glad you posted your notes. It'd be great to talk with you in person about this. (No time to write what thoughts I have...)