Category Archives: Education

Lessons from Eden: Allowing the Serpent

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Of late, I’ve been contemplating the Eden Myth and particularly the Serpent in that story.

My upbringing initially gave me a single understanding of the serpent symbol – that of Satan, the devil and deceiver. However, reading the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series in my teens (oh, yes, my Mormon is showing), introduced me to the Serpent-Messiah symbol, which adds complexity to the Garden narrative. In fact, it has left me wondering for many years if the “sin” Satan was punished for wasn’t beguiling Eve but stepping in where Christ should’ve been. This is especially true because God gave to Adam ALL the trees of the garden and Eve was never instructed not to eat of the one (having not been created yet when Adam was warned away).

The choice of a serpent is even more interesting to me when its symbolic meaning is evaluated against Jewish/Israelite and other cultures and beliefs. The snake represents rebirth, wisdom, fertility, intellect, and more.

But I digress. My thoughts of late have shifted specifically to wondering who let the snake in. Of course, this is assuming a literal version of events, but follow me anyway.

If God created Eden under any circumstances (as a haven, a place to allow Eve & Adam to learn and grown and “progress” to maturity once they were separated from Heaven, or a place for them to exist in the in-between as long as they chose not to progress further, of as a place for them to live in perpetuity) then God Themselves set the rules.

They could’ve kept the serpent out. They could’ve kept the serpent from beguiling Eve simply by keeping it out.

Think about that. The entire fall was completely preventable with a simple rule change.

The Serpent didn’t sneak past God. It didn’t get there without the knowledge and allowance of Heaven. God, all powerful and all knowing, could’ve prevented not only a fall, but the beguiling of Eve.

They didn’t. That tells me something.

I don’t believe in a God that sets us up to fail. I don’t believe that we are supposed to intuit the rules or receive them second hand.

Clearly, Eve was always intended to take the fruit. She was always intended to allow for our progression. Our Heavenly Parents have no desire to keep us from more light and knowledge. At some point, They let the Serpent in. They let the Serpent “get to” Eve.

To me, Eve’s fall was a carefully thought-out choice but that choice was available to her because God allowed it. To me, it’s a powerful message that we were always meant to progress (and transgress) beyond the boundaries of Eden.

God is not afraid of our rebirth. They are not afraid of our gaining light and truth, wisdom and knowledge, experience and understanding. They teach us line upon line and, in time, they allow the Serpent to appear in our lives. That’s not necessarily a sign that we should turn away (remember the Brazen Serpent and the Messiah-Serpent archetype).

Instead, it may be a sign that we are ready to grow again.

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Trying to keep track

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We have a terribly bad habit in my extended family: we don’t really keep personal records. I have an aunt who is a professional genealogist, but she “married in” and is not related by blood. Beyond that, I don’t think any of us are really good record keepers (I took an informal survey of my family on Facebook and most of us admitted to “trying” and doing it in stops and starts but not with real consistency).

In some ways, it’s not our “fault” as this bad habit has been passed down from our ancestors (and, yes, the irony in that strikes me), according to my mother. For example, Elizabeth Caldwell, a grandmother of mine, who came to Utah with the Willie Handcart Company, wrote little to nothing of her experience. Meanwhile, her sister, Agnes (who is an aunt), was much more prolific and her stories have been told repeatedly in LDS general conferences, the movie 17 Miracles and elsewhere. Elizabeth was one of many who passed down bad habits.

I come by this weakness doubly cursed. My father’s family kept very few records and most of the little I know about my ancestry on that side comes from government records and the occasional story from a long lost cousin (who could share about my ancestors because his ancestors mentioned them in journals). My grandfather saw so little point in family history, he threw away boxes of it (a thought that still makes me want to throw up).

This lack of family record keeping makes me sad, especially as I try to get to know my ancestor better. I want my own children to know more than I do about who they are and where they came from and I want to know the angels who surround me better. I’m also a writer and I feel like if anyone is going to do a decent job of keeping a written record, it “should” be me, the writer.

More than any of that, though, I want to remember my own life better and keep better records of my children as they grow. I want my children and grandchildren to know who I was and how I became who I am.

I recently purchased a “one line a day” journal in an attempt to help me along. I’m finding that it’s helpful to have, although it definitely doesn’t automatically make a habit. Rather than doing it daily, I’m finding time every week or two and while I remember “big” things, I’m left with a lot of holes.

In fact, that’s bee the most disturbing thing to me: there are many days I don’t remember a single thing that happened and that those days I’m forgetting are just a week or two prior. There are literally huge blocks of my life which I have completely forgotten.

It’s a horrifying thought to me.

It also leaves me sad as a mom because that means that there are blocks of my child’s life I’m forgetting. There are things I want to remember, but can’t because there’s not space in my brain and I’m not writing them down.

I even have a journal for Little Miss because I wanted to keep track of “things” and I wanted her to know who she was as tiny human person. I write in it rarely and while I’d rather spend time with Little Miss than write in her journal, I know when I have time, I’m choosing to make other choices. I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt on that one, but I’ll admit I sometimes feel like a bad mom because of it.

As I’ve been evaluating my own record keeping, I’m learning that I want to keep better records as much for me as for anyone else.

I’m trying to keep track of my life better. Photos, videos and journal writing – even one sentence journals – are some of the ways I’m trying to do that.

Maybe one day my great-grandkids won’t curse me the way I curse my great (great, great, great, great)-grandparents and perhaps I’ll be able to hold onto the fleeting moments a little better.

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Addressing Essential Oil Safety

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I’ve been contemplating how to write this post for a while. I feel somewhat unqualified to address it because I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic of essential oils. However, as essential oils gain popularity and more and more people I know start using them, I feel like I need to speak up.

I love essential oils. I grew up with them. My mom started using them over 20 years ago and using them are part of my mentality.

As I’ve changed from a passive user (meaning that someone else has told me how to use them and what to use) to an active user, I’ve spent a lot of time researching them. I’ve learned a lot about the oils I grew up with and added new favorites. They are wonderful, powerful tools.

However, essential oils are not inert. They are powerful tools and need to be used with respect.

Lavender oil can increase prepubescent breast tissue. Peppermint oil can cause laryngeal spasms which can close a child’s airway. Clary sage can induce labor and cause miscarriage. Tea tree oil can cause nerve damage.

My purpose in sharing these oil dangers is not to scare anyone away from using oils, but to illustrate a point. Like all powerful tools, there are benefits and there are potential risks. The important thing is to be informed of these risks and how to minimize them.

There are essential oil companies on the market whose recommendation for use is unsafe.

Most oils should not be used “neat” (undiluted), taken internally, used at “normal” strength on children or “diluted” with water (come on, people… oil can’t be diluted with water; this is basic chemistry). If you react to them, it’s not your body detoxing. It’s you having a reaction to them and if you do not discontinue use, you should only continue with extreme caution.

Many of the essential oil sales reps are my friends and neighbors. I don’t blame them for not having proper information. It’s a corporate issue and it’s at least a little bit profit-driven.

If you use one drop of oil diluted in a teaspoon of carrier oil, you will use your oil more slowly than if you need six to ten drops of neat essential oil to cover the same area. The company is going to sell less.

I’m not saying to never use oils neat, to ingest them, to use them in a bath or on a child. We do all of those things at our house. But we research them, consider the risks and the benefits and make a decision based on those things.

Even still, we aren’t immune from negative reactions. Little Miss Monkey has a lavender allergy (I have a sensitivity) which made it difficult for her to breathe when we used it on her. That was VERY scary as a mom. I also recently discovered I have a thyme allergy. Thyme was/is a new oil to me and I had a very painful reaction to it. In both cases, we were using best practices and following safety guidelines. If we weren’t, both of our reactions could’ve been much, much worse.

If you are new to essential oils (or even if you’re a veteran user), I love the web site Learning About EOs and the Facebook page Using Essential Oils Safely.

I’ll begin the way I started – I love essential oils. They are wonderful, powerful tools. They have risks and it’s important to be aware of them. By doing so, we can use them for their incredible benefits in a safe way.

 

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Heavenly Mother, Where Are You?

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I thought I would be sharing a different post today. In fact, I have two other posts partially drafted that I thought I would be sharing shortly.

However, I have something that really struck me this morning that I feel like I wanted to share. LDS General Conference is coming up in just a few short days (April 5 and 6 and you can watch it live online). Mack and I have tickets to the Saturday Morning session, something I’m very excited about. We’ve lived in Utah for four and a half years and have not yet made it to a conference session in person (First World Utah Mormon Problem, I know).

As we approach General Conference, it is tradition for members of the church to pray for guidance and direction on things that they are facing and to watch the Conference sessions in a spirit of receiving answers. I also try to do this and have had really enriching experiences as I’ve seen Conference answer questions for me and for others. Sometimes these talks were almost as if they were written specifically for me or for someone close to me.

This spring, I am hoping and praying for something I hadn’t even considered six months ago. It is surprising and humbling to me to see the way that my mind and my heart have changed over the last six months as I have prayed and studied and prayed and listened to the promptings of the Spirit.

I join with women throughout the world, but especially here in America, in my longing to hear and know more about my Heavenly Mother.

The LDS doctrine of God teaches us that we have a Heavenly Father who is literally, biologically our Father. He is the Father of our Spirits, which make up half our Soul, and the Father of Adam and Eve’s Physical Bodies, the other half of our Souls. We are also taught, though with much less regularity or depth, that we have a Heavenly Mother who is the Mother of our Spirits and Bodies.

I believe that when we speak of “God” we are talking about Heavenly Father AND Heavenly Mother just as much as we are speaking about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost when we reference God. When we talk about Heavenly Father we often do so without understanding that Heavenly Mother’s hand is in the blessings we receive and Her ears hear the prayers we pray.

In fact, in the April 1978 General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell (then a member of the presidency of the 70 and later called the the Quorum of the 12) taught that:

“Finally, remember: When we return to our real home, it will be with the “mutual approbation” of those who reign in the “royal courts on high.” There we will find beauty such as mortal “eye hath not seen”; we will hear sounds of surpassing music which mortal “ear hath not heard.” Could such a regal homecoming be possible without the anticipatory arrangements of a Heavenly Mother?”

There are other references to Heavenly Mother throughout LDS Church teachings, but as Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley taught in October 1991 (when he was a member of the church presidency but not yet president of the church):

“Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me….[However]…we have no revealed knowledge [of her].”

My heart aches at that statement.

The LDS church is founded on the believe and claim that continuing revelation did not end with the Bible and that truth continues, even to this day, to be restored to the Earth. We believe that “[God] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Surely the doctrines surrounding Heavenly Mother are one of those things.

As a Mormon woman seeking for truth and desiring to know more about who I am, what my role is in both mortality and Eternity and especially as I learn Salvation, I want to know more about my Mother. I want to know who She is. I want to see Her hand in my life. I want to know the ways She is preparing me for my return and how she is preparing the heavens on my behalf. I know she is.

So as I approach General Conference I am praying for even just a glimpse of my Heavenly Mother. I know She is real and I am certain Her presence will be at General Conference just as I believe my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ will be. I am praying that the speakers words will reflect that. I know that I’m not alone in this.

As women of God throughout the world, we really should want to know both our Heavenly Parents. Mormonism is a religion of Revelation. I’m praying that we receive more this weekend.

On Modesty, Chastity and Responsibility

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Oh boy… This is a huge and potentially very controversial topic. It’s also one that’s getting a lot of buzz in the last week or so in my online community (mostly among Salt Lake Mormons).

For reference, you should start with reading Elder Tad Callister’s article in the March 2014 Ensign.

Before we go any further, I want to emphasize that disagreement with the end result of a message does not mean I do not sustain the brethren, that I don’t believe in continuing revelation/inspiration or that I reject the basic teachings of chastity, morality and modesty. My mom always says that “Good information leads to good inspiration” and so it’s important to communicate with our church leaders if there’s a problem. I believe that the best way for us to understand if our teaching method is useful is by openly discussing the content and end result of those teachings and analyzing their effects and value.

I have previously written a little bit on modesty mostly in relation to breastfeeding (see The Modesty Question, Why The Mothers Room Makes Me Sad, and A Few Points of Clarification). In fact, most of my evolving thoughts on modesty in my LDS faith has come as I’ve become immersed in my mothercare education (pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, breastfeeding, etc).

I have become increasingly unsettled with the messages we are sending our young men and women and young single adults in the LDS church in regards to modesty, chastity and responsibility. This concern has caused me to really critically study the materials put out by the church on modesty and chastity, particularly that which is directed towards the teenagers in the church. The more I read the less appropriate I think the direction we have taken is.

There is an inconsistency in how we teach modesty and morality to our young men and young women. Take this statement by Elder Callister:

Immodest Dress
Our dress affects not only our thoughts and actions but also the thoughts and actions of others. Accordingly, Paul the Apostle counseled “women [to] adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9).
The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.
Men and women can look sharp and be fashionable, yet they can also be modest. Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.

Unfortunately, there is no mention here about the impact of how a man dresses on a woman. There’s no mention of how a man’s behavior towards a woman might influence her dress. There’s no discussion at this point on how important it is to control one’s behavior – not merely thoughts – even in the presence of an improperly dressed woman.

If women can “prompt” the thoughts and actions of men into impure paths, surely men can do the same for the women in their lives. Yet Elder Callister neglects to mention that men might also have a responsibility to help women live modestly (and not just because it helps the men keep control of their thoughts).

In fact, while preparing this post I spoke to a number of now adult men (primarily my peers) about what they were taught growing up about their responsibility towards young women. In almost every case the only answer was “to encourage them to dress modestly”. Most could not tell me what that meant or why they were counseled to do so.

Elder Callister does emphasize in following paragraphs that we (general) must control our thoughts but there is never any reciprocal direction that men influence women.

There is, however, the potentially ominous statement (taken in whole) that “…most women get the type of man they dress for.” Without flying off the handle, is it possible that the adversary might use that statement to attack a young woman who has been raped or abused to justify a young man’s immoral or abusive behavior? This gets uncomfortably close to victim blaming to me.

And again, do men also get the type of woman they dress for?

Take also the entry on modesty from the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet. Young women are counseled thus:

Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back.

Meanwhile, the church’s direction to young men is non-specific:

Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance.

I am left to wonder a little if there was nothing else to say to the boys? Should they not be counseled that tank tops are immodest? What about pants that are so baggy as to show their underwear? Jewelry that is over the top? What about going shirtless while they play basketball or work in the yard? Could no specific direction be given to the young men? Or do young men not need the direction because modesty is only an issue that young women need details spelled out on.

In actuality, I somewhat like the guidance to Young Men. Direct but without being so specific as to micromanage or leave room for the “but the pamphlet doesn’t say this…” type rationalizations. In fact, why couldn’t the guidance simply be:

Young men and young women should maintain modesty in their appearance. As you strive to dress modestly, allow the Spirit to guide you and talk to parents and church leaders if you have questions.

We see this same sort of language in other parts of the FTSOY pamphlet and elsewhere in church teachings to youth. It is not unreasonable to think it could extend to modesty.

If this message seems to simply be because of the difference between men and women, you should compare also the upcoming August 2014 curriculum for youth on Eternal Marriage. Under the sub topic What Are The Lord’s Standards for Dating?, there are three talks from past conferences, one for young men and two for young women. The article for young men focuses on being prepared for marriage in a well-rounded way: financially, emotionally and spiritually. The two articles for young women – one from the priesthood sesson of conference – focus heavily on being sexually pure, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

Over and over I’m afraid the message we are sending is one that objectifies and continues to sexualize young women instead of rejecting the world’s message that women’s bodies are primarily sexual.

There is no doubt that this world is increasingly oversexualized. I am so thankful for a church that is holding a line, even though it is not popular or easy, in an attempt to stem the tidal wave of immorality in the world around us.

There is also no doubt that men and women are different and from time to time need different lessons. However, we do a major disservice in our lopsided teaching of responsibility to each other and to self when it comes to modesty. Our young women deserve more and our young men are capable of far more than “we” give them credit for.

It’s time to teach modesty in an unsexualized way, one that recognizes that culture plays a huge factor in how we view how men are “wired” and what the purpose of a woman’s body is.

Lacey and Mack-Professional Pics 192

(I’ve been asked to add a photo. On my wedding day, not only was my dress modesty in the traditional sense, but also modest in the sense that it was affordable and simple and it fit me well. It made me feel good about myself. It was not however, warm and most of my temple pictures are of me bundled up. I suppose my point is that “modest” doesn’t guarantee something is appropriate under every circumstance. It’s important that when we’re talking about modesty we’re not just talking about a list of rules for young women to follow to keep young men out of trouble.)

The most important thing I can teach my children

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Over the next few years, Monkey’s education will be very organic. Eventually, we will likely be doing some sort of more formal education as I don’t believe in complete unschooling. There will be some structure in our home schooling.

We will teach phonics and then how to read, letters and then how to write and then the rules of English and then when and how to break those rules. We will teach numbers and then counting and then basic arithmetic and then more complex mathematics. And on and on. Some of it will be more organic and some of it will be more structured.

However, these lessons, as important as they are, are not the most important things I want to teach Monkey and her siblings that will come along.

I’ve been accused of being dramatic. I tend to have strong opinions and think everything I have an opinion on is important. EVERYTHING is important. And there is some truth in that. God gives us a thousand different things to do and says “They’re all important”. The trick is to work with Him to figure out which ones to do now and which ones to do later.

For example, do I pay off debt faster to meet the priority of getting out of debt or do I put that money towards storage to get my two years of food and emergency supplies together or do I put that money towards a savings account or do I do a little bit of all three all at once? Do I do none of those and instead use that money to avoid the “evils of the dole” and not take federal financial aid for my husband’s education? I could go on.

I believe God gives us multiple priorities to allow us to learn a more important lesson, and it is one of the two most important things I can teach my children.

By giving us multiple priorities, Heavenly Father appears to set us up to fail. However, what he is really doing is giving us an opportunity to develop a relationship with Him. He does not say “Do everything right now.”

Rather he says:

“And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).

This is an invitation to come unto Him, to trust Him and rely on Him. This is an invitation to learn who He is, to test Him and prove that He is who He says he is. It is also an invitation to learn about who we are and to especially understand who we are in relation to Him.

This is the very most important thing I can teach my children. Although I am not perfect, I have an opportunity to help them understand what it means to have a parent who is loving, accessible, kind, patient, powerful, protective, trusting, faithful and responsive.

Our understanding of our Heavenly Parents is made easier or harder depending on the kind of parents that we have growing up. That doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect parents, since this is both impossible and the Atonement will not only cover our sins when we repent, but the effects our errors have on our children.

A child who understands who they are in relationship to God and who has been taught of the unfailingness of Heavenly Father and their utter dependence on Jesus Christ will be grow into the kind adult who will heal the world. They will not stray far from the loving embrace of Heavenly Parents because they will be grounded in God’s love and will recognize the power that having the Holy Ghost in their lives gives them. If they know who they are in relationship to God they will not be free from trials but they will always walk with Him, despite the trials.

I know that none of my children will understand this perfectly, just as I do not. However, the better they understand this, the closer they will be to the people Heavenly Father knows they can be. The more closely their lives will align with their potential and the happier they will be.

If I can only accomplish this one goal, I will consider myself a successful parent. If only it was as easy as it sounds.

A few points of clairifcation

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I’m overwhelmed by the traffic I’ve gotten after my last post and the feedback I’ve received. This blog is very new, but I’m not new to blogging and so this much traffic in the first few months is really amazing to me. Thank you!

Before my next official post, I wanted to make a couple of points of clarification after the feedback I’ve gotten on my last.

First, I’m not anti-mothers’ room. I am thankful that there is a mother’s room at my church. I do not condemn the mothers who want to use it. It can be an escape from the world, a safe place to deal with a worked up baby, a quiet place to help a baby sleep and a place to gather with other moms. I wish that more mother’s rooms were more like the one in my church building: not in a bathroom, in a more quiet place in the building and comfortably furnished. I am certainly not anti-moms using the mother’s room.

Second, I’m not anti-nursing cover. Moreover, I think that there are circumstances where using a cover might be called for. I know that some moms would never be comfortable nursing in public without a cover. Since milk from the breast is the very best (not merely pumped and fed from a bottle) and traveling anywhere with pumped milk is a hassle, I would sooner encourage women to use a cover than not nurse in public at all or to bottle feed breast milk or formula. Also, if nursing without a cover might risk or strain a relationship, it might be worth it to use a cover to preserve that relationship. It is up to each woman to decide that.

What I do oppose is the cultural attitude that forces women to be embarrassed by breast feeding. I am anti-hiding and anti-culture that shames and forces nursing moms into hiding. I’m anti-telling women breastfeeding is normal and natural but don’t do it where I can see. I am anti-making it mom’s responsibility to make sure you aren’t offended. I am anti-moms being told they are contributing to someone’s pornography addiction by breastfeeding openly. I am anti-women never being exposed to breastfeeding until they try to do it. I am anti-failure because we don’t give women the tools to succeed. I am anti-moms not getting the help they need because it’s about their (whisper) breasts.

Above all, I am anti-the objectification of breasts that put them in a box that is inconsistent with God’s will.

I see the cover-clad moms in the mothers’ room in general as a symptom of that. I feel the same about the babies being bottle fed in church meetings. I recognize that on an individual basis, each case is different. I’m speaking in generalities.

I am for normalizing breastfeeding. I am for supporting breastfeeding moms and babies. I am for making it easier to succeed. I am for de-shaming women’s bodies. I am for helping women trust their intuition. I am for teaching men that breasts are primarily for feeding babies. I am for teaching women that breasts are primarily for feeding babies. I am for teaching them how to do it before they need that skill. I believe this will help increase success.

Above all, I am for honoring the sacredness of women, of mothers and of the relationship between nursing mother and nursing baby.

Despite all the hype, breastfeeding is still foreign to us. That makes me sad. I can’t ignore the symptoms because they are everywhere and in the end both mother and baby suffer.

We need to change. My voice is just one calling for it. We will have change. And maybe someday every mom and every baby will have the breastfeeding support they deserve.