Category Archives: Intuition

Surrender and trust

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We are waiting for another baby in our house. I’m now “more pregnant” than I was with Miss M. I hope for all of my friends that they (you) always go longer with your first baby than with the second. Something happened in my brain when I hit that date and it kind of sucked. I have really great care providers and friends who talked me out of crazy, but it’s a difficult headspace for me to be in. (Side note: everyone needs at least two or three friends who are birthworkers! They’re the best in this kind of space!)

The reality is, where I’m at right now is a situation I hate to be in: I want to control the uncontrollable. I have to simply be patient, surrender and trust. That is SO hard. So hard. Often when I’m in this space, every bit of anxiety bubbles to the surface. Things I thought I’d resolved pop back up. It’s actually a really wonderful place to be, even though I hate it. It’s a space for growing and learning and making peace.

This space reminds me of the symbolism of a spiral and the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth: the path is essentially the same. There is only one way in and one way out. There are no choices to be made, only a journey to be taken. As you walk the labyrinth or a spiral path, you often come back to the same point over and over again, but with a different perspective each time. That perspective allows you to understand that point differently, to learn the lesson again more fully, and to learn things that we couldn’t learn before. It’s a powerful opportunity.

It also stinks, to be faced with how stubborn you are and how much the same lessons need to keep coming up. It can be frustrating to see how much you didn’t learn a lesson you thought you had. That frustration is another learning opportunity: one that invites you to be gentle with yourself instead of judgmental and that in doing so to learn how to be more gentle with the other flawed humans we are surrounded by.

A friend of mine commented that we are all smoothing off each others’ edges by bumping into them. We are also afforded this kind of softening opportunity when we bump up against hard boundaries and uncontrollable situations.

Surrender is hard. Trusting God, trusting fate, trusting others, trusting ourselves, especially when we have absolutely no control, is hard. But often it’s the hard things that teach us the best lessons.

Figuring out how to do that well is messy and I’m really ungraceful sometimes. But I’m thankful for that mess and the chance to learn to be more gracious and graceful. Life constantly invites us to learn more. Really the only question we are left with is not whether or not we will be thrust into the situation, but whether or not we will embrace it, even when it’s the last thing we want to do.

For me, that’s what surrender looks like and that’s how I learn.

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Lessons from Eve: Filling our cups and choosing progression

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I spend a lot of time thinking about Eve. Perhaps more than any other figure in scripture, except Christ Himself, Eve draws me in. Much of her story is obscured. Outside of Mormonism, she is often disparaged by Christianity. Even within Mormonism, I have heard people refer to her and her choice to take the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in very negative terms, despite our teachings that the fall was integral to the Plan of Salvation.

But I love Eve. Whether her story is an allegory, as much of the Bible is, or whether she is a real person is immaterial to me. Her story is amazing. Because we know so little it, there’s lots of room for interpretation and I spend a lot of time contemplating the space we don’t know, the “what happened” in between what the Bible and church teachings tell us happened.

One of the things I admire about Eve is how she wasn’t willing to “settle” or give up what she needed. Whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. I’ve contemplated it a lot without an answer yet. However, I admire her for it.

At some point, Eve decided it was time for her to progress. She was ready to move on from the Garden. I imagine that before she got to that point, she’d done a lot of walking with God, asking questions, learning what she could. Maybe she and Adam had had lots of conversations about this. I believe they learned a lot together.

Maybe at some point, Adam had said to her “Why do you want to leave this place? It is easy. It has everything we need. Why would we leave?”

Maybe Eve had initially said to him “I will wait for you to be ready, for you to understand why.”

Perhaps she waited patiently for him for eons, learning and growing as much as she could. Perhaps he was learning too, but more slowly or more cautiously.

I wonder if, in their conversations, Eve wanted to leave more quickly, but caution or fear or a lack of understanding made Adam hesitate. Maybe Adam was waiting to be commanded to leave.

Maybe one day, Eve said to Adam, “Our parents are not going to make us go. This has to be our choice, Adam. We have learned all that we can here. We have grown all that we are able. It is time for us to go.”

I don’t mean to make Adam less. Maybe he was right there with Eve. Maybe he was her partner in every way, learning with her right at the same pace. Maybe they were completely united in the decision. When Eve took the fruit, I wonder if Adam was there with her, standing by her side, waiting for her to hand him the fruit.

Perhaps Eve took the fruit first because that was her stewardship, her mission, and Adam couldn’t do it before she had.

Still I wonder: was Eve the driving force in that decision? Was Adam away somewhere, knowing that Eve had decided to leave and trying to decide if he was going to support her in her growth and go with her out of the garden?

What I do know is that Eve stepped forward and took responsibility for her choices, for her progression, for her happiness. She made an impossibly brave choice to follow her heart, her inner wisdom, her intuition and respect her needs and her wants. In pursuing her mission, in filling her cup, she gave us all life and a legacy as women that we should embrace.

Satan would have us think that sacrifice is always the right choice, that giving up what we want and need for someone or something else is always a good thing. That’s not true. Sometimes we need to say “This is what I need and I will honor that.”

There are many lessons that I have learned by pondering about Eve. This is one of them: It is good and it is right to fill our own cups, to not minimize our own needs and to respect our own progression. Even if caring for ourselves means that that our husbands or our children or our church have to sacrifice too, that is ok. Eve was not a martyr.

Perhaps Eve left the Garden for us, but I think she also left the Garden for her.

Traits of a Mother

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In my last post, I talked about asking the question “What is a ‘Mother’?“. I shared some of why I have asked that question. You will want to read that post for background to be able to understand this one.

As I said in that post, I understand “motherhood” is an incredibly sensitive topic. I hope to heal broken hearts, lift others up and shed light on a topic I have come to care deeply about. If you find this topic painful, you may want to come back to the blog another day. The Savior can heal all wounds, but His time is not ours and sometimes the balm of Gilead is slow to heal. This post is not about culturally accepted motherhood, but about a richer, deeper calling that is available to any woman who wants it.

I promised to share some of the traits I felt defined what a Mother is. You might not agree with everything on my list, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. Ponder it and pray about it. Then, consider making your own list. I’d love to hear it.

The traits that make a mother are wide and rich. This list is far from inclusive, but it does cover the critical basics. Here are a few of my thoughts:

 

1. A Mother is a Life-giver or Life-bringer. This is probably the single-most defining factor of what a Mother is. The most obvious example of this is childbearing. Women who sacrifice their bodies, their health and their sanity to give mortal life to a child are prime examples of the life giving role of a Mother. This is what we typically define motherhood to be. I call it “little-m motherhood”. However, there is so much more to this. Mothers bring life to their homes, to gardens and yards, to communities, to businesses, to ideas, to governments and to the world. Women who write books often compare the process to their experience with childbirth – hard work, sometimes painful, and so, so worth it in the end. To me, there are very few things as wonderful as seeing a seedling pop through the earth and then later to be able to harvest the bounty of a garden. It’s wonderful to know that I am responsible for that life. I’ve seen others give life to businesses. It’s amazing to see their business grow and blossom. I’m doing the same thing right now, watching my own company begin to take life, with the same sort of anticipation as I have had watching others do the same. Giving life extends to every aspect of the world in which we walk and Mothers are the people who bring that life into being.

2. A Mother is a circle maker. Just as Mothers bring life, they also usher in death. Death is simply a necessary step in our growth process and Eve’s choice was key to both. By partaking of the fruit, Eve brought both mortal life and mortal death. Women’s bodies cycle through life and death in a monthly microcosmic way (the book The Healing Power of the Sacred Woman talks about this concept in really powerful ways). We have lost the ability to honor the natural cycle of womanhood the way that many more “primitive” cultures do, but the circular nature of a woman’s life force can be seen in ripples throughout her world.

One example of this cyclical nature of womanhood in the seasons of a woman’s life. First she is a maiden and then the maiden dies as she becomes a mother (little m). For a time the mother lives and then she dies as a woman becomes a crone. Simultaneously, a woman may live through another type of seasons. Many women, especially in Mormonism, have careers or paying jobs prior to and in the early years of their marriage. Then when children are born, they retire from that season of their live to be “stay at home” parents. When their children begin attending school or grow up and leave home, many go back to school to complete degrees (or get new ones) and then enter the workforce again. While men often do all these things at the same time, many women live their lives in stages, closing one circle before drawing the next. Intentional or not, these seasons of life which open with a birth and close with a death of sorts speak testament of the cycle of mortality and the dual role of Eve as life giver and death bringer.

Mothers make circles in other ways. We encircle each other, children, our spouses, our goals and our dreams in the embrace of round arms and warm hearts and we create protective circles around those who have been attacked or injured. Which brings me to my third trait.

3. A Mother is a protector and a warrior. So often we refer to men as the protectors. The protection of a father is wonderful, but no one protects like a Mother. When it comes to childbirth, a woman’s body literally responds to external stimuli in labor to protect her child. In the wild, no one protects like a mama. I was once within a few hundred yards of a mother grizzly bear and her cub. I was too naive to be scared, but I realize today how extremely dangerous the situation was. When faced with danger, a Mother fiercely protects whatever is hers. Mothers will cross oceans, walk through broken glass, take down grown men and governments and ruthlessly remove any obstacle between her and her “child” – be that an actual human child or an adult she loves or a cause she feels called to protect. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop a protective Mother.

4. A Mother is a counselor, a wise woman and a healer. I suppose I could’ve broken these three up, but I feel like they are inseparable. Mothers have incredible intuition. I watched my own mother invite people into our home to treat general family illnesses. Her area of expertise – or at least the thing I remember her treating most – was ear infections. So often, she just knew what to do. Some of this was training and some of it was intuition. In nearly all “primitive” cultures, women have a place among the “medicine elders”. These women are not only physical healers, but spiritual healers as well. They conduct rituals for rain, good fortune and protection. They often direct the spiritual affairs of a tribe or community. They provide counseling. They attend births and deaths – the two places where the mortal and spiritual world collide most clearly. It doesn’t matter if there is a male hierarchy or a male chief at the head of the tribe. When the witch doctor says to do something everybody listens.

Even in our “modern” society, we see this. Our culture so often treats women in a derogatory way, referring to men in relationships as “whipped” and their (female) significant others as “the old ball and chain”. Culture tries to diminish the powerful role of a Wise Woman. But any man, woman or child worth their salt will listen to that guiding voice of a Grandmother or a Mother. Any husband with true respect for his wife knows to listen to the Mother inside his wife when she speaks.

Mothers hold space in times of trial, rejoice in times of gladness, find clarity in times of confusion and speak words of praise in times of clarity. They do all of this with the combined wisdom of generations of Mothers and Grandmothers handed down in their genetic and energetic code.

5. Mothers honor their calling and others’. Because they have strong intuition and because they know to follow that intuition, Mothers are often very confident in their callings. Whatever that calling is, a Mother does not get easily pulled down into the weeds or trapped in the false promises of Ego. They also have no problem allowing others to follow their own path. Honoring their calling gives them a place of confidence and self-assurance from which to operate from. They know that God doesn’t give us all the same path and that each child has to find their own way.

6. A Mother brings light. You know those people who just light up a room? Women who make you feel good about yourself? Those women reflect what a Mother is. Light is the single most essential element for growth. Even plants that grow in the dark (think mushrooms) need light as part of their growth chain. Light provides energy. Energy creates the ability to grow. Some women claim they are not the nurturing type, but I’ve yet to meet a Mother who doesn’t bring light in some form. Even if you don’t light up a room, that does not mean you do not bring light. Some of us have gentle, filtered light. Others light is bright and shiny. Still others of us have light that is harsh and cleansing. All of these forms of light nourish growth if we let them.

7. A Mother crosses generations. Mothers are simultaneously Eve and modern woman tied up together. They are daughters and mothers, granddaughters and grandmothers. They reflect the past while gazing into the future. Their stories resonate through generations, inspiring their sons and daughters to move forward by looking backwards. They hold the secrets of the past and the promise of the future all in the cup of their hands.

8. A Mother is a teacher. Mothers are naturally teachers. They lead the way when they are called to. They sit back when they know we need to learn on our own. Whoever their “children” are, they show us the way, teach us correct principles and let us walk in the Light. They teach us to value ourselves by caring for themselves. One of the most selfless things a Mother does is to care for herself, teaching us that we can best help others by keeping our own cups filled. She show us that Living Water is the best way to fill our cups and that a critical part of “self care” building a relationship with Deity.

 

This is my “short list”. I am sure that as I keep chasing this topic, I will gain more understanding of what Motherhood is. Those who restrict Motherhood to childbearing and rearing have a limited understanding of what it truly is. Motherhood is a calling that every woman is invited to take part in. Not every woman will. The conflation of childbearing with Motherhood, the pain of not being able to have a “traditional family” in mortality, the pull of other callings will all lead some to different paths. Choosing otherwise, wanting otherwise does not mean there is something “wrong” with you. But every woman who wants it is welcome to take part in Motherhood. As women, as daughters of Eve, this is our birthright.

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.

You Are Enough

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Mamas, perhaps I am possessed of an over abundance of confidence as one who has no idea what the heck she’s doing and doesn’t even know enough to realize it. I do, after all, have only one child and she is, after all, only 16 months.

Much of my knowledge is book learning and I lack practical application.

I have not experienced a difficulty labor or an unwanted c-section or of a birth experience that was stolen from me.

I do not know the heartache of a rebellious and self-destructive teen or being witness to my adult child in an abusive relationship, helpless to help.

I do not know the devastation of losing a child – be that a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a baby who has come earthside and stayed for any amount of time. I do not know the incredible tragedy of potential stolen away from a child with regressive autism, vaccine injury or in some sort of accident.

I do not know the fear of having a premature baby or the struggle of being a mother to one with special needs.

In some of these cases, the closest I get is the lostness of trying to figure out how to comfort and/or support a friend through this. In others, I do not even have a frame of reference.

So, perhaps in my limited experience I am naively and gluttonously overconfident.

However, in this world of “perfect” mommies, having it all and never showing a crack, where we trust pediatricians and school nurses over our instincts and value teacher opinions and “professional” parenting advice authors over our own children’s feedback, I think, perhaps, I am right in saying: You are enough. Quit worrying. Quit fearing. Be human. Be imperfect. Trust yourself and trust your kids. Because you, and they, are enough.

Mamas, be honest. Be fearless.

Don’t let a doctor make you feel inferior because you don’t cry it out or because you cosleep.

Don’t let a principal or teacher tell you your five year old is broken because he doesn’t fit into their rigid school model.

Don’t let the neighbors’ fear and the news’s scare stories prevent you from letting your kids play outdoors because something might happen.

Don’t ignore that pull of concern when your teenager leaves the house with friends you don’t know because you’re the only overprotective parent.

You are enough and more. You are powerful. Being a mother is powerful.

We as women have an unbroken bloodline to a Heavenly Mother, the Goddess of the Universe who stands as Queen with our Heavenly Father the King. We are daughters of the Most High and we have been granted an incredible calling.

We carry on the mission of Eve to be the Mothers of All Living. That role is more than bearing and rearing children but it is so powerful when we fulfill our calling through our children.

For hundreds and thousands of years there were no experts to tell us how to raise kids. There was just grandmother knowledge handed down and instinct. Even today this pattern continues all over the world. The Western Way of doing it is both modern and unproven. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it and don’t be ashamed of it.

The only experts on your children is you and your spouse. Do not substitute anyone else’s judgment if it means subjugating yours or relegating it to a corner.

As for help, learn and grow but don’t be afraid to completely dismiss it if it’s not right for you.

Maybe this post has turned into a rant or a lecture. That’s not my intent. Maybe it’s become one of those posts that starts out positive and ends up preachy. Maybe I shouldn’t write at midnight anymore.

My point is, this world is full of messages that try to make us feel inferior, like we are doing things wrong, like we can’t trust ourselves to figure things out. It is a lie of the most evil kind. It is not an accident. Reject it. Reject anything that makes you feel like you don’t measure up. Reject this post if it makes you feel less.

But do not reject this: You are a mother. You are powerful. You are enough. You are enough.

Enough

In which I practice witch-doctory and make cough syrup (pictorial)

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We’ve had a little bit of illness in our house recently. Husband has had terrible allergies and Monkey had the sniffles (that I thought were teething related) which have now turned into a cough.

Unfortunately, when our little little ones are sick, there’s not much modern medicine can do for them. Cough medicine is not safe to give babies and frankly I would prefer to avoid it anyway.

If you know my extended family in real life, you know that we trend towards a bit alternative. This is especially true of my mom who I have lovingly called The Witch Doctor for years.

Well, on Sunday, I found myself following in her witch doctor footsteps, trying to concoct something to ease my little one year old’s cough (and help DH in the process).

So I got online and looked for recipes. To my disappointment, most of the recipes were pretty limited or pretty disgusting.

It’s great if you can fix a sore throat with honey and lemon or if as an adult you can gulp down an onion-and-garlic tonic, but that was not going to work for a toddler. I also wanted something that was going to really pack a punch. So using my limited but growing knowledge of alternative medicines and my extensive Google skills, I made something up.

The first ingredients I used were powered Mullein and Ginger. Mullein is an expectorant and ginger is an antitussive.

Ingredients 1

I added 1 tablespoon of ginger and 2 tablespoons of mullein to 1 1/2 cups of water. Next time, I’ll add less mullein as the mixture was quite thick and didn’t dissolve as well as I had hoped. I don’t know if mullein powder is water soluble anyway, but I’m convinced that I added too much powder. Next time I’ll probably do 1 tablespoon of mullein.

I headed the mixture on the stove and brought it to a low boil and simmered about 5 minutes to create an infusion.

In Process 1

Next, I strained the mixture. Again, I learned some things. The next time I do this, I’ll use cheesecloth instead of coffee filter, which didn’t handle the thickness of the mixture very well.

In Process 2

It was at this point Husband wandered into the kitchen and asked if he should call me the Witch Doctor or the Apothecary…

Once I squeezed as much liquid out as I could, I measured it and put it pack in the pan. I lost about half my liquid.

To the mullein-ginger infusion I added lemon and clove essential oils (10 drops of lemon, accidentally 11 of clove), which are both known for their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal qualities.

Ingredients 2

I also added 1/4 cup coconut oil (which may be beneficial for treating asthma, bronchitis, colds, cough, earache, fever and flu), and 1/8 cup lemon juice (mostly for flavor, since the mullein/ginger mix was quite awful, and to make up for the lost liquid). I brought this up to a low boil over medium heat and simmered 5 minutes. Then I took the pan off the heat and let it cool to just warm enough to dissolve the honey and added 1/4 cup raw honey.

Ingredients 3

And then I bottled the mixture up.

Final

As you can see, there’s already some separation happening, so the mixture has to be shaken before using. I’ll keep the bottles in the fridge for future use.

Also, next time I think I’ll skip the coconut oil as it solidifies in cool temperatures, which is kind of a pain to deal with right out of the fridge and I don’t think it really adds that much to the overall mixture.

It’s been interesting to taste it as it’s sat. When it was finished, it was very lemony-sickly-sweet. But by last night the flavors had developed a little more and the clove/mullein/ginger was more pronounced. It definitely tasted better in the evening.

It seemed to help the cough immediately, but I’m really anxious to see how it works long-term. Monkey was coughing again when she woke up this morning, so it wasn’t an instant cure. Stay tuned for an update!

— Please note that it is not safe to ingest essential oils “neat” or only mildly diluted. In this case, essential oils were a small part of the recipe. You should use EO carefully as they are powerful and can have long-term effects. —

The Modesty Question

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The single biggest question I see when nursing in public is discussed is modesty. There is an attitude that when we talk about nursing without a cover we are going to “just flop out” a breast and let it all hang out while we nurse.

In my experience, most women are discreet (whatever that means) when they nurse their babies and those of us who don’t cover up or remove ourselves to a secluded place believe we can be so without those stipulations.

The modesty question is interesting, especially in the LDS faith. More than almost any other faith, especially any other sect of Christianity, we have a strict code of modesty. Adult members who have gone through our temples commit to wearing clothing that covers the shoulders and legs to the knee and nearly everywhere in between. When discussing the modesty question in the context of the LDS faith, we cannot compare to others who might find it acceptable to wear sleeveless shirts and short skirts – an easy argument to make in favor of breastfeeding for the rest of the world. In this, I do not mean to offend those who are not LDS, just to point out we have a much stricter standard of modesty than others may.

Unfortunately, this standard of dress sometimes is seen as the only aspect necessary to be modest and modesty is taught to many young women that “We need to dress modestly so that we don’t make young men think bad thoughts.” That actually makes less sense to me now then when I was in Young Women’s, though it’s a topic for another post.

Since having a baby and deciding to breastfeed her in public without covering up, I’ve had to decide whether or not I believe it is modest and, more importantly, if I believe that God believes I’m behaving modestly.

To that end, I started in my favorite place: the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

It states that Modesty is:

1 : freedom from conceit or vanity

2 : propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

While most of the words there are commonly understood, I would suggest you look up each defining word separately for a fuller understanding. The one that really caught my attention was “propriety”.

The first two definitions of propriety are obsolete, but I still feel they still have value in this discussion:

1 obsolete: true nature

2 obsolete: a special characteristic : peculiarity

3: the quality or state of being proper or suitable : appropriateness

4a: conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech

4b: fear of offending against conventional rules of behavior especially between the sexes

4cplural: the customs and manners of polite society

Clearly, my behavior lacks propriety when defined as conformity to what is socially acceptable. However, in many ways and may places my behavior does not conform to what is socially acceptable. Additionally, just because the culture dictates that a behavior is appropriate or inappropriate does not make it so in the eyes of God.

Additionally, when defined as “true nature” or appropriateness, then my behavior of nursing my baby whenever, wherever has propriety.

Please do not mistake me as dismissing the value of social norms or polite society. They are both necessary and extremely valuable when they are correct. However, when they are incorrect they become stumbling stones that can have long-reaching negative effects on individuals, families and societies.

Left with this failure of clarity, my next step was to refer to material published by the LDS church. In the Gospel Topics section of the church’s website, modesty has it’s own section. It states in part:

Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).

I also referred to the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. There is no section on modesty, but under Dress and Appearance it says:

Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God… Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.

So then I must question, do my actions accurately reflect who I am? Moreover, do they invite the companionship of the Spirit and are they respectful of my body? If all are true, then I can infer that my actions are modest as well as my dress and grooming.

The section further counsels:

Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”

This is the ultimate question. Would I feel comfortable nursing my baby in front of my Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ without a nursing cover? The answer to that is absolutely, unequivocally yes. It is unfortunate that others are made uncomfortable by something that would not make Heavenly Father uncomfortable.

Finally, I found this statement in A Parent’s Guide:

The scriptures often refer respectfully but plainly to the body and its parts. There is no embarrassment and often there is sacred symbolism. It is the world that makes the divinely created body an object of carnal lust. For example, it makes the female breasts primarily into sexual enticements, while the truth is that they were intended to nourish and comfort children…

Teach your children that they will find joy in their bodies when they use them virtuously after the manner taught by Christ (emphasis added).

This confirms to me the answer to the previous question, would I feel comfortable with my [behavior] in the presence of the Lord? Note that it clearly draws a line between the world’s view of breasts (sex) and God’s view of breasts (childcare).

The foregoing is not a comprehensive answer to the modesty question. It does not include all the doctrine on modesty and on breastfeeding. It does not include a discussion on cultural differences over time and geography, LDS breastfeeding art or historical context.

However, it is my answer to breastfeeding and the modesty question. Not everyone will answer the questions the way I did. That’s ok. Some of modesty standardized. The rest is personal, between God and man.

I do not believe breastfeeding a baby in public uncovered is immodest. I know it challenges cultural norms, but I think that’s a good thing. Change is coming on our attitudes about women and sexuality and breastfeeding. Someday this debate won’t even happen.

In the mean time, there’s more to come from me on this subject, so stay tuned and send me your feedback. I’m dying to hear your thoughts.